Category: Internet

Alibaba’s Ma says Internet should be a utility

Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma said the internet should be a utility available to the whole world.

Ma is putting his weight behind a UN call for e-commerce to boost developing economies and help fight poverty.

Ma has some weight as a UN advisor to its trade and development agency UNCTAD for small business and young entrepreneurs.

He said that the internet should be treated as a utility and should be treated also as the infrastructure of global development.

“Everything will be online and everything online will have data. And data will be the energy for innovation.”

UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said he and Ma would meet in Kigali in July with 10 African presidents and young entrepreneurs, aiming to persuade the politicians of their responsibility to help their young populations realise their potential.

Ma said his first trip to Africa would focus on e-commerce payment to support inclusive and sustainable development, as well as education and environmental protection.

He said Alibaba had created 33 million jobs in China because each small business online could create at least three jobs. He met US President-elect Donald Trump in January and said the firm would create a million US jobs.

Earlier, a group of developing countries launched a roadmap for using e-commerce to drive growth, narrow the digital divide and help poorer countries develop.

Canada cements in net neutrality

While US president Donald (prince of Orange) Trump is giving Big Telco the internet, things are going the opposite way in Canada.

A new ruling by Canada’s telecommunications watchdog has stated that internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person’s data cap.

The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers.

Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC said that rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices.

“That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume.”

The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec.

Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron’s internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form — nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.

Google opens up Android in Russia

Google will open up Android  to Russian rival search engines as part of a deal to settle a two year dispute with Russian competition authorities.

The deal sets a new precedent for the tech giant, which faces multiple complaints worldwide that it is abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on manufacturers of Android-based devices in order to protect its share of the online search market.

Russia’s competition watchdog, FAS, ruled in 2015 that Google was breaking the law by requiring the pre-installation of applications, including its own search tool, on mobile devices using Android, following a complaint by Russia’s Yandex.

Google will no longer demand exclusivity of its applications on Android-based devices in Russia and will not restrict the pre-installation of rival search engines and other applications, as part of a deal with FAS, the regulator said on Monday.

It will also develop a tool allowing users to choose a default search engine on their Android devices.

“Users will be able to change settings at any time and choose the default search engine which suits their needs,” FAS said.

Google confirmed the deal, saying it met the interests of all parties. It also said it had reached a commercial agreement with Yandex that “provides new opportunities for Yandex to promote its search service within Chrome”.

The deal is for a term of six years and nine months and  Google will  have to pay $7.85 million in fines.

1980s BBSes return from the dead

Vintage computing hobbyists are resurrecting lost digital communities and running some on their original 8-bit hardware.

The technology is based around Raspberry Pi and TCPser (which emulates a Hayes modem for Telnet connections).

One runs the original software on a decades-old Commodore 128DCR. Another routes telnet connections across a real telephone circuit that connects to a Hayes modem.

According to Ars Technica, Dura-Europos BBS is back in business after nearly 23 years using an Apple IIe running its original GBBS Pro software, a modern CFFA3000 compact flash drive, and a Raspberry Pi running TCPser.

It can be found at dura-bbs.net, using port 6359.  The rise of the World Wide Web and the demise of protocols that came before it killed off a lot of the BBSes.

Owners of older 8-bit machines had little reason to maintain their hardware as their userbase migrated to the open pastures of the Web, and the number of bulletin board systems plummeted.

But some sysops never quite gave up on the BBS and like to dial in to the BBS using a domain name and port number instead of a phone number in their preferred terminal software.

Besides the old games, there are conversation threads dating back decades were available verbatim like a buried digital time capsule.

It is rather popular because it is fairly private, and is considered pretty much a techies wet dream.

EU to decide if companies can stop online sales

 

Europe’s top court will begin a case today to determine whether luxury goods companies can stop retailers from selling their products via marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay.

Owners of luxury brands have been fighting with online retailers for the last decade, arguing that they should have the right to choose who distributes their products to protect their luxury image and exclusivity.

Online platforms dispute this, saying that such restrictive distribution deals are anti-competitive and hurt consumers.

The European Commission is pushing for more cross-border online sales to boost growth and jobs, and catch up with the United States and Asia.

The case before the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) concerns German company Coty, a subsidiary of US beauty products maker Coty, which wants to stop a retailer from selling its goods on online marketplaces such as Amazon.

Coty says this breaches its agreement with the retailer which prohibits the sale of its products via third parties. The case originally went to a court in Germany which later asked the ECJ for guidance.

The EU court’s ruling will be crucial because companies are seeking to curb sales of their products online

Lobby group Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Rakuten and Yahoo, said the problem was broader than just luxury good companies protecting their

CCIA director Jakob Kucharczyk, said: “We do not consider this to be a ‘fight’ with or against luxury brands. This issue is far more relevant because online marketplace bans are imposed with respect to a range of day-to-day, mass market products which makes them anti-competitive and unjustifiable.”

A court adviser is expected to give a non-binding recommendation in about six months, followed by the court judgment a few months later.

Protester wants to broadcast Republican’s browser histories

US dollar - Wikimedia CommonsA protester who is upset at the Republican congress voting to allow ISPs to flog people’s browser histories to the highest bidder has come up with a novel way of doing so.

Online privacy activist Adam McElhaney has launched an initiative called Search Internet History, with the objective of raising funds to buy the browsing history of each politician who voted to do away with privacy.

We guess he will then publish the information for everyone to mock and be shocked at. After all it is pretty likely that more than one Jesus loving, right-wing Republican will have a hard-core donkey porn addition and will order prostitutes and rent-boys online.

On Tuesday, Congress sent proposed legislation to President Trump that wipes away landmark online privacy protections.

On the site, McElhaney has also put up a poll asking people whose internet history they would like to see first. The campaign which only needed $10,000 has already raised over $55,000 which should be enough to get a few interesting browser histories.

Republicans vote to end US internet privacy

US Republicans cheerfully voted to allow the big telcos and ISPs to spy on consumers and flog their personal details to the highest bidder.

The US House voted on Tuesday 215-205 to repeal regulations needing internet service providers to do more to protect customers’ privacy.

The White House said President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump strongly supports the repeal of the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama.

The rules forced internet providers to ask consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history for advertising and marketing.

Last week, the Senate voted 50-48 to reverse the rules in a win for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications who paid a lot of money to get their Tame Republican candidate’s elected.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement praised the decision of Congress to overturn “privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favoured companies over another group of disfavoured companies”.

Last week, Pai said consumers would have privacy protections even without the Obama internet provider rules, but most sane people think that you must be smoking something to believe that is true.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it is not rocket science to work out that companies “should not be able to use and sell the sensitive data they collect from you without your permission”.

One critic of the repeal, Craig Aaron, president of Free Press advocacy group, said major Silicon Valley companies shied away from the fight over the rules because they make so much dosh from flogging consumer data.

“There are a lot of companies that are very concerned about drawing attention to themselves and being regulated on privacy issues, and are sitting this out in a way that they haven’t sat out earlier privacy issues,” Aaron said.

One amusing side effect of the story is that interest in VPNs in the US is suddenly booming.

Google and Facebook investigated by Israeli tax man

The Israeli Tax Authority has opened an inquiry into the local antics of tech giants Google and Facebook.

The taxmen have conducted meetings with clients of Google, asking detailed questions about the methods used by Google and Facebook to conduct local operations.

Questions put to clients centered around the degree of involvement that local representatives of Google and Facebook had in designing marketing campaigns, and setting budgets and targets for clients.

Basically the Israeli’s are unsure if the Israeli teams were acting independently, or if they were referring business matters to overseas headquarters and then merely implementing corporate decisions in the local market.

Should the investigation conclude with the determination that Google and Facebook Israel teams are independently responsible for activities in the local market, the tax authority may recommend that the companies pay a rather a large tax to the Israeli government for business conducted within the country.

Facebook and Google claim that they operate in Ireland, thereby avoiding paying direct or indirect taxes to the Israeli government.

Research shows that total online advertising expenditures topped $333 million in Israel in 2015, with online taking an ever-expanding segment of budgets from traditional advertising. Of that $333 million, over half was dedicated to spending on social media and search sites, two areas dominated by Facebook and Google.

In April 2016, the Israel Tax Authority unveiled a new set of guidelines regarding tax liability for foreign corporations operating in Israel. Under these rules, an international company would owe taxes if its services were produced in Israel. To prevent double taxation with countries that have international tax agreements with Israel, the foreign corporation must have a permanent establishment within Israel.

A permanent establishment was defined as a physical space used by the business to conduct operations, or a virtual space – including a website – where agents are empowered to conduct local business and enter into contracts on behalf of the corporation.

Online job sites block older workers

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into allegations that online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt is discriminating against older workers.

The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank found that in a widespread test using fabricated resumes, fictional older workers were 30 percent less likely to be contacted after applying for jobs.

Fictional older women had it even worse, being 47 percent less likely to get a “callback”.  Several forces are conspiring to ensure that many Americans must work well past the traditional retirement age of 65.

Because people are living longer, their retirement savings are inadequate, and Social Security reforms are almost certainly going to require it.

The San Francisco Fed says that the share of the older 65 working population is projected to rise sharply — from about 19 percent now to 29 percent in the year 2060.

But while online job-hunting tools should be making things easier for older employment seekers, online job sites seem to be cutting older workers out with age bias is built right into their software.

In a statement, Madigan said that Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it’s impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don’t go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out.

For example, one site’s menu options for “years attended college” stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form.

Madigan’s office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, “barring anyone who is older than 52.”

Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. The Illinois’ Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan’s office has written letters to six top jobs sites including Beyond.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed, Ladders, Monster Worldwide and Vault to ask them about their policies.

Gates rubbished over robot tax idea

Software King of the World and sworn enemy of the mosquito, Sir William Gates III, has attracted much mock over his idea to tax robots.

Gates pointed out that if robots were going to do the work of a person they should be taxed. That way at least they could help pay the unemployment benefits of those who don’t have jobs because of the robots.

Former Treasury Secretary Summers wrote a Washington Post opinion piece  in which he dubbed Gates “profoundly misguided”.

“Why pick on robots?” Summers said that progress, however messy and disruptive sometimes, ultimately benefits society overall.

Mike Shedlock, a financial adviser with Sitka Pacific Capital Management in Edmonds, Washington, wrote on his bog that robot owners, who likely would pay the tax, would simply pass it along by jacking up prices.

The European Union’s parliament in February rejected a measure to impose a tax on robots, using much the same reasoning as Gates’ critics.

However, it was not all criticism. One Bloomberg columnist thought Gates was right to say that we should start thinking ahead of time about how to use policy to mitigate the disruptions of automation.” So if we’re not going to tax robots, then how should society handle the next great wave of automated labour?