Google faces mass legal action in UK over data snooping

Google is being taken to court, accused of collecting the personal data of millions of users, in the first mass legal action of its kind in the UK.

It focuses on allegations that Google unlawfully harvested information from 5.4 million UK users by bypassing privacy settings on their iPhones.

The group taking action – Google You Owe Us – is led by ex-Which director Richard Lloyd.

He estimates affected users could be paid “a couple of hundred pounds each”.

The case centres on how Google used cookies – small pieces of computer text that are used to collect information from devices in order to deliver targeted ads.

The complaint is that for several months in 2011 and 2012 Google placed ad-tracking cookies on the devices of Safari users which is set by default to block such cookies.

‘Abuse of trust’

The Safari workaround, as it became known, affected a variety of devices but the UK case will focus on iPhone users.

Mr Lloyd said: “In all my years speaking up for consumers, I’ve rarely seen such a massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own.”

He added: “Through this action, we will send a strong message to Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley that we’re not afraid to fight back.”

Mr Lloyd said Google had told him that he must “come to California” if he wanted to pursue legal action against the firm.

“It is disappointing that they are trying to hide behind procedural and jurisdictional issues rather than being held to account for their actions,” he said.

Google told the BBC: “This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”

US precedent

Those affected do not have to pay any legal fees or contact any lawyers as they will automatically be part of the claim, unless they wish to opt out.

The case is being supported by law firm Mishcon de Reya, which specialises in large-scale litigation.

Although there is no precedent for such a mass legal action in the UK, there is in the US.

Google agreed to pay a record $22.5m (£16.8m) in a case brought by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on the same issue in 2012.

The firm also settled out of court with a small number of British consumers.

The case will be heard in the High Court, likely in spring 2018.

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How To Fight The FCC On Net Neutrality (Opinion)

The headline says, “The Witcher IV Leak: Tom’s Hardware Exclusive Review.” You click the link. This pops up:

“Your internet service provider has restricted this content from your viewing at your current level of access. To read, please upgrade your internet data plan to include Tom’s Hardware as part of your Preferred Browsing Package (Comcast’s Digital Premiere & Performance with +Social, +TechNews addons, Verizon’s Beyondunlimited Enhanced Plan w/ FreedomSurfer addon, AT&T’s DirectInternet Diamond Plan, or Time Warner’s Ultimate 300 w/ OmniAccess Web and Internet Gaming add-ons.)

You can make a one-time payment to your ISP for viewing this content up to 3 times in the next 24 hours here.”

Do we have your attention? Good. Now we need your voice.

The above is satire, for the moment. Net neutrality is no laughing matter, and the future of the internet is currently at stake. Do you like your cable company, and the way you pay for television? If you’d like to do that for the internet–treating your favorite websites the way premium channels are treated–and enjoy myriad and labyrinthine pricing structures, fees, and add-ons, then simply remain patient.

If, however, you chafe at lumbering bills with bloated channel offerings and absolutely nothing of value to watch at a maximum of possible monetary extraction from your person, and you want to protect the future of the internet as we know it, now is the time to step up.

We don’t often ask our community to get involved in matters political or civic, as we’re a tech site focused on hardware and related news and reviews. But in this specific case, we’re asking you to lend your voice to ours because we’re all under attack, and the entire internet will bear the consequences of whether we act right now, or not. The reversal of net neutrality by the FCC threatens to balkanize the internet, segment and divide websites into fast and slow lanes, throttle streaming and multiplayer gaming, and strangle social networks and all the services we take for granted right now.

One of those services is Tom’s Hardware. Presently, anyone who has internet access can read our reports and reviews and add their voice to our comments sections and forums, any time, and from anywhere. By visiting Tom’s Hardware, millions of people have improved their understanding of PC hardware, solved their computer problems, or just hung out with other techies with a shared enthusiasm for system building and gaming. We don’t want this to change. We know you don’t want this to change, either.

Unfortunately, based on the current state of affairs, change is a comin’.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (formerly of Verizon) is hoping to replace the rules on net neutrality with “voluntary” rules that, by definition, ISPs don’t have to comply with, and that open things up to throttling, fast/slow lanes, and speed restrictions.

Net neutrality is the system we have currently on the internet, and it goes like this: You pay your ISP for access to the internet and at agreed upon network speed, and you can go online and visit any site you choose. Without net neutrality, you pay your ISP and you can get online, but the ISP chooses which websites you can see and can control your access and speed through parceling and rationing. This is a version of the “Ransom Model,” requiring you to pay additional costs for previously accessible sites, services, and streaming. It’s the DLC-ification of the internet, and none of us get a Season Pass.

Demographically, you (our audience) consume a greater quantity of the internet-as-a-commodity than others by dint of your online gaming, downloading of software, and video streaming. Statistically, you stand to lose hard if you lose net neutrality.

When the FCC destroys net neutrality, will you be able to afford what amounts to protection money to the ISPs to stay at the same speed of access you have now? Will you be able to afford the inevitable add-ons to provide the same level of service you have now? We don’t know. But we do know that right now, in this moment in the timeline, we have a brief opportunity to shift the sequence of events towards a more positive outcome. The FCC votes to destroy Net Neutrality on December 14.

We as citizens have only so much recourse here, but what we can do, we must do. We can submit online comments to the FCC, call the FCC to voice our concerns, and call our representatives in Congress to both voice our concerns and ask for legislation to make net neutrality protections permanent.

Unfortunately, one of the tactics used by those advocating for the destruction of net neutrality has been to attempt to muddy the waters of public comment on the change by submitting 7 million fraudulent comments out of the 22 million total that have been submitted—even though the overwhelming lion’s share of legitimate comments are from citizens who are opposed to the desires of the ISP lobbies. Therefore, although you can submit a comment online in opposition to these changes, it may possibly be seen as invalid thanks to the chaff of fraudulent anti-net neutrality efforts.

Even so, it is the work of but a moment, so we all may as well do it. Go to www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express, and under Proceeding, enter 17-108 (the dystopian-named “Restoring Internet Freedom” order). Fill in the form very, very, very carefully, ensure you get an email confirmation, and submit.

Your voice will be louder, as it were, with a phone call. Call the FCC and leave a message letting the agency know that you want to keep net neutrality as it is. Dial 1-888-225-5322, and be polite, patient, and persistent. You want Option 1, Option 4, Option 2, Option 0. Enter a complaint on proceeding 17-108.

Here’s a sample script: “Hi, my name is ___, and I live in [city], [state]. I’m registering a complaint about the proposed repeal of net neutrality, because it will hurt American consumers, reduce internet access, and restrict the open flow of information. I strongly oppose the undoing of net neutrality, which is at the core of proceeding 17-108. Thank you.”

Then call your members of Congress. The FCC commission is appointed and makes these decisions, but Congress can pressure the agency to do the right thing, and it can also put forward legislation to make net neutrality law instead of just policy. Find your congresscritter at https://contactingcongress.org/, and call the local office closest to you.

Here’s another sample script: “Hi, my name is ____, I live in [city], [state], and I’m a constituent of [Congressperson’s name]. I’m calling to strongly encourage him/her to pressure the FCC to retain net neutrality and not move forward with proceeding 17-108. I encourage [Congressperson’s name] to sponsor or support legislation to make net neutrality the law of the land so internet users like me don’t have to do this every year. Thank you.”

A call is worth a hundred emails.
An email is worth a hundred social posts.
And a social post sharing this is worth a hundred views of this text.

Act now, while you can.

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FCC Downplays Net Neutrality Changes In New Document

Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revealed its plans to remove net neutrality regulations. The vote isn’t until December 14, but the group, led by chairman Ajit Pai, is trying to quell concerns with a new document that poses to debunk claims about the upcoming plan.

The document, titled “Myth vs. Fact: Setting the Record Straight on Chairman Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” lists multiple claims with accompanying “facts” about the topics. However, the explanations aren’t comforting, to say the least. Take a look at one of the bullet points below.

“Myth: This [“Restoring Internet Freedom Order”] will result in ‘fast lanes’ and ‘slow lanes’ on the Internet that will worsen consumers’ online experience.

Fact: Restoring Internet freedom will lead to better, faster, and cheaper broadband for consumers and give startups that need priority access (such as telehealth applications) the chance to offer new services to consumers.”

The response doesn’t speak exactly to the original statement. It only tells consumers that once the order is passed, there could be faster and cheaper broadband options from internet service providers (ISPs). There’s no guarantee that ISPs will follow that plan, but the FCC hopes that companies will provide “better, faster, and cheaper broadband.”

Another example from the document covers the topic of additional premiums for accessing specific content. Once again, the explanation isn’t reassuring.

“Myth: Broadband providers will charge you a premium if you want to reach certain online content.

Fact: This didn’t happen before the Obama Administration’s 2015 heavy-handed Internet regulations, and it won’t happen after they are repealed.”

If only wishing were true. In this case, the FCC is making the argument that premiums for specific content won’t happen because they didn’t appear in the past. However, an earlier version of this practice is already in place.

In 2016, the FCC conducted an investigation on zero-rating offerings, which according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation allow companies to “exempt particular data from counting against a user’s data cap, or from accruing any excess usage charges.” This allows companies to favor the use of specific services or apps because they own the product. One example is AT&T’s “Sponsored Data” program, which it says allows consumers to “browse websites, stream video, and enjoy apps on your wireless device without impacting your personal data plan.” The FCC concluded that AT&T offered a chance to join the Sponsored Data package to third-party content providers “at terms and conditions that are effectively less favorable” than those offered to DirectTV (an AT&T affiliate). The report also looked at similar practices with T-Mobile and Verizon.

Ready for more? Here’s another topic from the sheet, which concerns the blocking of specific websites.

“Myth: Internet service providers will block you from visiting the websites you want to visit.

Fact: Internet service providers didn’t block websites before the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed 2015 Internet regulations and won’t after they are repealed. Any Internet service provider would be required to publicly disclose this practice and would face fierce consumer backlash as well scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which will have renewed authority to police unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices.”

The FCC again hopes that ISPs won’t block specific websites when the new plan is in effect. However it can happen, and when it does occur, the explanation says that customers and the FTC will voice their concerns, which should persuade companies to change their policies (right?).

The goal of the entire document is to play down the major impacts that would occur if the proposal is put into practice. This includes the prevention of states from creating their own net neutrality laws. Gamers would also have to pay even more not just to play online, but to download digital copies of and patches for their library of titles. Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now binge watchers might even have to pay more to catch up on some of today’s most popular shows.

You can take a look at the full list of “Myths vs. Facts” sheet on the FCC website, and you can continue to call your local and state representatives to voice your concerns about this gutting of net neutrality.

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Best Gaming CPUs

11/21/2017 Update: Replaced all Kaby Lake-based Intel Core processors with their newer Coffee Lake counterparts. Changed format to reflect $100 price brackets and reduce the overall number of picks. Named the Intel Core i7-8700K Best Overall and the Intel Core i5-8400 Best Value in the CPU category.

If you don’t feel confident enough to pick the right processor on your own, we’ve compiled a simple list of the best CPUs offered for the money. This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money, so if you don’t play games, the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for you. The criteria to get on this list is a mixture of price and performance, but cost and availability change on a daily basis, and while we can’t offer up-to-the-minute pricing information in text, the prices in green are current. These are new retail CPU prices for the US – prices will most certainly vary in other regions and on used or OEM markets.

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPU Content

$300+ Best Pick

Flagship mainstream desktop processors come with the highest price tag of our recommendations, but those searching for the best performance to push the beefiest graphics cards will be rewarded with chart-topping performance. Both Intel and AMD offer high-end desktop models that scale beyond 16 cores, but those premium processors often don’t deliver the same amount of gaming performance as the mainstream models. Also, they come with expensive platforms and typically support quad-channel memory, which adds yet more cost to the equation. The picture changes if you need more performance for other types of applications, like rendering or encoding, but the mainstream processors offer the best value for strictly gaming.

For most high-end gamers, the flagship mainstream models in Intel’s Core i7 and AMD’s Ryzen 7 product families offer the best value. Intel’s Coffee and Kaby Lake models offer the best absolute gaming performance, but AMD’s Ryzen 7 series comes with more cores, which you might find attractive if you have more demanding requirements, such as streaming or intense multi-tasking. You can also often find the Ryzen processors well below MSRP.

Alternative Pick:

MORE: Best Builds

MORE: Best Cases

MORE: Best Cooling

$200 – $300 Best Pick

Mid-range processors typically land in the $200 to $300 price range, and they offer satisfying performance for the majority of gamers. Stepping beyond the $300 price class typically grants less than a 10% overall performance improvement that isn’t always worth the higher price tag.

AMD’s Ryzen processors have truly reinvigorated this segment and often come with a discount, too. For the overclockers among us, AMD’s processors all offer unlocked ratio multipliers that you can exploit on budget-friendly motherboards, while Intel’s offerings are split into both locked and unlocked processors. With Intel, overclocking requires a step up to a Z-Series motherboard and a more expensive “K”-series processor.

This price range finds two distinct price tiers, but provided the processor has an unlocked multiplier, you can often find the best value around the $200 mark. It’s best to step up to the more expensive models in this class if overclocking isn’t in your plans.