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Trump Pushes To Reap Biometric Data From Immigrants, Americans

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2020-09-22 04:05
Six million would-be U.S. immigrants face expanded collection of their biometric data, including iris scans, palm-, and voice-prints, facial recognition images, and DNA, under a proposed federal rule. The Department of Homeland Security also for the first time would gather that data from American citizens sponsoring or benefiting from a visa application. Bloomberg Law reports: Years in the making, the biometrics immigration rule has garnered more than 160 comments since its Sept. 11 publication. The 30-day comment period closes on Oct 13. A final version could be in place by Inauguration Day. Immigration and privacy advocates have voiced concerns over who will have to comply with the new requirements, why President Donald Trump is making this push so late in his term, and what it means for a federal agency already claiming a lack of resources. The 300-plus-page plan updates current biometrics requirements so that "any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request, including U.S. citizens, must appear for biometrics collection without regard to age unless the agency waives or exempts the requirement." The DHS estimates an additional 2.17 million new biometrics submissions will be collected annually, an increase from the current 3.9 million, under the rule. The DHS already collects fingerprints from some visa applicants. The new rule would expand that biometrics-gathering to iris images, palm- and voice- prints. The agency wants authority to require or request DNA testing to prove familial relationships where kinship is in question. The DNA data could be stored indefinitely, under the proposed rule. The DHS essentially has until Dec. 20 to review and respond to public comments and draft a final proposal, said Doug Rand, who worked on technology and immigration policy in the Obama White House and then joined the Federation of American Scientists. "They're really running out of time. And the fact that you'd put out a final regulation on such a far-ranging new policy that touches the lives of millions of people, you're opening up to huge legal vulnerability because any plaintiff can point to the comment period of only 30 days."

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With New Security and Free Internet Issues, What Did the TikTok Deal Really Achieve?

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pn, 2020-09-21 04:19
Though the U.S. government averted a shutdown of TikTok through a new Oracle/Walmart partnership, that leaves much bigger questions unresolved. The biggest issue may be that banning apps "defeats the original intent of the internet," argues the New York TImes. "And that was to create a global communications network, unrestrained by national borders." "The vision for a single, interconnected network around the globe is long gone," Jason Healey, a senior research scholar at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs and an expert on cyber conflict. "All we can do now is try to steer toward optimal fragmentation." But the Times also asks whether the TikTok agreement fails even at its original goal of protecting the app from foreign influence: The code and algorithms are the magic sauce that Beijing now says, citing its own national security concerns, may not be exported to to a foreign adversary... Microsoft's bid went further: It would have owned the source code and algorithms from the first day of the acquisition, and over the course of a year moved their development entirely to the United States, with engineers vetted for "insider threats." So far, at least, Oracle has not declared how it would handle that issue. Nor did President Trump in his announcement of the deal. Until they do, it will be impossible to know if Mr. Trump has achieved his objective: preventing Chinese engineers, perhaps under the influence of the state, from manipulating the code in ways that could censor, or manipulate, what American users see. Other questions also remain, including America's larger policy towards other apps like Telegram made by foreign countries. Even Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford's Freeman-Spogli Institute, complains to the Times that "bashing TikTok is not a China strategy. China has a multi-prong strategy to win the tech race. It invests in American technology, steals intellectual property and now develops its own technology that is coming into the U.S... And yet we think we can counter this by banning an app. The forest is on fire, and we are spraying a garden hose on a bush." And another article in the Times argues that the TikTok agreement doesn't even eliminate Chinese ownership of the app: Under the initial terms, ByteDance still controls 80 percent of TikTok Global, two people with knowledge of the situation have said, though details may change. ByteDance's chief executive, Zhang Yiming, will also be on the company's board of directors, said a third person. And the government did not provide specifics about how the deal would answer its security concerns about TikTok... A news release published by Walmart on Saturday on its website — then edited later — captured the chaos. "This unique technology eliminates the risk of foreign governments spying on American users or trying to influence them with disinformation," the company said. "Ekejechb ecehggedkrrnikldebgtkjkddhfdenbhbkuk."

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Browser Extension uMatrix Ends Active Development

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-09-20 23:40
Slashdot reader Hmmmmmm quotes Ghacks: Raymond Hill, known online as gorhill, has set the status of the uMatrix GitHub repository to archived; this means that it is read-only at the time and that no updates will become available. The uMatrix extension is available for several browsers including Firefox, Google Chrome, and most Firefox and Chromium-based browsers. It is a privacy and security extensions for advanced users that provides firewall-like capabilities when it is installed... Hill suggests that developers could fork the extension to continue development under a new name. There is also the chance that Hill might resume development in the future but there is no guarantee that this is going to happen. For now, uMatrix is no longer in active development.

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US Judge Blocks Attempt to Ban WeChat

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-09-20 19:34
"The popular Chinese messaging and payments app WeChat looks like it might still be available in the U.S. beyond Sunday night, after all," reports the Street: U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of San Francisco stopped the Trump administration from forcing Apple and Alphabet to take the Tencent Holdings' messaging app offline for downloading by late Sunday, according to a report from Reuters. The decision — which also blocks other restrictions imposed by the U.S. government on the app — follows the U.S. Commerce Department's move on Friday to virtually eliminate access to the application and impair its ability to function, in part by prohibiting companies from distributing or maintaining it and blocking financial transactions over the app in the U.S... The order also stated that the Commerce Department's orders "burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government's significant interest in national security, especially given the lack of substitute channels for communication."

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Chinese Intelligence Compiles 'Vast Database' About Millions Around the World

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-09-20 18:34
Australia's national public broadcaster ABC reports: A Chinese company with links to Beijing's military and intelligence networks has been amassing a vast database of detailed personal information on thousands of Australians, including prominent and influential figures. A database of 2.4 million people, including more than 35,000 Australians, has been leaked from the Shenzhen company Zhenhua Data which is believed to be used by China's intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security. Zhenhua has the People's Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party among its main clients. Information collected includes dates of birth, addresses, marital status, along with photographs, political associations, relatives and social media IDs. It collates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even TikTok accounts, as well as news stories, criminal records and corporate misdemeanours. While much of the information has been "scraped," some profiles have information which appears to have been sourced from confidential bank records, job applications and psychological profiles. The company is believed to have sourced some of its information from the so-called "dark web". One intelligence analyst said the database was "Cambridge Analytica on steroids", referring to the trove of personal information sourced from Facebook profiles in the lead up to the 2016 US election campaign. But this data dump goes much further, suggesting a complex global operation using artificial intelligence to trawl publicly available data to create intricate profiles of individuals and organisations, potentially probing for compromise opportunities. Zhenhua Data's chief executive Wang Xuefeng, a former IBM employee, has used Chinese social media app WeChat to endorse waging "hybrid warfare" through manipulation of public opinion and "psychological warfare".... The database was leaked to a US academic, who worked with Canberra cyber security company Internet 2.0 and "was able to restore 10 per cent of the 2.4 million records for individuals... "Of the 250,000 records recovered, there are 52,000 on Americans, 35,000 Australians, 10,000 Indian, 9,700 British, 5,000 Canadians, 2,100 Indonesians, 1,400 Malaysia and 138 from Papua New Guinea."

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Is Momentum Growing for Universal Basic Incomes?

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-09-20 17:34
"A successful basic-income trial in Stockton, California, has inspired a chain of similar pilots in other cities," reports Business Insider: The city council of Saint Paul, Minnesota, voted to approve funding for a pilot there on Wednesday. The program is set to begin this fall and will give up to 150 low-income families $500 per month for up to 18 months — no strings attached... "I think there's a budding realization that not only is this a good thing for us to try, but that we may not have any other option," St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter said on a Wednesday press call... "We're obviously seeing an unprecedented crisis in our communities across our country," Carter said. "We're coming to a recognition that we don't have a funding problem. We have a priorities problem." Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced he was donating $3 million to a coalition of "Mayors for a Guaranteed Income." The group currently has 25 mayors -- two who are already overseeing pilot programs in their own cities -- while Chicago, Newark, and Atlanta "have created task forces to help design their programs," and the mayor of Pittsburgh would like to launch one of their own by the end of the year. In another article, Business Insider created a map showing the locations of 48 basic income programs that have happened around the world (based on data from the Stanford Basic Income Lab). But they also provide this summary of their current state: So is basic income the real deal or a pipe dream? The results are still unclear. Some, like the initial pilots for Uganda's Eight program, were found to result in significant multipliers on economic activity and well-being. Other programs, however, returned mixed results that made further experimentation difficult. Finland's highly-touted pilot program decreased stress levels of recipients across the board, but didn't positively impact work activity. The biggest difficulty has been in keeping programs going and securing funding. Ontario's three-year projects were prematurely cancelled in 2018 before they could be completed and assessed, and the next stages of Finland's program are in limbo. Likewise in the U.S., start-up incubator Y Combinator has been planning a $60M basic income study program, but can't proceed until funding is secured.

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Last-Minute TikTok Deal Averts Shutdown

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-09-20 06:30
"President Donald Trump said Saturday he's given his 'blessing' to a proposed deal that would see the popular video-sharing app TikTok partner with Oracle and Walmart and form a U.S. company," reports CBS News: Mr. Trump has targeted Chinese-owned TikTok for national security and data privacy concerns in the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The president's support for a deal comes just a day after the Commerce Department announced restrictions that if put in place could eventually make it nearly impossible for TikTok's legions of younger fans to use the app. Mr. Trump said if completed the deal would create a new company likely to be based in Texas... TikTok said Oracle and Walmart could acquire up to a cumulative 20% stake in the new company in a financing round to be held before an initial public offering of stock, which Walmart said could happen within the next year. Oracle's stake would be 12.5%, and Walmart's would be 7.5%, the companies said in separate statements. The deal will make Oracle responsible for hosting all TikTok's U.S. user data and securing computer systems to ensure U.S. national security requirements are satisfied. Walmart said it will provide its ecommerce, fulfillment, payments and other services to the new company. "We are pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the U.S. administration and settle questions around TikTok's future in the U.S.," TikTok said in a statement. "According to a source close to the matter, ByteDance would keep the rest of the shares," reports a public TV station in Australia. "But since the Chinese company is 40 per cent owned by American investors, TikTok would eventually be majority American-owned." Today America's Treasury Department told CBS that the deal still needs to close with Oracle and Walmart, and those documents and conditions then need to be approved by government regulatory. But because of today's announcement, "the department said Saturday that it will delay the barring of TikTok from U.S. app stores until Sept. 27 at 11:59 p.m."

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US Spy Plane Impersonates A Malaysian Aircraft

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-09-19 19:34
Popular Mechanics reports: A U.S. Air Force aircraft electronically impersonated a Malaysian plane while flying over the South China Sea this week. The RC-135W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft flew off China's Hainan island on Tuesday, coming within 55 miles of the Chinese mainland. The caper was outed on Twitter by a think tank operated by the Chinese government, which provided enough details for independent verification. The plane's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Mode-S number, a 24-bit identifier assigned to all aircraft and broadcast by onboard transponder, was AE01CE. The Mode S system provides big-picture situational awareness and improves aviation safety. At some point, the plane's Mode-S number suddenly changed, from AE01CE to 750548. That's the ICAO number for an unknown Malaysian aircraft... The RC-135W Rivet Joint is a converted Boeing 707 jetliner designed to collect electronic intelligence for later analysis... It's not clear why the RC-135W flew where it did. The flight probably coincided with Chinese military exercises, likely air or naval, or even a missile test. It's also worth pointing out that China's nuclear ballistic missile submarine force is based at Yulin on Hainan Island. It's also not clear why the RC-135W engaged in the deception. Steffan Watkins, a Canadian open source intelligence researcher, tells Popular Mechanics. "If the reconnaissance is happening outside sovereign airspace, there is no pressing need to engage in that sort of deception. It's perfectly legal, and done in plain sight off the coast of Russia, Syria, and Crimea all the time — literally, every day there are RC-135s off the coast of Russia, with their transponders on, and broadcasting exactly who they are. I can't explain the difference with China. Why the difference in emissions posture and obfuscation....?" The announcement is likely a warning to the Pentagon that the Chinese military sees through the deception, and that it's watching the watchers.

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At Least 10 Amazon Employees Took Bribes from Sellers, Indictment Alleges

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-09-19 16:34
CBS News reports: Six people allegedly conspired to bribe Amazon employees and contractors in order to gain a competitive advantage on the retailer's marketplace, federal prosecutors announced Friday. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, those charged posed as consultants and worked with third-party sellers whose products had previously been removed from Amazon Marketplace get the items back on the platform. The six then paid a total of more than $100,000 in bribes to least 10 Amazon employees in exchange for their restoring the banned products or services, the indictment alleges. The products included household goods, consumer electronics and dietary supplements, prosecutors said. "The ultimate victim from this criminal conduct is the buying public, who get inferior or even dangerous goods that should have been removed from the marketplace," U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a statement. "As the world moves increasingly to online commerce, we must ensure that the marketplace is not corrupted with unfair advantages obtained by bribes and kickbacks...." The six accused face up to five years in prison for commercial bribery and up to 20 years for wire fraud. One of the six actually worked for Amazon at the beginning of the scheme, according to the article, which notes that their tactics included temporarily suspending the accounts of competitors. One FBI agent in Seattle tells CBS, "What's equally concerning is that, not only did they attempt to increase sales of their own products, but they sought to damage and discredit their competitors."

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Iranian Hackers Found Way Into Encrypted Apps, Researchers Say

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-09-19 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Iranian hackers, most likely employees or affiliates of the government, have been running a vast cyberespionage operation equipped with surveillance tools that can outsmart encrypted messaging systems -- a capability Iran was not previously known to possess, according to two digital security reports released Friday. The operation not only targets domestic dissidents, religious and ethnic minorities and antigovernment activists abroad, but can also be used to spy on the general public inside Iran, said the reports byCheck Point Software Technologies, a cybersecurity technology firm, andthe Miaan Group, a human rights organization that focuses on digital security in the Middle East. The reports, which were reviewed by The New York Times in advance of their release, say that the hackers have successfully infiltrated what were thought to be secure mobile phones and computers belonging to the targets, overcoming obstacles created by encrypted applications such as Telegram and, according to Miaan, even gaining access to information on WhatsApp. Both are popular messaging tools in Iran. The hackers also have created malware disguised as Android applications, the reports said. [...] According to the report by Check Point's intelligence unit, the cyberespionage operation was set up in 2014, and its full range of capabilities went undetected for six years. Miaan traced the first the operation to February 2018 from a malicious email targeting a Sufi religious group in Iran after a violent confrontation between its members and Iranian security forces. It traced the malware used in that attack and further attacks in June 2020 to a private technology firm in Iran's northeast city of Mashhad named Andromedaa. Miaan researchers determined that Andromedaa had a pattern of attacking activists, ethnic minority groups and separatist opposition groups but also had developed phishing and malware tools that could target the general public. The hackers appeared to have a clear goal: stealing information about Iranian opposition groups in Europe and the United States and spying on Iranians who often use mobile applications to plan protests, according to the Miaan report. [...] According to Check Point, the hackers use a variety of infiltration techniques, including phishing, but the most widespread method is sending what appear to be tempting documents and applications to carefully selected targets. [...] The spyware enabled the attackers to gain access to almost any file, log clipboard data, take screenshots and steal information. According to Miaan, one application empowered hackers to download data stored on WhatsApp. In addition, the attackers discovered a weakness in the installation protocols of several encrypted applications including Telegram, which had always been deemed relatively secure, enabling them to steal the apps' installation files. These files, in turn, allow the attackers to make full use of the victims' Telegram accounts. "Although the attackers cannot decipher the encrypted communications of Telegram, their strategy makes it unnecessary," the report adds. "Rather, they use the stolen installation files to create Telegram logins to activate the app in the victims' names on another device. This enables the attackers to secretly monitor all Telegram activity of the victims."

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Facebook Accused of Watching Instagram Users Through Cameras

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-09-19 03:20
Facebook is again being sued for allegedly spying on Instagram users, this time through the unauthorized use of their mobile phone cameras. Bloomberg reports: The lawsuit springs from media reports in July that the photo-sharing app appeared to be accessing iPhone cameras even when they weren't actively being used. Facebook denied the reports and blamed a bug, which it said it was correcting, for triggering what it described as false notifications that Instagram was accessing iPhone cameras. In the complaint filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco, New Jersey Instagram user Brittany Conditi contends the app's use of the camera is intentional and done for the purpose of collecting "lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to." By "obtaining extremely private and intimate personal data on their users, including in the privacy of their own homes," Instagram and Facebook are able to collect "valuable insights and market research," according to the complaint.

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Tesla Wins Lawsuit Against Whistleblower Accused of Hacks

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-09-19 00:20
An anonymous reader writes: The US District Court of Nevada awarded Tesla a win in its lawsuit against a former employee, filed two years ago. You may recall CEO Elon Musk referred to this incident in a previously leaked email calling on employees to be "extremely vigilant." Martin Tripp, who worked at the company's Nevada Gigafactory, was accused of hacking the automaker and supplying sensitive information to unnamed third parties. Reuters reported Friday the court ruled in Tesla's favor and dismissed Tripp's motion to file another reply to the court. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but according to Reuters, the court will grant Tesla's motion to seal the case. Tripp originally entered the spotlight two years ago after seeking whistleblower protections and accusing Tesla of "some really scary things." He told The Washington Post he was the individual who provided information to the media and accused Tesla of building Model 3 sedans with punctured batteries. Tesla, in turn, accused Tripp of making false claims to the media. Tripp also denied any allegations he hacked Tesla, saying, "I don't have the patience for coding." The automaker previously named Tripp as a disgruntled employee angry after not receiving a promotion and accused him of aiding the theft of confidential photos and videos documenting Tesla's manufacturing process.

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CEO of Cyber Fraud Startup NS8 Arrested By FBI, Facing Fraud Charges

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-09-18 22:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Forbes: The CEO of a startup that sold fraud prevention software is facing fraud charges after he was arrested Thursday by the FBI in Las Vegas. Adam Rogas, who abruptly resigned from NS8 earlier this month, is accused of misleading investors who poured in $123 million to his company earlier this year, a deal in which he allegedly pocketed more than $17 million. "Adam Rogas was the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse," acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press statement. "While raising over $100 million from investors for his fraud prevention company, Rogas himself allegedly was engaging in a brazen fraud." NS8 launched in 2016 to provide online fraud detection and prevention software for small businesses. More than 200 NS8 employees were laid off last week after executives told them the company was under investigation by the SEC for fraud. The news was startling for many, considering the company had announced a $123 million Series A funding round in June, led by global VC firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. In a statement, NS8 said that its board "has learned that much of the company's revenue and customer information had been fabricated by Mr. Rogas." The company added that no other employees or stakeholders had been charged and that it is cooperating with federal investigators. In its complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, the Justice Department alleged that from January 2019 to February 2020, between 40% and 95% of NS8's assets were made up. During that period, the agency alleged, Rogas presented doctored bank statements to reflect over $40 million in fictitious revenue. Charges by the Justice Department carry penalties up to 20 years in prison. Rogas is expected to face a judge in Nevada on Friday.

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Encrochat Investigation Finds Corrupt Cops Leaking Information To Criminals

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-09-18 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: After searching through some of the tens of millions of encrypted messages pulled from Encrochat devices, Dutch police have launched a new investigation team that will look specifically into corruption, the police force announced on Wednesday. In some cases authorities are looking to identify police who leaked information to organized criminals. The news broadens the scope of the Encrochat investigations, which have focused heavily on drug trafficking and organized crime more generally. Earlier this year, French authorities hacked into Encrochat phones en masse to retrieve message content, and then shared those communications with various other law enforcement agencies. "Criminal investigations into possible corruption are currently underway and there are likely to be more in the near future. In addition to investigations into drug trafficking and money laundering, investigations into corruption are also given top priority," Chief of Police Henk van Essen said in a Politie press release. Encrochat was an encrypted phone company that took base Android units, made physical alterations to them, and added its own software. Encrochat devices sent messages with end-to-end encryption, meaning only the intended recipient was supposed to be able to read them. The phones also had a remote wipe feature, letting users destroy communications if they lost physical control of the device, as well as a dual-boot system that let users open an innocuous looking operating system, or the second one containing their more sensitive information. The phones were particularly popular with criminals, including drug traffickers and hitmen. There are indications Encrochat may have had legitimate users too, however. Other Encrochat customers are allegedly those involved in corruption, including police themselves, the press release suggests.

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US Charges Chinese and Malaysian Hackers In Global Hacking Campaign

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-09-18 02:23
schwit1 shares a report from NewsNation Now: The Justice Department has charged five Chinese citizens with hacks targeting more than 100 companies and institutions in the United States and elsewhere, including social media and video game companies as well as universities and telecommunications providers, officials said Wednesday. The five defendants remain fugitives, but prosecutors say two Malaysian businessmen accused of conspiring with the alleged hackers to profit off the attacks on video game companies were arrested in that country this week and face extradition proceedings. The indictments announced Wednesday are part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to call out cybercrimes by China.

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DuckDuckGo Is Growing Fast

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-09-18 02:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, announced that August 2020 ended in over 2 billion total searches via its search platform. While Google remains the most popular search engine, DuckDuckGo has gained a great deal of traction in recent months as more and more users have begun to value their privacy on the internet. DuckDuckGo saw over 2 billion searches and 4 million app/extension installations, and the company also said that they have over 65 million active users. DuckDuckGo could shatter its old traffic record if the same growth trend continues. Even though DuckDuckGo is growing rapidly, it still controls less than 2 percent of all search volume in the United States. However, DuckDuckGo's growth trend has continued throughout the year, mainly due to Google and other companies' privacy scandal.

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WeChat Users Won't Be Targeted By Trump's Order, US Says

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-09-18 00:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: WeChat users who download the Chinese app for personal or business communications won't be targeted by President Donald Trump's executive order that will prohibit using the app for some transactions, the U.S. said. The U.S. Commerce Department plans to clarify by Sept. 20 which transactions will be prohibited. But it doesn't intend to define "the relevant transactions in such a way that would impose criminal or civil liability on such users," according to a government filing Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco. The U.S. WeChat Users Alliance is seeking a preliminary injunction against Trump's executive order. A hearing on the request is scheduled for Thursday. According to the WeChat users group, Trump's Aug. 6 order would sunder the primary and often exclusive channel many U.S. residents use to communicate with family and friends in both China and the U.S. WeChat is also used to run businesses and non-profit organizations, practice religion and as a source news. WeChat is so integral to Chinese and Chinese Americans' lives that a ban would be like "losing a limb" for some users, the group claims. "Having first failed to articulate any actual national security concern, the administration's latest 'assurances' that users can keep using WeChat, and exchange their personal and business information, only further illustrates the hollowness and pre-textual nature of defendants' 'national security' rationales," the group said in a court filing.

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A Utah Company Claims It Invented Contact Tracing Tech

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-09-17 20:48
In the fight against Covid-19, contact tracing apps have so far largely been disappointments -- in the United States, at least. Proposed in the spring as a way to help quickly stifle viral outbreaks by tracking down potential exposures using smartphones, they were stunted by technical glitches, concerns over privacy, and the US's fragmented, haphazard pandemic response. Now, they may become mired in a fight over patents. From a report: The challenge comes from Blyncsy, a Salt Lake City-based maker of software that helps cities gather and analyze mobility data. In recent weeks, the company has sent claims seeking the equivalent of $1 per resident to states that have released or plan to release contact tracing apps, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia. The company holds three patents related to contact tracing. One of them, granted in February 2019, for "tracking proximity relationships and uses thereof," describes methods of tracking the spread of "contagion" using technology such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular signals. Apps launched by public health agencies during the Covid-19 pandemic infringe upon it, the company says. In April, Blyncsy launched a portal for others to request a license for its technology and submit plans for a privacy review. That was shortly after Google and Apple jointly announced an effort to get contact tracing technology in the hands of state and national governments, using Bluetooth features on the companies' smartphones. Blyncsy did not get any takers. "State governments have taken it upon themselves to roll out a solution in their name in which they're using our property without compensation," says Blyncsy CEO Mark Pittman. He describes the current crop of contact tracing apps as "fly-by-night" efforts and says his patent fight is driven by concerns about their privacy and effectiveness, not an attempt to profit.

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Google 'Formally' Bans Stalkerware Apps From the Play Store

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-09-17 18:46
Google has updated its Play Store rules to impose a "formal" ban on stalkerware apps, but the company has left a pretty huge loophole in place for stalkerware to be uploaded on the official store as child-tracking applications. From a report: Stalkerware is a term used to describe apps that track a user's movements, snoop on calls and messages, and record other apps' activity. Stalkerware, also known as spouseware, is usually advertised to users as a way to discover cheating partners, track children while outside their homes, and as a way to keep an eye on employees at work. The primary feature of all stalkerware apps, regardless if they're intended to be used on smartphones or laptops, is that these apps can be installed and run without the device owner's knowledge, operating in the operating system's background. Over the past decade, the Play Store has hosted hundreds of applications that fit into the stalkerware category. Google, which has intervened to take down stalkerware apps when they've been pointed out by security researchers, has usually avoided making public statements on the topic.

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Software Could Help Reform Policing -- If Only Police Unions Wanted It

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-09-17 05:30
tedlistens writes: The CEO of Taser maker Axon, Rick Smith, has a lot of high-tech ideas for fixing policing. One idea for identifying potentially abusive behavior is AI, integrated with the company's increasingly ubiquitous body cameras and the footage they produce. In a patent application filed last month, Axon describes the ability to search video not only for words and locations but also for clothing, weapons, buildings, and other objects. AI could also tag footage to enable searches for things such as "the characteristics [of] the sounds or words of the audio," including "the volume (e.g., intensity), tone (e.g., menacing, threatening, helpful, kind), frequency range, or emotions (e.g., anger, elation) of a word or a sound." Building that kind of software is a difficult task, and in the realm of law enforcement, one with particularly high stakes. But Smith also faces a more low-tech challenge, he tells Fast Company: making his ideas acceptable both to intransigent police unions and to the communities those police serve. Of course, right now many of those communities aren't calling for more technology for their police but for deep reform, if not deep budget cuts. And police officers aren't exactly clamoring for more scrutiny, especially if it's being done by a computer.

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