mrspoonsi writes "BBC reports: Leading global technology firms have called for 'wide-scale changes' to US government surveillance. Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group. The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programs. 'We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,' the group said in an open letter published on its website."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post that morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency's surveillance activities and officials are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support. 'It is not clear whether or when Obama might travel the 23 miles up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to visit Fort Meade, the NSA's headquarters in Maryland,' writes Nakashima, 'but agency employees are privately voicing frustration at what they perceive as White House ambivalence amid the pounding the agency has taken from critics.' Though Obama has asserted that the NSA's collection of virtually all Americans' phone records is lawful and has saved lives, the administration has not endorsed legislation that would codify it. And his recent statements suggest Obama thinks some of the NSA's activities should be constrained. 'The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it's been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,' says Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. 'They feel they've been hung out to dry, and they're right.' Former officials note how President George W. Bush paid a visit to the NSA in January 2006, in the wake of revelations by the New York Times that the agency engaged in a counterterrorism program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. soil beginning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 'Bush came out and spoke to the workforce, and the effect on morale was tremendous,' Brenner said. 'There's been nothing like that from this White House.' Morale is 'bad overall' says another former NSA official. 'It's become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'"
walterbyrd sends this news from Techworld: "A Microsoft storage patent that was used to get a sales ban on products from Google-owned Motorola Mobility in Germany has been invalidated by the German Federal Patent Court. Microsoft's FAT (File Allocation Table) patent, which concerns a 'common name space for long and short filenames' was invalidated on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Federal Patent Court said in an email Friday. She could not give the exact reasons for the court's decision before the written judicial decision is released, which will take a few weeks."
sfcrazy writes "A team of extremely creative people have created a really inexpensive bullet time set-up using Raspberry Pis — and the whole set-up costs less than a professional DSLR camera. The rig looks more like the LHC at CERN using nearly half a kilometre of network cables, 48 Raspberry Pis fitted with cameras and PiFace Control. The rig worked perfectly — in terms of doing what a bullet time set-up should do. Raspberry Pis achieved the Hollywood's 'frozen time' effect at a much lesser cost."
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have announced that measles cases in the U.S. spiked this year, rising to three times their recent average rate. It's partly due to a greater number of people traveling to the U.S. when they're infectious, but also because a frustrating number of people are either failing to have their children vaccinated, or are failing to do so in a timely manner. Dr. Thomas Friedman said, 'Around 90 percent of the people who have had measles in this country were not vaccinated either because they refused, or were not vaccinated on time.' Phil Plait adds, 'In all three of these outbreaks, someone who had not been vaccinated traveled overseas and brought the disease back with them, which then spread due to low vaccination rates in their communities. It's unclear how much religious beliefs themselves were behind the outbreaks in Brooklyn and North Carolina; it may have been due to widespread secular anti-vax beliefs in those tight-knit groups. But either way, a large proportion of the people in those areas were unvaccinated.'"
David Gerard writes "Elsevier, in final desperation mode, is going after authors sharing their own papers online. Academia.edu has told several researchers that Elsevier 'is currently upping the ante in its opposition to academics sharing their own papers online.' This is the sounds of a boycott biting."
chicksdaddy writes "The Federal Trade Commission announced on Thursday that it settled with the maker of 'Brightest Flashlight Free,' a popular Android mobile application, over charges that the company used deceptive advertising to collect location and device information from Android owners. The FTC says the company failed to disclose wanton harvesting and sharing of customers' locations and mobile device identities with third parties. Brightest Flashlight Free, which allows Android owners to use their phone as a flashlight, is a top download from Google Play, the main Android marketplace. Statistics from the site indicate that it has been downloaded more than one million times with an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. The application, which is available for free, displays mobile advertisements on the devices it is installed on. However, the device also harvested a wide range of data from Android phones which was shared with advertisers, including what the FTC describes as 'precise geolocation along with persistent device identifiers.' As part of the settlement with the FTC, Goldenshores is ordered to change its advertisements and in-app disclosures to make explicit any collection of geolocation information, how it is or may be used, the reason for collecting location information and which third parties that data is shared with."
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft announced yesterday their plans to encrypt customer data to prevent government snooping. Free Software Foundation executive director John Sullivan questions the logic of trusting non-free software, regardless of promises or even intent. He says, 'Microsoft has made renewed security promises before. In the end, these promises are meaningless. Proprietary software like Windows is fundamentally insecure not because of Microsoft's privacy policies but because its code is hidden from the very users whose interests it is supposed to secure. A lock on your own house to which you do not have the master key is not a security system, it is a jail. ... If the NSA revelations have taught us anything, it is that journalists, governments, schools, advocacy organizations, companies, and individuals, must be using operating systems whose code can be reviewed and modified without Microsoft or any other third party's blessing. When we don't have that, back doors and privacy violations are inevitable.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Josh Gerstein writes on Politico that President Barack Obama told Chris Matthews in an interview recorded for MSNBC's 'Hardball' that he'll be reining in some of the snooping conducted by the NSA, but he did not detail what new limits he plans to impose on the embattled spy organization. 'I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA. And...to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,' said the President who insisted that the NSA's work shows respect for the rights of Americans, while conceding that its activities are often more intrusive when it comes to foreigners communicating overseas. 'The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws.' During the program, Matthews raised the surveillance issue by noting a Washington Post report on NSA gathering of location data on billion of cell phones overseas. 'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting and-- you know, Instagramming.' With some at the NSA feeling hung out to dry by the president, Obama also went out of his way to praise the agency's personnel for their discretion. 'I want to everybody to be clear: the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that's not something that's done. And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Bank of America has issued a research report suggesting that the crypto-currency Bitcoin could become 'a major means of payment for e-commerce' on its way to emerging as 'a serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers.' The bank attaches a 'maximum market capitalization' of Bitcoin at roughly $1,300, based on its position as a 'major player in both e-commerce and money transfer' as well as 'a significant store of value with a reputation close to silver.' Bitcoin has come close to exceeding that theoretical ceiling in recent weeks, although its valuation dove today after the People's Bank of China decided to declare it a volatile 'currency' without real legal status; that financial institution is also concerned about its use in money laundering and black markets. Bank of America sees Bitcoins' advantages as low transaction costs, its finite supply (which will protect its value), and its increasing attractiveness as an alternative to 'traditional' cash. As with the People's Bank of China, however, the bank sees the currency's extreme volatility and lack of legal backing as a bad thing, and frowns at the possibility that regulators could step in and increase transaction costs. 'A 50 minute wait before payment receipt confirmation is received will prohibit wider use,' the report adds. 'This is less of an issue for two parties that know each other because they trust the other will not double spend, but when dealing with an anonymous counterparty this creates a high level of unhedgeable risk.' Without a 'central counterparty' to verify transactions and thus mitigate that risk, Bitcoin could fail to break into wider use."
New submitter Emilio Hodge writes "Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died, President Jacob Zuma announces. He was 95." Mandela's death is covered by lots of news sources, of course, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
An anonymous reader writes "Here's an update to the earlier Slashdot story about KlearGear.com 'fining' a couple for a bad review left four years earlier on RipoffReport: Not only did KlearGear report this as a bad debt to credit reporting agencies, but KlearGear is hiding behind a DomainsByProxy domain name to making finding their real identities harder. Now Public Citizen is representing the couple and is going after KlearGear for $75,000. The TV station that broke this story, KUTV, now reports that RipoffReport will likely be on the couple's side. The BBB and TRUSTe say their logos were used by KlearGear.com without permission, and credit reporting agency Experian is also investigating."
rtoz sends word that a French court has ordered Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to remove 16 unauthorized video streaming sites from their search results. Many ISPs were also ordered to block access to the sites. According to TorrentFreak, "The court ruled that the film industry had clearly demonstrated that the sites in question are 'dedicated or virtually dedicated to the distribution of audiovisual works without the consent of their creators,' thus violating their copyrights. As a result the search services of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and local company Orange are now under orders to 'take all necessary measures to prevent the occurrence on their services of any results referring to any of the pages' on these sites. Several ISPs – Orange, Free, Bouygues Télécom, SFR, Numéricable and Darty Télécom were also ordered to 'implement all appropriate means including blocking' to prevent access to the infringing sites."
ananyo writes "Bowing to scientists' near-universal scorn, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has fulfilled its threat to retract a controversial paper which claimed that a genetically modified (GM) maize causes serious disease in rats after the authors refused to withdraw it. The paper, from a research group led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, and published in 2012, showed 'no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data,' said a statement from Elsevier, which publishes the journal. But the small number and type of animals used in the study means that 'no definitive conclusions can be reached.' The known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat 'cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups,' it added. Today's move came as no surprise. Earlier this month, the journal's editor-in-chief, Wallace Hayes, threatened retraction if Séralini refused to withdraw the paper, which is exactly what he announced at a press conference in Brussels this morning. Séralini and his team remained unrepentant, and allege that the retraction derives from the journal's editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for biotechnology giant Monsanto for seven years."
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "In 2012, Canadian Ellen Richardson was hospitalized for clinical depression. This past Monday she tried to board a plane to New York for a $6,000 Caribbean cruise. DHS denied her entry, citing supposedly private medical records listing her hospitalization. From the story: '“I was turned away, I was told, because I had a hospitalization in the summer of 2012 for clinical depression,’’ said Richardson, who is a paraplegic and set up her cruise in collaboration with a March of Dimes group of about 12 others.'"