British government snoops claimed it was too much hassle for them to use intercepted communications data in court proceedings because the accused could use the info to prove their innocence, it has emerged.
Police officers, spies and local council bin inspectors were all asked for their views of Blighty’s surveillance laws as part of the Independent Terrorism Legislation Reviewer’s, er, review of Blighty’s snooping laws, which was published on Thursday.
One of the questions asked was why, uniquely in the West, Britain’s state-sponsored snoopers do not use the evidence they gather against alleged criminals in legal proceedings. The response, at paragraph 9.16 was revealing:
Part of the reason for this is the extensive disclosure requirement in criminal proceedings: were it sought to rely on the product of intercept conducted over a period of several months, the defence could legitimately request a transcript of the entire intercept product with a view to searching it for exculpatory material.
In plain English, this meant the authorities were worried that using communications data hoovered up under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act would mean alleged crims could demand access to the same data – and use it to show they were innocent of the crimes they were charged with.
That’s all super sketchy. But that’s just the very beginning of this story. Because days later, Thejesh received the most ridiculous legal threat letter, coming from a lawyer named Ameet Mehta from the law firm Solicis Lex. It claims to be representing an Israeli company, Flash Network, which is apparently responsible for the code injection software… and it claims that by merely revealing to the public that Airtel was doing these injections, he had engaged in criminal copyright infringement under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
I’m just going to quote the first comment to this article on Ars Technica:
Did they fail high school physics? I get more radiation in total wattage and of a higher frequency from light bulbs by standing next to a lamp. Are you going to post a warning label on light bulbs next?
The biggest wireless industry trade group is suing the City of Berkeley, California to stop a requirement that cell phones come with radiation warnings.
The Berkeley City Council last month passed an ordinance requiring cell phone retailers to provide the following notice to all customers who buy or lease phones:
To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. This potential risk is greater for children. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.
CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents carriers and suppliers, sued in US District Court yesterday, saying the “required disclosure… impermissibly abridges CTIA’s members’ First Amendment rights,” that it is “preempted by federal law,” and that there is no scientific basis for the warning.
“The Federal Communications Commission (‘FCC’) implements a mandate from Congress to create a nationwide, uniform set of regulations for wireless communications devices,” CTIA wrote. “Pursuant to that mandate, the FCC—consulting with expert federal health and safety agencies and drawing from international standards-setting bodies—has carefully reviewed the scientific studies that have examined cell phones for possible adverse health effects, including health effects from the radio waves—a type of radiofrequency energy (‘RF energy’)—that cell phones emit in order to function. The FCC has determined, consistent with the overwhelming consensus of scientific authority, that ‘[t]here is no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer or a variety of other problems, including headaches, dizziness or memory loss.'”
The FCC’s standards are conservative, CTIA wrote, saying that the commission’s “exposure limits for RF energy in a general population setting ‘are set at a level on the order of 50 times below the level at which adverse biological effects have been observed in laboratory animals.'”
When contacted by Ars, a Berkeley spokesperson responded, “We don’t comment on pending litigation.”
San Francisco revoked a similar ordinance in 2013 after losing a court battle to CTIA. But Berkeley isn’t giving up. The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday:
Berkeley officials said they were confident the ordinance would be upheld. Councilman Max Anderson, the measure’s lead sponsor, said the warning language was taken directly from manufacturers’ statements in product manuals. Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, helped to draft the ordinance and has agreed to defend it without charge.
“I believe Berkeley has a right to assure its residents know of the existing safety recommendations,” Lessig said by e-mail.
Last month the European Commission adopted a new Digital Single Market strategy with the aim of improving consumer access to digital goods and services. Among other things the Commission says it plans to end the “discriminatory practice” of “unjustified” geo-blocking.
“I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Another part of the strategy is to modernize European copyright law to enable consumers to more easily enjoy online content, such as accessing content they purchased at home in other countries across the EU.
Speaking at music industry event Midem in Cannes yesterday, former Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip who serves as Vice President for the Digital Single Market shared his vision for the strategy.
“Our people have to get the possibility to buy content [across Europe] like they do at home and our businesses must get the possibility to sell across the European Union like they do at home,” Ansip said.
“Today, we don’t have a Digital Single Market in the European Union. We have 28 relatively small markets and for small European companies it’s practically impossible to understand those 28 different [sets of] regulations.”
Ansip underlined that what is possible in the offline world must be possible in the online world and key issues must be addressed if parity is to be achieved.
“Today, the four basic freedoms in the EU – free movement of people, goods, services, capital – it’s a reality in a physical [world] but it’s not reality in the online world,” Ansip said.
Describing the music industry as a “pioneer” that has grown out of disruption to largely abandon geo-blocking by enabling cross-border access, Ansip addressed concerns that the EU’s plans for modernization of copyright law are something to be feared by content creators.
“I don’t think people here in this room or elsewhere have to be worried. Today, I would like to enjoy [film] masterpieces created by creators. I am ready to pay but because of copyright restrictions, because of geo-blocking, they are not accepting my money,” Ansip said.
“Our aim is to create a win-win situation. I would like to enjoy, I will pay, creators will get more money. This is our way. We don’t want to destroy the whole copyright system based on a principle of territoriality. We have to allow cross-border access to digital content to all people, we have to allow portability.”
Ansip said there are 100 million Europeans who would like to access content in other members states but they can’t because of geo-blocking. Around 271 million cross-border trips with at least one overnight stay are carried out by Europeans each year yet those people cannot always get access to the content they bought legally back home while doing so.
This is just one indication that the law needs to change, but piracy itself will be challenged.
“According to public opinion polls, 68% of film viewers say they are using [illegal] downloads. 20% of Internet users in the European Union are using VPNs to get access to digital content. That’s a huge amount of money that our creators are losing today, so of course we will pay more attention to ‘Follow the Money’ [anti-piracy strategy],” Ansip said.
Assuring content holders that the EU Commission is not hostile towards copyright and rightsholders, Ansip asked the Midem audience to consider the 30% of Canadian Netflix users who use a VPN to access the U.S. version of the service.
“In the European Union our creators are losing huge amounts of money because of piracy but honestly, somehow our legislation is pushing people to steal,” he said.
“Take Spotify, for example. We can say that if somebody is able to provide services with better quality with higher speed, then people prefer to act as honest people. They are ready to pay. They don’t want to steal.”
Highlighting the success of Norway in slashing piracy rates, Ansip says that was achieved by first offering access to quality legal services.
“The European Commission wants to protect the rights of creators but first we have to provide legal access to digital content to all people. Then it will be more fruitful to tackle piracy,” Ansip said.
Prenda Law was a “copyright trolling” scheme that sued thousands for downloading online porn, but the organization was buried under a wave of judicial sanctions beginning in 2013.
However, the three lawyers found to be intertwined with the organization—John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, and Paul Duffy—continue to get in hot water. On Friday, an Illinois federal judge reconsidered (PDF) a 2014 ruling in which he found there wasn’t enough evidence for a “contempt of court” finding. New evidence has convinced US District Judge David Herndon that Steele and Hansmeier should be found in contempt, and last week he ordered them to pay $65,263. That amount will get progressively larger, the judge warned, “if they continue their misdeeds before this Court.”
In addition, Steele and Duffy “engaged in unreasonable, willful obstruction of discovery in bad faith,” and Herndon ordered those two to pay for the defense’s discovery expenses, needed to unwind the complex financial records.
The three offending lawyers have until July 15 to pay up.
“We’re ecstatic because we finally got it, and this order gives them a set date by which to pay,” said defense lawyer Jason Sweet in an interview with Ars. “They didn’t have to obstruct discovery. It was always in their control. As the court found, they’ve shown a willingness to lie, and they’ll continue to do so unless they’re sanctioned.”
While Comcast’s attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable may be dead in the water, information revealed during the company’s ugly but often entertaining merger sales pitch may come back to haunt it. When Comcast started selling regulators on the idea of the Time Warner Cable merger, you’ll recall it highlighted repeatedly how Comcast should be trusted because it had done such a bang up job adhering to the conditions placed on its acquisition of NBC Universal. Except when regulators tried to verify this M&A claim (which is already rare enough in telecom), they discovered that not only did Comcast write most of the conditions itself, it still somehow managed to repeatedly fail to adhere to them.
For example Comcast had to be fined $800 million by the FCC for failing to offer and clearly advertise a relatively paltry 5 Mbps, $50 per month broadband tier. Similarly, the company’s Internet Essentials program, which promised 5 Mbps, $10 broadband for low income communities and was a phenomenal PR boon for Comcast — at one point resulted in Philadelphia street protests for being hard to find, qualify, and sign up for. It was also revealed that Comcast ignored conditions intended to keep the company from hamstringing Internet video competitor Hulu, which it acquired as part of the NBC deal.
So yes, Comcast, you’re really great at adhering to merger conditions, just as long as nobody actually bothers to look at how well you adhere to merger conditions. Given how closely the FCC had looked at whether companies adhered to merger conditions in the past (as in: not at all), Comcast’s hubris here was understandable.
The problem is that it was tested 70 times.
Arguably, this graphic from the ABC News report is not entirely accurate, though, because failing 67 out of 70 times is actually a 95.7% failure rate, not 95%. Of course, the banner actually says that “TSA FAILS TO FIND 95% OF GUNS, EXPLOSIVES,” but you can’t fail to find 95% of a gun, except that I guess if you have failed to find all of it you could also argue that you have necessarily not found 95% of it, or any lesser included amount, really. It’s all in how you look at it.
Perhaps the TSA will look at it as an improvement over past results, and because it has been so remarkably incompetent for so long its spokesthings could actually say that with nearly straight faces. Back in March 2006, which was already almost five years after 9/11, we learned that government investigators had tried to smuggle bomb parts through security checkpoints 21 times and had succeeded 21 times. Or, to put it another way, the TSA had succeeded in detecting them approximately no times.
Almost exactly seven years and many billions of dollars later, I noted another series of tests with similar results. Although in that case the TSA did detect one of four investigators who tried to smuggle bombs onto planes—a bomb-detection failure rate of just 75%—my respect for its efforts was tempered somewhat by the fact that the guy they caught “was detected with an IED hidden inside a doll [that] sources told the [Washington] Post … had wires sticking out of it and was quite obvious.” So, in terms of actual operational success I’m still counting that one as a no.
I therefore have little doubt that the TSA will spin this as a sign of improvement, since compared to its earlier efforts its success rate has gone up substantially. You might even say “infinitely” or “incalculably.” Yes, that’s it: TSA would like to point out that its success rate has increased by an amount that is literally impossible to calculate.
On the bright side, it has successfully detected people openly carrying Arabic flashcards. To my knowledge, it gets those people 100% of the time.
The three-day injunction hearing was told Mr O’Brien wanted to restrain publication of the broadcast report because it breached his privacy rights and would cause him incalculable commercial damage.
If you call Verizon FiOS and try to cancel or downgrade your TV package, you might find that the FiOS rep knows almost as much about your TV viewing habits as you do.
Verizon’s Rep Guidance software tells Verizon representatives what channels you watch to help them make a more effective sales pitch. The system, which also shows them how much Internet data you use and which pieces of TV equipment you use most, was detailed by a Verizon executive in a public presentation hosted by Data Driven NYC. A Quartz reporter wrote about the presentation yesterday.
Verizon “is now closely tracking exactly what you watch, what devices you use, and how much data you consume,” Quartz wrote. “It knows whether your household spars over DVR conflicts and how many hours your kids spend binge-watching shows on HBO. What’s more, the company is listening in on phone calls to customer service in real time, with supervisors poised to jump at the moment they sense a fight brewing or hear trigger words from an unhappy customer, such as ‘switching to Time Warner Cable.'”
AFTER JUDY JEAN Caquias died in Rikers Island custody last year, her youngest sister received a box from her old apartment with all of her personal belongings. Her whole life distilled into a pile of odds and ends: pictures of family, old papers from school, an iron-on patch of a woman with a rainbow flag flying. Yankees memorabilia, an Obama sticker, a political flier: “Demand housing for the homeless.” A program for a community play she’d been cast in, and on the cover, a picture of her as a sad clown holding an American flag. And photos of herself: a grainy selfie she took in her bedroom wearing a gray tank top and gold chain, with close cut gray hair and reading glasses. Another where she’s a little thinner, in a white baseball cap and gray hoodie, eyebrows raised and mouth slightly open as if she’s about to say something.
On May 6 of last year, Caquias — who everyone knew as Jackie — was incarcerated at Rikers on a years-old warrant for having missed drug court dates. She was a tough lady at 61, according to the defense lawyer in her criminal case. But she had a history of liver disease, including a bout of Hep C, and in her 20s and 30s she had been addicted to heroin, which can also cause liver damage. Jackie had done time before on drug-related charges — but that was long ago. “She was very frightened of spending time in jail after all that time out,” her former lawyer Ilissa Brownstein says.
On Jackie’s second day at the Rose M. Singer Center, the island’s only women’s facility, the medical clinic ran lab tests that showed Jackie’s liver was severely stressed. Blood work two weeks later showed the same. Yet the doctors at Rikers didn’t send Jackie to a gastroenterologist for a liver exam. Instead, they prescribed her Tylenol 3 and iron, both dangerous for people with liver problems. The Tylenol 3 was discontinued after a week, but even after medical staff ordered the iron be stopped, the pharmacy continued dispensing it. Less than a month after Jackie arrived at Rose M. Singer, her system began to fail. She grew disoriented and delusional, and began vomiting so severely that blood and bodily tissue came up — all signs of acute liver failure. On June 25, 2014, after spending weeks in Elmhurst Hospital comatose and hooked up to machines, Jackie died. This according to a proposed amended notice of claim for a lawsuit to be filed this summer by her sister Daria Widing, and an analysis of health records by the medical expert hired for the case. The lawsuit, which will seek $20 million in damages, will charge that negligence by the City of New York contributed to Jackie’s death.
New York City’s chief medical examiner listed Jackie’s cause of death as “complications of upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage complicating hepatic cirrhosis due to Hepatitis C due to chronic substance abuse,” according to the medical expert. The New York State Commission of Correction, which conducts inmate mortality reviews, determined that Jackie’s cause of death was natural, and the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), in charge of overseeing Rikers medical care, reviewed Jackie’s case and closed it shortly after her death.
Both DOHMH and Corizon, the private company that runs medical services at Rikers, say that privacy law prohibits them from commenting on the medical care of individuals. Corizon says it is “deeply saddened by any death.”
I asked several former Rose M. Singer inmates if they had known Jackie. When I asked Namala Conteh, there was silence on the line. Then the memory filtered back: “Oh my god, the one that passed away? Oh my — you just reopened my wound again. The crazy thing is — I — I — mmmmmm, fuck. It’s crazy. That — Oh my god.”
Conteh was there at the clinic when Jackie was finally taken in. “They were so neglectful,” she says of the staff. “They had that blood all over their hands.”
JACKIE’S DEATH APPEARS to fit a pattern; a series of health care-related deaths alongside the never-ending reports of brutality in the Rikers men’s jails have dominated headlines in recent months. Last year, the AP reported that poor medical care at Rikers had helped precipitate at least 15 inmate deaths over the past five years. After medical staff failed to treat a 59-year-old inmate for constipation, he died of complications from an infected bowel. Another man went into a diabetic coma and died within two days of being incarcerated. According to a complaint filed by his family, a 19-year-old boy who complained of chest pain for seven months was never given an X-ray and died in 2013 from a tear in his aorta. The New York Times recently detailed another death, that of Bradley Ballard, an inmate with schizophrenia and diabetes who died after being locked in his cell for six days without medication or running water.