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Google

Advertisers Are Still Boycotting YouTube Over Offensive Videos (go.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:The fallout from the YouTube boycott is likely to be felt through the rest of this year. Skittish advertisers have curtailed their spending until they are convinced Google can prevent their brands from appearing next to extremist clips promoting hate and violence... At one point, about 250 advertisers were boycotting YouTube... The list included big-spending marketers such as PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores, Starbucks, AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, and Volkswagen.

It's unclear how many, if any, of those have returned to YouTube since Google promised to hire more human reviewers and upgrade its technology to keep ads away from repugnant videos. Both Verizon and AT&T, two companies that are trying to expand their own digital ad networks to compete with Google, told The Associated Press that they are still boycotting YouTube. FX Networks confirmed that it isn't advertising on YouTube either. Several other boycotting marketers contacted by AP didn't respond.

Thursday CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts that responding to the boycott, Google held "thousands and thousands" of conversations with advertisers, and one analyst now estimates reduced ad spending on YouTube and Google could cost the company $300 million this year alone.
Advertising

Amazon Confirms Advertising Will Become a 'Meaningful' Part of Its Business (thedrum.com) 80

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon's advertising business has loomed quietly in the digital media space for some time but the online behemoth has given the clearest indication yet that it will now come to the fore. Advertisers and agencies have been hearing Amazon-sized footsteps for some time but until now the business has erred away from revealing too much. However, on its latest earnings call Amazon was asked by one analyst as to whether advertising could become a more "meaningful part of the business" over the near to mid-term. "It's pretty early in the days with advertising but we're very pleased with the team we have and the results," said Amazon's chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky in response to another analyst query. "Our goal is to be helpful to consumers and enhance their shopping or their viewing experience with targeted recommendations, and we think a lot of the information we have and preferences of customers and recommendations help us do that for customers."
Advertising

Should Burger King Be Prosecuted For Their Google Home-Triggering Ads? (washingtonpost.com) 448

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein thinks Burger King should be prosecuted for successfully running an alternate version of its advertisement to trigger Google Home devices again Wednesday: Someone -- or more likely a bunch of someones -- at Burger King and their advertising agency need to be arrested, tried, and spend some time in shackles and prison cells. They've likely been violating state and federal cybercrime laws with their obnoxious ad campaign... For example, the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act broadly prohibits anyone from accessing a computer without authorization... Burger King has instantly become the 'poster child' for mass, criminal abuse of these devices... It was a direct and voluntary violation of law.
Government

GOP Congressman Defending Privacy Vote: 'Nobody's Got To Use The Internet' (washingtonpost.com) 307

Wisconsin congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. defended his decision to help repeal broadband privacy rules by telling a constituent, "Nobody's got to use the Internet." An anonymous reader quotes the 73-year-old congressman: "And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet... Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don't think it's my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice... That's what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives."
"The congressman then moved on to the next question," reports The Washington Post, but criticism of his remarks appeared on social media. One activist complained that the congressman's position was don't use the internet if you don't want your information sold to advertisers -- drawing a clarification from the congressman's office.

"Actually he said that nobody has to use the Internet. They have a choice. Big difference."
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
Advertising

Google Ruins the Assistant's Shopping List, Turns It Into a Big Google Express Ad (arstechnica.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Google Assistant, Google's voice assistant that powers the Google app on Android phones, tablets, and Google Home, has just gotten a major downgrade. In a move reminiscent of all the forced and user-hostile Google+ integrations, Google has gutted the Google Assistant's shopping list functionality in order to turn it into a big advertisement for Google's shopping site, Google Express. The shopping list has been a major feature of the Google Assistant. You can say "Add milk to my shopping list," and the Google Assistant would dutifully store this information somewhere. The shopping list used to live in Google Keep. Keep is Google's primary note-taking app, making it a natural home for the shopping list with lots of useful tools and management options. Now the shopping list lives in Google Express. Express is an online shopping site, and it has no business becoming a dedicated place to store a shopping list that probably has nothing to do with Google's online marketplace. Since Google Express is an online shopping site (and, again, has no business having a note-taking app grafted onto it), the move from Keep to Google Express means the Assistant's shopping list functionality loses the following features: Being able to reorder items with drag and drop; Reminders; Adding images to the shopping list; Adding voice recordings to the shopping list; Real time collaboration with other users (Express has sharing, but you can't see other people as they type -- you have to refresh.); Android Wear integration; Desktop keyboard shortcuts; Checkbox management: deleting all checked items, unchecking all items, hiding checkboxes. Alternatively, the move from Keep to Google Express means the Assistant shopping list gains the following features: Google Express advertising next to every list item; Google Express advertising at the bottom of the page.
Advertising

A Huge Trove of Patient Data Leaks, Thanks To Telemarketers' Bad Security (zdnet.com) 44

"A trove of records containing personal and health information on close to a million people was exposed after a former developer working at a telemarketing company uploaded a backup of its database to the internet," writes ZDNet. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The data contained personal and health-related information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers, health insurance information, and other data relating to the types of health problems the individuals have regarding the products they need, though many of the records were truncated or incomplete. An examination showed that the database was used to market products to thousands of customers by telemarketers at HealthNow -- no longer a registered business as of 2015. Several records we've seen included customized notes written by staff who were tasked with calling customers, such as when they are home and any other relevant information on the subject.
The database apparently lingered online for years in an AWS instance until it was discovered two weeks ago in search results from Shodan by a Twitter user calling himself Flash Gordon. Databreaches.net, which investigated the breach with ZDNet, believes this as a teachable moment. "Before you give your personal or health insurance information to telemarketers or firms that call to offer you supplies for diabetes or back pain or other conditions, think twice."
Security

McAfee: Big Spike In Mac OS Malware In 2016, Mostly From Adware Bundling (fortune.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Security firm McAfee released a report this week that showed a big jump in 2016 regarding malware hitting the Mac operating system. The McAfee report said there were 460,000 malware instances affecting the Mac OS in the fourth quarter of 2016, an over 700% jump from the previous year during the same quarter.

McAfee's new report confirms similar research by other cybersecurity firms in recent years that show an increased prevalence of malware affecting Apple computers. Essentially, as more people buy Apple computers, there are more possibilities for malware to infect the machines. But while an over 700% surge in malware may sound frightening, it should be noted that "the big increase in Mac OS malware was due to adware bundling," the report's authors wrote.

Privacy

How To Protect Your Privacy Online (theverge.com) 130

Though the U.S. Congress voted to roll back privacy rules, broadband customers can still opt-out of targeted advertising from Comcast, Charter, AT&T, and T-Mobile. But an anonymous reader explains why that's not enough: "It's not clear that opting out will prevent ISPs from putting your data to use," reports The Verge, adding "you're opting out of seeing ads, but not out of providing data." Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, tells NPR that consumers can also "call their providers and opt out of having their information shared." But he also suggests a grass roots effort, calling this "an opportunity to pressure companies to implement good practices and for consumers to say 'I think that you should require opt-in consent and if you're not, why not?'"

To try to stop the creation of that data, Brian Krebs has also posted a guide for choosing a VPN provider, and shared a useful link to a chart comparing VPN providers that was recommended by the EFF. This may help avoid some of the problems reported with VPN services, and Krebs also recommends Tor as a free (albeit possibly slower) option, while sharing an informational link describing Tor's own limitations.

I'm curious what steps Slashdot's readers are taking (if any) to protect their own privacy online?
Advertising

HTC Introduces Eye-Tracking 'VR Ad Service' (pcgamer.com) 87

We all knew this day would come: HTC has introduced a "VR Ad Service" that knows when viewers are actively looking at ads. "Ads that appear in immersive VR environments can not only provide more effective impressions, they can also track whether the users have viewed them or have turned away their gaze. Accordingly, the multiplied effect of effective impressions and verified viewings will bring you higher advertising revenue!" HTC explains. PC Gamer reports: Advertisers will only pay for ads after they've been viewed, according to Business Insider. Some of the formats they will use include loading scenes, 2D and 3D in-app placements, app recommendation banners, and big screen video. This will be an opt-in ad service for developers. HTC notes that by opting in, "all of your free apps would be automatically put on the list which can be used to integrate VR Ads." News of in-game ads coming to VR isn't exactly the sort of thing that will excite gamers. If there's a silver lining here, it's that ads are more likely to be relevant to the viewer's interests over time, at least in theory. "Compared to ordinary ad impressions, ads that are seen by users in a immersive VR environment can not only meet the user's needs by means of precise re-targeting, but can also be detected if they are viewed effectively by users," HTC states. "Therefore, promotion of your applications would have much more effective impression, which not only arouses the attention of potential users and enhance brand image, but further attracts interested users directly to download your apps in the VR environment!"
Android

Verizon To Force 'AppFlash' Spyware On Android Phones 120

saccade.com writes: Verizon is joining with the creators of a tool called "Evie Launcher" to make a new app search/launcher tool called AppFlash, which will be installed on all Verizon phones running Android. The app provides no functionality to users beyond what Google Search does. It does, however, give Verizon a steady stream of metrics on your app usage and searches. A quick glance at the AppFlash privacy policy confirms this is the real purpose behind it: "We collect information about your device and your use of the AppFlash services. This information includes your mobile number, device identifiers, device type and operating system, and information about the AppFlash features and services you use and your interactions with them. We also access information about the list of apps you have on your device. [...] AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experiences and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices."
Businesses

A Lawsuit Over Costco Golf Balls Shows Why We Can't Have Nice Things For Cheap (qz.com) 266

Ephrat Livni, writing for Quartz: Unless you're a golfer, you probably don't think about golf balls. But a new US lawsuit about these little-dimpled spheres has an economics lesson for all shoppers, showing why consumers have cause for concern when companies use court for sport. Costco, the wholesale membership club, rocked the golf world in 2016 when it started selling its Kirkland Signature (KS) golf balls at about $15 per dozen, a quarter to a third the price of popular top-ranked balls. Industry insiders called it a "miracle golf ball" for its great performance and low cost, and Costco sold out immediately. It's planning to release more in April. In response to the bargain ball's reception, however, Acushnet -- which makes the popular Titleist balls -- sent the membership club a threatening letter. It accused Costco of infringing on 11 patents and engaging in false advertising for claiming that KS balls meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.
Google

Still More Advertisers Pull Google Ads Over YouTube Hate Videos (morningstar.com) 301

"A week after Google apologized for running customers' advertisements alongside objectionable videos, triggering a change in policy, its YouTube site is still rife with examples that are angering more big advertisers and causing some to cut spending with the tech giant," reports the Dow Jones Newswire. Reporters from the Wall Street Journal spotted ads from Microsoft, Amazon, and Procter & Gamble appearing on hate videos -- and thus indirectly funding them. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Asked about the Journal's finding that their ads were still appearing with such content on YouTube as of Thursday night, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Dish Network Corp. said Friday they were suspending spending on all Google advertising except targeted search ads. Starbucks Corp. and General Motors Co. said they were pulling their ads from YouTube. FX Networks, part of 21st Century Fox Inc., said it was suspending all advertising spending on Google, including search ads and YouTube. Wal-Mart said: "The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values."
An executive at one of the affected companies complained that Google "had assured us over the past few days that our brands were safe from this type of content. Despite their assurances, it's clear they couldn't give assurance."
Twitter

Twitter Considers Premium Version After 11 Years As a Free Service (reuters.com) 84

Twitter is considering whether or not to build a premium version of its site for select users. It's unclear what the cost would be at this time, but it's very possible it could be in the form of a subscription. Reuters reports: Like most other social media companies, Twitter since its founding 11 years ago has focused on building a huge user base for a free service supported by advertising. Last month it reported it had 319 million users worldwide. Twitter is conducting a survey "to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck," which is an existing tool that helps users navigate the network, spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca said in a statement on Thursday. She went on: "We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people's Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we're exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals." There was no indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users. Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like. That version could include "more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker," according to one of the screenshots posted on the account @andrewtavani.
Advertising

Google Wants To Create Promotions That Aren't Ads For Its Voice-Controlled Assistant (businessinsider.in) 49

Earlier this month, some Google Home users noticed what appeared to be audio ads for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" movie. After some intense backlash, the company released a statement claiming that the ad was not an ad, but that it was simply "timely content" that Disney didn't pay for. Google's UK director of agencies, Matt Bush, has since spoken out about the company's plans with advertising via the voice-controlled Assistant. Business Insider reports: Bush explained Google isn't looking to offer brand integrations in voice for the time being, since it didn't have enough data to come up with an ad product that adds value for consumers. "We want businesses to have a phenomenal mobile experience and then building on that have a phenomenal voice experience," Bush told Business Insider at Advertising Week Europe. "That might not be, in the early instances, anything that has to do with commercials at all. It might just be something something that adds value to the consumer without needing to be commercialized." Bush explained that the consumer experience with voice is very different from that of text search because the use cases for voice navigation differ depending on the device the function is used on and the context the user finds themselves in. "We don't want to start putting in commercial opportunities that we think users don't want to interact with," Bush said "We don't want anything to come in-between the user and their access to the information they're actually looking for. If a brand can add value in that space, fantastic." Bush cited mobile search ads as successful executions of using context and personal user insights, but voice promotions are unlikely to take the same form. "It's unlikely to be what you see from search as it currently stands, where you might have three or four ads as the top results of a search," he said.
Google

Judge Rejects Google Deal Over Email Scanning (fortune.com) 48

A federal judge in San Francisco slammed a legal settlement that proposed to pay $2.2 million to lawyers, but nothing to consumers who had the contents of their email scanned by Google without their knowledge or permission. From a report: In a 6-page order, Judge Lucy Koh told Google and class action attorneys the proposed settlement was insufficient, in part because it failed to clearly tell consumers what the search giant had done. "This notice is difficult to understand and does not clearly disclose the fact that Google intercepts, scans and analyzes the content of emails sent by non-Gmail users to Gmail users for the purpose of creating user profiles of the Gmail users to create targeted advertising for the Gmail users," Koh wrote.
Security

Millions of Records Leaked From Huge US Corporate Database (zdnet.com) 66

Millions of records from a commercial corporate database have been leaked. ZDNet reports: The database, about 52 gigabytes in size, contains just under 33.7 million unique email addresses and other contact information from employees of thousands of companies, representing a large portion of the US corporate population. Dun & Bradstreet, a business services giant, confirmed that it owns the database, which it acquired as part of a 2015 deal to buy NetProspex for $125 million. The purchased database contains dozens of fields, some including personal information such as names, job titles and functions, work email addresses, and phone numbers. Other information includes more generic corporate and publicly sourced data, such as believed office location, the number of employees in the business unit, and other descriptions of the kind of industry the company falls into, such as advertising, legal, media and broadcasting, and telecoms.
Facebook

'We Didn't Lose Control Of Our Personal Data -- It Was Stolen From Us By People Farmers' (ar.al) 147

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web, wrote an open-letter over the weekend to mark the 28th anniversary of his invention. In his letter, he shared three worrisome things that happened over the last twelve months. In his letter, Berners-Lee pointed out three things that occurred over the past 12 months that has him worried: we do not assume control of our personal data anymore; how easy it is for misinformation to spread on the web; and lack of transparency on political advertising on the web. Cyborg rights activist Aral Balkan wrote a piece yesterday arguing that perhaps Berners-Lee is being modest about the things that concern him. From the article: It's important to note that these (those three worrisome things) are not trends and that they've been in the making for far longer than twelve months. They are symptoms that are inextricably linked to the core nature of the Web as it exists within the greater socio-technological system we live under today that we call Surveillance Capitalism. Tim says we've "lost control of our personal data." This is not entirely accurate. We didn't lose control; it was stolen from us by Silicon Valley. It is stolen from you every day by people farmers; the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. It is stolen from you by an industry of data brokers, the publishing behavioural advertising industry ("adtech"), and a long tail of Silicon Valley startups hungry for an exit to one of the more established players or looking to compete with them to own a share of you. The elephants in the room -- Google and Facebook -- stand silently in the wings, unmentioned except as allies later on in the letter where they're portrayed trying to "combat the problem" of misinformation. Is it perhaps foolish to expect anything more when Google is one of the biggest contributors to recent web standards at the W3C and when Google and Facebook both help fund the Web Foundation? Let me state it plainly: Google and Facebook are not allies in our fight for an equitable future -- they are the enemy. These platform monopolies are factory farms for human beings; farming us for every gram of insight they can extract. If, as Tim states, the core challenge for the Web today is combating people farming, and if we know who the people farmers are, shouldn't we be strongly regulating them to curb their abuses?
Windows

Windows 10 Is Just 'A Vehicle For Advertisements', Argues Tech Columnist (betanews.com) 353

A new editorial by BetaNews columnist Mark Wilson argues that Windows 10 isn't an operating system -- it's "a vehicle for ads". An anonymous reader quotes their report: They appear in the Start menu, in the taskbar, in the Action Center, in Explorer, in the Ink Workspace, on the Lock Screen, in the Share tool, in the Windows Store and even in File Explorer.

Microsoft has lost its grip on what is acceptable, and even goes as far as pretending that these ads serve users more than the company -- "these are suggestions", "this is a promoted app", "we thought you'd like to know that Edge uses less battery than Chrome", "playable ads let you try out apps without installing". But if we're honest, the company is doing nothing more than abusing its position, using Windows 10 to promote its own tools and services, or those with which it has marketing arrangements.

The article suggests ads are part of the hidden price tag for the free downloads of Windows 10 that Microsoft offered last year (along with the telemetry and other user-tracking features). Their article has already received 357 comments, and concludes that the prevalence of ads in Windows 10 is "indefensible".
Privacy

Tim Berners-Lee Warns About the Web's Three Biggest Threats (webfoundation.org) 91

Sunday was the 28th anniversary of the day that 33-year-old Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for the World Wide Web -- and the father of the web published a new letter today about "how the web has evolved, and what we must do to ensure it fulfills his vision of an equalizing platform that benefits all of humanity."

It's been an ongoing battle to maintain the web's openness, but in addition, Berners-Lee lists the following issues: 1) We've lost control of our personal data. 2) It's too easy for misinformation to spread on the web. 3) Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding. Tim Berners-Lee writes:
We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology like personal "data pods" if needed and exploring alternative revenue models like subscriptions and micropayments. We must fight against government over-reach in surveillance laws, including through the courts if necessary. We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is "true" or not. We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed. We urgently need to close the "internet blind spot" in the regulation of political campaigning.
Berners-Lee says his team at the Web Foundation "will be working on many of these issues as part of our new five year strategy," researching policy solutions and building progress-driving coalitions, as well as maintaining their massive list of digital rights organizations. "I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today... and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want -- for everyone." Inspired by the letter, very-long-time Slashdot reader Martin S. asks, does the web need improvements? And if so, "I'm wondering what Slashdotters would consider to be a solution?"

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