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United States

FISA Court Extends Section 215 Bulk Surveillance For 90 Days 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-hear-you-with dept.
Trailrunner7 notes that the bulk telephone collection program was just extended another 90 days. "The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has authorized a 90-day extension to the Section 215 bulk telephone collection program used by the National Security Agency, giving the agency through the end of February to run the program in the absence of legislation establishing a new authority.

On Monday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that the administration had applied for a 90-day extension to the existing Section 215 authority, and that the FISC had approved the request, extending the authority through Feb. 27.

'The Administration welcomes the opportunity to work with the new Congress to implement the changes the President has called for. Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the President directed in January,' a statement from the Office of the DNI and the Office of the Attorney General said."
Advertising

French Publishers Prepare Lawsuit Against Adblock Plus 687

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-our-ads-or-else dept.
HughPickens.com writes Frédéric Filloux reports at Monday Note that two groups of French publishers, the GESTE and the French Internet Advertising Bureau, are considering a lawsuit against AdBlockPlus creator Eyeo GmbH on grounds that it represents a major economic threat to their business. According to LesEchos.fr, EYEO, which publishes Adblock Plus, has developed a business model where they offer not to block publishers' advertisements for remuneration as long as the ads are judged non-intrusive (Google Translate, Original here). "Several criteria must be met as well: advertisements must be identified as such, be static and therefore not contain animation, no sound, and should not interfere with the content. A position that some media have likened to extortion."

According to Filloux the legal action misses the point. By downloading AdBlock Plus (ABP) on a massive scale, users are voting with their mice against the growing invasiveness of digital advertising. Therefore, suing Eyeo, the company that maintains ABP, is like using Aspirin to fight cancer. A different approach is required but very few seem ready to face that fact. "We must admit that Eyeo GmbH is filling a vacuum created by the incompetence and sloppiness of the advertising community's, namely creative agencies, media buyers and organizations that are supposed to coordinate the whole ecosystem," says Filloux. Even Google has begun to realize that the explosion of questionable advertising formats has become a problem and the proof is Google's recent Contributor program that proposes ad-free navigation in exchange for a fee ranging from $1 to $3 per month. "The growing rejection of advertising AdBlock Plus is built upon is indeed a threat to the ecosystem and it needs to be addressed decisively. For example, by bringing at the same table publishers and advertisers to meet and design ways to clean up the ad mess. But the entity and leaders who can do the job have yet to be found."
The Courts

Civil Case Uses Fitbit Data To Disprove Insurance Fraud 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-the-watch-saw dept.
Lucas123 writes In what could presage an era of data from wearables being used in civil and criminal litigation cases, a Canadian attorney is using data collected by a Fitbit activity tracking wrist band to prove his client is not scamming an insurance company. The defendant's attorney normalized the data using an analytics platform that compares activity data with other wearables, offering a way to benchmark his client's health against a larger group of wearable owners. Legal and privacy experts say it's only a matter of time before wearable data will be used in criminal cases, as well, and the vendors will have little choice but to hand it over. "I do think that's coming down the pike. It's just a matter of time," said Neda Shakoori, an eDiscovery expert with the law firm of McManis Faulkner. Health privacy laws, such as HIPAA, don't cover wearables and those companies can be subpoenaed — just as Google and Microsoft have been for years.
Government

Economist: US Congress Should Hack Digital Millennium Copyright Act 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-bought-it-you-rebuild-it dept.
retroworks writes This week's print edition of The Economist has an essay on the Right to Tinker with hardware. From the story: "Exactly why copyright law should be involved in something that ought to be a simple matter of consumer rights is hard to fathom. Any rational interpretation would suggest that when people buy or pay off the loan on a piece of equipment—whether a car, a refrigerator or a mobile phone—they own it, and should be free to do what they want with it. Least of all should they have to seek permission from the manufacturer or the government."
Crime

Uber Banned In Delhi After Taxi Driver Accused of Rape 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the shutting-it-down dept.
RockDoctor writes BBC News is reporting that a 26-year old Indian woman is alleging rape against a driver for the embattled Uber transport-managing company. In a post on the Uber blog, one "Saad Ahmed" implicitly admits that the driver was a Uber driver, that the lift was arranged through Uber's service, and that the full range of Uber's safety mechanisms had been applied to his employment, and by implication, that Uber accepts some culpability for putting this (alleged) rapist into contact with his (alleged) victim. "Our initial investigations have revealed shortcomings of the private cab company which didn't have GPS installed in its cabs and the staff wasn't verified," Delhi Special Commissioner Deepak Mishra said. But Uber says safety was paramount, and added it had GPS traces of all journeys. "We work with licensed driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option, with layers of safeguards such as driver and vehicle information, and ETA-sharing [estimated time of arrival] to ensure there is accountability and traceability of all trips that occur on the Uber platform," its statement added.
Government

Tesla Wants Texas Auto Sales Regulations Loosened 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the click-and-drive dept.
An anonymous reader writes Tesla decided not to build its new $5 billion battery factory in Texas, but the company still wants to sell its electric cars directly over the Internet there. The automaker hopes that the possibility of future investment in the state will be enough to overcome the Texas Automobile Dealers Association lobby and change dealership laws. From the article: "Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president for business development admits that getting the law changed won't be easy. 'Does the fact that we didn't site the factory there complicate things? Absolutely,' O'Connell said. 'But we're going to be doing a number of big battery factories in the coming years and we're going to need new vehicle factories as well, and there's a certain logic to doing those in Texas.' He didn't elaborate, but added that the state may not be so attractive if current sales regulations stand. 'If we're banned in Texas, why are we investing billions of dollars here?,' O'Connell asked."
Businesses

Cisco Slaps Arista Networks With Suit For "Brazen" Patent Infringement 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-your-own-work dept.
alphadogg writes Cisco has filed two lawsuits against data center switch competitor Arista Networks for allegedly violating its intellectual property. One suit is for patent infringement, which charges Arista with violating 14 Cisco patents for 12 features in the Arista EOS operating system. The second suit is for extensive copying of Cisco's user manuals and command line structures, right down to the grammatical errors within them. "This is not an accident but a strategy," says a source familiar with the matter. "It was a deliberate, brazen and blatant intellectual property violation in order to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. Arista's shortcutting to get to market and win share."
Communications

Twitter Use By Romney and Obama In 2012 Highlight the Speed of Social Media 47

Posted by samzenpus
from the speed-is-power dept.
HughPickens.com writes On 30 August 2012, Hollywood star Clint Eastwood took the stage to lambast President Obama. What ensued was an odd, 11-minute monologue where Eastwood conversed with an empty chair upon which an imaginary Barack Obama sat. The evening of Eastwood's speech the official campaign Twitter account @MittRomney did not mention the actor, while the Obama campaign deftly tweeted out from @BarackObama a picture of the president sitting in his chair with the words "This Seat's Taken". The picture was retweeted 59,663 times, favorited 23,887 times, and, as importantly, was featured in news articles across the country. According to Daniel Kress both campaigns sought to influence journalists in direct and indirect ways, and planned their strategic communication efforts around political events such as debates well in advance. Despite these similarities, staffers say that Obama's campaign had much greater ability to respond in real time to unfolding commentary around political events (PDF) given an organizational structure that provided digital staffers with a high degree of autonomy.

Romney's social media team did well when it practiced its strategy carefully before big events like the debates. But Obama's social media team was often quicker to respond to things and more creative. According to Kress, at extraordinary moments campaigns can exercise what Isaac Reed calls "performative power," influence over other actors' definitions of the situation and their consequent actions through well-timed, resonant, and rhetorically effective communicative action and interaction. During the Romney campaign as many as 22 staffers screened posts for Romney's social media accounts before they could go out. As Romney's digital director Zac Moffatt told Kreiss, the campaign had "the best tweets ever written by 17 people. ... It was the best they all could agree on every single time."
Earth

New Mexico Levies $54M Against Energy Dept. For Violations At Nuclear Repository 36

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-the-price dept.
mdsolar notes that New Mexico has asked the US Department of Energy to pay over $54 million in fines stemming from violations that led to the indefinite closure of the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository. The state Environment Department delivered a pair of compliance orders to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, marking the state's largest penalty ever imposed on the agency. Together, the orders outline more than 30 state permit violations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico and at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The orders and the civil penalties that come with them are just the beginning of possible financial sanctions the Energy Department could face in New Mexico. The state says it's continuing to investigate and more fines are possible. The focus has been on a canister of waste from Los Alamos that ruptured in one of WIPP's storage rooms in February. More than 20 workers were contaminated and the facility was forced to close, putting in jeopardy efforts around the country to clean up tons of Cold War-era waste."
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT? 717

Posted by samzenpus
from the orange-is-not-the-new-big-blue dept.
First time accepted submitter Lesrahpem writes I'm a felon with several prior misdemeanor convictions from an immature time in my life. I've since cleaned up my act, and I want to go back into the IT sector. I keep running into potential employers who tell me they'd like to hire me but can't because of my past record (expunging won't work, I'm in Ohio). Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Should I just give up and change careers?"
Canada

Canadian Agency Drops Cases Rather Than Deal With New Requirements For ISP Info 29

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-about-it dept.
An anonymous reader points out this story about what has happened since the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on the warrantless disclosure of subscriber information to law enforcement from ISPs. "A funny thing happens when courts start requiring more information from law enforcement: law enforcers suddenly seem less interested in zealously enforcing the law. Back in June of this year, Canada's Supreme Court delivered its decision in R. v. Spencer, which brought law enforcement's warrantless access of ISP subscriber info to an end. 'In a unanimous decision written by (Harper appointee) Justice Thomas Cromwell, the court issued a strong endorsement of Internet privacy, emphasizing the privacy importance of subscriber information, the right to anonymity, and the need for police to obtain a warrant for subscriber information except in exigent circumstances or under a reasonable law.' The effects of this ruling are beginning to be felt. Michael Geist points to a Winnipeg Free Press article that details the halcyon days of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's warrantless access. 'Prior to the court decision, the RCMP and border agency estimate, it took about five minutes to complete the less than one page of documentation needed to ask for subscriber information, and the company usually turned it over immediately or within one day.'"
Encryption

Neglecting the Lessons of Cypherpunk History 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the moore's-law-makes-liars-of-us dept.
Nicola Hahn writes Over the course of the Snowden revelations there have been a number of high profile figures who've praised the merits of encryption as a remedy to the quandary of mass interception. Companies like Google and Apple have been quick to publicize their adoption of cryptographic countermeasures in an effort to maintain quarterly earnings. This marketing campaign has even convinced less credulous onlookers like Glenn Greenwald. For example, in a recent Intercept piece, Greenwald claimed:

"It is well-established that, prior to the Snowden reporting, Silicon Valley companies were secret, eager and vital participants in the growing Surveillance State. Once their role was revealed, and they perceived those disclosures threatening to their future profit-making, they instantly adopted a PR tactic of presenting themselves as Guardians of Privacy. Much of that is simply self-serving re-branding, but some of it, as I described last week, are genuine improvements in the technological means of protecting user privacy, such as the encryption products now being offered by Apple and Google, motivated by the belief that, post-Snowden, parading around as privacy protectors is necessary to stay competitive."

So, while he concedes the role of public relations in the ongoing cyber security push, Greenwald concurrently believes encryption is a "genuine" countermeasure. In other words, what we're seeing is mostly marketing hype... except for the part about strong encryption.

With regard to the promise of encryption as a privacy cure-all, history tells a markedly different story. Guarantees of security through encryption have often proven illusory, a magic act. Seeking refuge in a technical quick fix can be hazardous for a number of reasons.
The Military

Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier 388

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-you-wish-you'd-stood-in-bed dept.
New submitter cyberjock1980 tips news that an engineer has been caught trying to deliver schematics for an aircraft carrier to the Egyptian government. The 35-year-old civilian received security clearance four months ago after working for the U.S. Navy since February. FBI agents made contact with him, pretending to be with the Egyptian government. They struck a deal to buy documents about the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, the first in a new line of improved, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The man sold four CAD drawings for the carrier, and was later seen photographing another set of schematics. A bond hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Censorship

British 'Porn Filter' Blocks Access To Chaos Computer Club 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the tyrannical-algorithms dept.
An anonymous reader tips news that the Chaos Computer Club's website was inaccessible for many internet users in the UK after being blocked by the filter set up to block porn sites. Additionally, Vodafone users are unable to access the ticket site to this year's Chaos Commuication Conference. In a post on its website, the CCC said, "Internet filters simply do not work, but leaving technical limitation aside, the CCC's example shows that unsolicited overblocking, meaning wrongly classified websites, is a common phenomenon in large censorship infrastructures. However, it may very well be that the CCC is considered 'extremist' judged by British standards of freedom of speech." CCC spokesperson Dirk Engling added, "We see this as proof that censorship infrastructure – no matter for which reasons it was set up, and no matter which country you are in – will always be abused for political reasons."
Government

NSF Accused of Misuse of Funds In Giant Ecological Project 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the $15000-for-porpoise-sweaters dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The National Science Foundation (NSF) and a contractor have been accused by both an audit and by Congress of a significant misuse of funds in a major ecological monitoring project costing almost a half a billion dollars. From the article: "With a construction budget of $433.7 million, NEON is planned to consist of 106 sites across the United States. Arrays of sensors at each site will monitor climate change and human impacts for 30 years, building an unprecedented continental-scale data set. Although some initially doubted its merits, the allure of big-data ecology eventually won over most scientists.

But a 2011 audit of the project's proposed construction budget stalled three times when, according to the independent Defense Contract Audit Agency, NEON's accounting proved so poor that the review could not be completed. Eventually, DCAA issued an adverse ruling, concluding that nearly 36% of NEON's budget proposal was questionable or undocumented.

When the NSF green-lit the project, the agency's inspector-general ordered the audit released on 24 November, which found unallowable expenses including a $25,000 winter holiday party, $11,000 to provide coffee for employees, $3,000 for board-of-directors dinners that included alcohol, $3,000 for t-shirts and other clothes, $83,000 for "business development" and $112,000 for lobbying."
Privacy

US Treasury Dept: Banks Should Block Tor Nodes 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the cutting-down-the-orchard-to-get-rid-of-the-bad-apples dept.
tsu doh nimh writes: A new report from the U.S. Treasury Department found that nearly $24 million in bank account takeovers by hackers (and other cyber theft over the past decade) might have been thwarted had affected institutions known to look for and block transactions coming through the Tor anonymity network. Brian Krebs cites from the non-public report, which relied on an analysis of suspicious activity reports filed by banks over the past decade: "Analysis of these documents found that few filers were aware of the connection to Tor, that the bulk of these filings were related to cybercrime, and that Tor-related filings were rapidly rising. Our BSA [Bank Secrecy Act] analysis of 6,048 IP addresses associated with the Tor darknet found that in the majority of the SAR filings, the underlying suspicious activity — most frequently account takeovers — might have been prevented if the filing institution had been aware that their network was being accessed via Tor IP addresses." Meanwhile, the Tor Project continues to ask for assistance in adapting the technology to an Internet that is increasingly blocking users who visit from Tor.
EU

EU May Not Unify Its Data Protection Rules After All 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the that-sounds-super-helpful dept.
jfruh writes: One of the EU's selling points is that it provides a single regulatory apparatus for the entire European market — but this isn't the case for everything. Data protection laws, for instance, provide a confusing thicket of different regulations across the continent, and now, much to the frustration of large American Internet companies, it seems that a plan to consolidate these rules under a single EU agency are coming apart. In other EU news, reader Presto Vivace points out that German Chancellor Angel Merkel has spoken out against net neutrality. She said, "An innovation-friendly internet means that there is a guaranteed reliability for special services. These can only develop when predictable quality standards are available."
United Kingdom

GCHQ Does Not Breach Human Rights, Judges Rule 81

Posted by timothy
from the term-of-art dept.
An anonymous reader writes The current system of UK intelligence collection does not currently breach the European Convention of Human Rights, a panel of judges has ruled. A case claiming various systems of interception by GCHQ constituted a breach had been brought by Amnesty, Privacy International and others. It followed revelations by the former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden about UK and US surveillance practices. But the judges said questions remained about GCHQ's previous activities. Some of the organisations who brought the case, including Amnesty UK and Privacy International, say they intend to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.
China

Chinese Government Moves To Crack Down On Puns 156

Posted by timothy
from the where's-the-pun-in-that? dept.
FreedomFirstThenPeac (1235064) writes "A story in The Guardian tells us that in an Orwellian move to legislate language, the Chinese government is attempting to stop the use of puns because they are disruptive and may lead to chaos (not the mathematical kind) and as such are unsuitable for use. However, Chinese is rife with puns, with this example quoted in the story: "When couples marry, people will give them dates and peanuts – a reference to the wish Zaosheng guizi or 'May you soon give birth to a son.' The word for dates is also zao and peanuts are huasheng." The powerful date and peanut lobbies are up in arms, claiming that such a ban will cost them more than peanuts. Their claim? "If you outlaw puns. Only criminals will have puns."
DRM

Apple DRM Lawsuit Might Be Dismissed: Plaintiffs Didn't Own Affected iPods 141

Posted by timothy
from the none-of-your-business dept.
UnknowingFool writes The lawsuit involving Apple and iTunes DRM may be thrown out because the plaintiffs did not own the iPods for which they are suing. The lawsuit covers iPods for the time period between September of 2006 and March of 2009. When Apple checked the serial numbers of the iPods of the plaintiffs, it appears they were not manufactured during this time. One plaintiff did purchase an iPod in 2005 and in 2010 and has withdrawn from the suit. The second plaintiff's iPod was manufactured in July 2009 but claims purchasing another iPod in 2008. Since the two plaintiffs were the only ones in the suit, the case may be dismissed for lack of standing.

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