Government

America's Technical Debt 165 165

Funksaw writes: An article by Brian Boyko in Equal Citizens, Lawrence Lessig's blog dealing with issues of institutional corruption in democratic politics, explains why, specifically, this reform movement needs (more) people with technical minds and technical skills.

Quoting: "What we need are more people willing to look at the laws of this country based on their function. And when I use the word 'function,' I mean very specifically the same sense that a computer programmer means it. (Because lord knows, government isn't functioning by any other definition.) ... It's not just that big money politics is being injected [like a code injection] into the function of democracy. It's also that the function of democracy can be warped by an injection. Stopping the injection of money into our democratic function still leaves the function vulnerable to the same — or similar — injection attack.... We need people who can solve the problems of politics like a programmer solves problems in computer code, because a democratic system with vulnerabilities is a democratic system that can fail or be made to fail."

The author is the technical adviser to the New Hampshire Rebellion and Mayday.US, two of Lessig's major reform projects.
Privacy

Anonymizing Wi-Fi Device Project Unexpectedly Halted 138 138

An anonymous reader notes that a project to develop an anonymizing Wi-Fi device has been canceled under mysterious circumstances. The device, called Proxyham, was unveiled a couple weeks ago by Rhino Security Labs. They said it would use low-frequency radio channels to connect a computer to public Wi-Fi hotspots up to 2.5 miles away, thus obscuring a user's actual location. But a few days ago the company announced it would be halting development and canceling a talk about it at Def Con, which would have been followed with a release of schematics and source code. They apologized, but appear to be unable to say anything further.

"In fact, all [the speaker] can say is that the talk is canceled, the ProxyHam source code and documentation will never be made public, and the ProxyHam units developed for Las Vegas have been destroyed. The banner at the top of the Rhino Security website promoting ProxyHam has gone away too. It's almost as if someone were trying to pretend the tool never existed." The CSO article speculates that a government agency killed the project and issued a gag order about it. A post at Hackaday calls this idea absurd and discusses the hardware needed to build a Proxyham. They say using it would be "a violation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, and using encryption over radio violates FCC regulations. That’s illegal, it will get you a few federal charges — but so will blowing up a mailbox with some firecrackers." They add, "What you’re seeing is just the annual network security circus and it’s nothing but a show."
Government

Iran Has Signed a Nuclear Accord 459 459

New submitter divide overflow writes: According to the New York Times, 'Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States have agreed to a historic accord to significantly limit Tehran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran, a senior Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said on Tuesday. The deal, which President Obama had long sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency, culminates 20 months of negotiations.' Not everyone approves.
Democrats

Hillary Clinton Takes Aim At 'Gig Economy' 432 432

SonicSpike writes with an excerpt from Marketwatch that says at least one major candidate in the 2016 electoral fight has made the "sharing economy" epitomized by Uber and Airbnb a campaign issue. In a major campaign speech in New York City, the former secretary of state didn't mention the ride-sharing service by name. But it was pretty clear what sort of companies she was talking about when she got to how some Americans earn money. "Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car," she said at the New School. But that sort of work comes with its own problems, she said. "This 'on demand' or so-called 'gig economy' ... is raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future," Clinton added.
Security

New Default: Mozilla Temporarily Disables Flash In Firefox 199 199

Trailrunner7 writes with news that "Mozilla has taken the unusual step of disabling by default all versions of Flash in Firefox." Two flaws that came to light from the recent document dump from Hacking Team could be used by an attacker to gain remote code execution. From Threatpost's article: One of the flaws is in Action Script 3 while the other is in the BitMapData component of Flash. Exploits for these vulnerabilities were found in the data taken from HackingTeam in the attack disclosed last week. An exploit for one of the Flash vulnerabilities, the one in ActionScript 3, has been integrated into the Angler exploit kit already and there's a module for it in the Metasploit Framework, as well. Reader Mickeycaskill adds a link to TechWeek Europe's article, which says these are the 37th and 38th flaws found in Flash so far this month, and that the development "is a blow for Flash after Alex Stamos, Facebook's new chief security officer, urged Adobe to set an 'end of life' date for the much-maligned software."
United Kingdom

Man Arrested After Charging iPhone On London Overground Train 674 674

An anonymous reader writes: 45-year-old Robin Lee was arrested after he used a socket on a London Overground train to charge up his iPhone. He was handcuffed and arrested for "abstracting electricity". Robin was then charged with "unacceptable behaviour" after "becoming aggressive" when objecting to his first arrest. The Guardian reports: "Speaking to the Evening Standard, Lee said he had been confronted by a police community support officer on the overground train from Hackney Wick to Camden Road on 10 July. The Overground is part of Transport For London’s wider network that also includes London Underground and the buses. 'She said I’m abstracting electricity. She kept saying it’s a crime. We were just coming into the station and there happened to be about four police officers on the platform. She called to them and said: ‘This guy’s been abstracting electricity, he needs to be arrested’.”
Google

Encryption Rights Community: Protecting Our Rights To Strongly Encrypt 140 140

Lauren Weinstein writes: Around the world, dictatorships and democracies alike are attempting to restrict access to strong encryption that governments cannot decrypt or bypass on demand. Firms providing strong encryption to protect their users — such as Google and Apple — are now being accused by government spokesmen of "aiding" terrorism by not making their users' communications available to law enforcement on demand. Increasingly, governments that have proven incapable of protecting their own systems from data thefts are calling for easily abused, technologically impractical government "backdoors" in commercial encryption that would put all private communications at extreme risk of attacks. This new G+ community will discuss means and methods to protect our rights related to encrypted communications, unfettered by government efforts to undermine our privacy in this context.
Music

"Happy Birthday" Hits Sour Notes When It Comes To Song's Free Use 178 178

vivaoporto writes: NPR reports that "Happy Birthday to You", one of the most recognized songs in the English language, is the subject of a class action complaint over the validity of its copyright. The publisher Warner/Chappell Music owns the copyright to the "Happy Birthday" song and anyone who wants to use the song must pay a licensing fee. How did Warner/Chappell get the rights? "This is where it gets complicated," says Jennifer Nelson. She is working on a documentary about the song and paid for the rights to use it. Now she's suing Warner/Chappell to get her money back, arguing it's part of the public domain. "I think it's going to set a precedent for this song and other songs that may be claimed to be under copyright, which aren't," says Newman. The Courthouse News Service have more information about the pending suit.
Privacy

Automakers Unwilling To Share Driver Data (Yet) 151 151

An anonymous reader writes: With Apple and Google both vying for a place in your car's dashboard, you might start wondering to what extent the data you generate while driving might be analyzed or shared with advertisers. The good news is that car manufacturers are not keen to give this data away — some have specifically said they won't let Google or Apple get their hands on it. The bad news is that they feel this way because they see your data as a new source of profit — they're just deciding how best to harvest it. One executive at Ford said, "We need to control access to that data. We need to protect our ability to create value." According to the article, "Auto companies hope to profit from in-vehicle data in a variety of ways, including the provision of travel planning services and auto repair and service information they hope will bring drivers to dealerships. They also expect to work with insurance companies, providing information that would allow insurers to base their rates on a driver's behavior behind the wheel."
AI

Taking the Lawyers Out of the Loop 116 116

An Associated Press story carried by the Christian Science Monitor suggests that expert systems can already replace lawyers in a great many disputes (especially low-level ones, where the disputants don't need or don't want to see each other), and the realm of legal expertise that can be embodied in silicon will only grow. The article spends most of its time on Modria, a company whose software is being used in Ohio to "resolve disputes over tax assessments and keep them out of court, and a New York-based arbitration association has deployed it to settle medical claims arising from certain types of car crashes," but mentions a few others as well. Modria's software has also been used to negotiate hundreds of divorces in the Netherlands, including ones with areas of dispute: "If they reach a resolution, they can print up divorce papers that are then reviewed by an attorney to make sure neither side is giving away too much before they are filed in court."
Patents

Google Applies For Patents That Touch On Fundamental AI Concepts 101 101

mikejuk writes: Google may have been wowing the web with its trippy images from neural networks but meanwhile it has just revealed that it has applied for at least six patents on fundamental neural network and AI [concepts]. This isn't good for academic research or for the development of AI by companies. The patents are on very specific things invented by Geoffrey Hinton's team like using drop out during training, or modifying data to provide additional training cases, but also include very general ideas such as classification itself. If Google was granted a patent on classification it would cover just about every method used for pattern recognition! You might make the charitable assumption that Google has just patented the ideas so that it can protect them — i.e. to stop other more evil companies from patenting them and extracting fees from open source implementations of machine learning libraries. Google has just started an AI arms race, and you can expect others to follow.
Democrats

Barney Frank Defends Political Hypocrisy, Game Theory Explains It 191 191

HughPickens.com writes with a link to Steven I. Weiss's Atlantic article which says game theory can shed light both on what is happening in Washington and on how the bargaining power of its negotiating parties may evolve over time and comes to the conclusion that hypocrisy is essential to the functioning of Congress -- in fact, it's the only tool legislators have after they've rooted out real corruption. "Legislators do not pay each other for votes, and every member of a parliament in a democratic society is legally equal to every member," writes Congressman Barney Frank in his new memoir, Frank: A Life in Politics From the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage. For legislators, cooperation is a form of political currency. They act in concert with other legislators, even at the expense of their own beliefs, in order to bank capital or settle accounts."

Game theory sets out conditions under which negotiating parties end up cooperating, and why they sometimes fail to do so. It does so based on analyzing what drives individuals in the majority of bargaining situations: incentives, access to information, initial power conditions, the extent of mutual trust, and accountability enforcement. Instead of seeing political flip-flopping as a necessary evil, Frank suggests it is inherent to democracy and according to Frank if there's any blame to be doled out in connection with political hypocrisy, it's to be placed on the heads of voters who criticize legislators for it, instead of accepting it as a necessary part of democratic politics.
The Almighty Buck

Uber Class-Action Case May Hinge On What the Drivers Want 88 88

New submitter shanemccarthy writes with a story at Forbes that lays out a non-intuitive factor in the ongoing class-action suit over alleged labor law violations filed in the name of Uber drivers. Namely: how Uber drivers see themselves in relation to the company. While some drivers consider themselves, or would like to be considered, employees, and accrue the conventional benefits of employee status at a large company (and Uber, for all its crowd-sourcing, disintermediating origin story, is large enough to garner a valuation in the billions), a considerable number of the drivers do not want to give up their status as independent contractors. The rules of class action lawsuits, though, mean that if Uber's drivers are classed as employees, those who would like to remain independent won't have that option -- so the company is lining up examples of drivers who would seem by no one's definition to be employees, and who want to keep it that way. See also this earlier story about workplace classification for these drivers and others in non-traditional work arrangements.
Privacy

Snoopers' Charter Could Mean Trouble For UK Users of Encryption-Capable Apps 174 174

An anonymous reader writes with a story at IB Times that speculates instant messaging apps which enable encrypted communications (including Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and iMessage) could be banned in the UK under the so-called Snooper's Charter now under consideration. The extent of the powers that the government would claim under the legislation is not yet clear, but as the linked article says, it "would allow security services like the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, and MI5, or Military Intelligence Section 5, to access instant messages sent between people to and from the country," and evidently "would give the government right to ban instant messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption." That might sound outlandish, but reflects a popular and politically safe sentiment: "'In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read? My answer to that question is: "No, we must not,"' [Prime Minister] Cameron said earlier this year following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris."
The Media

Making FOIA-Requested Data Public: Too Much Transparency For Journalists? 139 139

schwit1 writes: From The Washington Post's Lisa Rein comes news that the federal government is launching a six-month pilot program with seven agencies to post online documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. That means that information requested (whether by a journalist, nonprofit group or corporation) asks for the records under FOIA, it's not the just the requester who will get to see the results, but also the public at large. What's the problem with that? For journalists whose province is the scoop, it could mean less incentive to go through the process of asking for the record in the first place. Washington Post Investigations Editor Jeff Leen says in the story that public posting could therefore "affect long-term investigations built on a number of FOIA requests over time." An excerpt offers a similar defense of documents being released only to the requesting party: "FOIA terrorist" Jason Leopold has big issues with the approach. "It would absolutely hurt journalists' ability to report on documents they obtained through a FOIA request if the government agency is going to immediately make records available to the public," writes the Vice News reporter via e-mail. Leopold has already experienced the burn of joint release, he says, after requesting information on Guantanamo Bay. The documents were posted on the U.S. Southern Command's Web site. "I lost the ability to exclusively report on the material even though I put in all of the work filing the requests," he notes. Another reason FOIA requesters might be annoyed by a general-release policy: filing FOIA requests isn't free.
Businesses

FTC Officials Looking Into Apple's Streaming Business Model, Say Sources 53 53

Apple may have a bigger business problem than displeasing Taylor Swift with its new Apple Music service; According to Reuters, U.S. regulators are said (by anonymous sources) to be looking into Apple's treatment of music-streaming rivals, now that the company has gone from selling only downloadable music to competing directly with alternatives like Spotify and Pandora. A slice: While $9.99 has emerged as the going monthly rate for music subscriptions, including Apple's, some streaming companies complain that Apple's cut forces them to either charge more in the App Store than they do on other platforms or erode their profit margins. The Federal Trade Commission is looking at the issue but has not begun a formal investigation, said the three industry sources, who requested anonymity. The agency has had meetings with multiple concerned parties, one source said. The agency meets with companies routinely, and a formal investigation may not materialize.
Government

The Guardian Looks At Hacking Team's Client List, Internal Communications 35 35

There are lots of small but interesting news bits to take from the data dump made available by Wikileaks of internal documents from the Italian security firm Hacking Team, such as that a police unit investigating major crimes in Florida, according to some of the leaked emails, was interested in purchasing some of the company's surveillance technology. The Guardian has taken a longer look at the company's business and tactics, and outlines many of their actual and potential clients, in particular their government customers, and skewers Hacking Team's claims "that it does not sell to repressive regimes."

Shades of Blue Coat.
Advertising

Twitter Yanks Ads UK Activists Say Could Trigger Seizures 63 63

After complaints from UK charity Epilepsy Action, Twitter pulled after less than a day two ads that the group said might cause epileptic seizures. The in-house ads, in the 6-second format of Twitter-owned Vine, consisted of flashing video which the Epilepsy Action said "was dangerous, as it could potentially produce seizures in people who have photo-sensitive epilepsy."
Software

Ask Slashdot: How Should Devs Deal With Trademark Trolls? 99 99

An anonymous reader writes: I'll start off by admitting that trademark infringement wasn't something that was on my mind when I released my first application. Like many other developers I was concentrating on functionality, errors, and getting the thing published. I did a cursory Google search and search of the app stores to make sure no other apps were using the same name, but that's about the extent of my efforts to avoid trademark infringement. After all, I'm spending hundreds of hours of my own time to make an app that I'm giving away with the hopes to make some ad money or sell paid versions down the road. Hiring a lawyer for advice and help didn't seem like a reasonable expenditure since I'm pretty sure my income per hour of coding was under $1 for the first year or two. Besides, it's something I do on the side because I enjoy coding, not for my main source of income.

My first app was published in early 2010. I followed up with a paid version, then a couple other small apps that perform functions I wanted on my phone. I continue to maintain my apps and offer bug fixes, user support, and the occasional feature request. My income isn't tremendous, but it's steady. Nothing to brag about, but also not something I'd willingly give up.

Earlier this year I got a notice from Google that someone had submitted a takedown request for one of my applications based on a trademark infringement claim."
(Read on below for the rest of the story, and the question.)
Google

Google Photos Uploading Your Pics, Even If You Don't Want It To 217 217

New submitter Adekyn writes that, according to David A. Arnott of The Business Journals, the Google Photos app will sync your photos — even after you have deleted the application from your device. From the article: All I had to do to turn my phone into a stealth Google Photos uploader was to turn on the backup sync, then uninstall the app. Whereas one might reasonably believe uninstalling the app from the phone would stop photos from uploading automatically to Google Photos, the device still does it even in the app’s absence. Since making this discovery, I have re-created the issue multiple times in multiple settings on my Galaxy S5. I reached out to Google, and after reaching someone on the phone and describing the issue, was told to wait for a comment. Several hours later, I received a terse email that said, “The backup was as intended.” If I want to stop it from happening, I was told I'd have to change settings in Google Play Services. A video of the process accompanies the article.