Tag Archives: legal

Surveillance drones coming to your backyard

Until now, the use of unmanned drones has been tightly regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Use has mostly been restricted to government agencies, and applications for private use were considered on a case-by-case basis. As of last summer, the FAA had only approved about 100 applications from private parties to fly unmanned drones.

But that’s about to change. According to the New York Times, the new legislation mandates that the FAA begin allowing the use of small drones (under 4.4 pounds) by law enforcement within 90 days. And the agency must overhaul its drone regulations by September 30, 2015, including allowing more widespread use of drones by private parties.

Throw the Bums Out and Ban Them From Lobbying

Let’s take The STOCK Act, authored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), which would ban trading by members of Congress guided by “nonpublic economic or political information.” The problem with the bill? As The Huffington Post reported on Jan. 26, while the legislation bans trading, it does not bar legislators from returning favors for companies whose stock they hold. Sen. Scott Brown, who owns up to $50,000 of Bank of America stock, used his leverage to not only carve out an exemption to the Volcker Rule that allows banks to keep betting in the securities markets with taxpayer money but axed a plan that would have required banks to pay into an emergency fund to cover the costs of their failures.

So you can bet that when justifiably outraged voters replace Brown with Elizabeth Warren, he’ll simply shrug it off since he’ll look forward to a cushy job as a lobbyist for the banking industry.

This level of corruption is why nothing gets accomplished on Capitol Hill, whether it’s campaign finance reform or financial dis-services reform. What typically happens when the members of Congress in charge of election reform have a discussion about it? In a 2006 hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs committee in which the topic was dispensing contributions to members so they’ll vote a certain way, not only did only two of the 16 members sit through the hearing but the man designated to draft a reform bill was now-presidential candidate Rick Santorum. In 2006 Santorum led all federal candidates in contributions from lobbyists and family members, taking in roughly $500,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). While in office, Santorum held regular breakfast meetings with K Street power players, which included circulating a list of open jobs at trade associations.

This is seriously scary stuff. It seems like corruption is built into our leglative system at the most fundamental level. When even the people who are supposed to directly represent us can’t be held accountable for their actions, the people, and the nation itself, begins to be held hostage by forces outside Constitutional control. Is it too late to reverse the tide of Washington insider trading?

Jailbreaking Is Not A Crime: Tell the Copyright Office to Free Your Devices! via @eff

The Problem – Smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles are powerful computers with lots of untapped potential. Yet many of these devices are set up to run only software that’s been approved by the manufacturer.  Modifying a device to run independent software – known as jailbreaking – is important to programmers, enthusiasts, and users. But jailbreaking creates legal uncertainty. Some device manufacturers claim that jailbreaking violates Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which carries stiff penalties.

The Solution – EFF is asking the U.S. Copyright Office to declare that jailbreaking does not violate the DMCA, and we need your help. In 2010, the Copyright Office said jailbreaking smartphones doesn’t violate the DMCA.  This year, we’re asking them to renew that exemption (otherwise it will expire) and expand it to cover tablets. We’re also asking for a new exemption to allow jailbreaking of video game consoles.

Please help the EFF fight for your rights by clicking through the link and submitting your own documentation of how jailbreaking enables you to do work, better!  I’m attaching an example of my own letter to the office, below:

Warrantless GPS Tracking Unconstitutional, Supreme Court Rules via @HuffingtonPost

The installation of a GPS tracking device onto a suspect’s car constitutes a search — and therefore requires a warrant — the Supreme Court unanimously held on Monday morning. The justices, however, employed radically different rationales to come to their answer, leaving unsettled the question of how much protection one may expect from the Fourth Amendment in the digital age.

I’ve been following this case very closely; with the increasing reach of technology in our everyday lives, I’m very proud to see that the Supreme Court has overturned the absurd decision of the state courts that police investigators could esssentially ‘bug’ a person’s location via a GPS device, without their knowledge, or any legally sustainaible probable cause.

Had this ruling been upheld, we’d be one step closer to a Minority Report-like future, where our devices could at any moment be used against us, which would inevitably stifle both adoption of technology, and innovation across the industry.

It also affirms that the land’s highest Court is still more in-touch with technology than our own Representatives, a trend which I find both uplifting and terrifying. It’s clear to me, that the for-life appointment term reduces the power lobbyists and 3rd party monies can have on the legal system, which allows them not to be swayed by public opinion or extra-judicial concerns, like our Representatives clearly are. Hopefully some day soon, our own elected officials will be held to a similar standard.

Anonymous Goes on Megaupload Revenge Spree: DoJ, RIAA, MPAA, Offline

Update: Anonymous says they’ve also knocked off the RIAA’s site—looks down for us at the moment as well.

Update 2: Universal Music Group has also fallen off an e-cliff.

Update 3: Goodbye for now, MPAA.org.

Update 4: Affected sites are bouncing in and out of life, and are at the very least super slow to load. Anon agents are currently trying to coordinate their DDoS attacks in the same direction via IRC.

Update 5: The US Copyright Office joins the list.

Update 6: This Anon sums up the mood in their “official” chat room at the moment:

Danzu: STOP EVERYTHING, who are we DoSing right now?

Update 7: Russian news service RT claims this is the largest coordinated attack in Anonymous’ history—over 5,600 DDoS zealots blasting at once.

Update 8: the Anonymous DDoS planning committee is chittering so quickly, it’s making my laptop fan spin.

Update 9: Major record label EMI is down for the count.

Update 10: La résistance est international—French copyright authority HADOPI bites the dust under Anon pressure.

Update 11: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has fallen and can’t get up.

Update 12: Anonymous has released a statement about today’s attacks.

Kudos, Anonymous. Kinda embarassing to see how fragile these websites are, and inspiring to see how powerful the masses are.

On the downside, it comes across as unfocused, childish rage, so I’m not sure what the point of that is, exactly.

It would sure be nice to see some of these Anonymous ringleaders put their work to developing tools like the BlackoutSOPA team did, to help other people who don’t want to hack/DDOS understand how to deal with the issues they’re struggling with.

Signs of Progress on the Internet Blacklist Bills

Looks like proponents of the Internet Blacklist Bills are finally beginning to realize that they won’t be able to ram through massive, job-killing legislation without a fight. First, Sen. Patrick Leahy, sponsor of the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), announced on Thursday that he would recommend that the Senate further study the dangerous DNS blocking provisions in that bill before implementation. Then, a group of six influential senators wrote to Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, urging that the Senate slow down and postpone the upcoming vote on PIPA. Sen. Ben Cardin, a co-sponsor of PIPA, also took a measured stance against the bill, saying he “would not vote for final passage of PIPA, as currently written.” Cardin cited consituent activism as the primary reason for the about-face.

On the House side, Rep. Lamar Smith, sponsor of PIPA’s dangerous counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), announced today that he would completely remove the DNS blocking provision from the House bill.

It’s heartening to see Congress take steps in the right direction, and it wouldn’t have happened without the work and commitment of the many internet communities who have rallied to fight these dangerous bills. We should be proud of the progress we’ve made. 

Small steps, but good ones.

The Internet isn’t just pipes; it’s a belief system (via @Om)

Draconian new anti-piracy laws that are being pushed through both the Senate and the House of Representatives are about more than just an academic debate over different legislative methods for fighting copyright infringement. They make it clear that media and content companies are fundamentally opposed to the way the Internet works. These laws are being promoted by media and entertainment conglomerates as a way to fight what they see as massive content theft, but in order to combat that evil, they are effectively trying to get Congress to take over the Internet — and trample on important principles like freedom of speech as well.

Finally, here’s an aweosme video sumamrizing the insane legislation:

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Take action! This is very, very bad.

BitTorrent and Netflix Dominate America’s Internet Traffic via @TorrentFreak

New data published by the Canadian broadband management company Sandvine reveals that on the average day Netflix and BitTorrent are responsible for 40 percent of all Internet traffic in North America. During peak hours Netflix accounts for a third of all download traffic, while BitTorrent is credited for nearly half of all upload traffic during the busiest time of the day.
Netflix is by far the most bandwidth-consuming source of traffic. On an average day, 23.3% of all North American traffic comes from or goes to Netflix. BitTorrent is a good second with 16.5% of the traffic pie, meaning that Netflix and BitTorrent together account for almost 40% of all traffic.

The most surprising – yet obvious – aspect of this data is the HUGE discrepancy between the upstream and downstream data. While the authors say Netflix and BitTorrent dominate the traffic, it’s really only BitTorrent boosting up the upstream numbers (that is, the amount of data you send to the internet, as opposed to the amount you download from it). The gap is so huge, it seems that would present an easy way to target torrenters – simply by closely monitoring the upload rates, especially during the night.

Of course, even if something like that were instituted, torrenters wuold simply design a new technology to circumvent it. If there’s one thing this data proves, it’s that pirating and sharing isn’t going anywhere, despite the mutli-billion-dollar industry that’s engaged in a constant arms race with it’s own customers.

Digital Monopolies A Bigger Threat Than Piracy, Says Miramax CEO

Miramax CEO Mike Lang and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos gave a keynote talk at the MIPCOM conference. The two discussed the challenges they face in the continuously changing digital world. Both agreed that piracy is not much of an issue as long as you give consumers what they want. Digital monopolies, such as Apple’s dominance in the music industry, are a far bigger threat.

It’s the classic power struggle between goliaths: they start to see their users as liabilities, and accordingly treat them with disrespect. Then another competitor comes along to gobble them up, in the opportunity void they created. Maybe the solution is to treat your customers like people, and cater to what they want?

Samsung Exec: We’re Coming After The iPhone 5 As Soon As It Lands In Korea

Samsung has been on the receiving end of many of these lawsuits. But according to another unnamed senior executive, “We are taking different tactics since we are quite confident. If Samsung wins in Germany that will give us a big breakthrough and so will other envisioned efforts against such products as the iPhone 5.”

For a short while after this Samsung/Apple madness started, it was somewhat expected that the fight would be resolved amicably based on the highly beneficial and symbiotic business relationship shared by the two companies. Apple is one of Samsung’s biggest customers, which is likely the reason for the South Korea-based company’s tentative attitude during these legal proceedings. But the plan has clearly changed.