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Submission + - The government wants your fingerprint to unlock your phone (latimes.com)

schwit1 writes: As the world watched the FBI spar with Apple this winter in an attempt to hack into a San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, federal officials were quietly waging a different encryption battle in a Los Angeles courtroom.

There, authorities obtained a search warrant compelling the girlfriend of an alleged Armenian gang member to press her finger against an iPhone that had been seized from a Glendale home. The phone contained Apple's fingerprint identification system for unlocking, and prosecutors wanted access to the data inside it.

It marked a rare time that prosecutors have demanded a person provide a fingerprint to open a computer, but experts expect such cases to become more common as cracking digital security becomes a larger part of law enforcement work.

The Glendale case and others like it are forcing courts to address a basic question: How far can the government go to obtain biometric markers such as fingerprints and hair?

Submission + - Global Catastrophe, Even Human Extinction, Isn't All That Unlikely

HughPickens.com writes: Robinson Meyer writes in The Atlantic that in its annual report on “global catastrophic risk,” the Global Challenges Foundation estimates the risk of human extinction due to climate change—or an accidental nuclear war at 0.1 percent every year. That may sound low, but when extrapolated to century-scale it comes to a 9.5 percent chance of human extinction within the next hundred years. The report holds catastrophic climate change and nuclear war far above other potential causes, and for good reason citing multiple occasions when the world stood on the brink of atomic annihilation. While most of these occurred during the Cold War, another took place during the 1990s, the most peaceful decade in recent memory. The closest may have been on September 26, 1983, when a bug in the U.S.S.R. early-warning system reported that five NATO nuclear missiles had been launched and were bound for Russian targets. The officer watching the system, Stanislav Petrov, had also designed the system, and he decided that any real NATO first-strike would involve hundreds of I.C.B.M.s. Therefore, he resolved the computers must be malfunctioning. He did not fire a response.

Climate change also poses its own risks. According to Meyer, serious veterans of climate science now suggest that global warming will spawn continent-sized superstorms by the end of the century. Sebastian Farquhar says that even more conservative estimates can be alarming: UN-approved climate models estimate that the risk of six to ten degrees Celsius of warming exceeds 3 percent, even if the world tamps down carbon emissions at a fast pace. Other risks won’t stem from technological hubris. Any year, there’s always some chance of a super-volcano erupting or an asteroid careening into the planet. Both would of course devastate the areas around ground zero—but they would also kick up dust into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and sending global temperatures plunging. Natural pandemics may pose the most serious risks of all. In fact, in the past two millennia, the only two events that experts can certify as global catastrophes of this scale were plagues. The Black Death of the 1340s felled more than 10 percent of the world population. Another epidemic of the Yersinia pestis bacterium—the “Great Plague of Justinian” in 541 and 542—killed between 25 and 33 million people, or between 13 and 17 percent of the global population at that time. The report briefly explores other possible risks: a genetically engineered pandemic, geo-engineering gone awry, an all-seeing artificial intelligence. "We do not expect these risks to materialize tomorrow, or even this year, but we should not ignore them," says Farquhar. "Although many risks are addressed by specific groups, we need to build a community around global catastrophic risk. Cooperation is the only way for global leaders to manage the risks that threaten humanity."

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