Geek Stuff

Salesforce CEO Told LinkedIn He Would Have Paid Much More Than Microsoft

Slashdot -

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode: It was already known that LinkedIn chose a potentially lower all-cash acquisition offer from Microsoft rather than take on the uncertainties of a stock-and-cash deal from Salesforce. But now it has been revealed that Salesforce might have been willing to go "much higher" than Microsoft's $26.2 billion, or change other terms of its bid, had it been given the chance. In a filing with regulators on Friday, LinkedIn said a board committee met on July 7 to discuss an email from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. "The email indicated that Party A would have bid much higher and made changes to the stock/cash components of its offers, but it was acting without communications from LinkedIn," LinkedIn said in the updated filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Google Tests Ads That Load Faster and Use Less Power

Slashdot -

Slashdot reader Big Hairy Ian quotes a report from the BBC: Google says it has found a way to make ads load faster on web pages viewed on smartphones and tablets. The company said the ads would also be less taxing on the handsets' processors, meaning their batteries should last longer. The technique is based on work it has already done to make news publishers' articles load more quickly. But it is still in development, and one expert said Google still had questions to answer. The California-based company's online advertising revenue totalled $67.4 billion last year... The technique limits the scope of JavaScript, and "provides its own activity measurement tools, which are said to be much more efficient," according to article. A Google software engineer explains that this technique "only animates things that are visible on the screen," and throttles animation to fewer frames per second for weaker devices -- or disables the animations altogether. "This ensures that every device gets the best experience it can deliver and makes sure that ads cannot have a negative impact on important aspects of the user experience such as scrolling."

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Almost Half Of All TSA Employees Have Been Cited For Misconduct

Slashdot -

Slashdot reader schwit1 writes: Almost half of all TSA employees have been cited for misconduct, and the citations have increased by almost 30 percent since 2013... It also appears that the TSA has been reducing the sanctions it has been giving out for this bad behavior. Throughout the U.S., the airport security group "has instead sought to treat the misconduct with 'more counseling and letters that explain why certain behaviors were not acceptable'," according to a report from the House Homeland Security Commission, titled "Misconduct at TSA Threatens the Security of the Flying Public". It found 1,206 instances of "neglect of duty", and also cited the case of an Oakland TSA officer who for two years helped smugglers slip more than 220 pounds of marijuana through airport security checkpoints, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The newspaper adds that "The misconduct ranges from salacious (federal air marshals spending government money on hotel rooms for romps with prostitutes) to downright dangerous (an officer in Orlando taking bribes to smuggle Brazilian nationals through a checkpoint without questioning)." Their conclusion? "The TSA's job is to make airline passengers feel safer and, not incidentally, actually make us safer. It's failing on both."

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Maximizing Economic Output With Linear Programming...and Communism

Slashdot -

Slashdot reader mkwan writes: Economies are just a collection of processes that convert raw materials and labour into useful goods and services. By representing these processes as a series of equations and solving a humongous linear programming problem, it should be possible to maximize an economy's GDP. The catch? The economy needs to go communist. "[P]oorest members would receive a basic income that gradually increases as the economy becomes more efficient, plateauing at a level where they can afford everything they want to consume," argues the article, while "The middle classes wouldn't see much change. They would continue to work in a regular job for a regular -- but steadily increasing -- wage... Without the ability to own real-estate, companies, or intellectual property, it would be almost impossible to become rich, especially since the only legal source of income would be from a government job."

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Avast Suckers GOP Delegates Into Connecting To Insecure Wi-Fi Hotspots

Slashdot -

Avast conned more than 1,200 people into connecting to fake wi-fi hotspots set up near the Republican convention and the Cleveland airport, using common network names like "Google Starbucks" and "Xfinitywifi" as well as "I vote Trump! free Internet". An anonymous reader quotes this report from The Register: With mobile devices often set to connect to known SSIDs automatically, users can overlook the networks to which they are connecting... Some 68.3 percent of users' identities were exposed when they connected, and 44.5 per cent of Wi-Fi users checked their emails or chatted via messenger apps... In its day-long experiment Avast saw more than 1.6Gbps transferred from more than 1,200 users. Avast didn't store the data they collected, but they did report statistics on which sites were accessed most frequently. "5.1 percent played Pokemon Go, while 0.7 percent used dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, OKCupid, Match and Meetup, and 0.24 percent visited pornography sites like Pornhub."

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Microsoft Rewrites Wassenaar Arms Control Pact To Protect The Infosec Industry

Slashdot -

The Wassenaar Arrangement "is threatening to choke the cyber-security industry, according to a consortium of cyber-security companies...supported by Microsoft among others," reports SC Magazine. "'Because the regulation is so overly broad, it would require cyber responders and security researchers to obtain an export license prior to exchanging essential information to remediate a newly identified network vulnerability, even when that vulnerability is capable of being exploited for purposes of surveillance,' wrote Alan Cohn from the CRC on a Microsoft blog." Reporter Darren Pauli contacted Slashdot with this report: If the Wassenaar Arrangement carries through under its current state, it will force Microsoft to submit some 3800 applications for arms export every year, company assistant general counsel Cristin Goodwin says... The Wassenaar Arrangement caught all corners of the security industry off guard, but its full potentially-devastating effects will only be realised in coming months and years... Goodwin and [Symantec director of government affairs] Fletcher are calling on the industry to lobby their agencies to overhaul the dual-use software definition of the Arrangement ahead of a closed-door meeting in September where changes can be proposed.

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Ask Slashdot: When Do You Include 'Unnecessary' Code?

Slashdot -

"For more than 20 years I've been putting semicolons at the end of programming statements in SAS, C/C++, and Java/Javascript," writes Rick Wicklin, a researcher in computational statistics at SAS. "But lately I've been working in a computer language that does not require semicolons. Nevertheless... I catch myself typing unnecessary semicolons out of habit," he writes, while at other times "I include optional statements in my programs for clarity, readability, or to practice defensive programming." While Wicklin's post is geared towards SAS programming, Slashdot reader theodp writes that the question is a language-agnostic one: ...when to include technically-unnecessary code -- e.g., variable declarations, superfluous punctuation, block constructs for single statements, values for optional parameters that are the defaults, debugging/validation statements, non-critical error handling, explicitly destroying objects that would otherwise be deleted on exit, labeled NEXT statements, full qualification of objects/methods, unneeded code from templates... He's wondering if other Slashdot readers have trouble tolerating their co-workers' unnecessary codes choices (which he demonstrates with a video clip from Silicon Valley). So leave your answers in the comments. When do you do include 'unnecessary' code in your programs -- and why?

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Tinder Scam Promises Account Verification, But Actually Sells Porn

Slashdot -

itwbennett writes: Tinder users should be on the lookout for Tinder profiles asking them to get "verified" and then sending them a link to a site called "Tinder Safe Dating." The service asks for credit card information, saying this will verify the user's age. Once payment information has been captured, the user is then signed up for a free trial of porn, which will end up costing $118.76 per month unless the service is cancelled. In Tinder's safety guidelines, the company warns users to avoid messages that contain links to third-party websites or ask money for an address.

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Gole1 mini PC review: Blurring the lines between tablets and desktop PCs

Liliputing -

The Gole1 is a tiny computer that’s hard to categorize. It’s basically a compact desktop computer that you can also use as a tablet. Or maybe it’s a tablet with a really small screen, a bunch of ports, and a kind of thick case.

Either way, it’s a small device that you can plug into a TV or monitor to use as a computer, media streaming device, or video game system. There’s a five inch touchscreen display on top that you can use to either mirror what’s happening on the big screen, or set up to use as an extended desktop.

Continue reading Gole1 mini PC review: Blurring the lines between tablets and desktop PCs at Liliputing.

Sega Announces Two New Sonic Games That Seek To Recapture The Glory Days

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: In celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog's 25th anniversary, Sega has announced two new Sonic games at Comic-Con in San Diego. The first game is called Sonic Mania and it's a 2D platformer that features visuals and gameplay reminiscent of the classic Genesis games. "It revamps zones and acts from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic and Knuckles, in addition to introducing new ones into the fold," writes Mat Paget from GameSpot. The second game has no title [besides "Project Sonic 2017"], but it does have a holiday 2017 release date for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo NX consoles. It reportedly features both classic and modern versions of Sonic, similar to 2011's Sonic Generations. Sega made two additional announcements. "Mobile game Sonic Dash has passed 200 million downloads and will receive a special in-game event that adds the Green Hill Zone and Classic Sonic as a playable character," reports GameSpot. "The event only lasts a week, but players can unlock both the classic level and character for use after the event." The second additional announcement is that the animated Sonic Boom series will be renewed for a second season. "Sonic Mania was born out of our fans' love of the classic Sonic 2D platform games,â said Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka. "This type of collaboration is a first for Sega and we hope everyone will be both surprised and delighted by this title. Sonic Mania has been a passion project for the entire team and we look forward to sharing more details about it later this year. Having the game actually playable at the event itself tonight was testament to the dedication of the team behind it.â

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CRISPR: Chinese Scientists To Pioneer Gene-Editing Trial On Humans

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A team of Chinese scientists will be the first in the world to apply the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR on human subjects. Led by Lu You, an oncologist at Sichuan University's West China hospital in Chengdu, China, the team plan to start testing cells modified with CRISPR on patients with lung cancer in August, according to the journal Nature. CRISPR is a game-changer in bioscience; a groundbreaking technique which can find, cut out and replace specific parts of DNA using a specially programmed enzyme named Cas9. Its ramifications are next to endless, from changing the color of mouse fur to designing malaria-free mosquitoes and pest-resistant crops to correcting a wide swath of genetic diseases like sickle-cell anaemia in humans. The Sichuan University trial, it is important to note, does not edit the germ-line; its effects will not be hereditary. What the researchers plan to do is enroll patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, Nature reported, and for whom other treatment options -- including chemotherapy and radiotherapy -- have failed. They will then extract immune cells from the patients' blood and use CRISPR to add a new genetic sequence which will help the patient's immune system target and destroy the cancer. The cells will then be re-introduced into the patients' bloodstream. The Guardian does note that CRISPR was approved for human trials in the U.S., but if it begins on schedule in August the Sichuan University study will beat them to the punch of being the first of its kind.

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Cyanogen Inc. Reportedly Fires OS Development Arm, Switches To Apps

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Android Police is reporting that the Android software company Cyanogen Inc. will be laying off 20 percent of its workforce, and will transition from OS development to applications. The Android Police report says "roughly 30 out of the 136 people Cyanogen Inc. employs" are being cut, and that the layoffs "most heavily impact the open source arm" of the company. Android Police goes on to say that CyanogenMod development by Cyanogen Inc "may be eliminated entirely." Ars Technica notes the differences between each "Cyanogen" branding. Specifically, CyanogenMod is a "free, open source, OS heavily based on Android and compatible with hundreds of devices," while Cyanogen Inc. is "a for-profit company that aims to sell Cyanogen OS to OEMs." It appears that many of the core CyanogenMod developers will no longer be paid to work on CyanogenMod, though the community is still free to develop the software." Android Police details the firing process in their report: "Layoffs reportedly came after a long executive retreat for the company's leaders and were conducted with no advanced notice. Employees who were not let go were told not to show up to work today. Those who did show up were the unlucky ones: they had generic human resources meetings rather ominously added to their calendars last night. So, everyone who arrived at Cyanogen Inc. in Seattle this morning did so to lose their job (aside from those conducting the layoffs)." Early last year, Microsoft invested in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing for the then-startup Cyanogen Inc. Not too long before that, Google tried to acquire Cyanogen Inc., but the company turned down Google's offer to seek funding from investors and major tech companies at a valuation of around $1 billion. Cyanogen Inc. CEO Kirt McMaster once said the company was "attempting to take Android away from Google" and that it was "putting a bullet through Google's head."

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Auto Industry Publishes Its First Set of Cybersecurity Best Practices

Slashdot -

chicksdaddy quotes a report from Security Ledger: The Automotive industry's main group for coordinating policy on information security and "cyber" threats has published a "Best Practices" document, giving individual automakers guidance on implementing cybersecurity in their vehicles for the first time. The Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) released the Automotive Cybersecurity Best Practices document on July 21st, saying the guidelines are for auto manufacturers as well as their suppliers. The Best Practices cover organizational and technical aspects of vehicle cybersecurity, including governance, risk management, security by design, threat detection, incident response, training, and collaboration with appropriate third parties. Taken together, they move the auto industry closer to standards pioneered decades ago and embraced by companies like Microsoft. They call on automakers to design software to be secure from the ground up and to take a sober look at risks to connected vehicles as part of the design process. Automakers are urged to test for and respond to software vulnerabilities, to develop methods for assessing and fixing security vulnerabilities, to create training programs, promote cybersecurity awareness for both information technology and vehicle specific risks, and educate employees about security awareness. The document comes after a Kelly Blue Book survey that found that 62% of drivers think "connected cars will be hacked," and that 42% say they "want cars to be more connected."

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Hillary Clinton Chooses Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine As Running Mate

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine has been chosen as Hillary Clinton's running mate -- a man she called a "relentless optimist" who "devoted his life to fighting for others." Kaine has long been considered to be at the top of Clinton's short list. He was previously vetted for the vice presidency by Barack Obama in 2008. Kaine was an early supporter of Clinton's, appearing at a "Ready for Hillary" breakfast in May 2014 where he urged her to enter the 2016 presidential race. Kaine told NBC in June that he "encouraged her to run in May of 2014, because I could telescope forward and see some of the challenges that this nation would be facing. And I decided that by reason of character, by reason of background, and experience, but also especially by reason of results, she would be the most qualified person to be president in January of 2017." Prior to being elected to the Senate, Kaine served as governor and lieutenant governor of Virginia. In 2009, President Obama picked Kaine to lead the Democratic National Committee. Last week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced Mike Pence as his VP running mate.

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VW Has Emissions-Cheating Fix Ready, Says Report

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Portland Press Herald: Volkswagen plans to fix the engines that were rigged to cheat on emissions tests by updating computer software and installing a larger catalytic converter to trap harmful nitrogen oxide, according to two dealers who were briefed by executives on the matter. The dealers said that limited details of the plan were made public last week at a regional dealer meeting in Newark, New Jersey, by Volkswagen of America Chief Operating Officer Mark McNabb. Portland Press Herald reports: "One dealer said the group was told that early testing of a small sample of repaired cars showed that the fix made 'no discernible difference' in the cars' mileage, horsepower or torque. Both dealers said they were told that more testing was needed and that the plans still had to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. One of the dealers said the so-called 'Generation 1' diesels -- about 325,000 VW Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles from the 2009 to 2014 model years – would get new software and bigger catalytic converters in January or February of next year. About 90,000 'Generation 2' Passats already have sufficient emissions systems and would get only a software update early next year. Another 67,000 'Generation 3' 2015 models would get software in October and would get additional hardware a year later, the dealer said. Dealers also were told that they'd be reimbursed by VW for sales losses due to the scandal, and that new vehicles are coming." Last month, Volkswagen agreed to a record $14.7 billion settlement over the emissions cheating.

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Issa Bill Would Kill A Big H-1B Loophole

Slashdot -

ErichTheRed writes: This isn't perfect, but it is the first attempt I've seen at removing the "body shop" loophole in the H-1B visa system. A bill has been introduced in Congress that would raise the minimum wage for an H-1B holder from $60K to $100K, and place limits on the body shop companies that employ mostly H-1B holders in a pass-through arrangement. Whether it's enough to stop the direct replacement of workers, or whether it will just accelerate offshoring, remains to be seen. But, I think removing the most blatant and most abused loopholes in the rules is a good start. "The high-skilled visa program is critical to ensuring American companies can attract and retain the world's best talent," said Issa in a statement. "Unfortunately, in recent years, this important program has become abused and exploited as a loophole for companies to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas."

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Bipartisan Caucus Launches in the House to Defend Fourth Amendment

EFF's Deeplinks -

On matters implicating privacy, such as mass surveillance or the powers of investigatory agencies, Congress has too often failed to fulfill its responsibilities. By neglecting to examine basic facts, and deferring to executive agencies whose secrets preclude meaningful debate, the body has allowed proposals that undermine constitutional rights to repeatedly become enshrined in law. In last week’s launch of a new bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus in the House, however, the Constitution has gained a formidable ally.

Every Member of Congress swears an oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Yet the most significant threats to our Constitution include the powers of U.S. intelligence agencies, enabled by Congress’ faith in the agencies’ willingness to respect legal limits on their powers.

Deference to the executive branch—emboldened by Congress’ continuing failure to reform a “dysfunctional” classification system that enables executive secrecy—has left Congress in the dark on matters of fact that should inform its legislative decisions. As a predictable result, proposals that undermine our fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures have been repeatedly enacted into law.

For instance, Congress has approved and re-authorized controversial domestic spying powers more than half a dozen times over the past 15 years. Yet even the intelligence committees have failed to gain answers to questions as basic as how many Americans are being monitored, or whether mass surveillance has ever actually helped stop a violent incident.

In addition to overlooking its responsibility to examine and investigate crucial matters of fact, Congress has also settled for holding secret hearings dominated by intelligence officials. Time after time, when domestic surveillance powers come up for re-authorization, Congress has declined to conduct public hearings, allowing executive officials to spin the facts without an opportunity for independent voices—like the whistleblowers who have repeatedly revealed fraud, waste, and abuse—to correct the record.

This is no merely hypothetical fear: intelligence agencies have been caught stating false facts under oath in response to congressional inquiries, and have even launched cyber-espionage operations to suppress a congressional investigation into their own abuses.

Unfortunately, Congress must share the blame for executive secrecy. Not only has it failed to pursue a long-overdue investigation, it has also tolerated and declined to reform a classification system so bloated and secretive that it obstructs Congress’ own ability to conduct oversight.

Instead, congressional leaders of both major political parties have played games of legislative brinksmanship.

In many cases—such as when controversial provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, and particularly in 2015—committee chairs waited until shortly before the re-authorization deadline, marginalized crucial public oversight, and then stoked fears about the security consequences of letting unconstitutional powers lapse. Other times, including 2014, and again earlier this year, the bipartisan establishment joined ranks to quell populists from both parties who sought to more actively check and balance executive power.

Constitutional rights are neither conservative nor liberal. They are simply American.

Yet they have been repeatedly undermined by ultimately authoritarian powers that congressional leaders from both of the major political parties have unfortunately supported.

In this context, the emergence of the bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus portends a potential sea change in Congress. Joined by 25 Members of the House from each of the major parties, the caucus is poised to champion privacy and help establish in Congress the consensus that already unites Americans across our various political perspectives.

During the July 13 briefing announcing the new Fourth Amendment Caucus, founding member Justin Amash (R-MI) explained its ambitions:

It’s important that we have this kind of group in Congress to stop [proposals to expand surveillance powers] before they become law, and before they have a chance to violate the rights of Americans.

From across the partisan aisle, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) described some of the concerns that drew caucus members together:

The Fourth Amendment is fundamental to our liberty not just because it protects privacy rights, but because it’s the basis for exercising other rights. If you feel that you are being watched at all times by your government, you’re not going to feel as free to exercise your First Amendment rights of speech or assembly.

Over the next year, we look forward to the Fourth Amendment Caucus asserting its presence to influence a range of issues.

While recent attempts to prohibit strong encryption have thankfully failed, executive branch agencies continue to undermine encryption standards and devices. Members of the caucus have previously aimed to protect encryption in a measure (also aiming to end backdoor FBI searches of NSA intelligence to monitor Americans) that gained support from a remarkable bipartisan majority that the caucus may be poised to reconvene.

The Fourth Amendment Caucus may also help champion and secure a long overdue congressional investigation into the uses and continuing abuses of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which enables much of the NSA Internet dragnet. Section 702 is set to expire at the end of 2017, and should at least be the focus of public hearings early in the year including voices beyond intelligence officials.

In years past, we could safely predict that Congress would sit on its hands until the last minute, and then bully Members into extending the law with vague appeals to security. With Members now organizing across the aisle to protect constitutional values, however, Congress may grow better poised to resist executive branch proposals and instead continue long-overdue surveillance reform.


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Comcast To Offer Pay-As-You-Go TV, Broadband Service

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Comcast plans to roll-out prepaid cable TV and internet services later this year in portions of Illinois and four other states. According to a company announcement, Comcast's Xfinity Prepaid Services lets users sign up for TV or internet services and renew service for seven or 30 days at a time -- instead of paying by the month. A one-time setup fee of $80 includes equipment and 30 days of service, with users paying $15 for an additional seven days and $45 for an additional 30 days. "We want to create an easy, pay-as-you-go option for people who want more flexibility and predictability when buying our services," said Marcien Jenckes, Executive Vice President, Consumer Services, Comcast Cable. "And our partnership with Boost Mobile will give Xfinity Prepaid customers even more places where they can conveniently sign-up and pay-as-they-go."

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Edward Snowden At Comic-Con: 'I Live a Surprisingly Free Life'

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Guardian: Director Oliver Stone talked to whistleblower Edward Snowden in front of an audience at a question and answer session on Thursday evening. He compared Snowden's anxiety over his own appearance in his Snowden biopic film "Snowden" to that of Donald Trump, who was cut from one of his films six years before. Snowden replied: "I'd like to avoid that association." At the event, Snowden did also shed some light on his personal life, years after his revelation of the NSA's secret surveillance of the American public's internet activity resulted in criminal charges under the Espionage Act that led to his exile in Russia. "I can confirm that I am not living in a box," Snowden said. "I actually live a surprisingly free life. This was not the most likely outcome. I didn't actually expect to make it out of Hawaii. I thought it was incredibly risky. I had a lot of advantages in doing what I did; I worked for the CIA on the human intelligence side, I worked for the NSA on the signals intelligence side, and I taught counterintelligence. This is not something that's covered that well in the media. I was about as well placed as anybody could be, and I still thought I was going to get rolled up at the airport and that there were going to be knocks on the doors of the journalists." When asked what he thought about Gordon-Levitt's performance in the film where he plays Edward Snowden, Snowden responded: "This is one of the things that's kind of crazy and surreal about this kind of experience: I don't think anybody looks forward to having a movie made about themselves, especially someone who is a privacy advocate. Some of my family members have said, 'He sounds just like you!' I can't hear it myself but if he can pass the family test he's doing all right." Snowden agreed to participate on the film because he thought it could raise awareness in ways his own advocacy could not. Snowden was also in the news recently for developing a way for potentially imperiled smartphone users to monitor whether their devices are making any potentially compromising radio transmissions.

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