New submitter FreaKBeaNie writes "Earlier this month, the FTC issued 9 orders to data brokerage companies to learn more about their privacy practices. Data brokers are skilled at connecting quasi-private data with publicly available data, like voter rolls, housing sales, and now gun ownership records. Unlike merchants or business partners, these data brokers may or may not have had any interaction with the 'subjects' of their data collection."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Lasrick writes "Alex Knapp has an excellent article pointing out that NOAA satellites enabled NOAA to predict the 'left hook' of Hurricane Sandy into the Eastern Seaboard, which in turn enabled local governments to prepare. Those satellites are at risk and there will be a gap of about a year between 2017 and 2018, when the old ones fail and the new ones are scheduled to launch. There's no alternative to getting that data, and the so-called 'fiscal cliff' will drive an 8% cut to NOAA's satellite program, so that those replacement satellites may go up even later than 2018."
An anonymous reader writes "Prenda Law — one of the most notorious copyright trolls — has sued hundreds of thousands of John Doe defendants, often receiving settlements of thousands of dollars from each. Prenda Law principal John Steele has reportedly made a few million dollars suing BitTorrent file-sharers. Prenda Law has been accused in federal court of creating sham offshore corporations using the identity of his gardener. In other words, it is alleged that the law firm and their client are the same entity, and that Prenda law has committed identity theft and fraud. Now, a judge in California has granted a John Doe defendant's motion to further explore the connection between the offshore entity and the law firm."
Dupple writes "According to the Dow Jones News Wires, LG has filed an injunction in its home territory of South Korea, seeking to ban the sale of the Galaxy Note 10.1, alleging the panels inside the tablet infringe LG patents. The injunction follows a lawsuit filed by Samsung on 7 December, which alleged that LG infringed seven of Samsung's liquid crystal display patents. LG, which filed the injunction with the Seoul District Court on Wednesday, is aiming to block the sales of the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet computer."
The Washington Post reports on a development that may push Internet access on commercial aircraft from a pleasant luxury (but missing on most U.S. domestic flights) to commonplace. Writes the Post: "The Federal Communications Commission on Friday approved an application process for airlines to obtain broadband Internet licenses aboard their planes. Previously, airlines were granted permission on an ad hoc basis. Airlines need the FCC’s permission to tap into satellite airwaves while in flight that enable passengers to access the Internet. They also need permission from the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees the safety of inflight Internet systems." I hope that on-board Internet not only becomes the default, but that free advertising-backed access does, too; especially for short flights, the "24-hour pass" paid access I've seen on United and Delta is tempting, but too pricey.
In January of this year, we posted news of a major pollution site in Texas that was the subject of some anonymous amateur sleuths with drones, who used their UAVs to document the release of a "river of blood" (pig blood, that is) into the Trinity River as it flows through Dallas. Now, garymortimer writes, that documentation has resulted in legal action in the form of an indictment from a Dallas grand jury. "The story went viral and continues to receive hits nearly a year later. I believe this is the first environmental crime to be prosecuted on the basis of UA evidence. Authorities had to act because of the attention the story was receiving."
An anonymous reader writes "Michigan joins Maryland as a state where employers may not ask employees or job applicants to divulge login information for Facebook and other social media sites. From the article: 'Under the law, employers cannot discipline employees or decline to hire job applicants because they do not give them access information, including user names, passwords, login information, or "other security information that protects access to a personal internet account," according to the bill. Universities and schools cannot discipline or fail to admit students if they do not give similar information.' There is one exception, however: 'However, accounts owned by a company or educational institution, such as e-mail, can be requested.'"
theodp writes "Facebook is unlikely to make many new (non-investor) friends with reports that it paid Irish taxes of about $4.64 million on its entire non-U.S. profits of $1.344 billion for 2011. 'Facebook operates a second subsidiary that is incorporated in Ireland but controlled in the Cayman Islands,' Kenneth Thomas explains. 'This subsidiary owns Facebook Ireland, but the setup allows the two companies to be considered as one for U.S. tax purposes, but separate for Irish tax purposes. The Caymans-operated subsidiary owns the rights to use Facebook's intellectual property outside the U.S., for which Facebook Ireland pays hefty royalties to use. This lets Facebook Ireland transfer the profits from low-tax Ireland to no-tax Cayman Islands.' In 2008, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg cited 'local world-class talent' as the motivation behind Facebook's choice of tax-haven Dublin for its international HQ. Similar tax moves by Google, Microsoft, and others who have sought the luck-of-the-Double-Irish present quite a dilemma for tax revenue-seeking governments. Invoking Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous common sense definition of ethics ('Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do') is unlikely to sway corporations whose top execs send the message that tax avoidance is the right thing to do and something to be proud of."
New submitter electron sponge writes "On Friday morning, the Senate renewed the FISA Amendments Act (PDF), which allows for warrantless electronic eavesdropping, for an additional five years. The act, which was originally passed by Congress in 2008, allows law enforcement agencies to access private communications as long as one participant in the communications could reasonably be believed to be outside the United States. This law has been the subject of a federal lawsuit, and was argued before the Supreme Court recently. 'The legislation does not require the government to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application. The court’s rulings are not public.'" The EFF points out that the Senate was finally forced to debate the bill, but the proposed amendments that would have improved it were rejected.
New submitter titanium93 writes "For months, dozens of people could not use their keyless entry systems to unlock or start their cars when parked in the vicinity of the eight-story Regents bank building in Hollywood, FL. Once the cars were towed to the dealership for repair, the problem went away. The problem resolved itself when police found equipment on the bank's roof that was broadcasting a bootleg radio station. A detective and an FCC agent found the equipment hidden underneath an air conditioning chiller. The man who set up the station has not been found, but he faces felony charges and fines of at least $10,000 if he is caught. The radio station was broadcasting Caribbean music around the clock on 104.7 FM."
The NY Times reports China has once again stepped up its efforts to control the internet, passing a new set of rules by which internet users and ISPs must abide. In addition to requiring that users provide their real names to internet providers, the government says those providers are now more responsible for deleting or blocking posts that aren't agreeable to the Chinese authorities. Quoting: "The new regulations, issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, allow Internet users to continue to adopt pseudonyms for their online postings, but only if they first provide their real names to service providers, a measure that could chill some of the vibrant discourse on the country’s Twitter-like microblogs. The authorities periodically detain and even jail Internet users for politically sensitive comments, such as calls for a multiparty democracy or allegations of impropriety by local officials. In recent weeks, Internet users in China have exposed a series of sexual and financial scandals that have led to the resignations or dismissals of at least 10 local officials. International news media have also published a series of reports in recent months on the accumulation of wealth by the family members of China’s leaders, and some Web sites carrying such reports ... have been assiduously blocked, while Internet comments about them have been swiftly deleted. The regulations issued Friday build on a series of similar administrative guidelines and municipal rules issued over the past year. China’s mostly private Internet service providers have been slow to comply with them, fearing the reactions of their customers. The Standing Committee’s decision has much greater legal force, and puts far more pressure on Chinese Internet providers to comply more quickly and more comprehensively, Internet specialists said."
It looks like the long and winding road of the John McAfee saga is going to continue for at least a little longer. McAfee posted a detailed blog post about how he was able to elude Belizean authorities and sneak out of the country. From the article: "'It's visually interesting and it is mostly a happy story — in line with most Christmas stories,' he wrote. The former software executive describes an operation that was heavy in advance planning and trickery. He says he planted a lookalike ('my double — a man I have known for over 30 years and who years ago legally changed his name to John McAfee') and had him picked up by authorities in the northern Belize-Mexico border, while he and a group of friends and reporters loaded up a truck and headed in the opposite direction, to a southern town called Punta Gorda. With the news that he'd been arrested broadcasting on a local news station, McAfee figured that checkpoint security would relax."
An anonymous reader writes "The wireless patent wars don't pause at Christmas time, keeping numerous IP lawyers (and a certain litigation watcher) busy even at this time of year. No one seriously expected Samsung to turn the other cheek when Ericsson sued it and requested a U.S. import ban against a host of Galaxy devices. The Korean electronics giant, which is increasingly competing with Ericsson in the telecoms infrastructure market, just filed an ITC complaint of its own. The title of the complaint is Certain Wireless Communication Equipment and Articles Therein. That description would apply to dozens, no: hundreds, of patent lawsuits in the world. The complaint has not been published yet, but it would be out of character for Samsung not to assert some of its patents on wireless industry standards (and maybe some others, too)." (Also at the BBC.)
Dupple writes with news carried by the BBC of a gigantic tech-patent case that (seemingly for once) doesn't involve Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, or Google: "'U.S. chipmaker Marvell Technology faces having to pay one of the biggest ever patent damage awards. A jury in Pittsburgh found the firm guilty of infringing two hard disk innovations owned by local university Carnegie Mellon.' Though the company claims that the CMU patents weren't valid because the university hadn't invented anything new, saying a Seagate patent of 14 months earlier described everything that the CMU patents do, the jury found that Marvell's chips infringed claim 4 of Patent No. 6,201,839 and claim 2 of Patent No. 6,438,180. "method and apparatus for correlation-sensitive adaptive sequence detection" and "soft and hard sequence detection in ISI memory channels.' 'It said Marvell should pay $1.17bn (£723m) in compensation — however that sum could be multiplied up to three times by the judge because the jury had also said the act had been "wilful." Marvell's shares fell more than 10%.'"