Bonum Certa Men Certa

Links 20/12/2017: oVirt 4.2 I Released, Microsoft Censor/Blocks Chrome

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • The Free Software movement is Barking up the wrong tree

    “Computer technology is complicated and new. Education about computers is extremely poor among all age groups. Technology companies have taken advantage of this lack of education to brainwash people into accepting absurd abuses of their rights.”

  • Events

    • KubeCon + CloudNativeCon, Austin
      KubeCon + CloudNativeCon, North America took place in Austin, Texas from 6th to 8th December. But before that, I stumbled upon this great opportunity by Linux Foundation which would make it possible for me to attend and expand my knowledge about cloud computing, containers and all things cloud native!

    • Fedora Women Day in Lima, Peru
      I’ve just wrapped up and I wanted to say thanks for the support throughout the process in having a nice place. Thanks to the staff of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru: Giohanny, Felipe Solari, Corrado and Walter. Congrats to the initiative of the Fedora Diversity team to foster more women involve in Linux. In addition, thanks to the help of Chhavi in the design and Bee for the help in planning the event. These were our FWD speakers:

    • Fedora Women Day in Prishtina
      We, the Fedora Diversity Team, were thinking where else we could help organize a Fedora Women Day. Of course, that Fedora Kosovo Community came in my mind and I thought to contact Ardian and Renata to see when we could organize a FWD at Prishtina Hackerspace. Since Renata and I had some exams during September we thought to organize it in October. At the same time, Daniel Pocock, part of the Debian community, was thinking to organize a Mini DebConf, the first one in Prishtina. After talking with him we decided to combine both activities and organize something together. Personally, I was very happy to see two Linux distributions organize an event together in Prishtina and having so many people interested in it.

    • Fedora 27 Release Party – Bengaluru

    • Internationalization FAD, Pune 2017
      For the second time in a short period of time I participated in an important Fedora event. November 20–22, 2017, an Internationalization FAD was organized by a group of Fedora contributors from Red Hat Pune. FAD stands for Fedora Activity Day, it is a mini-conference. It differs from large conferences like Flock because it is attended by small number of people and it is focused on one subject.

    • ATO2017 - A (late) summary
      This event - which happened way back in October - just keeps growing. It is already almost too big!

    • RISC-V Tokyo
      Today (was) RISC-V Day 2017 Tokyo at the University of Tokyo (programme in English, more information in English). My colleague Wei Fu gave a talk on the status of Fedora on RISC-V. I hope it was recorded somewhere. If it appears online I’ll update this post.

    • RISC-V Day 2017 Tokyo

    • #PeruRumboGSoC2018 – Session 6

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Microsoft removes Google’s Chrome installer from the Windows Store [iophk: "paving the way for DRM and bug doors"]

        There are many reasons Google won’t likely bring Chrome to the Windows Store, but the primary reason is probably related to Microsoft’s Windows 10 S restrictions. Windows Store apps that browse the web must use HTML and JavaScript engines provided by Windows 10, and Google’s Chrome browser uses its own Blink rendering engine.

    • Mozilla

      • New Thunderbird Releases and New Thunderbird Staff
        In April 2017 Thunderbird released its successful Extended Service Release (ESR) version 52. This release has just seen it’s fifth “dot update” 52.5.0, where fixes, stability and minor functionality improvements were shipped.

        Thunderbird 57 beta was also very successful. While Thunderbird 58 is equally stable and offers further cutting-edge improvements to Thunderbird users, the user community is starting to feel the impact of Mozilla platform changes which are phasing out so-called legacy add-ons. The Thunderbird technical leadership is working closely with add-on authors who face the challenge of updating their add-ons to work with the Mozilla interface changes. With a few usually simple changes most add-ons can be made to work in Thunderbird 58 beta. explains what needs to be done, and Thunderbird developers are happy to lend a hand to add-on authors.

      • This Week in Rust 213
        Hello and welcome to another issue of This Week in Rust! Rust is a systems language pursuing the trifecta: safety, concurrency, and speed. This is a weekly summary of its progress and community. Want something mentioned? Tweet us at @ThisWeekInRust or send us a pull request. Want to get involved? We love contributions.

      • Firefox 57 delays requests to tracking domains
        Firefox Quantum – version 57 – introduced number of changes to the network requests scheduler. One of them is using data of the Tracking Protection database to delay load of scripts from tracking domains when possible during the time a page is actively loading and rendering – I call it tailing.

        This has a positive effect on page load performance as we save some of the network bandwidth, I/O and CPU for loading and processing of images and scripts running on the site so the web page is complete and ready sooner.

      • Taking a break from Adblock Plus development
        After twelve years of working on Adblock Plus, the time seems right for me to take a break. The project’s dependence on me has been on the decline for quite a while already. Six years ago we founded eyeo, a company that would put the former hobby project on a more solid foundation. Two years ago Felix Dahlke took over the CTO role from me. And a little more than a month ago we launched the new Adblock Plus 3.0 for Firefox based on the Web Extensions framework. As damaging as this move inevitably was for our extension’s quality and reputation, it had a positive side effect: our original Adblock Plus for Firefox codebase is now legacy code, not to be worked on. Consequently, my Firefox expertise is barely required any more; this was one of the last areas where replacing me would have been problematic.

      • Don Marti: quick question on tracking protection
        One quick question for anyone who still isn't convinced that tracking protection needs to be a high priority for web browsers in 2018. Web tracking isn't just about items from your online shopping cart following you to other sites. Users who are vulnerable to abusive practices for health or other reasons have tracking protection needs too.

  • Databases

    • MVCC and VACUUM
      Experienced PostgreSQL users and developers rattle off the terms “MVCC” and “VACUUM” as if everyone should know what they are and how they work, but in fact many people don’t. This blog post is my attempt to explain what MVCC is and why PostgreSQL uses it, what VACUUM is and how it works, and why we need VACUUM to implement MVCC. In addition, I’ll include a few useful links for further reading for those who may want to know more.

    • Dgraph raises $3M for its open-source distributed graph database, hits 1.0 release
      Dgraph is an increasingly popular open-source distributed graph database that uses a version of Facebook’s GraphQL as its default query language. Today, the company announced that it has raised $3 million in funding from Bain Capital Ventures, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, Blackbird Ventures and AirTree (this includes a $1.1 million seed round the company raised last year). The company also announced that its flagship database has hit the 1.0 stage.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • Public Services/Government

    • Introducing ICT in primary education

      Firstly, using a computer requires developing basic skills with a mouse and keyboard. That means that from age seven or eight, children could be shown how to use child-oriented simple painting software like the free/open-source TuxPaint (

      This will teach the basics of controlling a cursor on the screen by moving a mouse and performing various actions with mouse clicks.

      Secondly, a basic familiarity with the keyboard has to be gained. This can be done with the free/open-source TuxType ( software, which has created a number of free arcade games based on typing speed.

  • Licensing/Legal

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • Open Sourcing the Data Driven Revolution

        Open Source helped to provide promising ground for digital transformation. Not too long ago open source transformed software and now it is having an impact in larger areas of business. However, it is important to note that this generation dates back much further than the Big Data revolution that is being promoted today.

        Open source refers to software licenses that can be redistributed and used to create works. The code is made available for the public and can often end in collaboration between programmers.

  • Standards/Consortia


  • Microsoft ends arbitration in sexual harassment cases [Ed: Microsoft has a long and documented history of sexual abuse at the workplace, so this is 'damage control' or a publicity stunt]
    This week Microsoft has altered a longstanding corporate policy, eliminating forced arbitration agreements for employees who file claims of sexual harassment—it is believed to be the largest such tech firm to make this notable change.

    "The silencing of people’s voices has clearly had an impact in perpetuating sexual harassment," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, told The New York Times on Tuesday. In a blog post, Smith also said that the company would support new federal legislation to end the use of arbitration in sexual harassment cases.

  • Apple Is Purposely Slowing Down Older Phones , Says Geekbench
    From time to time, discussions which claim that Apple slows down old iPhones, intentionally, to boost sales keep on appearing on different online forums and discussion. A new report from Geekbench seems to support his narrative but it has got an important point that you shouldn’t miss.

    As per the finding of Geekbench’s John Poole, the iPhone slowdown reports are only going to get more common as phones like iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 continue to age. With time, we expect the battery capacity to decrease but we expect the processor performance to remain same. So, what’s happening here? Pretty confusing, right?

  • iPhone Performance and Battery Age
    A Reddit post from last week has sparked a discussion regarding iPhone performance as a function of battery age. While we expect battery capacity to decrease as batteries age, we expect processor performance to stay the same. However, users with older iPhones with lower-than-expected Geekbench 4 scores have reported that replacing the battery increases their score (as well as the performance of the phone). What’s going on here? How many phones are experiencing decreased Geekbench 4 score?

    To answer these questions I’ve plotted the kernel density of Geekbench 4 single-core scores for the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7 running different versions of iOS. Scores obtained in low-power mode are not included in the distribution.

  • My Impossible Story
    Keeping up my bi-yearly blogging cadence, I thought it might be fun to write about what I’ve been doing since I left Mozilla. It’s also a convenient time, as it coincides with our work being open-sourced and made public (and of course, developed in public, because otherwise what’s the point, right?) Somewhat ironically, I’ve been working on another machine-learning project, though I’m loathe to call it that, as it uses no neural networks so far, and most people I’ve encountered consider those to be synonymous. I did also go on a month’s holiday to the home of bluegrass music, but that’s a story for another post. I’m getting ahead of myself here.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The Two Main Ways Corporate Media Will Whitewash McCain’s Legacy
      Washington Post editorial page editor and human avatar for DC national security orthodoxy Fred Hiatt published Sunday (12/17/17) what would be an otherwise non-sequitur love letter to John McCain, the DC national security state’s loudest champion and favorite branding exercise—if it weren’t for the obvious subtext that McCain’s health is rapidly deteriorating. As such, Hiatt’s proto-obituary sets the standard for all other flattering, ahistorical profiles of the senator that will invariably come down the pipe.

      US corporate media’s love affair with McCain has been well-documented by FAIR over the years (e.g.,, 2/24/00; Extra!, 5–6/08;, 7/24/17). McCain has charmed the press to mold his brand as Moderate, Reasonable Man of Principle—despite decades of evidence to the contrary. H

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Resolution on Transparency of Trade Negotiations Endorsed at U.N. Internet Governance Forum Meeting
      All this week, EFF is at the 12th annual meeting of the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva. Last year we co-organized the first ever main session of the IGF on trade and the Internet, recognizing how trade negotiations are incorporating an increasing number of Internet-related issues, many of which—such as copyright, domain name dispute resolution, and spam control—are already being dealt with in more transparent and inclusive fora.

      One of the key outcomes of that main session was the formation of a new IGF Dynamic Coalition on Trade and the Internet. This self-organized working group, currently led by EFF, carries on its work throughout the year, and reports back to the IGF annually. Although the Dynamic Coalition is new and its outputs do not have a formal status, its influence is already growing. For example, last month, the Dynamic Coalition was name-checked in the European Parliament’s new report on its digital trade policy.

    • Helsinki Police Raid Journalist’s Home
      Finnish police have raided the home of a Helsingin Sanomat journalist, apparently without a warrant, after the newspaper published a weekend article about an intelligence-gathering centre in Jyväskylä, based on secret leaked documents.

      The paper reports that officers spent four hours on Sunday evening searching the home of Laura Halminen, one of the journalists who wrote Saturday’s story.

      They showed up without a court order to authorise such a search, and confiscated phones, computers and memory sticks according to Helsingin Sanomat.

  • Finance

    • European Court Deals Latest Blow To Uber
      The European Court of Justice has ruled Uber is a taxi firm and should be regulated as such, dealing a regulatory blow to the American company.

      Wednesday’s decision came after taxi drivers in Barcelona launched a legal challenge. It will apply across the European Union, including in the UK.

      Uber has long argued it is a technology company, not a taxi firm, and the ruling will mean the company could potentially face new regulations limiting its operations.

      The court’s ruling said that, as a taxi firm, Uber “must be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as the directive on services in the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce.”

    • ‘Watching Funds Be Depleted to Pay for This Tax Bill Is Unacceptable’
      A GAO report found that many states with voucher programs and education savings accounts don’t inform parents of students with disabilities how their rights change when a child transfers to private school through a “choice program.” Private schools aren’t subject to some of the same legal safeguards, like the requirement to provide something like speech therapy. About half of the private schools the GAO surveyed offered little or no information about special education services on their websites.
    • The Republican Plan Isn’t Just About Taxes—It’s About Shredding the Safety Net
      In a recent interview, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) described the Republican approach to government as “survival of the fittest.”

      “If you’re well off, great, if you’re not—too bad,” he said.

      McGovern is right. The Republican tax bill, on which Congress is expected to vote on Tuesday, is effectively a bid to weed out people struggling to make ends meet. It could have dire consequences for the social safety net—and for the 70 percent of us who will turn to a means-tested program like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at some point in our lives. And it could impact millions who expect to rely later in life on Medicare and Social Security.
    • The Billion-Dollar Loophole
      The most generous charitable deduction in the federal tax code is being manipulated to make big profits — and there’s no sign that Congress has any intention of fixing the problem.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The White House Is Shutting Down Its Petition Site to Save You 0.4 Cents a Year

      We The People, the petition section of the White House’s website, is shutting down for a promised January relaunch. Summarily ignored since Donald Trump took office, its a wonder anyone in the current administration is expending the effort to turn off the lights.

    • White House Temporarily Removes Petition Tool

      A White House official said all existing petitions and responses will be restored next year, when petitions that reach the required 100,000 signatures will begin receiving responses.

      The Trump administration has yet to respond to any of the 17 petitions that have reached that threshold since Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017.

    • Trump’s Dark Deregulation
      At an event last Thursday to tout his administration’s efforts to rid the federal government of what he contends is burdensome red tape, President Donald Trump used oversized gold scissors to cut a piece of red ribbon strung between two stacks of paper.

      In short order, he promised, his administration would excise some 165,000 of the more than 185,000 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations.

      That’s no easy task. Changing federal regulatory laws can mean a congressional slog. And for federal agencies to rescind rules, they must engage in a time-consuming process that opens them to public scrutiny and potential legal challenges.

      But there are ways to get around these impediments. Collectively, you might call them dark deregulation.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Theater buff tells Harry S. Truman students about dangers of censorship
      Howard Sherman, director of communications and education for the New York City-based Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, said decisions on what plays should be staged in American high schools should never be made from one scene or line taken out of context, or apart from the message the playwright means to convey.
    • Iowa Supreme Court Apparently Unfamiliar With First Amendment And Prior Restraint: Bars Newspaper From Publishing Info
      You would think that to become a state Supreme Court Justice you need to be familiar with the basics of the law -- including famous legal rulings. For example, New York Times Company v. United States from 1971 is a pretty important and well known First Amendment case, in which the court specifically said that preventing newspapers from publishing information was unconstitutional prior restraint. That case relies on a number of other super famous First Amendment cases such as Near v. Minnesota and Bantam Books v. Sullivan. I mean, I'm not a lawyer and I know these cases. You would think that an Iowa Supreme Court Justice would as well.

    • Russia Threatens To Ban YouTube And Twitter, But Probably Won't Try
      Last year, the Russian authorities ordered LinkedIn to be blocked in the country, supposedly for failing to store personal data locally. Since other US companies like Google and Facebook had also ignored this data localization requirement, it was curious that only LinkedIn was affected. Now the German news site Deutsche Welle is reporting that Twitter and YouTube risk being locked out of Russia, but for quite different reasons. These involve Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the wealthiest person in Russia, and a long-time vocal opponent of President Putin. Khodorkovsky spent a number of years in prison, allegedly for fraud and embezzlement. He now lives outside Russia, and has set up the NGO Open Russia, which promotes democracy and human rights in Russia.

      Open Russia was put on the official list of "undesirable organizations" in April of this year. The Russian government has shut down Open Russia's web site, and now it is demanding that the NGO's presence on social media be deleted as well. Roskomnadzor, the country's media regulatory agency, gave YouTube and Twitter a deadline to delete Open Russia's accounts on their services, or be blocked entirely. The deadline has now passed, but the accounts are still accessible within Russia. The question is: what happens now?

    • Would-Be Congressman Wants A Law Forcing Social Media Platforms To Keep All His Alt-Right Buddies Online
      Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen is running for the other Paul's (Ryan) House seat in next year's midterm elections, and we can only hope this man is never allowed to operate law-making apparati at a federal level. He has big ideas for the nation -- most of them sounding exactly like President Trump's big ideas: A wall! Paid for by Mexico! Killing off Obamacare! Making abortions illegal! Bulk, untargeted deregulation!

      Nehlen also has big ideas about the First Amendment. Big ideas and a toddler-like grasp on tricky terms like "censorship." Nehlen hates (HATES!) government regulation but feels the government should step in and, under the color of law, prevent internet companies from monitoring their platforms as they see fit.

      The highly-problematic Nehlen wants Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. to stop kicking like-minded people off their platforms. It's undeniable Twitter has been deleting accounts held by far-right persons more often than those veering widely to the left. Some feel Facebook and Google have been doing the same thing, but the complaints of unfair moderation are loudest on Twitter. Nehlen is one of those complaining. But if he gets elected to Congress, he'll be able to do actual damage.

    • Gov't Committee: UK Should Move To Holding Platforms Liable For Third-Party Content Post-Brexit
      Going Brexit is to swear off logic, apparently. TorrentFreak reports that, in addition to everything else the UK's newfound independence will muck up, it's going to start doing an even more horrendous job policing the internet.

    • Kalter: Report sparks censorship fears at CDC
      A recent report that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were banned from using “science-based,” “transgender” and other terms has caused an uproar in the medical community, and local doctors say it could have a chilling effect on future research proposals.

    • The Deadly Cost of Censoring the CDC
      Do you want your medical treatment to be based on science? The Trump administration disagrees. It apparently banned the top US public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from using 7 words, including “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

      Prominent public health advocates have expressed outrage about these measures. For example, Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, tweeted “This is astonishing. It would be a parody of a flailing effort to limit the effectiveness of #publichealth if it did not suggest a real problem. #7words.” Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, stated that “Among the words forbidden to be used in CDC budget documents are ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based.’ I suppose one must not think those things either. Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous.”

    • New details emerge about the Trump administration’s censorship trends

    • Seven dirty words, according to the Trump administration

    • The CDC is banning certain words in budget documents. Is this 2017 or 1984?

    • No Words Are Actually Banned At The CDC, Its Director Says

    • CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity

    • In light of CDC censorship, why don't we ban these words, too?

    • POV: How Censorship Can Harm Public Health

    • Uproar Over Purported Ban at C.D.C. of Words Like ‘Fetus’

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • China Is Building The Ultimate Surveillance Tool: A DNA Database Of Every Adult Resident In Troubled Xinjiang Region

      It would be naïve to think that the authorities won't use this massive DNA database in order to increase their surveillance of the Uyghur population. DNA is the ultimate identity number. It is present in nearly every cell in the body; it is difficult to change in a non-random way unless you have lots of money and top-flight CRISPR scientists at your disposal -- unlikely in the case of Xinjiang residents; and we leave it everywhere we go, and on everything we touch. DNA also has the virtue -- for the authorities -- that it provides information about related individuals, since they all have some of their genetic code in common. That means it would be possible to determine everyone in the close family of a someone under investigation, by finding related DNA sequences. It's the kind of information that could be abused by the police in multiple ways.

      As well as concerns about the human rights of Uyghurs being harmed, another issue is that Xinjiang's Population Registration Program may be used as a trial before rolling out DNA collection to the entire Chinese adult population, just as is happening with a national facial recognition database. Although such a large-scale genetic database would have been infeasible a few years ago, advances in sequencing and dramatic falls in data storage and processing costs mean that it could probably be built now. And if China goes down this route, the fear has to be other countries will follow, just as they are doing in the realm of online surveillance.

    • Manhattan DA Cy Vance Makes His Annual Pitch For Anti-Encryption Legislation
      Two false assertions and we're barely getting started:

      1. At best, the "much of today's evidence" is an assumption. Locked devices can't prove or disprove this theory, but the biggest courtroom battle over encryption ended with a third party cracking the San Bernardino shooter's phone and the device yielding up a whole lot of nothing.

      2. Smartphone encryption is not "designed to keep law enforcement out." It's designed to keep everyone who isn't the phone's owner out. Law enforcement just happens to be in the "everyone who isn't the phone's owner" group. Maybe if people like Cy Vance stopped taking this so personally he might have more fruitful discussions with tech companies.
    • Another Court Says Compelled Password Production Doesn't Violate The Fifth Amendment
      Another court has decided compelled password production isn't a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The Massachusetts case [PDF], titled "In the Matter of a Grand Jury Investigation," concerns allegations of child abuse. The grand jury requested access to the contents of the suspect's phone. The government obtained a warrant but sought a court order compelling the suspect to produce a password to unlock it. The court granted it and the suspect challenged the order after being hit with contempt charges for failing to turn over the password. (via

      The court finds no problem with the government's reasoning. According to the court, the ownership of the phone is the only "foregone conclusion" the government needs to reach.

    • Facebook abusing its power with 'limitless' collection of people's data, Germany says

      The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) said Facebook was a “quasi-monopoly” that was abusing its position to force its users to give up data.

      The ruling is significant because it comes from a competition regulator.

    • German watchdog: Facebook abused dominant position in data collection

      "We are mostly concerned about the collection of data outside Facebook's social network and the merging of this data into a user's Facebook account,” said Andreas Mundt, the president of Germany’s competition authority. “This even happens when, for example, a user does not press a 'like button' but has called up a site into which such a button is embedded. Users are unaware of this.”

    • Facebook use of third-party apps 'violates data protection principles'

      A statement released on Tuesday criticised the world’s largest social media site for collecting data via Facebook-owned services, such as WhatsApp or Instagram, and then absorbing it into users’ Facebook accounts.

      “We are mostly concerned about the collection of data outside Facebook’s social network and the merging of this data into a user’s Facebook account,” said Andreas Mundt, the president of the Bundeskartellamt, or federal cartel authority.

    • France orders WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with Facebook without consent

      The French data protection agency, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), said on Monday that WhatsApp did not have a legal basis to share user data under French law for “business intelligence” purposes. The messaging app must cease data sharing within a month, paying particular attention to obtaining users’ consent.

    • France warns WhatsApp of fines over data-sharing with Facebook

      The National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) said on Monday that it had given WhatsApp a month to comply with the order. It emphasised that particular attention should be given to getting consent from users, Reuters reported.

    • WhatsApp ordered to stop sharing user data with Facebook

      France’s ultra-strict privacy watchdog CNIL has ordered WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with parent company Facebook. The app has a month to comply with the order, according to a public notice posted to the French website.

    • How to link Aadhaar with PAN

      Earlier this year, it was announced that PAN and Aadhaar had to be mandatorily to linked irrespective of whether one files income tax returns (ITR) or not. The government, in the previous budget, introduced a law which made it a must for everyone with a PAN to link it with Aadhaar.

    • Urgent: We Only Have Hours Left to Stop the NSA Expansion Bill
      According to reports published Tuesday evening by Politico, a group of surveillance hawks in the House of Representatives is trying to ram through a bill that would extend mass surveillance by the National Security Agency. We expect a vote to happen on the House floor as early as tomorrow, which means there are only a few hours to rally opposition.

      The backers of this bill are attempting to rush a vote on a bill that we’ve criticized for failing to secure Americans’ privacy. If this bill passes,we will miss the opportunity to prevent the FBI from searching through NSA databases for American communications without a warrant. Worse, nothing will be done to rein in the massive, unconstitutional surveillance of the NSA on Americans or innocent technology users worldwide.

      As we wrote, the bill, originally introduced by Chairman Devin Nunes before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “allows warrantless search of American communications, expands how collected data can be used, and treats constitutional protections as voluntary.”

    • Stop the Newest Border Screening Bill
      Biometric screening, surveillance drones, social media snooping, license plate readers—all this and more would be required by new federal legislation to expand high-tech spying on U.S. citizens and immigrants alike at and near the U.S. border.

      Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced “the SECURE Act” (S. 2192) on December 5. It borrows liberally from two other federal bills—H.R. 3548 and S. 1757—that EFF opposed earlier this year. Those bills were respectively introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) in the House of Representatives and Sen. John Coryn (R-TX) in the Senate.

      Sen. Coryn’s bill, called the Building America’s Trust Act, raises concerns about digital rights, many of which are likely to be ongoing issues in Sen. Grassley’s SECURE Act.
    • Republicans Push to Extend NSA Surveillance Expiring This Month

      Legislation to extend a major U.S. surveillance program that’s about to expire was being hashed out by Senate and House leaders, and details could be presented by Tuesday night, according to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.

      “It would be a combination” of pending proposals, Nunes of California told reporters. There are five proposals, including separate measures approved by the House Judiciary and Intelligence panels as well as versions offered in the Senate.

      The Rules Committee is expected to announce a hearing for Wednesday or Thursday for a measure that would be moved to the House floor as a standalone bill, according to an official familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified discussing the evolving plan. Congress is seeking to resolve the issue this week ahead of its year-end holiday break.

    • Court Says German Intelligence Agency Can No Longer Hoard Billions Of Metadata Records
      This is a big decision -- somewhat on par with the revamp of the Section 215 metadata program here in the US that took place following the Snowden leaks. But it might be bigger than that. BND collects over 11 billion records every year. And it shares this haul with the NSA and GCHQ. This was revealed via documents leaked to German news agency Die Zeit. The BND was grabbing metadata at a rate of 220 million records per day. This is only a small part of the BND's haul, much of which appears to be harvested from internet cables and satellite transmissions. These revelations caused some problems for the German government, which has generally been careful to keep Stasi comparisons to a minimum. The BND claimed these collections were lawful, but top government officials weren't so sure. This lawsuit appears to have settled the "metadata" question at least.

    • Twelve Days in Xinjiang: How China’s Surveillance State Overwhelms Daily Life

    • Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (6/21): Everything you do, say, or think today will be used against you in the future

      The current generation has utterly failed to preserve the presumption of innocence, as it applies to surveillance, in the shift from our analog parents to our digital children.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Cop being investigated for sex with a minor fatally shoots himself
      Authorities say a San Francisco police officer shot and killed himself after a traffic stop in northern California. Law enforcement sources tell CBS San Francisco the officer was being investigated for sex with a minor in Las Vegas.

      Richmond police said they pulled the suspect -- who was later identified as the police officer -- over in the Hilltop Mall parking lot, near J.C. Penney.
    • Study Of Las Vegas PD Body Cameras Shows Reductions In Complaints, Use Of Force

      We're nowhere closer to reaching a Unified Theory of Police Body Cameras, but at least we're still compiling data. So far, there's no definitive proof body cameras reduce police misconduct, but there's at least some evidence they're better than nothing at all.

      Early adopters showed a surprising amount of reduction in use of force by officers. A 2012 study in Rialto, California showed a 67% drop in force usage by officers wearing cameras. Since then, results have been all over the map. The largest study conducted to date -- covering the Washington DC PD's rollout of its body camera pilot program -- suggested cameras weren't reducing force usage or lowering the number of citizen complaints. A second study of the same group seemed to indicate the problem wasn't that cameras had no deterrent effect, but that officers were still very selective about camera activation -- hence the lack of improvement.
    • Florida Police Issue Hundreds of Bad Pedestrian Tickets Every Year Because They Don’t Seem to Know the Law
      On its face, Florida’s pedestrian statute 316.130(11) seems straightforward enough: fail to cross a street in a crosswalk where required, and you are liable for a ticket ranging from $51 to $77. The authorities across the state issue hundreds of the tickets every year with the public claim that they were trying to cut down Florida’s outsize number of pedestrian deaths.

      But a Times-Union/ProPublica examination of statute 316.130(11) tickets given in four large counties from 2012 to 2017 found them rife with mistakes — errors that can cost people not only money, but also put them at risk of losing their driver’s licenses or having their credit ratings damaged.

      In Broward County, for instance, around 70 percent of the more than 3,300 crosswalk tickets issued in those years were given in error, according to the Times-Union/ProPublica examination. In Hillsborough County, where more than 500 crosswalk tickets were given, the percentage of bad tickets was around 80 percent; in Orange County, around 56 percent of the almost 650 tickets were given erroneously.
    • Cop Shuts Off Dashcam During Drug Dog Sniff. Appeals Court: This Is Fine.
      If cops have the ability and opportunity to record a traffic stop, should it be held against them when they don't? Arguments have been made to that effect for a few years now. Dashcams have been in wide use for at least a couple of decades. Law enforcement agencies all over the US are issuing body cameras to officers. But it seems whenever something questionable happens, footage is nowhere to be found, or what there is of it is almost useless.

      Unfortunately, years of discussion by (mainly) defense lawyers hasn't resulted in policy changes. Worse, it hasn't budged the judicial needle much. In rare cases, the absence of footage is used against officers, but in those cases, it mainly seems to be because efforts were made to destroy footage already captured.

      In this case [PDF] reviewed by the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court, no effort was made post facto to destroy footage. Instead, an officer proactively prevented footage from being created by disabling the dashcam recording the traffic stop.

    • New Documents And Testimony Shows Officers Lied About Their Role In An Arrested Teen's Death
      Earlier this year, we covered the horrific story of the death of a 5'4" 110-lb. 18-year-old at the hands of the Mesquite (TX) police department. The teen, suffering from a bad acid trip, was tased multiple times, threatened with death by an officer, and left to die in a jail cell with little more than a cursory nod towards his health and wellbeing.

      Graham Dyer's parents were unable to obtain any details about their son's death from the Mesquite PD. The department refused to turn over records, pointing to state law allowing it to withhold records on arrested suspects who never faced criminal charges. This exemption may have made sense to lawmakers at the point it was passed. But in-custody deaths are inherently questionable. This exemption does little more than give law enforcement agencies everything they need to cover up misconduct.

      Fortunately, Dyer's parents didn't stop there. They asked the FBI to open an investigation into their son's death. The FBI closed its investigation without forwarding it to the DOJ for charges but the investigation did serve at least one purpose: it allowed Dyer's parents to finally obtain records related to their son's last night on earth.

      What they found was horrifying. Video showed their son thrashing around in the back of a police car, incoherent and completely unrestrained. Captured audio captured an officer threatening to kill their son if he didn't calm down. The in-car video also showed the same officer repeatedly tasing their son in the testicles. (The officer claims he was aiming for the "inner thigh" but Dyer kept moving. Considering a taser is effective almost anywhere it's placed, why place it so close to a person's testicles unless you're hoping to "accidentally" tase that part of the arrestee?) They also saw their son dragged from the police car at the jail sally port, laying on the floor with an officer's foot on his head.

      Without these records from the FBI, the Dyers would never have known what led to their son's death. The Mesquite PD's refusal to turn over records also served its own purpose: it ran the clock on the statute of limitations. The state can no longer bring criminal charges against the officers -- despite the DA saying there's evidence of criminal behavior.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • We have abandoned every principle of the free and open internet

    • NAACP Fought Net Neutrality Until Last Week, Now Suddenly Supports The Idea

      For years now we've pointed out how one of the telecom industry's sleazier lobbying tricks involves paying minority groups to parrot awful tech policy positions. That's why you'll often see groups like the "Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership" support competition-killing mergers or oppose consumer-centric policies like more cable box competition or increased wireless competition. This quid pro quo is never put into writing, so when these groups are asked why they're supporting policies that undermine their constituents, they can deny it with a wave of breathless indignation.

      But this tactic remains very real, and very harmful all the same. It played a huge role in ginning up bogus support for the attack on net neutrality. AT&T and Comcast have co-opted countless minority groups in this fashion, with a lot of it coordinated through a telecom-funded organization dubbed the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council (MMTC). In short: if you want to keep the funding flowing, it's expected that you'll parrot telecom industry policies, even if they harm your constituents. This has been a problem for years that nobody much likes to talk about.

    • GOP net neutrality bill would allow paid fast lanes and preempt state laws

      A Republican lawmaker is proposing a net neutrality law that would ban blocking Recently the FCC voted down the previously held rules on net neutrality. I think that this is a bad decision by the FCC, but I don't think that it will result in the amount of chaos that some people are suggesting. I thought I'd write about how I see the net changing, for better or worse, with these regulations removed.

      If we think about how the Internet is today, basically everyone pays to access the network individually. Both groups that want to host information and people who want to access those sites. Everyone pays a fee for 'their connection' which contributes to companies that create and connect the backbone together. An Internet connection by itself has very little value, but it is the definition of a "network effect", because everyone is on the Internet it has value for you to connect there as well. Some services you connect to use a lot of your home Internet connection, and some of them charge different rates for it. Independent of how much they use or charge you, your ISP isn't involved in any meaningful way. The key change here is that now your ISP will be associated with the services that you use.

      Let's talk about a theoretical video streaming service that charged for their video service. Before they'd charge something like $10 a month for licensing and their hosting costs. Now they're going to end up paying an access fee to get to consumer's Internet connections, so their charges are going to change. They end up charging $20 a month and giving $10 of that to the ISPs of their customers. In the end consumers will end up paying for their Internet connection just as much, but it'd be bundled into other services they're buying on the Internet. ISPs love this because suddenly they're not the ones charging too much, they're out of the billing here. They could even possibly charge less (free?) for home Internet access as it'd be subsidized by the services you use.and throttling, but the bill would allow ISPs to create paid fast lanes and prohibit state governments from enacting their own net neutrality laws. The bill would also prohibit the FCC from imposing any type of common carrier regulations on broadband providers.

      Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) announced the "Open Internet Preservation Act" in a video posted to Twitter.

      "We can do this now that [FCC] Chairman [Ajit] Pai has successfully done his job of getting the net neutrality rules off the books," said Blackburn, who is chairperson of a congressional telecommunications subcommittee.

    • The Republican net neutrality bill doesn't save net neutrality
    • FCC Boss Claims Net Neutrality Supporters Were Clearly Wrong Because Twitter Still Works The Day After Repeal
      By now you've probably noticed that FCC boss Ajit Pai isn't particularly popular online after he voted last week to kill popular net neutrality protections. A big reason for that unpopularity is Pai's tendency to simply make things up as he rushes to coddle broadband duopolists, whether we're talking about his bogus claims that net neutrality killed broadband investment, his claims that net neutrality only emboldens tyrants in Iran and North Korea, or his claims that the broadband market is amazingly competitive.

      So in the wake of the repeal (which of course still needs to survive legal challenge) it's not too surprising to see Pai engaging in more blatantly false nonsense as he tries to frame net neutrality supporters as hysterical hyperbolists. For example, Pai tried to argue last week on Fox and Friends that net neutrality supporters were clearly wrong to worry about the repeal because Twitter and Facebook still worked the day after the repeal...

    • Net change
      Recently the FCC voted down the previously held rules on net neutrality. I think that this is a bad decision by the FCC, but I don't think that it will result in the amount of chaos that some people are suggesting. I thought I'd write about how I see the net changing, for better or worse, with these regulations removed.

      If we think about how the Internet is today, basically everyone pays to access the network individually. Both groups that want to host information and people who want to access those sites. Everyone pays a fee for 'their connection' which contributes to companies that create and connect the backbone together. An Internet connection by itself has very little value, but it is the definition of a "network effect", because everyone is on the Internet it has value for you to connect there as well. Some services you connect to use a lot of your home Internet connection, and some of them charge different rates for it. Independent of how much they use or charge you, your ISP isn't involved in any meaningful way. The key change here is that now your ISP will be associated with the services that you use.

      Let's talk about a theoretical video streaming service that charged for their video service. Before they'd charge something like $10 a month for licensing and their hosting costs. Now they're going to end up paying an access fee to get to consumer's Internet connections, so their charges are going to change. They end up charging $20 a month and giving $10 of that to the ISPs of their customers. In the end consumers will end up paying for their Internet connection just as much, but it'd be bundled into other services they're buying on the Internet. ISPs love this because suddenly they're not the ones charging too much, they're out of the billing here. They could even possibly charge less (free?) for home Internet access as it'd be subsidized by the services you use.

    • End of an FTP era
      It's bittersweet, since I've been running an anonymous FTP server since some time around 1996 (longer than HTTP has been a widely-used thing), and at for nearly that long. The original service was wu-ftpd, as one did at the time, but it's been vsftpd for the past decade plus. (Amusingly, I now work for the author of vsftpd.)

      All of the data is still there, at as has been the case for more than a decade. I doubt anyone but me and a few people with ancient bookmarks will ever notice. The whole world switched over to HTTP many years ago, and about the only thing that ever connected to the anonymous FTP server was search engines. I was keeping it running out of nostalgia.

      Explaining why I finally pulled the plug requires a bit of background on the FTP protocol. Many of those reading this may already be familiar, but I bet some people aren't, and it's somewhat interesting. The short version is that FTP is a very old protocol from a much different era of the Internet, and it does things in some very odd ways that are partly incompatible with modern networking.

    • What does FCC Net Neutrality repeal mean to you?

    • Comcast's Push For A Shitty New Net Neutrality Law Begins In Earnest
      As we've been noting for a while, the FCC's 3-2 vote to kill net neutrality is really only the beginning of a new chapter in the fight for a healthy, competitive internet. The rules won't truly be repealed until 60 days after they hit the federal register in January. And even then, the repeal will have to survive a multi-pronged legal assault against the FCC, accusing it of ignoring the public interest, ignoring feedback from countless experts, and turning a blind eye to all of the procedural oddities that occurred during its proceeding (like, oh, the fact that only dead and artificial people appear to support what the FCC is up to).

      ISPs know that this legal fight faces a steep uphill battle with all of the procedural missteps at the FCC. That's why we've been warning for a while that ISPs (and their army of think tankers, sock puppets, consultants, and other allies) will soon begin pushing hard for a new net neutrality law. One that professes to "put this whole debate to bed," but contains so many loopholes as to be useless. The real purpose of such a law? To codify federal net neutrality apathy into law, and to prevent the FCC from simply passing tougher rules down the road.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Five Below, Trendy Retailer, Sues 10 Below, Ice Cream Seller, For Trademark Infringement
        When it comes to frivolous trademark lawsuits, you think you've seen it all, but then one comes along that makes you throw up your hands. Here at Techdirt, we understand that the average individual might not know some of the broader nuances of trademark law, such as the focus on customer confusion, or the requirement, in most cases, that the parties reside within the same industry or market. But that understanding goes out the window when we're talking about a lawsuit brought by a large corporation that, like, totally has lawyers and stuff. I use that tone and vernacular specifically as preparation for stating that Five Below, the large retailer with trendy products for less than five bucks, has sued 10 Below, a small chain of ice cream shops.

    • Copyrights

      • This Whole Mess With Ajit Pai, The Harlem Shake And Copyright Is Bad And Everyone's Wrong.
        The video is bad and dumb and misleading and, yes, very, very cringeworthy. The pure awfulness of the video is what got people worked up initially, with Pai's supporters gleefully laughing at Pai's opponents for getting upset about it. If you can't see it for some reason, it involves Pai claiming that nothing is going to change on the internet following his bad decision to kill the FCC's net neutrality rules, and then attempts to show some examples: posting images of food and dogs to the internet, doing some online shopping, being a dorky Star Wars fan and, finally, "ruining a meme."

        That meme? The Harlem Shake. If you were online in 2013, you almost certainly remember it. Because it was everywhere. For a couple months or so, everyone on the internet seemed to feel it was their obligation to create a video showing people crazy dancing to a snippet of the song "Harlem Shake" by "Baauer" the stage name of a music producer named Harry Rodrigues. The song, the Harlem Shake uses a sample from another song, Miller Time, by Philadelphia's Plastic Little. Also, the "con los terroristas" line was sampled from a singer named Hector Delgado.
      • How The Muppets And A Font Choice Hurt The Star Trek / Dr. Seuss Mashup In Court
        A little over a year ago, we wrote about an unfortunate case in which Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to sue for copyright and trademark infringement over an attempt to create a (pretty funny) parody that mashed up Dr. Seuss with Star Trek, called "Oh, The Places You'll Boldly Go." As we noted at the time, this seemed to be a clear parody (which is protected by fair use). It was clearly transformative, and was commenting on the differences between Trek and Seuss. We also noted some extraordinary (and extraordinarily silly) claims in the lawsuit. The defendants in the case, Comicmix, won a round earlier this year, when the judge tossed out the trademark claims. However, he let the copyright claims stand for the time being. After, Dr. Seuss Enterprises filed an amended complaint on all the claims, leading to a new motion to dismiss.

      • Facebook Rejects 31% of All Piracy Takedown Requests

        Facebook has published data on the number of piracy takedown notices the company receives. During the first half of 2017, the social media giant removed 1.8 million posts or files, following copyright holder requests. Interestingly, the company rejected nearly a third of all requests in their entirety.

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