If Uber can’t make it in London, then where?

European countries and cities have one-by-one outlawed one form or another of Uber’s ride-booking services.

Now London, one of Uber’s largest global markets, is outlawing the $68 billion company from the streets of the British capital. This latest blow for the California giant in Europe raises more doubts about the viability of its business model on this side of the Atlantic.

Uber said the stripping of its license Friday by Transport for London, the local transport authority, would disappoint its vast customer base in the city — 3.5 million users, it says — and put 40,000 drivers out of a job. It promised to appeal and can continue to operate pending a verdict.

But the company has a lot more riding on the British capital than it let on publicly on Friday. Alongside Paris, London is Uber’s largest market in Europe, and was seen as politically more open to new technology and the so-called sharing economy.

The unexpected setback in London comes at a difficult time for Uber. In the coming months, labor tribunals in the U.K. as well as the European Court of Justice are expected to hand down verdicts that could saddle it with extra regulation, making it harder than ever for the company to operate. To boot, Friday’s decision by London is the latest indication that the company’s bullish and brash corporate culture — which recently led to the ouster of Travis Kalanick, the company’s founder — is hurting the company’s global expansion plans.

Uber has encountered resistance from the start in Europe, and sought creative ways around it.

Losing its London license to operate private hire vehicles across the U.K. capital would effectively shut down Uber’s app, which now connects passengers to licensed drivers.

“This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers,” said Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager in London.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan embraced the decision by the city regulators appointed by him.

“The conclusion reached by the [Transport for London] officials is that Uber aren’t playing by the rules and there are big concerns that TfL have about Londoners’ safety and security,” Khan said on LBC radio.

“TfL isn’t anti-private hire vehicle operators,” he added. “What TfL is against is companies not playing by the rules so customers, members of staff and others should be angry at Uber for not playing by the rules, rather than TfL who are doing their job by making sure companies are playing by the rules.”

While Khan has sought to attract technology companies to the British capital, the popular Labour Party politician has pushed to make sure people who work in the “gig economy” like Uber drivers are provided the same rights as employees in traditional companies. TfL’s decision comes just as the Labour Party gathers for its annual conference in Brighton next week.

Uber’s Plan B

Uber has encountered resistance from the start in Europe, and sought creative ways around it.

The company’s most controversial service — UberPOP — connects passengers with ordinary, unlicensed drivers at a fraction of the cost of a normal taxi ride. It was promptly closed down or withdrawn from much of Europe in the face of opposition from taxi firms and authorities. The firm’s executives have been prosecuted and fined €800,000 in France.

The ride-booking app tried to invoke EU law in its defense and petitioned EU institutions to intervene, but to no avail.

In response to hostility toward UberPOP, the firm rolled out Plan B in much of Europe, i.e. services that connect passengers with licensed drivers, called UberX. This Uber app became popular because of its functionality and simplicity, although its prices more closely resemble those of normal taxis. In parallel, the company focused its energies on smooth-talking regional and municipal authorities, explaining how its service can help deal with problems like congestion or pollution.

London was one of the first cities to welcome Uber’s new plan, with Transport for London granting it a private hire vehicle license in 2012.

But TfL concluded Friday that Uber London Ltd. was “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license” and cited a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

In particular, it pointed to the company’s approach to “reporting serious criminal offenses,” obtaining medical certificates and conducting background checks for drivers. TfL also faulted Uber’s “approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London.” Greyball was a software that allowed the firm to stop drivers from picking up certain passengers, which was allegedly used to prevent law enforcement agents from catching drivers and officials from conducting snap inspections.

“The thing that tipped the balance has been the attempt to block the mystery shopper system,” said Christian Wolmar, an author on transport issues who previously ran unsuccessfully to become London’s mayor. “That really showed Uber weren’t prepared to play by the rules.”

Uber said it complied with Transport for London’s safety and security requirements. Changing its procedures also could help the ride sharing service qualify for a license again. TfL did not rule out licensing a transport company with Uber’s business model altogether.

Tom Thackray from the Confederation of British Industry, a trade group, said that a deal should be reached between TfL and Uber as it’s “not in the interests of our economy … to restrict new products and services.”

While Uber is mired in cases related to its operations, other mobility services are looking to compete. On Monday, timetable aggregator Citymapper will launch a tie-up with black cab app Gett offering shared rides at rush hour.

Meanwhile, the company’s lawyers will be in a U.K. court next week to argue a separate case relating to whether the 40,000 drivers using the Uber app can claim to be workers, and thus entitled to rights like the minimum wage and sick pay.

The case is on appeal from an employment tribunal that drivers in the U.K. could potentially be classified as a type of employee who should be paid the national minimum wage, get breaks during shifts and paid holiday leave. The two drivers that brought the complaint are backed by the GMB, a union with some 639,000 members.

Future of ‘sharing economy’

The mounting problems for Uber across Europe and farther afield also put a spotlight on the so-called sharing economy, in which companies like Uber and Airbnb, among others, connect people through digital services to offer taxi rides, hotel rooms and other products that were dominated by traditional industries until recently.

Many in Europe, including parts of the European Commission, welcomed such new entrants to the region’s digital economy. But politicians from several countries, notably in Germany, France and Spain, questioned whether such tech companies play by the same rules as existing industries and whether consumers were sufficiently protected when using these new services.

Debate over the employment practices of new firms like Uber or Deliveroo, a food-delivery startup, prompted U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to announce a review of the so-called gig economy. Reports have speculated the review could extend the right to holidays and sick leave to workers in the gig economy, which could hurt Uber even if it wins its employment case.

So-called sharing-economy companies like Uber and Deliveroo have compelled European governments to revisist their regulatory policies | Georges Gobet/AFP via Getty Images

Complicating matters for Uber, the European Court of Justice is expected to hand down its verdicts by late 2017, at the earliest, in legal cases brought by taxi associations in France and Spain.

Both cases will have broad implications for how Uber will be able to operate across the region as they question if Uber is a transport service or a mere technology platform that intermediates the service.

If the judges rules that Uber is mere technology intermediary, the company can shake off many of the rules and regulations imposed on it by national authorities, including those in London.

But the prospects do not look good: A senior adviser to the court already has urged its members not to “let appearances deceive you,” saying that Uber should be considered a traditional transportation service that must comply with existing rules in cities across the Continent.

Uber is a transport company, said the European Court of Justice’s advocate general — and an irresponsible one at that, added Transport for London on Friday.

Mark Scott contributed reporting.

via POLITICO http://politi.co/2hoUv0p

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Russia-linked accounts used promoted Facebook Events to organize anti-immigrant protests in US in 2016; company confirms it shut down several promoted events (The Daily Beast)

Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook’s event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Beast that the social-media giant “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.” The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. (This is the first time the social media giant has publicly acknowledged the existence of such events.)

The Facebook events—one of which echoed Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump media outlets—are the first indication that the Kremlin’s attempts to shape America’s political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action.

“This is the next step,” Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and expert on Russia’s influence campaign, told The Daily Beast. “The objective of influence is to create behavior change. The simplest behavior is to have someone disseminate propaganda that Russia created and seeded. The second part of behavior influence is when you can get people to physically do something.”

Last week Facebook acknowledged for the first time that Russia used false identities and about 3,000 ads to spread politically divisive posts to Americans before and after the election. The content, according to an expert on Facebook’s advertising system, was likely seen by between 23 and 70 million people, based on the $100,000 ad buy alone.

Much of the Russian Facebook propaganda campaign has since been deleted. But bits and pieces remain visible in search engine caches, including a 2016 notice on Facebook Events—the site’s event management and invitation tool—announcing an August 27 rally in a rural Idaho town known to welcome refugees.

“Due to the town of Twin Falls, Idaho, becoming a center of refugee resettlement, which led to the huge upsurge of violence towards American citizens, it is crucial to draw society’s attention to this problem,” the event notice began. The three hour protest was titled “Citizens before refugees”, and would be held at the City Council Chambers beginning at 11:00 am. The notice provided the street address and ended with a fiery exhortation.

“We must stop taking in Muslim refugees! We demand open and thorough investigation of all the cases regarding Muslim refugees! All government officials, who are covering up for these criminals, should be fired!”

The event was “hosted” by “SecuredBorders,” a putative U.S. anti-immigration community that was outed in March as a Russian front. The Facebook page had 133,000 followers when Facebook closed it last month.  

Although 48 people clicked that they were “interested” in the protest, only four said they went to City Council Chambers that day, according to the event page, possibly because it was a Saturday and the Council was not in session. It is also possible to claim attendance on Facebook at an event that didn’t exist. Some of the profiles of interested rallygoers listed themselves as Twin Falls residents.

Facebook did not explain if the “several promoted events” were upcoming ones at the time of the account deactivation or were events that had already occurred at the time of deactivation. But the spokesman confirmed that the “promoted” events were paid events, akin to the inflammatory ads that the company disclosed last week.

Far-right, pro-Trump firehoses Breitbart, InfoWars, and WorldNetDaily had pushed a series of stories implying immigrants were taking over Twin Falls since the beginning of 2016. The stories reached a fever pitch in the month before SecuredBorders’ event.

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A WorldNetDaily writer called Chobani’s plan to hire immigrants to work at the Twin Falls plant an “Islamic surge” in a January 2016 piece once titled “American Yogurt Tycoon Vows to Choke U.S. With Muslims.” (That post’s headline has since been changed, and the “Islamic surge” wording was removed.)

One InfoWars article claimed that Chobani’s workers were responsible for a “500 percent increase in tuberculosis in Twin Falls.”

InfoWars and Alex Jones published videos with the titles “MSM Covers For Globalist’s Refugee Import Program After Child Rape Case” and “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists,” which have since been removed.

When Chobani sued InfoWars over the claims in April, Jones initially claimed that he was “not backing down, I’m never giving up, I love this” and that “I’m choosing this as a battle. On this I will stand. I will win, or I will die.”

Jones settled three weeks later, and was forced to issue a retraction of the false stories InfoWars invented about immigrants in Twin Falls. Some of the offending articles and videos have since been removed.

Breitbart, which was not sued by Chobani, still has a story titled “TB spiked 500 percent in Twin Falls During 2012, As Chobani Yogurt Opened Plant” on its website.

(Tuberculosis cases rose from 1 to 6 in 2012, then dropped back down to 2 in 2013. There is no proof in the article tying tuberculosis to immigrants.)

The tuberculosis story was posted one day before SecuredBorders’ real life rally was set to take place in Twin Falls.

The story was one of dozens of negative Breitbart stories about immigrants in Twin Falls in August of 2016. In the month before SecuredBorders created its Facebook event, Breitbart posted 37 articles about immigrants in Twin Falls.

Many of the stories, like one titled “Twin Falls Rape Special Report: Why Are the Refugees Moving In?” revolve around what Breitbart called a “gang rape” that Twin Falls County prosecutor Grant Loebs said was misreported.

“There was no gang rape, no knife attack, and we did not charge anybody with rape because no rape occurred,” Loebs told the Magic Valley Times News.

“There is a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees, and thus far they have not been constrained by the truth.”

via Techmeme http://bit.ly/2wmHYkC

Moving Every Half Hour Could Help Limit Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle, Says Study

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed. The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death. Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven U.S. institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the U.S. with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013. Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015. The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes. After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behavior were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time. The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behavior (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.



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Done With YouTube? Here Are the 5 Best YouTube Alternatives

YouTube is the biggest repository of videos on the Internet, and sometimes it can get a little overwhelming. Sure, having over 1 billion videos to choose from is a luxury people in the 90s would’ve dreamt of, but the excesses of “Recommended” videos, clickbait, and other junk that you don’t care to see can make it tiring. Thankfully, there are alternatives.

Whether you’re after artsy short films, live-streams or gaming videos, there are great YouTube alternatives out there just waiting to be seen. Let’s examine some choices.

youtube-alternatives-twitch-tv

youtube-alternatives-twitch-tv

But Twitch is just full of annoying kids live-streaming and screaming down microphones!” I hear you cry. Well yes, partly it is, but it also has plenty of good unadulterated footage of just about every game you can imagine uploaded to its vast library. It’s so popular that non-gaming folks are also getting involved, as you can see in the image showing the Red Bull Soapbox Race Marathon.

It’s not just livestreams of some of the most hardcore gamers on the planet (which can also be a treat to watch) but a great place to watch no-commentary footage of your favorite titles. Alternatively, it’s the perfect place to go if a game’s just come out and you want to see it in action before committing.

youtube-alternatives-dailymotion

youtube-alternatives-dailymotion

DailyMotion doesn’t do much that YouTube doesn’t, but it’s damn good at the things it does do. Yes, YouTube has more videos, but the 100 million plus of DailyMotion aren’t to be scoffed at, and the latter is also renowned for having much better quality of actual videos (no potato-phone footage or 240p quality here).

Also, are the strict copyright protections on YouTube getting you down? The DailyMotion site owners tend to be more relaxed on that front, so you’re less likely to get the static copyright-infringement screen of death.

youtube-alternatives-vimeo

youtube-alternatives-vimeo

The thinking person’s video site, Vimeo is smaller than YouTube and more sensible. You won’t find silly animal videos and kids taking selfies of themselves slapping themselves repeatedly around the face or something. You’ll find more classy content like short films from festivals, documentaries, and well-shot, well-constructed videos from people who clearly know what they’re doing.

The comments reflect the content, and you’re more likely to find actual discussions surrounding videos rather than the cesspit of trolling and abuse that you find on YouTube, which is nice.

youtube-alternatives-zippcast

youtube-alternatives-zippcast

Keeping things simple, Zippcast looks like kind of what YouTube looked like ten years ago (probably – I don’t actually remember). It’s laid out more like a library database than a super-slick modern site, but that’s part of its charm, and it’s nice and easy to navigate as a result. Zippcast is particularly good for old stuff – old black-and-white movies, montages of old Nintendo commercials, and 1950s Burlesque videos, among other things.

That’s not to say that Zippcast doesn’t have its share of poppy listicle videos with titles like “Most Awkward Sex Scenes in Movies,” so there’s that side to it too. The community, also, is generally less vocal and antagonistic than the YouTube lot.

youtube-alternatives-ustream

youtube-alternatives-ustream

YouTube has its share of live-streaming stuff, but it can be hard to discover amid all the standard uploaded videos. Enter uStream, a site dedicated entirely to high-quality streaming and videos from respectable partners like NASA, Sony, and various zoos and museums.

Again, you won’t find any tacky videos here, just solid and often mesmerising footage of things like a livestream from the International Space Station or the inside of a giant shark tank at an aquarium. Now that we mention it, it’s a perfect site to set up a livestream in the background while you crack on with something else.

See, there’s more to life than YouTube, but if you’re dead-set on making the most out of Google’s video behemoth, then take control over it with our guides on how to listen to music on YouTube in the background on Android and how to avoid dodgy videos on YouTube. Happy viewing!

via Make Tech Easier http://bit.ly/2yaJFPa

Apple’s iPhone Event Saw A Sharp Drop In Traffic For Porn

There are a handful of things that will make the world stop what they are doing collectively and pay attention, Game of Thrones is one of them, and Apple’s iPhone event held a couple of days ago was another one of them. The event saw Apple launch a new 4K Apple TV, the Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple’s new iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

In fact it seems that the internet was so enthralled by Apple’s announcement to the point where it appears to have caused a sudden and sharp drop in traffic for porn, or at least that’s what the folks at Pornhub seem to be implying. The company has recently released some stats and as you can see in the graph above, there is a sharp drop in traffic to its website around the time of Apple’s announcement.

Sure, one could chalk it up to coincidence, but apparently this isn’t the first time it has happened, although compared to last year’s figures, this year seems to have had a more pronounced effect, which we’re guessing is probably due to the new iPhone X’s design and features that iPhone fans have been waiting for for the past 3 generations.

Pornhub’s stats also lists the kind of porn that Apple users tend to search for, so if you’re interested in some potentially NSFW insights, then head on over to Pornhub’s blog for the details.

Apple’s iPhone Event Saw A Sharp Drop In Traffic For Porn , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.

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Incredible photos from the best space photographers of 2017

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Interstellar dust shines in starlight light-years away from Earth. Green curtains of the auroras shimmer over a ghostly landscape in Iceland. A famous crater stands out in relief against the surface of the moon.

These are just a few of the winning photos chosen as part of the annual Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest in 2017.

The images speak for themselves, so put them up on the big screen and scroll through. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

M63: Star Streams and the Sunflower Galaxy – Galaxies Winner

A bright, spiral galaxy, Messier 63 looks like a star necklace in which the stars have crashed outwards from the galaxy’s centre, producing this fantastic long train. The ghostly star arcs of the Sunflower galaxy had long been an elusive target for the photographer, but upon deciding to take the image in one of the darkest places in Europe – the Rozhen Observatory in the Rhodopes Mountains, Bulgaria – he successfully captured the astronomical object. Despite a warm winter and an early spring, there were snow drifts more than one metre high and it took a lot of effort to break through them, but the photographer prevailed, and captured the glittering galaxy in the unbelievably dark and crystal clear of Rhozen. Read more…

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Why are so many organizations struggling to patch? [Q&A]

Patch download

Many recent cyber attacks like WannaCry have succeeded by exploiting vulnerabilities that, although known, have gone widely unpatched.

Why do some organizations find it so difficult to keep their systems up to date and what can they do to better protect themselves? We spoke to Wendy Nather, principal security strategist at Duo Security to find out.

BN: Despite the industry evangelizing the importance of updating software and patching, it’s evident that it’s not always happening — why is this?

WN: There are lots of reasons why organizations may be struggling to update software and patch systems. Many organizations simply don’t have the manpower and resources required to carry out updates to their software every week and many don’t possess the expertise to troubleshoot any problems which could arise. Additionally, their business may require operational availability at the expense of patching. For example, retailers tend to implement a change freeze between October and January so peak holiday shopping periods aren’t affected.

BN: What advice can you give organizations, in the short term, that simply can’t update to the latest software?

WN: If an organization is unable to regularly patch its systems, it’s imperative to do as much as possible to make them more resilient. For example, maintaining frequent backups and conducting data backup integrity testing, along with implementing a disaster recovery and emergency operations plan are all good practices to follow.

BN: How much of this boils down to money? Are there innovative ways that organizations without the biggest budgets can protect themselves?

WN: In the immortal words of Tom Gray of rock band The Brains, “Money Changes Everything.” If you are an organization below the Security Poverty Line, all sorts of dynamics come into play that make it harder for you to secure your technology. If you can’t afford to run your own systems, you end up relying on third parties; if you can’t afford expert staff, you may not even know what risks you’re facing, much less how to address them. As a small enterprise without much influence, you can’t force vendors to patch their security vulnerabilities.

Having said that, if you don’t have a large budget for security, you can still make up some of the difference by being very disciplined about how you run your IT. Know what you have, where it is, and what’s happening on it. If you’re in a position to choose new platforms and software, you’ll be better off with a carefully chosen, reputable service provider rather than trying to do it yourself. Just make sure that the service includes regular patching, and make sure it doesn’t conflict with your business requirements.

If you have legacy IT infrastructure, one of your ongoing projects should be to move gradually towards a more sustainable and flexible base. This will take years, but it’s never too early to start planning for it.

BN: What practical measures should the industry be taking to support organizations that are struggling?

WN: On the practical side, security vendors should be designing their products not just for those customers with the largest budgets, but also for those that have little to no budget, and those without security expertise. The industry must recognize that a “one size fits all” approach to prescriptive security does not serve all of the enterprise shapes and sizes. The unwritten assumption that software can and should be continually updated just doesn’t work for many industries.

Another part of the problem is that it’s impossible for small companies to afford the level of security that we think they need. Financial assistance, such as the device buy-back program proposed recently in the US (in which the government purchases old devices in the healthcare sector) don’t address the bigger issue that these devices were not built to be updated to begin with, and that they may well be replaced with devices which will themselves need to be replaced a few years down the line. We need to break the update addiction cycle, not exacerbate it.

Additionally, regulations only work if they’re based on an understanding of the dynamics behind the situation we’re in. We need a task force to look at underlying root causes rather than symptoms. Economic, technological and business imperatives drive whether a vendor even patches a flaw, as shown by Microsoft’s decision to release patches for unsupported OSs in the wake of WannaCry.

BN: What are your predictions for the future — can we make any real and lasting changes?

WN: The impact of the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks has given us added impetus to examine the wider issues around patching. In the future, we’ll likely see more attempts to add both carrots and sticks to improve the practice, but we should also question the fundamental assumption that enterprises can and should be patching all the time. Campaigns to make software more secure from the beginning are critical, and software liability is a topic that we will continue to explore, in conjunction with cyber insurance providers. Sadly, these won’t be the last attacks of this scale we see, so we need to learn the lessons of the past and ensure that safe software and effective security aren’t just for the most well-resourced or agile organizations.

Image Credit: alexskopje / Shutterstock

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