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ExtraBITS for 18 December 2017

by TidBITS Staff

In ExtraBITS this week, we learn that credit card signatures are going away soon, the FCC has voted to eradicate net neutrality, and another former executive has spoken out against Facebook.

Credit Card Signatures Going Away in 2018 -- According to the Verge, credit card companies Discover, Mastercard, and American Express have announced plans to stop requiring signatures for purchases in April 2018, which will make Apple Pay even easier. (American Express is eliminating the need for signatures worldwide, whereas the other two are changing policies only in the United States for now.) Signatures are theoretically a fraud-prevention requirement, since they can be compared to the signature on the back of a credit card and verified later. However, cashiers almost never check them, there’s no signature to compare against with contactless payment systems, lots of people sign illegibly, and many transactions are online anyway. Visa has not announced a similar change.

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FCC Votes to Abolish Net Neutrality -- It should come as no surprise that Ajit Pai’s FCC has voted to eliminate Obama-era net neutrality rules that prevented Internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic, among much else. At Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin outlines what happened, how we got here, and what comes next. Given the overwhelming and bipartisan support for net neutrality from most Americans, the FCC’s move will likely draw challenges both in the courts and in Congress.

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Former Exec: Facebook Is Ripping the Social Fabric of Society -- Chamath Palihapitiya is the latest former Facebook executive to call the company out, saying at a recent Stanford appearance: “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” and expressing “tremendous guilt” for his participation. Palihapitiya certainly doesn’t mince words: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.” Palihapitiya, who rose to the position of vice president for user growth at Facebook, appears to have struck a nerve, since the company made the rare move of defending itself, saying “When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then and as we have grown we have realised how our responsibilities have grown too.” It’s interesting that Facebook doesn’t deny Palihapitiya’s criticisms!

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