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Anti-video-game California politician indicted for gun-running

California Senator Leland Yee has been indicted, along with 25 others, in an organized crime bust that includes charges of wire fraud and firearms trafficking, as well as accepting bribes for legislative action. Yee is best known for sponsoring legislation to limit the sale of "violent" video-games to minors, which federal courts declared unconstitutional and struck down. (via /.) Cory 22

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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Microsoft has always reserved the right to read and disclose your Hotmail messages

Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign (no relation) boastfully compared Hotmail's privacy framework to Gmail's, condemning Google for "reading your mail." Now, Microsoft has admitted that it scoured the Hotmail messages belonging the contacts of a suspected leaker in order to secure his arrest, and points out that Hotmail's terms of service have always given Microsoft the right to read your personal mail for any of a number nebulously defined, general reasons.

The company says that is had an undisclosed "rigorous process" to determine when it is allowed to read and publish your private email. In a statement, it sets out what the process will be from now on (though it doesn't say what the process has been until now) and vows to include the instances in which it reads its users' mail in its transparency reports, except when it is secretly reading the Hotmail accounts of people who also work for Microsoft.

Here's a PGP tool that claims to work with Hotmail, and would theoretically leave your Hotmail messages unreadable to Microsoft, though the company could still mine your metadata (subject lines, social graph, etc).

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Surveillance baron busted by FBI for election-finance fraud


Last week, the FBI arrested Jose Susumo Azano Matsura at his home in Coronado, CA. Azano was a rich, successful surveillance technology vendor who came to prominence by touting ubiquitous, intense surveillance as an answer to social problems and got rich through a no-bid contract to supply surveillance tools to the Mexican military, and expanded to supply Internet surveillance tools through his company Security Tracking Devices, with offices in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

Azano's company supplied bulk-surveillance tools for spying on entire populations, as well as targeted malware intended for secret implantation on victims' laptops and phones to turn them into spy tools. They also sold access to a database, maintained by IBM, of 1.3 million names of people whom governments should be spying on.

Azano was arrested for corruption -- illegal election financing in San Diego. His scandal is just the latest in a string involving con artists, crooks and grafters who go into the spying business. For example, the founder of one major censorware company, doing business with numerous American school districts (as well as autocratic Middle Eastern leaders) was placed on the California sex-offender registry for "sexually interfering with a 14 year old girl."

One of the arguments for surveillance is that only the good guys will be able to peer into the data gathered by the bugs. But the evidence is that the kind of person who decides to get rich by spying on other people is generally not a very good guy, and these people are the people who ultimately have control over the tools that spy on kids, on citizens, on visitors, on Internet users and on members of our governments.

Designing a surveillance regime whose first line of defense is "Come on, we're all good people, what could go wrong?" is either naive or cynical on its face. But to continue to do so when we know that so many surveillance barons are monumentally unfit to serve as honorable guardians of our privacy is just plain evil.

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Militant commander accidentally blows up dozens of trainee suicide bombers

The commander of the Iraqi militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reportedly blew up 21 suicide bombers in training when he made an error during a live explosives exercise. 15 other trainees were injured. The popular imagination paints terrorists as hundred-foot-tall supermen with the power to destroy entire states simply by staring crosseyed at them, but the reality is that people who are willing to be suicide bombers -- and those who exploit them -- may not be very bright at all. Cory 67

Congress: Are you spying on us? NSA: We don't spy on you except to the extent that we spy on everydamnbody


When Senator Bernie Sanders asked the NSA whether it was spying on Congress, he was very clear: "gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business."

When the NSA answered, it was a lot less clear: "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons."

So, we'll take that as a yes, then?

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Pirate Bay uploads up by 50% in 2013


2013 was a banner year for the Pirate Bay, despite having been forced to change domain names half-a-dozen times. The site saw a 50% increase in uploads in 2013, to 2.8 million links, presently being swarmed by nearly 19 million users. The Pirate Bay is reportedly developing a peer-to-peer browser that will be much harder to block using existing censorship techniques.

Pirate Bay Uploads Surge 50% in a Year, Despite Anti-Piracy Efforts [Ernesto/TorrentFreak]

NSA drowning in overcollected data, can't do its job properly

NSA whistleblower William Binney warns that the agency collects so much useless information that it can't process it effectively. The Snowden leaks about the MUSCULAR surveillance program (tapping the fiber links connecting up the data-centers used by Internet giants like Google and Yahoo) corroborate Binney's view: in 2013, NSA analysts asked to be allowed to collect less data through MUSCULAR, because the "relatively small intelligence value it contains does not justify the sheer volume of collection."

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FBI agent tries to copyright super-secret torture manual, inadvertently makes it public

The ACLU has spent years in court trying to get a look at a top-secret FBI interrogation manual that referred to the CIA's notorious KUBARK torture manual. The FBI released a heavily redacted version at one point -- so redacted as to be useless for determining whether its recommendations were constitutional.

However, it turns out that the FBI agent who wrote the manual sent a copy to the Library of Congress in order to register a copyright in it -- in his name! (Government documents are not copyrightable, but even if they were, the copyright would vest with the agent's employer, not the agent himself). A Mother Jones reporter discovered the unredacted manual at the Library of Congress last week, and tipped off the ACLU about it.

Anyone can inspect the manual on request. Go see for yourself!

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Satanists offer "good taste" monument to complement Oklahoma Capitol's Ten Commandments monument


Oklahoma City's state capitol is home to a controversial monument to the Ten Commandments, donated by Broken Arrow Republican Rep. Mike Ritze. The state legislature has been adamant that a religious monument on the lawn somehow didn't violate the principle of separation of church and state. Taking them at their word, NYC's Satanic Temple would like to see a monument to Satanic principles placed on the lawn alongside of it. They're raising funds for monument on Indiegogo, and insist that it will be "in good taste and consistent with community standards." Naturally, the state lawmakers are satisfyingly incandescent at the prospect. The ACLU is suing to abolish religious monuments on the state capital grounds altogether.

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Before GoldieBlox, Beasties plundered the "Girls" melody (fair and square)

While we're on the subject of unauthorized use of musical works: here's a timely (and fully rockin') reminder that the Beastie Boys plundered the melody of The Isley Brothers' Shout for Girls.

Beastie Boys Vs Isley Brothers - Girls Shout (Martinn Bootleg) (Thanks, Hondo!)

Beastie Boys send copyright threat to toy company that remixed "Girls"

The Beastie Boys have sent a legal threat to toymaker GoldieBlox over the company's extremely clever ad, which parodies the Beasties' early track "Girls". The ad rewrites the lyrics (which are pretty terrible in the original) to insist that girls should take control over their world, reject passivity and subservience, and make things (the video accompanies this with the creation of a Rube Goldberg device that ultimately switches off a TV showing girly toy ads).

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Inspired by Snowden, more NSA insiders are blowing the whistle

Jesselyn Radack is a civil liberties attorney with the Government Accountability Project who has been in contact with Edward Snowden. In an ABC News interview, she reported that other NSA insiders have been inspired by Snowden's bravery and sacrifice and have come forward with further revelations about the organization's excess, criminality and lawlessness. She says that the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers has backfired, squandering the administration's credibility with its own operatives and inspiring them to speak out.

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RIAA, BPI websites infringe copyright


TorrentFreak took a close look at the sourcecode for the websites run by the RIAA and its UK equivalent, the BPI, and discovered that they'd made a serious breach of copyright on each. Both sites were using the MIT-licensed JQuery scrips, whose generous MIT license requires only that its users keep its copyright notice intact. The RIAA and BPI (organizations that advocate taking away domains, disconnecting Internet users, and prison sentences for infringement) had both failed to comply with this minimal requirement.

When TorrentFreak asked them for comment, both of said they'd look into it, and swiftly came into compliance with the license.

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Restore the Fourth adopts highway in front of NSA super-center in Utah

Dan sez, "Hi, I'm one of the organizers for Restore the Fourth (Utah) and we've successfully adopted the highway in front of the NSA spy factory in Bluffdale, Utah. Clean up the NSA!"

Fourth Amendment activists adopt a highway next to NSA surveillance center in Utah (Thanks, Dan!)