by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 28th 2013 3:33am
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 24th 2013 3:45pm
from the join-in dept
If you haven't been following, a very large coalition of folks worried about NSA surveillance activities have put together the Stop Watching Us Rally, taking place on this Saturday in DC. As folks prepare for the rally, it appears to be gaining a lot of steam and support, including via an excellent new video featuring a combination of politicians, actors, activists and whistleblowers talking about the importance of our privacy.
The NSA's supporters keep acting like this is no big deal and it will all blow over, but that seems less and less likely.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 6th 2012 8:02pm
from the about-time dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 29th 2012 12:41pm
from the first,-do-no-harm dept
The wildly different clock speeds of Moore’s Law and Washington law, however, make for increasingly damaging collisions at the intersection of technology and public policy. Even with the best of intentions, lawmakers, regulators, and judges can’t possibly anticipate tomorrow’s innovative products and services. Nor can they guess how specialized legislation, thrashed out over the course of years and infected by lobbyists and special interests, will return to haunt us when technology inevitably changes.However, regulators often don't understand this at all. They think that the quick pace of innovation means that companies themselves should slow down -- and that it's their job to force them to do so. Downes shares this troubling story:
Faced with the unknown unknowns of dramatically new products—social networks, location-based ads, driverless cars–the best advice for governments is simply to leave them alone. Don’t just do something, stand there. At least until it’s crystal clear that the market has failed, consumers are being harmed, and that lawmakers have a remedy that won’t make things worse.
At a conference I attended over the summer, on the other hand, the Federal Trade Commission’s Julie Brill got it dangerously wrong. Given the novelty of policy problems in privacy, cybersecurity and competition in the fast-changing Internet ecosystem, Brill argued, both Washington and Silicon Valley should proceed with caution. “Regulators need humility,” she said, “but so do companies.”That's not to say that there isn't room for any regulations -- but as Downes notes, the thing that DC should be most focused on is "fixes to previous government efforts that tried but failed to fix a problem that turned out not to need a regulatory solution." Other industries seem to want handouts and investments and the like, but you don't see that much in Silicon Valley.
The dynamism of the Internet ecosystem certainly calls for more humble trade policy. But the last thing we want is for companies to slow down so Washington can catch up. In Silicon Valley, we have a special name for humble start-ups. We call them failures.
I was recently on a call with some entrepreneurs and some government officials, in which we were discussing a few laws -- and the government folks kept asking the entrepreneurs if they needed help protecting against copycats (generally foreign ones). The entrepreneurs kept ignoring the question -- and it kept getting asked. Eventually, someone on the call said: "Um. No. Look, someone's going to copy us. We know that. But we don't care because we know we can innovate faster than anyone who copies us." The government folks seemed confused, with one saying something to the effect of "that's great if you can do that, but..." But that really is the difference in mindsets. Entrepreneurs really just want to build stuff and are confident (sometimes too confident) in their own abilities to compete. We don't want government handouts -- we want government to get out of the way.
That's not to say companies should be free to do absolutely anything, but as Downes notes, we don't need the government fiddling around where there is no evidence of real harm. If there is harm, then you can understand why it can make sense to get involved -- but too often government officials seem to think they should get involved just because there's a possibility of harm, or because a competitor got beaten. But that's not good for innovation and it's not good for the public.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 26th 2012 1:17pm
One Day After DC Police Told Not To Interfere With Citizens Recording Them... Police Seize Man's Phone
from the but-of-course dept
It appears that some police officers didn't read the memo.
As noted by Ars Technica, the day after the policy was announced, a police officer seized a guy's camera for recording police activities. They did eventually give the phone back but kept the memory card and the guy is pissed off because the card supposedly has hundreds of photos of his daughter on there.
The DC police say that they're "looking into" the report. It would be nice to see them follow up on their original policy statement with a clear rebuke of the officers involved.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 25th 2012 8:12am
from the they're-not-First-Amendment-'privileges' dept
However, some good news (disguised as common sense) has arrived in the form of the Washington D.C. police force's new cell camera policy. Put together as part of a settlement with Jerome Vorus, who sued the city (with the ACLU's help) after Georgetown police told him to stop taking photos of a traffic stop, the new policy pretty much reflects how most citizens feel the system should have been working all along, which means it's a drastic departure from the way many law enforcement camera policies are worded (if they have them at all).
Washington D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier takes care to (re)inform the officers of the public's constitutional rights and details specifics to hopefully eliminate loopholes and "workarounds." Perhaps the boldest statement is in regards to recording police activity, which minces no words upholding the public's First Amendment rights:
"A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media," Chief Lanier writes. The First Amendment protects the right to record the activities of police officers, not only in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but also in "an individual’s home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present."It gets even better. Not only are officers prevented from preventing the recording from happening, they are also not allowed to use vague terms like "obstruction" or the ever-popular (but not a real crime) "contempt of cop" to halt recordings.
Lanier says that if an officer sees an individual recording his or her actions, the officer may not use that as a basis to ask the citizen for ID, demand an explanation for the recording, deliberately obstruct the camera, or arrest the citizen. And she stresses that under no circumstances should the citizen be asked to stop recording.
That applies even in cases where the citizen is recording "from a position that impedes or interferes with the safety of members or their ability to perform their duties." In that situation, she says, the officer may ask the person to move out of the way, but the officer "shall not order the person to stop photographing or recording."Another aspect that Lanier has covered is the seizure of cell phones or cameras, often done under the auspices that footage or photos might be "evidence." This gathering of "evidence" has been abused frequently as well, often resulting in the destruction of "evidence" that reflects badly on the officers involved. Other times, any sort of "evidence" pretext is tossed out completely, with officers seizing cell phones/cameras simply to remove damaging footage. D.C.'s new policy will make this sort of behavior much more difficult (although, certainly not impossible).
She also notes that "a person has the right to express criticism of the police activity being observed."
Lanier's directive addresses another scenario that is becoming increasingly common: a civilian takes a photograph or recording that a police officer believes could constitute evidence of a crime. Under Lanier's directive, an individual cop cannot take a recording device away from a citizen without his or her consent. "Consent to take possession of a recording device or medium must be given voluntarily," she writes.D.C. law enforcement members are also instructed that they may not "under any circumstances" erase or delete images and sound from seized recording devices and that these devices must be maintained and returned intact, with all data present, to the owners at the end of the investigation.
In the event that the cop believes the recording is needed for evidence but its owner isn't willing to part with it, the officer is required to call his supervisor. The device or recording media can be seized only if the supervisor is present, only if "there is probable cause to believe that the property holds contraband or evidence of a crime," and only if "the exigencies of the circumstances demand it or some other recognized exception to the warrant requirement is present."
This is all a huge step forward for the public's relationship with law enforcement. Removing the false "expectation of privacy" that has shielded many bad actors is an important change and reasserting the public's First Amendment rights as trumping law enforcement's antagonistic attitude toward observation is very definitely a win for US citizens. It's somewhat unfortunate that it took a lawsuit, the ACLU and a forward-thinking police chief to "restore" these rights, but having a new policy publicly deliver this message should temper future interactions between the public and those sworn to protect them.
The real test will come when violations are reported. The policy itself has a lot of verbal teeth but there are many badly-behaving police officers who have run afoul of the laws they were hired to uphold and escaped with little more than some stern words and paid vacation. If D.C. can take the lead, both in instituting a tough set of policies and, more importantly, enforcing these policies, one would hope that the rest of the nation's police forces would look to this as the model on which to base their own policies.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 10th 2012 10:19am
from the regulatory-capture dept
As we noted in our earlier post, Cheh had said all along that the amendment was actually an attempt to legalize Uber, after a Taxicab Commission "sting" earlier this year, which claimed that Uber was acting illegally. In response to all of this, Cheh seems upset, since she says that she worked with Uber to create the amendment, and was blindsided by the criticism:
"Several months ago, Uber contacted me and asked to work together to legalize services like Uber in the District... Since then, I have met with Uber many times, negotiated in good faith, and believed that I had reached an agreement with them last week."Others have suggested that parts of the amendment could be acceptable if they remove the minimum pricing rules. Uber, for its part, claims that it's always believed the service was legal in DC, so it never believed that the amendment was needed to "make it legal." For what it's worth Uber clearly has benefited from this fight, as it drew an awful lot of publicity to the company's presence in DC (and elsewhere). Either way, it seems difficult to see how regulating a high price benefits Uber.
And, in the end, what you're left with are questions about why taxi licensing needs to be so restrictive and so all-encompassing. Are there concerns about keeping passengers from being ripped off and keeping them safe? Sure, but there seem to be ways to deal with that which don't involve entirely regulating every aspect of the market, limiting competition and setting the actual pricing. But, in the end, as we've seen in other markets, those in regulated markets tend to figure out ways to use the regulations to their own advantage...
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 10th 2012 3:03am
from the can't-have-competition dept
Over the last few years, a few startups have tried to disrupt this market -- and they always get attacked for it, either by local cab/limo services or the local officials in charge of regulating the market. The most well known of these companies is Uber, who is looking to really disrupt the market with a service that they admit is more expensive, but which provides really amazing convenience and service in exchange. Users of Uber love the service, in my experience. A couple weeks ago, I was in Chicago to speak at a conference, and Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, spoke at the same event, with a really entertaining talk -- much of it about how every time he tries to disrupt a market, legacy players get really, really pissed off at him.
As part of that talk, he discussed the situation in Washington DC, where the local Taxicab Commission Chairman, Ron Linton, ran a "sting" to claim that Uber was violating DC laws. Since then there's been a lot of back and forth in the fight in DC, leading to a new set of regulations that are being introduced. Of course, as is typical of taxi/limo regulations, they often say one thing but mean the exact opposite. In this case, the Taxicab Commission appears to be positioning the new regulations as being designed to make Uber "legal,", but, as Uber's Kalanick notes in a blog post, it includes some really poisonous provisions that require Uber to charge at least 5 times what a taxi charges. They're not even subtle about this. As the text of the bill reads:
(c) (1) The minimum fare for sedan-class vehicles shall be five times the drop rate for taxicabs, as established by 31 DCMR § 801.3 (a).The DC Taxicab Commission claims this is to "ensure that sedan service is a premium class of service with a substantially higher cost that does not directly compete with or undercut taxicab service." But why? We don't do this in any other market. We don't tell nice restaurants that they must charge more than fast food restaurants, so as not to compete. We don't tell Apple that it must charge more for computers so that they're seen as "premium" devices. We let the market work things out. That's what enables disruptive innovation and competition to take place.
(2) The time and distance rates for sedan-class vehicles shall be greater than the time and distance rates for taxicabs, as established by as established by 31 DCMR § 801.3 (b) and (c).
What's amazing here (and, to a lesser extent, in nearly every major city in the US) is how they effectively admit that they don't want competition, they don't want innovation. They want a protected market that is artificially inflated. Why would the people of DC accept this kind of thing?
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 6th 2012 7:21am
from the bite-my-shiny-metal-ass dept
It's been a bit of time since then, but Halderman has released the academic paper they wrote about the experience, which is now getting some new attention, including the fact that, beyond playing the UMich fight song, they also installed their own slate of "fictional" candidates, including Bender from Futurama, who is presumably running on a Kill All Humans platform.
The full paper has some other interesting tidbits, as well, including the fact that they didn't just hack into the e-voting machines... but also accessed the security cameras watching the e-voting servers, which were left open to public access. I'm not kidding.
These webcams may have been intended to increase security by allowing remote surveillance of the server room, but in practice, since they were unsecured, they had the potential to leak information that would be extremely useful to attackers. Malicious intruders viewing the cameras could learn which server architectures were deployed, identify individuals with access to the facility in order to mount social engineering attacks, and learn the pattern of security patrols in the server room. We used them to gauge whether the network administrators had discovered our attacks—when they did, their body language became noticeably more agitated.Either way, the entire thing suggests just how insecure e-voting can be, and the paper suggests these are fundamental, systematic problems with any e-voting approach these days, rather than just a poor implementation.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 24th 2012 5:46pm
from the not-cool dept
The latest is the news that tonight (as we post this), a bunch of big companies who employ some of the key lobbyists supporting the extreme nature of TPP... are hosting a fancy, expensive dinner in Washington DC. The dinner is sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce, Philip Morris, Chevron, PhRMA, Microsoft, Pfizer, Amgen, Dow Chemical, among others... and the ambassadors from the TPP countries will all be in attendance (though we've heard, but don't have confirmation, that Australia just pulled out after realizing how bad this looked).
The next round of TPP negotiations take place next week in Australia, so it's nice that the corporate interests pushing an extreme version of the agreement get to wine and dine all of the key negotiators at an expensive and closed off dinner in DC, huh? Public interest groups? They just found out about the dinner today and (as you might expect) really aren't welcome.
What's amazing to me is how incredibly tone deaf the USTR and the US government is to how this appears. The USTR is negotiating a massive agreement that will change IP laws in pretty significant ways which clearly could favor some of these large companies. And just days before they're set to negotiate... they're letting some of the biggest special interests supporting an extreme vision for TPP buy them a fancy dinner? Even if you can believe that they're not actually influenced by this, do they not realize just how bad this looks?