An anonymous reader writes "The European Parliament passed a proposal Tuesday which included a blanket ban on pornography, including Internet porn, in European Union member states. However, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print media. The proposal, titled 'Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU,' was put to a vote in Strasbourg. MEPs passed it 368-159."
jfruh writes "Skype made a name for itself by largely bypassing the infrastucture — and the costs, and the regulations — of the legacy telecommunications industry. But now the French telecom regulator wants to change that, at least in France. At issue is not the service's VoIP offering, but rather the Skype Out service that allows users to dial phones on traditional networks. Regulators say that this service necessitates that Skype face the same regulations as other telecoms."
adeelarshad82 writes "The SimCity launch debacle is only the latest in an increasingly frustrating string of affronts to gamers' rights as customers. Before SimCity, we had Ubisoft's always-on DRM (that the company only ended quietly after massive outcry from gamers). We had the forced online and similarly unplayable launch of Diablo III. We had games like Asura's Wrath and Final Fantasy: All the Bravest that required you to pay more money just to complete them after you purchase them. And let us never forget the utter infamy of StarForce, SecuROM, and Sony's copy protection, which installed rootkits on computers without users' knowledge. As one recently published article argues, maybe it's time for gamers to demand adoption of a Bill of Rights."
New submitter trickymyth writes "For the first time, the United States has mentioned the People's Republic of China in relation to cyber crime, officially acknowledging what has been long suspected by private security experts and the U.S. business community. The Obama Administration seeks to get the Chinese government to acknowledge the problem, to cease any state-sponsored hacker activity, and to start a dialogue on normative behavior on the internet. This announcement follows the recent 60-page report from the American cybersecurity firm Mandiant, who spent two years compiling evidence against the so-called 'Comment Crew.' They traced IP addresses, common behavior, and tools to track the group's activity, which led to a Shanghai neighborhood home to the People's Liberation Army (PLA's) Unit 61398. This tracking came at the behest of the Times, who has experienced some trouble with hacking in the past. The Chinese government rejected the report as 'unprofessional' and 'lacking technical evidence.' This announcement also comes amid a delicate leadership transition in China and numerous new reports on the vulnerability of U.S. business and government networks to attack."
www.muckrock.com/about/. And that is exactly what MuckRock is all about: Making FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for you (and investigative reporters) so you don't have to deal with the often-daunting paperwork and runarounds you may run into when you try to pry information out of a recalcitrant government agency. In theory, most government information is public. In practice, many local, state and federal government bodies would just as soon never tell you anything. This is why Tim Lord talked with MuckRock co-founder Michael Morisy, and why we're running this interview in the middle of Sunshine Week, which exists "...to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy."
New submitter jader3rd writes "Intrade, a popular Irish website that lets people bet on anything, has shut down. In addition to being used by gamblers, Intrade has been used by academics and pundits to track public sentiment. '"... broad crowds have a lot of information and that markets are an effective way of aggregating that information," says Justin Wolfers, "and they often turn out to be much better than experts."' Being forced to lose their U.S. customers couldn't have helped.
An anonymous reader writes "Canipre, a Montreal-based intellectual property rights enforcement firm, has admitted that it is behind the Voltage file sharing lawsuits involving TekSavvy in what is described as a 'speculative invoicing' scheme. Often referred to as copyright trolling, speculative invoicing involves sending hundreds or thousands of demand letters alleging copyright infringement and seeking thousands of dollars in compensation. Those cases rarely — if ever — go to court as the intent is simply to scare enough people into settling in order to generate a profit. The Canipre admission is important because it is consistent with arguments that the case involves copyright trolling and that the Canadian Federal Court should not support the scheme by ordering the disclosure of subscriber contact information."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes that at this year's SXSW, Defense Distributed founder Code Wilson has announced a for-profit spinoff of his gun-printing project, from which people will be able to search for and download gun-related CAD files. "Though the search engine will index all types of files, Wilson says he hopes the group's reputation for hosting politically incendiary content will mean users trust that it won't censor search results. 'When we say you should have access to these files, people believe we mean that,' says Wilson. 'No takedowns. No removals. We'd fight everything to the full extent of the law.' Along with the SXSW announcement, Wilson also released a provocative video where he lays out the plan for Defcad.com and criticizes gun control advocates and 'collusive' 3D printing companies like Makerbot."
New submitter minstrelmike points outs a two-page editorial in the NYTimes "about what would have been different legally, morally, and security-wise," had the military information released through WikiLeaks been published by the Times instead. "'If Manning had delivered his material to The Times, WikiLeaks would not have been able to post the unedited cables, as it ultimately did, heedless of the risk to human rights advocates, dissidents and informants named therein. In fact, you might not have heard of WikiLeaks. The group has had other middling scoops, but Manning put it on the map.' The writers also discusses what the Times would and would not have done, admitting they probably wouldn't have shared with other news outlets, but also admitting they would definitely have not shared everything."
eldavojohn writes "Reporters without Borders has released a report on governments and the companies they employ to spy on their own citizens online. Syria and China were singled out as the worst with Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam not far behind. In addition, RSF named names when it came to the corporate entities (a market worth 5 billion dollars) that provided specific services to these oppressive governments: Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat. The report is aptly titled 'Enemies of the Internet' and, though lengthy, provides a detailed examination in the destruction of online rights as well as very specific attacks each government employs. RSF also noted the many attempted solutions to these problems and a link to their online survival kit."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation has entered the fray to defend the bloggers sued by Prenda Law Firm. Prenda, oblivious to such well known legal niceties as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the affirmative defense of truth, the difference between a defamatory statement of fact and the expression of a negative opinion, and the First Amendment, has immediately — and illegally — sought to subpoena information leading to the identities of the bloggers. I would not be surprised to see these "lawyers" get into even more hot water than they're already in. And I take my hat off to the EFF for stepping in here."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Not that there's anything wrong with that — as the Guardian reports that Facebook users are unwittingly revealing their sexual orientation, drug use and political beliefs– using only public 'like' updates. A study of 58,000 Facebook users in the US found that sensitive personal characteristics about people can be accurately inferred from information in the public domain. Researchers were able to accurately infer a Facebook user's race, IQ, sexuality, substance use, personality or political views (PDF) using only a record of the subjects and items they had 'liked' on Facebook – even if users had chosen not to reveal that information. 'It is good that people's behavior is predictable because it means Facebook can suggest very good stories on your news feed,' says Michal Kosinski, 'But what is shocking is that you can use the same data to predict your political views or your sexual orientation. This is something most people don't realize you can do.' For example, researchers were able to predict whether men were homosexual with 88% accuracy by their likes of Facebook pages such as 'Human Rights Campaign' and 'Wicked the Musical' – even if those users had not explicitly shared their sexuality on the site. According to the study other personality traits linked to predictive likes include for High IQ — 'The Godfather,' 'Lord of the Rings,' 'The Daily Show'; for Low IQ — 'Harley Davidson,' 'I Love Being A Mom,' 'Tyler Perry'; and for male heterosexuality — 'Wu Tang Clan,' 'Shaq,' and 'Being Confused after Waking Up from Naps.' Facebook's default privacy settings mean that your 'likes' are public to anyone and Facebook's own algorithms already use these likes to dictate what stories end up in users' news feeds, while advertisers can access them to determine which are the most effective ads to show you as you browse."
kenekaplan writes "Sensor technology and data analytics are becoming foundations of urban planning. Herman D'Hooge, Intel engineer and University of Oregon Instructor, says that so-called smart cities aren't merely defined by optimized energy or transportation systems. 'The analytics behind them have become more sophisticated so you can make sense out of sensor data,' he said. 'If we start mixing data from the transportation system with data from the building system and the schools system and start meshing that data together, we may start seeing efficiencies and opportunity that weren’t visible within each of those silos'"
quantr writes in with a story about backlash to Amazon's request for ownership of new top-level domain names. "Large and small companies are vying for control of an array of new Internet domain names, but Amazon.com Inc.'s plans are coming under particular scrutiny. Two publishing industry groups, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, are objecting to the online retailer's request for ownership of new top-level domain names that are part of a long-awaited expansion of the Web's addressing scheme. They argue that giving Amazon control over such addresses—which include '.book,' '.author' and '.read'—would be a threat to competition and shouldn't be allowed. 'Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anti-competitive,' wrote Scott Turow, Authors Guild president, to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, the nonprofit that oversees the world's Internet domain names. 'The potential for abuse seems limitless.'"
theodp writes "GeekWire wonders if the 'Bezos Beep' could replace the smartphone bump for mobile content sharing. A newly-published patent application listing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as sole inventor describes the use of audio signals to share content and communicate between devices, eliminating the need for NFC chips and facilitating the simultaneous sharing of content with multiple people via a remote server. From the patent application: 'For example, a first device can emit an encoded audio signal that can be received by any capable device within audio range of the device. Any device receiving the signal can decode the information included in the signal and obtain a location to access the content from that information.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "The Columbus Dispatch reports that southwestern Ohio Judge Robert Ruehlman has ordered a halt to a speeding-ticket blitz in a village that installed traffic cameras saying it's 'a scam' against motorists and blasting the cameras and the thousands of $105 citations that resulted. 'Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-Card Monty,' Ruehlman wrote. 'It is a scam that motorists can't win.' The village began using the cameras in September, resulting in 6,600 speeding citations in the first month, triple the population of the village of 2,188. Optotraffic installed the Elmwood Place cameras and administered their use, in return for 40 percent of ticket revenue — which quickly topped $1 million. But business owners and motorists struck back, charging in a lawsuit that the cameras hurt the village's image and said they were put into use without following Ohio law for public notice on new ordinances. 'This is the first time that a judge has said, "Enough is enough,"' said plaintiffs' attorney, Mike Allen, who called the ruling a victory for the common people. 'I think this nationally is a turning point.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Former vice president Al Gore sat down with Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg at this year's SXSW conference to talk about the future — specifically, what Gore sees as the dangers and opportunities awaiting the planet for the next few years. Gore drilled down into what he referred to as the "stalker economy." The rise of apps such as SnapChat, which allows smartphone users to control how long friends can view messages, is emblematic of people reaching the "gag point" with pervasive recording and surveillance by government and business. "Our democracy has been hacked," Gore also told his audience, referring to the U.S. Constitution as "our operating system." While there's never been a "golden age" of American Democracy, he added, the perils emerging today are new. "If a Congressman or Senator has to spend five hours a day begging special interests or rich people for money," he said, they'll be more concerned about how what they're saying will appeal to those interests—rather than their constituents. In yet another tangent, Gore railed against genetic engineering, including Spider Goats, which are goats with spliced spider DNA that allows them to secrete spider silk along with their milk. The goats breed, extending that trait to future generations. Gore sees such things as a case of science run amok, alternately creepy and scary."
First time accepted submitter voul writes "Iran is at it again. Taking a page from China's playbook, Iran has moved to cut off illegal VPNs. 'Quite aware of the censorship they face, many Iranians use proxy servers over virtual private networks to circumvent government restrictions and mask their activities,' CNET reports. 'However, officials now say they have blocked use of the "illegal" tool.' Slashgear reports that users are 'unable to access social networks like Facebook and Twitter, or use services like Skype to make phone calls. Along with the blocking of the VPNs, the Iranian government have also blocked access to Google and Yahoo.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A popular Seattle bar and restaurant has posted a notice on its Facebook page warning patrons that wearing Google Glass will not be tolerated. 'Ass kicking will be encouraged for violators,' wrote Dave Meinert, owner of the 5 Point Cafe, perhaps in a mock aggressive tone. GeekWire reports that Meinert raised privacy concerns in an interview with a local radio station: 'People want to go there and be not known and definitely don't want to be secretly filmed or videotaped and immediately put on the Internet.' A subsequent FB post includes more Meinert musings on Google Glass: 'They are really just the new fashion accessory for the fanny pack & never removed Bluetooth headset wearing set,' along with unflattering photos of a pair of early adopters."
theodp writes "Taking a page from HP's playbook, Harvard University administrators secretly searched the emails of 16 deans last fall, looking for a leak to reporters about a case of cheating. The deans were not warned about the email access and only one was told of the search afterward. Dean and CS prof Michael Smith said in an email Sunday that Harvard will not comment on personnel matters or provide additional information about the board cases that were concluded during the fall term. Smith's office and the Harvard general counsel's office authorized the search, according to a Boston Globe report. Smith's Harvard bio notes that his entrepreneurial experience included co-founding and selling Liquid Machines, where Smith coincidentally invented a software technique designed to keep unauthorized people from reading electronic documents."
eldavojohn writes "More problems have surfaced as people attempt to bring soil pollution problems to light in China. From the article: 'When Pan sued the Hebei Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, he was given access to the environmental impact assessment that the environment ministry claimed it had done in the village. Pan discovered that the assessment, carried out by the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, had names of people who had left the village two decades previously and even a person who had been dead for two years — all "expressing favor" for the project. Pan surveyed 100 people in his village, showing them the purported environmental impact study. The majority of them gave him written statements that declared: "I've never seen this form," according to documents seen by Reuters.' Reuters has also discovered that China uses 'state secrets' labels to hide environmental studies and pollution numbers as well as using strong arm tactics to silence residents attempting to do their own studies."
Deekin_Scalesinger writes "More than eighteen months after being first brought to Cupertino's attention, Apple gets around to addressing insecure logins to the App Store. In theory, this could be used to view lists of installed apps and make unauthorized purchases." Yep, they were sending login information over plain http.
theodp writes "When it comes to tales of fake girlfriends, Manti Te'o can't hold a candle to theoretical particle physicist Paul Frampton. In November 2011, writes the NY Times' Maxine Swann in 'The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble,' Frampton met who he says he thought was Czech bikini model Denise Milani on Mate1.com. A Yahoo Messenger romance bloomed, at least in the 68-year-old Frampton's mind (Frampton's ex-wife was a self-described 'physics groupie'). But before starting their perfect life together, fake Denise asked Frampton for one little favor — would he be so kind as to bring her a bag that she had left in La Paz, Bolivia? Yep, bad idea. The UNC Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy soon found himself in a Buenos Aries prison, charged with transporting two kilos of cocaine into Argentina. Currently serving a four years and eight months sentence under house arrest, Frampton reportedly continues to supervise his two current PhD students by phone, and still finds time to post to the Physics archive."
An anonymous reader points out a story at The Register about a Microsoft-backed bill proposed by Massachusetts state representative Carlo Basil which seems aimed directly at Google's cloud apps. The bill, if it should be enacted, would require that "[a]ny person who provides a cloud computing service to an educational institution operating within the State shall process data of a student enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade for the sole purpose of providing the cloud computing service to the educational institution and shall not process such data for any commercial purpose, including but not limited to advertising purposes that benefit the cloud computing service provider."
First time accepted submitter FearTheFez writes "Social Engineering and poor DNS Security lead to a Bitcoin heist worth about $12000. Bitcoin broker Bitinstant was robbed after thieves managed to take over ownership of their domains. While Bitinstant claims that no customers lost any money, without 2 factor authentication all it took was a place of birth and a mothers maiden name to gain access. This looks like poor security from everyone involved."
New submitter nifty-c writes "Singapore has invested heavily in higher education partnerships with the U.S. and launched an ambitious program of high-tech research with Western countries, but recent events have opened these links to controversy. Prof. Cherian George at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, is a communication and information school professor and an outspoken critic of his government's censorship of the Internet. NTU recently fired him, sparking an outcry from critics who claim political interference. This week a group of faculty and affiliates at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society has 'strongly caution[ed]...colleagues working in the area of Internet and society in any dealings with Singaporean universities.'"
An anonymous reader sends this Techdirt report on a welcome ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: ""Here's a surprise ruling. For many years we've written about how troubling it is that Homeland Security agents are able to search the contents of electronic devices, such as computers and phones at the border, without any reason. The 4th Amendment only allows reasonable searches, usually with a warrant. But the general argument has long been that, when you're at the border, you're not in the country and the 4th Amendment doesn't apply. This rule has been stretched at times, including the ability to take your computer and devices into the country and search it there, while still considering it a "border search," for which the lower standards apply. Just about a month ago, we noted that Homeland Security saw no reason to change this policy. Well, now they might have to. In a somewhat surprising 9th Circuit ruling (en banc, or in front of the entire set of judges), the court ruled that the 4th Amendment does apply at the border, that agents do need to recognize there's an expectation of privacy, and cannot do a search without reason. Furthermore, they noted that merely encrypting a file with a password is not enough to trigger suspicion."
New submitter SplatMan_DK writes "Ars Technica reports that the Obama Administration has filed a brief in support of a Maryland photojournalist who says he was arrested and beaten after he took photographs of the police arresting two other men. The brief by the Justice Department argues that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to photograph the actions of police officers in public places and prohibits police officers from arresting journalists for exercising those rights. Context: 'Garcia says that when Officer Christopher Malouf approached him, Garcia identified himself as a member of the press and held up his hands to show he was only holding a camera. But Malouf "placed Mr. Garcia in a choke hold and dragged him across the street to his police cruiser," where he "subjected him to verbal and physical abuse." According to Garcia's complaint, Malouf "forcibly dragged Mr. Garcia across the street, throwing him to the ground along the way, inflicting significant injuries." Garcia says Malouf "kicked his right foot out from under him, causing Mr. Garcia to hit his head on the police cruiser while falling to the ground." Garcia claims that Malouf took the video card from Garcia's camera and put it in his pocket. The card was never returned. Garcia was charged with disorderly conduct. In December 2011, a judge found Garcia not guilty.'"
sciencehabit writes "The National Science Foundation (NSF) is investigating nearly 100 cases of suspected plagiarism drawn from a single year's worth of proposals funded by the agency. The cases grow out of an internal examination by NSF's Office of Inspector General (IG) of every proposal that NSF funded in fiscal year 2011. James Kroll, head of administrative investigations within the IG's office, tells ScienceInsider that applying plagiarism software to NSF's entire portfolio of some 8000 awards made that year resulted in a 'hit rate' of 1% to 1.5%. 'My group is now swamped,' he says about his staff of six investigators."
recoiledsnake writes "This article notes, 'A new technology built into Google Glass, dug up by New Scientist, takes Google Glass from interesting to down right creepy. Google Glass can now pick a person out of crowd based on their fashion style. The system, InSight, developed in partnership with Google, will take a nice little moment to assess the clothing in frame, and then point out exactly where your friends are in busy settings like a bar, concert, or sporting event. It could probably point you out in a protest, or shopping mall too.' We previously discussed the disorienting effects on the wearer of the device."
TrueSatan writes "Notorious copyright troll Prenda Law has sent a subpoena to WordPress attempting to force the disclosure of all IP addresses related to two WordPress-hosted sites that specialize in monitoring and encouraging action against copyright trolling. The sites in question are fightcopyrighttrolls.com and dietrolldie.com. These sites state their aims as: 'To keep the public and fellow victims informed and to ensure that through activism, trolls make as little money as possible.' These are goals which almost anyone (bar a copyright troll, or lawyer acting for one) might well applaud. Prenda Law's demand is not for a subset of addresses that might have posted in a manner that could be construed as legally defamatory but for all IP addresses that have accessed these sites, irrespective of the use made of them. Prenda Law has filed three defamation lawsuits already against the individuals who run Fightcopyrighttrolls, and one has been dismissed (PDF). Dietrolldie released the following warning: 'As there is a possibility that a release could occur, the public IP address (date/time stamp) could fall into the hands of Prenda. I would expect that they would then try to cross-reference the IP address with their list of alleged BitTorrent infringement IP addresses ... If you have ever gone to this site or Fightcopyrighttrolls.com since 1 January 2011, you may want to contact WordPress. Tell them you want them to refuse this overly broad request and at least wait until the issue of the case being moved to the Federal court is answered before releasing any information.'"
langelgjm writes "The New York Times reports that Apple and Amazon are attempting to patent methods of enabling the resale of digital items like e-books and MP3s. Establishing a large marketplace for people to buy and sell used digital items has the potential to benefit consumers enormously, but copyright holders aren't happy. Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, 'acknowledged it would be good for consumers — "until there were no more authors anymore."' But would the resale of digital items really be much different than the resale of physical items? Or is the problem that copyright holders just don't like resale?"
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to make the Pentagon disclose whether military drones are being used in U.S. airspace to spy on U.S. citizens. This follows Rand Paul's filibuster on the floor of the Senate in which he demanded answers from the Obama administration as to whether drone strikes on U.S. soil were a possibility. (Senator Paul received an amusingly brief response (PDF) to his 13-hour question.) From the article: 'A requirement buried in a lengthy appropriations bill calls on newly confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to disclose to Congress what "policies and procedures" are in place "governing the use" of military drones or other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) domestically. The report is due no later than 90 days after the bill is signed into law. The vote on the bill, which was overwhelmingly supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, comes as concerns about domestic use of drones have spiked. ...The House's language stops short of requiring Hagel to disclose whether he or his predecessor have taken the step of approving the targeting of any U.S. citizens for surveillance.'"
fredan sends word of a post at the Tesla Motors blog detailing how the company will be paying off its $465 million government loan 5 years early. Quoting: "This is a significant announcement both for Tesla and for the DOE. It is a marker of the successful launch of the Model S and the incredible market reaction to this award-winning car. And it is a tribute to the success of the DOE's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program (ATVM), a program which was chartered by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, to accelerate the market for a broad range of promising automotive efficiency technologies — electric vehicles (EVs) principal among them. ... Following more than a year of thorough due diligence by commercial auditors, automotive consultants and lawyers, on January 20, 2010, Tesla became the recipient of one of three initial DOE loans announced by Secretary Chu, along with Ford and Nissan – good company for a start-up automaker. Tesla’s loan of $465 million was to be paid back over ten years following the start of production of the Model S. Months later in a separate announcement, an ATVM loan was announced for Fisker. It is worth noting that in comparison with these three other recipients, Tesla had the smallest loan. Ford’s loan was for $5.9 billion, Nissan’s was for $1.4 billion, and Fisker’s was for $529 million. ... We expect to generate sufficient cash and profitability in our business over the next five years that it gives us confidence to proceed with this early repayment of the loan. Moreover, it is also consistent with Tesla’s mantra of speed that we would, as Elon announced last week, accelerate the repayment of our loan, a full five years earlier than required under the original loan terms, making our last payment in 2017."
New submitter Christopher Fritz writes "The Berkeley, CA city council recently met to discuss the closing of their downtown post office, in attempt to find a way to keep it from relocating. This included talk of 'a very tiny tax' to help keep the U.S. Post Office's vital functions going. The suggestion came from Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak: 'There should be something like a bit tax. I mean a bit tax could be a cent per gigabit and they would still make, probably, billions of dollars a year And there should be, also, a very tiny tax on email.' He says a one-hundredth of a cent per e-mail tax could discourage spam while not impacting the typical Internet user, and a sales tax on Internet transactions could help fund 'vital functions that the post office serves.' We all know an e-mail tax is infeasible, and sales tax for online purchases and for digital purchases are likely unavoidable forever, but here's hoping talk of taxing data usage doesn't work its way to Washington."
Lucas123 writes "While electronic medical records (EMR) may contain your health information, most physicians think you should only be able to add information to them, not get access to all of the contents. A survey released this week of 3,700 physicians in eight countries found that only 31% of them believe patients should have full access to their medical record; 65% believe patients should have only limited access. Four percent said patients should have no access at all. The findings were consistent among doctors surveyed in eight countries: Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United States."
coondoggie writes "The Federal Trade Commission today said it has filed eight court cases to stop companies who have sent over 180 million illegal or deceptive text messages to all manner of mobile users in the past year. The messages — of which the FTC said it had received some 20,000 complaints in 2012 — promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target."
dakohli writes "Michael Geist has pointed out an interesting development at the National Post's website. 'If you try to highlight the text to cut and paste it, you are presented with a pop-up request to purchase a license if you plan to post the article to a website, intranet or a blog. The fee would be $150.' He notes that even if you are highlighting a 3rd party quote inside an article a pop-up asking if you want a license will appear. Mr Geist points out this might be contrary to Canadian Copyright Law's fair use provisions."
pigrabbitbear writes "The Supreme Court may have approved the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens for just about forever, but the good old state of Texas isn't going to take that lying down. Texas lawmakers don't believe that cell phone location data is fair game for law enforcement, and a couple identical bills filed in Texas's House and Senate would provide sweeping protections for private cell users."
An anonymous reader writes "The European Union is voting on a proposal next week that could lead to a blanket ban on porn in member states, and it seems the measure may well be approved. The proposal, called 'Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU,' mentions issues such as women carrying a 'disproportionate share of the burden' when raising a family, violence against women as 'an infringement of human rights,' and gender stereotypes that develop early in life. From the proposal: "Calls on the EU and its Member States to take concrete action on its resolution of 16 September 1997 on discrimination against women in advertising, which called for a ban on all forms of pornography in the media and on the advertising of sex tourism." Update: 03/07 19:05 GMT by T : Pirate MEP Christian Engström writes on his blog that citizens writing to the European Parliament about the proposal are not necessarily being heard: "Before noon, some 350 emails [on this topic] had arrived in my office. But around noon, these mails suddenly stopped arriving. When we started investigating why this happened so suddenly, we soon found out: The IT department of the European Parliament is blocking the delivery of the emails on this issue, after some members of the parliament complained about getting emails from citizens."
An anonymous reader writes "A Court of Appeal judgement released today has ruled in favor of Kim Dotcom and will let him sue the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) alongside New Zealand Police. During the High Court case, it emerged that the GCSB had been illegally spying on Dotcom prior to the raid on his Coatesville mansion, on behalf of the FBI, who now wants the Megaupload millionaire extradited to face trial in the US over copyright infringements."
TrueSatan writes in with the latest in the ongoing Aaron Swartz tragedy. "Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday said the suicide death of internet activist Aaron Swartz was a 'tragedy,' but the hacking case against the 26-year-old was 'a good use of prosecutorial discretion.' The attorney general was testifying at a Justice Department oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee and was facing terse questioning from Sen. John Cornyn (D-Texas). ...Holder stated: 'I think that's a good use of prosecutorial discretion to look at the conduct, regardless of what the statutory maximums were and to fashion a sentence that was consistent with what the nature of the conduct was. And I think what those prosecutors did in offering 3, 4, zero to 6 was consistent with that conduct.' Notwithstanding Holder's testimony, Massachusetts federal prosecutors twice indicted Swartz for the alleged hacking, once in 2011 on four felonies and again last year on 13 felonies. The case included hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 to enhance the government's ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality."
coondoggie writes "As of April 25th the Transportation Security Administration will let a bunch of previously prohibited items such as small pocket knives and what it calls 'novelty' or toy bats to be taken on aircraft as carry-ons. The idea the agency said was to let Transportation Security Officers better focus their efforts on spotting higher-threat items such as explosives and guns."
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that at about 11:45 am today, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul took the floor of the Senate to launch one of the chamber's rarest spectacles: a genuine filibuster. Paul says he is 'alarmed' at the lack of definition over who can be targeted by drone strikes. He called Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to rule out drone strikes to kill an American on U.S. soil 'more than frightening,' adding, 'When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It's an easy question. It should have been a resounding, an unequivocal, "No." The president's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. We're supposed to be comforted by that.' Any senator can opt to hold the floor to speak on any matter, but the practice of speaking for hours on end is rare, especially in the modern-day Senate, where the chamber's rules are used more often to block legislation or to hold show votes on trivial matters. Paul has since been joined in his symbolic effort by Republicans Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). He has also gotten some bipartisan support from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.). Paul suggested that many college campuses in the 1960s were full of people who might have been considered enemies of the state. 'Are you going to drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?'"
judgecorp writes "The Pirate Bay's announcement that it was moving to North Korea was a prank, making fun of gullible readers. Admitting the hoax, the site said 'You can't seriously cheer the 'fact' that we moved our servers to bloody North Korea. Applauds to you who told us to f*** off. Always stay critical. Towards everyone!'" The essence of a good troll: so absurd it could just be true.
Deathspawner writes with a view on Six Strikes we don't normally see around here: "It's been well-established all over the Web that the just-implemented 'Six Strikes' system is bad... horrible, worthy of death to those who created it. But let's take a deep breath for a moment. Can Six Strikes actually be a good thing for consumers? While the scheme isn't perfect (far from it), one of the biggest benefits from this system is that it introduces a proxy, and any persecution you might have easily faced prior to Six Strikes is delayed under the new program. Wouldn't you rather receive a warning from your ISP than be sent a bill or legal threat by the RIAA/MPAA?" A couple of days ago, someone sent Torrentfreak an actual alert they received from Comcast (the alert itself is a few screens down). Noteworthy is that there is zero mention of the appeals process.
Barence writes "A German company called Dermalog is showing off a wall-sized transparent display that can tell a person's age, mood and criminal intent simply by scanning their face. The system displays data about the user next to their face, and is a demonstration of a fraud-prevention system that matches criminal intent to certain characteristics. PC Pro's tester wasn't overly impressed. 'If the face was a good enough indicator of mood then it should have tagged me as "freaked out on business technological ennui," not simply "happy", and no police force would accept a description of someone as "aged between 45 and 75 — that's the gap between Daniel Craig and Jack Nicholson.'"
eldavojohn writes "One of China's main microblogging services used by 30% of all Chinese internet users is called Sina Weibo (weibo is the Chinese word for 'microblog') and something that is quite different from the West's twitter is, of course, the enforced censorship. Researchers at Rice University in Houston have estimated numbers for how censorship works and identifies the 'velocity of censorship' in China's microblogging censorship. Most of the posts are marked as 'permission denied' between the five minute and ten minute marks after posting. Their research shows that 'If an average censor can scan around 50 posts a minute, that would require some 1400 censors at any instant to handle the 70,000 posts pouring in. And if they work 8 hour shifts, that's a total of 4200 censors on the payroll each day.' The research indicates you would need a small army to meet stringent censorship policies when servicing China and to avoid being shutdown like Fanfou (another weibo). Keep in mind that this is not simply identifying keywords and blocking the post based on those words. The researchers noted that a phrase like 'Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee' will result in you being unable to submit your post to Sina Weibo. So the research examines the speed of ex post facto censorship which presumably requires an employee or perhaps government employee to identify 'non-harmonious' posts based on their intrinsic content."
An anonymous reader writes "According to Wired, 'National Security Letters allow the government to get detailed information on Americans' finances and communications without oversight from a judge. The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs and has even been reprimanded for abusing them.' It's significant, then, that Google has released data about how many NSLs they've received annually since 2009. The numbers are fuzzed — the FBI apparently worries that if we know how often they're spying on us, we can figure out who. But Google is able to say they've received from 0-999 letters each year for the past four years. And we know it's likely near the upper end of that range because they list the number of accounts affected, as well: always over a thousand."