itwbennett writes "Score 1 for online privacy. The Federal Trade Commission and online ad firm Epic Marketplace have reached a settlement that will bar Epic from using browser history sniffing technology. According to the news report, 'The history sniffing allowed Epic to determine whether a consumer had visited more than 54,000 domains, including pages relating to fertility issues, impotence, menopause, incontinence, disability insurance, credit repair, debt relief, and personal bankruptcy. Epic used the tracking to send targeted ads related to several health issues, the FTC said.'"
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jrepin points out a discussion with Richard Stallman in which he talks about how the Free Software movement is faring in light of companies that have been successful in the long term with very different principles, like Microsoft and Apple. Stallman had this to say: "I would say the free software movement has gone about half the distance it has to travel. We managed to make a mass community but we still have a long way to go to liberate computer users. Those companies are very powerful. They are cleverly finding new ways to take control over users. ... The most widely used non-free programs have malicious features – and I’m talking about specific, known malicious features. ... There are three kinds: those that spy on the user, those that restrict the user, and back doors. Windows has all three. Microsoft can install software changes without asking permission. Flash Player has malicious features, as do most mobile phones. Digital handcuffs are the most common malicious features. They restrict what you can do with the data in your own computer. Apple certainly has the digital handcuffs that are the tightest in history. The i-things, well, people found two spy features and Apple says it removed them and there might be more. When people don’t know about this issue they choose based on immediate convenience and nothing else. And therefore they can be herded into giving up their freedom by a combination of convenient features, pressure from institutions and the network effect."
concealment writes "The report evaluates the challenge of curbing online radicalization from the perspective of supply and demand. It concludes that efforts to shut down websites that could serve as incubators for would-be terrorists — going after the supply — will ultimately be self-defeating, and that 'filtering of Internet content is impractical in a free and open society.' 'Approaches aimed at restricting freedom of speech and removing content from the Internet are not only the least desirable strategies, they are also the least effective,' writes Peter Neumann, founding director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College London and the author of the report."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt opened up to The Wall Street Journal in a Dec. 4 interview. Among the topics covered: the status of his company's ongoing patent war with Apple, as well as its attempts to make the Android mobile operating system more of a revenue giant. In Schmidt's mind, startups have the most to lose in the current patent wars: 'There's a young [Android co-founder] Andy Rubin trying to form a new version of Danger [the smartphone company Mr. Rubin co-founded before Android]. How is he or she going to be able to get the patent coverage necessary to offer version one of their product? That's the real consequence of this.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The Pirate Party of New Zealand has issued a strongly-worded (yet satirical) press release, decrying a recently-launched pro Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) website, stating, among other things: 'The use of a masted sailing ship is the most glaring example of the satirical nature of this website and one of our main grounds for offence. The Pirate Ship and all its related depictions are clearly intellectual property of the Pirate Party or at least if not the Party then The Pirate Bay which the Party shares a mutual affinity with for a free and open Internet. In these heady days of lawsuits over patents for rounded corners we can not stand by on the decks of the Internet and allow these cannon shots to go unanswered!'"
MojoKid writes with news of the latest and greatest idea brought to you by a marketing department. From the article: "It's a patent that sounds like a plot description for a science-fiction movie or the result of Apple's Siri and Google's AdSense mating. With it, Verizon could program its set-top boxes to survey a room to determine relevant ads to display either on your television or mobile phone. Sound a bit scary? It kind of is. Verizon's new technology can work a variety of ways. For starters, it can listen in on conversations — whether it be with someone else in the room or on the phone — and pick out keywords that would aid it in its duties. In reality, it's simple stuff in this day and age, but that doesn't make it any less off-putting. Imagine arguing with your significant other and then seeing marriage counseling ads on the TV — or better, cuddling and then seeing ads for contraceptives."
An anonymous reader writes "U.S. law enforcement and intelligence services can use the PATRIOT Act/FISA to 'obtain' EU-stored data for snooping, mining and analysis, despite strong EU data and privacy laws, according to a recent research paper. One of the paper's authors, Axel Arnbak, said, 'Most cloud providers, and certainly the market leaders, fall within the U.S. jurisdiction either because they are U.S. companies or conduct systematic business in the U.S. In particular, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments (FISA) Act makes it easy for U.S. authorities to circumvent local government institutions and mandate direct and easy access to cloud data belonging to non-Americans living outside the U.S., with little or no transparency obligations for such practices -- not even the number of actual requests.' Arnback added, 'These laws, including the Patriot Act, apply as soon as a cloud service conducts systematic business in the United States. It's a widely held misconception that data actually has to be stored on servers physically located in the U.S.'"
angry tapir writes "Hewlett-Packard has filed a complaint against display manufacturers Chunghwa Picture Tubes and Tatung Company of America, seeking to recover damages it claims it suffered as a result of their involvement in a price fixing scheme. In November 2008, Chunghwa pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy together with other display manufacturers, including LG Display and Sharp, to set the prices of Thin-Film Transistor-Liquid Crystal Display (TFT-LCD) panels to predetermined levels. The company agreed to pay a US$65 million criminal fine at the time. A jury found AU Optronics, another display manufacturer, guilty of participating in the same conspiracy and was fined US$500 million in September by a judge of the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California. In October last year, 10 LCD makers, including Chunghwa Picture Tubes, were fined $176 million in South Korea for allegedly holding secret meetings to keep the prices for flat screen displays artificially high."
dsinc sends this quote from Techdirt about the International Telecommunications Union's ongoing conference in Dubai that will have an effect on the internet everywhere: "One of the concerns is that decisions taken there may make the Internet less a medium that can be used to enhance personal freedom than a tool for state surveillance and oppression. The new Y.2770 standard is entitled 'Requirements for deep packet inspection in Next Generation Networks', and seeks to define an international standard for deep packet inspection (DPI). As the Center for Democracy & Technology points out, it is thoroughgoing in its desire to specify technologies that can be used to spy on people. One of the big issues surrounding WCIT and the ITU has been the lack of transparency — or even understanding what real transparency might be. So it will comes as no surprise that the new DPI standard was negotiated behind closed doors, with no drafts being made available."
An anonymous reader writes "Several large movie studios have asked Google to take down legitimate pages related to their own films, including sites legally hosting, promoting, or discussing them. Victims of the takedown requests include sites where the content is hosted legally (Amazon, CBS, iTunes, Blockbuster, Verizon on demand, and Xfinity), newspapers discussing the content in question (the BBC, CNET, Forbes, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, and Wired) as well as official Facebook Pages for the movies and TV shows and even their Wikipedia entries. There are also a number of legitimate links that appear to be completely unrelated to the content that is supposedly being protected. The good news is that Google has so far left many of the links up."
Dainsanefh tips a CNET report about a number of law enforcement groups who have put forth a proposal to the U.S. Senate to require wireless providers to keep logs of subscriber text messages for a minimum of two years. "As the popularity of text messages has exploded in recent years, so has their use in criminal investigations and civil lawsuits. They have been introduced as evidence in armed robbery, cocaine distribution, and wire fraud prosecutions. In one 2009 case in Michigan, wireless provider SkyTel turned over the contents of 626,638 SMS messages, a figure described by a federal judge as 'staggering.' Chuck DeWitt, a spokesman for the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, which represents the 63 largest U.S. police forces including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, said 'all such records should be retained for two years.' Some providers, like Verizon, retain the contents of SMS messages for a brief period of time, while others like T-Mobile do not store them at all. Along with the police association, other law enforcement groups making the request to the Senate include the National District Attorneys' Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, and the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, DeWitt said."
MrSeb writes "In its continuing mission to build a 'Wiki Weapon,' Defense Distributed has 3D printed the lower receiver of an AR-15 and tested it to failure. The printed part only survives the firing of six shots, but for a first attempt that's quite impressive. And hey, it's a plastic gun. Slashdot first covered 3D-printed guns back in July. The Defense Distributed group sprung up soon after, with the purpose of creating an open-source gun — a Wiki Weapon — that can be downloaded from the internet and printed out. The Defense Distributed manifesto mainly quotes a bunch of historical figures who supported the right to bear arms. DefDist (its nickname) is seeking a gun manufacturing license from the ATF, but so far the feds haven't responded. Unperturbed, DefDist started down the road by renting an advanced 3D printing machine from Stratasys — but when the company found out what its machine was being used for, it was repossessed. DefDist has now obtained a 3D printer from Objet, which seemingly has a more libertarian mindset. The group then downloaded HaveBlue's original AR-15 lower receiver from Thingiverse, printed it out on the Objet printer using ABS-like Digital Material, screwed it into an AR-57 upper receiver, loaded up some FN 5.7x28mm ammo, and headed to the range. The DefDist team will now make various modifications to HaveBlue's design, such as making it more rugged and improving the trigger guard, and then upload the new design to Thingiverse." Sensible ammo choice; 5.7x28mm produces less recoil than the AR-15's conventional 5.56mm. I wonder how many of the upper's components, too, can one day be readily replaced with home-printable parts — for AR-15 style rifles, the upper assembly is where the gun's barrel lives, while the lower assembly (the part printed and tested here) is the legally controlled part of the firearm.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Facebook is letting users vote on changes to its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (Facebook users can vote via this link). The company will also host a live Webcast to answer questions at 9:30 AM PST. One section of Facebook's revamped policies insists that the network can share information with its family of companies. This apparently applies to Instagram, the photo-sharing service acquired by Facebook earlier this year. Under the terms of the provision, Facebook can store 'Instagram's server logs and administrative records in a way that is more efficient than maintaining totally separate storage systems.' Facebook is also clarifying its language surrounding affiliates, as well. As long as Facebook continues to exist in its current form, these debates over its privacy rules will almost certainly continue to crop up on a semi-regular basis. The challenge for Facebook executives is how to best maintain that delicate dance between their need for revenue, advertising firms' desire for effective marketing campaigns, and users' rights to privacy. They run a corporation — but at moments, it also starts to resemble a messy democracy."
sciencehabit writes "Despite long experience with the ways of the world, older people are especially vulnerable to fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission, up to 80% of scam victims are over 65. One explanation may lie in a brain region that serves as a built-in crook detector. Called the anterior insula, this structure — which fires up in response to the face of an unsavory character — is less active in older people, possibly making them less cagey than younger folks, a new study finds."
jfruh writes "A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators are working hard to make it legal for U.S. states to collect sales tax on any sales made to their residents, even if the sellers live elsewhere. They tried to add an amendment making the change to an unrelated defense appropriations bill, but the attempt was defeated. They have vowed to try again."