IBM gets a patent on “out-of-office” e-mail messages—in 2017 | Ars Technica UK


The US Patent Office sees no history, hears no history—unless it’s in patents.

Source: IBM gets a patent on “out-of-office” e-mail messages—in 2017 | Ars Technica UK

The FBI Is Building A National Watchlist That Gives Companies Real Time Updates on Employees


Will the FBI’s Rap Back service notify your boss that you got arrested protesting the inauguration?

Source: The FBI Is Building A National Watchlist That Gives Companies Real Time Updates on Employees

Stupid Patent of the Month: A Lyrics Website With User Interaction | Electronic Frontier Foundation


Song lyrics are some of the most searched-for topics on the Internet. This has lead to fierce competition among lyrics sites. If you scroll to the bottom of one of these websites, you’ll see the claim: “Song discussions is protected by U.S. Patent No.

Source: Stupid Patent of the Month: A Lyrics Website With User Interaction | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Malcolm Gladwell’s Ridiculous Attack On Ed Snowden Based On Weird Prejudice About How A Whistleblower Should Look | Techdirt

So, suffice it to say I was already skeptical of Gladwell’s recent piece attacking Ed Snowden as not being a “real” whistleblower. But the piece is much, much worse than even I expected. The short, Gladwellian-style summary of it might be: real whistleblowers have to look the part, and they need to be part of an Ivy League elite, with clear, noble reasons behind what they did. Here’s how Gladwell describes Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who leaked the Pentagon Papers, and to whom Gladwell has given his stamp of approval as a “Real Whistleblower™”

Source: Malcolm Gladwell’s Ridiculous Attack On Ed Snowden Based On Weird Prejudice About How A Whistleblower Should Look | Techdirt

Ruling Unsealed: National Security Letters Upheld As Constitutional| Electronic Frontier Foundation

San Francisco – A federal judge has unsealed her ruling that National Security Letter (NSL) provisions in federal law—as amended by the USA FREEDOM Act—don’t violate the Constitution. The ruling allows the FBI to continue to issue the letters with accompanying gag orders that silence anyone from disclosing they have received an NSL, often for years.

Source: Ruling Unsealed: National Security Letters Upheld As Constitutional | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Did You Hear About How ISIS Has A Sophisticated Training Manual For Encryption? Yeah, It Was Actually A Pamphlet For Journalists And Activists | Techdirt

The “manual” was “discovered” by analysts at the Combating Terrorism Center, based out of the US Military Academy at West Point. Thankfully, Buzzfeed has the details, noting that the guide, created by a cybersecurity firm in Kuwait, named Cyberkov, is actually a guide for journalists and activists to protect their communications from oppressive governments. And there’s nothing particularly secret about it, as apparently it’s basically just repurposed stuff from the EFF’s website

Source: Did You Hear About How ISIS Has A Sophisticated Training Manual For Encryption? Yeah, It Was Actually A Pamphlet For Journalists And Activists | Techdirt

Once Again, Megaupload User Asks Court for His Files Back | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Three years ago now, EFF’s client Kyle Goodwin, a sports videographer, asked the court to allow him to retrieve the files he stored in an account on the cloud storage site Megaupload. When the government seized Megaupload’s assets and servers in January 2012, Mr. Goodwin lost access to video files containing months of his professional work.

Source: Once Again, Megaupload User Asks Court for His Files Back | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Google Fiber Sends Automated Piracy ‘Fines’ to Subscribers

Every month Google receives dozens of millions of DMCA takedown requests from copyright holders, most of which are directed at its search engine.

However, with Google Fiber being rolled out in more cities, notices targeting allegedly pirating Internet subscribers are becoming more common as well.

These include regular takedown notices but also the more controversial settlement demands sent by companies such as Rightscorp and CEG TEK.

Instead of merely alerting subscribers that their connections have been used to share copyright infringing material, these notices serve as automated fines, offering subscribers settlements ranging from $20 to $300.

The scheme uses the standard DMCA takedown process which means that the copyright holder doesn’t have to go to court or even know who the recipient is. In fact, the affected subscriber is often not the person who shared the pirated file.

To protect customers against these practices many ISPs including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have chosen not to forward settlement demands. However, information received by TF shows that Google does take part.

Over the past week we have seen settlement demands from Rightscorp and CEG TEK which were sent to Google Fiber customers. In an email, Google forwards the notice with an additional warning that repeated violations may result in a permanent disconnection.

“Repeated violations of our Terms of Service may result in remedial action being taken against your Google Fiber account, up to and including possible termination of your service,” Google Fiber writes.

Link (TorrentFreak)

You Can’t Read the TPP, But These Huge Corporations Can

The Senate today is holding a key procedural vote that would allow the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be “fast-tracked.”

So who can read the text of the TPP? Not you, it’s classified. Even members of Congress can only look at it one section at a time in the Capitol’s basement, without most of their staff or the ability to keep notes.

But there’s an exception: if you’re part of one of 28 U.S. government-appointed trade advisory committees providing advice to the U.S. negotiators. The committees with the most access to what’s going on in the negotiations are 16 “Industry Trade Advisory Committees,” whose members include AT&T, General Electric, Apple, Dow Chemical, Nike, Walmart and the American Petroleum Institute.

The TPP is an international trade agreement currently being negotiated between the US and 11 other countries, including Japan, Australia, Chile, Singapore and Malaysia. Among other things, it could could strengthen copyright laws, limit efforts at food safety reform and allow domestic policies to be contested by corporations in an international court. Its impact is expected to be sweeping, yet venues for public input hardly exist.

Industry Trade Advisory Committees, or ITACs, are cousins to Federal Advisory Committees like the National Petroleum Council that I wrote about recently. However, ITACs are functionally exempt from many of the transparency rules that generally govern Federal Advisory Committees, and their communications are largely shielded from FOIA in order to protect “third party commercial and/or financial information from disclosure.” And even if for some reason they wanted to tell someone what they’re doing, members must sign non-disclosure agreements so they can’t “compromise” government negotiating goals. Finally, they also escape requirements to balance their industry members with representatives from public interest groups.

The result is that the Energy and Energy Services committee includes the National Mining Association and America’s Natural Gas Alliance but only one representative from a company dedicated to less-polluting wind and solar energy.

The Information and Communications Technologies, Services, and Electronic Commerce committee includes representatives from Verizon and AT&T Services Inc. (a subsidiary of AT&T), which domestically are still pushing hard against new net neutrality rules that stop internet providers from creating more expensive online fast-lanes.

And the Intellectual Property Rights committee includes the Recording Industry Association of America, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Apple, Johnson and Johnson and Yahoo, rather than groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which shares the industry’s expertise in intellectual property policy but has an agenda less aligned with business.

Link (The Intercept)

DEA Orchestrates Disinformation Campaign To Conceal Surveillance Powers

In Neal Stephenson’s brilliant Cryptonomicon, a protagonist works for a shadowy Allied unit called “Detachment 2702.” Detachment 2702 creates elaborate fake evidence to offer explanations of how the Allies learned of German movements, thus concealing that the Allies had cracked the Enigma code. Though fictional, the Detachment is based on actual World War II tactics. The Allies did things like send spotter planes to places they knew German ships would be to fortuitously “spot” them, and reportedly sent a fake radio message of congratulations to a non-existent spy to suggest a source for other intelligence.

You expect the government to use secret surveillance and disinformation campaigns against a wartime enemy. You probably don’t expect the government to use secret surveillance and disinformation campaigns in court against its own citizens.

You should.

Link (Popehat)