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Six Years After Ed Snowden Went Public, How Much Has Changed?

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 09:34
Slashdot reader Nicola Hahn argues that at first, Edward Snowden's revelations six years ago "put mass surveillance and state sponsored hacking center stage," leading to other revelations like the ANT Catalogue, the Equation Group tools, and the Vault 7 leaks: In the wake of these developments a number of high-ranking officials scrambled to justify clandestine programs. Executives likewise recalibrated their stance toward the government and lawmakers worked to defend our civil liberties. Yet despite the tumult of the post-Snowden era and the debates that ensued, has it actually changed anything? Or did society merely offer a collective shrug to the looming threat of pervasive monitoring, surrendering to the convenience of mobile devices? One observer who has warily followed the aftermath of the Snowden affair believes that most people followed the latter path and that it does not bode well for civilization. That observer is Bill Blunden, who asks this question in an essay at Counterpunch. "After all the breathless headlines, Hollywood movies, book deals, Pulitzer prizes, and glossy primetime biopics. What, pray tell, has come of it?"

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Categories: Privacy

Relatives' DNA Leads To Arrest -- For a 1976 Double Murder

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 00:34
"You gotta be kidding me," said a Wisconsin man, when police arrested his 82-year-old next-door neighbor "old Ray" -- the guy who would occasionally come over to fix his lawnmower. An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press: Ray Vannieuwenhoven was his next-door neighbor -- a helpful, 82-year-old handyman with a gravelly voice and a loud, distinctive laugh, the kind of guy who always waved from his car. The widower and father of five grown children had lived quietly for two decades among the 800 residents of Lakewood, a northern Wisconsin town surrounded by forests and small lakes. Now authorities were saying this man was a cold-blooded killer. They had used genetic genealogy to crack a cold case that stretched back well into the 20th century -- a double murder 25 miles southwest of Lakewood. For nearly 43 years, Vannieuwenoven had lived in plain sight, yet outside detectives' radar.... DNA profiling in the '90s brought new hope, but detectives got no matches... Last year, detectives contacted Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company whose work with genetic genealogy analysis has helped police identify 55 suspects in cold cases nationwide since May 2018, according to the company. Parabon uploads DNA from crime scenes to GEDmatch, a free, public genealogy database with about 1.2 million profiles, all voluntarily submitted by people who've used consumer genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe. California law enforcement used GEDmatch to capture the Golden State Killer last year by finding distant relatives and reverse-engineering his family tree. Parabon's experts completed Vannieuwenhoven's family tree in late December. They'd found his parents, who had lived in the Green Bay area. Now detectives needed DNA samples from Vannieuwenhoven and his three brothers. Two were ruled out with DNA samples collected from one brother's trash and another's used coffee cup. On March 6, two sheriff's deputies knocked on Vannieuwenhoven's door, pretending they wanted him to fill out a brief survey on area-policing. They told him to put the survey in an envelope and seal it with his tongue. Detectives didn't need to visit the fourth brother. Eight days later, Vannieuwenhoven was in custody. Vannieuwenhoven has pleaded not guilty.

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Categories: Privacy

NYT: Deadly 'Misguided Assumptions' Were Built Into Boeing's 737 Max

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 19:39
The automated MCAS system in the Boeing 737 Max played a role in two fatal crashes. But today the New York Times reports that a year before they'd finished developing the plane, Boeing "made the system more aggressive and riskier," and that "test pilots, engineers and regulators were left in the dark about a fundamental overhaul." While the original version relied on data from at least two types of sensors, the ultimate used just one, leaving the system without a critical safeguard. In both doomed flights, pilots struggled as a single damaged sensor sent the planes into irrecoverable nose-dives within minutes, killing 346 people and prompting regulators around the world to ground the Max. But many people involved in building, testing and approving the system, known as MCAS, said they hadn't fully understood the changes. Current and former employees at Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration who spoke with The New York Times said they had assumed the system relied on more sensors and would rarely, if ever, activate. Based on those misguided assumptions, many made critical decisions, affecting design, certification and training... The company also played down the scope of the system to regulators. Boeing never disclosed the revamp of MCAS to Federal Aviation Administration officials involved in determining pilot training needs, according to three agency officials. When Boeing asked to remove the description of the system from the pilot's manual, the F.A.A. agreed. As a result, most Max pilots did not know about the software until after the first crash, in October.... While the F.A.A. officials in charge of training didn't know about the changes, another arm of the agency involved in certification did. But it did not conduct a safety analysis on the changes. The F.A.A. had already approved the previous version of MCAS. And the agency's rules didn't require it to take a second look because the changes didn't affect how the plane operated in extreme situations... The disasters might have been avoided, if employees and regulators had a better understanding of MCAS... Safety analysts said they would have acted differently if they had known it used just one sensor. Regulators didn't conduct a formal safety assessment of the new version of MCAS. The current and former employees, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigations, said that after the first crash, they were stunned to discover MCAS relied on a single sensor. "That's nuts," said an engineer who helped design MCAS. "I'm shocked," said a safety analyst who scrutinized it. "To me, it seems like somebody didn't understand what they were doing," said an engineer who assessed the system's sensors.

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Categories: Privacy

Russian Military Moves Closer To Replacing Windows With Astra Linux

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 09:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Russian authorities have moved closer to implementing their plan of replacing the Windows OS on military systems with a locally-developed operating system named Astra Linux. Last month, the Russian Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEC) granted Astra Linux the security clearance of "special importance," which means the OS can now be used to handle Russian government information of the highest degree of secrecy. Until now, the Russian government had only used special versions of Windows that had been modified, checked, and approved for use by the FSB. Astra Linux is a Debian derivative developed by Russian company RusBITech since 2008, the report says. "RusBITech initially developed the OS for use in the Russian private market, but the company also expanded into the local government sector, where it became very popular with military contractors."

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Categories: Privacy

Justice Department Is Preparing Antitrust Investigation of Google

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 02:04
According to The New York Times, the Justice Department is exploring whether to open a case against Google for potential antitrust violations (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) relating to search and its other businesses, "putting renewed scrutiny on the company amid a growing chorus of criticism about the power of Big Tech." From the report: An investigation into how Google arranges search results could revive a case closed in 2013 by another government agency, the Federal Trade Commission. The five F.T.C. commissioners voted unanimously at the time against bringing charges against the company. Google agreed to make some changes to search practices tied to advertising. But this year, with a new antitrust task force announced in February, the trade commission renewed its interest in Google. In recent weeks, the commission referred complaints about the company to the Justice Department, which also oversees antitrust regulations, according to two people familiar with the actions. The commission has also told companies and others with complaints against Google to take them to the Justice Department. The task force had been looking into Google's advertising practices and influence in the online advertising industry, according to two of the people. One of the people said the agency was also looking into its search practices. Most of Google's revenue comes from advertisements tied to its search results. If the Justice Department opens a formal investigation, it will be its first major antitrust case against a big tech company during the Trump administration. Google, Facebook and Amazon have come under intense bipartisan criticism, and calls to break up the firms have become a talking point in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

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Categories: Privacy

Facebook Reportedly Thinks There's No 'Expectation of Privacy' On Social Media

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 20:50
Facebook wants to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal by arguing that it didn't violate users' privacy rights because there's no expectation of privacy when using social media. CNET reports: "There is no invasion of privacy at all, because there is no privacy," Facebook counsel Orin Snyder said during a pretrial hearing to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to Law 360. The company reportedly didn't deny that third parties accessed users' data, but it instead told U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria that there's no "reasonable expectation of privacy" on Facebook or any other social media site. Chhabria appears set on letting at least some of the lawsuit continue, saying in an order before the hearing (PDF) that the plaintiffs should expect the court to accept their argument that private information was disclosed without express consent.

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Categories: Privacy

New York Schools Will Test Facial Recognition On Students Despite Objections From State

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 17:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: A New York school district will move forward with its facial recognition pilot program next week, despite an explicit order from the New York State Education Department that it wait until a standard for data privacy and security for all state educational agencies is finalized. On Friday, the Lockport school district said it was "confident" that the data collection policy for its facial recognition system was sound enough that it could begin testing it on campuses June 3. "[State Education Department] representatives previously communicated to the District their recommendation that the System not become operational until the dialogue between the District and SED with regard to student data security and privacy is complete," the statement, sent by district director of technology Robert LiPuma to BuzzFeed News, said. "However, the District's Initial Implementation Phase of the System (which will commence June 3, 2019 and continue through August 31, 2019) will not include any student data being entered into the System database or generated by the System." Reached by phone, JP O'Hare, a representative of the New York State Education Department, would not say whether the department knew Lockport planned to go ahead with its facial recognition test in spite of the department's request for a delay. Lockport said that its facial recognition system should not be a privacy concern because it "does not compile information on and track the movements of all District students, staff and visitors." Instead, the system is "limited to identifying whether an individual whose photograph has been entered into the System database is on District property (i.e., is visible on one of the District's security cameras)." But it also said the individuals who may be entered into the database included those who are prohibited from being on District property, "such as suspended students or staff."

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Categories: Privacy

New York Tenants Fight as Landlords Embrace Facial Recognition Cameras

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 13:30
Tenants in a New York City apartment complex are fighting their landlord's effort to install a facial recognition system to access parts of the buildings, calling it an affront to their privacy rights. From a report: The row, which the tenants believe could become an important test case, comes as concern about the spread of facial recognition systems has grown across the US and globally, with law enforcement agencies increasingly relying on the tool. San Francisco this month became the first US city to ban city police and government agencies from using it. Private firms are also increasingly keen on the technology. At Atlantic Plaza Towers in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the landlord, Nelson Management Group, is moving to install a new system to control entry into the buildings. It would use facial recognition to open the front door for recognized tenants rather than traditional keys or electronic key fobs. More than 130 tenants have, however, filed a formal complaint with the state seeking to block the application. "We do not want to be tagged like animals," said Icemae Downes, who has lived at Atlantic Plaza Towers since it opened 51 years ago. "We are not animals. We should be able to freely come in and out of our development without you tracking every movement." Some residents also fear the move reflects the spreading pressures of gentrification further into the east of Brooklyn, and a desire to attract white, higher-income residents in the buildings, whose tenants are mostly black. They say there is already a culture of surveillance and that if they are suspected of breaking one of the building's rules, they might find an image of themselves pushed under their doors.

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Categories: Privacy

Maine Lawmakers Pass Bill To Prevent ISPs From Selling Browsing Data Without Consent

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 11:30
Maine lawmakers have passed a bill that will prevent internet providers from selling consumers' private internet data to advertisers. From a report: The state's senate unanimously passed the bill 35-0 on Thursday following an earlier vote by state representatives 96-45 in favor of the bill. The bill, if signed into law by state governor Janet Mills, will force the national and smaller regional internet providers operating in the state to first obtain permission from residents before their data can be sold or passed on to advertisers or other third parties. Maine has about 1.3 million residents. The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission voted in 2017 to allow internet providers to sell customers' private and personal internet data and browsing histories -- including which websites a user visits and for how long -- to advertisers for the biggest buck. Congress later passed the measure into law.

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Categories: Privacy

California Approves Wide Power Outages To Prevent Wildfires

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 09:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: California regulators on Thursday approved allowing utilities to cut off electricity to possibly hundreds of thousands of customers to avoid catastrophic wildfires like the one sparked by power lines last year that killed 85 people and largely destroyed the city of Paradise. Utilities' liability can reach billions of dollars, and after several years of devastating wildfires, they asked regulators to allow them to pull the plug when fire risk is extremely high. That's mainly during periods of excessive winds and low humidity when vegetation is dried out and can easily ignite. The California Public Utilities Commission gave the green light but said utilities must do a better job educating and notifying the public, particularly those with disabilities and others who are vulnerable, and ramp up preventive efforts, such as clearing brush and installing fire-resistant poles. The plans could inconvenience hundreds of thousands of customers while endangering some who depend on electricity to keep them alive. The precautionary outages could mean multiday blackouts for cities as large as San Francisco and San Jose, Northern California's major power provider warned in a recent filing with the utilities commission.

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Categories: Privacy

Chase Bank Is Quietly Adding a Forced Arbitration Clause To Some Credit Cards

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 20:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: JPMorgan Chase is quietly re-introducing a heavy-handed legal maneuver. Today, its Slate credit card customers received an email that the bank was updating its account terms. In the message was a lot of legalese about certain tweaks, and it included one big addition: forced arbitration. According to Chase, the new agreement includes a new section entitled "Binding Arbitration." The section goes as follows: "This arbitration agreement provides that all disputes between you and Chase must be resolved by BINDING ARBITRATION whenever you or we choose to submit or refer a dispute to arbitration. By accepting this arbitration agreement you GIVE UP YOUR RIGHT TO GO TO COURT (except for matters that may be taken to a small claims court). Arbitration will proceed on an INDIVIDUAL BASIS, so class actions and similar proceedings will NOT be available to you." Chase adds that people can opt out of this clause, but they must do so by August 7, 2019, by mailing the bank a letter via snail mail. This is a reversal for the financial establishment. In 2009, Chase dropped a binding arbitration agreement from its credit card terms of service. This was in direct response to a class action lawsuit levied against Chase, Capital One, Bank of America, Citigroup, Discover, and HSBC, which accused them of illegally conspiring to force cardholders to go to arbitration for disputes instead of the courts. Some 10 years later, Chase now wants to employ the sneaky tactic once again. This agreement means that its Slate cardholders are unable to go to court against the bank, except for small claims. Most importantly, it means that cardholders cannot come together and levy a class action suit against the bank.

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Categories: Privacy

Amazon Patent Reveals Plans To Allow Alexa To Listen, Record Users At All Times

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 09:00
schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: A newly revealed patent application filed by Amazon is raising privacy concerns over an envisaged upgrade to the company's smart speaker systems. This change would mean that, by default, the devices end up listening to and recording everything you say in their presence. Rather than only record what is said after the wakeword is spoken, the system described in the patent application would effectively continuously record all speech, then look for instances of commands issued by a person. In the patent application, the authors explain that your Echo device would only ever record between 10-30 seconds of audio at a time, before wiping it from the local memory buffer, and recording a new 10-30 seconds of audio over it (again and again). In each of these 10-30 second recordings, the device would continuously scan looking for commands involving the wakeword, and if it didn't find any, they'd get deleted forever -- in theory, at least. But because of the potential privacy implications of having a device that records you all the time, it's understandable that some people might not be thrilled about what this patent application represents, especially since Amazon has a mixed track record with Alexa recording things it wasn't ever supposed to.

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Categories: Privacy

DIY Facial Recognition For Porn Is a Dystopian Disaster

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 23:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vice News: Someone posting on Chinese social network Weibo claims to have used facial recognition to cross-reference women's photos on social media with faces pulled from videos on adult platforms like Pornhub. In a Monday post on Weibo, the user, who says he's based in Germany, claimed to have "successfully identified more than 100,000 young ladies" in the adult industry "on a global scale." According to Weibo posts, the user and some of his programming friends used facial recognition to detect faces in porn content using photos from social platforms. His reasoning for making this program, he wrote, is "to have the right to know on both sides of the marriage." After public outcry, he later claimed his intention was to allow women, with or without their fiancees, to check if they are on porn sites and to send a copyright takedown request. Whether the Weibo user's claims are trustworthy or not is beside the point, now that experts in feminist studies and machine learning have decried this project as algorithmically-targeted harassment. This kind of program's existence is both possible and frightening, and has started a conversation around whether such a program would be an ethically or legally responsible use of AI. Just as we saw with deepfakes, which used AI to swap the faces of female celebrities onto the bodies of porn performers, the use of machine learning to control and extort women's bodily autonomy demonstrates deep misogyny. It's a threat that didn't begin with deepfakes, but certainly reached a public sphere with that technology -- although in the years since, women have been left behind in the mainstream narrative, which has focused on the technology's possible use for disinformation.

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Categories: Privacy

Gmail's Confidential Mode Will Be On By Default For G Suite Users Starting June 25th

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 21:25
Google's new confidential mode is rolling out to G Suite users and will be turned on by default starting on June 25th. Personal account holders have been able to use this feature since Gmail's mid-2018 redesign, but Gmail users at work have not. "Confidential mode is a powerful tool that will come in handy at work if you send messages containing sensitive details," reports The Verge. "It lets you set an expiration date for your message, which cuts off access when that day arrives. While the message is available, recipients won't be able to forward your message to others, copy its contents, or download it, and the sender can revoke access at any point. To add another layer of security, you can set the message to only unlock after the recipient types in an SMS verification code that's sent to their phone number." Slashdot reader shanen reacts: Apparently the Google of supreme evil has decided they need to try to force this confidential-mode email down people's throats. I think that's actually a gigantic business opportunity for Outlook, assuming they actually want to offer a superior email system. The fundamental premise of confidential mode is "We want to communicate with you, but we don't trust you," and my fundamental response is GFY. The ONLY thing I want is an option to reject all confidential-mode email. (However, I'm sure Microsoft is too evil to offer that option because they don't trust their own employees and have to eat their own poison dog food.) (Well, actually there are several other improvements I want from email, such as a bounce for no-reply email.)

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Categories: Privacy

Nuke Retirements Could Lead To 4 Billion Metric Tons of Extra CO2 Emissions, Says IEA

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 20:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns world leaders that -- without support for new nuclear power or lifetime extensions for existing nuclear power plants -- the world's climate goals are at risk. "The lack of further lifetime extensions of existing nuclear plants and new projects could result in an additional four billion tonnes of CO2 emissions," a press release from the IEA noted. The report is the IEA's first report on nuclear power in two decades, and it paints a picture of low-carbon power being lost through attrition (due to the retirement of aging plants) or due to economics (extremely cheap natural gas as well as wind and solar undercutting more expensive nuclear power for years in some regions). Around the world, 452 nuclear reactors provided 2,700 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2018. This makes nuclear a significant source of low-carbon energy on a global level. While 11.2 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power were connected to the grid last year, all of the new capacity was located in China or Russia. "Without additional nuclear, the clean energy transition becomes more difficult and more expensive -- requiring $1.6 trillion of additional investment in advanced economies over the next two decades," IEA says. "Critically, a major clean energy shortfall would emerge by 2040, calling on wind and solar PV to accelerate deployment even further to fill the gap."

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Categories: Privacy

IEEE Bans Huawei From Peer-Reviewing Papers, Chinese Scientists Quit To Protest

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 19:20
New submitter AntiBrainWasher writes: Running away from the fear of legal/political persecution, the New York City-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) told editors of its roughly 200 journals yesterday that it feared "severe legal implications" from continuing to use Huawei scientists as reviewers in vetting technical papers. They can continue to serve on IEEE editorial boards, according to the memo, but "cannot handle any papers" until the sanctions are lifted. The IEEE ban has sparked outrage among Chinese scientists on social media. "I joined IEEE as a Ph.D. student because it is recognized as an International academic platform in electronics engineering," wrote Haixia (Alice) Zhang of Peking University in Beijing in a letter to IEEE leadership. "But this message is challenging my professional integrity. I have decided to quit the editorial boards [of two IEEE journals] until it restores our common professional integrity." Meanwhile, the SD and Wi-Fi Alliance reinstated Huawei as a member, less than a week after they quietly removed the company from its membership list. Despite the lack of evidences, U.S. officials have alleged that the Chinese government could use equipment manufactured by Huawei, which is a global supplier of cellphones and wireless data networks, to spy on users or disrupt critical infrastructure, similar to what the NSA has done.

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Categories: Privacy

Huawei Asks Court To Declare US Government Ban Unconstitutional

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 14:05
Huawei is stepping up its fight against American bans. From a report: The tech giant has motioned for a summary judgment in its lawsuit to invalidate Section 889 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, arguing that it violates the "Bill of Attainder, Due Process and Vesting" clauses of the US Constitution. The law explicitly bans Huawei by name despite "no evidence" of a security risk, Huawei's Song Liuping said, and bans third-party contractors who buy from Huawei even when there's no link to the US government. The company also preemptively tried to dismiss claims that there are facts up for dispute. This is a simple "matter of law," according to lead counsel Glen Nager.

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Categories: Privacy

Hundreds of Thousands of 'Pirate' Sites Disappear Following Takedown Notices

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 12:03
An anonymous reader shares a report: Every week millions of these requests are sent to hosting platforms, as well as third-party services, such as search engines. Quite a few of the major players, including Twitter, Google, and Bing, publish these requests online. However, due to the massive volume, it's hard for casual observers to spot any trends in the data. Researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Boston University aim to add some context with an elaborate study covering a broad database of takedown requests. Their results are now bundled in a paper titled: "Who Watches the Watchmen: Exploring Complaints on the Web." The research covers all takedown requests that were made available through the Lumen Database in 2017. The majority of these were sent to Google, with Bing, Twitter, and Periscope as runners-up. In total, more than one billion reported URLs were analyzed. Most takedown requests or 'web complaints' were copyright-related, 98.6% to be precise. This means that other notices, such as defamation reports, court orders, and Government requests, make up a tiny minority. The researchers report that the complaints were submitted by 38,523 unique senders, covering 1.05 billion URLs. While that's a massive number, most reported links are filed by a very small group of senders.

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Categories: Privacy

'We're Not Being Paranoid': US Warns Of Spy Dangers Of Chinese-Made Drones

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 10:40
Drones have become an increasingly popular tool for industry and government. But the Department of Homeland Security is warning that drones manufactured by Chinese companies could pose security risks, including that the data they gather could be stolen. From a report: The department sent out an alert on the subject on May 20, and a video on its website notes that drones in general pose multiple threats, including "their potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy." "We're not being paranoid," the video's narrator adds. Most drones bought in the U.S. are manufactured in China, with most of those drones made by one company, DJI Technology. Lanier Watkins, a cyber-research scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Information Security Institute, said his team discovered vulnerabilities in DJI's drones. "We could pull information down and upload information on a flying drone," Watkins said. "You could also hijack the drone." The vulnerabilities meant that "someone who was interested in, you know, where a certain pipeline network was or maybe the vulnerabilities in a power utilities' wiring might be able to access that information," he noted.

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Categories: Privacy

New Zealand's New Visa Program Requires Positive Energy and a Business Plan

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 20:03
pacopico writes: Two years ago, New Zealand started what might be the most radical visa program ever invented. It's called the Global Impact Visa. As Bloomberg Businessweek writes, "You can live in New Zealand or not, do business in New Zealand or not, and stay in New Zealand at the end of the visa term or not. The main requirements are that you're an interesting person with good intentions and good ideas and that you know lots of other interesting people with good intentions and good ideas." To get the visa, you're vetted by four people. Then, you go live in a yurt village for a week with the other people who have gotten into the program. The whole idea is to come up with business ventures that might bring an enlightened form of capitalism to the world. In a really weird twist, two Americans and an Ethiopian started this thing, which has been a hit so far but not without plenty of controversy.

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Categories: Privacy