Nicaragua continues to be on its bullshit

It's been a while since we talked about Nicaragua, but the nefarious crap that's been going on in the Central American nation for more than a year hasn't stopped. In fact, according to the United Nation's human rights office, things are most certainly getting worse.

From Reuters:

The U.N. human rights office on Tuesday criticized the arrest of 16 anti-government protesters in Nicaragua accused of arms trafficking, saying that the charges appeared to have been “trumped-up.”

On Monday, Nicaraguan authorities said the 16 detainees included student protesters such as Nicaraguan and Belgian national Amaya Coppens, who has been arrested previously.

Nicaraguan police also said the protesters were suspected of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the Central American country, which has been roiled by demonstrations against the administration of President Daniel Ortega since April last year.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman in Geneva for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters the arrests looked like an attempt to silence criticism of the government.

So yeah, same greasy tricks, different year and people. President/ gutter trash dictator Daniel Ortega and his Vice President/power hungry despot/wife Rosario Murillo have been using their nation's military, police and masked militia-types to terrorize those opposed to their government's abusive policies for over a year now.

Violence and incarceration have been used as ways to shut up members of Nicaragua's judiciary, students protestors, intellectuals, members of the media and anyone else willing to stand up to the Ortega government. It's believed that at least 320 civilians have been murdered since protests, sparked by Ortega's plans to screw with his citizen's social security system, started in April of 2018. Read the rest

Microsoft contractors are listening to your Skype conversations

Look, this is getting old. Just assume that everyone one is listening to you fart, copulate and sing in the shower, all the damn time. My former co-worker and professional tall person, David Murphy, took the time today to rap about Microsoft humping up on top of the digital surveillance dog-pile. He points out that, according to Vice, an unnamed Microsoft contractor has spilled the beans on the fact that Microsoft has been holding on to five to ten-second snippets of folks using Skype's translation functionality to yammer on with on another. Did I mention that he provided samples of the audio clips? There's totally samples of the audio clips. Apparently, Microsoft's having their contractors listen in on the clips to improve on Skype's translation chops.

When confronted about their snooping, Microsoft assured Vice's investigator that the snippets were fired over to the company's contractors via a secure web portal, with all identifying data removed from the recordings.

As David points out, there's no way to keep Microsoft from doing this. Worse than this, the company, oh-so greasily, completely neglects to mention that underpaid humans are listening on what you say during your Skype calls.

From Lifehacker:

...Microsoft doesn’t indicate in its FAQ that your speech is being analyzed by real people. In fact, this description almost implies that it’s a fully mechanical process, which it is not—nor could it be, since a machine wouldn’t be able to pick the correct translation. The entire point is that a human being has to train the system to get better.

Read the rest

PSA: Digital scammers will try to scam you

I got a fun reminder last night that there a lot of greasy people out there doing a whole lot of greasy shit unto others. Last night, I was taken on a walk down memory lane: I received an email with an old password I used to use in the subject line. Here's what was inside. I've removed the  password from the mix, for obvious reasons:

_________ is yoũr passphrasęs. Lets get right to the point. No person has paid me to check about you. You do nŏt know me and you're mŏst likely wondęrİng why you're getting this e-mail?

İ installed a softwāre on thę adũlt vidęo clips (porno) web-site and gũess what, yoũ visited this site to have fun (yŏu know what i mean). While yŏu were vİęwing vidęŏ clİps, yŏur internet browsęr startęd working as a RDP that has a kęy logger which prŏvided me with āccessİbİlity to your screen ās well as cām. Jũst aftęr thāt, my software gāthered all yoũr cŏntacts from your Messenger, socİal networks, as well ās e-maİlaccount. after thāt i created ā video. 1st part shows the video yoũ were vİewing (you've got a nice tastę lmao), ānd nęxt part displays the ręcordİng ŏf your web cām, yea its yoũ.

Yŏũ actually hāvę two diffęręnt possİbilities. Shall we explŏre these types ŏf choices in āspęcts:

First optİon is tŏ neglect this messāgę. in thİs case, i ām going to sęnd your vęry own video to each one of yoũr contacts and also yoũ can easİly İmāgine ręgarding the humiliātİŏn you will definitely get.

Read the rest

Online customer service agents are watching what you type

When something goes wrong with a product you own or a service you pay for, it's reasonable to expect quick, effective customer service from the company responsible for whatever it is that's giving you trouble. Read the rest

Comcast forced to provide refunds to 20,000 customers in Massachusetts

If you were living in Massachusetts a few years back, you might remember that Comcast was offering what seemed to be a screaming deal: a $99 lock-in rate plan. I say "seemed to be," because Comcast's advertised $99 price didn't include the cost of renting equipment and the fact that, as we're talking about Comcast here, there were a number of additional fees that could (and often did) appear on a subscriber's bill at the end of the month, for reasons only Comcast understood.

Did I mention that escaping the rate plan set folks back $240 for killing their contract with the company early? No? Well, it totally did. The state's Attorney General, Maura Healey, felt that this was bullshit of the first order. Her office did something about it.

From Gizmodo:

Comcast will cancel the debts of more than 20,000 customers and pay back $700,000 in Massachusetts as part of a settlement with the state’s Attorney General over deceptive advertising. Back in 2015 and early 2016, the cable giant advertised a $99 lock-in rate for plans that didn’t include equipment costs and had additional fees that could be jacked up at any time.

As part of Comcast's settlement with the state, they'll be forced to fork over refunds to anyone who paid the $240 early termination fee. They'll also be forced to forgive all outstanding unpaid early termination fees and related late fees that Massachusetts consumers incurred between January 2015 and March 2016. Comcast fully cooperated with the AG’s investigation. Read the rest

WSJ: Yahoo plans to scan users' messages for data to sell to advertisers

Everything has a cost, especially in the realm of online services. It used to be a pretty common practice for providers of 'free' email services to scan their user's messages for data that'd be valuable to advertisers. The data got sold to keep the email provider's lights on, with in-browser advertising filling in the financial gaps. Most email providers abandoned the practice, years ago: they were amazed to find that it pissed off their users. Yahoo's parent company, Oath, however, is getting back on this particular brand of bullshit.

From The Verge:

Yahoo’s owner, Oath, is in talks with advertisers to provide a service that would analyze over 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes for consumer data, sources told WSJ. Oath did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oath confirmed to the WSJ that it performs email scannings and said that it only scans promotional emails, usually from retailers. Users have the ability to opt out, it said. Oath’s argument is that email is an expensive system, and people can’t expect a free service without some value exchanged.

That's greasy.

Greasier still is the fact that even if you pony up the dough, on a monthly basis, for Yahoo's premium email services, your data will get scanned unless you opt to opt out. Finding the page that lets you do this, surprise, surprise is not easy to do. We've got your back, though. Follow this link to take control of your Oath-related privacy settings.

Oath swears that the data scraping method they use ignores personal information and personal identifiers. Read the rest