Amazon Prime Membership Loses Some Value

When Amazon announced it is giving everyone free 2-day shipping for the holidays, I cannot help but feel that I, along with all Prime members, should not have to pay to get the same benefit. If you are a Prime member, I’d love to know what you think.

Jury selection begins for ‘El Chapo’ trial; safety fears muted

The trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman on drug trafficking and conspiracy charges, which is expected to last four months, began on Monday with the selection of jurors in a federal court in Brooklyn.

A Swedish ISP has blocked Elsevier’s website in protest for forcing it to block Sci-Hub

Bahnhof’s page blocking access to Sci-Hub. (Screenshot: TechCrunch)

A little known fact about Swedes: when they get angry, they will often scribble down a note on paper — sometimes anonymously — and leave it where it will be seen, rather than confront a person face-to-face.

One extremely angry Swedish pro-freedom internet provider took that passive aggression to a whole new level.

On Thursday, Stockholm-based Bahnhof was ordered by a Swedish copyright court to block Sci-Hub, a pirate site dedicated to free access to academic papers and research. The site, operated by a Kazakh student Alexandra Elbakyan, has faced court orders and threats of site blocks across Europe, following lawsuits from academic publishers like Elsevier, which brought the most recent case.

Bahnhof was forced to block 20 domains associated with Sci-Hub, according to the company’s response to the court order.

Resigned to the fact that it was unlikely to win an appeal, the internet provider called the publisher “greedy opportunists,” and then blocked Elsevier’s own website in protest.

“Bahnhof opposes to censorship in every way, shape and form, but it looks like we won’t be able to dodge Elsevier’s blocking requirement,” the company said on a holding page that Bahnhof’s customers would see when trying to access Elsevier’s website. The internet provider put up the block “to make sure that they themselves also get a taste of the blocking they’re currently evoking against others.”

The page, featuring a dial-up modem sound and a retro late-1990’s font and layout, was a jab at what the internet provider sees as a regressive step in the internet’s history.

Elsevier, a Dutch academic publisher, has had Sci-Hub in its sights for years. The company sued its creator, Elbakyan, in 2015 as the site continued to grow in submissions and popularity. The site gave reporters and journalists, activists, the generally curious public — and even academics — access to expensive and paywalled content.

Sci-Hub now has more than 70 million academic papers and journals, helping millions to skirt Elsevier’s subscription costs — in some cases millions of dollars per year.

Many colleges and institutions have been critical of the academic publishing business. Harvard University specifically called out “certain publishers” in 2012 that the rising costs of subscriptions would render their ongoing contracts “untenable.”

“Their business model is also constructed in such a way that the universities and research institutes must pay even to access their own papers, because they have been published through Elsevier,” said Bahnhof.

Academics, too, have mixed views on Sci-Hub, though many have come out in support of the pirate site — despite its illegality — to promote free and open access to academic research. Dr. Holly Witteman, an associate professor in medicine at Université Laval in Quebec City, explained in a tweet thread earlier this year how academic papers are published.

(Spoiler alert: most academics aren’t paid.)

“The reason most academic authors are delighted to share our papers is because it’s our job to create and share knowledge!” she said.

Elsevier spokesperson Tom Reller confirmed the publisher’s legal action, adding that Sci-Hub “infringes intellectual property rights on a massive scale.”

“The risks posed by Sci-Hub and other illegal sites are exacerbated by the way they operate: subverting authentication technology, and reportedly using stolen user credentials and phishing attacks,” the spokesperson said in an email to TechCrunch. “Sci-Hub’s illegal activities harm learned societies who are reliant on subscription income to support their important work; it is a threat to the scholarly communications ecosystem, the sustainability of high quality journals as well as the ability to invest in new journals and fields.”

Bahnhof’s interstitial page isn’t a hard block — users can click through to go to Elsevier’s website. “This page you are in front of right now is the result, this is what is expected in the future where private interests can regulate community information,” the page says.

“Is it really this way our judiciary should be used? No, we do not like either,” it adds.

When internet providers get angry, they get even.

File-sharing software on state election servers could expose them to intruders

Stickers await residents who vote at the Parks and Recreation Center building on August 14, 2018, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

As recently as Monday, computer servers that powered Kentucky’s online voter registration and Wisconsin’s reporting of election results ran software that could potentially expose information to hackers or enable access to sensitive files without a password.

The insecure service run by Wisconsin could be reached from Internet addresses based in Russia, which has become notorious for seeking to influence US elections. Kentucky’s was accessible from other Eastern European countries.

The service, known as FTP, provides public access to files—sometimes anonymously and without encryption. As a result, security experts say, it could act as a gateway for hackers to acquire key details of a server’s operating system and exploit its vulnerabilities. Some corporations and other institutions have dropped FTP in favor of more secure alternatives.

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Citizenship query a threat to U.S. census, witness says as trial kicks off

Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census questionnaire will yield a “systemic undercount” of immigrants by frightening some away from responding, warned a witness on the first day of a trial that could shape the U.S. political landscape for a decade.

Chrome 71 will block any and all ads on sites with “abusive experiences”

Chrome 71 will block any and all ads on sites with “abusive experiences”

Google is promising to punish sites that offer what the company calls “abusive experiences.” Chrome 71, due for release in December, will blacklist sites that are repeat offenders and suppress all advertising on those sites.

The behaviors deemed abusive cover a range of user-hostile things, such as ads that masquerade as system error messages, ads with fake close boxes that actually activate an ad when clicked, phishing, and malware. In general, if an ad is particularly misleading, destructive, or intrusive, it runs the risk of being deemed abusive.

Chrome already takes some actions against certain undesirable website behaviors; it tries to block popups, it limits autoplay of video, and it blocks certain kinds of redirection. These measures have been insufficient to prevent misleading or dangerous ads, hence Google taking further steps to banish them from the Web.

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