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Links 15/2/2018: GNOME 3.28 Beta, Rust 1.24

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Open source project management: The art of herding cats
    Dave Page of EnterpriseDB talks about the challenges of organising the Postgres community and why Oracle's cloud does not feature in his firm's plans

  • We're still learning from this failed blockchain experiment
    The past six months have seen cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum go from rounding errors in the global economy to center stage at mainstream banking conferences. Much of the current fervor concerns the skyrocketing valuations of cryptocurrencies and tokens, and using them as an investment. All this has an interesting backstory—one with roots in an open organization effort attempted two years ago: The DAO.

  • Events

    • A cyborg's journey
      Karen Sandler has been giving conference talks about free software and open medical devices for the better part of a decade at this point. LWN briefly covered a 2010 LinuxCon talk and a 2012 (LCA) talk; her talk at LCA 2012 was her first full-length keynote, she said. In this year's edition, she reviewed her history (including her love for LCA based in part on that 2012 visit) and gave an update on the status of the source code for the device she has implanted on her heart.

      Sandler is the executive director of the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC); she is also a lawyer, but "I do all of my legal work for good now", she said with a chuckle. She does pro bono work for FSF and the GNOME Foundation, for example. She asked how many in the audience had attended LCA 2012 in Ballarat, which turned out to be around one-third (interestingly, the number of first-time attendees was nearly the same).

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox Performance Update #1
        In an attempt to fill the shoes of Ehsan’s excellent Quantum Flow Newsletters1, I’ve started to keep track of interesting performance bugs that have been tackled over the past little while.

        I don’t expect I’ll be able to put together such excellent essays on performance issues in Firefox, but I can certainly try to help to raise the profile of folks helping to make Firefox faster.

      • Welcome Marnie to the Test Pilot Team!
        Late last year, the Test Pilot team welcomed a new engineering program manager, Marnie Pasciuto-Wood. In this post, Marnie talks about what it’s been like joining Mozilla and what keeps her busy and inspired outside of work.

      • A Perspective: Firefox Quantum’s Tracking Protection Gives Users The Right To Be Curious
        In the physical world, we don’t wear our ID on our foreheads. This is convenient because we can walk around with a reasonable expectation of privacy and let our curiosity take us to interesting places. That shoe store you sauntered into because they had a pair that caught your eye has no idea who you are, where you live, or anything about you. More importantly, any attempt by that shoe store to have an employee follow you around would not only be impractical, but would be met with some serious side-eye from potential customers.

      • CSS Grid for UI Layouts
        CSS Grid is a great layout tool for content-driven websites that include long passages of text, and it has tremendous value for a variety of traditional UI layouts as well. In this article I’ll show you how to use CSS Grid to improve application layouts that need to respond and adapt to user interactions and changing conditions, and always have your panels scroll properly.

      • Firefox 59 Beta 10 Testday, February 16th

        We are happy to let you know that Friday, February 16th, we are organizing Firefox 59 Beta 10 Testday. We’ll be focusing our testing on Find Toolbar and Search Suggestions.

      • Firefox, Pocket and Sponsored Stories
        Well, well, remember when I told you - the more desperate Mozilla gets vis-a-vis its market share, the more aggressive they will get with pushing "quality" content onto its users? I did, I did. Well, the bonfires of the Mr. Robot fiasco have hardly cooled, and now there's a new drama developing. Mozilla will start rolling a pilot that tests sponsored stories in the Pocket recommendations section on the New Tab page.

        Since I'm usually a blithely cheerful chap, I'm actively looking for stories to sour my mood, and so I was excited (this is sales lingo, we will get to that) to read this announcement. After all, writing about how everything is peachy and efficient and good in the tech world is boring, we need these little burdocks of greed to make things complicated. After me, pioneers.


        Actually, it does not take a wizard to figure things out. Just look what happened in the past five years, ever since the mobile world exploded. For instance, thinking wildly about some rather common examples, Windows 7 to Windows 10, and the amount of pesky, online and telemetry stuff. Just compare Skype 7.40, the last classic version. and the toy factory moronity that is Skype 8. Windows Control Panel to Windows Settings. Gnome 2 to Gnome 3. Oh, Firefox 3.6 to Firefox whatever.

        What you see is that menus get deeper and deeper and deeper and more obfuscated, with focus on aesthetic minimalism (mobile) that goes directly against user intuition and efficiency. You need more and more actions and mouse clicks to achieve the same results you could half a decade before. Now imagine what will happen in five or even ten years. Consider yourself lucky you were there to witness the early days of the Internet, when it was still all naive and innocent and not just pure money.


        Some people may assume that I have a personal problem with Mozilla and Firefox. Not really. It's just I don't like hypocrisy, and I do not like being herded toward the pen that reads IDIOTS. I fully understand that Mozilla needs quiche. Fine, state it upfront. Don't veil it in bullshit. The words privacy, freedom and similar slogans mean nothing when you put them side by side with sponsored stories. You want money, start charging money for your browser. There's nothing wrong with that. And I would gladly pay for a high-quality product - and when needed, I do.

        I also wish that we had alternatives - the more the merrier. Alas, the exact opposite is happening. As time goes by, it will become even more difficult to have (supposedly free) products that really cater to their users. The profit slope is a one-way direction. Once you make a margin, you need to make more margin and more margin and more margin. It never stops.

        Firefox is a completely different product than it was a decade ago. It's now a big boy, trying to compete in the big arena. There's no room for niceties anymore. The only thing you can do is try to prepare for the inevitable day when this salesy nonsense becomes too much, so when you do switch, you try to do it elegantly and smartly. I cannot guarantee there's actually going to be a nice and peaceful browser for you out there when that moment comes, so if you want to sleep all relaxed, don't. The old Internet is dying, and the future does not belong to you and me or anyone willing to read this entire article without skipping words. The best you can do is play the game, so at the very least, you will be a rich idealist one day rather than a poor user. Or better yet, a rich loser rather than a poor user.

      • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 32

      • Reps On-boarding Team
        As you already know from our discourse topic, we have created an Onboarding Screening Team.

        The scope of this team is to help on evaluating the new applications to the Reps program by helping the Reps Council on this process.

      • Announcing Rust 1.24
        The Rust team is happy to announce a new version of Rust, 1.24.0. Rust is a systems programming language focused on safety, speed, and concurrency.

      • Rust 1.24 Released With "rustfmt" Preview & Incremental Compilation By Default
        A fairly notable update to the Rust programming language compiler and its components is available today.

        With Rust 1.24 first up is a preview release of rustfmt, an official utility for formatting Rust code. Rustfmt applies a standard style of formatting to existing Rustlang code and is similar to the other LLVM-based code formatters.

  • SaaS/Back End

  • Databases

    • iRODS Consortium Carries Open Source Data Management Software Forward
      Integrated Rule-Oriented Data System (iRODS) is used across the globe in industries ranging from the life and physical sciences to media and entertainment, but the software’s origins can be traced back over two decades to a team at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and a project known as the Storage Resource Broker (SRB).

    • ArangoDB Publishes Industry-Wide Open Source NoSQL Performance Benchmark
      ArangoDB, a leading provider of native multi-model NoSQL database solutions, today announced the latest findings of its open source NoSQL performance benchmark series. To enable vendors to respond to the results and contribute improvements, ArangoDB has published the necessary scripts required to repeat the benchmark. The goal of the benchmark is to measure the performance of each database system when there is no cache used. The benchmark is completely open source and therefore driven by community input.

    • Altibase goes open source, says it ‘directly challenges’ Microsoft, IBM and Oracle
      Following the recent announcement that the global software firm is open source, Altibase says it “directly challenges” the other companies by providing equal functionality at a much lower cost. Customers will save money by not having to buy in-memory and disk-resident databases separately, says Altibase. It can easily replace or supplement Oracle as well.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice 6.0: The stats so far
      On January 31, we released LibreOffice 6.0 (shortly followed up by 6.0.1). So what has happened in the last two weeks? Let’s look at some statistics…

  • Funding


    • I love Free Software Day 2018
      Today isn't just Valentines day, but also I love Free Software Day! I've been using (and contributing) Free Software for years now and don't want anything else. Even when I've given non-Free Software another chance, every time I was glad when I returned to Free Software.

      A big thank you goes out to all developers, sysadmins, network guru's, translators, bugsquashers and all other contributors.

      A small selection of tools/libraries/projects/organizations I'm thankful for this year: debian, ubuntu, terminator, mate, vi(m), firefox, thunderbird, postgresql, apache, kvm, libvirt, bash, openssh, nextcloud, workrave, audacious, vlc, mtp (Media Transfer Protocol), ext2/ext3/ext4/btrfs, mdadm, postfix, the linux kernel, fosdem, fsfe, eff, bitsoffreedom, ccc and kodi.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Defense Digital Service revamps with clearer, more accessible guidance
      When the Defense Digital Service team launched in February 2017, the goal was to propel the Department of Defense into the open source software community.

      The team set up a repository on GitHub, got to work on a licensing agreement and by mid-March the first open-sourced project was posted.

      But where there was excitement among the DoD engineering community, there also was a slight problem — the guidance on how to release code as code open source just wasn’t very accessible or clear.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • FLOSS Weekly 471: ScanCode
      Simon was co-host of FLOSS Weekly 471, which featured the ScanCode Toolkit. ScanCode analyses a source package and lists what licenses are found in it. The toolkit can be used as part of a larger solution and together with the new AboutCode Manager provides open source compliance staff with an easy way to know what licenses they are actually dealing with.

    • A GPL-enforcement update

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open-source drug discovery
      An apparent tradition is to dedicate a keynote slot to somebody who is applying open-source principles to make the world better in an area other than software development. LCA 2018 was no exception; professor Matthew Todd took the stage to present his work on open-source drug discovery. The market for pharmaceuticals has failed in a number of ways to come up with necessary drugs at reasonable prices; perhaps some of those failures can be addressed through a community effort.

      Todd started by noting that he must normally begin his talks by selling open source to a room that is hostile to the idea; that tends not to be a problem at LCA. The chemistry community, he said, is playing catch-up, trying to mimic some of the things that the open-source community has done. The first step was to apply these principles to basic research before moving on to drug discovery; the latter proved to be harder, since it's typically a process that is shrouded in secrecy.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • First Open-Source RISC-V SoC for Linux Released
        Only months after debuting the Freedom U540, the world's first Linux-compatible processor based on the open-source RISC-V chip architecture, RISC-V chipmaker SiFive has surprised the open-source community again by unveiling a full development board built around the ISA.

        Called the HiFive Unleashed, the new development board is built around SiFive's Freedom U540, which is based on the company's U54-MC Coreplex. The chip is a 64-bit, 4+1 multicore processor that fully supports Linux, as well as other operating systems such as FreeBSD and Unix. The development board itself features a 8GB of DDR4 with ECC, a gigabit ethernet port, 32 MB of quad SPI flash memory, a MicroSD card slot, and an FPGA mezzanine card (FMC) connector for allowing peripherals and other expansion devices to be attached to the board.

      • RISC-V plans to fulfill open-source architecture innovation dreams
        Digital transformation and the proliferation of big data are driving a renaissance in software development, requiring new advancements in hardware and processors. With a range of needs from a variety of users and platforms, standard instruction set architectures are no longer fulfilling all use cases as the demand for flexibility and improved performance increases.

        “The world is dominated by two instruction set architectures. … Both are great, but … they’re owned by their respective companies. RISC-V is a third entrant into this world … it’s completely open source,” said Martin Fink (pictured, right), chief technology officer of Western Digital Corp. Through the RISC-V initiative, Fink and Dave Tang (pictured, left), senior vice president of corporate marketing at Western Digital, are working to provide an instruction set that can be freely shared to encourage innovation.

      • Fedora/RISC-V: Runnable stage 4 disk images

  • Programming/Development

    • Jupyter: notebooks for education and collaboration
      The popular interpreted language Python shares a mode of interaction with many other languages, from Lisp to APL to Julia: the REPL (read-eval-print-loop) allows the user to experiment with and explore their code, while maintaining a workspace of global variables and functions. This is in contrast with languages such as Fortran and C, which must be compiled and run as complete programs (a mode of operation available to the REPL-enabled languages as well). But using a REPL is a solitary task; one can write a program to share based on their explorations, but the REPL session itself not easily shareable. So REPLs have gotten more sophisticated over time, evolving into shareable notebooks, such as what IPython, and its more recent descendant, Jupyter, have. Here we look at Jupyter: its history, notebooks, and how it enables better collaboration in languages well beyond its Python roots.

    • Who Killed The Junior Developer?

      I’m not sure what the industry-wide solution is. I’m not sure whether companies that lack junior devs are unbalanced or smart. The reality is that most software developers don’t stay one place very long, so maybe it doesn’t make sense to invest a lot in training someone? Or maybe the industry should ask itself why people keep hopping jobs? Maybe it’s because a lot of them suck, or for a lot of us it’s the only way to advance our salary. I can either wait for a stupid, meaningless yearly “performance review” to bump me up 1% or take my resume and interview elsewhere and get 10% or more.

      It’s not just a sign that an individual company is broken, it’s a sign the entire industry is broken.

  • Standards/Consortia


  • Should I call out my friends for using their phones while driving?

    I suspect you don’t need me to tell you that your nervousness is well-founded: the statistics on car accidents and phone use are incontrovertible. In 2015, approximately 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured, in car crashes caused by “distracted driving”.

  • Meet the company trying to break the taser monopoly

    Ever since 2003, when one of the two companies making tasers bought out the other, there has effectively been a taser monopoly. If you’ve ever seen a police officer carrying a taser, that taser was almost certainly manufactured by the publicly traded company formerly known as Taser International, now named Axon Enterprise, Inc.

  • Tech Luminary Peter Thiel Parts Ways With Silicon Valley
    Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is relocating his home and personal investment firms to Los Angeles from San Francisco and scaling back his involvement in the tech industry, people familiar with his thinking said, marking a rupture between Silicon Valley and its most prominent conservative.

  • Hey Microsoft, Stop Installing Apps On My PC Without Asking

  • Science

    • After more than a year, Trump still doesn’t have a science adviser

      “It’s mind-boggling,” said John Holdren, Obama’s science adviser for eight years who has since resumed his career as a professor of environmental policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “It’s vital for the president to get the best science advice, and right now, he isn’t getting that. His decisions are being made without the benefit of science.”

    • FinFETs Shimmy to 5G’s Frequencies
      Engineers at Purdue University and GlobalFoundries have gotten today’s most advanced transistors to vibrate at frequencies that could make 5G phones and other gadgets smaller and more energy efficient. The feat could also improve CPU clocks, make wearable radars, and one day form the basis of a new kind of computing. They presented their results today at the IEEE International Solid-States Circuits Conference, in San Francisco.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Court determines military burn pits caused lung disease in service members
      The thousands of U.S. military personnel and private contractors whose health was compromised by the dense black smoke of burn pits - and who were then denied proper treatment - may finally be vindicated by a recent court ruling.

      A judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs decreed last month that open-air burn pits -- where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other waste were incinerated at American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are connected to lung disease, Fox News has learned.

      The decision marks a victory for the nearly 64,000 active service members and retirees who have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry created by the Veterans Administration, bringing them one step closer to getting adequate medical coverage, something that has never been guaranteed. Private contractors who were also exposed to the burn pit toxins also have been denied coverage.

  • Security

    • Critical Telegram flaw under attack disguised malware as benign images [Ed: Windows]

      The flaw, which resided in the Windows version of the messaging app, allowed attackers to disguise the names of attached files, researchers from security firm Kaspersky Lab said in a blog post. By using the text-formatting standard known as Unicode, attackers were able to cause characters in file names to appear from right to left, instead of the left-to-right order that's normal for most Western languages.

    • Why children are now prime targets for identity theft [sic] [iophk: "the real name for this is "fraud" and there are already existing laws on it"]

      SSA believed this change would make it more difficult for thieves to “guess” someone’s SSN by looking at other public information available for that person. However, now that an SSN is not tied to additional data points, such as a location or year of birth, it becomes harder for financial institutions, health care providers, and others to verify that the person using the SSN is in fact the person to whom it was issued.

      In other words: Thieves now target SSNs issued after this change as they know your 6-year-old niece or your 4-year-old son will not have an established credit file.

    • Microsoft won't plug a huge zero-day in Skype because it'd be too much work

      The bug in the automatic updater (turd polisher) for the Windows desktop app has a ruddy great hole in it that will let dodgy DLLs through.

    • ‘I Lived a Nightmare:’ SIM Hijacking Victims Share Their Stories

      The bug itself didn’t expose anything too sensitive. No passwords, social security numbers, or credit card data was exposed. But it did expose customers’ email addresses, their billing account numbers, and the phone’s IMSI numbers, standardized unique number that identifies subscribers. Just by knowing (or guessing) customer’s phone numbers, hackers could get their target’s data.

      Once they had that, they could impersonate them with T-Mobile’s customer support staff and steal their phone numbers. This is how it works: a criminal calls T-Mobile, pretends to be you, convinces the customer rep to issue a new SIM card for your number, the criminal activates it, and they take control of your number.

    • Salon to ad blockers: Can we use your browser to mine cryptocurrency?

      Salon explains what's going on in a new FAQ. "How does Salon make money by using my processing power?" the FAQ says. "We intend to use a small percentage of your spare processing power to contribute to the advancement of technological discovery, evolution, and innovation. For our beta program, we'll start by applying your processing power to help support the evolution and growth of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies."

    • Salon Offers To Remove Ads If Visitors Help Mine Cryptocurrency
      As we've been discussing, the rise of stealth cryptocurrency miners embedded on websites has become a notable problem. In some instances, websites are being hacked and embedded with stealth cryptocurrency miners that quickly gobble up visitors' CPU cycles without their knowledge. That's what happened to Showtime recently when two different domains were found to be utilizing the Coinhive miner to hijack visitor broswers without users being informed. Recent reports indicate that thousands of government websites have also been hijacked and repurposed in this fashion via malware.

      But numerous websites are also now exploring such miners voluntarily as an alternative revenue stream. One major problem however: many aren't telling site visitors this is even happening. And since some implementations of such miners can hijack massive amounts of CPU processing power while sipping a non-insubstantial amount of electricity, that's a problem.

    • Georgia Senate Thinks It Can Fix Its Election Security Issues By Criminalizing Password Sharing, Security Research
      When bad things happen, bad laws are sure to follow. The state of Georgia has been through some tumultuous times, electorally-speaking. After a presidential election plagued with hacking allegations, the Georgia Secretary of State plunged ahead with allegations of his own. He accused the DHS of performing ad hoc penetration testing on his office's firewall. At no point was he informed the DHS might try to breach his system and the DHS, for its part, was less than responsive when questioned about its activities. It promised to get back to the Secretary of State but did not confirm or deny hacking attempts the state had previously opted out of.

      To make matter worse, there appeared to be evidence the state's voting systems had been compromised. A misconfigured server left voter records exposed, resulting in a lawsuit against state election officials. Somehow, due to malice or stupidity, a server containing key evidence needed in the lawsuit was mysteriously wiped clean, just days after the lawsuit was filed.

    • Let's Encrypt Hits 50 Million Active Certificates and Counting
      In yet another milestone on the path to encrypting the web, Let’s Encrypt has now issued over 50 million active certificates. Depending on your definition of “website,” this suggests that Let’s Encrypt is protecting between about 23 million and 66 million websites with HTTPS (more on that below). Whatever the number, it’s growing every day as more and more webmasters and hosting providers use Let’s Encrypt to provide HTTPS on their websites by default.

    • Linux systems can still be hacked via USB sticks
      Linux systems could be a risk from malware on USB memory sticks, according to security researchers.

      The bug affects users running the KDE Plasma desktop environment, which is widely used in GNU/Linux distributions. The issue was discovered in soliduiserver/deviceserviceaction.cpp in KDE Plasma Workspace before 5.12.0.

    • Spectre & KPTI Get More Fixes In Linux 4.16, Offsets Some KVM Performance Losses
      While we are past the Linux 4.16 merge window, more Spectre and Meltdown related improvements and changes are still being allowed into the kernel, similar to all the KPTI/Retpoline work that landed late in Linux 4.15. On Wednesday was another big batch of KPTI and Spectre work that has already been merged.

    • Kali Linux Ethical Hacking OS Getting Fix for Meltdown & Spectre with Linux 4.15

    • UK blames Russia for NotPetya cyber-attack last year

    • UK formally blames Russia for NotPetya cyber attack

      Britain has formally blamed Russia for the NotPetya ransomware attack in June last year, with Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad saying the decision "underlines the fact that the UK and its allies will not tolerate malicious cyber activity".

    • Security updates for Thursday

    • BuckHacker: This Search Engine Lets You Find Hackable Servers With Ease

    • Microsoft patches two nasty Outlook bugs in latest Patch Tuesday release

      "Outlook attempts to open the pre-configured message on receipt of the email. You read that right - not viewing, not previewing, but upon receipt. That means there's a potential for an attacker to exploit this merely by sending an email."

    • A potent botnet is exploiting a critical router bug that may never be fixed

      In recent days, Satori has started infecting routers manufactured by Dasan Networks of South Korea. The number of daily infected routers is about 13,700, with about 82 percent of them located in Vietnam, a researcher from China-based Netlab 360 told Ars. Queries on the Shodan search index of Internet-connected devices show there are a total of more than 40,000 routers made by Dasan. The company has yet to respond to an advisory published in December that documented the code-execution vulnerability Satori is exploiting, making it possible that most or all of the devices will eventually become part of the botnet.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Mass shootings are getting deadlier. And the latest ones all have something new in common: The AR-15

    • US Media Turn to ‘Superhero’ Pence to Combat Korean Olympic Peace Threat
      North Korea, like virtually every country on earth, is using the Olympics this week as an opportunity for political theater, and this has greatly upset many in US media. Ostensibly this is because North Korea, marching with South Korea in the opening ceremonies and sending a squadron of cheerleaders to the Winter Games, is getting a pass on human rights abuses. But if one scratches the surface of the widespread outrage, it’s clear the real objection is that North and South Korea are having bilateral peace talks without the permission of—much less the participation of—the United States. Atlantic: Can North Korea Be Stopped?

    • Regime Change Fails: Is A Military Coup or Invasion of Venezuela Next?
      Several signals point to a possible military strike on Venezuela, with high-ranking officials and influential politicians making clear that it is a distinct possibility.

      Speaking at his alma mater, the University of Texas, on February 1, Secretary of State Tillerson suggested a potential military coup in in the country. Tillerson then visited allied Latin American countries urging regime change and more economic sanctions on Venezuela. Tillerson is also reportedly considering banning the processing or sale of Venezuelan oil in the United States and is discouraging other countries from buying Venezuelan oil.

    • Honduras Nearing Ten Years of Stolen Elections, Neo-Colonial Rule
      For weeks following its stolen election, the corrupt right-wing, neo-fascist government of Juan Orlando Hernández’s in Honduras has been terrorizing its people. Street protests and spontaneous blockades have been met by extreme violence. Dozens have already died on the frontlines and many more have been arrested and brutalized in detention, while often being held incommunicado.

    • Korean Olympic Diplomacy Moves Forward Despite U.S. Intransigence

      By many accounts, the Koreans – North and South – have prevailed over the disruptive desires of the United States, coming together in a series of very public actions, clearly meant to turn down the political heat generated by President Donald Trump and the U.S. pressure for military action. This pressure can be seen as a continuation of President Barack Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” a policy that called for full U.S. dominance in the region, including by containing China and the new emerging regional powers through a set of expansive, coordinated, and aggressive military alliances with Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.

    • Vietnam’s Lessons and the U.S. Culture of Violence
      Back in October, 2016 I wrote an analysis entitled “Are Humans Natural-Born Killers?” It described and commented on research on the origins of human violence published in the science journal Nature. The conclusion offered in the article is that humans come from an evolutionary line that has the capability for violent behavior genetically built into it. It is a reasonable hypothesis. As just about every serious historian knows, the human propensity for lethal violence goes back as far as the evidence can take us — so far that there can be little doubt that this trait is inherited from our pre-human ancestors.

    • U.N. Envoy Says Syrian Civilians Killed on a “Horrific Scale”
      In Syria, U.S. airstrikes and artillery fire last week reportedly killed scores of Russian mercenaries who had joined a failed assault on a base held by U.S. and Kurdish forces in Deir ez-Zor. Bloomberg reports that more than 200 soldiers-for-hire fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad were killed in the fighting, including many Russians. Meanwhile, some of the fiercest fighting in the 7-year-old conflict continues to rage in the northern city of Afrin, the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta and other parts of Syria. The United Nations special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned Wednesday that civilians have been killed on a “horrific scale,” with more than 1,000 killed in the first week of February alone.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • 21 dolphins die after washing up on Mexico beach
      Twenty-one dolphins that were apparently attacked by another species of dolphin have died after washing up on a beach in northern Mexico, authorities said.

      Environmental activists launched a frantic operation to try to save the dolphins after a group of 54 washed up on a rocky beach in Bahia de la Paz, in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

      They managed to get 33 of the short-beaked common dolphins back in the water alive, but the rest died on the beach, the Mexican environmental protection authority, Profepa, said in a statement.

    • How Rubber Duckies Could Help Us Save the Planet
      Yes, it is going to making ten rubber duck colonies on the beaches of Port Willunga, Australia using several thousand rubber ducks, which the scientists counted first, obviously. Each colony had a different number of fake ducks.

    • Ants nurse wounded warriors back to health: study
      African Matabele ants dress the wounds of comrades injured during hunting raids and nurse them back to health, according to an "astonishing" discovery reported Wednesday.

      After collecting their wounded from the battlefield and carrying them back home, nestmates become medics, massing around patients for "intense licking" of open wounds, according to a study in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

      This behaviour reduces the fatality rate from about 80 percent of injured soldiers to a mere 10 percent, researchers observed.

  • Finance

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Facebook tells publishers to take it or leave it

      Facebook hired Campbell Brown as its head of news partnerships on January 6th, 2017. At the time, Brown wrote that she would “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook.” In a post that is no longer public, she wrote: “I will be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism, and contribute value to their businesses.”

    • [Older] Freelancing abroad in a world obsessed with Trump

      According to a study by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Trump was the focus of 41 percent of American news coverage in his first 100 days in office. That’s three times the amount of coverage showered on previous presidents. This laser-eyed focus on Trump has left little room for other crucial stories.

    • With His Assault on PBS and NPR, Trump Seeks to Eliminate Real News

      Conservative Republicans have been angling for years to zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides federal support for local PBS and National Public Radio stations. Prodded years ago by conservative columnist George Will, who asked “What about the cultural institutions? Conservatives have considerable grievances against the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the national endowments for the arts and the humanities. What’s their future?” To which House Speaker Newt Gingrich replied: “I personally would privatize them all.”

    • Has Anyone Seen the President?

      Bannon seems to view the Democrats less as the opposition party than figures of fun. “The Democrats don’t matter,” he had said to me over our lunch. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

    • Help us monitor political advertising on Facebook in your state

      ProPublica has developed a browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox that automatically collects ads when you are on Facebook and allows you to classify the ads collected as “political” or “not political”.

      The political ads are sent to ProPublica’s database, along with the ad-targeting information. The ad-targeting information categories are usually things such as an age bracket, gender, a general geographic location and interest in a topic. You can see the information Facebook is using to show you ads by looking at the “adverts” menu in the Facebook settings.

    • U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Claim Russia Planning to Meddle in 2018 Election
      The intelligence community’s warnings during Tuesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearings contradict President Trump, who has repeatedly cast doubt on whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Trump is currently under investigation for allegedly colluding with Russia ahead of the presidential election.

    • Who Is Weev, and Why Did He Derail a Journalist's Career?

      In the span of about six hours yesterday, The New York Times announced the hiring of Quinn Norton as a tech columnist and then apparently fired her. The Times claims that their decision to “go their separate ways” was guided by “new information,” revealed through a social-media maelstrom, about slurs Norton had used on Twitter and about her friendship with someone called weev.

    • Porn Star Ready to Talk After Trump's Lawyer Admits Payment
    • Vox Sentences: Turns out the White House entrance is a revolving door

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • At least 15 journalists held arbitrarily in Saudi crackdown

      Harassment of journalists has increased since last June. Some journalists who were abroad have preferred to stay there. Some have been forced to resign from what are regarded as “enemy” media. Others, according to our information, have chosen to censor themselves or to withdraw altogether from what was the only space left for free speech – social networks.

    • RSF’s decries journalist’s expulsion from Indonesia’s Papua region

      Jakarta, Jubi/RSF – After the BBC’s Indonesia editor was expelled from the country’s easternmost Papua region last weekend over a tweet, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) again urges the Indonesian authorities to allow journalists to report freely in the troubled region, which continues to be an information black hole.

    • Cambodia: Legislating New Tools of Repression

      The National Assembly passed amendments to five articles of the Cambodian constitution that tighten restrictions on voting rights and freedom of association and require every Cambodian citizen to “respect the constitution” and “defend the motherland.” Article 34 was changed to allow new restrictions on the right to vote, while Article 42 now gives the government authority to take action against political parties if they do not “place the country and nation’s interest first,” an amendment designed to target opposition parties. Article 53, which now states that Cambodia cannot interfere in the internal affairs of other countries since it opposes foreign interference in its own affairs, also appears to target the CNRP, which regularly appealed to donors and the United Nations to put pressure on the Cambodian government to hold free and fair elections and impose sanctions.

    • Facebook loses appeal as court rules in favor of nudity

      The Parisian court thought that this policy was incredibly inconvenient for the billions of claimants who don’t happen to live in California, so it upheld the decision against Facebook, requiring the company to respect the earlier finding’s authority and pay up.

    • Germany: Flawed Social Media Law

      The new German law that compels social media companies to remove hate speech and other illegal content can lead to unaccountable, overbroad censorship and should be promptly reversed, Human Rights Watch said today. The law sets a dangerous precedent for other governments looking to restrict speech online by forcing companies to censor on the government’s behalf.

    • Home Secretary reveals tool to block extremist content from the [I]nternet

      The government spent €£600,000 on the tool, which was trained by its designers, ASI Data Science to recognise content related to IS, which would then be flagged up to a human who would decide if it should pass or not.

    • EFF Urges US Copyright Office To Reject Proactive ‘Piracy’ Filters

      As entertainment companies and Internet services spar over the boundaries of copyright law, the EFF is urging the US Copyright Office to keep "copyright’s safe harbors safe." In a petition just filed with the office, the EFF warns that innovation will be stymied if Congress goes ahead with a plan to introduce proactive 'piracy' filters at the expense of the DMCA's current safe harbor provisions.

    • Facebook pledges extremism purge after Unilever boycott threat

      Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods maker of brands from Dove to Persil, on Monday threatened social media companies with an advertising boycott if they failed to tackle abusive content.

    • Germany's 'Hate Speech' Law May Evolve Into Wide Censorship - Watchdog
      Germany's NetzDG (Network Enforcement Act), which requires social media networks to remove offensive content, could result in extensive censorship and should, therefore, be reversed, an international rights watchdog said Wednesday.
    • Filmmaker Chronicles History of State-Sanctioned Censorship in New Documentary
      “They are how we make sense of our lives,” says the assistant teaching professor of filmmaking and associate director of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University–Camden. “Stories help us organize our thoughts, and to document and hand down our history. They have the ability to move masses, to make real change.”
    • Corporate giant Unilever demands crackdown on oppositional Internet content

      The drive to censor the Internet took another step this week with a public statement by Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer for the London-based multinational Unilever, threatening to withdraw advertising from social media platforms if they fail to suppress “toxic content.”

      Weed reportedly told an annual leadership meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in Palm Desert, California that the company “will not invest in platforms or environments” that “create divisions in society, and promote anger or hate.” He added, “We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.”
    • Instagram, YouTube Face Full Block In Russia After Billionaire Wins A Privacy Lawsuit Over Pictures With An Alleged Escort
      We've had ongoing discussions on this site about the ham-fisted website censorship policy that Russia has undertaken over the past few years. While the country was never one to embrace free and open speech and communication to the same degree as Western nations, recent times have seen a severe uptick in outright censorship with a variety of excuses rolled out for public consumption: copyright laws, stifling political opposition, and the protection of the privacy of public figures. The funnel point for all of this censorship is Russian agency Rozcomnadzor, itself the subject of corruption allegations, with a track record for racking up collateral damage numbers that would make any nation's army blush.

      Through it all, there have been suggestions that entire sites with massive global followings would be blocked. YouTube and Twitter were previously found to be in the crosshairs of the Russian government, but nothing immediately came of the threat. Now, however, both YouTube and Instagram may face a very real choice: bow to the censorship demands of Rozcomnadzor or face full site-blocks in Russia. And, perhaps most strangely, this has all come to a head over a Russian billionaire's win in court to block the publication of photos and videos showing him on a yacht with what is reportedly an escort.
    • Russia Blocks Critic’s Site, Warns Google About Billionaire Yacht Videos

    • YouTube and Instagram face Russian bans
    • Oligarch Oleg Deripaska uses “right to privacy” to censor Russian media

    • YouTube Accused of Censorship After Coming Under Russian Pressure
    • Instagram submits to Russia censor's demands

    • Nominees to Federal Trade Commission vow to investigate TripAdvisor for deleting reviews
      After publicized accounts from dozens of tourists that the popular travel website TripAdvisor had deleted postings describing their harrowing experiences, nominees for the Federal Trade Commission vowed to investigate the company if they are confirmed in the coming weeks.

      Questioned this week by members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), all four nominees — Republican and Democrat —- said if confirmed they would commit to looking into the impact that the conduct of TripAdvisor and other travel rating websites have on the traveling public.

    • Wikileaks cables are admissible in English court proceedings
      The Supreme Court has held that the Administrative Court was wrong to exclude a Wikileaks cable from evidence. The underlying judicial review proceedings in R (Bancoult No.3) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2018] UK SC 3 concerned a challenge by the Chagos Refugees Group (CRG) to the British Government’s decision to establish a marine protected area around the Chagos islands, preventing Chagossians from continuing their commercial fishing businesses in the region. However, the issues raised are of wider application.

      At the heart of the case was a leaked cable from the US Embassy in London to the US State Department in Washington summarising a conversation between British and US officials regarding the reasons for establishing the protected area. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) argued that the cable formed part of the US Embassy’s diplomatic archive, which was protected by the 1961 Vienna Convention, and was therefore inadmissible.

    • House shows broad agreement on censorship protection for student journalists

    • Student journalists would be shielded from censorship under this Missouri proposal

    • Proposal Would Shield Student Journalists From Censorship

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Facebook Funded Most of the Experts Who Vetted Messenger Kids

      Equally notable are the experts Facebook did not consult. Although Facebook says it spent 18 months developing the app, Common Sense Media and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, two large nonprofits in the field, say they weren’t informed about it until weeks or days before the app’s debut.

    • (No) privacy by default? German court finds Facebook in breach of data
      Facebook has suffered a setback in a court case between the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband - vzbv) and the social network.

      The District Court of Berlin ruledthat several of Facebook’s default settings violated users’ right to privacy due to a lack of consent by the users. Also, the court found that German users are not obliged to use their real names for their Facebook profiles. On the other hand, the judges permitted Facebook’s claim that the service is ‘free, and always will be’.

      VZBV asked the court to rule upon 26 asserted breaches of data protection, privacy, competition and civil law. 14 of the claims were granted and 12 denied. For the sake of brevity, this Kat will focus on the most interesting aspects of the 37 page judgment.
    • Anonymity & entitlements’ aadhaar in Supreme Court

    • Constitutional validity of Aadhaar: the arguments in Supreme Court so far

      This batch of cases is directed at the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act, 2016; the Aadhaar project from 2009 to 2016; parts of the project which are not covered by the Act; authorities’ attempts to make Aadhaar compulsory when not defined by the law; the government’s push to link Aadhaar numbers with SIM cards, bank accounts and PANs; and the move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits and subsidies.

    • Accurate Navigation Without GPS
      The global positioning system can locate you within 5 to 10 meters anywhere on Earth—as long as your receiver is in the line of sight of multiple satellites. Getting location information indoors is tricky. A team at the University of Utah has now put the solution underfoot: A suite of sensors and circuits mounted to a boot can determine position with an accuracy of about 5 meters, indoors or out, without GPS.

      The navigation system, installed in a very hefty prototype boot, could help rescue workers navigate inside buildings, and show firefighters where their team members are. It might also be integrated with virtual or augmented reality games. The Utah researchers presented their GPS-free navigation system on Tuesday at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

    • Hua-no-wei! NSA, FBI, CIA bosses put Chinese mobe makers on blast
    • CIA, FBI, NSA: We don't recommend Huawei or ZTE phones
    • The NSA and FBI don’t see the irony of boycotting phones with built-in government backdoors
      Remember that whole Apple vs. FBI fight from early 2016? The government wanted to force Apple to develop what’s essentially a backdoor into iOS that only Apple and/or government officials would control to get into the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino’s shooters.

      Fast forward to more modern times, and we have six top US intelligence chiefs saying they do not trust devices made by Chinese smartphone makers Huawei and ZTE because they could be used to spy on US citizens. In other words, they believe the Chinese government would hold backdoors into these devices that would allow them to quietly collect data from millions of people.


      The thing with backdoors is that, if they exist, security researchers or hackers would eventually find them.
    • CIA, FBI and NSA officials warn US citizens not to buy Huawei smartphones

    • The FBI, CIA and NSA say American citizens shouldn't use Huawei phones
    • Nakasone tapped to take over NSA and CyberCommand
    • Trump has chosen nominee to lead NSA, US Cyber Command
    • White House official: Paul Nakasone nominated for NSA Director
    • Trump taps Army cyber chief as next NSA head
    • Trump Chooses Nominee To Lead NSA, U.S. Cyber Command

    • Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads

      So essentially the app is providing a form of non-malicious [sic] spyware that feeds Facebook's already bulging data coffers. Not something many users of VPNs would expect or want.

    • Facebook is suggesting mobile users 'Protect' downloading a Facebook-owned app that tracks their mobile usage

      Yet the Onavo app also tracks data that it shares with Facebook and others, "including the applications installed on your device, your use of those applications, the websites you visit and the amount of data you use," according to its own privacy policies.

    • Tinder says it’ll eventually let women prevent men from messaging them first

    • What is the best online dating site and the best way to use it?
      Experian is basically a private spy agency. Their website boasts about how they can:

      Know who your customers are regardless of channel or device Know where and how to reach your customers with optimal messages Create and deliver exceptional experiences every time

      Is that third objective, an "exceptional experience", what you were hoping for with their dating site honey trap? You are out of luck: you are not the customer, you are the product.

    • Online Dating Cannot Work Well
      Daniel Pocock (via points out what tracking services online dating services expose you to. This certainly is an issue, and of course to be expected by a free service (you are the product – advertisers are the customer). Oh, and in case you forgot already: some sites employ fake profiles to retain you as long as possible on their site… But I’d like to point out how deeply flawed online dating is. It is surprising that some people meet successfully there; and I am not surprised that so many dates turn out to not work: they earn money if you remain single, and waste time on their site, not if you are successful.

      I am clearly not an expert on online dating, because I am happily married. I met my wife in a very classic setting: offline, in my extended social circle. The motivation for this post is that I am concerned about seeing people waste their time. If you want to improve your life, eliminate apps and websites that are just distraction! And these days, we see more online/app distraction than ever. Smartphone zombie apocalpyse.


      And you can find many more reports on “Generation Tinder” and its hard time to find partners because of inflated expectations. It is also because these apps and online services make you unhappy, and that makes you unattractive.

      Instead, I suggest you extend your offline social circle.

      For example, I used to go dancing a lot. Not the “drunken, and too loud music to talk” kind, but ballroom. Not only this can drastically improve your social and communication skills (in particular, non-verbal communication, but also just being natural rather than nervous), but it also provides great opportunities to meet new people with a shared interest. And quite a lot of my friends in dancing got married to a partner they first met at a dance.

    • What is it like to live in the world’s biggest experiment in biometric identity?

    • Irresistible bargains: Navigating the surveillance society

      Agents in contemporary societies are faced continually with choices regarding engagement with technological artifacts. They can choose to engage or decline engagement after considering the costs and benefits in each case. However, certain aspects of the surveillance society may be irresistible in a number of ways, so that refusal to engage with them is not a realistic option. The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly as embedded in “smart city” initiatives, helps to make surveillance technologies potentially irresistible. After laying the conceptual groundwork for discussing irresistible bargains, this essay offers a two-part normative critique, focusing on the asymmetrical power relations engendered by smart cities as well as harms inflicted on the self.

    • Mum faces €10,000 fine if she shares pictures of her son on Facebook

      The court in Rome ruled in the youngster’s favour, telling his mother she would be fined if she continued posting pictures of him. She will also face a financial penalty if she fails to remove historic news, videos and images of him.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Notable testimony from the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force corruption trial

    • ‘TERF’ isn’t just a slur, it’s hate speech

      But because the term itself is politically dishonest and misrepresentative, and because its intent is to vilify, disparage, and intimidate, as well as to incite and justify violence against women, it is dangerous and indeed qualifies as a form of hate speech. While women have tried to point out that this would be the end result of “TERF” before, they were, as usual, dismissed. We now have undeniable proof that painting women with this brush leads to real, physical violence. If you didn’t believe us before, you now have no excuse.

    • Social activism: Engaging millennials in social causes

      [...] unclear is the extent to which social media and social interactions influence millennials willingness to engage both online and in-person. Even so, the results of this study indicate millennials are open to using social media for social causes, and perhaps increasing engagement off-line too.

    • Dissidents are getting destroyed by information attacks and tech isn't doing enough to help

      A pair of researchers from Toronto's storied Citizen Lab (previously) have written an eye-opening editorial and call to action on the ways that repressive states have used the internet to attack dissidents, human rights advocates and political oppositions -- and how the information security community and tech companies have left these people vulnerable.

    • Dissidents Have Been Abandoned and Besieged Online

      For several years, we have conducted research on targeted attacks against civil society and activists in Iran and elsewhere. From these experiences, one lesson in particular stands outs: human rights defenders and journalists are a canary in the coal mine for the attacks used to steal military secrets, coerce perceived foreign adversaries, and undermine critical infrastructure. Despite this chilling predicament, those at-risk populations are afforded substantially less opportunities to protect themselves and are often relegated to the margins of conversations about cyber security. This inequity is to the detriment of everyone, and must change if we want to improve the Internet for all communities.`

    • Kept out: How banks block people of color from homeownership
      Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in lending, African Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts.

      This modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants’ income, loan amount and neighborhood, according to millions of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records analyzed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

      The yearlong analysis, based on 31 million records, relied on techniques used by leading academics, the Federal Reserve and Department of Justice to identify lending disparities.

      It found a pattern of troubling denials for people of color across the country, including in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Antonio. African Americans faced the most resistance in Southern cities - Mobile, Alabama; Greenville, North Carolina; and Gainesville, Florida - and Latinos in Iowa City, Iowa.
    • ICE Pressures Detained Immigrant To Recant Sexual Abuse Claims
      An incarcerated immigrant woman, who alleged sexual harassment and assault by a corrections officer, said she was thrown in solitary confinement for 60 hours and was told she would not be released until she publicly recanted her accusations.

      Laura Monterrosa is a 23 year old immigrant from El Salvador detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a private prison operated by CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America).

      Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based immigrant rights group advocating on behalf of Monterrosa, said she was isolated between 11:00 PM on Friday, February 9, and 11:00 AM on Monday, February 12. She was threatened with more isolation if she didn’t publicly state she was not sexually abused by staff.

      “This should not be happening in America,” said Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “Here you have a woman who came forward to report rampant sexual abuse inside of a federal facility. Instead of protecting her and ensuring the abuse stops, ICE is now putting Laura in solitary confinement with the expressed intent of tearing her down so she will do as they say.”
    • FBI says Chinese operatives active at scores of U.S. universities [Ed: It gives ammo to bigots who will now have excuses to harass Chinese-looking people in the US]
      Amid heightened concern about Russian election meddling, the FBI on Tuesday warned U.S. universities about Chinese intelligence operatives active on their campuses, adding that many academics display “a level of naiveté” about the level of infiltration.

      FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate intelligence committee that China has aggressively placed operatives at universities, “whether its professors, scientists, students,” and the bureau must monitor them from its 56 field offices across the nation.
    • Activist Sues ICE For Its Unconstitutional Targeting Of Immigrants' First Amendment-Protected Activities
      ICE has been instructed to make the nation safer by deporting the "worst of the worst." The nation will be made secure again, said the DHS, pointing to its report declaring three-quarters of those convicted for terrorism offenses were "foreign-born." Of course, to reach this ratio, the DHS had to count people the US government had extradited to the US to face trial for terrorism attacks committed in foreign countries, but whatever. The point is: foreigners are dangerous and ICE is going to remove them. An ongoing "challenge" for ICE has been finding enough dangerous immigrants to deport, so it's had to change its strategy a bit.

      So, if we're trying to root out would-be terrorists and MS-13 gang members and undocumented immigrants with long domestic criminal rap sheets, why is ICE targeting people for their First Amendment activities? That's what one rights activist wants to know, and he's taking ICE to court to force it to explain itself. Kevin Gosztola of ShadowProof has more details.

    • ICE Keeps Challenging Federal Courts’ Authority — And Losing.
      In national assault on immigrants’ rights, ICE believes no population is off the table. U.S. law and courts say otherwise.

      In a recent span of 10 days, four courts issued decisions that could literally save lives.

      Our clients live across the United States, but all have been swept up in ICE’s aggressive new campaign to target communities previously considered low-priority for immigration enforcement, with ICE attempting to deport them as quickly as possible. Since July 2017, we have challenged this bully tactic in federal district courts across the country, filing cases on behalf of communities of Iraqis in Michigan, Indonesians in New Hampshire, Somalis in Florida, Cambodians in Southern California, and Indonesians in New Jersey.

      Between Jan. 25 and Feb. 2, judges across the country temporarily blocked the deportations of the four latter cases. The Iraqis, whose case was the first to be filed in June 2017, have already received a nationwide stay. For varying reasons, all these communities previously enjoyed a reprieve from deportation, in some cases for decades. However, with the change in administration, a target was placed on their backs. As Thomas Homan, ICE’s acting director, declared at a December press conference, “The president has made it clear in his executive orders: There’s no population off the table.”

    • Law Enforcement Use of Face Recognition Systems Threatens Civil Liberties, Disproportionately Affects People of Color: EFF Report
      San Francisco, California—Face recognition—fast becoming law enforcement’s surveillance tool of choice—is being implemented with little oversight or privacy protections, leading to faulty systems that will disproportionately impact people of color and may implicate innocent people for crimes they didn’t commit, says an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) report released today.

      Face recognition is rapidly creeping into modern life, and face recognition systems will one day be capable of capturing the faces of people, often without their knowledge, walking down the street, entering stores, standing in line at the airport, attending sporting events, driving their cars, and utilizing public spaces. Researchers at the Georgetown Law School estimated that one in every two American adults—117 million people—are already in law enforcement face recognition systems.

      This kind of surveillance will have a chilling effect on Americans’ willingness to exercise their rights to speak out and be politically engaged, the report says. Law enforcement has already used face recognition at political protests, and may soon use face recognition with body-worn cameras, to identify people in the dark, and to project what someone might look like from a police sketch or even a small sample of DNA.

    • What Are The Ethical Issues Of Google -- Or Anyone Else -- Conducting AI Research In China?
      As the Macro Polo article notes, Google is unlikely to allow any of its AI products or technologies to be sold directly to the authorities for surveillance purposes. But there are plenty of other ways in which advances in AI produced at Google's new lab could end up making life for Chinese dissidents, and for ordinary citizens in Xinjiang and Tibet, much, much worse. For example, the fierce competition for AI experts is likely to see Google's Beijing engineers headhunted by local Chinese companies, where knowledge can and will flow unimpeded to government departments. Although arguably Chinese researchers elsewhere -- in the US or Europe, for example -- might also return home, taking their expertise with them, there's no doubt that the barriers to doing so are higher in that case.

      So does that mean that Google is wrong to open up a lab in Beijing, when it could simply have expanded its existing AI teams elsewhere? Is this another step toward re-entering China after it shut down operations there in 2010 over the authorities' insistence that it should censor its search results -- which, to its credit, Google refused to do? "AI first" is all very well, but where does "Don't be evil" fit into that?

    • Online Dating Made This Woman a Pawn in a Global Crime Plot

      The criminals who flipped Elrod from victim to accomplice, by contrast, have vanished. Ramseyer says he is unaware of any efforts to catch the scammers in Warri, and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which did not respond to repeated inquiries, has posted no news of any arrests.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Mozilla refiles FCC lawsuit against net neutrality ruling

      Originally filed last month, the suit was initially dismissed on a technicality over the date of filing, a technicality which according to Mozilla is based on a concern that they had already flagged to the FCC as being problematic.

      This does give Mozilla a quandary, if the FCC decides to dawdle, as it cannot refile until there is the official publication of the repealed original.

    • Verisign Ends 2017 with 131.9 Million .com Domain Registrations
      Year-after-year, the dot com domain name base has continued to grow. Verisign, which manages the dot com and dot net registries, reported its fourth quarter financial results on Feb. 8, alongside its' latest data on the number of registered domains.

    • FCC to review rules on children's programming

    • Greens say net neutrality inquiry needed in Australia

      Greens digital rights spokesman Senator Jordon Steele-John (below, right) made the claim on Tuesday after the Opposition joined the Coalition Government to vote against a Greens motion seeking an inquiry into such protections because of public interest.

    • Mesh Networks

      At Offline Camp Oregon I had the pleasure of joining with many others to discuss a future of the web that devolves power and control over the physical networks that connect us, and grants it to the communities that these systems serve. With nation-states having become net neutrality’s last line of defense, and with many of those states in regulatory capture by telecoms, it becomes clearer every day that a libre web will require that we establish redundant, alternative physical infrastructure to support it. As long as the telcos own the wires, our traffic is subject to their whims.

    • The quantum internet has arrived (and it hasn’t)
      Before she became a theoretical physicist, Stephanie Wehner was a hacker. Like most people in that arena, she taught herself from an early age. At 15, she spent her savings on her first dial-up modem, to use at her parents’ home in Würzburg, Germany. And by 20, she had gained enough street cred to land a job in Amsterdam, at a Dutch Internet provider started by fellow hackers.

    • F.C.C. Watchdog Looks Into Changes That Benefited Sinclair

    • Congress Pressures FCC Boss Over His Total Failure To Police Net Neutrality Comment Fraud
      By now it's pretty apparent that the FCC doesn't much want to talk about who was behind the numerous bogus comments that flooded the agency's net neutrality repeal proceeding. When I asked the FCC for help after someone lifted my identity to support repealing the rules, the FCC responded with the policy equivalent of a €¯\_(ツ)_/€¯. Similarly, when New York Attorney General Eric Shneiderman approached the FCC looking for help identifying the culprit (9 requests over 5 months, he said in an open letter), the FCC blocked the investigation.

      Most analysts believe the effort was a ham-fisted attempt to erode trust in the public comment proceeding in order to downplay massive public opposition to the FCC's plan (a tactic that has mysteriously plagued other government proceedings over the last year). The FCC could pretty quickly clear this all up by providing access to server logs and API key usage details to law enforcement. It's consistent refusal to do so quickly dismantles agency boss Ajit Pai's continued, breathless claims that he's a massive fan of transparency and would run a more transparent operation than his predecessor.

  • DRM

    • HDCP Content Protection Support Called For Integration In DRM-Next / Linux 4.17
      In November of last year is when we reported on a Google developer proposing HDCP patches for Intel's DRM Linux driver. In this case, DRM as in the Direct Rendering Manager but HDCP as in the controversial High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. HDCP is the digital copy protection for DP/DVI/HDMI for preventing HDCP-encrypted content from being played on unauthorized devices.

    • Verizon Begins Locking Down Its Phones Again, Purportedly To 'Stop Theft'
      If you've been around a while, you probably know that Verizon has an adversarial relationship with openness and competition. The company's history is rife with attempts to stifle competing emerging technologies that challenged Verizon's own business interests, from its early attempts to block GPS and tethering apps so users would have to subscribe to inferior and expensive Verizon services, to its attempts to block competing mobile payment services to force users (again) onto Verizon's own, inferior products. And that's before you get to Verizon's attempts to kill net neutrality and keep the broadband industry uncompetitive.

      In the earlier years, Verizon had a horrible tendency to lock down its devices to a crippling and comical degree. But with the rise of net neutrality, competition from carriers like T-Mobile, and open access conditions affixed to certain spectrum purchased by Verizon, the company slowly-but-surely loosened its iron grip on mobile devices. But let's be clear: the company had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the new, more open future we all currently enjoy, where (by and large) you can install whatever apps you like on your device, and attach most mainstream devices (with some caveats) to Verizon's network.

      That's why more than a few eyebrows were raised after Verizon gave CNET the early exclusive news (apparently in the hopes that they'd frame it generously, which they did) that the company will soon be locking down its smartphones as part of a purported effort to "combat theft." Carriers have been justly criticized (and sued) for doing too little to prevent theft, in part because they profit on both sides of the equation -- both when a customer comes crying to Verizon to buy a new phone, and when the user with the stolen phone heads to Verizon to re-activate it on a new line.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Over 50 Libraries, Educators, Researchers Call On EU Parliament For Better Copyright
        More than 50 organisations representing a range of teachers, students, trainers, researchers, scientists, librarians and others have joined together to call on the European Parliament to improve European copyright reform for education.

      • EU Council Clears Way For Ratification Of Marrakesh Treaty For Visually Impaired By Summer
        The European Union Council of Ministers today adopted a decision that enables the EU to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty on access to published works for blind and visually impaired readers starting in summer. The copyright exceptions treaty negotiated at the World Intellectual Property Organization and adopted in 2013, went into effect in September 2016 but has been held up in Europe.
      • Will Canada Be the New Testing Ground for SOPA-lite? Canadian Media Companies Hope So
        A consortium of media and distribution companies calling itself “FairPlay Canada” is lobbying for Canada to implement a fast-track, extrajudicial website blocking regime in the name of preventing unlawful downloads of copyrighted works. It is currently being considered by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), an agency roughly analogous to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S.

        The proposal is misguided and flawed. We’re still analyzing it, but below are some preliminary thoughts.
      • Judge Dismisses Playboy's Dumb Copyright Lawsuit Against BoingBoing
        Well, that was incredibly quick. The district court judge hearing the case that Playboy filed against BoingBoing back in November has already dismissed it, though without prejudice, leaving it open for Playboy to try again. The judge noted that, given the facts before the court so far, it wasn't even necessary to hold a hearing, since BoingBoing was so clearly in the right and Playboy so clearly had no case.
      • Anti-Piracy Video Masquerades As Anti-Malware Education And Is Filled With Lies

        As some of you may be aware, Safer Internet Day just passed. Started in the EU, the day is supposed to be used to educate the masses on some dangers that are tangentially or directly connected to the internet, such as malware awareness, cyberbullying, or abuses on social media sites. It's also heavily supported by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness, which is a UK entertainment industry group that chiefly looks to "educate" the public on how super-awesome copyright is in every respect and how piracy and copyright infringement are the work of Satan.

        In a video titled... and I can't believe I'm going to actually type this... Meet the Malwares, viewers in Australia are "educated" on exactly zero specific malware threats, but they are told that filesharing sites should be avoided completely. And if you're thinking that there are a ton of other parts of the internet that are far riskier, rest assured that the video insists it's all about file sharing sites.
      • Smart Meter Company Landis+Gyr Now Using Copyright To Try To Hide Public Records
        Back in 2016 we wrote about how Landis+Gyr, a large multinational company owned by Toshiba, completely freaked out when it discovered that documents about its smart energy meters, which the city of Seattle had contracted to use, were subject to a FOIA request. As we noted, Landis+Gyr went legal and did so in perhaps the nuttiest way possible. First it demanded the documents be taken down from Muckrock -- the platform that makes it easy for journalists and others to file FOIA requests. Then it demanded that Muckrock reveal the details of anyone who might have seen the documents in question. It then sued Muckrock and somehow got a court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Muckrock for posting these public records.
      • Court Dismisses Playboy's Lawsuit Against Boing Boing (For Now)
        In a win for free expression, a court has dismissed a copyright lawsuit against Happy Mutants, LLC, the company behind acclaimed website Boing Boing. The court ruled [PDF] that Playboy’s complaint—which accused Boing Boing of copyright infringement for linking to a collection of centerfolds—had not sufficiently established its copyright claim. Although the decision allows Playboy to try again with a new complaint, it is still a good result for supporters of online journalism and sensible copyright.

        Playboy Entertainment’s lawsuit accused Boing Boing of copyright infringement for reporting on a historical collection of Playboy centerfolds and linking to a third-party site. In a February 2016 post, Boing Boing told its readers that someone had uploaded scans of the photos, noting they were “an amazing collection” reflecting changing standards of what is considered sexy. The post contained links to an page and YouTube video—neither of which were created by Boing Boing.

        EFF, together with co-counsel Durie Tangri, filed a motion to dismiss [PDF] on behalf of Boing Boing. We explained that Boing Boing did not contribute to the infringement of any Playboy copyrights by including a link to illustrate its commentary. The motion noted that another judge in the same district had recently dismissed a case where Quentin Tarantino accused Gawker of copyright infringement for linking to a leaked script in its reporting.
      • Judge Tosses Playboy's Lawsuit Over Links to Centerfold Photos
        Playboy in November sued Happy Mutants, claiming the company's site Boing Boing infringed its rights by linking to "Every Playboy Playmate Centerfold Ever."

        "Some wonderful person uploaded scans of every Playboy Playmate centerfold to imgur," states the Feb. 29, 2016, post on Boing Boing. "It's an amazing collection, whether your interests are prurient or lofty. Kind of amazing to see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time."

        Boing Boing then linked to the imgur collection and a YouTube video, both of which appear to have since been removed.

        U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin on Wednesday dismissed Playboy's complaint with leave to amend, asking the magazine to carefully evaluate the contentions made in Happy Mutants' motion to dismiss before drafting a second amended complaint.

        In short, the website owner argues that there is no evidence that Boing Boing copied or displayed the centerfold photos or that any of its users downloaded the images instead of viewing them.

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