Category: Internet

Dutch build the first nationwide internet of thongs

holland1Dutch telecoms group KPN claims to have created a nationwide long range (LoRa) network for the so-called Internet of Things.

Connecting everyday objects to networks, allowing them to send and receive data, is widely seen as the next major evolution of the Internet.  Now KPN has switched one on.

“This makes The Netherlands the first country in the world to have a nationwide LoRa network for Internet of Things (IoT) application,” the company said.

In the initial plan was to have the network was rolled out in Rotterdam and The Hague in November. But it was stepped up across the country due to “substantial customer interest”, said KPN.

The LoRa network is complementary to KPN’s networks for the 2G, 3G and 4G phones. KPN has already reached deals to connect some 1.5 million objects, a number which should steadily grow now that the LoRa network is available across the country.

Tests are being carried out at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam—one of Europe’s busiest air hubs—for baggage handling. The Utrecht rail station an experiment is under way to allow LoRa to monitor rail switches.

Depth sounders in the Port of Rotterdam have been fitted with devices to connect them to the Internet of Things network.

US government wants your Facebook account details

ellis islandThe US Customs and Border Protection agency has submitted a request to the Office of Management and Budget, asking for permission to collect travellers’ social notworking account names as they enter the country.

The CBP has asked that the request “Please enter information associated with your online presence — Provider/Platform — Social media identifier” be added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and to the CBP Form I-94W (Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure).

Apparently the detail request will be optional but if you fail to fill it in the customs people will look at you oddly and insist on a full body cavity search.

“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyse and investigate the case.”

Of course it is utterly pointless. Border staff are hardly going to check that you have written down any reliable data, let alone volunteer your Facebook account to be rigorously probed by an official.

Are they going to be concerned if someone is running an account under a fake name? Will they send you home for calling yourself Mitzi Galore when your real name is Simon?  Will they test to see if the kitten crawling out of a bog roll is your own?

All this is remarkably like Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the country by asking them “are you a Muslim?”   Or the government’s previous goodie “have you ever been involved in the administration of a Nazi concentration camp?” What did Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun used to write on the form when he went through?


Extremist videos can be blocked automatically

Terrorist_58349e_70892Software normally used by big content to snuffle out pirated software could soon have a purpose kicking extremist content off-line.

Apparently the software is being tested now with some success.  YouTube and Facebook are among the sites deploying systems to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos and other similar material, the sources said.

The technology  looks for “hashes,” a type of unique digital fingerprint that internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly.

Such a system would catch attempts to repost content already identified as unacceptable, but would not automatically block videos that have not been seen before.

The companies would not confirm that they are using the method or talk about how it might be employed, but numerous people familiar with the technology said that posted videos could be checked against a database of banned content to identify new postings of, say, a beheading or a lecture inciting violence.

Use of the new technology is likely to be refined over time as internet companies continue to discuss the issue internally and with competitors and other interested parties.

So far most have relied until now mainly on users to flag content that violates their terms of service, and many still do. Flagged material is then individually reviewed by human editors who delete postings found to be in violation.

The companies now using automation are not publicly discussing it, two sources said, in part out of concern that terrorists might learn how to manipulate their systems or that repressive regimes might insist the technology be used to censor opponents.


Opera mocks Microsoft’s Edge claims

opera460Earlier this week Microsoft claimed that its Edge browser was much kinder to battery life than Chrome, Opera and Firefox.  Now Opera has called Microsoft out on its claims.

The browser-maker Opera has mocked Microsoft’s much-publicised claim that its Windows 10-exclusive Edge browser provides significantly less battery drain than competitors Chrome and Opera – and its own tests put Edge firmly in second place for battery efficiency.

Writing in his bog, Opera lead singer Błażej Kaźmierczak revealed the result of the company’s own tests, which put Google Chrome in third place at two hours and fifty-four minutes, Edge in second at three hours twelve minutes, and Opera ahead of that by obtaining three hours and fifty-five minutes of battery life under identical tests.

To be fair though this is not purely a test of browser efficiency – in March Opera instituted a native adblocking feature, which it claimed works 45 per cent faster than analogous plugins on either Chrome or Firefox. The feature does not merely hide downloaded and rendered ad elements, but prevents them engaging with the user at URL source – a significant advantage in terms of page rendering.

Although AdBlock Plus is available for Edge, Vole has no public plans to mirror the adblocking feature.

Opera claimed it has not paid much attention to Edge due to its exclusivity to the Windows 10 platform. However, Edge is currently estimated to have less than five per cent share in the browser market (versus 50 per cent across versions of Chrome), this still puts it ahead of Opera, which carries little more than a single percentage of share.

Opera accuses Microsoft of a lack of transparency in its testing methods. It notes that Opera’s own repudiating test, which puts its developer version 22 per cent ahead of Edge, runs a more standard gamut, using a variety of types of browsing situations, including video and news, along with an algorithm to effect authentic scrolling behaviour. The scrolling is something that Firefox is pants at.

Opera optimises its performance, by reducing activity in background tabs, optimise JavaScript timers to limit CPU access, pauses dormant plugins, and reduces video frame rates to 30fps and forces hardware acceleration of video playback where feasible.

Microsoft’s claims for Edge were carefully specific to Windows 10.


US court upholds Net Neutrality

images-4The US broadband industry has lost its lawsuit attempting to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules and the related reclassification of Internet service providers as common carriers.

The ISPs claimed that they had protection under the First Amendment but this was thrown out because the court thought that a broadband provider does not ‘speak’ when providing neutral access to Internet content as common carriage.

US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judges David Tatel and Sri Srinivasan the First Amendment poses no bar to the open Internet rules.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the ruling was victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire Web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth.

“After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections—both on fixed and mobile networks—that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.”

AT&T is promising to Appeal to the Supreme Court.

In addition to enforcing net neutrality rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, the decision allows the FCC to continue regulating fixed and mobile broadband providers under the common carrier provisions in Title II of the Communications Act.

Judges were not persuaded by industry arguments that Internet service is unambiguously an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service” subject to stricter regulation. The industry argument ignores that the statutory definition of information service says that “such services are provided ‘via telecommunications,'” the judges wrote.

The industry lawyers pointed to the Verizon v. FCC decision that said the FCC couldn’t impose common carrier rules without classifying broadband as a common carrier service.

However, the Judges said that USTelecom misread the Verizon case.


EU worries that privacy protects online review cheats

EU and country flags - Wikimedia CommonsThe EU is worried that fake online reviews might ruin the consumer market and damage legitimate businesses.

The Commission is considering an idea of forcing all EU citizens to log into online accounts using their government-issued ID cards.

The cunning plan’s details can be found in a proposal named “Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market Opportunities and Challenges”.  It made an appearance on 25 May and, like many Commission ideas, it was unnoticed by the press – not even the Daily Express that normally loves to give a balanced coverage of EU rules leading to a greater understanding of how Brussels works.

The reason that the anti-Brussels press would love a story like this is because it basically requires those who write reviews to give up their privacy and publish reviews under their own name. They must also be EU citizens and have an ID card.

This prevents people writing reviews under multiple handles to either kill off competition with bad reviews, or enhance your own product with fake ones.

“ Online ratings and reviews of goods and services are helpful and empowering to consumers, but they need to be trustworthy and free from any bias or manipulation. A prominent example is fake reviews, ” the EU said.

Using the ID number is important because usernames and password combinations are inconvenient and a security risk.

“To keep identification simple and secure, consumers should be able to choose the credentials by which they want to identify or authenticate themselves. In particular, online platforms should accept credentials issued or recognised by national public authorities, such as electronic or mobile IDs, national identity cards, or bankcards.  ”

By forcing EU citizens to use their real identities when logging into their online accounts, it will stop people in non-EU countries from posting fake reviews.

Of course, the idea has no chance of passing through the European Parliament in its current form. But it does indicate that the EU is thinking about how to tackle the problem.

The reason we know the proposal is not going anywhere is because the European General Data Protection Regulation (EGDPR) has recently come into effect, a law that boosts online privacy protections for EU citizens, this proposal goes against that completely.


Creepy Cruz wants to keep US control of the web

carly-ted-marriage-cheat-575x351A failed presidential candidate, who stood on an anti-masturbation platform, thinks that it would be better for the world if he and his US Senate chronies keep control of the internet.

Ted Cruz has proposed a law in the Senate which would prohibit the US government from relinquishing its role overseeing the web’s domain name system, or DNS, unless explicitly authorised by Congress.

The puritanical Cruz wants to make sure that all those foreigners are forced to look to him and his chums for moral guidance.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the Commerce Department, currently oversees control of the DNS, a virtual phonebook of sorts that allows internet users to easily browse the web by allocating domain names to websites the world over.

The NITA has long been expected to give up its oversight role to a global multi-stakeholder community, however, prompting lawmakers to unleashed a proposal this week that would assure the US government maintains control unless Congress votes otherwise.

Cruz calls his bill, the Protecting Internet Freedom Act. He claims it would prevent the Obama administration from “giving the Internet away” to “a global organisation that will allow over 160 foreign governments to have increased influence over the management and operation of the Internet”.

He appears to be saying, “heaven forbid” that other countries have a democratic say over one of the few worldwide uniting systems in the world. After all the US was appointed by god to rule the world and to force it to adopt its corporate oligarchic system, bizarre gay hating Victorian Protestantism, white privilege and rape culture.

What he actually said was that the Obama administration was months away from deciding whether the United States Government will continue to provide oversight over core functions of the internet and protect it from authoritarian regimes that view it as a way to increase their influence and suppress freedom of speech.

Cruz’s answer is to suppress freedom of speech in the rest of the world by making it subservient to a bunch of conservative duffers who believe global warming is a myth and that evolution really is a thing.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for a new web

bernerslee-404_682192cThe father of the world wide web, Saint Tim Berners-Lee, has called for the development of a new web which cannot be snooped on by the government.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, believes that the way his creation works in the present day “completely undermines the spirit of helping people create”.

He is currently involved in a project which will set up a new kind of information network that can’t be controlled by governments or powered by megacorporations like Amazon and Google.

Along with luminaries like TCP/IP protcol co-creator Vint Cerf, Mozilla Project leader Mitchell Baker and Electronic Frontier Foundation special advisor Cory Doctorow, they’ve gathered at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco to discuss how this new kind of internet can be created and sustained.

One of the things they will look at is the use of increased encryption and methods to bring more accountability, as well as to reduce content creators’ and publishers’ dependence on ad revenue by developing secure, direct cryptocurrency-based payment methods for subscribers.

The Decentralized Web Summit is on from June 8-9.  It will be interesting to see if they get any backing or how long it takes for the world to stuff it up again.


US Newspaper Association loses the plot again

King CanuteThe newspaper editors in Mahogany Row are showing that they have completely lost their grip on “new technology” by issuing writs trying to shut down advert-blocking software.

Taking a page from the movie industry, they have decided that the only way to defeat new technology is to stand Canute-like against the rising tide. Karmically being done over by the same forces they unleashed on the printers and journalists who in the 1980s they called dinosaurs.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Newspaper Association of America filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission last week, asking the agency to ban a variety of functions, including “evading metered subscription systems and paywalls,” and ad substitution.

The NAA also called into question new business models that aim to replace online advertising. Newspapers are concerned about the effects that ad-blockers may have on their revenues and their ability to understand and market to their readership.

However if it gets its way the NAA would kill off important and widely used privacy software, like Tor and EFF’s own Privacy Badger, and chip away at Internet users’ ability to control their own browsing experience.

NAA wants an end to all software that enables users to evade metered subscription systems and paywalls. It also wants all users to reveal to them all their personal details so that they can make a bit of cash from thumping them with lots of adverts.

The NAA says that publishers allow readers to sample high-quality content on a limited basis (e.g., 10 articles per month) and then present the reader with a subscription offer (either for digital-only or print-bundled plans).

“Some ad-blockers evade metered subscription services and paywalls by preventing publishers from identifying repeat visitors and making offers to consumers about their subscription services . . . By preventing publishers from identifying repeat visitors and making these offers to them, content blockers harm consumers.”

But this is where the NAA has lost the plot and clearly do not understand the way the technology is leading. Outlawing privacy-enhancing software simply because it might interfere with the operation of some newspapers’ metered paywalls would be profoundly anti-consumer.


We have reached peak Facebook

FacebookSocial notworking sites have reached their peak and might start to fade from view from now on, according to the latest figures.

London-based data collection company SimilarWeb studied the habits of Android users across the world, to monitor the changing popularity of social media apps and discovered that the social media frenzy is dying down and people are starting to spend less time on social media apps.

In almost all countries, time spent on the four leading social media apps, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter had fallen.

In some cases, the drop in usage was minimal, with Snapchat usage in Brazil dropping from 11.23 minutes to 11.10 minutes.

Other cases saw a more substantial drop, like time spent on Twitter in France. Over Q1 2015, the average in France was 19.80 minutes and in Q1 2016, that number dropped to 13.12, a drop of 34 per cent.

In a few cases, such as Facebook’s usage in Spain, time spent within an app did rise but that was bucking the trend.

SimilarWeb marketing analyst Pavel Tuchinsky said that across the board, people are spending less time on their Social Media apps.

Most countries spent less time on Facebook compared to last year, with the exception of Germany where the time was roughly the same last year compared to this.

Instagram also saw a rise in installs in several countries including France, Germany, and the US. Instagram’s biggest loss, however, came in India where the app dropped from being installed on 32 per cent  of Android devices to 19 per cent.