posted less than an hour ago on ars technica
(credit: Fox61) A Connecticut veteran who was treasurer at both an American Legion and VFW post was sentenced Friday to 2.5 years in prison. Local media said Frederick Brown, 72, of Mansfield, spent $96,000 on Internet porn over a three-year period. According to local media, Brown stopped pilfering funds after realizing the veterans' posts were running out of cash. He stole as much as $144,000 in all. Local media said the defendant got "sucked in" to viewing live online pornography in which women became more provocative when viewers tipped more online tokens. "Mr. Brown said that he basically got 'sucked in' and continued to do it because it was fun," according to a warrant. "Mr. Brown stopped... buying tokens in September 2014 because he started running out of money, and he was worried that someone else in the post would find out." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Alan Levine/Flickr) The Chicago law firm that became synonymous with "patent troll"-type litigation is shutting down, following the death of founding partner Raymond Niro. The remaining partners of the Niro Law Firm are shuttering the firm, according to a report in Crain's Chicago Business. A core group, including Niro's son Dean Niro, will launch a new firm called Vitale Vickrey Niro & Gasey. "We wanted a new start," said Paul Vickrey, who became Niro Law's managing partner after Ray Niro passed away in September of last year. "The Niro firm has been synonymous with patent litigation, and a group of us wanted a new firm with a broader focus." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Datacenters are mostly filled with racks of computers and network cables. (credit: Sean Ellis) Microsoft UK hosted an online event to discuss the impact of the UK's likely departure from the European Union on the tech industry. The event was spotted by OnMSFT. The company currently has two large datacenters in the UK, and it is expanding these in response to vigorous demand for cloud services. But Brexit could throw a spanner in the works. Owen Larter, Microsoft's UK Government Affairs Manager, said that if import tariffs were imposed on the UK—one likely consequence of the UK leaving the EU's single market and customs union—then the company would have to reconsider. Larter said that the company's servers are built both in China and Eastern Europe. Presently, the devices assembled within the EU incur no tariffs on being brought into the UK. But, if that changes and significant import tariffs are imposed on those machines, Larter said the firm might instead build out its European datacenters to avoid those extra costs. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: CDC) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly and quietly canceled a scientific conference on climate change and health. According to E&E News reports, the conference was originally scheduled for February. The conference had been in the works for months, and it was intended to bring experts and stakeholders together to discuss the latest evidence of and solutions to health risks posed by climate change. But according to E&E, the CDC suddenly canceled the summit shortly after Donald Trump’s election. The agency notified speakers and participants in a terse email. The agency gave no explanation. The email noted that the summit may be rescheduled for later in the year. Former CDC officials and conference speakers were quick to draw political connections. They noted that President Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and has vowed to dismantle “harmful and unnecessary” climate change policies. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: NASA/NordForsk) The Earth's climate system moves slowly, since the atmosphere and oceans take time to reach new equilibria. As a result, there are some questions about the climate where it's much easier to provide an answer for a thousand years from now than it is for, say, the next hundred years. When we look at past changes in sea level, for example, the planet’s ice may take thousands of years to come to equilibrium. But we can use those views of the past as a preview of what's in store for us. During the previous break between glacial periods, about 120,000 years ago, sea level was around six to nine meters (20 to 30 feet) higher than it is today, as the cycles in Earth’s orbit that drive the “ice ages” were in a particularly warm phase then. But working out precisely how warm that world was compared to the present day has been difficult. Have we already reached that temperature because of human-driven warming, or are we still a few degrees off from that? Estimates based on natural climate records have differed, which makes it hard to say how much sea level rise we’re committing ourselves to. A group of researchers led by Jeremy Hoffman at Oregon State University compiled a large array of temperature records from seafloor sediment cores around the world to calculate the best possible average. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Want to use more than one controller on the same profile? The new "copilot" mode on Xbox One will let you do just that. (credit: Sam Machkovech) Microsoft pushed a new testing version of its Xbox One guide interface to "Insider" members on Monday, and it brings two intriguing changes: an overhaul to what happens when you tap the "Xbox button" and a very unique "copilot" option for controller use. The former, previewed by Xbox Program Manager Scott Henson, shows off a slightly faster jump between tapping the button and having a floating menu appear. The new default floating menu makes it easier for players to jump back to the home screen, and it additionally offers a shorter path to the home screen's primary options: opening the "games and apps" collection; picking recently played games; and picking from "pinned" games and apps. (Next to all of those is a super-quick path to playing, pausing, and seeking through your personal music collection, should you enjoy Xbox One's custom-soundtrack functionality.) Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty | BSIP) National outbreaks of fake news and partisan “disinformation” have convinced many Americans to doubt scientific consensus—such as the near-unanimous agreement among experts that human-caused climate change is real and a global threat and that vaccines are safe, effective, and live-saving. While respectable media outlets are scrambling to fact-check and refute such “merchants of doubt,” a group of researchers, led by a psychologist at Cambridge, think they can stamp out the viral spread of fake news and lies just like we stamp out every other infectious disease—with vaccinations. Their ‘mental inoculation’ works under the same principal as actual innoculations—that is, exposure to a weakened version or fragment of some nasty contagion can allow a person to recognize and develop immunity to future threats. In their study, the researchers found that they could effectively ‘vaccinate’ Americans from climate change misinformation by presenting them with information on the scientific consensus alongside a pre-emptive caution that some politically motivated groups are spreading lies about that consensus. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: portal gda) A virulent family of malware that infected more than 10 million Android devices last year has made a comeback, this time hiding inside Google Play apps that have been downloaded by as many as 12 million unsuspecting users. HummingWhale, as the professionally developed malware has been dubbed, is a variant of HummingBad, the name given to a family of malicious apps researchers documented in July invading non-Google app markets. HummingBad attempted to override security protections by exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities that gave the malware root privileges in older versions of Android. Before Google shut it down, it installed more than 50,000 fraudulent apps each day, displayed 20 million malicious advertisements, and generated more than $300,000 per month in revenue. Of the 10 million people who downloaded HummingBad-contaminated apps, an estimated 286,000 of them were located in the US. HummingWhale, by contrast, managed to sneak its way into about 20 Google Play apps that were downloaded from 2 million to 12 million times, according to researchers from Check Point, the security company that has been closely following the malware family for almost a year. Rather than rooting devices, the latest variant includes new virtual machine techniques that allow the malware to perform ad fraud better than ever, company researchers said in a blog post published Monday. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The innards of one of the many gaming PCs that are selling better than ever, according to JPR. (credit: Flickr / davispuh) While other market analysts are seeing overall PC sales continue to decline, a new report from Jon Peddie Research (JPR) shows the worldwide market for PC gaming hardware growing faster than expected in 2016. All told, the market for pre-built and "DIY" gaming-focused PCs (which also includes "upgrades and accessories such as input devices and audio/communication systems") exceeded $30 billion for the first time last year ($30.346 billion, to be precise), according to JPR's latest report. That's well up from the estimated $24.6 billion market for gaming PCs that JPR saw back in 2015. Back then, JPR projected that the PC gaming market wouldn't pass the $30 billion mark until 2018, meaning the industry has accelerated roughly two years ahead of those old projections. "The average PC sale is increasingly motivated by the video game use model, which is important to understand in a stagnant or declining overall PC market," JPR writes in explaining its findings. "As basic computing functions become more entrenched with mobile devices, the PC ultimately becomes a power user’s tool..." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 5 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The new 15-inch MacBook Pro. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) In addition to minor updates for iOS, watchOS, and tvOS, Apple has released version 10.12.3 of macOS Sierra to the public today. The update is available through the Mac App Store and will be available later today on Apple's Downloads page; new copies of the Sierra installer downloaded after today should also include the update. Compared to 10.12.2, today's update is pretty limited in scope. Apple is still making some fixes specific to the new MacBook Pros, particularly to the graphics switching mechanism of the 15-inch model (though we have no specific information about how it has been tuned for this update). Graphics problems with Adobe Premiere Pro projects have been fixed in both the 13- and 15-inch models. The update also fixes a pair of PDF problems in Preview, one that prevented searching through scanned documents and one that resolves compatibility problems with encrypted PDF documents. A bug preventing some unspecified third-party apps from importing pictures from digital cameras has also been resolved. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted about 6 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge Ever since Microsoft introduced its Surface tablet PCs, the company has pushed the importance of stylus input using the included pen. Accordingly, the Surface Pro has always included the pen in the box. The company has also made significant improvements to the usefulness of the pen in the most recent major update of Windows 10. But if you really hate the pen, Microsoft now has a Surface Pro 4 SKU for you: the Surface Pro 4 (no pen). This model takes the cheapest iteration of the Surface Pro 4—128GB storage, 4GB RAM, Skylake Core m3 processor, and no fan—and shaves $100 off the price (to $800) just by dropping the pen. Given how important the pen is supposed to be, this seems a bit strange to us, but Microsoft's emphasis on stylus input has never quite matched our usage preferences. In this instance, the reality makes more sense than the marketing. Oddly, if you decide later on that you do want the pen after all, you can buy one for $60 in a choice of colors and still come out $40 ahead of the pack-in option. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 6 hours ago on ars technica
Google Apparently, someone at Google found the Google Voice source code sitting on a dusty server somewhere. Google just announced a big Google Voice overhaul, marking its first major update in five years. First up, we've got new UIs for the Android, iOS, and Web clients of Google Voice. All platforms get a modern white design and separate tabs for text messages, calls, and voicemails. SMS looks a lot like an IM app, with threaded messages for every contact. On Android in particular, the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich-era UI was an embarrassment. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 6 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Andrew Cunningham) After several weeks of beta testing, Apple has released iOS 10.2.1 to the public today. The update is fairly minor, and includes no major improvements to core iOS apps or features; the release notes say only that it fixes bugs and includes security improvements. The security page for the update lists a number of vulnerabilities in the kernel, WebKit, and the Contacts app that have all been fixed, as has a bug that could allow attackers to briefly access the home screen on an Activation Locked iPad that had been reset. The update is available for everything that runs iOS 10: the iPhone 5 and newer, the fourth-generation iPad and newer, the iPad Mini 2 and newer, both iPad Pros, and the sixth-generation iPod Touch. Small updates for watchOS 3 and tvOS 10, both of which are iOS-based, have been released as well. The release of iOS 10.2.1 clears the deck for betas of iOS 10.3, which is likely to be the final major revision to iOS 10 before work begins in earnest on iOS 11. We don't know much about what Apple plans to include in this next update, but older rumors suggest that it may renew focus on the iPad in advance of some new tablet launches in the spring. Hope also springs eternal about a dark mode for iOS. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted about 7 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / President Donald Trump signs an executive order Monday withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office. (credit: Saul Loeb/Getty Images) With the stroke of a pen from President Donald Trump, the United States officially withdrew Monday from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed and controversial 12-nation trade pact dealing with everything from intellectual property to human rights. "Everybody knows what that means, right? We’ve been talking about this for a long time," Trump said as he signed the order and made good on his campaign promise to remove the US from the trade deal. "A great thing for the American worker." During the election campaign, he called the TPP a "disaster." President Barack Obama had praised the pact, but it was put on life support just days after Election Day. That's when congressional leaders told the White House that it would no longer consider entering the pact with a lame-duck president. The failing deal was of interest to Ars due to how intellectual property would have been treated. As we noted, "the TPP exported US copyright law regarding how long a copyright lasts. For signing nations, the plan would have made copyrights last for the life of the creator plus 70 years after his or her death. That's basically the same as in the US." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 7 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Dream Drop Distance is nothing if not colorful. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is a package as hard to parse as its name. The collection serves up three new-ish chapters in the Kingdom Hearts series: an HD remaster of the 3DS exclusive Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance; a two-hour followup to the PSP’s Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep; and an extended cutscene based on the browser and mobile game prequel Kingdom Hearts χ. Before booting up 2.8, I did my best to brush up on the 15-or-so years of series lore to get a grasp on where these episodes fit in Kingdom Hearts’ timeline. What I found was a swirling mess of proper nouns and unpronounceable names. It seems since the first Kingdom Hearts (the last one I finished) things have gotten complicated. Or more complicated than a world where Disney and Final Fantasy characters hang out on a regular basis, anyway. If you’re hoping 2.8 will at least make sense as a self-contained collection, forget it. No single part of the trio seems directly connected to any other part. Dream Drop Distance is set at the extreme end of the Kingdom Hearts timeline (ostensibly leading up to the still mythical Kingdom Hearts 3), A Fragmentary Passage (the two-hour Birth by Sleep followup) runs concurrent with, but disconnected from, the original Kingdom Hearts; and Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover (the “extended cutscene”) is set eons before either of the other two. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 8 hours ago on ars technica
Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract manufacturing company best known for its partnership with Apple, has said that it is mulling a $7 billion investment in US manufacturing that could create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. According to The Wall Street Journal, Foxconn Chairman Tony Gou says the company is talking with the state of Pennsylvania among others about getting the land and electricity subsidies it would need to build a factory. “If US state governments are willing to provide these terms, and we calculate and it is cheaper than shipping from China or Japan, then why wouldn’t Sharp build a factory in the US?" said Gou. The factory would build flat-panel screens under the Sharp name—Foxconn bought Sharp around this time last year for $5.1 billion. Sharp President Tai Jeng-wu hinted in October of 2016 that US manufacturing could be a possibility for Sharp, and he also indicated that Apple could begin using OLED display panels in future iPhones. Apple currently uses OLED in the Apple Watch and in the new MacBook Pro's Touch Bar, but otherwise it hasn't pushed to adopt the technology as some Android phone manufacturers have. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 8 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Lucasfilm) Warning, this post contains spoilers about the previous Star Wars film, Episode VII. Since Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, we've been treated to two rather excellent films. 2015's Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens was a return to form. Last year's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story filled in some plot points and explored the universe in a darker and more mature way. Thanks to Disney's metronomic production schedule, the next installment of Star Wars will hit the screens in December, and we now have a title: Episode VIII will be Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 9 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Close up of cancer cells in the cervix, the portion of the uterus that is attached to the top of the vagina. (credit: Getty | American Cancer Society) Cervical cancer is 77 percent more deadly for black women and 44 percent more deadly for white women than previously thought, researchers report today in the journal Cancer. But the lethal boosts aren’t from more women actually dying than before—they’re from scientists correcting their own calculation error. In the past, their estimates didn’t account for women who had undergone hysterectomies—which almost always removes the cervix, and with it the risk of getting cervical cancer. “We don’t include men in our calculation because they are not at risk for cervical cancer and by the same measure, we shouldn’t include women who don’t have a cervix,” Anne F. Rositch, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins told The New York Times. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Ryan McLaughlin) China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology yesterday announced a major crackdown on VPN (virtual private network) services that encrypt Internet traffic and let residents access websites blocked by the country's so-called Great Firewall. The ministry "said that all special cable and VPN services on the mainland needed to obtain prior government approval—a move making most VPN service providers in the country of 730 million Internet users illegal," reported the South China Morning Post, a major newspaper in Hong Kong. China's announcement said the country's Internet service market "has signs of disordered development that requires urgent regulation and governance" and that the crackdown is needed to “strengthen cyberspace information security management," according to the Post. The government said its crackdown would begin immediately and run until March 31, 2018. Numerous Internet users in China rely on VPNs to access sites blocked or censored by the government's Great Firewall, such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Dropbox, The Pirate Bay, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many others. Apple recently pulled New York Times apps from its Chinese App Store to comply with Chinese regulations. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 9 hours ago on ars technica
Praising Resident Evil 7 isn't as simple as calling it "a return to the series' roots," though that part doesn't hurt. Capcom has added more active, combat-heavy stuff to nearly every Resident Evil game over the past 21 years, and 2012's Resident Evil 6 saw the core fun of the series topple over as a result. In many ways, we're back to the horror series' original formula: big, old house; various collect-a-thon puzzles that unlock doors; the uneasy feeling that something's about to pop up and get you. But there's more. This game looks and plays differently, and it does this to emphasize something new to the series: an evil that is just as terrifying as it is on your level. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 9 hours ago on ars technica
NOAA In November, the most expensive and advanced weather satellite ever built in the United States launched, and it then spent several weeks reaching a geosynchronous orbit nearly 36,000km from Earth. After some initial diagnostics, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration turned the GOES-16 satellite (GOES stands for "Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite") on and began taking photos of Earth. On Monday, the agency released the first images taken by GOES-16—and do they ever deliver the goods. "These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth," said Stephen Volz, director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. "The fantastically rich images provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts.” Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 10 hours ago on ars technica
(credit: Valentina Palladino) Less than a year ago, Google announced that the Play Store and Android apps would be supported on Chromebooks. Now the company has made this feature a guarantee on all new devices: according to the list of Android-compatible Chromebooks, all new Chromebooks that come out in 2017 and later will support Android apps. We knew Android apps would become a staple on Chromebooks, but at least Google has given consumers a timeline for it. A few new Chromebooks were announced at CES earlier this month, including two new Acer Chromebooks and Samsung's Chromebook Plus and Pro devices. Those will ship with the Play Store and all the Android apps that you can normally access on an Android smartphone. The Chromium Projects page has also updated the list of older Chromebooks that support Android apps, adding the Asus Chromebook Flip, Acer Chromebook R11/C738T, and the Google Chromebook Pixel 2. It's safe to say the original Chromebook Pixel that debuted in 2013 is a little too old and will likely never receive the Android app update. Google already revealed that Android apps will only run on newer systems, and it was an intentional decision to leave out older systems. Since the original Pixel has faster hardware than most other Chromebooks, it's the outlier in this case as age is the biggest factor of omission. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 11 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge Tech giant Asus is taking on the Raspberry Pi with its own DIY-friendly single-board computer that's said to offer 4K video playback and 24-bit audio support in exchange for a hefty £55 price tag. Dubbed the "Asus 90MB0QY1-M0EAY0 Tinker Board," or (thankfully) the "Tinker Board" for short, the 8.5cm by 5.3cm computer features a quad-core Arm Cortex A17 CPU running at 1.8GHz, ARM Mali-T764 GPU, and 2GB of DDR3 memory. The most recent revision of the Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, sports a 64-bit Cortex A53 quad-core processor. The A17 in the Tinker Board only supports 32-bit instructions. However, the Mali-T764 GPU inside the Tinker Board is more powerful than the Broadcom VideoCore IV inside the Pi 3. There's hardware support for H.265 4K decoding instead of just 1080p, and Asus claims it pulls in almost double the benchmark score in Geekbench, which should equate to better 3D performance. Other niceties include gigabit Ethernet, support for SDIO 3.0, and swappable antennas for the built-in 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi module. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 11 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The Galaxy Note 7 was a financial disaster for Samsung. The Galaxy S8 will not launch at Mobile World Congress, Samsung has confirmed. With a couple of exceptions, the company has typically used the trade show—which runs from February 27 to March 2—to launch its flagship Android smartphones. The current Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge made their debut at the show in 2016. Samsung has not indicated when and where it will announce the Galaxy S8 instead, but shaky rumors from earlier this month tipped the phone for an April 15 launch in New York. The Galaxy S4 was unveiled at an event in New York back in 2013. In other news, Samsung confirmed that faulty batteries from two suppliers were to blame for flaws in the Galaxy Note 7 that wiped $5.3 billion off its operating profit. The company is introducing a deeper "8-point battery safety check" for future devices, which may have contributed to the revised launch period for the Galaxy S8. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted about 15 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Stephen Brashear / Getty Images News) A federal judge in Seattle is set to hear arguments Monday morning from the Department of Justice as to why he should halt Microsoft’s efforts to allow it to tell users, in most cases, when the government demands customer information. In recent years, Microsoft has been rather outspoken against what it views as overbroad government surveillance and has taken the government to court as needed. This case, known as Microsoft v. Department of Justice, marks yet another instance of those challenges.  As of now, Microsoft says, when the government presents it with legal demands for user data held in online storage, those court orders often come with a gag order that has no end date—which it claims is a breach of the First and Fourth Amendments. The company compares this policy to older government attempts to access purely analog information (such as paper documents in a file cabinet), where the "government had to give notice when it sought private information and communications, except in the rarest of circumstances." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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