Archive for the ‘US News’ Category

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facebook loginSecretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told Congress this week that the Department of Homeland Security is exploring the possibility of asking visa applicants not only for an accounting of what they do online, but for full access to their online accounts. In a hearing in the House of Representatives, Kelly said:

We want to say for instance, What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords. So that we can see what they do on the internet. And this might be a week, might be a month. They may wait some time for us to vet. If they don’t want to give us that information then they don’t come. We may look at their204we want to get on their social media with passwords. What do you do? What do you say? If they don’t want to cooperate, then they don’t come in.

TechCrunch’ s Devin Coldewey pointed out, asking people to surrender passwords would raise “obvious” privacy and security problems. But beyond privacy and security, the proposed probing of online accounts204including social media and other communications platforms204would, if implemented, be a major threat to free expression.

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The Walking Dead The Walking Dead producers toned down some of the violence in the first half of season seven after a backlash to a gruesome killing scene in the season opener.Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd acknowledged that the negative response to the bludgeon slayings of two key characters in the premiere prompted producers to make adjustments in episodes that were still in production. She said:

We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence. We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season.

Hurd made it clear that the response made an impact on the production team. This is not a show that is torture porn, she said. After the response to the finale, she said they gave strong consideration to making sure we don’t cross that line.

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todd weilerUtah’s most prominent anti-porn lawmaker wants to give people the ability to sue pornographers in the hope that someone, somewhere will be able to prove that watching their product causes emotional and psychological damage.State Senator Todd Weiler received national attention for penning a 2016 resolution declaring a public health crisis caused by pornography. He not only wants to limit access to sexually explicit material to children and teens, but he believes pornographers should be held liable for the impacts their products have on adults. He said:

Right now porn is available without any warnings and labeling, without any protections online. This would just open the valve for a cause of action. Let these attorneys go after these cases.

If the Legislature passes his proposal, he said, he expects courts to initially reject claims that pornography causes real harm: But I think, eventually, the tide will turn.

Weiler is pinning his hopes on some sort of ludicrous analogy with tobacco use, where court challenges broke through big business defence of their deadly trade. But of course there simply aren’t millions of porn users dropping dead, and even anti porn campaigners haven’t really come up with many harms beyond instilling bad attitudes to women.

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Amazon Echo - BlackAmazon has refused to hand over recordings from an Echo smart speaker to US police investigating a murder in Arkansas. Police issued a warrant to Amazon to turn over recordings and other information associated with the device.Amazon twice declined to provide the police with the information they requested from the device, although it did provide account information and purchase history.

Although the Echo is known for having always-on microphones to enable its voice-controlled features, the vast majority of the recordings it makes are not saved for longer than the few seconds it takes to determine if a pre-set wake word (usually Alexa ) has been said. Only if that wake word has been heard does the device’s full complement of microphones come on and begin transmitting audio to Amazon.

However the police pursuit of the data suggests there is more of interest up for grabs than Amazon is admitting.

Amazon’s reluctance to part with user information fits a familiar pattern. Tech companies often see law enforcement requests for data as invasive and damaging to an industry. It is clearly an issue for sales of a home microphone system if it is easy for the authorities to grab recordings.

Other devices have also been good data sources for police investigations.  Wristwatch-style Fitbit activity trackers have cropped up in a few cases eg for checking alibis against sleep patterns or activity.

A smart water meter has also been used in a murder case as evidence of a blood clean up operation,

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Colorado state sealOnline retailers in America will soon be required by law to disclose to state governments what purchases their customers have made.The law seems to have been made up in US courts during a long-running legal case based around the jurisdiction of sales tax. An appeals court decision now requires out-of-state retailers to report to the Colorado state government the details of all purchases, including what that purchase was and who bought it.

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the case so the appeal court decision stands.

Colorado is not the only state pushing the requirement. Vermont will also make the same requirement three months after Colorado starts imposing the law. And other states including Alabama, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming have approved similar rules.

The exec director of the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA), Hamilton Davison, is extremely concerned He said:

Consumers, particularly those who buy from catalogs and e-commerce merchants, put considerable trust in the businesses from which they make the most personal of purchases, he noted. This decision undermines this trust by requiring remote sellers to report to state tax collectors on the buying habits of their customers, including health care products, apparel or other sensitive items.

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us copyright office logoThe U.S. Government’s Copyright Office has launched a new consultation seeking guidance on the future of the DMCA’s takedown process and safe harbor. The Office is hoping to find a balance between the interests of copyright holders, Internet services and the public at large.

Over the past year, the Government already received a lot of input on a possible reform of the DMCA safe harbor provisions. Various rightsholders weighed in, as expected, and so did technology companies, law scholars and civil rights groups.

The problem for the U.S. Copyright Office is that there’s little agreement on how to move forward.

The MPAA, RIAA, and other industry groups are calling for extensive revisions and don’t want services to hide behind their safe harbor protections. Among other things, they want a notice-and-stay-down policy to ensure that, once deleted, content doesn’t pop up elsewhere.

Many service providers, however, see this an unworkable solution and believe that the current system is capable of dealing with infringing content.

On the other end of the spectrum there are calls to implement penalties for abusive notices, so copyright holders can be punished for submitting takedown requests that are false.

The deadline for the submissions is March 8, after which the Copyright Office will try to reach its conclusions.

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california block warning Several porn websites are alerting their viewers living in California that they could be blocked from the state should Proposition 60 be accepted in a public ballot next month.Proposition 60 is measure proposed by anti-porn campaigners that would require adult performers to use condoms for all videos made in the state. If they don’t, the law would allow any citizen in the state to sue producers and distributors of prophylactic-lacking porn.

In protest, popular sites Vivid, Evil Angel and Kink, among others, have pop-ups urging visitors with California IP addresses to vote no on the proposition come election day. If it passes, some are considering blocking those users entirely to protect themselves from litigation.

Prop 60 is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and operates much like Los Angeles’ Measure B initiative passed in 2012, but would apply to the entire state.

The adult industry is opposed to it as there exists considerable customer resistance to condom protected porn. The existing adult trade policy of continuous testing of performers has kept AIDS infections to extraordinarily low numbers in the last few years and so the new law proposal is only of benefit to anti-porn activists. Performers would be placed in more danger by such a new law as commercial pressures will surely drive sections of the industry underground and outside of the testing regime.

The proposed law also has a nasty requirement for performers to be identified with real world names so exposing studios and actors/actresses to harassment by stalkers, trolls and anti-porn activists.