Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
peetm writes "Twin brothers from England face U.S. civil charges for allegedly defrauding investors out of $1.2m (£745,000) through a bogus stock-picking robot. The twins, Alexander and Thomas Hunter, were just 16 years old when they devised the scam — which fooled around 75,000 people, according to U.S. officials."
theodp writes "A newly surfaced Microsoft patent application, reports GeekWire, describes a 'user-following engine' that analyzes your posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to deduce your mood, interests, and even your smarts. The system would then automatically adjust the search experience and results to better match those characteristics, explains Microsoft, such as changing the background color of the search interface to suit your mood, or bringing back only those search results that won't strain your feeble brain. From the patent application: 'In addition to skewing the search results to the user's inferred interests, the user-following engine may further tailor the search results to a user's comprehension level. For example, an intelligent processing module may be directed to discerning the sophistication and education level of the posts of a user. Based on that inference, the customization engine may vary the sophistication level of the customized search result.'"
suraj.sun writes "Ilya Segalovich, co-founder of Russia's leading search engine, Yandex, has accused Google of abusing its dominance to shut out competitors in cyberspace. Responding to comments made to the Guardian by Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, about threats to the open internet, Ilya Segalovich described the U.S. search giant's popular smartphone platform, Android, as a 'strange combination of openness and not openness,' and its Chrome web browser as anti-competitive. Segalovich said that Brin should explain Google's 'semi-open' approach to search competitors before accusing others of endangering the unfettered internet, and suggested Google was guilty of foul play with its Chrome browser, which picks the company's own search engine as default for users, rather than offering a choice between rivals including Yahoo, Bing and Yandex."
vik writes "As Megaupload's Kim Dotcom's megafarce trial continues, the New Zealand Herald reports that his alleged offense not only falls below the threshold for extradition, but also that the warrant may not be properly served. 'My understanding as to why they haven't done that is because they can't. We don't believe Megaupload can be served in a criminal matter because it is not located within the jurisdiction of the United States,' says Megaupload's lawyer Ira Rothken. Not surprisingly, Kim Dotcom has a few choice words to say about having his business trashed this way, with 220 jobs lost, and millions left without access to their legitimate data."
mspohr writes with this excerpt from Democracy Now!: "National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion 'transactions' — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander's assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens." The parts about National Security Letters in particular are chilling, even though the issue is not new.
sweetpea86 writes with a snippet from this story at TechWorld:"The UK government's proposal to separate communications data from content, as part of new plans to allow intelligence services to monitor all internet activity, is infeasible according to a panel of technology experts. Speaking at the 'Scrambling for Safety' conference in London, Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, said that the distinction between traffic data as being harmless and content as being sensitive is becoming less and less relevant. 'Now that people are living more and more of their lives online, the pattern of who you communicate with and in what order gives away pretty well everything,' he said. 'This means that, in data protection terms, traffic data is now very often going to be specially sensitive data.'"
benfrog writes with a piece that appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about the in-progress legal battle between Oracle and Google over Java: "Ex-Sun and current Google employee Tim Lindholm testified that it was "not what he meant" when asked about the smoking gun email (included here (PDF)) that essentially said that Google needed to get a license for Java because all the alternatives 'suck[ed].' He went on in 'brief but tense testimony' to claim that his day-to-day involvement with Android was limited."
Saint Aardvark writes "It seemed like a pretty simple question about a pretty cool topic: an Ottawa newspaper wanted to ask Canada's National Research Council about a joint study with NASA on tracking falling snow in Canada. Conventional radar can see where it's falling, but not the amount — so NASA, in collaboration with the NRC, Environment Canada and a few universities, arranged flights through falling snow to analyse readings with different instruments. But when they contacted the NRC to get the Canadian angle, "it took a small army of staffers— 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen's request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and "massage" its text." No interview was given: "I am not convinced we need an interview. A few lines are fine. Please let me see them first," says one civil servant in the NRC emails obtained by the newspaper under the Access to Information act. By the time the NRC finally sorted out a boring, technical response, the newspaper had already called up a NASA scientist and got all the info they asked for; it took about 15 minutes."
itwbennett writes "Your browsing behavior may reveal more personal information than you'd tell your own mother. Which is why Tim Berners-Lee is urging technology companies to 'show more restraint' in how they use the information they hoover up. 'We're moving towards a world in which people agree not to use information for particular purposes. It's not whether you can get my information, it's when you've got it, what you promise not to do with it,' said Berners-Lee, speaking out against the U.K.'s proposal to allow government intelligence to monitor digital communications."
suraj.sun sends this excerpt from Deutsche Welle: "YouTube was told by a regional court in Hamburg on Friday not to display seven out of 12 contested clips without permission from the German copyright fee collecting society Gema. Gema claimed that its members were losing money every time their music was being displayed on YouTube. A proper licensing fee between the two sides expired in 2009. The Hamburg State Court ruled YouTube would in future have to install an efficient mechanism to filter out such content uploaded by users or face a fine of up to 250,000 euros ($330,000) for each case, or up to six months imprisonment. Knowing that a foolproof filter system looks next to impossible, Gema is now hoping that Google will finally agree to a new bilateral licensing treaty whereby the collecting society would not get an annual lump sum for the contested videos, but a fixed fee each time copyright-protected videos are watched."
Fluffeh writes "The EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, has been making some interesting comments about privacy, copyright and many aspects of the digital age. Going so far as to quote the Free Software Foundation and Yochai Benkler, she says: 'Openness is also complex because sometimes it's unclear what it means. ... In the Arab Spring, many brave activists successfully used the open Internet to coordinate peaceful protests. In response, despotic governments sought to control or close down Internet access; and also used ICT tools as a tool of surveillance and repression. We cannot allow democratic voices to be silenced in that way. And I am committed to ensuring "No Disconnect" in countries that struggle for democracy. We must help such activists get around arbitrary disruptions to their basic freedoms.'"
MikeatWired writes "In a somewhat startling decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that several employees at an executive recruitment firm did not exceed their authorized access to their company's database when they logged into the system and stole confidential data from it. The appellate court's decision affirms a previous ruling made by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The government must now decide if it wants to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The judge wrote that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, under which they were charged, applies primarily to unauthorized access involving external hackers. The definition of 'exceeds authorized access' under the CFAA applies mainly to people who have no authorized access to the computer at all, the judge wrote. The term would also apply to insiders who might have legitimate access to a system but not to specific information or files on the system Applying the language in the CFAA any other way would turn it into a 'sweeping Internet-policing mandate,' he wrote."
Qedward writes "The European Parliament has approved the controversial data transfer agreement, the bilateral PNR (passenger name register), with the US which requires European airlines to pass on passenger information, including name, contact details, payment data, itinerary, email and phone numbers to the Department of Homeland Security. Under the new agreement, PNR data will be 'depersonalized' after six months and would be moved into a 'dormant database' after five years. However the information would still be held for a further 15 years before being fully 'anonymized.'"
trawg writes "The Australian High Court has just dismissed an appeal by Australian and American media companies against ISP iiNet, in what will hopefully be the final step in an ongoing copyright lawsuit drama. The Court noted that 'iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent system to infringe copyright.' Ultimately, the court has held that iiNet's inactivity to act on infringement notices didn't imply any sort of authorization of that infringement by their customers. Good news for Australians as a clear line has been drawn that will help ensure ISPs don't have to bear the cost of policing their customers."