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Microsoft Dropped for Open Source Again in Germany: Hamburg Follows Munich's Lead

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-06-07 05:34
"The trend towards open-source software on government computers is gathering pace in Germany," reports ZDNet: In the latest development, during coalition negotiations in the city-state of Hamburg, politicians have declared they are ready to start moving its civil service software away from Microsoft and towards open-source alternatives. The declaration comes as part of a 200-page coalition agreement between the Social Democratic and Green parties, which will define how Hamburg is run for the next five years. It was presented on Tuesday but has yet to be signed off. The political parties in charge in Hamburg are the same as those in Munich, who recently agreed to revert back to that city's own open-source software. "With this decision, Hamburg joins a growing number of German states and municipalities that have already embarked on this path," said Peter Ganten, chairman of the Open Source Business Alliance, or OSBA, based in Stuttgart. He's referring to similar decisions made in Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia, Bremen, Dortmund, and Munich. But, he adds: "The Hamburg decision is nevertheless remarkable because the city has always been more aggressively oriented towards Microsoft. "In the future we will aim to have more open-source software in digital management [systems] and we also want to develop our own code, which will remain open," the head of the local Hamburg-Mitte branch of the Greens, Farid Mueller, wrote on his website. Hamburg wants to be a leading example of digital independence, he stated. The article also adds a final interesting detail. A Microsoft spokeperson told a Germany technology site "that the company didn't see the desire for more open-source software as an attack on itself. Microsoft now also uses and develops a lot of open source and welcomed fair competition, the spokesperson added."

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New Java-Based Ransomware Targets Linux and Windows Systems

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-06-07 03:34
"A newly uncovered form of ransomware is going after Windows and Linux systems," reports ZDNet, "in what appears to be a targeted campaign." Named Tycoon after references in the code, this ransomware has been active since December 2019 and looks to be the work of cyber criminals who are highly selective in their targeting. The malware also uses an uncommon deployment technique that helps stay hidden on compromised networks. The main targets of Tycoon are organisations in the education and software industries. Tycoon has been uncovered and detailed by researchers at BlackBerry working with security analysts at KPMG. It's an unusual form of ransomware because it's written in Java, deployed as a trojanised Java Runtime Environment and is compiled in a Java image file (Jimage) to hide the malicious intentions... [T]he first stage of Tycoon ransomware attacks is less uncommon, with the initial intrusion coming via insecure internet-facing Remote Desktop Protocol servers. This is a common attack vector for malware campaigns and it often exploits servers with weak or previously compromised passwords. Once inside the network, the attackers maintain persistence by using Image File Execution Options (IFEO) injection settings that more often provide developers with the ability to debug software. The attackers also use privileges to disable anti-malware software using ProcessHacker in order to stop removal of their attack... After execution, the ransomware encrypts the network with files encrypted by Tycoon given extensions including .redrum, .grinch and .thanos — and the attackers demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. The attackers ask for payment in bitcoin and claim the price depends on how quickly the victim gets in touch via email. The fact the campaign is still ongoing suggests that those behind it are finding success extorting payments from victims.

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Joe Biden Formally Clinches Democratic Nomination

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-06-06 06:32
Joe Biden has had a clear path to the Democratic Party's presidential nomination ever since Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the 2020 race in early April. His path to the nomination reached another milestone tonight as the former Vice President officially secured the delegates needed to win. NPR reports: [T]he 78-year-old, who served as Delaware's U.S. Senator for decades before becoming vice president in 2009, will be his party's standard bearer against President Trump. Biden reached the benchmark as he has started to re-emerge on the campaign trial outside of his home, addressing twin crises that appear to be contributing to his lead over Trump in national polls, as well as in battleground states. The AP delegate estimate reached the magic number of 1,991 delegates for Biden as seven states and the District of Columbia continue counting votes from Tuesday's primaries. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who conceded and endorsed Biden in April while remaining on the ballot, failed to reach the 15% threshold to receive delegates in several contests, giving Biden more delegates than many political observers expected him to secure this week. NPR says Biden "wrapped up the nomination in practical terms faster than any Democrat since John Kerry in 2004."

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States Are Leaning Toward a Push To Break Up Google's Ad Tech Business

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-06-05 22:50
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The state attorneys general investigating Google for potential antitrust violations are leaning towards pushing for a breakup of its ad technology business as part of an expected suit, people familiar with the situation told CNBC. Fifty attorneys general have been probing Google's business practices for months, alongside a similar probe being led by the U.S. Department of Justice. Both the states and the DOJ are looking to file a suit against the internet giant as soon as within the next few months, people familiar with the situation told CNBC. The states and the Justice Department have not yet officially decided whether to combine their expected suits, the people said, though they have been collaborating closely. Both have been investigating Google's search, ad technology and android business. The attorneys general investigating Google, which is owned by Alphabet, haven't yet definitively ruled out pushing for alternatives for its ad technology business, like imposing restrictions on how it runs its business, one of the sources said. A suit may also include a push for both that option and breaking up the ad tech business. "Critics have said that Google bundles its ad tools so that rivals can't afford to match its offerings and that its operation of search results, YouTube, Gmail and other services to hinder ad competition," reports CNBC. "They also say that Google owns all sides of the 'auction exchange' through which ads are sold and bought, giving it an unfair advantage." Google's two main deals that provided it the crucial foothold into advertising technology, DoubleClick in 2007 and AdMob in 2009, were years ago. Because of this, it may be difficult for Google to push for a break up of the business.

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Matthew Green on Zoom Not Offering End-To-End Encryption To Free Users

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-06-05 20:42
Earlier this week video conferencing service Zoom said it will not offer its forthcoming, complete version of end-to-end encryption to its free users so that it can work better with law enforcement to curb abuse on the platform. Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins, looks at the broader implication of this move: Obviously I don't think you should have to pay for E2E encryption. The thing that's really concerning me is that there's a strong push from the US and other governments to block the deployment of new E2E encryption. You can see this in William Barr's "open letter to Facebook." But this is part of an older trend. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies can't get Congress to ban E2E, so they're using all the non-legislative tools they have to try to stop it. And, it turns out, this works. Not against the big entrenched providers who have already deployed E2E. But against the new upstarts who want to use crypto to solve trust problems. And the Federal government has an enormous amount of power. Power over tools like Section 230. Power to create headaches for people. But even without Congressional assistance, the executive branch has vast power to make procurement and certification decisions. So if you're a firm that wants to deploy E2E to your customers, even if there's a pressing need, you face the specter of going to war with an immensely powerful government that has very strong negative feelings about broad access to encryption. And this is a huge problem. Because some companies have infrastructure all over the world. Some companies carry incredibly valuable and sensitive corporate data (even at their "free" tiers) and there are people who want that data. Encryption is an amazing tool to protect it. The amazing thing about this particular moment is that, thanks to a combination of the pandemic forcing us all online, more people than ever are directly exposed by this. "Communications security" isn't something that only activists and eggheads care about. Now for companies that are exposed to this corrupt dynamic, there's an instinct to try to bargain. Split the baby in half. Deploy E2E encryption, but only maybe a little of it. E2E for some users, like paying customers and businesses, but not for everyone. And there's some logic to this position. The worst crimes, like distribution of child abuse media, happen in the free accounts. So restricting E2E to paid accounts seems like an elegant compromise, a way to avoid getting stepped on by a dragon. But I personally think this is a mistake. Negotiating with a dragon never ends well. And throwing free-tier users into the dragon's mouth feels even worse. But the real takeaway, and why I hope maybe this issue will matter to you, is that if the Federal government is able to intimidate one company into compromising your security. Then what's going to happen to the next company? And the next? Once the precedent is set that E2E encryption is too "dangerous" to hand to the masses, the genie is out of the bottle. And once corporate America accepts that private communications are too politically risky to deploy, it's going to be hard to put it back. Anyway, this might be an interesting academic debate if we were in normal times. But we're not. Anyone who looks at the state of our government and law enforcement systems -- and feels safe with them reading all our messages -- is living in a very different world than I am.

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Slack Removed a Blog Post Showing How Police Use its Tech

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-06-05 18:10
Slack recently deleted one of the company's own blog posts that explained how a local police department used the chat platform to share intelligence. From a report: The move came after some Black Slack employees flagged the blog post years ago, one employee suggested on Twitter. Slack removed the post in the past few days in the wake of widespread protests about police brutality after a white police officer killed unarmed Black man George Floyd. "These days, the Hartford Police Department's intelligence sharing is primarily coordinated over Slack with more than 450 investigators and officers from all over the state, "the blog post read, referring to Hartford, Connecticut, according to archived and cached versions viewed by Motherboard. The post explained how the police department used Slack to post updates in a #department-wide channel, and use other channels such as #narcotics, #crimes, and #BOLO (be on the lookout). Sometimes the officers used Slack to track specific crimes, such as ATM robberies, the post added. The Slack team hosted over 450 members across 75 agencies and states, according to the post.

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Instagram Just Threw Users of Its Embedding API Under the Bus

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-06-05 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Instagram does not provide users of its embedding API a copyright license to display embedded images on other websites, the company said in a Thursday email to Ars Technica. The announcement could come as an unwelcome surprise to users who believed that embedding images, rather than hosting them directly, provides insulation against copyright claims. "While our terms allow us to grant a sub-license, we do not grant one for our embeds API," a Facebook company spokesperson told Ars in a Thursday email. "Our platform policies require third parties to have the necessary rights from applicable rights holders. This includes ensuring they have a license to share this content, if a license is required by law." In plain English, before you embed someone's Instagram post on your website, you may need to ask the poster for a separate license to the images in the post. If you don't, you could be subject to a copyright lawsuit. Professional photographers are likely to cheer the decision, since it will strengthen their hand in negotiations with publishers. But it could also significantly change the culture of the Web. Until now, people have generally felt free to embed Instagram posts on their own sites without worrying about copyright concerns. That might be about to change. Instagram's announcement follows a recent court ruling where photographer Elliot McGucken sued Newsweek for copyright infringement for embedding his post on their site without permission. "Newsweek countered that it didn't need McGucken's permission because it could get rights indirectly via Instagram," reports Ars Technica. "Instagram's terms of service require anyone uploading photos to provide a copyright license to Instagram -- including the right to sublicense the same rights to other users. Newsweek argued that that license extends to users of Instagram's embedding technology, like Newsweek." "But in a surprise ruling (PDF) on Monday, Judge Katherine Failla refused to dismiss McGucken's lawsuit at a preliminary stage," the report adds. "She held that there wasn't enough evidence in the record to decide whether Instagram's terms of service provided a copyright license for embedded photos." The report goes on to note that courts have previously "ruled against plaintiffs in embedding cases based on the 'server test,' which holds that liability goes to whomever runs the server that actually delivers infringing content to the user -- in this case, Instagram." It adds: "Instagram's decision to throw users of its embedding API under the bus makes the server test crucial for cases like this."

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Musk Says 'Time To Break Up Amazon,' Escalating Feud With Bezos

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-06-05 00:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said it's "time to break up Amazon" in a tweet Thursday, escalating a rivalry with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, another billionaire investing in space exploration. "Monopolies are wrong," Musk tweeted while tagging Bezos, the world's wealthiest man. Musk's post came in response to a tweet from a writer who said his book titled "Unreported Truths About COVID-19 and The Lockdown" was being removed from Amazon's Kindle publishing division for violating unspecified guidelines. The book that was removed by Amazon was written by lockdown critic and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson. "Due to the rapidly changing nature of information around the COVID-19 virus, we are referring customers to official sources for health information about the virus," Amazon said to Berenson. "Please consider removing references to COVID-19 for this book." In comments to Breitbart News, Berenson explained the topic of his now-censored e-book on the coronavirus, calling it "An introduction and a discussion of death coding, death counts, and who is really dying from COVID, as well as a worst-case estimate of deaths with no mitigation efforts." Berenson added, "I briefly considered censorship but assumed I wouldn't have a problem both because of my background, because anyone who reads the booklet will realize it is impeccably sourced, nary a conspiracy theory to be found, and frankly because Amazon shouldn't be censoring anything that doesn't explicitly help people commit criminal behavior. [...] I have no idea if the decision was made by a person, an automated system, or a combination (i.e. the system flags anything with COVID-19 or coronavirus in the title and then a person decides on the content)."

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Incognito Mode Detection Still Works in Chrome Despite Promise To Fix

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-06-04 23:20
Websites are still capable of detecting when a visitor is using Chrome's incognito (private browsing) mode, despite Google's efforts last year to disrupt the practice. From a report: It is still possible to detect incognito mode in Chrome, and all the other Chromium-based browsers, such as Edge, Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave, all of which share the core of Chrome's codebase. Furthermore, developers have taken the scripts shared last year and have expanded support to non-Chrome browsers, such as Firefox and Safari, allowing sites to block users in incognito mode across the board. Currently, there is no deadline for a new Chrome update to block incognito mode detections, however, today, Google might be interested more than ever in fixing this issue.

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Signal Launches Face-Blurring Tool as US Protesters Embrace Encrypted Messaging

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-06-04 18:40
Law enforcement officials across the U.S. have already revealed that they will leverage facial recognition technology to retroactively target protesters following the killing of George Floyd, with police asking the public for footage and photos. Against this backdrop, Signal is introducing a new feature that can automatically obfuscate faces shared within the encrypted messaging app, as the company says it's "working hard to keep up with the increased traffic" from protesters. From a report: Moving forward, Signal users will be able to activate a feature in the main photo editing toolbox that will automatically blur all faces it identifies in an image. As with many automated computer vision tools, Signal doesn't claim that its face-blurring smarts are 100% effective. It may not identify all faces in a photo, which is why users can manually obscure faces by drawing the blur brush across each face with their finger.

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Germany Bans Digital Doppelganger Passport Photos

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-06-04 03:25
Germany will outlaw the morphing of passport photos, in which pictures of two people are digitally combined, making it possible to assign multiple identities to a single document. Reuters reports: Morphing can trick artificial intelligence used at passport control into recognizing different individuals. The government on Wednesday backed a law requiring people to either have their photo taken at a passport office or, if they use a photographer, have it submitted in digital form over a secure connection, spokesman Steffen Seibert said. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics have found that it is possible to morph photos of the faces of different people who are not even related. A certain degree of similarity is sufficient, such as the eyes being aligned. Such manipulation of photos is typically invisible to the human eye, the researchers found.

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Frontier Users Must Pay 'Rental' Fee For Equipment They Own Until December

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-06-04 02:02
An anonymous reader writes: Broadband and TV providers can keep charging "rental" fees for equipment that customers own themselves until December 2020, thanks to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that delays implementation of a new law. A law approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in December 2019 prohibits providers from charging device-rental fees when customers use their own equipment, and it was originally scheduled to take effect on June 20. As we've written, this law will help Frontier customers who have been forced to pay $10 monthly fees for equipment they don't use and, in some cases, have never even received. But the law gave the FCC discretion to extend the deadline by six months if the commission "finds that good cause exists for such an additional extension," and the FCC has done just that. The FCC ruling on April 3 (PDF), which we didn't notice at the time, extends the deadline to December 20 and says that providers need more time to comply because of the coronavirus pandemic: "As the nation tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service are among the entities that are integral to the Commission's ongoing, nationwide effort to keep Americans informed and connected during this national emergency. So that these service providers may focus their resources on this critical effort, we provide appropriate flexibility for MVPDs and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service to fulfill their obligations under the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (TVPA)... we find that good cause exists for granting a blanket extension of section 642's effective date until December 20, 2020."

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Governments and WHO Changed COVID-19 Policy Based On Suspect Data From Tiny US Company

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-06-04 00:40
AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known U.S. healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world's most prestigious medical journals. Surgisphere, whose employees appear to include a sci-fi writer and adult content model, provided the database behind Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine hydroxychloroquine studies. Data it claims to have legitimately obtained from more than a thousand hospitals worldwide formed the basis of scientific articles that have led to changes in Covid-19 treatment policies in Latin American counties. It was also behind a decision by the WHO and research institutes around the world to halt trials of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine. Late on Tuesday, the Lancet released an "expression of concern" about its published study. The New England Journal of Medicine has also issued a similar notice. According to an independent audit by authors not affiliated with Surgisphere, the article includes a list of "concerns that have been raised about the reliability of the database." Some of the main points include: Surgisphere's employees have little or no data or scientific background; While Surgisphere claims to run one of the largest and fastest growing hospital databases in the world, it has almost no online presence; and The firm's chief executive, Sapan Desai, has been named in three medical malpractice suits.

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From RealPlayer To Toshiba, Tech Companies Cash in on the Facial Recognition Gold Rush

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-06-03 22:05
At least 45 companies now advertise real-time facial recognition. From a report: More than a decade before Spotify, and years before iTunes, there was RealPlayer, the first mainstream solution to playing and streaming media to a PC. Launched in 1995, within five years RealPlayer claimed a staggering 95 million users. [...] RealPlayer is still very much alive. Now called RealNetworks, a vast majority of its revenue still comes from licensing media software. But the company has also begun dabbling in an industry that's suddenly attracting hundreds of firms, most of which operate outside public scrutiny: facial recognition. Through a startup subsidiary called SAFR, RealNetworks now offers facial recognition for everything from K-12 schools to military drones. The company even claims to have launched a surveillance project in Sao Paulo, Brazil that analyzes video from 2,500 cameras. SAFR has also licensed its technology to Wolfcom, a body camera company that is currently building real-time facial recognition into its products. As first reported by OneZero, Wolfcom's push to bring live facial recognition to hundreds of police departments represents the first such effort within the United States. Though RealNetworks' earnings reports say SAFR doesn't generate significant revenue yet, RealPlayer's evolution is part of a trend of both large global tech companies and small upstart firms becoming key players in the sprawling facial recognition industrial complex. Over the last decade, Japanese tech firm NEC grew a burgeoning division focused on biometrics, alongside its 100-year-old hardware business. Toshiba, best known for making PCs, claims to be running more than 1,000 facial recognition projects around the world, including identity verification systems at security checkpoints in Russia and for law enforcement in Southeast Asia. Even software contractor Microfocus, one of a handful of companies keeping the aging COBOL language alive, is working on making facial recognition that can scale to thousands of CCTV cameras. While many of these companies sell facial recognition technology to verify people's identities in an app, an increasing number are investing in a burgeoning subset of the industry: real-time surveillance, or the ability to recognize individuals in live video footage. Such systems are being sold for law enforcement, military, and security purposes. Many of these companies operate in obscurity, and have never been profiled or scrutinized before.

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Zoom Won't Encrypt Free Calls Because it Wants To Comply With Law Enforcement

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-06-03 16:00
If you're a free Zoom user, and waiting for the company to roll out end-to-end encryption for better protection of your calls, you're out of luck. From a report: Free calls won't be encrypted, and law enforcement will be able to access your information in case of 'misuse' of the platform. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan today said that the video conferencing app's upcoming end-to-end encryption feature will be available to only paid users.

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DEA Authorized To Conduct Surveillance On Protesters

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-06-03 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: The Drug Enforcement Administration has been granted sweeping new authority to "conduct covert surveillance" and collect intelligence on people participating in protests over the police killing of George Floyd, according to a two-page memorandum obtained by BuzzFeed News. Floyd's death "has spawned widespread protests across the nation, which, in some instances, have included violence and looting," said the DEA memo. "Police agencies in certain areas of the country have struggled to maintain and/or restore order." The memo requests the extraordinary powers on a temporary basis, and on Sunday afternoon a senior Justice Department official signed off. The DEA is limited by statute to enforcing drug related federal crimes. But on Sunday, Timothy Shea, a former US Attorney and close confidant of Barr who was named acting administrator of the DEA last month, received approval from Associate Deputy Attorney General G. Bradley Weinsheimer to go beyond the agency's mandate "to perform other law enforcement duties" that Barr may "deem appropriate." In addition to "covert surveillance," the memo indicates that DEA agents would be authorized to share intelligence with local and state law enforcement authorities, to "intervene" to "protect both participants and spectators in the protests," and to conduct interviews and searches, and arrest protesters who are alleged to have violated federal law. Here's why Shea says the agency should be granted extraordinary latitude: "In order for DEA to assist to the maximum extent possible in the federal law enforcement response to protests which devolve into violations of federal law, DEA requests that it be designated to enforce any federal crime committed as a result of protests over the death of George Floyd," Shea wrote in the memo. "DEA requests this authority on a nationwide basis for a period of fourteen days."

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The 50 Years of Crowd Control Research Police Are Ignoring

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-06-03 09:00
Thelasko shares an excerpt from FiveThirtyEight: Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protesters and crowds of police behave -- and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force -- wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protesters -- it doesn't work. In fact, disproportionate police force is one of the things that can make a peaceful protest not so peaceful. But if we know that (and have known that for decades), why are police still doing it? There's 50 years of research on violence at protests, dating back to the three federal commissions formed between 1967 and 1970. All three concluded that when police escalate force -- using weapons, tear gas, mass arrests and other tools to make protesters do what the police want -- those efforts can often go wrong, creating the very violence that force was meant to prevent. For example, the Kerner Commission, which was formed in 1967 to specifically investigate urban riots, found that police action was pivotal in starting half of the 24 riots the commission studied in detail. It recommended that police eliminate "abrasive policing tactics" and that cities establish fair ways to address complaints against police. Experts say the following decades of research have turned up similar findings. Escalating force by police leads to more violence, not less. It tends to create feedback loops, where protesters escalate against police, police escalate even further, and both sides become increasingly angry and afraid. Anne Nassauer, a professor of sociology at Freie Universitat in Berlin, has studied how the Berlin Police Department handles protests and soccer matches. She found that one key element is transparent communication -- something Nassauer said helps increase trust and diffuse potentially tense moments. The Berlin police employs people specifically to make announcements in these situations, using different speakers, with local accents or different languages, for things like information about what police are doing, and another speaker for commands. Either way, the messages are delivered in a calm, measured voice. Communication is also a cornerstone of what police know as "the Madison Model," created by former Madison, Wisconsin, chief of police David Couper. His strategy for dealing with protesters was to send officers out to talk with demonstrators, engage, ask them why protests are made, listen to their concerns and, above all, empathize. The report notes that many police departments in the U.S. did try different strategies in the 1980s and 1990s, but they ultimately ended up responding with force anyway. "The 'negotiated management' model of protest policing called for officers to meet with protesters in advance to plan events together to specify the times, locations and activities that would happen, even when that included mass arrests," reports FiveThirtyEight. "But the era of negotiated management basically fell apart after the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, when protesters blocked streets, broke windows and successfully shut down the WTO meeting and stalled trade talks. When protesters violated the negotiated terms, police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets and took away the wrong lessons, [said Edward Maguire, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University]. 'What a lot of people took from that in policing is, we can't trust these people. We need to be smarter and overwhelm them to nip these things in the bud," he said. 'We sort of went backwards.'"

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Google Faces $5 Billion Lawsuit In US For Tracking 'Private' Internet Use

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-06-03 02:45
Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in "private" mode. Reuters reports: The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet unit of collecting information about what people view online and where they do their browsing, despite using what Google calls Incognito mode. The complaint said Google surreptitiously collects data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads. This helps the Mountain View, California-based company learn details about users' friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the "most intimate and potentially embarrassing things" they search for online, the complaint said. Google "cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone," the complaint said. The complaint said the proposed class likely includes "millions" of Google users who since June 1, 2016 browsed the internet in "private" mode. It seeks damages per user of $5,000 or three times actual damages, whichever is greater, for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.

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Senators Introduce COVID-19 Contact-Tracing Privacy Bill

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-06-03 01:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: A group of U.S. senators on Monday introduced a bill to regulate contact-tracing apps, aiming to protect user privacy as technology is used to track the spread of the novel coronavirus. The proposal is called the Exposure Notification Privacy Act and seeks to ensure that people couldn't be forced to use the technology. It also would make sure that the data isn't used for advertising or commercial purposes and that people can delete their data. The bill seeks to require that notification systems only rely on "an authorized diagnosis" that came from medical organization. "Public health needs to be in charge of any notification system so we protect people's privacy and help them know when there is a warning that they might have been exposed to COVID-19," Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington and one of the bill's sponsors, said in a comment provided to CNET. Cantwell's co-sponsor on the bill is Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, also has given her support. "We need to regulate apps that provide COVID-19 exposure notification to protect a user's privacy, prevent data misuse and preserve our civil rights -- and this bill offers a roadmap for doing all three," Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Sara Collins said in a statement. "The bill marks a valuable first step in the long road ahead to protecting Americans' data."

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Lawsuit Says Trump's Social Media Crackdown Violates Free Speech

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2020-06-02 23:25
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: President Trump's crackdown on social media companies faced a new legal challenge on Tuesday, as a technology policy organization claimed in a lawsuit that he violated the companies' right to free speech with his executive order aimed at curtailing their legal protections. The nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology says in the suit that Mr. Trump's attempt to unwind a federal law that grants social media companies discretion over the content they allow on their platforms was retaliatory and would have a chilling effect on the companies. The lawsuit -- filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia -- is indicative of the pushback that the president is likely to face as he escalates his fight with social media companies, which he has accused of bias against conservative voices. It asks the court to invalidate the executive order. [...] "President Trump -- by publicly attacking Twitter and issuing the order -- sought to chill future online speech by other speakers," its filing said. The center added, "The order clouds the legal landscape in which the hosts of third-party content operate and puts them all on notice that content moderation decisions with which the government disagrees could produce penalties and retributive actions, including stripping them of Section 230's protections."

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