Space

ESA Approves Gravitational-Wave Hunting Spacecraft For 2034 (newscientist.com) 21

The European Space Agency has approved the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna mission designed to study gravitational waves in space. The spacecraft is slated for launch in in 2034. New Scientist reports: LISA will be made up of three identical satellites orbiting the sun in a triangle formation, each 2.5 million kilometers from the next. The sides of the triangle will be powerful lasers bounced to and fro between the spacecraft. As large objects like black holes move through space they cause gravitational waves, ripples which stretch and squeeze space-time. The LISA satellites will detect how these waves warp space via tiny changes in the distance the laser beams travel. In order to detect these minuscule changes, on scales less than a trillionth of a meter, LISA will have to shrug off cosmic rays and the particles and light from the sun. The LISA Pathfinder mission, a solo probe launched in December 2015, proved that this sensitivity was possible and galvanized researchers working to realize the full LISA mission.
Businesses

Wireless and Drone Execs Praised President Trump as He Pledged To Cut Down Regulations (recode.net) 64

U.S. President Donald Trump offered support for emerging technologies including unmanned aerial vehicles and next-generation wireless networks in a meeting on Thursday with the chiefs of AT&T and General Electric and other business leaders. From a report: For the likes of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the public audience with Trump offered an opportunity to continue nudging the U.S. government -- including in a scheduled, private session with the leader of the Federal Communications Commission earlier Thursday -- to cut back on restrictions that make it difficult for AT&T and other telecom giants to grow their footprint and deploy the new technologies, such as 5G wireless. Speaking with Recode later Thursday, Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Sprint, said that he and others in his industry had emphasized to Trump that the government must help them deploy new tools like small cells -- essentially, mini cell towers that improve wireless connectivity. Trump, for his part, promised Thursday to cut down on "too many years of excessive government regulation" to enable innovators and investments to offer new cutting-edge tools in health care, science, medicine and communication. "We have had regulation that's been so bad, so out of line that it's really hurt our country," he said.
Iphone

Virgin Mobile Becomes World's First iPhone-Exclusive Carrier, Offers Year of Service For $1 (betanews.com) 95

BrianFagioli quotes a report via BetaNews: Goodness gracious, Virgin Mobile USA has made quite the bold moves today. The cellular service provider has become the world's first iPhone-exclusive carrier. In other words, it will no longer offer Android at all. Crazy, right? This is through a partnership with Apple, and Virgin will offer many versions of the device, including iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and SE. The craziness doesn't stop there, however, as there is even something much more exciting -- Virgin Mobile USA is offering unlimited talk, text and data for a dollar. No, that is not a typo -- a single buck will get you unlimited everything for up to a year! This is through a new scheme called "Inner Circle."
Privacy

California May Restore Broadband Privacy Rules Killed By Congress and Trump (arstechnica.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A proposed law in California would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing history. The California Broadband Internet Privacy Act, a bill introduced by Assembly member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) on Monday, is very similar to an Obama-era privacy rule that was scheduled to take effect across the US until President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated it. If Chau's bill becomes law, ISPs in California would have to get subscribers' opt-in consent before using browsing history and other sensitive information in order to serve personalized advertisements. Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent at any time. The opt-in requirement in Chau's bill would apply to "Web browsing history, application usage history, content of communications, and origin and destination Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of all traffic." The requirement would also apply to geolocation data, IP addresses, financial and health information, information pertaining to minors, names and billing information, Social Security numbers, demographic information, and personal details such as physical addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers.
Communications

Even Telecom Workers Don't Want To Talk On the Phone (fastcompany.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report: Of the 1,000 Americans surveyed by Fundera, more than half said they prefer email, even though an often overflowing inbox has been proven to hinder productivity. Other methods of communicating paled in comparison. For instance, face-to-face conversations came in a distant second, preferred by only 15.8% of respondents, while phone calls came in at the bottom across 17 different industries. Even telecom workers don't want to talk on the phone: 70% would prefer to use instant messages or email.
Communications

Snapchat's New Snap Map Lets You Share Your Location With Friends (theverge.com) 26

Snapchat is expanding into the world of mapping. A new feature announced on Wednesday called Snap Maps will let the app's 166 million users share their locations with each other, according to a company blog post. From a report: From the default camera view, you pinch with two fingers to zoom out and see the map. Friends who have opted into sharing their location through Snap Map (it's off by default) will appear in Bitmoji form. You can share with select friends, all friends, or with no one if you pick "Ghost Mode." Snapchat is very quick to note that your location is only updated when you open the app -- so there shouldn't be any background tracking to worry about.
Businesses

The Best And Worst ISPs According To Consumer Reports (dslreports.com) 90

In the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the nonprofit organization ranked internet service providers based off customer satisfaction. According to the report, many consumers still don't like their broadband and television provider, and don't believe they receive a decent value for the high price they pay for service. DSLReports summarizes the findings: The report [...] names Chattanooga municipal broadband provider EPB as the most-liked ISP in the nation. EPB was followed by Google Fiber, Armstrong Cable, Consolidated Cable and RCN as the top-ranked ISPs in the nation. Google Fiber "was the clear winner for internet service," notes the report, "with the only high score for value." Google Fiber also received high marks for customer support and service. But large, incumbent ISPs continue to be aggressively disliked due to high prices and poor customer service, according to the report. Despite endless annual promises that customer service is the company's priority, Comcast ranked number 27 out of the 32 providers measured. The company's survey results were weighed down by low consumer marks for value, channel selection, technical support, customer service and free video on demand offerings. The least-liked ISPs in the nation, according to the report, are: Charter (Spectrum), Cable ONE, Atlantic broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom. Not coincidentally, the two largest ISPs in that list just got done with massive mergers or acquisitions that resulted in higher prices and worse service than consumers saw previously. MyRatePlan has a breakdown of ISP providers and plans by ZIP code.
Software

Uber Finally Adds a Tipping Option To Its App (gizmodo.com) 85

After years of complaints, Uber is rolling out a tipping option for drivers. "Tipping is available in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston as of today. We're starting with only 3 cities so we can create the best tipping experience for you and your riders. We'll be adding more cities over the next few weeks, and will make tips available to all U.S. drivers, by the end of July 2017," Uber said in an email to drivers. Gizmodo reports: Uber will also roll out a full set of driver-friendly features. The cancellation window will narrow to two minutes (it was previously five) and drivers will get a per-minute fee if a rider makes them wait beyond two minutes. Drivers will also get a cut of Uber's "teen fare" which had previously gone exclusively to Uber. Now, drivers will get $2 of the fee. Uber will also offer drivers the option to enroll in injury-protection insurance. Uber has always argued that it offers a seamless experience and that adding a tip feature into its app would interfere with that. The company promises an up-front fare to the rider, with no fumbling around for cash or evaluation of a driver's performance beyond assigning a rating.
Businesses

Leaked Recording: Inside Apple's Global War On Leakers (theoutline.com) 81

Reader citadrianne writes: A recording of an internal briefing at Apple earlier this month obtained by The Outline sheds new light on how far the most valuable company in the world will go to prevent leaks about new products. The briefing, titled 'Stopping Leakers -- Keeping Confidential at Apple,' was led by Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman, and Jenny Hubbert, who works on the Global Security communications and training team. According to the hour-long presentation, Apple's Global Security team employs an undisclosed number of investigators around the world to prevent information from reaching competitors, counterfeiters, and the press, as well as hunt down the source when leaks do occur. Some of these investigators have previously worked at U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA), law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, and in the U.S. military. Top-notch reporting from The Outline, consider reading the full report. During the briefing, a company executive said they have been able to find two employees who leaked information to media.
The Internet

Cable Lobby Tries To Stop State Investigations Into Slow Broadband (arstechnica.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband industry lobby groups want to stop individual states from investigating the speed claims made by Internet service providers, and they are citing the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules in their effort to hinder the state-level actions. The industry attempt to undercut state investigations comes a few months after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Charter and its Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary that claims the ISP defrauded and misled New Yorkers by promising Internet speeds the company knew it could not deliver. NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom, lobby groups for the cable and telecom industries, last month petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a declaratory ruling that would help ISPs defend themselves against state-level investigations. The FCC should declare that advertisements of speeds "up to" a certain level of megabits per second are consistent with federal law as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules, the groups said. There should be a national standard enforced by the FCC instead of a state-by-state "patchwork of inconsistent requirements," they argue. Another cable lobby group, the American Cable Association (ACA), asked the FCC to approve the petition in a filing on Friday. An FCC ruling in favor of the petition wouldn't completely prevent states from filing lawsuits, but such a ruling would make it far more difficult for the states to protect consumers from false speed claims.
Encryption

Equipment Already In Space Can Be Adapted For Extremely Secure Data Encryption (helpnetsecurity.com) 20

Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: In a new study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Erlangen, demonstrate ground-based measurements of quantum states sent by a laser aboard a satellite 38,000 kilometers above Earth. This is the first time that quantum states have been measured so carefully from so far away. A satellite-based quantum-based encryption network would provide an extremely secure way to encrypt data sent over long distances. Developing such a system in just five years is an extremely fast timeline since most satellites require around 10 years of development. For the experiments, the researchers worked closely with satellite telecommunications company Tesat-Spacecom GmbH and the German Space Administration. The German Space Administration previously contracted with Tesat-Spacecom on behalf of the German Ministry of Economics and Energy to develop an optical communications technology for satellites. This technology is now being used commercially in space by laser communication terminals onboard Copernicus -- the European Union's Earth Observation Program -- and by SpaceDataHighway, the European data relay satellite system. It turned out that this satellite optical communications technology works much like the quantum key distribution method developed at the Max Planck Institute. Thus, the researchers decided to see if it was possible to measure quantum states encoded in a laser beam sent from one of the satellites already in space. In 2015 and the beginning of 2016, the team made these measurements from a ground-based station at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife, Spain. They created quantum states in a range where the satellite normally does not operate and were able to make quantum-limited measurements from the ground. The findings have been published in the journal Optica.
EU

European Parliament Committee Endorses End-To-End Encryption (tomshardware.com) 120

The civil liberties committee of the European Parliament has released a draft proposal "in direct contrast to the increasingly loud voices around the world to introduce regulations or weaken encryption," according to an anonymous Slashdot reader. Tom's Hardware reports: The draft recommends a regulation that will enforce end-to-end encryption on all communications to protect European Union citizens' fundamental privacy rights. The committee also recommended a ban on backdoors. Article 7 of the E.U.'s Charter of Fundamental Rights says that E.U. citizens have a right to personal privacy, as well as privacy in their family life and at home. According to the EP committee, the privacy of communications between individuals is also an important dimension of this right...

We've lately seen some EU member states push for increased surveillance and even backdoors in encrypted communications, so there seems to be some conflict here between what the European Parliament institutional bodies may want and what some member states do. However, if this proposal for the new Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications passes, it should significantly increase the privacy of E.U. citizens' communications, and it won't be so easy to roll back the changes to add backdoors in the future.

Security researcher Lukasz Olejnik says "the fact that policy is seriously considering these kind of aspects is unprecedented."
China

Chinese Satellite Breaks Distance Record For Quantum-Key Exchange (sciencemag.org) 42

slew writes: Science Magazine reports a team of physicists using the Chinese Micius satellite (launched back in August 2016) have sent quantum-entangled photons from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. Sending entangled photons through space instead of optical fiber networks with repeaters has long been the dream of those promoting quantum-key exchange for modern cryptography. Don't hold your breath yet, as this is only an experiment. They were only able to recover about 1000 photons out of about 6 billion sent and the two receiving stations were on Tibetan mountains to reduce the amount of air that needed to be traversed. Also the experiment was done at night to minimize interference from the sun. Still, baby steps... Next steps for the program: a bigger satellite for more power and moving to quantum teleportation instead of simple key exchange. The results of the experiment were published in the journal Science.
Businesses

Former CenturyLink Employee Accuses Company of Running a Wells Fargo-Like Scheme (bloomberg.com) 61

A former CenturyLink employee has filed a lawsuit this week claiming she was fired for "blowing the whistle on the telecommunications company's high-pressure sales culture that left customers paying millions of dollars for accounts they didn't request," reports Bloomberg. From the report: The plaintiff, Heidi Heiser, worked from her home for CenturyLink as a customer service and sales agent from August 2015 to October 2016. The suit claims she was fired days after notifying Chief Executive Officer Glen Post of the alleged scheme during a companywide question-and-answer session held on an internal message board. The complaint alleges CenturyLink "allowed persons who had a personal incentive to add services or lines to customer accounts to falsely indicate on the CenturyLink system the approval by a customer of new lines or services." This would sometimes result in charges that hadn't been authorized by customers, according to the complaint. Heiser's complaint alleges that she became increasingly concerned about what she observed at CenturyLink after news of Wells Fargo & Co.'s regulatory troubles broke in September. In that case, Wells Fargo employees opened deposit and credit card accounts without customers' consent to earn incentives and meet sales goals. Without admitting wrongdoing, Wells Fargo ended up firing more than 5,000 employees and agreeing to pay $185 million in fines, in addition to compensating customers for fees related to the unauthorized accounts. The complaint likens what Heiser said CenturyLink sales agents did to the Wells Fargo scandal and estimated the alleged unauthorized fees amounted to "many millions" of dollars. She says her concerns were bolstered by posts she had read on review websites.
Piracy

Alleged KickassTorrents Owner Considers 'Voluntary Surrender' To the US (torrentfreak.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year a Polish court ruled that Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the defunct torrent site KickassTorrents, can be extradited to the United States. The decision came as a disappointment to the defense team, which quickly announced an appeal. Vaulin has since been released on bail and currently resides in a Warsaw apartment. His release has made it easier to communicate with his attorneys in the United States, who have started negotiations with the U.S. Government. While the extradition appeal is still ongoing, it now appears that under the right conditions Vaulin might consider traveling to the United States voluntarily, so he can "resolve" the pending charges. This is what the defense team states in a motion for a status conference (pdf), which was submitted earlier this week.
Patents

Amazon Granted a Patent That Prevents In-Store Shoppers From Online Price Checking (theverge.com) 465

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amazon's long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon's own stores. The patent, titled "Physical Store Online Shopping Control," details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways. The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you're trying to access a competitor's website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what's offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright. Amazon's patent also lets the retailer know your physical whereabouts, saying, "the location may be triangulated utilizing information received from a multitude of wireless access points." The retailer can then use this information to try and upsell you on items in your immediate area or direct a sales representative to your location.
Businesses

Team Collaboration App Slack, Valued at $9 Billion, Draws Attention of Amazon (bloomberg.com) 79

Amazon is in the running among a handful of companies looking to acquire the popular chatroom startup, reports Bloomberg. From the article: San Francisco-based Slack could be valued at at least $9 billion in a sale, the people said. An agreement isn't assured and discussions may not go further, said the people. Buying Slack would help Seattle-based Amazon bolster its enterprise services as it seeks to compete with rivals like Microsoft and Alphabet's Google. The company's cloud-hosting unit, Amazon Web Services, in February unveiled a paid-for video and audio conferencing service -- Amazon Chime -- that lets users chat and share content. Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode: Slack, the popular business communications company, is in the midst of raising $500 million at a $5 billion post-money valuation, an effort that has attracted several potential buyers interested in taking out the company ahead of the funding. Those include Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce, several of which have previously shown interest in acquiring Slack. Bloomberg reported the interest by Amazon today, with a $9 billion sales price.
EU

EU Mobile Roaming Charges Scrapped (bbc.com) 67

From now on, European Union holidaymakers should return home without that sense of high anxiety about their mobile phone bill: extra fees for using it abroad should have gone. From a report: The new rules mean that citizens travelling within the EU will be able to call, text and browse the internet on mobile devices at the same price they pay at home. The European Commission said the end of roaming charges was one of the greatest successes of the EU. But a UK consumer group warned phone users could face "unexpected charges." Until now roaming, or connection, charges have been added to the cost of calls, texts and internet browsing when consumers from one EU country travelled to another and connected to a mobile network there.
Canada

CRTC Bans Locked Phones and Carrier Unlocking Fees (mobilesyrup.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares a report: Canada's telecom regulator has announced that as of December 1st, 2017, all individual and small business wireless consumers will have the right to have their mobile devices unlocked free of charge upon request, while all newly purchased devices must be provided unlocked from that day forward. The decision came following the February 2017 review of the Wireless Code, where unlocking fees took center stage, with some parties (like Freedom Mobile) advocating for the abolishing of those fees altogether, some arguing they should remain as an important theft deterrent and the CRTC suggesting the fee should be far under the current $50 CAD standard. "The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC, in a press release.
AI

Facebook Built an AI System That Learned To Lie To Get What It Wants (qz.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Humans are natural negotiators. We arrange dozens of tiny little details throughout our day to produce a desired outcome: What time a meeting should start, when you can take time off work, or how many cookies you can take from the cookie jar. Machines typically don't share that affinity, but new research from Facebook's AI research lab might offer a starting point to change that. The new system learned to negotiate from looking at each side of 5,808 human conversations, setting the groundwork for bots that could schedule meetings or get you the best deal online. Facebook researchers used a game to help the bot learn how to haggle over books, hats, and basketballs. Each object had a point value, and they needed to be split between each bot negotiator via text. From the human conversations (gathered via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and testing its skills against itself, the AI system didn't only learn how to state its demands, but negotiation tactics as well -- specifically, lying. Instead of outright saying what it wanted, sometimes the AI would feign interest in a worthless object, only to later concede it for something that it really wanted. Facebook isn't sure whether it learned from the human hagglers or whether it stumbled upon the trick accidentally, but either way when the tactic worked, it was rewarded.

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