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The Hidden Environmental Cost of Amazon Prime's Free, Fast Shipping

38 min 24 s sitten
Amazon's Prime Day shopping spree offers free, fast shipping -- but experts say there's a hidden environmental cost that doesn't show up on the checkout page. From a report: Expedited shipping means your packages may not be as consolidated as they could be, leading to more cars and trucks required to deliver them, and an increase in packaging waste, which researchers have found is adding more congestion to our cities, pollutants to our air, and cardboard to our landfills. Free and fast shipping has always been a Prime membership's marquee perk -- one that's drawn in over 100 million subscribers who pay $119 annually. A 2017 study by UPS found that nearly all (96%) US customers had made a purchase on a marketplace like Amazon or Walmart, and over half (55%) said free or discounted shipping was the primary reason. [...] That convenience is encouraging people in the US to buy more, and to make more individual purchases rather than placing a single order for several items. "There are more sales in lower-price products online than there have been in stores," Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at the NPD Group, told BuzzFeed News. And all of those transactions are negatively impacting our planet, according to Miguel Jaller, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis: "People are consuming more. There's more demand created by the availability of these cheap products and cheap delivery options."

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Google Tests Curvy Chrome Tabs With Material Design Overhaul

1 tunti 38 min sitten
Google is trying out a new Chrome interface that for the first time in a decade presents a very different look for the tabs and address bar at the top of the widely used web browser, CNET reports. It adds: Since its public debut in 2008, Chrome has featured a trapezoidal tab for each website you have open. But tabs now look very different on Chrome Canary -- a very rough-around-the-edges version used to test changes before they reach a broader audience. The active tab has a slope-shouldered look with curved corners. The grayed-out inactive tabs merge with the the browser itself and are separated only by thin vertical lines. In addition, the address bar's text box is a gray oval against a white backdrop, instead of a round-cornered white rectangle with a hairline border.

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Comic Book Publishers, Faced With Flagging Sales, Look To Streaming

2 tuntia 38 min sitten
Comic book publishers are facing a growing crisis: Flagging interest from readers and competition from digital entertainment are dragging down sales. Hoping to reverse the trend, publishers are creating their own digital platforms to directly connect with readers and encourage more engagement from fans. From a report: One of the biggest direct-to-consumer efforts is DC Universe, a platform from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Studios that will offer streaming content, including original and classic TV series. DC Universe is "a huge opportunity" that offers "ultimate creative control," said Jim Lee, a co-publisher of DC Entertainment. "It allows you to look at wider adaptations of the source material." [...] The Walt Disney Company, which owns Marvel Entertainment, said last year that it would create a streaming platform that would include Marvel movies like "The Avengers" and "Guardians of the Galaxy." Smaller comic book publishers are testing their own direct-to-consumer platforms. Image Comics, the publisher of popular titles like The Walking Dead and Saga, started a direct-to-consumer platform in 2015 to sell comic book subscriptions and apparel.

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Open Gov't Advocates Fear that Private Messaging Apps Are Being Misused by Public Officials To Conduct Business in Secret

Su, 07/22/2018 - 23:00
The proliferation of digital tools that make text and email messages vanish may be welcome to Americans seeking to guard their privacy. But open government advocates fear they are being misused by public officials to conduct business in secret and evade transparency laws. From a report: Whether communications on those platforms should be part of the public record is a growing but unsettled debate in states across the country. Updates to transparency laws lag behind rapid technological advances, and the public and private personas of state officials overlap on private smartphones and social media accounts. "Those kind of technologies literally undermine, through the technology itself, state open government laws and policies," said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. "And they come on top of the misuse of other technologies, like people using their own private email and cellphones to conduct business." Some government officials have argued that public employees should be free to communicate on private, non-governmental cellphones and social media platforms without triggering open records requirements.

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Boston Dynamics Is Gearing Up To Produce Thousands of Robot Dogs

Su, 07/22/2018 - 22:00
Boston Dynamics, maker of uncannily agile robots, is poised to bring its first commercial product to market -- a small, dog-like robot called the SpotMini. From a report: The launch was announced in May, and founder Marc Raibert recently said that by July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini at the rate of around 1,000 units per year. The broader goal, as reported by Inverse, is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications. The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.

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Facebook Confirms It's Working on a New Internet Satellite

Su, 07/22/2018 - 21:00
A host of companies believe the better way to connect the estimated half of Earth's population that's still offline is to launch "constellations" of smaller satellites into low Earth orbit, around 100 to 1,250 miles above our planet. According to emails from the Federal Communications Commission, which Wired obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act request, Facebook is officially one such company. From the report: The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to "efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world," according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC. With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk's SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February. The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.

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People Like Getting Thank You Notes, Research Finds

Su, 07/22/2018 - 20:00
From a report: O.K., it's not that surprising. But what did surprise two psychologist as they attempted to get to bottom of why so few people actually send thank yous is that many people totally "miscalibrate" the effect of an appreciative email. They underestimate the positive feelings it will bring. "They think it's not going to be that big a deal," said Amit Kumar, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies well-being. They also overestimate how insincere the note may appear and how uncomfortable it will make the recipient feel, their study found. But after receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were "ecstatic," scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they'd evoke a 3. To be clear -- the notes in question were not your typical "thanks for the Amazon gift card." Rather, the 100 or so participants in each of the four experiments were asked to write a short "gratitude letter" to a person who had affected them in some way. Sample letters included missives of appreciation to fellow students and friends who offered guidance through the college admissions process, job searches and tough times. In lab experiments, Dr. Kumar observed that it took most subjects less than five minutes to write the letters. Further reading: Finding Emails With Certain Variation Of Thank You Vastly Improves Response Rate, Study Finds; and Apparently, People Say 'Thank You' To Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles.

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Rome's Subway Expansion Reveals Artifacts From The Ancient Past

Su, 07/22/2018 - 19:00
All roads may lead to Rome, but once you get there, good luck taking the subway. The sprawling metropolis is expanding its mass transit system -- a sluggish process made even slower as workers keep running into buried ancient ruins. From a report: "I found some gold rings. I found glasswork laminated in gold depicting a Roman god, some amphoras," says Gilberto Pagani, a bulldozer operator at the Amba Aradam metro stop, currently under construction not far from the Colosseum. Pagani is part of an archaeological team at the site, a certified archaeological construction worker trained to excavate, preserve and build in cities like Rome, with thousands of years of civilization buried beneath the surface. The presence of ancient artifacts underground is a daunting challenge for urban developers. For archaeologists, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. "I think it's the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me, professionally speaking," says Simona Morretta, the state archaeologist in charge of the Amba Aradam site. "Because you never get the chance in a regular excavation to dig so deep. That's how we've found architectural complexes as important as this."

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Some Colleges Cautiously Embrace Wikipedia

Su, 07/22/2018 - 18:00
Megan Zahneis, writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education: Academics have traditionally distrusted Wikipedia, citing the inaccuracies that arise from its communally edited design and lamenting students' tendency to sometimes plagiarize assignments from it. Now, LiAnna Davis, director of programs for Wikipedia's higher-education-focused nonprofit arm Wiki Education, said, higher education and Wikipedia don't seem like such strange bedfellows. At conferences these days, "everyone's like, 'Oh, Wikipedia, of course you guys are here.'" "I think it's a recognition that Wikipedia is embedded within the fabric of learning now," she said. One initiative Davis oversees at Wiki Education aims to forge stronger bonds between Wikipedia and higher education. The Visiting Scholars program, which began in 2015, pairs academics at colleges with experienced Wikipedia editors. Institutions provide the editors with access to academic journals, research databases, and digital collections, which the editors use to write and expand Wikipedia articles on topics of mutual interest. A dozen institutions, including Rutgers University, Brown University, and the University of Pittsburgh, are participating.

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Slashdot Asks: Do You Need To Properly Eject a USB Drive Before Yanking it Out?

Su, 07/22/2018 - 17:05
In a story earlier this week, Popular Science magazine explored an age-old topic: Do people need to safely eject a USB stick before they pull it from their computer? The magazine's take on it -- which is, as soon any ongoing transfer of files is complete, it is safe to yank out the flash drive -- has unsurprisingly stirred a debate. Here's what the magazine wrote: But do you really need to eject a thumb drive the right way? Probably not. Just wait for it to finish copying your data, give it a few seconds, then yank. To be on the cautious side, be more conservative with external hard drives, especially the old ones that actually spin. That's not the official procedure, nor the most conservative approach. And in a worst-case scenario, you risk corrupting a file or -- even more unlikely -- the entire storage device. To justify its rationale, the magazine has cited a number of computer science professors. In the same story, however, a director of product marketing at SanDisk made a case for why people should probably safely eject the device. He said, "Failure to safely eject the drive may potentially damage the data due to processes happening in the system background that are unseen to the user." John Gruber of DaringFireball (where we originally spotted the story), makes a case for why users should safely eject the device before pulling it out: This is terrible advice. It's akin to saying you probably don't need to wear a seat belt because it's unlikely anything bad will happen. Imagine a few dozen people saying they drive without a seat belt every day and nothing's ever gone wrong, so it must be OK. (The breakdown in this analogy is that with seat belts, you know instantly when you need to be wearing one. With USB drives, you might not discover for months or years that you've got a corrupt file that was only partially written to disk when you yanked the drive.) I see a bunch of "just pull out the drive and not worry about it" Mac users on Twitter celebrating this article, and I don't get it. On the Mac you have to do something on screen when you eject a drive. Either you properly eject it before unplugging the drive -- one click in the Finder sidebar -- or you need to dismiss the alert you'll get about having removed a drive that wasn't properly ejected. Why not take the course of action that guarantees data integrity? What are your thoughts on this?

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Bot Tweeted Names And Photos Of Venmo Users Who Bought Drugs

Su, 07/22/2018 - 13:34
Since Venmo's transactions are "public" by default and broadcast on Venmo's API, a Python programmer decided to publicize a few of them, reports the Mercury News: The creator of the bot named "Who's buying drugs on Venmo" under the Twitter handle @venmodrugs says he wanted users to consider their privacy settings before using Venmo. The bot finds Venmo transactions that include words such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, meth, speed or emojis that denote drugs and tweets the transaction with the names of the sender and receiver and the sender's photo, if there is one... "I wanted to demonstrate how much data Venmo was making publicly available with their open API and their public by default settings and encourage people to consider their privacy settings," Joel Guerra, the creator of the bot, told Motherboard, a technology news outlet run by Vice. He shut the bot after 24 hours, according to a Medium essay titled "Why I blasted your 'drug' deals on Twitter": I chose drugs, sex and alcohol keywords as the trigger for the bot because because they were funny and shocking. I removed the last names of users because I didn't want to actually contribute to the problem of lack of privacy... I braced myself for backlash but the response was overwhelmingly positive. People understood my point and I had sparked a lot of discussion about online privacy and the need for users to do a better job of understanding the terms of software they were using -- and a lot of discussion about how companies need to do a better job of informing customers how their data was being used... After about 24 hours of tweeting everyone's drug laden Venmo transactions I shut down the bot (Python script!!) and deleted all the tweets. I had successfully made my point and gotten more attention than I had imagined possible. Thousands of people were reading tweets and articles about the bot and discussing data privacy. I saw no further value in tweeting out anyone's personal transactions anymore. However, all I ever did was format the data and automate a Twitter account -- the data is still readily available. His closure of the bot drew some interesting reactions on Twitter. "booooooooo. I was so entertained by this." "I remember I had a dealer take my phone and set venmo to private lol." "we're looking to add a Python developer to our team and I think you'd be a good fit."

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Ask Slashdot: Should I Ditch PHP?

Su, 07/22/2018 - 10:34
Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino does PHP for a living, but says he's growing "increasingly frustrated with the ignorant and clueless in the vincinity of PHP." Crappy code and baaaaad application setups is one thing, but people refusing to fix them or simply not even understanding the broader implications of bad applications or attempting SEO with gadgets while refusing to fix 3.5 MB-per-pagecall are just minor tidbits in a history of increasingly unnerving run-ins with knuckledragers in the "web agency" camp... Will I leave the larger part of this backwards stuff behind if I move to another server-side programming language such as Java or Kotlin for professional work in the broader web area? Do I have a chance to do quality work on quality projects using PHP, or are those slim compare to other programming languages? In short, should I ditch PHP? "I think .NET is a much cleaner language to work in with Microsoft's excellent Visual Studio IDE and debugger," argues Slashdot reader Agret , adding "there are many large projects in my city hiring .NET developers and being a strongly typed language the code quality is generally better than PHP." But what's been your experience? And would a frustrated developer find more quality projects by ditching PHP?

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'The Cashless Society is a Con -- and Big Finance is Behind It'

Su, 07/22/2018 - 07:34
An anonymous reader quotes this opinion piece by former derivatives broker Brett Scott: Banks are closing ATMs and branches in an attempt to 'nudge' users towards digital services -- and it's all for their own benefit... I recently got a letter from my bank telling me that they are shutting down local branches because "customers are turning to digital", and they are thus "responding to changing customer preferences". I am one of the customers they are referring to, but I never asked them to shut down the branches... I am much more likely to "choose" a digital option if the banks deliberately make it harder for me to choose a non-digital option. In behavioural economics this is referred to as "nudging". If a powerful institution wants to make people choose a certain thing, the best strategy is to make it difficult to choose the alternative... Digital systems may be "convenient", but they often come with central points of failure. Cash, on the other hand, does not crash. It does not rely on external data centres, and is not subject to remote control or remote monitoring. The cash system allows for an unmonitored "off the grid" space. This is also the reason why financial institutions and financial technology companies want to get rid of it. Cash transactions are outside the net that such institutions cast to harvest fees and data. A cashless society brings dangers. People without bank accounts will find themselves further marginalised, disenfranchised from the cash infrastructure that previously supported them. There are also poorly understood psychological implications about cash encouraging self-control while paying by card or a mobile phone can encourage spending. And a cashless society has major surveillance implications. While a cashless society might make it cheaper to run a bank, "A cashless society is not in your interest..." argues the author. "We must recognise every cash machine that is shut down as another step in financial institutions' campaign to nudge you into their digital enclosures."

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Uber Bans Driver Who Secretly Livestreamed Hundreds of Passengers

Su, 07/22/2018 - 04:34
Lauren Weinstein tipped us off to this story from Mashable: Hundreds of Uber and Lyft rides have been broadcast live on Twitch by driver Jason Gargac this year, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday, all of them without the passengers' permission. Gargac, who goes by the name JustSmurf on Twitch, regularly records the interior of his car while working for Uber and Lyft with a camera in the front of the car, allowing viewers to see the faces of his passengers, illuminated by his (usually) purple lights, and hear everything they say. At no point does Gargac make passengers aware that they are being filmed or livestreamed. Due to Missouri's "one-party consent" law, in which only one party needs to agree to be recorded for it to be legal (in this case, Gargac is the consenting one), what Gargac is doing is perfectly legal. That doesn't mean it's not 100 percent creepy. Sometimes, to confirm who they are for their driver, the passengers say their full names. Not only that, Gargac has another video that shows the view out the front of his car so that people can see where he's driving, giving away the locations of some passengers' homes. All the while, viewers on Twitch are commenting about things like the quality of neighborhoods, what the passengers are talking about, and of course, women's looks. Gargac himself is openly judgmental about the women he picks up, commenting to his viewers about their appearances before they get in his car and making remarks after he drops them off. He also regularly talks about wanting to get more "content," meaning interesting people, and is open about the fact that he doesn't want passengers to know they are on camera. "I feel violated. I'm embarrassed," one passenger told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We got in an Uber at 2 a.m. to be safe, and then I find out that because of that, everything I said in that car is online and people are watching me. It makes me sick." The offending driver announced today on Twitter that he's at least "getting rid of the stored vids." He calls this move "step #1 of trying to calm everyone down." Hours ago his Twitch feed was made inaccessible. Lyft and Twitch have not yet responded to Mashable's request for a comment. But Uber said they've (temporarily?) banned Gargac from accessing their app "while we evaluate his partnership with Uber."

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NetBSD 8.0 Released

Su, 07/22/2018 - 03:34
Slashdot reader fisted quotes NetBSD.org: The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 8.0, the sixteenth major release of the NetBSD operating system. This release brings stability improvements, hundreds of bug fixes, and many new features. Some highlights of the NetBSD 8.0 release are: — USB stack rework, USB3 support added. — In-kernel audio mixer (audio_system(9)). — Reproducible builds — PaX MPROTECT (W^X) memory protection enforced by default — PaX ASLR enabled by default — Position independent executables by default[...] NetBSD is free. All of the code is under non-restrictive licenses, and may be used without paying royalties to anyone.

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New Trailers Debuted at Comic-Con Include Aquaman, Shazam, and The Simpsons

Su, 07/22/2018 - 02:34
Today Comic-Con attendees were treated to new trailers and previews for a slew of upcoming geek-friendly movies. An anonymous reader writes: Besides footage from Wonder Woman 1984, there were also trailers for DC's Aquaman movie, plus a new DC superhero franchise with a lighter tone, Shazam. (And there was also a very apocalyptic preview of Godzilla: King of the Monsters.) Numerous celebrities were on-hand to tout their upcoming films. Johnny Depp introduced the trailer for Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald -- in character -- while Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson introduced the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's Glass. Jamie Lee Curtis even plugged her return to the Halloween franchise 40 years after the original, revealing that her character has been waiting all these decades to kill Michael Myers after his release from prison. TV Guide has collected most of the trailers for TV shows, including season 11 of Doctor Who, the revival of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and new seasons of Marvel's Iron Fist and Fear the Walking Dead. There was apparently also a trailer for Marvel's mutant series The Gifted -- and a preview for the 30th season of The Simpsons featuring this Halloween's "Treehouse of Horror XXIX", which includes a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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Cell Phone Radiation May Affect Memory Performance In Adolescents, Study Finds

Su, 07/22/2018 - 01:34
dryriver quotes Science Daily: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields may have adverse effects on the development of memory performance of specific brain regions exposed during mobile phone use. These are the findings of a study involving nearly 700 adolescents in Switzerland. The investigation, led by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, will be published on Monday, 23 July 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study to be published found that cumulative RF-EMF brain exposure from mobile phone use over one year may have a negative effect on the development of figural memory performance in adolescents, confirming prior results published in 2015. Figural memory is mainly located in the right brain hemisphere, and association with RF-EMF was more pronounced in adolescents using the mobile phone on the right side of the head. 'This may suggest that indeed RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations.' said Martin Röösli, Head of Environmental Exposures and Health at Swiss TPH.

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A Fifth Undocumented Cisco Backdoor Has Been Discovered

Su, 07/22/2018 - 00:34
Cisco released 25 security updates Wednesday, including a critical patch removing an undocumented password for "root" accounts of Cisco Policy Suite (sold to ISPs and large corporate clients). "The vulnerability received a rare severity score of 9.8 out of a maximum of 10 on the CVSSv3 scale," reports Bleeping Computer. An anonymous reader quotes Tom's Hardware: Over the past few months, not one, not two, but five different backdoors joined the list of security flaws in Cisco routers.... In March, a hardcoded account with the username "cisco" was revealed. The backdoor would have allowed attackers to access over 8.5 million Cisco routers and switches remotely. That same month, another hardcoded password was found for Cisco's Prime Collaboration Provisioning software, which is used for remote installation of Cisco's video and voice products. Later this May, Cisco found another undocumented backdoor account in Cisco's Digital Network Architecture Center, used by enterprises for the provisioning of devices across a network. In June, yet another backdoor account was found in Cisco's Wide Area Application Services, a software tool for Wide Area Network traffic optimization... Whether or not the backdoor accounts were created in error, Cisco will need to put an end to them before this lack of care for security starts to affect its business.

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The Tech Industry's War On Kids

La, 07/21/2018 - 23:34
Long-time Slashdot reader RoccamOccam summarizes an article now circulating on the web sites of several schools: Child and adolescent psychologist Richard Freed writes, "...parents have no idea that lurking behind their kids' screens and phones are a multitude of psychologists, neuroscientists, and social science experts who use their knowledge of psychological vulnerabilities to devise products that capture kids' attention for the sake of industry profit. What these parents and most of the world have yet to grasp is that psychology—a discipline that we associate with healing—is now being used as a weapon against children." Stanford psychology researcher B.J. Fogg, has developed the "Fogg Behavior Model", which he claims is a well-tested method to change behavior and, in its simplified form, involves three primary factors: motivation, ability, and triggers. Describing how his formula is effective at getting people to use a social network, the psychologist says in an academic paper that a key motivator is users' desire for "social acceptance," although he says an even more powerful motivator is the desire "to avoid being socially rejected." Ramsay Brown, the founder of Dopamine Labs, says in a KQED Science article, "We have now developed a rigorous technology of the human mind, and that is both exciting and terrifying. We have the ability to twiddle some knobs in a machine learning dashboard we build, and around the world hundreds of thousands of people are going to quietly change their behavior in ways that, unbeknownst to them, feel second-nature but are really by design."

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Lawmakers Call On Amazon and Google To Reconsider Ban On Domain Fronting

La, 07/21/2018 - 22:34
An anonymous reader quotes CyberScoop: Amazon and Google face sharp questions from a bipartisan pair of U.S. senators over the tech giants' decisions to ban domain fronting, a technique used to circumvent censorship and surveillance around the world. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter on Tuesday to Google CEO Larry Page and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over decisions by both companies in April to ban domain fronting. Amazon then warned the developers of encrypted messaging app Signal that the organization would be banned from Amazon's cloud services if the service didn't stop using Amazon's cloud as cover. "We respectfully urge you to reconsider your decision to prohibit domain fronting given the harm it will do to global internet freedom and the risk it will impose upon human rights activists, journalists, and others who rely on the internet freedom tools," the senators wrote.

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