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."
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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%.'"
ebh writes "Noted in an AP story about how fees make it difficult to compare air travel costs, is how the airline industry is moving toward tailoring offer packages (and presumably, fares) for individuals based on their personal information. Worse, 'The airline association said consumers who choose not to supply personal information would still be able to see fares and purchase tickets, though consumer advocates said those fares would probably be at the "rack rate" — the travel industry's term for full price, before any discounts.'"
cstacy writes "Tatu Yionen, inventor of SSH, says he feels 'a moral responsibility' to come out of retirement and warn that a 'little-noticed problem' could jeopardize the security of much of the world's confidential data. He is referring to the management (or lack thereof) of SSH keys (i.e. 'authorized_keys') files. He suggests that most organizations simply allow the SSH key files to be created, copied, accumulated, and abandoned, all over their network, making easy pickings for intruders to gain access. Do you think this is a widespread problem? How does your company manage SSH keys?" cstacy's summary here is accurate, but as charlesTheLurker notes, the article is a bit over the top: "The Washington Times claims that there's a huge vulnerability in ssh. It turns out that some reporter there has discovered that you can do passwordless login with the software, and has spun this into a story of a dangerous vulnerability. Sigh."
As part of their 2012 in review series, the EFF takes a look at how blasphemy laws have chilled online speech this year. A "dishonorable mention" goes to YouTube this year: "A dishonorable mention goes to YouTube, which blocked access to the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video in Egypt and Libya without government prompting. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, a group based in Egypt, condemned YouTube's decision."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation recaps two court cases pending in the U.S. which will decide whether you're allowed to re-sell the things you purchase. The first case deals with items bought in other countries for resale in the U.S., such as textbooks. An unfavorable decision there would mean "anything that is made in a foreign country and contains copies of copyrighted material – from the textbooks at issue in the Kirtsaeng case to shampoo bottles with copyrighted labels – could be blocked from resale, lending, or gifting without the permission of the copyright owner. That would create a nightmare for consumers and businesses, upending used goods markets and undermining what it really means to 'buy' and 'own' physical goods. The ruling also creates a perverse incentive for U.S. businesses to move their manufacturing operations abroad. It is difficult for us to imagine this is the outcome Congress intended." The second case is about whether music purchased on services like iTunes can be resold to other people. "Not only does big content deny that first sale doctrine applies to digital goods, but they are also trying to undermine the first sale rights we do have by forcing users to license items they would rather buy. The copyright industry wants you to "license" all your music, your movies, your games — and lose your rights to sell them or modify them as you see fit."
New submitter Isaac-1 writes "First it was the sex offenders being mapped using public records, now it seems to be gun owners — I wonder who will be next? It seems a newspaper in New York has published an interactive map with the names and addresses of people with [handguns]." It's happened before: In 2007, Virginia's Roanoke Times raised the ire of many gun owners by publishing a database of Virginia's gun permit holders that it assembled based on public records inquiries. (The paper later withdrew that database.) Similarly, WRAL-TV in North Carolina published a database earlier this year with searchable map of (partially redacted) information about permit holders in that state, and Philadelphia made the news for a similar disclosure — complete with interactive map and addresses — of hundreds of gun permit applicants and holders.
New submitter Alex Belits writes "Users of the Instagram image sharing service owned by Facebook filed a class action against Facebook for the recent change in Terms of Service." The changes that were supposed to take effect on January 16, 2013 declared for Facebook an unlimited right to use and license users' photos, added an arbitration requirement for legal disputes, and more. Guess the lawyers involved here weren't impressed enough by Facebook's hasty back-pedaling on this front; the company did explicitly disclaim ownership interest in the uploaded photos after a wave of complaints, but left in place certain other clauses in the new terms.
Dupple writes with news of another tech patent thrown out for obviousness. From the article: "On Friday, the High Court of London issued a ruling that said that one of Motorola's patents covering technology to synchronize messages across several devices should be invalidated. Originally, the patent covered the synching of messages across multiple pagers, but recently Motorola has used the patent in lawsuits against Apple and Microsoft for using similar message-syncing services in iCloud and on the Xbox, respectively. The presiding Judge Richard Arnold declared Motorola's patent invalid and said it should be revoked because the patent (which has a priority date from 1995, but was issued in 2002) contained technology that 'was obvious to experts in the field at the time.'"
alphadogg writes "As a new session of Congress convenes in early 2013, don't expect lawmakers to rush out a new version of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or the Protect IP Act (PIPA). While some groups representing copyright holders still want to see stronger online enforcement, U.S. lawmakers don't seem to have the collective will to reintroduce similar bills and potentially face another massive online protest. In January 2012, more than 10 million Web users signed petitions, 8 million attempted calls to Congress and 4 million sent email messages, and more than 100,000 websites went dark in protest as the Senate scheduled a vote on PIPA. Lawmakers supporting the two bills baled out in droves, Senate leaders cancelled the PIPA vote, and SOPA's sponsor in the House of Representatives withdrew his legislation. 'That was an avalanche they've never seen,' said Ed Black, head of the Computer and Communications Industry Association. 'They're going to tiptoe in this area very carefully.'"
New submitter wilbrod writes "A Quebec special effects artist charged with corrupting morals has been found not guilty in a case that tested the boundaries of creative expression and Canadian obscenity laws. He was charged with three counts of corrupting morals by distributing, possessing and producing obscene material. During the trial, Couture argued his gory works, roughly a thousand images and two short videos that appeared on Couture's website, Inner Depravity, should be considered art. The material in question depicts gruesome murders, torture, sexual abuse, assaults and necrophilia — all with young female victims."
theodp writes "'It can be tough to stay connected over long distances,' writes GeekWire's Todd Bishop. 'Yes, there's phone calls, texting, Facebook, Twitter, IM, video chatting and everything else. But what if you could give virtual hugs to each other using battery-powered, Internet-enabled pillows?' That — and more — is covered by Microsoft's newly-awarded patent on Force-Feedback Within Telepresence, the idea of using interactive, connected devices to bring physical interactions to long-distance communications. Readers of Ted Nelson's 1975 Computer Lib/Dream Machines can only imagine the interesting possibilities for Skype!"
The NSA was originally supposed to handle foreign intelligence, and leave the domestic spying to other agencies, but Presto Vivace writes with this bit from CNET: "'The National Security Agency's Perfect Citizen program hunts for vulnerabilities in 'large-scale' utilities, including power grid and gas pipeline controllers, new documents from EPIC show.' 'Perfect Citizen?' Who thinks up these names?" "The program is scheduled to continue through at least September 2014," says the article.