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Government

Secret Text In Senate Bill Would Give FBI Warrantless Access To Email Records (theintercept.com)

mi quotes a report from The Intercept: A provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate's annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals' email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers using those beloved 'National Security Letters' -- without a warrant and in complete secrecy. [The spy bill passed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with the provision in it. The lone no vote came from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who wrote in a statement that one of the bill's provisions "would allow any FBI field office to demand email records without a court order, a major expansion of federal surveillance powers." If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI's already highly controversial national security letters. The FBI is currently allowed to get certain types of information with NSLs -- most commonly, information about the name, address, and call data associated with a phone number or details about a bank account. The FBI's power to issue NSLs is actually derived from the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- a 1986 law that Congress is currently working to update to incorporate more protections for electronic communications -- not fewer. The House unanimously passed the Email Privacy Act in late April, while the Senate is due to vote on its version this week. "NSLs have a sordid history. They've been abused in a number of ways, including targeting of journalists and use to collect an essentially unbounded amount of information," Andrew Crocker, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote. One thing that makes them particularly easy to abuse is that recipients of NSLs are subject to a gag order that forbids them from revealing the letters' existence to anyone, much less the public.]
Patents

Patent Troll VirnetX Wants To Ban FaceTime and iMessage, Increase Damages Award By $190M (9to5mac.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, patent troll VirnetX won a court battle with Apple to the tune of $625 million. Now, the company wants to increase the damages award by $190 million. Law360 reports: "At a post-trial hearing Wednesday, Texas technology company VirnetX argued that although an injunction blocking Apple's popular video chatting and messaging features, along with a virtual private network on demand feature, may seem like a harsh remedy, it is necessary because of the irreparable harm Apple's infringement caused the company. VirnetX also asked the court to increase the jury's damages award by at least $190 million, arguing that Apple has been the 'poster child' for unreasonable litigation tactics." VirnetX also wants the court to block FaceTime and iMessage entirely. "Meanwhile, Apple argued that in light of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decisions rejecting the four patents-in-suit, an injunction would be inappropriate, as would any ongoing royalty based on FaceTime, iMessage and virtual private network on demand features. The tech giant also sought a mistrial based on a purportedly inappropriate argument to the jury and argued that the company is entitled to a judgment of non infringement, despite the jury verdict, based on VirnetX's allegedly insufficient evidence," reports Law360.
Google

Android Is 'Fair Use' As Google Beats Oracle In $9 Billion Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 188

infernalC writes: Ars Technica is reporting that the verdict is in, and that the jury decided that Google's duplication of several Java interfaces is fair use. Ars Technica writes that Google's Android OS does not infringe upon Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use." The jury unanimously answered "yes" in response to whether or not Google's use of Java APIs was a "fair use" under copyright law. The trial is now over, since Google won. "Google's win somewhat softens the blow to software developers who previously thought programming language APIs were free to use," Ars Technica writes. "It's still the case that APIs can be protected by copyright under the law of at least one appeals court. However, the first high-profile attempt to control APIs with copyright law has now been stymied by a "fair use" defense." The amount Oracle may have asked for in damages could have been as much as $9 billion.
Cellphones

FCC Formalizes Massive Fines For Selling, Using Cell-Phone Jammers (networkworld.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: Two years ago the FCC announced its intention to fine a Chinese electronics maker $34.9 million and a Florida man $48,000 for respectively selling and using illegal cell-phone jammers. Today the agency has issued press releases telling us that those fines have finally been made official, without either of the offending parties having bothered to mount a formal defense of their actions. From the press release announcing the fine against CTS. Technology: "[...] The company's website falsely claimed that some jammers had been approved by the FCC, and advertised that the company could ship signal jammers to consumers in the United States." The company did not respond to the FCC's allegations, although the agency does report that changes were made to its website that appear to be aimed at complying with U.S. law. Next up is Florida man, Jason R. Humphreys, who is alleged to have used a jammer on his commute: "Mr. Humphreys' illegal operation of the jammer continued for up to two years, caused interference to cellular service along Interstate 4, and disrupted police communications." Last Fall, a Chicagoan was arrested for using a cell-phone jammer to make his subway commute more tolerable.
Piracy

The Pirate Bay Sails Back To Its .ORG Domain (cnet.com) 86

An anonymous reader writes: Following a report that the Swedish Court would seize the domain names 'ThePirateBay.se' and 'PirateBay.se,' The Pirate Bay is now sailing back to where it started in 2003, ThePirateBay.org. CNET reports: "The site is currently redirecting all traffic from the above two domains back to its .org home." In 2012, The Pirate Bay moved to the .se domain. It then moved to more secure domains, such as .sx and .ac, eventually returning to .se in 2015. Every alternative domain the site was using has been seized. Since the registry that manages the top level .org domains is based in Virginia, it's likely we'll see some legal action from the U.S. in response to the move. Meanwhile, Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij plans to appeal the Swedish's court's decision to seize the .se domains.
Math

Billionaire Technologist Accuses NASA Asteroid Mission of Bad Statistics (sciencemag.org) 205

Taco Cowboy quotes a report from Science Magazine: Nathan Myhrvold, ex-CTO of Microsoft, is accusing NASA of providing bad statistics on asteroid size. Mr. Myhrvold alleged that scientists using a prominent NASA space telescope have made fundamental mistakes in their assessment of the size of more than 157,000 asteroids they have observed. In a paper posted to the arXiv.org e-print repository on 22 May, Myhrvold takes aim at the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), a space telescope launched in 2009, and a follow-on mission, NEOWISE, which together are responsible for the discovery of more asteroids than any other observatory. Yet Myhrvold says that the WISE and NEOWISE teams' papers are riddled with statistical missteps. "None of their results can be replicated," he tells ScienceInsider. "I found one irregularity after another" Myhrvold says the NASA teams have made mistakes, such as ignoring the margin of error introduced when extrapolating from a small sample size to an entire population. They also neglected to include Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation in their thermal models of the asteroids. Based on his own models, Myhrvold says that errors in the asteroid diameters based on WISE data should be 30%. In some cases, the size errors rise to as large as 300%. "Asteroids are more variable than we thought they were," he says. He has submitted the paper to the journal Icarus for review. However, the WISE and NEOWISE teams are standing by their results, and say that Myhrvold's criticism should be dismissed. "For every mistake I found in his paper, if I got a bounty, I would be rich," says Ned Wright, the principal investigator for WISE at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wright says that WISE's data match very well with two other infrared telescopes, AKARI and IRAS. To find out how accurately those infrared data determine the size of an asteroid, scientists have to calibrate them with radar observations, other observations made when asteroids pass in front of distant stars, and observations made by spacecraft up close. When they do that, Wright says, WISE's size errors end up at roughly 15%. Wright says his team doesn't have Myhrvold's computer codes, "so we don't know why he's screwing up." But Wright archly noted that Myhrvold once worked at Microsoft, so "is responsible in part for a lot of bad software."
Government

How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers (theguardian.com) 134

10 years before Edward Snowden's leak, an earlier whistle-blower on NSA spying "was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally," according to a new article in The Guardian. "The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today... The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself."

But today The Guardian reveals a new story about John Crane, a senior official at the Department of Defense "who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake -- until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well..." Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute whistleblower Thomas Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake's identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge...

Crane's failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations... if [Crane's] allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.)

Meanwhile, George Maschke writes: In a presentation to a group of Texas law students, a polygraph examiner for the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, the number of polygraphs conducted annually by the department tripled (to over 120,000). Morris also conceded that mental countermeasures to the polygraph are a "tough thing."
Crime

How Militarized Cops Are Zapping Rights With Stingray (alternet.org) 105

"Police nationwide are secretly exploiting intrusive technologies with the feds' complicity," argues a new article on Alternet -- calling out Stingray, which mimics a cellphone tower to identify every cellphone nearby. "It gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well... Some Stingrays are capable of collecting not only cell phone ID numbers but also numbers those phones have dialed and even phone conversations." The ACLU says requests for more information have been meeting heavy resistance from police departments since 2011, with many departments citing nondisclosure agreements with Stingray's manufacturer and with the FBI, and "often, the police get a judge's sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray...claiming that they simply can't violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements.

"More often than not, police use Stingrays without bothering to get a warrant, instead seeking a court order on a more permissive legal standard. This is part of the charm of a new technology for the authorities: nothing is settled on how to use it." Stingray is more than a 1960s TV series with puppets. Several state judges estimate there have been hundreds of instances where police have used the Stingray tool without a warrant or telling a judge.

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace writes:
This is why it matters who wins the mayor and city council races. Localities do not have to accept this technology.
Education

Judge Orders 'Intentionally Deceptive' DOJ Lawyers To Take Remedial Ethics Class (zerohedge.com) 185

According to the Daily Caller, "The judge overseeing the challenge by 26 states to President Obama's executive action in immigration has ordered all lawyers 'employed at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. who appears, or seeks to appear, in a court (state or federal) in any of the 26 Plaintiff States annually attend a legal ethics course.'"

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Zero Hedge: In writing the ruling, Hanen quoted from the scene in "Miracle on 34th Street" when the boy is called to testify to Santa's existence and saying that everyone knows not to tell a lie to the court. Hanen went on to say that that the Justice Department lawyers have an even stricter duty: Tell the truth, don't mislead the court, and don't allow it to be mislead by others. "The Government's lawyers failed on all three fronts. The actions of the DHS should have been brought as early as December 19, 2014. The failure of counsel to do that constituted more than mere inadvertent omissions -- it was intentionally deceptive." Judge Hanen wrote in his ruling. Hanen ordered that the classes must be "taught by at least one recognized ethics expert who is unaffiliated with the Justice Department." I wonder if the judge could order the lawyers to jail for contempt of court?
Oracle

Declaring Code Is Not Code, Says Larry Page (arstechnica.com) 405

Alphabet CEO Larry Page says his company never considered getting permission from Oracle for using the latter's Java APIs in Android. Page, who appeared in a federal court, said Java APIs are open and free, which warrants them or anyone to use it without explicit permission from Oracle. From an Ars Technica report (edited for clarity): "But you did copy the code and copy the structure, sequence, and organization of the APIs?" Oracle attorney Peter Bicks asked, raising his voice. "I don't agree with 'copy code,'" Page said. "For me, declaring code is not code," Page said. "Have you paid anything to Oracle for using that intellectual property?" Bicks asked. "When Sun established Java, they established it as an open source thing," Page said. "I believe the APIs we used were pretty open. No, we didn't pay for the free and open things." [...] "Was Google seeking a license for Java?" Google lawyer Robert Van Nest asked. "Yes, and a broader deal around other things, like branding and cooperation," Page said. "After discussions with Sun broke off, did you believe Google needed a license for APIs?" Van Nest asked. "No, I did not believe that," Page said. "It was established industry practice that the API and just the headers of those things could be taken and re-implemented. [It must be done] very carefully, not to use any existing implementation of those systems. That's been done many, many times. I think we acted responsibly and carefully around these intellectual property issues."
Government

New Surveillance System May Let Cops Use All Of The Cameras (engadget.com) 117

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: [Computer scientists have created a way of letting law enforcement tap any camera that isn't password protected so they can determine where to send help or how to respond to a crime.] The system, which is just a proof of concept, alarms privacy advocates who worry that prudent surveillance could easily lead to government overreach, or worse, unauthorized use. It relies upon two tools developed independently at Purdue. The Visual Analytics Law Enforcement Toolkit superimposes the rate and location of crimes and the location of police surveillance cameras. CAM2 reveals the location and orientation of public network cameras, like the one outside your apartment. You could do the same thing with a search engine like Shodan, but CAM2 makes the job far easier, which is the scary part. Aggregating all these individual feeds makes it potentially much more invasive. [Purdue limits access to registered users, and the terms of service for CAM2 state "you agree not to use the platform to determine the identity of any specific individuals contained in any video or video stream." A reasonable step to ensure privacy, but difficult to enforce (though the team promises the system will have strict security if it ever goes online). Beyond the specter of universal government surveillance lies the risk of someone hacking the system.] EFF discovered that anyone could access more than 100 "secure" automated license plate readers last year.
The Courts

Google Appeals French Order For Global 'Right To Be Forgotten' (reuters.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Alphabet Inc's Google appealed on Thursday an order from the French data protection authority to remove certain web search results globally in response to a European privacy ruling, escalating a fight on the extra-territorial reach of EU law. In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that people could ask search engines, such as Google and Microsoft's Bing, to remove inadequate or irrelevant information from web results appearing under searches for people's names -- dubbed the "right to be forgotten." Google complied, but it only scrubbed results across its European websites such as Google.de in Germany and Google.fr in France, arguing that to do otherwise would set a dangerous precedent on the territorial reach of national laws. The French regulator, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), fined Google 100,000 euros ($112,150.00) in March for not delisting more widely, arguing that was the only way to uphold Europeans' right to privacy. The company filed its appeal of the CNIL's order with France's supreme administrative court, the Council of State. "One nation does not make laws for another," said Dave Price, senior product counsel, Google. "Data protection law, in France and around Europe, is explicitly territorial, that is limited to the territory of the country whose law is being applied." Google's Transparency Report indicates the company accepts around 40 percent of requests for the removal of links appearing under search results for people's names.
Piracy

Filmmakers Ask 'Pirate' to Take Polygraph, Backtrack When He Agrees (torrentfreak.com) 155

The makers of Dallas Buyers Club (a 2014 movie, which won three Academy awards) are going to great lengths to crackdown on BitTorrent pirates. According to a report on piracy news blog TorrentFreak, the filmmakers challenged an accused pirate to submit a polygraph test to prove that he didn't download a copyright infringing copy of their movie. The accused pirate, California resident Michael Amhari, insists that he did not download any pirated copy of the Dallas Buyers Club and agreed to take the polygraph test. Upon hearing this, the filmmakers, who had imposed a $100,000 fine on Amhari, retracted the offer. "When plaintiff's counsel then agreed to take such a test with the proviso that defense costs and attorney fees be covered, plaintiff then refused to pay costs and revoked his offer to conduct a polygraph," said Amhari's counsel Clay Renick. TorrentFreak reports: "After receiving exculpatory evidence and the sworn declaration of defendant, Mr. Davis then refused to file a dismissal and proceeded to demand that defendant appear in the action or he would file a default." The defendant's counsel added: âoeThis behavior is galling and it should not be permitted by the court.â Because of these dubious tactics the court should set aside the default that was entered earlier this month. According to Renick, Dallas Buyer's Club has nothing more than an IP-address to back up their infringement claims, which is not enough to prove guilt.
AI

Google's Tensor Processing Unit Could Advance Moore's Law 7 Years Into The Future (pcworld.com) 86

An anonymous reader writes from a report via PCWorld: Google says its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) advances machine learning capability by a factor of three generations. "TPUs deliver an order of magnitude higher performance per watt than all commercially available GPUs and FPGA," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the company's I/O developer conference on Wednesday. The chips powered the AlphaGo computer that beat Lee Sedol, world champion of the game called Go. "We've been running TPUs inside our data centers for more than a year, and have found them to deliver an order of magnitude better-optimized performance per watt for machine learning. This is roughly equivalent to fast-forwarding technology about seven years into the future (three generations of Moore's Law)," said Google's blog post. "TPU is tailored to machine learning applications, allowing the chip to be more tolerant of reduced computational precision, which means it requires fewer transistors per operation. Because of this, we can squeeze more operations per second into the silicon, use more sophisticated and powerful machine learning models, and apply these models more quickly, so users get more intelligent results more rapidly." The chip is called the Tensor Processing Unit because it underpins TensorFlow, the software engine that powers its deep learning services under an open-source license.
Firefox

Firefox Tops Microsoft Browser Market Share For First Time (arstechnica.com) 141

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: For the first time, Firefox has pulled ahead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Edge browsers. Mozilla's Firefox grabbed 15.6 percent of worldwide desktop browser usage in April, according to the latest numbers from Web analytics outfit StatCounter. Google Chrome continues to dominate two thirds of the market. StatCounter, which analyzed data from three million websites, found that Firefox's worldwide desktop browser usage last month was 0.1 percent ahead of the combined share of Internet Explorer and Edge at 15.5 percent. Firefox has reportedly been losing market share over the last three months, but Microsoft's Edge and Internet Explorer browsers appear to be declining faster. Last week, Mozilla launched Test Pilot, a program for trying out experimental Firefox features. They've also been fighting the FBI in court for details about a vulnerability in the Tor Browser hack, which may affect the company since the Tor browser is partially based on the Firefox browser code.

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