by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 8:39pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 7:06pm
from the speak-out dept
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Math is simultaneously illusory and real. On the one hand, it's a set of arbitrary symbols and chosen rules that can be modified and manipulated as we see fit, since it's just a human invention; on the other hand, the patterns it identifies and describes have intrinsic reality and significance. The same could almost be said about the concept of the human mind — so where the two intersect, there are fascinating things to be learned:
- Recent mathematical models are changing the nature of the scientific conversation about consciousness, with one controversial theory suggesting our minds are ultimately non-computable. Could cognition be something other than just extremely advanced computation? [url]
- Computers are now producing mathematical proofs that are essentially beyond human comprehension, or at least beyond our realistic ability to do any double-checking. One recently computed proof involves 13 gigabytes of recorded calculations, or more text than all of Wikipedia. [url]
- Researchers are beginning to understand what happens in the brain to cause Savant syndrome after an injury. Jason Padgett developed the ability to visualize complex mathematical and physical problems after suffering a severe beating, and it's possible that this ability lies dormant in everyone. [url]
If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 4:02pm
from the but-not-the-NSA,-for-some-reason dept
Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist, has weighed in on the Snowden leaks, putting forth what even he terms to be an "unpopular" view. On CNBC's Squawk Box, he lead with this statement:
Obviously, he's a traitor. Like, if you look up in the encyclopedia, traitor, there's a picture of Edward Snowden. He's a textbook traitor. I'm in the distinct minority out here. I think most people in Silicon Valley would pick the other designation.Being a traitor and committing treason falls under a very distinct definition. In Andreessen's dictionary (the one with Snowden's picture), this definition runs as follows:
Because he stole national security secrets and gave them to everybody on the planet.Whereas the Constitution clearly defines treason as this:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.Giving documents to "everybody on the planet" is not specifically "aiding or comforting" enemies of the United States. While it may have given some of them guidance on how to avoid surveillance, there's been no evidence presented that the leaks have done any specific harm to the US. There's been a lot of handwringing about the implications of the leaks, but the most specific claims released to date by the US government deal with Defense Dept. docs supposedly in Snowden's possession which, even if they exist (the NSA still doesn't know what Snowden took), haven't been released to anybody.
But Andreessen's most spectacular statement is also his most self-serving. He decries the damage done to US tech companies by the leaks, but rather than hold the NSA responsible, he shoots the messenger -- and wings the President.
[A]merican technology companies get a huge amount of revenue from outside the US. In fact, some of these companies get up to 70% of revenue outside the US and there's a big open question right now, how successful our companies will be when they go to sell products overseas. And there are a lot of foreign countries that are very envious of Silicon Valley and America's domination of tech and wish they could implement protection policies and will use this whole affair as a reason to do that…Andreessen's responses don't find anything necessarily wrong with the NSA's actions. The problem, as he sees it, lies with the "traitor" who exposed the NSA's subversion of tech company hardware and software. The administration is also partly to blame for not having done enough to shelter the tech world from the fallout of the NSA leaks. Andreessen also (via Twitter) blames both Americans for misunderstanding the NSA's programs and the media for misrepresenting the 702 program, implying that tech companies were working with the NSA to collect American communications.
The administration is just letting -- they're letting the American tech industry out to dry. I haven't met anybody who feels like the White House has a plan, It's just happening.
But as far as he can see it, the agency itself is nearly blameless. He's "not surprised" the agency was spying. After all, it has thousands of employees and billions in funding (actual budget numbers exposed by another leak). What else were we Americans to believe it was doing with all that manpower and money?
Well, I'm fairly sure we weren't expecting to find it was grabbing bulk metadata on Americans' phone calls or sweeping up tons of "incidental" communications via its many surveillance programs. We weren't expecting it to have partnered with other nations to help them surveil their own citizens. And we certainly weren't expecting it to hand off unminimized data to other nations' intelligence agencies.
This is a very close-minded and self-centered view of the situation. That tech companies were damaged is unfortunate, but the blame lies with the agency that aims to "collect it all," rather than the person who exposed the egregious excesses done in the name of "security." And if the administration is to blame for anything, it's for not reining the NSA in over the years, rather than for not sheltering the industry from fallout.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 2:59pm
from the total-failures dept
Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles sent cease and desist orders today to Lyft and Uber, telling the two ride services that they must stop operating in violation of state law or face fines against their part-time drivers.This is silly. Uber and Lyft (and others) have been shown to provide some great and convenient services pretty much everywhere else. And almost every attempt to block them seems to really be about keeping such transportation options more limited to limit supply and competition, allowing existing taxi companies to charge more (while being less convenient).
The DMV had already issued civil penalties against the companies in April -- $26,000 for Uber and $9,000 for Lyft -- for trips that their drivers provided in Virginia despite warnings by the state agency that Virginia law does not allow their business model.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 2:01pm
from the really,-now? dept
Either way, I was going to ignore this latest round of little stupid spats that have been going back and forth -- except that now it appears that Verizon has taken it up a level and actually issued a cease and desist to Netflix sayng it should no longer blame Verizon when the network is clogged. I'm not sure what actual legal basis Verizon thinks it has to do this, and wonder if Netflix will just cave in and stop with the messages. But, it certainly would create quite the interesting lawsuit if Verizon decided to go to court about this. Update: Netflix has indicated that it won't stop.
Either way, it's pretty clear that even once Netflix has signed an interconnection agreement with them, these ISP's are still not at all happy about the situation.
Update: Added an embed of the actual letter below.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 12:59pm
from the about-time dept
And, thankfully, on this one the EUCJ got it right, saying that on-screen and cached copies don't require a special license:
Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user’s computer screen and the copies in the internet ‘cache’ of that computer’s hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.This is kind of important, because if the ruling had gone the other way, basically all of the internet would be infringing, and any time people loaded up anything in their web browsers, they'd likely be infringing. Kudos to the EUCJ for getting it right, but it's kind of crazy that we had to wait until now to make that clear...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 11:59am
from the one-year-later dept
Still, it's amazing how far we've already come because of Snowden. Much of what's happened in the last year never would have happened without him deciding to blow the whistle. And yet, it's not nearly far enough. The growing awareness is great, but real change needs to happen, and that's a process that's going to take a very long time.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 11:03am
Secret Trials: UK Holds A Secret Terror Trial, As US Appeals Court Holds Secret Hearing In Terror Case
from the open-justice dept
Meanwhile, back here in the good, old United States, where we do have a First Amendment, at least we know that Adel Daoud is on trial. But the 7th Circuit Court of appeals kicked everyone out of the courtroom to hold a "secret hearing" with just the DOJ. As we wrote a few months ago, Daoud's lawyers are asking to actually see the FISA court orders that were used to gather evidence against their client -- and the DOJ is flipping out about that. While some of the hearings were held openly, at one point, Judge Richard Posner abruptly kicked everyone but the DOJ out, including Daoud's lawyers.
I cannot say how broken-hearted I am about the prospect of a major criminal trial involving two men charged with serious terrorism offences being held entirely in secret for the first time in modern British legal history. I have spent my entire journalistic life campaigning against courtroom secrecy and this represents a nadir and indication of abject failure.
But the proposal is being contested by the process of law; albeit very limited and garrotted by the lack of a constitutional paradigm for freedom of the media and expression. We have been paying the price for not having a First Amendment for many years. Now we are entering the endgame of something beyond the dissolution of open justice.
As the arguments concluded, Judge Richard Posner announced the public portion of the proceedings had concluded and ordered the stately courtroom cleared so the three-judge panel could hold a “secret hearing.” Daoud’s attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, rose to object, but Posner did not acknowledge him. Deputy U.S. marshals then ordered everyone out – including Durkin, his co-counsel and reporters.Some reporters tried to ask what was going on, but Posner simply told them "No!" and kicked them out. Daoud's lawyer was similarly perplexed:
Only those with the proper security clearance -- including U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, his first assistant, Gary Shapiro, and about a dozen FBI and U.S. Department of Justice officials – were allowed back in the courtroom before it was locked for the secret session.
“Not only do I not get to be there, but I didn’t even get to object,” Durkin said. “I had to object over the fact that I couldn’t even make an objection.”As the article notes, this is highly unusual. While in national security cases, certain information may be filed under seal, or certain portions may be held "in camera" without reporters or the public, it's not at all common to have just one side present. And while you may say that it makes sense in this case, where the three judge panel has to determine whether or not it's appropriate to share the FISC orders with Daoud's lawyers, it's still somewhat troubling to see the ease with which secret court proceedings may occur.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 10:03am
District Court Judge Orders Last-Minute Sealing Of Documents Related To Stingray Devices And Cell Tower Data Dumps
from the and-then-seals-the-order-itself dept
The government clearly does not want to talk about its surveillance tools: stingray devices, cell phone tower data dumps, pen/trap registers. This opacity begins at the bottom, with law enforcement agencies conveniently quoting manufacturer non-disclosure agreements as a way to deny records requests or route around obtaining warrants.
When it appears records detailing use of these methods may make their way into the public domain, the DOJ itself steps in (via its US Marshals Service) and seizes the documents. Anything the government has as its disposal is used in order to keep these records out of the public eye.
Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica brings news that the US government is again inserting itself between public records and the public.
Serving as an outgoing United States magistrate judge, Brian Owsley had decided that one of his final judicial acts would be to unseal more than 100 of his own judicial orders involving digital surveillance that he himself had sealed at the government’s request.Brian Owsley notes that this behavior is "not normal."
But not long after Owsley's move last year, a US district judge vacated Owsley’s order and resealed them all. That order itself was then sealed.
"I sent in various ways to the government, a number of applications and I said I'm going to unseal these unless you tell me why I shouldn't. These were done in waves. The first wave were completed five years previous, past the statute of limitations, and quite likely no longer really significant. That was the first wave. The government did not oppose unsealing of any of them. So I spoke to the court's office and said to upload them to make them available online, and as they were doing that, somehow this district judge found out about it an interjected himself into the process. If the government has said: 'We don't think these things should be unsealed,' that's one thing. But just out of the blue the district judge interjecting himself, that's a little unusual."This unusual move prompted another. Dow Jones, the owner of the Wall Street Journal, has filed a motion asking the district court to unseal the documents. The applications the government buried at the last minute include all of those items listed above: stingray devices, cell phone tower dumps and pen register requests.
The thing is that none of these documents should still be sealed. As Owsley states, everything affected deals with closed investigations. There's nothing ongoing and anything the government feels might compromise future investigations should be redacted -- which then can at least be challenged in court, if need be.
The filing notes that the burial of Owsley's orders isn't an outlier.
Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith estimates that tens of thousands of sealed electronic surveillance orders issued by federal district courts remain inaccessible to the public and the press—even long after the investigations underlying those orders have terminated.The government's antipathy towards FOIA requests continues. And it highlights the incredible hypocrisy of its rationale and actions. According to every law enforcement and investigative agency in the US, Smith vs. Maryland grants no expectation of privacy to information handed over to third parties.
No one in the data collection business wants to be held accountable for abuse or forced to operate responsibly in the future. When the simple invocation of "terror," "drugs" or other criminal activity fails to drive off those seeking documents, the government resorts to other means to keep its actions out of the public eye, whether its extensive, unnecessary retractions or more extreme measures, like refusing to unseal documents.
To these entities, our lives are an open book. But if citizens want to take a look at what the government is doing with this information, or how it obtains it, these entities do all they can to ensure the flow of data remains strictly one way.
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 9:04am
New Study Shows Legal Music Services -- Not Fear Of Harsh Copyright Laws -- Reduce Illegal File Sharing
from the how-many-times-do-we-need-to-say-it? dept
The copyright industries seem to have only one tool in their tool box for addressing unauthorized file sharing: a legal hammer. But no matter how harsh the measure, the file sharing goes on, and so the maximalists call for even more disproportionate laws, which will doubtless be ignored in their turn. This is particularly frustrating, because we already know how to stop people downloading stuff: just offer good services at fair prices. When you do so, illegal file sharing drops dramatically, as Techdirt has noted time and again. Here's yet more research confirming that fact, from a group at Lund University in Sweden:
Survey responses from around 4,000 individuals suggest that the number of active file-sharers has dropped in the past two years. Those who share files daily or almost daily has decreased from 32.8 percent in 2012 to 29 percent in 2014.
According to the head of the research group, this is why the numbers are dropping, as reported by TorrentFreak:
"If you listen to what young people themselves are saying, it is new and better legal services that have caused the decrease in file-sharing, rather than respect for the law. There has been a trend where alternative legal solutions such as Spotify and Netflix are changing consumption patterns among young people."
Particularly striking is the following statistic:
Interestingly, in that same four-year period, the percentage of young people who said they believe that people should not share files because it is illegal dropped from 24 percent to 16.9 percent. So, even while young people are sharing files less often, their acceptance of the standards presented by the law appears to be dropping too.
In other words, we need not only more good-quality services, but also copyright reform to bring the law into line with today's views.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 7:51am
from the now-that's-impressive-journalism dept
A few days ago, someone pointed me to this article from the Australian ABC news, which presumes to make statements concerning an interview that Ed Snowden gave to the Brazilian Globo TV:
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, wanted by US authorities and currently living in Russia, has told a Brazilian TV network he has applied for asylum in Brazil and is in possession of more sensitive documents.That struck me as strange, given earlier statements, including from Snowden himself, that he no longer has any access to any of the documents. As for the application for asylum, last year, Snowden had sent an open letter to Brazil, in which he doesn't actually ask for asylum, but hints that he'd be interested if there were a way to work out the details.
"I would love to live in Brazil," Snowden told Globo TV on Sunday (local time).
[....] He said he had more documents to release, relating to US spying on countries that include Britain and Brazil.
Thankfully, the full Globo TV episode is available online and was conducted in English. And what you quickly discover is whoever wrote that ABC story, is plainly misrepresenting what was said (thanks to Blair Chintella for pointing out exactly where). Early in the interview, Snowden clearly says that he destroyed all the documents. Later in the interview (around minute 40) he's even more direct in contradicting the ABC report:
Sonia Bridi (Globo TV): Every now and then, the American press says that you would offer Brazil documents in exchange for asylum. Is that an offer that's on the table?And somehow, that gets turned into: "Snowden... has told a Brazilian TV network he has applied for asylum in Brazil and is in possession of more sensitive documents." Incredible. As the reporter from the TV interview herself tweeted later, the report is simply factually incorrect. It was Greenwald who still said he had more documents. While the difference may seem minor, it's very, very big, since Snowden is the one who could use asylum, and his critics would jump on either bogus claim: that he had lied about earlier destruction of documents or that he'd "trade" documents for asylum, as suggested in the report. But neither of those things are true.
Snowden: Absolutely not! I could not be more clear. First off, I don't have any documents to offer. Secondly, even if I did, I would never trade secret information or cooperate with some government in exchange for asylum. Asylum has to be granted on humanitarian grounds. It has to be granted to protect political rights or the right to safety. This whole topic about negotiating for asylum, I think, is improper. If Brazil wants to offer asylum, if they want to stand for human rights, if they want to protect the rights of whistleblowers, I think that's a good thing, and I would certainly encourage and support it -- whether it's in my case, or the case of anyone. But I would never engage in any sort of "deal" or quid pro quo exchange.
And you wonder why people don't trust the press so much these days.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 5:51am
from the we're-number-1! dept
There was a point right after the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square when the party realized, you know, our propaganda is not working, otherwise all these young kids wouldn't have come down to the middle of the capital and held demonstrations for weeks and weeks. And in fact, for a time, they talked about getting rid of the propaganda system completely. And instead they did they opposite, and they doubled down on it.Yes, congratulations to Judith Miller and the NY Times! You're now the very model for how China runs its propaganda operations. Oh, wait, did I say "propaganda"? I meant, "PR." Even China has changed the name of its propaganda department. Osnos talks about this a big building in the center of Beijing, where there are no signs, and no one will tell you what goes on in there. But it houses the Central Propaganda Department. Or it did. Until they changed the name.
And what they said was, we need to become much more sophisticated about how we conduct what's known as Chinese as thought work. And so they began to study the masters, really. They began to study the United States and the origins of public relations culture. So they went back and they actually - if you look in the textbooks for Chinese propaganda officials today, some of the things that they cite are the success of Coca-Cola. They say, if you can sell sugar water in effect to people, well, then we can sell anything at all.
They also looked very admiringly at the way that the Bush administration dealt with the press in the run-up to the war in Iraq. They think this is an example of a successful relationship with the press. They also look at the way that Tony Blair's government in Britain handled the media around the issue of mad cow disease. And so there's been this real effort to study what's been done in the West and to take from it the best attributes - or at least the most efficient and effective attributes of the free-market public relations industry.
So a few years ago, they actually changed the name of the Central Propaganda Department in English. They changed it to the Central Publicity Department. But I've always found it ironic that the Central Publicity Department has no sign and no address.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 3:49am
from the he-who-laughs-last-is-probably-someone-with-more-power dept
Because no form of school-related misbehavior can be allowed to escape law enforcement's attention these days, a Prior Lake, Minnesota school has turned a recent prank over to its "liaison officer" for investigation.
To be sure, the prank is ill-mannered, tasteless, offensive and sexist -- something that will only narrow down the list of suspects to male high school students. (I've buried the photo of the prank letter below the fold -- sort of NSFWish.)
Some student or students mocked up an official looking letter (using the school district's logo no less) informing female students (and their parents) that a "mandatory vagina inspection" would need to be completed in order to be eligible to graduate. The letter cites "Minnesota Health Code 69" as the impetus for the impromptu inspection, and requests the removal of any piercings.
It goes on from there, using the same sort of stilted language deployed by many official school announcements, only with many more appearances by the word "vagina." The whole thing is crass on every level, and there's no way anyone would believe it originated from a school official.
Despite the fact the school can't find any evidence it was created on campus, it has still decided to move forward with an investigation.
After the school’s police liaison officer saw a tweet about it on Tuesday, Principal Dave Lund sent out an e-mail to parents explaining that administrators “are aware of this letter, and we are addressing the issue internally.”All well and good, if you're the sort of person who believes that no bad joke should go unpunished. Obviously, the lack of on-campus misbehavior ties the district's hands. This explains its decision to hand it to the liaison officer, who can move freely between these two worlds and use the combined force of school policy and criminal statutes to nail the dastardly perpetrators who amused mostly themselves with this effort.
[Kristi] Mussman [school district spokeswoman] said the prank was “done in extremely poor taste” and administrators were “disappointed.”
Determining who wrote the letter is a police matter. The liaison officer has “some strong leads,” she said.
I'm sure the situation was slightly embarrassing for the school, but it had to be at least as embarrassing for any parent who got their huff on and rang the school, demanding to speak to "Barry McCockiner," the "director of vaginal corrections."
If anything, the prank runs afoul of federal law, which states that you're only allowed to cram unwelcome letters into mailboxes if you've paid the proper postage… and allow a uniformed postal employee to do the actual cramming. As horrifying as the phrase "violated federal law" sounds, the most likely outcome would be a small fine on par with paying the postage for the number of letters hand-delivered by the letter's author(s).
What may be worse is the imaginative reading of other, non-applicable laws performed by the liaison officer, who may be encouraged to make an example of high school boys acting exactly like high school boys. As this investigation continues, the school is attempting to finish the year out on a positive note.
Lund said that with only weeks of school left, staff members and students are trying not to dwell on the prank. “We are moving forward to finish our year strong,” he said. “We have a very good student body … and we are not going to let this prank diminish the positive performance of our students.”Well, "not dwelling" on the prank would be a whole lot easier if you'd rein in the officer. The last thing you want as summer approaches is a bunch of negative press should this prank result in arrests, prosecution, or even in the best case scenario, the declaration that it violated school policy despite occurring completely off-campus. Your student body will move on more quickly if you actually just let it go. You can't harm the positive performance of your students, but you still have the power to deliver a ton of self-inflicted wounds.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 5th 2014 12:44am
from the it's-about-time dept
This actually hit home for us, because we had actually started exploring the very possibility of going full on SSL about a month earlier, and realized that we'd be giving up ad revenue to do it -- but, after thinking about it, we decided to do so anyway. Over the last few months, we've actually ended partnerships with a few ad providers who were unprepared and unwilling to support full SSL, and set ourselves up to make the full switch. In fact, we've quietly made sure that most of the site was fully SSL-capable for quite some time now. And, today, in conjunction with the Reset the Net campaign in honor of the first anniversary of the very first Ed Snowden revelation, we've officially flipped the switch to make the site fully SSL. While we've been quietly testing it for a while now, and it's been working fine, it's possible that some of you will come across errors or issues along the way -- so please let us know if you come across any problems.
I also believe that a number of other sites, including, potentially, some media sites, are making the leap as well, so we're not alone in this -- and I hope that Soghoian is busy sending out whiskey bottles (though, no need to send any here, thanks!). Either way, we believe that this is important in protecting your privacy and security, even if it means less ad revenue for us, and it's great to see websites across the internet doing a variety of things to make users more secure, whether it's better encrypting email, or adding more protection for their own users. It's a huge testament to how much Snowden has made the world aware of the importance of greater encryption.
While we still have some ads on the site -- from providers who were actually willing to support SSL -- we are still taking a cut in revenue in doing this. As such, if you'd like to help keep this site going strong, we'd like to remind you of the other ways you can support us via the Insider Shop, where you can become an Insider, and get access to our Insider Chat or the Crystal Ball to get access to stories before anyone else. Or you can go all in with the Behind the Curtain offering, giving you access not just to the Insider Chat and the Crystal Ball, but the special "Crystal Ball Plus" that shows you many more stories before everyone else. See stories we're working on days or even months ahead of time -- and talk about them with us as well. We also have opportunities to get lunch with me or, even, spend a whole day with us (this has been a lot of fun for the folks who have done it). We also have a bunch of merchandise, including our popular "seized" t-shirt. If you don't want to do any of that, then just keep on doing what you've already been doing, coming here every day, reading, sharing, commenting and discussing. Just know that you're doing it in a way that protects your privacy.