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posted by takyon on Monday October 15 2018, @09:25AM   Printer-friendly

Republican Senators Demand Answers about Google+ Cover-up

Senators Thune, Wicker, and Moran Letter to Google

takyon: Three Senators have written a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai requesting responses to several questions about the recent Google+ breach.

Also at Reuters, Ars Technica, and The Verge.

How Google's China Project Undermines its Claims to Political Neutrality

Submitted via IRC for chromas

How Google's China project undermines its claims to political neutrality

The company's official position on content moderation remains political neutrality, a spokeswoman told me in an email:

Google is committed to free expression — supporting the free flow of ideas is core to our mission. Where we have developed our own content policies, we enforce them in a politically neutral way. Giving preference to content of one political ideology over another would fundamentally conflict with our goal of providing services that work for everyone.

Of course, it's impossible to read the report or Google's statement without considering Project Dragonfly. According to Ryan Gallagher's ongoing reporting at The Intercept, Google's planned Chinese search engine will enable anything but the free flow of ideas. Even in an environment where American users are calling for tech platforms to limit users' freedoms in exchange for more safety and security, many still recoil at the idea of a search engine that bans search terms in support of an authoritarian regime.

And that's the unresolvable tension at the heart of this report. Almost all of us would agree that some restrictions on free speech are necessary. But few of us would agree on what those restrictions should be. Being a good censor — or at least, a more consistent censor — is within Google's grasp. But being a politically neutral one is probably impossible.

See also: Senator Says Google Failed to Answer Key Questions on China

Related: Leaked Transcript Contradicts Google's Denials About Censored Chinese Search Engine


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3

posted by martyb on Friday October 12 2018, @11:18PM   Printer-friendly

Turkey 'has recording proving Saudi murder'

Turkish officials have audio and video evidence that shows missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was tortured and killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the BBC has learned.

Mr Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, has not been seen since he entered the building on 2 October.

Turkish intelligence had "documented evidence" of the murder, a source close to the investigation said.

Saudi Arabia denies the allegations. It says the journalist left the building.

Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and reported death have prompted international outrage and dented business confidence in Saudi Arabia. Tycoon Sir Richard Branson has halted talks over $1bn Saudi investment in Virgin space firms and several top business leaders have pulled out of a Saudi investment conference later this month.

Also at CNN.

See also: CNBC withdraws from Saudi conference over concerns about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Saturday October 06 2018, @08:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the let-'er-rip dept.

Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The vote was 50-48 in favor of Kavanaugh.

Senators Collins, Flake, and Manchin had already announced their intentions to confirm Kavanaugh before the vote was held. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was previously ready to vote "no", agreed to vote "present" instead so that Senator Steve Daines could attend his daughter's wedding instead of being present in the Senate to support Kavanaugh.

SCOTUSBlog: Kavanaugh confirmed as 114th justice
Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

Previously: SCOTUS's Justice Anthony Kennedy to Retire
President Trump Nominates Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court
Trump's Supreme Court Pick: ISPs Have 1st Amendment Right to Block Websites

posted by chromas on Saturday October 06 2018, @06:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the Do-you-want-the-wizard-or-the-skull? dept.

The Mormon Church and Governor Gary Herbert have come out in favor of medical cannabis legalization in Utah. However, the legislative compromise would be more restrictive for Utahans than a November 2018 ballot initiative:

The Mormon church joined lawmakers, the governor and advocates to back a deal on Thursday that would legalize medical marijuana in conservative Utah after months of fierce debate. The compromise comes as people prepare to vote in November on an insurgent medical marijuana ballot initiative that held its ground despite opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

[...] The Utah-based faith had opposed the ballot proposal over fears it could lead to more broad use, but its ranking global leader, Jack Gerard, said leaders were "thrilled" to be a part of the effort to "alleviate human pain and suffering".

Though it still must go to a vote, the deal has the key backing of both the church and leaders of the Republican-dominated state legislature, who said the regulations in the hard-won agreement had their seal of approval. Unlike the ballot initiative, the compromise won't allow people to grow their own marijuana if they live too far from a dispensary. It also doesn't allow certain types of edible marijuana that could appeal to children, like cookies and brownies.

Some medical cannabis advocates are not on board with the deal:

Medical marijuana advocates are backing the deal to avoid wrangling and uncertainty that could continue if the ballot initiative passes. "There will be medical cannabis here in our day in Utah," said the advocate DJ Schanz. The two sides agreed to scale back media campaigns supporting and opposing the ballot measure known as Proposition 2.

Not all medical marijuana advocates were convinced: Christine Stenquist with the group Truce said she remained skeptical about the deal and urged continued support for the ballot proposal. Smoking marijuana would not be allowed under the ballot proposal. It instead allows edible forms, lotions or electronic cigarettes.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Tuesday October 02 2018, @02:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the net-balk dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

The Trump administration is suing California to quash its new net neutrality law

The Trump administration said Sunday it will sue California in an effort to block what some experts have described as the toughest net neutrality law ever enacted in the United States, setting up a high-stakes legal showdown over the future of the Internet.

California on Sunday became the largest state to adopt its own rules requiring Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to treat all web traffic equally. Golden State legislators took the step of writing their law after the Federal Communications Commission scrapped nationwide protections last year, citing the regulatory burdens they had caused for the telecom industry.

Mere hours after California's proposal became law, however, senior Justice Department officials told The Washington Post they would take the state to court on grounds that the federal government, not state leaders, has the exclusive power to regulate net neutrality. DOJ officials stressed the FCC had been granted such authority from Congress to ensure that all 50 states don't seek to write their own, potentially conflicting, rules governing the web.

Also at Ars Technica, TechDirt, and Politico.

Previously: California Gov. Signs Nation’s Strictest Net Neutrality Rules Into Law


Original Submission

posted by chromas on Monday October 01 2018, @04:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the prohibition-always-works dept.

Canada signs on to U.S.-led renewal of war on drugs

Canada was rebuked on Monday by a group of world leaders and experts on drug policy for endorsing a Trump-led declaration renewing the "war on drugs" and for passing up a critical moment to provide global leadership on drug regulation.

The Trudeau government's decision to sign on to the declaration, released by the White House on the sidelines of U.S. President Donald Trump's first attendance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, contradicts Ottawa's previous skepticism of Washington's drugs war at home and abroad, and comes just weeks before cannabis legalization in Canada.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark said she believed that both Canada and Mexico − which also signed the declaration even though president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has repeatedly said that the "war on drugs" has failed and he will pursue new policy − likely have signed on reluctantly, held hostage by the North American free-trade agreement talks in Washington, over which a critical deadline looms.

Countries that signed the "Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem" were promised an invitation for their leader to attend a kick-off event with Mr. Trump in New York. The statement was not drafted in the usual multilateral process of a declaration from the UN and the wording was presented as non-negotiable. One hundred and thirty countries signed but 63 did not; the dissenters include major U.S. allies such as Germany, Norway and Spain.

Previously: Canada Becomes the Second Nation to Legalize Cannabis

Related: WP says Marijuana Legalization Makes World a Better Place


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 29 2018, @07:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-YOU-don't-know-won't-hurt-US dept.

The New York Times reports:

What do you call it when employers use Facebook’s advertising platform to show certain job ads only to men or just to people between the ages of 25 and 36?

How about when Google collects the whereabouts of its users — even after they deliberately turn off location history?

Or when AT&T shares its mobile customers’ locations with data brokers?

American policymakers often refer to such issues using a default umbrella term: privacy. That at least is the framework for a Senate Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for this Wednesday titled “Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy.”

[...] What is at stake here isn’t privacy, [it's] the right not to be observed. It’s how companies can use our data to invisibly shunt us in directions that may benefit them more than us.

[...] revelations about Russian election interference and Cambridge Analytica, the voter-profiling company that obtained information on millions of Facebook users, have made it clear that data-driven influence campaigns can scale quickly and cause societal harm.

And that leads to a larger question: Do we want a future in which companies can freely parse the photos we posted last year, or the location data from the fitness apps we used last week, to infer whether we are stressed or depressed or financially strapped or emotionally vulnerable — and take advantage of that?

[...] It’s tough to answer those questions right now when there are often gulfs between the innocuous ways companies explain their data practices to consumers and the details they divulge about their targeting techniques to advertisers.

[...] AT&T recently said it would stop sharing users’ location details with data brokers. Facebook said it had stopped allowing advertisers to use sensitive categories, like race or religion, to exclude people from seeing ads. Google created a feature for users to download masses of their data, including a list of all the sites Google has tracked them on.

Government officials in Europe are not waiting for companies to police themselves. In May, the European Union introduced a tough new data protection law that curbs some data-mining.

It requires companies to obtain explicit permission from European users before collecting personal details on sensitive subjects like their religion, health or sex life. It gives European users the right to see all of the information companies hold about them — including any algorithmic scores or inferences.

European users also have the right not to be subject to completely automated decisions that could significantly affect them, such as credit algorithms that use a person’s data to decide whether a bank should grant him or her a loan.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday September 25 2018, @06:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the subtle-influences dept.

Days after the Trump administration instituted a controversial travel ban in January 2017, Google employees discussed ways they might be able to tweak the company's search-related functions to show users how to contribute to pro-immigration organizations and contact lawmakers and government agencies, according to internal company emails.

The email traffic, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, shows that employees proposed ways to "leverage" search functions and take steps to counter what they considered to be "islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms 'Islam', 'Muslim', 'Iran', etc." and "prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms 'Mexico', 'Hispanic', 'Latino', etc."

The email chain, while sprinkled with cautionary notes about engaging in political activity, suggests employees considered ways to harness the company's vast influence on the internet in response to the travel ban. Google said none of the ideas discussed were implemented.

"These emails were just a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented," a company spokeswoman said in a statement. "Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology—not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump's executive order on immigration. Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies."

wsj.com/articles/google-workers-discussed-tweaking-search-function-to-counter-travel-ban-1537488472


Original Submission

posted by chromas on Wednesday September 12 2018, @02:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the That's-what-they-WANT-you-to-think dept.

In the Salon

There seems to be a lot of science being thrown at the "Trump Phenomenon." Salon covers yet another, and interviews the author.

A new paper, recently presented at the American Political Science Association's annual convention, suggests a widespread motive driving people to share fake news, conspiracy theories and other hostile political rumors. "Many status-obsessed, yet marginalized individuals experience a 'Need for Chaos' and want to 'watch the world burn'," lead author Michael Petersen tweeted, announcing the availability of a preprint copy.

Truth, in such a worldview, is beside the point, which offers a new perspective on the limitations of fact-checking. The motivation behind sharing or spreading narratives one may not even believe can help make sense of a variety of threatening or confusing recent developments in advanced democracies. It also sheds light on disturbing similarities with outbreaks of ethnic or genocidal violence, such as those seen in Rwanda and the Balkan nations during the 1990s.

Preprint of the paper available at PsyArXiv, here. [DOI: 10.31234/osf.io/6m4ts]


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday September 07 2018, @10:57AM   Printer-friendly

U.S. Justice Department officials said on Thursday they have charged and sanctioned a North Korean man in the 2017 global WannaCry ransomware cyberattack and the 2014 cyberassault on Sony Corp .

The charges, part of a strategy by the U.S. government to deter future cyberattacks by naming and shaming the alleged perpetrators, also alleged that the North Korean hacker broke into the central bank of Bangladesh in 2016, according to a criminal complaint.

Park Jin Hyok worked as part of a team of hackers, also known as the Lazarus Group, to try to breach multiple other U.S. businesses, according to the complaint. In 2016 and 2017, Park's targets included defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp . The complaint said there was no evidence Lockheed was breached.

The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed sanctions against Park and the Chinese-based front company he worked for, Chosun Expo.

Also covered by c|net:

The Justice Department has charged a North Korean computer programmer in major cybercrimes over the last four years, including the WannaCry ransomware attack and the Sony Pictures hack.

The DOJ said Thursday that it's charged Jin Hyok Park, a North Korean computer programmer, with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charges are related to a massive attack against Sony in 2014, the $81 million Bangladesh Bank heist in 2016 and the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 that ensnared thousands of computers in hospitals, universities and banks worldwide.

The Sony attack was tied to the film The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, a comedy that depicted an assassination attempt against North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

In retaliation, North Koreans pulled off one of the most damaging hacks on a US company, leaking thousands of emails between Sony executives, including personal information about employees and celebrities. The attack also crippled the company's computer infrastructure.

The WannaCry attack locked up more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, demanding that victims pay the ransom or risk losing access to their devices forever.

Park is not the only person accused in these attacks, but he is the only person named in the criminal complaint. DOJ officials said that Park didn't act alone and that the investigation is still ongoing.


Original Submission