by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 8:14pm
by Michael Ho
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Netflix hired a bunch of people to try to categorize every movie, and it has 76,897 separate sub-genres for films like "romantic comedies" and "Violent Action Thrillers Starring Bruce Willis". You'd probably never guess which actor crosses into the most movie sub-genres (it's not Kevin Bacon).... It's Raymond Burr. [url]
- A brief history of music genre origins tells us that categories of music are often named after popular bands or lyrics. For example, bluegrass music is named after "the Blue Grass Boys"... and guess what lyrics inspired "Doo-wop" music? [url]
- Melvil Dewey came up with the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system in 1873. The DDC system is now published by OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. which owns all the copyright rights and manages the licensing of this method of organizing general knowledge. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 4:12pm
Patent Troll Sues The FTC, Saying It Has A First Amendment Right To Shake Down Companies Using A Scanner
from the good-luck-with-that dept
When the FTC began investigating patent trolls, apparently MPHJ was near the top of its list, to the point that it was preparing to file a lawsuit against the company. MPHJ took the rather aggressive route of suing the FTC and its five commissioners directly.
MPHJ claims that the FTC's action "violate MPHJ's constitutional rights." It claims that the FTC has "no authority to regulate or interfere with the patent enforcement activity at issue..." This seems to ignore a Supreme Court ruling from just a few months ago that showed that the FTC does, in fact, have a mandate over patent enforcement issues, when that enforcement goes into areas that the FTC regulates, such as antitrust violations or unfair or deceptive commerce practices -- basically the core stuff the FTC regulates.
On top of this, MPHJ argues that it has a first amendment right to shake down companies for money. It's going to have a very difficult time supporting that argument. It seems unlikely that MPHJ's case will get very far. However, the FTC's suit against MPHJ may spell a world of trouble not just for it, but for other patent trolls, who may want to take notice.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 3:14pm
from the no-fly dept
The ruling issued today, and we'd love to tell you what's in it... except for the fact that it's sealed. Judge William Alsup has stated that he believes that the entire order should be made public, but that the US government is fighting that. So, for now, the order is under seal until April 15, while Homeland Security is supposed to agree to what it will allow to be released in a redacted version. However, in the meantime, Judge Alsup has released a "public notice and summary" of the findings of fact -- basically revealing what he can of the order. Many of the important details are still missing, but it certainly sounds like Ibrahim has mostly succeeded in the case. Alsup notes that "some but not all of the relief" sought by Ibrahim has been granted. And this includes having her name scrubbed from the no fly list:
Once a plaintiff shows concrete, reviewable adverse government action has occurred, and, as here, shows that the action resulted from an error by the government, then the plaintiff is entitled by due process to a post-deprivation remedy that requires the government to cleanse and/or correct its lists and records of the mistaken information and to certify under oath that such correction(s) have been made. The government’s administrative remedies fall short of such relief and do not supply sufficient due process. In light of the confusion caused by the government’s mistake, such cleansing-certification relief is ordered in this case. Also, the government is ordered to disclose to plaintiff her current status on (or off) the no-fly list (without prejudice to future adjustments based on new information). In this connection, the government concedes that plaintiff is not a threat to our national security.That appears to suggest that the government ought to remove her from the no fly list and let her know that she's now off the list. But it's not entirely clear that's the case. In theory, they could inform her that she's still on the list as well.
On the later decision by the US government to deny her a visa, the court orders DHS to provide an actual reason in the law for the denial. It would appear that the previous denials did not specify one of the "nine subsections" in the law for which a visa can be denied, and Alsup has ordered DHS to "remedy" that. It also hints very, very strongly (as was pretty clear during the trial), that in refusing her visa, she was told that she was not eligible for a waiver when, in fact, she was. Thus, he orders the government to properly let her know that she can apply for a waiver... but notes that the court cannot review the eventual decision as to whether or not she's granted a visa.
Nothing is said in all of this about the later actions by DHS to block Ibrahim's daughter, a US citizen, from flying to the US to testify in the case. Though, perhaps there is something about that in the sealed documents.
All in all, it appears that Ibrahim has mostly prevailed here, but the details could be rather important. And, it also appears that even with all of this, the court may be quite limited in how much it can force the government to take someone who has been falsely placed on the no fly list, off of it. Hopefully, the full decision will provide greater clarity.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 2:41pm
from the getting-it-wrong dept
Unfortunately, the Virginia state court of appeals has decided that it won't follow those rules, but rather will follow a Virginia state law that may be a bit out of date and (much worse) that it will interpret that law to have a very low bar, thus requiring Yelp to identify the commenters just because Hadeed Carpet Cleaning has "a good faith basis" to believe that the comments were defamatory. That's a very low bar, and allows for all sorts of mischief by those looking to unmask anonymous critics. There is a brief dissent in the case, in which one of the judges on the panel notes that, while he agrees that Virginia's law is the important one, he's troubled by the claim that Hadeed had a "good faith" basis, noting that the law requires "reasonable efforts... needed to advance the claim" but that in court Hadeed's lawyer simply said they really "don't know whether that person is a customer or not...." It would seem like "well, we just don't know" is not exactly a "good faith belief" that they were not a customer and that the comment is defamatory. Unfortunately, the majority of the court didn't seem to understand this point.
Yelp is apparently considering appealing the decision. But, at the very least, this may lead to the Supreme Court eventually having to weigh in on a better standard for protecting anonymous speech.
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 1:39pm
from the storming-out-of-your-contract dept
In previous stories where a television channel goes to war with DirecTV and its peers, the mantra by the channel requesting a higher contract is typically the same: our entertainment provides value beyond what we're paid. That was the case when Viacom held its fans hostage in one such dispute, for instance, or when the far-more-sane AMC had a similar dispute. The point is that it always seems to come down to nothing more than money, where the dispute is over how much monetary value a channel has to a broadcaster. Nothing more, nothing less.
Not so, when it comes to the Weather Channel's dispute with DirecTV. Sure, they similarly want more money, but their response campaign to DirecTV bristling at the request while offering a different, televised weather channel is, shall we say, slightly more melodramatic and massively more aggressive.
Usually when cable channels and distributors go to war over money, the two sides warn customers that a blackout will be inconvenient. This time, the Weather Channel is saying it'll be downright dangerous. The channel has tried to rally the public's support by reminding people that it is an emergency lifeline during severe weather.Hmm, so the idea is that if DirecTV doesn't meet the Weather Channel's price demands, the weather monster is going to kill everyone? That'd be one hell of a provocative argument to make if it wasn't made, you know, at the damned website from which everyone can also get that life-saving information. The argument not only pretends that DirecTV isn't offering a different weather channel that would serve a similar function, or that there are various web-based methods for getting weather reports and alerts via computer and/or smartphone and mobile device, but it also ignores the Weather Channel's own services.
"The Weather Channel isn't just another TV network. It's a must-have resource that keeps families safe," proclaimed a headline on Weather.com.
This irony doesn't appear to be lost on DirecTV.
DirecTV executives say that, contrary to the Weather Channel's positioning, there are many other sources for urgent weather news these days, including WeatherNation.I don't know what the actual outcome of this dispute will be, but it would appear the emotional argument that everyone is going to die without the Weather Channel on DirecTV is one that should and will fall flat on its face. Good try, though, guys.
"When information is readily available everywhere, it's no longer necessary for people to have to pay a premium," York said in a telephone interview. He also asserted that the Weather Channel devotes up to 40 percent of its programming schedule to "reality TV shows."
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 12:27pm
from the we-need-more-public-domain dept
However, the damage that our missing public domain does to culture, society, learning and knowledge is quite incredible. Two years ago, we had mentioned some research done by Professor Paul Heald, in which he noticed an incredible thing about new books available from Amazon, showing that plenty of recent new books were available, but they fade quickly... until you hit 1922 (the basic limit, before which nearly all works are in the public domain). And then there's a sudden jump in the works available.
Since then, Prof. Heald has continued to do even more research into the public domain and how it's distorted our cultural output and made much of it disappear, going beyond just books, but also exploring the impact on music. In an even more recent paper, a draft of a book chapter, Prof. Heald again dives into the issue of the way copyright law has distorted the availability of culture. He takes that earlier chart, and then decides to compare the "new books" available on Amazon with "used books" available on ABE books (the most popular marketplace for used books), and shows the market distortions clearly:
As a related matter, we've pointed in the past to research concerning copyright renewal rates, as found in William Patry's excellent book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. Prior to the 1976 Act, copyright holders not only had to register, but they also had to "renew" their copyright after 28 years if they wanted a second 28 years of protection. And yet, in 1958 and 1959, very few works were actually renewed.
And none of that even touches on the nature of creativity, and the way in which amazing new works often borrow and build upon the works of those who came before them. The greatest works of Shakespeare were more or less copied from others -- but he was able to make them into something special. Why is that such a problem? If someone can make use of the work of someone else who failed to make it spectacular, and turn it into something amazing, why are we precluding that possibility? The entire purpose of copyright law in the US was supposed to be about enabling greater dissemination of learning and knowledge, and that's by increasing the public domain. Yet, instead, because of regulatory capture, and the ability of gatekeepers to hijack the process, we've created a copyright law that does exactly the opposite. It restricts the dissemination of knowledge, decreases cultural sharing and availability, and generally harms creators and their ability to build on culturally relevant works.
What defenders of restrictive copyrights often fail to recognize is that the public domain is what made culture culture. Culture is a shared concept, in which lots of people are all experiencing the same or similar things -- and making it their own as a part of that. We used to share stories, retell jokes, build on and change the works of others, and it was that shared effort that built culture and helped it spread. But copyright law has changed all that. Rather than a true cultural phenomenon, where culture is built up by the public in terms of what they create, share and build upon, we now have a situation where the gatekeepers decide what culture is, push it on everyone via broadcast means, and then tell us not to do anything about it... unless we pay exorbitant sums. That's a perverse understanding of how culture happens, and one that does not benefit creators or the public (often one and the same), but is hugely beneficial for a few gatekeepers.
For a robust creative community and culture, it is important to bring back a healthy respect for the public domain.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 11:33am
from the so,-uh,-go-build-your-own dept
The global music industry has now sent its 100 millionth music piracy notice to Google. That’s a staggering number and it is worth pausing for a moment to assess what it means and what it says about online music.Yes. It would appear to mean that (1) there is a lot of music out there that people want and (2) perhaps your labels should do a better job getting it to people and (3) perhaps wasting time sending takedowns isn't a particularly useful strategy.
For starters, that’s at least 100 million times Google offered to direct users to illegal sources for music just within the last two yearsUm, no, it doesn't mean that at all. It means that there were 100 million times that some automated crawler bot decided to send a link it found, which it believed was infringing, to Google to take out of its index. Whether it was an "illegal source" is a different question altogether. Whether or not Google offered to direct any legitimate user to that file is also something totally different.
That’s also 100 million times that an artist, songwriter, music label – or anyone else involved in the chain of creating and distributing music – was likely denied the opportunity to earn any royalties, revenues or sales.That's also just blatantly false. First, any Google search result comes with a bunch of other links as well, many of which could lead to revenue for those in that chain. Furthermore, even if the file was unauthorized (not, as Sherman falsely claims, "illegal"), that quite frequently still does lead to opportunities to earn royalties, as multiple studies have shown over and over and over and over again. On top of that, if someone is really looking for a free MP3 of something, that's what they're looking for and they're not going to spend any money on the file anyway, so no revenue is "denied." That revenue never existed.
And 100 million times that innovative tech companies – like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, Vevo, and dozens more – didn’t benefit from a sale or a stream.Here is Sherman's weak attempt at pretending he supports innovation. Again, if someone was looking to buy such a track or stream it, they likely know where to go. But that's not why they go to Google in the first place.
From there, Sherman goes on to explain how he'd like Google to work. Because spending decades working for record labels has taught him all about how search engines should work, and how the users of those search engines would like them to work. Or, more accurately, he'd like to change Google's search results in the mistaken belief that the kid looking for a free mp3 will suddenly buy it, if only he were told of places he could pay for it.
So the enforcement system we operate under requires us to send a staggering number of piracy notices – 100 million and counting to Google alone—and an equally staggering number of takedowns Google must process. And yet pirated copies continue to proliferate...What's that Einstein quote about "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"?
The power of search and the predominant popularity of top-tier results are well documented – particularly in their capacity to steer users to illegal sites. A Wiggins study, for example, found that “65% of ‘pirates’ regularly use search engines to find infringing content.” Similar studies have found similar results.Not quite. Most studies have shown something quite different. In fact, a study from the RIAA's best buddies, the MPAA, actually found that just 19% of visits to infringing content were "influenced" by search (note: not found by search). In fact, when you dig deep into the numbers, you'll find that a large percentage of searches that lead to content aren't people just searching for some artist or some song, but rather searching for a site -- so-called "navigational searches" such as someone doing a search for "the pirate bay." I'm not sure what Cary Sherman thinks, but I find it doubtful that some kid is going to do a search for "the pirate bay" and then be happy when the search results point him to Spotify or iTunes.
And this is Sherman and other maximalists' general confusion over search. They still think that search engines are supposed to be designed to show users what the RIAA wants them to find, rather than what the searcher wants to find. Directly changing Google's search engine to give results that users don't want won't make anyone suddenly go buy music again, no matter what Sherman wants.
But, hey, since he's so damn sure that he knows how to program a search engine, why doesn't he go and do it? He seems to think he can build a better search engine than Google, so why not have the RIAA build its own search engine and go compete.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 10:33am
from the proving-these-two-cops-can-beat-more-than-transients dept
The verdict has come back on the trial of two officers charged in the beating death of schizophrenic homeless man Kelly Thomas. Not guilty on all charges. The Orange County jury heard three weeks of testimony and returned this verdict in less than a day.
The incident, which began with Officer Ramos putting on gloves and announcing to Thomas that his "fists" were getting ready to "fuck him up," and ended with Thomas in an irreversible coma, was caught on surveillance tape and synched to Ramos' body mic recording. The tortured screams and gasps of the 135-lb. Thomas were unable to convince the jury find one of the cops guilty of lesser charges (Officer Cicinelli -- charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force). Even Cicinelli's own words -- "I ran out of options and just started bashing the hell out of [Thomas'] face [with the butt end of his taser]" -- failed to persuade the jury that the force used was excessive.
But as the Orange County Register presciently noted a couple of weeks ago, juries in Orange County tend to be "law and order" juries.
Orange County juries historically have given police officers carte blanche to use deadly force even against unarmed citizens and to lie in official reports that cover up police corruption.The defense argued that Thomas died of causes unrelated to the physical force applied by six responding officers. They also argued that any force that might have been "excessive" was demanded by Thomas' supposedly violent resistance. But that seems a little unlikely when you take into account the defense's medical expert, who maintained Thomas died of a "weakened heart" brought on by "years of meth abuse." How does a 135-lb. man with a "weak heart" (who "could have died sitting in a closet" according to the medical expert) put up enough of a struggle that officers (six of them) fear for their safety? It doesn't add up, especially when you consider the fact that Officer Ramos, who initiated the attack and spent most of the incident on top of Kelly Thomas, outweighed the homeless man by at least 100 pounds. Add to that the weight of other officers who responded to calls for backup. Suddenly, this guy with a heart so weak he could have died "at any time" looks almost superhuman.
If there's anything that seriously undercuts the arguments that these officers responded with appropriate force to a threatening situation, it's the comparison of post-altercation photos of Kelly Thomas [warning: photo is extremely gruesome] and Officer Ramos, who sustained the following injury during the "dangerous" struggle.
The jury's verdict sends a message to Orange County law enforcement: you can threaten a person with a beating, follow that threat up with a six-officer beatdown -- including "beat[ing] the hell" out of them with the butt of your Taser -- all while being caught on tape and walk out of the courtroom free men. Kelly Thomas' father rightfully calls this a "miscarriage of justice."
For what it's worth, the federal government seems to find this verdict questionable.
"With the conclusion of the state court trial, investigators will examine the evidence and testimony to determine whether further investigation is warranted at the federal level," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles said in a statement.
While it's somewhat encouraging to see that the FBI thinks something is amiss here, there's really no reason for the federal government to step in and find some other way to punish these two cops. The only thing that should be looked for is evidence of misconduct that occurred during the trial which would stipulate throwing the verdict out and retrying the case. Anything else would be the government sending the unwelcome message (one it has sent previously, following the trial of George Zimmerman) that if the administration doesn't like a verdict a jury has reached, it will subvert the judicial system and render one of its own.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 9:38am
from the not-the-end-of-the-world dept
However, on the flip side, we should be equally concerned about the FCC overstepping its bounds and mandate in regulating the internet. Because that opens up the opportunity for the FCC to regulate all sorts of aspects of the internet in dangerous ways. So, this ruling is both good and bad. It stops the FCC from overstepping its bounds... but opens up the opportunity for the telcos to sweep in and try to upset the basic concepts of the internet. It's what happens now that becomes interesting. The court does leave open the possibility that the FCC could use other aspects of its mandate to establish net neutrality rules -- where it has a much more firm legal footing. In other words, the court is telling the FCC basically: you can establish net neutrality rules if you do it correctly.
Separate from that, it's possible that Congress could step in as well -- though the issue of net neutrality in Congress has become partisan, and thus toxic. Of course, in the meantime, it seems likely that the FCC will appeal to the Supreme Court, and there's a decent chance that the Supreme Court will take the case -- though I'd be very, very surprised if the Supreme Court came to a different ruling. The original FCC rule, while well intentioned, definitely stretched the FCC's mandate, and it's no surprise that it's now been slapped down.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 8:49am
from the a-new-high-in-low dept
Here's how stupid legislation is assembled.
HOT BUTTON TOPIC + BRIEFLY CONCERNED LEGISLATOR - COMMON SENSE = A proposed amendment so brain dead, its author should be immediately hooked up to an EEG.
The "hot topic?" The form of recorded violence known colloquially as the "knockout game." Said "game" is played by a minimum of one willing participant and one unwilling participant. The goal is to knock out the unwilling participant with one punch, preferably while being recorded for posterity/evidence. Video is then uploaded to YouTube (or other services) for appreciation by those who like this sort of thing.
The legislator who apparently failed to consider the mind blowing amount of unintended consequences built into his legislation? South Carolina senator Vincent Sheheen.
The amendment? Well, here's what Sen. Sheheen would like to see changed in the current criminal code.
SECTION 1. Chapter 1, Title 16 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:So, an amendment aimed at hauling in participants in the "knockout game" (the person holding the camera) will now criminalize all sorts of recordings. Sheheen pitches it this way:
"Section 16-1-65. (A) It is unlawful for a person to produce or create, or conspire to produce or create, a video or audio recording, digital electronic file, or other visual depiction or representation of a violent crime, as defined in Section 16-1-60 [violent crimes], during its commission. A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than five hundred dollars or more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
(B) A person who violates the provisions of subsection (A) and who publishes, or otherwise makes the video or audio recording, digital electronic file, or other visual depiction or representation available for public display is guilty of a separate offense and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than five hundred dollars or more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
(C) A person who knowingly aids in the commission of a violation of subsection (A) or (B) or is an accessory before or after the fact in commission of the violation of subsection (A) or (B) is guilty of a felony and must be punished in the same manner prescribed in subsection (A) or (B), as applicable.
(D) The provisions of subsection (A) and (B) do not apply to:
(1) viewing, photographing, videotaping, or filming by personnel of the Department of Corrections or of a county, municipal, or local jail or detention center or correctional facility for security purposes or during investigation of alleged misconduct by a person in the custody of the Department of Corrections or a county, municipal, or local jail or detention center or correctional facility;
(2) security surveillance in bona fide business establishments;
(3) accidental or incidental recordings;
(4) any official law enforcement activities;
(5) private detectives and investigators conducting surveillance in the ordinary course of business; or
(6) any bona fide news gathering activities."
“Really this is another tool for law enforcement to use to make sure that somebody can't claim, 'Oh, I didn't commit that crime, I just videotaped it,' when in reality they were part of the problem in the first place."Really, this is another tool for law enforcement to make sure that somebody can't record police misconduct or use of excessive force. Sure, the person recording didn't commit the crime being recorded, but they have now committed the crime of recording criminal activity. If a law can be twisted by bad cops to prevent or seize recordings of their dubious behavior, it very definitely will be.
That's only one problematic potential consequence of Sheheen's Folly. Eugene Volokh has more, much more, in his take on the law.
So you see a robbery occurring, or the police illegally beating a citizen, and you videorecord it — you’ve now committed a felony, unless you can persuade a court it’s a “bona fide news gathering activit[y].” (The recording isn’t “accidental or incidental,” since you’re making it deliberately.) Or say your friend is being attacked, and you record the video to give to the police or to use in a civil suit; perhaps you even expected an attack, for instance if you’re going to a potentially violent demonstration or going past a place where thugs have routinely attacked people of some race, religion, or sexual orientation. That too is a felony.Sheheen's amendment is ugly all over. While it makes exceptions for "bona fide business" surveillance, it makes no such exception for cameras mounted by private citizens to protect their own property. Someone breaks into your house and you've got the tape to prove it? Guess what: both you and the perp have violated the law.
And while one could interpret any citizen action aimed at gathering information as “bona fide news gathering activit[y],” that’s far from clear. It’s an argument I’d make as your defense lawyer, but it’s not an argument you can feel confident about if you’re deciding whether to make the recording. If the law is enacted, any suitably cautious South Carolinian would be well-advised just not to record any crime he sees, if he wants to avoid the risk of prison time.
Volokh points out the problems inherent in proving newsworthiness to prosecutors. The same uphill battle awaits those with accidental or incidental recordings. Try proving that negative in the courts while facing a zealous DA.
Not only does this criminalize citizens' recording (and citizen reporting -- bloggers aren't journalists, etc.) but it has the potential to curtail law enforcement efforts. Stupid people record their own criminal activity all the time but putting this law on the books may make them decide to leave the camera at home. Sure, they're already committing a crime, but why add additional months to the sentence? Why would someone purportedly trying to be tough on (a certain) crime want to discourage the generation of useful evidence?
This kneejerk amendment also overlooks the fact that many laws are already on the books for prosecuting camera-toting friends of assailants. Like aiding and abetting. Or conspiracy to commit a criminal act. There are ways to bring the "cinematographer" down without putting regular, law-abiding citizens at risk of violating an astronomically asinine law simply because they managed to capture evidence of criminal activity with their cell phone or personally-owned surveillance system.
Then there's this:
…or other visual depiction or representation of a violent crime…Not only will it be criminal to record criminal activity, it will also be criminal to create a graphic novel depicting criminal acts, depict a criminal act in a play, movie, television show or YouTube video, or perform a classic Punch and Judy routine. "Visual depictions" of fake crime? Also a crime. Yes, these scenarios are blatantly ridiculous, but that's precisely what the law states. If Sheheen doesn't want people mocking his stupid amendment with scenarios no self-respecting law enforcement officer (and even some LEOs with no self-respect) would drop the hammer on, then he should have written his amendment less stupidly. Or not at all.
I now turn this over to the comment section, who should be able to top these "what if" scenarios in a heartbeat.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 7:37am
new america foundation
from the but-fear! dept
The full report looks at all 225 individuals who were either part of Al Qaeda or an associated group and charged with terrorism since 9/11. In looking over every plot they were involved in, you see that much more traditional means of catching terrorists were involved in almost every case. There are community/family tips, informants, other non-NSA intelligence, routine law enforcement, self-disclosed by publicizing his own extremist activity, "suspicious activity" reports... and of course, plots that weren't actually prevented. There is, to be fair, a large number of plots where the discovery is from "unclear" means -- and it's entirely possible that some of those were discovered under the Section 702 programs. However, at the very least, this calls into question just how valuable either of these key NSA efforts really are.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 5:36am
Administration Finally Responds To A Petition... About Something A Child Said On The Jimmy Kimmel Show
from the wow-such-power-to-the-people dept
Confused? Here's the petition in all of its clumsily-worded glory.
Investigate Jimmy Kimmel Kid's Table Government Shutdown Show on ABC NetworkA single quote from a single child was construed by this petitioner as being indicative of Jimmy Kimmel and ABC's inherent racist attitudes and the petition itself achieved full Godwin in less than seven sentences. It also instructed to government to trample the First Amendment by removing Kimmel's show from the air and apologize on its behalf. Lost in the shuffle is the title's request for an investigation, but apparently just killing the show without checking anything out would also be acceptable.
I was very disturbed by Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Kids Table’ show. It was aired on ABC recently and talked about killing all the Chinese so that the states do not need to pay back their debts to China. The kids might not know anything better. However, Jimmy Kimmel and ABC’s management are adults. They had a choice not to air this racist program, which promotes racial hatred. The program is totally unacceptable and it must be cut. A sincere apology must be issued. It is extremely distasteful and this is the same rhetoric used in Nazi Germany against Jewish people. Please immediately cut the show and issue a formal apology.
The administration has responded, pointing out that both parties have already apologized and that instructing ABC to remove the show would be a gross misuse of government power. It then invites the 100,000+ troubled petitioners to contact the FCC, presumably because their use of the We the People site shows they don't mind being ignored by government agencies.
This particular petition isn't even that old. It was created on October 19 and its deadline for a response would have been a month later. Less than 90 days from creation to response. That's some sort of land speed record for the Administration of the People, whose approach to open government is long on talk and short on action. And of the limited actions, it's most famous creation is the We the People site, which serves to remind users just how ineffective it is to petition the government directly. If nothing else, lobbyists can point to the ~300-day wait time (and the often-ineffectual, long-delayed responses) as an indication of the worth of their services. Not exactly the sort of message the administration should be sending.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jan 14th 2014 3:38am
Researcher Says Simple Security Fixes From Carriers Would Have Prevented NSA Collection Of Cell Communications
from the we're-nos.-1-whatever,-why-try-harder? dept
Hanlon's Razor states: never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Replace "stupidity" with "laziness" and you've got one researcher's theory as to why cell phone carriers failed to make basic efforts to provide a secure product -- one that would have prevented the NSA's collection of communications. (h/t to DSLreports)
The world's mobile phone carriers have failed to implement technology fixes available since 2008 that would have thwarted the National Security Agency's ability to eavesdrop on many mobile phone calls, a cyber security expert says.Were carriers compelled to leave this hole open for NSA exploitation? It's a good question, but Nohl says the more likely explanation is that carriers simply didn't find the problem worth addressing.
Karsten Nohl, chief scientist with Berlin's Security Research Labs, told Reuters ahead of a highly anticipated talk at a conference in Germany that his firm discovered the issue while reviewing security measures implemented by mobile operators around the world…
None of the carriers surveyed had implemented measures for thwarting a method that allows the NSA to eavesdrop on most mobile calls by unscrambling a widely used encryption technology known as A5/1[…] Nohl said that method would have been blocked if carriers had applied two patches released in 2008.
"I couldn't imagine it is complicity. I think it is negligence," he said. "I don't want to believe in a worldwide conspiracy across all worldwide network operators. I think it is individual laziness and priority on network speed and network coverage and not security."As has been observed everywhere, the path of least resistance is favored by many entities, even those not explicitly performing government work. Making a minimum of effort dumped customers' conversations right into the NSA's lap.
Of course, if the NSA had knocked on these carriers' doors and asked for a small favor, like leaving a security hole big enough to drive a semi full of unused privacy protections through, chances are many would have said, "Sure, why not." Verizon and AT&T have only very belatedly joined the national conversation on intelligence gathering, after spending months shuffling around the periphery while staring at the floor. For years, these providers have handed over everything the agency's asked for and shown an active interest in helping it anticipate what it might need next.
But Nohl's theory dismisses a worldwide conspiracy to dump cell phone customers' conversations into the waiting ears of the NSA -- something that's more likely to be true. While American carriers have proven to be useful NSA allies, very little has been exposed about the compliance rate of foreign carriers. Not that their resistance would matter much (or that they'd even be approached directly), as foreign intelligence agencies have been just as "helpful" as AT&T and Verizon in terms of granting access to data and communications -- much of which ultimately ends up in the NSA's sprawling lockboxes.
The moral here, if Nohl is correct, is that the industry's idle hands are the NSA's workshop. Not doing something can be just as harmful as complete complicity.
from the isn't-one-enough? dept
Like many other countries, India has been steadily extending its national surveillance capabilities. We wrote about its main Central Monitoring System (CMS) back in May last year, with more details in July. In news that shocked no one, we discovered in September that illegal surveillance is already taking place. And now, via The Economic Times, we learn that India has built another, completely independent system for spying on its citizens:
The government will shortly launch 'Netra', the defence ministry's internet spy system that will be capable of detecting words like 'attack', 'bomb', 'blast' or 'kill' in a matter of seconds from reams of tweets, status updates, emails, instant messaging transcripts, internet calls, blogs and forums.
The Hacker News site has more details of how the system will work, with information being gathered from boxes placed on the premises of ISPs:
The system will also be able to capture any dubious voice traffic passing through software such as Skype or Google Talk, says a telecom department note seen by [Economic Times]. "
NETRA is a hardware device, and will be installed at ISP (Internet service provider) level on more than 1000 locations. Each location will be called as "Node", with 300GB of storage space. So, there are 1000 nodes x 300GB = 300,000GB of total space is initially decided to set up.
A year ago, news that countries like India were setting up a nationwide surveillance system was met with a self-righteous chorus of disapproval from many Western countries. Today, India can have two of them, and the response is silence. That's a measure of how the West has lost whatever moral high ground it once had, largely thanks to the NSA's dragnet approach that makes it well-nigh impossible for the Five Eyes club and friends to criticize other nations for attempting to emulate it.