Rights, Technology

The Child Exchange

Reuters investigative reporter Megan Twohey spent 18 months examining how American parents use the Internet to find new families for children they regret adopting. Reporters identified eight online bulletin boards where participants advertised unwanted children, often international adoptees, as part of an informal practice that’s called private re-homing. Reuters data journalist Ryan McNeill worked with Twohey and reporter Robin Respaut to analyse 5,029 posts from one of the bulletin boards, a Yahoo group called Adopting-from-Disruption.

Separately, Reuters examined almost two dozen cases from across the United States in which adopted children were privately re-homed. Twohey reviewed thousands of pages of records, many of them confidential, from law enforcement and child welfare agencies. In scores of interviews, reporters talked with parents who gave away or took in children, the facilitators who helped them, organisations that participated in re-homing, and experts concerned about the risks posed to the children and the legality of the custody transfers. Twohey also interviewed children themselves. They talked about being brought to America, discarded by their adoptive parents and moved from home to home — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Whistleblower reveals Australia’s spy agency has access to internet codes

Australia’s electronic spy agency reportedly has access to a top secret program that has successfully cracked the encryption used by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their emails, phone calls and online business transactions.

Documents disclosed by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal the program run by the US National Security Agency, codenamed Bullrun, has been used to secretly descramble high-level internet security systems globally.

They show the NSA and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have successfully cracked the encryption used in personal communications such as email and telephone calls as well as global commerce and banking systems.

An undated briefing sheet on the program, provided to British analysts when they are cleared for access to Bullrun, was published on Friday in The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers.

It states that the Australian Signals Directorate — until recently called the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) – was expected to be granted access — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

NSA Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the NSA wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the NSA invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own back door in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.

The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, super-fast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated.

The NSA hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. In some cases, companies say they were coerced by the government into handing over their master encryption keys or building in a back door. And the agency used its influence as the world’s most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world.

For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies, said a 2010 memo describing a briefing about NSA accomplishments for employees of its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.

When the British analysts, who often work side by side with NSA officers, were first told about the program, another memo said, those not already briefed were gobsmacked!

An intelligence budget document makes clear that the effort is still going strong. We are investing in ground-breaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit Internet traffic, the director of national intelligence, James R Clapper Jr, wrote in his budget request for the current year — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Entertainment, Rights, Technology

Just call the NSA / Bahram Sadeghi

The NSA is in dire need of customer service training — at least in the case of Bahram Sadeghi, a Dutch-Iranian filmmaker who decided to call the surveillance agency for help after one of his e-mails was accidentally deleted. In a three-minute exchange with NSA spokespeople, Sadeghi manages to confound one with his request (you can almost hear the relief in her voice when Sadeghi asks to speak to someone else) and gets a curt reply from another — via The Washington Post

Politics, Rights, Technology

Coalition backflips on internet filtering policy

Less than five hours after releasing the policy (now deleted but original PDF here), the Coalition is seeking to deny that a policy around opt-out internet filtering is the current Coalition policy, despite Liberal MP, and author of the policy, Paul Fletcher speaking to ZDNet confirming the policy.

Fletcher confirmed to ZDNet tonight that the reason the Coalition had decided to go down this path was to take out the confusion for parents who are unsure who or where to get filtering products from.

What we intend to do is work with the industry to arrive at an arrangement where the default is that there is a filter in the home device, the home network, that is very similar to the filters that are available today. This is very much about protecting children from inappropriate content, particularly pornography, he said.

The key thing is it is an opt-out, so it will be open to the customer to call up and say ‘look I don’t want this’ and indeed we will work with the industry to make this a streamlined and efficient process, he said.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said tonight that opt-out internet filtering is not the policy of the Coalition

The Coalition has never supported mandatory internet filtering. Indeed, we have a long record of opposing it, he said — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian opposition vows to implement internet filter by default

A Liberal National government in Australia would adopt the abandoned its plans for mandatory internet filtering, and three years after the Coalition announced that it would not support a policy for mandatory internet filtering.

The announcement, buried in an AU$10 million online safety policy published online today (PDF) announces that under a Tony Abbott government, Australians would have adult content filters installed on their phone services and fixed internet services unless they opt out — via redwolf.newsvine.com

New Zealand bans software patents

New Zealand has finally passed a new Patents Bill that will effectively outlaw software patents after five years of debate, delay and intense lobbying from multinational software vendors.

Aptly-named Commerce Minister Craig Foss welcomed the modernisation of patents law, saying it marked a significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand.

By clarifying the definition of what can be patented, we are giving New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovations, Foss said.

The nearly unanimous passage of the Bill was also greeted by Institute of IT Professionals (IITP) chief executive Paul Matthews, who congratulated Foss for listening to the IT industry and ensuring software patents were excluded — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees cruel, inhuman, UN says

A UN watchdog has called on Australia to release 46 refugees being held in indefinite detention, labelling it cruel and arbitrary.

The UN Human Rights Committee has slammed Australia’s treatment of the group, saying the country broke global human rights rules by denying the group a chance to challenge their detention.

In a review of complaints from the refugees — 42 Sri Lankan Tamils, three Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and a Kuwaiti — the committee said the detention was arbitrary and broke the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Australia’s indefinite detention of 46 recognised refugees on security grounds amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, inflicting serious psychological harm on them, the committee said in a statement.

The plaintiffs arrived at Australia’s remote Christmas Island between March 2009 and December 2010 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Spy law passed in New Zealand

New spy laws legalising domestic communications interception were narrowly passed in New Zealand yesterday by a vote of 61 to 59 in Parliament.

The Government argued the laws are necessary to clarify the powers of the Government Communications Services Bureau (GCSB), New Zealand’s cyber security agency, when it is asked to assist law enforcement agencies such as Police and the Security Intelligence Service.

That clarification was needed because, in a major embarrassment to the Government, surveillance mounted against Mega Upload founder Kim Dotcom in late 2011 and early 2012 at the request of the FBI was subsequently found to be illegal.

Opponents fear the law has done more than just clarify existing rules, however, and has broadened interception capabilities to allow the mass collection of domestic communications metadata and content.

The law’s passage through Parliament coincided with Edward Snowden’s ongoing disclosures about international communications interception which revealed data collection and mining on an unprecedented scale — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Forced Exposure

The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too.

There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.

What to do?

What to do? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure it out. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw, not long term, which is incredibly sad. But it’s good to be realistic. And the simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how “clean” we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere. I don’t know how to do Groklaw like this — via redwolf.newsvine.com

NSW Opposition plan to search criminals without a warrant

The New South Wales Opposition is pushing for new laws to allow police to search the homes and cars of some criminals without a warrant.

The extra powers would relate to bikies and other criminal gang members who were the subject of a Firearms Prohibition Order.

The order can be placed on criminals by the Police Commissioner to ban them from owning a gun.

Opposition Leader John Robertson will introduce legislation to State Parliament that would extend those powers, allowing police to stop and search anyone subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order, without a warrant.

Cars and homes would also be able to be searched for illegal guns under the plan — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Cameron Proves Greenwald Right

Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.

Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.

What has kept me from embracing it entirely has been the absence of any real proof than any deliberate abuse has taken place and arguments that it has helped prevent terror attacks. This may be too forgiving a standard. If a system is ripe for abuse, history tells us the only question is not if such abuse will occur, but when. So it is a strange and awful irony that the Coalition government in Britain has today clinched the case for Glenn — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Greenwald Partner falsely detained as Terrorist: How to Create a Dictatorship

How to turn a democracy into a STASI authoritarian state in 10 easy steps:

  1. Misuse the concept of a Top Secret government document (say, the date of D-Day) and extend classification to trillions of mundane documents a year
  2. Classify all government crimes and violations of the Constitution as secret
  3. Create a class of 4.5 million privileged individuals, many of them corporate employees, with access to classified documents but allege it is illegal for public to see leaked classified documents
  4. Spy on the public in violation of the Constitution
  5. Classify environmental activists as terrorists while allowing Big Coal and Big Oil to pollute and destroy the planet
  6. Share info gained from NSA spying on public with DEA, FBI, local law enforcement to protect pharmaceuticals & liquor industry from competition from pot, or to protect polluters from activists
  7. Falsify to judges and defence attorneys how allegedly incriminating info was discovered
  8. Lie and deny to Congress you are spying on the public
  9. Criminalise the revelation of government crimes and spying as Espionage
  10. Further criminalise whistleblowing as Terrorism, have compradors arrest innocent people, detain them, and confiscate personal effects with no cause or warrant (i.e. David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald)

Presto, what looks like a democracy is really an authoritarian state ruling on its own behalf and that of 2000 corporations, databasing the activities of 312 million innocent citizens and actively helping destroy the planet while forestalling climate activism — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Germany becomes first European country to recognise undetermined sex

Germany will become the first country in Europe to join a small group of nations which recognise a third or “undetermined” sex when registering births, according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

From 1 November, babies born in Germany without clear gender-determining physical characteristics will be able to be registered without a sex on their birth certificates, according to the report.

The change is being seen as the country’s first legal acknowledgement that it is possible for a human to be neither male nor female — which could have far-reaching consequences in many legal areas.

While transsexuals — people born of one gender who feel they belong to the other and wish to be recognised as such — are already legally recognised in Germany, hermaphrodites – those with both male and female genitalia — have always been forcibly registered as one or other sex at birth.

The German decision to recognise a third gender was based on a recommendation by the constitutional court, which sees legal recognition of a person’s experienced and lived gender as a personal human right — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation

At 6:30 am this morning my time — 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US — I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a security official at Heathrow airport. He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been detained at the London airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories. A Brazilian citizen, he was returning to our home in Rio de Janeiro this morning on British Airways, flying first to London and then on to Rio. When he arrived in London this morning, he was detained.

At the time the security official called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official — who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 — said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. The Guardian has the full story here — via redwolf.newsvine.com

NSA breached privacy rules thousands of times, leaked documents show

The US National Security Agency (NSA) broke privacy rules thousands of times in the past two years, according to an internal audit leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The internal documents, cited in the Washington Post, cast fresh doubts on pledges from US president Barack Obama to prevent abuses and protect Americans’ civil rights.

The documents were leaked by Snowden, a former NSA contractor who has exposed the massive scale of America’s surveillance of phone records and internet traffic in recent leaks to the media.

Snowden, who describes himself as a whistleblower for civil liberties, has obtained asylum in Russia, despite appeals from Washington for extradition on espionage charges — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Northern Territory government to repeal centuries-old witchcraft, tarot card law

The Northern Territory Government is repealing old legislation which makes tarot card reading and witchcraft illegal.

A recent review of the Territory’s Summary Offences Act found a centuries-old law citing anyone caught conjuring spells or predicting the future could face one year in prison.

The Witchcraft Act of 1735 has been inherited from Britain and has since been repealed in most other parts of the Western world.

But Northern Territory Attorney-General John Elferink says a legal quirk meant it stayed on the Territory’s statute books.

He says a year in prison is a pretty stiff punishment for a tarot card reader and has promised to finally repeal the legislation — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Storm Rages After Google Argues Against Gmail Privacy

Privacy? What privacy? That attitude by Google in a recent court filing is causing a storm of controversy that shows at least some users have not yet given up on their right to privacy.

In a motion to dismiss a class-action suit in which Google was accused of violating federal and state wiretap laws because its ad service automatically scans e-mails to determine targeting, the technology giant seemed to have put its foot into it.

Google said that just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based e-mail today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS provider in the course of delivery. ECS stands for electronic communications service — via redwolf.newsvine.com


The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they — and all the reactions to them — had one enormous assumption at their heart.

That the spies know what they are doing.

It is a belief that has been central to much of the journalism about spying and spies over the past fifty years. That the anonymous figures in the intelligence world have a dark omniscience. That they know what’s going on in ways that we don’t.

It doesn’t matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do.

But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different.

It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.

I want to tell some stories about MI5 – and the very strange people who worked there. They are often funny, sometimes rather sad — but always very odd.

The stories also show how elites in Britain have used the aura of secret knowledge as a way of maintaining their power. But as their power waned the secrets became weirder and weirder.

They were helped in this by another group who also felt their power was waning — journalists. And together the journalists and spies concocted a strange, dark world of treachery and deceit which bore very little relationship to what was really going on. And still doesn’t — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Man who created own credit card sues bank for not sticking to terms

When Dmitry Argarkov was sent a letter offering him a credit card, he found the rates not to his liking. But he didn’t throw the contract away or shred it. Instead, the 42-year-old from Voronezh, Russia, scanned it into his computer, altered the terms and sent it back to Tinkoff Credit Systems.

Mr Argarkov’s version of the contract contained a 0pc interest rate, no fees and no credit limit. Every time the bank failed to comply with the rules, he would fine them 3m rubles (£58,716). If Tinkoff tried to cancel the contract, it would have to pay him 6m rubles.

Tinkoff apparently failed to read the amendments, signed the contract and sent Mr Argakov a credit card.

The Bank confirmed its agreement to the client’s terms and sent him a credit card and a copy of the approved application form, his lawyer Dmitry Mikhalevich told Kommersant. The opened credit line was unlimited. He could afford to buy an island somewhere in Malaysia, and the bank would have to pay for it by law.

However, Tinkoff attempted to close the account due to overdue payments. It sued Mr Argakov for 45,000 rubles for fees and charges that were not in his altered version of the contract.

Earlier this week a Russian judge ruled in Mr Argakov’s favour. Tinkoff had signed the contract and was legally bound to it. Mr Argakov was only ordered to pay an outstanding balance of 19,000 rubles (£371) — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Campaign to kill CAPTCHA kicks off

The use of CAPTCHA to combat spam bots is also blocking people with disabilities and the feature should be removed from websites, argues a group of disability organisations.

The completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart, abbreviated as CAPTCHA, is a popular measure deployed by webmasters around the world to prevent spammers from automatically sending unsolicited commercial messages to sites and users. It requires people to interpret characters and numbers that are difficult for machines to parse, and enter these as part of logging in to a site, for instance.

However, the dark side of CAPTCHA is that it hinders people with vision impairments to the point that they cannot use sites. Screen readers and other accessibility tools used by blind people often fail on distorted and illegible CAPTCHA text.

Now, disability groups such as Blind Citizens Australia, Able Australia, Media Access Australia and the Australian Deaf-Blind Council are calling on organisations to stop using CAPTCHA, setting up a petition with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Why Audio CAPTCHA Doesn’t Solve Accessibility

The biggest issue with audio CAPTCHA is actually the same as with the visual version: just as it’s often hard to see which individual letters are being used, it’s hard to distinguish individual sounds. One of the problems with audio CAPTCHA that I’ve found is similar to the visual CAPTCHA: there’s so much noise behind the words that are being spoken you can’t identify what they are, Hawkins said.

That noise is added to block automated recognition systems, but in this case the cure seems worse than the problem. I pride myself on being a pretty good listener, Hawkins said. Because I’m blind I need to use my hearing in different ways and I find even with that very acute hearing that these audio CAPTCHAs are really difficult to understand.

A secondary problem is that audio CAPTCHAs often use numbers, but doesn’t distinguish them, so it’s impossible to know if you have to type 1 or one or won.

The solution, as we said yesterday, is to ditch CAPTCHA altogether. Sending a verification email is one solution, though that adds an extra step. Another good alternative is asking site users to solve a simple maths problem — an option that works well with screen readers, Hawkins said — via Lifehacker Australia

The Ecuadorian Library

Back in distant, halcyon 2010, I was asked to write something about Wikileaks and its Cablegate scandal. So, I wrote a rather melancholy essay about how things seemed to me to be going — dreadfully, painfully, like some leaden and ancient Greek tragedy.

In that 2010 essay, I surmised that things were going to get worse before they got any better. Sure enough, things now are lots, lots worse. Much worse than Cablegate ever was.

Cablegate merely kicked the kneecap of the archaic and semi-useless US State Department. But Edward Snowden just strolled out of the Moscow airport, with his Wikileaks personal escort, one month after ripping the pants off the National Security Agency.

You see, as it happens, a good half of my essay The Blast Shack was about the basic problem of the NSA. Here was the takeaway from that essay back in 2010:

One minute’s thought would reveal that a vast, opaque electronic spy outfit like the National Security Agency is exceedingly dangerous to democracy. Really, it is. The NSA clearly violates all kinds of elementary principles of constitutional design. The NSA is the very antithesis of transparency, and accountability, and free elections, and free expression, and separation of powers — in other words, the NSA is a kind of giant, grown-up, anti-Wikileaks. And it always has been. And we’re used to that. We pay no mind.

Well, dear readers, nowadays we do pay that some mind. Yes, that was then, while this is now.

So, I no longer feel that leaden discontent and those grave misgivings that I felt in 2010. The situation now is frankly exhilarating. It no longer has that look-and-feel of the Edgar Allen Poe House of Usher. This scene is straight outta Nikolai Gogol.

This is the kind of comedic situation that Russians find hilarious. I mean, sure it’s plenty bad and all that, PRISM, XKeyScore, show trials, surveillance, threats to what’s left of journalism, sure, I get all that, I’m properly concerned. None of that stops it from being hilarious.

Few geopolitical situations can ever give the Russians a full, free, rib-busting belly laugh. This one sure does — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Seizing personal data without reasonable suspicion

How would you feel if the police stopped you on a whim, took your phone, your laptop, your digital camera, your MP3 player, your USB sticks and your memory cards then copied everything on them?

How would you feel if they told you they were going to keep all your photographs, your documents, your address book, your financial data, your browsing history, your emails, your chat logs, your electronic diary, your music and recordings and anything else they liked for at least six years — indeed maybe they’d keep them until you reached the age of a hundred in case they might prove useful one day?

How would you feel if they then demanded all of your passwords and threatened you with years in jail if you refused to hand them over?

Welcome to Britain.

These are the rights granted to the police at the border controls of this country.

Within the UK, police officers are authorized to seize phones and download information only after making an arrest. The border control officers have no such limitations.

Anyone entering or leaving the UK faces this possible treatment under port powers contained in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000. No prior authorization is needed to stop you and there does not need to be any suspicion. Your data can be kept even if you are not arrested and the police can find no evidence of any crime — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Drastic govt measures needed: IT price hike report pulls no punches

The Federal Parliament committee examining IT price hikes in Australia has published an extensive report recommending a raft of drastic measures to deal with current practices in the area, which, the report says, are seeing Australians unfairly slugged with price increases of up to 50 percent on key technology goods and services.

In mid-2012, spurred by the campaigning efforts of then-Labor backbencher Ed Husic, who has since been promoted to the dual roles of Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband and Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications kicked off hearings into the Australian cost of popular technology goods and services, as well as some forms of content, with reference to the issue of unfair price increases by international vendors.

Late last week, the committee handed down its report on the issue to Parliament, and this morning it was made available in full on the committee’s website.

In the foreword to the report, Committee chair Nick Champion noted that the importance of IT products to every sector of Australian society can hardly be overstated. IT products are woven into the fabric of our economy and society, and have driven rapid change in the way Australians communicate, the way we work, and the way we live, the Labor MP noted.

However, Champion added, the committee hearings held over the past year had found that Australian consumers and businesses must often pay between 50 and 100 percent more than those residing in other countries for the same products — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Caroline Criado-Perez Twitter abuse case leads to arrest

A man has been arrested after a feminist campaigner was deluged on Twitter with abuse and threats of rape, Scotland Yard has confirmed.

The 21-year-old was detained earlier in the Manchester area on suspicion of harassment offences.

Caroline Criado-Perez faced abuse after successfully campaigning for a woman’s face to appear on UK banknotes.

Labour has complained to Twitter about what it says was an inadequate response to the abuse.

Ms Criado-Perez, who had appeared in the media to campaign for women to feature on banknotes, said the abusive tweets began the day it was announced that author Jane Austen would appear on the newly designed £10 note.

She reported them to the police after receiving about 50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours and said she had stumbled into a nest of men who co-ordinate attacks on women — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Court Says Broadcasters Can’t Use Copyright To Block Commercial Skipping

This morning there was a huge victory for common sense in the Ninth Circuit appeals court ruling in the Fox v Dish case over Dish’s AutoHopper technology. As you may recall, pretty much all the major broadcasters sued Dish a year ago, claiming that its AutoHopper technology with the PrimeTime Anytime feature — which would record the entire primetime lineup, and allow Dish customers to watch everything (starting the next day) while automatically skipping the commercials — was infringement (and breach of contract). As we noted at the time, the broadcasters’ arguments made very little sense. The basis of the argument was that skipping commercials is a form of copyright infringement. We couldn’t see how skipping commercials violated the copyright in any way at all, and while Fox pretended it won the initial ruling at the district court level, the reality was that Dish won big.

Fox immediately appealed, and Dish has won big yet again with this latest ruling, which is a huge victory for common sense. The court makes a number of important findings, nearly all of them good and sensible. To be specific, the nature of this ruling was over whether or not the broadcasters could get an injunction to block Dish from offering this technology while the case was ongoing, but the court rejected it, saying that the broadcasters did not demonstrate a likelihood of success. This means the full trial can still go forward, but the technology can still be offered during that trial. However, the fact that both the district court and the appeals court have clearly stated that they don’t see a likelihood of the broadcasters succeeding shows that the broadcasters are likely to be wasting a lot of time and money only to lose.

The key point in this case: skipping commercials is not copyright infringement. For years, Hollywood has tried to claim that skipping commercials is a form of copyright infringement. All the way back in 2002, a TV exec claimed that skipping commercials was a theft (even merely going to the bathroom during a commercial). A couple years later they even tried to get Congress to pass a law explicitly banning commercial skipping (sponsored by Orrin Hatch, of course). Without that, they’ve just been pretending that commercial skipping must be illegal. In court, the TV networks have argued that anything that hurts their business model must be illegal — via redwolf.newsvine.com

UK internet filtering plan re-energises Australian censorship crusade

It was only a matter of time after news came out that UK internet service providers (ISPs) would begin filtering internet services of adult content by default before the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) would again ask for Australia’s internet to be filtered.

The political lobby group [consisting of three obnoxious, bigoted and racist white men], which claims to represent the Christians in Australia [they don’t] and says it has approximately 10,000 supporters [names culled from the obituary columns don’t count], has often called for freedom of speech in regards to religious groups being able to speak out against homosexuality. However, it has long backed broad censoring of the internet since 2007, when the Rudd and Gillard governments had planned on introducing a mandatory ISP-level internet filter into Australia.

In 2008, then-ACL managing director Jim Wallace described the filter as vital to protect society’s most vulnerable.

Obviously, the internet industry is going to continue to fight this important initiative, but the interests of children must be placed first, he said.

Claims the government will impose China-style curbing of free speech are ridiculous, given Australia’s robust parliamentary democracy, something China does not have, Wallace said in another release.

The ACL didn’t want consumers to be able to make a choice on whether the filter should be on or off, as is the case with the UK scheme. In 2010, on the question of whether a software-based filter would be better, the organisation said that ISP-level filtering would be more effective for protecting the community as a whole — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Calls widen for GCSB law probe

The Privacy Commission has joined calls for further investigation into proposed new spying powers.

Commissioner Marie Shroff says the Law Commission should be asked to examine legislation and oversight of intelligence agencies.

The Government is proposing the Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill to make it legal for the agency to spy on New Zealanders on behalf of other law enforcement bodies.

It says it is necessary to clarify the law after the GCSB was found to be illegally intercepting communications.

But the bill has met opposition, including from the Law Society and the Human Rights Commission — via redwolf.newsvine.com

New Zealand Government About To Legalise Spying On NZ Citizens

After admitting they have illegally spied on NZ citizens or residents 88 times (PDF) since 2003, the government, in a stunning example of arse covering, is about to grant the GCSB the right to intercept the communications of New Zealanders in its role as the national cyber security agency, rather than examine the role the GCSB should play and then look at the laws. There has been strong criticism from many avenues. The bill is being opposed by Labour and the Greens, but it looks like National now have the numbers to get this passed. Of course, the front page story is all about the royal baby, with this huge erosion of privacy relegated to a small article near the bottom of the front page. Three cheers, the monarchy is secure, never mind the rights of the people. More bread and circuses anyone? — via Slashdot

Why David Cameron’s war on internet porn doesn’t make sense

The prime minister is looking at porn. For research purposes, of course. He’s not sitting in cabinet meetings peeking under the table at a looped three-second clip of a woman’s bra falling off that Michael Gove e-mailed to him by mistake. He is looking for a way he can pretend to be fighting it. He wants to declare himself the first prime minister to win the war on online porn. And, according to a letter leaked to the BBC last week, he reckons he has found one: default-on.

Default-on is a system whereby internet service providers block access to pornographic images as standard, unless the customer opts out of the filters. In the eyes of certain newspapers, it is the silver bullet solution to the problem of kids watching pornography. But, for various reasons, most of the major ISPs are not up for asking their customers: Do you want porn with that? They have negotiated with the government and agreed on a system called Active Choice + in which customers opt in for filters, rather than out for falling bras. The system gives new users a choice at installing filters, and existing customers the option of switching to safer browser modes. The default setting remains filter-free.

The leaked letter, sent to leading ISPs from the Department for Education, makes it clear that Cameron’s war or porn is propaganda masquerading as policy. It suggests: Without changing what you will be offering (ie active-choice +), the prime minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions [as] ‘default-on’. It is a sleight-of-hand worthy of the Ministry of Truth, a move from the “Let’s not and say we did!” school of regulation.

It raises the question: where else does Cameron use this line? Do his aides write to Starbucks, Google and Amazon to ask that, without changing what they are doing (avoiding paying billions in tax), they find a way for him to refer to this as “paying billions in tax”? Do they ask tobacco firms if, without ditching branded packaging, they could find a way for Dave to pretend they have? Has he ever asked George Osborne if he can refer to him as not George Osborne? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rise of the Warrior Cop

The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the US, at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment — from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armoured personnel carriers — American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the US scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.

The acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to clear a building — that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.

The country’s first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.

The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.

A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education’s SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.

The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing to be given posthumous pardon

Alan Turing, the Enigma codebreaker who took his own life after being convicted of gross indecency under anti-homosexuality legislation, is to be given a posthumous pardon.

The government signalled on Friday that it is prepared to support a backbench bill that would pardon Turing, who died from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954 after he was subjected to chemical castration.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a government whip, told peers that the government would table the third reading of the Alan Turing (statutory pardon) bill at the end of October if no amendments are made. If nobody tables an amendment to this bill, its supporters can be assured that it will have speedy passage to the House of Commons, Ahmad said.

The announcement marks a change of heart by the government, which declined last year to grant pardons to the 49,000 gay men, now dead, who were convicted under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act. They include Oscar Wilde — via redwolf.newsvine.com

HBO Asks Google to Take Down Infringing VLC Media Player

Day in and day out copyright holders send hundreds of thousands of DMCA takedown notices to Google, hoping to make pirated movies and music harder to find.

During the past month alone copyright holders asked Google to remove 14,855,269 URLs from its search results. Unfortunately, not all of these requests are legitimate.

In some cases the notices are flagged as false because the content has already been removed from the original site. But the automated systems used by copyright holders also include perfectly legitimate content. While Google keeps a close eye on this type of abuse the search engine can’t spot them all.

One good example of such a mistake is contained in a recent demand by HBO. The network is faced with a high demand for pirated copies of Game of Thrones and over the past months they asked Google to remove tens of thousands of links to the popular TV-show.

Usually these notices ask Google to get rid of links to pirate sites, but for some reason the cable network also wants Google to remove a link to the highly popular open source video player VLC — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Open season on black boys after a verdict like this

Let it be noted that on this day, Saturday 13 July 2013, it was still deemed legal in the US to chase and then shoot dead an unarmed young black man on his way home from the store because you didn’t like the look of him.

The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year was tragic. But in the age of Obama the acquittal of George Zimmerman offers at least that clarity. For the salient facts in this case were not in dispute. On 26 February 2012 Martin was on his way home, minding his own business armed only with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman pursued him, armed with a 9mm handgun, believing him to be a criminal. Martin resisted. They fought. Zimmerman shot him dead.

Who screamed. Who was stronger. Who called whom what and when and why are all details to warm the heart of a cable news producer with 24 hours to fill. Strip them all away and the truth remains that Martin’s heart would still be beating if Zimmerman had not chased him down and shot him.

There is no doubt about who the aggressor was here. It appears that the only reason the two interacted at all, physically or otherwise, is that Zimmerman believed it was his civic duty to apprehend an innocent teenager who caused suspicion by his existence alone — via redwolf.newsvine.com

German Chancellor Merkel urges better data protection rules

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to push for tougher European laws to protect personal information on the internet.

In a TV interview with the public broadcaster ARD, she said Germany wanted internet companies to tell us in Europe who they are giving data to.

Her comments follow revelations about a US spying operation that collects users’ data from internet companies.

Mrs Merkel also said she expected the US to abide by German law.

Tensions have been running high between the two countries following reports that the US has been eavesdropping on EU and German officials.

I expect a clear commitment from the US government that in future they will stick to German law, she said — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Exposed: Telstra’s secret FBI spy deal

Telstra signed a secret agreement a decade ago with US Government agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Justice that provided American law enforcement and national security organisations with an extremely broad level of access to all of the telco’s telecommunications passing in and out of the US, it was revealed late last week.

On Friday independent media outlet Crikey published what what appeared to be the text of the agreement. It notes that it was signed in November 2001 between Telstra and its Hong Kong partner telco PCCW, and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.

The document cites principles such as the US Government’s need to preserve the national security of the US and to ensure that US communications were secure in order to protect the privacy of US persons. It notes that the stimulus for the agreement to be signed was the application of Telstra/PCCW submarine cable joint venture Reach — which operates major underwater fibre links between a number of Asian countries, as well as Australia and the US — to provide telecommunications services from the US back in 2001, shortly after it was formed by Telstra and PCCW.

The agreement states that all telcos operating in the US must maintain facilities that were compliant with US law enforcement regulations in that country, such as the ability to hand over details, including calling data but not the content of communications, of all communications received or which originated in the US.

Data to be stored by Reach for two years included identifying information relating to telephone calls, such as telephone numbers, Internet addressed used, the time, date, size and duration of a communication, any information relating specifically to the identity and physical address of those communicating, and a host of other information, especially billing records, which typically show details of all telephone calls made by telephone service subscribers — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Ireland passes landmark abortion bill, ending total ban

Ireland.s parliament has passed a landmark law that will allow limited abortion in the Catholic country for the first time.

Lawmakers in the Dáil, Ireland’s parliament, voted in the early morning hours Friday to legalise abortions in cases when one could save a woman’s life.

After long and contentious debate that saw bishops threatening to ex-communicate lawmakers who voted in favour of the law, Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s coalition government pushed the bill through by a vote of 127 to 31, according to RTE News — via redwolf.newsvine.com

How Thor’s Hammer Made Its Way Onto Soldiers’ Headstones

To summarise, Thor’s hammer represents heroism, nobility, self-reliance, and honour. It’s a symbol with a history that extends back a thousand years to pre-Christian Europe. And adherents of Odinism, the religion that Thor’s hammer represents, tend to make natural soldiers. Oh, and it also shares a pretty strong cultural heritage with a superhero who is, in his own weird, Technicolor, space viking way, as American as apple pie. How strange would it be, then, if the US Department of Veterans Affairs — the organisation that oversees cemeteries dedicated to US veterans and ultimately says which symbols can be used therein to represent your religious faith — had a problem with Thor’s hammer?

But for decades, the VA did have a problem with Thor’s hammer. Not so much for what Mjölnir stood for but because it was a pagan symbol, and pagan symbols were verboten.

If you look at all the symbols the Department of Veterans Affairs have approved for use on headstones over the years, pagan symbols were really the final frontier, Pitzl-Waters says. Hinduism, Humanists, Atheists, all these other symbols had been approved. But there wasn’t a single pagan symbol on the approved list — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Female inmates sterilised in California prisons without approval

Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilised nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, the Centre for Investigative Reporting has found.

At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years — and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.

From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners.

The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison.

Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future.

Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate who worked in the prison’s infirmary during 2007, said she often overheard medical staff asking inmates who had served multiple prison terms to agree to be sterilised.

I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ said Nguyen, 28. Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

The NSA Comes Recruiting

The NSA came to recruit at a language program at the University of Wisconsin where I am spending my summer learning a language. Two recruiters, a redhead who looked more like a middle-aged 2013 NSA flyer copymother and a portly, balding man, began to go through slides explaining the NSA and its work.

I had intended to go simply to hear how the NSA is recruiting at a moment when it’s facing severe challenges, what with the Edward Snowden and all. Dismayingly, however, a local high school teacher had thought it was good to bring 5 of his students to the session. They were smartly dressed, some of them even wearing ties as if there might be a job interview, young faces in a classroom of graduate students. They sat across from me at the roundtable. It was really their presence that goaded me–and I think a couple of other students–into an interaction with the recruiters.

Roughly half an hour into the session, the exchange below began. I began by asking them how they understood the term adversary since the surveillance seems to be far beyond those the American state classifies as enemies, and their understanding of that ties into the recruiters’ earlier statement that the globe is our playground. I ended up asking them whether being a liar was a qualification for the NSA because:

The NSA’s instrumental understanding of language as well as its claustrophobic social world was readily apparent. One of the recruiters discussed how they tend to socialize after work, dressing up in costumes and getting drunk (referenced below). I can imagine that also exerts a lot of social pressure and works as a kind of social closure from which it would be difficult to escape. The last thing I want to point out — once again — their defence seems to be that it’s legal. What is legal is not just.

Someone else happened to record it on an iPhone, hence the audio quality. It’s been edited mainly to cut garbled audio or audio that wouldn’t have made sense and edit out questions and comments from people who didn’t explicitly say it was okay to post their audio. You’ll hear the sound drop out for a second to mark the cuts — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Parents who withheld care are guilty of homicide, Wisconsin justices say

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the homicide conviction of two parents whose 11-year-old daughter died while they relied on prayer and faith in God to treat her illness rather than conventional medicine.

The state high court ruled 6 to 1 that the parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, were properly tried and convicted of second-degree reckless homicide for failing to provide emergency medical treatment to their daughter, Kara.

A parent has a legal duty to provide medical care for a child if necessary, the Wisconsin high court declared — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Anti-Islam group seeks to expand

In Australia now, the anti-Islamic Australian Defence League is trying to expand its support base, particularly through social media.

A group against Islam and Islamic immigration. We are against those who worship a so-called Prophet (who) in his own words, raped, murdered, enslaved people and worse. He was a coward and a paedophile.

That is how the Australian Defence League describes itself on its Facebook page.

The League goes on to say it is motivated by what it calls a love of country, promoting democracy and the rule of law, which it says it does by opposing sharia law.

And it says a central part of its mission is to ensure the public gets a balanced picture of Islam, claiming the political and media establishment offers a sanitised and inaccurate view.

Almost by default, because its name stems from the better-known English Defence League that has led anti-Islam rallies in Britain, the Australian Defence League is the face of Australian ultranationalism.

But is the Australian Defence League merely a Facebook presence?

Or is it a body that, like the English Defence League, could mount a presence on the streets?

Professor Greg Barton, from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre, suggests the answer lies somewhere in between — via redwolf.newsvine.com

French and German fury over claims US bugged EU offices

France and Germany are urging the United States to come clean over claims that its intelligence services have been spying on key EU offices.

A report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said European Union offices in the US and Europe had been bugged.

Other targets included the French, Italian and Greek embassies in the US, according to leaked documents later mentioned by the Guardian newspaper.

Fugitive ex-CIA analyst Edward Snowden is said to be the source of the leaks.

Mr Snowden — who was also a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) — has since requested asylum in Ecuador. He is currently believed to be staying at Moscow’s airport — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Wendy Davis filibuster and public protest defeat Texas abortion bill

A controversial abortion bill was has defeated after a day of political drama in Texas that began with a marathon filibuster speech and ended with a raucous public protest that derailed a vote in the state legislature.

A live video stream and a social media swirl drew attention from around the world to the remarkable scenes in Austin, Texas, where Democrats led by Senator Wendy Davis staged a procedural filibuster to block a bill that would have severely restricted abortion in the

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, David Dewhurst, the Texas lieutenant governor, finally conceded defeat, saying he had missed the midnight deadline to sign the bill.

The attempts to stall the bill began on Monday morning when Davis launched into a speech that would last for 10 hours and 45 minutes. When procedural motions brought by Republican opponents forced her to stop, other Democratic colleagues took up the baton, using arcane procedural wrangles to run down the clock.

As the day wore on, a live video stream grew in popularity and supporters flocked to the chamber, filling the public galleries and spilling out into the hallways outside. Amid cheers and catcalls, a vote was eventually taken on the stroke of the midnight deadline.

Dewhurst told reporters the 19-10 vote was in time, but with all the ruckus and noise going on, I couldn’t sign the bill. He blamed the delay on an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics, according to the Austin American-Statesman, and denied mishandling the debate — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Shelved? No. Data retention will be back

Yesterday it was widely reported that the Federal Government had shelved its data retention plans, walking away from the controversial proposal to monitor all Australians’ communications. But the reality is the complete opposite: Data retention is still being actively considered as a policy and will shortly return to plague Australia once again.

If you believe most of Australia’s media outlets, yesterday the great multi-headed monster that is data retention was slayed by a cadre of victorious knights. Government shelves controversial data retention scheme, proclaimed The Age. Australian Government shelves data retention plans, wrote ZDNet. Govt shelves telco data retention scheme, added iTNews. Yup, there were plenty of footsoldiers waving flags in the air, their feet squarely planted on what they thought was the corpse of this long-reviled comprehensive surveillance project.

The only problem is, when you go back to the source material behind yesterday’s glorious proclamation and put it into context in terms of data retention’s wider history in Australia, it becomes clear that the project as a whole has only suffered a temporary setback in its progression at best, and that at worst, this week’s events have actually played right into its proponents’ hands. Things, if you’re a bureaucrat at the Attorney-General’s Department, are pretty much right on track.

The source of yesterday’s jubilation was two-fold. Firstly, the parliamentary committee which had been examining the data retention proposal as part of a much wider package of surveillance reforms, in a process known as the National Security Inquiry, had finally — at the last possible moment, in the last sitting week of the current Parliament — delivered a report into the proposed reforms, severely criticising the Attorney-General’s Department for its lack of transparency in developing the data retention policy, and recommending a wide range of transparency and accountability measures, as well as hard limits on its power, on the data retention idea — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Scotland Yard spied on critics of police corruption

Scotland Yard deployed undercover officers in political groups that sought to uncover corruption in the Metropolitan police and campaigned for justice for people who had died in custody, the Guardian can reveal.

At least three officers from the controversial Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) spied on London-based activist groups.

Mark Jenner, an undercover officer, used the identity Mark Cassidy in the 1990s to penetrate the Colin Roach Centre, which was named after a 21-year-old black British man who died in the foyer of Stoke Newington police station in north-east London. The campaigners worked with people who said they had been mistreated, wrongfully arrested or assaulted by police in the local borough — Hackney — which was at the time mired in a serious corruption scandal.

Jenner, who was married with children, had a five-year relationship with a woman he was spying on before his deployment ended in 2000.

A second SDS spy was used to gather intelligence on another group that represented the victims of police harassment and racist attacks in a neighbouring part of east London. The second spy, whose identity is not known, did not infiltrate the Newham Monitoring Project directly, but got inside associated groups and was able to monitor its activities.

The revelation comes a day after the Guardian revealed that Peter Francis, a former Met officer turned whistleblower, was asked to dig for dirt on the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The revelation provoked anger across the political spectrum, led by the prime minister — via redwolf.newsvine.com