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Sen Lamar Alexander: if shills have to tell Congress who's paying them, it will "chill speech"

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is one of many Republican legislators who've objected to a new policy at OSHA that requires experts to disclose when they have been funded by parties with an interest in the outcome of regulatory proceedings. According to Alexander, he and his colleagues are "very concerned about OSHA's attempt to have commenters disclose their financial backers," because "the chilling effect the financial disclosure could have seems counter to the idea of robust inclusion of a diverse set of ideas and views to inform the rule-making." The current proceeding is about whether silica in cement poses a health hazard, and OSHA wants to know if the experts it's hearing from have been paid to have an opinion one way or another. Cory 23

Ethiopia: the first "off-the-shelf" surveillance state


"They Know Everything We Do", a new, exhaustive report from Human Rights Watch, details the way the young state of modern Ethiopia has become a kind of pilot program for the abuse of "off-the-shelf" surveillance, availing itself of commercial products from the US, the UK, France, Italy and China in order to establish an abusive surveillance regime that violates human rights and suppresses legitimate political opposition under the guise of a anti-terrorism law that's so broadly interpreted as to be meaningless.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing a victim of Ethiopian state surveillance: Mr. Kidane had his computer hacked by Ethiopian spies while he was in the USA, and they planted spyware that gave them access to his Skype and Google traffic.

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Another judge hands Prenda Law its own ass on a plate

Remember the copyright trolls at Prenda Law, the slippery crooks who claimed that no one actually owned their extortionate racket, that no one made any money from it, and that no one was responsible for it? Yet another judge has called bullshit on them, insisting that they produce financial statements prepared by a chartered public accountant, and dismissing their objections as "attorney speak." Cory 3

Turkish government blocks Youtube to shut down spread of phone recording in which PM conspires to hide millions from investigators


The Turkish government has doubled down on its Internet censorship program, blocking all of Youtube in addition to its ban on Twitter. Despite theories about the political theatre of blocking Twitter, it seems like Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is also genuinely concerned with suppressing a recording of a conversation with his son in which he conspires to hide the money he is thought to have received through corrupt dealing. As with the Twitter block, this one was undertaken as an administrative order from the PM's office, without judicial oversight. The Twitter ban has since been rescinded by the Turkish courts, but the block may not be lifted before the elections.

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Censorship flood: takedown notices to Google increased by 711,887% in four years


The State of the Discordant Union: An Empirical Analysis of DMCA Takedown Notices , a paper publishing in Virginia Journal of Law and Technology by Stanford/NUS's Daniel Seng, documents the vast, terrifying increase in the use of DMCA takedown notices, which are self-signed legal notices that allow anyone to demand that material be censored from the Internet, with virtually no penalty for abuse or out-and-out fraud. The increase is driven by a small number of rightsholders who have automated the process of sending out censorship demands, industrializing the practice. The three biggest players are RIAA, Froytal and Microsoft, who sent more than 5 million notices each in 2012, and at least doubled their takedowns again in 2013. In the four years between 2008 and 2012, the use of takedown notices against Google grew by an eye-popping 711,887 percent.

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Reflections from sketching courtrooms


Molly Crabapple sez, "In the past three years, I've sketched many courtrooms and seen the "widget factory" that is the criminal justice system firsthand. Courtrooms are a violent theater. The violence happens off-scene. The courtroom itself is the performative space, the stage where the best story triumphs, and where all parties, except (usually) the defendant, are just playing parts."

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UK tax authority used anti-terror law to spy on whistleblower who disclosed sweetheart deal for Goldman Sachs


The UK tax authority HMRC abused the country's controversial anti-terrorism law to spy on a whistleblower and journalists at the Guardian after it was embarrassed by the revelation that it had given a sweetheart deal to Goldman Sachs. Osita Mba revealed a government oversight body that HMRC forgave GBP10M in interest owed by Goldman Sachs after a failed tax-evasion scheme, and in the ensuing public furore, HMRC's top executives invoked RIPA, the country's anti-terror law, to spy on its employees and on Guardian journalists in order to discover the identity of the leaker. Under RIPA, HMRC is able to spy on the nation's emails, Internet traffic, text messages, phone records and other sensitive data.

Lin Homer, the head of HMRC has appeared before a Parliamentary committee to explain its use of anti-terror spying powers to uncover the identity of a whistleblower whose personal information is protected by legislation, and was unrepentant, and would not rule out doing it again in the future.

Margaret Hodge, the committee chair, expressed shock at this. But it was under her party's last government, the Blair regime, that RIPA was put into place, over howls of protest from campaigners who predicted that it would be used in just this way.

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Judge tells porno copyright troll that an IP address does not identify a person

In Florida, District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro has dismissed a suit brought by notorious porno-copyright trolls Malibu Media on the grounds that an IP address does not affirmatively identify a person, and so they cannot sue someone solely on the basis of implicating an IP address in an infringement. This is a potentially important precedent, as it effectively neutralizes the business-model of copyright trolls, who use IP addresses as the basis for court orders to ISPs to turn over their customers' addresses, which are then inundated with threatening letters. The porno copyright trolls have a distinctly evil wrinkle on this, too: they threaten their victims with lawsuits that will forever associate the victims' names with embarrassing pornographic video-titles, often with gay themes.

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Obama administration will make tiny, nearly meaningless changes to illegal bulk phone spying


The Obama administration will unveil a plan to sunset the bulk collection of US telephone data by American spies. Instead, it will plunder data that the carriers are required to retain for 18 months (America's spies currently warehouse phone data for five years) on the strength of warrants issued by its secret, rubberstamp Foreign Intelligence "court." This won't take place for at least 90 days, and for those 90 days, the administration expects the "court" to renew the spies' power to harvest bulk phone data as it has until now (despite that fact that Obama's appointed independent commission concluded that this program is illegal). Spies will only be able to explore phone data within two "hops" of their persons of interest, rather than the "three hop" rule they claim they've followed until now. Civil liberties groups are very slightly cheered by all this news.

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AT&T to Netflix: if you don't bribe us to do our job, you're asking for a "free lunch"

AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of Legislative Affairs James Cicconi has written a monumentally stupid attack on Reed Hasting's call for Net Neutrality. Cicconi says, "there is no free lunch, and there’s also no cost-free delivery of streaming movies. Someone has to pay that cost. Mr. Hastings’ arrogant proposition is that everyone else should pay but Netflix."

What Cicconi ignores is that Netflix is paying its ISPs to be connected to the Internet. And AT&T's customers are paying to be connected to the Internet. And AT&T's customers are asking to have the service they are paying for to be connected to the service Netflix is paying for. AT&T is then demanding that Netflix pay it a bribe in order to carry out the service that its customers are paying for.

If you're an AT&T customer paying for a 4MB/s DSL line, you have entered into a commercial arrangement whereby AT&T delivers you the bytes you ask for as quickly and efficiently as it can. You're not entering into an arrangement whereby AT&T can, if it notices that many of its customers really like a service, charge that service for the privilege of giving AT&T customers what they're already paying for.

Imagine if AT&T was a city-bus with an exclusive contract to serve your town, and it noticed that a lot of passengers were getting off at a certain stop every day to visit a restaurant. What AT&T is doing is saying "We will no longer stop near that restaurant unless it pays us a bribe," (and they're hinting, "We will stop at a competing restaurant if they do pay a bribe"). When the restaurant objects, AT&T says, "Hey, there's no such thing as a free lunch."

This isn't "just business" -- it's extortion.

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NSA hacked Huawei, totally penetrated its networks and systems, stole its sourcecode


A new Snowden leak details an NSA operation called SHOTGIANT through which the US spies infiltrated Chinese electronics giant Huawei -- ironically, because Huawei is a company often accused of being a front for the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army and an arm of the Chinese intelligence apparatus. The NSA completely took over Huawei's internal network, gaining access to the company's phone and computer networks and setting itself up to conduct "cyberwar" attacks on Huawei's systems.

The program apparently reached no conclusion about whether Huawei was involved in espionage. However, the NSA did identify many espionage opportunities in compromising Huawei, including surveillance of an undersea fiber optic cable that Huawei is involved with.

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Business Software Alliance accused of pirating the photo they used in their snitch-on-pirates ad


The Business Software Alliance -- a proprietary software industry group -- has pulled a controversial ad that promised cash to people who snitched on friends and employers who used pirated software, after they were credibly accused of pirating the image used in the campaign.

The ad used a photo of a pot of gold, captioned with "Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID." The photo used in the ad was of a cake baked by Cakecentral user Bethasd (the cake itself is pretty amazing! "St. Patrick's Day Pot O' Gold - Chocolate Guinness cake with Bailey's Irish Buttercream").

The BSA has refused to comment on its use of the photo, or to confirm that it was licensed prior to use, but they immediately pulled the ad after being asked about it. Meanwhile, Torrentfreak "encourage[s] 'bethasd' to get in contact with the software industry group, and demand both licensing fees and damages for the unauthorized use of her photo. Surely, the BSA will be happy to hand over a pot of gold to her."

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Debt collectors illegally hound people who don't owe money

A third of people who complain about debt-collectors who break the law say they don't even owe the money under discussion. Of the victims who complained to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about being hounded for money they don't owe, two thirds say they never owed it, and a third say they had already paid it off. Debt-collectors call wrong numbers or hassle people with names similar to those of debtors. They call them at work and at home, and use threats and obscene language when they're told they've got the wrong person. One offender, CashCall Inc, is being sued over its practices, and was separately ordered to refund $14M in debts it collected through fraudulent robo-signing. Cory 46

Turkey blocks Twitter in run-up to election

Juha sez, "Looks like Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan was serious about blocking Twitter (and possibly other social networks) in Turkey in the run-up to the election. Twitter users in Turkey are able to bypass the block though through SMS, and the whole thing could backfire badly on the government there. That Streisand Effect again."

Erdogan is the thug who ordered the vicious crackdown on the Gezi protests, whose government was subsequently rocked by a high-level, multi-billion-dollar money-laundering and corruption scandal that has played out largely in social media. He told reporters: "We will wipe out all of these [social networks]."

Paging Mr Canute, your tide is coming in.

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