Tag: Internet

Google turns 20

By Mikelle Leow for Design Taxi

On 27 September, Google turned 20 years old. It’s difficult to remember a world without the convenience of looking things up on the Internet; for many young adults, the scenario would seem impossible.

“When Google started 20 years ago, our mission was to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” the company wrote in a blog post.

“That seemed like an incredibly ambitious mission at the time—even considering that in 1998 the web consisted of just 25-million pages (roughly the equivalent of books in a small library).”

The tool hides an interesting Easter egg that takes you back to its early days. A simple search of, “Google in 1998,” brings up the company’s old logo and web designs that are telling of how much the internet has progressed since then.

Notably, Google’s brand name was stylized with an exclamation mark, which is not unlike the current Yahoo logo.

It also had a newsletter that would send you monthly updates of outstanding websites. Imagine if you received those emails today.

It’s good to know that, in spite of its considerable progress, the essence of the old Google still remains. For instance, the company has retained its color palette and its ‘I’m feeling lucky’ option.

What’s surprising is the site’s linkback to other search engines. Aside from Amazon and Yahoo, several of the other sites are no longer in existence.

 

Internet blackout in Zimbabwe

A core platform failure at Zimbabwe’s largest internet access provider saw Zimbabwe lose internet services for the better part of Tuesday.

The internet outage started at 11:30 and lasted until 17:00 and affected most operators that use Liquid Telecoms Zimbabwe, a subsidiary of Econet Wireless Global.

At the time of writing this story it was still unknown as to what caused the outage.

However, Econet Wirelesss Zimbabwe, which also rides on liquid, issued a statement saying: Econet Wireless apologises to its valued customers for the data outage experienced on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 resulting in customers being unable to access the internet and related data services on our network.”

Company spokesperson Fungai Mandiveyi said the outage was due a technical fault which has since been resolved.

“Econet sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused,” he said.

Liquid Telecom is one of the fastest growing internet service providers in Zimbabwe in particular and Africa in general.

It provides state-of-the-art fibre internet which links Zimbabwe and the Southern African region to the outside world. It is the biggest internet access provider with a market share of more than 80%.

Its sister company, Econet Wireless, controls 75% of mobile phones meaning the outage affected approximately 75% of the telecoms market. Social media platforms such as WhatsApp were also affected.

The outage also affected most of the businesses that rely on online based activities including sending emails.

State owned fixed telecoms provider Telone also issued a statement saying: “This is due to faults that occurred on our main links through South Africa and Botswana.

“Our back back-up link through Mozambique has remained active with limited connectivity.”

ByCrecey Kuyedzwa for Fin24

What if your profession has never required much computer literacy — and then all of a sudden it does. Should you be fired? Should your licence be yanked? That’s the question raised by the bizarre case of Anna Konopka, a doctor who claims that New Hampshire has barred her from the practice of medicine because she does not know how to use the Internet.

Konopka, 84, received the bulk of her medical training overseas. She voluntarily surrendered her license this fall after allegations that she was not participating in New Hampshire’s new mandatory system for reporting opioid prescriptions. Why not? Because to do so she would have to go online — something for which she lacks the requisite skill.

Konopka has long tried to keep the digital revolution at bay. Here’s the Washington Post on Konopka’s office.

Aside from a fax machine and landline telephone, there isn’t much technology. …

Instead, her patients’ records are tucked into two file cabinets, which sit in a tiny office next door to her 160-year-old clapboard house in New London, New Hampshire Records are meticulously handwritten, she said. Konopka does have a typewriter, but it’s broken, and its parts have been discontinued.

New London is a rural town with a population of 4,000 and change. Many of Konopka’s patients are uninsured, but if you have $50 she’ll treat you, and if you don’t you can pay her later. It’s a niche market but an important one. Rural patients are notoriously underserved.

As a doctor, Konopka gets mostly high grades. New Hampshire Public Radio interviewed some of those she’s treated and found big fans:

To talk with her patients is to hear story after story of medical turnaround, of admiration and gratitude. Unlike other doctors, Konopka listens and spends time with you, her patients say. She learns your family history, your physical and mental state. She doesn’t simply rush you out the door with a prescription.

But that’s all over now. To settle the charges Konopka agreed to give up her licence. Her lawsuit seeking to overturn the settlement on grounds of coercion was dismissed.

As part of the deal, Konopka agreed that should she ever seek to get her license back, she will have to meet the requirements for new entrants into the practice of medicine — which means being able to use the internet.

In addition to Konopka’s unfamiliarity with the technology, she also has objections that we might term ideological. Here’s part of an interview she gave to the website Ars Technica:

“I am getting the patients from the system, and I see how badly they are mistreated and misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all,” she said. “Therefore, I am not going to compromise patients’ lives or health for the system. Because I am out of the system, it was almost like in communism, you were like the enemy and you had to be destroyed.”

So Konopka’s refusal to adopt what she derides as “electronic medicine” is not only a matter of familiarity with the technology; she also seems to believe that the whole enterprise is a bad idea. She is hardly the only doctor to complain that the accelerating switch to digital records has harmed patient care.

But the system she rejects has its points, and there are perfectly good reasons to require a degree of computer literacy from medical professionals. Put aside the question of reporting on opioid use. Just consider the enormous amount of information that we nowadays expect providers to have at their fingertips. The latest research. The latest scans and lab reports. The latest messages from other doctors. And those who practice rural medicine, because specialists often are far away, may have the greatest need for the latest technology.

On the other hand, if Konopka’s patients are mostly happy, we should at least be wary of snatching away her licence not because she doesn’t know her medicine but because she doesn’t keep up with the technology.

Whatever the right answer, one thing is clear: As the digital revolution continues, the issue raised by what happened to Konopka will arise more and more. Imagine the ageing but beloved professor who teaches brilliantly but runs afoul of a newly adopted university rule requiring that all student papers and faculty comments be submitted online. Or the experienced and savvy police officer who is befuddled when the department announces that information formerly recorded on paper in triplicate must henceforth be typed into the online system. Should they be pensioned off, even though excellent at their work, because new information technology has supplanted what they have used throughout their careers?

The question isn’t just hypothetical. Ever since the US supreme court decided in 2005 that disparate-impact claims can be brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers and their lawyers have wondered whether a requirement that new hires be computer literate might one day form the basis for a lawsuit by older applicants. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes the view that employers may consider “technological skills” as long as “the assessments are accurate and not influenced by common age-based stereotypes.” But this tells us at best how employers may treat new applicants, not how they may treat existing employees.

Where the issue involves not employment but licensure, we should be even more vigilant for the possibility of overreach. Licensing boards always say that they are protecting the public, and sometimes they do, but they also limit entry into the professions, and protect the interests (and income) of insiders. And in the case of rural medicine, it’s not as if the market offers the typical patient a lot of alternatives.

I’m not arguing that Konopka should get her licence back, and I’m aware that there have been other complaints about her practice. But the issues raised by her case are not going to go away. As the pace of technological change accelerates, all of us will sooner or later find ourselves unable to keep up. The question is whether, when that happens, the workplace should make allowances … or show us the door.

By Stephen Carter for Bloomberg/Rand Daily Mail https://www.businesslive.co.za=

US set to abandon net neutrality rules

US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai will propose vacating Barack Obama-era net neutrality rules, according to a person briefed on the development that will hand a victory to broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast that oppose the regulations.

Pai’s proposal is to be presented to fellow FCC commissioners on Tuesday ahead of a vote set for 14 December at the agency, where the chairman — an appointee of President Donald Trump — leads a Republican majority. Pai will seek to vacate the rules adopted in 2015, retaining only a portion that requires broadband providers to explain details of the service they are offering, said the person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the proposal isn’t yet public.

Rules to be set aside include a ban on blocking or slowing Web traffic, and a prohibition on offering “fast lanes” that give quicker service to content providers willing to pay extra. Broadband providers have argued that competition will ensure they don’t unfairly squelch traffic.

Tina Pelkey, an FCC spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Pai’s proposal is the latest step in a years-long tug-of-war over regulations dictating how companies such as AT&T and Comcast allow access to Internet content — from Facebook’s social media site to Netflix’s streaming videos.

Supporters including Silicon Valley firms argue the rules are needed to keep network owners from favouring their own content and discouraging Web start-ups. Critics say the rules discourage investment while exposing companies to a threat of heavier regulation including pricing mandates.

The regulation survived a court challenge from broadband providers last year. Previous attempts by the FCC to pass such rules ended with courts tossing them out or sending them back to be rewritten.

By Todd Shields for Bloomberg on Tech Central

M-Net, Safact and film producers want ISPs to actively issue warnings to file sharers and copyright infringers in the country – while also blocking access to infringing sites.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has been presenting its responses to submissions received on the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, and dozens of parties across a number of industries gave their thoughts on the bill, including Cell C, MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, R2K, Liquid Telecom and Deloitte.

While the majority of comments focused on concerns surrounding cyber-security, the bill itself, and how it will affect South Africa’s internet, one of the more interesting comments focused on piracy in South Africa.

A comment submitted by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations, Safact and M-Net highlighted concerns that government was not doing enough to combat piracy.

“A balanced approach to address the massive copyright infringement on the Internet is necessary,” the parties said in a comment.

“It is proposed that measures should be introduced to enable local internet service providers to act against copyright infringements.

“It is suggested that South Africa should consider adopting technology-neutral ‘no fault’ enforcement legislation that would enable intermediaries to take action against online infringements, in line with Article 8.3 of the EU Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC), which addresses copyright infringement through site blocking.”

The parties further said that new legislation was needed to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cooperate with rights-holders. They also requested that the take down process under section 77 of the ECTA be made less time consuming and less intrusive.

“Obligations should be imposed on ISPs to co-operate with rights-holders and Government to police illegal filesharing or streaming websites and to issue warnings to end-users identified as engaging in illegal file-sharing and to block infringing content,” they said.

“This should be remedied in the Bill or the ECTA should be amended in the Schedule to the Bill,” it said.

The department responded to the comment by stating that the Cybersecurity Bill does not deal with copyright infringements, and that they were better suited for the Copyright Amendment Bill which is also currently before parliament.

Source: Business Tech 

Hackers, trolls and other tech nightmares of 2017

Remember last year, when Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices were blowing up in people’s pockets, on nightstands and even on a commercial airplane?

That seemed like a tech nightmare for the ages. Turns out that was nothing compared to what’s happened in 2017 — so far.

No, the terminators haven’t come for us yet, though Saudi Arabia did just grant citizenship to a robot named Sophia that literally said it would kill human beings. But it still feels like we’re in some weird alternate dimension filled with a steady stream of shocking revelations, from massive government hacking programs to troll armies ruining people’s lives to the Russian government using Facebook and Twitter to interfere in last year’s presidential election.

Don’t bother pinching yourself. It’s all real. Here’s a quick recap of the year’s most gruesome tech tales.

Nonstop hacking
You’d think mega-corporations with everything to lose from a massive hack would do anything they could to prevent attacks. Think again.

Equifax, the data collection company that has your financial information whether you want it to or not, announced in September that more than 140 million people’s information had been compromised. That includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, bank info and so on.

Worse, it turned out that Equifax knew about the hack for weeks before telling us. And when it did, the company set up a terrible website, filled with security problems like poor passwords. And, ultimately, the site itself was also hacked.

If you think these were well-meaning mistakes and not selfish blundering, keep in mind that two high-level Equifax executives sold stock just before the announcement.

It’s no wonder Equifax CEO Richard Smith suddenly retired. But don’t worry, he made out with a pay package worth as much as $90 million.

Yahoo, already synonymous with embarrassing cybersecurity failures after revelations in 2016 that the accounts of 1 billion users had been compromised, saw Equifax’s screw-up and said: We can top that.

Yahoo’s new owner, Verizon, admitted earlier this month that the attack was even worse than we thought. It turns out every single one of the 3 billion accounts in Yahoo’s system had been compromised. All of them.

That cackling you hear? That’s former CEO Marissa Mayer, who still got her golden parachute worth more than $23 million.

Oh, and if that’s not enough to keep you up at night, we learned from a cache of documents leaked from the Central Intelligence Agency that, among other things, the government could be using our TVs to spy on us. That’s right out of the plot of George Orwell’s dystopian classic, “1984.”

Trolls taking over
Internet trolls have been having one of their best years, and politicians have finally taken notice.

Congress is summoning Google, Twitter and Facebook to Capitol Hill to talk about how their online services were used by the Russian government to interfere in the US presidential election. The meetup is starting on Halloween and continues Wednesday. Do you have your Thriller popcorn yet?

The specter of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has forced the once-high flying tech industry back to Earth. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced repeated questions after he initially dismissed concerns about Russian meddling. Twitter, meanwhile, last week began banning ads from Russian-linked sites.

Did we all dance a collective time warp back to the days of the cold war?

Unfortunately, Russia isn’t the tech industry’s only problem.

Nonstop vicious and all-encompassing online harassment was another theme this year, due in some part to the troll armies that supported Donald Trump during his rise to the presidency. Twitter has declined to have its CEO, Jack Dorsey, answer even basic questions to reporters about the service’s handling of harassment among its 330 million tweeters, leading to additional pressure for the company to meaningfully change its policies.

Fake news
What, you thought we were done talking about trolls?

Maybe the most depressing part of 2017 was how much of it we spent debating what facts even are. With some people calling real stories fake and fake conspiracies real, the tech industry has been under increasing pressure to solve the problem.

And right, these companies should. After nearly a year of nonstop drumbeat debate and promises to better weed out hoax stories, the computer programs that highlight “news” on Facebook, Twitter and Google failed during the October shootings in Las Vegas. Trolls published tweets purporting to be the shooter or missing persons even as hoax stories and irresponsibly reported pieces that misidentified the shooter were prominently displayed on Google and Facebook.

So far, Facebook and a few others have promised changes, like beefing up the teams of people who monitor bad behavior on their services. They’ve also vowed to more carefully monitor ads so they don’t give a platform to misleading info.

It’s all enough to keep me quaking in my boots until 2018.

It can’t get any worse. Right?

By Ian Sherr for CNet

In the early days of the commercial Internet, back in the mid 1990s, one of the things that technology platform companies lobbied hard for was the notion that they were like the town square – passive conduits for the actions of others, facilitating a variety of activities and thoughts, but not responsible for any of them.

The idea was that the garage entrepreneurs starting message boards and chat rooms, or the nascent search engines, simply did not have the legal or economic bandwidth to monitor or be liable for the actions of users, and that to require them to do so would stymie the development of the internet itself.

How times have changed. Not only can the largest Internet companies like Facebook and Google monitor nearly everything we do, they are also policing the net with increasing vigour. Witness the variety of actions taken by Facebook, Google, GoDaddy and PayPal, in the wake of racially charged violence in Charlottesville, to block or ban rightwing hate groups from their platforms.

You can argue that this is laudable, or not, depending on your relative concern about hate speech versus free speech. But there’s a key business issue that has been missed in all the hoopla. It is one that was summarised well by Matthew Prince, the chief executive of Cloudflare, a web-infrastructure company that dropped the rightwing Daily Stormer website as a client, under massive public pressure and against the firm’s own stated policies. “I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,” said Mr Prince following the decision. “No one should have that power.”

Powerful tech companies do. Yet they also continue to benefit, in the US at least, from laws that treat them as “special” and allow them to get around all sorts of legal issues that companies in every other kind of business have to grapple with. This amounts to billions of dollars in corporate subsidies to the world’s most powerful industry.

The golden goose is a little-known bit of Federal Trade Commission legislation. Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act (CDA) was crafted in 1996 to allow tech firms exemption from liability for nearly all kinds of illegal content or actions perpetrated by their users (there are a few small carveouts for things like copyright violations and rare federal criminal prosecutions). In recent years, the tech industry has thrown a tremendous amount of money and effort into ensuring that it maintains section 230 as a “get out of jail free” card.

But this law is being challenged by powerful politicians. On August 1, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Rob Portman, introduced legislation that would create a carve-out in section 230 for tech firms that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. The impetus for this was the horror of backpage.com, a firm that actively created a platform for online sex trafficking for its own profit.

It is a piece of legislation that everyone, it seems, can get behind – except the largest tech companies and their industry lobbying groups . They are concerned that it would open a Pandora’s box of legal issues for them. These groups had the rough copy of the bill for months before its introduction, yet refused to offer edits during its crafting. Keith Smith, a spokesperson in Mr Portman’s office, says: “We did our due diligence, met with the tech community on a bipartisan basis for months and yet they offered no constructive feedback.”

The firms say that is because any amendment to 230 is a no-go; they suggested alternatives like tougher criminal laws. Noah Theran, a spokesperson for the Internet Association, a trade group that represents companies such as Google and Facebook, says: “The entire internet industry wants to end human trafficking. But, there are ways to do this without amending a law foundational to legitimate internet services.”

Still, Big Tech realises the cognitive dissonance involved in censoring online activity while continuing to portray itself as the town square. See, for example, the recent Electronic Frontier Foundation statement fretting about the slippery slope of censorship. The industry simply does not have the ability, or the right, to self-police any longer. In a world where Big Tech has the power not only to fan the flames of hate speech and fake news, but also remove it when and where it likes, it is clear that the internet is a fundamentally different place than it was in 1996 – one that needs fundamentally different rules.

The conversation about what those rules should look like is heating up. Olivier Sylvain, an associate professor of law at Fordham University, notes that as the business model and power of technology change and grow, so too should the law.

“The concept of immunity in 230 as originally conceived is no longer relevant in a world in which the largest tech firms are engineering an environment in which they can extract all kinds of information about users for their own profit,” says Prof Sylvain. He recently proposed that the CDA be recrafted to “shield providers from liability for third-party user online conduct only to the extent such providers operate as true passive conduits”.

Regulators and politicians, take note: Big Tech should no longer have its cake and eat it too.

By Rana Foroohar for the Irish Times 

.africa is here

DotConnectAfrica’s (DCA) legal battle to stop the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) delegation of the .africa generic top level domain to the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) finally came to an end at the Superior Court of California where the court denied DCAs application for a preliminary injunction against ICANN.

According to Bernadette Versfeld, a Partner at Webber Wentzel, it means that ZACR is now the official registry operator of the .africa generic top level domain. It will be launched in three phases:

• Sunrise Period (4 April 2017 – 2 June 2017) – during the Sunrise Period trademark owners can secure domain names matching their registered trademarks before .africa is made available to the general public. The registered trademarks must first be validated by a Trade Mark Clearing House (TMCH). Alternatively, and specifically for the .africa gTLD , a system called Mark Validation System (MVS) will be used to validate trade marks which are not yet registered, company names, trust names and common law trade marks (as well as registered trade marks for trade mark proprietors who do not wish to validate through the TMCH)
• Landrush Period (Phase 1 = 5 June – 9 June; Phase 2 = 12 June – 16 June; Phase 3 = 19 June – 23 June; Phase 4 = 26 June – 30 June) – this registration is open to everyone around the world without any restriction, but the registration is sold at a higher price than the regular price.
• General Availability (4 July 2017) – registration will open to the general public and works on a “first come, first served” basis.

“The .africa generic top level domain is an essential domain name extension for any business trading in Africa. It is anticipated that the .africa domain name extension will be in high demand and businesses are advised to include this domain name extension in their branding strategy. The cost of registration is minimal compared to the risks of failing to register,” Bernadette concludes.

 

Joining the world of electronic commerce may seem daunting if you’re running a small business, but it is easier than ever to get up-and-running with a digital storefront. And with consumers looking for online convenience, allowing them to browse, order and pay online can give your business an edge in a competitive market, says Charles Pittaway, MD at Sage Pay.

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