Surveillance Don James R. Clapper back in his military days
Summary: Popular manufacturers of phones (and software platforms for phones) say that they cannot track switched-off phones, but they are lying using carefully-crafted statements
TECHRIGHTS is no friend of Nokia and Samsung, especially after what they did with Microsoft (regarding patents and beyond), but today we deal with a completely separate issue. It’s irrespective of brands. There is a lot of media hype (even brainwash) — accompanied at times by expectations from employers, peers, family and friends — to purchase and constantly carry a mobile (cellular) phone. I never really carried one, except in unusual circumstances (e.g. when going somewhere dangerous or an important meeting).
Well, as pointed out the other day, the thing about companies that say they can’t track switched off phones is that they are lying. They use semantics and wording that’s shrewdly designed to sort of say the truth while actually dodging the more accurate/well-targeted questions and the real issues (same as ‘cloud’ companies did after PRISM became public knowledge).
Leading companies in the mobile phones arena insist that they can’t track/listen to powered-down phones, but they can release updates which enable this, so in a sense they really can listen (they just need to take a step before doing this, it cannot typically be done directly). The phones cannot be switched off, they merely pretend to be powered down (mimicking this behaviour). There is a new article titled “Cell Phone Manufacturers Offer Carefully Worded Denials To Question Of Whether NSA Can Track Powered-Down Cell Phones” and it says the following: “Short of pulling out the battery (notably not an option in some phones), there seems to be little anyone can do to prevent the device from being tracked and/or used as a listening device. The responding companies listed above have somewhat hedged their answers to the researcher’s questions, most likely not out of any deference to government intelligence agencies, but rather to prevent looking ignorant later if (or when) subsequent leaks make these tactics public knowledge.
“Any powered up cell phone performs a lot of legwork for intelligence agencies, supplying a steady stream of location and communications data. If nothing else, the leaks have proven the NSA (and to a slightly lesser extent, the FBI) has an unquenchable thirst for data. If such exploits exist (and they seem to), it would be ridiculous to believe they aren’t being used to their fullest extent.”
“Apple’s devices are surveillance devices on steroids; they go a a long way (more than counterparts) to maintain the integrity of the eavesdropping functionality.”The problem is being downplayed, too. It’s actually a lot worse than just tracking. Phones with camera/s and microphone in them can also transmit images, video, and/or audio once they are converted into surveillance devices (carried by s/he who is surveilled and his/her surroundings). Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal released a report which says even Android is susceptible to this. The FBI exploits the back doors in order to take over microphones of Android devices.
I happen to be the only person I’m aware of who has been pulling batteries out of phones (inevitably reverting clock back to factory defaults) for a number of years now. I have written about this for a long time, but only after Snowden’s leaks can more people appreciate this. Removal of batteries is not “paranoid”. This ought to become more common a practice and everyone should be doing this, even if they “do nothing wrong” (we need to make it the norm if we are ever to impede abusive entities like the NSA). No phone that I ever touched or used had my name attached to it at the carrier. Never.
It is worth adding that Apple won’t even answer the questions. Apple is worse in many ways because it makes it virtually impossible to remove the batteries (sometimes there is more than one, and some may not be detachable). Apple’s devices are surveillance devices on steroids; they go a a long way (more than counterparts) to maintain the integrity of the eavesdropping functionality. Microsoft too is rather unique because there is no need to convert devices with Windows into listening devices; there are back doors there 'out of the box', which is hardly surprising because Microsoft and the NSA are in bed together. █
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Summary: Why Samsung, despite its dominant position in the Linux world, is still a company to avoid
SAMSUNG has become the biggest seller of Android devices. That’s not necessarily good news because Samsung pays Microsoft for it, so it helps legitimise extortion. We have a “Ballnux” section in our daily links for this reason.
“Hardware suitable for Linux is available from companies that don’t pay Microsoft for it.”Rumours suggest that Google will shift Nexus 10 production away from Samsung , which is promoting gimmicks  with the “Galaxy” brand  (synonymous with its phones). Samsung tried to take over Cyanogen development through hiring of developers (who have left to create their own company ) and it is now trying to take over MeeGo (Nokia/Intel) .
What’s noteworthy is that Samsung goes everywhere but Windows. Being a Windows shop does not pay off anymore. But Samsung pays Microsoft for Linux and this is a serious issue. Hardware suitable for Linux is available from companies that don’t pay Microsoft for it. With Tegra, for example, Nvidia has become its own powerhouse  that destroys Microsoft’s monopoly . Nvidia has its own tablet now. Torvalds has given Nvidia a finger pointing up, but it was not his thumb, so companies like ASUS, Motorola, and even little Archos are worth prioritising when it comes to Android. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
We have already received second iteration of the Nexus 7 and now its turn for Nexus 10 to show up. Samsung manufactured the current Nexus 10, but it seems Asus has taken over as the maker of the next version of Nexus 10.
Samsung is pulling out all the stops for its Samsung Galaxy Gear, aka Smart Watch. That’s nice, but the watch is yesterday’s format.
Samsung released their new mid-range phone for the Indian market, the Galaxy Trend, for a price of Rs. 8,700. The phone is listed on the official Samsung site for India, but no information about the delivery is currently available. Yet interestingly, online retailers like Flipkart and Snapdeal are also offering it, but with a delivery time of 3 days and at a discounted price of Rs. 8,490 to boot!
Cyanogen, makers of popular software based on Android that extends the abilities of smartphones, is making a bid for the mainstream. The four-year-old company, which began as a one-person side project, said today that it has raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures. The goal is to vault past Blackberry and Windows Phone to become the third-most popular mobile operating system, after traditional Android and iOS. And the company is already closer than you might think.
Samsung still has no Tizen phone, but there are big plans for bigger devices.
Unlike Nvidia’s Project Shield handheld, which came out earlier this summer, the Tegra Note won’t be sold directly by Nvidia. Instead, it will be offered by some of the firms who currently sell Nvidia graphics cards—EVGA and PNY in North America and EVGA, Oysters, and Zotac in Europe, to name a few. The device will be released worldwide “in the next few months,” Nvidia says.
Developers have been trying for years to make Linux a global platform and to make it available to the masses and not just a select few, but Linux has now become the future of gaming in a surprising manner.
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The Software Freedom Conservancy did well
Summary: The fuller story behind Samsung choosing the GPL for a previously-proprietary piece of software that helps Microsoft
A few days ago we wrote about Samsung [1, 2, 3. 4] deciding to make it seem like it never violated the GPL licence, having done so before. Well, the group which years ago told us not to taunt Samsung over it claims to have just played a role. To quote:
Conservancy’s GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers worked collaboratively with Ibrahim Haddad, the Group Leader for Open Source at Samsung Research America, and fellow community leaders, throughout the process after this code first appeared on GitHub. Conservancy’s primary goal, as always, was to assist and advise toward the best possible resolution to the matter that complied fully with the GPL. Conservancy is delighted that the correct outcome has been reached: a legitimate, full release from Samsung of all relevant source code under the terms of Linux’s license, the GPL, version 2.
The Software Freedom Conservancy has announced that it has helped Samsung to release a version of its exFAT filesystem implementation under the GPL. This filesystem had previously been unofficially released after a copy leaked out of Samsung.
This is good work, but without the leak, would it have happened? Without some public shaming, would Samsung have cared? Sometimes there’s no choice but to be brave (blowing some whistles) and potentially rude/crude. █
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Microsoft’s hawkish patent extortion possibly jeopardised
Summary: Just like Microsoft after its unintended or secret GPL violations, code is being made GPL-licensed and the violations covered up as though they never happened
Over the past few weeks we have covered the latest noteworthy GPL violation by Samsung [1, 2, 3. 4].
“It looks like Samsung may have fixed the licensing problem,” said iophk. “Now how to put this in a positive light? It’s strange that the big companies act as if they are under no obligations to follow copyright and seem to do so only under duress.”
It seems like pressure and leaks have worked in the same way that Snowden’s leaks led to bogus government and NSA “transparency” (making public what’s already leaked). Based on Michael’s report, Samsung makes the code GPL-licensed all of a sudden.
Back in June, Phoronix was the first to report of a native exFAT file-system implementation for Linux that appeared on GitHub. It later turned out that Samsung accidentally leaked their exFAT source code. The solution has now been corrected with Samsung formally open-sourcing their exFAT source code.
The exFAT driver talked about in June was modified from an accidental Samsung source code leak that the independent developer found on GitHub. It was a confusing situation and he removed references to the original Samsung source code and it led to a confusing situation in the weeks that followed with tons of comments in the forums.
This was reported to GPL-violations and gave Samsung bad publicity, so they released it as Free software. As for what it means to patents on FAT, I am not qualified to say. It’s not GPLv3 though.
“This was reported to GPL-violations and gave Samsung bad publicity, so they released it as Free software.”In the past, GPL violations by Microsoft were also handled in this way. Microsoft decided to pretend the violation was open-sourced to rewrite history. iophk calls it spin, noting that “‘accidentally leaked’ == Samsung got caught ripping off kernel code” (indeed).
iophk quotes: “While Samsung accidentally put out the source code in the first place, they have now formally released the code under the GPL after it was discovered they violated the GPL in the first place. Samsung was shipping this closed-source exFAT driver on a tablet yet they were relying upon GPL-only symbols.”
iophk says that “all that aside, it’s an improvement that they have properly licensed the code finally… too bad it took all that trouble… Their image got tarnished a bit and that could have been avoided if they had just respected copyright from the start. It was also a bit of necessary extra work.”
This resolves the problem/dilemma for the leakers. Without them, this would not have happened. What does all this mean to Tuxera, Paragon, and patents on exFAT in general? Lawyers might tell. █
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Summary: More about Samsung’s Microsoft-serving code which seems like a gross violation of the GPL
Having been in contact with the source of the Samsung leak for a few days, we now have a lot more information that wasn’t published before. For the uninitiated, see the following three posts [1, 2, 3].
It turns out that the leaked code came from this man, who did not really mean to blow the whistle,
“Thank you very much for covering this story,” wrote the leaker. “It seems like GPL v2.2 is the way to go for this driver, correct?”
“ Kenneth R. Crudup is the one who leaked the driver. He got that driver through working for Broadcom on some android-ware.”
–rxrz (pseudonym)We previously suggested a suitable licence for the leaked code, but we wanted to know who has the copyrights. The leaker explained: “I wish I had those logs, but I found the leak on github, and the original account has been deleted. Although I made a fork of that repo, here it is https://github.com/rxrz/kernel-N8000/tree/master/fs/exfat Kenneth R. Crudup is the one who leaked the driver. He got that driver through working for Broadcom on some android-ware. The driver in that repo is as original as it’s possible to get…
“In those files you can see the version log and the author names. I believe it was written by two people during their contract with Samsung.”
We have already identified and studied one of them. They are in Seoul.
We may still need some legal advice for handling this existing leaked code. The leaker is not sure who to ask. “If you get a minute,” she wrote, “could you please compose a license file for exfat-nofuse? I will merge it asap.”
“Maybe this is something that could be solved over at Groklaw,” said iophk from our team. “The twisty path that the code has taken to arrive where it is now makes it harder to guess who gets assigned the copyright. GPLv2 seems the right choice but who owns it?”
The probe continues… █
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Quick Guide of license compatibility with GPL
Summary: A call for advice on how to handle another Samsung violation of the GPL and betrayal of the community
As a quick reminder, over 6 years ago we called for a boycott of Samsung, which proved that it didn’t care about freedom and actively worked against it. In 2 posts [1, 2] from the past few weeks we covered yet another violation of the GPL by Samsung. This one required a leak to be shown and we spoke to the leaker, who prefers to remain anonymous. We consulted internally to see how this can be dealt with.
“Not enough data to do more than guess,” iophk wrote, “I do recall that the SFLC disapproved of the ‘robin hood’ approach to freeing code that had been ripped off.
“This one required a leak to be shown and we spoke to the leaker, who prefers to remain anonymous.”“I guess it depends on the provenance of the code. If it is ripped off from the kernel then it comes under GPLv2 or later (IIRC). Then it comes down to v2 or v3. I like what v3 accomplishes, but I do not. like mixing copyright with patents in the same license. Can v3 provide any protection if Microsoft starts to claim to have patents on *FAT?”
This is an interesting possibility that we are exploring. Samsung’s GPL violations are in an implementation of exFAT, a very common extortion tool against Linux distributors. “Here is the latest info from the most recent kernel,” writes iophk. “It is v2 only.”
It is v3 which deals with patent provisions. iophk continues: “Linus likes v2 very much but seems to have removed the “or later” clause that I vaguely recollect being there. Can rxrz [the leaker] say which version of the kernel exfat-nofuse came from? If it is a later one, then maybe v2 is the only option. If it is an earlier one, there might be a choice between v2 and v3.”
He later, upon further investigation, adds: “Here’s the oldest commit in Git, which has the same preamble. So I’m not sure under which circumstances v3 could be used. It is certainly a safe bet with v2.”
“We could like to relay the leaker’s question to the wider community.”We spoke with the leaker of this code, who wrote: “I just wanted to do a good thing.
“But now I have decided to put the LICENSE file there, containing GPLv2, since Samsung has stolen that code initially from the Linux kernel tree. (I believe it fits this code the best, v3 may be better though, I don’t know)”
We could like to relay the leaker’s question to the wider community. To quote her, the leaker: “Could you please help the project and make up a LICENSE file content for it? It happens that I’m not too good with legal things myself…”
I promised to work with our community at Techrights or anyone else who reads this to address this issue. Any suggestions of ways forward from here? Or licensing? █
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Swearing to protect corporations like Apple
Summary: Obama is expected to supersede another patent-induced ban — this time against a Korean company — and whether he does so or not, the patent system in the US (USPTO) loses its credibility
The patent system in the US is not working based on the state of the economy. Maybe it helps make the rich even richer, or maybe it helps drive innovation to China, the world’s rising superpower. American.com has this new article which deals with Obama’s focus on patent trolls [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] — a subject that motivates some new blogs. This is essentially going after the small guys and leaving the rest, who occasionally suffer from those small guys, in tact. Towards the end the article mentions software patents too:
In conclusion, the Obama administration’s executive actions do not require Congressional approval, and will likely result in some modest improvement in transparency and increased PTO level of scrutiny of software patent applications. But serious Congressional policy debate likely will begin in this fall’s session, reflecting a significant opportunity to develop a common legislative agenda on Capitol Hill for much needed, focused bipartisan patent law reform addressing PAE litigation abuse.
PAE means patent trolls. It is a more polite term. Obama could be given the benefit of the doubt if he hadn’t helped Apple embargo Korean rivals (in reverse, removing ITC deterrence against Apple by Samsung). He intervened in the sanctions war by acting to unban the Apple products which a suitable authority decided to ban. Now that Samsung gets banned will Obama intervene again? Or dos hen only come to Apple’s rescue?
Samsung has suffered a big blow in the US over the weekend with a court issuing an import ban on some Samsung devices on grounds they violate two of Apple’s patents.
The Obama administration now has 60 days to decide whether to let the Samsung ban take effect, and may stoke accusations of favouritism if it decides to back the American Apple over South Korea’s Samsung.
If Obama’s staff can’t veto this decision, then it will show that the legal system in the US is just a farce with nationalist agenda. Either way, the fact that Obama’s staff members can intervene in lawsuits they know nothing about is itself proof of a broken, rogue, and arbitrary legal framework. This whole legal ‘anarchy’ serves to show that perhaps this whole system needs abolishing; slight reforms that change public perceptions won’t be enough. Reforming the patent system is like ‘reforming’ the massive surveillance apparatus. █
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Apple’s bubble is bursting
Summary: The defence of Android against Apple’s aggression is proving to be fruitful again, with invalidation of another patent and intent from or opportunity for the government to address spurious litigation
Two smartphones giants, Apple and Samsung, have reached another interesting point as an Apple patent got invalidated.
Samsung has just notified [PDF] the US District Court in Northern California that, according to another USPTO Final Office Action, Apple’s ’915 patent has been found invalid on reexamination. All 21 claims of the ’915 patent bit the dust, as you can see in Exhibit A [PDF], the USPTO documents The issue is prior art and obviousness. So, the jury in Apple v. Samsung got another thing wrong, I see. Apple didn’t invent gestures.
As a pro-Apple site put it, “The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected claims by Apple that Samsung Electronics infringed on its “pinch-to-zoom” patent – one of the decisive claims in the ongoing litigations between the two tech giants. The patent, No. 7,844,915, was first filed back in November 2010 and described, “an environment with user interface software interacting with a software application”.”
Here is a pro-Linux site’s take on this decision from the USPTO, which continues to grant software patents. There is more to it though. As the Murdoch press put it the other day, this major case plays a role in national policy now. To quote: “Smartphone rivals Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. have dueled over patents in courts around the globe. Now they are sparring in front of the Obama administration, which faces a looming decision on whether to veto a trade body’s order blocking the U.S. sale of some Apple devices.”
Sanctions like embargo never benefit the buyers, so the government should consider the possibility that patents themselves — not just patent trolls — are a problem and some reform should address real systemic flaws, not symptoms of these serious flaws [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].
Apple recently got chastised for using a patent on rounded corners, which relates to desperate Microsoft/Apple moves that the ITC, USPTO, and US Customs don’t quite agree on (there are conflicts of interest). The same person who chastised Apple for it has this update about the Motorola settlement. Yes, Matt Levy, referring to the problem as “Bad Software Patents” (not the best way to put it), then says “Congressional support for patent reform continues to grow. On Monday, Rep. Issa and Rep. Chu introduced the Stopping the Offense Use of Patents (STOP Act). That bill prompted Matt Levy to release Patent Progress’s Guide to Patent Reform Legislation, which has summaries of the six pending bills: SHIELD Act (H.R. 845), Patent Quality Improvement Act (S. 866), Stopping the Offensive Use of Patents Act (STOP Act) (H.R. 2766), End Anonymous Patents Act (H.R. 2024), Patent Abuse Reduction Act (S. 1013), Patent Litigation and Innovation Act (H.R. 2639).”
According to his blog, the FTC study on patent trolls may kick off soon. To quote: “As we’ve noted, the FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently proposed doing a 6(b) study on the patent assertion entity business model. The proposed study has the potential to get us information about how patent trolls operate that would be nearly impossible to get without litigation.
“MLex is reporting (subscription required) that FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen indicated last week after a speech at the Chamber of Commerce that she believes that a 6(b) study to examine the patent troll industry would be “appropriate.” It takes three votes to initiate the study, though.”
The FTC should study CPTN and now just trolls. The problem is much broader than trolls. Apple, for example, is doing more damage to Android than all trolls combined and the same can be said about Oracle and Microsoft (other CPTN members, preying on Novell’s patents among others like Sun’s). █
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