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Links 27/11/2019: Kali Linux 2019.4 Release and Plasma Browser Integration 1.7

Posted in News Roundup at 4:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

    • OpenMoji is an Open Source Emoji Set That Looks Awesome

      OpenMoji is an open source emoji library licensed under Creative Commons that’s totally, absolutely, and completely free to use.

      And I think it looks terrific!

      Most desktop Linux distributions (including Ubuntu) ship with full colour emoji support by default, making use of Google’s free, open-source Noto Color Emoji font.

      And I’ll state the obvious: Noto is a decent, comprehensive emoji set that doesn’t deviate too heavily in its design from the way emoji look on other operating systems and messaging service look, like Android and WhatsApp.

      Similarity is important because emoji that look different on different platforms can easily result in misunderstandings or dramatically alter the meaning and intent of a message.

    • A few tips on Mastodon

      In recent months, you may have come across the name Mastodon here and there. Especially two weeks ago, when Twitter again made headlines with some, possibly politically motivated, account suspensions that resulted in an influx of users from India to the federated network. Time to look at it a bit, also with regards to accessibility.

      Mastodon itself is merely the name of an application that, like many others, uses an open standard called ActivityPub to exchange and manage social media content. The perk is that there is not one centralized service that manages all users or the content they generate. Instead, there are hundreds or thousands of servers all over the world running the Mastodon software and exchange the status messages, called toots, by their users. This is called a federated model. Most of these instances, as the servers are called, are run by private persons or small companies, but as its popularity catches on, one can expect to see more instances by bigger entities as well.

      Users are addressed much like in an e-mail, which is also a decentralized service. The address is usually @<username>@<instance.domain>. Users can follow each other across instances. Most instances also have timelines that are only from the users of that instance, and one that is a collective federated view of recent toots from people of instances they exchange their toots with. More on the privacy settings follows further below that control how toots appear in these timelines, or not.


      I already mentioned that Mastodon supports image descriptions from the start. The default Mastodon interface is also quite accessible, and because Mastodon is open source software, everybody can file issues on the Github repository, or even submit pull requests to fix problems and improve the software. In my previous interactions, I have found the maintainers to be open to almost every suggestion. The one instance where the accessibility community has failed so far surrounds a question around underlining links. Some software like Pinafore (see below) therefore offer various options to customize the appearance of various elements far beyond just theming.

      And because Mastodon is open and has an unrestricted public API, anyone can write an own client to interact with that. There are very accessible alternatives. Mastodon is OK for most things, too, but a really enjoyable experience is delivered by some other software. See the next section for a few names.

    • Around the World

      • European Linux Open-Sourcing Summit, Lyon, France, reviewed
      • Karyuna Institute of Technology and Sciences leading SUSE Education in India

        How did we get here: BL Radhakrishnan, Coordinator Industry-Academia collaborations-CSE and Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering Department at Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences, sought out SUSE’ Academic Program in early 2019. Prior to this, the computer, science and engineering (CSE) department had a previous engagement with Novell Software briefly. The department established a relationship and signed the first agreement with Novell in the year 2010. Because of the tremendous academic support and guidance by Novell, the CSE department started offering the Novell Certified Linux Administrator (NCLA) from the year 2010. Currently, the certification is offered as “SUSE Certified Administrator (SCA) in Enterprise Linux.”

      • Kiwi TCMS is going to FOSDEM 2020

        Hello testers, Kiwi TCMS is going to FOSDEM 2020.

    • BSD

      • FreeBSD Project Quarterly Status Report – Third Quarter 2019

        Here is the third quarterly status report for 2019.

        This quarter the reports team has been more active than usual thanks to a better organization: calls for reports and reminders have been sent regularly, reports have been reviewed and merged quickly (I would like to thank debdrup@ in particular for his reviewing work).

        Efficiency could still be improved with the help of our community. In particular, the quarterly team has found that many reports have arrived in the last days before the deadline or even after. I would like to invite the community to follow the guidelines below that can help us sending out the reports sooner.

        Starting from next quarter, all quarterly status reports will be prepared the last month of the quarter itself, instead of the first month after the quarter’s end. This means that deadlines for submitting reports will be the 1st of January, April, July and October.

        Next quarter will then be a short one, covering the months of November and December only and the report will probably be out in mid January.

      • FreeBSD Foundation Buying Newer Laptops To Help Improve Hardware Support

        The FreeBSD Q3-2019 quarterly report is now available. One of the interesting bits from this report is the FreeBSD Foundation planning to buy one or more families of new laptops to supply to their core developers in working to improve the modern hardware support.

    • FSF

      • GNU Projects

        • Guix on an ARM Board

          Increasingly people discovering Guix want to try it on an ARM board, instead of their x86 computer. There might be various reasons for that, from power consumption to security. In my case, I found these ARM boards practical for self-hosting, and I think the unique properties of GNU Guix are making it very suitable for that purpose. I have installed GNU Guix on a Cubietruck, so my examples below will be about that board. However, you should be able to change the examples for your own use case.

          Installing the Guix System on an ARM board is not as easy as installing it on an x86 desktop computer: there is no installation image. However, Guix supports ARM and can be installed on a foreign distribution running on that architecture. The trick is to use the Guix installed on that foreign distribution to initialize the Guix System. This article will show you how to install the Guix System on your board, without using an installer image. As we have previously mentionned it is possible to generate an installation image yourself, if your board is supported.

          Most boards can be booted from an existing GNU+Linux distribution. You will need to install a distribution (any of them) and install GNU Guix on it, using e.g. the installer script. Then, my plan was to install the Guix System on an external SSD drive, instead of the SD card, but we will see that both are perfectly possible.

          The first part of the article will focus on creating a proper u-boot configuration and an operating system declaration that suits your board. The second part of this article will focus on the installation procedure, when there is no installer working for your system.

        • Gnuastro 0.11 released
          Dear all,
          I am happy to announce the 11th stable release of GNU Astronomy
          Utilities (Gnuastro).
          Gnuastro is an official GNU package of various command-line programs
          and library functions for the manipulation and analysis of
          (astronomical) data. All the programs share the same basic
          command-line user interface (modeled on GNU Coreutils). For the full
          list of Gnuastro's library, programs, and a comprehensive general
          tutorial (recommended place to start using Gnuastro), please see the
          links below respectively:
          Many new features have been added, and many bugs have been fixed in
          this release. For the full list, please see [1] below (part of the
          NEWS file within the tarball). 
        • Gnuastro 0.11 released

          The 11th release of GNU Astronomy Utilities (Gnuastro) is now available. Please see the announcement for more.

        • GNU Spotlight with Mike Gerwitz: 17 new GNU releases in November!


    • Public Services/Government

      • Royal Navy launched an open source toolkit for application development

        The United Kingdom’s naval warfare force, the Royal Navy, launched the NELSON programme as part of its digital transformation strategy. Moving towards open source, the Royal Navy now provides the open source NELSON Standard toolkit, and requires its future IT suppliers to have capability to develop digital services “using a range of Open Source Technologies”.

    • Programming/Development

      • Develop a Kubernetes controller in Java

        Java is no doubt one of the most popular programming languages in the world but it?s been difficult for a period time for those non-Golang developers to build up their customized controller/operator due to the lack of library resources in the community. In the world of Golang, there?re already some excellent controller frameworks, for example, controller runtime, operator SDK. These existing Golang frameworks are relying on the various utilities from the Kubernetes Golang SDK proven to be stable over years. Driven by the emerging need of further integration into the platform of Kubernetes, we not only ported many essential toolings from the Golang SDK into the kubernetes Java SDK including informers, work-queues, leader-elections, etc. but also developed a controller-builder SDK which wires up everything into a runnable controller without hiccups.

      • Make Lua development easy with Luarocks

        You should try Lua, a lightweight, efficient, and embeddable scripting language supporting procedural programming, object-oriented programming, functional programming, data-driven programming, and data description. And best of all, it uses explicit syntax for scoping!

        Lua is also small. Lua’s source code is just 24,000 lines of C, the Lua interpreter (on 64-bit Linux) built with all standard Lua libraries is 247K, and the Lua library is 421K.

        You might think that such a small language must be too simplistic to do any real work, but in fact Lua has a vast collection of third-party libraries (including GUI toolkits), it’s used extensively in video game and film production for 3D shaders, and is a common scripting language for video game engines. To make it easy to get started with Lua, there’s even a package manager called Luarocks.

      • Multi-cluster Management with GitOps

        In this blog post we are going to introduce Multi-cluster Management patterns with GitOps and how you can implement these patterns on OpenShift.
        If you’re interested in diving into an interactive tutorial, try this link.

        In the introductory blog post to GitOps we described some of the use cases that we can solve with GitOps on OpenShift. In
        today’s blog post we are going to describe how we can leverage GitOps patterns to perform tasks on multiple clusters.

      • Excellent Free Tutorials to Learn C

        C is a general-purpose, procedural, portable, high-level programming language that is one of the most popular and influential languages. It was designed to be compiled using a straightforward compiler, to provide low-level access to memory, to provide language constructs that map efficiently to machine instructions, and to require minimal run-time support. Many programming languages owe a considerable debt to C. It has become something of the lingua franca in the programming world.

        C is fairly simple to understand. It allows the programmer to organize programs in a clear, easy, logical way. It is a very flexible, practical and compact language combined with an easy to read syntax. Code written in C runs quickly, with easy access to the low level facilities in the computer. Compiler directives make it possible to produce a single version of a program compiled for different architectures.

      • LibreOffice Macro Team: progress report

        So, what has happened in the meantime? This article is a collection of the work done by the LibreOffice Macro Team in the past few months, as well as any other macro-related things in the project. If you are interested in contributing to the macro team (development, testing or documentation), we’d love to hear from you – please send an email to ilmari.lauhakangas@libreoffice.org and we’ll get in touch.

      • Your Debugger Sucks

        If you don’t use an interactive debugger then you probably debug by adding logging code and rebuilding/rerunning the program. That gives you a view of what happens over time, but it’s slow, can take many iterations, and you’re limited to dumping some easily accessible state at certain program points. That sucks.

        If you use a traditional interactive debugger, it sucks in different ways. You spend a lot of time trying to reproduce bugs locally so you can attach your debugger, even though in many cases those bugs have already been reproduced by other people or in CI test suites. You have to reproduce the problem many times as you iteratively narrow down the cause. Often the debugger interferes with the code under test so the problem doesn’t show up, or not the way you expect. The debugger lets you inspect the current state of the program and stop at selected program points, but doesn’t track data or control flow or remember much about what happened in the past. You’re pretty much stuck debugging on your own; there’s no real support for collaboration or recording what you’ve discovered.

      • Motorola m68k Support Improved Upon In GCC – Saved From Being Removed In GCC 11

        While the Motorola 68000 32-bit processors are from the 80′s and early 90′s, there still is a loyal following of hobbyists who managed to save the “m68k” compiler back-end from being removed in GCC 11.

        The m68k back-end in GCC was at risk of being removed due to plans for GCC 11 to drop the CC0 representation code and the back-ends still depending upon it. M68k was the most notable user relying upon the deprecated CC0 representation but there are also other back-ends like AVR (AVR micro-controller), CRIS (the Axis Communications’ ETRAX CRIS embedded processors), H8300 (the Renesas H8 microcontrollers), VAX (DEC VAX), and CR16 (National Semi CompactRISC). But now at least m68k is safe.

      • Perl / Raku

        • 2019.47 Late Again Or

          If you intended to write a blog post for this years Raku Advent Calendar, you’re too late! Well, sort of. You can still add yourself as a fallback should one of the other participants not be able to write a blog post after all!

      • Python

        • Using SQLAlchemy to access MySQL without frustrating library installation issues

          I’ve often struggled with accessing MySQL from Python, as the ‘default’ MySQL library for Python is MySQLdb. This library has a number of problems: 1) it is Python 2 only, and 2) it requires compiling against the MySQL C library and header files, and so can’t be simply installed using pip.

          There is a Python 3 version of MySQLdb called mysqlclient, but this also requires compiling against the MySQL libraries and header files, so can be complicated to install.

        • Two Books About the Kivy GUI Framework

          The Kivy Python GUI framework is intriguing.

          Not only it’s cross-platform but also supports Android. Java is too verbose and low level for me and Kivy is an opportunity for developing native Android apps without leaving Python.

          Outside of the Kivy project documentation, there are few third-party advanced tutorials that go in more depth than the official tutorials. So, before diving into the code of the Kivy demos, I wanted some books to explore more features and get a broader picture of the framework and what it can do.

      • Revisiting Building Android Apps in Python Using Kivy with Android Studio

        One of the books I read on Kivy, a Python cross-platform GUI framework, is Building Android Apps in Python Using Kivy with Android Studio: With Pyjnius, Plyer, and Buildozer by Ahmed Fawzy Mohamed Gad (Apress, 2019). My comments on the book, which focused on it not being a good match for my learning needs, sounded negative. Perhaps unnecessarily so.

      • Insertion Sort in Python

        If you’re majoring in Computer Science, Insertion Sort is most likely one of the first sorting algorithms you have heard of. It is intuitive and easy to implement, but it’s very slow on large arrays and is almost never used to sort them.

        Insertion sort is often illustrated by comparing it to sorting a hand of cards while playing rummy. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, most players want the cards in their hand sorted in ascending order so they can quickly see which combinations they have at their disposal.

      • How our Open Studio team hacked together a project tracker with Python and a Raspberry Pi

        Yet another marketing piece was late, and what we had published was underperforming.

        In October 2018, Red Hat marketers recognized that our existing project management process, which relied on manual data entry and email updates, was unsustainable given an exploding demand for datasheets, whitepapers, e-books, and other marketing collateral.

        Purchasing an existing system didn’t make sense. Our project management tool, CA Agile Central (previously known as Rally), does not allow content requesters to kick off projects through a form.

        To initiate a project, requesters had to fill out a template file. The project manager would then manually create a project and pass the template file back and forth as it was edited, designed, and published. When requesters wanted to know the status of a project, they would email their project manager, who would check CA Agile Central.

      • Python KeyError Exceptions and How to Handle Them

        Python’s KeyError exception is a common exception encountered by beginners. Knowing why a KeyError can be raised and some solutions to prevent it from stopping your program are essential steps to improving as a Python programmer.

      • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #396 (Nov. 26, 2019)
      • Tips for Selecting Columns in a DataFrame

        This article will discuss several tips and shortcuts for using iloc to work with a data set that has a large number of columns. Even if you have some experience with using iloc you should learn a couple of helpful tricks to speed up your own analysis and avoid typing lots of column names in your code.

    • Other

      • Kubernetes for Full-Stack Developers

        If you are interested in using containers, in particular Kubernetes, Digital Ocean has provided a self paced, and free, community curriculum and there’s also a fun introduction from the Cloud Native Foundation.

      • Displaying dates and times your way

        The Linux date command provides more options for displaying dates and times than you can shake a stick at (without hurting your wrist anyway). Here are some of the more useful choices.

      • Why Should You Learn R for Data Science?

        Data Science is the most popular field of study in today’s world that leverages scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems to convert structured and unstructured data into meaningful insights. Since it is mostly comprised of statistics, R is the bridging language of this field. It is a popular programming language and software environment and an important tool for data science.

        R is one that enables statistical computing which is used widely by the data miners and statisticians for data analysis. It has various programming features, including data inputs and data management; and distributed computing and R packages – a collection of R functions, with code and sample data.

  • Leftovers

    • Thankful in 2019

      A political writer’s annual Thanksgiving column can be easy to write, or incredibly difficult to put together. It can also be inspiring or banal. The two are probably connected. It’s always a difficult one for me; its quality is a matter of your opinion. But hey, Turkey Day is just around the corner and it’s time to talk about being thankful. Please bear with.

    • Science

      • Moscow-area cows enjoy summer year-round with new virtual reality glasses

        A dairy farm near Moscow has begun testing virtual reality glasses designed specially for cows. Agriculture officials are betting that the futuristically decked-out bovines will experience heightened moods, which will raise milk yields in turn. Each set of glasses is designed with the cows’ physiology and visual system in mind, enabling the animals to enjoy views of summer fields year-round.

    • Education

      • After Katrina, neoliberals replaced New Orleans’ schools with charters, which are now failing

        After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was shock doctrined through a massive, neoliberal transformation, the centerpiece of which was a replacement of the public school system with a system entirely made up of charter schools.

        While these schools showed some initial promise, the overall performance of these schools has been in free fall for some time, and this year’s state assessment of the district assigned a “failing grade” (D or F) to 35 of its 72 schools.

      • Nearly half of New Orleans’ all-charter district schools got D or F grades; what happens next?

        The release of the state’s closely watched school performance scores earlier this month offered an overall update on New Orleans schools that seemed benign enough: A slight increase in overall student performance meant another C grade for the district.

        But a closer look reveals a startling fact. A whopping 35 of the 72 schools in the all-charter district scored a D or F, meaning nearly half of local public schools were considered failing, or close to it, in the school year ending in 2019. Since then, six of the 35 have closed.

    • Health/Nutrition

      • The $11 Million Dollar Medicare Tool That Gives Seniors the Wrong Insurance Information

        The federal government recently redesigned a digital tool that helps seniors navigate complicated Medicare choices, but consumer advocates say it’s malfunctioning with alarming frequency, offering inaccurate cost estimates and creating chaos in some states during the open enrollment period.

        Diane Omdahl, a Medicare consultant in Wisconsin, said she used the tool Friday to research three prescription drug plans for a client. The comparison page, which summarizes total costs, showed all but one of her client’s medications would be covered. When Omdahl clicked on “plan details” to find out which medicine was left out, the plan finder then said all of them were covered.

      • Health Officials in “Cancer Alley” Will Study if Living Near a Controversial Chemical Plant Causes Cancer

        Louisiana health officials plan to knock on every door within 2.5 kilometers of the controversial Denka Performance Elastomer plant in St. John the Baptist Parish in hopes of determining exactly how many people in the neighborhood have developed cancer.

        Neighbors say the inquiry, first announced in late August, is long overdue.

      • Texas Abortion Clinics Still Shuttered Despite Supreme Court Win

        Over the past few years, abortion providers in Texas have struggled to reopen clinics that had closed because of restrictive state laws.

    • Integrity/Availability

      • Proprietary

        • Studying Donot Team

          At the early stage of infection, the victim receives an MS Word document in Office Open XML format. Even though we do not have clear evidence, we are sure that the initial penetration vector is a targeted phishing message with MS Office attachment. The document itself is not malicious, but it abuses the external elements autoloading capability to launch the next stage document.

          Communicating with a linked external object The loaded fine is an RTF document exploiting vulnerability CVE-2018-0802 in Microsoft Equation. The main shellcode is preceded by a chain of intermediate ones, each decrypting the subsequent slice with a single-byte XOR with keys 0×90 and 0xCE.

        • How the NYPD’s fingerprint database got shut down by a computer virus [iophk: Windows TCO]

          The virus — generally referred to as “ransomware” because it locks users out of infected computers until they pay a ransom — “never executed,” but the NYPD shut down LiveScan that night and reinstalled software on 200 computers citywide out of an abundance of caution, she said.

        • The 30 Best VMware Tools for Modern Enterprises in 2019

          VMware is the most popular software company providing enterprise-level cloud computing and virtualization solutions. If you’re a tech professional, chances are you have worked with, or at least know its name. VMware is widely used to deploy servers and cloud platforms on the web. Many home users also use it to create their favorite Linux virtual machines. Moreover, they offer a huge list of user convenient utilities, known as VMware tools. These are developed especially to enhance the performance of your virtual machines and make management almost effortless. In this guide, we’ll discuss 30 extremely useful VMtools that can make virtualization more accessible than ever.

        • Pseudo-Open Source

          • Privatisation/Privateering

            • Linux Foundation

              • CNCF SIG Network Set to Push Cloud Native Networking Forward

                The inaugural public meeting the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) Networking Special Interest Group (SIG) was held in a session at the KubeCon event on Nov. 19, ushering in a new era for networking at the highly influential open source group.

                The CNCF is home to many different projects, including the Kubernetes container orchestration system. Kubernetes itself has its’ own set of SIGs, which is the core organizing unit for the project, among those SIGs is one for networking. The CNCF however is a bigger organization that just Kubernetes and includes over 40 projects. CNCF SIGs cut across all projects, with cross project concerns in different topic areas.

                Lee Calcote, Founder at Layer5 and one of the leaders of CNCF SIG Network explained during the session that there are already a few network specific projects within the CNCF, including CNI (Container Network Interface), CoreDNS, Envoy, gRPC, Linkerd, NATS and the Network Service Mesh project.

                “Part of what we’re hoping to do is with SIGs in general is to help more impact fully scale the CNCF Technical Oversight Committee (TOC),” Calcote said.

        • Security

          • Security updates for Tuesday

            Security updates have been issued by Debian (libxdmcp, nss, php-imagick, and ruby2.1), openSUSE (java-11-openjdk), Red Hat (389-ds-base, kernel, kernel-rt, python-jinja2, qemu-kvm-ma, and tcpdump), SUSE (bluez, clamav, cpio, cups, gcc9, libpng16, libssh2_org, mailman, sqlite3, squid, strongswan, tiff, and webkit2gtk3), and Ubuntu (redmine).

          • Internal Kaspersky API exposed to websites

            In December 2018 I discovered a series of vulnerabilities in Kaspersky software such as Kaspersky Internet Security 2019. Due to the way its Web Protection feature is implemented, internal application functionality can used by any website. It doesn’t matter whether you allowed Kaspersky Protection browser extension to be installed, Web Protection functionality is active regardless and exploitable.

          • AMD’s TEE Driver For Loading “Trusted Applications” On Their Secure Processor Under Linux [Ed: So they call backdoors "trust" and "security" now... see the comments as well]

            A few weeks back AMD published a TEE “Trusted Execution Environment” driver for APUs on Linux for utilizing the controversial AMD Secure Processor.

            The AMD Secure Processor / PSP is what’s been built into their processors for a half-decade now for providing a secure hardware environment similar to Intel’s Management Engine. This ARM-based secure processor is now seeing a Trusted Execution Environment driver for Linux.

          • The Debate Over How to Encrypt the Internet of Things

            Debate about the merits of lightweight cryptography isn’t exactly generating major drama—especially considering NIST itself invited Teserakt researchers to share their industry perspective at its conference. But it’s an important issue, especially given the stakes in working to better secure the billions of /[Internet] of things devices lurking everywhere.

          • Warning over spike in attacks on exposed Docker platforms

            Security researchers have warned of a campaign of [Internet] scanning activity by a group of hackers hunting for Docker platforms with exposed API endpoints.

            Exposed platforms are then compromised with cryptomining malware.

            The campaign started on 24th November, according to Troy Mursch, chief research officer of cyber-threar intelligence firm Bad Packets, who first noticed the activity and its sheer size.

          • Five Years Later, Who Really [Cracked] Sony?

            The massive cyberattack just before Thanksgiving 2014 crippled a studio, embarrassed executives and reshaped Hollywood. The FBI blamed a North Korea scheme to retaliate for the comedy ‘The Interview,’ but many whose lives were upended have doubts. Says Seth Rogen: “The fact that [co-director Evan Goldberg and I] were never really specifically targeted always raised suspicions in my head.”

          • Privacy/Surveillance

            • Huawei Files SLAPP Suits In France Against Critics Who Highlighted The Company’s Ties To The Chinese Government

              We’ve spent many years pointing out that the freak out over Huawei equipment possibly being compromised by the Chinese government still remains without evidence to back it up. This does not mean that it’s not there. But we’ve just noted that many (especially in the US) keep stating it as if it’s factual, despite a Congressional investigation that turned up nothing (not to mention competitor Cisco fanning the flames of the attacks on Huawei, and the fact that the NSA is already known to compromise telco equipment for the US government). The usual response to pointing this out is to highlight that most large and successful Chinese companies have close relationships with the Chinese government (because they need to) and that Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, was an engineer in the Chinese military. This is enough for many people to assume that the company would actively sabotage its own equipment to help the Chinese government.

            • California Makes $50 Million Annually Selling Your DMV Data

              Earlier this year leaked data revealed that the Department of Motor Vehicles in numerous states has spent years selling citizen data to a laundry list of third parties, often without making such financial relationships or data transfers clear to patrons. Some of the data wound up being sold to the usual suspects (auto insurance and credit reporting companies being the most obvious), but much of it is routinely sold to more dubious third-party outfits and private investigators, which fairly obviously poses a risk to folks dealing with stalkers and psychotic exes.

            • Senator Cantwell Releases Another Federal Privacy Law That Won’t Go Anywhere And Doesn’t Deal With Actual Issues

              A few weeks ago we wrote about a privacy bill in the House that seemed unlikely to go anywhere, and now we have the same thing from the Senate: a new privacy bill from Senator Maria Cantwell, called COPRA for “Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act.” For months it had been said that Cantwell was working on a bipartisan effort to create a federal privacy law, so the fact that this bill only has Democratic co-sponsors (Senators Schatz, Klobuchar and Markey) doesn’t bode well for its likelihood of success.

            • Expert Says Senate Democrats’ Sweeping Online Privacy Bill Answers Public Demand for ‘Transformative Shift’

              “The Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act gives consumers meaningful rights, holds companies accountable, and protects stronger state safeguards.”

            • Facebook’s only fact-checking service in the Netherlands just quit

              Facebook is now operating without a third-party fact-checking service in the Netherlands. The company’s only partner, Dutch newspaper NU.nl, just quit over a dispute regarding the social network’s policy to allow politicians to run ads containing misinformation.

              “What is the point of fighting fake news if you are not allowed to tackle politicians?” asked NU.nl’s editor-in-chief Gert-Jaap Hoekman in a blog post announcing the decision. “Let one thing be clear: we stand behind the content of our fact checks.”

            • Twitter will remove inactive accounts and free up usernames in December

              Twitter is sending out emails to owners of inactive accounts with a warning: sign in by December 11th, or your account will be history and its username will be up for grabs again. Any account that hasn’t signed in for more than six months will receive the email alert.

            • Workers at Israeli surveillance firm NSO sue Facebook for blocking private accounts

              Messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, had accused NSO in its own legal action filed in California last month of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents in a hacking spree whose targets included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

              The NSO employees said their Facebook and Instagram accounts, and also those of former workers and family members, had been blocked. They petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court to order Facebook to unblock the accounts, which they claim was done abruptly and without notice.

            • More Than Half of Americans Are Concerned About Smart Speaker Data Privacy

              Pew Research Center conducted a study of U.S. adults to determine American attitudes towards smart speakers. The result reveals that over half of Americans are concerned about data privacy. Unsurprisingly, those most concerned are in the younger demographic.

              The study found that one-quarter of U.S. adults say they have a smart speaker in their home. Adults younger than 50 are more likely to have a smart speaker than those 50 and older.

            • I tried to access my secret consumer data. Their facial recognition software told me to smile.

              In early November, the New York Times published an article called “I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can Get Yours, Too.” Naturally, this struck my curiosity, and I decide to try and navigate the various labyrinthine processes to try and find out what kind of information the conglomerates have on me, and how I can potentially get rid of it.

            • EU Tells US: Ban Strong Encryption, And Privacy Shield Data Sharing Agreement Could Be At Risk

              As a recent post underlines, law enforcement agencies around the world are still trying to argue that things are “going dark”, and that strong encryption is bad and should be made illegal. Techdirt and many others have pointed out what an extremely stupid idea this would be. Here’s a further reason why the US shouldn’t ban strong encryption: it might lead to the EU making data transfers across the Atlantic much harder. The possibility has emerged thanks to some formal questions to the European Commission (pdf) submitted by a Member of the European Parliament, Moritz Körner.

            • DEEP DIVE: EFF to DHS: Stop Mass Collection of Social Media Information

              The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a proposed rule expanding the agency’s collection of social media information on key visa forms and immigration applications. Earlier this month, EFF joined over 40 civil society organizations that signed on to comments drafted by the Brennan Center for Justice. These comments identify the free speech and privacy risks the proposed rule poses to U.S. persons both directly, if they are required to fill out these forms, and indirectly, if they are connected via social media to friends, family, or associates required to fill out these forms.

              In the proposed rule, “Generic Clearance for the Collection of Social Media Information on Immigration and Foreign Travel Forms,” DHS claims that it has “identified the collection of social media user identifications . . . as important for identity verification, immigration and national security vetting.” The proposed rule identifies 12 forms adjudicated by DHS agencies U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that will now collect social media handles and associated social media platforms for the last five years. The applications will not collect passwords. DHS will be able to only view information that the user publicly shares.

            • New Campaign Demands Congress Probe the ‘Ever-Expanding Surveillance Empire’ of Amazon

              Over a dozen groups call for a full congressional investigation in the online giant citing threats to privacy, security, and civil liberties posed by Alexa, Ring, and Rekognition.

            • Amazon: Cops Can Get Recordings From Ring, Keep Them Forever, And Share Them With Whoever They Want

              Even more alarming news has surfaced about Amazon’s Ring doorbell/camera and the company’s ultra-cozy relationship with police departments.

            • Law Enforcement Agencies Bumping Up Demands For Uber Customers’ Data

              If it generates records — especially third-party records — the government is going to come asking for them.

            • EU’s ePrivacy regulation is being subverted by publishers who want their “right” to use tracking cookies enshrined in law

              Last year, Privacy News Online wrote about the important EU ePrivacy legislation. As that noted, it was moving through the EU’s legislative process slowly because of massive lobbying against the new law, which aims to regulate how metadata is gathered and used, and to limit how people are tracked online, for example using cookies. A year ago, there were already warning signs that one of the most important provisions was under threat. Article 10 of the original text reads as follows:

            • Locations of More than 5,000 Children Exposed by Cheap Smartwatch for Kids

              As the old saying goes, hindsight is better than foresight. Certainly, that is no less true than when involving children in the tech world. Sure, the Internet is chock-full of great information, fun games, great social opportunities, etc. But there are also hackers, scammers, and a number of other individuals looking to take advantage. That’s what makes this situation understandable, while at the same time questionable. Thanks to a web backend and mobile app for a cheap children’s smartwatch, details for the kids, including their locations, were exposed. Parent account information was exposed as well.

    • Defence/Aggression

    • Environment

    • Finance

    • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

      • WATCH: First Lady Melania Trump Loudly Booed by Students During Baltimore Opioid Summit

        “If your president husband calls the city ‘a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess’ where ‘no human being would want to live’ and then you hold an ‘anti-bullying’ event there, on behalf of the White House, honestly, what do you expect?”

      • Democratic Party Falls Further Behind GOP in October Fundraising

        As 2020 nears, the Democratic Party continues to lag behind its Republican counterpart in fundraising efforts.

      • Betrayed by Joe Biden: a Personal History

        Even at age 77, Joe Biden cuts a dashing figure. In 1972, when he was 29 and I was 15, he spoke at my high school in suburban Wilmington Delaware. I practically swooned over the handsome, charismatic young Biden as he spoke passionately about civil rights, environmental protection, womens’ rights and ending the Viet Nam War.  I’d already told my father that I wanted to work for environmental protection and he had assured me that he’d put me on the first train to Montreal if I were drafted for the war that Nixon had promised to end, but instead had escalated.  (My friend Rosemary’s older brother had returned from Viet Nam in a box.)  After hearing Biden, I enthusiastically volunteered to canvass Wilmington for both the presidential candidate George McGovern and Senate candidate Joe Biden.  On Election Day, we knocked on hundreds of doors to get out the vote. Biden’s victory felt like a silver lining to Senator McGovern’s lopsided defeat to Nixon.

      • Nadler Invites Trump to Either Participate in Impeachment Hearing Next Week or ‘Stop Complaining’

        “The President has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process.”

      • Trump Campaign, GOP Groups Attack Google’s New Ad Policy

        President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and other Republican election groups criticized tech giant Google on Tuesday for making it harder for political advertisers to target specific types of people.

      • Talking Turkey About Impeachment Hearings

        Congratulations, you made it through the public hearings of the impeachment inquiry, one eye on the livestream and one eye on your work email, and somehow you met your deadlines even as you followed along blow by blow. So what are you going to say about it around the Thanksgiving dinner table?

      • The End of the Rule of Law: The 12 Impeachable Offenses Committed By Trump

        Bruce Fein, a former senior official in the Department of Justice and a constitutional scholar, has identified 12 impeachable offenses committed by Donald Trump. But, as he notes, many of these constitutional violations are not unique to the Trump administration.

      • When Progressives in Congress Let Us Down, We Should Push Back

        Last week, the Democratic leadership put an extension of the Patriot Act into a “continuing resolution” that averted a government shutdown. More than 95 percent of the Democrats in the House went along with it by voting for the resolution. Both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan, voted yes. So did all 11 of the CPC’s vice chairs.

      • Scandalgate: Weapon of Mass Distraction – Censored Notebook
      • New Ukraine Documents Expose Clear Paper Trail From Giuliani to Trump to Pompeo

        A trove of State Department documents obtained late Friday by watchdog group American Oversight provided new details on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s involvement in the White House effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate President Donald Trump’s political rivals.

      • Are Democrats Impeaching Trump For the Wrong Crimes?

        What follows is a conversation between author and activist David Samson and Marc Steiner of The Real News Network. Read a transcript of their conversation below or watch the video at the bottom of the post.

      • Noting That ‘Presidents Are Not Kings,’ Federal Judge Rules Don McGahn Must Submit to Congressional Subpoena

        “This ruling means not only that McGahn must provide testimony, but so must a raft of administration officials who have been stonewalling Congress in attempts to protect this president.”

    • Censorship/Free Speech

      • Nigerians Should Say No to Social Media Bill

        Nigerian campaigners are speaking out against a bill that would regulate engagement on social media with the campaign #SayNoToSocialMediaBill.

      • TekSavvy Appeals First Canadian Pirate Site Blockade

        Internet provider TekSavvy has appealed the first Canadian pirate site blocking order. According to the Internet provider, the ruling clearly violates Network Neutrality. If it stands, the open Internet will be undermined to advance the interests of a few powerful media conglomerates, the company says.

      • Iran letter raises prospect of ‘white list’ [Internet] clampdown

        The Iranian government has written to state-run organisations and private companies asking them which foreign websites they rely on.

        The effort has come to light 11 days after the authorities imposed a week-long [Internet] blackout following protests against a rise in fuel prices.

      • A Simple Truth About the Protests in Iran

        A wave of protests hit Iran this past week, shaking the nation and its ruling regime, to the core. More than a decade after widespread protests over electoral fraud captured the world’s attention, the Iranian people are back in the streets with a vengeance. Reports of demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the country included footage of protestors setting fire to banks and government buildings, clashing with security forces, and chanting slogans calling for an end to the theocracy.

      • This Week In Free Speech Hypocrites: ‘Free Speech’ Supporter Sheila Gunn Reid Gleefully Sues Someone For Calling Her A Neo-Nazi

        What is it with people who pretend to be free speech “warriors” only to rush to sue someone for stating an opinion about them? And why are so many of them Canadian?!? We’ve already covered folks like Jordan Peterson suing a university because some professors said mean things about him in a private meeting, and Gavin McInnes suing SPLC for calling the group he founded a “hate group.” And now we have Sheila Gunn Reid, who works for The Rebel Media, which is sort of the Canadian equivalent of Breitbart. Sheila pretends to be a free speech supporter in dozens upon dozens of tweets.

      • Egypt: Independent News Website Targeted

        Egyptian security forces raided the headquarters of the Cairo-based independent news website Mada Masr on November 24, 2019 as part of the government’s suppression of media freedom in Egypt, Human Rights Watch said today.

      • Sanctions, Protests, and Shutdowns: Fighting to Open Iran’s Internet

        Last week, Iranians took to the streets nationwide in protest after an abrupt spike in fuel prices. As the protests grew, the government disrupted the internet across Iran in an apparent attempt to quell unrest. The slowdown was, for most, experienced as a full blackout of internet and mobile connectivity. EFF joins a number of Iranian and international organizations in expressing grave concerns over the internet blackout and violence against protesters.

        A number of complicating factors have led to this shutdown. Renewed US sanctions have exacerbated economic hardship for Iranians, and tech companies’ compliance—and at times over-compliance—with these sanctions has led to diminished reliance on international services (such as Amazon Web Services, Apple and Github outright prohibiting access to users in Iran). This trend has led to further isolation of Iranians from the global Internet.

      • Police Raid Egypt’s Last Independent News Outlet

        Egyptian security forces raided the office of Mada Masr, the country’s last independent media outlet, and arrested three of its journalists this weekend. The raid began Sunday afternoon, when nine plainclothes security officers entered the Mada Masr office in Cairo, seizing phones and laptops and holding the staff in the building for more than three hours. They then arrested editor-in-chief Lina Attalah, managing editor Mohamed Hamama and reporter Rana Mamdouh. It came just a day after security forces arrested senior editor Shady Zalat at his home. All four journalists were released from detention Sunday night. The raid and arrests mark a sharp escalation in Egypt’s attack on press freedom under Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power after the 2013 overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. We go to Cairo where we’re joined by Mada Masr reporter Sharif Abdel Kouddous. He’s also a Democracy Now! correspondent and was detained with his colleagues on Sunday.

    • Freedom of Information / Freedom of the Press

      • Warning Julian Assange ‘Could Die in Prison’, 60+ Doctors Demand Immediate Medical Attention for WikiLeaks Founder

        “Tortured to near death for publishing truthful information.”

      • Julian Assange Could Die in Prison, Doctors Warn

        More than 60 doctors have written an open letter saying they fear Julian Assange’s health is so bad that the WikiLeaks founder could die inside a top-security British jail.

      • Fishrot Files – Part 2

        Today WikiLeaks releases documents pertaining to the Fishrot case that have come to light as a result of investigation into bribes, money laundering and tax evasion. These investigations have been launched by several institutions across Norway, Iceland and Namibia as a result of WikiLeaks’ Fishrot publication earlier this month.

        The first document details internal exchanges between staff at DNB, Norway’s largest bank, from April 2018 to 2019, discussing how to respond to AML flagging (anti-money laundering) from Bank of New York Mellon. Specifically it relates to payments from the international fishing company Samherji to JPC Ship Management (Cyprus), a crew management company supplying services to Samherji.

        The second document outlines how DNB (the Norwegian bank) carried out a detailed assessment in 2017 of JPC Ship Management in accordance with KYC principles (Know Your Customer) and did not seem to find anything wrong, despite being classified as a high-risk customer. Another company associated with Samherji financial transactions, Cape Cod FS (Marshall Islands), however was evaluated using the very same principles and its accounts were closed as the bank could not determine who the owner was.

        The third document shows how DNB finally decided to terminate its accounts with JPC Ship Management only after receiving AML flagging from Bank of New York Mellon:

        “Conclusion: The client is not in need of Norwegian account or within LCI strategy. The client does not have AML Policy and there is considerable risk related to transactions to Russia and Ukraine. The necessary resources to manage the sanction risk will be too high and the client has already disrespected instruction regarding resend once. Our recommendation is offboarding the client.“

        Also published today is a spreadsheet overview of transactions to and from various bank accounts of companies owned by and linked to the fishing company Samherji. They include Cape Cod FS (a Marshall Island company), JPC Ship Management (a Cypriot company) and Tundavala (a firm in Dubai set up primarily for Namibian entities to receive bribes from Samherji). The Tundavala payments continued at least until January 2019. This spreadsheet is not an original, however it is derived from the original spreadsheet which cannot be published for reasons of source protection. The original spreadsheet has been verified by WikiLeaks and investigative journalists of their media partners.

    • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

      • Contract for the Web: Internet Inventor Tim Berners-Lee Unveils Global Plan to Battle ‘Digital Dystopia’

        “The power of the web to transform people’s lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time. But if we don’t act now—and act together—to prevent the web being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering that potential.”

      • The Washington Post And AT&T Team Up To Over-hype 5G

        Buried underneath the blistering hype surrounding fifth-generation (5G) wireless is a quiet but unpopular reality: the technology is being over-hyped to spike lagging cell phone and network gear sales, and early incarnations were rushed to market in a way that prioritized marketing over substance. That’s not to say that faster 5G networks won’t be a good thing when they arrive at scale several years from now, but early offerings have been almost comical in their shortcomings to the point where, at least in tech policy circles, 5G has become a sort of magic pixie dust, capable of fixing anything.

      • .ORGanized Takeover – a timeline of the ISOC, PIR & Ethos Capital Deal

        There have been so many different emails and articles floating around about the ISOC sale of PIR to a new, two-person investment firm with only one investment, it’s hard to piece together exactly what has happened and when. I have put together a timeline based upon what I have read, and I’m sharing it here in case you find it helpful. I think it raises more questions than answers, though…

      • The Sketchy, Sketchy Case Of ICANN Execs And Self-Dealing Regarding The .Org Domain

        Earlier this month, within the domain name world, there were significant concerns raised upon the news that Internet Society (ISOC), the (perhaps formerly?) well-respected nonprofit that helps “provide leadership in Internet-related standards, education, access, and policy” had agreed to sell off the Public Interest Registry, which is the registry that manages all .org top level domain (TLD) names, to a private equity company called Ethos Capital. Just having a public interest nonprofit selling off a part of its operations to a private equity group would be trouble enough, but the details make the story look much, much worse.

    • Monopolies

      • Google Escalates Internal Crackdown, Firing Four Employees

        Stranger still, the memo conflates issues of confidentiality with those of data access. “We’ve seen a recent increase in information being shared outside the company, including the names and details of our employees,” the email opens. It goes on to describe “an individual [who] subscribed to the calendars of a wide range of employees outside of their work group.” It’s unclear if such access to calendars runs counter to any specific company policy. The memo is reproduced below in full: [...]

      • Patents

        • Software Patents

          • Video: Ruth Taylor Describes Her Win Against an Online Voting Patent

            We’ve been fighting abuses of the patent system for years. Many of the worst abuses we see are committed by software patent owners who make money suing people instead of building anything. These are patent owners we call patent trolls. They demand money from people who use technology to perform ordinary activities. And they’re able to do that because they’re able to get patents on basic ideas that aren’t inventions, like running a scavenger hunt and teaching foreign languages.

            Efforts at reforming this broken system got a big boost in 2014, when the Supreme Court decided the Alice v. CLS Bank case. In a unanimous decision, the high court held that you can’t get a patent on an abstract idea just by adding generic computer language. Now, courts are supposed to dismiss lawsuits based on abstract patents as early as possible.

      • Trademarks

        • Beer Trademarks At Record High In UK As The Locking Up Of Language Continues To Boom

          We’ve been on this for some time now, but the explosion in the craft brewing industry has led to a likewise explosion in trademarks for individual brews and breweries. It’s a problem very specific to the craft brewing industry for a number of reasons. First, this trademarking practice deviates from the tradition in the industry, which was one in which craft breweries were largely amicable and permissive with their cleverly named beers. Second, the explosive growth is quickly running into a roadblock of language, in which only so many words can be combined to name brews, even as the number of those brews on offer continues its exponential growth. Third, and perhaps most importantly, craft brewing is now big business, such that many macro-breweries are now gobbling up craft breweries, and those macros tend to be more litigious and more often engage in trademark bullying.

      • Copyrights

        • MPA & Roadshow-Led Coalition File Major Pirate Site-Blocking Application

          A large coalition of movie and TV companies has filed a new blocking application in Australia’s Federal Court. The Roadshow and MPA-led initiative demands that 50 ISPs should block access to 87 domains, offering movies, TV shows, anime and subtitles, or providing proxy access to the same. Considering the range of targets, it’s one of the broadest applications yet.

        • Music Companies Don’t Want Copyright Profs to Be Heard in Piracy Case

          A group of major music publishing companies doesn’t want 23 copyright law professors to be heard in a piracy case. The scholars submitted a brief in the ongoing piracy liability lawsuit against ISP Charter, warning that a recent recommendation could harm both ISPs and consumers. However, the music groups suggest that not all profs are completely neutral.

        • Richard Liebowitz Is Wrong On So Many Levels, And Is In Trouble Yet Again

          Copyright troll Richard Liebowitz (who once got so offended that he was called a copyright troll that he asked a judge to “redact” the phrase, only to have the judge double down on calling him a troll)… He’s been sanctioned for lying to the court, he’s been sanctioned for failing to comply with court orders, and is currently facing some serious penalties for lying about the death of his grandfather to a judge (which resulted in the most ridiculous letter he had a family friend send to the court, chalking such mistakes up to inexperience). But Liebowitz has a ton of experience in getting the law wrong. Hell, it was over two years ago that we wrote about him getting a judicial smackdown so bad that the judge began it by stating:

        • Movie Pirate Pleads Guilty, Faces Five Years in Prison, Forfeits Millions of Dollars

          A man who ran several US-based ‘pirate’ websites has pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal copyright infringement and tax evasion. Talon White, 29, faces up to five years in prison and must pay more than $4m in restitution to the MPAA and IRS, while forfeiting around $4.8m in cash, crypto, and property.

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