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by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 22nd 2015 9:34am
A group of tech companies and some prominent folks wrote a letter to the President yesterday that I frankly found depressing. Because their letter contains no acknowledgment that there are societal costs to universal encryption. Look, I recognize the challenges facing our tech companies. Competitive challenges, regulatory challenges overseas, all kinds of challenges. I recognize the benefits of encryption, but I think fair-minded people also have to recognize the costs associated with that. And I read this letter and I think, “Either these folks don’t see what I see or they’re not fair-minded.” And either one of those things is depressing to me. So I’ve just got to continue to have the conversation.First of all, it's kind of hilarious for the FBI director to be arguing that the people who signed that letter haven't done a cost-benefit analysis, since we've noted that the intelligence and law enforcement communities almost never do such an analysis. They always insist "more surveillance" must be better, without considering the costs involved.
We’ve got to have a conversation long before the logic of strong encryption takes us to that place. And smart people, reasonable people will disagree mightily. Technical people will say it’s too hard. My reaction to that is: Really? Too hard? Too hard for the people we have in this country to figure something out? I’m not that pessimistic. I think we ought to have a conversation.Hey, Comey! No one is saying it's "too hard." They're saying it's IMPOSSIBLE to do this without weakening everyone's security. Impossible. It's not a "hard" problem, it's an impossible problem. Because if you weaken security to let the FBI in, by definition you are weakening the security to let others in as well. That's the point that was being made.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 22nd 2015 8:27am
And, remember, the Attorney General is the head of the Justice Department. It certainly sounds like she's either woefully uninformed or outright lying. She is new at the job, but not so new that she wouldn't know these basic facts.
Meanwhile, today Attorney General Loretta Lynch weighed in on the debate in Congress, claiming the exact opposite. She was quoted by CBS News as saying that if Patriot Act Section 215 expires: “[W]e lose important tools. I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past.” (emphasis mine)
So to sum up: the Justice Department’s own Inspector General said information collected under Section 215 did not lead to "any major case developments,” but the Attorney General said that Section 215 has “proven very important in cases that we have built.” Both statements cannot be true.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 22nd 2015 6:24am
"It's just kind of a jerk move. We all know what's happening here. Apple doesn't care about protecting the copyright of contracts. It's using copyright to try and suppress information that it doesn't want made public."Sounds about right when applied to Sony in this case. Besides, all this is really doing is drawing much more attention (yet again) to the contract, on a story that had already started to die down.
Fri, May 22nd 2015 4:19am
If I've learned any single thing covering technology news it's that you can blame absolutely anything on video games. Mass violence? Games. Failure at professional sports? Pssh, games, yo. Love life not as spicy as you might like? Those games, those games. But a study that supposedly claims a link between video games and Alzheimer's Disease? Come on.
“Call of Duty increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease”, said the Telegraph. “Video game link to psychiatric disorders suggested by study”, reported the Guardian. The Daily Mail posed the problem as a question, “Could video games increase your risk of Alzheimer’s?”, reminding us that whenever a news headline asks a question, the answer is no.Tenuous is being exceptionally kind in this case. The study in question, produced in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, barely focused on any link between gaming and the disease, in fact. Instead, the team of Canadian researchers were simply studying the difference in brain-wave activity with groups of gamers and non-gamers. They noticed specifically a significant difference in the activity of one type of brain-wave with gamers, N2PC, which can have an effect on attention spans. So, how did we get from that to a link to Alzheimer's? Were there clinical tests done? Was the team of researchers even in any way focused on the most famous form of dementia?
We know that when science news is hyped, most of the hype is already present in the press releases issued by universities. This case is no exception - the press release was issued by the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and unsurprisingly it focuses almost entirely on the tenuous link to Alzheimer’s disease.
1. The type of learning shown by the gamers has been associated in previous studies with increased use of a brain region called the caudate nucleusThat's three, three associations of mere correlation at best, with not even a shred of evidence for causality. And from that we get not only press reports of a link, which I can understand because the major media groups in Western culture have proven to be more interested in sensationalism than stuff that actually exists, but university institutions pushing out press releases to feed the hounds? That's not only wrong, it's borderline character-assassination on the wider gaming industry. Sadly, even some on the research team have gotten in on the act, likely in the hopes of generating press coverage of the study.
2. Increased use of the caudate nucleus can be associated with reduced volume of the hippocampus
3. Reduced volume of the hippocampus can be associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
4. Therefore (take a deep breath) video gaming could increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
The press release also includes a statement from the lead researcher that is a clear exaggeration. Dr Gregory West is quoted as saying “we also found that gamers rely on the caudate nucleus to a greater degree than non-gamers”. Actually they didn’t find this at all, because their study didn’t measure activity in the caudate nucleus. Instead it measured a type of behaviour that previous studies have associated with activity in the caudate nucleus. There is a world of difference between these two, and readers would do well to take these latest claims with a generous helping of salt.No, man! Salt intake is associated with water retention, which is associated with bloating, and weight-gain can be a factor in spousal infedelity, therefore salt leads to my wife cheating on me if I take these grains you prescribe!
Fri, May 22nd 2015 1:16am
Experts, it appears, aren't all that impressed with the photo. That was particularly the case when the state-run Pyongyang press circulated other photos of the launch that were complete with columns of smoke from the missile, columns of smoke conspicuously absent from the initial photo that was circulated above.
As Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Schmucker Technologie, told Reuters, “Considering the track record of North Korean deceptions, it seems sensible to assume that any North Korean SLBM [submarine-launched ballistic missile] capability is still a very long time in the future, if it will ever surface.”And, so, sadly, the only thing this launch report from North Korea tells us is that they still haven't gotten photoshop down. Oh well. If they ever did get into an actual shooting war again, I suppose they could always just photoshop themselves into some kind of victory pose. Given how often their progress with weapons technology turns out to be non-progress at photo-bullshitting, such a war is probably a remote possibility. Several of the commenters over at Gawker offered to help them out, of course, though this one is probably my favorite.
What the column-less photo lacked in smoke, it made up for with weird, poorly placed ocean smudges. That reddish patch of water you see to the left of the missile? That’s supposed to be the rocket’s reflection.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 21st 2015 9:10pm
A Texas House deadline has come and gone, killing many top-priority bills for both parties — among them one that would allow Tesla-backed direct car sales and another to regulate ride-hailing companies. Midnight Thursday was the last chance for House bills to win initial, full-chamber approval. Since any proposal can be tacked onto other bills as amendments, no measure is completely dead until the legislative session ends June 1. But even with such resurrections, actually becoming state law now gets far tougher.And, of course, this comes just after the FTC warned Michigan for its blocking of direct sales of cars like Tesla.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson — one of the House's most senior members currently serving her 20th term — said it was the company's own fault that the bill didn't pass.Really? In what world is it considered appropriate to force an innovative company that wants to go direct to consumers to first "sit down" with the gatekeepers that are trying to block them? "I can appreciate Amazon wanting to sell books to people, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. Amazon had sat down with retail store builders first." "I can appreciate YouTube wanting to let anyone upload videos, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. YouTube had sat down with TV producers first."
"I can appreciate Tesla wanting to sell cars, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. Tesla had sat down with the car dealers first," she said.
by Michael Ho
Thu, May 21st 2015 5:00pm
by Tim Cushing
Thu, May 21st 2015 3:49pm
Social media. So popular. And so very, very incriminating. The less-than-illustrious history of many a criminal who felt obliged to generate inculpatory evidence via social media postings has been well-detailed here. But what if you want to hide your indiscretions and malfeasance? If you've posted something on any major social network, chances are it will be found and used against you.
On May 19, 2014, Brannon Crowe sued his employer, Marquette Transportation. Crowe claimed that, in April 2014, he had an accident at work that “resulted in serious painful injuries to his knee and other parts of his body.” Crowe sued for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, past and future disability, and other special damages.Crowe presented a variety of novel defenses in hopes of escaping Marquette Transporation's examination of his Facebook account -- one of which was that he had no Facebook account.
But Crowe may have unwittingly shot himself in the foot (or maybe the knee). The reason? Facebook.
Around the time Crowe suffered his injuries, he sent a Facebook message to a friend saying that he had actually hurt himself while on a fishing trip. How Marquette Transportation got its hands on the message is unclear.
Nonetheless, the message led Marquette Transportation to seek other Facebook information from Crowe in discovery. On October 17, 2014, Marquette Transportation specifically requested “the Facebook history of any account(s) that [Crowe] had or has for the period commencing two (2) weeks prior to the incident in question to the present date.”
Plaintiff objects to this Request as vague, over broad and unduly burdensome. Plaintiff further objects to the extent this Request seeks information that is irrelevant and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Notwithstanding said objections and in the spirit of cooperation, plaintiff does not presently have a Facebook account.Note the qualifier "presently."
Crowe later testified in his deposition that he stopped having a Facebook account “around October” of 2014.Oddly coincidental.
Marquette served its written discovery upon Crowe’s counsel on October 17, 2014. (Rec. doc. 16-1 at p. 1). Crowe’s Facebook records from the “Brannon CroWe” account indicate that account was deactivated on October 21, 2014. Counsel for Marquette is entitled to explore the timing of this deactivation."Stopped having" actually meant "deactivated his account." Crowe didn't go so far as to delete the account, which might have made the damning post a bit more difficult to recover. But he wanted to keep his account alive for use at a later date. This didn't escape the court's notice.
The same Facebook records indicate that the account was accessed routinely by an iPhone with an IP address of 184.108.40.206 beginning well before the alleged accident up to and including on the date of deactivation. On January 7, 2015, the account was reactivated by the same iPhone with the same IP address. Counsel for Marquette is entitled to explore these matters, particularly given the current dispute over the status of Crowe’s iPhone service and whether he was able to and did send “text messages” to others at points in time when he claimed to be unable to do so.Crowe's shovel-wielding skills far outpace his ability to hide incriminating information. But as is the case with shovel wielders, even the most efficient can do little more than dig holes of increasing depth. When this foolproof plan to thwart Marquette Transportation's discovery request failed, Crowe deployed Plans B, C and D, with similar results.
Similarly, counsel for Marquette is entitled to analyze the thousands of pages of Facebook messages Crowe exchanged with others, including his co-worker, Robert Falslev, particularly given his testimony that his account: (1) did not use a capital “W” in its name, (2) that it was hacked, and (3) that he did not send one particular Facebook message to Falslev stating he was injured fishing, rather than on the Marquette vessel.Crowe's counsel, now presumably righteously pissed, produced the records sought by Marquette -- in bulk.
Pursuant to the Court’s Order quoted above, Crowe, through counsel, has now submitted to the Court for in camera review an astonishing 4,000-plus pages of Facebook history from the account “Brannon CroWe.” While the Court has made a preliminary review of certain of these materials, it is not about to waste its time reviewing 4,000 pages of documents in camera when it is patently clear from even a cursory review that this information should have been produced as part of Crowe’s original response. This production makes it plain that Crowe’s testimony, at least in part, was inaccurate. That alone makes this information discoverable.The court may not be interested in looking through Crowe's obviously very active (before it suddenly, suspiciously wasn't) Facebook account, but I would imagine Marquette's lawyers will find the time to do so. But even in Crowe's self-inflicted dark cloud, there's a silver lining -- albeit one brought about by his desire to save his (supposedly hacked-with-a-capital-W) Facebook account, rather than see it (and the incriminating post) vanish into the ether.
Crowe may have inadvertently saved himself at least some trouble with the Court by deactivating his account rather than deleting it. This duty to preserve evidence in litigation extends to social media information and is triggered when a party reasonably foresees that evidence may be relevant to issues in litigation. As soon as he placed the source of his injuries at issue, Crowe triggered the duty to preserve. Deleting relevant social media data can result in sanctions against the deleting party because the information is not recoverable, which implicates spoliation of evidence issues. In contrast, Crowe’s Facebook data was still accessible upon a simple re-login.The court won't offer Crowe much sympathy in the future, but it's not likely to pursue sanctions. That's about all there is in terms of good news. The effort made to hide the evidence doesn't make Crowe look any less guilty. Social media platforms are bad places to do bad things. Even swift deletions can be recovered with timely court orders and an internet's worth of cached pages and third-party content aggregators often assures that deleted postings will live on in one form or another.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, May 21st 2015 2:51pm
It really shouldn't take a judge's order to make this clear to law enforcement officers: a citizen invoking their rights isn't doing anything illegal, suspicious or otherwise signalling an involvement in criminal activity. These are simply their rights and they can choose to assert (or waive) them as they see fit.
But that's what it takes, because almost anything that isn't an immediate capitulation to a law enforcement officer's demands is often met with dubious actions, arrests and deployment of force.
Deborah Barker was arrested for methamphetamine possession after an Oregon police officer performed a warrantless search of the contents of her purse. Her motion to suppress was denied by a lower court, but the state appeals court found otherwise.
From the ruling:
Defendant was a passenger in a truck driven by her husband, which was stopped by Oregon State Police Trooper Ratliff on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Ratliff noticed that defendant’s husband was “overly nervous” and that there was a bottle of alcohol on the seat, as well as many knives, lighters, and trash in the truck.We'll stop right here and discuss a couple of things.
A ten-minute search turned up nothing, save for two cell phones. The interior of the car was “spotless” and had no other personal effects, which the officers believed was suggestive of the car being a “trap car” used for drug trafficking.You can't win. But you can try to even the odds.
Defendant was wearing a dress, and Ratliff did not believe she had any weapons in her pockets. Ratliff asked defendant if she had any weapons in her purse, and defendant replied, “I don’t want you to search my purse.”The officer asked her to place the purse on the hood of the vehicle for "safety" reasons. (Not completely unreasonable, considering Barker hadn't answered one way or the other on the question about whether the purse held a weapon.) It fell open a little, exposing a small, gray scale. This led to the assumption of the probable cause needed to effect an arrest of Barker, combined with Barker's appearance ("leathery") and "drug history."
Ratliff went on to note that the “innocent motoring public doesn’t generally have those indicators. They don’t get out of the vehicle and tuck their purse tightly with them and immediately refuse search.”The lower court bought Ratliff's arguments and refused to suppress the fruits of the warrantless search. The appeals court, however, looked at each element the state claimed added up to permission to warrantlessly search Barker's purse and found them all wanting -- those being Barker's history of drug use, the vehicle's appearance, Barker's appearance ("leathery," clenched teeth), dilated pupils, in possession of a small scale and refusing to allow an officer to search her purse.
As we have previously held, the mere fact that a defendant has a history of drug use does not provide an officer with reasonable suspicion to stop a defendant, let alone probable cause to search or arrest.Finally, it addresses the claim that Barker's control of her purse was yet another factor contributing to her apparent guilt.
For similar reasons, defendant’s inability to remain still and dilated pupils also contribute little to establishing probable cause.
[T]he record in this case lacks evidence to support an objectively reasonable inference that, even if the scale was used in connection with controlled substances, it was more likely than not that defendant was in current possession of controlled substances, as residue on the scale or otherwise.
The state argues that “[t]he strongest indicator that defendant was in possession of drugs was her conduct towards her purse.”But that's completely wrong, according to the court. It's not a "strong indicator." It's an assertion of rights.
When an individual seeks to protect an item and openly asserts his or her privacy rights, that behavior and assertion is neither innately shifty nor sinister—rather, it is constitutionally protected. And, “[a]llowing the police to conduct a search on the basis of the assertion of a privacy right would render the so-called right nugatory.” State v. Brown, 110…
Although furtive behavior may contribute to probable cause, asserting a constitutionally protected privacy right cannot. Defendant’s protective behavior to safeguard the privacy of her purse and her statement that she did not want it searched are not properly considered as part of the totality of the circumstances and may not contribute to probable cause.In short (and as summed up in a footnote), police cannot use someone's constitutionally-protected right to refuse a search as probable cause to justify a search. The ruling is reversed and remanded and the police are now in the same position they were before they performed the warrantless search: looking at someone they want to arrest but without the probable cause to do so. And now it's so much worse because the officer knows Barker was in possession of a controlled substance but can't do anything about it. With the evidence suppressed, the single possession charge resulting from this arrest no longer exists.
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