sl4shd0rk writes "Remember when the ex-cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler was appointed to the FCC chair back in May of 2013? Turns out he's currently gunning for Internet Service Providers to be able to 'favor some traffic over other traffic.' It would set a dangerous precedent, considering the Open Internet Order in 2010 forbade such action if it fell under unreasonable discrimination. The bendy interpretation of the 2010 order is apparently aimed somewhat at Netflix, as Wheeler stated: 'Netflix might say, "I'll pay in order to make sure that my subscriber might receive the best possible transmission of this movie."'"
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cathyreisenwitz sends word of a San Francisco trial in which the U.S. government appears to be manipulating the no-fly list to its advantage. The court case involves a Stanford Ph.D. student who was barred from returning to the U.S. after visiting her native Malaysia. She's one of roughly 700,000 people on the no-fly list. Here's the sketchy part: the woman's eldest daughter, who was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen, was called as a witness for the trial. Unfortunately, she mysteriously found herself on the no-fly list as well, and wasn't able to board a plane to come to the trial. Lawyers for the Department of Justice told the court that she simply missed her plane, but she was able to provide documents from the airline explaining that the Department of Homeland Security was not allowing her to fly.
binarstu writes "Suzanne Nossel, writing for CNN, reports that 'a survey of American writers done in October revealed that nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance. They fessed up to curbing their research, not accepting certain assignments, even not discussing certain topics on the phone or via e-mail for fear of being targeted. The subjects they are avoiding are no surprise — mostly matters to do with the Middle East, the military and terrorism.' Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care: 'Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free. Americans have long protested the persecution and constraints on journalists and writers living under repressive regimes abroad, yet many seem ready to accept these new encroachments on their freedom at home.'"
Daniel_Stuckey writes "German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the country's interior ministers will meet this week to discuss use of an app developed by local police in Saxony that has attracted the unofficial name of 'Nazi Shazam.' Just like Shazam works out what song you're hearing from just a few bars, the system picks up audio fingerprints of neo-Nazi rock so police can intervene when it's being played. The whole situation sounds pretty insane to an outsider, but apparently far-right music is a big problem in Germany, where it's considered a 'gateway drug' into the neo-Nazi scene. The Guardian reported that in 2004, far-right groups even tried to recruit young members by handing out CD compilations in schools. That sort of action is illegal in Germany, where neo-Nazi groups are outlawed and the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors is tasked with examining and indexing media — including films, games, music, and websites — that may be harmful to young people."
An anonymous reader writes "At least five businesses have alleged senior officers in the Defence Science and Technology Organization have plagiarized intellectual property for their own research [free reg. required] and then passed it on to government business partners to develop a rival product. There are fears that IP plagiarizing could increase with the new Defence Trade Controls Act passed last year despite warnings from the universities it would drive research offshore. Once the trial period ends Australian high-tech researchers will face up to 10 years jail for sending an e-mail or making an overseas phone call without a government permit."
cartechboy writes "We've seen Tesla run into regulatory issues in Texas. And North Carolina. This time, it's Ohio, where car dealers are playing an entertainingly brazen brand of hardball. The Ohio Dealers Association is backing an anti-Tesla amendment to Ohio Senate Bill 137--which turns out to be an unrelated, uncontroversial proposal about drivers moving left when they see emergency vehicles (The bill is headed for adoption.) The sudden and subtle amendment would ban Tesla from selling its electric cars directly to customers, who place their orders online with the company after learning about the Model S in company-owned stores. A hearing on the amendment was suddenly scheduled for today; Tesla is fighting back by outlining the economic benefits to Ohio--after taking some legislators for a ride in the Model S (a Tesla tactic that has worked before)."
An anonymous reader writes "Australian spy agencies offered to share personal information about law-abiding Australian citizens with overseas governments. This includes legal, religious and medical information, which was shared about this Canadian women. Departments in the Australian Public service has also been caught spying on citizens. Even low-ranking public servants can look up information such as phone calls and email metadata without needing a warrant. The target is not notified."
jones_supa writes "The switch to digital TV broadcasts in Australia has entered its final few days, with Sydney's analog signals being fully switched off today, 3 December. That just leaves Melbourne plus remote central and eastern Australia — and those areas will be switched over on 10 December, completing the country's transition to digital TV. The government runs an information site to assist the remaining crusty luddites with the switch-over."
thomst writes "Robert Barnes of the Washington Post reports that the US Supreme Court has declined to hear petitions from Amazon.com and Overstock.com requesting that a decision by the New York State Supreme Court permitting that state's 2008 law requiring sales taxes be collected on Internet sales, even if the seller has no 'business presence' in New York. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that Amazon's relationship with third-party affiliates in the state that receive commissions for sending Web traffic its way satisfied the 'substantial nexus' necessary to force the company to collect taxes, and New York's Supreme Court had affirmed the ruling. The Federal high court's refusal to hear the petitions leaves the state law in effect, even though it appears to conflict with the Court's 1993 decision in Quill v. North Dakota."
theodp writes "Over at WhiteHouse.gov, Bill Nye has issued a call for entries for the first-ever White House Student Film Festival, a video contest for K-12 students, whose finalists will have their short films shown at the White House. From the website: "The President has an assignment for you: Our schools are more high-tech than ever. There are laptops in nearly every classroom. You can take an online course on Japanese — and then video chat with a kid from Japan. You can learn about geometry through an app on your iPad. So, what does it all mean? We're looking for videos that highlight the power of technology in schools. Your film should address at least one of the following themes: 1. How you currently use technology in your classroom or school. 2. The role technology will play in education in the future."
The much-discussed health care finance sign-up website HealthCare.gov has benefited from the flurry of improvements that have been thrown at it in the last several weeks. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman Aaron Albright told Fox News Saturday that "[w]ith the scheduled upgrades last night and tonight, we're on track to meet our stated goal for the site to work for the vast majority of users." CMM spokeswoman Julie Bataille. "said the installation of new servers Friday night helped improved the response times and error rates, even with heavier-than-usual weekend traffic." If you've used the site this weekend, what has your experience been like?
New submitter TheRealHocusLocus writes "The FCC is drafting rules to formalize the process of transition of 'last-mile' subscriber circuits to digital IP-based data streams. The move is lauded by AT&T Chairman Tom Wheeler who claims that significant resources are spent to maintain 'legacy' POTS service, though some 100 million still use it. POTS, or 'Plain Old Telephone Service,' is the analog standard that allows the use of simple unpowered phone devices on the wire, with the phone company supplying ring and talk voltage. I cannot fault progress, in fact I'm part of the problem: I gave up my dial tone a couple years ago because I needed cell and could not afford to keep both. But what concerns me is, are we poised to dismantle systems that are capable of standing alone to keep communities and regions 'in-touch' with each other, in favor of systems that rely on centralized (and distant) points of failure? Despite its analog limitations POTS switches have enforced the use of hard-coded local exchanges and equipment that will faithfully complete local calls even if its network connections are down. But do these IP phones deliver the same promise? For that matter, is any single local cell tower isolated from its parent network of use to anyone at all? I have had a difficult time finding answers to this question, and would love savvy Slashdot folks to weigh in: In a disaster that isolates the community from outside or partitions the country's connectivity — aside from local Plain Old Telephone Service, how many IP and cell phones would continue to function?"
vikingpower writes "In the ever-longer wake of the NSA scandal, much-respected Dutch newspaper NRC today reveals, in English, as mandated by the gravity of the occasion, that the Dutch secret service, the AIVD, hacks internet forums. And yes, that is gross misconduct against Dutch law. The service, whose headquarters are in Zoetermeer, did not yet comment upon the divulgence of the document from Edward Snowden's collection. Incensed Dutch parliamentarians are calling for an enquiry."
CowboyRobot writes "The incentives are high for many businesses and government agencies to not be too heavy handed in combating the global botnet pandemic. There's money to be had and, with each passing day, more interesting ways are being uncovered in how to package the data, and how to employ it. It used to be that the worlds of bug hunters and malware analysts were separate and far between. In the last couple of years the ability to analyze malware samples and identify exploitable vulnerabilities in them has become very important. Given that some botnets have a bigger pool of victims than many commercial software vendors have licensed customers, the value of an exploit that grants reliable remote control of a popular malware agent is rising in value. In many ways, botnets have become a golden goose to those charged with gathering intelligence on the populations of foreign entities. The bulk of the victim's data is useful for mapping populations, communication profiles, and as egress points for counter intelligence exercises. Then, given how many botnet victims there are, the probability that a few 'interesting' computers will have succumbed along the way is similarly high — providing direct insight in to a pool of high value targets."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports that the U. S. government has agreed to pay software maker Apptricity $50 million to settle claims that the U.S. Army pirated thousands of copies of the firm's provisioning software. The report indicates 500 licensed copies were sold, but it came to light an army official had mentioned that 'thousands' of devices were running the software." $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.
Not content with blacklisting certain kinds of pornography, writes an anonymous reader, according to this news from The Guardian, "The UK government is to order broadband companies to block extremist websites and empower a specialist unit to identify and report content deemed too dangerous for online publication. The crime and security minister, James Brokenshire, said on Wednesday that measures for censoring extremist content would be announced shortly. The initiative is likely to be controversial, with broadband companies already warning that freedom of speech could be compromised."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Economist Edward Hadas writes in the NYT that developers of bitcoin are trying to show that money can be successfully privatized but money that is not issued by governments is always doomed to failure because money is inevitably a tool of the state. 'Bitcoin exemplifies some of the problems of private money,' says Hadas. 'Its value is uncertain, its legal status is unclear, and it could easily become valueless if users lose faith.' Besides, if bitcoin ever really started to take off, governments would either ban it or take over the system says Hadas. The authorities might be motivated by a genuine concern about the stability of a shadow monetary system or they might act out of self-preservation because tax evasion would be too easy in a parallel economy. 'Part of the interest in virtual currencies like bitcoin is that their anonymity can provide a convenient cloak for criminal activity. Part is technological — this is a cool idea. And part is speculative — gamblers bet that bitcoin's value will increase,' concludes Hadas. 'Truly private money is an inferior alternative to the money that comes with the backing of a political authority. After all, no bank or bitcoin-emitter can be as public-minded as a government, and no private power can raise taxes or pass laws to unwind monetary excesses.'" Could be there's something good about money that can't be manipulated by law. Some people at least think there's plenty of value in Bitcoin and similar currencies, despite the risks. And those risks at present probably aren't enough to comfort the unfortunate Welsh fellow who (HT to reader judgecorp) "has realised he threw out a hard drive containing 7500 bitcoins, worth £4 million at today's prices. It is now under four feet of garbage in a landfill site the size of a football pitch."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Since Edward Snowden's disclosures about widespread NSA surveillance, Americans and people everywhere have been presented with a digital variation on an old analog threat: the erosion of freedoms and privacy in exchange, presumably, for safety and security. Bruce Schneier knows the debate well. He's an expert in cryptography and he wrote the book on computer security; Applied Cryptography is one of the field's basic resources, 'the book the NSA never wanted to be published,' raved Wired in 1994. He knows the evidence well too: lately he's been helping the Guardian and the journalist Glenn Greenwald review the documents they have gathered from Snowden, in order to help explain some of the agency's top secret and highly complex spying programs. To do that, Schneier has taken his careful digital privacy regime to a new level, relying on a laptop with an encrypted hard drive that he never connects to the internet. That couldn't prevent a pilfered laptop during, say, a 'black bag operation,' of course. 'I know that if some government really wanted to get my data, there'd be little I could do to stop them,' he says."
Barence writes "Anti-spam outfit Spamhaus has called on the UK government to fine those who are running Internet infrastructure that could be exploited by criminals. Those who leave open Domain Name Server resolvers vulnerable to attack should be fined, if they have previously received a warning, said chief information officer of Spamhaus, Richard Cox. When Spamhaus was hit by a massive distributed DDoS possibly the biggest ever recorded at more than 300Gbits/sec — open DNS resolvers were used to amplify the hit, which was aimed at one of the organization's upstream partners. 'Once they know it can be used for attacks and fraud, that should be an offense,' Cox said. 'You should be subject to something like a parking ticket... where the fine is greater than the cost of fixing it."
jones_supa writes "An EU citizen uses around 200 plastic bags per year. That's too much, says the EU. But wasting plastic bags is not just a European problem. Countries around the world are struggling with the issue, and it especially affects growing economies such as Asia. Some Southeast Asian countries don't even have the proper infrastructure in place to dispose of the bags properly. The problems for the environment are many. Plastic bags usually take several hundred years until they decay, thereby filling landfills, while animals often mistake the plastic for food and choke to death. Additionally they are a major cause of seaborne pollution, which is a serious hazard for marine life. This autumn, EU started ambitious plans which aim to reduce usage 80% by 2017. Some countries have already applied measures to slow plastic bag use: England has added a 5p charge to previously free bags, and in Ireland the government has already imposed a tax of 22 euro cents ($0.29) per plastic bag. The EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potonik, said, 'We're taking action to solve a very serious and highly visible environmental problem.'"