posted 7 days ago on ars technica
The Nielsen ratings company is measuring Netflix watching to inform entertainment studios which of their shows are most popular on Netflix, according to The Wall Street Journal. Nielsen has been promising to create such a system since last year, and now the company says it's up and running, with viewership of nearly 1,000 Netflix shows being monitored. The system has been described as using Nielsen meters to listen for audio signals that signal when particular shows are being streamed. The system operates without Netflix's consent or cooperation. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The maintainers of the open BitTorrent protocol for file sharing have fixed a vulnerability that allowed lone attackers with only modest resources to take down large sites using a new form of denial-of-service attack. The technique was disclosed two weeks ago in a research paper submitted to the 9th Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies. By sending vulnerable BitTorrent applications maliciously modified data, attackers could force them to flood a third-party target with data that was 50 to 120 times bigger than the original request. By replacing the attacker's IP address in the malicious user datagram protocol request with the spoofed address of the target, the attacker could cause the data flood to hit the victim's computer. In a blog post published Thursday, BitTorrent engineers said the vulnerability was the result of a flaw in a reference implementation called libuTP. To fix the weakness, the uTorrent, BitTorrent, and BitTorrent Sync apps will require acknowledgments from connection initiators before providing long responses. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The online exposure of the Ashley Madison cheating sites' membership data has, to say the least, shaken the Internet like a giant earthquake. Many of the site's members have been unmasked as one of the millions of cheaters searching for an affair. Some have committed suicide. Extortionists have taken advantage of those fearing being named. And now it appears that the site's Canadian owner, Avid Life Media, is misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in a bid to make people unpublish the data that lists millions of Ashley Madison members' e-mail addresses and other information. The problem with this scenario is that such data isn't subject to copyright, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says. "Ashley Madison’s owners have been sending numerous DMCA takedown notices to platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and others in an attempt to stop the dissemination of millions of names and email addresses of the site’s users...," Mitch Stoltz, an EFF staff attorney, wrote in a recent blog post. "While there’s no doubt that the leak is embarrassing and potentially disastrous for the millions of people who have been revealed as users of a site that promotes marital infidelity, Ashley Madison’s attempts to use the DMCA to put the genie back in the bottle are misguided, and in some cases, may violate the DMCA itself." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If ever a social media service has proven that popularity matters more than functionality, Instagram pulled that off. While smartphone screens, cameras, and LTE access have vastly improved for most users, the image-sharing service had stuck to two archaic standards that turned most photographers' stomachs: a 640x640 resolution limit and a square-ratio restriction. Complaints about both have raged for long enough that we figured Instagram had no intention of changing its ways, but this summer has seen Instagram address both. First came a silent 1080x1080 resolution upgrade discovered by The Verge in July, and that was followed on Thursday by a feature-change announcement tucked into the app's latest update. Now with the tap of version 7.5's "ratio" button, any previously snapped photo in your device's gallery will appear without an automatic crop to the service's default square ratio. This change affects both image and video posts, and they'll appear within the updated version of the Instagram app at their full ratio. (Older-version users will see those images auto-shrunken to fit in a square.) There's a catch: those images must be captured by your smartphone's internal camera app. Should users shoot photos or videos within Instagram, however, they'll remain stuck in the square. While the update has gone live at both iOS' App Stores and Android's Google Play Store, we were only able to access the function on iOS as of press time. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Google has responded to European Union regulators' claims that its search results violate antitrust law, saying its search results are focused on "improving quality" and not anti-competitive. "Google increases choice for European consumers and offers valuable opportunities for businesses of all sizes," wrote company general counsel Kent Walker in a company blog post. "Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive." The blog post accompanies Google's formal legal response which was filed today. European regulators formally charged Google with antitrust violations in April. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A plan to use Wi-Fi airwaves for cellular service has sparked concerns about interference with existing Wi-Fi networks, causing a fight involving wireless carriers, cable companies, a Wi-Fi industry trade group, Microsoft, and network equipment makers. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US plan to boost coverage in their cellular networks by using unlicensed airwaves that also power Wi-Fi equipment. While cellular carriers generally rely upon airwaves to which they have exclusive licenses, a new system called LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) would have the carriers sharing spectrum with Wi-Fi devices on the unlicensed 5GHz band. Verizon has said it intends to deploy LTE-U in 5GHz in 2016. Before the interference controversy threatened to delay deployments, T-Mobile was expected to use the technology on its smartphones by the end of 2015. Wireless equipment makers like Qualcomm see an opportunity to sell more devices and are integrating LTE-U into their latest technology. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Apple has made it official: the company's next product event happens on September 9 at 10am PT. The event will be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, which is larger than the "town hall" event space on Apple's campus in Cupertino. Traditionally, larger spaces usually imply larger, more important announcements. Apple included a cryptic message with its event invite—"Siri, give us a hint"—but our safe expectations for the event are fairly straightforward. Apple is likely to release "S" versions of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus designs with faster internals, better cameras, and Force Touch support among a handful of other features. Those phones will arrive alongside iOS 9, which is usually released to existing iDevices a couple of days before the new phones are available. Aside from the phones, a new Apple TV is said to bring much faster internals along with a redesigned remote control and a new version of the iOS-derived Apple TV OS that supports Siri, more robust search, and a full App Store and SDK for developers. This would be the product's first major update since 2012. What's not clear is how many of these software changes will (or even can) be backported to the current Apple TV, which Apple has been selling for $69 since March of this year. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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To get this out of the way right up front: we’re excited about the upcoming October release of Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Based on The New York Times Best Seller novel of the same name by first-time author Andy Weir, the story follows astronaut Mark Watney as he attempts to survive being left alone on Mars after a freak accident. The book has become a favorite here in the Ars Orbiting HQ—its mix of accurate science, humor, and solid storytelling has resonated with a large audience, and based on the trailers, the movie might just manage to be that most rare of things: a book-to-film adaptation that manages to be as good as the source. The Martian trailer, courtesy of 20th Century Fox. Matt Damon was chosen to play Mark Watney, putting him in somewhat the same type of situation as Tom Hanks had to play in 2000’s Cast Away: a person who is utterly, completely alone. Some of the book’s fans expressed trepidation at Damon slipping on Watney’s spacesuit on the big screen, but author Andy Weir was thrilled at the idea when Ars interviewed Weir last November. "A lot of people forget how good an actor Matt Damon is!" explained Weir. "Remember, he can do 'smartass' really well, as we saw in Good Will Hunting!…and I can see him in my mind, saying smart-ass things, kind of with that crooked smile, you know?" No man is an island Although we haven’t seen the film yet (though we’re on the press screening list!), we had the opportunity to talk with Matt Damon earlier this week about how he handled the role and what he thought about Mark Watney and life on Mars. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Andrew Cunningham The Galaxy Tab S2. 7 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x251", kws:["bottom"], collapse: true}]);Last night I made my way to the rooftop of a New York City hotel to pick up Samsung's new Galaxy Tab S2, the sequel to last year's reasonably well-regarded Galaxy Tab S. The new tablets, which come with 9.7-inch and 8.0-inch varieties that share most of the same specs, build upon their predecessors in most of the right ways—they're a little faster, they trade a movie-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio for a reading-and-productivity-friendly 4:3 aspect ratio, and the old swipe-based fingerprint reader has been tossed out in favor of one you can simply press. The downside is that the tablets start at $400 and $500 for the 8-inch and 9.7-inch models respectively—not completely outlandish for a tablet, but much more than you have to pay if all you're looking for is a basic Web, Netflix, and e-book slab. If you're looking for a high-end Android tablet and you're willing to pay for the privilege of owning one, though, they're still worth your consideration. Look and feel, screen and specs If it's hard to talk about the Tab S2 without mentioning the iPad, it's because Apple's tablet is still the pace car for this flagging subsection of the consumer electronics business. Superficially, both Tab S2s share a lot of similarities with the iPad Air 2 and Mini 3: all have the same 2048×1536 display resolution. The new fingerprint reader works more like TouchID than in the previous tablets. And Samsung has shifted the buttons around so that the tablet is in portrait mode when it's right-side-up. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A former intern at security firm FireEye has admitted in federal court that he designed a malicious software tool that allowed attackers to take control of other Android phones so they could spy on their owners. Morgan Culbertson, 20, pleaded guilty to federal charges involving Dendroid, a software tool that provided everything needed to develop highly stealthy apps that among other things took pictures using the phone's camera, recorded audio and video, downloaded photos, and recorded calls. According to this 2014 blog post from Android security firm Lookout, at least one app built with Dendroid found its way into the official Google Play market, in part thanks to code that helped it evade detection by Bouncer, Google’s anti-malware screening system. Culbertson, who last month was one of 70 people arrested in an international law enforcement sting targeting the Darkode online crime forum, said in a LinkedIn profile that he spent four months at FireEye. While there, he said, he "improved Android malware detection by discovering new malicious malware families and using a multitude of different tools." He was also a student at Carnegie Mellon University. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In order to obtain a copy of the NSA's main XKeyscore software, whose existence was first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, Germany's domestic intelligence agency agreed to hand over metadata of German citizens it spies on. According to documents seen by the German newspaper Die Zeit, after 18 months of negotiations the US and Germany signed an agreement that would allow the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz—BfV) to obtain a copy of the NSA's most important program, and to adopt it for the analysis of data gathered in Germany. This was a lower level of access compared to the non-US "Five Eyes" nations—the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand—which had direct access to the main XKeyscore system. In return for the software, the BfV would "to the maximum extent possible share all data relevant to NSA's mission." Unlike Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the domestic-oriented BfV does not employ bulk surveillance of the kind also deployed on a vast scale by the NSA and GCHQ. Instead, it is only allowed to monitor individual suspects in Germany, and even to do that must obtain the approval of a special parliamentary commission. Because of this targeted approach, BfV surveillance is mainly intended to gather the content of specific conversations, whether in the form of emails, telephone exchanges, or even faxes, if anyone still uses them. Inevitably, though, metadata is also gathered, but as Die Zeit explains, "whether the collection of this [meta]data is consistent with the restrictions outlined in Germany's surveillance laws is a question that divides legal experts." The BfV had no problems convincing itself that it was consistent with Germany's laws to collect metadata, but rarely bothered since—remarkably—all analysis was done by hand before 2013, even though metadata by its very nature lends itself to large-scale automated processing. This explains the eagerness of the BfV to obtain the NSA's XKeyscore software after German agents had seen its powerful metadata analysis capabilities in demonstrations. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If you want to catch your favorite Twitch personality playing through Sony's recent horror title Until Dawn, you may need to make time to catch them playing live. Twitch confirmed late yesterday that "the publisher has disabled archiving for this game," meaning that live gameplay shared on Twitch through the PS4's built-in Share button will not be permanently saved for later viewing. "We're reaching out to hopefully enable," Twitch said. Sony didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter, but the blocked archival only really makes sense as a way to stop the spread of spoilers for the game. That's a somewhat legitimate concern from Sony's point of view, as Until Dawn's story-heavy and action-light gameplay make it the kind of game many people might want to watch online rather than shelling out money to actually play. Our own review copy of the game came packed with a lengthy list of story moments that we were asked to avoid spoiling in our pre-release review (not that we would do such a thing, in any case). As a spoiler-prevention measure, though, blocking Share button archival on Twitch seems laughably ineffective. Players can still stream the game through an external game capture device and do whatever they like with the resulting video. A quick search of YouTube shows dozens of gameplay snippets, walkthroughs, and "Let's Play" commentaries, including a few lengthy playthroughs that were streamed live through the new YouTube Gaming service. While watching these videos robs the viewer of the story choices that are so important to the game's outcome, there are enough different playthroughs out there that a determined viewer could piece together the branching paths if they wanted. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Discovery VR 3 more images in gallery On Thursday, Discovery Communications, the parent company of the Discovery Channel, launched Discovery VR, an all-virtual-reality network of videos. On Discovery VR's website you'll find 360° videos that can be viewed through a browser, on iOS or Android, or through Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR. Discovery VR says that support for the Oculus Rift is coming soon. Currently the platform has three Mythbusters shark dive videos and clips from the network's shows Gold Rush and Survivorman. There are also four shows that are less brand-based. In one, skateboarders tackle San Francisco's windy Lombard Street, and in another, a pro surfer gives a five-minute surf lesson. Or, you can simply take a walk through a Pacific Coast beach or through California's iconic Muir Woods. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In a massive study, a team of researchers from around the world has found a depressing, but unsurprising, result: the Universe is dying. Pretty quickly, too. This isn’t really an unexpected finding, but it’s the most detailed examination of its eventual death yet. The study was part of the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) Project, the largest multi-wavelength survey ever put together. The team, which was composed of researchers from across the globe, made use of some of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, including ESO’s VISTA and VST telescopes (both part of the Paranal University in Chile), as well as data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and NASA’s space telescopes, WISE and GALEX, and one from the European Space Agency, Herschel. “We used as many space and ground-based telescopes as we could get our hands on to measure the energy output of over 200,000 galaxies across as broad a wavelength range as possible,” said Simon Driver (ICRAR, The University of Western Australia), who leads the large GAMA team. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The man who authorities said infamously killed two Virginia television journalists Wednesday was tracked down by police via license plate reader technology, according to law enforcement. A Virginia state trooper told a news conference Wednesday that she hit Vester Lee Flanagan's plate number on her first try along Interstate 66 around 11:20am ET. "As soon as it was entered, it came up with a positive hit that that vehicle just passed me less than three minutes earlier," she said. "I let my dispatch know that the vehicle has passed me and I attempted to catch up with the vehicle, which was travelling eastbound on 66." Moments later, police tried to stop the Chevrolet the man was driving. The vehicle drove off the road and crashed, and Flanagan, who also went by Bryce Williams, was discovered to have shot himself. He later died of his self-inflicted injuries. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Diamonds may be valued by the jewelry industry for their exquisite sparkle. But a recent scientific discovery has revealed that diamonds can be of value for the information they hold in addition to their beauty. Natural diamonds are formed roughly 90 miles below the Earth’s surface. There are only limited zones in the Earth’s mantle that can produce diamonds due to the high temperatures and pressures required for their formation. Scientists have recently determined that some rapidly formed diamonds provide a snapshot of this extreme environment in which they formed. The picture of these conditions comes from fluids trapped during formation, which provides information about the material that infiltrates the Earth’s mantle. These materials are thought to be the cause of abrupt changes in chemical and physical properties that are found at the border of the continental upper mantle and crust. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Following in the footsteps of Google Now, Apple's Siri, and Microsoft's Cortana, Facebook has launched its own virtual personal assistant, simply named M. M is being baked into the company's Messenger app, and, unlike its competitors, is powered not just by technology, but by real people. A team of employees, dubbed M trainers, will work alongside the software to ensure that every request is answered. The idea is to go beyond the likes of Siri and Cortana, and offer a true personal assistant experience, allowing users to do things like have gifts delivered, book restaurants, and make travel arrangements. Currently, M is entirely text based. The few hundred users in the Bay Area who have been given access to the app can tap a new button in Messenger to send a request directly to M, at which point either software completes it, or a human does. Users won’t directly know whether it was a computer or a person that helped them. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Amazon is laying off "dozens" of employees at Lab126, the hardware-development center in Silicon Valley responsible for products like the Fire Phone, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Sources at Amazon "familiar with the matter" told the WSJ that the company has scaled back or halted numerous development projects, including a large-screen tablet, and a smart stylus. The WSJ's sources claim that the layoffs form part of a broad reorganisation at Lab126, which began last year after disappointing sales of the Fire Phone. This resulted in Lab126 combining its tablet, e-reader, and phone projects. In October 2014, it emerged that Amazon was sitting on over $83 million (~£54 million) of unsold Fire phones, which the company swiftly tried to shift by offering a substantial price drop. It's not yet clear whether Amazon will continue its in-house smartphone development. Some engineers at Lab126 told the WSJ that development would be shelved, while another claimed it had been shifted to Seattle under Steve Kessel, an executive who helped spearhead the company's hardware unit, and oversaw digital media like e-books and music. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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12 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x251", kws:["bottom"], collapse: true}]);Earlier this year, AMD unveiled three new graphics cards: the R9 Fury X, R9 Fury, and R9 Nano. While the top-of-the-line water-cooled R9 Fury X and air-cooled R9 Fury have both since been released to positive reviews, the mini-ITX sized R9 Nano has remained something of a mystery. Fortunately, the Nano appears to have been worth the wait. While the Nano costs the same as a Fury X—$649, or about £530 (UK pricing is unconfirmed)—the diminutive card also sports same full-fat Fiji chip, which is crammed into its teeny 6-inch form factor. With the R9 Nano you get a full 4096 stream processors, 256 texture units, 64 ROPs, and 4GB of 4096-bit memory high-bandwidth memory operating at 1000MHz. AMD claims performance is around 8.2 TFLOPS, which is only five percent below that of the Fury X. Even better, the Nano needs just a single 8-pin PCIe power connector, with a typical power consumption of 175W, which is miles below the 275W of the Fury X. Of course, such dramatic power savings have to come from somewhere, and for the Nano that means a reduction in clock speed. The Nano's GPU is rated for "up to 1000MHz," with AMD saying that under typical usage in most games it runs between 850MHz and 900MHz. That's around a 14 percent decrease over the 1050MHz of the Fury X, but it's still impressive given the Nano's size. AMD puts performance somewhere between the Fury and Fury X, with the full shader count helping to mitigate the drop in clock speed versus the Fury. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Legal experts are very concerned that a new North Dakota law which allows law enforcement drones to be armed with so-called less-than-lethal weapons—including stun guns and beanbag rounds—could be highly problematic. The law, however, explicitly forbids lethal weapons. Previous drafts of the bill specifically included prohibitions on non-lethal weapons, language that was later removed. Among other reasons, such weapons have been shown that they can, in fact, kill people. According to research by The Guardian, 39 Americans have died this year alone at the hands of police wielding a Taser. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that more than 20 North American cities are pursuing large silicone-based projectiles as yet another alternative weapon. North Dakota is believed to be the first state in the union to allow such weapons aboard state and local police drones. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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MICHOUD, La.—On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came, the federal levees failed, and chaos ensued in the New Orleans metro area. By now the damage is well documented. So many people were displaced that New Orleans still only sits at approximately 80 percent of its pre-storm population a decade later. More than 1,200 people died—the most for a US storm since 1928. And 80 percent of the city flooded, causing property damage since estimated at $108 billion by the National Hurricane Center. Almost regardless of metric, Katrina stands as the most devastating Atlantic storm to ever hit the US. Yet one day before Katrina, Malcolm Wood had to go into work. Read 38 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A dark market website that relies on the Tor privacy network to keep its operators anonymous is temporarily shutting down amid concerns attackers are exploiting a newly reported weakness that can identify server locations. As Ars reported last month, the technique requires the adversary to control the Tor entry point for the server hosting the hidden service. It also requires the attacker to have previously collected unique network characteristics that can serve as a fingerprint for that particular service. Still, once that bar is met, the attack has an 88-percent accuracy rate. Hidden services are sites that are accessible only from within the Tor, which conceals IP addresses of servers and users. "We have recently been discovering suspicious activity around our servers which led us to believe that some of the attacks described in the research could be going on and we decided to move servers once again," operators of Agora, a hidden service that markets everything from illicit drugs to unlicensed firearms, wrote in various online forums, including this post on Pastebin. "However, this is only a temporary solution." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Dish Network today said its customers are experiencing "the largest blackout in US television history," all because of a money dispute between Dish and Sinclair Broadcast Group. 129 stations in 36 states and Washington, DC, went dark yesterday afternoon, affecting about 5 million Dish customers. Overall, Sinclair owns or operates 153 stations, with 87 of them being "affiliates of the four major broadcast networks—CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox—meaning customers lost access to local and national news programming as well as sports carried by those stations," The Wall Street Journal reported. Sinclair is the nation's largest broadcast group, according to the FCC. With almost 14 million subscribers, Dish is the second largest satellite TV provider after the AT&T-owned DirecTV. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A proposed class-action suit has been filed [PDF] in California on behalf of Ashley Madison users who had their personal information leaked, including those who paid the site a fee for a “full delete” of their data. After a breach of the site's database, people combing through the information found that Ashley Madison and other properties owned by parent company Avid Life Media (ALM) had retained quite a bit of information pertaining to users who purchased a “full delete” of their profile for $19, including GPS coordinates, date of birth, gender, ethnicity, weight, height, among other details. Although e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and descriptions written by users who sought “full deletes” were eliminated by the time the hackers accessed the database, the incidental data that Ashley Madison kept on those users could still paint quite a picture. The Register has a table that nicely illustrates what information Ashley Madison kept on “deleted” users and what it actually deleted. In addition, when Ars investigated the “full delete” option on Ashley Madison a year ago, we found that there was little difference between a “full delete” and the “hiding your profile” option, except that messages that a user sent to another user would be deleted if exiting users paid the fee. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In announcing its latest app initiative Wednesday, Amazon put an italicized emphasis on the fact that apps and games in the new "Amazon Underground" section are "actually free" for Android devices. That means users can go on an in-app purchase shopping spree for all of the chapters, items, options, and "energy" they want, while developers get pennies on the hour in exchange for giving up their beloved monetization plan. Amazon Underground promises that its offerings are really, truly, and wholly free. Formerly paid apps cost nothing, while former freemium apps no longer ring users up for however many in-app purchases they make. Want fifty gazillion "coins" that would normally cost $100 of real cash, or free versions of productivity software, solid games like Goat Simulator, or kids' fare from the Sesame Workshop? They're yours for the taking. Amazon reminds you at every checkout opportunity how much you're not paying. While you might expect that this new system would have developers launching social media campaigns about getting ripped off, Amazon made very clear that game and app creators whose livelihoods depended on IAPs would still get paid: "We're paying developers a certain amount on a per-minute-played basis in exchange for them waiving their normal in-app fees," the company's announcement stated. "We're the one picking up those per-minute charges." Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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