PolygamousRanchKid writes with news of a Senate report on just how ineffective those DHS "Fusion centers" have proven to be. From the article: "The lengthy, bipartisan report is a scathing evaluation of what the Department of Homeland Security has held up as a crown jewel of its security efforts. ... Because of a convoluted grants process set up by Congress, Homeland Security officials don't know how much they have spent in their decade-long effort to set up so-called fusion centers in every state. ... 'The subcommittee investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot,' the report said. When fusion centers did address terrorism, they sometimes did so in ways that infringed on civil liberties. The centers have made headlines for circulating information about Ron Paul supporters, the ACLU, activists on both sides of the abortion debate, war protesters, and advocates of gun rights."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
pigrabbitbear writes "Created by four New York University students, Diaspora tried to destroy the notion that one social network could completely dominate the web. Diaspora – 'the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network,' as described on their Kickstarter page – offered what seemed like the perfect antidote to Zuckerbergian tyranny. The New York Times quickly got wind. Tired of being bullied, technologists rallied behind the burgeoning startup spectacle, transforming what began as a fun project into a political movement. Before a single line of code had been written, Diaspora was a sensation. Its anti-establishment rallying cry and garage hacker ethos earned it kudos from across an Internet eager for signs of life among a generation grown addicted to status updates. And yet, the battle may have been lost before it even began. Beyond the difficulty of actually executing a project of this scope and magnitude, the team of four young kids with little real-world programming experience found themselves crushed under the weight of expectation. Even before they had tried to produce an actual product, bloggers, technologists and open-source geeks everywhere were already looking to them to save the world from tyranny and oppression. Not surprisingly, the first release, on September 15, 2010 was a public disaster, mainly for its bugs and security holes. Former fans mockingly dismissed it as 'swiss cheese.'"
Lasrick writes "Private security contractors strike again, this time at the Y-12 National Security Complex. A nun, a gardener, and a housepainter cut through three security fences to find themselves 20 feet away from highly dangerous nuclear material. And of course, only one guard has been fired (the one who arguably acted the bravest and did the right thing). A Department of Energy report (PDF) on the incident found 'troubling displays of ineptitude in responding to alarms, failures to maintain critical 2 security equipment, over reliance on compensatory measures, misunderstanding of security protocols, poor communications, and weaknesses in contract and resource management.' The contractors have been put on notice, (PDF), but they still have the contracts."
another random user sends this quote from the BBC: "A temporary sales ban on Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer in the U.S. has been lifted by a U.S. court. District Judge Lucy Koh gave a court order rescinding a ban on U.S. sales that was part of a patent dispute with Apple. ... The ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 had been placed before a month-long patent trial between Apple and Samsung. In August, at the conclusion of that trial Apple was awarded a victory on many of its patent violation claims where it said Samsung had copied Apple's iPhone and iPad designs. It was also awarded more than $1bn (£664m) in damages. However, the jury found that Samsung had not violated the patent that was the basis for the ban on the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Samsung, therefore, argued for the sales ban to be lifted." Samsung also went on the offensive against the iPhone 5 today, filing a motion to add the device to its ongoing patent infringement suit against Apple. Meanwhile, on another front, some good news for Apple: Motorola Mobility, owned by Google, has withdrawn its second complaint against Apple to the ITC. The complaint was filed in August over patent infringement claims involving several minor features. No explanation has been provided for the withdrawal, but Google indicated there was no agreement between the companies.
concealment writes "How much privacy is the scientific process entitled to? During the course of their work, researchers produce e-mails, preliminary results, and peer reviews, all of which might be more confused or critical than the final published works. Recently, both private companies with a vested interest in discounting the results, and private groups with a political axe to grind have attempted to use the courts to get access to that material.Would it be possible or wise to keep these documents private and immune to subpoenas? In the latest issue of Science, a group of researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) argue that scientists need more legal rights to retain these documents and protect themselves in court."
redletterdave writes "After blocking Google's Gmail service for a little more than a week, the Iranian government has decided to remove the digital barrier after a barrage of complaints, some of which came from Iran's own parliament. While the Iranian government has released no official statement as to why Google's Gmail service was blocked in the first place, several Iranian news agencies reported the ban was connected to the inflammatory anti-Islam film 'The Innocence of Muslims,' which had been uploaded to YouTube, one of Google Inc.'s many subsidiaries."
FatLittleMonkey writes "You may recall Cody Wilson's project to create a 3D printed gun, mentioned previously on Slashdot. Well, the Defense Distributed project has suffered a decidedly non-technical setback, with printer manufacturer Stratasys revoking the lease and repossessing the printer (presumably prying it from plastic models of Cory's cold dead hands). According to New Scientist, the manufacturer cited his lack of a federal firearms manufacturer's license as their reason for the repossession, adding that it does not knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes." Homemade firearms are not (in the U.S.) per se illegal on a federal basis, though states have varying degrees of regulation. It would be helpful if anyone more conversant with firearms law than me can point out what law or laws this project might be breaking.
An anonymous reader writes "In December the nations of the world will gather in Dubai for the UN-convened World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT – pronounced 'wicket'). The topic of the meeting is nothing less than the regulation of the Internet. Under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union the governments of the world will review the international treaty known as the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR). The last review of the ITR was in 1988 when the Internet was just aborning. The remarkable and reshaping growth of the Internet provides the excuse for the new review. What's really afoot, however, is an effort by some nations to rebalance the Internet in their favor by reinstituting telecom regulatory concepts from the last century." At least it's being held in a hotbed of unfettered online communication.
Ars Technica reports on Judge Posner's weblog, and in particular a recent post on the excessive strength of U.S. copyright and patent law: "The problem of excessive patent protection is at present best illustrated by the software industry. This is a progressive, dynamic industry rife with invention. But the conditions that make patent protection essential in the pharmaceutical industry are absent. Nowadays most software innovation is incremental, created by teams of software engineers at modest cost, and also ephemeral—most software inventions are quickly superseded. ... The most serious problem with copyright law is the length of copyright protection, which for most works is now from the creation of the work to 70 years after the author’s death. Apart from the fact that the present value of income received so far in the future is negligible, obtaining copyright licenses on very old works is difficult because not only is the author in all likelihood dead, but his heirs or other owners of the copyright may be difficult or even impossible to identify or find. The copyright term should be shorter." Reader jedirock pointed to a related article on how the patent situation got so out of hand in the first place.
TheNextCorner writes "PersonalWeb's software patent suit against Github and others threatens the freedom of the Web. In order to make sure that the Web can remain a free and accessible space for everyone, we need to rid ourselves of all the patents that threaten its viability. We need to end software patents."
An anonymous reader writes with some chilling news about PRQ, the infamous colo founded by two Pirate Bay founders. From the article: "Stockholm police raided the free-speech focused firm (PRQ) Monday and took four of its servers, the company's owner Mikael Viborg told the Swedish news outlet Nyheter24. While a number of bittorrent-based filesharing sites including PRQ's most notorious client, the Pirate Bay, have been down for most of Monday as well as PRQ's own website, Viborg told the Swedish news site that the site outages were the result of a technical issue, rather than the police's seizure of servers." Torrentfreak is reporting that the Pirate Bay isn't using PRQ for anything important (if at all), and that their downtime is due to a faulty PDU that happened to fail as a coincidence.
stevegee58 writes "After a long string of legal setbacks, the case brought by Jonathan Corbett challenging TSA's use of full body scanners and enhanced pat-downs has come to an end. Today the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so current TSA practices will stand. The TSA started allowing the use of the advanced imaging technology in October 2010."
eldavojohn writes "Although downloading songs without paying for them in Japan used to be a civil offense starting in 2010, it is now a crime with new penalties of up to two years in prison or fines of up to two million yen ($25,700). The lobbying group behind this push for more extreme penalties is none other than the RIAJ (the Japanese RIAA). The BBC notes this applies to both music and video downloads which may put anime studios in a particularly uncomfortable position."
IDG News Service reports (as carried by PC World) that LightSquared, having lost some of the spectrum they'd hoped to use for a nationwide LTE network because of worries it would interfere with GPS service, has a new plan: to use some of the spectrum currently reserved by the federal government for uses like weather-balloon communications. From the article: "The new plan would give the carrier 30MHz of frequencies on which to operate the LTE network. That's 10MHz less than it had wanted but still comparable to the amount of spectrum Verizon Wireless and AT&T are using for their LTE systems, which in most areas use just 20MHz. Wireless network speeds are determined partly by how much spectrum the network uses, so LightSquared might be able to deliver a competitive service for its planned coverage area of 260 million U.S. residents."
First time accepted submitter benyacrick writes "WHOIS was invented as an address book for sysadmins. These days, it's more likely to be used by Law Enforcement to identify a perpetrator or victim of an online crime. With ICANN's own study showing that 29% of WHOIS data is junk, it's no surprise that Law Enforcement have been lobbying ICANN hard to improve WHOIS accuracy. The EU's privacy watchdog, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, has stepped into the fray with a letter claiming that two of Law Enforcement's twelve asks are "unlawful" (PDF). The problem proposals are data retention — where registrant details will be kept for up to two years after a domain has expired — and re-verification, where a registrant's phone number and e-mail will be checked annually and published in the WHOIS database. The community consultation takes place at ICANN 45 in Toronto on October 15th."
alphadogg writes "The website for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) now tells visitors it will not honor their browsers' do-not-track requests as a form of protest against the technology pushed by privacy groups and parts of the U.S. government. The tech-focused think tank on Friday implemented a new website feature that detects whether visitors have do-not-track features enabled in their browsers and tells them their request has been denied. 'Do Not Track is a detrimental policy that undermines the economic foundation of the Internet,' Daniel Castro, senior analyst at the ITIF wrote in a blog post. 'Advertising revenue supports most of the free content, services, and apps available on the Internet.'"
Techmeology writes "Emails and texts sent from UK ministers' private accounts could be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which means copies could be requested by members of the public. New guidelines to be released by the government say that the key factor is 'the nature of the information and not the format.' This development comes amid a two year dispute caused when a newspaper used the act to obtain and publish an email sent from the education minister's private email address."
Hugh Pickens writes "Neal Ungerleider writes about PlaceRaider, a trojan that can run in the background of any phone running Android 2.3 or above, and is hidden in a photography app that gives PlaceRaider the necessary permissions to access the camera and upload images. Once installed, PlaceRaider quietly takes pictures at random that are tagged with the time, location, and orientation of the phone while muting the phone's shutter sound. Once pictures are taken, PlaceRaider uploads them to a central server where they are knitted together into a 3D model of the indoor location where the pics were taken. A malicious user can then browse this space looking for objects worth stealing and sensitive data such as credit card details, identity data or calender details that reveal when the user might be away. If a user's credit card, bank information, or personal information happen to be out in the open — all the better. — the software can identify financial data, bar codes, and QR codes. End users will also be able to get the full layout of a victim's office or room. The good news? PlaceRaider isn't out in the wild yet. The malware was built as an academic exercise by a team at Indiana University as a proof of concept to show the invasive potential of visual malware beyond simple photo or video uploads and demonstrate how to turn an individual's mobile device against himself (PDF), creating an advanced surveillance platform capable of reconstructing the user's physical environment for exploration and exploitation. 'The message is clear — this kind of malware is a clear and present danger. It's only a matter of time before this game of cat and mouse becomes more serious.'" As malware, it's spooky. But merely as software, this kind of intelligent 3-D imaging is something I'd like to be able to do with my phone.
New submitter WOOFYGOOFY writes "The most recent call for curtailing patents comes not just from an unexpected source, the St. Louis Fed, but also in its most basic form: total abolition of all patents. Via the Atlantic Monthly: a new working paper (PDF) from two members of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, Michele Boldrin and David Levine, in which they argue that while a weak patent system may mildly increase innovation with limited side-effects, such a system can never be contained and will inevitably lead to a stifling patent system such as that presently found in the U.S. They argue: '...strong patent systems retard innovation with many negative side-effects. ... the political demand for stronger patent protection comes from old and stagnant industries and firms, not from new and innovative ones. Hence the best solution is to abolish patents entirely through strong constitutional measures and to find other legislative instruments, less open to lobbying and rent-seeking.' They acknowledge that some industries could suffer under a such a system. They single out pharma, and suggest other legislative measures be found to foster innovation whenever there is clear evidence that laissez-faire under-supplies it."
TrueSatan writes "Reminiscent of buggy whip manufacturers taking legal action against auto makers, the former U.S. Register of Copyrights, Ralph Oman, has given an amicus brief in the Aereo case (PDF) stating that all new content-delivery technology should be presumed illegal unless and until it is approved by Congress. He adds that providers of new technology should be forced to apply to Congress to prove they don't upset existing business models."