Wells Fargo fined $1B for stealing cars and jacking houses

Wells Fargo defrauded 800,000 car loan borrowers, forcing 274,000 of them into bankruptcy and stealing ("wrongfully repossessing") 25,000 cars; they also ripped off mortgage borrowers by failing to send them their paperwork until after the deadline for filing it and then fining them for not filing it on time. Read the rest

Scientologists were all up in Neopet's business

Since its launch in 1999, Neopets has enjoyed a pretty colorful history. The game offers users the ability to create a virtual pet to take on adventures and, using virtual and real-world currency, feed and trick out their digital pets with swag, homes and other online sundries. It was originally aimed at kids, but grew a cult-following of oldsters, too.

Oh, and it used to be run by Scientologists.

According to The Outline, the company that originally owned the Neopets brand employed business practices deeply rooted in Scientology. Up until the point where NeoPets was sold to Viacom in 2005, Neopet's CEO and practicing Scientologist Doug Dohring rocked L. Ron Hubbard’s Org Board business model in order to keep things running smoothly – provided you considered turning your employees against one another smooth.

From The Outline:

The information currently made public about Org Board is vague — introductory workshops are required to learn more about it. The business model contains seven divisions: Communications, Dissemination (sales/marketing), Treasury, Production, Qualifications (quality control), Public (public relations), and, most important to the system, Executive. The symbiotic divisions are arranged to create a “cycle of production” that parallels the church’s “cycle of action,” which Scientology.org describes as “revealing what underlies the continuous cycle of creation, survival and destruction—a cycle that seems inevitable in life, but which is only an apparency.” It is also made up of seven stages.

As part of putting Org Board into play, employees are called upon to spy on the work practices of other employees. Read the rest

Facebook vs regulation: we exist nowhere and everywhere, all at once

Where is Facebook located? Well, if you're the taxman, Facebook's global HQ is a tiny shed somewhere in Ireland, where Facebook can escape virtually all taxation; but on the other hand, if you're the EU, Facebook is headquartered in America, where the General Data Protection Regulation doesn't apply. Read the rest

Cambridge Analytica data-raid: the number is "much greater than 87 million"

Brittany Kaiser is an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee who gave written testimony and answered questions at the UK Parliament this week in which she revealed that the Facebook apps that Cambridge Analytica used to covertly gain access to millions of users' data went far beyond the ones disclosed to date, and that the number of total users implicated is "much greater than 87 million." Read the rest

T-Mobile fined $40m for scamming rural users with Potemkin ring-tones

T-Mobile didn't want its rural users to know how shitty its service was, so when the company couldn't connect a call, it would play fake "ring tones" to the caller that made it sounds like the person on the other end wasn't picking up. It did this "hundreds of millions of times" per year. Read the rest

Security expert says she helped a casino whose high-roller database was stolen through an Internet of Shit fish-tank thermometer

Darktrace CEO Nicole Eagan's presentation to last week's WSJ CEO Council Conference in London included an anaecdote about an unnamed casino for whom her firm had done work; they uncovered a data-breach in which an insecure Internet of Things thermometer in the casino's lobby was used to gain access to the internal network, from which vantage the attackers were able to extract and steal a database of high rollers. Read the rest

Spike Trotman, powerhouse pioneer of indie comics

The Chicago Tribune published a profile of C. Spike Trotman, one of indie comics' most insightful young publishers. Trotman's proving that the mainstream business is leaving everything on the table—and that underserved readers don't need to wait for it to catch up.

Iron Circus raised more than $1 million over its first 14 Kickstarter campaigns from a market that Trotman was told didn’t exist: fans interested in comic books that weren’t made by white heterosexual men and featuring superheroes.

“When I was getting into comics, there was absolutely no room for people like me — people of color who wanted to tell their own stories, or women who wanted to tell their own stories,” said 39-year-old Trotman. “Comics had a very firm idea of what would sell or what qualified as niche. Anything a white, heterosexual man would make would be interpreted to having universal appeal, but anything I would make would automatically be classified as difficult to relate to or niche.” ...

According to Kickstarter, her model has completely reshaped the comics small press and jump-started a renaissance of alternative comics anthologies.

Indie publishers in comics have met great success before, but Trotman's gone further, faster: she's built a sustainable indie publishing business that isn't dependent on a hit series for survival and isn't dependent on the comic trade's miserable direct market. And she did it, it seems to me, while everyone was giving her shit. Sadly for them, Trotman is cutting checks and tongues.

Iron Circus's current kickstarter prokect is The Art of Kaneoya Sachiko, a lavish-looking compendium of the manga artist's "monstrous and romantic" work. Read the rest

Google Books does copyright right

Steven Melendez discovered some public domain government documents in Google Books that the service wouldn't let him download because they had been misclassified as copyrighted; he filled in an online form and less than a week later, a human had reviewed the documents, agreed that they had been misclassified and removed all restrictions. Read the rest

Wisconsin clears the way for Foxconn by bulldozing working peoples' homes and paying them pennies on the dollar

Last July, Wisconsin's far-right state government declared victory for its "free market" agenda when it announced that it would transfer $3,000,000,000 in taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to Foxconn, in order to tempt the company to open a factory in the state -- despite the company's long history of broken promises and outright lies about the jobs and spending in other places that had welcomed it in. Read the rest

More DRM-bustin' stuff for the Catalog of Missing Devices, courtesy of EFF supporters

When EFF launched its Catalog of Missing Devices, we invited EFF supporters to come up with their own ideas for gadgets that should exist, but don't, because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act bans breaking DRM, even for the most legitimate of purposes. Read the rest

Hells Angels around the world rally to downrank Manitoba businesses that don't serve outlaw bikers

After Winnipeg's Marion Hotel turned away members of the Manitoba Nomads -- a branch of the Hells Angels, classed as a criminal organisation under Manitoba law -- the gang's president called on Hells Angels affiliate around the world to leave one-star ratings for the business on Facebook, driving both the hotel and its restaurant off of Facebook, seemingly permanently. Read the rest

FTC orders manufacturers to cut it out with the unenforceable "Warranty Void if Removed" stickers

Since the passage of the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, "Warranty Void if Removed" stickers and other policies that put restrictions on third party repairs have been unenforceable in America, but that doesn't stop companies from putting deceptive tamper-evident stickers on their equipment in an effort to trick or intimidate their customers into going to a manufacturer-authorized service depot. Read the rest

Modern NDAs are unbelievably dirty, and the same handful of sleazy lawyers is behind most of them

Non-disclosure agreements were designed to protect trade-secrets, but they've morphed into a system for covering up misdeeds, silencing whistleblowers, and suborning perjury -- often at taxpayer expense. Read the rest

Trump Hotel employee guide: no swearing, no sexually suggestive gestures, and DO NOT hire your family!

The Daily Beast and Property of the People used the Freedom of Information Act to force the National Labor Relations Board to release the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas employee handbook, which was introduced into evidence during a 2015 lawsuit over union busting. Read the rest

Meshing, rugged, free/open wifi routers for refugee camps

Meshpoint is a Croatian open source hardware company that turns out rugged, meshing, battery-powered wifi hotspots that get their backhaul from cellular networks; they're based on the widely used Open WRT free/open wifi routing software, and use open source hardware designs that are intended to stand up to punishing field conditions like those found in refugee camps. Read the rest

In an attempt to quantify stupendous risk, cyberinsurers ratchet up premiums, deploy gimmicks

In some ways, there's never been a better time to be an insurer: every business wants cybersecurity insurance, and the market is willing to tolerate crazy annual premium hikes -- 30% a year for the past five years! Read the rest

For years, Facebook has been secretly deleting Zuck's messages from his correspondents' inboxes

People who'd corresponded with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg contacted Techcrunch to say that Zuck's messages were missing from their inboxes -- but the replies to his messages lived on as proof that something had been deleted.

Read the rest

More posts