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Open Source

Croatian Party Advocates Government Adoption of Open Source 11

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, Croatian political party Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) published a new policy that encourages the government to pursue open source solutions, addresses the dangers of vendor lock-in, and insists on open document standards. Best of all, they did it the open source way. In this article on Opensource.com, Croatian startup founder Josip Almasi highlights some of the policy's implications, as well as why it could matter in the upcoming election.
The Courts

Federal Court Overturns Ruling That NSA Metadata Collection Was Illegal 137

New submitter captnjohnny1618 writes: NPR is reporting that an appeals court has overturned the decision that found the NSA's bulk data collection to be illegal. "Judges for the District of Columbia court of appeals found that the man who brought the case, conservative lawyer Larry Klayman, could not prove that his particular cellphone records had been swept up in NSA dragnets." The article clarifies that due to the recent passage of new laws governing how metadata is collected, this is of less significance than it would have otherwise been: "If you remember, after a fierce battle, both houses of Congress voted in favor of a law that lets phone companies keep that database, but still allows the government to query it for specific data. The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia still decided to take on the case, because that new program doesn't begin until 180 days after the date that law was enacted (June 2, 2015.)" On top of that, the injunction from the earlier ruling never actually went into effect. Still, it seems like an important ruling to me: a government agency was willfully and directly violating the rights of the Americans (and international citizens as well) and now it's just going to get shrugged off?
Privacy

German Intelligence Traded Citizen Data For NSA Surveillance Software 58

An anonymous reader sends news that Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, was so impressed with the NSA's surveillance software that they were willing to "share all data relevant to the NSA's mission" in order to get it. "The data in question is regularly part of the approved surveillance measures carried out by the BfV. In contrast, for example, to the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BfV does not use a dragnet to collect huge volumes of data from the Internet. Rather, it is only allowed to monitor individual suspects in Germany -- and only after a special parliamentary commission has granted approval. ... Targeted surveillance measures are primarily intended to turn up the content of specific conversations, in the form of emails, telephone exchanges or faxes. But along the way, essentially as a side effect, the BfV also collects mass quantities of so-called metadata. Whether the collection of this data is consistent with the restrictions outlined in Germany's surveillance laws is a question that divides legal experts."
Canada

Canadian Nuclear Accident Study Puts Risks Into Perspective 159

An anonymous reader writes: A Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) study has concluded that there would be no detectable increase in cancer risk for most of the population from radiation released in a hypothetical severe nuclear accident. The CNSC's study is the result of a collaborative effort of research and analysis undertaken to address concerns raised during public hearings on the environmental assessment for the refurbishment of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Darlington nuclear power plant in 2012. The draft study was released for public consultation in June 2014. Feedback from the Commission itself and comments from over 500 submissions from the public, government and other organizations have been incorporated in the final version. The study involved identifying and modelling a large atmospheric release of radionuclides from a hypothetical severe nuclear accident at the four-unit Darlington plant
Communications

Docs: Responding To Katrina, FBI Made Cell Phone Surveillance Its Priority 83

v3rgEz writes: There's a lot of lessons that the federal government should have learned in the aftermath of Katrina. Increased domestic surveillance, however, appears to be the one the FBI took to heart, using the natural disaster as a justification for ramping up its use of Stingray cell phone tracking throughout Louisiana after the storm, according to documents released under FOIA to MuckRock.
Government

Kansas Secretary of State Blocks Release of Voting Machine Tapes 268

PvtVoid writes: Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson has filed a lawsuit under Kansas' open records law to force the state to release paper tape records from voting machines, to be used as data in her research on statistical anomalies in voting patterns in the state. Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate 'a statistically significant' pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct. The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling. Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued that the records sought by Clarkson are not subject to the Kansas open records act, and that their disclosure is prohibited by Kansas statute.
Government

North Dakota Legalizes "Less Than Lethal" Weapon-Equipped Police Drones 178

According to the Daily Beast, writes reader schwit1, North Dakota police will be free to fire 'less than lethal' weapons from the air thanks to the influence of a pro-police lobbyist. That means beanbags, tear-gas, and Tasers, at the very least, can be brought to bear by remote. It's worth noting that "non-lethal" isn't purely true, even if that's the intent behind such technologies. From the article, based partly on FOIA requests made by MuckRock into drone use by government agencies: The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones. Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.
Censorship

"Sensationalized Cruelty": FCC Complaints Regarding Game of Thrones 193

v3rgEz writes: As a cable channel, the FCC has little to no jurisdiction over HBO's content. That doesn't stop people from complaining to them about them, however, and after a FOIA request, the FCC released numerous complaints regarding the network's Game of Thrones. While there were the usual and expected lamentations about 'open homosexual sex acts,' other users saw Game of Thrones as a flashpoint in the war of Net Neutrality.
IBM

IBM Tells Administrators To Block Tor On Security Grounds 69

Mickeycaskill writes: IBM says Tor is increasingly being used to scan organizations for flaws and launch DDoS, ransomware and other attacks. Tor, which provides anonymity by obscuring the real point of origin of Internet communications, was in part created by the US government, which helps fund its ongoing development, due to the fact that some of its operations rely on the network. However, the network is also widely used for criminal purposes. A report by the IBM says administrators should block access to Tor , noting a "steady increase" an attacks originating from Tor exit nodes, with attackers increasingly using Tor to disguise botnet traffic. "Spikes in Tor traffic can be directly tied to the activities of malicious botnets that either reside within the Tor network or use the Tor network as transport for their traffic," said IBM. "Allowing access between corporate networks and stealth networks can open the corporation to the risk of theft or compromise, and to legal liability in some cases and jurisdictions."
Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 273

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."
Government

California Bill Would Dramatically Limit Commercial Drones 188

An anonymous reader writes: California's Senate Bill 142 would prohibit drones from flying under 350 feet over any property without express permission from the property's owner. The bill passed the California Assembly easily. Tech advocates have been battling privacy advocates to influence the inevitable regulation of private and commercial drones. Industry groups say this restriction will kill drone delivery services before they even begin. The legislation would also drastically diminish the usefulness of camera-centric drones like the ones being rolled out by GoPro. If passed, the bill could influence how other states regulate drones. The article notes that 156 different drone-related bills have been considered in 46 different states this year alone, and the FAA will issue nationwide rules in September.
NASA

Calls For Funding NASA Commercial Crew Grow 71

MarkWhittington writes: As summer starts to give way to fall and the end of the current fiscal year draws nigh, demands that NASA's commercial crew program be fully funded are being heard with greater frequency and urgency. Astronaut Scott Kelly took time off from his year-long sojourn on the International Space Station to entreat Congress to pony up. IO9 was a little more caustic, stating "Dammit, Congress: Just Buy NASA its Own Space Taxi, Already." Monday, Slate became the latest media outlet to take up the cause

The situation is depressingly familiar to those who have followed the fortunes of the space program since the Apollo moon landings. When President Obama started the commercial crew program in 2010, NASA estimated that it would take a certain amount of money to get government funded and commercially operated spacecraft running by 2015. Then the space agency would no longer be dependent on Russia for rides to the International Space Station.

Congress has decided to allocate less money than NASA feels it needed for commercial crew. This situation is not unusual, as Congress often does this to space projects. However, the politics surrounding the creation of the commercial crew program, which featured the abrupt cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program, has exacerbated the conflict between NASA's will and Congress' won't. President Obama did not consult Congress when he cancelled President Bush's return to the moon program. Congress has displeased ever since.
Security

Court: FTC Can Punish Companies With Sloppy Cybersecurity 86

jfruh writes: The Congressional act that created the Federal Trade Commission gave that agency broad powers to punish companies engaged in "unfair and deceptive practices." Today, a U.S. appeals court affirmed that sloppy cybersecurity falls under that umbrella. The case involves data breaches at Wyndham Worldwide, which stored customer payment card information in clear, readable text, and used easily guessed passwords to access its important systems.
Stats

Mostly Theater? Taking Aim At White House 'We the People' Petitions 68

theodp writes: "Since we launched We the People in 2011," wrote the White House last month, "millions of Americans have engaged with their government on the issues that matter to them. This groundbreaking online platform has made petitioning the government, a First Amendment right, more accessible than ever. Over the past few years, the Obama administration has taken a stance on a number of causes that citizens really care about and used the We the People petition platform to voice their concerns." Sounds good, but even if the White House is listening to We the People petitions, as it assured skeptics, one wonders what — and who — exactly they are listening to. Petitions suffer from being aye-only, lack identity and location verification, and appear to have other data quality issues. One attempting to explore the petition data for the 67,022-and-counting signers of a new petition urging a quick response to a court decision that could cut the time international STEM students can work in the U.S. on student visas after graduation, for example, would be stymied by thousands of missing and non-U.S. postal codes. Plotting what location info is available does show that the petitioners are clustered around tech and university hubs, hardly a surprise, but it sheds no context on whether these represent corporate, university, and/or international student interests.
Democrats

Judge Orders State Dept, FBI To Expand Clinton Email Server Probe 303

An anonymous reader writes: In a hearing over Freedom of Information Act requests to the State Department, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said that former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't comply with government policies. He ordered the State Department to reach out to the FBI to see if any relevant emails exist on Hillary Clinton's email server. Judge Sullivan was surprised that the State Department and FBI were not already communicating on the issue following the FBI's seizure of Clinton's email server and three thumb drives of emails. More than 300 emails are being examined for containing classified information, and dozens of the emails were "born classified" based on content. Some of those emails were forwarded outside the government. There are also clues emerging about how some of the classified information made its way onto Clinton's server. The email controversy is beginning to show up on the campaign trail, an unwelcome development for Secretary Clinton. Reporter Bob Woodward, who helped bring down President Nixon, said the scandal reminds him of the Nixon tapes. It is interesting to note that the post-Watergate reforms have helped move the investigation forward.
Censorship

Proposed Rules Would Require Gov't Registration For Malaysian Press Sites 39

Malaysia's Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak has proposed mandatory government registration for web sites operating within Malaysia. This comes after the Malaysian government blocked the online Sarawak Report, and suspended a newspaper called the The Edge "for allegedly posting unverified information." Officials accused these news outlets of publishing inaccurate documents about a corruption scandal that linked the Prime Minister to 1MDB, a state-managed investment firm that reportedly lost billions of taxpayers’ money. ... The proposal to require news websites to register is seen by some as part of the government’s response to the rising outrage over the corruption issue.
Cellphones

In Baltimore and Elsewhere, Police Use Stingrays For Petty Crimes 210

USA Today reports on the widespread use of stingray technology by police to track down even petty criminals and witnesses, as well as their equally widespread reluctance to disclose that use. The article focuses mostly on the city of Baltimore; by cross-checking court records against a surveillance log from the city’s Advanced Technical Team, the USA Today reporters were able to determine at least several hundred cases in which phony ("simulated") cell phone towers were used to snoop traffic. In court, though, and even in the information that the police department provides to the city's prosecutors, the use of these devices is rarely disclosed, thanks to a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI and probably a general reluctance to make public how much the department is using them, especially without bothering to obtain search warrants. From the article: In at least one case, police and prosecutors appear to have gone further to hide the use of a stingray. After Kerron Andrews was charged with attempted murder last year, Baltimore's State's Attorney's Office said it had no information about whether a phone tracker had been used in the case, according to court filings. In May, prosecutors reversed course and said the police had used one to locate him. "It seems clear that misrepresentations and omissions pertaining to the government's use of stingrays are intentional," Andrews' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Deborah Levi, charged in a court filing.

Judge Kendra Ausby ruled last week that the police should not have used a stingray to track Andrews without a search warrant, and she said prosecutors could not use any of the evidence found at the time of his arrest.
Sci-Fi

Hugos Refuse To Award Anyone Rather Than Submit To Fans' Votes 1026

An anonymous reader writes: You may remember way back in April there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the nominees for the Hugo Awards being "too conservative" based on a voting campaign organized by a group of science fiction fans who wanted to promote hard science fiction over more recent nominees. This was spun as conservatives "ruining" a "progressive" award. The question was left: would the final voters of the Hugo awards accept these nominees, or just take their ball home and refuse to give out anyway awards at all? The votes are in and we know the answer now: they'd rather just not give out any awards. (Wired has a slightly different slant on the process as well as the outcome of this year's awards.)
Government

City of Munich Struggling With Basic Linux Functionality 392

jones_supa writes: Just like the city planned a year ago, Munich is still calling for a switch back to Windows from LiMux, their Ubuntu derivative. The councilors from Munich's conservative CSU party have called the operating system installed on their laptops "cumbersome to use" and "of very limited use." The letter from the two senior members of the city's IT committee (PDF in German) asks the mayor to consider removing the Linux-based OS and to install Windows and Office. "There are no programs for text editing, Skype, Office etc. installed and that prevents normal use," the letter argues. Another complaint from councilors is that "the lack of user permissions makes them of limited use." These kind of arguments raise eyebrows, as all that functionality is certainly found on Linux.