posted 21 days ago on techdirt
The US smartphone market is currently dominated by Apple and Samsung for hardware, but that could change pretty quickly if consumers were offered something a bit more innovative than a bigger phablet. One concept that's been floating around is a modular phone that allows its owner to swap out various components -- making a customizable phone that could have a bigger battery or a better camera, depending on user preferences (instead of Apple or Samsung's upgrade cycle). If you haven't been following the modular phone projects out there, here are a few links -- if you think you can wait a year (or forever) to buy one. Finland has not one, but TWO startups trying to build modular smartphones. Vsenn and Puzzlephone (from Circular Devices) are both trying to launch products in 2015, and these modular phones will run on Android (if they run at all). [url] In 2013, Dave Hakkens released a video that demonstrated what a modular smartphone might look like. The video has inspired plenty of other folks to try to bring an open phone platform into the real world, but it's not on Kickstarter because it's not exactly easy to build a functioning prototype that actually lives up to the hype. [url] Motorola also introduced its Project Ara in 2013, and it had been in development for over a year by that point. The project lives on under Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group -- working towards a limited market pilot launch sometime in 2015. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Want to convict two people for the same burglary? It can be done. If you're a state prosecutor willing to knowingly offer up perjured testimony, the impossible becomes the routine. (h/t to Eric Goldman) Here's the backstory [pdf link]: Early in the morning of December 19, 2012, a person wearing a mask, two hooded sweatshirts, and gloves broke into a Dollar General store in Mishawaka and stole approximately $3,500 in cash. Video surveillance revealed that the burglar was a white female. On December 28, police investigating the burglary questioned [Nicole] Greenlee, a white female employee of the Dollar General store, who ultimately confessed to the burglary. At one point during the investigation, Greenlee named [Antonio] Smith, her boyfriend at the time, and another woman as accomplices in the burglary, but police concluded that Greenlee had acted on her own. The State charged Greenlee with burglary, as a Class C felony. Greenlee pleaded guilty and, during her plea hearing on May 6, 2013, she testified under oath that she had broken and entered the Dollar General store with the intent to commit theft, she had opened the door to get inside, and she had disarmed the alarm system using the code. During that hearing, Greenlee did not testify that Smith or anyone else helped her commit the burglary. So, the police had a suspect convicted for this burglary. And the corroborating video showed that Greenlee performed the criminal act on her own. But that wasn't enough. They brought charges against Smith "for committing the same December 19 burglary of the Dollar General store." This double-charging obviously presented an issue. The state prosecutor's case hinged on Greenlee's testimony, something that (a) contradicted her previous testimony during her guilty plea and (b) the surveillance recording of the incident. None of that deterred the state from attempting to achieve the impossible. The state prosecutor warned the jury that it was going to have to come to terms with the fact that the State was willing to use perjury to achieve its goal of putting two people in jail for the same criminal act. Of course, it worded it a bit differently. During its opening statement at Smith’s trial, the State told the jury: [y]ou’re also going to hear [Greenlee] give two different versions of what happened. When she first talked to the police, you’re going to hear that she took the blame for being the one inside the store saying she was the one that [sic] went in, that’s her on the tape, that [Smith] was outside in the bushes. You’re probably also going to hear her sit right up here today and sit on the stand and tell you something different. What she’s probably going to tell you is that she was outside in the bushes and that [Smith] was inside, and you’re going to hear about the factors that may contribute to that change in story and that’s something you’re going to have to deal with at the end of this process. TL; DR: We're going to lie to you. Good luck! Nicole Greenlee herself may have wondered how she was going to get away with testifying in direct contradiction of her previous admission. Fortunately, the prosecution promised her that she wouldn't get into any more trouble than she was already in. She was given immunity against perjury charges. So, she testified in direct contradiction of her previous statements. She claimed she confessed just to get the "whole process done and over with" and that she was waiting outside in the bushes while Smith performed the burglary. She also claimed that, while she was in jail, Smith offered to tell the cops that he did it. (The recording was played for the jury, and the State's counsel did not contest the defense's closing arguments that the "offer" was made in the context of "reassuring" the "crying" Greenlee, rather than as an admission that he had performed the burglary.) The defense moved for a mistrial, pointing out that perjured testimony generally results in overturned convictions upon appeal. The trial court decided that Greenlee's contradictory statements were merely "inconsistent." It maintained this view even after hearing from a police detective whose statements indicated that Greenlee was alone when she burglarized the store. Following Greenlee’s testimony, the State called South Bend Detective Timothy Wiley and offered into evidence the video surveillance recordings from the burglary. As noted above, Detective Wiley testified that the video evidence shows a white female acting as the only person inside the store during the burglary. Detective Wiley also testified that the cell phone records of Smith and Greenlee show that they were located near each other and were communicating with each other during the course of the burglary. But, on cross-examination, Detective Wiley admitted that he had no way to know the actual locations of each cell phone during the burglary. Even the detective lied, albeit briefly. And yet, the court (and the jury) still found this to be damning enough to sentence Smith for the burglary he obviously didn't commit. The appeals court found that Greenlee had committed perjury, in particular, violating this definition from the state statutes: Has knowingly made two (2) or more material statements, in a proceeding before a court or grand jury, which are inconsistent to the degree that one (1) of them is necessarily false; The State continued to maintain that Greenlee's contradictory statements were merely "inconsistent." Somehow, the prosecution found that Greenlee's claims of being the sole actor and not being the sole actor did not rise to the state's definition of perjury. The appeals court takes that assertion apart. This is not a case where a witness changes her story during the course of an investigation or during her trial testimony and is merely impeached with her prior inconsistent statements and those inconsistencies are to be resolved by a fact-finder… Greenlee’s statements were not merely inconsistent but mutually exclusive. The State also argued that it did not "knowingly" proffer perjured testimony. The appeals court points out several facts that contradict this assertion, not the least of which is its offering of immunity to Greenlee against prosecution for perjury. The State also claimed that no violation of Smith's due process rights occurred as a result of its perjury. In particular, it argued that Smith was probably guilty of something, and even if the perjured testimony removed the possibility that he was the principal actor, there was enough evidence that pointed to him being an accomplice. This assertion is dismissed as well. Of course, if the jury convicted Smith as the principal, the perjury contributed directly to the jury’s verdict. If, however, the jury convicted Smith as an accomplice, the perjured testimony may have been irrelevant. But whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Smith as an accomplice does not resolve the question of whether Greenlee’s perjury constituted harmless error. The knowing use of perjured testimony violates due process, impeaches the verdict, and undermines the integrity of the judicial system. Greenlee’s testimony poisoned the well and denied Smith a fair trial. This is the State being greedy. It had one person charged and convicted, but it wanted even more. It wanted an additional conviction for the same crime badly enough that it allowed the person who had admitted to the crime (and been convicted) to take the stand and claim the opposite. Worse, the trial court allowed this mockery of justice to result in a conviction that ultimately had to be overturned by a higher court -- temporarily creating the impossible situation where both Greenlee and Smith simultaneously robbed the same store while inhabiting the same (white, female) body. As we've noted before, the criminal justice system has a way of making the miraculous seem mundane. This is just one more example of its transformative powers.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Three years ago, Planet Money did an episode on the ridiculous economics of taxi cab medallions, the protectionist, anti-competition way in which cities keep competition scarce for taxis, and (thus) drive up taxi fares. Yes, sure, the taxi folks will tell you, these medallions are supposed to "regulate" the market to keep it safe, but as pretty much everyone knows, the reality is that they're just to limit competition and keep prices high. So, given all the new pressures on that market from ridesharing* efforts like Uber** and Lyft, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that taxi medallion prices are plummeting rapidly. They're still high -- for now -- but they're dropping fast and that's likely to continue: The average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data. Previous figures published by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission — showing flat prices — appear to have been incorrect, and the commission removed them from its website after an inquiry from The New York Times. In other big cities, medallion prices are also falling, often in conjunction with a sharp decline in sales volume. In Chicago, prices are down 17 percent. In Boston, they’re down at least 20 percent, though it’s hard to establish an exact market price because there have been only five trades since July. In Philadelphia, the taxi authority recently failed to sell any medallions at its asking price of $475,000; it will try again, at $350,000. In cities like San Francisco, there's been a 65% decline in cab use as people shift to these more convenient (and often more affordable) alternatives. And the trend appears likely to continue: The end result appears to be pretty good for users -- who get more convenient, less expensive options for getting around. And, for all the stated fears from the old taxi guys that a glut of new entrants would drive away business, we can just watch what happens and see how the market sorts things out. * Yes, I know some people hate the term "ridesharing" for these kinds of services. But that's what they're commonly called, and it's perfectly reasonable to call them that. ** Yes, Uber has been getting a ton of bad press lately for a vareity of statements and actions that, at the very least, suggest a rather cavalier attitude towards privacy, and a very aggressive view towards everything else. Thankfully, if you don't like the way Uber conducts its business, there are alternatives.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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I'm always amazed that there are judges out there who don't appear to understand even the very basics about the First Amendment. And yet, we get cases like this one in Connecticut last week, in which a New Britain Superior Court judge, Stephen Frazzini, apparently had never come across the concept of prior restraint, and ordered an injunction against the Connecticut Law Tribune barring it from publishing an article based on a public court document: Daniel J. Klau, the newspaper's lawyer, said he has already filed an appeal. He and other media law attorneys say this appears to be an extraordinarily rare case of prior restraint on free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. They say that normally pre-publication court orders have been deemed constitutional only in matters of extreme threats to public safety, on the level of national security. Frazzini's oral ruling is currently sealed, but Klau said he is working to have it unsealed. "I am actually under a restraining order about what I can tell my own client. There are some things that I can share," said Klau, of the Hartford office of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter. "What the Law Tribune can say," he said, "is that in a child protection case on the juvenile court docket, the court granted a party's request for an injunction barring the Connecticut Law Tribune from publishing information that it lawfully obtained about the case." Yes, since it involves juvenile court, it's likely part of the issue involved in protecting the privacy of a child. But, again, this was information that was already filed in a public docket. If there was concern about privacy, it should have been dealt with prior to a public filing. To then issue an injunction, barring the publication of an article, is classic prior restraint and is clearly unconstitutional.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Post sponsored by One year ago this week, the House overwhelmingly passed bipartisan patent reform legislation — the Innovation Act — to stop patent trolls from suing innovators, collecting billions, costing jobs and undermining economic growth. The Senate failed to act, but there’s no reason this bipartisan bill should not become law. Contact your U.S. Senator and ask them to pass patent litigation reform! » What is a patent troll? Think of a school bully. Much like a kid handing over his lunch money to a bully, patent trolls are extortionists who sue small companies for money. Patent trolls do not create jobs or products, but instead get rich by suing or threatening litigation to extract licensing fees from businesses and tech entrepreneurs. In 2011 the founder of TMSOFT, Todd Moore became acquainted with patent trolls when Lodsys, a patent holding company aka patent troll, sued Moore over the "White Noise” mobile app he developed.  The patent troll letter said Moore was in violation of 4 of their patents. Lodsys doesn’t even produce apps or anything for that matter. Small business owners like Moore aren’t the only victims of patent trolls. Patent extortionist Lodsys went ahead and also sued Walt Disney Company over apps. Big or small, no one is safe from patent trolls. UNLESS Congress takes action and changes our laws. Patent trolls bleed $80 billion a year from the U.S. economy, that’s 1.5 billion a week! The House has taken action, now it is up to the Senate. The Innovation Movement, sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, unites those who believe innovation is critical to American global leadership and economic growth. The Innovation Movement uses grassroots advocacy tools to support smart public policies, like patent litigation reform, that foster startups and innovation. To learn more about the Innovation Movement’s work fighting patent trolls, visit trollticker.com, follow on Twitter @imovement and like Innovation Movement on Facebook. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As was widely expected after leaking out a few days earlier, last week the EU Parliament "voted" on its proposal to support the breakup of Google. And yet, that might not really be as important as a second part of the EU's vote, concerning a bizarre and nonsensical requirement for "unbiased" search results. As discussed earlier, the headlined proposal for breaking up Google is both completely toothless and kind of stupid. On the toothless part, not only can the EU Parliament not actually do anything about this, if the EU Commission wanted to break up Google, it would need to go through a long and involved process, that would likely fail. As Vox notes: For Google to actually get broken up, the European Commission would first need to take Google to court alleging violation of European competition laws. The EC would then have to win the case and convince the courts that a breakup was the appropriate remedy. "I can't believe that would happen," [antitrust expert Mark] Patterson told me on Monday. "I don't think there have been cases of anyone being broken up in years." Patterson says that "there's never been a smoking gun" showing that Google has abused its dominance in the search or advertising markets to harm competitors But still, here's what the EU Parliament approved [pdf] by a 384 to 174 vote: Notes that the online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market, given the potential development of search engines into gatekeepers and the possibility they have of commercialising secondary exploitation of information obtained; calls, therefore, on the Commission to enforce EU competition rules decisively, based on input from all relevant stakeholders and taking into account the entire structure of the digital single market in order to ensure remedies that truly benefit consumers, internet users and online businesses; calls, furthermore, on the Commission to consider proposals aimed at unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term means of achieving the aforementioned aims; As for why this is stupid, the Economist has a rather good explanation: Google is clearly dominant, then; but whether it abuses that dominance is another matter. It stands accused of favouring its own services in search results, making it hard for advertisers to manage campaigns across several online platforms, and presenting answers on some search pages directly rather than referring users to other websites. But its behaviour is not in the same class as Microsoft’s systematic campaign against the Netscape browser in the late 1990s: there are no e-mails talking about “cutting off” competitors’ “air supply”. What’s more, some of the features that hurt Google’s competitors benefit its consumers. Giving people flight details, dictionary definitions or a map right away saves them time. And while advertisers often pay hefty rates for clicks, users get Google’s service for nothing—rather as plumbers and florists fork out to be listed in Yellow Pages which are given to readers gratis, and nightclubs charge men steep entry prices but let women in free. Furthermore, the Economist points out that, not only does this move appear to be anti-consumer, but it's also just blatantly protectionist for companies unwilling to innovate: Instead of attacking successful American companies, Europe’s leaders should ask themselves why their continent has not produced a Google or a Facebook. Opening up the EU’s digital services market would do more to create one than protecting local incumbents. But within the proposal, a few lines down, there was something that might be even more concerning, and more ridiculous, even if it generated fewer (actually, almost no) headlines. And it's that, beyond "breaking up" search engines, the resolution also included this bit of nonsense, saying that search engines need to be "unbiased": Stresses that, when operating search engines for users, the search process and results should be unbiased in order to keep internet searches non-discriminatory, to ensure more competition and choice for users and consumers and to maintain the diversity of sources of information; notes, therefore, that indexation, evaluation, presentation and ranking by search engines must be unbiased and transparent; calls on the Commission to prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by search engine operators; But what does that even mean? Search is inherently biased. That's the point of search. You want the best results for what you're searching for, and the job of the search engine is to rank results by what it thinks is the best. An "unbiased" search engine isn't a search engine at all. It just returns stuff randomly. What this really is, is a way for the EU to try to insert itself into being able to edit search results. They're trying to insert themselves into the algorithm to determine which search results it thinks should be up top, rather than whatever the algorithms find. This is very worrisome -- in part because it demonstrates how little the EU politicians who voted for this understand. Years ago, James Grimmelmann (no friend of Google -- as he's actively fought against Google on a number of issues), explained why this concept (sometimes called "search neutrality") makes no sense at all, and actually sets up a conflicting set of requirements where the "ends and means don't match." He concludes that the very idea of unbiased search is "incoherent." In fact, he notes that an attempt towards "unbiased search" almost certainly leads to not just worse results for users, but a more likely situation in which users get pushed to the kinds of sites policy makers think they're going to demote. Requiring search engines to behave “neutrally” will not produce the desired goal of neutral search results. The web is a place where site owners compete fiercely, sometimes viciously, for viewers and users turn to intermediaries to defend them from the sometimes-abusive tactics of information providers. Taking the search engine out of the equation leaves users vulnerable to precisely the sorts of manipulation search neutrality aims to protect them from. Whether it ranks sites by popularity, by personalization, or even by the idiosyncratic whims of its operator, a search engine provides an alternative to the Hobbesian world of the unmediated Internet, in which the richest voices are the loudest, and the greatest authority on any subject is the spammer with the fastest server. Search neutrality is cynical about the Internet—but perhaps not cynical enough. Meanwhile, the sole Pirate Party member of the European Parliament, Julia Reda, has a bit more detail about how this bogus claim of "unbiased search" is really just an attempt to prop up publishers who failed to innovate via so-called "ancillary rights," like the attempt to force Google to pay newspaper publishers for sending them traffic. As Reda notes: Here, it is demanded that search algorithms and results should be impartial to keep internet searches “nondiscrimatory” and to “secure competition and freedom of choice for users and consumers”. Consequently, indexing, weighting, display and ordering of search engines should be impartial and transparent. This wording is explosive. I am led to suspect that its aim is to prepare a European ancillary copyright for press publishers. The attempt to cross-finance big publishers through Google most recently spectacularly backfired in Germany. Is this resolution an attempt to create the puzzle piece that had been missing in Germany? In October, Günther Oettinger, the EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, provoked a debate on an EU-wide ancillary copyright law for press publishers before even taking office. Not a month later, the next move is made in that direction – this time in the parliament. As you may recall, when German publishers demanded payments for the traffic, Google removed their snippets, and the publishers claimed it was "blackmail." As Reda notes, the whole "neutrality" or "unbiased" language in the resolution suggests a plan in which Google would be forced to (1) continue providing the snippets and traffic and then, later, (2) pay the publishers for sending them the traffic. In short, the idea is to force Google to "violate" the (made up) rights of publishers in order to give them a way to force Google to give them money. Reda, along with Michel Reimon, put forth amendments that would block this possible interpretation of the resolution... and had those amendments rejected. It's clear that Europe, for whatever reason, has decided to go to war against American internet companies, with Google being the main target. As we noted last week, it's not clear what the reasons are other than that Google is big and American. It's perfectly reasonable to be concerned about potential abuse, and to vigilantly watch to make sure no such abuse occurs, but that's not what's happening here. It appears that these moves are just designed to punish not only Google, but the very users of the service in Europe, pressuring the company to deliver a lesser product... just to benefit a few companies and industries that have failed to innovate. It is difficult to see how such an effort could possibly be good for the people of Europe.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 21 days ago on techdirt
Arizona's revenge porn law is one (of many) hamfisted attempts to address a specific problem with an overbroad solution. Its supporters' zealousness to stamp out revenge porn left footprints all over the First Amendment, turning something as innocuous as an ill-advised retweet into a crime on par with domestic violence. The law contains no exception for "newsworthy disclosures" and requires "explicit permission" for any posting of images, etc. of a "person in a state of nudity or engaged in specific sexual activities." While this law would have made revenge porn illegal, it also made plenty of protected speech a criminal act. The ACLU challenged the legislation, providing a list of non-revenge-porn speech that would be considered criminal under the new law. A college professor in Arizona, giving a lecture on the history of the Vietnam War, projects on a screen the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, "Napalm Girl," which shows a girl, unclothed, running in horror from her village. A newspaper and magazine vendor in Arizona offering to sell a magazine which contains images of the abuse of unclothed prisoners at Abu Ghraib. An educator in Arizona using images, taken from the Internet, of breast-feeding mothers, in an education program for pregnant women. A library in Arizona providing computers with Internet access to its patrons and, because no filters could effectively prevent this result, the library patrons are able to access nude or sexual images. A mother in Arizona sharing with her sister, in the privacy of her home, a nude image of her infant child. A sexual assault victim in Arizona showing a photograph of the naked assaulter to her mother. Fortunately, a federal judge has (for now) halted enforcement of this terrible law until it can be rewritten. The order from U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton came as part of an agreement between the Arizona attorney general's office and the groups that sued. The order blocks enforcement of the law to allow the Legislature time to work on changes. Those objecting to the law include not only expected civil liberties defenders like the ACLU, but also several bookstores, publishing associations and the National Press Photographers Association. The legislator behind the bill, J.D. Mesnard, says he'll work on it but can't promise he'll make opponents happy. "Given my willingness to do that, it made sense to say, well let's see if we can get an agreement to hold off on the bill for now and make some changes in the next session," Mesnard said. "We may end up right back where we are now because some of the issues the ACLU brought up, I don't think they'll ever be satisfied." In short, the Constitution will continue to be violated because the ACLU (and others) want too much free speech. This doesn't sound like someone willing to accept the fact that the law is badly and broadly written, but more like someone who thinks the ACLU's demands are impossible to satisfy. It also doesn't sound like someone who's interested in scrapping a law simply because the federal government has stepped in and basically declared it unconstitutional. We can probably expect another showdown after Mesnard and his fellow legislators make a few token concessions. However, if it remains largely unchanged, Mesnard may find himself with no revenge porn law at all. The groups behind this legal challenge have vowed to seek a permanent injunction if there isn't a significant overhaul. As has been pointed out before, revenge porn can often be tackled with existing laws. The process can be cumbersome, but the solution shouldn't be the crafting of broadly-written, unconstitutional legislation to address a specific issue -- legislation that will criminalize protected speech if allowed to proceed unchallenged.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in May, of course, a troubling ruling by the EU Court of Justice said that search engines had to disappear links on searches for certain people's names if that information was somehow no longer relevant. This, of course, kicked off a "right to be forgotten" craze in Europe, where thousands of people sought to have embarrassing stories about them removed from Google's results on their names. In July, we noted that EU regulators were suggesting that this "right to be forgotten" should apply globally, rather than just in Europe, as Google had currently implemented it. Google pushed back on this idea, but apparently without success. Last week, the EU's data protection officials released new "guidelines" [pdf] that argue the right to be forgotten should apply globally. Specifically, it argues that if a person's privacy rights are violated by having results show up in search engines in Europe, then those same rights are violated if they show up in any non-EU search results as well (all emphasis in the original): The [data protection working group] considers that in order to give full effect to the data subject’s rights as defined in the Court’s ruling, de-listing decisions must be implemented in such a way that they guarantee the effective and complete protection of data subjects’ rights and that EU law cannot be circumvented. In that sense, limiting de-listing to EU domains on the grounds that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights of data subjects according to the ruling. In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains. Under EU law, everyone has a right to data protection. The key line here is not actually bolded in the original. It's the "this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains." Basically, if it can be reached from Europe, it has to be blocked. Or, in even shorter form, "EU regulations apply around the globe online." That's a really, really, bad idea. Because now how will the EU respond to other countries pushing their own silly censorship efforts globally? Russia can claim that anything about homosexuality must be blocked globally. China can argue that anything about Tibet or government corruption can be blocked globally. And how will the EU respond? This is so troubling that even folks who actually support the original ruling are speaking out about how troubling these new guidelines are. GigaOm's David Meyer, who regularly has supported the right to be forgotten (which he argues is an unfair description of "the right to be de-linked") says that this is bad: I can understand Falque-Pierrotin’s logic, but even I — someone who finds value in the concept of the right to be de-linked — think this is an awful decision. It’s part of a worrying trend, taking place around the world, for local or regional internet-related rules to apply everywhere. Again, it is understandable why regulators want to do this – the internet is a global medium, and it’s near-impossible to geographically limit effective regulation – but the result is layers of overlapping jurisdictions. Even if Europeans believe strongly in this right to be forgotten idea, they should be, as Meyers is, troubled by the idea that an EU ruling can impact the global internet. And yes, as Meyer's points out, the US is often guilty of pretending that its laws apply to the global internet as well, and that should be equally troubling.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Earlier this year, Techdirt reported on details that have emerged about how GCHQ and the NSA tap underwater cables carrying large quantities of the world's Internet traffic. Now, in a long and detailed post from Matthijs R. Koot, we learn that the Dutch government is planning to give similar powers to its own intelligence and security services. Dutch intelligence services can already carry out bulk collection of wireless communications, provided those have at least a foreign source or foreign destination -- that is, domestic bulk intercept is not permitted. A committee reviewed the law governing interception, and recommended that it should become "technology-neutral" so as to allow bulk collection of cable signals too. Most of Koot's post is taken up with a translation of the Dutch government's response to that recommendation. The new framework for interception consists of three phases: Goal-oriented collection [in Dutch: "doelgerichte verzameling"] of telecommunications, preprocessing of intercepted telecommunications, and (further) processing of the telecommunications. In the first phase -- collection -- goal-oriented relevant data are intercepted and made accessible (for instance by decryption), after advance approval from the Minister based on an investigation goal defined as accurately as possible. Preparatory technical activities aimed at goal-oriented collection of data and making the data accessible, can be part of this phase. Individuals or organizations are not yet being investigated in this phase, meaning that the infringement on privacy is limited. The second phase -- preprocessing -- is aimed at optimizing, in broad sense, the interception process, in the context of ongoing, approved investigatory assignments using the collected data. As this optimization can require metadata analysis or briefly taking a look at the contents of telecommunication, the infringement on privacy is greater than in the first phase. In the third phase -- processing -- selection of relevant telecommunications takes place, and selected data are used to gain insight into the intentions, capabilities and behavior of individuals and organizations that are subject of investigation. In this phase, target-oriented investigation takes place, in which the contents of telecommunications and metadata are analyzed to identify individuals or organizations, and to recognize patterns. An increasing insight into the personal life is thus obtained from phase to phase. The safeguards that will be laid down in legislation, must be stronger as the infringement on privacy is greater. The response then goes on to spell out those safeguards, as well as describing other key areas, such as co-operation with network providers and data exchange with foreign security services. All-in-all, the document demonstrates nicely how a government can be transparent about the way that it is approaching bulk interception, but without jeopardizing any aspect of its operations. It's a pity other governments are unable to do the same. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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This week, we covered the story of a hotel staffer who was fired for posting some photos of DHS vans parked in a garage. One anonymous commenter took first place for insightful this week by revising a popular security slogan to account for this incident: Remember kids - If you see something, say something. ..... unless it is something about us, then STFU or we'll mess you up. For the rest of the insightful comments, we've got an all-net-neutrality lineup. Firstly, taking second place this week, it's That One Guy with a response to someone who presented the same argument I was so frustrated by last week — that any and all regulation is, by default, terrible: Hey great idea, let's take Title II off the table, all of it, including the benefits the ISP's currently enjoy from it(tax breaks/subsidies, legal rights when installing networks on private land...), I'm sure they'd be all for that, right? And if they're not going to be bound by any regulations, then they need to be treated entirely as private companies, which means a complete end to any and all money from the government/tax payers meant to upgrade and maintain their networks. Oh, and they'll need to hand over the public spectrum they're currently using, no government interference means no government benefits after all. I'm sure I could go on, but the short of it is that as long as they get to use and enjoy public money, and public resources, then they also get to deal with the strings attached to those things. Next we move into the editor's choice, where we've got two comments on net neutrality that offer specific perspectives on the issue. First it's Rich Kulawiec, giving us the all-too-often ignored viewpoint of the invisible experts who make the internet function: That's an entirely good thing. I suggest that you might want to try getting down in the trenches with those of us who helped build and run this network. I don't mean the nouveau-rich elite, or the investors, or the management teams, or people hobnobbing at resort-hosted conferences. I mean the people who have their hands on the wires and their eyes on the terminals: the network engineers and system administrators that you'll rarely see, and who will rarely, if ever, get to cash out in a big way. I mean the people who actually run the Internet, not the people running operations connected by the Internet. The world looks very different from there than it does from boardrooms. Those of you who are new to the Internet ("new" means "did not have an email address ending in .ARPA") would greatly benefit from exposure to the ideas of the people who envisioned it decades out. I also think you'd find both their success stories and their failures instructive -- particularly the latter, as we humans seem to learn best from catastrophes. (Sometimes. Other times we seem very intent on repeating painful lessons for no particularly good reason.) It's late 2014. I'm just about to tick over year 35 online, and yet the only two choices I have for connectivity at home (Verizon DSL, Comcast cable) are both absolutely horrendous in terms of service, support, price and reliability. (Verizon is, as everyone knows, not interested in maintaining existing copper. And Comcast's shoddy installation work has left the neighborhood with cables laying on the surface and junction boxes "protected" from the weather by garbage bags and duct tape. And it just gets worse from there as I work my way up the hardware/software/personnel stack: I'll spare you the litany. Suffice it to say that I'm not even a Comcast customer and I hate them already.) That's absurd. I'm an hour from the friggin' capital of the United States of America, the country where we built the ARPAnet and CSnet and Usenet and thus the Internet, and I can't even get close to the service/support/price/reliability numbers in South Korea. Or Finland. Or Japan. Or Sweden. Or {insert long list of countries not called the United States here}. I should have 20M bidirectionally for $20/month with no caps, no throttling, no DPI, no DNS forgery, no HTTP tampering, and only the QoS management that's technically necessary (e.g, prioritize VOIP ahead of SMTP). But you know what I've got? As of 2:27 PM 11/26/2014, I've got .93M down, .40M up. For $39/month. And it'll probably go up again soon because. Meanwhile, the AVERAGE Internet connection speed in Japan was 60M and the price was about $18/month...FOUR YEARS AGO. So while I'm not entirely sanguine about Title II, you know what? I don't care anymore. I'm willing to risk it, because the possibility of failure that it entails is better than the certainty of failure that the status quo guarantees. I've seen quite enough of the deliberate crippling of critical national infrastructure for the sake of corporate and personal profit, thank you very much. Next, we've got a comment from an anonymous European that, if nothing else, should remind folks in the US of just how pathetically bad their current broadband situation is: I just have to say that I kind of start to feel sorry for you guys. Whenever I read one of those articles people post their speed and how much they pay for it and each time I think wtf? I live in a small city in Europe, my friend lives in a village that has a population of 200(not thousand, just 200). We both have 32M down for roughly $30 a month including free phone calls inside the country. The part that I don't understand is how can people argue against net neutrality(NN)? The whole idea behind the net is based on NN. It worked until now and maybe that is the reason why there wasn't the need to interfere but it seems that ISPs start/try to change the rules. Charging a premium (maybe on both sides) just doesn't make much sense from a non ISP view. It's not that they cant handle the traffic because of the infrastructure but it seems to me it is for the sole reason to get some extra cash. Over on the funny side, for first place we head to our post about more bad behaviour at the ATF. Buried amidst the laundry list of issues was one far more egregious than others, catching the eye of this anonymous commenter: Wait, wait, wait... Copyright infringement?! I hope these bastards fry. For second place, we're back to net neutrality, and the incredibly slanted poll that unsubtly pushed respondents towards opposing Title II. We compared its wording to asking if people would support net neutrality when it meant getting kicked in the groin — and Oblate had some questions about that: Well, speaking as someone who gets to choose between Verizon and Comcast, I have to ask a few questions- is the kick squarely in the groin, or somewhere in the area? Is it a soccer style kick, or more like a football punt? What type of footwear will be involved? Will I have to pay a rental fee for the footwear? Which pre-kick positions do I get to choose from? Will the post-kick recovery involve a punch to another area to help me ignore the groin pain, or will it be a kick to another area? What are the stated charges for the kick, and how much less are they than the actual charges? How long is the appointment window for the kick, and how long will I have to wait to re-schedule when the first kicker doesn't show up? These are the questions that customers familiar with the cable/internet industry in the US will want to know the answers to. Now, who was it that trusts these same companies to act in the customers best interests unless forced to (via net neutrality)? For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our post about the pushback against copyright collection societies in the UK. In it, we noted that 24% of small business have complained about a lack of clarity in the rules and regulations about licenses, and Michael filled in the other half of that statistic: ...and the other 76% are infringing and don't know it yet. Finally, we've got an excellent response to the NSA and others who bandy the threat of cyberattacks while also demanding backdoors and weaker security for their own purposes (the best gifts potential cyberattackers can receive). Justme offered a highly apt analogy: Problem: Your house will be burglarized within the next 10 years. Solution: Install new locks on all doors and leave a key under the doormat so we can ensure your house is secure! doh! :) That's all for this week, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 23 days ago on techdirt
Five Years Ago: ESPN suspended Bill Simmons (from Twitter) for calling someone deceitful. Huh. That sounds familiar. ACS:Law, which was the UK version of Prenda before Prenda existed was just ramping up. Spam King Alan Ralsky was sent to jail. Microsoft was trying to shut someone up after they revealed some "flaws" in Microsoft's plan to bribe users to use Bing instead of Google. Speaking of Bing, Rupert Murdoch was toying with the idea of taking News Corp. sites out of Google's search results if Microsoft paid him enough. And Hulu was furious that people were actually embedding its videos, despite the fact that Hulu provided tools to embed. We looked at how Hollywood was really at fault for a significant part of movie piracy, by not giving users what they wanted. Similarly, we looked at how the recording industry spent so much on payola to get people to hear their music for free -- and yet were so angry about piracy, which got people to hear their music for free. Speaking of Hollywood, the heads of the big studios had pretty much all settled on a new talking point: that they were really concerned about the independent filmmaker, rather than big studios when ti came to piracy. Of course, more indie films were being made than ever before, and those indie filmmakers now have many more ways to get supported than ever before, so that rang pretty hollow. And, a record label exec was arrested for not using Twitter to ask Justin Bieber fans to disperse. We were celebrating Wil Wheaton saying people should "get excited and make things" rather than griping about how business models and such were changing online. Meanwhile, we highlighted some research about how copying and imitation are actually quite good for society, even if people think they're bad. Ten Years Ago: We were talking about how there were over 400 companies selling "VoIP" offerings, and wondering how they could possibly survive (spoilers: they didn't). The first case we'd heard of where scammers were trying to sneak malware through banner ads on popular sites. Unfortunately, this remains an issue today. People were starting to realize that stores like Best Buy were really showrooms for Amazon. And a court told the MPAA that it couldn't lump a bunch of unrelated file sharing lawsuits into the same case. Also, ten years ago, Perfect 10 sued Google for showing thumbnails of some of its porn images hosted on other sites. That case would result in one of Perfect 10's many courtroom losses, and also set a good precedent concerning fair use. Also, ten years ago Congress started pushing for a new job in the White House, the IP Enforcement Coordinator -- a role they finally pushed through as part of the ProIP Act in 2008 (with the job coming into existence in 2009). Fifteen Years Ago: Ah, such a quaint time. We were excited about the possibility of paying bills online (seriously). This was the era of the "free ISP," though the catch was that if you used them, you had to deal with ads from them. So we found it interesting that a new one was launching, and its main selling point was that it was a free ISP with no ads. Instead, they hoped you'd buy stuff from their e-commerce store. Media merger potential is always in the news, so fifteen years ago, Time Warner as looking to buy NBC. Oh, and remember when AOL was so powerful that it could be evil without consequence? In order to ramp up its business of spamming its own users, AOL claimed that all of the opt-outs from spam had "expired" and users had to re-opt-out to avoid being spammed by AOL partners in the future. How nice. No wonder people started leaving in droves soon after. Forty two years ago: Atari released Pong, the first "commercially successful video game" kicking off the start of the video game revolution. Two years ago, on the 40th anniversary, Buzzfeed published an astoundingly wonderful history of Atari and Pong. Go read it.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 24 days ago on techdirt
We're not publishing regular stories today, because we're taking the Friday after Thanksgiving off. Instead, however, we've decided to publish our awesome stuff post today, rather than on Saturday. Normally, it's a post about interesting crowdfunding options, but seeing as today's "Black Friday," you're either out shopping already or you're probably sick of everyone talking about shopping, so we decided to, instead, list out some great organizations out there that are doing amazing things to protect and preserve internet freedom. There are many more (and feel free to add them in the comments), but here are a few that we've worked with in the past and which we feel all of us on the internet should be, well, thankful for. Electronic Frontier Foundation. You hopefully know who these guys are already. They do amazing work. Help support EFF. Demand Progress. The activist group founded by Aaron Swartz. Has done amazing work to help protect the internet. Help support Demand Progress. Fight for the Future. An activist group that really has an otherwordly ability to create viral campaigns on fighting for a free and open internet. Help support Fight for the Future. Public Knowledge. A DC organization working on a bunch of key issues. Help support Public Knowledge. Public Citizen Litigation Group. These guys don't get nearly enough credit for everything they've done to support free speech online. Help support Public Citizen. If you can help any of those groups out, I'm sure they'll appreciate it. In the meantime, you can be sure that they're helping you out regardless.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
Happy Thanksgiving folks! As you've probably noticed by now, Techdirt is taking the long weekend off, so you won't be seeing any regular posts today and tomorrow. But if you're craving Techdirt before your turkey, why not take this opportunity to check out the brand new Techdirt Podcast if you haven't already? So far, we've released two episodes. The first is a discussion about approaches to increasing privacy (and the seemingly paradoxical solution of doing so by increasing surveillance). Episode two features an interview with Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures on even more privacy topics, especially regarding user control of data. You can get both episodes on SoundCloud, subscribe via iTunes, or point your podcast player to the RSS feed. Next week we'll be releasing episode three, in which we take a break from privacy topics for an interview with Amanda Palmer about her new book The Art Of Asking, including a live excerpt from the book. There's a lot of great discussion that should be of interest to artists, fans and anyone else who wants some inside insight from someone who has been smartly and successfully navigating the creative industries for years. For now you can get a taste with this teaser clip, in which Amanda discusses the difference between her experiences with her record label and with her book publisher: Stay tuned for the full episode next week — or subscribe to make sure you get it automatically as soon as it's released. Until then, enjoy the long weekend, and we'll be back to our regular posting schedule on Monday. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Norwegian writer Mette Newth once wrote that: "Censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow throughout history." As we develop new means to gather and create information, new means to control, erase and censor that information evolve alongside it. Today, that means access to information through the internet, which motivates us to study internet censorship. Organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, or the Open Net Initiative periodically report on the extent of censorship worldwide. But as countries that are fond of censorship are not particularly keen to share details, we must resort to probing filtered networks, that is, generating requests from within them to see what gets blocked and what gets through. We cannot hope to record all the possible censorship-triggering events, so our understanding of what is or isn't acceptable to the censor will only ever be partial. And of course it's risky, even outright illegal, to probe the censor's limits within countries with strict censorship and surveillance programs. This is why the leak of 600GB of logs from hardware appliances used to filter internet traffic in and out of Syria is a unique opportunity to examine the workings of a real-world internet censorship apparatus. Leaked by the hacktivist group Telecomix, the logs cover a period of nine days in 2011, drawn from seven SG-9000 internet proxies. The sale of equipment like this to countries like Syria is banned by the US and EU. California-based manufacturer Blue Coat Systems denied making the sales but confirmed the authenticity of the logs – and Dubai-based firm Computerlinks FZCO later settled on a US$2.8 million fine for unlawful export. In 2013, researchers at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab demonstrated how authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Yemen, Egypt and Kuwait all rely on US-made equipment like those from Blue Coat or McAfee's SmartFilter software to perform filtering. This technology is extremely powerful as it can perform deep-packet inspection, that is, examining in detail the contents of network traffic. They provide censors with a simple interface to fine-tune filtering policies, practically in real time. Inside a censor's mind At the recent ACM Internet Measurement Conference, we presented our paper detailing the relatively stealthy but targeted censorship system that we'd found from examining the logs. Internet traffic in Syria was filtered in several ways. IP addresses (the unique addresses of web servers on the internet) and domain names (the URL typed into the address bar) were filtered to block single websites such as badoo.com or amazon.com, entire network regions (including a few Israeli subnets), or keywords to target specific content. Instant messaging, tools such as Skype, and content-sharing sites such as Metacafe or Reddit were heavily censored. Social media censoring was limited to specific content and pages, such as the "Syrian Revolution" facebook page. The appliances were sometimes misconfigured, meaning the filter caused some collateral damage – for instance, all requests with the keyword "proxy" were blocked, probably in an effort to curb the use of censorship-evading proxies, but this also had the effect of blocking adverts and certain plug-ins that had no relation to banned content. We found that Syrian users did try to get around the filters, using tools such as Tor, or virtual private networks (encrypted tunnels between two computers using the public internet), and that these were fairly effective. We also noticed that some tools not necessarily designed with circumventing censorship in mind could also be used to access blocked content – for example using peer-to-peer programs such as BitTorrent to download blocked software (such as Skype) and using Google Cache to access (over HTTPS) cached and mirrored versions of blocked web pages. Avoiding the censor's knife What emerges is the importance of encrypting web traffic by using secure (HTTPS) rather than standard (HTTP) web browsing. Many requests caught by the filter were only possible because keywords in the content of unencrypted network traffic could be read by the appliances. If traffic is encrypted, the page requested from the target domain, or a specific keyword in the request are not accessible. Through their efforts to enforce HTTPS by default, providers like Google and Facebook are taking steps in the right direction. They also serve a double purpose: protecting users' privacy against mass-surveillance, while also making it harder to implement fine-grained censorship policies. We did consider that our work might help organizations on both sides of the censorship line. But we decided to publish because we believe that evidence-based analysis of censorship practices can help understand the underlying technologies, policies, strengths and weaknesses – and can inform the design of tools designed to evade the censor's knife. While Western countries rely on export regulations and sanctions to restrict the worldwide availability of surveillance and censorship technologies – while apparently deploying them for their own use, as the Snowden files have revealed – it is time we had an open debate about their effectiveness and what can be done to limit their proliferation. Emiliano De Cristofaro does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Asset forfeiture may be the greatest scam perpetuated on the American people by their government -- and it's all legal. For the most part, assets seized translate directly to monetary or physical gains for the agencies doing the seizing, an act often wholly separated from any American ideals of due process. The New York Times recently obtained recording of asset forfeiture conferences which showed prosecutors advising cops on how to best exploit these programs to obtain additional funds and goods for their respective law enforcement agencies. In short, it appears that many agencies use asset forfeiture to fill departmental shopping lists, rather than as the criminal syndicate-crippling action it was intended to be. The Washington Post has been digging into the oft-abused programs for the last six weeks. The latest article in this series comes to similar conclusions about how the programs are viewed by law enforcement agencies. D.C. police have made plans for millions of dollars in anticipated proceeds from future civil seizures of cash and property, even though federal guidelines say “agencies may not commit” to such spending in advance, documents show. The city’s proposed budget and financial plan for fiscal 2015 includes about $2.7 million for the District police department’s “special purpose fund” through 2018. The fund covers payments for informants and rewards. There's a very good reason federal guidelines prohibit the counting of chickens asset forfeiture proceeds before they're hatched "liberated" at badgepoint by law enforcement. It helps curtail the abuse that results from perverted incentives. No one likes a budget shortfall, but very few government entities have the means to immediately impact the bottom line -- at least not in the way a few uniformed officers granted the power to arbitrarily seize the possessions of others can. No proof of criminal intent is needed and, thanks to an agreement with the DOJ, 80% of what it seizes goes directly to the District's law enforcement agencies, rather than into the District's general fund. All it takes to divert these funds to law enforcement is the invocation of federal crimes -- like drug possession. The very convenient DOJ agreement works out incredibly well. District financial records show that D.C. police receive about $670,000 annually from the Equitable Sharing Program. About $30,000 in proceeds from forfeitures under District law go into the general fund. The Justice Department refused to comment on its agreement with DC law enforcement, one that sees nearly 96% of funds derived from forfeitures go directly into the PD's pockets. DC police chief Cathy Lanier defends the program -- and the pre-budgeting of anticipated seizures -- as being essential to "removing the profit gained from facilitating a crime." But what Lanier portrays as crippling criminal enterprises appears to be equally targeted towards separating users from their next fix -- or simply separating random "suspects" from whatever they happen to have in their wallets. Since 2009, D.C. officers have made more than 12,000 seizures under city and federal laws, according to records and data obtained from the city by The Washington Post through the District’s open records law. Half of the more than $5.5 million in cash seizures were for $141 or less, with more than a thousand for less than $20. Because the system is primed for abuse, legislation has been introduced that would overhaul the city's asset forfeiture program, raising the threshold of proof needed to justify a seizure as well as forcing a majority of funds to be routed into the city's general fund. Unsurprisingly, cops aren't fans of the proposed legislation. [T]he bill has been opposed by law enforcement officials, partly for the same reason other reform efforts across the country have been stymied: money. The officials also said it would create an administrative burden. In addition to tightening oversight and the rules for civil seizures, the District proposal would cut back on revenue. Also unsurprisingly, officials can pinpoint the presumed revenue loss with stunning accuracy. In a fiscal impact statement Wednesday, the city’s chief financial officer, Jeffrey S. DeWitt, said that the bill “could reduce federal resources­ received by the District by approximately $670,000” each year if the general fund provision takes effect. Which is exactly the amount the PD receives from the Share-With-The-DOJ plan. DC's asset forfeiture program is beyond broken. When something starts out with the goal of crippling drug kingpins and ends up as an easy way to seize a mother's vehicle because her son was busted for misdemeanor possession while driving it, it's blatantly obvious that the program is serving no one but its direct beneficiaries.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Those of us in the US will be thankful tomorrow for a bunch of things, and we'll probably be eating unusually large meals. For those of us who aren't accustomed to entertaining guests, the timing of cooking a big meal often gets hung up in the food preparation -- taking too long to chop vegetables and such. So here are just a few tips on how to cut up some foods. (You're welcome.) Do you have trouble cutting open a pomegranate? There are at least a couple methods that claim to be better than just chopping it in half and starting to peel at random. [url] Most folks don't really need to cut bananas before they eat them, but if you do -- and you have a needle handy -- this video is for you. Maybe this is a goofy trick to play on someone, but it's not really that useful for making a banana any easier to eat. Try cutting a watermelon in 2 minutes instead. [url] The officially correct way to cut an onion doesn't care about you crying your eyes out. It's all about the base -- and not cutting it off until you're almost done. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
It's not just our nation's legislators that enjoy a "revolving door" -- one that moves them from Congress to the private sector and back again, to the mutual benefit of legislators and certain industries… not so much the rest of America. There's another revolving door out there -- one that keeps bad cops employed in the law enforcement sector. It's incredibly difficult for police departments to shed their "bad apples," what with police unions pushing back hard on the few occasions that the blue line fails to hold. But even if they do manage to cut one loose, there's a good chance this former officer will just end up carrying a badge and gun for someone else. As we covered earlier this year, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department made sure a plethora of bad cops weren't hurting for money, either by bringing them on board directly or placing them in open positions at the jails under its control. For nearly 100 hires, investigators discovered evidence of dishonesty, such as making untrue statements or falsifying police records. At least 15 were caught cheating on the department's own polygraph exams. Twenty-nine of those given jobs had previously had been fired or pressured to resign from other law enforcement agencies over concerns about misconduct or workplace performance problems. Nearly 200 had been rejected from other agencies because of past misdeeds, failed entrance exams or other issues. Out in Lincoln, Nebraska, other law enforcement agencies are acting as halfway houses for police officers with a history of misconduct. John McGahan, the Lincoln Police Department’s 2013 Officer of the Year who resigned this year after Internal Affairs accused him of using excessive force, is now working at the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office. A second police officer accused of using excessive force, Jeremy Wilhelm, is a trooper candidate with the Nebraska State Patrol. Here's some more uniform-switching, this time in Ohio. Former New Albany Police officer Steve Mowery faced several accusations of misconduct while he worked for that force… Mowery allegedly used excessive force against a teenager and was sued. That case was settled, according to those who were involved. Mowery resigned before the police department could make a final recommendation for discipline, according to sources at the New Albany Police Department. Today, Mowery works as a deputy for the Lucas County Sheriff's office in the Toledo area. Thanks to WBNS-10TV, the Sheriff's office is finally looking into Mowery's law enforcement record. But Mowery isn't an anomaly. [F]ormer Nelsonville police officer Randy Secoy was hired despite a reprimand from the Athens County Sheriff's office for his "inability to control his anger." Secoy made the news last year after surveillance video showed him lunging toward a seated teenager and forcefully gripping the teen's throat. Franklin Township Police Chief Allan Wheeler has hired multiple officers who have had troubles elsewhere. One officer resigned his position as a police chief at Marietta College in eastern Ohio… Printed reports that are still available online say that the former Marietta College Police chief was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a woman and stalking her. From Florida, here's the story of a well-traveled officer who might just be "the most crooked cop in America." [Major Joseph] Floyd joined the Crestview Police Department in the Florida Panhandle in 2007 after a brief stint with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Unbeknownst to his new colleagues at the time of his hiring, Floyd had a rap sheet that stretched back more than a decade. Over the course of eight years, Floyd was terminated, forced to resign, or quit three police departments while under investigation for insubordination, lying, and falsifying records. Before becoming a cop, Floyd had been arrested for battery, disorderly conduct, and assaulting a law enforcement officer. The article at Reason details some of Floyd's past misconduct, which includes having subordinates tase unresisting suspects, planting evidence, striking suspects with rifles and referring to female officers as "department whores." Charming. And yet, apparently still employable. (Here's the 11-page indictment.) From Texas: [Roy] Logan was fired in 2001 from his last job as a licensed peace officer before becoming a Precinct 5 deputy. His explanation on a Dallas County job application: "terminated by newly elected sheriff." Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said Logan was fired after a Texas Department of Public Safety officer reported seeing him playing an eight-liner gambling machine while on duty - about eight months after Byrnes took office. Deputy Constable Juston Coffman resigned from the Celina (TX) Police Department after having been disciplined "several times." He found a new home as a school district police officer. More from Texas. Nearly half of Jonestown's seven-member police force had a history of misconduct. (Two were immediately fired by an interim police chief earlier this year.) Yvonne Gunnlaugsson had been suspended several times from the Austin Police Department before retiring under a cloud in 2005, public records show. She’d come to work for Jonestown a short time later… Gunnlaugsson had compiled a long list of infractions as an Austin police officer. She’d been suspended six times, including for wrecking a patrol car after falling asleep and for failing to interview a suspect who had been identified by a robbery victim. Her involvement in another case led to a federal lawsuit against the city that raised questions about her judgment while responding to a call. Andre Anderson, was sacked from the Jonestown department May 7. An internal investigation accused him of omitting an important piece of history from his job application: He’d lost his job at the Travis County sheriff’s office in 2001, after acknowledging he’d had sex with two inmates while they were in custody. The third officer, still employed at this point, was suspended and fired by the Georgetown Police Dept. for failing to investigate suspected crimes. Another police officer from elsewhere in the state managed to parlay being fired for drunken driving (and being named in a wrongful death suit that resulted in a $750,000 settlement) into a new position as a sheriff's deputy in another county. The problem is so pervasive it has its own term: gypsy cops. Moving from agency to agency tends to obscure incriminating paper trails, especially if the switch involves moving from a city agency (police department) to a county agency (sheriff's department) or state agency (state troopers, highway patrol). Changes in background check requirements and decertification stipulations can be abused to keep bad law enforcement officers employed by law enforcement agencies. The background checks themselves are their own problem. Agencies have been known to hire officers who've failed checks or while background checks were still pending. For smaller agencies or those pressured to add officers, these background checks may not be as thorough -- if they're even performed at all. Police union pressure has led to legislation that further insulates police officers from being held accountable for their actions. Called a "law enforcement bill of rights," it's actually a long list of extra rights that makes it nearly impossible to fire bad cops, much less have their misconduct harm their future employment prospects. Mike Riggs' writeup of these special, police-only due process "rights" is eye-opening. And infuriating. At this point, it pretty much takes a felony conviction to ensure a fired cop won't just end up wearing a different badge somewhere else. Most police departments aren't willing to battle police unions to ensure fired cops stay out of circulation. Neutral references are given instead of recommendations against hiring. Dishonorable discharges are upgraded to honorable or "general." Those doing the hiring are also falling down on the job. When pressed about hires of cops with negative histories, those responsible for their continued employment plead ignorance. Despite the fact that these incidents are usually part of public records, law enforcement agency heads act as though it's everyone else's job to perform their due diligence. To some extent, it is. Those integral to the hiring process should be more thorough. But ultimately, the buck stops at the top. There's enough information out there that bad cops should only slip through the cracks of the vetting system on rare occasions, rather than finding open doors nearly everywhere they look. The problem with bad cops will never go away if they can simply become some other agency's "bad apple" just by filling out a job application.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
While FBI director James Comey discusses all the inevitable horrors encrypted phones are poised to wreak on the nation's youth, those in the encryption business are pointing out how encrypted phones make things safer for our nation's military. Vic Hyder and Mike Janke, two former Navy SEALs with the company Silent Circle, say that the FBI’s plan to block phone makers and service providers from offering phone encryption would make it significantly more difficult for deployed people to communicate back home and even for members of the intelligence community to communicate with sources… Obviously, Janke and Hyder have a horse in this race. But it's not just their business that may be hurt by new laws aimed at destroying Apple and Google's default encryption. While they acknowledge that their opposition is borne out of self-interest, they say that blocking encryption would also hurt their customers, which includes a lot of men and women on the front lines. “If Director Comey’s efforts actually resulted in legislative change to halt the sale of encryption or encryption services, he would only be hurting the American people, businesses, government entities who Silent Circle’s encrypted communication services are currently protecting,” Janke told Defense One. Silent Circle's Blackphone already has customers in the military and its promise of encrypted communications has seen it put into service by other governments around the world. Philip Zimmerman, the creator of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) and a Silent Circle co-founder, says he had the FBI inquire about pricing last August, well before Apple (and Google, shortly thereafter) somehow turned encryption into the playground of pedophiles, terrorists and other heinous criminals. Sure, a lot of what Silent Circle's principal members are saying here isn't more than a step or two away from a direct sales pitch, but they do offer some insight that those outside of the New Crypto War don't have (as well as those outside the inner circle of the military). Zimmerman has already weathered one of those, thanks to the release of PGP. Now, they're pointing out what Comey and others haven't considered: that neutering encryption can harm intelligence gathering and operations. The company says that legislation making encryption unavailable to the public could also hurt intelligence collection. The intelligence community today is a great deal larger and more diverse than it was 50 years ago. Potential sources of information in places like northern Iraq or China may be much less likely to provide actionable intel if they can’t communicate over a secure medium with U.S. agents, contractors, journalists or intermediaries. Getting good sources to talk becomes more difficult if secure communication is the sole right of a small handful of people. Unfortunately, some of the statements offered in defense of encrypted communications by Silent Circle's founders tend to suggest that its products may remain in the hands of a small group of people. Hyder rattles off a list of governments currently using Silent Circle's products, including Mexico, Brazil, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Singapore and Germany. (Not all of which are noted for their civil liberty protections and/or lack of domestic surveillance.) The other founders talk about offering pricing to the FBI and military intelligence. To Comey and like-minded individuals, encryption in the hands of government is perfectly fine. It's when it's offered to the general public that it becomes a problem. (Case in point: Washington DC police encrypt their radio communications while the department's chief calls Apple and Google's encryption a tool for "pedophiles and criminals.") Silent Circle wants to make this for the masses, but if the legislative landscape shifts now that midterm elections are over, it could mean that the government will only allow encrypted communications if it can pick and choose who gets to enjoy this "privilege." The simple fact is that encryption makes everyone's communications safer. That criminals are (as they always have been) still a subset of the group "everyone" simply isn't reason enough to make the option unavailable to anyone or compromise its security for the convenience of law enforcement. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Earlier this year, Mike had written up yet another post about Comcast doing its best again to prove that it was a company not worthy of a ton of trust. That specific case of Comcast d-baggery had to do with an advertisement for Comcast internet targeting "real gamers" by showing a "real gamer" playing a "real game" that "really" doesn't have an online component to it. That didn't stop the company spokesman in the ad from asking the "real gamer" if he was experiencing any buffering. Great. Well, Comcast might want to pray real hard that the FTC doesn't decide to take that advertisement on, since they recently hammered Sony over a similarly misleading ad. Sony Computer Entertainment America ("Sony") has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers with false advertising claims about the "game changing" technological features of its PlayStation Vita handheld gaming console during its U.S. launch campaign in late 2011 and early 2012. As part of its settlement with the FTC, Sony is barred from making similarly misleading advertising claims in the future, and will provide consumers who bought a PS Vita gaming console before June 1, 2012, either a $25 cash or credit refund, or a $50 merchandise voucher for select video games, and/or services. At the heart of the FTC's decision was Sony's claim and suggestions in its ads that the Playstation Vita would generally allow for the remote play of customers' Playstation 3 games. The reality is that most PS3 games couldn't use the cross-platform connection in the pick-it-up-where-you-left-off nature that the advertisements suggested. Most games, in fact, simply didn't work using the remote play feature of the Vita. The list of games that didn't allow for remote play included, according to the FTC, the one that Sony and its advertising agency chose to feature in the ads promoting the feature. Ads said you would “Never stop playing” and showed users enjoying the “remote play,” “cross save” and real-time 3G features. But the FTC says that despite the ads’ promises, customers really couldn’t use remote play to run most PS3 games on the PS Vita — not even Killzone 3, the popular PS3 game Sony featured in its promotional video explaining remote play. Oops. Just as Comcast did, Sony allowed for advertisements to promote a feature using depictions of a game that it knew, or should have known, would never be able to use that feature. It's the very definition of misleading. Hopefully, the FTC will be paying as much attention to the analogous Comcast advertisements as it has to Sony's.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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YouTube's ContentID system gets mocked quite frequently for bogus takedowns, which happen with unfortunate frequency. The latest, as pointed out by YouTube star Total Biscuit is that Blizzard's own damn YouTube channel for World Championship Series StarCraft, WCSStarCraft, was down for at least 40 minutes earlier today. If you visited the page during that time, you saw the following: A YouTuber who follows Totalbiscuit, Ryan Wyatt, quickly noted that the company was "working on it", but it still looks bad -- and again raises questions about why YouTube has given in to pressures from copyright holders to do excessive things like shutting down accounts based on accusations and matches, all too often leading to these kinds of results. Yes, the DMCA requires a process for removing accounts of repeat infringers, but that should require them to be actual infringers.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A very interesting statement was made by an unnamed DOJ official while defending the US Marshals' flying cell tower spoofers. It's something I didn't catch the first time through, but something that should be examined more closely. A Justice Department official on Friday refused to confirm or deny the existence of such a program, because doing so would allow criminals to better evade law enforcement. But the official said it would be “utterly false’’ to conflate the law-enforcement program with the collection of bulk telephone records by the National Security Agency, a controversial program already being challenged in the courts and by some members of Congress. We need to ask ourselves (since we obviously can't ask the anonymous official) why he/she felt the need to point out that the program shouldn't be "conflated" with the NSA's bulk telephone records collections. When Section 215's constitutionality is challenged in court, it's DOJ lawyers that provide the counterarguments. The DOJ also pens the "white papers" that provide the legal rationalizations for the NSA's collection programs. It's the DOJ that shelters the identities of telecommunication companies "participating" in the bulk records collection. Now, when asked to defend another secret program, a DOJ official makes it very clear that this program (airborne IMSI catchers) is not like the Section 215 program. But how is it different? And why would this official feel the need to clearly differentiate between the two? One possibility is that the DOJ views the US Marshals' program as "targeted," whereas the NSA's program is admittedly (or at least, undeniably -- thanks to leaks) untargeted. This would be a perfectly good point to make... except that it implies that there's something wrong with the Section 215 program. The DOJ shifts to defense mode after an unexpected leak and instinctively (or inadvertently) distances itself from a rather toxic NSA program. To state that the US Marshals' surveillance is different than the bulk records collection is to damn by comparison. It wants the public to believe the US Marshals' program isn't just indiscriminately hoovering up cell phone numbers, even though the DOJ -- in its courtroom defenses and white papers -- believes indiscriminate, untargeted collections are not only acceptable, but Constitutional. This official's statement comes across as a strident "Hey, at least it's not the Section 215 program!" Was this just a flustered misstatement by a DOJ official? Or is the DOJ looking to distance itself from the NSA's most visible and most discussed (but certainly not its most controversial) program? It seems to be the only program the NSA is willing to cede ground on. If so, we may see more of this in the future. But for now, it appears that even some DOJ officials find the untargeted bulk records collection to be at least a little bit objectionable.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A Canadian newspaper is under investigation for violating a court-ordered ban on publishing the names of child pornography victims. The Chronicle Herald covered the sentencing of a young man on child pornography distribution charges but included the name of his victim, Rehtaeh Parsons. Rehtaeh Parsons was 15 when the then-17-year-old young man sent a photo of him having sex with her to two other females. Parsons was apparently unaware she was being sexually assaulted. The photo showed not only the young man's actions, but her vomiting out a window. The subsequent distribution of these photos, along with additional harassment from both the participants and Parsons' peers, eventually led to her suicide. Her suicide then prompted Nova Scotia's legislators to enact an extremely unfortunate cyberbullying law in late 2013, nearly two years after the incident and four months after Parsons took her own life. In May of 2014, the legally-ordained ban was upheld, forbidding anyone or any media entity from publishing Parsons' name, despite objections from Rehtaeh's parents, who were actively seeking an exception from this part of Canada's child pornography laws. But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had decided to pursue child pornography charges rather than sexual assault charges and the resulting indictments dragged Retaeh's name under the cover of this ban. The Chronicle Herald's story on the guilty plea entered by of one of the two perpetrators (whose names are still being withheld because they were minors at the time) leads off with this editor's note: We’ve decided to publish the name of the victim in this story, despite a court-ordered ban. We believe it’s in the public interest in this unique case, given the widespread recognition of Rehtaeh Parsons’ name, and given the good that can come, and has already come, from free public debate over sexual consent and the other elements of her story. Rehtaeh’s parents want her name printed, and Judge Jamie Campbell, who upheld the publication ban, wrote in his decision that “the ban serves no purpose,” though he had no choice but to uphold it. Waiving Rehtaeh’s privacy rights “would be a good thing, if it could be done just for this case, just this once,” the judge wrote. It is difficult for readers to follow a news story when the name associated with it is omitted, and we want to inform Nova Scotians of the outcome of this legal case. We would like to reassure other crime victims that their own court-ordered privacy rights will be respected as always. As is noted here, Parsons' parents fought to keep her from being "forgotten" by this ban, but to no avail. The Parsons' have given their blanket permission for publication, but that has had no effect on whatever sort of busybody it is that reads this disclaimer and still files a complaint. An accompanying story notes that the Chronicle Herald is being investigated by local law enforcement. Police have launched an investigation into a possible breach of a publication ban after a major news outlet in Halifax published the name of a teenage girl at the centre of a high-profile child pornography case. Const. Pierre Bourdages said Tuesday that they had received several reports from citizens complaining about the use of the girl’s name, which is subject to a publication ban under the Criminal Code. “There’s already been a number of complaints filed with the department in relation to this article,” he said. “There’s an alleged breach of the publication ban … so we have an investigation ongoing now.” Now, it would seem that the only party with any true claim over Parsons' name would be her parents, but apparently, certain members of the public feel otherwise. The good news is that this isn't the police's first run-in with the publication ban and they seem to be handling other cases in a responsible manner using context and common sense, rather than blindly asserting that "The law is the law" and punishing those who violate the letter, rather than the spirit. “Investigators considered whether the victim’s name was used in connection with the child pornography charges as well as the overall context in which her name was used,” police said in a statement. Based on that and consultation with the Crown, charges were not laid, police said. Even the prosecutor seems uninterested in laying charges just to be laying charges. Chris Hansen of the province’s Public Prosecution Service said they consulted police in the seven previous instances, but concluded that there was either not a likely chance of conviction or that if there was, it was not in the public interest to pursue it. She said they considered several factors, including the past publicity and widespread publication of her name, the wishes of her family to have her name published and the possibility that it would facilitate public debate on a “serious societal issue.” It's refreshing to see this recognition that the law isn't always binary. The Parsons' have repeatedly stated they don't want their daughter's name removed from additional coverage of this case. The judge upholding the ban also noted that exceptions were needed but wasn't something that could be handled from the court's end. Meddling citizens with no actual stake in the matter may be trying to make things more difficult for the press by complaining about ban violations, but so far it appears they won't be receiving any help from those actually charged with enforcing the law. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
This past week, on This American Life, the first 20 minutes or so are the incredible story of just how screwed up the ATF continues to be (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). Much of this has been reported on over the past year and a half by reporters in Milwaukee (and investigated by Congress), but it's absolutely worth listening to the details -- which you can do over on the This American Life page (I'd post the embed here, but unfortunately This American Life does not yet appear to support HTTPS, so we can't). The story is all kinds of stunning, including the insane fact that most of the details came out, and the reporters only began their investigation, because some undercover ATF agents in Milwaukee had trashed the property they were renting, and refused to pay the rent or damages to the landlord -- even threatening the landlord, claiming he was harassing federal agents by asking for the rent: John Diedrich: I get a call. And it was from a landlord, a guy named Dave Salkin. And Dave Salkin owns this place that he, unbeknownst to him, rented to the ATF. Didn't know who they were, they were undercover agents. And they had trashed his place, and they were behind on rent. They had threatened him. And I said, where are you, I'm coming right now. Ira Glass: While they were undercover, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives basically ripped up his place. Salkin said at the time that they owed $15,000 in damages and back rent. Later he said it was more. When he tried to collect, they didn't pay up. In fact, an ATF lawyer warned him that if he kept asking for the money, it could be seen as harassing federal agents. The other thing that becomes clear in all of this is that these "undercover" ATF agents aren't just sloppy and stupid, they seem to go out of their way to be ineffective and dangerous. Ira Glass: And they were robbed. These agents whose job it was to get guns out of the hands of criminals had three guns that were stolen out of an agent's car while he was parked at a coffee shop. These included a fully automatic rifle. This is a machine gun, the kind that normally only law enforcement and military can legally have. Not long after that, the store itself was burglarized of $39,000 in clothes, jewelry, and merch, reportedly, because the ATF had not bothered to do much to secure the store and just did not seem to care. Nobody was minding the store, literally. John Diedrich: The ATF had no working burglar alarm on their building. So it was sort of, instead of a smash and grab, it was just this sort of like slow burglary. The neighbors report at one point, once they were able to get in-- again, no burglar alarm-- they kept the door propped open with a shoe. And they were just kind of taking stuff out. And the word sort of spread. Hey, this place is just open. Nobody's there. We can just go get stuff. And at one point they just pulled up a U-Haul. And they were just sort of emptying this. And this is over several days. And then even-- Ira Glass: Renting a U-Haul is such a crazy move, because is it means that somebody had to go and decide, I'm going to rent a truck. That's how slow this burglary is, that you can do a rental. John Diedrich: Yeah, exactly. And there's no sort of concern that you're going to be busted at that point, and just say, OK, I can only carry so much in my arms. Let's get something bigger. Let's get a U-Haul. Ira Glass: The same day the burglary was reported, an ATF ballistic shield, the kind that they would use to raid a house or something, was turned in by a scrapper at a Milwaukee police station. One item that was just left lying around in the store after the robbery for anybody to pick up and read-- it was there when reporter John Diedrich walked through-- was a secret ATF document listing the names of undercover agents, their undercover vehicles from several law enforcement agencies in Milwaukee. There's a lot more like this. Including potential copyright infringement: Ira Glass: And they distributed flyers with the store's logo, which was a skull with angel wings made from assault rifles and knives with the words Buy, Sell, Trade, wink, wink. Federal agents actually ripped off the logo from the Sylvester Stallone film, The Expendables, possibly in violation of their copyright. The story details just how incredibly counterproductive all these efforts were. Since they were paying super high prices for guns, people would suddenly start stealing guns just because the ATF was making them so valuable. And, despite the ATF pretending otherwise, the case in Milwaukee was hardly a one-off situation. Raquel Rutledge: And as we started looking, really, truly, we came back to one other-- you're not going to believe this. I mean, we were shocked. I don't think we expected to find this going on. Absolutely not, did we expect to find that it would go on elsewhere, because you can't imagine this would be part of a playbook or an MO of a federal agency. So it was stunning to find. Had they been burglarized? Did they trash the landlord's place? We found in Portland the lady just said, I am so glad you called. She said, I have not known what to do. She said, they left my place in shambles. She had photos of what they left it like-- I mean, like a college fraternity or something. Just trash everywhere, they tore out some walls and they rewired some stuff and caused a leaky roof. She estimates her damages were probably $20,000 roughly, $20,000, $25,000. So that, you think, how does that happen? Is that, again, part of the playbook? Ira Glass: Raquel and John looked into ATF storefronts in Wichita, Portland, Oregon, Pensacola, Albuquerque, Atlanta, and Phoenix. Some of the Milwaukee problems they found examples of in those other cities? Agents paying extra high prices for guns, buying stolen goods, criminals committing burglaries in the neighborhoods around the stores and then selling the stuff to the ATF. Raquel and John say that the quality of the convictions from these operations around the country, the kinds of people that the ATF was catching were mostly small fry, just like in Milwaukee. The ATF store in Pensacola was robbed just like the Milwaukee store was, twice. There's a lot more in the story -- and it's totally worth listening to. But the most fascinating point of all may be the one right up front in the story, and then reinforced at the end. None of this likely would have come out if it were not for the unpaid rent. It wasn't the squid tattoos or the low-IQ employees or getting robbed over and over. It wasn't the way they caught and charged suspects. It was that landlord in Milwaukee. If they hadn't trashed his place, or if they had just paid him promptly to repair it instead of fighting him over every penny, apparently, he wouldn't have called the newspaper. John and Raquel say the whole thing might never have come to light. The whole effort has resulted in some attempts to actually disband the entire ATF, which might not be such a bad idea. While we hadn't been following the agency that closely (and hadn't been aware of all of these fake storefronts and the crazy stories behind them), in the past we've reported on how the ATF made up an entire robbery plot in order to entrap a group of poor young men in a "crime" that wouldn't have existed, but for the ATF's fantasy. It would be nice to trust law enforcement officials, but they keep giving us reasons not to trust them at all.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
One of most important ways of helping to promote open access is for major research organizations to make it a condition of their funding. Two of the pioneers in this respect were the Wellcome Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which made open access a requirement in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Here's another major funder joining the open access club: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to information sharing and transparency. We believe that published research resulting from our funding should be promptly and broadly disseminated. We have adopted an Open Access policy that enables the unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets. Specifically, the CC-BY license, one of the most open, has been adopted: All publications shall be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0) or an equivalent license. This will permit all users of the publication to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and transform and build upon the material, including for any purpose (including commercial) without further permission or fees being required. Now, this is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation making this announcement, not Bill Gates, but it's hard to believe he doesn't know about and approve of the move. After all, it represents a very high-profile boost for the idea that making things freely available for anyone to "transform and build upon" is better than locking things up so that neither of those is possible. So the natural question is: when will Gates admit the same is true for software too? Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
When it comes to being IP bullies, DC Comics has built quite the reputation for itself. From its taking on the gravestone of a victim of child abuse in the name of protectionism to taking on BBQ joints because of a logo that includes a bat. That last historical example foreshadows this latest news, in which DC Comics decides to take on a Spanish soccer team for having the audacity to include a bat in its logo. According to a report from Yahoo Eurosport, DC Comics is suing the Spanish soccer team Liga Giants Valencia over their logo, which apparently resembles Batman's logo in that it also features a bat. Unfortunately, according to European reports, the bat has been a symbol used in Spain for about 800 years. There's even a fucking Wikipedia page about it. And the soccer team's bat logo has been in use since 1919, before Batman was first published. Here's the logo in dispute. Do the two logos have similarities? Sure, but that says a great deal more about the general indistinctness of DC Comics' mark than it does about any sort of malicious copying by the Valencia club. Add to that the fact that, even working with such a general shape and color scheme, there are distinct differences between these two marks and the many, many other Batman marks that have been registered in the past, and one wonders what DC Comics was thinking yet again with another silly trademark dispute. After all, were you to review every Batman logo that's been registered as a trademark, a means for customers to identify a particular brand, you have to wonder if there hasn't been a real attempt to simply trademark every possible iteration of a bat as a logo. And that makes me wonder why such a practice doesn't invalidate the trademark altogether. All this and we haven't even mentioned yet that I'm fairly certain that DC Comics doesn't own a soccer club anywhere, so I'm not even remotely clear on how these two logos are competing in the same marketplace with the potential to confuse the same potential consumers. Add to that the long-established use of a bat as a logo in the Valencia region and this looks like a losing proposition for DC Comics. Probably, DC thought this dumbassery would fly under the radar because it's happening Spain, which does not have its own official Has DC Done Something Stupid Today counter, but they're wrong, because The Outhouse is going international! It has been 0 days! Olé! Olé! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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