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Sony issues fraudulent takedown for Blender's open source movie


Alex writes, "This is a very good example of copyright abuse. The official Blender Foundation copy of Sintel on Youtube is currently blocked because Sony apparently claimed copyright over it. This is particularly distressing because Sintel is one of the precious few open-source movies in existence. Made with open-source tools, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0, with the source files from the movie free to download, Sintel represents the diametric opposite of this type of ownership. "

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Big Data has big problems


Writing in the Financial Times, Tim Harford (The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, Adapt, etc) offers a nuanced, but ultimately damning critique of Big Data and its promises. Harford's point is that Big Data's premise is that sampling bias can be overcome by simply sampling everything, but the actual data-sets that make up Big Data are anything but comprehensive, and are even more prone to the statistical errors that haunt regular analytic science.

What's more, much of Big Data is "theory free" -- the correlation is observable and repeatable, so it is assumed to be real, even if you don't know why it exists -- but theory-free conclusions are brittle: "If you have no idea what is behind a correlation, you have no idea what might cause that correlation to break down." Harford builds on recent critiques of Google Flu (the poster child for Big Data) and goes further. This is your must-read for today.

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Animation: How Google views user privacy

Mark from Screen Novelties sends us "This little animation we did for Google regarding user privacy. We happened to direct this at the same time the whole Snowden/NSA stuff went down last year. Google finally decided to release this to the public a few days ago. Just wanted to share. It's done in stop motion to give the feeling of the old school board games."

Way of a Warrant

Eric Schmidt on the NSA* (*translated from original bullshitese)

Bruce Schneier: "At SXSW earlier this month, CEO Eric Schmidt tried to reassure the audience by saying that he was 'pretty sure that information within Google is now safe from any government's prying eyes.' A more accurate statement might be, 'Your data is safe from governments, except for the ways we don't know about and the ways we cannot tell you about. And, of course, we still have complete access to it all, and can sell it at will to whomever we want.'" Cory 22

Google Maps' spam problem presents genuine security issues


Bryan Seely, a Microsoft Engineer demonstrated an attack against Google Maps through which he was able to set up fake Secret Service offices in the company's geo-database, complete with fake phone numbers that rang a switch under his control and then were forwarded to real Secret Service offices, allowing him to intercept and record phone-calls made to the Secret Service (including one call from a police officer reporting counterfeit money). Seely was able to attack Google Maps by adding two ATMs to the database through its Google Places crowdsourcing tool, verifying them through a phone verification service (since discontinued by Google), then changing them into Secret Service offices. According to Seely, the disabling of the phone-verification service would not prevent him from conducting this attack again.

As Dune Lawrence points out, this is a higher-stakes version of a common spam-attack on Google Maps practiced by locksmith, carpet cleaning, and home repair services. Spammers flood Google Maps with listing for fake "local" companies offering these services, and rake in high commissions when you call to get service, dispatching actual local tradespeople who often charge more than you were quoted (I fell victim to this once, when I had a key break off in the lock of my old office-door in London and called what appeared to be a "local" locksmith, only to reach a call-center who dispatched a locksmith who took two hours to arrive and charged a huge premium over what I later learned by local locksmiths would have charged).

A detailed post by Dan Austin describes this problem, points out that Google is more than four years late in delivering promised fixes to the problem, and offers solutions of his own. He suggests that the high Google Adwords revenue from spammy locksmiths and other services is responsible for the slow response to the problem.

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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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Mapping ecotpian jungles onto Google Streetview


Urban Jungle Street View is a Google Street View mashup that pulls out the 3D information latent in the Streetview database and uses it to map lush, ecotopian foliage over the surfaces of the buildings and street furniture. You can put your own address in and see your home covered in climbing jungles and explore from there, or use great architectural landmarks as your starting point. Shown here: the Flatiron building in midtown Manhattan, where my publishers are located.

Its creator, Einar Öberg, has created a ton of other amazing mashups based on similar principles.

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Youtube bids happy 25th to the Web by granting British spies mass-censorship power

The service will allow British security officials to censor videos "at scale" -- but not illegal videos, just material that "certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive." The new "super flaggers" will target jihadi radicalisation videos and, basically, anything they don't like. But what could go wrong? Thanks, Google!

Update: Turns out the British spies who made these claims were lying.

Comment-spammers threaten to sabotage their victims through Google Disavow if the evidence of their vandalism isn't removed

Tim got an email from someone trying to get rid of comment spams -- ever since Google started punishing sites that left comment spam on blogs, this has been going on a lot. When Tim told the guy to buzz off, he threatened Tim with sabotage by means of Google's "Disavow" tool, growing progressively more abusive as Tim stood his ground.

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Full NHS hospital records uploaded to Google servers, "infinitely worse" story to come

PA Consulting, a management consulting firm, obtained the entire English and Welsh hospital episode statistics database and uploaded it to Google's Bigquery service. The stats filled 27 DVDs and took "a couple of weeks" to transfer to Google's service, which is hosted in non-EU data centres. This is spectacularly illegal. The NHS dataset includes each patient's NHS number, post code, address, date of birth and gender, as well as all their inpatient, outpatient and emergency hospital records. Google's Bigquery service allows for full data-set sharing with one click.

The news of the breach comes after the collapse of a scheme under which the NHS would sell patient records to pharma companies, insurers and others (there was no easy way to opt out of the scheme, until members of the public created the independent Fax Your GP service).

According to researcher and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre, this story is just the beginning: there's an "infinitely worse" story that is coming shortly.

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How Youtube's automated copyright system lets big music screw indie creators

Nerdcore rapper Dan Bull earns a good living from his Youtube videos, but he is constantly being dragged away from the studio to fight fraudulent copyright claims from major labels, who are able to censor his work with impunity. The video for his 2010 song I'm Not Pissed has been removed ten times by automated, fraudulent claims from the likes of BMG Rights Management and PRS, who face no consequences for lying about their involvement with his work.

In a new song called Fuck Content ID, Bull slams Google's automated Content ID takedown system, documenting his woes at the hands of Big Content, and with Google, who collaborate in a system of copyfraud that neither one seems to care about.

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How to configure Chrome to stop websites from bugging you with your computer's microphone and camera


Under Chrome's security model, a website that gets your permission to access your mic and camera once keeps it forever, regardless of which page is loaded -- so you might authorize an app running on one page of Github to use your mic, and thereafter, every Github page you visit can listen in on you automatically, without you getting any indication that this is going on. Google maintains that this is the right way for Chrome to behave -- that it complies with the relevant W3C standard.

Google has created a fix for this, but have not pushed it to Chrome users. If you want to protect your camera and mic from sneaky or unintended remote operation and you use Chrome, you'll need to take some extraordinary measures, which are laid out in this Lifehacker post. The simplest thing is to disable camera/mic access in Chrome altogether, but that sucks if there are some instances in which you'd like to have them switched on.

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How techies can be part of the solution in San Francisco


The brewing class-war in the Bay Area between tech companies and people who aren't inside the bubble (and are finding themselves priced out of their hometown), has produced almost no useful discourse. Anil Dash has some "stupid simple" suggestions for tech workers in San Francisco who want to move the conversation forward and do something constructive to make themselves part of the solution to San Francisco's problems:

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Canadian Recording Industry Association of America demands Internet censorship and control of search-results

Graham Henderson, the chief spokesjerk for Music Canada -- the voice in Canada for the big US labels represented by the RIAA -- wants Parliament to regulate the Internet, creating a regime of censorship and surveillance in the name of protecting Canadian musicians (whose worst enemy, it must be noted, are the labels who pay Henderson's handsome wages, and not the fans he wants to attack). Henderson wants to control search-engine rankings because, he claims, the first seven pages' of results for Canadian musicians are pirate sites. Only one problem: he's lying. (via /.) Cory 4

HOWTO prevent people from sending to your Gmail account via Google Plus

Google continues to try and cram its users into Google Plus, its also-ran social network. The latest move allows people who don't have your Gmail address to send email to your Gmail account by using your Google Plus ID. I have a Gmail account that's associated with my Android devices and the last thing I want is for people to start sending email there. Thankfully, there's a way to opt out (though it would have been much better if it was opt-in). Tl;dr: Gmail -> Settings -> Email via Google+ -> Off. (via Cnet) Cory 45