Google

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails For Gmail Ads (bloomberg.com) 61

Google will soon stop scanning emails received by some Gmail users, a practice that has allowed it to show them targeted advertising but which stirred privacy worries. From a report: The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers. Alphabet's Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of cloud. "What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," she said. Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user's email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.
Advertising

Home Improvement Chains Accused of False Advertising Over Lumber Dimensions (consumerist.com) 511

per unit analyzer writes: According to Consumerist, an attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit charging Home Depot (PDF) and Menards (PDF) with deceptive advertising practices by selling "lumber products that were falsely advertised and labeled as having product dimensions that were not the actual dimensions of the products sold." Now granted, this may be news to the novice DIYer, but overall most folks who are purchasing lumber at home improvement stores know that the so-called trade sizes don't match the actual dimensions of the lumber. Do retailers need to educate naive consumers about every aspect of the items they sell? (Especially industry quirks such as this...) Furthermore, as the article notes, it's hard to see how the plaintiffs have been damaged when these building materials are compatible with the construction of the purchaser's existing buildings. i.e., An "actual" 2x4 would not fit in a wall previously built with standard 2x4s -- selling the something as advertised would actually cause the purchaser more trouble in many cases.
Android

Mozilla Launches Privacy-Minded 'Firefox Focus' Browser For Android (venturebeat.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS):
  • Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
  • Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues.
  • Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

Youtube

Google Announces New Measures To Fight Extremist YouTube Videos (cnet.com) 286

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: YouTube will take new steps to combat extremist- and terrorist-related videos, parent company Google said Sunday. "While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, said in an op-ed column in the London-based Financial Times.
Here's CNET's summary of the four new measure Google is implementing:
  • Use "more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new 'content classifiers' to help us more quickly identify and remove such content."
  • Expand YouTube's Trusted Flagger program by adding 50 independent, "expert" non-governmental organizations to the 63 groups already part of it. Google will offer grants to fund the groups.
  • Take a "tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies -- for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content." Such videos will "appear behind a warning" and will not be "monetized, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements."
  • Expand YouTube's efforts in counter-radicalization. "We are working with Jigsaw to implement the 'redirect method' more broadly. ... This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining."

Australia

Movie Piracy Cost Australian Network 'Hundreds of Millions of Dollars' (theaustralian.com.au) 119

Film television piracy and illegal downloads are partly to blame for Australian broadcaster Ten Network's woes, according to Village Roadshow co-chief executive Graham Burke. From a report: He said piracy had cost Ten "hundreds of millions of dollars" in potential advertising revenue because of lower ratings resulting from pirated versions of films supplied by 21st Century Fox under an onerous output deal with the Hollywood studio. He said copies of Fox's Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie were stolen last year and shared illegally via a piracy website. "Piracy is a much bigger channel and an illicit economy than the three main commercial networks combined. It is ripping off viewers from legitimate, taxpaying enterprises," Mr Burke said. "The product that Ten is buying from 21st Century Fox and is now arriving have been pirated out of sight."
Yahoo!

Ask Slashdot: Advice For a Yahoo Mail Refugee 322

New submitter ma1wrbu5tr writes: Very shortly after the announcement of Verizon's acquisition of Yahoo, two things happened that caught my attention. First, I was sent an email that basically said "these are our new Terms of Service and if you don't agree to them, you have until June 8th to close your account". Subsequently, I noticed that when working in my mailbox via the browser, I kept seeing messages in the status bar saying "uploading..." and "upload complete". I understand that Y! has started advertising heavily in the webmail app but I find these "uploads" disturbing. I've since broken out a pop client and have downloaded 15 years worth of mail and am going through to ensure there are no other online accounts tied to that address. My question to slashdotters is this: "What paid or free secure email service do you recommend as a replacement and why?" I'm on the hunt for an email service that supports encryption, has a good Privacy Policy, and doesn't have a history of breaches or allowing snooping.
The Almighty Buck

Report Reveals In-App Purchase Scams In the App Store (macrumors.com) 48

In a Medium article titled How to Make $80,000 Per Month On the Apple App Store, Johnny Lin uncovers a scamming trend in which apps advertising fake services are making thousands of dollars a month from in-app purchases. The practice works by manipulating search ads to promote dubious apps in the App Store and then preys on unsuspecting users via the in-app purchase mechanism. MacRumors reports: "I scrolled down the list in the Productivity category and saw apps from well-known companies like Dropbox, Evernote, and Microsoft," said Lin. "That was to be expected. But what's this? The #10 Top Grossing Productivity app (as of June 7th, 2017) was an app called 'Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN.' Given the terrible title of this app (inconsistent capitalization, misplaced colon, and grammatically nonsensical 'Clean & Security VPN?'), I was sure this was a bug in the rankings algorithm. So I check Sensor Tower for an estimate of the app's revenue, which showed ... $80,000 per month?? That couldn't possibly be right. Now I was really curious." To learn how this could be, Lin installed and ran the app, and was soon prompted to start a "free trial" for an "anti-virus scanner" (iOS does not need anti-virus software thanks to Apple's sandboxing rules for individual apps). Tapping on the trial offer then threw up a Touch ID authentication prompt containing the text "You will pay $99.99 for a 7-day subscription starting Jun 9, 2017." Lin was one touch away from paying $400 a month for a non-existent service offered by a scammer. Lin dug deeper and found several other similar apps making money off the same scam, suggesting a wider disturbing trend, with scam apps regularly showing up in the App Store's top grossing lists.
United States

Sharp To Americans: You Don't Want to Buy a Sharp-Brand TV (wsj.com) 115

Sharp has sued China's Hisense Electric, which licensed the Sharp brand for televisions sold in the U.S., accusing Hisense of putting the Sharp name on poor-quality TVs and deceptively advertising them (alternative source). From a report: The court action is the latest effort by Osaka-based Sharp to retrieve the right to use its own name when selling TVs in one of the world's largest markets. Sharp is trying to recover its position as a global maker of consumer electronics. Hisense rejected the allegations and said it was selling high-quality televisions under the Sharp name. The dispute illustrates the risks when the owner of a well-known brand name gives up control over products sold under that name.
Cellphones

No, Your Phone Didn't Ring. So Why Voice Mail From a Telemarketer? (lifehacker.com) 210

Slashdot reader midwestsilentone tipped us off to a growing problem. Lifehacker reports: New technology allows telemarketers to leave ringless voicemail messages, and it's a method that's gaining traction. While there are laws to regulate businesses when they call consumers, some groups argue that ringless voicemail shouldn't count. The New York Times reports,"ringless voicemail providers and pro-business groups...argue that these messages should not qualify as calls and, therefore, should be exempt from consumer protection laws that ban similar types of telephone marketing"... After receiving a petition from a ringless voicemail provider, the Federal Trade Commission has started to collect public comments on this issue. So what can you do about it? First, you can head here to leave your public comment and if you're getting these voicemails, you can file a complaint with the FCC here.
Presumably that only applies if you're in the U.S. But I'd be curious to hear how many Slashdot readers have experienced this.
Google

Wall Street Journal's Google Traffic Drops 44% After Pulling Out of First Click Free (bloomberg.com) 257

In February, the Wall Street Journal blocked Google users from reading free articles, resulting in a fourfold increase in the rate of visitors converting into paying customers. The tradeoff, as reported by Bloomberg, is a decrease in traffic from Google. Since the WSJ ended its support for Google's "first click free" policy, traffic from Google plummeted 44 percent. From the report: Google search results are based on an algorithm that scans the internet for free content. After the Journal's free articles went behind a paywall, Google's bot only saw the first few paragraphs and started ranking them lower, limiting the Journal's viewership. Executives at the Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., argue that Google's policy is unfairly punishing them for trying to attract more digital subscribers. They want Google to treat their articles equally in search rankings, despite being behind a paywall. The Journal's experience could have implications across the news industry, where publishers are relying more on convincing readers to pay for their articles because tech giants like Google and Facebook are vacuuming up the lion's share of online advertising. Google says its "first click free" policy is good for both consumers and publishers. People want to get the news quickly and don't want to immediately encounter a paywall. Plus, if publishers let Google users sample articles for free, there's a better chance they'll end up subscribing, Google says. The tech giant likens its policy to stores allowing people to flip through newspapers and magazines before choosing which one to buy.
Businesses

Can Twitter Survive By Becoming A User-Owned Co-Op? (salon.com) 124

What's going to happen now that Twitter's stock price has dropped from $66 a share to just $18? An anonymous reader quotes Salon: A small group of shrewd Twitter users and shareholders have come up with proposals to fundamentally restructure the way Twitter is controlled, to turn the company into a public service by removing the need to feed investors' ceaseless appetite for hitting quarterly growth benchmarks... Sonja Trauss, a Bay Area housing policy activist, and Twitter shareholder Alex Chiang proposed earlier this year a resolution for the company's recent annual shareholder vote to promote ways to get Twitter users to buy stock in the company, such as offering ways to buy shares directly through the Twitter website and mobile app. If many individual Twitter users each owned a small piece of the company, then they could participate collectively (through the annual shareholder voting process) in steering the direction of the company.

The idea makes sense from a labor standpoint. Twitter's value comes from user's tweets, which provides the backbone for digital advertising revenue. Twitter also sells this user-generated data to third parties that use it mainly for market research. This bloc of user-shareholders could theoretically overtake the control major institutional shareholders...have over the company. Because a lot of owners of a few shares of the company would have little to lose if the stock price doesn't grow or wavers, Twitter would be less beholden to meeting Wall Street's often brutal expectations.

Advertising

Google's Top Search Result For 'Target' Was A Tech Support Scam (bleepingcomputer.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Malicious ads displayed in Google search results for Target -- the US retailer -- redirected users to a tech support scam. The malvertising campaign was spotted on Friday by a US user who posted his observations to a StackExchange thread. The rogue ad appeared when users searched for the term "target," right at the top of all search results, [and] used a feature of the Google Ads service that allows ad publishers to display a URL but redirect users to another link. For example, in the rogue ad, the displayed link was "target.com," but users were redirected to "tech-supportcenter.us." Surprisingly, this got past Google's ad quality control service... The page users landed on was mimicking the style of Microsoft's real website, but was urging users to call a phone number to remove a non-existent "HARDDISK_ROOTKIT_TROJAN_HUACK.EXE" file.
The article points out the same thing happen in February when Google's top search result for Amazon was a spoof site with another tech support scam.
EU

Google Could Face a $9 Billion EU Fine For Rigging Search Results In Its Favor (independent.co.uk) 86

schwit1 quotes a report from The Independent: EU antitrust regulators aim to slap a hefty fine on Alphabet unit Google over its shopping service before the summer break in August, two people familiar with the matter said, setting the stage for two other cases involving the U.S. company. The European Commission's decision will come after a seven-year investigation into the world's most popular internet search engine was triggered by scores of complaints from both U.S. and European rivals. Fines for companies found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules can reach 10 percent of their global turnover, which in Google's case could be about $9 billion of its 2016 turnover. Apart from the fine, the Commission will tell Google to stop its alleged anti-competitive practices but it is not clear what measures it will order the company to adopt to ensure that rivals get equal treatment in internet shopping results. The company has also been charged with using its Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals and with blocking competitors in online search advertising related to its "AdSense for Search" platform. The platform allows Google to act as an intermediary for websites such as online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers. The Commission has warned of massive fines in both cases.
Businesses

VR Sports? It Can Be a Billion Dollar Business, Says Intel CEO (axios.com) 43

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich told Axios on Thursday that he sees virtual reality not only changing the face of sports, but also potentially being a multi-billion-dollar business for the chip giant. "I think it can be a couple billion dollar business" he said in an interview after his appearance at Code Conference. "And the reason is this is a whole new feed... things like advertising, the ability to take that data and sell it... we're the only ones who we believe can produce this stuff."
United States

Hillary Clinton Rips 'Bankrupt' DNC Data Operation (axios.com) 524

An anonymous reader shares an article: Hillary Clinton slammed the DNC's 2016 campaign data operation Wednesday, saying she had "nothing" to work from once she won the nomination. She lamented that Donald Trump was able to walk into a well-funded and thoroughly-tested data operation, while she was forced to build hers largely from scratch. Axios conducted over two dozen interviews with experts associated with the Trump and Clinton data and advertising operations earlier this year, and while many sources agreed with this sentiment off the record, no campaign or DNC staffers used language as strong as Clinton did Wednesday to publicly to condemn the DNC's data enterprise. Further reading: "I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that's not why I lost," says Clinton.
News

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a News Source? (csmonitor.com) 275

Obfiscator writes: Journalism has long had potential to change the world. The latest elections in the United States demonstrated new dimensions of this, with the rise of "fake news" and "echo chambers," as well as a president who has few reservations in expressing his thoughts of the media. The Christian Science Monitor has been a favorite news site of mine for years, due to their objective and balanced reporting, as well as their tendency to avoid "breaking news" and provide detailed analysis a few days later. Very few stories are going to impact my world to the point where waiting a couple days to read about them will make a difference. Despite the name, the vast majority of articles have no religious context (they address this in their FAQ). CSM has recently switched to be completely behind a paywall, as well. In their words, "We hope the Monitor Daily addresses both those trends. It is pushed to where our readers are and offers this pact: We will deliver our distinctive view of the world and you support financially our ability to produce that news." Is this the next trend: moving away from advertising revenues? Will this create more balanced journalism, as there is no need to attract clicks? Or will it deepen "echo chambers?" How do Slashdotters choose their news sites?
Android

Malicious Apps Brought Ad-Clicking 'Judy' Malware To Millions Of Android Phones (fortune.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The security firm Checkpoint on Thursday uncovered dozens of Android applications that infected users' devices with malicious ad-click software. In at least one case, an app bearing the malware was available through the Google Play app store for more than a year. While the actual extent of the malicious code's spread is unknown, Checkpoint says it may have reached as many as 36.5 million users, making it potentially the most widely-spread malware yet found on Google Play... The nefarious nature of the programs went unnoticed in large part, according to Checkpoint, because its malware payload was downloaded from a non-Google server after the programs were installed. The code would then use the infected phone to click on Google ads, generating fraudulent revenue for the attacker.
Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 61

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 189

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Advertising

Google Following Your Offline Credit Card Spending To Tell Advertisers If Their Ads Work (consumerist.com) 147

One of the new tools Google has announced for its advertisers today promises to tie your offline credit card data together with all your online viewing to tell advertisers exactly what's working as they try to target you and your wallet. Consumerist reports: That return, for decades, was hard to measure in all but the most vaguely correlative of ways. Did people buy your product after seeing your TV ad? After seeing your billboard? On a whim after seeing neither? Who knows! But in the age of highly targeted, algorithmic advertising, the landscape is completely different. The apps on your phone know what you looked at and when, and can tie that in to what you see on other devices you're also logged into their services on (like your work computer). Meanwhile, you're leaving tracks out in the physical world -- not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do). Google also introduced some offline measurements to its online tool suite back in 2014, when it started using phone location data to try to match store visit location data to digital ad views. But a store doesn't make any money when you simply walk into it; you need to buy something. So Google's tracking that very granularly now, too. "In the coming months, we'll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads," Google explains to advertisers. That's very literally a collection of spending data matched to the people who spent it, matched in turn to people who saw ads.

Slashdot Top Deals