judgecorp writes "The European Commission has proposals for data privacy (including the 'right to be forgotten') and the U.S. government is opposing them. Now U.S. activists have arrived in Brussels to lobby against their government's opposition to the European measures. The move comes following reports of 'extreme' lobbying by U.S. authorities against the European proposals." Although the "right to be forgotten" raises some free speech issues, it doesn't seem like a bad idea in principle.
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An anonymous reader writes "Reports are coming in that the social coding site GitHub has been blocked in China. While the service has seen blocks in the country before, this appears to be a much broader denial of service, affecting most, if not all users in the world's most populous country online and offline. GitHub released a statement saying: 'GitHub is still investigating, but it does appear that we’re at least being partly blocked by the Great Firewall of China. We’re looking into it, and will update with more information when we have it.'"
judgecorp writes "A UK government contract has confirmed earlier reports that British citizens will have the option to use PayPal to accredit themselves for public services such as the new Universal Credit benefit system. Using PayPal might be a public relations goof, as PayPal's parent eBay is notoriously clever at avoiding UK taxes, recently paying only £1.2 million on profit of £789 million (around 0.15 percent)."
First time accepted submitter norpy writes "The Australian branch of the pirate party has today announced that their registration as a political party has been successful. According to the announcement the party will now turn its attention to selection of candidates and development of policies for the upcoming federal election. 'Organising and validating a membership database to then submit to the AEC for the purposes of registration is a daunting task. Fortunately, we had a team of volunteers who were prepared to spend many weekends ensuring that the list we sent to the AEC was entirely valid, and I thank them for their effort,' said Brendan Molloy, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia."
elashish14 writes "A new survey commissioned by Google suggests that music listeners who utilize P2P filesharing services buy 30% more music than non-sharers. The survey also probed users' opinions on enforcement practices. Users were strongly against either throttling or disconnecting users' internet services, but the majority suggested also that search engines should block access. 52% of Americans also said that downloading infringing content should be a punishable offense."
An anonymous reader writes "On Friday, The Journal News caved under pressure of gun advocates and shut down the interactive maps which contained the names and addresses of licensed gun owners in upstate New York. The maps are still visible on the site, however they are simply static images. The Journal News published the interactive maps on December 23 which caused significant backlash. In a similar move, Gawker published the names of licensed gun owners in New York City without addresses. New York state Senator Greg Ball (Republican) called the removal of the data a 'huge win.' On Saturday, an anonymous user leaked the raw data used to build The Journal News maps."
An anonymous reader writes "An article in the NY Times makes the case that Graph Search, Facebook's recently unveiled social search utility, will be a test for users of the social networking site which will have consequences for the internet at large. The test will show whether people are willing to take the next step in sharing parts of their lives, and whether social search is the future for online interaction. '...the company engineers who created the tool — former Google employees — say that the project will not reach its full potential if Facebook data is "sparse," as they call it. But the company is confident people will share more data, be it the movies they watch, the dentists they trust or the meals that make their mouths water.' CompSci professor Oren Etzioni says it's a watershed moment for the social internet because of the scale at which Facebook operates. A decade ago, people began making the choice to share their lives online; buying into social search would be the biggest step since then. A related post by the Electronic Frontier Foundation can be summed up with this single line: 'If you walk down a crowded public street, you are probably seen by dozens of people—but it would still feel creepy for anyone to be able to look up a list of every road you've walked down.'"
theodp writes "If Aaron Swartz downloaded JSTOR documents without paying for them, it would presumably be considered a crime by the USDOJ. But if U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz or U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did the same? Rather than a crime, it would be considered their entitlement, a perk of an elite education that's paid for by their alma maters. Ironically and sadly, that's the kind of inequity Aaron railed against with the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, a document the DOJ cited as evidence (pdf) that Swartz was a menace to society. On Thursday, Ortiz insisted Swartz — who she now characterizes as 'mentally ill' — received fair and reasonable treatment from the DOJ. But that wasn't good enough for Senator John Cornyn, who on Friday asked Eric Holder to explain the DOJ prosecution of Aaron Swartz." Federal prosecutors have come under heavy criticism for their handling of the Swartz case. Legal scholar Orin Kerr provides counterpoint with two detailed, well-reasoned posts about the case. Kerr says that, as the law stands, the charges against Swartz were "pretty much legit," and that the law itself should be the target of the internet community's angst, rather than the prosecutors. "...blame the system and aim to reform the system; don’t think that this was just two or three prosecutors that were doing something unusual. It wasn’t." James Boyle, co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, disagrees with Kerr (partly), arguing that Swartz's renown is simply drawing people together to collectively shine a light on poor legislation and poor prosecutorial practices.
dstates writes "The Department of Health and Human Services has released newly revised rules for the Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ensure patient access to electronic copies of their electronic medical records. Several years ago, there was a great deal of excitement about personalized health information management (e.g. Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health). Unfortunately, patients found it difficult to obtain their medical records from providers in formats that could easily be imported. Personalized health records were time consuming and difficult to maintain, so these initiatives have not lived up to their expectations (e.g. Google Health has been discontinued). The new rules should address this directly and hopefully will revitalize interest in personal health information management. The new HIPAA rules also greatly strengthen patient privacy, the ability of patients to control who sees their medical information, and increases the penalties for leaking medical records information. 'Much has changed in health care since HIPAA was enacted over fifteen years ago,' said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 'The new rule will help protect patient privacy and safeguard patients' health information in an ever expanding digital age.'"
New submitter SkinnyFatSmoothNeck writes "I'll be taking a long train ride in the coming month and I'm looking for ideas and recommendations on anti-theft devices to be used for carry-on luggage. The obvious precautions are always taken: never letting the bag out my sight, wrapping the bag strap around my leg while stowed and so on. But as this is a long ride, there will be a couple of nights involved. The first thing that came to my mind is a two-part device that triggers based on a specified proximity and is controlled from a remote (ie.: the device would be placed inside the bag and trigger a loud alarm if it strays outside of range). Perhaps a more advanced, albeit more expensive, device could also include GPS tracking. But beyond that, what other creative, ingenious or downright sensible solutions do you have to offer?"
An anonymous reader writes "Google on Friday announced yet another security improvement for Chrome 25. In addition to killing silent extension installation, the omnibox in Google's browser will send all searches over a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection. Chrome already does this for users who are signed in to Google: when they search from the address bar, their queries are sent over HTTPS. As of Chrome 25, however, the same will happen for users who aren't signed in to Google."
An anonymous reader writes "The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) has put a stop to the publication and sale of all books in its archives that support the theory of evolution, daily Radikal has reported. The books have long been listed as “out of stock” on TÜBTAK's website, but their further publication is now slated to be stopped permanently. Titles by Richard Dawkins, Alan Moorehead, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levontin and James Watson are all included in the list of books that will no longer be available to Turkish readers. In early 2009, a huge uproar occurred when the cover story of a publication by TÜBITAK was pulled, reportedly because it focused on Darwin’s theory of evolution."
An anonymous reader writes "You don't necessarily have to a hacker to be viewed as one under federal law. ProPublica breaks down acts of 'hacktivism' to see what is considered criminal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It points out that both Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning were charged under the CFAA. Quoting: 'A DDoS attack can be charged as a crime under the CFAA, as it “causes damage” and can violate a web site’s terms of service. The owner of the site could also file a civil suit citing the CFAA, if they can prove a temporary server overload resulted in monetary losses. ... The charges for doxing depend on how the information was accessed, and the nature of published information. Simply publishing publicly available information, such as phone numbers found in a Google search, would probably not be charged under the CFAA. But hacking into private computers, or even spreading the information from a hack, could lead to charges under the CFAA.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Dozens of volunteers who anonymously donated their genomic data to a public database for medical research have been identified by a team led by Yaniv Erlich, a former computer security researcher turned geneticist. Erlich's team matched Y chromosomal markers in genomes compiled by the 1000 Genomes Project with non-anonymous genomic databases, for example some assembled from contributions by family tree enthusiasts (abstract). After finding a match on a presumed relative of the study participant, the researchers pieced together the relative's family tree through search engines and the like, until they were able to identify the participant based on gender, age, place of birth, and other supposedly 'non-identifying' information associated with the genome. The names of the identified participants have not been released."
patiwat writes "A Thai court has convicted a man for censoring himself. In a 2010 anti-government rally, Yossawarit Chuklom said several people were against the dissolution of Abhisit Vejjajiva's government. He mentioned a few names, and then put his hand over his mouth and said he wasn't brave enough to continue. A court ruled that he would have mentioned King Bhumibol Adulyadej — thus earning him a conviction for insulting the King, who is constitutionally banned from any political role."
ananyo writes "Mathematicians plan to launch a series of free open-access journals that will host their peer-reviewed articles on the preprint server arXiv. The project was publicly revealed in a blog post by Tim Gowers, a Fields Medal winner and mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK. The initiative, called the Episciences Project, hopes to show that researchers can organize the peer review and publication of their work at minimal cost, without involving commercial publishers. 'It’s a global vision of how the research community should work: we want to offer an alternative to traditional mathematics journals,' says Jean-Pierre Demailly, a mathematician at the University of Grenoble, France, who is a leader in the effort. Backed by funding from the French government, the initiative may launch as early as April, he says."
McGruber writes "The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has ended a contract with Rapiscan, a unit of OSI Systems Inc., manufacturer of about half of all of the controversial full-body scanners used on air passengers. TSA officials claim that Rapiscan failed to deliver software that would protect the privacy of passengers, but the contract termination happened immediately after the TSA finally got around to studying the health effects of the scanners, and Congress had a hearing on TSA's 'Scanner Shuffle'."
Freddybear writes "Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren proposes a change to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) which would remove the felony criminal penalty for violating the terms of service of a website and return it to the realm of contract law where it belongs. This would eliminate the potential for prosecutors to abuse the CFAA in pursuit of criminal convictions for simple violations of a website's terms of service."
Qedward writes with this except from Computerworld UK: "Germany should change a law to enable public administrations to make their software available as free and open source, a German parliamentary committee has advised. German public administrations currently are not allowed to give away goods, including software, said Jimmy Schulz, a member of Parliament and chairman of the Interoperability, Standards and Free Software Project Group. The current law prohibits governments from being part of the development process in the free software community, he said. 'This is a clear disadvantage because it cuts off all benefits obtained from free software, such as being cost-efficient and state-of-the-art,' he said. Besides a recommendation that the government should explore whether the law can be changed for software, the group also called for the use of open standards in order to make sure that everybody can have access to important information, Schulz said. 'We also called for public administrations in general to make sure that new software is created as platform independent as possible,' he added. While the project group is not in favour of giving priority to one type of software over another, it said in its recommendation to the Parliament earlier this week that free and open source software could be a viable alternative to proprietary software." I think a fair rule is that, barring extraordinary and demonstrated need, all tax dollars for software should go only for the development of software for which source is available gratis to all taxpayers, and that secret-source software makers are free to change to fit this requirement any time they'd like to have their software considered for a bid.
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes with some strong cautions on a Facebook "feature" that lets you search for random phone numbers and find the accounts of users who have registered that number on their Facebook profile. This has privacy implications that are more serious than searching by email address. Especially in light of the expanding emphasis that Facebook is putting both on search qua search and on serving as a VoIP intermediary (not to mention the stream of robocalls that the FCC is unable to stop), this might make you think twice about where your phone number ends up. Read on for Bennett's description of the problem and some possible solutions.