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Paul Merrell

With rules repealed, what's next for net neutrality? | TheHill - 0 views

  • The battle over the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality rules is entering a new phase, with opponents of the move launching efforts to preserve the Obama-era consumer protections.The net neutrality rules had required internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. Republicans on the commission decried the regulatory structure as a gross overreach, and quickly moved to reverse them once the Trump administration came to power. The reversal of the rules was published in the Federal Register Thursday, and even though the order is months away from implementation, net neutrality supporters are now free to mount legal challenges to the action. A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general, public interest groups and internet companies have vowed to fight in the courts. Twenty-three states, led by New York and its attorney general, Eric Schneiderman (D), have already filed a lawsuit. 
  • Even if Democrats do manage to find the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, the bill is almost certain to die in the House. But Democrats see a roll call vote as an opportunity to make GOP members stake out a position on an issue that they think could resonate in the midterm elections. On yet another front, Democratic states around the country have already launched their own attack on the FCC’s rules. Five governors (from Montana, Hawaii, New Jersey, Vermont and New York) have in recent weeks signed executive orders forbidding their states from doing business with internet service providers who violate net neutrality principles. And, according to the pro-net neutrality group Free Press, legislatures in 26 states are weighing bills that would codify their own open internet protections. The local efforts could ignite a separate legal battle over whether states have the authority to counteract the FCC’s order, which included a provision preempting them from replacing the rules.
  • The emerging court battle over net neutrality could keep the issue in limbo for years.Meanwhile, a separate battle over the rules is brewing in Congress.Senate Democrats have secured enough support to force a vote on a bill that would undo the FCC’s December vote and leave the net neutrality rules in place. The bill, which is being pushed by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyRegulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage Markey, Paul want to know if new rules are helping opioid treatment Oil spill tax on oil companies reinstated as part of budget deal MORE (D-Mass.), would use a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. The entry of the FCC’s repeal order in the Federal Register Thursday means that the Senate has 60 legislative days to move on the CRA bill. Democrats have secured support from one Republican, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (Maine), and need just one more to cross the aisle for the bill to pass the chamber. 
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  • For their part, Republicans who applauded the FCC repeal are calling for a legislation that would codify some net neutrality principles. They say doing so would allow for less heavy-handed protections that provide certainty to businesses.But most net neutrality supporters reject that course, at least while the repeal is tied up in court and Republicans control majorities in both the House and Senate. They argue that such a bill would amount to little more than watered-down protections that would be unable to keep internet service providers in check. For now, Democrats seem content to let the battles in the courts and Congress play out.
Gary Edwards

After Bill Gates, five possible futures for Microsoft | InfoWorld | Analysis | 2008-06-24 | By Galen Gruman - 0 views

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    For most people, Bill Gates and Microsoft are one and the same. Gates has led Microsoft to global dominance in the 33 years since its founding, combining a strong opportunism -- getting the code for DOS to sell to IBM for the first PC and aping Apple's visual interface for the first Windows are the two best examples of Gates' moving where the wind was soon to blow -- with a steady vision of desktop computers being as powerful as the mainframes that captured techies' imaginations in the 1970s. This is the intro and overview into a series of articles describing the future of Microsoft through five possible scenarios. The series includes under the lead article, "The Future of Microsoft"; * The "Borvell" scenario * The "slow decline" scenario * The "streaming" scenario * The "Oort services" scenario * The "Gates was right" scenario ]
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

The People and Tech Behind the Panama Papers - Features - Source: An OpenNews project - 0 views

  • Then we put the data up, but the problem with Solr was it didn’t have a user interface, so we used Project Blacklight, which is open source software normally used by librarians. We used it for the journalists. It’s simple because it allows you to do faceted search—so, for example, you can facet by the folder structure of the leak, by years, by type of file. There were more complex things—it supports queries in regular expressions, so the more advanced users were able to search for documents with a certain pattern of numbers that, for example, passports use. You could also preview and download the documents. ICIJ open-sourced the code of our document processing chain, created by our web developer Matthew Caruana Galizia. We also developed a batch-searching feature. So say you were looking for politicians in your country—you just run it through the system, and you upload your list to Blacklight and you would get a CSV back saying yes, there are matches for these names—not only exact matches, but also matches based on proximity. So you would say “I want Mar Cabra proximity 2” and that would give you “Mar Cabra,” “Mar whatever Cabra,” “Cabra, Mar,”—so that was good, because very quickly journalists were able to see… I have this list of politicians and they are in the data!
  • Last Sunday, April 3, the first stories emerging from the leaked dataset known as the Panama Papers were published by a global partnership of news organizations working in coordination with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, or ICIJ. As we begin the second week of reporting on the leak, Iceland’s Prime Minister has been forced to resign, Germany has announced plans to end anonymous corporate ownership, governments around the world launched investigations into wealthy citizens’ participation in tax havens, the Russian government announced that the investigation was an anti-Putin propaganda operation, and the Chinese government banned mentions of the leak in Chinese media. As the ICIJ-led consortium prepares for its second major wave of reporting on the Panama Papers, we spoke with Mar Cabra, editor of ICIJ’s Data & Research unit and lead coordinator of the data analysis and infrastructure work behind the leak. In our conversation, Cabra reveals ICIJ’s years-long effort to build a series of secure communication and analysis platforms in support of genuinely global investigative reporting collaborations.
  • For communication, we have the Global I-Hub, which is a platform based on open source software called Oxwall. Oxwall is a social network, like Facebook, which has a wall when you log in with the latest in your network—it has forum topics, links, you can share files, and you can chat with people in real time.
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  • We had the data in a relational database format in SQL, and thanks to ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) software Talend, we were able to easily transform the data from SQL to Neo4j (the graph-database format we used). Once the data was transformed, it was just a matter of plugging it into Linkurious, and in a couple of minutes, you have it visualized—in a networked way, so anyone can log in from anywhere in the world. That was another reason we really liked Linkurious and Neo4j—they’re very quick when representing graph data, and the visualizations were easy to understand for everybody. The not-very-tech-savvy reporter could expand the docs like magic, and more technically expert reporters and programmers could use the Neo4j query language, Cypher, to do more complex queries, like show me everybody within two degrees of separation of this person, or show me all the connected dots…
  • We believe in open source technology and try to use it as much as possible. We used Apache Solr for the indexing and Apache Tika for document processing, and it’s great because it processes dozens of different formats and it’s very powerful. Tika interacts with Tesseract, so we did the OCRing on Tesseract. To OCR the images, we created an army of 30–40 temporary servers in Amazon that allowed us to process the documents in parallel and do parallel OCR-ing. If it was very slow, we’d increase the number of servers—if it was going fine, we would decrease because of course those servers have a cost.
  • For the visualization of the Mossack Fonseca internal database, we worked with another tool called Linkurious. It’s not open source, it’s licensed software, but we have an agreement with them, and they allowed us to work with it. It allows you to represent data in graphs. We had a version of Linkurious on our servers, so no one else had the data. It was pretty intuitive—journalists had to click on dots that expanded, basically, and could search the names.
Paul Merrell

Mozilla Acquires Pocket | The Mozilla Blog - 0 views

  • e are excited to announce that the Mozilla Corporation has completed the acquisition of Read It Later, Inc. the developers of Pocket. Mozilla is growing, experimenting more, and doubling down on our mission to keep the internet healthy, as a global public resource that’s open and accessible to all. As our first strategic acquisition, Pocket contributes to our strategy by growing our mobile presence and providing people everywhere with powerful tools to discover and access high quality web content, on their terms, independent of platform or content silo. Pocket will join Mozilla’s product portfolio as a new product line alongside the Firefox web browsers with a focus on promoting the discovery and accessibility of high quality web content. (Here’s a link to their blog post on the acquisition).  Pocket’s core team and technology will also accelerate Mozilla’s broader Context Graph initiative.
  • “We believe that the discovery and accessibility of high quality web content is key to keeping the internet healthy by fighting against the rising tide of centralization and walled gardens. Pocket provides people with the tools they need to engage with and share content on their own terms, independent of hardware platform or content silo, for a safer, more empowered and independent online experience.” – Chris Beard, Mozilla CEO Pocket brings to Mozilla a successful human-powered content recommendation system with 10 million unique monthly active users on iOS, Android and the Web, and with more than 3 billion pieces of content saved to date. In working closely with Pocket over the last year around the integration within Firefox, we developed a shared vision and belief in the opportunity to do more together that has led to Pocket joining Mozilla today. “We’ve really enjoyed partnering with Mozilla over the past year. We look forward to working more closely together to support the ongoing growth of Pocket and to create great new products that people love in support of our shared mission.” – Nate Weiner, Pocket CEO As a result of this strategic acquisition, Pocket will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Mozilla Corporation and will become part of the Mozilla open source project.
Paul Merrell

EFF to Court: Don't Undermine Legal Protections for Online Platforms that Enable Free Speech | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • EFF filed a brief in federal court arguing that a lower court’s ruling jeopardizes the online platforms that make the Internet a robust platform for users’ free speech. The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, argues that 47 U.S.C. § 230, enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act (known simply as “Section 230”) broadly protects online platforms, including review websites, when they aggregate or otherwise edit users’ posts. Generally, Section 230 provides legal immunity for online intermediaries that host or republish speech by protecting them against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do. Section 230’s immunity directly led to the development of the platforms everyone uses today, allowing people to upload videos to their favorite platforms such as YouTube, as well as leave reviews on Amazon or Yelp. It also incentivizes the creation of new platforms that can host users’ content, leading to more innovation that enables the robust free speech found online. The lower court’s decision in Consumer Cellular v. ConsumerAffairs.com, however, threatens to undermine the broad protections of Section 230, EFF’s brief argues.
  • In the case, Consumer Cellular alleged, among other things, that ConsumerAffairs.com should be held liable for aggregating negative reviews about its business into a star rating. It also alleged that ConsumerAffairs.com edited or otherwise deleted certain reviews of Consumer Cellular in bad faith. Courts and the text of Section 230, however, plainly allow platforms to edit or aggregate user-generated content into summaries or star ratings without incurring legal liability, EFF’s brief argues. It goes on: “And any function protected by Section 230 remains so regardless of the publisher’s intent.” By allowing Consumer Cellular’s claims against ConsumerAffairs.com to proceed, the lower court seriously undercut Section 230’s legal immunity for online platforms. If the decision is allowed to stand, EFF’s brief argues, then platforms may take steps to further censor or otherwise restrict user content out of fear of being held liable. That outcome, EFF warns, could seriously diminish the Internet’s ability to serve as a diverse forum for free speech. The Internet it is constructed of and depends upon intermediaries. The many varied online intermediary platforms, including Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and Instagram, all give a single person, with minimal resources, almost anywhere in the world the ability to communicate with the rest of the world. Without intermediaries, that speaker would need technical skill and money that most people lack to disseminate their message. If our legal system fails to robustly protect intermediaries, it fails to protect free speech online.
Paul Merrell

Theresa May warns Yahoo that its move to Dublin is a security worry | Technology | The Guardian - 0 views

  • Theresa May summoned the internet giant Yahoo for an urgent meeting on Thursday to raise security concerns after the company announced plans to move to Dublin where it is beyond the reach of Britain's surveillance laws.By making the Irish capital rather than London the centre of its European, Middle East and Africa operations, Yahoo cannot be forced to hand over information demanded by Scotland Yard and the intelligence agencies through "warrants" issued under Britain's controversial anti-terror laws.Yahoo has had longstanding concerns about securing the privacy of its hundreds of millions of users – anxieties that have been heightened in recent months by revelations from the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
  • In February, the Guardian revealed that Britain's eavesdropping centre GCHQ intercepted and stored the images of millions of people using Yahoo webcams, regardless of whether they were suspects. The data included a large quantity of sexually explicit pictures.The company said this represented "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy".The home secretary called the meeting with Yahoo to express the fears of Britain's counter-terrorism investigators. They can force companies based in the UK to provide information on their servers by seeking warrants under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000 (Ripa).
  • the Guardian has been told that Charles Farr, the head of the office for security and counter-terrorism (OSCT) within the Home Office, has been pressing May to talk to Yahoo because of anxiety in Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command about the effect the move to Dublin could have on their inquiries.Farr, a former senior intelligence officer, coordinates the work of Scotland Yard and the security service MI5, to prevent terrorist attacks in the UK."There are concerns in the Home Office about how Ripa will apply to Yahoo once it has moved its headquarters to Dublin," said a Whitehall source. "The home secretary asked to see officials from Yahoo because in Dublin they don't have equivalent laws to Ripa. This could particularly affect investigations led by Scotland Yard and the national crime agency. They regard this as a very serious issue."
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  • The move to make Dublin the centre of its headquarters for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) was announced last month and will take effect from Friday.In a statement at the time, Yahoo said Dublin was a natural home for the company and that it would be incorporated into Irish laws.The firm insisted the move was driven by "business needs … we believe it is in the best interest of our users. Dublin is already the European home to many of the world's leading global technology brands."However, the firm has been horrified by some of the surveillance programmes revealed by Snowden and is understood to be relieved that it will be beyond the immediate reach of UK surveillance laws.
  • Following the Guardian's disclosures about snooping on Yahoo webcams, the company said it was "committed to preserving our users trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services." It said GCHQ's activity was "completely unacceptable..we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law."Explaining the move to Dublin, the company said: "The principal change is that Yahoo EMEA, as the new provider of services to our European users, will replace Yahoo UK Ltd as the data controller responsible for handling your personal information. Yahoo EMEA will be responsible for complying with Irish privacy and data protection laws, which are based on the European data protection directive."Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said: "It should not come as a surprise if companies concerned about maintaining their users' trust to hold their information start to move to countries with more rigorous oversight processes, particularly where courts oversee requests for information." Surveillance laws have a direct impact on our economy and Yahoo's decision should be ring an alarm in Parliament that ignoring the serious questions about surveillance that are being debated around the world will only harm Britain's digital economy."
  • From Friday, investigators may have to seek information by using a more drawn out process of approaching Yahoo through a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between Ireland and the UK.
Paul Merrell

FBI Flouts Obama Directive to Limit Gag Orders on National Security Letters - The Intercept - 0 views

  • Despite the post-Snowden spotlight on mass surveillance, the intelligence community’s easiest end-run around the Fourth Amendment since 2001 has been something called a National Security Letter. FBI agents can demand that an Internet service provider, telephone company or financial institution turn over its records on any number of people — without any judicial review whatsoever — simply by writing a letter that says the information is needed for national security purposes. The FBI at one point was cranking out over 50,000 such letters a year; by the latest count, it still issues about 60 a day. The letters look like this:
  • Recipients are legally required to comply — but it doesn’t stop there. They also aren’t allowed to mention the order to anyone, least of all the person whose data is being searched. Ever. That’s because National Security Letters almost always come with eternal gag orders. Here’s that part:
  • That means the NSL process utterly disregards the First Amendment as well. More than a year ago, President Obama announced that he was ordering the Justice Department to terminate gag orders “within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.” And on Feb. 3, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced a handful of baby steps resulting from its “comprehensive effort to examine and enhance [its] privacy and civil liberty protections” one of the most concrete was — finally — to cap the gag orders: In response to the President’s new direction, the FBI will now presumptively terminate National Security Letter nondisclosure orders at the earlier of three years after the opening of a fully predicated investigation or the investigation’s close. Continued nondisclosures orders beyond this period are permitted only if a Special Agent in Charge or a Deputy Assistant Director determines that the statutory standards for nondisclosure continue to be satisfied and that the case agent has justified, in writing, why continued nondisclosure is appropriate.
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  • Despite the use of the word “now” in that first sentence, however, the FBI has yet to do any such thing. It has not announced any such change, nor explained how it will implement it, or when. Media inquiries were greeted with stalling and, finally, a no comment — ostensibly on advice of legal counsel. “There is pending litigation that deals with a lot of the same questions you’re asking, out of the Ninth Circuit,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told me. “So for now, we’ll just have to decline to comment.” FBI lawyers are working on a court filing for that case, and “it will address” the new policy, he said. He would not say when to expect it.
  • There is indeed a significant case currently before the federal appeals court in San Francisco. Oral arguments were in October. A decision could come any time. But in that case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is representing two unnamed communications companies that received NSLs, is calling for the entire NSL statute to be thrown out as unconstitutional — not for a tweak to the gag. And it has a March 2013 district court ruling in its favor. “The gag is a prior restraint under the First Amendment, and prior restraints have to meet an extremely high burden,” said Andrew Crocker, a legal fellow at EFF. That means going to court and meeting the burden of proof — not just signing a letter. Or as the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez put it, “To have such a low bar for denying persons or companies the right to speak about government orders they have been served with is anathema. And it is not very good for accountability.”
  • In a separate case, a wide range of media companies (including First Look Media, the non-profit digital media venture that produces The Intercept) are supporting a lawsuit filed by Twitter, demanding the right to say specifically how many NSLs it has received. But simply releasing companies from a gag doesn’t assure the kind of accountability that privacy advocates are saying is required by the Constitution. “What the public has to remember is a NSL is asking for your information, but it’s not asking it from you,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. “The vast majority of these things go to the very large telecommunications and financial companies who have a large stake in maintaining a good relationship with the government because they’re heavily regulated entities.”
  • So, German said, “the number of NSLs that would be exposed as a result of the release of the gag order is probably very few. The person whose records are being obtained is the one who should receive some notification.” A time limit on gags going forward also raises the question of whether past gag orders will now be withdrawn. “Obviously there are at this point literally hundreds of thousands of National Security Letters that are more than three years old,” said Sanchez. Individual review is therefore unlikely, but there ought to be some recourse, he said. And the further back you go, “it becomes increasingly implausible that a significant percentage of those are going to entail some dire national security risk.” The NSL program has a troubled history. The absolute secrecy of the program and resulting lack of accountability led to systemic abuse as documented by repeated inspector-general investigations, including improperly authorized NSLs, factual misstatements in the NSLs, improper requests under NSL statutes, requests for information based on First Amendment protected activity, “after-the-fact” blanket NSLs to “cover” illegal requests, and hundreds of NSLs for “community of interest” or “calling circle” information without any determination that the telephone numbers were relevant to authorized national security investigations.
  • Obama’s own hand-selected “Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies” recommended in December 2013 that NSLs should only be issued after judicial review — just like warrants — and that any gag should end within 180 days barring judicial re-approval. But FBI director James Comey objected to the idea, calling NSLs “a very important tool that is essential to the work we do.” His argument evidently prevailed with Obama.
  • NSLs have managed to stay largely under the American public’s radar. But, Crocker says, “pretty much every time I bring it up and give the thumbnail, people are shocked. Then you go into how many are issued every year, and they go crazy.” Want to send me your old NSL and see if we can set a new precedent? Here’s how to reach me. And here’s how to leak to me.
Paul Merrell

Net neutrality comment fraud will be investigated by government | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate the use of impersonation in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality repeal. Congressional Democrats requested the investigation last month, and the GAO has granted the request. While the investigation request was spurred by widespread fraud in the FCC's net neutrality repeal docket, Democrats asked the GAO to also "examine whether this shady practice extends to other agency rulemaking processes." The GAO will do just that, having told Democrats in a letter that it will "review the extent and pervasiveness of fraud and the misuse of American identities during federal rulemaking processes."
  • The GAO provides independent, nonpartisan audits and investigations for Congress. The GAO previously agreed to investigate DDoS attacks that allegedly targeted the FCC comment system, also in response to a request by Democratic lawmakers. The Democrats charged that Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC did not provide enough evidence that the attacks actually happened, and they asked the GAO to find out what evidence the FCC used to make its determination. Democrats also asked the GAO to examine whether the FCC is prepared to prevent future attacks. The DDoS investigation should happen sooner than the new one on comment fraud because the GAO accepted that request in October.
  • The FCC's net neutrality repeal received more than 22 million comments, but millions were apparently submitted by bots and falsely attributed to real Americans (including some dead ones) who didn't actually submit comments. Various analyses confirmed the widespread spam and fraud; one analysis found that 98.5 percent of unique comments opposed the repeal plan.
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  • The FCC's comment system makes no attempt to verify submitters' identities, and allows bulk uploads so that groups collecting signatures for letters and petitions can get them on the docket easily. It was like that even before Pai took over as chair, but the fraud became far more pervasive in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Pai's FCC did not remove any fraudulent comments from the record. Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for a delay in the net neutrality repeal vote because of the fraud, but the Republican majority pushed the vote through as scheduled last month. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating the comment fraud and says the FCC has stonewalled the investigation by refusing to provide evidence. Schneiderman is also leading a lawsuit to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal, and the comment fraud could play a role in the case. "We understand that the FCC's rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them," Congressional Democrats said in their letter requesting a GAO investigation. "However, we do not believe any outside parties should be permitted to generate any comments to any federal governmental entity using information it knows to be false, such as the identities of those submitting the comments."
Paul Merrell

Open Government Data Initiative - 0 views

  • The Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) is an initiative led by Microsoft Public Sector Developer Evangelism team. OGDI uses the Azure Services Platform to make it easier to publish and use a wide variety of public data from government agencies. OGDI is also a free, open source ‘starter kit’ (coming soon) with code that can be used to publish data on the Internet in a Web-friendly format with easy-to-use, open API's. OGDI-based web API’s can be accessed from a variety of client technologies such as Silverlight, Flash, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, mapping web sites, etc. Whether you are a business wishing to use government data, a government developer, or a ‘citizen developer’, these open API's will enable you to build innovative applications, visualizations and mash-ups that empower people through access to government information. This site is built using the OGDI starter kit software assets and provides interactive access to some publicly-available data sets along with sample code and resources for writing applications using the OGDI API's.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Data snooping blunders by UK spies, cops led to wrongful arrests-watchdog | Ars Technica UK - 0 views

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    "IP address mistakes particularly troubling; likely to get worse under Snoopers' Charter. Glyn Moody - Sep 9, 2016 1:24 pm UTC "
Paul Merrell

Activists send the Senate 6 million faxes to oppose cyber bill - CBS News - 0 views

  • Activists worried about online privacy are sending Congress a message with some old-school technology: They're sending faxes -- more than 6.2 million, they claim -- to express opposition to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).Why faxes? "Congress is stuck in 1984 and doesn't understand modern technology," according to the campaign Fax Big Brother. The week-long campaign was organized by the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation, the group Access and Fight for the Future, the activist group behind the major Internet protests that helped derail a pair of anti-piracy bills in 2012. It also has the backing of a dozen groups like the ACLU, the American Library Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and others.
  • CISA aims to facilitate information sharing regarding cyberthreats between the government and the private sector. The bill gained more attention following the massive hack in which the records of nearly 22 million people were stolen from government computers."The ability to easily and quickly share cyber attack information, along with ways to counter attacks, is a key method to stop them from happening in the first place," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who helped introduce CISA, said in a statement after the hack. Senate leadership had planned to vote on CISA this week before leaving for its August recess. However, the bill may be sidelined for the time being as the Republican-led Senate puts precedent on a legislative effort to defund Planned Parenthood.Even as the bill was put on the backburner, the grassroots campaign to stop it gained steam. Fight for the Future started sending faxes to all 100 Senate offices on Monday, but the campaign really took off after it garnered attention on the website Reddit and on social media. The faxed messages are generated by Internet users who visit faxbigbrother.com or stopcyberspying.com -- or who simply send a message via Twitter with the hashtag #faxbigbrother. To send all those faxes, Fight for the Future set up a dedicated server and a dozen phone lines and modems they say are capable of sending tens of thousands of faxes a day.
  • Fight for the Future told CBS News that it has so many faxes queued up at this point, that it may take months for Senate offices to receive them all, though the group is working on scaling up its capability to send them faster. They're also limited by the speed at which Senate offices can receive them.
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    From an Fight For the Future mailing: "Here's the deal: yesterday the Senate delayed its expected vote on CISA, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act that would let companies share your private information--like emails and medical records--with the government. "The delay is good news; but it's a delay, not a victory. "We just bought some precious extra time to fight CISA, but we need to use it to go big like we did with SOPA or this bill will still pass. Even if we stop it in September, they'll try again after that. "The truth is that right now, things are looking pretty grim. Democrats and Republicans have been holding closed-door meetings to work out a deal to pass CISA quickly when they return from recess. "Right before the expected Senate vote on CISA, the Obama Administration endorsed the bill, which means if Congress passes it, the White House will definitely sign it.  "We've stalled and delayed CISA and bills like it nearly half a dozen times, but this month could be our last chance to stop it for good." See also http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/125953876003/senate-fails-to-advance-cisa-before-recess-amid (;) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/activists-send-the-senate-6-million-faxes-to-oppose-cyber-bill/ (;) http://www.npr.org/2015/08/04/429386027/privacy-advocates-to-senate-cyber-security-bill (.)
Paul Merrell

Most Agencies Falling Short on Mandate for Online Records - 1 views

  • Nearly 20 years after Congress passed the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA), only 40 percent of agencies have followed the law's instruction for systematic posting of records released through FOIA in their electronic reading rooms, according to a new FOIA Audit released today by the National Security Archive at www.nsarchive.org to mark Sunshine Week. The Archive team audited all federal agencies with Chief FOIA Officers as well as agency components that handle more than 500 FOIA requests a year — 165 federal offices in all — and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated.
  • Congress called on agencies to embrace disclosure and the digital era nearly two decades ago, with the passage of the 1996 "E-FOIA" amendments. The law mandated that agencies post key sets of records online, provide citizens with detailed guidance on making FOIA requests, and use new information technology to post online proactively records of significant public interest, including those already processed in response to FOIA requests and "likely to become the subject of subsequent requests." Congress believed then, and openness advocates know now, that this kind of proactive disclosure, publishing online the results of FOIA requests as well as agency records that might be requested in the future, is the only tenable solution to FOIA backlogs and delays. Thus the National Security Archive chose to focus on the e-reading rooms of agencies in its latest audit. Even though the majority of federal agencies have not yet embraced proactive disclosure of their FOIA releases, the Archive E-FOIA Audit did find that some real "E-Stars" exist within the federal government, serving as examples to lagging agencies that technology can be harnessed to create state-of-the art FOIA platforms. Unfortunately, our audit also found "E-Delinquents" whose abysmal web performance recalls the teletype era.
  • E-Delinquents include the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, which, despite being mandated to advise the President on technology policy, does not embrace 21st century practices by posting any frequently requested records online. Another E-Delinquent, the Drug Enforcement Administration, insults its website's viewers by claiming that it "does not maintain records appropriate for FOIA Library at this time."
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  • THE E-DELINQUENTS: WORST OVERALL AGENCIES In alphabetical order
  • The federal government has made some progress moving into the digital era. The National Security Archive's last E-FOIA Audit in 2007, " File Not Found," reported that only one in five federal agencies had put online all of the specific requirements mentioned in the E-FOIA amendments, such as guidance on making requests, contact information, and processing regulations. The new E-FOIA Audit finds the number of agencies that have checked those boxes is now much higher — 100 out of 165 — though many (66 in 165) have posted just the bare minimum, especially when posting FOIA responses. An additional 33 agencies even now do not post these types of records at all, clearly thwarting the law's intent.
  • The FOIAonline Members (Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Merit Systems Protection Board, National Archives and Records Administration, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Department of the Navy, General Services Administration, Small Business Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Federal Communications Commission) won their "E-Star" by making past requests and releases searchable via FOIAonline. FOIAonline also allows users to submit their FOIA requests digitally.
  • "The presumption of openness requires the presumption of posting," said Archive director Tom Blanton. "For the new generation, if it's not online, it does not exist." The National Security Archive has conducted fourteen FOIA Audits since 2002. Modeled after the California Sunshine Survey and subsequent state "FOI Audits," the Archive's FOIA Audits use open-government laws to test whether or not agencies are obeying those same laws. Recommendations from previous Archive FOIA Audits have led directly to laws and executive orders which have: set explicit customer service guidelines, mandated FOIA backlog reduction, assigned individualized FOIA tracking numbers, forced agencies to report the average number of days needed to process requests, and revealed the (often embarrassing) ages of the oldest pending FOIA requests. The surveys include:
  • Key Findings
  • Excuses Agencies Give for Poor E-Performance
  • Justice Department guidance undermines the statute. Currently, the FOIA stipulates that documents "likely to become the subject of subsequent requests" must be posted by agencies somewhere in their electronic reading rooms. The Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy defines these records as "frequently requested records… or those which have been released three or more times to FOIA requesters." Of course, it is time-consuming for agencies to develop a system that keeps track of how often a record has been released, which is in part why agencies rarely do so and are often in breach of the law. Troublingly, both the current House and Senate FOIA bills include language that codifies the instructions from the Department of Justice. The National Security Archive believes the addition of this "three or more times" language actually harms the intent of the Freedom of Information Act as it will give agencies an easy excuse ("not requested three times yet!") not to proactively post documents that agency FOIA offices have already spent time, money, and energy processing. We have formally suggested alternate language requiring that agencies generally post "all records, regardless of form or format that have been released in response to a FOIA request."
  • Disabilities Compliance. Despite the E-FOIA Act, many government agencies do not embrace the idea of posting their FOIA responses online. The most common reason agencies give is that it is difficult to post documents in a format that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, also referred to as being "508 compliant," and the 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act that require federal agencies "to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities." E-Star agencies, however, have proven that 508 compliance is no barrier when the agency has a will to post. All documents posted on FOIAonline are 508 compliant, as are the documents posted by the Department of Defense and the Department of State. In fact, every document created electronically by the US government after 1998 should already be 508 compliant. Even old paper records that are scanned to be processed through FOIA can be made 508 compliant with just a few clicks in Adobe Acrobat, according to this Department of Homeland Security guide (essentially OCRing the text, and including information about where non-textual fields appear). Even if agencies are insistent it is too difficult to OCR older documents that were scanned from paper, they cannot use that excuse with digital records.
  • Privacy. Another commonly articulated concern about posting FOIA releases online is that doing so could inadvertently disclose private information from "first person" FOIA requests. This is a valid concern, and this subset of FOIA requests should not be posted online. (The Justice Department identified "first party" requester rights in 1989. Essentially agencies cannot use the b(6) privacy exemption to redact information if a person requests it for him or herself. An example of a "first person" FOIA would be a person's request for his own immigration file.) Cost and Waste of Resources. There is also a belief that there is little public interest in the majority of FOIA requests processed, and hence it is a waste of resources to post them. This thinking runs counter to the governing principle of the Freedom of Information Act: that government information belongs to US citizens, not US agencies. As such, the reason that a person requests information is immaterial as the agency processes the request; the "interest factor" of a document should also be immaterial when an agency is required to post it online. Some think that posting FOIA releases online is not cost effective. In fact, the opposite is true. It's not cost effective to spend tens (or hundreds) of person hours to search for, review, and redact FOIA requests only to mail it to the requester and have them slip it into their desk drawer and forget about it. That is a waste of resources. The released document should be posted online for any interested party to utilize. This will only become easier as FOIA processing systems evolve to automatically post the documents they track. The State Department earned its "E-Star" status demonstrating this very principle, and spent no new funds and did not hire contractors to build its Electronic Reading Room, instead it built a self-sustaining platform that will save the agency time and money going forward.
Paul Merrell

UK ISPs to introduce jihadi and terror content reporting button | Technology | The Guardian - 0 views

  • Internet companies have agreed to do more to tackle extremist material online following negotiations led by Downing Street. The UK’s major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation. They have also agreed to ensure that terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people coming across radicalising material. The UK is the only country in the world with a Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CITRU) - a 24/7 law enforcement unit, based in the Met, dedicated to identifying and taking down extreme graphic material as well as material that glorifies, incites and radicalises.
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    Bookburning in the digital era.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Editorial: Wikipedia fails as an encyclopedia, to science's detriment | Ars Technica UK [# ! Note] - 0 views

    • Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.
       
      # ! Still many detractors of the social-driven knowledge, with perhaps a certain number of inaccuracies, in favor of the more biased multinational publishers' facts statements... (Special Report Internet encyclopaedias go head to head - Jim Giles http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7070/full/438900a.html)
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    "by John Timmer (US) - Dec 29, 2015 4:35pm CET Ever look up an obscure scientific topic? Who is that information meant for?"
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    " by John Timmer (US) - Dec 29, 2015 4:35pm CET"
Paul Merrell

Google Censors Block Access to CounterPunch and Other Progressive Sites - 0 views

  • Now Google, at the behest of its friends in Washington, is actively censoring – essentially blocking access to – any websites which seek to warn American workers of the ongoing effort to further attack their incomes, social services, and life conditions by the U.S. central government, and which seek to warn against the impending warfare between U.S.-led Nato and other forces against countries like Iran, Russia, and China, which have in no way threatened the U.S. state or its people
  • Under its new so-called anti-fake-news program, Google algorithms have in the past few months moved socialist, anti-war, and progressive websites from previously prominent positions in Google searches to positions up to 50 search result pages from the first page, essentially removing them from the search results any searcher will see.    CounterPunch, World Socialist Website, Democracy Now, American Civil liberties Union, Wikileaks are just a few of the websites which have experienced severe reductions in their returns from Google searches.  World Socialist Website, to cite just one example, has experienced a 67% drop in its returns from Google since the new policy was announced. This conversion of Google into a Censorship engine is not a trivial development.   Google searches are currently a primary means by which workers and other members of the public seek information about their lives and their world.  Every effort must be made to combat this serious infringement on the basic rights of freedom of speech and freedom of press.
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