Category Archives: Technology

Internet privacy rules removed by Congress

Internet providers will not be required to ask permission to sell customers’ browsing habits, including medical information, shopping habits and even pornography preferences after Congress voted to roll back Obama-era regulations.

The House of Representatives voted 215 to 205 in favor of eliminating restrictions of internet service providers (ISP) and their ability to sell their customer’s information on Tuesday. The protections were planned to be enacted by the end of 2017 and would have forced ISPs to get permission from their customers before selling their internet browsing and app habits to advertisers.

The vote was largely bipartisan, with those in favor being exclusively Republican. However, several Republican lawmakers crossed over to vote against eliminating the privacy measures. Last Thursday, a Senate vote set the stage for the House of Representatives to send the bill to President Donald Trump’s desk after they voted exclusively on party lines against the measures.

The planned protections were proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and would have prevented ISPs and broadband providers from selling information, including where customers bank, shop, browse, their political views and even sexual orientation.

Those in favor of eliminating the protection measures have claimed that preventing ISPs from requiring consumer consent for customer information will eliminate competition among providers.

In a press release, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) defended rolling back the protections, saying the FCC’s privacy policy “has the potential to limit consumer choice, stifle innovation, and jeopardize data security by destabilizing the internet ecosystem.

Supporters of the FCC regulations believe the repeal will only benefit broadband providers.

Instead of making the industry more competitive, what this bill wants to do is give these four or five ISPs even more power,” Representative Ro Khanna (D-California) told The Guardian.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting privacy on the internet, released a statement saying “should President Donald Trump sign S.J. Res. 34 into law, big Internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways.

For internet users who want to protect their privacy from ISPs, the options are slim going forward. Some may choose to utilize a virtual private network (VPN), a frequently paid service that routes all internet traffic through one server not directly connected to the user. However, many sites like Netflix try to ban VPN users from utilizing their services.

Others may move over to using Tor, a more complex server that could leave users open to malicious servers.

Repealing the FCC’s regulations is not a done deal, yet. President Trump has yet to sign off on SJ Res 34, leaving opponents room for a Hail Mary. The EFF’s Jeremy Gillula told the Guardian, “I think we’d try to convince President Trump that signing a bill that helps big corporate interests by eliminating Americans’ privacy and weakening their cybersecurity isn’t exactly ‘draining the swamp.’

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Watch This Trained Eagle Take Down A Flying Drone

As more and more civilians start flying drones, there will probably be an exponential rise in situations where authorities need to quickly take down a poorly-navigated drone hovering above a stadium or government building.

But, since drone companies have yet to provide any sort of backdoor to manually takeover the device’s controls, authorities are on their own in figuring out how to safely take down drones mid-flight.

One Dutch company, Guard From Above, has taken the innovative approach of training birds of prey to physically takedown the UAVs.

The company, which works “mainly for national and international governmental security agencies”, is currently partnering with the Dutch National Police on a trial basis to determine if using birds of prey are a realistic method for taking down drones.

Luckily, the Dutch National Police realize that while using an eagle is definitely the coolest way to take down a drone, it’s not always going to be a realistic method. So, the force is also looking into using “nets and electronic means” to complement their arsenal of falcons and eagles.

As you’d expect, the Dutch aren’t the only law enforcement agency trying to figure out the best way to take down a drone. Last month, Tokyo Police released a clip of officers flying drones with large nets to “catch” and take down smaller drones mid-flight.

And, lest we forget that these are live animals, the Dutch National Science Institute assures readers that they are looking into making sure that no birds are harmed in the line of duty.

By Fitz Tepper/TechCrunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Twitter cuts ties with firm believed to help police spy on activists

Twitter is doubling down on its commitment to opposing police use of its data for surveillance. The social network has severed its contract with Media Sonar, which produces surveillance software used by 19 local government agencies.
The social media giant cut Sonar off in October as part of its commitment to opposing the use of its data by companies that offer mass surveillance tools to law enforcement. Media Sonar was guilty of doing so, Twitter confirmed to the Daily Dot on Friday.

Media Sonar’s access to API, Twitter’s public platform for developers, was shut down, and Twitter told the Daily Dot that if they try to create more, “we will terminate those as well and take further action as appropriate.”

Media Sonar’s sales representatives pitched the cloud-based surveillance program as being “specifically designed for law enforcement” and their promotional material contains “an effective list of high frequency social media terms that can help identify illegal activity and threats to public safety.”

A copy of their material was obtained by the ACLU who discovered that much of the terminology contained on the list pertained to anti-police brutality movements, such as Black Lives Matter. A separate column for Mike Brown-related keywords was included in the 2015 material.

The list also contained keywords of questionable quality. For example, under the gangs column, Media Sonar included keywords like “CEO,” “beat,” and “RIP.” All of these are words apparently can establish a user as potentially being up to no good.

Other interesting choices include placing “dissent” as a potential keyword for police evasion and crimes against police and “brother” as a potential keyword for human trafficking. Phrases that attract children are, according to Media Sonar, “IWSN,” which Media Sonar believes means, “I want sex now,” much to the chagrin of the Injured Worker Support Network.

Misunderstanding of youth culture aside, Media Sonar’s products were purchased by 19 local law enforcement agencies for at least $10,000 each between 2014 and 2016. The promotional material that the ACLU found was actually sent to the Fresno Police Department.

Media Sonar worked by using an artificial intelligence program to “analyze context, phrases and emoticons” “as predictive features” and was pitched as a way to “avoid the warrant process” to learn more about an individual’s social media profiles. Media Sonar also showed trends with individuals that ranged from the products they like to locations they are often tagged in.

Many feel that this kind of software should not be in the hands of law enforcement, because it would offer them the ability to track down and target protest organizers and activists. Twitter has expressed its “commitment to social justice” and claims to be on the lookout for companies like this.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Net Neutrality Wins Victory In Federal Court

Image: CBS Philly

By Ian Bush PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Net neutrality: Ted Cruz once derided it as ‘Obamacare for the Internet.’ Supporters call it key to keeping the web on a level playing field for all. Now, a federal appeals court has handed a victory to the White House-backed plan. However, the fight isn’t over for either side.…

Net neutrality: Ted Cruz once derided it as ‘Obamacare for the Internet.’ Supporters call it key to keeping the web on a level playing field for all. Now, a federal appeals court has handed a victory to the White House-backed plan.

However, the fight isn’t over for either side.

These net neutrality rules, approved early last year by majority Democrats on the Federal Communications Commission, would regulate the Internet like a public utility.

“Think of the telephone company: they have to treat everyone and all calls equally. It can’t make some calls clearer than others, some calls more likely to go through.”

via Net Neutrality Wins Victory In Federal Court — CBS PhillyCBS Philly

Posted by Libergirl

FBI in new push to probe web browser history – report

The FBI hopes to amend surveillance laws as early as this year, giving the agency explicit authority to access a personal Internet browser history by simply issuing an administrative “national security letter,” the Washington Post reports.
The new legislation being readied would empower the FBI to obtain “electronic communication transactional records” bypassing judges’ approval with the help of a “national security letter” (NSL) which could be issued by the special agent in charge of a bureau field office, the paper says.

The FBI chief made a specific point that gaining this access through changing legislation is topping agency’s priorities for the year 2016, since the inability to get the necessary data “affects our work in a very, very big and practical way,” James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee in February.

The Obama administration already tried to adopt a similar amendment some six years ago, but had to retreat after fierce opposition from the IT industry and privacy advocates.

Incidentally, Comey believes the current state of things is thanks to a “scrivener’s error” in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, enabling internet providers and other technical companies to refuse providing certain personal information to the agency, citing infringement of American citizens’ privacy.

The ECPA is “needlessly hamstringing our counterintelligence and counterterrorism efforts,” Comey stressed.

The FBI also insists that a broader update of the ECPA should set electronic communication transactional records equal to telephone billing records.

The personal web ‘transactional records’ in question will allegedly include protocol addresses and the exact time a person spends on a web resource, but not content like search queries and email texts.

A coalition of privacy and civil society groups united with internet industry organizations to oppose the legal initiative, warning that the amendment would “dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users’ online activities without oversight.”

Security letters requesting data usually come with a gag order forbidding the internet providers from making the fact of the FBI request public.

The FBI has issued over 300,000 such requests within the past 10 years and in most cases they were accompanied by gag orders, estimated American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani.

“That’s the perfect storm of more information gathered, less transparency and no accountability,” Guliani said.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Nuclear threats in US worse than previously known — study

Conflicting with a prior industry study, a new analysis claims 96 nuclear facilities in the US are less safe than reported, citing risks such as terrorism and sabotage. The study says there remain lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.
Neglect of the risks posed by used reactor fuel, or spent nuclear fuel, contained in 96 above ground, aquamarine pools could cost the US economy $700 billion, cause cancer in tens of thousands of people as well as compel the relocation of some 3.5 million people from an area larger than New Jersey, a study released May 20 finds.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s study, ‘Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of US Nuclear Plants,’ is the second installment of a two-part study ordered by Congress on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It not only cites, but also outright challenges a 2014 study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US industry’s regulator and enforcer of safety standards.

The spent fuel, The Academies’ study recommends, is safer in dry casks rather than pools, because of the risk of leaks, drawing water away from the irradiated nuclear rods. An accident, terrorist attack or malicious employee all pose greater dangers to the pools, the study says.

Aside from calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to offer a better evaluation of the health risks posed, The Academies study conducted by 17 engineers, nuclear physicists and other scientists demands the commission fulfill a 10-year-old promise to put together an impartial review of the surveillance and security policies on spent nuclear fuel.

“Even with the recommendations that the Academies’ board has put together,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell responded, “we continue to conclude that spent fuel is being stored safely and securely in the US.”

“Nothing in the report causes immediate concern,” Burnell added, although the commission is planning a more formal follow-up later this year, according to The Center for Public Integrity.

Congress felt compelled to fund the study on Japan’s natural-turned-nuclear disaster to help prevent a similar accident from occurring in the US. On March 11, 2011, the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima was thrashed by an earthquake and tsunami, leaving three reactors without power or coolants, which resulted in their radioactive cores melting down.

Pure luck kept the disaster from becoming even worse, The Acadamies found. Instead of Daiichi’s highly radioactive rods being exposed to oxygen, which would have sent over 13 million people packing from as far as 177 miles south in Tokyo, a leak happened to be situated between a fuel rod pool and a reactor core, which sent just enough coolant to keep the vulnerable rods from rising above the water. In the end, 470,000 people were evacuated and the still ongoing cleanup is estimated to cost about $93 billion.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 2014 study put the highest odds of an earthquake happening near spent fuel storage at one in 10 million years, boasting that “spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking,” while the odds of a terrorist attack or internal subversion were deemed incalculable and left out of any risk assessment.

Calling that cost-benefit analysis “deeply flawed,” The Academies panel member Frank von Hippel, also an emeritus professor and senior research physicist at Princeton University, complained that the commission’s study also left out the impact on property contamination in a 50-mile radius of an accident, tourism rates and the economy, The Center for Public Integrity reported.

The new analysis also calls for new officially designated risk assessments of safety and financial impacts at the federal level as well as what improvements aboveground dry casks may bring compared to pools. The latter is estimated to cost upwards of $4 billion by the industry.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Here’s what exactly the FBI wanted from Apple

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a sharp online letterthat the company will oppose a federal judge’s order to help unlock a San Bernardino, Calif. attacker’s phone.

Image: Apple

“Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case,” Cook wrote. “We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.”

So what more did the FBI ask for that Cook is outright refusing? Here’s a breakdown of what exactly the feds wanted from Apple and why Cook said no:

More from MarketWatch

Posted by The NON-Conformist