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Paul Merrell

Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads - The Intercept - 0 views

  • Canada’s leading surveillance agency is monitoring millions of Internet users’ file downloads in a dragnet search to identify extremists, according to top-secret documents. The covert operation, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, taps into Internet cables and analyzes records of up to 15 million downloads daily from popular websites commonly used to share videos, photographs, music, and other files. The revelations about the spying initiative, codenamed LEVITATION, are the first from the trove of files provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to show that the Canadian government has launched its own globe-spanning Internet mass surveillance system. According to the documents, the LEVITATION program can monitor downloads in several countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. It is led by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the NSA. (The Canadian agency was formerly known as “CSEC” until a recent name change.)
  • The latest disclosure sheds light on Canada’s broad existing surveillance capabilities at a time when the country’s government is pushing for a further expansion of security powers following attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last year. Ron Deibert, director of University of Toronto-based Internet security think tank Citizen Lab, said LEVITATION illustrates the “giant X-ray machine over all our digital lives.” “Every single thing that you do – in this case uploading/downloading files to these sites – that act is being archived, collected and analyzed,” Deibert said, after reviewing documents about the online spying operation for CBC News. David Christopher, a spokesman for Vancouver-based open Internet advocacy group OpenMedia.ca, said the surveillance showed “robust action” was needed to rein in the Canadian agency’s operations.
  • In a top-secret PowerPoint presentation, dated from mid-2012, an analyst from the agency jokes about how, while hunting for extremists, the LEVITATION system gets clogged with information on innocuous downloads of the musical TV series Glee. CSE finds some 350 “interesting” downloads each month, the presentation notes, a number that amounts to less than 0.0001 per cent of the total collected data. The agency stores details about downloads and uploads to and from 102 different popular file-sharing websites, according to the 2012 document, which describes the collected records as “free file upload,” or FFU, “events.” Only three of the websites are named: RapidShare, SendSpace, and the now defunct MegaUpload.
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  • “The specific uses that they talk about in this [counter-terrorism] context may not be the problem, but it’s what else they can do,” said Tamir Israel, a lawyer with the University of Ottawa’s Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. Picking which downloads to monitor is essentially “completely at the discretion of CSE,” Israel added. The file-sharing surveillance also raises questions about the number of Canadians whose downloading habits could have been swept up as part of LEVITATION’s dragnet. By law, CSE isn’t allowed to target Canadians. In the LEVITATION presentation, however, two Canadian IP addresses that trace back to a web server in Montreal appear on a list of suspicious downloads found across the world. The same list includes downloads that CSE monitored in closely allied countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Portugal. It is unclear from the document whether LEVITATION has ever prevented any terrorist attacks. The agency cites only two successes of the program in the 2012 presentation: the discovery of a hostage video through a previously unknown target, and an uploaded document that contained the hostage strategy of a terrorist organization. The hostage in the discovered video was ultimately killed, according to public reports.
  • LEVITATION does not rely on cooperation from any of the file-sharing companies. A separate secret CSE operation codenamed ATOMIC BANJO obtains the data directly from internet cables that it has tapped into, and the agency then sifts out the unique IP address of each computer that downloaded files from the targeted websites. The IP addresses are valuable pieces of information to CSE’s analysts, helping to identify people whose downloads have been flagged as suspicious. The analysts use the IP addresses as a kind of search term, entering them into other surveillance databases that they have access to, such as the vast repositories of intercepted Internet data shared with the Canadian agency by the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters. If successful, the searches will return a list of results showing other websites visited by the people downloading the files – in some cases revealing associations with Facebook or Google accounts. In turn, these accounts may reveal the names and the locations of individual downloaders, opening the door for further surveillance of their activities.
  • Canada’s leading surveillance agency is monitoring millions of Internet users’ file downloads in a dragnet search to identify extremists, according to top-secret documents. The covert operation, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, taps into Internet cables and analyzes records of up to 15 million downloads daily from popular websites commonly used to share videos, photographs, music, and other files. The revelations about the spying initiative, codenamed LEVITATION, are the first from the trove of files provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to show that the Canadian government has launched its own globe-spanning Internet mass surveillance system. According to the documents, the LEVITATION program can monitor downloads in several countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. It is led by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the NSA. (The Canadian agency was formerly known as “CSEC” until a recent name change.)
Paul Merrell

Tiny USB Stick Brings Android to PCs, TVs | Gadget Lab | Wired.com - 3 views

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    Vaporware, but interesting. More info on the developers' website at .  Basic idea is a computer on a stick that can be plugged into either other computers or into an HDMI flatscreen TV. In the latter scenario, Bluetooth connectivity for keyboard/mouse combo, provided by e.g., a smartphone. The USB connection is v. 2.0, but I'll guess that USB 3.0 would soon be an option in newer models.  According to the specs it can run either Android or Ubunutu. If you check the developer's website, they definitely have their eyes on the growth in the numbers of HDMI-equipped TVs. Note that if delivered as described, this breaks boundaries of mobile devices, tending toward a convergence of TV monitors and mobile devices in an unexpected way. 
Paul Merrell

Bankrolled by broadband donors, lawmakers lobby FCC on net neutrality | Ars Technica - 1 views

  • The 28 House members who lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to drop net neutrality this week have received more than twice the amount in campaign contributions from the broadband sector than the average for all House members. These lawmakers, including the top House leadership, warned the FCC that regulating broadband like a public utility "harms" providers, would be "fatal to the Internet," and could "limit economic freedom."​ According to research provided Friday by Maplight, the 28 House members received, on average, $26,832 from the "cable & satellite TV production & distribution" sector over a two-year period ending in December. According to the data, that's 2.3 times more than the House average of $11,651. What's more, one of the lawmakers who told the FCC that he had "grave concern" (PDF) about the proposed regulation took more money from that sector than any other member of the House. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) was the top sector recipient, netting more than $109,000 over the two-year period, the Maplight data shows.
  • Dan Newman, cofounder and president of Maplight, the California research group that reveals money in politics, said the figures show that "it's hard to take seriously politicians' claims that they are acting in the public interest when their campaigns are funded by companies seeking huge financial benefits for themselves." Signing a letter to the FCC along with Walden, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, were three other key members of the same committee: Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), Robert Latta (R-OH), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Over the two-year period, Upton took in $65,000, Latta took $51,000, and Blackburn took $32,500. In a letter (PDF) those representatives sent to the FCC two days before Thursday's raucous FCC net neutrality hearing, the four wrote that they had "grave concern" over the FCC's consideration of "reclassifying Internet broadband service as an old-fashioned 'Title II common carrier service.'" The letter added that a switchover "harms broadband providers, the American economy, and ultimately broadband consumers, actually doing so would be fatal to the Internet as we know it."
  • Not every one of the 28 members who publicly lobbied the FCC against net neutrality in advance of Thursday's FCC public hearing received campaign financing from the industry. One representative took no money: Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). In all, the FCC received at least three letters from House lawmakers with 28 signatures urging caution on classifying broadband as a telecommunications service, which would open up the sector to stricter "common carrier" rules, according to letters the members made publicly available. The US has long applied common carrier status to the telephone network, providing justification for universal service obligations that guarantee affordable phone service to all Americans and other rules that promote competition and consumer choice. Some consumer advocates say that common carrier status is needed for the FCC to impose strong network neutrality rules that would force ISPs to treat all traffic equally, not degrading competing services or speeding up Web services in exchange for payment. ISPs have argued that common carrier rules would saddle them with too much regulation and would force them to spend less on network upgrades and be less innovative.
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  • Of the 28 House members signing on to the three letters, Republicans received, on average, $59,812 from the industry over the two-year period compared to $13,640 for Democrats, according to the Maplight data. Another letter (PDF) sent to the FCC this week from four top members of the House, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), argued in favor of cable companies: "We are writing to respectfully urge you to halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation on the Internet, and to warn that implementation of such a plan will needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy's most vibrant sectors," they wrote. Over the two-year period, Boehner received $75,450; Cantor got $80,800; McCarthy got $33,000; and McMorris Rodgers got $31,500.
  • The third letter (PDF) forwarded to the FCC this week was signed by 20 House members. "We respectfully urge you to consider the effect that regressing to a Title II approach might have on private companies' ability to attract capital and their continued incentives to invest and innovate, as well as the potentially negative impact on job creation that might result from any reduction in funding or investment," the letter said. Here are the 28 lawmakers who lobbied the FCC this week and their reported campaign contributions:
Paul Merrell

Comcast-NBC: Internet issues bog down Comcast-NBC merger - latimes.com - 1 views

  • One company is the nation's biggest cable TV provider. The other owns a TV network, several popular cable channels and a movie studio.But when it comes to the $30-billion merger of Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal, the regulators and lawmakers who will decide the fate of the deal aren't focusing on the big screen or the small screen. They're looking at the Internet.Welcome to a media marriage, circa 2010.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Poll: nearly 50% of year 10 students feel addicted to the internet | Technology | The Guardian - 0 views

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    "Survey also finds more than three quarters of similarly aged pupils take a laptop, phone or tablet to bed at night Share Tweet this Email Peter Walker The Guardian, Friday 9 May 2014" # ! better than the current Addiction to TV...
Gary Edwards

Flash Wars: Adobe Fights for AIR with the Open Screen Project [Part 3 of 3] | AppleInsider - 0 views

  • Two areas where Flash can offer real value is in displaying and packaging video on the web, and in serving as a Java replacement for developing applets. Here's a look at how Adobe is working to defend its strengths in the face of competition, and how its efforts to open the Flash specification in the Open Screen Project play into these efforts.
  • proprietary FLV video container format
  • more advanced and open H.264 video codec
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  • Apple's ability to disrupt the status quo in video playback is evident in its deal with Google to vend YouTube videos to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Apple TV as straight H.264 rather than Google's existing mix of a Flash-based player and its archaic GVI file format based upon AVI.
  • As Apple's hardware-based H.264 playback in mobile devices begins to define how to reach affluent customers with content, Flash will increasingly lose any allure on the PC desktop as well, as developers won't want to target PCs and mobiles using two different systems.
  • Adobe seems to be hoping that nobody notices these problems and that its vigilant marketing efforts can entrance the public into thinking that a drawing app extended into an animation tool and then retrofitted into a monstrous hack of a development platform is a superior technology basis for building web apps compared to the use of modern open standards created expressly to promote true interoperability by design rather than retroactively.
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    Part two of the Prince McClean Adobe-Flash history. Excellent history involves Adobe SVG, Microsoft VmL-XAML-Silverlight, Apple WebKit, Sun (Java) as they battle for dominance over web applications and the future of the Web itself.
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Paul Merrell

Google reveals where AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable will next offer Gbps broadband * The Register - 0 views

  • Google has named the next four areas in the US to get its gigabit-a-second fiber broadband. The advertising giant said on Tuesday it will next roll out high-speed connections to 18 cities in and around Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Raleigh-Durham, NC; and Nashville, TN. Charlotte city officials had indicated they were expecting to be named as one of the next places to feel Google's cable. The expansion will bring the total number of areas with Google Fiber deployments to seven: the California biz already offers fiber broadband in and around Kansas City, MO, Austin, TX, and Provo, UT.
  • Google charges $70 a month for gigabit internet, $120 if you want TV with it, or free if you're happy with 5Mbit/s for the downlink. Only the freebie option requires a $300 installation fee. Despite the price tag, the service is hotly anticipated in the few chosen cities. The presence of Google Fiber also has the side-effect of spurring rival carriers, such as AT&T, to offer their own high-speed broadband services in the area.
  • Later this year, the Chocolate Factory will also make its decision on where the next set of Fiber rollouts will take place. Five areas are being considered: Portland, OR; San Jose, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Phoenix, AZ; and San Antonio, TX. ®
Paul Merrell

GooSoft shapes super White Space database * The Register - 0 views

  • The world's largest software and search companies Wednesday announced the formation of the White Spaces Database Group with PC and broadcasting hardware and services specialists Dell, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Comsearch, and NeuStar.
  • The White Spaces Database Group comes after months of concerted lobbying of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Microsoft, Google, and the other companies to make unused TV frequencies - white spaces - available for internet access by PCs and other devices.
  • The FCC last November ruled against broadcasters and said it would open up white spaces, but in a concession to their concerns, it stipulated the need for an online database that devices accessing the spectrum must read in order to find out what channels they are allowed to use. The database should be built and run by a third party and will be selected through a "public process."
Paul Merrell

Lawrence, KS To Get Gigabit Fiber - But Not From Google - Slashdot - 0 views

  • "Just 40 miles west on the Kansas Turnpike from Kansas City Kansas sits Lawrence, KS. With the slow rollout of Google fiber in their neighbor city, it was looking like their 89,000 people were not going to get the gigabit fiber to the home for quite some time. Up steps Wicked Broadband, a local ISP. With a plan remarkably similar to Google's they look to build out fiber to the home, business, and so on with gigabit speed and similar rates, symmetric bandwidth and no caps. Wicked Fiber's offer is different than Google Fiber's, with more tiers — with cute names. The "Flying Monkey" gigabit plan is $100/month, "Tinman" at 100Mbps is $70/month. They offer TV as well but strangely put Internet streaming and Roku to the fore. They are even using Google's method of installing first in the neighborhoods with the most pre-registration to optimize efficiency, and installing only where there is enough demand. It seems Google's scheme to inspire competition in broadband access is working — if Wicked Fiber gets enough subscribers to make it pay. If this succeeds it may inspire similar ISPs near us to step up to gigabit fiber so let's root for them."
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    It shouldn't take a lot of similar initiatives from companies other than Google to force major ISPs to begin rolling out gigabit ISP services in the U.S. in order to protect their market share from predation. To be followed by lower charges, hopefully. 
Paul Merrell

Exclusive: Google mulling Wi-Fi for cities with Google Fiber - Network World - 0 views

  • Google is considering deploying Wi-Fi networks in towns and cities covered by its Google Fiber high-speed Internet service. The disclosure is made in a document Google is circulating to 34 cities that are the next candidates to receive Google Fiber in 2015.
  • Google Fiber is already available in Provo, Utah, and Kansas City, and is promised soon in Austin, Texas. It delivers a "basic speed" service for no charge, a gigabit-per-second service for US$70 per month and a $120 package that includes a bundle of more than 200 TV channels. Installation costs between nothing and $300. Google has sent the 34 cities that are next in line for Google Fiber a detailed request for information and they have until May 1 to reply.
  • Specific details of the Wi-Fi plan are not included in the document, which was seen by IDG News Service, but Google says it will be "discussing our Wi-Fi plans and related requirements with your city as we move forward with your city during this planning process."
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  • Google is also asking cities to identify locations it would be able to install utility huts. Each 12-foot-by-30-foot (3.6-meter-by-9.1-meter) windowless hut needs to allow 24-hour access and be on land Google could lease for about 20 years. The huts, of which there will be between one and a handful in each city, would house the main networking equipment. From the hut, fiber cables would run along utility poles -- or in underground fiber ducts if they exist -- and terminate at neighborhood boxes, each serving up to 288 or 587 homes. The neighborhood boxes are around the same size or smaller than current utility cabinets often found on city streets.
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