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Facebook Succeeds In Blocking German FCO's Privacy-Minded Order Against Combining User Data

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2019-08-28 02:45
Facebook has succeeded in blocking a pioneering order by Germany's Federal Cartel Office earlier this year that would have banned it from combining data on users across its own suite of social platforms -- Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp -- without their consent. TechCrunch reports: Pioneering because the antitrust regulator had liaised with EU privacy authorities during a long-running investigation of Facebook's data-gathering activities -- leading it to conclude that Facebook's conduct in the German market where it also deemed it to hold a monopoly position amounted to "exploitative abuse." The Bundeskartellamt (FCO) order had been likened to a structural separation of Facebook's businesses at the data level. Facebook appealed, delaying application of the order, and today's ruling by the Dusseldorf court grants a suspension (press release in German) -- essentially kicking the matter into very long legal grass.

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DOJ's Plan To Make Dish the Fourth Major Carrier Has a Fatal Flaw

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2019-08-28 02:03
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When the Department of Justice approved T-Mobile's purchase of Sprint, the DOJ's antitrust officials insisted that an unusual remedy could replace the competition lost in the merger. Sprint will no longer exist as a separate entity if the DOJ's plan is finalized, reducing the number of major nationwide mobile carriers from four to three. But the government agency is simultaneously requiring T-Mobile and Sprint to sell some of their assets to Dish Network in what amounts to a government attempt to micromanage the mobile industry. Dish, the government-selected replacement for Sprint, will create its own mobile service from its existing assets and spare parts the DOJ is requiring T-Mobile and Sprint to sell off. The DOJ acknowledged that T-Mobile buying Sprint "would eliminate head-to-head competition" and threaten the "lower prices and better service" created by that competition. But the department also claimed that the required divestitures will let Dish replace Sprint as a viable fourth carrier. But will propping up Dish actually replace the lost competition? The answer in the short term is clearly no, because the merger remedies won't result in Dish building a nationwide network overnight. It will take at least a few years, and consumers will be stuck with three major carriers during that time. Even in the long run, Dish isn't likely to become a full-fledged nationwide competitor because Dish's plan only calls for covering 70 percent of the US population by June 2023. That could leave 100 million Americans without the option of a fourth carrier.

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Former Google and Uber Engineer Indicted For Trade Secret Theft;

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2019-08-27 20:47
Former Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski was charged with stealing driverless technology from Alphabet's Waymo unit, resurrecting the intrigue of the biggest legal battle to grip Silicon Valley in recent memory. From a report: The 33-count indictment announced Tuesday by federal officials in San Jose, California, adds a new criminal chapter to the saga that hung over Waymo's civil claims of trade-secret theft against Uber. Even after the companies abruptly settled the litigation in the middle of a high-stakes trial last year, questions remained about the mysterious engineer at the center of the turmoil. "All of us have the right to change jobs," San Francisco U.S. Attorney David Anderson said at a press conference in San Jose. "None of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door. Theft is not innovation." Levandowski, 39, voluntarily surrendered to authorities and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if he's convicted. Anderson said the government's investigation is ongoing, but he declined to discuss the probe further. Levandowski "didn't steal anything from anyone," his lawyer, Miles Ehrlich, said in a statement. The indictment "rehashed claims discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago."

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The Fairphone 3 Packs in Features While Keeping Its Green Credentials

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2019-08-27 16:13
Fairphone, the company that wants to get ethically-responsible smartphones into the hands of consumers worldwide, has unveiled the third iteration of its modular device. From a report: Fairphone 3, launched under the tagline, "The phone that dares to be fair," is available for pre-order now, and boasts some pretty decent specs that put it on par with more well-established devices. The phone runs Android 9, and comes with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 632 chip, which has helped make solid dual cameras a reality on mid-tier devices. It also runs the same camera system as the Pixel 3a XL, boasts 64GB internal storage (expandable with a microSD card), a fingerprint scanner, quick charge support and NFC, plus it crams in the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack that many fear is not long for this earth. In a bid to cut down on e-waste it doesn't come with any accessories -- cables or earphones and such -- but who doesn't already have a draw full of those kicking about? In short, it packs a pretty respectable punch, with the added assurance that it's been built using as many conflict-free resources as possible and -- thanks to its modular construction -- is durable, repairable and upgradable. Fairphone is also the first smartphone company to integrate Fairtrade gold into its supply chain.

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It Was Sensitive Data From a US Anti-Terror Program -- and Terrorists Could Have Gotten To It For Years, Records Show

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2019-08-27 05:00
The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Times. From a report: The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack. The information -- housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor -- has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data. Internal Homeland Security emails and other documents show the issue set off a bitter clash within the department over whether keeping the information on the dot-org website posed a threat to national security. A former BioWatch security manager filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was targeted for retaliation after criticizing the program's lax security. The website shared information among local, state and federal officials. It was easily identifiable through online search engines, but a user name and password were required to access sensitive data.

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$572 Million Decision Against Johnson & Johnson in Landmark Opioid Trial

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pn, 2019-08-26 23:10
An anonymous reader shares a report: A judge in Oklahoma on Monday ruled against Johnson & Johnson, the deep-pocketed corporate giant, and ordered it to pay the state $572 million in the first trial of an opioid manufacturer for the destruction wrought by prescription painkillers. Johnson & Johnson, which contracted with poppy growers in Tasmania, supplied 60 percent of the opiate ingredients that drug companies used for opioids like oxycodone, the state had argued, and aggressively marketed opioids to doctors and patients as safe and effective. A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, made its own opioids -- a pill whose rights it sold in 2015, and a fentanyl patch that it still produces. "The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans," Judge Thad Balkman, of Cleveland County District Court, said in delivering his decision. The ruling was a resounding victory for Oklahoma's attorney general, Mike Hunter. The closely watched verdict could be a dire harbinger for some two dozen opioid makers, distributors and retailers that face more than 2,000 similar lawsuits around the country. Johnson & Johnson, one the world's biggest health care companies, said it would appeal. The judge's decision came after two other drug manufacturers that produce opioids, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical, settled with Oklahoma earlier this year for $270 million and $85 million, respectively. In doing so, the companies did not admit wrongdoing. As a consequence, Oklahoma faced the steep climb of pinning the blame for its opioid crisis mainly on just one defendant.

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Freelance Site Fiverr Offers Illegal Private Spying Services

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pn, 2019-08-26 20:10
Freelancer site Fiverr is where a company can hire a short term app developer, a logo designer, or someone to help with their social media accounts. Fiverr is also a site where you can buy malware to illegally spy on your spouse, pay someone to place a GPS tracker on a car, or hire an unlicensed private investigator, Motherboard reported Monday, citing public listings on Fiverr. From the report: The news highlights how the struggle to moderate content is not limited to large social networks and platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Other sites, like Fiverr, also have trouble policing their platforms. Motherboard has covered extensively the harm that malware used in abusive relationships, sometimes known as spouseware, or how technology can enable stalking. "I have undetectable spyware to monitor your cheating spouse, staffs [sic] and kids gadgets," one listing on Fiverr found by Motherboard reads. For $5, customers can apparently buy malware that will record keystrokes and websites visited, and for $400 can buy software that will allegedly steal a target's passwords and email contents. The quality of the malware on offer is unclear. Another listing offers to "covertly deploy [a] tracking device to a vehicle." Fiverr removed the listings offering malware and GPS tracking after Motherboard contacted the company for comment. "Any gigs that fall under our 'Illegal or fraudulent services' violate our terms of service by doing so. Two of the gigs you shared did violate our terms of service in this way and have been taken down, as a result," a Fiverr spokesperson told Motherboard in an email. It appears Fiverr also deleted the user accounts offering those two services.

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Consumer Groups Seek To Defend California Data Privacy Law

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pn, 2019-08-26 18:20
A collection of consumer groups has written a letter to California lawmakers urging them to keep the strong protections in a state law due to take effect next year. From a report: The California law, if left largely as is, could usher in a range of new consumer protections. However, direct marketers and tech companies, working through various entities, have been seeking to water down the law. A coalition of 10 consumer groups -- including ACLU -- has written to California State Senate leader Toni Atkins encouraging legislators to explore the background of the Nonprofit Alliance, a group that has been pushing to have the law weakened. "We are asking that the Nonprofit Alliance release their financial information; explain their ties to corporate donors; and clarify their leadership, mission, and membership," the group said in the letter.

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Police Sell Cyberattackers $1M Bitcoin Stash To Compensate Victims

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2019-08-25 19:37
UK police have seized Bitcoin worth more than £920,000 ($1.1 million) from a 27-year-old convicted of computer crimes -- and they're now planning to sell it to compensate his victims. An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: Authorities said Grant West used a tool called Sentry MBR to launch brute-force attacks against 17 companies, where he gained access to user accounts, which he later hijacked and resold on the dark web to other criminals. London police said the list of victims included some high profile names such as Uber, Groupon, T Mobile, Just Eat, Asda, and Sainsburys... Authorities said West, who used the moniker of "Courvoisier," started trading stolen accounts on the dark web in March 2015, and made more than 47,000 sales before his arrest. He also sold cannabis, along with hacking tutorials. West did all of this using his girlfriend's laptop. After his arrest, UK police said they found "fullz" (a term short for "full credentials" and used to describe email, username, and password combos) for more than 100,000 people on this laptop. They also found an SD card storing 78 million individual usernames and passwords, as well as 63,000 credit and debit card details. The Guardian reports that West agreed to give up his Bitcoin after a judge told him that if he didn't, he'd spend an additional four years in jail.

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US Govt Considers Changing Requirements for Rocket Launches. Commercial Space Group Objects

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2019-08-25 15:34
Long-time Slashdot reader apoc.famine writes: In a proposed change to the licensing of spaceflight operations, the FAA writes: "This action would fundamentally change how the FAA licenses launches and reentries...by proposing a regulatory approach that relies on performance-based regulations rather than prescriptive regulations.....This action would also enable flexible timeframes, remove unnecessary ground safety regulations, redefine when launch begins to allow specified pre-flight operations prior to license approval, and allow applicants to seek a license to launch from multiple sites. This proposal would significantly streamline and simplify licensing of launch and reentry operations, would enable novel operations, and would result in net cost savings." The Verge reports that the government's proposed update "is pissing off the commercial space industry," citing comments from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), a nonprofit that represents various companies within the private space industry: CSF representatives note the irony of the situation since the organization and its companies were the ones to ask for changes in the first place. Its members even made recommendations for how to update the rules. "The FAA took them, and they went and started formulating," Eric Stallmer, president of CSF, tells The Verge. "And it came back, and we read it, and we tried to digest it. And then we walked away saying, 'This is no better than what we had.' In fact, I think it's worse. It doesn't answer the mail at all...." CSF represents the newer players in the field, like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, Relativity, and more. The organization argues that the new rules will have a heavier burden on these younger companies, which have been launching commercial missions much more frequently.

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First Alleged Crime In Space?

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-08-24 23:34
bobstreo tipped us off to an interesting story. The BBC reports that NASA "is reported to be investigating a claim that an astronaut accessed the bank account of her estranged spouse from the International Space Station, in what may be the first allegation of a crime committed in space." Anne McClain acknowledges accessing the account from the ISS but denies any wrongdoing, the New York Times reports... The astronaut told the New York Times through a lawyer that she was merely making sure that the family's finances were in order and there was enough money to pay bills and care for Ms Worden's son -- who they had been raising together prior to the split. "She strenuously denies that she did anything improper," said her lawyer, Rusty Hardin, adding that Ms McClain was "totally co-operating..." Her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, reportedly filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Ms McClain has since returned to Earth... Ms McClain graduated from the prestigious West Point military academy and flew more than 800 combat hours over Iraq as an Army pilot. She went on to qualify as a test pilot and was chosen to fly for NASA in 2013.

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Qualcomm Wins a Pause In Enforcement of FTC Ruling

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-08-24 00:50
Qualcomm has won a partial stay against the enforcement of a sweeping antitrust ruling in a lawsuit brought by the FTC. "The company on May 21 lost in an antitrust lawsuit and has been fighting to have the ruling put on hold while it pursued an appeal," reports Reuters. "The San Diego-based company argued that letting the ruling stand could upend its talks with phone makers over chips for 5G, the next generation of wireless data networks." From the report: In the ruling issued on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold the provisions of the earlier ruling that required Qualcomm to grant patent licenses to rival chip suppliers and end its practice of requiring its chip customers to sign a patent license before purchasing chips. The earlier ruling would have required Qualcomm to renegotiate all of its existing chip and patent deals, as well as make new deals conform to the requirements. The stay granted Friday puts on hold the effect of parts of the ruling while the appeals process, which could take a year or more, plays out. The company has not formally filed its appeal in the FTC lawsuit. After Qualcomm files its arguments, the appeal will take place in January.

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Why Are There So Many Weird Tech Patents?

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-08-23 22:53
Companies are constantly patenting strange things they have no intention of developing. From a report: Amazon is putting humans in cages to protect them from machines! Facebook is selling your face to advertisers so it can CGI you into ads! Sony has a system where you can skip ads if you stand up and yell the brand's name! None of these things are technically true -- they're headlines driven by patents filed by these companies. In each case, the company has not developed these technologies. And it's likely that they never will. And yet, head-scratching and sometimes hilarious patents continue to populate the patent office and generate headlines. So why are there so many strange, somewhat terrifying patents that companies will likely never act on? There are lots of reasons to patent something. The most obvious one is that you've come up with a brilliant invention, and you want to protect your idea so that nobody can steal it from you. But that's just the tip of the patent strategy iceberg. It turns out there is a whole host of strategies that lead to "zany" or "weird" patent filings, and understanding them offers a window not just into the labyrinthine world of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and its potential failings, but also into how companies think about the future. And while it might be fun to gawk at, say, Motorola patenting a lie-detecting throat tattoo, it's also important to see through the eye-catching headlines and to the bigger issue here: Patents can be weapons and signals. They can spur innovation, as well as crush it.

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Top US Publishers Sue Amazon's Audible For Copyright Infringement

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-08-23 20:50
Amazon's Audible was sued by some of the top U.S. publishers for copyright infringement on Friday, aiming to block a planned rollout of a feature called 'Audible Captions' that shows the text on screen as a book is narrated. From a report: The lawsuit was filed by seven members of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), including HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan Publishers. "Essentially Audible wants to provide the text as well as the sound of books without the authorization of copyright holders, despite only having the right to sell audiobooks," AAP said in a statement.

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Trump Orders US Businesses To Find Alternative To China

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-08-23 19:58
President Trump said Friday U.S. companies were "hereby ordered" to start looking for alternatives to doing business in China after Beijing said it would impose tariffs on $75 billion worth of additional U.S. products. From a report: "Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years," Mr. Trump wrote in a series of tweets [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. "They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won't let that happen! We don't need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them." Mr. Trump's comments came in response to China's plan, laid out Friday, to impose tariffs of 5% and 10% on almost all the remaining U.S. imports on which it has yet to impose punitive taxes, including vehicles and car parts, in retaliation against U.S. moves to slap punitive tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods. The president demanded that U.S. companies "immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA." The sharp escalation in the prolonged trade conflict between the two countries comes weeks after Mr. Trump said he would impose the fresh tariffs on Chinese goods and Beijing had vowed to retaliate. China's new levies on U.S. goods are set to go into effect on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, timed with the next two rounds of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. Chinese tariffs on U.S. automotive goods are set to begin Dec. 15.

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Oracle Directors Give Blessing To Shareholder Lawsuit Against Larry Ellison, Safra Catz

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-08-23 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Three years after closing a $9.3 billion deal to acquire NetSuite, several Oracle board members have written an extraordinary letter to the Delaware Court, approving a shareholder lawsuit against company executives Larry Ellison and Safra Catz over the 2016 deal. Reuters broke this story. According to Reuters' Alison Frankel, three board members, including former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sent a letter on August 15th to Sam Glasscock III, vice chancellor for the Court of the Chancery in Georgetown, Delaware, approving the suit as members of a special board of directors entity known as the Special Litigation Committee. The lawsuit is what is called in legal parlance a derivative suit. According to the site Justia, this type of suit is filed in cases like this. "Since shareholders are generally allowed to file a lawsuit in the event that a corporation has refused to file one on its own behalf, many derivative suits are brought against a particular officer or director of the corporation for breach of contract or breach of fiduciary duty," the Justia site explained. The letter went on to say there was an attempt to settle this suit, which was originally launched in 2017, through negotiation outside of court, but when that attempt failed, the directors wrote this letter to the court stating that the suit should be allowed to proceed. As Frankel wrote in her article, the lawsuit, which was originally filed by the Firemen's Retirement System of St. Louis, could be worth billions. The report notes that Oracle was struggling to find its cloud footing in 2016, so it's "believed that by buying an established SaaS player like NetSuite, it could begin to build out its cloud business much faster than trying to develop something like it internally." The Oracle letter can be found here.

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YouTube Pressured To Ban Chinese State Media Ads That Spread Misinformation About Protesters

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-08-23 01:30
YouTube is being pressured to remove ads from China Central Television, a state media channel that's allegedly spreading misinformation about protesters in Hong Kong. The Verge reports: Users on Twitter and Reddit have posted a number of screenshots of the ads, many of which paint the Hong Kong protests as an illegitimate product of foreign influence. The users accuse YouTube and parent company Google of enabling an "infestation of ads" that "tries to sow political discord." As a result, many supporters of the protests are demanding that Google stop CCTV from running ads on YouTube. "Google, why are you helping China [government] to undermine freedom of [Hong Kong citizens] with your platform," Chu Ka-cheong, an engineer based in Hong Kong, tweeted. YouTube hasn't addressed the advertisements on its own platform yet. Google's ad policies don't directly address state media branches like CCTV, although Google has rules for political advertisements and prohibits content that misrepresents the product or organization an advertisement is talking about. Still, it's unclear whether CCTV's ads violate Google's policies. A representative for YouTube did not respond to The Verge's request for comment by the time of publish. CCTV's main YouTube channel has just over 560,000 subscribers. After being criticized for running promoted tweets by China's largest state agency, Twitter announced it will no longer accept advertising from state media operations, like China Central Television. Although Facebook did not announce any policy changes following the discovery of several accounts and pages spreading misinformation about the protesters, the company is "committed to continually improving to stay ahead," according to Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy.

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Justice Department Indicts 80 Individuals, Most in Nigeria, in a Massive Business Email Scam Bust

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2019-08-22 18:51
The Justice Department have indicted dozens of individuals accused of their involvement in a massive business email scam and money laundering scheme. From a report: Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Central District of California, confirmed more than a dozen individuals had been arrested during raids on Thursday -- mostly in the Los Angeles area. A total of 80 defendants are allegedly involved in the scheme. News of the early-morning raids were first reported by ABC7 in Los Angeles. The 145-page indictment, unsealed Thursday, said the 80 named individuals are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Most of the individuals alleged to be involved in the scheme are based in Nigeria, said the spokesperson. But it's not immediately known if the Nigerian nationals will be extradited to the U.S., however a treaty exists between the two nations making extraditions possible.

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EU Reportedly Wants Strict Limits For 'Indiscriminate' Facial Recognition

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2019-08-22 17:34
The European Commission is reportedly considering sweeping reforms to facial recognition regulation to protect citizens from public surveillance, said the Financial Times on Thursday. From a report: Quoting an EU official, the newspaper said new legislation could limit "the indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology." European citizens would be given powers to "know when [facial recognition] data is used." The Commission didn't comment directly on the plans, but a spokesman pointed to a high-level expert group that was set up in June to consider the need for new regulation when it comes to tracking and profiling, including facial recognition. Discussions around regulating facial recognition technology follow the introduction of a number of public trials around Europe, some of which have been conducted without people knowing they were taking place. The UK's data protection watchdog is investigating the use of the technology to monitor crowds around London's King Cross. Just this week Sweden's national data protection authority imposed a fine of almost 200,000 kronor ($20,700) on a school that trialed the tech to monitor daily attendance of students. According to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was introduced last year, this use of the technology breached student privacy rights.

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Google Chrome Proposes 'Privacy Sandbox' To Reform Advertising Evils

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2019-08-22 16:44
Google's Chrome team proposed a "privacy sandbox" Thursday that's designed to give us the best of both worlds: ads that publishers can target toward our interests but that don't infringe our privacy. From a report: It's a major development in an area where Chrome, the dominant browser, has lagged competitors. Browsers already include security sandboxes, restrictions designed to confine malware to limit its possible damage. Google's proposed privacy sandbox would similarly restrict tracking technology, according to proposal details Google published. The privacy sandbox is "a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy," said Justin Schuh, a director of Chrome Engineering focused on security matters, in a privacy sandbox blog post. "Our goal is to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users' expectations of privacy." For example, Chrome would restrict some private data to the browser -- an approach rival Brave Software has taken with its privacy-focused rival web browser. And it could restrict sharing personal data until it's shared across a large group of people using technologies called differential privacy and federated learning.

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