Politics, Rights

Al Jazeera journalists teargassed by security forces – in Ferguson, Missouri, USA

Here is a sentence that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever followed even a little news out of the Middle East:

Journalists from the Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera were attacked by state security forces today and blanketed in tear gas, as they attempted to film an ongoing protest; this is the latest in a string of attacks on journalists by security forces.

Now see if you can guess the country. It’s not Egypt. Not Tunisia.

Nope: this happened, exactly as described, in the United States of America on Wednesday night, in the Missouri town of Ferguson. Here is the video of Al Jazeera America journalists in Ferguson being clearly targeted with tear gas by Ferguson police (apologies for the poor quality) — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Crypto Daddy Phil Zimmerman says surveillance society is DOOMED

A killer combination of rapidly advancing technology and a desire for greater privacy among the public should condemn current surveillance state to an historical anachronism, according to PGP creator Phil Zimmermann.

In an extended talk at Defcon 22 in Las Vegas, Zimmermann said it might seem as though the intelligence agencies have the whip hand at the moment but mankind had faced this situation before. He also said the abolition of slavery and absolute monarchy, and the achievement for civil rights, also once looked unlikely but were achieved.

Zimmermann praised the release of information by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying his efforts have alerted the populace to the real state of affairs and made people much more concerned about privacy. The revelations had also forced the technology industry to up its game and provide products to meet that demand, he opined — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights, Technology

Google Protects Chilling Effects From Takedown Notices

Chilling Effects is the largest public repository of DMCA notices on the planet, providing a unique insight into the Internet’s copyright battles. However, each month people try to de-index pages of the site but Google has Chilling Effects’ back and routinely rejects copyright claims — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Brandis proposes website blocking and piracy crackdown

A leaked discussion paper from both Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has floated the possibility of websites being blocked, and measures to compel ISPs to take steps to prevent their customers infringing on copyright online.

Five months after first flagging a crackdown was on its way, Brandis appears to be pushing ahead with plans to crack down on Australians using programs such as BitTorrent to obtain copyright-infringing content such as TV shows, music, and films.

The discussion paper, leaked to Crikey, had been expected to be released this month, following Brandis meeting with representatives in the US and UK governments on their respective copyright infringement deterrence schemes.

It outlines a number of potential legislative measures the government can implement to deter what the paper said is a long standing issue with Australians having high illegal download rates.

The government states in the document that it believes even if an ISP doesn’t have a direct power to prevent its users from infringing on copyright, there are reasonable steps it can take to deter infringement.

In a move to undo the 2012 High Court judgment that iiNet did not authorise its users’ copyright infringement, the paper proposes amending the Copyright Act to extend authorisation of copyright infringement and the power to prevent infringement would just be one factor the courts would consider in determining whether an ISP was liable for infringement — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, World

High Court injunction blocks handover of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka

The High Court has granted an interim injunction to block the handover of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, just hours after the Government confirmed another vessel had been returned.

On Monday the court heard an urgent claim from barristers seeking to protect the group, which includes 32 women and 37 children and is believed to be under the Government’s control at sea.

We argued that the asylum seekers are entitled to have their allegations — claims against the Sri Lankan government — heard and processed in accordance with the law, solicitor George Newhouse said.

The Minister can’t simply intercept them in the night and disappear them — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, World

Suspected spy arrested in Germany for passing US information on NSA inquiry

An alleged spy has been arrested in Germany accused of passing the US information from a committee looking into NSA activities.

It has heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries following allegations in the Edward Snowden leaks that the US electronic spy agency tapped Angela Merkel’s phone along with wider surveillance of German citizens.

The German government has not denied reports by Der Spiegel and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the suspected spy was a double agent and worked for Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND.

The newspapers said the man allegedly passed the US information about a German parliamentary committee’s investigation into the NSA’s activities.

He claimed to have worked with US intelligence since 2012, they reported — redwolf.newsvine.com


A Good Man / StoryCorps

Bryan Wilmoth and his seven younger siblings were raised in a strict, religious home. At StoryCorps, Bryan talks with his brother Mike about what it was like to reconnect years after their dad kicked Bryan out for being gay — via Youtube

Rights, Technology

Quora’s misogyny problem: A cautionary tale

Quora’s misogyny problem is a tempest out of the teapot, and it’s a perfect example of why user based websites need to change the way they think about targeted users.

What women have been going through on Quora is harrowing: Harassment and threats, stalking on and off the site, and an atmosphere that enables ongoing targeting with moderators that don’t understand, or help.

That’s because Quora’s baseline of normal behavior around gender is all screwed up — and it was made that way — via redwolf.newsvine.com


Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System

Mark Ciavarella Jr, a 61-year old former judge in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for literally selling young juveniles for cash. He was convicted of accepting money in exchange for incarcerating thousands of adults and children into a prison facility owned by a developer who was paying him under the table. The kickbacks amounted to more than $1 million.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by him between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles — including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10-years old.

Ciavarella was convicted of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also ordered to repay $1.2 million in restitution — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Rise Up Against Govt Anti-Piracy Plans, ISP Urges

Last month Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis labeled his citizens the worst pirates on the planet and vowed to help content holders turn that position around. But Brandis’ industry-leaning position soon became clear as he repeatedly refused to answer questions as to whether he’d properly consulted with consumer groups.

Brandis has, however, consulted deeply with the entertainment industries. His proposals for solving the piracy issue are straight out of the MPAA and RIAA cookbook – three strikes and account terminations for errant Internet users plus ISP blockades of torrent and similar sites.

The reason why the debate over these measures has dragged on so long is down to the defeat of the studios in their legal battle against ISP iiNet. That case failed to render the ISP responsible for the actions of its subscribers and ever since iiNet has provided the most vocal opposition to tough anti-piracy proposals. Today, iiNet Chief Regulatory Officer Steve Dalby underlined that stance with a call for consumers to fight back against foreign interests.

The Hollywood Studios have been relentlessly lobbying the Australian Government on a range of heavy-handed solutions, from a three strikes proposal, through to website filtering — none of which take consumers’ interests into account, Dalby explains.

On three strikes, Dalby notes that even though customers will be expected to pick up the bill for its introduction, there’s no evidence that these schemes have curtailed piracy or increased sales in any other country — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights

Secret tape challenges Manus processing claim

Claims that processing of asylum seekers had been under way for weeks before violence engulfed the Manus Island detention centre are challenged by a secret recording of a meeting of security supervisors as tensions built to crisis point.

During an hour-long briefing of senior staff, the then acting regional manager of security provider G4S, John McCaffery, said he had been told that no refugee-status determinations would take place for the foreseeable future because of lack of funds.

The revelation casts doubt on Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s assertion on January 16 that processing had recommenced on Manus and had been under way for three or four weeks. The recording also reveals that, contrary to stated policy, there were at least three unaccompanied minors among the 1300 detainees on the island before the violence that culminated in the death of Reza Barati and injuries to scores of others — via redwolf.newsvine.com


Woman charged with wiretapping for filming cops wins $57,000 payout

A local New Hampshire police department agreed Thursday to pay a woman who was arrested and charged with wiretapping $57,000 to settle her civil rights lawsuit. The deal comes a week after a federal appeals court ruled that the public has a First Amendment right to film cops.

The plaintiff in the case, Carla Gericke, was arrested on wiretapping allegations in 2010 for filming her friend being pulled over by the Weare Police Department during a late-night traffic stop. Although Gericke was never brought to trial, she sued, alleging that her arrest constituted retaliatory prosecution in breach of her constitutional rights. The department, without admitting wrongdoing, settled Thursday in a move that the woman’s attorney speculated would deter future police retaliation.

Unfortunately, sometimes, the only thing that changes entrenched behaviors is if it becomes too costly to continue those behaviours, attorney Seth Hipple said. This settlement helps to make it clear that government agencies that choose to retaliate against videographers will pay for their retaliation in dollars and cents. We are confident that this settlement will help to make arrests of videographers a thing of the past.

The First US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) in Gericke’s case last week that she was exercising a clearly established First Amendment right when she attempted to film the traffic stop in the absence of a police order to stop filming or leave the area — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Vodafone’s Disclosure Report reveals global scale of mobile phone surveillance

The world’s second largest mobile phone company, Vodafone, says at least six unnamed governments can use its phone system to monitor customers whenever they want.

The company’s Disclosure Report says most governments need legal notices to access its networks, but there are six nations — which is says it cannot name for legal reasons — that have direct access.

It says in those countries authorities have inserted their own equipment into the network or have diverted all data through government systems so they can permanently access customers’ communications.

In a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator’s network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful interception on the part of the operator, the company said.

It added that in Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey it could not disclose any information related to wiretapping or interception — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

MP3, DVD and CD Copying is Now Legal in The UK (For Some)

Most people in the UK may not have realised it, but every time they backed up an MP3 or made a copy of a CD or DVD for personal use, they were breaking the law.

Starting today this is no longer the case for the disabled, thanks to a revision of copyright law that just went into effect. Disabled citizens can now copy and publish copyrighted material if there’s no commercial alternative available.

Disabled people and disability groups can now make accessible copies of copyright material (eg music, film, books) when no commercial alternative exists, the Government announced today.

Previously the Government also said that all private copying for personal use would be legal starting in June, but this has apparently been delayed pending Parliament approval.

However, following a thorough inspection of local copyright legislation the UK Government has already committed to change current laws in favor of consumers — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, World

Students shed clothes and burn debts as push for reform continues

Police on Thursday confiscated a heap of ashes displayed at a Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM) exhibition — allegedly all that remains of US$500 million in pagarés — or debt paper — stolen and burned by artist and activist Francisco Tapia, aka Papas Fritas.

A video by Tapia went viral in student circles earlier this week wherein he confessed to burning the legal papers certifying debt owed by Universidad del Mar students and had thus liberated the students from their debt obligations. The video and its widespread circulation no doubt prompted the police raid at the art exhibit.

It’s over, it’s finished, Tapia said in his impassioned five minute video. You don’t have to pay another peso [of your student loan debt]. We have to lose our fear, our fear of being thought of as criminals because we’re poor. I am just like you, living a shitty life, and I live it day by day — this is my act of love for you.

Although authorities began shutting down Universidad del Mar last year for financial irregularities and encouraged students to seek out alternative universities, the university is still collecting on its student loans.

The destruction of the documents occurred during a toma — student takeover — of the campus and means the embattled university owners must now individually sue each of its students to assure debt payment — a very costly, time-consuming process — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights

CAWB Welcomes Green Ban

Today, in an extraordinary and rarely seen move, the CFMEU, in response to community pleas for help, has placed an historic Green Ban on Thompson Square, Windsor.

Just as, in the early 1970’s, green bans protected Australian architectural heritage and social history; today this venerable and honourable tradition has been called upon in defence of the oldest remaining public square in Australia.

In the 1970’s green bans occurred against a background of the Askin Government and increasing developer power.  Today’s green ban occurs against a background of eroded environmental protection and diminished heritage safeguards in response to an increasingly powerful developer lobby.

In 2014 the power of development over community concerns is well illustrated by the Windsor Bridge proposal and today’s announcement is made against a backdrop of ICAC investigations into political donations, power and influence; although more sophisticated financial arrangements are evident than the infamous brown paper bags of the past — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Mozilla begrudgingly decides to adopt Adobe’s DRM

Like it or not, a new era of DRM began on the internet overnight. Mozilla, the last major holdout to the W3C’s endorsed DRM extensions known as Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), reluctantly decided to reverse its previous position and implement EME in the desktop versions of Firefox.

We have come to the point where Mozilla is not implementing the W3C EME specification means that Firefox users have to switch to other browsers to watch content restricted by DRM, wrote Mozilla’s new CTO Andreas Gal in a blog post.

Mozilla would have preferred to see the content industry move away from locking content to a specific device (so called node-locking), and worked to provide alternatives.

To implement its DRM solution, the browser maker has teamed up with Adobe to provide a Content Decryption Module (CDM) — unlike the rest of Mozilla’s codebase, the CDM has a proprietary licence. Rather than directly loading the CDM, Mozilla have decided to place the CDM in an open source sandbox, and removed permissions for the CDM to access a user’s hard drive or network. The only data passed to the CDM will be decoding DRM-wrapped data, with the CDM returning its frame results for display to the user — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Glenn Greenwald: how the NSA tampers with US-made internet routers

But while American companies were being warned away from supposedly untrustworthy Chinese routers, foreign organisations would have been well advised to beware of American-made ones. A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA’s Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives — or intercepts — routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers.

The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some SIGINT tradecraft … is very hands-on (literally!).

Eventually, the implanted device connects back to the NSA. The report continues: In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure. This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network.

It is quite possible that Chinese firms are implanting surveillance mechanisms in their network devices. But the US is certainly doing the same — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Border Protection forces Facebook content removal through Twitter

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has succeeded in having a member of the public remove a post from her Facebook wall that a spokesperson has said targeted a staff member within the department.

On Friday, in a series of Tweets from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s official Twitter account, the department asked Vanessa Powell, a teacher and a volunteer on community radio, to remove a Facebook post that “contains an offensive remark directed at a staff member” from a man named George Georgiadis — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights

Mums taking parental leave sacked: report

Almost one in five working mums lost their job before or after having a baby, a report says.

Half of Australia’s working mothers report discrimination during pregnancy, parental leave or when returning to work.

Pregnant workers say they have been sacked, threatened with sacking or didn’t have their contract renewed, according to an Australian Human Rights Commission report.

The report found 18 per cent of mothers had been made redundant, dismissed, had their job restructured or not had their contract renewed, either during their pregnancy, when requesting or taking parental leave or when they returned to work.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said women had their salaries cut and missed out on training, professional development and promotional opportunities.

The most common types of discrimination … included negative comments about breastfeeding or working part-time or flexibly and being denied requests to work flexibly, Ms Broderick said on Monday.

The vast majority of mothers who copped discrimination — 84 per cent — said it had a negative impact on them — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Dob in your tweeting mate at work? So much for free speech

There is no case, none, to limit debate about the performance of national leaders. The more powerful people are, the more important the presumption must be that less powerful people should be able to say exactly what they think of them.

That’s the Tony Abbott of 2012, addressing his friends at the Institute for Public Affairs. What a difference a couple of years makes.

New guidelines from the department of prime minister and cabinet threaten employees with discipline if they are critical or highly critical of the department, the minister or the prime minister on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, blogs, or anywhere much else.

Note that the policy applies to posts in a personal capacity — even those made anonymously — and that public servants are urged to dob in any colleagues they might recognise.

If an employee becomes aware of another employee who is engaging in conduct that may breach this policy, the edict explains, there is an expectation that the employee will report the conduct to the ­department.

Tim Wilson, then head of the IPA, was in the audience for Abbott’s freedom wars speech. Surely our self-proclaimed freedom commissioner will denounce measures muzzling public servants?

Not so much, no.

There is nothing inconsistent with free speech and having codes of conduct or policies as a condition of employment that require professional, respectful behaviour in their role and the public domain, Wilson told the Daily Telegraph.

Elsewhere, Wilson explicitly rejects the charge that he cares only about the rights of the most powerful. Free speech is for everyone, he says. But his support for the restrictions on employees illustrates that, by everyone, he means something more like everyone I know — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights, Technology

Mozilla boss Brendan Eich resigns after gay marriage storm

The chief executive of Mozilla — the company best known for its Firefox browser — has stepped down.

Brendan Eich was appointed just last month but came in for heavy criticism for his views on same-sex marriage.

Mozilla’s executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced the decision in a blog post.

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it, she wrote.

We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

“We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Mr Eich has also stepped down from the board of the Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation which owns the for-profit Mozilla Corporation — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights

World Vision Australia distances itself from US branch

World Vision Australia has issued a statement today that re-affirmed its pro-LGBTI workplace policies and differentiated the organisation from its US counterpart following the criticism the latter faced when it reversed an inclusiveness policy.

Midway through last week, the US branch of World Vision announced a workplace policy that would’ve allowed openly-LGBTI job seekers with the appropriate qualifications to apply for jobs. However, it was soon reversed.

According to World Vision US president Richard Stearns in a statement to Associated Press, the initial policy change had caused numerous major donors and other prominent supporters to threaten to withhold their support for the organisation’s child support, education and welfare programs if they didn’t revert back to their initial policy of requiring celibacy outside of marriage and maintaining faithfulness within the Bible covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

While the policy rollback caused a public relations nightmare for World Vision in the US, other branches of the global Christian relief agency, such as World Vision Australia, have been operating successfully under fully inclusive workplace policies for years.

In a statement today to the Star Observer, World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello reassured that his organisation was different to that of its American counterpart when it came to LGBTI recruitment, engagement and workplace rights — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Chilling Effects DMCA Archive is ‘Repugnant’, Copyright Group Says

If it wasn’t for the Chilling Effects DMCA clearing house the actions of those abusing the DMCA would go largely unreported. Still, the Copyright Alliance doesn’t like the site, this week describing the information resource as repugnant to the DMCA. Unsurprisingly, Chilling Effects sees things differently.

Thanks to Google’s Transparency Report we have the clearest picture yet of the battle taking place between content owners and the indexing and linking of allegedly infringing content online. The search engine takes down millions of URLs every week, a not insignificant amount by any standard.

Fortunately we don’t simply have to take Google’s statistics at face value. The notices received by the company are processed and later sent to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. There they are input into a searchable database so that the public can cross reference Google’s reports (along with others from companies such as Twitter) with the actual takedown notices, thus bringing accountability to the process.

It is through both of these database that TorrentFreak has been able to unearth dozens of serious errors and abuses carried out by the automated takedown systems operated by the world’s largest copyright holders. While there can be little doubt that Chilling Effects is an invaluable resource for those reporting on piracy issues or tracking DMCA abuses, not everyone is happy with the service being offered by the site– via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian government departments want to keep power to censor websites

The Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC), and one unnamed agency have indicated to the government that they would likely seek to keep using powers in the Telecommunications Act to force ISPs to block websites.

In April 2013, following a bungle by ASIC that resulted in accidentally blocking customer access to 250,000 websites for at least two ISPs — when the agency was just seeking to block websites associated with investment fraud — it was revealed that three Commonwealth government agencies had been using Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to compel ISPs to block customer access to websites on their behalf.

Following public backlash, and amid cries of censorship and criticism over the lack of transparency over the power, the then-Labor government promised to review the power, and improve the oversight and transparency of the process.

At the time, despite the controversy, it seems that internally, agencies had indicated to the government that they intended to continue using the power. A briefing document from a meeting convened by the Department of Communications in May 2013, and published online yesterday under Freedom of Information revealed that the three agencies the department had discovered to be using section 313 to block websites indicated their intention to use Section 313(3) in a similar way in the future.

The heavily redacted briefing document showed that the AFP had used the power 21 times between June 2011 and February 2013 to request ISPs to block websites listed on the Interpol worst of child abuse websites, and would continue to do so in the future.

The document also stated that the AFP may have also used the power to combat some spam and phishing sites. AFP deputy commissioner Michael Phelan said last year that this is not an efficient method of dealing with malware sites.

ASIC was also listed as intending to use the power again — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Entertainment, Rights

A Win For Fair Use After Record Label, Copyright Lawyer Settle

An Australian record label that threatened to sue one of the world’s most famous copyright attorneys for infringement has reached a settlement with him.

The settlement includes an admission that Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, had the right to use a song by the band Phoenix — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, World

Scotland’s same-sex marriage bill is passed

A bill which allows same-sex weddings to take place in Scotland has been passed by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs voted by 105 to 18 in favour of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.

The Scottish government said the move was the right thing to do but Scotland’s two main churches were opposed to it.

The first gay and lesbian weddings could take place this autumn.

Religious and belief bodies can opt in to perform same-sex marriages.

Ministers said no part of the religious community would be forced to hold such ceremonies in churches — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights

An $8,000 Gag Visa

The Nauruan parliament has endorsed a 3,900 per cent increase in the visa application fee for journalists — making it prohibitively expensive for the media to report from the Pacific island republic where Australia now detains hundreds of asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Under the new fee structure, which is expected to come into force this week, it will cost media professionals $8,000 to apply for a single-entry visa valid for up to three months. The money would not be refunded even if the application were rejected.

Presently, journalists can apply for a subclass of business visa for media workers. The Nauru government website says the fee is $200.

Nauru’s Principal Immigration Officer Ernest Stephen told The Global Mail that $200 is the application fee for a single-entry visa for up to three months and that journalists could pay $400 to apply for a one-year multiple-entry visa.

Mr Stephen said the new $8,000 fee had been approved by the Nauruan parliament but would not be implemented until it had been gazetted, which he expected to happen in the next couple of days.

Single-entry three-month tourist visas cost $100 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Turkish police fire tear gas, rubber bullets in protests against internet control, corruption

Riot police in Turkey have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and used water cannons on demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara protesting against government plans to impose curbs on the internet.

Rights groups say the proposals, which were approved by parliament last week, amount to censorship and will increase government control of the internet.

Up to 2,000 protesters chanted government resign and all united against fascism at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, some of them hurling fireworks and stones at police.

Everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance, they shouted, using the slogan of last June’s anti-government protests that first erupted in the square.

The demonstration was organised in protest at plans to impose curbs on the internet and over the graft scandal rocking the government.

It broke up after the police action without any immediate reports of injuries or arrests — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Teen Reported to Police After Finding Security Hole in Website

A teenager in Australia who thought he was doing a good deed by reporting a security vulnerability in a government website was reported to the police.

Joshua Rogers, a 16-year-old in the state of Victoria, found a basic security hole that allowed him to access a database containing sensitive information for about 600,000 public transport users who made purchases through the Metlink web site run by the Transport Department. It was the primary site for information about train, tram and bus timetables. The database contained the full names, addresses, home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and a nine-digit extract of credit card numbers used at the site, according to The Age newspaper in Melbourne.

Rogers says he contacted the site after Christmas to report the vulnerability but never got a response. After waiting two weeks, he contacted the newspaper to report the problem. When The Age called the Transportation Department for comment, it reported Rogers to the police.

It’s truly disappointing that a government agency has developed a website which has these sorts of flaws, Phil Kernick, of cyber security consultancy CQR, told the paper. So if this kid found it, he was probably not the first one. Someone else was probably able to find it too, which means that this information may already be out there.

The paper doesn’t say how Rogers accessed the database, but says he used a common vulnerability that exists in many web sites. It’s likely he used a SQL injection vulnerability, one of the most common ways to breach web sites and gain access to backend databases — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Politics, Rights

Burglars Who Took On FBI Abandon Shadows

The perfect crime is far easier to pull off when nobody is watching.

So on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the FBI against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pennsylvania, on 8 March 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

When you talked to people outside the movement about what the FBI was doing, nobody wanted to believe it, said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

How much did NSA pay to put a backdoor in RSA crypto? Try $10m

The mystery of why RSA would use a flawed, NSA-championed algorithm as the default random number generator for several of its encryption products appears to be solved, and the answer is utterly banal, if true: the NSA paid it to.

Reuters reports that RSA received $10m from the NSA in exchange for making the agency-backed Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator (Dual EC DRBG) its preferred random number algorithm, according to newly disclosed documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

If that figure sounds small, that’s because it is. Tech giant EMC acquired RSA for $2.1bn in 2006 — around the same time as the backroom NSA deal — so it seems odd that RSA would kowtow to the g-men so cheaply.

But according to Reuters, at the time, things weren’t looking so good for the division of RSA that was responsible for its BSafe encryption libraries. In 2005, those tools brought in a mere $27.5m of RSA’s $310m in annual revenue, or just 8.9 per cent.

By accepting $10m from the NSA, as Reuters claims, the BSafe division managed to increase its contribution to RSA’s bottom line by more than a third — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Health, Rights

Australian Vaccination Network loses appeal against name change order

The Australian Vaccination Network has again been ordered to change its name, after losing an appeal against a ruling that its current name is misleading.

The New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal has upheld a ruling by the state’s Fair Trading department that the anti-vaccination group’s current name could mislead the public.

The AVN can elect to make a further appeal against the ruling, but Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts has warned the organisation risks a hefty legal bill because the department will seek legal costs.

The AVN must change its name now, Mr Roberts said.

We’re awaiting advice from the AVN as to what they consider an appropriate name would be.

We reserve the right to reject any names we consider inappropriate, but again my clear message to the Australian Vaccination Network is be open and up-front about what you stand for.

The Australian Medical Association was among those that complained to Fair Trading about the AVN’s name — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Photographer wins $1.3m payout from companies that took images from Twitter

A US federal jury has ordered two media companies to pay $US1.2 million ($1.3m) to a freelance photojournalist for their unauthorised use of photographs he posted to Twitter.

The jury found Agence France-Presse and Getty Images wilfully violated the Copyright Act when they used photos Daniel Morel took in his native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people, Mr Morel’s lawyer, Joseph Baio, said.

The case is one of the first to address how images that individuals make available to the public through social media can be used by third parties for commercial purposes.

We believe that this is the first time these defendants, or any other major digital licensor of photography, have been found liable for wilful violations of the Copyright Act, Mr Baio said in an email.

Lawyers for AFP and Getty did not immediately respond to requests for comment — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Hosting what the Govt won’t: Delimiter establishes AGD FoI mirror

Technology media outlet Delimiter today revealed it would establish a free file-serving mirror of PDF documents published under Freedom of Information laws by the Attorney-General’s Department and relevant to the technology sector, in the wake of confirmation by the department that it has removed such documents from its website.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, all government departments and agencies covered by the legislation must provide a way for the public to access documents which any party has requested under the legislation. This means that if individuals make FoI requests of government organisations, that that information will eventually reach the public domain and be accessible to all.

Almost all Federal Government organisations — including some government business enterprises such as NBN Co — interpret the act to mean that they must publish documents released under the FoI act in a disclosure log on their website. The Attorney-General’s Department, which contains FoI oversight as part of its portfolio, has historically done this.

However, the department recently removed PDF documents relating to FoI requests from its website, forcing those seeking access to the documents to email or otherwise communicate with it directly. This has substantially reduced access to a number of sensitive documents — via redwolf.newsvine.com


Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world

Being a mother is not the most important job in the world. There, I said it. Nor is it the toughest job, despite what the 92% of people polled in Parents Magazine reckon.

For any woman who uses that line, consider this: if this is meant to exalt motherhood, then why is the line always used to sell toilet cleaner? And if being a mother is that important, why aren’t all the highly paid men with stellar careers not devoting their lives to raising children? After all, I never hear being a father is the most important job in the world.

The deification of mothers not only delegitimises the relationship fathers, neighbours, friends, grandparents, teachers and carers have with children, it also diminishes the immense worth and value of these relationships. How do gay dads feel about this line, I wonder? Or the single dads, stepdads or granddads? No matter how devoted and hard working you are, fellas, you’ll always be second best.

I’m also confused as to what makes you a mother. Is it the actual birth? Or is a mother simply a term to describe an expectation to care for children without payment? Is this empty slogan used to compensate women for gouging holes from potential careers by spending years out of the workplace without recognition?

Enabling this dogma devalues the unpaid labour of rearing children as much as it strategically devalues women’s worth at work. If being a mother were a job there’d be a selection process, pay, holidays, a superior to report to, performance assessments, Friday drinks, and you could resign from your job and get another one because you didn’t like the people you were working with. It’s not a vocation either — being a mother is a relationship — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, World

Tony Abbott’s stance on Sri Lanka’s human rights craven and irresponsible

Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to Sri Lanka to praise President Mahinda Rajapakse, not to bury him under the weight of human rights abuse allegations that completely dominated this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

We are here to praise as much as judge, he told the forum’s opening meeting, lauding the ending of Sri Lanka’s civil war, and the development in the country since.

For his fealty, he was rewarded. Sri Lanka has vowed to further help Mr Abbott with his No.1 domestic priority, stopping the boats of asylum seekers looking to go to Australia.

The countries’ existing co-operation has been extended, with Australia giving Sri Lanka two patrol boats, so that asylum seekers might be intercepted before they leave Sri Lankan waters.

(The inconvenient truth that navy sailors have been arrested and charged with running the biggest people-smuggling ring in the country is being, publicly at least, downplayed.)

Mr Abbott came to CHOGM, a meeting of 53 member nations, with an entirely domestic agenda. He needed Sri Lankan support to combat people smuggling, and so was unwilling to criticise his hosts.

While human rights concerns — forced abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings by state forces, land seizures by the military and oppression of political opponents — dominated every public CHOGM event, Mr Abbott sidestepped these at every turn — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, World

The Impossible Refugee Boat Lift to Christmas Island

I first heard about the passage from Indonesia to Australia in Afghanistan, where I live and where one litmus test for the success of the US-led war now drawing to a close is the current exodus of civilians from the country. (The first boat people to seek asylum in Australia were Vietnamese, in the mid-1970s, driven to the ocean by the fallout from that American withdrawal.) Last year, nearly 37,000 Afghans applied for asylum abroad, the most since 2001. Afghans who can afford to will pay as much as $24,000 for European travel documents and up to $40,000 for Canadian. (Visas to the United States, generally, cannot be bought.) Others employ smugglers for arduous overland treks from Iran to Turkey to Greece, or from Russia to Belarus to Poland.

The Indonesia-Australia route first became popular in Afghanistan before 11 September, mostly among Hazaras, a predominantly Shiite ethnic minority that was systematically brutalized by the Taliban. After the Taliban were overthrown, many refugees, anticipating an enduring peace, returned to Afghanistan, and for a while the number of Afghans willing to risk their lives at sea declined. But by late 2009 — with Afghans, disabused of their optimism, fleeing once more — migration to Australia escalated. At the same time, Hazaras living across the border in Pakistan, many of whom moved there from Afghanistan, have also found relocation necessary. In a sectarian crusade of murder and terror being waged against them by Sunni extremists, Hazara civilians in the Pakistani city of Quetta are shot in the streets, executed en masse and indiscriminately massacred by rockets and bombs.

I wondered whether anyone else shared my deluded hope: that there was another, larger ship anchored somewhere farther out, and that this sad boat was merely to convey us there.

In 2010, a suicide attacker killed more than 70 people at a Shiite rally in Quetta. Looming directly above the carnage was a large billboard paid for by the Australian government. In Dari, next to an image of a distressed Indonesian fishing boat carrying Hazara asylum seekers, read the words: All illegal routes to Australia are closed to Afghans. The billboard was part of a wide-ranging effort by Australia to discourage refugees from trying to get to Christmas Island. In Afghanistan, a recent Australian-funded TV ad featured a Hazara actor rubbing his eyes before a black background. Please don’t go, the man gloomily implores over melancholic music. Many years of my life were wasted there [in detention] until my application for asylum was rejected. In addition to the messaging campaign (and the hard-line policies it alludes to), Australia has worked to disrupt smuggling networks by collaborating with Pakistan’s notorious intelligence services, embedding undercover agents in Indonesia and offering up to $180,000 for information resulting in a smuggler’s arrest. The most drastic deterrence measure was introduced this July, when the Australian prime minister at the time, Kevin Rudd, announced that henceforth no refugee who reaches Australia by boat would be settled there. Instead, refugees would be detained, and eventually resettled, in impoverished Papua New Guinea. Several weeks later, the resettlement policy was extended to a tiny island state in Micronesia called the Republic of Nauru.

Since then, there have been more boats, more drownings. In late September, a vessel came apart shortly after leaving Indonesia, and dozens of asylum seekers — from Lebanon, Iran and Iraq — drowned. That people are willing to hazard death at sea despite Australia’s vow to send them to places like Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Nauru would seem illogical — or just plain crazy. The Australian government ascribes their persistence partly to misinformation propagated by the smugglers. But every asylum seeker who believes those lies believes them because he chooses to. Their doing so, and continuing to brave the Indian Ocean, and continuing to die, only illustrates their desperation in a new, disturbing kind of light. This is the subtext to the plight of every refugee: Whatever hardship he endures, he endures because it beats the hardship he escaped. Every story of exile implies the sadder story of a homeland — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights, Technology

UK spies continue ‘quantum insert’ attack via LinkedIn, Slashdot pages

According to a new report by Der Spiegel, the British signals intelligence spy agency has again employed a quantum insert technique as a way to target employees (Google Translate) of two companies that are GRX (Global Roaming Exchange) providers.

The lead author of the story in the German magazine is Laura Poitras, one of the journalists known to have access to the entire trove of documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

GRX is roughly analogous to an IX (Internet Exchange), and it acts as a major exchange for mobile Internet traffic while users roam around the globe. There are only around two dozen such GRX providers globally. This new attack specifically targeted administrators and engineers of Comfone and Mach (which was acquired over the summer by Syniverse), two GRX providers.

Der Spiegel suggests that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British sister agency to the NSA, used spoofed versions of LinkedIn and Slashdot pages to serve malware to targets. This type of attack was also used to target nine salaried employees of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the global oil cartel.

This new revelation may be related to an attack earlier this year against Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS), a subsidiary of the Belgian telecom giant Belgacom. BICS is another one of the few GRX providers worldwide — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Surprise! Coalition re-kindles anti-piracy talks

The new Coalition Federal Government has reportedly signalled plans to restart long-running talks between the telecommunications and content industries to deal with the issue of Internet piracy, despite the fact that a previous round of talks between the two sides under the previous Labor administration proved pointless.

The Australian newspaper reported this morning that the Attorney-General’s Department has sent letters to the nation’s top telcos and content creators seeking their participation in a series of industry roundtables to resolve the online piracy issue as a matter of urgency.

It is not yet clear precisely what new Attorney-General George Brandis or the Attorney-General’s Department is seeking from the talks. as neither has issued a statement on the issue. Delimiter has filed a Freedom of Information request this morning with the department seeking the text of any letters sent by Brandis or the Department to telcos on the issue since Brandis took office. In addition, comment is being sought from Brandis on the issue — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Science, Technology

A Case Study in Closed Access

One of the core messages of Open Access Week is that the inability to readily access the important research we help fund is an issue that affects us all—and is one with outrageous practical consequences. Limits on researchers’ ability to read and share their works slow scientific progress and innovation. Escalating subscription prices for journals that publish cutting-edge research cripple university budgets, harming students, educators, and those of us who support and rely on their work.

But the problems don’t stop there. In the digital age, it is absurd that ordinary members of the public, such as healthcare professional and their patients, cannot access and compare the latest research quickly and cheaply in order to take better care of themselves and others.

Take the case of Cortney Grove, a speech-language pathologist based in Chicago, who posted this on Facebook:

In my field we are charged with using scientific evidence to make clinical decisions. Unfortunately, the most pertinent evidence is locked up in the world of academic publishing and I cannot access it without paying upwards of $40 an article. My current research project is not centred around one article, but rather a body of work on a given topic. Accessing all the articles I would like to read will cost me nearly a thousand dollars. So, the sad state of affairs is that I may have to wait 7-10 years for someone to read the information, integrate it with their clinical opinions (biases, agendas, and financial motivations) and publish it in a format I can buy on Amazon. By then, how will my clinical knowledge and skills have changed? How will my clients be served in the meantime? What would I do with the first-hand information that I will not be able to do with the processed, commercialised product that emerges from it in a decade? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights, Technology

Palantir Technologies defence contracts in Canberra

On the fourth floor of an office building on Northbourne Avenue, in what passes for Canberra’s CBD, is an outpost of a much talked-about company that has so far gone under the radar in Australia. It is, however, unlikely that many Australians have avoided the company’s forensic gaze.

Palantir Technologies was established in 2002 by a clutch of US information analysts to explore the potential of datamining tools developed for Paypal. The CIA was a foundation investor, providing $2 million, and for several years its only customer. However, unusually for a company that has become a key vendor to the US military-industrial complex, its senior ranks are almost entirely men (and they’re pretty much all men) with Silicon Valley-style IT or financial backgrounds; the revolving door to the US military and foreign policy establishments that typifies most defence and intelligence companies doesn’t appear to be in full operation (yet).

Palantir does datamining, and does it very, very well. So well, in fact, that the US government and major companies have hungrily devoured its data search tools (for an account of what exactly its products can do, try this). As we’ve since learnt courtesy of Edward Snowden, agencies like the NSA are compiling vast amounts of personal information on most of the planet’s internet users. Palantir’s products help agencies effectively search through huge amounts of different information and collate them with other agencies’ data. It has rapidly become a key player in the establishment of the US surveillance state and a poster boy for what smart people and lots of computing power can do to strip away privacy and garner intelligence down to the individual level. And it has rapidly become an attractive investment: two weeks ago the company, now estimated to be worth $8 billion, announced it had raised nearly $200 million in capital.

And behind a unicorns-and-rainbows façade (Palantir is a Lord of the Rings reference; its California headquarters is called the Shire) is a ruthless player in cybersecurity. In 2011, as Crikey reported at the time, the company joined with Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal to develop a multi-million dollar plant to disrupt WikiLeaks and discredit journalist Glenn Greenwald. The plan, only revealed when Anonymous hacked into the IT system of HBGary Federal’s Aaron Barr, involved proposals to feed false information to WikiLeaks, break into its servers and wage a media campaign against it and Greenwald — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology, World

The most embarrassing news interview ever

This must be the most cringe-inducing interview by a senior journalist I’ve ever seen.

It’s conducted by Kirsty Wark, one of the BBC’s top presenters, and takes places on Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship nightly current affairs programme.

It truly makes me more ashamed of the profession of journalism than I already was — and I didn’t think that was possible.

Throughout the interview, Wark abandons even the pretence of doing what journalism is supposed to be about: interrogating the centres of power and holding them to account.

Instead Wark mimics adversarial journalism by interrogating the US journalist Glenn Greenwald about his role in the NSA leaks, as though she’s a novice MI5 recruit. To do this she has to parrot British government misinformation and fire at him questions so childish even she seems to realise half way through them how embarrassing they are — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Art, Rights

Copyright Suit Helps British Photographer Win $32,000, He Was Initially Offered $250

British photographer Jason Sheldon has won a settlement of £20,000 (about $32,300 US) over a stolen image of his, after initially being offered less than one percent of that.

The dispute centred around a backstage photo Sheldon captured in July of 2011 of pop star Ke$sha partying with rap duo LMFAO. Daybrook House Promotions grabbed the image and used it in an ad last year for a Nottingham nightclub, reasoning that since the picture had been posted on Tumblr, it must be free to reuse at will.

Sheldon tried to explain that copyright doesn’t work that way and sent the company an invoice for £1,351 ($2,200). In response, Daybrook said they never would have used the image if they had realized it was not free to use, and therefore would pay him only £150 ($242).

Instead of accepting that paltry offer, Sheldon decided to take the case to court, and after several rounds of preliminary judgements that went the photographer’s way, Daybrook agreed to an out-of-court settlement of £20,000 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Google’s Gmail scanning unclear to users, judge finds

A US federal judge allowed a class-action suit against Google to proceed, saying the company’s terms of service are unclear when describing how it scans Gmail content in order to deliver advertisements.

Google had filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which alleges that the company intercepted and read email while in transit in order to deliver advertisements and create user profiles and models since 2008. The plaintiffs alleged the company violated federal and state wire-tapping laws.

The suit, which is being heard in US District Court for the Northern District of California, further contends non-Gmail users who sent email to Gmail users were also subject to illegal interception.

In her ruling Thursday, US District Judge Lucy H Koh wrote that Google’s terms of service and privacy policies do not explicitly say that the company intercepts users’ email to create user profiles or deliver targeted advertising.

Although Google revised its terms of service and privacy policy in 2012, Koh wrote that a reasonable Gmail user who read the Privacy Policies would not have necessarily understood that her emails were being intercepted to create user profiles or to provide targeted advertisements — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

The corrosive effect of surveillance secrecy

When surveillance and national security supporters look back on the last three years at some remove, one of the lessons they may learn is that the reflexive obsession with secrecy cruelled the capacity of security institutions and governments to obtain any sort of social licence for surveillance, or even of basic trust.

The obsession of the United States government with secrecy has long since reached Kafkaesque proportions — but if you’re the victim of one of its campaigns, it is nightmarish.

Two weeks ago the US Department of Justice sought and obtained a gag order to prevent American journalist and sometime Crikey contributor Barrett Brown and his legal team from discussing his prosecution. Brown, who revealed many connections between the US government and the growing cyber military-industrial complex in the US, faces an array of charges with sentences totalling over 100 years in prison, including for sharing a link online.

At the point where even the US mainstream media had worked out that the prosecution of Brown was another example of the Obama administration’s war on investigative journalism, the administration decided enough was enough and secured a gag order to undermine the growing profile of Brown’s case. The prosecution argued the gag order was necessary because Brown was manipulating the public. This is Barack Obama’s America, where telling the world about your Kafkaesque prosecution for sharing a link is manipulating the public.

The gag order is symptomatic of the way this administration does business: it imposes secrecy requirements on others, while of course retaining the right to reveal whatever secret information it feels is in its own interests. An Obama administration gag order is routine in cases where it has pursued journalists and whistle-blowers, or its agencies have demanded the co-operation of IT and communications companies to spy on Americans, or provide back doors into their products to allow spying.

One of the genuinely amusing moments in the Obama administration’s hysterical overreaction to Edward Snowden was when Obama claimed in all seriousness that he had been planning to initiate a debate about the extensive powers that enabled the National Security Agency to spy on both Americans and the rest of us, but Edward Snowden came along and ruined his plans by revealing the true extent of surveillance — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Wildlife, World

Hawaiian woman’s long name forces ID card redesign

A Hawaiian woman with a 35-letter surname has persuaded the US state’s authorities to change their official ID card format, because her king-sized name will not fit.

Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, whose traditional Hawaiian name comes from her late husband, said she would never consider using a shortened version, and so used local media to press officials to take action.

I love the Polynesian culture I married into, I love my Hawaiian name. It is an honour and has been quite a journey to carry the names I carry, Ms Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, whose maiden name was Worth, said.

For years she has carried two forms of identification: her driving licence, which only has room for 34 characters, and her official Hawaii state ID card, which in the past had room for all 35 letters.

But the problem came after Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele’s state ID was renewed in May — and came back the same as her driver’s licence, with the last letter missing, and with no first name — via redwolf.newsvine.com