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Comment: Re:more govenrnment waste!! (Score 1) 210

by meta-monkey (#49784535) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

Not exactly. What the 2nd Circuit rules was that the bulk collection of phone records was "not authorized" by section 215 of the Patriot Act. They did not rule on the constitutionality of the program. So not "what you're doing is wrong" but "what you're doing is something nobody told you to do." Whether or not it would be constitutional to implement the program they did is left open. And with good can't rule on the constitutionality of a law that isn't written.

Consider your work at a company which has an employee agreement that the company will "respect your privacy." Lately there have been some problems with unauthorized people entering the company building, and perhaps doing nefarious things. So the leadership creates a new "Whatcha Doin'?" program, in which security guards are authorized to ask people who come through the door two questions:

1) What is your name?

2) What is your quest?

The security department takes this program and implements it. But the security chief adds another question, "What is your favorite color?"

The employees are livid and go to HR, objecting to the intrusive nature of the question. Okay, maybe it's fine to ask people coming through the door their name and their quest, but "what is your favorite color" is deeply personal information, and asking it violates the "respect your privacy" clause of the employee agreement. The security department disagrees, that asking for favorite colors is not too personal a question, and they want to keep doing it.

HR doesn't really want to get into the mess of deciding whether your favorite color is information too private for the company to ask, but they do notice, "um, hey guys...the Whatcha Doin' program doesn't authorize you to ask for favorite colors anyway, so just knock that off and we're all cool, right?"

That's basically what happened. Now, if they pass the USA Freedom Act or something else that DOES specifically authorize bulk call collection, THEN the court will be in a position to rule on whether or not bulk phone collection is constitutional.

Comment: Re:I am amazed (Score 1) 138

by jc42 (#49784229) Attached to: A Text Message Can Crash An iPhone and Force It To Reboot

People keep arguing that /. doesn't support Unicode, when it really does - it just uses a narrow whitelist of characters. The reason for this is obvious if you think about it - to prevent situations like this from happening.

Heck, there might be strings out there that will crash any Unicode library implementation, just we haven't found them yet because the search space is huge.

Hmmm ... That tempts me to try a test using a couple of file names on this machine that are two of the names for a Mandarin-English dictionary: .html and Ptnghuà.html (and also Pu3Tong1Hua4.html for systems that can only accept ASCII ;-). Those names aren't in any sense obscure or tricky; they're strings you'd expect to see in online discussions of text handling in various languages. If you can't handle at least these trivial Chinese strings, you've failed pretty badly. Of course, they look findin this Comment: panel, and will likely survive the Preview button.

Let's see how /. handles them ...

Nope; the 3 Hanzi characters didn't show at all, and only the à showed correctly in the second name. But both everything looks correct in this second editing widget. This proves that /. hasn't damaged the actual text in the Preview. Let's see what happens when I try to post it ...

Comment: Re:Mr. shattered hope (Score 2) 210

by mrchaotica (#49784163) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

don't have a magical fix. My latest pet theory is that, at a Federal level, there should be a specified number of politicians. Rather than state-by-state, gerrymandered-district-by-gerrymandered-district, shit should be direct. Is there 3% of the US population who are pot-smoking tree-humping eco-dweebs? Then 3% of the politicians should be from the Nature Molestin' Party. Sure, we wouldn't have the 'hope and change' of meaningless party swaps over individual seats. We might get locked into some terrible shit if the majority of the country are, in fact, clueless assholes. But it'd be better representation.

A much "simpler" change (in terms of concept, not ease of execution) would be to go re-learn the concept of Federalism and take a bunch of power away from the Federal government and give it to state and local ones. The less the Federal government has responsibility over, the less harm unaccountable Congresscritters can do.

Comment: Snooping Programs a help (Score 2) 210

by Jason Levine (#49783773) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

the FBI is unable to name a single terror case in which the snooping provisions were of much help

"There was that one case... and the other one... then there was that case with the thing... and the person with the other thing... Yeah, we need to keep this running."

The problem with this program (from an FBI-perspective, not a privacy one) is that it floods them with too much data. There's a false notion that since data is good that more data is always good. Not all data is good data. You need to go through it and find the useful parts. As you get more and more data, you eventually become unable to weed through the data to extract the good parts. You either wind up ignoring it entirely (and thus missing good data coming in) or you grab hold of any data point you can find without properly vetting it (due to no manpower for that step) and wind up chasing down phantom leads.

That's why a properly limited (warrant-based) system would not only be better for privacy, but would actually be better for national security.

Comment: Re:Nonsense (Score 2) 210

by Jason Levine (#49783693) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

In reality, it's even worse, as requiring the telecoms to keep this data guarantees that the telecoms will use that data -- so the end result is an expansion of the the amount of spying that is being inflicted on us.

Exactly this. Government spying on its citizens is bad, don't get me wrong. However, there are remedies for this. It isn't easy, but you CAN vote out the current government and vote in people who will end the spying. Again, it's not easy and it might take time, but it's doable.

Suppose AT&T and Verizon have this big database that they are required to maintain, however, and the government just "checks in" and searches it now and then. They need to maintain the database so (they figure), why not also profit off of it? What's to keep them from running some searches to find ways of extracting more money out of people when the (stated) purpose of the database was national security? And how do we keep them from abusing a database that they maintain in-house? By switching carriers to another carrier required to keep the same database and likely doing the same thing?

It would be better to keep this program in government hands but with some very strict checks and balances in place. Even better would be to shut it down, but if it needs to be kept - which I highly doubt, mind you - I'd prefer it government-run than corporate-run.

Comment: Re:Get rid of it (Score 2) 210

by Jason Levine (#49783573) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

There is a difference between Campaign Politician and Elected Politician. Campaign Politician seeks to get as many people to vote for him/her as possible and so is willing to promise nearly anything. If Campaign Politician thought it would win them votes, they would pledge to have the federal government give everyone a free cute puppy.

When Campaign Politician transitions to Elected Politician, however, many (if not all) of those promises get forgotten. Instead Elected Politician will do whatever he/she can to increase his/her political power. This can mean listening to lobbyists, enacting laws to protect businesses that donate to Elected Politician, and working with other Elected Politicians to keep other Elected Politicians down. Sometimes, Elected Politician will actually abide by a few campaign promises, but this is more because Elected Politician knows that eventually he/she will need to become Campaign Politician again and these followed promises will help.

Occasionally, Campaign Politician will make a promise that Elected Politician will realize is impossible to enact, but this is more of a failing of Campaign Politician to keep from making unrealistic promises than anything else. See the "free puppies" example above. It sounds nice until you get to the real world and figure out costs, logistics, other politicians with alternative plans - free kittens - and groups for whom free puppies wouldn't be a good thing (e.g. people with allergies).

Comment: Dear Mr. Obama (Score 3, Interesting) 210

by DickBreath (#49783495) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping
If the NSA had only been spying on terrorists we wouldn't even be having this conversation. (although it's not really a conversation, but you get my point)

Why would the NSA and CIA be spying on Congress? Is it someone's goal to set up the apparatus of a police state?

Why is the NSA spying on the EU Parliament? Are they looking for terrorists in Parliament?

See: TED How the NSA betrayed the world's trust — time to act
at: 4:30
also see at: 12:40 (or at 12:00 for better context) "I don't think they're looking for terrorists in Parliament."
(see at: 6:00 if you believe in encryption golden keys)

Comment: Re:Sure, let's make everything tiered (Score 1) 319

The reporting on this is very muddled, but at least one article says that the car was not in "self-parking" mode, so the pedestrian detection would not have been active even if this car had it.

So does this mean Volvo sells a configuration that 1) has a computer control the car in small, enclosed spaces and 2) doesn't hae said computer look for obstacles, and specifically not humans?

Comment: Re:"What happened to the dinosaurs?" (Score 2) 369

by Sique (#49780849) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results
We are related to lizards in a way that the last common ancestor of today's lizards and us lived about 290 mio years ago.

Btw. lizard is no cladistic category. Lizard is a habitus that often appears in certain groups of amniotes. But the lizards within the amniotes are not closely related to each other, or at least not more closely than to other amniotes. The lizardlike crocodiles are more closely related to birds (both are archosauria) than for instance to the Komodo dragon, though they look very similar. The Komodo dragon instead is more closely related to snakes and to the ancient marine mosasaurs than for instance the wall lizards.

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten