posted 16 days ago on techdirt
When you assume a takedown-first posture regarding intellectual property and DMCA notices, that posture brings with it certain situations which make everyone look foolish. You get 80's music stars yanking six-second vine clips offline, for instance. Or you get radio blowhards using copyright to censor criticism online. And, of course, you get self-proclaimed representatives of aliens from the future issuing takedowns over images that said alien will be creating in said future. In each of those cases, the content was immediately taken down by the service provider, because thems the rules these days. And it sucks. Just like it sucks when the mayor of Toronto can't make a funny little parody video mocking himself because it includes a Kanye West song. Less than 24 hours after a ballcap-wearing John Tory bobbed his head to a Kanye West song through Toronto’s subway system, the joke video appears to have been taken down. The mayor poked fun at himself in the one-minute gag clip posted Thursday, after he mistook West, who is American, for a Canadian artist earlier this week. “This Tweet from @JohnTory has been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder.” Yup, because the Mayor wanted to have a little fun with his thought that ol' Yeezy was Canadian, his video gets hit with a takedown. Perhaps it was caught by some kind of automated system designed to weed out content covered by copyright... but that would make this even worse. The video, as Tory's people are acknowledging, was supposed to be a form of parody, one which would be protected as fair use. But in the takedown first culture, that doesn't really matter. The content still comes down. If it comes down by an automated system, then there's literally no possibility any thought towards fair use would be had. And that sucks. With more ways than ever to share content with each other, these kinds of harmless things are supposed to be fun. But the fun gets killed off by a copyright system designed to restrict first and maybe ask questions later. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Right. By now you've heard about Reddit's new content moderation policy, which (in short) is basically that it will continue to ban illegal stuff, and then work hard to make "unpleasant" stuff harder to find. There is an awful lot of devil in very few details, mainly around the rather vague "I know it when I see it" standards being applied. So far, I've seen two kinds of general reactions, neither of which really make that much sense to me. You have the free speech absolutists who (incorrectly) think that a right to free speech should mean a right to bother others with their free speech. They're upset about any kind of moderation at all (though, apparently at least some are relieved that racist content won't be hidden entirely). On the flip side, there's lots and lots and lots of moralizing about how Reddit should just outright ban "bad" content. I think both points of view are a little simplistic. It's easy to say that you "know" bad content when you see it, but then you end up in crazy lawsuits like the one we just discussed up in Canada, where deciding what's good and what's bad seems to be very, very subjective. I'm a big supporter of free speech, period. No "but." I also worry about what it means for freedom of expression when everyone has to rely on intermediaries to "allow" that expression to occur. At the same time, I recognize that platforms have their own free speech rights to moderate what content appears on that platform. And also that having no moderation at all often leads to platforms being overrun and becoming useless -- starting with spam and, if a platform gets large enough, trollish behavior or other immature behavior that drives away more intelligent and inspired debate. This is different than arguing that certain content shouldn't be spoken or shouldn't be allowed to be spoken -- it's just that maybe it does not belong in a particular community. Obligatory xkcd: So Reddit is free to do what it wants, and Reddit's users are free to do what they want in response, It's a grand experiment in learning what everyone values in the long run. People will write about it for years. However, in thinking about all of this (and the similar struggles that Twitter, in particular, has been having), I've been wondering if perhaps the problem is when we put the burden of "protecting free speech" on platforms, when that's not the best role for those platforms. The various platforms serve a variety of different purposes, all of which seem to get conflated into one larger purpose. They are places to post content (express), for one, but also a place to connect as well as a place for discoverability of the content. And if we're serious about protecting free expression, perhaps those things should be separated. Here's a thought experiment that is only half baked (and I'm hoping many of you help continue the baking in the comments below). What if, instead of being full stack platforms for all of those things, they were split into a protocol for the expression, which was open and distributed, and then the company could continue to play the other roles of connecting and helping with discoverability. This isn't necessarily an entirely crazy idea. Ryan Charles, who worked at Reddit for a period of time, notes that he was hired to build such a thing, and is apparently trying to do so again outside of the company. And plenty of people have discussed building a distributed Twitter for years. But here's the big question. In such a scenario is there still room for Reddit or Twitter the company, if they no longer host the content themselves? I'd argue yes and, in fact, that it could strengthen the business models for both, though while opening them up to more competition (which would be a challenge). Think of it this way: if they were designed as protocols, where you could publish the content wherever you want -- including on platforms that you, yourself, control, then people would be free to speak their mind as they see fit using these tools. And that's great. But, then, the companies would just act as more centralized sources to curate and connect -- and it could be done in different ways by different companies. Think of it like HTTP and Google. Via HTTP anyone can publish whatever they want on the web, and Google then acts to make it findable via search. In this world that we talk about, anyone could publish links or content via an Open Reddit Post Protocol (ORPP) or Open Tweet Protocol (OTP) and that includes the ability to push that content to the Corporate Reddit or the Corporate Twitter (or any other competitors that spring up). And then the platform companies can decide how they want to handle things. If they want a nice pure and clean Reddit where only good stuff and happy discussions occur, they can create that. Those who want angry political debates can set up their own platform that will accept that kind of content. In short, the content can still be expressed, but individuals effectively get to choose whose filtering and discoverability system they prefer. If a site becomes too aggressive, or not aggressive enough, then people can migrate as necessary. This isn't necessarily a perfect solution by any means. And I'm sure it raises lots of other problems and challenges. And the companies doing the filtering and the discoverability will still face all sorts of questions about how they want to make those choices. Are they looking to pretend that ignorant angry people don't exist in the world? Or are they looking to provide forums to teach angry ignorant people not to be so angry and ignorant? Or do they want to be a forum just for angry ignorant people that the reset of the internet would prefer to, as xkcd notes, show the door. And, of course, this would eventually lead to more questions about intermediary liability. Already we see these fights where people blame Google for the content that Google finds, even when it's hosted on other sites. If this sort of model really took off and there were really successful companies handling the filtering/discoverability portions, it's not hard to predict lawsuits arguing that it should be illegal for companies to link to certain content. But that's a different kind of battle. Either way, this seems like a potential scenario that doesn't end up with one of the two extremes of either "all content must be allowed on these platforms even if it's being overrun by trolls and spam" or "we only let nice people talk around here." Because neither is a world that is particularly fun to think about.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Techdirt's very own Karl Bode had just written about Time Warner being forced to pay over $200k for robocalling a woman 153 times about an overdue balance that actually was owed by a completely different person. What with all the complaints that ISPs these days aren't forced to actually compete with one another, Comcast, in its infinite wisdom, decided to prove to the public that it will in fact directly compete with Time Warner on the battlefield of robocalling people about stuff when they shouldn't. Comcast's entry into the competition concerns the company robocalling Kia Elder about an overdue balance...that she'd already paid four years ago. According to the lawsuit, Comcast customer Kia Elder was robocalled repeatedly by Comcast for an overdue balance of $527 she said she paid way back in 2011. Yet Comcast repeatedly called Elder "once or twice a day" between September 2014 and "at least through" June 18, and was incapable of updating its systems to show the bill had been paid despite repeated complaints. Elder and her attorney are now seeking $500 to $1,500 for each alleged Comcast violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. "Defendant acknowledged plaintiff’s instructions to stop calling her phone but did not stop," states the complaint. Yes, Comcast apparently called Kia regarding a bill that had already been paid more often than a high school kid calls his ex to try to win her back. Kia reportedly complained about the calls, but they still kept coming. She tried to get Comcast to update its records to reflect the paid bill, but the calls kept coming. And now, thanks to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which essentially requires companies not plug up the public's cell phones with robotic corpo-vomit, she's seeking anywhere between $200k and half-a-mil-do as punishment. Now, I'm not sure why legislation is required to inform companies that calling someone's cell phone twice a day is inappropriate, but it sure seems like Comcast hasn't given up on its dedicated aims to treating the public like shit now that the merger-dream is over. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Almost everyone gets from Point A to Point B in a vehicle. This works out well for police officers looking to perform Fourth Amendment-skirting searches. The "motor vehicle exception" allows law enforcement to search the interior of vehicles without a warrant as long as probable cause exists that contraband or evidence may be hidden inside it. This exception can be extended to cover the contents of locked trunks, as well as any "containers" located inside the vehicle. This no-warrant loophole has been exploited thoroughly by law enforcement and granted credence by deferential courts. It nows extends to houseboats, airplanes and motor homes and can be used even if in the absence of exigent circumstances (i.e., enough time to obtain a warrant) or even if the vehicle itself is in no danger of going anywhere (i.e., locked in an impound lot). In this particular case, the government not only deployed the "motor vehicle" exception, but also maintained that an in-vehicle GPS system was basically just a cardboard box full of detailed info about that vehicle's travel history. To a government that has previously asserted a cell phone full of personal information is pretty much the same thing as a pair of pants and the contents of its pockets, this sort of misrepresentation is nothing new. Unfortunately for it, this court was similarly unimpressed by the government's terrible, self-serving metaphors. The State likens the GPS device in this case to a locked container and directs us to lower court decisions comparing computers and cell phones to locked containers. See Brief of Appellee at 21-22. Indiana does not have a case directly on point, but lower courts in other jurisdictions are split on the issue of whether a computer or cell phone may be treated as a container and subjected to a warrantless search under the automobile exception. So far, so good, but the lack of clear precedent doesn't help the state's case, not when the Riley decision is factored in. It should be noted that the State’s persuasive authority comparing computers and cellphones to containers were all decided before the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California, infra, which we believe is instructive. [...] In our view, the GPS unit in this case is akin to a computer or cell phone. The device stores large amounts of information that could not possibly be stored in an ordinary physical container. For that reason, an electronic storage device cannot be treated as a container. Moreover, the location data it does store has been identified by the Supreme Court as private information. Just as the Supreme Court believed that treating a cell phone as a container was “a bit strained,” id. at 2491, we believe that treating the GPS device as a container under the automobile exception is inappropriate. The state also argued that even if the warrantless search of the GPS system was a violation of privacy, it didn't violate that much privacy and the evidence gleaned from it is still admissible in court. The State maintains that Wertz’s GPS device is not deserving of the same level of protection as a cell phone, because a GPS device does not contain the same amount of personal information. The GPS unit does not hold pictures, Internet history, text messages, a calendar, or several of the other features that a smart phone does. The court agrees that GPS devices contain less personal information than the cell phones of the Riley decision, but that doesn't mean there's no expectation of privacy in other devices. No one will dispute that society considers a cell phone to be more private than the GPS device in this case. But that does not mean that electronic devices other than cell phones are not entitled to Fourth Amendment protections. It remains true that devices like Wertz’s GPS have an enormous storage capacity, and they store information that most people consider to be private. Any differences between the contents of a cell phone and a GPS device do not support treating the GPS device as a container. The state also pointed to the motor vehicle exception as allowing for the search of the GPS device. The court points out the logical error in this assertion: The State’s proposed distinction would require us to conclude that a cell phone found next to a driver in the passenger seat of his vehicle could be searched without a warrant, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley. But such an outcome is unthinkable if the Court meant what it said in Riley. Although the State is correct that Riley dealt only with the search-incident-to-arrest exception, Riley’s discussion of Fourth Amendment protections afforded to electronic devices that store private information transcends the search-incident-to-arrest exception. The analysis in Riley easily transfers to other circumstances where an exception to the warrant requirement would otherwise exist, including the automobile context. The state also attempted to use the Supreme Court's Jones decision to defend its actions, claiming this decision only found "long-term" monitoring of movements to be a violation of the Constitution. But the court points out that a search of a personal GPS device -- much like a search of location data stored on smartphones -- is still the same privacy violation, even if it doesn't include "real-time" monitoring. The Fourth Amendment forbids real-time, long-term monitoring of a citizen’s location. See supra, ¶¶ 26-31 (discussing Jones concurrences). There is no logical basis for allowing the government to obtain the same information without a warrant by inspecting a citizen’s location information after-the-fact. The government has many ways to work around the supposed limitations of the Fourth Amendment, which it seems to prefer to use even when obtaining a warrant seldom requires any significant amount of effort. It's not as though the police involved here couldn't have obtained a warrant. The suspect was in the hospital, recovering from the traffic accident central to the vehicular homicide case. It just chose to use the exception, rather than the rule, and in doing so, lost the ability to use the evidence it obtained. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Today's deal is a Project Management Certification Bundle, which is a set of courses designed to help you get ready to take the Project Management Professional Exam. You will start with the basics and work your way through managing more challenging projects and teams. The set of six courses will be available to you for up to 2 years once you start the program and are on sale in the store for $79 (97% off of retail). Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Almost exactly a year ago, we wrote about how the UK Parliament rushed through a dangerous data retention bill, known as the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, or DRIP, with little debate. As soon as it became law, challenges were filed -- and now the UK's High Court has struck down the law. As you may also recall, the rush to pass DRIP was in response to an EU Court of Justice ruling that said widespread data retention violated privacy rules. And, rather than take the hint, the UK government used it as an excuse to try to just rewrite the rules to let them continue snooping on the public. Not surprisingly, the current UK government (which has been looking to expand its snooping powers rather than limit them) has made it clear that it will appeal this ruling. Furthermore, the court is allowing the government until early next year to see if it can fix the law by itself: The judges said that the first section of Dripa "does not lay down clear and precise rules providing for access to and use of communications data" and should be "disapplied". But the judges said their order on disapplication should be suspended until after March 31 2016 "to give Parliament the opportunity to put matters right". That's an interesting way of going about things: we see you've been violating the rights of the public for a year now, and so we'll give you another 9 months to do so and hope that during that time you'll figure out a way to maybe not violate the public's rights so much.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
Top Comcast Lobbyist (sorry, Chief Diversity Officer) David Cohen was a one-man disinformation firestorm during Comcast's doomed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Cohen has a nasty habit of spearheading greasy practices -- like paying minority groups to parrot bad public policy positions to create the illusion of diverse support -- then pretending to be outraged when these connections were highlighted. Cohen also amusingly declared that those opposed to the company's merger ambitions were ignorant and unreasonable, without a single supportable fact to be shared among them. That's why it was pretty interesting to watch such a master of spin candidly acknowledge that Comcast has only itself to blame for Netflix's rise as an Internet video powerhouse. Calling Netflix the company's "ultimate frenemy" at a recent telecom conference, Cohen admitted that streaming services like Netflix were a self-inflicted gunshot wound, created in large part because the cable ecosystem charges way too much money for its services:"While Cohen sees Netflix as a complement to Comcast’s cable offering, he acknowledges that streaming services, especially those that offer slimmer video packages like Sling TV and Sony PlayStation Vue, could potentially be more attractive to price-conscious consumers. "Part of this is a self-inflicted wound," Cohen said. “We have made video too expensive."A cable or broadcast executive admitting they've refused to compete on price is a rare animal indeed, and even more rare from a legendary obfuscationist like Cohen. Normally, Comcast has downplayed their slow quarterly hemorrhaging of video subscribers, while Netflix, in contrast, added 3.3 million subscribers last quarter alone. Like most cable execs, the folks at Comcast are so used to a pampered duopoly, they see price competition as a vile alien abomination, justified in part by the millions of consumers that continue to pay an arm and a leg for bloated, over-priced lineups of unwatched channels. These executives also honestly believe their inflexible legacy empires are able to out-innovate price competition by releasing abysmal "me too" products. Products like Comcast's recently launched and widely-ridiculed "Stream" platform, which is laden with so many caveats as to make it largely irrelevant in full competitive context. Of course Cohen also got to the modern meat of the issue, reminding attendees at one point that no matter how large Netflix gets, it still needs to come through Comcast to get to its customers:"Cohen added while some fear that more Netflix customers means less cable customers, he reminded the audience that reliable broadband is a crucial element of the streaming service. “Remember, you can’t get Netflix without broadband service,” Cohen said. “Those are 3 million customers of our broadband service." And that's the rub. At the end of the day, Comcast still intends to grab its pound of flesh one way or the other, whether that's by forcing Netflix to pay direct interconnection fees, or by slowly expanding the company's usage cap and overage fee trials and hoping nobody notices. Either way, Comcast will continue to do absolutely everything in its power to avoid having to compete on price for as long as humanly possible. But as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
A few years ago, Google seemed to downgrade its patent search features, pulling away a separate "Google Patents" section and mixing it back into the main Google search. This seemed like a major step backwards, especially given how terrible the US Patent Office's own patent search engine was. Google has tried to do a few things like launching a "prior art finder" and teaming up with StackExchange to help crowdsource prior art. I'm not quite sure how well either program has gone, but Google has now upgraded its patent search efforts yet again to create a service that one would have hoped the patent office would have built itself, though it has not: The new Google Patents helps users find non-patent prior art by cataloguing it, using the same scheme that applies to patents. We’ve trained a machine classification model to classify everything found in Google Scholar using Cooperative Patent Classification codes. Now users can search for “autonomous vehicles” or “email encryption” and find prior art across patents, technical journals, scientific books, and more. We’ve also simplified the interface, giving users one location for all patent-related searching and intuitive search fields. And thanks to Google Translate, users can search for foreign patent documents using English keywords. As we said in our May 2015 comments on the PTO’s Patent Quality Initiative, we hope this tool will make patent examination more efficient and help stop bad patents from issuing which would be good for innovation and benefit the public. Of course, it's not clear if USPTO examiners are even allowed to use tools like this, but it seems like providing better tools to examiners, and widening the corpus that they're allowed to search (right now they focus on past patents and limited journal searches) can only serve to stop at least some bogus patents from getting through.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
The Doomsday Clock says it's 3 minutes to midnight -- the same time it was in 1949. Sure, plenty of people are saying we're not building new nuclear bombs, and we have some pieces of paper that say some countries (ahem, Iran) aren't going to build new nukes. But... tick tock. Are we really any safer from nuclear self-annihilation? The US Air Force is developing an upgrade to the B61 thermonuclear bomb  called the B61-12. This new version has improved targeting capabilities due to a tail kit assembly that has GPS functionality, and some anti-nuke folks argue that the B61-12 is more than just an upgrade. [url] In 1957, we were still testing nuclear weapons above ground -- with human guinea pigs (not all volunteers) at ground zero to document the effects. It's pretty amazing how little we knew about radiation and yet still pressed on with crazy dangerous experiments. [url] Nine nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea -- control about 16,000 nuclear weapons, down from over 60,000 during the Cold War. That's still a lot to keep track of.. not to mention the ones we've simply lost over the years. What are a measly few nuclear bombs between friends, right? [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
About a week ago, we wrote about Judge Mark Mahon in Florida who originally issued an order barring people from protesting outside of the courthouse if they were "questioning the integrity of the court." After it started making national news, Judge Mahon rescinded part of the order, but kept part that banned photography around the courthouse -- which was interesting given that the issue in particular had to do with a reporter for PINAC: Photography Is Not A Crime (who is now suing). On Wednesday, after a bunch of local media organizations met with the Judge and, presumably, explained the Constitution to him, Judge Mahon rescinded the administrative order entirely. “Since the entry of that order, many representatives of differing interests have expressed concerns and suggestions with respect to the best means by which to deal with these issues,” Mahon said Wednesday. That's not quite the "I'm sorry, I overreacted and abused my position of power" that might have been more appropriate, but at least it's something.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
Back in December, we wrote about a ridiculous situation in Italy, where the site TripAdvisor was fined €500,000 by local regulators because it wasn't magically stopping people from posting "false reviews" on the site. As we noted at the time, it's stories like this that show why, here in the US, Section 230 of the CDA is so important. It makes it clear that you don't blame a third-party website for actions of its users. What the regulators were demanding was an impossibility. There is no realistic way for a user review site to make sure all the reviews are legit, at least not if it wants to allow user reviews, rather than hiring staff to do every review. Thankfully, an Italian court has now overturned the fine and acknowledged that it was ridiculous in the first place. Rather than focusing on the problems of intermediary liability, the court just notes that TripAdvisor never made any promises that the reviews were accurate: “TripAdvisor never asserted that all its reviews were true, pointing out instead that it is impossible to exercise a blanket control and inviting users to consider ‘trends’ in the reviews rather than single contributions,” the court said. “We do not understand the harm to the consumer identified by the Authority in its concluding arguments.” That's good, though apparently a ridiculous counterproductive group called the National Consumers Union who brought the complaint in the first place wants to keep pressing the issue: The National Consumers Union remained unconvinced, saying it intended to appeal the court’s “crude thesis.” “We recognize that controlling on the Web may be more complicated than in a physical market, but the law and supervisory activity cannot remain permanently two steps behind current progress,” Massimiliano Dona, the union’s secretary, said in a statement. This, of course, makes no sense. It's an argument for not the internet, in which anyone can express an opinion, but rather a top-down broadcast system, in which any statement must first be vetted. That would, effectively, destroy much of the power of the internet. It's hard to see how that helps "consumers" in Italy at all.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
Free speech debates can often get tiresome online (for fairly obvious reasons), but it continues to astound me how people seem to think that there should be some sort of obvious exception to free speech rights for speech they don't like -- and that there won't be any unintended or dangerous consequences from simply outlawing the speech that they dislike. To me, that belief is dangerous, though obviously people should be allowed to make their arguments for it. Up in Canada -- where they don't have a First Amendment like we do here in the states -- there's a fascinating and very troubling case happening that shows the dangerous path that you go down when you start saying things like "offensive speech" should be illegal. The determination of "offensive" is incredibly subjective. The case here appears to be over a Twitter spat between a few individuals, who clearly don't much like each other. That said, the spat appears to be not dissimilar from the many, many Twitter spats that happen each and every day. I'm pretty sure I've had Twitter debates as bad, if not worse, than what happened here, and the idea that such a debate could lead to possible criminal charges and jail time is fundamentally crazy. And the deeper you dig into the details, the more and more bizarre the case itself gets. There are three main players: Greg Elliott, who is facing the harassment charges. Then there's Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly, who both brought the charges (with a third woman who is no longer involved). The story started in 2012 when someone else entirely, Bendilin Spurr, created a ridiculous distasteful game that allowed players to punch out a well-known woman (who I'm not even going to bother naming here, because, honestly, the mere mention of this person's name automatically makes comments divide into angry warring factions where reasoned debate disappears -- and I ask folks, before commenting, to think carefully about if it's worth going down that ridiculous rabbit hole -- on any side). Given that parenthetical notation I just had to make, not surprisingly, some people got quite upset about this very stupid game. Among the people angry about the game was Guthrie, who apparently went on Twitter and got people riled up about all of this: Guthrie testified earlier at this trial, which has been on and off since January, that she asked the Twittersphere what to do. “Should I sic the Internet on him?” she asked, and it was almost rhetorical, so swift and predictable was the resounding reply. So she Tweeted “to prospective Sault Ste. Marie employers” and the local newspaper a link to a story about the game, asked Spurr “Do you punch women in the face IRL (in real life) or just on the Internet?” and asked her Twitter followers to retweet the whole shebang. Some people supported Guthrie, others did not and responded angrily, including threats of bodily harm and all sorts of other crazy vitriol. Because internet. And immaturity. From the sound of it, many of the responses to Guthrie were, indeed, horrifying and disturbing. Now that brings us to Greg Elliott. He knew Guthrie a bit (and not just online), and he disagreed with Guthrie's apparent plan to shame Spurr, and so he created what appears to have been something of a counter campaign to speak out against Guthrie's campaign. Elliott’s contribution to this dialogue was to remark, mildly in the circumstances and fairly I thought, that the online attack led by Guthrie and friends upon Spurr “was every bit as vicious as the face-punch game,” and to point out that since Spurr had only 11 followers at the time, Guthrie’s efforts could backfire and draw even more attention to his wretched video game. Elliott was also concerned about the real-world effects on a 24-year-old, or, as he wrote at the time, “A guy makes a face-punch game which offends you and you want him destroyed?” Twitter debate then ensued, and it may have gone somewhat overboard in total volume of tweets, but everyone appears to agree that at no point did it descend into threats from Elliott to Guthrie. Just very vocal disagreement. So let's pause here, for a second, and recount what happened: Spurr, angry about certain person, creates ridiculous "game" allowing people to punch out said person. This seems incredibly immature, but is an expression of speech. Guthrie, reasonably upset about this game, convenes people online to speak out against Spurr and to try to limit his chances for future employment. In other words, counter speech. Again, some might argue (as happened in point 3 below) that deciding to ruin someone's life because they created a stupid immature game is going a bit far, but this is still speech and counter speech. Elliott challenges the soundness of such a broad attack on Spurr, noting that online vigilantism can go too far, and could backfire (giving silly immature game more attention). Counter speech to the counter speech that isn't defending the stupidity of the original game. They (and others) begin to debate on Twitter and that debate gets ugly and ridiculously childish at points but at no point resorts to any sort of threats. At this point, all of this seems perfectly reasonable. People are disagreeing online, and speech and counter speech is happening. There are all sorts of things on the side that people can be concerned about (the idea to create such a stupid game in the first place, the power of mob justice to overreact, the insults, the more insults, etc.). But, again, this is all just your standard everyday internet argument. And yet... somehow out of all of this: Guthrie (and others) end up charging Elliott with harassment. And then there's Reilly. Apparently in the midst of all this, she got engaged in the debate which ended up like so many debates on Twitter: “@greg_a_elliott Please do me a favour & not reply to my posts. You don’t follow me- were you creeping the #TOpoli tag to find my tweet?” she tweeted on Aug. 9, 2012. “.@ladysnarksalot how’d you feel if I was so delusional to ask you to not retweet me? You want “control” use your email, not Twitter. #TOpoli,” @greg_a_elliott replied, after suggesting that Reilly didn’t understand the point of Twitter. [....] The exchanges became increasingly hostile that month, with @greg_a_elliott tweeting that Reilly was a “hateful b–tch” and accusing her and other women he dubbed “#fascistfeminists” of ganging up on him, Reilly said. He also posted tweets like “Heather’s fat ass gets fatter” with the #topoli hashtag but without mentioning her Twitter handle in the tweet (known as sub-tweeting), the court heard. Sub-tweeting meeting the other Twitter user mentioned won’t be automatically notified that he or she is being discussed. It appears that most of Elliott's tweets are still online. Guthrie's and Reilly's are now private. You can see the start here, though there are many examples of friendly tweets between Elliott and Guthrie prior to this happening. Amazingly, with a little searching online, it is possible to find a spreadsheet cataloging all the tweets between the two of them. And, again, at times the insults start flying, but at no time does it appear to be threatening. Hell, it's hard to see how it's harassing. It's people expressing opinions (often angrily). In that list you can see that the angry tweets start on July 7th of 2012 and then continue for a few months. Guthrie appears to ask Elliott to "stop contacting" her (and others asked him to do so as well) and even though they blocked him via Twitter's block feature, he sent a few more tweets their way, responding to some of the things they said. And, on the basis of that, they brought the harassment claims. Elliott's lawyer has pointed out that it certainly appears that a bunch of Guthrie's friends were just as open to verbally sparring with Elliott -- and if his statements were somehow criminal harassment, then theirs should be as well. A key point in all of this is that, apparently, the Canadian law in question requires the victims to "reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety." That seems like a problematic standard for a variety of reasons, but it's very difficult to see how the bar was met here. As the original link above notes: Yet Guthrie and Reilly didn’t behave as though they were remotely frightened or intimidated: They convened a meeting of friends to discuss how Elliott should be publicly shamed; they bombarded their followers with furious tweets and retweets about him (including a grotesque suggestion from someone pretending she was a 13-year-old that he was a pedophile); they could and did dish it out. “They were not vulnerable,” Murphy said once. “They are very accomplished, politically savvy women. If they can’t handle being mentioned in the tail end of a political discussion (on Twitter), then they’re in the wrong business.” As Elliott's lawyer noted, this is all "a high school spat, except it’s adults on the Internet," and the idea that a court should get involved and that there may be jail time at the end is flat out ridiculous. It's stories like this that should freak people out about the belief that it's easy to ban "offensive" speech online. What one person takes offense to could be seen as totally reasonable by many others. In this case, it appears that there was a spat and everyone said and did some immature things, but to argue that one side is somehow guilty of a criminal offense over a Twitter spat is flat out crazy.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
Growing up along the San Andreas fault, it was drilled into my head to be ready with emergency supplies should the "Big One" hit. The ChargeLight Flashlight and Charger might be something worth having on hand. Plug in the base to charge up the 250 lumens flashlight and you can connect a USB-charging device to it's base as well. The flashlight can also act as a portable battery pack for your devices. It's available in the Techdirt Deals Store for 23% off of retail. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Judge Alex Kozinski has long been one of the few judges willing to speak up against our nation's thoroughly corrupted justice system. It's not the normal form of corruption, where juries and judges are openly bought and sold. It's corrupted, as in bastardized. Or debased. What was set up to provide citizens with a fighting chance against accusations brought by those with vastly more power has instead become exactly the sort of system these checks and balances were meant to prevent. In many cases, prosecutions more resemble railroading than actual due process. A few years back, Kozinski pointed out one of these contributing factors to this corruption: the deliberate withholding of exonerating evidence from defense lawyers. There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it. This is the damning opening sentence of his dissent in a case where the government pursued a "thoughtcrime" prosecution. At the center of it were Google searches the government claimed supported its accusations that the accused had intended to use the ricin he'd developed in his lab as a biological weapon. Along the way, actual physical evidence was mishandled by investigators, leading to an investigation of the police lab -- an investigation that was never disclosed to the defense team. But the panel let the prosecution walk away from its misdeeds and Kozinski called them out for it. The panel’s ruling is not just wrong, it is dangerously broad, carrying far-reaching implications for the administration of criminal justice. It effectively announces that the prosecution need not produce exculpatory or impeaching evidence so long as it’s possible the defendant would’ve been convicted anyway. This will send a clear signal to prosecutors that, when a case is close, it’s best to hide evidence helpful to the defense, as there will be a fair chance reviewing courts will look the other way, as happened here. A robust and rigorously enforced Brady rule is imperative because all the incentives prosecutors confront encourage them not to discover or disclose exculpatory evidence. Due to the nature of a Brady violation, it’s highly unlikely wrongdoing will ever come to light in the first place. This creates a serious moral hazard for those prosecutors who are more interested in winning a conviction than serving justice. In the rare event that the suppressed evidence does surface, the consequences usually leave the prosecution no worse than had it complied with Brady from the outset. Professional discipline is rare, and violations seldom give rise to liability for money damages. Criminal liability for causing an innocent man to lose decades of his life behind bars is practically unheard of. If the violation is found to be material (a standard that will almost never be met under the panel’s construction), the prosecution gets a do-over, making it no worse off than if it had disclosed the evidence in the first place. He has now published a new paper that attacks the weaknesses of the system, point-by-point, starting off with a harrowing opening paragraph: Though we pretend otherwise, much of what we do in the law is guesswork. For example, we like to boast that our criminal justice system is heavily tilted in favor of criminal defendants because we’d rather that ten guilty men go free than an innocent man be convicted. There is reason to doubt it, because very few criminal defendants actually go free after trial. Does this mean that many guilty men are never charged because the prosecution is daunted by its heavy burden of proof? Or is it because jurors almost always start with a strong presumption that someone wouldn’t be charged with a crime unless the police and the prosecutor were firmly convinced of his guilt? We tell ourselves and the public that it’s the former and not the latter, but we have no way of knowing. They say that any prosecutor worth his salt can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. It may be that a decent prosecutor could get a petit jury to convict a eunuch of rape. Kozinski points to several false assumptions jurors (and judges) make -- unfounded beliefs that have been encouraged over the years by law enforcement and prosecutors. The government tells us that eyewitnesses (at least, its eyewitnesses) are reliable. Any person with two eyes who can "corroborate" the prosecution's narrative is treated as somewhere between George Washington and Jesus Christ in terms of reliability and honesty. (This deference suddenly disappears when the defense introduces its eyewitnesses. This hypocrisy extends to confidential informants -- criminals whose honesty is always questioned by law enforcement unless their statements help them advance their investigations, in which case they're suddenly upstanding citizens wholly unmotivated by the desire to remain unincarcerated.) This belief is so much part of our culture that one often hears talk of a “mere” circumstantial case as contrasted to a solid case based on eyewitness testimony. In fact, research shows that eyewitness identifications are highly unreliable, especially where the witness and the perpetrator are of different races… In fact, mistaken eyewitness testimony was a factor in more than a third of wrongful conviction cases… Few, if any, courts instruct juries on the pitfalls of eyewitness identification or caution them to be skeptical of eyewitness testimony. Other long-held assumptions are equally questionable. Every juror who has ever watched a TV crime procedural is having his or her head filled with questionable assertions about the trustworthiness of certain forms of evidence. This would be fine if it were limited to fictional representations of police work. But it isn't. Prosecutors and courts remain equally credulous of this evidence, even after multiple issues with both have proven them more fallible than they're portrayed. Identifying fingerprints taken in controlled situations (i.e., bookings) can provide fairly decent ID matches. But those recovered in the field -- latent prints found at crime scenes -- are far less accurate. The same goes for DNA. While it can provide very close matches in controlled situations, most DNA evidence is recovered in less-than-ideal circumstances, and is far too often subject to speculative conclusions that are often guided by what investigators want to find, rather than what they've actually found. Just because a method is "scientific" doesn't mean it isn't subject to bias. DNA comparison, when properly conducted by an honest, trained professional will invariably reach the correct result. But the integrity of the result depends on a variety of factors that are, unfortunately, not nearly so foolproof: the evidence must be gathered and preserved so as to avoid contamination; the testing itself must be conducted so that the two samples being compared do not contaminate each other; the examiner must be competent and honest. As numerous scandals involving DNA testing labs have shown, these conditions cannot be taken for granted, and DNA evidence is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. The same goes for almost every piece of forensic evidence the public and the courts have long accepted as being near-infallible. Spectrographic voice identification error rates are as high as 63%, depending on the type of voice sample tested. Handwriting error rates average around 40% and sometimes approach 100%. False-positive error rates for bite marks run as high as 64%. Those for microscopic hair comparisons are about 12% (using results of mitochondrial DNA testing as the criterion). Far too often, these forensic methods are treated as incorruptible science when they're actually far from it. Some fields of forensic expertise are built on nothing but guesswork and false common sense. Many defendants have been convicted and spent countless years in prison based on evidence by arson experts who were later shown to be little better than witch doctors. Cameron Todd Willingham may have lost his life over it. And so it goes. A calamity of errors. A full-blown catastrophe masquerading as an equitable system. Human memories are particularly fallible but human testimony under oath is considered sacrosanct. Judges act as though juries are decent human beings who will follow specific instructions, rather than act like ordinary human beings and act on their preconceptions and biases instead. Prosecutors will supposedly follow the rules, even though they're working from a supposed disadvantage (the presumption of innocence), rather than do whatever they can to rack up another "win." And the "presumption of innocence" is a joke. Far too many people still believe an indictment is an indicator of guilt. Defense lawyers are actually the ones working uphill, because the presumption of innocence is the ideal, rather than the baseline. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" isn't much of a hurdle when jurors (and even some judges) view the accused as guilty before anyone even starts presenting evidence. Human minds are terrible things and yet the justice system continues to operate on the fallacy that they're efficient machines capable of determining innocence or guilt. Kozinski points out that something as far removed from the verdict as the opening statement can influence the entire trial. Even more troubling are doubts raised by psychological research showing that “whoever makes the first assertion about something has a large advantage over everyone who denies it later.” The tendency is more pronounced for older people than for younger ones, and increases the longer the time-lapse between assertion and denial. So is it better to stand mute rather than deny an accusation? Apparently not, because “when accusations or assertions are met with silence, they are more likely to feel true.” To the extent this psychological research is applicable to trials, it tends to refute the notion that the prosecution pulls the heavy oar in criminal cases. We believe that it does because we assume juries go about deciding cases by accurately remembering all the testimony and weighing each piece of evidence in a linear fashion, selecting which to believe based on assessment of its credibility or plausibility. The reality may be quite different. It may be that jurors start forming a mental picture of the events in question as soon as they first hear about them from the prosecution witnesses. Later-introduced evidence, even if pointing in the opposite direction, may not be capable of fundamentally altering that picture and may, in fact, reinforce it. And the effect may be worse the longer the prosecution’s case lasts and, thus, the longer it takes to bring the contrary evidence before the jury. Trials in general, and longer trials in particular, may be heavily loaded in favor of whichever party gets to present its case first—the prosecution in a criminal case and the plaintiff in a civil case. If this is so, it substantially undermines the notion that we seldom convict an innocent man because guilt must be proven to a sufficient certainty. So, the system is broken. And there is no easy remedy. The problem can only be made worse, if the system continues to operate as it has been. And every "tough on crime" initiative only adds to the flaws. Take mandatory sentencing, for example. What is meant to curb future criminal activity has really only insured that the government can wrongfully imprison innocent people for longer periods of time. Every exoneration stemming from these multiple systemic flaws is treated dismissively as some sort of fluke. Even as more evidence mounts that the system is openly abused, the level of credulity granted the abusers has remained relatively steady. And if you're wrongfully imprisoned, you're pretty much screwed. The logistical and legal obstacles standing between you and a reexamination of your case are close to insurmountable. To begin with, they are in prison and thus unable to pursue leads the police might have missed; they have to rely on someone on the outside to do it, and that’s often difficult or impossible to accomplish. A prisoner’s access even to his counsel is severely restricted once he’s incarcerated. A loyal friend or relative might do it, but friends and even relatives often abandon defendants who are convicted, no matter how much they may protest their innocence. A few prisoners may obtain the help of an innocence project, but the work is labor-intensive, resources are scarce and manpower is limited, so innocence projects engage in triage, focusing on the most promising cases. Of course, it’s often difficult to tell whether a case is promising until you look closely at it, so a promising case can easily be overlooked. But the biggest problem is that new evidence is hard—and often impossible—to find. If it’s a physical crime, police secure the crime scene and seize anything that looks like it could be relevant. The chance of going back years later and picking up new clues is vanishingly small. The trick then is to get whatever evidence the police have, assuming they didn’t destroy it or release it once it was clear that it wouldn’t be used at trial. If the crime is non-physical, such as fraud, child pornography or computer hacking, the police seize all the relevant computers, hard drives and paper records (including any exculpatory evidence the suspect may have there) and may well discard them after the conviction becomes final… I think it’s fair to assume—though there is no way of knowing—that the number of exculpations in recent years understates the actual number of innocent prisoners by an order, and probably two orders, of magnitude. Kozinski doesn't just offer up problems, though. He has a long list of suggested solutions. Juries need to be handled better throughout the course of the case, rather than mostly ignored until it's time to reach a verdict. Jury instructions should be clear, concise and in print. Jurors should be allowed to take notes and discuss the trial with other jurors while the case is ongoing. Prosecutors should be subject to open file discovery. Every police interrogation should be video recorded. Eyewitness testimony needs to face more scrutiny and to be subjected to standardized examination. The same goes for other evidence entered by the prosecution. The government should start funding "Integrity Units" -- independent bodies that examine questionable convictions, as well as questionable prosecutorial behavior. Prosecutors should be held to new Brady (exculpatory evidence) standards to ensure all possible info makes its way to the defense. This needs to be followed up by the deployment of sanctions and meaningful punishments for violations. The first good faith effort the government can make is to strip away the secrecy surrounding accusations of prosecutorial misconduct and allow the public to see which of its public officials are abusing an already-badly abused system. Along with this, prosecutorial immunity protections need to be scaled back severely. In addition, Kozinski proposes treating prosecutorial misconduct as a civil rights violation, which would open these offices up to DOJ investigations and consent agreements, as well as give the wrongly-accused a more efficient route to redress their grievances. Another way to ensure the justice system serves the public rather than itself is to remove the process of electing judges. Incumbent legislators have done very little to ensure they leave their office in better shape than when they first arrived. The same goes for judges, who can often turn a little public support into a lifelong career of playing to the crowd, rather than ensuring justice is done. The system is broken. I'm not sure it can even be fixed. But some of its worse aspects can be mitigated. I do appreciate the fact that someone inside the system is willing to not only point out its extensive flaws, but also offer guidance on how it can be improved. What we really haven't seen though is someone from the prosecutorial end call out colleagues for their ritualistic abuse of the system, and I think that needs to happen before we start to see any meaningful improvements. And that's almost impossible to do in an area where you're only as good as your conviction rate. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
If you drop the search term "educational campaign" into the Techdirt search field, it's crazy how many story links pop up. When it comes to educating the public, particularly the youth, about how super-important copyright is and how goddamned terrible pirating is, the effort appears to have been going on for forty years or so. Given how every indication from our pro-copyright friends and the entertainment industries have been of the "sky is falling" variety, I would have thought that there would be some acknowledgment that the whole educational campaign thing didn't work. Or maybe that the lesson plan sucked. Some kind of recognition of failure. If that's the case, you sure wouldn't know it hearing how pants-crappingly excited everyone over in the UK is for yet another round of educational nonsense coming from the entertainment industry. The education programme will target 16-24 year-olds, their parents, those responsible for household internet connections, as well as others who influence young people’s attitudes to accessing content. To capture the attention of these audiences, public relations firm Weber Shandwick will lead an integrated consumer, corporate and social PR campaign, with activities scheduled to start later this summer. Creative Content UK is working with Atomic London on advertising creative. Media planning and buying will be directed by ZenithOptimedia. The campaign is part of the Creative Content UK initiative, a ground-breaking partnership between content creators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), together with an education campaign part-funded by the government, aimed at helping reduce online copyright infringement. In other words, the public is footing part of the bill for letting the entertainment industries and ISPs tell them how great their products are and how horrible the bill-footing public is because piracy exists. And it will come from such organic methods like hiring PR and advertising firms. How could this possibly fail? Well, probably the same way that the RIAA's educational campaign failed. And the one that was done in Sweden failed. And the USPTO's educational campaigns, too. They fail because they're almost universally inaccurate and misleading propaganda hits that fail to connect with children far too savvy to fall for scare-tactics. Meanwhile, innovation stalls because the entertainment industry is busy reaping failure with the K-12 crowd. But, still, that excitement. Janis Thomas, Education Project Manager, Creative Content UK, said: “We are delighted to have three highly-experienced agencies on board to help us create disruptive and engaging multi-media campaigns that will connect with the aspirations of young people. This behaviour change initiative is vital to the success of the sector and will ensure that we can continue innovating and taking risks on new artists and ideas. We aim to inspire individuals to make a personal commitment to the future of the UK creative industries and to the creation of music, film, games and other entertainment, which they love so much.” You just have to beat the buzzwords off with a stick, don't you? Kids aren't going to fall for this crap any more than they fell for the over-the-top anti-marijuana videos they showed my parents. But, hey, keep beating that dead horse if you want. Just keep it down; some of us are innovating over here. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
Well, that didn't take long. It was only a month or so ago that we brought to you the delightful news that software for monitoring the UK youth in classrooms was being recommended to comply with the UK's insane policy that conscripts teachers to watch out for scary future-Muslim-terrorists. The idea was that the software, from American company Impero Software, would report back to teachers should the children under their watchful gaze search around for terms deemed to be terrorist related. The teachers were then supposed to involve school admins, law enforcement, or parents as deemed necessary. Because, see, possible-might-be-future-terrorists sprouting up from our own children is a very scary, albeit not-yet-existing threat to something something. Unfortunately, Impero's monitoring agents themselves come with an actual threat, thanks to the laughably cliche security fails within the software's design. Impero has a lot of power over its clients’ data, whether stored on PCs, servers or children’s personal technology. If compromised, it could expose reams of information on pupils, teachers and the school as a whole. And that’s certainly possible in light of the findings of researcher ‘raylee’, real name Zammis Clark, who discovered the Impero platform was using a default password of “password” to connect clients to its servers. “Basically, if you use Impero, please don’t,” the researcher wrote in a Github post describing the flaw and releasing attack code to prove the problem existed. The researcher told FORBES that if an attacker can gain access to the Impero server, all connected machines “are completely open to compromise”, due to the apparent lack of decent authentication. “Given that schools have been affected with malware like CryptoLocker in the past, exploit kits or spearphishing could be a way for an attacker to get into a school network. Also, there’s the threat of someone inside such a school (a student perhaps) exploiting the vulnerability,” he added. Impero set the software up so that the password between the students' devices and the server was "password." They made the password "password." Okay, here's a new rule for the world: if you're a company whose single reason for existing has anything to do with both technology and security, and you create your system in such a way that it ships to your customers and is allowed to work with a default password of "password", then you don't get to exist any longer. This is the kind of stuff people who work in IT consulting like me see all the time... at companies that don't have any actual IT staff onsite. But this came from the software designer itself. And the most hilarious thing? Well, part of Impero's response to the publishing of the exploit was to release a fix after its disclosure... which failed to actually fix the exploit. The other part of Impero's response was to go all legal on the security researcher for publishing the exploit in the first place, because of course it was. In a letter to Clark dated 13 July, delivered by legal firm Gately, he is accused of breaking the terms and conditions laid out by the firm, including a stipulation that the software not be tampered with; modification is only allowed to achieve “interoperability”, meaning hackers looking for security issues are not welcome. He is also accused of copyright infringement and has been asked to remove all links from Github, Twitter and other channels that point to the public vulnerability disclosure. In an emailed statement to FORBES, Impero director of marketing Nikki Annison claimed the offending party had “maliciously and illegally hacked our product, subsequently making this hack public rather than bringing it to our attention privately and in confidence. No customers have been affected by this and no data has been leaked or compromised.” Excuse me, but no customers have been affected by this exploit... yet. And now they probably won't be, assuming your team can get a proper fix in place. And the youth of the UK will have the security researcher to thank for it, since that appears to be what lit a fire under your collective asses to get this thing fixed. The marketing director also had this to say. This hack could only be exploited if basic network security does not exist and if the attacker is physically present with local network access. We have been in communication with all our customers throughout. Interesting response. I'm sure antivirus makers, under the notion above, could simply release software that didn't actually do anything and then claim that if customers have a perimeter firewall up and use basic browsing common sense, their non-working software would work just fine to prevent malware. If Impero isn't going to bother to use basic best practices when it comes to security passwords, it probably shouldn't be issuing lectures to its customers about basic security best practices. Or we could just side-step this whole problem by not using Impero's sotware. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
Uber appears to be a company that just can't get out of the way of controversy. The week actually started out good for the company with New York announcing that Uber drivers were clearly contractors rather than employees (unlike a California labor commission ruling that went the other way). However, on Wednesday afternoon an administrative judge in California declared that the company's services should be suspended statewide for supposedly refusing to provide data that it's required to provide under a 2013 law that helped "legalize" the service (that was already widely in use at the time). Uber, for its part, insists that it delivered the necessary info and promises to appeal the ruling (which also includes a $7.3 million fine, which is pocket change for the company right now). It also appears to hint that the information that the Public Utilities Commission is seeking would actually violate the company's privacy policies. In a statement, an Uber spokeswoman called the decision "deeply disappointing." "We will appeal the decision as Uber has already provided substantial amounts of data to the California Public Utilities Commission, information we have provided elsewhere with no complaints," spokeswoman Laura Zapata said. "Going further risks compromising the privacy of individual riders as well as driver-partners." The details seem to involve what kinds of data Uber was supposed to turn over, including specifics about requests from users with service animals or wheelchairs. Uber apparently didn't have the ability to track that information in the past, though it does now. On the flip side, the California PUC argues that companies in the space were given a year to comply, and thus Uber had plenty of time to make sure it was compliant and failed to do so. As part of the 2013 law that legalized ride-hailing in California, companies are required to prepare an annual report with data about rides provided through the app. Uber's 2014 report did not include hard numbers on customers who requested cars to accommodate service animals or wheelchairs, nor how often those requests were fulfilled, the judge said. The company also didn't provide raw numbers on requests for rides tabulated by ZIP Code, and how many of those rides were fulfilled, instead providing “aggregates, averages and percentages,” and a heat map showing which ZIP Codes generally saw the most requests. Uber also failed to submit complete information on drivers who have been suspended or committed a violation, the judge said. The company did not provide the “cause of the incident reported,” or the amount paid out by any insurance company other than Uber's. It would appear that the company and its lawyers are going to remain rather busy for the foreseeable future. It is, frankly, somewhat surprising that Uber didn't do more to comply with these requests, even if it disagrees with need to hand over such information. Not fully complying was always going to end badly. There may be legitimate privacy arguments for Uber to make here, but it doesn't seem like playing games with the CPUC is the best way to make that point.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
The field of modern particle physics seems like an exclusive club. Fundamental particles are literally everywhere, but it's not quite practical to observe a Higgs Boson in your kitchen. Sure, you could build your own cloud chamber and see some cosmic rays, but making your own TeV particle collider takes a bit more expertise. Maybe experimental evidence for theoretical physics is highly overrated anyway. CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has just observed a class of particles called petaquarks. The existence of this kind of particle has been theorized for decades, and now we have evidence that can help us better understand these elusive petaquarks as well as other fundamental particles. [url] The LHC also detected some new baryons earlier this year -- aka "zi-b-prime" and "zi-b-star". These particles were also predicted years ago and now have estimated properties based on quantum chromodynamics (QCD) calculations confirmed by experimental measurements. [url] The 'glueball' is a particle consisting of two or more gluons, and it has yet to be found. A class of unconventional glueballs might be easier to observe -- made of three gluons instead of two -- and are called 'oddballs' because physicists are fond of cute names for particles. [url] An exotic particle called a Majorana fermion is its own antiparticle and is surprisingly stable (ie. it doesn't annihilate itself). Some physicists predict that Majorana fermions might serve as quantum computing qubits, but so far they only seem to be easily found at the ends of atomic-scale superconducting wires -- not quite the most convenient materials to build a quantum computer out of. [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A federal judge has ordered the unsealing of dashcam footage depicting several Gardena (CA) police officers shooting unarmed men (one of them inadvertently). The city's representatives fought the release of this video for several reasons, none of which appear to be the actual reason: that the video contradicts statements from the involved officers. Here's the video: One of the documents the city chose to release was the District Attorney's report on the shooting. This is where the contradictions begin. Obviously, the city thought this would be the last word in the civil suit. Statements from multiple officers all suggest the same thing: the man they intentionally shot (another caught bullet fragments to the spine during the hail of gunfire) made several "threatening" moves that left officers with no other choice but to open fire. The 14-page report is an echo chamber. Officers, responding to a call about a bike theft, encountered three Hispanic males walking with bicycles. Having reached the unfounded conclusion that these were the suspects, they detained the men. ("Detained" being a fancy word for drew their weapons and shouted a lot.) The report contains repeated claims by multiple officers that aren't matched by the events depicted in the video. Officers claim Ricardo Diaz Zeferino "ran towards them" and made "furtive movements" in the general area of his waistband. While the video does show Zeferino having problems keeping his hands above his head, it doesn't show much in the way of "furtive movements." It definitely doesn't show his hand "hovering" over his back pocket. The document is a fascinating depiction of all the things that could possibly make an officer fearful -- an emotion that usually results in "discharged weapons," to use the deflective parlance of hundreds of officer-involved shooting reports: "furtive movements," other officers "seeming scared," right elbow "bowing out," "losing sight" of a hand, "big swinging motion" of Diaz's right hand, "manipulating something on the right side of his body," and so on. How a motion can simultaneously be "furtive" and "big and swinging" is beyond me, but then again, I rarely have to explain why I've shot an unarmed person. Beyond that, there's additional claims made to buttress the righteous shoot. Diaz had a "maniacal grin." Diaz's movements became "faster and more deliberate." An officer expresses his disbelief that Diaz would ignore an order to keep his hands up, believing such disregard for authority to be indicative of Diaz's intent to kill. Another officer states he believes Diaz was "testing [the officers'] limits" and "closing the ground" between them. Considering the official background of the shooting, it's hardly surprising the city spent several months fighting to keep this video from reaching the public. Now that it has been made public, the police department has gone into damage-control mode. At best, its efforts are inept. Police have said the shooting was justified and that the dash cam videos from the squad cars don't tell the whole story. An attorney for the city said this week that one of the videos "looks bad" but that it was not taken from the perspective of officers. I have no doubt that if the video were more exonerating, the city would have never a) fought the release or b) claimed the video "didn't tell the whole story." And the claim that a dashcam video is somehow not a police officer's "perspective" is completely laughable. Even more laughable is one of the city's arguments in favor of keeping the video sealed. It basically told the judge that the high-dollar settlement was offered in part to buy silence and secrecy. The Court's rationale for sealing the subject videos was the parties' stipulated protective order—entered against the backdrop of stalled litigation. However, the parties cannot contractually agree to deprive the public of its strong First Amendment interest in accessing these videos, which were filed in connection with a dispositive motion. Defendants assert that the videos should remain sealed because they agreed to settle the case for $4.7 million—an amount above their liability insurance policy—specifically because they expected the protective order to continue and the videos to remain secret. The court is unimpressed by the city's "Hey, we paid good money to make this go away" argument: However, Defendants' argument backfires here—the fact that they spent the city's money, presumably derived from taxes, only strengthens the public's interest in seeing the videos. Moreover, Defendants cannot assert a valid compelling interest in sealing the videos to cover up any wrongdoing on their part or to shield themselves from embarrassment. The only valid privacy interest in this case belongs to the Plaintiffs, who have made abundantly clear that they wish the videos to be made available to the public. Moreover, while the videos are potentially upsetting and disturbing because of the events they depict, they are not overly gory or graphic in a way that would make them a vehicle for improper purposes. Reason's Ed Krayewski points out that this is exactly why so many cities offer to settle cases like this so quickly. Generally such settlements include no admission of guilt by the city—the cops involved usually keep their job, and the settlement money always comes from taxpayers, not from police officers, their unions, or their pension funds. Settlements effectively end discussions on police brutality because many people view them as victories even though they come without admissions of guilt and with the punitive bill being picked up by taxpayers, not cops. But it didn't work here. The city paid out and still has to deal with the repercussions of its officers' actions. It has already filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court. And it has received the most useless of temporary restraining orders in response: After The Times published the videos online, 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski issued an order that “the police car camera video footage shall remain under seal pending further order of this court.” And, as long as we're talking about transparency, let's discuss the other parties involved in this case. "Interested media organizations" -- including the Associated Press, the LA Times and Bloomberg News -- all filed motions in support of the video's release. And while all were more than happy to post the video as soon as it was released, not a single one of them could be bothered to post the court order that gave them access to this footage. Once again, media outlets continue to pretend public court records are somehow proprietary information. Articles quote from the order, but apparently the $1.30 they paid to download it from PACER (if these outlets paid anything at all) entitles them to interpret public documents on our behalf, rather than allow us to read them for ourselves. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
Apparently we're still rather idiotically feeling out the boundaries of cell phone etiquette and common sense after decades of cellular phone experience. Last week a Broadway play attendee nonchalantly climbed on stage before a production of Hand of God to use the set's (inoperable and quite fake) power outlet. When tracked down by one news outlet, the man proudly proclaimed that he was drunk, and that he needed to charge his phone just then because "girls were calling all day. What would you do?" There's a video of said nitwit's public apology to the theater community making the rounds. We're apparently not much better when it comes to enforcing cell phone etiquette. A week later, Actor Patti LuPone broke proscenium and ripped a cell phone out of a theater attendee's hands after the audience member wouldn't stop texting during a performance. LuPone issued a statement shortly thereafter suggesting that idiots without etiquette have forced her hand in the matter, and she's not thrilled to be forced into the role of audience baby sitter: We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones. They cannot put them down. When a phone goes off or when a LED screen can be seen in the dark it ruins the experience for everyone else - the majority of the audience at that performance and the actors on stage. I am so defeated by this issue that I seriously question whether I want to work on stage anymore. Now I’m putting battle gear on over my costume to marshall the audience as well as perform. Across the pond, police have shown they're still learning the lines of cell phone etiquette as well, after UK Transit police had to walk back a recent decision to arrest a 45-year-old man for "abstracting electricity" by charging his iPhone via a train power outlet: "She said I’m abstracting electricity. She kept saying it’s a crime. We were just coming into the station and there happened to be about four police officers on the platform. "She called to them and said: 'This guy’s been abstracting electricity, he needs to be arrested'." Some Internet forum users state that the outlets are generally reserved for cleaning the trains, and often feature stickers stating "not for public use." Still, if transit authorities don't want people using the outlets, it makes sense to make them less accessible. The law in question is also pretty clearly focused on cheating utility meters and is reserved for "high value" theft where the victim faces "substantial loss," making the case a bit of a tough sell. As a result, the police subsequently "de-arrested" the man after realizing that they were "abstracting" common sense from their daily enforcement practices: "We were called to Camden Road London Overground station on Friday 10 July to a report of a man becoming aggressive when challenged by a PCSO about his use of a plug socket onboard an Overground train." "Shortly after 3.30pm, a 45-year-old man from Islington was arrested on suspicion of abstracting electricity, for which he was de-arrested shortly after. He was further arrested for unacceptable behaviour and has been reported for this offence." Given that Motorola researcher Martin Cooper designed the first cell phone back in 1973, you'd think that after 42 years of experience with the devices we'd be a little better at understanding the socially-acceptable norms for using them -- and preventing their use. Of course given that people still talk in movie theaters, often don't pay attention to what their kids are doing, and frequently treat one another abysmally, that inconsiderate boneheadedness certainly isn't the fault of the technology.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
You may recall the mess a few years ago when, under pressure from the movie studios, along with Netflix and Microsoft, the W3C agreed to add DRM to HTML5. This resulted in lots of debates and reasonable anger from people who found that the idea of building DRM into HTML5 went against the idea of an open internet. And, now it appears that the organization behind the JPEG standard for images is heading down a similar path. The JPEG committee investigates solutions to assure privacy and security when sharing photos on social networks, (stock) photography databases, etc. JPEG Privacy & Security will provide new functionality to JPEG encoded images such as ensuring privacy, maintaining data integrity, and protecting intellectual rights, while maintaining backwards and forward compatibility to existing JPEG legacy solutions. Further details suggest DRM that has all sorts of conditions included: What's interesting is that some are claiming this is based on this research paper that pitches such DRM for the purpose of protecting images from surveillance and such: — With the popularization of online social networks (OSNs) and smart mobile devices, photo sharing is becoming a part of people’ daily life. An unprecedented number of photos are being uploaded and shared everyday through online social networks or photo hosting services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr. However, such unrestrained online photo or multimedia sharing has raised serious privacy concerns, especially after reports of citizens surveillance by governmental agencies and scandalous leakage of private photos from prominent photo sharing sites or online cloud services. Popular OSNs typically offer privacy protection solutions only in response to the public demand and therefore are often rudimental, complex to use, and provide limited degree of control and protection. Most solutions allow users to control either who can access the shared photos or for how long they can be accessed. In contrast, in this paper, we take a structured privacy by design approach to the problem of online photo privacy protection. We propose a privacy-preserving photo sharing architecture based on a secure JPEG scrambling algorithm capable of protecting the privacy of multiple users involved in a photo. We demonstrate the proposed photo sharing architecture with a prototype application called ProShare that offers JPEG scrambling as the privacy protection tool for selected regions in a photo, secure access to the protected images, and secure photo sharing on Facebook. Now that's definitely interesting, but it still raises some concerns about whether such DRM would actually be used to protect an individual's privacy or (much more likely) to try to limit public use of images for other reasons, such as trying to set up tollbooths on use (even fair use). I also wonder how effective any image-based DRM can really be in the longterm, given the ease of simply screenshotting an image to make a copy.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
Today, we're highlighting the pay what you want for the Game Design Course Bundle. If you beat the average price, you will get access to all four courses in the bundle and over 114 hours of instruction. You can learn to draw and animate immersive worlds and see how addictive you can make your game with courses on gamification. As a bonus, 10% of the profits from purchases will be donated to Creative Commons. Also for a limited time, Humble Bundle is offering a Game Making Bundle on their site. While this bundle has nothing to do with our store and we don't receive any money for promoting it, it seemed like getting both bundles could be really beneficial for someone trying to get started in game design. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
The Authors Guild has something of a reputation for being anti-innovation, anti-technology, anti-future and anti-consumer. It's also anti-small author. And it appears to be flexing its lobbying muscle this week to make all of this clear. It starts off with a move to ask for a dangerous idea in copyright reform, asking the House Judiciary Committee to implement a "notice and staydown" provision in any revamped copyright law. Just last year we warned people that "notice and staydown" was the way in which the legacy copyright industry extremists were looking to rebrand SOPA, and it has quickly become the preferred language of those looking to expand copyright and to attack innovation online. The Authors Guild letter is ridiculous beyond belief. It starts off with the usual whining about poor, poor authors unable to make a living any more. We are writing to ask you to make certain much-needed changes to the Copyright Act to help curtail Internet book piracy. Writers' income is in steep decline. There are many reasons for this, but a decrease in copyright protection and the aggregate effect of Internet piracy play an important role: the entire publishing industry loses $80 to $100 million to piracy annually, according to a 2012 estimate by the Association of American Publishers. Meanwhile, a recent Authors Guild survey shows that approximately 67% of our authors earn less than the poverty level from their writing, with median writing-related income at $8,000, down 24% since 2009, when e-book sales started to take off. Books provide an essential contribution to our society. Most authors don't expect to get rich from what they do: they write to inform, educate, and entertain, and in doing so add to our common store of knowledge and culture. But to keep writing, they must be able to support themselves and their families. This has become increasingly difficult in the digital age. Notice how, like the music and movie industry's before them, the Authors Guild immediately attacks online file sharing as if it must be the cause, ignoring all possible alternatives. In the book space this is particularly ridiculous, because the lowered barriers to entry from the internet means that many authors can now be published when that wasn't a possibility before. The number of ebook authors has exploded. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- rather than blaming "piracy" for the difficulty the elite club of the Authors Guild has, they might recognize the law of supply and demand, and recognize that the greater competition means that the monetary spend on the written word has been spread more widely. That's allowed lots of brand new authors to make a living from their writing, despite being passed over by the traditional publishers. And, yes, many do not make a living, but that has always been the case. I know many people who have written books, and even those who have tried to "make a career" of it. And most don't. It's just not that easy to make a living as a book writer, and it's not because of piracy. As authors like Paulo Coehlo have found, file sharing can help authors build a larger audience and to make more money in the long run, if they learn how to embrace their fans, rather than actively push them away, like the Authors Guild often does. Online book piracy, once the province of shady offshore websites, has migrated to mainstream American distribution platforms. Our "Notice and Takedown" system is completely inadequate to combat this problem. What we need instead is a "Notice and Stay-Down" regime: once a webhost knows a work is being infringed, it should not receive continued "safe harbor" immunity from claims of infringement unless it takes reasonable measures to remove all copies of the same work. As we explained last year, this is one of those ideas that copyright holders love, because they don't understand copyright law in the slightest, or how any such system would inevitably work. The main problem is that copyright is context specific. Identical copies could be infringing or not infringing, depending on context. For example, remember when Viacom sued YouTube over video clips that Viacom itself had uploaded? A "notice-and-staydown" provision takes away the context and with it plenty of non-infringing works as well. The Authors Guild also argues that it's somehow easy for companies to automate all this: ISPs, on the other hand, do have the ability to monitor piracy. Technology that can identify and filter pirated material is now commonplace. It only makes sense, then, that ISPs should bear the burden of limiting piracy on their sites, especially when they are profiting from the piracy and have the technology to conduct automated searches and takedowns. Placing the burden of identifying pirated content on the individual author, who has no ability to have any real impact on piracy, as the current regime does, makes no sense at all. It is technology that has enabled the pirate marketplace to flourish, and it is technology alone that has the capacity to keep it in check. This is just wrong on so many levels. First, if the Authors Guild is so worried about big companies, a policy like this makes them more entrenched. Even if we were to accept the Authors' Guild's faulty claim that these tools actually work (they don't), the argument that tech companies now have easy access to these tools is also not true. Big companies have access to these tools. But the next generation of startups do not. Thus, this policy would leave Amazon and Google in charge and block out any new company. Is that really what the Authors Guild wants? Second, these systems don't work. We point out false takedowns on YouTube via ContentID all the time (and frankly we don't write about most of the ones that we see). Advocating a filter that will inevitably lead to greater censorship is a ridiculous position for the Authors Guild to be taking. And, by then putting legal liability on tech companies if they don't do this makes even worse, as it will only create more incentives for the tech companies to over censor to avoid any possible liability. There's a reason why the burden does not belong on the intermediaries and it's pretty straightforward: the intermediaries don't know if it's infringing. That's something that only the copyright holders can legitimately determine. That's why the system requires notice from the copyright holders. The purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation of new works--including and especially literary works, which contribute so greatly to our nation's store of knowledge and culture. To continue to work effectively, US copyright law must provide meaningful protection against the widespread online piracy of books and journals, so that authors can afford to write them. Actually, the purpose of copyright is to "promote the progress" of learning and education, and it's supposed to do that in two parts: one by creating incentives for new works, but also to then benefit the public by increasing distribution of those works. And, we're already living in a golden age with more books being written and published today than ever before. To argue that ebook piracy has somehow taken away the incentive to write... well, the evidence just suggests that's wrong. And, again, most authors never make much money at all. To complain that authors don't make enough is a different issue altogether and has little to do with copyright. Of course, the Authors Guild didn't stop there. Also this week it went on the offense against Amazon, asking the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for antitrust violations -- even though the DOJ already looked into Amazon's practices and found them to be fine (instead finding Apple had violated antitrust law in colluding with publishers to raise ebook prices). But, don't mind the details, the Authors Guild is sure Amazon is to blame. According to the Authors Guild, the fact that consumers benefit from lower book prices shouldn't let Amazon off the hook. Without commenting on the outcome of the Apple case, or the facts that led the majority to its conclusion, we'd like to point out the long-term dangers of interpreting antitrust law solely to favor low book prices over a thriving competitive and robust literary marketplace. Yes, how dare you focus on the actual benefits to consumers, DOJ! A related letter from "Authors United," again seems to attack Amazon for daring to offer good prices to consumers, as if that's some sort of horrible antitrust violation. Personally, I think it would be great if there were more competition in the ebook space, though we have seen it start to expand, with Apple, Google and others entering the market. But, the reason those companies (despite their own market power) have had trouble making a real dent in the market is because people really like Amazon. Amazon does a pretty good job making it easy and convenient to buy ebooks, to read reviews, to find similar works, and -- of course -- to read the ebooks as well. It would be great if there was more competition -- and that it would lead to lower prices, better features and less DRM. I'd be all for it. But that's not what the Authors Guild is arguing for. They don't want an open marketplace. They don't want competition. They want higher prices and less competition from the riff raff authors who aren't signed to big publishers and aren't members of the Authors Guild. It's not hard to see the consistent logic behind all of this. The Authors Guild doesn't like the internet at all. It used to have a good thing in the old days, pre-internet. It could keep out the riff raff, anoint authors as the chosen ones, and make money off of those few giant authors. These days it's much harder and there is a real marketplace. The Authors Guild can't compete, so it runs to the government to "fix" things. It attacks internet companies like Google and Amazon not because they're doing anything unfair, but because they're actually bringing real market economics to the market for books. And the Authors Guild can't allow that to to continue.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
As everybody knows, Vladimir Putin simply adores free speech. That's made perfectly clear every time a political challenger winds up mysteriously murdered on a Moscow street, or any time his massive, manufactured troll army shouts down those critical of Russian policies on the Internet. It's made repeatedly clear in percussive fashion each and every time an outspoken journalist winds up mysteriously murdered for simply asking questions, and it's abundantly clear from the 10,000 or so websites the Russian government aggressively filters. Like so many of his international mega-nation contemporaries, free speech is kind of Putin's thing. So without the slightest whiff of hypocrisy it should be unsurprising for many people to learn that Putin and friends think Facebook's a little heavy handed on the free speech front. Putin aide Igor Shchegolev is urging Russians to abandon Facebook after the social media website deleted a number of posts containing the word "khokhol" -- which in certain context can be used insultingly to suggest Ukranians are backward peasants. This is, says an administration that thinks assassination an acceptable conversation and debate tactic, wholly unacceptable:"Senior officials are urging their countrymen to abandon Facebook in favor of domestic social media, saying that the latter offer greater freedom of speech, after Mark Zuckerberg’s firm deleted a string of posts containing a slang Russian term for Ukrainians...The news agency ITAR-TASS reported Igor Shchegolev, an aide to President Vladimir Putin as saying that switching to rivals like Vkontakte would help users avoid having their content blocked."Russia's relationship with Facebook was already strained after the website temporarily suspended the accounts of Kremlin media watchdog Maxim Ksenzov, and pro-Putin writer Eduard Bagirov. Of course that's not to say Facebook isn't equally awful when it comes to free speech. While Facebook says it deletes the word because it can be used as an ethnic slang, "Khokhol" can also be used to describe a specific haircut and isn't always used as an insult. According to the Russian Times, Russians have been having a very good time highlighting the stupidity of Facebook's inconsistent policies:"Intrigued by the phenomenon, Russian journalists and bloggers began to experiment with testing Facebook's limits, deliberately using the word khokhly in their posts. Last week Facebook issued a one-week block of journalist Maxim Kononenko's page for posting a poem by Alexander Pushkin, a man widely considered to be Russia's greatest poet, containing the word khokhly."Meanwhile, Russian Facebook equivalent Vkontakte was quick to welcome annoyed users into the fold:Готовы принять всех заблокированных на Фейсбуке пользователей — добро пожаловать! Снова :) — George Lobushkin (@lobushkin) July 7, 2015 "We're ready to accept all the blocked Facebook users. Welcome! Again :)" Perhaps Putin's government and Facebook can somehow make up and join forces to create a global super-storm of censorship and incompetence? Imagine the possibilities of somehow combining Facebook's love of overly-curated and blandly-unoffensive walled gardens, with Putin's utterly brutal love of censorship and murder. Surely there's an amazing new business model buried somewhere therein.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
We've talked a few times about how UK Prime Minister David Cameron has made it abundantly clear that he wants to backdoor encryption to make sure law enforcement and intelligence agencies can read private communications. Back in January, he made it clear that the UK "must not" allow there to be any "means of communication [that] isn't possible to read [by the government]." Just a few weeks ago, he once again made it clear that there should be no "safe space" where anyone can communicate without the government being able to spy on you (that there already is the ability for two people to converse in person without being spied upon is left ignored). "We just want to ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate. That is the challenge, and it is a challenge that will come in front of the House. "We have always been able, on the authority of the home secretary, to sign a warrant and intercept a phone call, a mobile phone call or other media communications, but the question we must ask ourselves is whether, as technology develops, we are content to leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other. "My answer is no, we should not be, which means that we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on." This is, of course, no different than what the FBI has been whining about in the US as well. Basically they're both demanding backdoors into encryption, so that the government can access whatever it wants. They are demanding this because they're basically ignorant of how such backdoors effectively undermine security, put more people at risk and open up that access to much more than just the government. However, it's not just the government officials who are confused about this. It appears that reporters and supposedly respected publications can't get it right either. Business Insider -- which seems to get the little things wrong on a fairly consistent basis -- has a big story up trumpeting that the UK has made a giant "U-turn" and will no longer seek to attack encryption. Except this is neither huge, nor a U-turn. It's not even really notable, other than the statements show just how confused basically everyone is about the issue. The problem is that some people falsely interpreted the original statements to mean that the UK wanted to ban encryption, rather than simply backdoor end-to-end encryption. Those are two different things. So the statement that Business Insider's Rob Price got from the government is simply correcting his false impression that anyone was planning an outright ban on encryption -- something no one has actually proposed. But Number 10 is now emphatically denying that Cameron is considering such a ban, telling Business Insider, "The Prime Minister did not suggest encryption should be banned." "We accept and completely recognise the importance of encryption," a representative said, highlighting its use in e-commerce as an example of why it will not be outlawed. The person did reiterate, however, that the British government believes "terrorists cannot have a safe space in which to operate" online — raising the question of how it hopes to achieve this. See? This is neither huge nor a U-turn. It's simply the UK government reiterating what Cameron said: that they would like to figure out ways to backdoor end-to-end encryption. Which is, you know, the same thing he's been saying for months. The real story here is that this is a really dumb idea that will make the internet less safe -- but there is no change in position by Cameron. Just a confused reporter for a publication that apparently has no reporters or editors who understand the subjects they're writing about.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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