TIME Companies

Twitter Pushing DOJ, FBI To Let It Disclose More Info on National Security Requests

Twitter Transparency Report 2014
A sign is posted outside of the Twitter headquarters on July 29, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Twitter has grown increasingly frustrated with U.S. government restrictions barring fuller disclosures in its biannual transparency report, which shows a steady rise in global requests for user information, content removal and copyright takedown.

The report, released Thursday, indicates a 46 percent increase in the number of government requests for user information between the first half of 2014 and the second half of 2013. The requests are usually associated with criminal investigations, according to Twitter, and have more than doubled since Twitter released its first transparency report in 2012. While the report is now in its fifth edition, Twitter is still eyeing one area for improvement.

“One section in particular has been notably absent from our all of our previous reports, including today’s: our disclosures on national security requests,” said Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of global legal policy. “Specifically, if the government will not allow us to publish the actual number of requests, we want the freedom to provide that information in much smaller ranges that will be more meaningful to Twitter’s users.”

Twitter isn’t satisfied with the extent of information it’s been legally authorized to release, and the company has met with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to improve transparency on the number of national security requests. The DOJ’s restrictions, announced in January, allow companies to disclose the number of National Security Letters (NSLs) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders only “in bands of 1,000″ under a six month embargo — or even longer depending on the situation. (Verizon also releases transparency reports, and it reports national security requests in these wide ranges.)

Twitter had submitted a draft to the DOJ of its most recent transparency report in April, requesting information about which information could not lawfully be published, but has not yet received a reply.

“We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users’ privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs,” said Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of global legal policy, earlier this year. “We are also considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights.”

Still, what is available in Twitter’s transparency report illuminates a consistent rise across three types of requests.

The total number of global government requests for user information—including national security requests—has grown since 2012 by nearly 250 percent. By country, the U.S. government filed 1,257 of these requests between Jan. 1 and Jun. 30—the most of any country—specifying 1,918 users. And in 72% of these requests, at least some information was produced. On a state level, California filed 163 information requests, the most of any state.

In content removal requests, though, Turkey led with 186 requests with 30 percent resulting in some content being withheld. The total number of these requests has increased dramatically since 2012, but only 14 percent since the previous report. The biggest rise occurred between the first and second halves of 2013, largely due to the 306 requests made by France.

With 9,199 notices, the number of DMCA copyright takedown requests saw an 80 percent increase from the last report. Anti-piracy and Internet companies were the top copyright violation reporters. Each month between January and June, between 70 percent and 84 percent of notices resulted in material being removed, with a total of 30,870 tweets affected. Only 18 counter copyright notices were filed, all of which resulted in material being restored.

Twitter’s transparency report is released in January and July each year, and also includes information on Twitter accessibility across the world.

TIME wireless carriers

The Best Family Smartphone Plan

Family Plans
Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

If you’re paying a large cellphone bill for a large family, then you’ve no doubt noticed all the ads on TV and the Internet about the latest, greatest “family plan” offering huge discounts for families of four or more. Every carrier has a family plan, and yes, some of them are solid deals.

But as you can imagine, there’s fine print to every deal. Joining a family plan is harder than it sounds, and you might need to put up a lot of cash up front first. Here are all the details on each of the major carriers’ family plans, fine print included.

Verizon

Verizon’s most affordable family plan is called MORE Everything with Edge. It offers a family of four unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). That price doesn’t include fees, taxes and data surcharges, which could add another $10 to $20 to your bill per month.

There’s a catch, however: Verizon’s Edge plans require you to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you’re a current Verizon customer, you can join an Edge plan with your own phone when your current contracts expire. But you’ll have to pay full price for phones from that day forward.

AT&T

AT&T’s most affordable family smartphone plan is called Mobile Share Value. Like Verizon’s plan above, it also offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). Fees, taxes and data surcharges are extra.

AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plan has the same limitations that Verizon Edge plans do: You need to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you don’t already have AT&T compatible phones, you’ll need to buy the four at full price.

Sprint

The pricing of Sprint’s Unlimited Framily Plans is a bit complicated, as your price per line decreases as you add new ones. For a family of four, Sprint’s Framily plan offers unlimited talk and unlimited text, but just 1GB of high-speed data per line, for $160 total ($40 per line x 4). Larger families save more – the cost drops by $5 per line with each additional line until you hit $175 for a “framily” of seven ($25 per line x 7). Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Sprint throttles your speed when you hit your max, instead.

Sprint no longer offers contracts, so the only concern with switching is obtaining the four or more Sprint-compatible phones you’d need.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s new family plan, which became available July 30, is called T-Mobile Simple Choice. It offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data (2.5GB per line) for a total of $100. With T-Mobile, the first line you activate costs $50/month, the second $30/month and then $10/month for each line thereafter. Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Like Sprint, however, T-Mobile throttles.

T-Mobile no longer offer contracts, either. You can purchase new phones at full price, or make a down payment and have the remaining cost added to your monthly bill in equal monthly payments.

Which family plan is best?

If you look simply at the raw plan numbers, T-Mobile has the best deal for a family of four. Plus, T-Mobile is willing to pay your current carrier’s early termination fees, But making the switch to the carrier isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk for your family. You’ll have to pay for new phones to join if your current phones aren’t compatible with the T-Mobile network. If they aren’t compatible, check the trade-in value of your phones to see if you can get enough cash to cover enough of the cost of the great low-cost Android devices currently available.

Or maybe skip the family plan entirely…

Alternatively, you may decide that it’s in your family’s best interest to skip these family plans entirely. They’re cheaper mainly because you need to give up your lucrative new phone subsidies to join them. If you’re a current Verizon or AT&T customer who enjoys cutting-edge phones like the rumored iPhone 6, it may be in your best interest to avoid having to pay for several $650+ devices up front.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME facebook

Facebook’s New App Gives Free Internet Access in Developing World

So far, the app is only available in Zambia.

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Facebook is taking another big step toward fulfilling its vision of bringing the Internet to the entire world.

 

On Thursday, the company launched its first app for Internet.org, a partnership among tech giants to beam wireless service to developing markets. The new app, which is debuting first in Zambia to subscribers of local wireless carrier Airtel, will allow users to access a select number of services without racking up data charges. The sites and apps include Facebook, Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia, a weather service and an app promoting women’s rights.

“By providing free basic services via the app, we hope to bring more people online and help them discover valuable services they might not have otherwise,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the app.

Facebook seems serious about using Internet.org to spread Internet connectivity. Earlier this year the company unveiled a plan to use drones, satellites and lasers to provide Internet access in remote places. So far, Facebook says it has brought 3 million people online who previously had no Internet access.

There are obvious reasons for the altruism — Facebook’s growth rate is slowing in Western markets, so the company sees developing countries as its biggest opportunity for new users. But the company has to get people in those countries online before it can convince them to join Facebook. Google is implementing a similar strategy through Project Loon, a plan to provide Internet access in remote areas via balloons.

Facebook says it plans to bring the Internet.org app to other parts of the world in the future.

TIME Amazon

Amazon Will Pay You to Accept Slower Deliveries

Amazon.com Warehouse Tour
A worker watches as boxed merchandise moves along a conveyor belt to a waiting truck for delivery at the Amazon.com Phoenix Fulfillment Center in Goodyear, Arizona, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Possibly in an attempt to drive down costs

Amazon really wants its Prime members to stop using its speedy shipping service, so much so that the company is willing to pay customers to accept slower deliveries.

The online retail giant is now offering a $1 credit toward Prime Video to customers who choose “No-Rush” shipping for their deliveries. Instead of arriving in two days, items are delivered in five to seven days. The credit can be used for TV shows and videos on Amazon’s download service, though certain Prime Instant Video titles are excluded, including HBO titles. The offer will be available for a limited time.

The deal may be an effort by Amazon to lower expenses after the company posted a larger-than-expected loss of $126 million in the second quarter. The company spent $2.4 billion fulfilling deliveries during the quarter, up from $1.8 billion in the same period a year ago. Allowing for a longer lead-time on shipments could help drive down costs, while the company still gets to keep the extra revenue it’s generating by boosting the price of an Amazon Prime subscription from $79 to $99 in March.

Of course, since Prime subscribers are primarily paying for free, fast shipping, it’s not clear whether the offer of discounted movies will appeal to a large number of them. But Amazon is in the midst of turning Prime into a broader entertainment service with features like the Netflix competitor Prime Instant Video and an on-demand music streaming service Prime Music.

TIME

The 9 Circles of Hell for Millennials

If Dante wrote The Inferno today...

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. This is a dead zone. (Effing AT&T…)
- Dante Alighier-ish

Dante’s Divine Comedy was written in the 14th century with his uber-Catholic, Italian counterparts in mind. While the allegory of the afterlife lives on in modern culture, the Inferno would probably look slightly different were it typed out on an iPad. Behold: The nine circles of hell for the basic millennial:

1. An eternity of online dating

Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left.

2. “Fun”-employment
Economy blah blah tough market blah lots of 26-year-olds still live with their parents.

3. Sharing an enclosed space with someone playing Candy Crush with the sound on
No one is celebrating you advancement to level 147. HEADPHONES.

4. Trying to cancel your cable
“You don’t want something that works?” “So you’re not interested in the fastest internet in the country?” “I’m really ashamed to see you go to something that can’t give you what we can!” “What is it about this other internet provider???”

These real talking points come courtesy of a Comcast customer service representative who fought tooth-and-nail to keep former tech editor Ryan Block’s loyal service. He posted an 8-minute clip of the recorded conversation that would be more appropriate from a jilted lover rather than, you know, a cable provider.

5. Actual activism as opposed to hashtag activism
#So #Much #Work

6. Only getting 10 likes on every Instagram picture
11 is “the only like that matters.

7. Finding out your Craigslist roommate is actually a hoarder
Slash amateur tap dancer slash serial killer.

8. Explaining any technology to your grandparents
The weekly FaceTime calls home have provided you with a solid working knowledge of cartography of your grandma’s forehead and you hated geography in school.

9. Going back to dial-up
As terrifying as it is hypothetical. Then again, anything can happen in hell.

TIME feminism

Turkish Women Can’t Stop Laughing at Minister’s Advice to Stop Laughing

TURKEY-POLITICS
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc speaks during an interview in Ankara on July 24, 2014, ahead of the presidential election Adem Alta—AFP/Getty Images

A speech on public morals has morphed into a comedy of errors

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc did not intend his Monday speech on “moral corruption” to get big laughs, but when he advised women to suppress their laughter in public, it landed on the public like a well-crafted punch line.

Women in Turkey have since tweeted pictures of their reactions, ranging from grins …

… to guffaws.

Over the past three days, hundreds of thousands of people have tweeted under the hashtag #kahkaha, the Turkish word for laughter. Sadly, the Deputy Prime Minister wasn’t joking.

TIME Telecom

Sprint Is Offering Super-Cheap Data Plans for Only Accessing Social Media

Sprint New Facebook Only Wireless Plan
A man shows the smartphone photo sharing application Instagram on an iPhone. Thomas Coex—AFP/Getty Images

In the latest example of a wireless carrier offering unique but controversial data plans

As wireless carriers launch services to make mobile Internet more affordable, Sprint is taking a more drastic approach with its new wireless plan—unlimited access to a few popular social media apps, and nothing else.

Offered under Sprint’s Virgin Mobile brand, the $12 monthly plan allows customers uncapped access to either Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, according to the Wall Street Journal. For $10 more, they’ll receive access to all four, and another $5 will grant unlimited streaming from a music app of their choice. The offers are part of a new set of customizable mobile data plans Sprint debuted Wednesday.

Sprint’s announcement arrives on the heels of other wireless carriers’ policies and services that waived certain apps’ data usage from monthly data limits. T-Mobile announced in June that it would stop counting data consumed by music streaming towards monthly caps, one of the perks of its “Un-Carrier” initiative to get away from some of the wireless industry’s long-held policies. Earlier this year, AT&T unveiled a “sponsored data” service where sponsors can entice subscribers to try out their apps while the related data use is billed to the sponsors. (Sprint isn’t being paid by the apps included in its plans, but Dow Draper, president of prepaid at Sprint, has said such a deal is “definitely possible.”)

While Sprint’s new plan seems favorable to users who go online only to tweet, post, upload or pin, it’s already incited criticism from net neutrality proponents who believe all traffic should be created equally. In other words, they argue that no Internet Service Provider should be allowed to enforce preferential treatment—faster speeds—for its users, while other users remain in congested, slower areas of the network. Sprint’s opt-in plan isn’t paid prioritization, but its nature as an exclusive, divided Internet access (like T-Mobile’s unlimited streaming, and also Comcast’s on-demand video games) have some advocates worrying it sets a potentially dangerous precedent during an ongoing debate over net neutrality. (The FCC’s Open Internet rules, however, have never applied to wireless carriers.)

Sprint’s new plan is available at only Walmart with a base offering of 20 minutes of talk time and 20 texts.

TIME How-To

5 Cash-Saving Tech Tools

Saving money is gratifying—plain and simple. And technology can make lining your pockets even easier.

These five apps and websites help you put more dollars where they belong: in your wallet or bank account.

Find the Best Price: InvisibleHand

invisible hand
Invisible Hand

This free browser extension for Firefox, Chrome and Safari tells you if the flight, hotel, rental car or product you’re looking at is available for less money on another site. When the tool finds a cheaper deal, it shows you a narrow yellow band at the top of the screen with a drop-down list of competing prices.

For instance, in this screenshot from Amazon, InvisibleHand found the same new TV on eBay for less money—and with free shipping. The service also includes a feature that will alert you to any available coupons for wherever you happen to be shopping.

Also appreciated: You’ll never see InvisibleHand unless it’s working.

Price: Free at getinvisiblehand.com

Save On In-Home Health Care: CareLinx

carelinx
CareLinx

Hiring in-home care for a loved one can be expensive, so this online marketplace promises to save families up to 50% over traditional agencies. It connects you directly with nursing assistants, medical assistants, nurses and the like.

The service charges a 15% fee, which covers the cost of time tracking, secure online ACH payment processing, payroll tax services and a dedicated family advisor that helps families navigate the process of hiring a caregiver. The company also runs background checks on caregivers and provides professional liability insurance that covers property damage and injuries.

Price: Hourly wages plus a 15% service fee; available at carelinx.com

Get Free Off-Airport Parking: FlightCar

If you live in Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco, the FlightCar service will let you park for free in a special lot—and earn you some extra cash while you’re away.

FlightCar rents out your car to other vetted FlightCar members while you’re away. Your take is anywhere from $0.05 to $0.40 per mile, depending on the make and year of your car and how many miles a renter drives it. Included with the service: A free car wash, $1 million in insurance, and a black-car chauffeur to the airport.

If you’re traveling to any other FlightCar city, a web app will text you information about nearby cars available for rental. The service will be expanding to Seattle next, with other cities to follow.

Price: Free, with the opportunity to make money while you travel; available at flightcar.com

Get Free Stuff: Yerdle

yerdle
Yerdle

This iOS app and website is a store where people barter for free stuff using virtual currency. If you have stuff lying around the house that you don’t use or no longer enjoy, you can offer it on the site for a certain number of “credits”—everyone gets 250 to start. A coffee mug typically goes for around 25 credits, while a Patagonia jacket might run around 650.

It’s similar to eBay in that you can set it up as an auction or set a price for buyers to “get it now.” Once someone accepts your offer, Yerdle sets you up with a UPS label. Credits will appear in your account as soon as you drop the package off at a UPS store. Shipping payments are facilitated through Amazon Payments.

Price: Free, except for shipping in the event you can’t do local pickup.

Reduce Your Interest Rates: Credit Karma

People with high credit scores get lower interest rates on their loans and credit cards, but boosting your score takes time and know-how. Credit Karma is a free web-based service that gives you insight into your TransUnion credit score, the factors that affect it and tips on how to improve it.

If you have a low score, for example, it will suggest products that can help raise your score, such as low-limit credit cards that will increase your limit as a reward for a good payment history. You can also connect your bank and credit card accounts to track your spending.

The platform includes several helpful calculators, such as one to help you determine if you can afford a home and one that figures out how long it will take to repay a debt. Companion apps are available for iOS and Android.

Price: Free at creditkarma.com

This article was written by Christina DesMarais and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME digital currency

You Can Now Donate to Wikipedia in Bitcoin

Bitcoin
Thomas Trutschel—Photothek/Getty Images

"We accept 13 different payment methods enabling donations from nearly every country in the world, and today, we’re adding one more."

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit responsible for Wikipedia, said Wednesday that it will accept donations of the digital currency Bitcoin.

“It has always been important to the Foundation to make sure donating is as simple and inclusive as possible,” Lisa Seitz Gruwell, the chief revenue officer, said in a statement. “Currently, we accept 13 different payment methods enabling donations from nearly every country in the world, and today, we’re adding one more: Bitcoin.”

The foundation, which runs one of the most visited websites on the Internet, depends almost exclusively on user donations to cover its annual budget of roughly $50 million. Its decision to accept the digital currency comes as a growing list of corporations, including satellite television operator Dish Network, add Bitcoin as a payment method.

Seitz Gruwell said the foundation will use the Bitcoin exchange Coinbase to accept Bitcoin and will convert the currency into U.S. dollars.

“Since we now also have guidance on how to account for Bitcoin, there is a clear understanding of how to legally manage it,” she said.

 

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