Mozilla to Offer Open Source Operating System for Smart Phones

From Forbes:
Gary Kovacs is undaunted. As the CEO of Mozilla, the not-for-profit foundation behind Firefox, Kovacs says the world needs his OS and the open web for two reasons: It reduces carriers’ dependency on Apple and Google, both of which siphon 30% of app revenues. It’s also a lower-cost way to get the next 2 billion people onto the Internet.

Firefox’s mobile OS is not a traditional operating system like iOS or Android. It’s written entirely in HTML5, the underlying programming language of the Web. Apps run from the Web and hook into the phone’s hardware and data, and can also run offline. Firefox OS can make do with half the phone memory Android needs, so carriers can price a smartphone for well under $100, or half the price of a low-end Android smartphone.

The FBI Wants to Monitor Email and Online Chat in "Real Time"

From Slate:
Last week, during a talk for the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C., FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann discussed some of the pressing surveillance and national security issues facing the bureau. He gave a few updates on the FBI’s efforts to address what it calls the “going dark” problem—how the rise in popularity of email and social networks has stifled its ability to monitor communications as they are being transmitted. It’s no secret that under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the feds can easily obtain archive copies of emails. When it comes to spying on emails or Gchat in real time, however, it’s a different story.

Is Congress Planning a Major Assault Against Data Privacy and Digital Rights in April?

Tech Dirt reports on a new bill proposed in the House that would expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 (CFAA):
So, you know all that talk about things like Aaron's Law and how Congress needs to fix the CFAA? Apparently, the House Judiciary Committee has decided to raise a giant middle finger to folks who are concerned about abuses of the CFAA. Over the weekend, they began circulating a "draft" of a "cyber-security" bill that is so bad that it almost feels like the Judiciary Committee is doing it on purpose as a dig at online activists who have fought back against things like SOPA, CISPA and the CFAA. Rather than fix the CFAA, it expands it. Rather than rein in the worst parts of the bill, it makes them worse. And, from what we've heard, the goal is to try to push this through quickly, with a big effort underway for a "cyberweek" in the middle of April that will force through a bunch of related bills. You can see the draft of the bill here . . .

Rumors: Spotify Setting Up Streaming Video Service

From Business Insider:
Spotify, the on-demand music service, is planning a major change.  According to two sources briefed on the company's plans, Spotify intends to become an on-demand music and video service – one that would invest in original content and compete heads-on with Netflix.  Ultimately, Spotify's metamorphosis would also put it into competition with content creators and providers such as HBO.

No Brainer: Email Should be Protected from Illegal Search and Seizure, Just Like Snail Mail

A California state senator has come to the radical conclusion that email should be afforded the same privacy protections as traditional snail mail.  How many people out there are unaware that their email correspondence is not secure against unconstitutional and illegal search and seizure?  From ABC Local:
If law enforcement wanted to read your letters or other paper correspondence, they have to get a warrant. But in this age of technology, you don't have the same protections. If your email has already been opened or is more than 6 months old, law enforcement and other government agencies can read them.
"The courts have said that the laws are very confusing and have permitted the government to search your emails held by providers without a warrant," said Francisco Loboco with the American Civil Liberties Union.
While government investigators generally look at email for evidence of criminal activity, that's not always the case. Email privacy became a national debate after CIA Director David Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair. Privacy groups asked if the CIA can't keep the FBI from reading Petraeus' private email, what protections do ordinary people have?
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) wants to clearly define the line in California. Electronic communications should be no different than paper communications: They're all private.

Intro to Bitcoin

From Monetarism, an introductory article on Bitcoin:
In February 2013, version 0.8.0 of Bitcoin was released. This virtual payments system is the financial equivalent of Latin, the language with no native speakers. In the case of Bitcoin, though, what you are dealing with is a financial structure with no central bank, no one regulatory body as such, and no physical form.  That may sound odd – so let’s look in more detail at Bitcoin, how it works, and what its future might be . . .

OX Text, Browser Based Word Processing, to Launch Next Month

From OX:
On the 20th March 2013 at 10:00am Rafael Laguna (CEO of Open-Xchange) announced that the next release of OX App Suite would contain OX Text. The audience at this year's World Hosting Days in Rust Germany was the first to hear about Open-Xchange's plan to release a new online and collaborative word processing capability called OX Text in April.

OX App Suite is a centralized cloud environment that lets users manage their digital lives completely including emails, tasks, schedules, files and more from a single interface, on any device. OX App Suite already has the capability to preview almost any file type. The introduction of OX Text will dramatically expand this capability by enabling its users to edit text-based files in a whole new way.

Police Want All Your Text Messages On File, In Case They Want to Read Them

The Criminal Justice System is aptly named because it is indeed a criminal enterprise.  From CNET:
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to capture and store Americans' confidential text messages, according to a proposal that will be presented to a congressional panel today.

The law enforcement proposal would require wireless providers to record and store customers' SMS messages -- a controversial idea akin to requiring them to surreptitiously record audio of their customers' phone calls -- in case police decide to obtain them at some point in the future.

"Billions of texts are sent every day, and some surely contain key evidence about criminal activity," Richard Littlehale from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will tell Congress, according to a copy (PDF) of his prepared remarks. "In some cases, this means that critical evidence is lost. Text messaging often plays a big role in investigations related to domestic violence, stalking, menacing, drug trafficking, and weapons trafficking."

Littlehale's recommendations echo a recommendation that a constellation of law enforcement groups, including the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, the National District Attorneys' Association, and the National Sheriffs' Association, made to Congress in December, which was first reported by CNET.
According to US law enforcement, it is better to violate everyone's rights, than have to do some real investigative work.

Facebook Tracks Non-Users

There are likely more than a few people out there who have stopped using Facebook, or never used it in the first place, because they were not comfortable with allowing such an organization to track and control massive amounts of information relating to their daily lives.  Beware, Facebook also tracks non-users as well.  From First Post:
In a series of interviews with USAToday, Facebook has finally revealed  how it tracks users and non-users across the web, gathering huge amount  of data as it does so. Says ABCNews/USAToday:
Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social media giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook web page for any reason.
Allegations from Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner that Facebook was creating “shadow profiles” of non-users were initially refuted by Facebook’s spokesman Andrew Noyes, who said categorically that “The allegations are false.”

But Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt, engineering director Arturo Bejar, engineering manager Gregg Stefancik, corporate spokeswoman Jaime Schopflin, and Noyes have now revealed the extent of the company’s tracking. As previously thought, Facebook are using cookies to track anyone who visits a page. . . .

Advertisers Object to Firefox Privacy Controls

The more public your private information is, the better it is for advertisers, so it is no surprise to find that advertising associations are upset that newer versions of Firefox will, by default, block them from tracking you wherever you go online.  From Consumer Affairs:
the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the trade association for Internet advertisers and publishers . . . are irate at Mozilla's plan to make future versions of its Firefox web browser block third-party cookies by default . . .

IAB insists that the move by Firefox, which has about a 20% market share, far behind Google Chrome and Microsoft Explorer, will imperil small publishers.

“Thousands of small businesses that make up the diversity of content and services online will be forced to close their doors,” said Randall Rothenberg, IAB's president. “This move will not put the interest of users first. Nor does it promote transparency or ‘move the web forward’ as Mozilla claims in its announcement." . . .

"I think the IAB's rhetoric is overblown," said David Jacobs, consumer protection counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). . . . EPIC's Jacobs says the ad industry's failure to develop a workable solution on its own has left Firefox to guard the henhouse.

Google Reader Being Shut Down

Google announced on its blog yesterday that it will be shutting down its popular RSS app, reader.  Essentially, Reader has been put out of its misery after it was maimed by the various "updates" that it had been subjected to over recent years.  For all you RSS junkies out there, LifeHacker has compiled some alternatives:
NetVibes . . . is one of the most popular web reader, offering a Google Reader-like interface as well as a snazzy iGoogle-like homepage.

NewsBlur is also a great option, with an interface that's very similar to Google Reader . . . 

Feedly is popular, but definitely different than Google Reader. . . .

Update: A lot of you have mentioned The Old Reader as a great alternative

Congress Gearing Up for Next Attempted Internet Crackdown

From EFF:
On Monday, EFF and over 30 other Internet rights organizations sent a letter to members of Congress demanding they vote no on the "cybersecurity" bill known as CISPA. The letter starts off a week in which Congress will hold three different hearings about CISPA and computer and network security. In addition to the letter, each hearing will provide opportunity to voice many of the bill's problems. We encourage you to join the fight and tell your Representative to say no to CISPA.

In the coalition letter, groups including Mozilla, CDT, ACLU, EFF, and the American Library Association called on representatives to oppose CISPA because of privacy and civil liberties concerns:
CISPA's information sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet records or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Defense Cyber Command. Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined 'national security' purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.
CISPA may advance in the House at any time. EFF and other civil liberties groups are ramping up the fight against the bill. We'll be raising more awareness and urging users to speak to their representatives about CISPA's dangers.

BitTorrent Launches Livestreaming Platform

From TorrentFreak:
After years of development BitTorrent has now released its live streaming service to the public. BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen is one of the main developers of the new protocol which he expects to revolutionize online streaming. BitTorrent Inc. sees its BitTorrent Live product as the ultimate tool for creators to reach an audience of millions with minimal bandwidth costs. . . .

After years of development BitTorrent Live launches to the public today, allowing people to stream content via BitTorrent with minimal delays. Unlike traditional live streams, reliability improves as more people tune in.

Bitcoin Reaches All-Time High

From CNN:
Bitcoin sounds like something from science fiction: A purely digital currency, created by an anonymous hacker, that operates outside the world's traditional banking systems. The four-year-old currency is very real, though, and it's trading an all-time high, tripling in value in the last two months alone.

One bitcoin is was worth about $40 U.S. dollars on Tuesday, and surged on Wednesday to nearly $49. . . . Because the number of transactions and overall value of coins in circulation is relatively low, the currency is quite volatile -- it went from under $1 to over $28, then back to $7 in 2011 alone. . . .

Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an anonymous developer using the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto" -- the Japanese equivalent of a bland name like "John Smith." It has no central-bank backing. The idea was to create a currency that's free from government intervention and can be used to conduct transactions without hefty exchange or processing fees. . . .

Surprise Decision: Appeals Court Recognizes Fourth Amendment

From ars technica:
Citizens' rights to be free from searches don't hold everywhere. At border crossings, as in airports, people can be searched by authorities as a matter of routine course. But what should the standard be for not just rummaging through a briefcase, but for when the government wants to dig deep into the files on our electronic gadgets—even looking at deleted files?

A "watershed" decision from a federal appeals court today ruled that the government must have "reasonable suspicion" to do such an intensive computer search. . . .

Border searches are an exception to the general principle, protected by the Fourth Amendment, that warrants be obtained. Still, a border is not an "anything goes" zone, as an 8-3 majority of the court emphasized in today's decision [PDF]. Searches still need to be based on a "reasonable suspicion." . . . .
From Tech Dirt:
In a somewhat surprising 9th Circuit ruling (en banc, or in front of the entire set of judges), the court ruled that the 4th Amendment does apply at the border, that agents do need to recognize there's an expectation of privacy, and cannot do a search without reason. Furthermore, they noted that merely encrypting a file with a password is not enough to trigger suspicion. This is a huge ruling in favor of privacy rights.

Anti-Spying Bill Introducded into House

It is highly probable that most Americans believe that information they send and receive from their own private cells phones an email accounts is private, and protected against government snoops and illegal searches and seizures by the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment.  They are mistaken.  There is a distinct group of Americans who believe the exact opposite: law enforcement and the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties in the US Congress.  From CNET:
The FBI and other police agencies would be required to obtain search warrants before reading Americans' e-mail or tracking their mobile devices under a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today.

It's not a new proposal: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose district includes the heart of Silicon Valley, announced almost exactly the same measure last fall. But because the clock ran out without Congress acting, she's trying a second time.

"Fourth Amendment protections don't stop at the Internet," Lofgren said in a statement today. "Americans expect Constitutional protections to extend to their online communications and location data."

Last year's version had zero co-sponsors, making it more of a symbolic measure than something designed to move quickly through a GOP-dominated House. This time, Lofgren's bill (PDF) has two other sponsors, including a Republican, Ted Poe of Texas.

Texans Lead the Charge Against Government Moblie Spying

From Ars Technica:
Privacy experts say that a pair of new mobile privacy bills recently introduced in Texas are among the “most sweeping” ever seen. And they say the proposed legislation offers better protection than a related privacy bill introduced this week in Congress.

If passed, the new bills would establish a well-defined, probable-cause-driven warrant requirement for all location information. That's not just data from GPS, but potentially pen register, tap and trace, and tower location data as well. Such data would be disclosed to law enforcement "if there is probable cause to believe the records disclosing location information will provide evidence in a criminal investigation."

Further, the bills would require an annual transparency report from mobile carriers to the public and to the state government.  Under current federal case law and statute, law enforcement generally has broad warrantless powers to not only track suspects in real-time based on their phone data, but also to access records of where and when calls were made or text messages were sent or received—and all of this is provided by the carriers.
Under the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties, and the US Supreme Court have demonstrated themselves to be dangerous threats to Constitutional rights and liberties in the United States.  It is long past time for the people and the states to push back.

In Defense of Anonymity

If the anti-privacy lobby had its way, the Federalist Papers would have never been written.  From Yahoo:
In the face of increasing government-led crackdowns on social media, Google Inc should not force Internet users to reveal their real names for some services, including its Google+ social network, said Vint Cerf, a senior Google executive known as a "father of the Internet."

In an interview with Reuters, Cerf acknowledged that the search giant's sweeping push in the past 18 months to institute real-name authentication for Google+ and other services has sparked intense debate within its Mountain View, California, headquarters. But he argued that current name policy, which allows for some users to display pseudonyms, offers adequate "choice" in how users choose to represent themselves. . . .

"Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations," Cerf said. "But there are cases where in the transactions both parties really need to know who are we talking to. So what I'm looking for is not that we shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option when needed that can strongly authenticate who the parties are."

In the past few months Cerf has warned that governments — including democratic ones — are increasingly censoring and filtering the Web, while some regimes are seeking to ban online anonymity in order to control political speech.

White House Backs Right to Unlock Cell Phones

From the New York Times:
For a decade consumers have been able to keep their cellphone numbers even if they switched their wireless carriers. On Monday, the Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission said consumers should also be able to switch carriers and keep their actual phones.

For consumers, being able to take their iPhone or any other type of handset with them when they switch carriers could make it easier to take advantage of lower rates once an initial contract is fulfilled. That might mean more price competition and more choices for cellphone customers. 

The administration and the F.C.C., under Julius Genachowski, announced that they will urge Congress to overturn a ruling last year by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress that made it illegal for consumers to unlock their cellphones, opening the software that restricts most phones from working on another carrier’s network. . . .

Without a change, the potential consequences for unauthorized unlocking, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, are stiff: a $500,000 fine and five years in prison. 

Hey Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone: Schools Roll Out Massive Student Data Mine

Reuters reports on:
a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school. In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school - even homework completion.  Local education officials retain legal control over their students' information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.
A number of states have already joined in the datamining operation.  Yeah, nothing could ever go wrong with this. 

VPN: Taking Privacy Seriously

From Torrent Freak:
Prompted by a high-profile case of an individual using an ‘anonymous’ VPN that turned out to offer less than expected protection, TorrentFreak decided to ask a selection of VPN companies some tough questions.

With our findings we compiled a report of providers that due to their setup were unable to link their outbound IP addresses with user accounts. Ever since we have received countless emails demanding an update.

It’s taken a long time but today we bring the first installment in a series of posts highlighting VPN providers that take privacy seriously. Our first article focuses on anonymity and a later installment will highlight file-sharing aspects and possible limitations . . .

Group Sues DHS for Info on Its Alleged Power to Shut Down Communications Networks

From Infowars:
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, in response to a failure by the agency to release any documents pertaining to the “Emergency Wireless Protocols,” (Standard Operating Procedure 303 or “SOP 303″).

SOP 303 outlines exactly how the DHS would carry out a complete communications shutdown in the event of what it deemed an emergency situation.

EPIC explains in its complaint that the DHS has publicly stated that under SOP 303 an agency component “will function as the focal point for coordinating any actions leading up to and following the termination of private wireless network connections, both within a localized area, such as a tunnel or bridge, and within an entire metropolitan area.”

The DHS, led by ‘Big Sis’ Janet Napolitano, said recently that it was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records” on the matter.