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Comment It's what makes facebook ban art museums (Score 1) 172

Just the other day, facebook shut down the account of a swedish art museum for posting images by Anders Zorn, an early 1900's artist (wikipedia's description: "Zorn was a prolific artist. He became an international success as one of the most acclaimed portrait painters of his era. His sitters included three American Presidents, nobility, the Swedish king and queen and numerous members of high society."). You can scroll down a bit on the wikipedia page to see examples of images that were considered so "rude" that they led to the banning of a government-funded art institute.

My assumption is that this was done by a bot rather than a real person, probably based by a similar technology as in the OP, because I can't believe even facebook censors are that stupid. So yeah, while it's an interesting piece of technology from a purely scientific perspective, it's also pretty daft to put it in charge of decisions.

Comment You block us, we block you (Score 1) 198

What's stopping google from blocking an ISP/telecom that adopts this practice? I mean, if the telecom can legally block google, then google should be able to legally block the telecom.

If the telecom's customers suddenly can't reach google search, gmail, g+ etc, they'd probably either switch telecom or ask for the ads back.

Comment Absolutely crucial (Score 4, Informative) 137

The situation since new-year is absolutely horrendous. At January 1st, the VAT rules changed so that digital goods have to be taxed using the VAT rate of the buyer's location, and using the tax law of the buyer's home country. That is: a web shop of any size have to keep track of up to 80 different VAT rates, and the disparate tax law regarding VAT of 28 different EU countries in order to deduce which VAT rate and goods classification is applicable on each single transaction.

As a telling example: In several countries an e-book is only an e-book if it has an ISBN number (usually with a lower than standard VAT rate). Otherwise it's a digital service (with a higher VAT rate). In other countries it's a e-book as long it's a digital text. Or humorously enough, in the case of France: It's only taxed as an e-book if it doesn't have pornographic content, otherwise it's taxed as a digital service.

A good start would be what is proposed in the press release: Harmonized VAT rates and rules for digital goods.

Comment This is not the most important part of the change (Score 5, Informative) 164

While the OP in principle is correct, the increased tax revenue is not the most important consequence of the change. The drastic part is the legal burden added on companies offering e-services. Any company (regardless of whether they are located in the EU or the US, regardless of their size, and regardless of their annual turnabout) that want to makes sales in the EU will now have to read and understand 28 different national tax laws regarding VAT. Not only do all these countries have different VAT rates, but they also have different exceptions depending on what it is that is sold. In one country the VAT rate might be 20%, unless the sale can be categorized for example as advertisement, in which case the VAT rate is 10%. In another country the item that is sold might be categorized in a different manner.

The burden of figuring out what tax to charge lands entirely on the salesman, even if he's just a hobbyist selling a single item. Needless to say, learning and keeping track of 28 different legislations is impossible unless you are a large corporation. But despite this, a german shop owner charging the wrong VAT rate for a bulgarian customer might end up being sued in a bulgarian court of law. And in the long run get extradited to bulgaria. Since this law change in practice is going to wipe out small business owners, there have been quite vocal protests raised. For example a twitter storm ended up making the #EUVAT hashtag trending at number 3 worldwide. (see More information about what the salient consequences of the law change are can be found at

Comment HTTPS is not safe either (Score 3, Insightful) 622

So, in an effort to hide from NSA you go all out HTTPS. However, to avoid getting those pesky "this site is dangerous!!!" messages browsers show you on self-signed certificates, you buy your keys from any of the larger certificate authorities. Safe? Sorry, no. Almost all those CAs work under American jurisdiction, or on delegation from American CAs. Assuming NSA doesn't get the keys in other ways, all they have to do to get them is to ask the CA and the company would have to hand them over.

With those private keys available they can listen in on the HTTPS conversations in real time, and there is no way for the participants of the conversation to know this.

Amusingly enough, the safest bid (well, to hide from NSA at least) would be to use self-signed keys despite all the browser warnings.

If you still want to get valid keys, here is an interesting discussion on which CA to choose.

Comment Revelation space (Score 3, Interesting) 209

This theme has been investigated extensively in the revelation space books by Alastair Reynolds, if anyone is curious about reading fiction about how it could look. Here, a full dump of a person is called an alpha-level simulation and is essential a living digital copy of a person, capable of continuing to "live", learn and having conversations with their descendants.

Nonsense. Space is blue and birds fly through it. -- Heisenberg