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A Bug in FaceTime Allows One To Access Someone's iPhone Camera And Microphone Before They Answered the Call; Apple Temporarily Disables Group FaceTime Feature

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2019-01-29 07:29
Social media sites lit up today with anxious Apple users after a strange glitch in iPhone's FaceTime app became apparent. The issue: It turns out that an iPhone user can call another iPhone user and listen in on -- and access live video feed of -- that person's conversations through the device's microphone and camera -- even if the recipient does not answer the call. In a statement, Apple said it was aware of the bug and was working to release a fix later this week. In the meanwhile, the company has disabled Group calling functionality on FaceTime app. From a report: The issue was so serious that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and even Andrew Cuomo, governor of the state of New York, weighed in and urged their followers to disable FaceTime. [...] That's bad news for a company that's been vocal about privacy and customer data protection lately. The timing couldn't be worse, given that Apple is set to host its earnings call for the October-December quarter of 2018 in just a matter of hours.

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US Accuses Huawei of Stealing Trade Secrets, Defrauding Banks

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2019-01-29 02:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: U.S. prosecutors filed criminal charges against Huawei, China's largest smartphone maker, alleging it stole trade secrets from an American rival and committed bank fraud by violating sanctions against doing business with Iran. Huawei has been the target of a broad U.S. crackdown, including allegations it sold telecommunications equipment that could be used by the China's Communist Party for spying. The charges filed Monday also mark an escalation of tensions between the world's two largest economies, which are mired in a trade war that has roiled markets. In a 13-count indictment in Brooklyn, New York, the government alleged Huawei, two affiliated companies and its chief financial officer of fraud and conspiracy in connection with deals in Iran. A 10-count indictment in Washington state accused the company of stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile and offering bonuses to employees who succeeded in getting technology from rivals. T-Mobile sued Huawei and its U.S.-based unit, Huawei Device USA Inc., in 2014, and three years later, a federal jury in Seattle found Huawei liable for both breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. A person familiar with the case, who sought anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak, said T-Mobile's claims regarding the theft of its technology caught the attention of federal authorities in the Western District of Washington. T-Mobile said Huawei sent its engineers to T-Mobile's Bellevue, Washington, facility to see a robot, called "Tappy," which simulates smartphone use. T-Mobile said in its lawsuit that Huawei was able to use stolen parts from the robot to "develop, improve and troubleshoot its own robot." Separately, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on allegations that she committed fraud to sidestep sanctions against Iran. "The U.S., which had requested Canadian authorities arrest Meng, must submit a formal extradition request for her by Jan. 30," Bloomberg reports. "Canada's justice minister then has up to 30 days to assess it. If she issues an 'authority to proceed,' that means Canada is officially moving to extradition hearings. If so, they would likely be scheduled months later."

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Online Piracy Can Be Good For Business, Researchers Find

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2019-01-29 00:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Piracy isn't always the vile market bogeyman it's portrayed to be by the entertainment industry, a new joint study by Indiana University has found. Indiana University Researchers like Antino Kim say that online piracy can sometimes have a positive impact on markets, and being overly-aggressive in the policing and punishing of pirates may sometimes be counterproductive. As an example, Kim's study ("The 'Invisible Hand' of Piracy: An Economic Analysis of the Information-Goods Supply Chain") points to the hit HBO show Game Of Thrones, which routinely breaks piracy records thanks to heavy file sharing on BitTorrent. The researchers found that piracy often acts as a form of invisible competition, keeping both the manufacturer (HBO) and the cable operator (say, Comcast) from raising prices quite as high as they might otherwise. Raise prices too high, for example, and users will just flee to piracy, creating even higher losses. The researchers are clear to note their findings have their limits, and that they're not openly advocating for companies to fully embrace piracy. They do, however, argue that if you understand the benefits of piracy as a form of invisible competition, you'll find that overly-aggressive anti-piracy efforts can actually harm the market. "Our results do not imply that the legal channel should, all of a sudden, start actively encouraging piracy," researchers said. "The implication is simply that, situated in a real-world context, our manufacturer and retailer should recognize that a certain level of piracy or its threat might actually be beneficial and should, therefore, exercise some moderation in their anti-piracy efforts."

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Authorities Shut Down xDedic Marketplace For Buying Hacked Servers

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pn, 2019-01-28 21:30
The FBI, together with authorities from several European countries, have seized the domains and servers of xDedic, a notorious online marketplace where cyber-criminals would sell and buy access to hacked servers. From a report: The site has been around since 2014, but it became widely known after a Kaspersky report published in June 2016. According to the report, the site was operating as a registration-based online marketplace where several criminal groups would either put up for sale or buy hacked servers, usually in the form of compromised RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) accounts. At the time, Kaspersky said the site listed nearly 70,000 hacked servers, for prices as little as $8 per server. [...] In Europol and FBI press releases published today, authorities announced that they've seized both the domains and the servers hosting the marketplace, effectively shutting down the site and gaining access to its list of customers.

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Facebook's Plan To Merge WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger Sounds a Privacy Alarm

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2019-01-27 22:20
Facebook's new plan to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger will lead to more data about users being shared between them, a new report warns. The effort to make it easier for people to participate in conversations across its various messaging platforms sounds harmless, but it raises issues about how data will be shared across the platforms, and with third parties. The good news is that the apps will all be required to use end-to-end encryption. MIT Technology Review reports: Facebook says it wants to make it easier for people to communicate across its "ecosystem" of apps. But the real driver here is a commercial one. By making it easier to swap messages, Facebook can mine even more data to target ads with, and come up with more money-spinning services. There's another potential benefit: by integrating its messaging apps more tightly, Facebook can argue it would be harder to spin one or more of them off, as some antitrust campaigners think it should be forced to do.

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Pentagon Documents the Military's Growing Domestic Drone Use

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2019-01-27 18:16
New data on the Pentagon's domestic drone use documents 11 missions during the 2018 fiscal year. That's up from 11 missions over the entire span of 2011 through 2017, as noted by Dan Gettinger, co-director of Bard College's Center for the Study of the Drone. ZDNet reports: Most of the military's 2018 missions fell under the category of "Defense Support of Civil Authorities." That meant responding to requests from the governors of California and Oregon for support during last year's wildfire season, as well as helping the South Carolina National Guard with its Hurricane Florence flood response. Defense Department drones were also on call throughout 2018 to provide Southern Border support for a regiment of the Army. In 2018, the military also used its unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in three cases to provide Defense Department installation and airspace support. It also responded to a request from the governor of New York for support during an emergency response training exercise. And for five months during the fiscal year, it used drones to support the US Customs and Border Patrol's counterdrug operations.

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Bill Gates Promises Congress $1 Billion To Build Nuclear Reactors For Fighting Climate Change

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2019-01-27 07:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: Bill Gates thinks he has a key part of the answer for combating climate change: a return to nuclear power... Gates, who founded TerraPower in 2006, is telling lawmakers that he personally would invest $1 billion and raise $1 billion more in private capital to go along with federal funds for a pilot of his company's never-before-used technology, according to congressional staffers. "Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that's available 24 hours a day," Gates said in his year-end public letter. "The problems with today's reactors, such as the risk of accidents, can be solved through innovation." Gates's latest push comes at an important turn in climate politics. Nuclear power has united both unpopular industry executives and a growing number of people -- including some prominent Democrats -- alarmed about climate change. But many nuclear experts say that Gates's company is pursuing a flawed technology and that any new nuclear design is likely to come at a prohibitive economic cost and take decades to perfect, market and construct in any significant numbers... Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said TerraPower is one of many companies that is raising the public's hopes for advanced nuclear reactor designs even though they're still on the drawing boards and will remain unable to combat climate change for many years. Jonah Goldman, of Gates Ventures, stressed to The Post that Gates was not advocating for TerraPower alone, according to GeekWire. "Gates thinks the U.S. has 'the best minds, the best lab systems and entrepreneurs willing to take risk,' Goldman told the newspaper. 'But what we don't have is a commitment on Congress' part.'"

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Advocacy Groups Are Pushing The FTC To Break Up Facebook

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2019-01-27 04:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Advocacy groups are calling for Facebook to be broken up as a result of its Cambridge Analytica scandal, subsequent privacy violations, and repeated consumer data breaches. Groups like Open Market Institute, Color of Change, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center wrote to the Federal Trade Commission Thursday requesting a major government intervention into how Facebook operates. The letter outlined several moves the FTC could take, including a multibillion-dollar fine, reforming the company's hiring practices, and most importantly, breaking up one of the most powerful social media companies for abusing its market position... According to organizations like Open Market Institute and Color of Change, Facebook should be required to give up $2 billion and divest ownership of Instagram and WhatsApp for failing to protect user data on those platforms as well. "Given that Facebook's violations are so numerous in scale, severe in nature, impactful for such a large portion of the American public and central to the company's business model, and given the company's massive size and influence over American consumers," the letter reads, "penalties and remedies that go far beyond the Commission's recent actions are called for."

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Russian YouTube-Ripping Site Wins In US Court

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2019-01-27 00:34
An anonymous reader quotes TorrentFreak: YouTube rippers are seen as the largest piracy threat to the music industry, and record labels are doing their best to shut them down. In 2017, YouTube-MP3, the world's largest ripping site at the time, shut down after being sued, and several other folded in response to increased legal uncertainty. Not all stream-ripping sites throw in the towel without a fight though. FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com, owned by Russian developer Tofig Kurbanov, remained online despite being sued by several record labels last August.... According to the defense, the court has no jurisdiction over the matter. Only a small fraction of the visitors come from the US, and the site is managed entirely from Russia, it argued.... Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton ruled on the matter. In a 14-page opinion, he clearly sides with the operator of the YouTube rippers. Kurbanov doesn't have to stand trial in the U.S. so the case was dismissed. Billboard notes that the site was the 322nd most-visited web site in the world last year (for the 12 months ending in September, according to court documents) -- and that nearly 10 percent of the site's traffic -- 26.3 million visitors -- came from the U.S, including 500,000 from Virginia.

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State of Emergency Declared in Washington State Over Measles Outbreak

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-01-26 22:34
An anonymous reader quotes CBS News: The governor of Washington state declared a state of emergency Friday over a measles outbreak that has sickened dozens of people in a county with one of the state's lowest vaccination rates. Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that the outbreak in Clark County "creates an extreme public health risk" that could spread throughout the state... Clark County Public Health has confirmed 30 measles cases since January 1 and identified another nine suspected cases. Twenty-six of the confirmed cases were people who were not immunized for measles, the agency said... Only 77.4 percent of all public students there complete their vaccinations, according to state records cited by the Oregonian...Most of the confirmed cases -- 21 -- were with children between 1 and 10 years old. Eight cases involved people 11 to 18 years old, and one case was someone 19 to 29. Time magazines also reports that authorities in the neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho "have issued warnings to residents." In November the World Health Organization warned that measles cases worldwide had jumped more than 30% from 2016 to 2017, according to AFP, "in part because of children not being vaccinated."

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Canada's Ambassador To China Hopes US Won't Extradite Huawei Exec, Gets Fired

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-01-26 19:34
First, a Canadian diplomat on Thursday contradicted what he'd said on Wednesday, according to a story shared by hackingbear: John McCallum, Canada's ambassador in China, appeared to provide legal advice to Meng Wanzhou, who is fighting extradition to the U.S. over fraud allegations. Saying she had a "strong case", McCallum outlined numerous weaknesses of the legal proceedings: political interference from Donald Trump, the extraterritorial nature of the charges and the fact that Canada is not party to American sanctions against Iran. "I regret that my comments with respect to the legal proceedings of Ms Meng have created confusion. I misspoke," McCallum said in a statement released late on Thursday afternoon. "These comments do not accurately represent my position on the issue. As the government has consistently made clear, there has been no political involvement in this process." But ABC News reports that the same diplomat then said Friday that it would be "great" for Canada if the U.S. dropped its extradition request, "in what seem like off script remarks again...." "The Canadian government didn't return multiple messages in response to questions about whether McCallum is speaking for the Canadian government." UPDATE (1/26/2019): "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has fired Canada's ambassador to China, John McCallum," reports the BBC.

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'This Time It's Russia's Emails Getting Leaked'

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-01-26 18:34
"Russian oligarchs and Kremlin apparatchiks may find the tables turned on them," writes Kevin Poulsen at The Daily Beast, reporting on a new leak site that's unleashed "a compilation of hundreds of thousands of hacked emails and gigabytes of leaked documents." "Think of it as WikiLeaks, but without Julian Assange's aversion to posting Russian secrets." Slashdot reader hyades1 shared their report: The site, Distributed Denial of Secrets, was founded last month by transparency activists. Co-founder Emma Best said the Russian leaks, slated for release Friday, will bring into one place dozens of different archives of hacked material that, at best, have been difficult to locate, and in some cases appear to have disappeared entirely from the web. "Stuff from politicians, journalists, bankers, folks in oligarch and religious circles, nationalists, separatists, terrorists operating in Ukraine," said Best, a national-security journalist and transparency activist. "Hundreds of thousands of emails, Skype and Facebook messages, along with lots of docs...." The site is a kind of academic library or a museum for leak scholars, housing such diverse artifacts as the files North Korea stole from Sony in 2014, and a leak from the Special State Protection Service of Azerbaijan. The site's Russia section already includes a leak from Russia's Ministry of the Interior, portions of which detailed the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine at a time when the Kremlin was denying a military presence there. Though some material from that leak was published in 2014, about half of it wasn't, and WikiLeaks reportedly rejected a request to host the files two years later, at a time when Julian Assange was focused on exposing Democratic Party documents passed to WikiLeaks by Kremlin hackers. "A lot of what WikiLeaks will do is organize and re-publish information that's appeared elsewhere," said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley's International Computer Science Institute. "They've never done that with anything out of Russia." The Russian documents were posted simultaneously on the DDoSecrets website and on the Internet Archive, notes the New York Times, adding that the new site has also posted a large archive of internal documents from WikiLeaks itself. "Personally, I am disappointed by what I see as dishonest and egotistic behavior from Julian Assange and WikiLeaks," Best tells the Times. "But she added that she had made the Russian document collection available to WikiLeaks ahead of its public release on Friday, and had posted material favorable to Mr. Assange leaked from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has lived for more than six years to avoid arrest."

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FBI Arrests Three More Men Who Hired 'SWAT' Perpetrator

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-01-26 17:34
"Three men allegedly conspired with admitted 'swatter' Tyler Barriss to make hoax reports of bombs and murders to police departments, high schools and a convention center across the United States, according to three indictments unsealed today," reports America's Department of Justice. An anonymous reader quotes NBC News: The three people charged -- Neal Patel, 23, of Des Plaines, Illinois; Tyler Stewart, 19, of Gulf Breeze, Florida; and Logan Patten, 19, of Greenwood, Missouri -- are not accused in the "swatting" call allegedly made by another man that preceded the police shooting of Andrew Finch, a 28, in Wichita on Dec. 28, 2017. But they are accused of asking the suspect in the fatal Kansas case, Tyler Barriss, through Twitter direct messages to make false reports of bombs or threats of shootings that would trigger a law enforcement response and the evacuation of buildings against other targets, including a high school and a Dallas video game tournament.... Patel allegedly conspired with Barriss to make false reports to police in Milford, Connecticut, in December of 2017, and to make a false bomb threat targeting a video game convention in Dallas, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. Stewart is accused of conspiring with Barriss to make two false bomb threats about a high school in Gurnee, Illinois, in early December of 2017, and Patten is charged with hiring Barriss to "swat" people in Indiana and Ohio, also in December of 2017, and of scheming with Barriss to "swat" a high school in Missouri, according to prosecutors. After this week's arrests, the three men each face up to 15 years in federal prison. Patel allegedly also used "unauthorized" credit cards to pay Barriss -- and now faces two more bank fraud charges which each carry up to 30 years in federal prison. The article also notes that the 25-year-old who actually made the calls -- and the call which led to a fatal shooting in Wichita -- "has agreed to serve a sentence of between 20 and 25 years in federal prison." And the two gamers involved in the dispute which led to that shooting have also been criminally charged.

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FCC Accused of Colluding With Big Cable To Game 5G Legal Challenge

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-01-26 15:00
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Register: U.S. telecoms regulator the FCC has been accused of colluding with companies it is supposed to oversee in order to protect a controversial decision over new 5G networks. Chair of the House Commerce chair, Frank Pallone, has sent a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai asking for copies of communications between the FCC and the big telcos regarding legal challenges to the regulator's 5G order, which forces local governments to charge a flat fee for installing new base stations. In the letter [PDF], Pallone strongly implies that the committee has heard from a whistleblower. "It has come to our attention that certain individuals at the FCC may have urged companies to challenge the order the Commission adopted in order to game the judicial lottery procedure and intimated the agency would look unfavorably towards entities that were not helpful," it reads. In effect, the letter alleges that FCC staff -- almost certainly from Pai's office -- put pressure on the big telcos to challenge an order that is designed to benefit them as a way of gaming the judicial system so the case didn't end up in a court likely to overturn it.

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Millions of Bank Loan and Mortgage Documents Have Leaked Online

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2019-01-26 01:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: [M]illions of documents were found leaking after an exposed Elasticsearch server was found without a password. The documents contained highly sensitive financial data on tens of thousands of individuals who took out loans or mortgages over the past decade with U.S. financial institutions. The documents were converted using a technology called OCR from their original paper documents to a computer readable format and stored in the database, but they weren't easy to read. That said, it was possible to discern names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and other private financial data by anyone who knew where to find the server. Independent security researcher Bob Diachenko and TechCrunch traced the source of the leaking database to a Texas-based data and analytics company, Ascension. When reached, the company said that one of its vendors, OpticsML, a New York-based document management startup, had mishandled the data and was to blame for the data leak. It turns out that data was exposed again -- but this time, it was the original documents. Diachenko found the second trove of data in a separate exposed Amazon S3 storage server, which too was not protected with a password. Anyone who went to an easy-to-guess web address in their web browser could have accessed the storage server to see -- and download -- the files stored inside. The bucket contained 21 files containing 23,000 pages of PDF documents stitched together -- or about 1.3 gigabytes in size. Diachenko said that portions of the data in the exposed Elasticsearch database on Wednesday matched data found in the Amazon S3 bucket, confirming that some or all of the data is the same as what was previously discovered. Like in Wednesday's report, the server contained documents from banks and financial institutions across the U.S., including loans and mortgage agreements. We also found documents from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as W-2 tax forms, loan repayment schedules and other sensitive financial information. Many of the files also contained names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and more.

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Facebook Deliberately Allowed 'Friendly Fraud' To Avoid Harming Revenue

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-01-25 23:55
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Newly unsealed court documents show that Facebook was aware that underage children routinely used their parents' payment information to spend large sums of money on in-game purchases, and the company chose not to fix the problem. For years, it allowed for what it called "friendly fraud" because it feared implementing protections would harm revenue, according to the documents. In 2016, Facebook settled a class-action lawsuit brought by parents of children who were tricked into unwittingly making purchases with real money while playing free video games hosted on the social media platform. Despite its recognition of the problem, internal discussions show that Facebook decided it would be best to fight refund requests and allow the problem to persist. Documents related to the case were placed under seal because Facebook successfully argued that releasing them to the public could harm its business. Reveal, a publication run by the Center for Investigative Reporting, argued that these documents were in the public interest; last week, a judge granted Reveal's request to release the documents. On Thursday night, 135 pages from the court proceedings were unsealed, though Facebook was allowed to maintain some redactions.

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The Messy Truth About Infiltrating Computer Supply Chains

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-01-25 22:36
In October last year, Bloomberg Businessweek published an alarming story: Operatives working for China's People's Liberation Army had secretly implanted microchips into motherboards made in China and sold by U.S.-based Supermicro. While Bloomberg's story -- which has been challenged by numerous players -- may well be completely (or partly) wrong, the danger of China compromising hardware supply chains is very real, judging from classified intelligence documents, reports The Intercept. From the report: U.S. spy agencies were warned about the threat in stark terms nearly a decade ago and even assessed that China was adept at corrupting the software bundled closest to a computer's hardware at the factory, threatening some of the U.S. government's most sensitive machines, according to documents provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents also detail how the U.S. and its allies have themselves systematically targeted and subverted tech supply chains, with the NSA conducting its own such operations, including in China, in partnership with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The documents also disclose supply chain operations by German and French intelligence. What's clear is that supply chain attacks are a well-established, if underappreciated, method of surveillance -- and much work remains to be done to secure computing devices from this type of compromise. "An increasing number of actors are seeking the capability to target ... supply chains and other components of the U.S. information infrastructure," the intelligence community stated in a secret 2009 report. "Intelligence reporting provides only limited information on efforts to compromise supply chains, in large part because we do not have the access or technology in place necessary for reliable detection of such operations."

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Illinois Supreme Court Rules Against Six Flags in Lawsuit Over Fingerprint Scans, Says Actual Harm Unnecessary For Biometric Case

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-01-25 20:35
The family of a teenager whose fingerprint data was collected in 2014 when he bought a season pass to Six Flags Great America had the right to sue the amusement park company under an Illinois privacy law, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday. Chicago Tribune reports: The case is being closely watched by tech giants such as Facebook, who have pushed back against the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The law requires companies collecting information such as facial, fingerprint and iris scans to obtain prior consent from consumers or employees, detailing how they'll use the data and how long the records will be kept. It also allows private citizens to sue, while other states let only the attorney general bring a lawsuit. The opinion, which overturns an appeals court ruling in favor of Six Flags, has the potential to effect biometrics lawsuits playing out in courtrooms across the country. The Illinois law is one of the strictest of its kind in the nation and has turned the state into a hotbed of lawsuits over alleged misuses of biometric data. Privacy experts say protecting that type of information is critical because, unlike a credit card or bank account number, it's permanent. The National Law Review adds: In short, individuals need not allege actual injury or adverse effect, beyond a violation of his/her rights under BIPA, in order to qualify as an "aggrieved" person and be entitled to seek liquidated damages, attorneys fees and costs, and injunctive relief under the Act. Potential damages are substantial as the BIPA provides for statutory damages of $1,000 per negligent violation or $5,000 per intentional or reckless violation of the Act. To date, no Illinois court has interpreted the meaning of "per violation," but the majority of BIPA suits have been brought as class actions seeking statutory damages on behalf of each individual affected.

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US Patent Operations May Shut Down In Second Week of February

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-01-25 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said it may have to cease patent operations in the second week of February if the partial government shutdown continues, though it has money for trademark work through mid-April. Any furlough of staff could mean significant delays in reviewing the tens of thousands of applications on inventions for things like telecommunications hardware and the next cutting-edge medical treatments. Now it takes on average 15.8 months before a patent applicant can expect a preliminary response from an examiner. More than 640,000 patent applications were filed in fiscal 2018. The patent office, part of the Commerce Department, is funded entirely by user fees and gets no tax dollars, but it requires an appropriation from Congress to spend the money it collects. In fiscal 2018, it had a budget of $3.3 billion and has asked for $3.5 billion for fiscal 2019. The patent office sets aside authorized money in what's called an operating reserve to account for "temporary changes in our cash flow" and that's what it has been using to stay open since the partial shutdown began Dec. 22. At the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, it said it had 1.3 months of operating expenses for patent operations and 4.9 months of expenses for trademark operations.

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Google Asks Supreme Court To Rule On When Code Can Be Copyrighted

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2019-01-25 01:00
Google is asking the Supreme Court to make the final call in its infamous dispute with Oracle. "Today, the company announced it has filed a petition with the Court, asking the justices to determine the boundaries of copyright law in code," reports The Verge. From the report: The case dates back to 2010, when Oracle first accused Google of improperly using elements of Oracle's Java programming language to build Android. Oracle said that Google's use of Java application programing interfaces was a violation of copyright law. Google has responded that APIs are too fundamental to programming to be copyrighted. The case has led to two jury trials, and several rulings have doled out wins and losses to both companies over the course of eight years. Last year, a favorable Oracle decision set Google up to potentially lose billions of dollars. Google asked for a Supreme Court hearing on the case in 2014, but the Court rejected the request at the time. The company says new issues are now at play, and is asking the Court to decide whether software interfaces can be copyrighted, and whether using them to build something new constitutes fair use under the law. In its new petition to the Supreme Court, Google says the case is not only important to copyright law, but has "sheer practical importance," as it centers around two touchstones of computing: Google's Android and Oracle's Java. The Court's intervention could alter the future of software, the company argues.

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