An anonymous reader writes "The Australian government has secretly censored over 1,000 web sites through a hitherto-unused internet censorship law. In April the Melbourne Free University was blocked without any explanation. Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act allows the government to close web sites without warning to "uphold laws, protect public revenue and safeguard national security". This is open to abuse as Australians only have limited free speech rights which already make it difficult for the press to report corruption."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Today eight members of the U.S. Congress have sent a letter to Google's Larry Page, asking him to address a number of privacy concerns about Google Glass. In the letter (PDF), they brought up the company's notorious Street View data collection incident, and asked how the company was planning to avoid a similar privacy breach with Glass. They also ask how Google is going to build Glass to protect the privacy of non-users who may not want their every public move to be recorded. Further, they ask about the security of recordings once they are made: "Will Google Glass have the capacity to store any data on the device itself? If so, will Google Glass implement some sort of user authentication system to safeguard stored data? If not, why not?" Google has until July 14th to respond.
hypnosec writes "Mozilla is not going ahead with its plans to block third-party cookies by default in the Beta version of its upcoming Firefox 22. Mozilla needs more time to analyze the outcome of blocking these cookies. The non-profit organization released Firefox Aurora on April 5 with a patch by Jonathan Mayer built into it which would only allow cookies from those websites which the user has visited. The patch would block the ones from sites which hadn't been visited yet. The reason for Mozilla's change in plans is that they're currently looking into 'false positives.' If a user visits one part of a group of site, cookies from that part will be allowed, but cookies from related sites in the group may be blocked, and they're worried it will create a poor user experience. On the other side of the coin, there are 'false negatives.' Just because a user may have visited a particular site doesn't mean she is comfortable with the idea of being tracked."
dp619 writes "The tactic of patenting open source software to guard against patent trolls and the weaponization of corporate patent portfolios is gaining momentum in the FOSS community. Organizations including the Open Innovation Network, Google and Red Hat have built defensive patent portfolios (the latter two are defending their product lines). This approach has limitations. Penn State law professor Clark Asay writes in an Outercurve Foundation blog examining the trend, 'Patenting FOSS may help in some cases, but the nature of FOSS development itself may mean that patenting some collaboratively developed inventions is inherently more difficult, if not impossible, in many others. Consequently, strategies for mitigating patent risk that rely on FOSS communities patenting their technologies include inherent limitations. It's not entirely clear how best to reform patent law in order to better reconcile it with alternative models of innovation. But in the meantime, FOSS still presents certain advantages that, while dimmed by the prospect of patent suits, remain significant.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Sheriffs in 13 Northeast Florida counties announced an online system Thursday for residents to report suspicious activity they think may be terrorism-related. The site provides examples of red flags to watch for, such as people with an unusual interest in building plans or who are purchasing materials useful in bomb making. Important places to watch include hobby stores and dive shops."
jfruh writes "Larry Page revealed that he'd been suffering from a vocal cord ailment that impaired his ability to speak for more than a year. The positive feedback he got from opening up about it inspired him to tell attendees at Google I/O that we should all be less uptight about keeping our medical records private. As far as Page is concerned, pretty much the only legitimate reason for worry on this score is fear of being denied health insurance. 'Maybe we should change the rules around insurance so that they have to insure people,' he said."
New submitter zlives writes in with news that Florida's DOT changed some language in their yellow light timing regulations, leading to a decrease in the yellow delay. Especially at lights with red light cameras. "From the article: 'Red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year in approximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided by cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.' I wonder what the camera company cut is?" At least one area has promised to undo the reduction now that they have been caught.
mask.of.sanity writes with news of the jail sentences for three members of LulzSec. From the article: "Three members of the hacktivist group LulzSec have been sentenced to a total of six years in prison. Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis and Mustafa al-Bassam were charged with attacks on the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Sony, Nintendo, 20th Century Fox and governments and police forces in a 50-day spree in the summer of 2011. Davis was sentenced to 24 months in a young offender's institution and he will serve half of the sentence. Al-Bassam received a 20-month sentence, suspended for two years and 300 hours unpaid work. Ackroyd was given a 30-month sentence; he will serve half. Cleary also pleaded guilty to possession of child abuse images following a second arrest on October 4, 2012. He will be sentenced at separate hearing." The Guardian has a short article on the remaining loose ends in the story of LulzSec.
First time accepted submitter Stratus311 writes "An article from The Verge shows a video leaked from Microsoft that parodies Google's Chrome ad. From the article: 'Microsoft and Google have been locked in a war of words over a YouTube Windows Phone app, but in the midst of the arguments a new Scroogled ad has emerged. Designed to be an internal-only video, a copy has somehow managed to find its way onto the web right in the middle of Google's I/O developer conference.'" "Somehow" leaked.
New submitter edanto writes "A young Irish man wrongly accused of jumping from a taxi without paying the fare has secured a judgement from an Irish court ordering the video removed from the entire Internet. Experts from Google, Youtube, Facebook, and others must tell the court in two weeks if this is technically possible. The thing is, the video is accurate, it is only a comment that wrongly identified Eoin McKeogh as the fare-jumper in the video that is inaccurate. It's not clear if the judge has made any orders about the comment."
Founded just to cover the SCO/Caldera UNIX lawsuits back in 2003, Groklaw has proven itself a great place to read and discuss many of the major tech trials since. And today, it turns ten: "We made it. A decade of Groklaw as of today. Who'd a thunk it? Not I. When I started, I thought I'd do a little fiddling around for a couple of months to learn how to blog. But then all you guys showed up and taught me some important things that I didn't know, and vice versa I hope, and here we are, on our 10th anniversary, still going strong, together on a very different path than I originally imagined. The important moment for me was when I realized the potential we had as a group and decided to try to surf this incredible wave all of you created by contributing your skills and time. I saw we could work as a group, explain technology to the legal world so lawyers and judges could make better decisions, and explain the legal process to techies, so they could avoid troubles and also could be enabled to work effectively to defend Free and Open Source Software from cynical 'Intellectual Property' attacks from the proprietary world." This despite a smear campaign by SCO and nearly shutting down in 2009. And it's archived in the Library of Congress.
Newegg's policy of not backing down from patent trolls, even ones as large as Alcatel-Lucent, continues to result in victory. Earlier this year, Overstock and Newegg successfully defended themselves with a jury invalidating Alcatel-Lucent's main patent used to force companies as large as Amazon to settle. Naturally, Alcatel-Lucent appealed, but the appeals court quickly ruled in favor of Newegg and Overstock.com. From Ars: "Federal Circuit judges typically take months, and occasionally years, to review the patent appeals that come before them. Briefs in this case were submitted last year, and oral arguments were held last Friday, May 10. The three-judge panel upheld Newegg's win (PDF), without comment — in just three days. ... Alcatel-Lucent dropped the case over its other two patents, desperate to get back the '131 patent that Newegg and Overstock had killed at trial. 'If they had been able to revive this patent, the litigation machine would have continued on,' Reines told Reuters after the win."
davecb writes "The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has recently published two notices for patent examiners relating to patent interpretation, and in particular computer-related/business method type patents saying: 'for example, what appears on its face to be a claim for an "art" or a "process" may, on a proper construction, be a claim for a mathematical formula and therefore not patentable subject matter.'"
itwbennett writes "Contrary to recent reports, data broker Acxiom is not planning to give consumers access to all the information they've collected on us. That would be too great a challenge for the giant company, says spokesperson Alexandra Levy. Privacy blogger Dan Tynan recently spoke with Jennifer Barrett Glasgow, Chief Privacy Officer at Acxiom (she claims to be the very first CPO) about how the company collects information and what they do with it. This should give you some small measure of comfort: 'We don't know that you bought a blue shirt from Lands End. We just know the kinds of products you are interested in. We're trying to get a reasonably complete picture of your household and what the individuals who live there like to do,' says Glasgow."
An anonymous reader writes "Back in April 2012, the U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and a number of publishers for allegedly colluding to raise the price of e-books on the iBookstore. As part of its investigation into Apple's actions, the Justice Department collected evidence which it claims demonstrates that Apple was the 'ringmaster' in a price fixing conspiracy. Specifically, the Justice Department claims that Apple wielded its power in the mobile app market to coerce publishers to agree to Apple's terms for iBookstore pricing."
An anonymous reader writes "In their ongoing battle against websites said to infringe music copyrights, record labels have initiated a fresh wave of actions aimed at forcing UK ISPs to carry out domain blocking. This third wave is set to be the biggest so far, affecting as many as 25 domains and including some of the world's largest torrent sites and file-hosting search engines. Furthermore, the BPI – the entity coordinating the action – will ask courts to block U.S.-based music streaming operation, Grooveshark."
Today The New Yorker unveiled a project called Strongbox, which aims to let sources share tips and leaks with the news organization in a secure manner. It makes use of the TOR network and encrypts file uploads with PGP. Once the files are uploaded, they're transferred via thumb-drive to a laptop that isn't connected to the internet, which is erased every time it is powered on and booted with a live CD. The publication won't record any details about your visit, so even a government request to look at their records will fail to find any useful information. "There’s a growing technology gap: phone records, e-mail, computer forensics, and outright hacking are valuable weapons for anyone looking to identify a journalist’s source. With some exceptions, the press has done little to keep pace: our information-security efforts tend to gravitate toward the parts of our infrastructure that accept credit cards." Strongbox is actually just The New Yorker's version of a secure information-sharing platform called DeadDrop, built by Aaron Swartz shortly before his death. DeadDrop is free software.
cluedweasel writes "A Federal judge in Medford, OR has dismissed a piracy case lodged against 34 Oregonians. Judge Ann Aiken ruled that Voltage Pictures LLC unfairly lumped the defendants into what she called a 'reverse class action suit' to save on legal expenses and possibly to intimidate them into paying thousands of dollars for viewing a movie that could be bought or rented for less than $10." The judge was not enthused that they offered to settle for $7500 while noting that potential penalties could be as much as $150,000.
itwbennett writes "The goal of saving $3 billion by closing 1253 data centers is 'very realistic,' says David Powner, director of IT management issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office — except that agencies haven't been able to track cost savings for the initiative. Eighteen months from the 2015 deadline, 'we have no idea how much we've saved the taxpayers,' said Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, an online community for government IT issues. This isn't the first snag in the project. Almost a year ago, Slashdot reported that the project was woefully behind schedule." The government released a summary of what data they do have (PDF), and at least the DoD expects to save $575 million next fiscal year. Also see the full GAO report.
An anonymous reader writes "Remember how the Australian Government tried to enact a big bad Internet filter on the population? Well, that effort failed, but now there's a new initiative in place. At least one government agency, the country's financial regulator, has quietly started issuing legal notices to ISPs requesting them to block certain types of websites deemed illegal. There's no oversight or appeals process, and already a false positive event has resulted in some 1,200 innocent websites being blocked from Australians viewing them. Sounds ideal, right?"
redletterdave writes "The FAA predicts 30,000 drones will patrol the US skies by 2020, but New Jersey drivers could see these unmanned aerial vehicles hovering above the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway much sooner than that. New Jersey lawmakers from both Republican and Democratic parties have introduced a number of bills to tackle the drones issue before the federal government starts issuing the first domestic drone permits in September 2015."
wiredmikey tips this AFP report: "Russia on Tuesday said it had detained an alleged American CIA agent working undercover at the U.S. embassy who was discovered with a large stash of money as he was trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB, ex-KGB) identified the man as Ryan C. Fogle — third secretary of the political section of Washington's embassy in Moscow — and said he had been handed back to the embassy after his detention. Photographs published show his alleged espionage equipment including wigs, a compass, torch and even a mundane atlas of Moscow as well as a somewhat old fashioned mobile phone. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Fogle was carrying 'special technical equipment, written instructions for recruiting a Russian citizen, a large sum of money and means for changing a person's appearance.' The FSB also said the U.S. intelligence service has made repeated attempts to recruit the staff of Russian law enforcement agencies and special services. The incident comes amid a new chill in Russian-U.S. relations sparked by the Syrian crisis and concern in Washington over what it sees as President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on human rights."
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from BetaBeat: "The Department of Homeland Security appears to have shut down the ability to use Dwolla, a mobile payment service, to withdraw and deposit money into Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin trading platform. ... A representative for Dwolla told Betabeat that the company is 'not party' to this matter and encourages those with questions to reach out to Mt. Gox or the DHS. 'The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a 'Seizure Warrant' for the funds associated with Mutum Sigillium's Dwolla account (a.k.a. Mt. Gox),' he said. 'In light of the court order, procured by the Department of Homeland Security, Dwolla has ceased all account activities associated with Dwolla services for Mutum Sigillum while Dwolla's holding partner transferred Mutum Sigillium's balance, per the warrant.'"
itwbennett writes "We've all had a chuckle over Google's autocomplete results for various search queries. But one German businessman had a less funny experience when he searched for his name on Google.de: The autocomplete suggested search terms where his name was tied with 'Scientology' and 'fraud' (in German, of course). This was back in 2010. In 2012, a German court ruled that the autocomplete terms did not infringe the plaintiff's privacy. Now, a year later, the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe has overturned that ruling and ordered that Google remove offensive search suggestions when notified."
An anonymous reader writes "A Microsoft server accesses URLs sent in Skype chat messages, even if they are HTTPS URLs and contain account information. A reader of Heise publications notified Heise Security (link to German website, Google translation). They replicated the observation by sending links via Skype, including one to a private file storage account, and found that these URLs are shortly after accessed from a Microsoft IP address. When confronted, Microsoft claimed that this is part of an effort to detect and filter spam and phishing URLs."
nametaken writes with this excerpt from Slate: "From the state that brought you the nation's first ban on climate science comes another legislative gem: a bill that would prohibit automakers from selling their cars in the state. The proposal, which the Raleigh News & Observer reports was unanimously approved by the state's Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, would apply to all car manufacturers, but the intended target is clear. It's aimed at Tesla, the only U.S. automaker whose business model relies on selling cars directly to consumers, rather than through a network of third-party dealerships. ... [The article adds] it's easy to understand why some car dealers might feel a little threatened: Tesla's Model S outsold the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8 last quarter without any help from them. If its business model were to catch on, consumers might find that they don't need the middle-men as much as they thought." State laws imposing restrictions on manufacturers in favor of dealers aren't new, though; For more on ways that franchise operations have "used state regulations to protect their profits" long before Tesla was in the picture, check out this 2009 interview with Duke University's Michael Munger.
It appears that Prenda Law, freshly defeated, has formed a new shell company named the "Anti-Piracy Law Group," and has resumed sending threatening letters to supposed porn pirates. But this time, they've expanded their threats (from a letter (PDF) sent to Fight Copyright Trolls): "The list of possible suspects includes you, members of your household, your neighbors (if you maintain an open wi-fi connection) and anyone who might have visited your house. In the coming days we will contact these individuals to investigate whether they have any knowledge of the acts described in my client’s prior letter" Naturally, the letter also notes that the recipient can avoid having the list of videos they supposedly copied sent to their neighbors and family if they settle for a few thousand bucks...
An anonymous reader sent in this excerpt from Moxie Marlinspike's weblog: "Last week I was contacted by an agent of Mobily, one of two telecoms operating in Saudi Arabia, about a surveillance project that they're working on in that country. Having published two reasonably popular MITM tools, it's not uncommon for me to get emails requesting that I help people with their interception projects. I typically don't respond, but this one (an email titled 'Solution for monitoring encrypted data on telecom') caught my eye. ... The requirements are the ability to both monitor and block mobile data communication, and apparently they already have blocking setup. ... When they eventually asked me for a price quote, and I indicated that I wasn't interested in the job for privacy reasons, they responded with this: ' I know that already and I have same thoughts like you freedom and respecting privacy, actually Saudi has a big terrorist problem and they are misusing these services for spreading terrorism and contacting and spreading their cause that's why I took this and I seek your help. If you are not interested than maybe you are on indirectly helping those who curb the freedom with their brutal activities.'"
Picass0 writes with distressing news from the AP wire, about the AP: "The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a 'massive and unprecedented intrusion' into how news organizations gather the news." They obtained call records from a number of desk phones, and the personal phones of many news editors. The DOJ has not commented, but it may be related to the possibility that the CIA director leaked information on a foiled terror plot in Yemen last year.
Pigskin-Referee writes in with news of the Supreme Court's decision in a dispute between Monsanto and an Indiana farmer over patented seeds. "The Supreme Court has sustained Monsanto Co.'s claim that an Indiana farmer violated the company's patents on soybean seeds that are resistant to its weed-killer. The justices, in a unanimous vote Monday, rejected the farmer's argument that cheap soybeans he bought from a grain elevator are not covered by the Monsanto patents, even though most of them also were genetically modified to resist the company's Roundup herbicide. Justice Elena Kagan says a farmer who buys patented seeds must have the patent holder's permission. More than 90 percent of American soybean farms use Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' seeds, which first came on the market in 1996."
PolygamousRanchKid writes in with news about a U.N. plan to get more bugs in your belly. "The U.N. has new weapons to fight hunger, boost nutrition and reduce pollution, and they might be crawling or flying near you right now: edible insects. The Food and Agriculture Organization on Monday hailed the likes of grasshoppers, ants and other members of the insect world as an underutilized food for people, livestock and pets. Insects are 'extremely efficient' in converting feed into edible meat, the agency said. Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases, and also feed on human and food waste, compost and animal slurry, with the products being used for agricultural feed, the agency said. 'Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly,' the agency said, adding they leave a 'low environmental footprint.' The agency noted that its Edible Insect Program is also examining the potential of arachnids, such as spiders and scorpions."
Sockatume writes "The Sunday Times has revealed that analytics firm Ipsos MORI and 4G network EE attempted to sell detailed information on 27m subscribers' activities to various parties including the UK's police forces. The data encompasses the gender, postcode and age of subscribers, the sites they visit and times they are visited, and the places and times of calls and text messages. Ipsos MORI were reportedly 'bragging that the data can be used to track people and their location in real time to within 100 meters' in negotiations. Ipsos MORI has rushed to contradict this in an effort to save face, stating that the users are anonymized and data is aggregated into groups of 50 or more, while location is only precise to 700m. Despite their prior enthusiasm, the police have indicated that they will no longer go ahead with the deal. It is not clear whether the other sales will go ahead."
GovTechGuy writes "With next year's reverse auction of TV spectrum not expected to sate the wireless industry's growing demand for mobile broadband, lawmakers are turning up the heat on the Obama administration to auction the 1755-1780 MHz band, which is considered especially desirable for mobile phone use. However, the Pentagon and other federal agencies are already using those airwaves for everything from flying drones and surveillance to satellites and air combat training. They say it would take ten years and $18 billion just to vacate the band so it can be sold."
New submitter ukemike points out an article at CNET reporting on a how there's a "waiting list" for Apple to decypt iPhones seized by various law enforcement agencies. This suggests two important issues: first, that Apple is apparently both capable of and willing to help with these requests, and second, that there are too many of them for the company to process as they come in. From the article: "Court documents show that federal agents were so stymied by the encrypted iPhone 4S of a Kentucky man accused of distributing crack cocaine that they turned to Apple for decryption help last year. An agent at the ATF, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 'contacted Apple to obtain assistance in unlocking the device,' U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell wrote in a recent opinion. But, she wrote, the ATF was 'placed on a waiting list by the company.' A search warrant affidavit prepared by ATF agent Rob Maynard says that, for nearly three months last summer, he "attempted to locate a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency with the forensic capabilities to unlock' an iPhone 4S. But after each police agency responded by saying they 'did not have the forensic capability,' Maynard resorted to asking Cupertino. Because the waiting list had grown so long, there would be at least a 7-week delay, Maynard says he was told by Joann Chang, a legal specialist in Apple's litigation group. It's unclear how long the process took, but it appears to have been at least four months."
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday, Russia's Foreign Minister declared that Moscow would not sell any new surface-to-air missiles to Syria, although there is a catch. He said old contracts are being honored. Could old contracts just be code for an already signed, but undisclosed deal for the S-300? Lavarov certainly left the door open: '...when questioned in particular about the S-300, his reply was not clear if the "earlier contracts" were for the S-300 or something else.' With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu going to the Black Sea town of Sochi early next week for talks with President Vladimir Putin, it seems they may have something to talk about."
New submitter phrackthat writes with news that California State Senator Leland Yee (D-S.F.) says he wants regulations to track who owns and uses 3-D printers. Yee's comments come in response to the recent news of Defense Distributed's successful test-firing of a 3-D printed gun. "He's concerned that just about anyone with access to those cutting-edge printers can arm themselves. 'Terrorists can make these guns and do some horrible things to an individual and then walk away scott-free, and that is something that is really dangerous,' said Yee. He said while this new technology is impressive, it must be regulated when it comes to making guns. He says background checks, requiring serial numbers and even registering them could be part of new legislation that he says will protect the public. Yee added, 'This particular gun has no trace whatsoever.'"
New submitter lxrocks writes "Tax authorities in the U.S., Britain, and Australia have announced they are working with a gigantic cache of leaked data that may be the beginnings of one of the largest tax investigations in history. The secret records are believed to include those obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that lay bare the individuals behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands, Singapore and other offshore hideaways. The IRS said, 'There is nothing illegal about holding assets through offshore entities; however, such offshore arrangements are often used to avoid or evade tax liabilities on income represented by the principal or on the income generated by the underlying assets. In addition, advisors may be subject to civil penalties or criminal prosecution for promoting such arrangements as a means to avoid or evade tax liability or circumvent information reporting requirements.'"
theodp writes "Valleywag's Adrian Chen wasn't the only one troubled by the tactics of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us political lobbying group. Composed of a Who's Who of tech millionaires and billionaires, the group boasted its control of massive distribution channels, broad popularity with Americans, and money would make it a political force to be reckoned with. But the group came under fire for embracing decidedly old-school political tactics, forming both left-leaning and right-leaning subsidiaries, thus broadening its appeal to those who might help advance its agenda. Reports that FWD.us had funded ads praising Arctic oil drilling drew fire from critics, including Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who FWD.us listed as a 'Major Supporter.' Not anymore. Valleywag reports that Musk has quit Zuckerberg's lobbying cabal, apparently feeling that the group's ends did not justify their hit-both-sides-of-the-aisle-to-get-what-you-want means. 'I have spent a lot of time fighting far larger lobbying organizations in DC and believe that the right way to win on a cause is to argue the merits of that cause,' Musk said. 'This statement may surprise some people, but my experience is that most (not all) politicians and their staffs want to do the right thing and eventually do.' By the way, didn't members of the Zuck PACk create, fund, and appear on Code.org, which lamented the sad state of U.S. CS education and featured a slick documentary showing technically clueless little kids, just weeks before launching their pro-techie immigration push? Hey, all's fair in love and lobbying!"
alphadogg writes "Incidents of cellphone theft have been rising for several years and are fast becoming an epidemic. IDG News Service collected data on serious crimes in San Francisco from November to April and recorded 579 thefts of cellphones or tablets, accounting for 41 percent of all serious crime. In just over half the incidents, victims were punched, kicked or otherwise physically intimidated for their phones, and in a quarter of robberies, users were threatened with guns or knives. This isn't just happening in tech-loving San Francisco, either. The picture is similar across the United States. A big reason for such thefts, until recently, is that there had been little to stop someone using a stolen cellphone. Reacting to pressure from law enforcement and regulators, the U.S.'s largest cellphone carriers agreed early last year to establish a database of stolen cellphones."
ais523 writes "The Federal Circuit has divided CLS Bank vs. Alice Corp., a case about various sorts of patents, including software patents. Although the judges disagreed, to a lesser or greater extent, on the individual parts of the ruling, more than half decided that the patents in question — algorithms for hedging risk — were ineligible patent matter, and that merely adding an 'on a computer'-like clause to an abstract algorithm does not make it patentable. Further coverage is available at Groklaw, or you can read the opinion itself (PDF)."
theodp writes "Big Bloomberg is watching you. CNN reports that was the unsettling realization Goldman Sachs execs came to a few weeks ago when a Bloomberg reporter inadvertently revealed that reporters from the news and financial data provider had surveillance capabilities over users of Bloomberg terminals. 'Limited customer relationship data has long been available to our journalists,' acknowledged a Bloomberg spokesman. 'In light of [Goldman's] concern as well as a general heightened sensitivity to data access, we decided to disable journalist access to this customer relationship information for all clients.' Business Insider is now reporting on allegations that Bloomberg reporters used terminals to spy on JPMorgan during the 'London Whale' disaster; Bloomberg bragged about its leadership on this story."
Mobile photo-sharing app SnapChat has one claim to fame, compared to other ways people might share photos from their cellphones: the photos, once viewed, disappear from view, after a pre-set length of time. However, it turns out they don't disappear as thoroughly as users might like. New submitter nefus writes with this excerpt from Forbes: "Richard Hickman of Decipher Forensics found that it's possible to pull Snapchat photos from Android phones simply by downloading data from the phone using forensics software and removing a '.NoMedia' file extension that was keeping the photos from being viewed on the device. He published his findings online and local TV station KSL has a video showing how it's done."
An anonymous reader writes "A recurring theme in comments on Slashdot since the 9/11 attacks has been concern about the use of government power to monitor or suppress political activity unassociated with terrorism but rather based on ideology. It has just been revealed that the IRS has in fact done that. From the story: "The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election . . . Organizations were singled out because they included the words 'tea party' or 'patriot' in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said. 'That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review,' Lerner said . . . 'The IRS would like to apologize for that,' she added. . . . Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. . . . she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice. Tea Party groups were livid on Friday. ... In all, about 300 groups were singled out for additional review. . . Tea Party groups weren't buying the idea that the decision to target them was solely the responsibility of low-level IRS workers. ... During the conference call it was stated that no disciplinary action had been taken by those who engaged in this activity. President Obama has previously joked about using the IRS to target people." So it's not how they choose cases for review (except when it is), and was not motivated by political bias (except that it was). Also at National Review, with more bite.
An anonymous reader writes "John McCain, Republican Senator for Arizona and former U.S. presidential candidate, is drafting a new bill that would pressure TV providers to allow customers to select and pay for only the channels they want to watch. The bill will also 'bar TV networks from bundling their broadcast stations with cable channels they own during negotiations with the cable companies, according to industry sources. So for example, the Disney Company, which owns both ABC and ESPN, could not force a cable provider to pay for ESPN in order to carry ABC.' Perhaps most importantly, the bill could 'end the sports blackout rule, which prohibits cable companies from carrying a sports event if the game is blacked out on local broadcast television stations.' This would hamstring the ludicrous practice of blacking out TV broadcasts in order to drive fans to buy actual tickets to a game. The cable and satellite TV industry is expected to push back very strongly against the bill."
Doug Otto writes "Buried deep in the bowels of a bi-partisan immigration reform bill is a 'photo tool.' The goal is to create a photo database consisting of every citizen. Wired calls it 'a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.' Of course the database would be used only for good, and never evil. 'This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet.'"
In an overdue but welcome move, President Obama today issued an executive order mandating "open and machine-readable data" for government-published information. Also, kodiaktau writes "In a move to make data more readily available, the United States of America has announced the Project Open Data and has chosen GitHub to host the content." Ars has a great article on the announced policy, but as you might expect, it comes with caveats, exceptions, sub-goals and committees; don't expect too much change per day, or assume you have a right to open data, exactly, in the eyes of the government, but — "subject to appropriations" — it sounds good on paper. (I'd like the next step to be requiring that all file formats used by the government be open source.)
An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from Ars Technica: "Righthaven, the Las Vegas operation that sought to turn newspaper article copyright lawsuits into a business model, can now slap a date on its death certificate: May 9, 2013. This morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on the two Righthaven appeals that could have given the firm a final glimmer of hope — and the court told Righthaven to take a hike (PDF)."
First time accepted submitter He Who Has No Name writes "While the ATF appears to have no open objection to 3D printed firearms at this time, the Department of Defense apparently does. A short while ago, '#DEFCAD has gone dark at the request of the Department of Defense Trade Controls. Take it up with the Secretary of State' appeared on the group's site, and download links for files hosted there began to give users popups warning of the DoD takeover." Well, that didn't take long. Note: As of this writing, the site is returning an error, rather than the message above, but founder Cody Wilson has posted a similar message to twitter. At least the Commander in Chief is in town to deliver the message personally. Update: 05/09 21:17 GMT by T : Tweet aside, that should be Department of State, rather than Department of Defense, as many readers have pointed out. (Thanks!)
Wired has published a book review of sorts of a freely downloadable book called Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research. If that title came from O'Reilly, Apress, or other big name in tech-publishing, it might be perfectly nice but less interesting. Instead, it was prepared as an internal guide for the NSA, and came to public attention through a FOIA request by MuckRock. (See this video interview with MuckRock's Michael Morisy at this year's SXSW.) The version that's been released is several years old. From Wired's report: "Although the author's name is redacted in the version released by the NSA, Muckrock's FOIA indicates it was written by Robyn Winder and Charlie Speight. A note the NSA added to the book before releasing it under FOIA says that the opinions expressed in it are the authors', and not the agency's. ... Lest you think that none of this is new, that Johnny Long has been talking about this for years at hacker conferences and in his book Google Hacking, you’d be right. In fact, the authors of the NSA book give a shoutout to Johnny, but with the caveat that Johnny’s tips are designed for cracking — breaking into websites and servers. 'That is not something I encourage or advocate,' the author writes." (Hat tip to ThinkGeek's Jacob Rose.)
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "The promise of a fully 3D-printable gun is that it can spread via the Internet and entirely circumvent gun control laws. Two days after that digital weapon's blueprint first appeared online, it seems to be fulfilling that promise. Files for the printable gun known as that 'Liberator' have been downloaded more than 100,000 times in two days, according to Defense Distributed, the group that created it. Those downloads were facilitated by Kim Dotcom's startup Mega, which Defense Distributed is using to host the Liberator's CAD files. And it's also been uploaded to the Pirate Bay, where it's one of the most popular files in the filesharing site's uncensorable 3D printing category."