Geek Stuff

Davos 2015: Less Innovation, More Regulation, More Unrest. Run Away!

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Freshly Exhumed writes: Growing income inequality was one of the top four issues at the 2015 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, ranking alongside European adoption of quantitative easing and geopolitical concerns. Felix Salmon, senior editor at Fusion, said there was a consensus that global inequality is getting worse, fueling overriding pessimism at the gathering. The result, he said, could be that the next big revolution will be in regulation rather than innovation. With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people's mind, the world's super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. "I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway," he said. Looking at studies like NASA's HANDY and by KPMG, the UK Government Office of Science, and others, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, warns that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a "perfect storm" within about fifteen years.

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Why Coding Is Not the New Literacy

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An anonymous reader writes: There has been a furious effort over the past few years to bring the teaching of programming into the core academic curricula. Enthusiasts have been quick to take up the motto: "Coding is the new literacy!" But long-time developer Chris Granger argues that this is not the case: "When we say that coding is the new literacy, we're arguing that wielding a pencil and paper is the old one. Coding, like writing, is a mechanical act. All we've done is upgrade the storage medium. ... Reading and writing gave us external and distributable storage. Coding gives us external and distributable computation. It allows us to offload the thinking we have to do in order to execute some process. To achieve this, it seems like all we need is to show people how to give the computer instructions, but that's teaching people how to put words on the page. We need the equivalent of composition, the skill that allows us to think about how things are computed." He further suggests that if anything, the "new" literacy should be modeling — the ability to create a representation of a system that can be explored or used. "Defining a system or process requires breaking it down into pieces and defining those, which can then be broken down further. It is a process that helps acknowledge and remove ambiguity and it is the most important aspect of teaching people to model. In breaking parts down we can take something overwhelmingly complex and frame it in terms that we understand and actions we know how to do."

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EFF’s Game Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance

EFF's Deeplinks -

We have a problem when it comes to stopping mass surveillance. 

The entity that’s conducting the most extreme and far-reaching surveillance against most of the world’s communications—the National Security Agency—is bound by United States law. 

That’s good news for Americans. U.S. law and the Constitution protect American citizens and legal residents from warrantless surveillance. That means we have a very strong legal case to challenge mass surveillance conducted domestically or that sweeps in Americans’ communications. 

Similarly, the United States Congress is elected by American voters. That means Congressional representatives are beholden to the American people for their jobs, so public pressure from constituents can help influence future laws that might check some of the NSA’s most egregious practices.

But what about everyone else? What about the 96% of the world’s population who are citizens of other countries, living outside U.S. borders. They don't get a vote in Congress. And current American legal protections generally only protect citizens, legal residents, or those physically located within the United States. So what can EFF do to protect the billions of people outside the United States who are victims of the NSA’s spying?

For years, we’ve been working on a strategy to end mass surveillance of digital communications of innocent people worldwide. Today we’re laying out the plan, so you can understand how all the pieces fit together—that is, how U.S. advocacy and policy efforts connect to the international fight and vice versa. Decide for yourself where you can get involved to make the biggest difference.

This plan isn’t for the next two weeks or three months. It’s a multi-year battle that may need to be revised many times as we better understand the tools and authorities of entities engaged in mass surveillance and as more disclosures by whistleblowers help shine light on surveillance abuses.

If you’d like an overview of how U.S. surveillance law works, check out our addendum.

Intro: Mass Surveillance by NSA, GCHQ and Others 

The National Security Agency is working to collect as much as possible about the digital lives of people worldwide. As the Washington Post reported, a former senior U.S. intelligence official characterized former NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander’s approach to surveillance as “Collect it all, tag it, store it… And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

The NSA can’t do this alone. It relies on a network of international partners who help collect information worldwide, especially the intelligence agencies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (collectively known, along with the United States, as the “Five Eyes.”) In addition, the United States has relationships (including various levels of intelligence data sharing and assistance) with Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and potentially a number of other countries worldwide. There are also other countries—like Russia, China, and others—engaging in surveillance of digital communications without sharing that data with the NSA. Some of those governments, including the U.S. government, are spending billions of dollars to develop spying capabilities that they use aggressively against innocent people around the world. Some of them may do so with even less oversight and even fewer legal restrictions.

Although whistleblowers and journalists have focused attention on the staggering powers and ambitions of the likes of the NSA and GCHQ, we should never assume that other governments lack the desire to join them. Agencies everywhere are hungry for our data and working to expand their reach. Read about international surveillance law reform and fighting back through user-side encryption.

We focus here on the NSA because we know the most about its activities and we have the most legal and political tools for holding it to account. Of course, we need to know much more about surveillance practices of other agencies in the U.S. and abroad and expand our work together with our partners around the world to confront surveillance as a worldwide epidemic. 

Mass surveillance is facilitated by technology companies, especially large ones. These companies often have insufficient or even sloppy security practices that make mass surveillance easier, and in some cases may be actively assisting the NSA in sweeping up data on hundreds of millions of people (for example, AT&T). In other cases, tech companies may be legally compelled to provide access to their servers to the NSA (or they may choose to fight that access). Read more about how tech companies can harden their systems against surveillance.

The NSA relies on several laws as well as a presidential order to justify its continued mass surveillance. Laws passed by Congress as well as orders from the U.S. President can curtail surveillance by the NSA, and the Supreme Court of the United States also has authority to put the brakes on surveillance.

The Game Plan

Given that the American legal system doesn’t adequately protect the rights of people overseas, what can we do in the immediate future to protect Internet users who may not be Americans?

Here’s the game plan for right now. Note that these are not consecutive steps; we’re working on them concurrently.

1.  Pressure technology companies to harden their systems against NSA surveillance

To date, there are unanswered questions about the degree to which U.S. technology companies are actively assisting the NSA.

In some cases, we know that tech companies are doing a lot to help the NSA get access to data. AT&T is a clear example of this. Thanks to whistleblower evidence, we know AT&T has a secret room at its Folsom Street facility in San Francisco where a fiber optic splitter creates a copy of the Internet traffic that passes through AT&T’s networks. That splitter routes data directly to the NSA. 

Some companies have taken things a step further and deliberately weakened or sabotaged their own products to "enable" NSA spying. We don't know who's done this or what they've done, but the NSA documents make clear that it's happening. It's the height of betrayal of the public, and it could conceivably be taking place with the help even of some companies that are loudly complaining about government spying.

So what do we know about major tech companies, like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft? Here we have mixed reports. Documents provided by Edward Snowden and published in the Guardian and the Washington Post name nine U.S. companies—Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple—as participants in the NSA’s PRISM program. The documents indicate that the NSA has access to servers at each of these companies, and implies that these companies are complicit in the surveillance of their users.

The companies, in turn, have strongly denied these allegations, and have even formed a lobby group calling on governments to "limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications."

While a start, that’s a far cry from the role companies could be playing. Tech companies also have the ability to harden their systems to make mass surveillance more difficult, and to roll out features that allow users to easily encrypt their communications so that they are so completely secure that even their service providers can’t read them. Perhaps most importantly, technology companies must categorically resist attempts to insert backdoors into their hardware or software.

There's also an important legal issue that can't be ignored. Tech companies are in a unique position to know about surveillance requests that are kept secret from the press and the public. These companies may have the best chance to fight back on behalf of their users in court (as Yahoo has done).

What’s more, tech companies literally spend millions of dollars to lobby for laws in Washington and enjoy incredible access to and influence over U.S. lawmakers. Often, companies spend that money trying to derail potential regulation. Instead, these companies could be heavily prioritizing positive surveillance reform bills.

So how do we get tech companies to start fighting surveillance in court, hardening their systems against surveillance, pushing back against the administration, and lobbying for real reform? We’re focused on transparency—uncovering everything we can about the degree to which big tech companies are actively helping the government—and public pressure. That means highlighting ways that companies are fighting surveillance and calling out companies that fail to stand up for user privacy.   

It’s why we’re proud to support the Reset the Net campaign, designed to get companies big and small to take steps to protect user data. It's also why we're working to make what companies do and don't do in this area more visible. Campaigns like HTTPS Everywhere and our work on email transport encryption, as well as scorecards like Who Has Your Back are designed to poke and prod these companies to do more to protect all their users, and get them to publicly commit to steps that the public can objectively check.

We also need to cultivate a sense of responsibility on the part of all those who are building products to which the public entrusts its most sensitive and private data. The people who create our computing devices, network equipment, software environments, and so on, need to be very clear about their responsibility to the users who have chosen to trust them. They need to refuse to create backdoors and they need to fix any existing backdoors they become aware of. And they need to understand that they themselves, unfortunately, are going to be targets for governments that will try to penetrate, subvert, and coerce the technology world in order to expand their spying capabilities. They have a grave responsibility to users worldwide and we must use public pressure to ensure they live up to that responsibility.

2. Create a global movement that encourages user-side encryption

Getting tech giants to safeguard our digital lives and changing laws and policies might be slow going, but anybody could start using encryption in a matter of minutes. From encrypted chat to encrypted email, from secure web browsing to secure document transfers, encryption is a powerful way to make mass surveillance significantly more difficult.

However, encryption can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a team of engineers to walk you through it the way we do at EFF. With that in mind, we’ve created Surveillance Self Defense, an in-depth resource that explains encryption to folks who may want to safeguard their data but have little or no idea how to do it.

We’ve already translated the materials into Spanish and Arabic, and we’re working on even more translations.

             

We’ll continue to expand these materials and translate them into as many languages as possible, while also doing a public campaign to make sure as many people as possible read them.

Again, the more people worldwide understand the threat and the more they understand how to protect themselves—and just as importantly, what they should expect in the way of support from companies and governments—the more we can agitate for the changes we need online to fend off the dragnet collection of data.

3. Encourage the creation of secure communication tools that are easier to use

Many of the tools that are using security best practices are, frankly, hard to use for everyday people. The ones that are easiest to use often don’t adopt the security practices that make them resilient to surveillance.

We want to see this problem fixed so that people don’t have to trade usability for security. We’re rolling out a multi-stage Campaign for Secure and Usable Crypto, and we kicked it off with a Secure Messaging Scorecard. The Secure Messaging Scorecard is only looking at a few criteria for security, and the next phases of the project will home in on more challenging security and usability objectives.

The goal? Encouraging the development of new technologies that will be secure and easy for everyday people to use, while also pushing bigger companies to adopt security best practices.

4. Reform Executive Order 12333

Most people haven’t even heard of it, but Executive Order 12333 is the primary authority the NSA uses to engage in the surveillance of people outside the U.S. While Congress is considering much-needed reforms to the Patriot Act, there’s been almost no debate about Executive Order 12333.

This executive order was created by a stroke of the pen from President Ronald Reagan in 1981. President Obama could undo the worst parts of this executive order just as easily, by issuing a presidential order banning mass surveillance of people regardless of their nationality.

We’ve already launched the first phase of our campaign to reform Executive Order 12333. 

5. Develop guiding legal principles around surveillance and privacy with the help of scholars and legal experts worldwide

The campaign got started well before the Snowden leaks began. It began with a rigorous policy document called the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which features 13 guiding principles about limiting surveillance. Written by academics and legal experts from across the globe, the principles have now been endorsed by over 417 NGOs and 350,000 individuals worldwide, and have been the basis for a pro-privacy resolution successfully passed by the United Nations.

The 13 Principles, as they're also known, are also meant to work both locally and globally. By giving politicians and activists the context for why mass surveillance is a violation of established international human rights law, they make it clear that legalizing mass surveillance—a path promoted by the Five Eyes countries—is the wrong way forward. The 13 Principles are our way of making sure that the global norm for human rights in the context of communication surveillance isn't the warped viewpoint of NSA and its four closest allies, but that of 50 years of human rights standards showing mass surveillance to be unnecessary and disproportionate.

6. Cultivate partners worldwide who can champion surveillance reform on the local level, and offer them support and promotion

Katitza Rodriguez, EFF’s International Rights Director, is rarely in our San Francisco office. That’s because the majority of her time is spent traveling from country to country, meeting with advocacy groups on the ground throughout Latin America and parts of Europe to fight for surveillance law reform. Katitza and the rest of EFF’s international team assist these groups in working to build country-specific plans to end mass surveillance at home and abroad.

The goal is to engage activists and lawyers worldwide who can use the 13 Principles and the legal analyses we’ve prepared to support them at the national level to fight against the on-going trend of increased surveillance powers. For example, we teamed up with activists in Australia, Mexico, and Paraguay to help fight data retention mandates in those countries, including speaking in the Paraguayan National Congress. 

EFF is especially focused on countries that are known to share intelligence data with the United States and on trying to understand the politics of surveillance behind those data sharing agreements and surveillance law proposals. 

We’ve been sharing with and learning from groups across the world a range of different tactics, strategies, and legal methods that can be helpful in uncovering and combating unchecked surveillance. Our partners are starting to develop their own national surveillance law strategies, working out a localized version of the Who Has Your Back campaign, evaluating strategic litigation, and educating the general public of the danger of mass surveillance. 

In certain locales, these battles are politically and socially difficult, in particular in places where a culture of fear has permeated the society. We’ve seen anti-surveillance advocates wrongly painted as allies of pedophiles or terrorists. In at least one of the countries we’re working in, anonymity is forbidden in its constitution. For some of our partners, promoting a rational debate about checking government power abuses can risk their very freedom, with activists facing jail time or even more serious consequences for speaking out.

Establishing a bottom-up counter-surveillance law movement—even if it's one based on common sense and the entire history of modern democracies—isn't easy. It’s a titanic task that needs the involvement of advocates around the world with different tactics and strategies that are complementary. This is why we’ve also been working to make connections between activists in different countries, with case studies like the Counter-Surveillance Success Stories, and highlighting individuals who are proud to stand up and say "I Fight Surveillance." We’re also teaming up with partners, such as Panoptykon Foundation, to share the strategies and tactics they used in Europe with local groups in Latin America and vice-versa. We're working closely with groups in the Middle East and North Africa, such as 7iber and SMEX, to track, report on, and coordinate responses to state surveillance in these regions.

All of this has helped inform the work we've done in venues like the United Nations, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where EFF and our allies are helping—with great success—the legal minds there wrap their heads around this new age of state violations of the right to privacy and free expression.

Meanwhile, back in Washington...

7. Stop NSA overreach through impact litigation and new U.S. laws

Executive Order 12333 may be the presidential command that sets the agenda for mass surveillance, but U.S. law also plays a huge role. The NSA claims (often wrongly) that certain U.S. laws allow surveillance of all Internet users, with almost zero oversight of its spying on non-U.S. persons. There's the FISA Amendments Act, which the NSA believes allows it to spy on groups of people instead of with directed warrants and scoop up all of the Internet traffic it can, and grants it carte blanche to target anyone overseas on the grounds that they are potentially relevant to America's "foreign interests." And then there's the Patriot Act, which has been loosely interpreted by the NSA to permit the dragnet surveillance of phone records.

EFF Legal Team

Fighting these laws is the bread and butter of our domestic legal team. Our lawsuits, like Jewel v. NSA, aim to demonstrate that warrantless surveillance is illegal and unconstitutional. Our grassroots advocacy is dedicated to showing American lawmakers exactly how U.S. law is broken, what must be done to fix it, and the powerful movement of people working for change.

You can read more details about American law in our addendum below, but here's the upshot: we have to fix the law if we're to stop these secret agencies spying on the world. And we have to make sure that no new tricks are being planned.

That means chipping away at the culture of secrecy that lies at the heart of this mess.

8. Bring transparency to surveillance laws and practices

One of the greatest challenges we face in attempting to end mass surveillance is that we don’t know what we don’t know. Thanks to whistleblower evidence, statements by certain public officials, and years of aggressive litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, we’ve confirmed that the NSA is engaged in mass surveillance of our communications and that it is primarily relying on three legal authorities to justify this surveillance.

But what if the NSA is relying on seven other legal authorities? What if there are other forms of surveillance we have not yet heard about? What if the NSA is partnering with other entities (different countries or different branches of the U.S. government) to collect data in ways we can’t imagine?

It’s extremely difficult to reform the world of surveillance when we don’t have a full picture of what the government is doing and how it’s legally justifying those actions.

With that in mind, we are working to fight for more transparency by:

  • Working to reform the broken classification system, which keeps the government’s actions hidden from public oversight.
  • Using Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits to gain access to government documents that detail surveillance practices (and their legal justifications).
  • Helping allies, like Germany and Brazil, to put pressure on the United States to justify its surveillance practices.
  • Educating people about the value of whistleblowers and the important role they play in combating secrecy. This includes advocacy for organizations and platforms like Wikileaks that defend and promote the work of whistleblowers. It also includes highlighting the important contributions provided by whistleblowers like Mark Klein, Bill Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and others.

Global Solutions for a Global Problem

Mass surveillance affects people worldwide, reaching everywhere that the Internet reaches (and many places that it doesn’t!). But laws and court systems are divvied up by jurisdictional lines that don’t make sense for the Internet today. This means we need a range of tactics that include impact litigation, technological solutions, and policy changes both in the United States and across the globe.

This game plan is designed to give you insight into how U.S. laws and policies affect people worldwide, and how we can work to protect people outside of America’s borders.

We're up against more than just a few elements in the American administration here. We're up against a growing despondency about digital privacy, and we're up against the desire of spooks, autocrats, and corporations jockeying for intelligence contracts in every nation, all of whom want to shore up these surveillance powers for themselves. But we work side-by-side with hundreds of other organizations around the world and thousands of supporters in nearly every country. We have the amazing power of technology to protect privacy, organize opposition, and speak up against such damning violations of human rights.

We’re continuing to refine our plan, but we wanted to help our friends understand our thinking so you can understand how each of our smaller campaigns fit into the ultimate objective: secure, private communications for people worldwide.

It's what we’re doing to fight surveillance. But what can you do?

You can join your local digital rights organization, of which there are now hundreds, in almost every nation (and if there isn't one in yours, ask us for advice on starting one). You can pressure companies to increase your protection against government espionage and support companies that make a stand. You can sign our petition about Executive Order 12333 and help spread the word to others. You can use encryption to protect yourself and raise the cost of mass surveillance, and you can teach your friends and colleagues to use it too. You can personally refuse to cooperate with surveillance and promote privacy protections inside institutions you're a part of. You can tell your friends and colleagues the real risks we are running and how we can turn this mess around.

And whether you're in the United States or not, you can support our plan by becoming a member of EFF.

Addendum: Laws & Presidential Orders We Need to Change

One of the best ways to end mass surveillance by the NSA is to change the United States law to make clear that warrantless surveillance is illegal. However, that’s a little challenging. The NSA is relying on a patchwork of different laws and executive orders to justify its surveillance powers. 

Here are a few we know we need to change. Note that there are other parts of U.S. law that may need revision (including provisions such as the Pen Register Trap and Trace and National Security Letters), but this is where we're focusing our energies currently as the primary known authorities used to justify mass surveillance:

Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Known as the "Business Records" Section

Read the law

What it does: The section of the law basically says that the government can compel the production of any "tangible things" that are “relevant" to an investigation.

Why you should care: The NSA relies on this authority to collect, in bulk, the phone records of millions of Americans. There are suggestions it's also being used to collect other types of records, like financial records or credit card records, in bulk as well.

How we can stop it: There are a few ways to fix Section 215. One way is to pass a reform bill, such as the USA FREEDOM Act, which would make clear that using Section 215 to conduct bulk collection is illegal. The USA FREEDOM Act failed to pass in the Senate in 2014, which means it would need to be reintroduced in 2015. 

However, there’s an even easier way to defeat this provision of the law. This controversial section of the Patriot Act expires every few years and must be reauthorized by Congress. It’s up for renewal in June 2015, which means Congress must successfully reauthorize the section or it will cease to be a law. We’re going to be mounting a huge campaign to call on Congress not to reauthorize the bill.

We also have three legal cases challenging surveillance conducted under Section 215: Jewel v NSA, Smith v Obama, and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act

Read the law

What it does: This section of law is designed to allow the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance within the U.S. when the intended target is overseas.

Why you should care: The NSA relies on this law to support PRISM, which compels Internet service providers like Google, Apple, and Facebook to produce its users communications. The NSA's upstream surveillance—which includes tapping into fiber optic cables of AT&T and other telecommunications providers—also relies on this provision. Through these two surveillance options, the NSA "targets" subjects for surveillance. But even when the NSA is "targeting" specific foreign intelligence subjects overseas, they’re "incidentally" collecting communications on millions of people, including both Americans and innocent people abroad.

How we can stop it: Currently, there aren’t any reform bills that show promise. We’re working on educating the public and Congress about the Section 702 and the FISA Amendments Act. In 2017, this authority will be up for reauthorization. We’ll be planning a big campaign to demolish this invasive and oft-abused surveillance authority.

Executive Order 12333

Read the executive order

What it does: Executive orders are legally binding orders given by the President of the United States which direct how government agencies should operate. Executive Order 12333 covers "most of what the NSA does" and is "the primary authority under which the country’s intelligence agencies conduct the majority of their operations."

Why you should care: Executive Order 12333 is the primary authority the NSA uses to conduct its surveillance operations—including mass surveillance programs—overseas. Reforming mass surveillance requires reforming the NSA's authority under EO 12333.

How we can stop it: Executive Order 12333 was created by a presidential order, and so a presidential order could undo all of this damage. That’s why we’re pressuring President Obama to issue a new executive order affirming the privacy rights of people worldwide and ending mass surveillance.

The Funding Hack

While passing a bill through Congress is extremely challenging, another (somewhat more controversial) method of ending this surveillance is through the budget system. Every year, Congress must approve the defense budget. This frequently becomes a contentious battle with numerous amendments introduced and debated. We may see an amendment that tackles some form of surveillance.

Related Issues: InternationalSurveillance and Human RightsNSA SpyingRelated Cases: Smith v. ObamaJewel v. NSAFirst Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
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Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers

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RogueyWon writes: For the last several days, some users of Ubisoft's uPlay system have been complaining that copies of games they purchased have been removed from their libraries. According to a statement issued to a number of gaming websites, Ubisoft believes that the digital keys revoked have been "fraudulently obtained." What this means in practice is unclear; while some of the keys may have been obtained using stolen credit card details, others appear to have been purchased from unofficial third-party resellers, who often undercut official stores by purchasing cheaper boxed retail copies of games and selling their key-codes online, or by exploiting regional price differences, buying codes in regions where games are cheaper to sell them elsewhere in the world. The latest round of revocations appears to have triggered an overdue debate into the fragility of customer rights in respect of digital games stores.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Comcast Ghost-Writes Politician's Letters To Support Time Warner Mega-Merger

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WheezyJoe writes: As the FCC considers the merger between Comcast/Universal and Time-Warner Cable, which would create the largest cable company in the U.S. and is entering the final stages of federal review, politicians are pressuring the FCC with pro-merger letters actually written by Comcast. According to documents obtained through public records requests, politicians are passing letters nearly word-for-word written by Comcast as their own. "Not only do records show that a Comcast official sent the councilman the exact wording of the letter he would submit to the FCC, but also that finishing touches were put on the letter by a former FCC official named Rosemary Harold, who is now a partner at one of the nation's foremost telecom law firms in Washington, DC. Comcast has enlisted Harold to help persuade her former agency to approve the proposed merger." Ars Technica had already reported that politicians have closely mimicked Comcast talking points and re-used Comcast's own statements without attribution. The documents revealed today show just how deeply Comcast is involved with certain politicians, and how they were able to get them on board.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Windows 10 IE With Spartan Engine Performance Vs. Chrome and Firefox

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MojoKid writes: In Microsoft's latest Windows 10 preview build released last week, Cortana made an entrance, but the much-anticipated Spartan browser did not. However, little did we realize that some of Spartan made the cut, in the form of an experimental rendering engine hidden under IE's hood. Microsoft has separated its Trident rendering engine into two separate versions: one is for Spartan, called EdgeHTML, while the other remains under its legacy naming with Internet Explorer. The reason Microsoft doesn't simply forego the older version is due to compatibility concerns. If you're running the Windows 10 9926 build, chances are good that you're automatically taking advantage of the new EdgeHTML engine in IE. To check, you can type 'about:flags' into the address bar. "Automatic" means that the non-Spartan Trident engine will be called-upon only if needed. In all other cases, you'll be taking advantage of the future Spartan web rendering engine. Performance-wise, the results with IE are like night and day in certain spots. Some of the improvements are significant. IE's Sunspider result already outperforms the competition, but it has been further improved. And with Kraken, the latency with the Spartan-powered Trident engine dropped 40%. Similar results are seen with a boost in the Octane web browser test as well.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Police Organization Wants Cop-Spotting Dropped From Waze App

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An anonymous reader writes "The Register reports on a request from the US National Sheriffs' Association, which "wants Google to block its crowd-sourced traffic app Waze from being able to report the position of police officers, saying the information is putting officer's lives at risk." From the article: "'The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action,' AP reports Sheriff Mike Brown, the chairman of the NSA's technology committee, told the association's winter conference in Washington....Brown called the app a 'police stalker,' and said being able to identify where officers were located could put them at personal risk. Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said his members had concerns as well. 'I can think of 100 ways that it could present an officer-safety issue,' Pasco said. 'There's no control over who uses it. So, if you're a criminal and you want to rob a bank, hypothetically, you use your Waze.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Lilbits (1-26-2015): Using tablets as desktops

Liliputing -

There are a growing number of Windows tablets that sell for under $200. In fact, some cost less then $100. While they’re positioned as low-cost alternatives to Apple iPads or tablets running Android, most of these little tablets have Intel processors and support for running full-fledged Windows desktop apps. It can be tricky to actually use […]

Lilbits (1-26-2015): Using tablets as desktops is a post from: Liliputing

Getting Charged Up Over Chargers at CES (Video)

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First we look at Skiva Technology and their Octofire 8-port USB charger that pulled in nearly five times the requested amount from a Kickstarter campaign. (The 'pulled in X times the requested Kickstarter amount' is becoming a common product boast, isn't it?) Then, for MacBook owners who are tired of having their chargers or charger cords break, we take a brief look at the Juiceboxx Charger Case. These two power-oriented products and WakaWaka, which we posted about on January 9, are just a tiny, random sample of the many items in this category that were on display at CES 2015. Timothy was the only Slashdot person working CES, so it's shocking that he managed to cover as many (hopefully interesting) products as he did, considering that even the biggest IT journo mills don't come close to total coverage of the overwhelming muddle CES has become in recent years. (Alternate Video Link)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








1Password for iOS adds login creation tool, new app extension features

Liliputing -

Agilebits has released version 5.2 of 1Password for iOS. The latest version of the password manager includes a new look, plus a handful of cool features that will hopefully make their way to the Android version of 1Password someday. One major update includes a new login creation tool that allows users to enter login information into 1Password on […]

1Password for iOS adds login creation tool, new app extension features is a post from: Liliputing

Plan C: The Cold War Plan Which Would Have Brought the US Under Martial Law

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v3rgEz writes with this story of a top secret Cold War plan which would have brought the U.S. under martial law. Starting on April 19, 1956, the federal government practiced and planned for a near-doomsday scenario known as Plan C. When activated, Plan C would have brought the United States under martial law, rounded up over ten thousand individuals connected to 'subversive' organizations, implemented a censorship board, and prepared the country for life after nuclear attack. There was no Plan A or B....Details of this program were distributed to each FBI field office. Over the following months and years, Plan C would be adjusted as drills and meetings found holes in the defensive strategy: Communications were more closely held, authority was apparently more dispersed, and certain segments of the government, such as the U.S. Attorneys, had trouble actually delineating who was responsible for what. Bureau employees were encouraged to prepare their families for the worst, but had to keep secret the more in-depth plans for what the government would do if war did break out. Families were given a phone number and city for where the relocated agency locations would be, but not the exact location.

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Hongpad Intel Box is a tiny, Bay Trail desktop computer

Liliputing -

Another day, another tiny PC. A Chinese company called Hongpad is selling a box powered an Intel Atom Bay Trail-T processor with a wholesale price of $70 to $80. While the Hongpad Intel Box is being sold as a TV box, it’s capable of running either Google Android or Windows 8.1, so there’s nothing stopping you from using it […]

Hongpad Intel Box is a tiny, Bay Trail desktop computer is a post from: Liliputing

NVIDIA GTX 970 Specifications Corrected, Memory Pools Explained

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Vigile writes Over the weekend NVIDIA sent out its first official response to the claims of hampered performance on the GTX 970 and a potential lack of access to 1/8th of the on-board memory. Today NVIDIA has clarified the situation again, this time with some important changes to the specifications of the GPU. First, the ROP count and L2 cache capacity of the GTX 970 were incorrectly reported at launch (last September). The GTX 970 has 52 ROPs and 1792 KB of L2 cache compared to the GTX 980 that has 64 ROPs and 2048 KB of L2 cache; previously both GPUs claimed to have identical specs. Because of this change, one of the 32-bit memory channels is accessed differently, forcing NVIDIA to create 3.5GB and 0.5GB pools of memory to improve overall performance for the majority of use cases. The smaller, 500MB pool operates at 1/7th the speed of the 3.5GB pool and thus will lower total graphics system performance by 4-6% when added into the memory system. That occurs when games request MORE than 3.5GB of memory allocation though, which happens only in extreme cases and combinations of resolution and anti-aliasing. Still, the jury is out on whether NVIDIA has answered enough questions to temper the fire from consumers.

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Virgin Galactic Dumps Scaled Composites For Spaceship Two

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PvtVoid writes Virgin Galactic, following an aggressive schedule to build a replacement for the Spaceship Two which crashed in October, is doing so without partner Scaled Composites, according to the Los Angeles Times. Kevin Mickey, the president of Scaled Composites, confirmed this week that his company would no longer be involved in testing. He said Scaled would still work as a consultant to Virgin Galactic.

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Toshiba KIRA ultrabooks get a Broadwell update

Liliputing -

Toshiba is updating its KIRA line of thin and light laptops with new models featuring 5th-gen Intel Core “Broadwell” chips. The company unveiled the new Toshiba dynabook KIRA laptops in Japan recently, and they’re set to go on sale in that country later this week for about $1350 and up. While I haven’t heard anything […]

Toshiba KIRA ultrabooks get a Broadwell update is a post from: Liliputing

Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters

Slashdot -

itwbennett writes The promise of modular smartphones like Google's Project Ara is that buyers will be able to upgrade components at will — and now Finnish company Circular Devices has come up with a use for discarded computing modules, which they're calling Puzzlecluster. Drawings of the Puzzlecluster architecture show a chassis with slots for the reused modules, which can then be interconnected with others to create the cluster. Just one unit could also be used as a desktop computer."

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In Response to EFF Lawsuit, Government Ordered to Release Secret Surveillance Court Documents Today

EFF's Deeplinks -

Update: The government released two new FISC opinions this evening, both of which concern the transition of NSA surveillance to the oversight of the FISC in 2007. Neither of the two documents, available here and here, is the Raw Take order or the 2008 FAA order. The government has one additional production deadline in this case on March 2, 2015.

Since 2011, EFF has fought to shed light on the government's secret reinterpretation of federal surveillance laws. Much of our fight has focused on the legal opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the federal court that oversees many of the intelligence community’s domestic surveillance programs.

In September, in response to our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. ordered the government to review and produce a series of opinions from the secret court. Today, the government is scheduled to produce some of those documents.

We’ve sued the government three separate times to force disclosure of significant opinions of the FISC. These lawsuits have produced numerous previously secret FISC decisions, including: opinions showing the government had repeatedly violated court-imposed restrictions on surveillance, unconstitutional surveillance conducted under the FISA Amendments Act, and the transition to FISC oversight over NSA surveillance authorities.

Our third lawsuit sought the disclosure of a number of still-secret and significant FISC opinions. While the government has not indicated which opinion it intends to produce today, two significant opinions remain secret.

First, the so-called "Raw Take" order from 2002. The existence of this opinion was first disclosed in a New York Times article based, in part, off the Snowden disclosures. As the Times described the opinion, it "appears to have been the first substantial demonstration of the court’s willingness after Sept. 11 to reinterpret the law to expand government powers." The order, apparently, "weakened restrictions on sharing private information about Americans, according to documents and interviews." Beyond what has been reported in the Times article, not much more is known about the opinion.

The second opinion that remains secret is a 2008 FISC opinion concerning the legality and constitutionality of surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). This opinion, described as the "Rosetta Stone" of FAA surveillance by those familiar with it, purportedly represents the FISC’s full assessment of the range of legal issues presented by NSA surveillance under Section 702 of the FAA—a provision of law authorizing the government to conduct warrantless surveillance within the United States of overseas targets. Importantly, the opinion likely discusses the constitutionality of the NSA’s upstream surveillance operations—currently, the only federal court decision on this topic. Despite this opinion's centrality to understanding FAA surveillance, it has remained secret for nearly 7 years.

Of course, it’s possible the government won’t release anything today. In fact, in this lawsuit, the government has already claimed that a FISC opinion addressing criminal violations of federal surveillance laws by government officials must remain secret. We fully intend to fight for disclosure of that opinion in court. And, if the government decides to withhold either the Raw Take order or the 2008 FISC order, we promise to fight those withholdings as well. But our hope is that the government will save us all the time and expense of taxpayer dollars, and release the opinions without a lengthy court battle.

The public has a fundamental right to know, read, and understand the decisions of the federal courts. That’s true whether the opinions concern national security surveillance or more mundane issues. Secret courts, and secret court opinions, are inimical to our democratic system. Hopefully, today’s disclosures will move us one step closer to ending the government’s secret surveillance law practices.

Files:  may_2007_order.pdf august_2007_order.pdfRelated Issues: TransparencyRelated Cases: FISC Orders on Illegal Government Surveillance
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ExoDrive smartphone case promises to add external microSD card support (crowdfunding)

Liliputing -

One major complaint that mobile device users often have is lack of storage. Many of the most affordable phones or tablets don’t have enough enough storage to support the huge files that games and apps now have. The ExoDrive is designed to alleviate some of the problems with lack of smartphone storage. The case includes a microSD […]

ExoDrive smartphone case promises to add external microSD card support (crowdfunding) is a post from: Liliputing

"Once In a Lifetime" Asteroid Sighting Monday Night

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes Tonight, Asteroid 2004 BL86 will make a pass by the Earth at just 745,000 miles away. This should offer stargazers a great opportunity to see the half-kilometer space rock. CNN has some tips on the best method and time to look. From the article: "The best chance for viewing will be from 8 p.m. ET Monday to 1 a.m. ET Tuesday. Asteroid 2004 BL86 is large, and it will brighten, but nonetheless will not be observable with the naked eye. Some astronomy websites say a pair of binoculars could do the trick, but Sky & Telescope recommends at least a 3- or 4-inch diameter telescope. 'One good technique for fast-movers like 2004 BL86 is to identify and lock onto a star along its path,' Sky & Telescope senior editor Kelly Beatty says. 'Then just watch at the time that the asteroid is predicted to pass by that particular star.'"

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Germany Plans Highway Test Track For Self-Driving Cars

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes with news about a new project to test autonomous vehicles in Germany. "The German government wants to convert part of the A9 Autobahn in Bavaria into a test-field for advanced car technology. The project is key to ensuring the country's 'digital sovereignty,' according to its transport minister. The track, part of the 'Digitales Testfeld Autobahn' project, would be launched this year, Alexander Dobrindt said on Monday in an interview (in German) with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. The plan involves equipping the road with infrastructure to allow cars to communicate with each other and the road's own sensors to provide necessary data on traffic. 'Cars with assisted driving and later fully-automated cars will be able to drive there,' Dobrindt said. Germany, a major European car producer, wants to have robotic car technology that's not dependent on foreign companies, the minister said. Domestic producers 'won't rely on Google' he stressed."

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