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Tech Giants Used 'Loopholes' To Duck Merger Reviews, FTC Says

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 22:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Hundreds of deals by U.S. technology giants flew under the radar of merger watchdogs, fueling the companies' unchecked growth in the digital economy, according to a Federal Trade Commission study (PDF). The data on acquisitions by Apple, Amazon, Alphabet's Google, and Microsoft show that antitrust enforcers must be more aggressive in making sure companies aren't taking advantage of "loopholes" to avoid reporting deals to regulators, FTC Chair Lina Khan said Wednesday. "This study highlights the systemic nature of their acquisition strategy," Khan said about the tech companies during an FTC public meeting. "Digital markets in particular reveal how smaller transactions invite vigilance." The findings could bolster arguments that competition cops need to step up scrutiny of acquisitions by tech platforms to curb their power. The data comes from a study the FTC announced last year to examine deals between 2010 and 2019 by the five tech giants to better understand whether acquisitions occurring outside the view of antitrust enforcers could be undermining competition. The FTC issued orders to the five companies requiring them to provide information about past acquisitions that weren't reported to antitrust agencies. The companies identified 819 such transactions, including acquisitions of voting control of companies, partial investments, patent acquisitions, and what the FTC called "hiring events" in which a group of employees were hired from another company. Although the FTC didn't identify specific transactions by companies, one example is Facebook's acquisition last year of image library Giphy for about $400 million. Bloomberg News reported last month that before the takeover, Giphy paid a dividend to investors. While perfectly legal, the payment lowered the value of Giphy's assets so that antitrust officials didn't have to be notified of the deal under the reporting thresholds at the time.

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It's bizarre we're at a point where reports are written on how human rights trump AI rights

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 21:40
But that's what UN group has done

The protection of human rights should be front and centre of any decision to implement AI-based systems regardless of whether they're used as corporate tools such as recruitment or in areas such as law enforcement.…

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Home Computing Pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair Dies Aged 81

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 21:25
LoTonah writes: Sir Clive Sinclair, the man behind the Sinclair Spectrum and the first computer to retail for under a hundred dollars (the Sinclair ZX-81, A.K.A. The Timex/Sinclair 1000), died September 15 after battling a long illness. His daughter, Belinda, said he died at home in London on Thursday morning after a long illness. Sinclair invented the pocket calculator but was best known for popularising the home computer, bringing it to British high-street stores at relatively affordable prices. Many modern-day titans of the games industry got their start on one of his ZX models. For a certain generation of gamer, the computer of choice was either the ZX Spectrum 48K or its rival, the Commodore 64. Belinda Sinclair, 57, told the Guardian: "He was a rather amazing person. Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he'd be chatting engineering with them." He left school at 17 and worked for four years as a technical journalist to raise funds to found Sinclair Radionics.

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New Microsoft Office Arrives Early Next Month, and Won't Require You To Pay For a Subscription

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 20:45
Microsoft's new, flat-price version of its Office productivity software will arrive on Oct. 5 -- the same day Windows 11 begins rolling out, according to a company blog post Thursday. From a report: Microsoft previously emphasized that while its main focus remains in its subscription offering, Microsoft 365, it will release the one-time purchase Office 2021 for those who aren't ready to move to the cloud. Office 2021 arrives in two versions: one for commercial users, called Office LTSC (which stands for Long Term Servicing Channel), and one for personal use. Office LTSC is generally available today, the post said, and includes enhanced accessibility features, performance improvements across Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and visual improvements, like dark mode support across apps. It's meant for specialty situations, as opposed to for an entire organization, such as process control devices on the manufacturing floor that are not connected to the internet. Meanwhile, Office 2021 for personal use will arrive on Oct. 5, though Microsoft has not yet announced pricing information.

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Aviation-themed phishing campaign pushed off-the-shelf RATs into inboxes for 5 years

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 20:35
Not all promises of international flight itineraries are real, warns Cisco Talos

A phishing campaign that mostly targeted the global aviation industry may be connected to Nigeria, according to Cisco Talos.…

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Wikipedia Bans Seven Chinese Users Amid Concerns of 'Infiltration, Physical Harm'

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 20:05
Thelasko writes: The Wikimedia Foundation has revealed efforts to gather personal information on some Chinese Wikipedia editors by entities opposed to their activities on the platform and likely to threaten the targets' privacy or well-being. The foundation's response has been to ban seven users in mainland China, cancel sysop privileges for another dozen, and warn plenty more Wikipedia editors to modify their behaviour. The bans and warnings were revealed in a Monday letter from Maggie Dennis, the foundation's vice president of community resilience and sustainability. This move followed the detection of what Dennis described in a statement as "information about infiltration of Wikimedia systems, including positions with access to personally identifiable information and elected bodies of influence." The foundation contracted a security firm, which assessed that the ongoing situation "placed multiple users at risk." Dennis's letter describes the exposure of personal information of Chinese editors, and states "we know that some users have been physically harmed as a result." The Wikimedia Foundation therefore decided some of the perpetrators had to be sanctioned. "We have banned seven users and desysopped a further 12 as a result of long and deep investigations into activities around some members of the unrecognized group Wikimedians of Mainland China," Dennis wrote. "We have also reached out to a number of other editors with explanations around canvassing guidelines and doxing policies and requests to modify their behaviors." The letter and statement don't explain the source of the conflict, but do mention "recent world events" as one catalyst.

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RIP Sir Clive Sinclair: British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 19:46
From pocket calculators to ZX Spectrum and beyond

Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81.…

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Instagram Boss Says Social Media is Like Cars: People Are Going To Die

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 19:25
An anonymous reader shares a report: Adam Mosseri isn't doing Facebook any favors. The head of Instagram was interviewed on the Recode Media podcast this week following a damning series of articles in the Wall Street Journal based on leaked internal Facebook documents. In the interview with host Peter Kafka, Mosseri attempted to defend the negative effects his platform has on its users by comparing social media to cars. The gist of his argument? Some people are just going to get run over, and that's the price we all pay. "We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large cars create way more value in the world than they destroy," argued Mosseri. "And I think social media is similar." The Journal story in question explains how internal Facebook research (Facebook owns Instagram) found Instagram was making life worse for a segment of its users. "We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls," read one 2019 internal slide obtained by the paper. "Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression," read another. In response to Mosseri's car comments, Kafka rightly pointed out that automobiles are subject to intense safety regulation on a federal level, which Mosseri countered by pivoting between saying social media regulation is welcome and, well, that it's also potentially problematic. "We think you have to be careful," he said, "because regulation can cause more problems."

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The age of the Service Pack is over. The time of the Modern Servicing Model has come

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 19:01
It's CUs and GDRs here on out for Microsoft's SQL Server

It's the end of an era. Microsoft has finally released its very last SQL Server service pack.…

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OpenSea's Product Chief is Out After Insider NFT Flipping Accusations

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 18:48
OpenSea head of product Nate Chastain, who was recently accused of a form of NFT insider trading, appears to no longer be working for the company. His Twitter bio now includes the phrase "Past: @opensea." From a report: OpenSea has not publicly named the employee involved in the incident, but CEO Devin Finzer says the NFT trading platform asked for and received their resignation. Yesterday, Finzer put up a blog post saying an employee used knowledge gained from working at the company to purchase NFTs that were about to be posted to the popular trading site's homepage (and would thus likely go up in value). While an investigation is apparently still ongoing, OpenSea does say that it's implemented clearer rules to prevent employees from doing this kind of thing in the future.

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CityFibre scores extra £1bn+ of funding to plumb in up to eight million British homes by 2025

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 18:30
Ikea parent Interogo Holding among the investors

Full-fibre network operator CityFibre has grabbed £1.125bn in financing to help support its plan to wire up to eight million homes in the UK.…

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Locast's Free TV Service Ordered To Shut Down Permanently After Copyright Loss

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 18:05
Locast has been ordered to shut down its online TV service forever in a permanent injunction issued yesterday by a federal judge. From a report: The order came two weeks after the judge gave major broadcast networks a big victory in their copyright case against Locast, a nonprofit organization that provided online access to broadcast TV stations. Locast will have to win on appeal in order to stream broadcast channels again. Locast already suspended operations after the September 1 ruling that said it does not qualify for a copyright-law exemption available to nonprofits, so the permanent injunction doesn't change the status quo. US District Judge Louis Stanton cited a December 2019 agreement between Locast and the networks that limited the scope of the litigation and said a permanent injunction should be entered if the court determines that Locast does not qualify for the copyright-law exemption. The deal did not prohibit Locast "from applying for a stay of the permanent injunction pending appeal, nor to bar the broadcasters from opposing any such stay," the agreement said. ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC motioned for a permanent injunction after the September 1 ruling. The judge's order yesterday said the defendants "are permanently restrained and enjoined from operating Locast" but that "entry of an injunction will provide opportunity for appeal contemplated by the agreement." Further reading: Locast, a Free App Streaming Network TV, Would Love To Get Sued (January 2019).

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New Tolling Systems Are Poised To Hit Highways

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 17:25
Electric vehicles might be good for the environment, but they're terrible for state budgets, which depend on fuel taxes to pay for road maintenance. So states like Oregon and Utah are experimenting with new road user fees -- known as "vehicle mileage taxes" or VMTs -- that reflect changing mobility trends. From a report: By charging drivers for the miles they drive -- instead of taxing the gas they use -- states can ensure that everyone pays their fair share for public roads. But some drivers might wind up paying more than they do now, and the preliminary technology involved is raising privacy concerns. In Utah and Oregon -- where EVs and increased fuel efficiency are blowing a hole in road repair budgets -- drivers are being asked to enroll in voluntary experiments in pay-as-you-go tolling. Under a VMT system, drivers report their mileage electronically, using a plug-in device in their cars or a smartphone app. Per the Deseret (Utah) News: "Users are given the option to pay 1.5 cents per mile traveled or an annual flat fee of $120 for electric vehicles or $20 for gas hybrids." Oregon is testing several potential funding models based on the time of day and other factors. Under one potential scenario, a driver could pay a statewide 1.8-cents-per-mile fee, plus a 20-cent metropolitan Portland surcharge, plus a virtual toll on Interstate 5 and another fee for entering downtown Portland.

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Bepanted shovel-toting farmer wins privacy payout from France TV

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 17:10
Unwitting star of #Slipgate viral images awarded reduced damages, tempts Streisand effect

A French farmer who was filmed setting about bird conservationists with a shovel while in his underpants has won damages from a TV company that filmed the incident for violating his privacy.…

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AMD: We Stand Ready To Make Arm Chips

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 16:45
AMD's CFO Devinder Kumar has commented that AMD stands ready to manufacture Arm chips if needed, noting that the company's customers want to work with AMD on Arm-based solutions. From a report: Kumar's remarks came during last week's Deutsche Bank Technology Conference, building on comments from AMD CEO Lisa Su earlier in the year that underscored the company's willingness to create custom silicon solutions for its customers, be they based on x86 or Arm architectures. Intel also intends to produce Arm and RISC-V chips, too, meaning that the rise of non-x86 architectures will be partially fueled by the stewards of the dominant x86 ecosystem. "But I'll tell you from my standpoint, when you look at compute solutions, whether it's x86 or ARM or even other areas, that is an area for our focus on investment for us," AMD CFO Devinder Kumar responded to a question about the company's view of competing Arm chips. "We know compute really well. Even ARM, as you referenced, we have a very good relationship with ARM. And we understand that our customers want to work with us with that particular product to deliver the solutions. We stand ready to go ahead and do that even though it's not x86, although we believe x86 is a dominant strength in that area."

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Jay-Z's NFT Feud Spotlights Legal Peril in Hot Investment Trend

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 16:05
As a young rapper, Jay-Z once teamed up with Damon Dash to sell CDs of his music out of a car in the Brooklyn projects. Today, the co-founders of Roc-A-Fella Records are embroiled in a legal fight involving one of the most cutting-edge investments: non-fungible tokens. From a report: The lawsuit is among a flurry involving NFTs as U.S. courts begin to grapple with the novel legal issues surrounding ownership and regulation of the assets, which have recently exploded in value. More than half a dozen suits citing NFTs have been filed in federal courts alone since the start of 2020, as monthly trading volume in the world's biggest NFT marketplace, OpenSea, soared from $8 million six months ago to more than $1 billion in August. The dispute began in June, when Roc-A-Fella sued Dash, seeking to stop him from auctioning off the copyright to Jay-Z's debut album, Reasonable Doubt, as an NFT, which represents ownership of a digital object on a blockchain. Roc-A-Fella says that while Dash holds a one-third stake in the company, it owns the album itself, and he has no legal right to sell the NFT. The Jay-Z suit should serve as a warning to buyers and sellers of NFTs to make sure both sides know exactly what's being sold, said Christopher A. Cole, a partner with Crowell & Moring LLP in Washington. "They need to be very careful up front, when the NFT is created, to ensure that it's a valid instrument and the creators had the rights they needed to what's being sold, so that it's not attacked down the road," Cole said. More litigation involving NFTs is likely, from lawsuits on behalf of consumers who didn't understand the nature of the rights they were acquiring to government enforcement actions to protect them, said Pratin Vallabhaneni, a partner with White & Case in Washington.

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OpenSilver throws Microsoft Silverlight devs a lifeline as end of support looms – or you could forget it ever happened

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 16:02
Open-source project migrates deprecated apps to WebAssembly

Microsoft Silverlight, now only supported in the legacy Internet Explorer, goes completely end of life on 12 October – but an open-source project called OpenSilver has appeared to convert Silverlight projects to WebAssembly.…

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China's Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 15:25
Zhao Wei was the Reese Witherspoon of China, then she was censored by the Communist Party amid a clampdown of the country's entertainment industry. WSJ: She directed award-winning films, sold millions of records as a pop singer and built a large following on social media, amassing 86 million fans on Weibo, China's Twitter -like microblogging site. She also made a fortune as an investor in Chinese technology and entertainment companies. Today, the 45-year-old star has been erased from the Chinese internet. Searches for her name on the country's biggest video-streaming sites come up blank. Her projects, including the wildly popular TV series "My Fair Princess," have been removed. Anyone looking up her acclaimed film "So Young" on China's equivalent of Wikipedia wouldn't know she was the director; the field now reads "---." Ms. Zhao's online disappearance on Aug. 26 came at the onset of a broader clampdown on the country's entertainment industry as the Communist Party attempts to halt what it sees as a rise in unhealthy celebrity culture. The Chinese government hasn't publicly stated what prompted this sudden change to her status, raising questions among fans and observers about how far it is willing to go against her and other celebrities, and why. The mystery also has sparked open speculation about what, if anything, she might have done wrong. "Zhao Wei is like a poster child for what the Communist Party sees as what's wrong with celebrity culture in China," said Stanley Rosen, a professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in Chinese films and politics. "It's a demonstration that no one, no matter how wealthy or popular, is too big to pursue." In Zhao Wei's case, he added, the lack of explanation "will certainly make other celebrities extremely cautious and proactive in embracing regime goals."

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Ransomware-hit law firm secures High Court judgment against unknown criminals

TheRegister - Thu, 2021-09-16 15:15
You tell 'em, 4 New Square chambers

The London law firm which secured a court injunction forbidding ransomware criminals from publishing data stolen from them has now gone a step further – by securing a default judgment from the High Court.…

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FTC Warns Health Apps To Notify Consumers Impacted by Data Breaches

Slashdot - Thu, 2021-09-16 14:58
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted 3-2 Wednesday that a decade-old rule on health data breaches applies to apps that handle sensitive health information, warning these companies to comply. From a report: The new policy statement agreed to by the FTC was intended to clarify the agency's 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires vendors handling health records to notify consumers if the data is accessed through a breach or other means without the individual's authorization. The new policy states that the rule applies to health apps, such as those tracking fitness or menstrual cycles, which have been developed over the past decade. "As many Americans turn to apps and other technologies to track diseases, diagnoses, treatment, medications, fitness, fertility, sleep, mental health, diet, and other vital areas, this Rule is more important than ever," the policy statement agreed to Wednesday reads. "Firms offering these services should take appropriate care to secure and protect consumer data." The FTC intends to enforce the new policy, with those in violation facing a financial penalty of over $43,000 per day.

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