Advocatus Diaboli writes The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA's controversial PRISM program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government's demands. The company's loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.
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An anonymous reader writes Following Wednesday's Internet Slowdown campaign, the Federal Communications Commission says it has now received a total of 1,750,435 comments on net neutrality, surpassing the approximately 1.4 million complaints it saw after the exposure of Janet Jackson's breast during Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Wednesday saw citizens submit more than 700,000 new comments to the FCC, and place more than 300,000 calls to the agency.
jfbilodeau writes The CBC is warning Canadians about a U.S. program where America law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public's cash as they can through seizure laws. "So, for any law-abiding Canadian thinking about an American road trip, here’s some non-official advice: Avoid long chats if you’re pulled over. Answer questions politely and concisely, then persistently ask if you are free to go. Don’t leave litter on the vehicle floor, especially energy drink cans. Don’t use air or breath fresheners; they could be interpreted as an attempt to mask the smell of drugs. Don’t be too talkative. Don’t be too quiet. Try not to wear expensive designer clothes. Don’t have tinted windows. And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.
Freshly Exhumed writes The day Robert James Campbell quit his job, he went home and started plotting revenge against everyone he felt had wronged him in life. He says he didn't leave his Ottawa apartment for seven months. The online campaign of harassment and hatred he's accused of launching spanned more than a decade. He is accused of creating fake online profiles to destroy reputations in short order, presenting his targets to the world as child predators, members of a Nazi party, exotic dancers and prostitutes. Police roused Campbell on the morning of July 31 and arrested him on 181 charges of criminal harassment, identity theft and defamatory libel. Campbell publicly apologized to his alleged victims and says he has instructed his lawyer to file a guilty plea.
jfruh writes The top European court has ruled that libraries have the right to digitize the contents of the books in their collections, even if the copyright holders on those books don't want them to. There's a catch, though: those digitized versions can only be accessed on dedicated terminals in the library itself. If library patrons want to print the book out or download it to a thumb drive, they will need to pay the publisher.
First time accepted submitter ltorvalds11 writes Cuba says its economy is suffering a "systematic worsening" due to a US embargo, the consequences of which Havana places at $1.1 trillion since Washington imposed the sanctions in 1960, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against gold. "There is not, and there has not been in the world, such a terrorizing and vile violation of human rights of an entire people than the blockade that the US government has been leading against Cuba for 55 years," Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno told reporters. He also blamed the embargo for the difficulties in accessing internet on the island, saying that the United States creates an obstacle for companies providing broadband services in Cuba. Additionally, he said that the area is one of the "most sensitive" to the embargo, with economic losses estimated at $34.2 million. It is also the sector that has fallen "victim of all kinds of attacks" by the US, as violations of the Cuban radio or electronic space "promote destabilization" of Cuban society, the report notes. The damage to Cuban foreign trade between April 2013 and June 2014 amounted to $3.9 billion, the report said. Without the embargo, Cuba could have earned $205.8 million selling products such as rum and cigars to US consumers. Barack Obama last week signed the one-year extension of the embargo on Cuba, based on the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, created to restrict trade with countries hostile to the U.S..
sciencehabit writes Valerie Barr was a tenured professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a national reputation for her work improving computing education and attracting more women and minorities into the field. But federal investigators say that Barr lied during a routine background check about her affiliations with a domestic terrorist group that had ties to the two organizations to which she had belonged in the early 1980s. On 27 August, NSF said that her 'dishonest conduct' compelled them to cancel her temporary assignment immediately, at the end of the first of what was expected to be a 2-year stint. Colleagues who decry Barr's fate worry that the incident could make other scientists think twice about coming to work for NSF. In addition, Barr's case offers a rare glimpse into the practices of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an obscure agency within the White House that wields vast power over the entire federal bureaucracy through its authority to vet recently hired workers.
ericgoldman writes Some businesses are so paranoid about negative consumer reviews that they have contractually banned their customers from writing reviews or imposed fines on consumers who bash them. California has told businesses to stop it. AB 2365--signed by Governor Brown yesterday, and the first law of its kind in the nation--says any contract provisions restricting consumer reviews are void, and simply including an anti-review clause in the contract can trigger penalties of $2,500.
New submitter ferespo sends a report from All Things Considered about the struggle for scientific funding in today's political and economic environment. "Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them." It's a tough situation for new scientists trying to set up labs. In addition to all of the scientific work they do, it's essentially a full-time job in addition to that to maintain funding. The reviewers who decide which projects receive funding are risk-averse to the point where innovative research is all but off the table. The consequences of this are two-fold: not only are we giving up on the types of research that led to so many of today's marvels, but many promising young scientists are giving up on the field altogether.
An anonymous reader writes: A debate has been raging recently over whether or not to equip police with body cameras so that instances of violence in the line of duty can be monitored. It's an important discussion to have, but we should also look at other technologies that could help provide hard data on gun incidents. A new paper was recently published in PLOS ONE about the use of wristband accelerometers to detect when the wearer has fired a gun. Study author and criminology professor Charles Loeffler said, "A gunshot is pretty distinctive. You're typically at rest because you're trying to aim, and in a split second, your hand, wrist, and arm experience an impulsive transfer of energy." Loeffler suggests a suite of sensors including GPS and the wristband accelerometer could be given to convicts as a requirement for their parole. Not only would this help with police response in case of recidivism, but it could provide additional deterrent to further crimes. It could also be helpful to police departments, both for accountability and for integration between the police and the courts.
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft made news some weeks ago for refusing to hand over customer emails stored on its Dublin, Ireland servers to the U.S. government. The district judge presiding over the case agreed with the government and ordered Microsoft to comply with its demands. On Monday, Microsoft struck a deal with the U.S. government in which the company would be held on contempt charges but would not be penalized for it until after the outcome of an appeal. The district judge endorsed the agreement (PDF) on Thursday.
An anonymous reader writes: Amid the backlash against spy-eye drones as well as wearable cameras like Google Glass, one company is building a device to fight back. The Cyborg Unplug actively scans for drones or Google Glass on a local wireless network and blocks their traffic. They're billing it as an "anti-surveillance system" and marketing it toward businesses, restaurants, and schools. They take pains to note that it's not a jammer, instead sending copies of a de-authentication packet usually sent by a router when it disconnects a device. The device can, however, force devices to disconnect from any network, which they warn may be illegal in some places.
An anonymous reader writes: The BBC has a lengthy investigative report about China's efforts to create and expand artificial islands in the South China Sea. They've been going to coral reefs and atolls, dredging the bottom for material, and dumping it on top of the reef to create new land. On at least one of the new islands, China will build an air base large enough for fighter jets to use. This highlights one of China's main reasons for constructing these islands: sovereignty and strategic control of the surrounding area. "The U.S. government does not acknowledge China's claim, and the U.S. Pacific fleet continues to sail regularly through the South China Sea. But the Chinese navy is beginning to grow more assertive. In December 2013 China sailed its brand new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, into the South China Sea for the first time. Shadowing it, at about 30 nautical miles, came the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Cowpens. A Chinese amphibious assault ship approached and ordered it to leave the area. The commander of the Cowpens refused, saying he was sailing in 'international waters.'"
retroworks (652802) writes The BBC, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes and several other business sites are buzzing with Paypal's incorporation of Bitcoin transactions. According to Wired, Paypal will be "the best thing ever to happen to Bitcoin." Paypal-owned Braintree not only brings 150 million active users in close contact with Bitcoin, it signals "mainstreaming" similar to cell phone app banking, perceived as experimental just a few years ago.
jfruh writes China is notorious for censoring the Internet for its citizens, and access in the country became particularly spotty last year as the government tried to block any commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Tiannamen Square massacre. But now one Chinese man is striking back through the courts. A 26-year-old legal practitioner is suing his cell phone company, the government-owned China Unicom, and demanding a refund for periods in which he was unable to access Gmail or Google's Hong Kong search page.