Category - Technology

We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership

Wired, By Kyle Wiens, April 21

It’s official: John Deere and General Motors want to eviscerate the notion of ownership. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway.

In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.

[…]

General Motors told the Copyright Office that proponents of copyright reform mistakenly “conflate ownership of a vehicle with ownership of the underlying computer software in a vehicle.” But I’d bet most Americans make the same conflation—and Joe Sixpack might be surprised to learn GM owns a giant chunk of the Chevy sitting in his driveway.

New Pentagon cyber strategy to discuss nation’s offensive capabilities

The Baltimore Sun, By Ian Duncan, April 23

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter will lay out the military’s new strategy for fighting battles over computer networks Thursday, today, officials said, revealing what analysts say appears be a tougher, more offensive approach to cyber warfare.

It’s the first major update to the Pentagon’s cyber strategy in four years, a period during which American businesses have suffered major attacks, including the assault late last year on Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The document, to be unveiled as Carter delivers a speech at Stanford University, includes descriptions of ways the military can use computers in all stages of a conflict, according to a summary provided by defense officials Wednesday — a sign that the department is opening up about its offensive capabilities.
Read More

Why confidential tips to the government may not be confidential after all

Washington Post, By Craig Timberg & Lisa Rein, April 16

Got a hot tip about federal waste, fraud or corruption? You should think twice about using the government’s own online systems for collecting such complaints.

Many of them promise confidentiality but for years have sent sensitive data – including names, addresses and phone numbers of whistleblowers, as well as the details of their allegations – across the Internet in a way that could be intercepted by hackers or snoops. Or, perhaps worse still, by the agencies named in the complaints.

Twenty-nine of these sites, set up by inspectors generals who in many cases are required by federal law to protect the identities of whistleblowers, do not use encryption technology that has become a standard privacy protection across much of the Internet, according to a review by the ACLU. A State Department site offering up to $10 million rewards for terrorism tips has the same weakness, exposing the identities of tipsters to a range of potentially interested parties, including operators of cyber cafes or government spies in the countries where the tipsters live.

Now, drones to be used to disperse mobs in Lucknow

PTI, April 3

LUCKNOW – Drones will soon perform a special task in the state capital apart from functioning as eyes in the sky with the Lucknow Police planning to use them for dispersing mobs.

These little unmanned mini-choppers are already in use in various sensitive parts of Uttar Pradesh for taking aerial snaps, but for the first time the hi-tech gadget will be used to control unruly crowds.

“We have purchased five drone cameras with capacity of lifting two kg weight. They can be used to shower pepper powder on an unruly mob in case of any trouble,” Senior Superintendent of Police Yashasvi Yadav told PTI here today. […]

Lucknow Police will probably be the first in the country to have such hi-tech surveillance gadget, he said, adding drones will assist not only in checking crimes but also in keeping a track of criminals.
Read More

NSA dreams of smartphones with “split” crypto keys protecting user data

Proposal is part of a tense stand-off between US government and tech industry.

Ars Technica, by Dan Goodin, April 12

National Security Agency officials are considering a range of options to ensure their surveillance efforts aren’t stymied by the growing use of encryption, particularly in smartphones. Key among the solutions, according to The Washington Post, might be a requirement that technology companies create a digital key that can open any locked device to obtain text messages or other content, but divide the key into pieces so no one group could use it without the cooperation of other parties.

“I don’t want a back door,” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the NSA, recently said during a speech at Princeton University, at which he laid out the proposal. “I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks.”

The proposal is part of a tense debate resulting from the growing number of companies that endow their hardware and software with strong encryption that when used properly makes it infeasible if not impossible for anyone other than the owner to access the contents. Chief among these companies is Apple, which has enabled such encryption by default in newer iPhones and iPads. On the one hand, national security and law enforcement officials say the trend could seriously hinder criminal and national security investigations. Tech industry representatives, meanwhile, chafe at the thought of backdoors, citing a raft of concerns, including abuse by hackers, government overreach, and harm to US competitiveness.

Doctorow/Boing Boing: NSA declares war on general purpose computers

There’s no way to stop Americans — particularly those engaged in criminal activity and at risk from law enforcement — from running crypto without locking all computers, Ipad-style, so that they only run software from a government-approved “app-store.” The world teems with high quality, free, open crypto tools. Simply banning their integration into US products will do precisely nothing to stop criminals from getting their code from outside non-US vendors or projects. Only by attacking the fundamental nature of computing itself can the NSA hope to limit its adversaries’ use of crypto.

Washington Post: As encryption spreads, U.S. grapples with clash between privacy, security
Doctorow: Lockdown, January 2012

Big Bang Beam: Large Hadron Collider Restarts After Two-Year Break

NBC News, By Alan Boyle, April 5

Researchers have begun circulating beams of protons in the Large Hadron Collider after a two-year shutdown for upgrades — and they expect to ramp up quickly to reach uncharted frontiers in particle physics.

“Beam went smoothly through the whole machine. It’s fantastic to see it going so well after two years and such a major overhaul of the LHC,” Rolf Heuer, the director general of Europe’s CERN particle physics center, said Sunday in a statement.

The LHC’s control team sent waves of protons in both directions around the 17-mile-round (27-kilometer-round) ring, situated 300 feet (100 meters) beneath the French-Swiss border near Geneva. In the days ahead, the team will increase the energy of the proton beams and smash them together in the LHC’s detectors.

[…]

During its first run, the LHC’s collisions hit a top energy of 8 trillion electron volts, or 8 TeV. This time around, they’re due to rise to 13 TeV, close to the machine’s maximum design level.


CERN: Proton beams are back in the LHC

The LHC is entering its second season of operation. Thanks to the work done in the last two years, it will operate at unprecedented energy – almost double that of season 1 – at 6.5 TeV per beam. With 13 TeV proton-proton collisions expected before summer, the LHC experiments will soon be exploring uncharted territory.


CERN, @CERN

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust

Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech, discovers Tim Maughan.

BBC, By Tim Maughan, April 2

From where I’m standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.

Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades my senses. It feels like hell on Earth.

Welcome to Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. I’m here with a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division, and this is the final stop on a three-week-long journey up the global supply chain, tracing back the route consumer goods take from China to our shops and homes, via container ships and factories.

You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95% of the world’s supply of these elements, and it’s estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70% of the world’s reserves. But, as we would discover, at what cost?


Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER) is an impressive piece of art crystallizing the ecological and social tragedies of humanity’s ballooning numbers and consumption in stunning photography.

Mandatory data retention passes Australian parliament

The government and Labor have jointly ensured that the telecommunications data of all Australians will be retained for two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement agencies.

ZDNet, By Josh Taylor, March 26

The Australian government has relied on the votes of the Labor opposition to pass legislation on Thursday that will force telecommunications companies to retain customer data for two years for warrantless access by law enforcement.

The legislation — which will see call records, assigned IP addresses, location information, billing information, and other customer data stored for two years — passed the Senate on Thursday with the support of Labor senators.

The government and Labor shot down over a dozen amendments from the Greens, and several amendments from crossbench senators including those from David Leyonhjelm, Dio Wang, and Nick Xenophon.

The amendments would have forced the data to be held in Australia, would have required warrants for all accessing of the data, and would have limited the storage to three months — bringing Australia closer into line with international standards.

“Voice Biometrics”: The first circle of Hell

Pando, By Mark Ames, March 22

If you can think of something truly horrible and dystopian, then it’s a safe bet that it’s already a VC-backed tech industry, doubling in size every year.

This time, it’s “voiceprint” technology — companies and governments storing human “voice prints” as unique and efficient for surveillance purposes as fingerprints,and now an industry that’s expected to nearly double in size by next year to nearly $1 billion in annual revenues. An industry that boasts of storing 65 million human voice prints in corporate and government databases here and in Europe – and that’s while it’s still in its infancy.

I learned all of this from a stunning AP report from late last year, but which I only read properly recently. It’s titled “Voiceprints being harvested by the millions”:

“Their technology measures the characteristics of a person’s speech as air is expelled from the lungs, across the vocal folds of the larynx, up the pharynx, over the tongue, and out through the lips, nose, and teeth. Typical speaker recognition software compares those characteristics with data held on a server. If two voiceprints are similar enough, the system declares them a match.”

The article focuses mostly on how voiceprints are used for positive security purposes — citing Barclays using a new voiceprint identification program for its wealthy clients, which it now plans to expand to all of its 12 million clients.

Institute: China now world’s third-biggest arms exporter

AP, By Christopher Bodeen, March 15

China has overtaken Germany to become the world’s third-biggest arms exporter, although its 5 percent of the market remains small compared to the combined 58 percent of exports from the U.S. and Russia, a new study says.

China’s share of the global arms market rose 143 percent during the years from 2010-2014, a period during which the total volume of global arms transfers rose by 16 percent over the previous five years, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report released Monday.

Its share of the world market was up from 3 percent in the 2009-2014 period, when China was ranked ninth among exporters of warplanes, ships, side arms and other weaponry, said the institute, known as SIPRI.

Protesters stage anti-robot rally at SXSW

USA Today, Jon Swartz, March 15

Austin, TX — “I say robot, you say no-bot!”

The chant reverberated through the air near the entrance to the SXSW tech and entertainment festival here.

About two dozen protesters, led by a computer engineer, echoed that sentiment in their movement against artificial intelligence.

“This is is about morality in computing,” said Adam Mason, 23, who organized the protest.

Signs at the scene reflected the mood. “Stop the Robots.” “Humans are the future.”

The mini-rally drew a crowd of gawkers, drawn by the sight of a rare protest here.

Warning – Treacly auto-start video at the link. Also, USA Today.

CIA looks to expand its cyber espionage capabilities

Washington Post, By Greg Miller, February 23

CIA Director John Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber-espionage capabilities as part of a broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work, current and former U.S. officials said.

The proposed shift reflects a determination that the CIA’s approach to conventional espionage is increasingly outmoded amid the exploding use of smartphones, social media and other technologies.

U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such as the Islamic State.

Several officials said Brennan’s team has even considered creating a new cyber-directorate — a step that would put the agency’s technology experts on equal footing with the operations and analysis branches, which have been pillars of the CIA’s organizational structure for decades.

Via emptywheel: After Failing at the White House, Then Illegally Hacking SSCI, Brennan Wants Cyber

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Bill

The Canadian Press, By Alexander Panetta, February 24

Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on a threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing the two sides in the long-running controversy to a rare point of agreement: their battle is far from over.

”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

”We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built — not even close.”

[…]

Even the White House concurred that the issue is far from settled. It pointed out that Tuesday’s announcement was a step in a long, winding process — not a final destination.

The president cast the veto as a matter of procedural principle. In his letter to Congress, Obama said the bill he was scrapping had improperly tried to usurp presidential authority.
Read More

F.C.C. Net Neutrality Rules Clear Hurdle as Republicans Concede to Obama

New York Times, By Jonathan Weisman, February 24

Washington – Senior Republicans conceded on Tuesday that the grueling fight with President Obama over the regulation of Internet service appears over, with the president and an army of Internet activists victorious.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet. While the two Democratic commissioners are negotiating over technical details, they are widely expected to side with the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, against the two Republican commissioners.

And Republicans on Capitol Hill, who once criticized the plan as “Obamacare for the Internet,” now say they are unlikely to pass a legislative response that would undo perhaps the biggest policy shift since the Internet became a reality.

“We’re not going to get a signed bill that doesn’t have Democrats’ support,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This is an issue that needs to have bipartisan support.”

Google warns of US government ‘hacking any facility’ in the world

Google says increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise ‘monumental’ legal concerns that should be decided by Congress

The Guardian, By Ed Pilkington, February 18

New York – Google is boldly opposing an attempt by the US Justice Department to expand federal powers to search and seize digital data, warning that the changes would open the door to US “government hacking of any facility” in the world.

In a strongly worded submission to the Washington committee that is considering the proposed changes, Google says that increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise “monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide”.

The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.

Huh.

3bb1012ca7881a903f6bb688401857a5453d3be4