theodp writes "Just when you think the cable TV viewing experience couldn't get any worse, GeekWire reports on the Microsoft Xbox Incubation team's patent-pending Consumer Detector, which uses cameras and sensors like those in the Xbox 360 Kinect controller to monitor, count and in some cases identify the people in a room watching television, movies and other content. Should the number of viewers detected exceed the limits of a particular content license, the system would halt playback unless additional viewing rights were purchased."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
You may have noticed that retailers like Amazon are charging tax, in compliance with state laws, on not just the price of goods, but on the "shipping and handling" fees they charge. An anonymous reader writes "By coincidence I noticed this myself the other night, and ended up ordering something from a supplier in Arizona, rather than Amazon, to avoid the sales tax. Now here is an article about it in the Los Angeles Times."
New submitter dryriver writes with this snippet from the BBC: "Apple paid only $713m (£445m) Tax in the year to 29 September on foreign pre-tax profits of $36.8bn (£23.0bn), a remarkably low rate of 1.9%. Apple channels much of its business in Europe through a subsidiary in the Republic of Ireland, which has lower corporation tax than Britain. But even Ireland charges 12.5%, compared with Britain's 24%. Apple is the latest company to be identified as paying low rates of overseas tax, following Starbucks, Facebook and Google in recent weeks. It has not been suggested that any of their tax avoidance schemes are illegal. Many multinational companies manage to pay substantially below the official corporation tax rates by using tax havens such as the Caribbean islands."
First time accepted submitter danbuter writes "In probably the most poorly thought-out reaction to allowing people displaced by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey [to take part in the 2012 presidential election], residents will be allowed to vote by email. Of course, this will be completely secure and work perfectly!" Writes user Beryllium Sphere: "There's no mention of any protocol that might possibly make this acceptable. Perhaps the worst thing that could happen would be if it appears to work OK and gains acceptance." I know someone they should consult first.
An anonymous reader writes "Apple today posted its second Samsung apology to its UK website, complying with requests by the UK Court of Appeal to say its original apology was inaccurate and link to a new statement. As users on Hacker News and Reddit point out, however, Apple modified its website recently to ensure the message is never displayed without visitors having to scroll down to the bottom first."
An anonymous reader writes "El Reg reports that two employees at a Verizon store in Florida are facing charges after making copies of a woman's naked pictures while helping her transfer data from an old phone to a new one. The two employees later offered to show the pictures to another customer, but the customer happened to be the woman's friend. The woman and her friend filed a police report. The police quickly got a warrant to search the store and found copies of the pictures on multiple devices there. One of the employees, Gregory Lampert, was arrested and charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor. The other employee, Joshua Stuart, is no longer in Florida, but will face charges if he comes back."
An anonymous reader writes "Erik Voorhees blogs for bitinstant.com: 'On Oct 29, 2012, the European Central Bank (ECB) released an official (and very nicely prepared) report called "Virtual Currency Schemes (PDF)." The 55-page report looks at several facets of what virtual currencies are, how they're being used, and what they can do. As it happens, the term "Bitcoin" appears 183 times. In fact, roughly a quarter of the whole report is specifically dedicated to Bitcoin and it's probably a safe assumption that Bitcoin's growth over the past year was the catalyst for producing this study in the first place. The report from the ECB concludes, in part: Virtual currencies fall within central banks' responsibility due to their characteristics, and Virtual currencies could have a "negative impact on the reputation of central banks."' Could this be the first step toward regulation of the digital currency?"
SternisheFan writes with an update to a story from earlier this year about a lawsuit in which David Coppedge alleged he was fired from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for his advocacy of Intelligent Design. Now, a judge has ruled that Coppedge was legitimately dismissed for performance reasons. From the article: "n 2009, he apparently got a bit aggressive about promoting these ideas at work, leading one employee to complain. The resulting investigation found that he had also aggressively promoted his opinion on California's gay marriage ban, and had attempted to get JPL's holiday party renamed to 'Christmas party.' ... Coppedge was warned about his behavior at work, but he felt it was an infringement of his religious freedom, so he sued. Shortly after, as part of a set of cutbacks on the Cassini staff, he was fired. In court, Coppedge and his lawyer portrayed him as being targeted for promoting an idea that is, to put it mildly, not popular with scientists. But JPL's legal team introduced evidence that his aggressive promotion of it at work was part of a pattern of bad interactions with his fellow employees that dated back at least five years earlier."
eldavojohn writes "On September 14th a report titled 'Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945' (PDF) penned by the Library of Congress' nonpartisan Congressional Research Service was released to little fanfare. However, the following conclusion of the report has since roiled the GOP enough to have the report removed from the Library of Congress: 'The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.' From the New York Times article: 'The pressure applied to the research service comes amid a broader Republican effort to raise questions about research and statistics that were once trusted as nonpartisan and apolitical.' It appears to no longer be found on the Library of Congress' website."
jrepin sends this news from the FSF Europe site: "The UK government is certainly taking a long and winding road towards Free Software and Open Standards. The UK's public sector doesn't use a lot of Free Software, and many smaller Free Software companies have found it comparatively hard to get public sector buyers for their products and services. The main reason is that government agencies at all levels are locked into proprietary, vendor-specific file formats. ... The UK government has released a new Open Standards policy. With this policy (PDF), and in particular with its strong definition of Open Standards, the UK government sets an example that governments elsewhere should aspire to,' says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. Under the new policy, effective immediately, patents that are essential to implementing a standard must be licensed without royalties or restrictions that would prevent their implementation in Free Software."
New submitter jest3r writes "On Tuesday the EFF filed a brief proposing a process for the Court in the Megaupload case to hold the government accountable for the actions it took (and failed to take) when it shut down Megaupload's service and denied third parties access to their property. Many businesses used Megaupload's cloud service to store and share files not related to piracy. The government is calling for a long, drawn-out process that would require individuals or small companies to travel to courts far away and engage in multiple hearings just to get their own property back. Additionally, the government's argument that you lose all your property rights by storing your data on the cloud could apply to Amazon's S3 or Google Apps or Apple iCloud services as well (see page 4 of their filing)."
An anonymous reader writes "We can't get rid of software patents, says Richard Stallman, but we could change how they apply to creating and using software and hardware. In an editorial at Wired, he advocates for a legislative solution to the patent wars that would protect both developers and users. Quoting: 'We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement. This approach has several advantages: —It doesn't require classifying patents or patent applications as "software" or "not software." —It provides developers and users with protection from both existing and potential future computational idea patents. —Patent lawyers can't defeat the intended effect by writing applications differently.'"
CowboyRobot writes "A pair of reports by Juniper and Bit9 confirm the suspicion that many apps are spying on users. '26 percent of Android apps in Google Play can access personal data, such as contacts and email, and 42 percent, GPS location data... 31 percent of the apps access phone calls or phone numbers, and 9 percent employ permissions that could cost the user money, such as incurring premium SMS text message charges... nearly 7 percent of free apps can access address books, 2.6 percent, can send text messages without the user knowing, 6.4 percent can make calls, and 5.5 percent have access to the device's camera.' The main issue seems to be with poor development practices. Only in a minority of cases is there malicious intent. The Juniper report and the Bit9 report are both available online."
sfcrazy writes "Apple is having trouble in Mexico right before the holiday season. The company has lost rights to the name iPhone in the country, as it was already owned by a Mexican telecom company called iFone (Google translation of Spanish original). iFone registered its trademark in 2003, four years before Apple iPhone was launched. In 2009, Apple filed a complaint with the Mexican Industrial Property Institute demanding that iFone stop using is name because it could confuse users. That claim was since denied, and iFone is looking to turn the tables."
another random user writes with news that a Virginia man, Kywan Fisher, has been ordered to pay $1,500,000 to porn-maker Flava Works for sharing ten of the company's films over BitTorrent. "The huge total was reached through penalties of $150,000 per movie, the maximum possible statutory damages under U.S. copyright law." The man did not make any defense in federal court to Flava Works' copyright infringement claims, so the judge handed down a default judgement. "In 2011 Fisher and several other defendants were sued by adult entertainment company Flava Works. The case in question differs from the so-called 'John Doe' lawsuits as the copyright holder had detailed information on the defendants who had paid accounts on the company’s movie portal. For Fisher the trouble started when instead of just viewing the films for personal entertainment, he allegedly went on to share copies on BitTorrent. These illicit copies were traced directly back to his account through a code embedded in the videos. ... The verdict will be welcomed by Flava and the many other copyright holders involved in BitTorrent lawsuits in the United States. DieTrollDie, a close follower and critic of these cases, points out that it will be widely cited in settlement letters to other defendants, but that the case itself is notably different. 'This was not the normal Copyright Troll case – there was some actual evidence beyond a public IP address. Not a smoking gun by far, but certainly enough to show a preponderance of evidence,' DTD writes.
Penurious Penguin writes "While not quite as epic or bitter as losing 600 barrels of maple syrup — in two separate heists, 80,000lbs of walnuts have been stolen in Northern California since last week. The heist was discovered after the walnuts failed to reach their destinations in Miami, FL and Dallas, TX. If you happen to see a large man (approximately 6' 2") driving a white semi-trailer and munching on $300,000 worth of walnuts, it may be the villain. Officers with highly trained squirrels have yet to be posted at interstate weigh-stations."
kgeiger writes "Voting machine designs and data formats are a free-for-all. The result is poor validation and hence opportunity for fraud. An IEEE standards group wants all election computer systems to speak the same language. From the article: 'IEEE Standards Project 1622 is working on electronic data interchange for voting systems. The plan is to create a common format, based on the Election Markup Language (EML) already recommended for use in Europe. This is a subset of the popular XML (eXtensible Markup Language) that specifies particular fields and data structures for use in voting.'"
pigrabbitbear writes "Just three weeks after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told an audience at the Sea, Air and Space Museum that the U.S. is on the brink of a 'cyber Pearl Harbor,' the government has decided it needs to beef up the ranks of its digital defenses. It's assembling a league of extraordinary computer geeks for what will be known as the 'Cyber Reserve.'"
Peter Eckersley writes "Stanford privacy researcher Jonathan Mayer has published new research showing that websites of both the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns, which are used to communicate with and coordinate their volunteers, leak large amounts of private information to third-party online tracking firms. The Obama campaign site leaked names, usernames, zip codes and street addresses to up to ten companies. The Romney campaign site leaked names, zip codes and partial email addresses to up to thirteen firms."
theodp writes "People seem to be okay with constant corporate or government video surveillance in public. Let a lone individual point a video camera their way, however, and tempers flare. GeekWire takes a look at the antics and videos of Seattle's mysterious Surveillance Camera Man, who walks up to people and records them for no apparent reason other than to make a point: How is what he's doing different than those stationary surveillance cameras tucked away in buildings and public places?" At least with Surveillance Camera Man, you specifically know that he's watching you — not always the case. (Not even when there's no warrant, on private property in the U.S.)