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Communications

Tox, a Skype Replacement Built On 'Privacy First' 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the pet-rock-also-built-on-privacy-first dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Rumors of back door access to Skype have plagued the communication software for the better part of a decade. Even if it's not true, Skype is owned by Microsoft, which is beholden to data requests from law enforcement. Because of these issues, a group of developers started work on Tox, which aims to rebuild the functionality of Skype with an emphasis on privacy. "The main thing the Tox team is trying to do, besides provide encryption, is create a tool that requires no central servers whatsoever—not even ones that you would host yourself. It relies on the same technology that BitTorrent uses to provide direct connections between users, so there's no central hub to snoop on or take down."
Businesses

Net Neutrality Campaign To Show What the Web Would Be Like With a "Slow Lane" 27

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
blottsie writes In a move out of the anti-SOPA campaign playbook, Fight for the Future and other net neutrality activist groups have set up the Battle for the Net coalition, which plans to launch an "Internet slowdown day" later this month. No actual traffic will be slowed down. Instead, participating sites will display embeddable modules that include a spinning "loading" symbol and information about contacting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the White House, and members of Congress.
Power

Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the store-it-up dept.
ashshy writes Unlike the obvious battery needs for smartphones or electric cars, many consumers are unaware of the exploding need for enormous battery banks as modern power grids are bringing a whole new set of requirements. From the article: "'Our electricity grid was built a certain way, and that way is to have on-demand production,' Argonne National Laboratory battery researcher Jeff Chamberlain explained. 'So as I flip my light switch on at home, there's some little knob somewhere that turns the power up. There is no buffer. It's a very interesting production cycle compared to other consumer goods. It was built a certain way, and the grid is currently changing in two different ways. One is, first our demand is increasing. But another is, around the world human beings are trying to get off fossil fuels and that means using solar and wind. Well, we cannot turn up the sun or wind, or turn down the sun or wind according to our energy needs. So the more those technologies penetrate the grid, the more you need energy storage. You need a buffer. And that is a very difficult challenge that's similar to transportation because it's cost-driven,' Chamberlain said. 'But it's also different from transportation because we're not limited by volume or mass like we are in vehicles. We're working on energy storage systems that are stationary.'"
Government

New Nigerian ID Card Includes Prepay MasterCard Wallet 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the identification-and-credit-report-please dept.
First time accepted submitter Adam Oxford writes Nigeria's National Identity Management System — which aims to bring together citizen information databases as diverse as driving licenses and tax returns — was introduced last week and includes a prepay MasterCard wallet. Civil liberties groups are naturally wary about the project, but proponents see it as a way to get financial services to the masses. From the article: "The director general of the commission which will implement NIMS, Chris 'E Onyemenam, said at the launch that the card will eventually be used for border control as well. 'There are many use cases for the card, including the potential to use it as an international travel document,' Onyemenam said. 'NIMC is focused on inclusive citizenship, more effective governance, and the creation of a cashless economy, all of which will stimulate economic growth, investment and trade.'"
The Courts

Deputy Who Fatally Struck Cyclist While Answering Email Will Face No Charges 341

Posted by samzenpus
from the off-the-hook dept.
Frosty P writes The LA County District Attorney's Office declined to press charges against a sheriff's deputy who was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer when he fatally struck cyclist and former Napster COO Milton Olin Jr. in Calabasas last December. The deputy was responding to routine work email when he drifted into the bike lane and struck and killed Mr. Olin. An official with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said it is launching its own probe into the deputy’s behavior.
Government

Hacker Disrupts New Zealand Election Campaign 66

Posted by samzenpus
from the throwing-a-wrench-in-the-works dept.
An anonymous reader writes New Zealand is facing its weirdest election ever with a hacker calling himself "Rawshark" progressively dumping emails hacked from a controversial blogger. This weekend, revelations forced the resignation of one Government minister and nobody knows what will drop next. Emails revealed that the blogger, called "Whale Oil", was in contact with both a government minister in charge of New Zealand's white collar crime investigations unit and with a PR man acting for a founder of a failed finance company then under investigation.
The Internet

Grand Ayatollah Says High Speed Internet Is "Against Moral Standards" 444

Posted by samzenpus
from the slow-it-down dept.
An anonymous reader writes A Grand Ayatollah in Iran has determined that access to high-speed and 3G Internet is "against Sharia" and "against moral standards." However, Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, plans to renew licenses and expand the country’s 3G cellular phone network. A radical MP associated with the conservative Resistance Front, warned: “If the minister continues to go ahead with increasing bandwidth and Internet speed, then we will push for his impeachment and removal from the cabinet.” “We will vigorously prevent all attempts by the [communication] minister to expand 3G technology, and if our warnings are not heeded, then the necessary course of action will be taken,” he added.
United States

Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go 219

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-anywhere dept.
mdsolar writes with news of a plan to move radioactive waste from nuclear plants. The U.S. government is looking for trains to haul radioactive waste from nuclear power plants to disposal sites. Too bad those trains have nowhere to go. Putting the cart before the horse, the U.S. Department of Energy recently asked companies for ideas on how the government should get the rail cars needed to haul 150-ton casks filled with used, radioactive nuclear fuel. They won't be moving anytime soon. The latest government plans call for having an interim test storage site in 2021 and a long-term geologic depository in 2048. No one knows where those sites will be, but the Obama administration is already thinking about contracts to develop, test and certify the necessary rail equipment.
Censorship

Ukraine Asks Zuckerberg to Discipline Kremlin Facebook Bots 218

Posted by samzenpus
from the bot-breaker dept.
mi writes "Ukrainian media is reporting (link in Ukrainian), that Facebook is getting increasingly heavy-handed blocking Ukrainian bloggers. The likely explanation for the observed phenomenon is that Facebook's Ukrainian office is located in Russia and is headed by a Russian citizen (Catherine Skorobogatov). For example, a post calling on Russian mothers to not let their sons go to war was blocked "Due to multiple complaints". Fed up, Ukrainian users are writing directly to Zukerberg to ask him to replace Catherine with someone, who would not be quite as swayed by the "complaints" generated by Russian bots.
Microsoft

Microsoft Defies Court Order, Will Not Give Emails To US Government 396

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-didn't-say-pretty-please dept.
schwit1 sends this excerpt from a report about Microsoft: Despite a federal court order directing Microsoft to turn overseas-held email data to federal authorities, the software giant said Friday it will continue to withhold that information as it waits for the case to wind through the appeals process. The judge has now ordered both Microsoft and federal prosecutors to advise her how to proceed by next Friday, September 5.

Let there be no doubt that Microsoft's actions in this controversial case are customer-centric. The firm isn't just standing up to the US government on moral principles. It's now defying a federal court order. "Microsoft will not be turning over the email and plans to appeal," a Microsoft statement notes. "Everyone agrees this case can and will proceed to the appeals court. This is simply about finding the appropriate procedure for that to happen."
United States

Google's Megan Smith Would Be First US CTO Worthy of the Title 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the knows-how-to-program-her-VCR dept.
theodp writes: Bloomberg is reporting that Google X's Megan Smith is the top candidate for U.S. Chief Technology Officer. With a BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and experience ranging from General Magic to Google, Smith would arguably be the first U.S. CTO worthy of the title (the outgoing U.S. CTO has a bachelor's in Econ; his predecessor has a master's in Public Policy). "Smith joined Google in 2003. As vice president of business development, she oversaw many of its most important acquisitions, like Keyhole, the service that underlies Google Earth. She has led the company’s philanthropic division, Google.org, and served as a co-host for Google’s Solve for X forum, where distinguished thinkers and scientists brainstorm radical technology ideas with Google executives."
NASA

NASA's Competition For Dollars 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We often decry the state of funding to NASA. Its limited scope has kept us from returning to the moon for over four decades, maintained only a minimal presence in low-Earth orbit, and failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system. But why is funding such a problem? Jason Callahan, who has worked on several of NASA's annual budgets, says it's not just NASA's small percentage of the federal budget that keeps those projects on the back burner, but also competition for funding between different parts of NASA as well. "[NASA's activities include] space science, including aeronautics research (the first A in NASA), technology development, education, center and agency management, construction, maintenance, and the entire human spaceflight program. The total space science budget has rarely exceeded $5 billion, and has averaged just over half that amount. Remember that space science is more than just planetary: astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science are all funded in this number. Despite this, space science accounts for an average of 17 percent of NASA's total budget, though it has significant fluctuations. In the 1980s, space science was a mere 11 ½ percent of NASA's budget, but in the 2000s, it made up 27 percent."
Privacy

Judge Allows L.A. Cops To Keep License Plate Reader Data Secret 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department is not required to hand over a week's worth of license plate reader data to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He cited the potential of compromising criminal investigations and giving (un-charged) criminals the ability to determine whether or not they were being targeted by law enforcement (PDF). The ACLU and the EFF sought the data under the California Public Records Act, but the judge invoked Section 6254(f), "which protects investigatory files." ACLU attorney Peter Bibring notes, "New surveillance techniques may function better if people don't know about them, but that kind of secrecy is inconsistent with democratic policing."
The Internet

How Big Telecom Smothers Municipal Broadband 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-even-trust-the-huge-soulless-corporations-anymore dept.
Rick Zeman writes: The Center for Public Integrity has a comprehensive article showing how Big Telecom (aka, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Time Warner) use lobbyists, paid-for politicians, and lawsuits (both actual and the threat thereof) in their efforts to kill municipal broadband. From the article: "The companies have also used traditional campaign tactics such as newspaper ads, push polls, direct mail and door-to-door canvassing to block municipal networks. And they've tried to undermine the appetite for municipal broadband by paying for research from think tanks and front groups to portray the networks as unreliable and costly."
Government

US Government Fights To Not Explain No-Fly List Selection Process 246

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On August 6, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga ordered the federal government to "explain why the government places U.S. citizens who haven't been convicted of any violent crimes on its no-fly database." Unsurprisingly, the federal government objected to the order, once more claiming that to divulge their no-fly list criteria would expose state secrets and thus pose a national security threat. When the judge said he would read the material privately, the government insisted that reading the material "would not assist the Court in deciding the pending Motion to Dismiss (PDF) because it is not an appropriate means to test the scope of the assertion of the State Secrets privilege." The federal government has until September 7 to comply with the judge's order unless the judge is swayed by the government's objection.
Australia

Australian Consumer Watchdog Takes Valve To Court 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-sue dept.
angry tapir writes The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, a government funded watchdog organization, is taking Valve to court. The court action relates to Valve's Steam distribution service. According to ACCC allegations, Valve misled Australian consumers about their rights under Australian law by saying that customers were not entitled to refunds for games under any circumstances.
United States

The Executive Order That Led To Mass Spying, As Told By NSA Alumni 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-see-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this Ars piece about the executive order that is the legal basis for the U.S. government's mass spying on citizens. One thing sits at the heart of what many consider a surveillance state within the US today. The problem does not begin with political systems that discourage transparency or technologies that can intercept everyday communications without notice. Like everything else in Washington, there's a legal basis for what many believe is extreme government overreach—in this case, it's Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981. “12333 is used to target foreigners abroad, and collection happens outside the US," whistleblower John Tye, a former State Department official, told Ars recently. "My complaint is not that they’re using it to target Americans, my complaint is that the volume of incidental collection on US persons is unconstitutional.” The document, known in government circles as "twelve triple three," gives incredible leeway to intelligence agencies sweeping up vast quantities of Americans' data. That data ranges from e-mail content to Facebook messages, from Skype chats to practically anything that passes over the Internet on an incidental basis. In other words, EO 12333 protects the tangential collection of Americans' data even when Americans aren't specifically targeted—otherwise it would be forbidden under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.
Cellphones

Judge Lucy Koh Rejects Apple's Quest For Anti-Samsung Injunction 30

Posted by timothy
from the sound-reasoning dept.
The Associated Press, in a story carried by The Financial Express, reports that Federal Judge Lucy Koh has has rejected Apple's attempt to block the sale of several older Samsung smartphones that copied features in the iPhone. Wednesday's rebuff comes nearly four months after a jury awarded Apple Inc. $119 million in damages for Samsung's infringements on technology used in the trend-setting iPhone. The amount was well below the $2.2 billion in damages that Apple had been seeking in the latest round of legal wrangling between the world's two leading smartphone makers since the tussle began four years ago. The Register also carries the story, and notes Perhaps because the ongoing battle was turning the two companies into law firms rather than tech titans, the two agreed to abandon all patent lawsuits outside the USA earlier this month. However, Apple still wanted the infringing features extirpated from American stores, and was seeking to have phones nobody bought banned as ammo for future battles.
Crime

Anita Sarkeesian, Creator of "Tropes vs. Women," Driven From Home By Trolls 1219

Posted by timothy
from the bad-childhoods-never-end dept.
Sonny Yatsen writes: Anita Sarkeesian, the creator of Tropes vs. Women — a video series exploring negative tropes and misogynistic depictions of women in video games — reports that she has been driven from her home after a series of extremely violent sexual threats made against her. Her videos have previously drawn criticism from many male gamers, often coupled with violent imagery or threats of violence. The Verge story linked has this to say: The threats against Sarkeesian have become a nasty backdrop to her entire project — and her life. If the trolls making them hoped for attention, they've gotten it. They've also inexorably linked criticism of her work, valid or not, with semi-delusional vigilantism, and arguably propelled Tropes vs. Women to its current level of visibility. If a major plank of your platform is that misogyny is a lie propagated by Sarkeesian and other "social justice warriors," it might help to not constantly prove it wrong.
Google

Google Wins $1.3 Million From Patent Troll 35

Posted by timothy
from the may-the-bridge-collapse-upon-you-and-your-family dept.
An anonymous reader writes Earlier this year, Google sued Beneficial Innovations for breach of contract, ostensibly in defense of its Doubleclick ad technology clients against whom Beneficial Innovations had filed suits despite Google having already paid licensing fees for the technology. Following Google's jury trial win, the company was originally awarded only 'nominal damages of $1 and a judicial order stopping Beneficial from going after more Doubleclick customers.' Now, however, the presiding judge has ruled that Google is entitled to some attorneys' fees in the amount of $1.3 million (PDF).

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