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02.13.18

Microsoft-Connected Patent Trolls, Xerox, and Andrei Iancu

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 4:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One irrelevant company bought another (Fuji and Xerox)

Films

Summary: A roundup of news pertaining to Microsoft-connected entities and their patent activity this month; Director Iancu is only loosely connected to one of them (he fought against it)

THE Finjan troll, a Microsoft-sponsored patent troll, has probably received the most press coverage so far this year (among trolls). Its software patents, which had been granted by the USPTO, were mostly thrown away but a single one managed to withstand scrutiny at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).

Finnegan, a very large law firm, still props up this case in order to promote the software patents agenda. They are habitually trying to make one single patent seem like a boon of some kind, neglecting to account for the many patents which actually got invalidated. To quote:

In Finjan, Inc. v. Blue Coat Systems, Inc., No. 2016-2520 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 10, 2018), the Federal Circuit reviewed Finjan’s assertion of two patents related to methods for protecting against malware. The Court (1) affirmed the finding that U.S. Patent No. 6,154,844 (“the ’844 patent”) was patentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101, (2) reversed the district court’s denial of JMOL of non-infringement as to U.S. Patent No. 6,965,968 (“the ’968 patent”), (3) vacated the damages award of the ’968 patent, and (4) remanded the ’844 patent’s damage award, finding that the district court failed to appropriate damages to the infringing functionality.

By this month’s end, based on a new press release, Finjan will have extorted/blackmailed yet another Microsoft rival. A patent troll’s Web site copied the release which says: “Finjan Holdings (FNJN), Inc. (NASDAQ:FNJN), a cybersecurity company, and its subsidiary Finjan, Inc. (“Finjan”), today announced that Finjan’s patent infringement retrial against Blue Coat Systems (BCSI), Inc. (5:15-cv-03295-BLF, “Blue Coat II”), set to start on February 12, 2018, has been vacated. Finjan and Blue Coat’s parent, Symantec Corporation (collectively “Symantec”), have entered into a confidential term sheet. Finjan expects that a definitive agreement will be finalized by no later than February 28, 2018.”

AST, which is connected to Microsoft as well, was mentioned earlier today in relation to the acquisition of some more patents. To quote:

Participants in IP3 2017 included 15 operating companies including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Ford, Honda, and Cisco with nearly $2.5 million spent to acquire 70 active assets.

[...]

More than half of the purchased lots related to Communications technologies. There was an average of 3.68 assets per patent family, with 8 lots having a single U.S. patent, and 5 lots having two U.S. filings.

As a reminder, sometimes we find Xerox feeding trolls that are connected to Microsoft and attack Linux. Such was the case with Acacia a decade ago. It’s also worth remembering that Microsoft historically helped fund ‘IP’ lawsuits against Linux (SCO for instance) and this new case is relevant to it because it helps hide sponsors:

The court overruled plaintiff’s objection to the special master’s order granting in part defendants’ motion to compel the production of documents plaintiff provided to a third party as part of a litigation financing agreement that plaintiff withheld under the common interest doctrine.

There was recently a Xerox takeover (by Fuji) and it’s worth noting that based on this Japanese site, Xerox now “rolls out patent licensing business to SMEs” (just the typical old fairy tale). To quote:

In Japan, a business model for large companies to license their unused patents to SMEs to help such SMEs develop new products or create new business is getting a lot attention lately. Fuji Xerox has been participating in intellectual property business matching between SMEs and large companies since 2016 which is a local government project. Now it has signed a patent license agreement with a company in Yokohama, and made this announcement. This is the first success case in the IP business matching for Fuji Xerox.

Last but not least, Inventors Digest has just noted that the Director of the patent office used to work against Xerox. This article is correct in stating that Director Iancu was on both sides of PTAB disputes. To quote:

Andrei Iancu’s full-Senate confirmation on Feb. 5 as the new director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office marks a new direction during a turbulent time for inventor rights.

The former managing partner at Irell & Manella, a law firm based in the Los Angeles area, succeeds embattled predecessor Michelle Lee. Lee was a supporter of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, an administrative law body of the USPTO that decides issues of patentability. She resigned last June.

The PTAB is currently under fire for inter partes review, a trial proceeding that many say has eroded patent rights. It is expected that by June the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of inter partes review via a ruling in the case Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC.

It isn’t immediately known where Iancu stands on the PTAB and inter partes review. What we know is that he has experience on both sides of IP disputes.

Iancu defended Hewlett–Packard from claims by Xerox that it infringed on a printing technology patent…

Xerox was, by that stage, barely making anything. Does Iancu understand the nature of such entities, which serve nothing but lawsuits and patents?

The Campaign to Subvert the US Patent Office by Misrepresenting Its Successes

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 2:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Two guys

Summary: Figureheads of the patent microcosm (firms that profit from patent chaos) are still meddling in affairs which they intentionally mis-portray, conflating innovation with number of patents and so on

THE new Director of the USPTO completes nearly a week in his new job. He has not said a word yet, not in his capacity as Director anyway. Plenty of people speak (or preach) to him, hoping to influence him on policy. IAM, for instance, has just noted: “Patents just get one mention in Pres. Trump’s new budget (see p.29) https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/budget-fy2019.pdf”

“We are generally seeing the Federal Circuit frequently (about 80% of the time) ruling in favour of PTAB, which falls under the wing of the USPTO.”This is consistent with what we saw before. Trump, Gorsuch (Trump’s SCOTUS pick) and others barely say anything about patents. It’s a mystery. Maybe this whole administration just does’t give a damn about patents, it only speaks of “China” and “IP” in rather vague terms. Either way, Josh Landau (CCIA) has just “said it like it is” in his long blog post about the misinformation that’s relying on a Chamber of Commerce “index” (covered in here a few days ago). His opening statement goes like this:

The Chamber of Commerce produces a yearly ranking of intellectual property systems around the world. This year, they dropped the U.S. patent system to 12th. If I thought their rankings had any merit, I might be concerned by this change. Unfortunately, their analysis is flawed and based on complete misrepresentations of reality.

Earlier this week Watchtroll collated and published texts from the patent microcosm. He wants to tell Iancu (also of the patent microcosm) what to do to the Office. No engineers offer their input; it’s basically a bunch of law firms, just like the one Iancu came from.

Iancu is now inheriting cases formally filed against the interim head of the Office (these are cases against the Office, but for formal reasons a person, such as Michelle Lee, gets specified). One such case is Actelion Pharmaceuticals, Ltd. v Matal — a case which was recently explained as followed:

The Federal Circuit therefore concluded that the USPTO did not err in calculating a 40-day PTA for the ’675 patent under § 154(b)(1)(A)(i)(II), and affirmed the District Court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of the USPTO.

We are generally seeing the Federal Circuit frequently (about 80% of the time) ruling in favour of PTAB, which falls under the wing of the USPTO. In this particular case, which does not involve PTAB, we are seeing this too.

We certainly hope that the Office and the courts will remain in cohesion, loosely indicating that the Office makes the correct decisions (as per judges). The patent microcosm has long attempted to subvert the Office, hoping it would garner more litigation and feuds (which they profit from).

Granting patents just for the sake of granting more of them is almost always a mistake.

Almost All Patent Lawsuits in China Are Filed by the Chinese, But IAM (Cherry) Picks the Exception

Posted in Asia, Patents at 2:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Not Really Complete a Story

A weird poem

Summary: China’s patent office (SIPO) is a pretty one-sided office where Mandarin patents get filed primarily by local firms and lawsuits too are filed by local firms; IAM, however, found a “man bites dog” slant

SIPO, unlike the USPTO, has loosened patent examination — to the point where there are well over a million patent filings per year (almost 1.5 million). We last wrote about China twice on Saturday [1, 2], in both cases in relation to misconceptions that are being spread.

Evidence certainly seems to suggest that China uses patents for economic and competitive advantage over foreign companies, moreover in a way which primarily favours plutocrats in China, i.e. enriching billionaires. IAM has just mentioned this new article from English-speaking media in China/HK. “Surprisingly,” IAM said, “no mention here of fighting back with litigation in China.”

It has become common for companies in China to impose ruinous sanctions on companies as a form of retaliation or at least deterrence. The article says:

Chinese companies exporting to the United States should proactively manage the legal risks of intellectual property infringement and be cooperative should they become entangled in a lawsuit, according to the lead lawyer in a rare courtroom battle won by a Chinese company.

Gary Hnath, intellectual property partner at international law firm Mayer Brown representing Shanghai-listed Zhejiang Medicine in an intellectual property infringement case, said Chinese companies should be adaptive according to the legal system differences between the US and their home market.

Over 90% of patent cases in China, as we noted here about a week ago, originate from Chinese companies/trolls looking to ruin foreign actors or even locals. Sometimes IAM gives the example of Chinese companies against Korean ones, but today it focused on a rare exception by saying that “Honda takes Chinese competitor to Beijing IP Court in rare patent assertion for the Japanese company” [via Robert Current‏] and to quote:

Honda Motor has asserted two patents against Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motors, according to a recent announcement by the Beijing IP Court. The case stands out for being a relatively rare competitor dispute in the automotive sector, as well as one of the very few occasions that we have seen Honda on the plaintiff side of a patent case. As a result, it’s fair to say that this is not a step that the company would have taken lightly.

Where’s IAM coverage about the ruinous effect of China’s patent policy, where large firms are crushing other firms? In our view, sites like IAM would not wish to tell such stories as that might spoil their party line, which basically says something like “China grants many patents, this is so wonderful, so we must too, or else we’ll be left behind.”

Congratulations to Cloudflare on Beating Patent Troll Blackbird Technologies

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 1:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Previously:

Summary: After nearly a year in the court (no doubt an expensive exercise for Cloudflare) the Northern District of California finally dismisses the lawsuit, deeming the underlying claims “[a]bstract ideas [which] are not patentable”

THIS is certain to receive more press coverage soon. We first found out about this nearly 6 hours ago, after this post by Doug Kramer, titled “Bye Bye Blackbird” (with a clever picture, too).

Those are USPTO-granted patents which we wrote about in the summer of 2017 (see index above). To quote Kramer:

As we have talked about repeatedly in this blog, we at Cloudflare are not fans of the behavior of patent trolls. They prey upon innovative companies using overly-broad patents in an attempt to bleed settlements out of their targets. When we were first sued by a patent troll called Blackbird Technologies last spring, we decided that we weren’t going along with their game by agreeing to a modest settlement in lieu of going through the considerable effort and expense of litigation. We decided to fight.

We’re happy to report that earlier today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the case that Blackbird brought against Cloudflare. In a two-page order (copied below) Judge Vince Chhabria noted that “[a]bstract ideas are not patentable” and then held that Blackbird’s attempted assertion of the patent “attempts to monopolize the abstract idea of monitoring a preexisting data stream between a server” and is invalid as a matter of law. That means that Blackbird loses no matter what the facts of the case would have been.

Well done to this legal team. It may have just saved other victims of Blackbird (present and future). Let’s hope we never again hear this troll’s name.

Watch Out for Buzzwords That Are Used to Mask Patents on Software, Even in Europe

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: Blockchain Becomes the Target Not Only of Financial Institutions With Software Patents But Also Trolls

Older:

  1. Blockchain and Bitcoin Patents Help Demonstrate How Software Patents Get Used by Giants to Crush Emerging Technologies (‘Threats’)
  2. Blockchain Domain Infested With Software Patents, MasterCard Among the Culprits
  3. Financial Giants Will Attempt to Dominate or Control Bitcoin, Blockchain and Other Disruptive Free Software Using Software Patents

Blockchain

Summary: The EPO now exploits EPO budget for advocacy of software patents; It’s troubling as it was traditionally the ‘job’ of the patent ‘industry’ and moreover it reveals an EPO so adrift from law and order that it’s a Bavaria-based pariah acting with impunity, posing a threat to software development in the whole of Europe

THE USPTO has been gradually phasing out software patents (owing to Alice and PTAB for the most part). Software patents in Europe, however, continue to spread because the EPO disregards the law. It’s unaccountable and it exploits immunity.

Proponents of software patents in Europe rear their head again. Working around the rules in an effort to patent software may seem legitimate in their minds. “Thanks to my partner Christof Karl for the useful insights on #softwarepatent claim drafting in today’s lunch seminar at the @bardehleIP office,” one of them said. He then continued: “Software is patentable at the @EPOorg if it provides a technical contribution – but there is little guidance on what is actually technical. Lucky to have Stefan Steinbrener on my team, who compiled an extensive “whitelist” of positive Board of Appeal #softwarepatent decisions!”

“The EPO rarely speaks about blockchain, but it certainly says “AI”, “ICT”, “CII”, “4IR” and so on.”So people who profit from patents and (with few exceptions) never wrote a computer program basically get all giddy about fooling examiners. “Those of us practising in the area WISH the EPO were granting software patents as easily as they are made out to be,” one person wrote in response. Here’s a rebuttal: “Also, how is my software copyright protected against patent claims? It’s not. Intellectual property is being stolen by those who can *pay* for patents. That’s why experts in the field want #swpat to be generally excluded. (Yes, single claims as well.)”

I spent the afternoon having some discussion with them about it. They just don’t get it. They don’t write software.

One of the above took it a step further and suggested pursuing software patents using the blockchain hype. He wrote a whole blog post about buzzwords, berating the appeal boards for not using US-favoured buzzwords. To quote:

To my surprise though, there are no (as in absolutely 0) hits for “blockchain”, i.e. it is not mentioned in any board of appeal decision.

Ok, blockchain is a relatively young technology (at least from a patent law perspective) and appeal cases take a couple of years.

Benjamin Henrion called it “yet another computer program. But the EPO might say again it is “technical”.”

The EPO rarely speaks about blockchain, but it certainly says “AI”, “ICT”, “CII”, “4IR” and so on. Buzzwords are a fool’s gold/game/errand. Henrion added that “those last words are inventions themselves. They were created by the patent community.”

“What they don’t say is that this so-called ‘study’ involved the EPO passing money to the media.”“Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR) is a new/latest EPO buzzword. It’s how they avoid speaking about software patents. The EPO used those buzzwords only hours ago (Battistelli will have a whole speech about it in an upcoming IAM conference). The EPO said: “Interested in the Fourth Industrial Revolution? This study looks at the inventions behind the digital transformation…”

What they don’t say is that this so-called ‘study’ involved the EPO passing money to the media. They actively participate in buzzwords promotion and one might say software patents advocacy (at the expense of EPO budget and at risk of corrupting the media).

EPO Opposition to CRISPR Patents Has Wide-Ranging and Far-Reaching Impact, But Mind Not the Lobbyists

Posted in Europe at 12:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Nein!” to patents on humans

Society

Summary: The patent maximalists who strive to bring patent trolls and limitless patents to Europe are losing their battle; this is, for the most part, owing to courageous European examiners who say “no” to patents that aren’t justified

THE EPO‘s Boards of Appeal (maybe even the “enlarged” one) are likely to deal with CRISPR patents some time very soon. That’s because an appeal was reportedly lodged after the Office had shot down a CRISPR patent (even the USPTO does not permit such patents).

“IAM recently began posting copies of its articles in other outlets in an effort to broaden the scope/reach of lobbying.”Jo Pelly and Phil Merchant (Boult Wade Tennant) have just published “G1/16 – Enlarged Board of Appeal confirms EPO practice on undisclosed disclaimers” (a recent decision), but we have not heard anything or seen anything in the news about CRISPR patents at the EPO for about 3 weeks. It’s like a buried subject.

Today, however, IAM brought up the subject again [1, 2]. It said: “There could be CRISPR patent eligibility and licensing troubles ahead, according to biggest-ever study of the global CRISPR patent landscape,” citing this new puff piece which said:

A new study [sic] of the global CRISPR patent landscape released today provides the most detailed insight yet into how entities are seeking to protect their inventions relating to the revolutionary technology.

I already responded to IAM some hours ago. “Sorry, IAM, but patents on CRISPR are verboten,” I told them, “no matter how much you are paid to claim otherwise…”

“As Germany may take several years just to decide on the constitutional complaint, one can say goodbye to the UPC irrespective of what happens in the UK.”As we noted over the weekend, IAM together with Finnegan now lobby for patent maximalism in life sciences. That’s just what it is: lobbying.

IAM recently began posting copies of its articles in other outlets in an effort to broaden the scope/reach of lobbying. Some hours ago IAM pushed this EPO puff piece from “Martin Chatel, Product and Quality Manager and Dennemeyer & Associates in Munich…”

IAM, where Battistelli is a writer right now (soon also a keynote speaker), hasn’t done a good job distancing itself from its EPO connections. Remember that the EPO’s PR firm paid IAM for UPC promotion and speaking of such promotion, Team UPC is obsessing over these things. Alan Johnson (Bristows), for example, is back to publishing misleading ‘articles’ (lobbying) [1, 2]. One of these does not permit comments and the other recently shielded itself from UPC-hostile comments, so don’t expect rebuttals to appear there. The UPC lobby is troubling for all sorts of reasons and it’s now done by just a firm or two (most firms stopped talking about it after the constitutional complaint in Germany).

Speaking of “unitary” effect, Professor Michael Risch wrote about EPO/EPC matters several hours ago, as a case of “country consolidation”. To quote:

Let’s unpack this a little bit. First, for those who were in EPC countries, they continued to file in their home countries and the EPO at the same rate. It’s unclear why – perhaps they wanted the extra chance at protection, or perhaps it was for vanity.

Second, in EPC countries, the rate of invention (measured by patent filings) went up, but only a small amount. But because the rates were pretty low, even a small change was a real change.

Third, foreign patent filing shifted to the EPO almost wholesale. Whereas EPC filers chose both, foreign filers seemed to appreciate the ability to get one patent to cover all countries. The implication I take from this is that EPC filers had some strong reason for that national coverage rather than some worry about overlapping protection if one patent were invalidated.

If one looks at the EPO’s figures, a helluva lot of patents are German and very few are British. That’s not because Brits aren’t inventive but because the EPO is instrumental in all sorts of ways for Germany. As Germany may take several years just to decide on the constitutional complaint, one can say goodbye to the UPC irrespective of what happens in the UK.

Links 13/2/2018: Rise of the Tomb Raider on GNU/Linux, KDE 5.43.0, Qt 5.10.1

Posted in News Roundup at 10:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Annoying Windows 10 sounds could mean deeper problem, or a reason to switch to Linux

      If none of these tips work and you don’t really want to spend a few hundred dollars to fix the machine, I’d suggest switching to a different operating system, like Linux. A version called Ubuntu is more Windows-like and user friendly — and it’s free.

      And a good resource is a Denver company called System 76, which I wrote about a few years ago: “System 76 in Denver shows how easy it is to use Ubuntu Linux computers.” The company sells Linux Ubuntu computers, but last year, it unveiled its own Linux-based operating system called Pop!_os, a trend PCWorld proclaimed “Exciting.”

      Also, if you’re the type of person who prefers hand-holding when it comes to technology, System 76 does offer customer service with their machines — for life.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Foundation: A better marketing plan for your open source software project

      Open source software (OSS) marketing today is unique: it’s a process of co-creating and co-executing a marketing plan with an entire community—developers, end users and vendors. This makes it distinctly different than most traditional technology marketing efforts, which generally focuses on business decision-makers exclusively.

    • Graphics Stack

      • X.Org Server Patches Updated For Non-Desktop & Lease Handling

        Keith Packard has sent out his latest patches for implementing the non-desktop and DRM lease functionality from within the X.Org Server. This work also includes the relevant DDX bits being wired through for the xf86-video-modesetting driver.

        The “non-desktop” handling is the new property for indicating if a display output is not for a conventional desktop use-case, i.e. a VR HMD as the main use-case from Valve’s perspective. When the VR HMD or other non-desktop output is set, it’s not used by the X.Org Server and any desktop window manager so it can be reserved for the SteamVR compositor.

      • RADV Radeon Vulkan Driver Is Still A Better Bet Than AMDVLK In February 2018

        With the AMDVLK Radeon Vulkan driver that AMD open-sourced in December continuing to be updated in weekly batches with new Vulkan extensions / features / performance optimizations and the RADV Mesa-based Radeon Vulkan driver continuing to march to its own beat, I have spent the past few days conducting some fresh benchmarks between the AMDVLK and RADV Vulkan drivers with RX 560, RX 580, and RX Vega 64 graphics cards.

      • Virtualizing GPU Access

        Virtualized GPU access is becoming common in the containerized and virtualized application space. Let’s have a look at why and how.

        For the past few years a clear trend of containerization of applications and services has emerged. Having processes containerized is beneficial in a number of ways. It both improves portability and strengthens security, and if done properly the performance penalty can be low.

        In order to further improve security containers are commonly run in virtualized environments. This provides some new challenges in terms of supporting the accelerated graphics usecase.

      • Local Virtual GPU Display Support Is About Ready For Intel Linux Systems

        Many of you have expressed interest in Intel’s virtual GPU pass-through support “GVT” and with Linux 4.16 the kernel-side bits have come together for local vGPU display support.

        VFIO updates and Intel DRM driver updates needed for local Intel vGPU display support were merged during this month’s Linux 4.16 merge window.

      • libinput 1.10.0
      • Libinput 1.10 Released With Better Palm Detection, Drops Touchpad Hysteresis

        Red Hat’s Peter Hutterer has announced the release of libinput 1.10, the latest feature release of this input handling library used by Wayland-based Linux desktops and optionally by those still using the X.Org Server.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Release of KDE Frameworks 5.43.0

        KDE today announces the release of KDE Frameworks 5.43.0.

        KDE Frameworks are 70 addon libraries to Qt which provide a wide variety of commonly needed functionality in mature, peer reviewed and well tested libraries with friendly licensing terms. For an introduction see the Frameworks 5.0 release announcement.

        This release is part of a series of planned monthly releases making improvements available to developers in a quick and predictable manner.

      • KDE Frameworks 5.43 Released With KHolidays Module, glTF/Coillada Highlighting
      • Hiding Neon LTS Edition

        With the new Plasma LTS came an update to KDE neon LTS Edition and lots of people asking which edition to use and what the difference is. This caused us to review the purpose of LTS and as a result we’ve just hidden LTS from the download page. The only difference with the LTS edition is that it stays on Plasma’s LTS release but apps and libraries still get updates. This doesn’t fit well with the main use cases of an LTS which is that it only gets bug fixes and no new features. Further we test Neon LTS edition less than any other edition so it’s more likely we’ll miss some problem, which is the opposite of what most people would expect. There are distros whose release model fits better with the needs of Plasma LTS but the constant updates of Neon don’t fit too well. We’ll keep the edition around and don’t expect to make any changes to the repositories or builds, they’re useful for devs testing Plasma LTS, but we’re not advertising it for download since it gives a different expectation of what to expect than fits into the release method of Neon.

      • KMarkdownWebView 0.5.0

        The KMarkdownWebView software is for the rendered display of Markdown documents, using web technologies. It implements a C++/Qt-based wrapper around a local webpage with a JavaScript library (“marked”) which creates HTML from the plain text in Markdown format passed in.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Python for GNOME Mobile?

        As you may already know, Python is one of the hottest programming language out there, with thousand of job offerings, so makes sense, at least for me, to push this language as official one for GNOME Mobile applications.

        elementary OS is doing a good job on engagement new developers, while use Vala as its official language. For me, Vala is a good candidate for advanced/performance constrained Mobile applications.

      • Shelved Wallpapers

        GNOME 3.28 will release with another batch of new wallpapers that only a freaction of you will ever see. Apart from those I also made a few for different purposes that didn’t end up being used, but it would be a shame to keep shelved.

        So here’s a bit of isometric goodness I quite enjoy on my desktop, you might as well.

  • Distributions

    • The best rising Linux distros in 2018

      Linux is built for tinkering and experimentation, which means it’s always morphing and changing. New distros are popping up all the time, because all it takes is a little bit of determination, time and effort to create a custom operating system.

      Not all of them hit the mark – there are stacks of Linux distros that have seen little to no action, and we’re almost certain that some have been released and never installed by anyone other than their creator.

    • Kudos to Namib Linux for Making Arch Approachable

      Namib is an ideal Linux distro for anyone who wants to ease into the Arch approach to computing.

      Namib is a newcomer — the third and current release (version 17.11) arrived late last year. However, it makes up for its lack of age by its performance. Namib makes Arch simple.

      Surprisingly very user-friendly as well as compatible with older computers, Namib also is very stable.

      Since Namib is based on the Arch philosophy, it uses rolling releases so you do not have to reinstall the entire operating system every time a major update occurs. The Pacman package manager handles new system components along with security and application updates automatically.

      Namib is very up to date.

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • Spectra-Meltdown mitigation update

        Since we released 4.14.18 yesterday, we now are in pretty good shape with the mitigations, especially on x86_64. We now have bits in place for Spectre v1, v2 and Meltdown.

        Of course over the coming weeks/months there will be more follow-up fixes upstream to cover corner cases, missed fixes and improvements for all of this…

        And we still need Intel and AMD to release microcodes so hardware vendors can release updated BIOS/EFI firmwares and to the public so we can provide microcode updates in case of vendors not providing new BIOS/EFI firmwares.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • SUSE 2017 milestones, a year in the kernel

        As part of a continuing set of analysis posts dedicated to examining major developments across the major (and some lesser) open source Linux distributions, we consider 2017 at open German softwarehaus SUSE.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Version 3.1 of Cura, the 3D print slicer, is now in Debian

        A new version of the 3D printer slicer software Cura, version 3.1.0, is now available in Debian Testing (aka Buster) and Debian Unstable (aka Sid). I hope you find it useful. It was uploaded the last few days, and the last update will enter testing tomorrow. See the release notes for the list of bug fixes and new features. Version 3.2 was announced 6 days ago. We will try to get it into Debian as well.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Skype discuss easing Linux maintenance with snaps

            Skype is used by hundreds of millions of users globally to make free video and voice calls, send files, video and instant messages. It has been two years since Skype first launched to Linux users on the Electron framework. This brings us to the present day, where the team recently launched their first snap and at the recent Snapcraft Summit, Senior Software Engineer Jonas Tajrych explains Skype’s progress from first discovering snaps in 2016 to its release.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

Leftovers

  • Daylight Saving Time isn’t worth it, European Parliament members say

    Earlier this week the European Parliament voted 384 to 153 to review whether Daylight Saving Time is actually worth it. Although the resolution it voted on was non-binding, the majority reflected a growing dissatisfaction with a system that’s been used by the US, Canada, most of Europe, and regions in Asia, Africa, and South America for decades.

  • Science

    • New DNA nanorobots successfully target and kill off cancerous tumors

      Science fiction no more — in an article out today in Nature Biotechnology, scientists were able to show tiny autonomous bots have the potential to function as intelligent delivery vehicles to cure cancer in mice.

      These DNA nanorobots do so by seeking out and injecting cancerous tumors with drugs that can cut off their blood supply, shriveling them up and killing them.

      “Using tumor-bearing mouse models, we demonstrate that intravenously injected DNA nanorobots deliver thrombin specifically to tumor-associated blood vessels and induce intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis and inhibition of tumor growth,” the paper explains.

    • Study finds gender and skin-type bias in commercial artificial-intelligence systems

      Three commercially released facial-analysis programs from major technology companies demonstrate both skin-type and gender biases, according to a new paper researchers from MIT and Stanford University will present later this month at the Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency.

      In the researchers’ experiments, the three programs’ error rates in determining the gender of light-skinned men were never worse than 0.8 percent. For darker-skinned women, however, the error rates ballooned — to more than 20 percent in one case and more than 34 percent in the other two.

    • The Trump administration aims to privatize the International Space Station: report

      In January, The Verge reported that the Trump administration was preparing to end US support for the International Space Station by 2025, prompting outcry from Congressional officials. The Washington Post says that it has viewed an internal NASA document that outlines the agency’s intentions to privatize the station after funding ends in 2024.

    • The ideal smartphone is all screen with no buttons or borders — here’s how close it is to becoming a reality

      Smartphone makers have had us drooling for years over the idea of a phone that’s all screen, with no buttons or borders to interrupt the pure design.

      But try as they might, the concept hasn’t exactly come to fruition. The most popular devices have come with extremely thin bezels — or, like the iPhone X, add a notch toward the top of the phone to house the camera and all its front-facing sensors.

    • State Assembly candidate speaks on reducing science censorship in policy

      A California State Assembly candidate discussed the importance of combating censorship in scientific research at an event at Boyer Hall on Monday.

      Tepring Piquado, who is running to represent California’s 54th State Assembly district, said at the UCLA Science Policy Group’s monthly meeting that legislators must help reduce science censorship by being unbiased when making policy decisions that involve scientific research funding and publicity. Piquado said research censorship can prevent scientific discoveries from best benefiting the public as a whole.

      The Science Policy Group is an organization made up of undergraduate and graduate students that organizes events to advocate for more scientific input in public policy. Jennifer Tribble, a neuroscience doctoral student and president of the organization, said the group is concerned that the current presidential administration does not value evidence-based research.

    • Scientists Discover Hundreds of 2D Materials That Could Be The Next Graphene

      Part of what makes graphene so fantastically useful is its amazing thinness – it’s just one atom thick.

      Scientists have now found hundreds of other materials that are equally thin, providing a wide selection of new materials with perhaps as much potential as graphene.

      The team analysed data in open resources including the Crystallography Open Database, looking for materials with structural similarities to graphene with the help of a custom computer program.

  • Hardware

    • Raspberry Pi VC4 Working On Polishing KMS Support, Continued VC5 Progress

      Broadcom’s Eric Anholt has shared another routine status update about his ongoing work with the open-source VC4 graphics driver supporting current generation Raspberry Pi hardware as well as his work on the next-gen Broadcom VC5 open-source graphics driver.

    • Apple AirPod began smoking in ear, blew apart, says man

      Suddenly, he said, he noticed smoke. It was coming from the area of his right ear. More specifically, the smoke was being emitted from one of his AirPods.

      He says that he immediately put both AirPods on a piece of workout equipment and walked away. By the time he came back, the smoking AirPod appeared to have completely burst apart.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Failing health of the United States

      Life expectancy in the US has fallen for the second year in a row.1 This is alarming because life expectancy has risen for much of the past century in developed countries, including the US. The decline in US health relative to other countries, however, is not new; it has been unfolding for decades (fig 1). In 1960, Americans had the highest life expectancy, 2.4 years higher than the average for countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But the US started losing ground in the 1980s. US life expectancy fell below the OECD average in 1998, plateaued in 2012, and is now 1.5 years lower than the OECD average.2

    • Weeds out of control

      Herbicides can no longer control the weeds that threaten crop productivity and food security in the UK because the plants have evolved resistance, and future control must depend on management strategies that reduce reliance on chemicals.

      A nationwide epidemiological assessment of the factors that are driving the abundance and spread of the major agricultural weed, black-grass, was the focus of collaborative work led by the University of Sheffield, with Rothamsted Research and the Zoological Society of London.

    • Why a simple, lifesaving rabies shot can cost $10,000 in America

      When she woke up the next day, she started to worry about rabies. She went to the local urgent care center, which sent her to the emergency room. It was the only facility that stocked the drugs necessary to treat rabies, a situation that is typical across the United States.

      A few weeks later, the bill arrived: $6,017. The vast majority of the charge was for a drug to treat rabies exposure called immunoglobulin. The emergency room billed this drug at $3,706.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • America has done all it can in Afghanistan — more troops won’t ‘win’ us anything

      There are reports the U.S. Army is readying about a thousand additional troops for deployment to Afghanistan where they will link up with some 14,000 other U.S. service members tasked with an unachievable mission.

      At the same time, this news was drowned about by the latest catastrophic attack, a horrific bombing that left more than 100 dead — The United States Central Command Commander General Votel was even nearby — in the very center of a “secure” district of Kabul.

      The persistence of such violence after 16 years of U.S. intervention raises serious questions about the need for and ability of the United States military to address what is at root an internal Afghan security problem increasingly disconnected from core American security interests.

      I am no stranger to these un-winnable crusades. In early 2011, my own unit flew into Kandahar — part of the last few thousand troops authorized under the Obama “surge.”

      This talk of reinforcement, escalation, and “surging” is nothing new. It is history repeating itself.
      These next 1,000 soldiers will enter the Afghan maelstrom as no less than the fifth surge attempted by military and political “strategists” who are clearly out of ideas (perhaps because there is no military solution to a fundamentally political problem).

    • Raining on the Parade

      Of course Donald Trump wants a military parade. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. It’s just what an insecure narcissist would want. A parade would be the national equivalent of his strutting around like a peacock, dying to turn heads. Even a politician can see that: “I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud,” Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy said. “America is the most powerful country in all of human history; you don’t need to show it off.”

      But harbor no doubts: Trump’s parade will be the biggest, best, and most-watched military parade in history — guaranteed. And I don’t mean just American history.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Report: Britain Pressured Sweden Not to Drop Assange’s Extradition Proceedings 5 Years Ago

      In the latest news about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, The Guardian is reporting Sweden attempted to drop extradition proceedings against Assange five years ago but were pressured to reverse course by British prosecutors. Sweden eventually dropped its investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Assange last year. The news comes just days after a British judge upheld the British arrest warrant for Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012. Another judicial decision is expected on Tuesday, when a British court is scheduled to respond to a motion by Assange’s attorneys, who are attempting to force Britain to drop its arrest warrant for him.

    • New evidence suggests the UK has detained Julian Assange for political reasons

      Swedish prosecutors were considering dropping the extradition proceedings against Julian Assange in 2013, new evidence shows. But the UK government pressured Sweden to keep the case against the WikiLeaks founder going.

      Assange is still in the UK five years later. And these latest revelations are stoking suspicions that the government is keeping him detained for political reasons.

    • Judge to rule on Assange’s bid to escape legal action in Britain

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will hear on Tuesday whether his legal bid to halt action against him for breaching bail has been successful, in a ruling that could pave the way for him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

      Even if a judge rules in his favour, though, he may elect to stay in the embassy, where he has been holed up for almost six years, because of his fear that the United States may seek his extradition on charges related to the activities of WikiLeaks.

      Assange, 46, fled to the embassy in June 2012 after skipping bail to avoid being sent to Sweden to face an allegation of rape, which he denied. The Swedish case was dropped in May last year, but Britain still has a warrant for his arrest over the breach of bail terms.

    • Judgment due on Julian Assange arrest warrant

      A judgment on whether to lift a UK arrest warrant against Julian Assange will be made on Tuesday.

      Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot last week rejected his legal team’s argument that the warrant issued in 2012 was no longer valid because an investigation by the Swedish authorities into a sex-related allegation had been dropped.

    • Could Julian Assange Be on Brink of Freedom?

      A London court will rule on Tuesday whether it would be in the interests of justice to pursue action against WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange for failing to surrender to bail back in 2012.

      If the judge rules in his favor, then Assange, 46, would be free to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has been holed up for more than five years.

    • Assange in new bid to cancel UK arrest warrant
    • Judge to rule on Assange’s bid to escape legal action in Britain
    • Julian Assange saga: judge to rule on arrest warrant
    • Judge to rule on Assange’s bid to escape legal action in Britain
    • UK judge set to rule on WikiLeaks founder’s arrest warrant
    • UK: Assange Awaits Magistrates Court Ruling on Warrant

      The Australian could still face extradition to the United States to answer to charges related to the operations of WikiLeaks.

      Westminster Magistrates Court will return a decision on whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

    • Chelsea Manning, notable for WikiLeaks, to speak at Bard College

      Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for providing government secrets to WikiLeaks, will speak at Bard College in Annandale on Feb. 21.

      “A Conversation with Chelsea Manning” is sold out and will be held at Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Anyone wishing to be placed on the waiting list should arrive at the Fisher Center at 5 p.m. the day of the talk.

    • WikiLeaks Founder Says Received Envelope With ‘White Powder’

      Earlier in the day, media reported that Vanessa Trump, the wife of the US president’s son Donald Trump Jr., had been taken to a New York hospital after opening an envelope that contained an unidentified white powder that was subsequently determined to be non-hazardous.

    • Judge refuses to withdraw Julian Assange arrest warrant

      She said: “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.

      “Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do the same. It is certainly not against the public interest to proceed.”

      Assange, 46, skipped bail to enter the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denies.

      Though Swedish prosecutors dropped the investigation against him, he faces arrest if he leaves the building in Knightsbridge, London, for breaching his former bail conditions in the UK.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Houston-Area Officials Approved a Plan for Handling a Natural Disaster — Then Ignored It

      Seven months before Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area with a trillion gallons of water and led to widespread criticism of the Red Cross, Harris County adopted a disaster-preparation plan that’s key assumption was that the Red Cross would be slow to act. “In a major disaster where there is widespread damage, the local resources of the Red Cross may be overwhelmed and not available immediately,” stated the plan. “It may be upwards of 7 days before the Red Cross can assume a primary care and shelter role.”

      The 17-page document, entitled the “Mass Shelter Plan,” was unanimously approved by the county’s governing body on Jan. 31, 2017. ProPublica obtained the plan, which until now has not been public, as part of a public records request.

      The Mass Shelter Plan described the Red Cross as the county’s “lead partner” but was unequivocal in assigning responsibility should a calamity occur: “In the event of an emergency that requires evacuation of all or any part of the Harris County population, Harris County is ultimately responsible for the coordination of the evacuation, shelter and mass care of displaced local residents.”

    • Trump’s Infrastructure Plan May Ignore Climate Change. It Could Be Costly.

      President Trump is expected to unveil on Monday a plan that would fulfill one of his signature campaign promises: a $1.5 trillion, once-in-a-generation proposal to rebuild, restore and modernize the nation’s aging infrastructure.

      “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land,” Mr. Trump said in his State of the Union address.

      But while the proposal represents one of the administration’s main legislative ambitions, it could directly clash with one of its defining regulatory principles, which is to question the risk from global warming and roll back regulations addressing climate change.

      The Trump infrastructure blueprint is almost certain to call for expensive new roads, bridges, airports and other projects in areas that are increasingly vulnerable to rising waters and other threats from a warming planet. Engineers and researchers say that construction plans should consider these design constraints at the outset. Their concern is that a plan led by a White House that has both discounted climate science and weakened climate change regulations could mean that costly projects may be vulnerable to damage or, in a worst-case scenario, quickly rendered obsolete by the changing environment.

  • Finance

    • Alibaba invests another $1.3 billion into its offline retail strategy

      The Chinese firm, the dominant e-commerce player in its country, gobbled up a 15 percent stake in Beijing Easyhome Furnishing for RMB 5.45 billion, or around $867 million, and pumped $486 million into a big data retail firm in two deals announced over the weekend.

    • What Microsoft’s Antitrust Case Teaches Us About Silicon Valley

      Today’s titans tower over their kingdoms, secure behind their walls of user data and benefiting from extreme network effects that make serious competition from startups nearly impossible. US antitrust laws, written in the industrial age, don’t capture many of the new realities and potential dangers of these vast data empires. Maybe they should.

    • Chinese Tourists Are Taking Over the Earth, One Selfie at a Time

      Consider this: For the past seven years, the travel-and-tourism sector has outperformed the overall economy every year, contributing as much as $7.6 trillion in 2016, including the wider impact on the economy, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. During the next decade, the council predicts, almost one in four jobs created worldwide will be related to tourism.

    • 9 Major Insurance Companies Are Profiting the Most Off the Broken Bail System

      Accredited Surety is one bail shark among many who exploits poor Americans trying to make bail.

      Chances are you’ve never heard of Bermuda-based insurance investment conglomerate Randall & Quilter and its wholly owned Florida-based company Accredited Surety.

      Accredited is one of nine major insurance companies that underwrite most of the money-bail businesses in the U.S. Companies like Accredited play a significant role in propping up the two-tiered American justice system that sells liberty to people who can afford it, plunges people into debt who struggle to pay it back, and deprives many others the opportunity to return to their lives, families, and jobs while the court determines their guilt or innocence.

      And because of its unapologetic gluttony, Accredited is our bail shark of the month.

      Like a proud parent, R&Q was “pleased to announce” its acquisition of Accredited in 2014. In a press release, R&Q Chairman and CEO Ken Randall said, “We are delighted to have reached agreement with Accredited. There is an excellent cultural fit and this represents an important milestone in … securing stable income streams from associated fee and distribution income.”

      Clearly, that culture is profit.

    • There’s nothing liberal about Brexit

      What grim pleasures Brexit offers. This week it’ll give us a series of speeches by Cabinet ministers laying out their vision for Britain outside the EU, a kind of choose-your-own-adventure book in which you decide which of the warring factions should go through to the final round.

      Boris Johnson’s offering comes tomorrow, but previews of it are in the press today. The foreign secretary apparently wants to bring Remainers and Leavers together in a vision of a ‘liberal Brexit’. He even takes John Stuart Mills’ name in vain by recruiting him for the Leave cause.

      You can just about make an argument for liberalism and Brexit if you support staying in the single market and customs union, where goods and people still flow freely. But that is not the Brexit we’re getting. We’re getting reactionary Brexit. It is defined by a love for – even a fetishisation of – borders. It is the single greatest victory for illiberalism in the modern British period.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Why truth is under fire

      The study suggests that a perfect storm of factors is conspiring to manipulate how we see truth, and the danger is not being aware of how those factors can mold our thinking.

      Some are not new. Studies have long shown that human beings are resistant to information that upsets their worldview. “People do not just maintain preexisting beliefs: Being confronted with corrective information can make misperceptions more ingrained and cause people to become less willing to consider alternatives,” the authors note.

      But why do we appear so prone to that temptation now?

    • If Watergate Happened With Today’s Media
    • I Approved This Facebook Message — But You Don’t Know That

      Hundreds of federal political ads — including those from major players such as the Democratic National Committee and the Donald Trump 2020 campaign — are running on Facebook without adequate disclaimer language, likely violating Federal Election Commission rules, a review by ProPublica has found.

      An FEC opinion in December clarified that the requirement for political ads to say who paid for and approved them, which has long applied to print and broadcast outlets, extends to ads on Facebook. So we checked more than 300 ads that had run on the world’s largest social network since the opinion, and that election-law experts told us met the criteria for a disclaimer. Fewer than 40 had disclosures that appeared to satisfy FEC rules.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Gui Minhai: Chinese press attacks Sweden over bookseller

      Human rights groups including Amnesty International have warned that the interview has the hallmarks of a forced confession.

    • YouTube tightens screws further on channel owners

      YouTube has announced further restrictions on the use of the site beyond the existing rules for striking channel owners off when videos deemed unsuitable are uploaded, in a clear indication that all the steps it has taken over the last 10 months to sanitise the platform have not had the desired effect.

    • Man Sues Facebook For Moderating His Bigoted Posts, Wants Section 230 Declared Unconstitutional

      Eric Goldman has come across an amazing pro se lawsuit [PDF] being brought by Nicholas C. Georgalis, an aggrieved social media user who believes he’s owed an open platform in perpetuity, no matter what awful things he dumps onto service providers’ pages. Oh, and he wants Section 230 immunity declared unconstitutional.

      Georgalis — who sidelines as a “professional training professionals” when not filing stupid lawsuits — is suing Facebook for periodically placing him in social media purgatory after removing posts of his. The lawsuit is heady stuff. And by “heady stuff,” I mean we’re going to be dealing with a lot of arguments about “sovereign rights” and “common law” and other related asshattery.

    • Ninth Circuit Shuts Down ‘Terrorists Used Twitter’ Case But Not Because Of Section 230

      With the event at Santa Clara earlier this month, and the companion essays published here, we’ve been talking a lot lately about how platforms moderate content. It can be a challenging task for a platform to figure out how to balance dealing with the sometimes troubling content it can find itself intermediating on the one hand and free speech concerns on the other. But at least, thanks to Section 230, platforms have been free to do the best they could to manage these competing interests. However you may think they make these decisions now, they would not come out any better without that statutory protection insulating them from legal consequence if they did not opt to remove absolutely everything that could tempt trouble. If they had to contend with the specter of liability in making these decisions it would inevitably cause platforms to play a much more censoring role at the expense of legitimate user speech.

      Fearing such a result is why the Copia Institute filed an amicus brief at the Ninth Circuit last year in Fields v. Twitter, one of the many “how dare you let terrorists use the Internet” cases that keep getting filed against Internet platforms. While it’s problematic that they keep getting filed, they have fortunately not tended to get very far. I say “fortunately,” because although it is terrible what has happened to the victims of these attacks, if platforms could be liable for what terrorists do it would end up chilling platforms’ ability to intermediate any non-terrorist speech. Thus we, along with the EFF and the Internet Association (representing many of the bigger Internet platforms), had all filed briefs urging the Ninth Circuit to find, as the lower courts have tended to, that Section 230 insulates platforms from these types of lawsuits.

    • Ukraine’s Anti-Russian Censorship is Making It Look a Lot Like the Kremlin

      Writing for Open Democracy, Kateryna Botanova, a Ukrainian curator and critic, denounces the rise of anti-Russian censorship in Ukraine amidst Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the ongoing conflict with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. According to Botanova, the Ukrainian government has banned Russian films and books from being broadcast or sold in Ukraine, and has even banned a popular sitcom because one of its Russian actors expressed support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Botanova argues that with this kind of censorship, Ukraine is putting nationalism above democracy and freedom of speech. As she writes, “The more single-mindedly Ukraine tries to get ‘away from Moscow,’ the more it slips into the system the Kremlin enforces.”

    • Even extremist takedowns require accountability

      The Government is very keen to ensure that extremist material is removed from private platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. It has urged use of machine learning and algorithmic identification by the companies, and threatened fines for failing to remove content swiftly.

      Today Amber Rudd claims to have developed a tool to identify extremist content, based on a database of known material. Such tools can have a role to play in identifying unwanted material, but we need to understand that there are some important caveats to what these tools are doing, with implications about how they are used, particularly around accountability. We list these below.

    • UC Berkeley, Evergreeen State College, Among The Most Restrictive of Free Speech
    • Is your college among 10 worst violators of free speech?
    • Texas State named one of America’s worst colleges for free speech by education rights group
    • Free speech on campus demands dialogue, not censorship
    • Why is it okay to censor Christians?

      One of the UK’s largest cinema chains, Vue, refused to screen a film premiere at one of its outlets last week. The film, called Voices of the Silenced, was produced by the Core Issues Trust, and explores the extent to which Christians feel under severe pressure to conform to contemporary morality, in particular the demand to approve of homosexuality. Vue cancelled the screening following complaints from gay-rights charity Stonewall, which said the film promotes gay-cure therapy.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • German court rules Facebook use of personal data illegal

      A German consumer rights group said on Monday that a court had found Facebook’s use of personal data to be illegal because the U.S. social media platform did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users.

      The verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online advertising.

      The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzvb) said that Facebook’s default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law, and that the court had found parts of the consent to data usage to be invalid.

    • Did the NSA really use Twitter to send coded messages to a Russian?

      As part of a sequence of 12, the tweets are now claimed to be a coded back-channel used to communicate with a Russian who was negotiating to sell to the NSA a set of cyberweapons stolen from it in 2016 by a group calling itself The Shadow Brokers.

      These tools were leaked to the world and used by cybercriminals to launch attacks, such as May 2017’s WannaCry ransomware attack (later blamed by the US on North Korea).

    • Camera Makers Still Showing Zero Interest In Protecting Users With Built-In Encryption

      Digital cameras can store a wealth of personal information and yet they’re treated as unworthy of extra protection — both by courts and the camera makers themselves. The encryption that comes baked in on cellphones hasn’t even been offered as an option on cameras, despite camera owners being just as interested in protecting their private data as cellphone users are.

      The Freedom of the Press Foundation sent a letter to major camera manufacturers in December 2016, letting them know filmmakers and journalists would appreciate a little assistance keeping their data out of governments’ hands.

    • Don’t Use Facebook’s Onavo VPN: It’s Designed to Spy On You

      You may have seen a new button in Facebook’s mobile app lately: under the Settings menu, a “Protect” option leads you to download an app called Onavo Protect. Don’t do it.

      If you head to Facebook’s settings and scroll down—you may need to click “More” to view more options—you’ll see this button. (On Android, you’ll need to go into “Mobile Data” first.)

    • Consumer Reports: Your ‘Smart’ TV Remains A Privacy & Security Dumpster Fire

      By now it has been pretty well established that the security and privacy of most “internet of things” devices is decidedly half-assed. Companies are so eager to cash in on the IOT craze, nobody wants to take responsibility for their decision to forget basic security and privacy standards. As a result, we’ve now got millions of new attack vectors being introduced daily, including easily-hacked “smart” kettles, door locks, refrigerators, power outlets, Barbie dolls, and more. Security experts have warned the check for this dysfunction is coming due, and it could be disastrous.

      Smart televisions have long been part of this conversation, where security standards and privacy have also taken a back seat to blind gee whizzery. Numerous set vendors have already been caught hoovering up private conversations or transmitting private user data unencrypted to the cloud. One study last year surmised that around 90% of smart televisions can be hacked remotely, something intelligence agencies, private contractors and other hackers are clearly eager to take full advantage of.

    • You are being tracked. Deal with it.
    • Facebook tool can judge whether you are middle class

      It is also able to track a person’s digital footprint and could detect, for example, if someone has been viewing external travel websites while they are logging into Facebook.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Earbuds made my teens tune me out, so I changed how we listen to music

      So when my husband and I noticed our teens increasingly tuning us out as they washed dishes, hung out in their rooms, or traveled in the car, we became curious about what they were listening to and how they were interpreting the lyrics they were hearing. We decided to try an experiment: Every time we were driving together, each person would take turns DJing by connecting their device to our dashboard stereo. We would listen together and talk about the artist, the music, the lyrics, and why our kid liked the song. What that meant was not only did our teens select songs, but my husband and I also shared our picks, as well as our thoughts on some of the iffy content in our kids’ music.

    • Court Rules Immigrants’ Class Action Lawsuit Against GEO Group Can Proceed

      A federal appeals court has ruled a group of immigrants detained at the for-profit Aurora ICE Processing Center in Colorado can proceed with their class action lawsuit against the prison’s owner, GEO Group. The men accuse GEO Group of forcing detained immigrants to clean the prison without pay, under threat of solitary confinement. The men are also accusing GEO Group of breaking labor laws by paying detained immigrants only $1 a day.

    • DSA-Endorsed Judge’s Bail Reforms Prompt Media Attack

      Local media often function as PR surrogates for police and powerful private interests. The marks of this ideological, political role were all over a Pittsburgh CBS affiliate’s gratuitous, over-the-top hit piece on reformer Judge Mik Pappas (KDKA, 2/2/18).

      Endorsed by the Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America chapter, Pappas won his seat last year on, among other things, the promise not to rubber-stamp court-ordered evictions and to end cash bail—practices that disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. There’s a growing movement challenging these tools of state power as unneeded and discriminatory, but they’re unsurprisingly popular among real estate interests and the police, whose outrage and disdain for the newly elected progressive are channeled by local reporter Andy Sheehan.

    • Police Officer Wins Settlement From City That Fired Him for Not Shooting a Black Man

      In the early hours of May 6, 2016, the lives of rookie police officer Stephen Mader and R.J. Williams intersected in Weirton, West Virginia. Both men were young fathers. Mader was a white cop holding a gun. Williams was a Black man holding a gun. This tragedy ends exactly as you’d expect — with R.J. Williams killed by a police bullet — but with a twist: Mader did not kill him. In fact, he tried his best to save Williams’ life. And for doing his duty, Mader was fired.

      Today we can announce a resolution of the case in favor of a police officer who chose not to shoot a Black man.

      To settle all outstanding claims, the City of Weirton will pay Mader $175,000. And while justice prevailed for Mader, R.J. Williams is still dead — a constant reminder police nationwide need the proper de-escalation training needed to avoid unnecessary killings, especially of Black men and boys.

    • Being ‘black’ in North Africa and the Middle East

      Growing attention to the racial and colour-based discrimination that sub-Saharan Africans and African slave descendants face in the Maghreb and in the Middle East has opened up new spaces to debate the relationship between ‘racism’ and legacies of slavery in the two regions. While these debates are far from new in a context like Mauritania, where former slaves and slave descendants have struggled for decades against descent-based discrimination, in many other North African and Middle Eastern countries they have emerged only relatively recently. This is perhaps because, as the Moroccan historian Chouki El Hamel notes, a “culture of silence” has long prevented these countries from engaging with, and discussing overtly, questions of race, slavery and colour.

      With this week’s special series, we seek to unpack the ‘racial issue’ in different post-slavery contexts in West Africa, North Africa and the Middle East by interrogating its connections with local histories of slavery and their contemporary legacies. Drawing on fresh case studies from Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Emirates and Yemen, the contributors reflect on the complex intersections of historical and contemporary dynamics that shape present imaginations of ‘blackness’, black identities, and belonging. They also look at new forms of racial discrimination and activism based on specific constructions of race.

    • Imprisoned Blogger Eskinder Nega Won’t Sign a False Confession

      Online publisher and blogger Eskinder Nega has been imprisoned in Ethiopia since September 2011 for the “crime” of writing articles critical of his government. He is one of the longest-serving prisoners in EFF’s Offline casefile of writers and activists unjustly imprisoned for their work online.

      Now a chance he may finally be freed has been thrown into doubt because of the Ethiopian authorities’ outrageous demand that he sign a false confession before being released.

      The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, announced in January surprise plans to close down the notorious Maekelawi detention center and release a number of prisoners. The Prime Minister said that the move was intended to “foster national reconciliation.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Update: Mozilla Will Re-File Suit Against FCC to Protect Net Neutrality

      Protecting net neutrality is core to the internet and crucial for people’s jobs and everyday lives. It is imperative that all internet traffic be treated equally, without discrimination against content or type of traffic — that’s the how the internet was built and what has made it one of the greatest inventions of all time.

    • Oregon Steps Up to the Plate on Network Neutrality This Month

      It should not be surprising that arguably the biggest mistake in Internet policy history is going to invoke a vast political response. Since the FCC repealed federal Open Internet Order in December, many states have attempted to fill the void. With a new bill that reinstates net neutrality protections, Oregon is the latest state to step up.

      Oregon’s Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson recently announced her intention to fight to restore much of what the FCC repealed last December under its so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” Her legislation, H.B. 4155, responds to the FCC’s decision by requiring that any ISP that receives funds from the state to adhere to net neutrality principles—not blocking or throttling content or prioritizing its own content over that of competitors, for example.

  • DRM

    • The Standalone Streaming Service HBO Didn’t Want To Offer Now Has 5 Million Users

      All the while, HBO and Time Warner’s timidity and failure to listen to consumers resulted in many of its shows breaking piracy records. And while HBO couldn’t be bothered to offer a legitimate standalone streaming alternative to piracy, it did spend a lot of time and money trying to derail these efforts, including “poisoning” seeded copies of HBO programs on BitTorrent and sending out oodles of nastygrams to ISPs. Other HBO executives, meanwhile, seemed to share the cable industry mindset that this whole cord cutting thing was just a temporary phenomenon that would blow over.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Confluence vs. Confluence: Brewery sues apartments over namesake

        Conflict between a Des Moines brewery and apartment complex is spilling over into the legal system.

        Confluence Brewing Company on Friday filed a trademark lawsuit and motion for an injunction in Polk County District Court seeking to stop Confluence on 3rd apartments from using the name “Confluence.”

      • Confluence Brewing Sues Confluence On 3rd, An Apartment Complex, For Trademark Infringement

        It’s been a minute since we’ve had to cover some trademark nonsense in the beer industry. In fact, several recent stories have actually represented what might be mistaken for a clapback on aggressive trademark protectionism in the alcohol space. But, like all great things, it just couldn’t last. The specific tomfoolery that has brought reality crashing down on us once again comes out of Iowa, where Confluence Brewing has filed a trademark suit against Confluence On 3rd, which is an apartment complex that does not serve or make beer.

    • Copyrights

      • Internet Users Spoke Up To Keep Safe Harbors Safe

        Today, we delivered a petition to the U.S. Copyright Office to keep copyright’s safe harbors safe. We asked the Copyright Office to remove a bureaucratic requirement that could cause websites and Internet services to lose protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). And we asked them to help keep Congress from replacing the DMCA safe harbor with a mandatory filtering law. Internet users from all over the U.S. and beyond added their voices to our petition.

        Under current law, the owners of websites and online services can be protected from monetary liability when their users are accused of infringing copyright through the DMCA “safe harbors.” In order to take advantage of these safe harbors, owners must meet many requirements, including participating in the notorious notice-and-takedown procedure for allegedly infringing content. They also must register an agent—someone who can respond to takedown requests—with the Copyright Office.

        The DMCA is far from perfect, but provisions like the safe harbor allow websites and other intermediaries that host third-party material to thrive and grow without the constant threat of massive copyright penalties. Without safe harbors, small Internet businesses could face bankruptcy over the infringing activities of just a few users.

        Now, a lot of those small sites risk losing their safe harbor protections. That’s because of the Copyright Office’s rules for registering agents. Those registrations used to be valid as long as the information was accurate. Under the Copyright Office’s new rules, website owners must renew their registrations every three years or risk losing safe harbor protections. That means that websites can risk expensive lawsuits for nothing more than forgetting to file a form. As we’ve written before, because the safe harbor already requires websites to submit and post accurate contact information for infringement complaints, there’s no good reason for agent registrations to expire. We’re also afraid that it will disproportionately affect small businesses, nonprofits, and hobbyists, who are least able to have a cadre of lawyers at the ready to meet bureaucratic requirements.

      • Facebook Takes Down Post Critical Of Indian Film For Copyright Violation, Even Though It Was An All-Text Post

        We should all know by now that Facebook’s reliability to handle copyright takedown requests is… not great. Like far too many internet platforms these days, the site typically puts its thumbs heavily on the scales such that the everyday user gets far less preference than large purported rights holders. I say “purported” because, of course, many bogus takedown requests get issued all the time. It’s one of the reasons that relying on these platforms, when they have shown no willingness to have any sort of spine on copyright matters, is such a mistake.

        But few cases are as egregious as that of Leo Saldanha, a well-known environmental activist in India. When I tell you that Saldanha had a Facebook post taken down over a copyright notice, you must certainly be thinking that it had something to do with environmental activism. Nope! Actually, Saldanha wrote an all-text mini-review of an Indian film, Padmaavat, which was taken down after the distributor for the film claimed the post infringed on its copyrights. Here is the entirety of his post that was taken down.

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