Tag Archives: Messages

California Wants to Tax Your Text Messages. Here’s Why
December 12, 2018 12:01 pm|Comments (0)

Have you found yourself texting people instead of calling them? Sure. Have you stopped to debate whether texting is a form of “telecommunications” or an “information service?” Chances are the answer is “no”.

California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is betting you haven’t either — and the difference matters because the commission has jurisdiction over telecommunications, which includes telephone calls. What’s more, it wants to extend an existing tax on calls to include text messages, the Mercury News reports.

Should it get its way, then Californians may soon be taxed on every text they send from their cell phones.

Gather round, millennials and Generation Z, to learn about the landline era, when the U.S. federal government and states established so-called Public Purpose Programs. These programs charged all users of telephone services a surcharge that subsidized programs for lower earners. They also apply to other utilities such as electricity and natural gas. During the rise of the Internet, however, the telecoms industry managed to get an exemption for “information services” such as web browsing and email.

As mobile phone users have shifted their usage patterns away from voice calls, voice call revenues for PPP have dropped by about a third, while the budget for subsidizing poorer users has risen by almost half. So California’s PUC is exploring its options and, as texts share infrastructure with voice calls — even if the medium is different — it estimates it could raise $ 44.5 million a year with the change. Applied retroactively it could amount to a bill of more than $ 220 million for California consumers.

In response, the telecoms industry is filing complaints arguing that texting is an email-like “information service” and should be exempt from PPP. The FCC is meeting today to address the issue.

Of course, even texting is going out of fashion. Chat apps that route messages over the Internet, such as WhatsApp and iMessage, would be exempt and already represent almost triple the volume of texts, an industry group says.

Tech

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Hackers Extracted and Published Facebook Private Messages Grabbed Through Bad Browser Plug-Ins
November 3, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Hackers have tried to convince potential buyers—and the BBC Russian Service—that they had cracked Facebook’s security and extracted private messages from 120 million accounts. However, according to an outside expert reported by the BBC, it appears likely that at least 81,000 Facebook accounts had their privacy breached. And according to Facebook, the breach is due to malware-containing browser extensions.

“We have contacted browser makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores and to share information that could help identify additional extensions that may be related,” Facebook’s vice president of product manager, Guy Rosen, said in a statement.

The hackers originally published an offer in September for personal information related to 120 million Facebook accounts on a English-language forum. This included a sample of data that the BBC had an expert examine, confirming that over 81,000 profiles’ private messages were included. An additional 176,000 accounts had data that could have been scraped from public Facebook pages.

Facebook’s Rosen said that its security wasn’t compromised, and urged people to remove any plug-ins they don’t fully trust. Rosen said the social network had notified law enforcement, had the website hosting the Facebook account data had been taken down.

Depending on the browser, plug-in extensions may be able to monitor a user’s activity on any web page. This typically doesn’t include keystrokes, but extensions can sweep in anything rendered on a page for a user to see, such as public and private messages.

Plug-ins that provide toolbars or insert links for coupons for e-commerce are common. However, with so many extensions available, malicious parties have many options: compromise existing software through insiders or poor developer security; release their own seemingly benign plug-ins that provide a useful function alongside snooping; or buy extensions from developers and then update them to include malware.

So, install at your own risk.

Tech

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