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Top Stories for the Week Of March 29, 2017

  • Episode 497
  • March 29, 2017

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday March 29, 2017

A major blow in the fight for privacy: The US Senate plans to allow ISPs to sell your browser history to advertisers.

The US Senate has voted to kill privacy rules that would have prevented ISPs from selling your browser history, under the fantastic logic that mobile operators aren't under the same restriction.

The vote on Thursday broke along party lines, of course, and a decision to invoke the obscure Congressional Review Act of 1996 in agreeing to a "congressional disapproval" of the rules was passed 50 votes to 48.

The rules had previously been approved by US broadband watchdog the FCC and were due to take effect at the start of March, but new FCC chair Ajit Pai – who originally voted against them – killed them off with a 2-1 vote just days before.

The arguments for doing so have been mind-boggling. The senator who introduced the resolution, Jeff Flake of Arizona, argued that his proposal would "protect consumers from overreaching internet regulation."

But, objectively, the rules were specifically designed to protect consumers by giving them the ability to decide how their private data – including what websites they visit and when – can be used.

Flake argued that the rules were preventing consumers from receiving "innovative and cost-saving product offerings" – in other words ads from companies that have paid your ISP for your personal information.

With ISPs now given carte blanche to use their customers' data pretty much however they want, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put together some highly likely and deeply worrying uses that will now be made of your data: Selling your location and personal information to marketers, Hijacking searches, Inserting ads, Installing apps on your phone that track you and utilizing Undetectable tracking code.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

30% of jobs in the UK are at risk of robot takeover.

A recent study has revealed that Robotics and artificial intelligence could affect almost a third of UK jobs by the 2030s.

However, the report from accountancy firm PwC also predicted that the nature of some occupations would change rather than disappear.

It added that automation could create more wealth and additional jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Jobs in manufacturing and retail were among the most at risk from the new technologies, the report said.

The study estimated that 30% of existing jobs in the UK were potentially at a high risk of automation, compared with 38% in the US, 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan.

John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, told the BBC that "more manual, routine jobs" which "can effectively be programmed" were the most at risk.

He said, "Jobs where you've got more of a human touch, like health and education," would be safer.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Microsoft appears to be purposefully crippling OneDrive's performance on non-Windows systems such as Linux.

Plenty of Linux users are up in arms about the performance of the OneDrive web app. They say that when accessing Microsoft's cloud storage system in a browser on a non-Windows system -- such as on Linux or ChromeOS -- the service grinds to a barely usable crawl. But when they use a Windows machine on the same internet connection, speedy access resumes.

Okay, fair enough: there must be something proprietary in Windows that makes it faster, right? WRONG. When the same users change their browser's user-agent string -- a snippet of text the browser sends to websites describing itself -- to Internet Explorer or Edge, magically their OneDrive access speeds jup up to normal even though they're on their non-Windows PCs.

In other words, Microsoft's OneDrive web app appears to slow down deliberately when it appears you're using Linux or some other Windows rival.

This has been going on for months, and complaints flared up again this week after netizens decided enough is enough.

When gripes about this suspicious slowdown have cropped up previously, Microsoft has coldly reminded people that OneDrive for Business is not supported on Linux, thus the poor performance is to be expected.

But remember: when you change the user-agent string of your browser on Linux to match IE or Edge, suddenly OneDrive's web code runs fine.


Sent to us by: The Albuquerque Turque

FedEx is offering customers $5 USD to enable Adobe Flash in their browsers.

FedEx is offering customers $5 USD to enable Adobe Flash in their browsers.

The offer's being made to users of FedEx Office Print, the custom printing tentacle of the transport company. FedEx Office Print lets customers design posters, signs, manuals, banners and even promotional magnets.

But the web interface that let you order custom prints requires Adobe Flash, the enemy of anyone interested in security and browser stability. And by anyone we mean Google, which with Chrome 56 will only load Flash if users say they want to use it, and Microsoft which will stop supporting Flash in its Edge browser when the Windows 10 Creators Update debuts. Mozilla's Firefox will still run Flash, but not for long.

The impact of all that Flash hate is clearly that people are showing up at FedEx Office Print without the plug-in required to use it. But seeing as they can't use the service without it, FedEx has to make the offer to give each customer $5 off their order if they install Flash.

Good, or bad idea?


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

An autonomous Uber car crash in Arizona has led the company to pull autonomous vehicles from the road.

Uber has pulled its self-driving cars from the roads after an accident which left one of the vehicles on its side.

Pictures posted online showed the car on its right side on an Arizona street, next to another badly damaged vehicle.

The car - a Volvo SUV - was in self-driving mode at the time of the crash, on Friday, Uber said.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

A spokeswoman for the local police said the accident occurred when another vehicle "failed to yield" to the Uber car at a left turn.

Uber's self-driving cars always have a human in the driving seat who can take over the controls.

The company pulled its self-driving vehicles off the road in Arizona at first, followed by test sites in Pennsylvania and California - all three states where it operated the vehicles.

Uber is having a tough go as of late. Amidst reports of poor treatment of employees, a number of executives have quit, including the president, Jeff Jones.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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