Germany’s Bild Daily Bars Ad-blocker Users From Website

German biggest newspaper Bild shuttered its online service Tuesday to users who have installed so-called ad-blocker software.

Readers of the website of Europe’s top-selling newspaper will be asked to switch off the function or purchase a monthly subscription to Bild.de that is nearly free of advertising, its owners media giant Axel Springer said.

“Due to the increased use of the ad-blocker service, the revenue stream via the advertising market for all online journalists is in jeopardy,” Bild’s publishers said in a statement.

The company said it finds the business model of ad-blocker services – which act like a firewall between web browsers and advertising servers – to be unlawful.

It said it had filed a lawsuit against the ad-blocker service “Eyeo” and lodged an appeal against the first judgement in the case of the Cologne district court.

Axel Springer describes itself as Europe’s leading digital publisher and says it makes more than half of group revenues and nearly three quarters of profit from its digital activities.

Its Bild website is run with a “freemium” model, with some content free but some stories, pictures and exclusive interviews subject to a charge.

“From now on, BILD is testing an anti-ad-blocker model,” it said, the first such initiative by a major German publisher.

It now offers a “BILDsmart” subscription for EUR 2.99 per month, with a service that is almost ad-free and promising loading times up to 50 percent faster.

“Those who do not turn off their ad-blocker, or those who do not pay the subscription fee no longer have access to any content from BILD.de,” the company said.

Donata Hopfen, chairwoman of the BILD Group management board, said: “Bild is responding to the increasing ad-blocker usage by testing a new service.

“Even on the Internet, journalistic services need to be financed via the two well-known income streams – advertising and revenues stream – in order to continue to offer independent journalism.”

Google Tops List of Best Places to Work for 3rd Year in a Row

Google has topped the list of world’s best company to work for, grabbing the top position for the third straight year, while software developer SAS Institute and manufacturing firm W L Gore were ranked second and third respectively.

The annual ‘World’s Best Multinational Workplaces List’ ranks the top 25 global companies to work for. Rounding out the top five on the list are data storage specialist NetApp and mobile communications provider Telefonica.

EMC Corporation has been ranked sixth, followed by software giant Microsoft at seventh position in the list compiled by research and consulting firm ‘Great Place to Work Institute’.

No Indian company however, made it to the coveted list. Others in the top ten include, BBVA (8th), Monsanto (9th) and American Express (10th) place. The list also include, Marriott (11th), Belcorp (12th), Scotiabank (13th), Autodesk (14th), Cisco (15th), Atento (16th), Diageo (17th), Accor (18th), Hyatt (19th), Mars (20th), Cadence (21st), Hilti (22nd), EY (23rd), H&M (24th), and Novo Nordisk (25th).

The analysis, which involved survey responses from more than half a million employees at the 2015 World’s Best, found that a spirit of camaraderie is central to employee perceptions that their cultures are great.

This year’s best workplaces represent operations in 47 different countries and come from industries ranging from cosmetics and candy to computer software and chemicals. Other listed companies are from the retail, financial services and hospitality fields.

Qualifying companies must have been selected for at least five national Great Place to Work lists, have at least 5,000 employees worldwide and count at least 40 percent of their global workforce outside of the company’s home country.

Government Issues, Retracts Denial Appointing Brand Ambassador for Digital India

Is Ankit Fadia the brand ambassador for the Digital India initiative? There didn’t seem to be any official announcements on the matter, but somehow the news spread like wildfire on social media on Monday. Considering his dubious reputation as a “hacker”, it’s no surprise that there was a lot of outrage.

Then, on Tuesday morning, the government issued a denial of the statement. It stated that “there were certain news reports that there is move to appoint a brand ambassador for Digital India Programme of the government. This is to clarify that there has been no such move to appoint a brand ambassador as reported.”

That seemed to settle the issue, except that an hour later, the statement is now missing – you can still see it below in a screenshot Gadgets 360 saved, but it is no longer on the PIB website.

fadia_brand_ambassador_denial.jpgFadia certainly seems to think he’s the brand ambassador for Digital India, and appears to have proof as well – on Monday, his official Facebook page uploaded a picture of a certificate he received from the government appointing him to this role. Unless this is a particularly strange case of Photoshopping, it would appear that different departments of the government aren’t talking to each other.

So, what is going on right now? The government will apparently issue a clarification in the evening, but as of now, there’s still no official statement about a brand ambassador, apart from one digital picture posted by Fadia himself.

Twitter in particular went to town with the news that Fadia was the brand ambassador for Digital India. The number of tweets mocking the announcement is too high to count, but here are some highlights. A lot of people also linked this 2013 article from Forbes India which takes apart many of Fadia’s claims to fame.

Fadia’s own claims are therefore easy to doubt – however the fact that the government issued a denial, and then removed it, clouds the issue, and makes us wonder whether or not he really is the face of Digital India. Did Ram Sewak Sharma, the Secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), really sign that certificate which Fadia has been showing? And if so, why has the government not done its homework on a person who has been thoroughly debunked over the years?

No, Changing Your Facebook Profile Pic Doesn’t Mean You Support Internet.org

Doing the rounds on social media yesterday was a controversial story that changing one’s profile photo to the Indian tri-color to support the Digital India initiative covertly counted as a vote for Facebook’s Internet.org campaign.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed his support for PM Modi’s Digital India initiative, with a profile picture change emblazoned with the Indian tri-colour, ahead of his townhall meeting with the Indian Prime Minister on Sunday. Many others followed suit, include Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. Facebook even released a tool where anyone can show they are “helping transform India into a digitally empowered society” by simply changing their Facebook profile pic. It wasn’t long before all hell broke lose on the Internet and self-proclaimed activists were claiming anyone changing their profile pic using the tool was covertly support Facebook’s Internet.org – now called Free Basics – initiative, which violates Net Neutrality principles.

(Also see: Facebook’s Internet.org: New Name, Same Problems)

The key ‘evidence’ in this assertion was the underlying code captured in a screenshot by Nikhil Vishnu, co-founder and CEO of Mobapper in a public post on Facebook.

internetdotorg_source.jpg“But just before clicking submit I checked the source code of the page. Wow! there I can see the style class named as “internetOrgProfilePicture_prideAvatar”. I don’t think this is accidental. So what I am promoting here? Internet.org or digital india campaign,” he wrote.

This story went viral on a number of media outlets, which arrived at the same erroneous conclusion. Facebook basically said as much, saying it was a mistake by the engineer who used the wrong shorthand name in the Web code. The company’s statement reads:

“There is absolutely no connection between updating your profile picture for digital India and Internet.org. An engineer mistakenly used the words “Internet.org profile picture” as a shorthand name he chose for part of the code. But this product in no way connects to or registers support for Internet.org. We are changing the code today to eliminate any confusion.”

Facebook_internetorg_poll.jpgWhile much of this confusion lies with a single errant descriptor in the code, Facebook has in the past been criticised online for opaque polls aimed at driving support for Internet.org that don’t have a clear Yes/ No option (screenshot above), and don’t even tell people they are voting for/ against Internet.org. Facebook claimed to have received support from 17 million people for its Internet.org services in August, though the vast majority who supported probably had no idea they were voting in support of Internet.org.

Gender Gap Widens in Cyber-Security Field Long Dominated by Men

Women account for just one out of 10 cyber-security professionals, as the gender gap widened over two years in a male-dominated field with a drastic workforce shortage, a survey showed.

ISC2, the largest organization that certifies cyber professionals, said on Monday that a poll of nearly 14,000 information security professionals in developed countries found that just 10 percent were women. That is down from 11 percent two years ago, said ISC2 official Elise Yacobellis.

“It is certainly alarming to see it go down to 10 percent,” Yacobellis said in interview.

One reason for concern is a talent shortage. ISC2 reported earlier this year that 62 percent of respondents said their organizations did not have enough security professionals.

“We have a huge workforce shortage. If we brought more women into this field, I believe that gap would lessen,” Yacobellis said.

The survey also found pay inequalities. Some 47 percent of men reported annual salaries of at least $120,000 (roughly Rs. 79,64,143), compared to 41 percent of women.

It comes amid a broader debate about the lack of women in the technology industry, especially high-profile firms like Google Inc and Apple Inc. Women account for roughly a third of workers at many tech firms, with fewer in leadership and technology roles.

Entrepreneur Georgia Weidman said some women do not want to work in a field where they lack the same opportunities as men.

“I can totally understand why people would want to pursue a career path where they feel their contributions are more appreciated,” said Weidman, who worked at several technology firms including International Business Machines Corp before starting two companies.

Unequal treatment is the result of unconscious bias, said Joyce Brocaglia, an executive recruiter and founder of the Executive Women’s Forum for information security professionals.

“Companies are saying that they want to hire more women in information security and have more women at the most senior levels, but I don’t often see them making the investments they need to ensure that,” she said.

Katie Moussouris, a former Microsoft Corp security manager, earlier this month filed a gender bias lawsuit against the software maker. Microsoft said it reviewed her claims and could not substantiate them.

Mary Galligan, director of Deloitte Advisory Cyber Risk Services, said the pool of female job candidates is small because women have historically dropped out of technical programs early.

“This trend will hopefully slow in the next decade as more girls stay in science, technology, engineering and math programs,” she said.

Facebook Restores Access After Second Outage in Less Than a Week

Facebook restored access to its social media website for most users on Monday afternoon, after its second outage in less than a week.

According to Currentlydown.com, Facebook was down for about 42 minutes between 3pm ET (12:30am IST) and 4pm ET (1:30am IST).

“We are currently restoring Facebook services that people had trouble accessing earlier today due to a configuration,” Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said.

“We are working to bring things back to normal for everyone. We apologize to those who have been inconvenienced,” he added.

Facebook’s map on Downdetector.com, which monitors disruptions, showed major outages over parts of North America.

Facebook did not disclose how many of the social network’s more than one billion users were effected by the outage.

People took to Twitter during the outage, with #facebookdown jumping into a spot among the top trending hashtags at the one-to-many messaging service.

“People will have to ring their friends from restaurants to describe their starter; it’s inhuman,” said a quip from Twitter account @WillLeahy.

Another joking tweet predicted a baby boom, since spouses would have to resort to speaking to one another.

The social network’s mobile app was also back in service, while its Messenger services were working during the outage.

Facebook suffered a similar outage on Thursday when it was down in North America, Europe, Australia and India.

Yahoo to Spin Off Alibaba Stake Despite No US Tax Ruling

Yahoo Inc said on Monday it would proceed with the planned spinoff of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd even though the IRS has declined to rule on whether the transaction would be tax free.

Yahoo’s shares rose 4 percent to $28.71 (roughly Rs. 1,900) in extended trading.

The Web search company said earlier this month the IRS had denied its request for a private letter ruling on whether the spinoff of its stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant would be considered tax free.

The spin-off will remain subject to certain other conditions including the receipt of a legal opinion on the tax-free treatment of the deal under US federal tax laws, Yahoo said in a regulatory filing.

Based on Alibaba’s Monday close of $59.24 (roughly Rs. 4,000), Yahoo’s 384 million shares of Alibaba are worth $22.75 billion (roughly Rs. 1,51,074 crores).

The value of the stake is slightly less than Yahoo’s market capitalisation of about $25.98 billion (roughly Rs. 1,72,540 crores) based on 941 million shares outstanding on July 31 and Monday’s close.

Many analysts say Yahoo’s core business is worth close to nothing without its Asian assets.

As of Monday’s close, Yahoo’s shares have declined a little more than 45 percent this year. Alibaba’s shares have fallen nearly 45 percent over the same period.

Investors have closely followed plans for the spinoff, seeing it as a way to unlock value from the company.

Yahoo paid $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,640 crores) in 2005 for a 40 percent stake in Alibaba, in a deal credited to the US company’s co-founder Jerry Yang.

Yahoo, which expects to complete the deal in the forth quarter ending December 31, has been trying to revive its core online advertising business by spending more to get users on its websites.

Analysts and shareholders believe the company and its stake in Alibaba would be worth more separately, as long as the spinoff is not subject to tax incurred from selling the shares.

US Urges EU Court Not to Scrap Data Pact, Criticises Adviser

The United States criticised an EU judicial opinion on Monday that called into question the Safe Harbour transatlantic data privacy system and Washington urged European judges to reach a different conclusion.

The US mission to the European Union said an opinion last week by an adviser to the EU’s top court, backing an Austrian who alleged Facebook passed private data to US security services, “rests on numerous inaccurate assertions about intelligence practices of the United States”.

The original case, brought in Ireland where Facebook and many US tech firms have European headquarters, was partly based on revelations in 2013 by contractor Edward Snowden about US intelligence agencies’ spying on global communications.

In a statement, the US mission said it was concerned about damage to trade and privacy in Europe and the United States and so urged the Court of Justice, which usually follows its advocate general’s advice, to reach different conclusions when it finally rules on the case.

In a trenchant opinion that fuelled American concern about European hostility following a series of antitrust investigations and difficulties in trade negotiations, court adviser Yves Bot said the 15-year-old Safe Harbour agreement did not do enough to protect EU citizens’ private information when it reached the United States and should have been suspended.

But the US mission said: “The United States does not and has not engaged in indiscriminate surveillance of anyone, including ordinary European citizens.”

It added that Bot, who concluded Ireland’s data protection agency was wrong to dismiss Schrems’s complaint on the grounds that the EU said US privacy rules were adequate, did not take account of changes in US policies and efforts by Washington and Brussels to strengthen protections under Safe Harbour.

“We hope that the final judgement of the European Court of Justice takes note of these efforts, inaccuracies in and far-reaching consequences of the Advocate General’s opinion, as well as the significant harm to the protection of individual rights and the free flow of information that would occur if it were to follow the Advocate General’s opinion,” the US mission said.

PM Modi Winds Up Silicon Valley Tour With Google, SAP Center Visits

Lights flashed and chants of “Modi, Modi” filled the 18,000-seat sports arena in San Jose, California, on Sunday as the Indian premier took the stage for the final event of the Indian Prime Minister’s Silicon Valley tour.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was winding up a whirlwind two-day US West Coast trip and Sunday’s event followed visits to some of the world’s biggest technology companies, hoping to convince them to bring more investment and jobs to India.

PM Modi, 65, was the first Indian leader to visit the West Coast in more than 30 years. His trip followed a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met several tech leaders in Seattle last week.

Narendra Modi aimed to deepen ties with the US technology sector and boost India’s digital infrastructure by promoting his “Digital India” campaign, which seeks to connect thousands more villages to the Internet.

“(India) has moved on from scriptures to satellites,” PM Modi said. “The world has started to believe that the twenty-first century belongs to India.”

Technology executives, eager to expand into India with its 1.3-billion population, embraced PM Modi’s initiative, with CEOs from Facebook, Google, and Tesla Motors all hosting him at their headquarters.Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook met with Modi at his hotel.

The second day of his visit began with a town hall at Facebook headquarters with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, where PM Modi spent 50 minutes on stage and discussed the importance of social media, Digital India and technological expansion in the country. PM Modi is an avid user of social media and the second-most followed world leader after US President Barack Obama.

He became emotional at one point when Zuckerberg asked him to speak about his mother. “I came from a very poor family. … We went to our neighbours’ houses nearby (to) clean dishes, fill water, do hard chores. So you can imagine what a mother had to do to raise her children.”

PM Modi later visited Google headquarters and met with Indian-born Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, who announced that Google would bring wireless Internet to 500 Indian railway stations, news that Modi revealed at a dinner Saturday night with more than 350 business leaders.

Though Narendra Modi remains wildly popular in India with an 87 percent approval rating, some of his stops were met with protests of his human rights record. Mostly Sikh protesters calling on PM Modi to answer for his rights record temporarily blocked one of Facebook’s entrances.

Several hundred people gathered outside San Jose’s SAP Center ahead of PM Modi’s speech that lasted several hours. Half were protesters shouting over metal barricades and holding signs that said “Modi believes in violence, not development,” and “#ModiFail” that resulted in several scuffles.

Much of PM Modi’s US visit, on which he received rock-star welcomes, also focused on connecting with the Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley, the IT professionals who migrated in their droves over the past two decades to seize job opportunities that weren’t available back home.

Facebook, Eyeing TV Dollars, Rolls Out New Ad Products

Facebook Inc introduced a slate of new advertising products on Sunday, most of which are aimed at luring television advertisers onto the 1.5-billion user social network.

The advertising options, most of which will also be available on Facebook-owned Instagram, are designed to take advantage of the social network’s strengths on mobile devices.

It has the world’s most popular smartphone app and generates more than three-quarters of its $10 billion (roughly Rs. 66,056 crores)-plus in annual ad revenue on phones.

Facebook is trying to convince advertisers, especially those who use video, that their dollars will be better spent on mobile platforms rather than on TV as users, especially millennials, spend more time on their phones than watching television.

The rollout of the new products come ahead of New York City’s 12th Advertising Week, which runs from Monday to Friday and gathers the world’s largest advertisers and companies. Facebook also announced on Sunday that it has 2.5 million active advertisers in total, up from 2 million in February.

Digital video advertising spending is growing rapidly, projected to increase 13 percent to nearly $15 billion (roughly Rs. 99,084 crores) by 2019, according to eMarketer. Television ad spending, by comparison, is expected to grow 2 percent in the same time period to $78 billion (roughly Rs. 5,15,270 crores).

“Facebook is listening to the ad community and giving them what they are looking for,” said Debra Aho Williamson, social media marketing analyst with eMarketer. “Does Facebook want video ad dollars? Yes.”

On television, advertisers can buy ads based on how many people they will reach, an approach Facebook has adopted to ease the transition between television spending and digital spending.

In addition, it can target highly specific audiences, such as women aged 18 to 35 years old who have shopped on a specific website, which TV cannot do.

Among the new products are “brand awareness” ads, which aim to reach a large number of people to promote a company’s name and brand, such as Coca Cola.

Advertisers will also be able to poll users on mobile phones about whether they saw an ad – a feature that used to be available only on desktop computers and they can use a format that allows them to display multiple videos at once that users can scroll through.

“We want to be the single-most important platform for all businesses,” said Carolyn Everson, Facebook vice president for global marketing solutions.