Law and Legal
lifehacker – “Autofill is a great setting if you don’t want to have to remember and type in your password every time you log in to an online account. In fact, we highly recommend you use a password manager (and take advantage of autofill features) to keep track of secure passwords. But autofill makes it easy to forget what your passwords are in the event you need to type them in elsewhere. Thankfully, there’s a way around this. [Take time to read the Comments section for additional useful information – and once again – try DuckDuckGo rather than Chrome]
boing boing – Rob Beschizza – “Here’s 28 of our favorites from the last year – not all of them published in the last year, mind you – from fairy-tales to furious politics and everything in between, including the furious fairy-tale politics getting between everything. The links here include Amazon Affiliate codes; this helps us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world’s greatest neurozine…” [Each “favorite” or “best books” list offers unique insights on books that you may have missed – like Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World.
engadget – “The latest in a long line of privacy scandals happened last week, after Google was found to have been pulling unredacted data from one of America’s largest healthcare providers to use in one of its projects. Despite assurances that it won’t use this information to supplant its ad business, that’s not the issue here. How was Google able to acquire this knowledge in the first place? Professor Sandra Wachter is an expert in law, data and AI at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute. She says that every time your data is collected, “you leave something of yourself behind.” She added that anyone can use your online behavior to “infer very sensitive things about you,” like your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and health status. It’s bad enough when the companies use those inferences for targeted ads. But it gets a lot worse when they gain access to very private data. For instance, would you feel comfortable if Google started displaying ads for fertility treatments in your emails after a trip to the doctor? Or if your healthcare provider could access your browser history without your knowledge to determine how suitable you are for insurance…”
comparitech: “From passport photos to accessing bank accounts with fingerprints, the use of biometrics is growing at an exponential rate. And while using your fingerprint may be easier than typing in a password, just how far is too far when it comes to biometric use, and what’s happening to your biometric data once it’s collected, especially where governments are concerned? Here at Comparitech, we’ve analyzed 50 different countries to find out where biometrics are being taken, what they’re being taken for, and how they’re being stored. While there is huge scope for biometric data collection, we have taken 5 key areas that apply to most countries (so as to offer a fair country-by-country comparison and to ensure the data is available). Each country has been scored out of 25, with high scores indicating extensive and invasive use of biometrics and/or surveillance and a low score demonstrating better restrictions and regulations regarding biometric use and surveillance…” [Spoiler – U.S. ranks #4 of top 5 countries using biometric data]
Vice – Real world tests show that mobile speed and coverage maps are often more fantasy than reality. “A new FCC study confirms what most people already knew: when it comes to wireless coverage maps, your mobile carrier is often lying to you. If you head to any major wireless carrier website, you’ll be inundated with claims of coast to coast, uniform availability of wireless broadband. But, as countless studies have shown, these claims usually have only a tenuous relation to reality, something you’ve likely noticed if you’ve ever driving across the country or stopped by mobile carrier forums. But just how bad is the disconnect? A new FCC study released this week suggests that wireless carriers may be lying about mobile coverage 40 percent of the time or more.
- The full study, part of the FCC’s efforts to beef up wireless subsidies ahead of fifth-generation (5G) deployments, states that FCC engineers measured real-world network performance across 12 states. Staffers conducted a total of 24,649 tests while driving more than 10,000 miles…”
WSJ.com – Global numbers to grow almost 30% as higher image quality allows better facial recognition – “As governments and companies invest more in security networks, hundreds of millions more surveillance cameras will be watching the world in 2021, mostly in China, according to a new report…”
Source: Video Surveillance Installed Base Report – 2019 – “IHS Markit has been tracking annual shipment volumes of video surveillance cameras since 2004. This report builds on nearly two decades of research to provide a dedicated analysis of the installed base of network, analog and HD CCTV security cameras. This report provides market sizes, forecasts and market shares for the installed base of network, analog and HD CCTV cameras globally. An increasing number of video surveillance cameras are being shipped every year. This growth is being driven by long-standing trends, such as the shift from analog to network equipment, increased government funding, and increased price competition, meaning security cameras have never been more affordable to the end-user. Furthermore, increased adoption of technologies such as wide dynamic range, higher megapixel rated cameras and video analytics are also driving adoption. So, what does this mean for the installed base of security cameras?…”
Fortune – Robert Hackett – “When Fortune employees moved into a new office building in Manhattan a few months ago, we had the option to sign up for facial recognition scanning. This meant we could access the premises without showing an authorized ID badge. I ruminated on the convenience for some time. Imagine: No more pausing at the turnstile. No more fumbling around in your pockets. No more accidentally forgetting your ID badge at home. Simply flash a smile at a little camera and—presto—you’re in. What a dream come true! Naturally, I declined the option…If I lose my ID badge, I can get a new one. But I have only one face.” [See also DHS wants to expand airport face recognition scans to include US citizens.]
Made by Neal Agarwal – keep scrolling and you will learn about all the creatures that live in depths from 37 meters deep all the way to 10924 meters deep – fascinating.
Ars Technica – “The courts have long held that laws can’t be copyrighted. But if the state mixes the text of the law together with supporting information, things get trickier. In Monday oral arguments, the US Supreme Court wrestled with the copyright status of Georgia’s official legal code, which includes annotations written by LexisNexis. The defendant in the case is Public.Resource.Org (PRO), a non-profit organization that publishes public-domain legal materials. The group obtained Georgia’s official version of state law, known as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, and published the code on its website. The state of Georgia sued, arguing that while the law itself is in the public domain, the accompanying annotations are copyrighted works that can’t be published by anyone except LexisNexis. Georgia won at the trial court level, but PRO won at the appeals court level. On Monday, the case reached the US Supreme Court. “Why would we allow the official law to be hidden behind a pay wall?” asked Justice Neil Gorsuch. Georgia’s lawyer countered that the law wasn’t hidden behind a paywall—at least not the legally binding parts. LexisNexis offers a free version of Georgia’s code, sans annotations, on its website. But that version isn’t the official code. LexisNexis’ terms of service explicitly warns users that it might be inaccurate. The company also prohibits users from scraping the site’s content. If you want to own the latest official version of the state code, you have to pay LexisNexis hundreds of dollars. And if you want to publish your own copy of Georgia’s official code, you’re out of luck…”
NextGov: “U.S. citizens wary of facial biometric technology can opt-out of Customs and Border Protection’s face-scanning programs, though that would change under a proposed rule. CBP has been pushing the use of facial recognition technologies at land, sea and air ports as a means of meeting a longstanding congressional mandate to use biometrics in the entry/exit process. That includes in-motion imaging of everyone coming into the country at airports and other select ports of entry as well as during the boarding process for international flights. Outbound travelers were first introduced to the facial recognition at Dulles International Airport in September 2018, though the program has expanded to more than 20 ports of entry across the country. At airports, as passengers move to board the plane, a tablet computer set up near the gate captures an image of the traveler’s face and matches it to the plane’s manifest, which includes photos taken from the traveler’s documents, such as a passport. But U.S. citizens and green card holders currently have the option to decline this biometric scan and opt for traditional boarding procedures instead. That would change under a proposed rule filed with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs…”
Vox: “…Ring’s efforts to woo police aren’t limited to lavish parties. The company offers police officers $50 off Ring products if their department partners with Ring; those from departments that don’t partner with Ring can get discounts, too. If Ring can sell an inviting brand image, police are more likely to trust the company. That trust is a crucial foundation for its partnerships with police, which have quietly proliferated since 2016, usually without public input. Ring has over 600 partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the country, and this number is increasing daily. The company has spent the past three years systematically making sure police everywhere know and recognize Ring, quietly building a nationwide surveillance network through police partnerships, and embedding itself into the functions of law enforcement. This network of police partnerships isn’t only unusual because of its size and scope. Behind the scenes, Ring is experimenting with emerging technologies, as well as pursuing a partnership with at least one other private surveillance company. The number of Ring partnerships with police grows almost daily, and, to date, there has been limited public debate about whether these partnerships should exist in the first place. Unless lawmakers curb or regulate the expansion of these partnerships, what we are seeing now is just a minuscule version of this company’s full potential…”
The New York Times – The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment – “The House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 opened a critical new phase of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, featuring legal scholars vigorously debating whether his conduct and the available evidence rose to the constitutional threshold necessary for his removal from office. In a daylong hearing convened by the Judiciary Committee, three constitutional scholars invited by Democrats testified that evidence of Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political gain clearly met the definition of an impeachable abuse of power. They said his defiance of Congress’s investigative requests was further grounds for charging him. A fourth scholar invited by Republicans disagreed, warning that Democrats were barreling forward with a shoddy case for the president’s removal based on inadequate evidence, and risked damaging the integrity of a sacred process enshrined in the Constitution. The spirited exchange unfolded as the Judiciary Committee began determining which impeachment charges to lodge against Mr. Trump based on an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee. The president abused his power, sought to subvert an American election and endangered national security when he pressured Ukraine for political favors, Democrats said..” Video of the hearing is here – https://youtu.be/rHcVHKu9RHw. See also C-SPAN video of the testimony
Witnesses – Professor Noah Feldman – Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and Director, Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law, Harvard Law School
- Feldman Testimony – Feldman Bio
Professor Michael Gerhardt – Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, The University of North Carolina School of Law
Professor Pamela S. Karlan – Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford Law School
Professor Jonathan Turley – J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law, George Washington University Law School
Reuters: “Since 1978, researchers have scooped up and measured tens of thousands of birds that died after crashing into buildings in Chicago during spring and fall migrations. Their work has documented what might be called the incredible shrinking bird. A study published on Wednesday involving 70,716 birds killed from 1978 through 2016 in such collisions in the third-largest U.S. city found that their average body sizes steadily declined over that time, though their wingspans increased. The results suggest that a warming climate is driving down the size of certain bird species in North America and perhaps around the world, the researchers said. They cited a phenomenon called Bergmann’s rule, in which individuals within a species tend to be smaller in warmer regions and larger in colder regions, as reason to believe that species may become smaller over time as temperatures rise…” h/t Pete Weiss]
- Ecology Letters, Shared morphological consequences of global warming in North American migratory birds. First published: 04 December 2019 https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13434
The International Transport Forum.OECD: “…This report presents a new urban accessibility framework. It identifies which destinations can be reached on foot, by bicycle, public transport or car within a certain time (accessibility). It then measures how many destinations are close by (proximity). The comparison between accessible destinations and nearby destinations show well each transport mode performs (transport performance). These three indicators are calculated for destinations such as schools, hospitals, food shops, restaurants, people, recreational opportunities and green spaces in 121 cities in 30 European countries..”
Forbes: “Only two road traffic deaths per 100, 000 inhabitants were reported in Norway in 2019, making the Scandinavian nation the best-performing country for road safety. In comparison, the risk of being killed in a crash was six times higher in Argentina than in Norway, and the United States ranked 33 (out of 40), following Morocco and Chile. Those are among the findings of the Road Safety Annual Report 2019, published last month by the Paris-based International Transport Forum, an intergovernmental organization with 60 member countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Norway also had the lowest mortality rates per distance traveled and per registered vehicles in 2018. Its success “is particularly remarkable,” the report noted, as the country’s roads were already among the safest in the world…”
The Atlantic: “As we approach the end of a year of unrest, here is a look back at some of the major news events and moments of 2019. Massive protests were staged against existing governments in Hong Kong, Chile, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Haiti, Algeria, Sudan, and Bolivia, while climate-change demonstrations and strikes took place worldwide. An impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump was started, conflict in Syria continued, the United States won the Women’s World Cup, Hurricane Dorian lashed the Bahamas, and so much more. Here, we present the Top 25 news photos of 2019. Be sure to come back soon for a more comprehensive series, beginning tomorrow—2019: The Year in Photos, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.”
VentureBeat: “Mozilla today launched Firefox 71 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Firefox 71 includes Lockwise password manager improvements, Enhanced Tracking Protection tweaks, and Picture-in-Picture video on Windows. There isn’t too much else new, possibly because Mozilla is getting ready to speed up Firefox releases to a four-week cadence (from six to eight weeks) next year. The company did, however, share updates on its VPN efforts and Firefox Preview. Firefox 71 for desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play, and the iOS version is on Apple’s App Store. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 250 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider…”
ZDNet – “Mozilla removed today four Firefox extensions made by Avast and its subsidiary AVG after receiving credible reports that the extensions were harvesting user data and browsing histories. The four extensions are Avast Online Security, AVG Online Security, Avast SafePrice, and AVG SafePrice. The first two are extensions that show warnings when navigating to known malicious or suspicious sites, while the last two are extensions for online shoppers, showing price comparisons, deals, and available coupons…Mozilla removed the four extensions from its add-ons portal after receiving a report from Wladimir Palant, the creator of the AdBlock Plus ad-blocking extension. Palant analyzed the Avast Online Security and AVG Online Security extensions in late October and found that the two were collecting much more data than they needed to work — including detailed user browsing history, a practice prohibited by both Mozilla and Google. He published a blog post on October 28, detailing his findings, but in a blog post dated today, he said he also found the same behavior in the Avast and AVG SafePrice extensions as well.
Seeing that his original blog post didn’t get the traction he hoped, and neither browser maker intervened to take down the extensions on their own accord, Palant said he reported the extensions to Mozilla developers yesterday, hoping that the organization would take action — which, it did, removing all four add-ons within 24 hours…”
“Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the draft report – “The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report” – to all Members and the public. The Committee will vote tonight [the vote was 13-9] to issue the report, before the Chairman of the Committee transmits it and any accompanying materials to the House Judiciary Committee consistent with H.Res. 660…This report reflects the evidence gathered thus far by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in coordination with the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Foreign Affairs, as part of the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States. The report is the culmination of an investigation that began in September 2019 and intensified over the past three months as new revelations and evidence of the President’s misconduct towards Ukraine emerged. The Committees pursued the truth vigorously, but fairly, ensuring the full participation of both parties throughout the probe. Sustained by the tireless work of more than three dozen dedicated staff across the three Committees, we issued dozens of subpoenas for documents and testimony and took more than 100 hours of deposition testimony from 17 witnesses. To provide the American people the opportunity to learn and evaluate the facts themselves, the Intelligence Committee held seven public hearings with 12 witnesses—including three requested by the Republican Minority—that totaled more than 30 hours…”
One more time – “For all of you that used the FaceApp to see what you would look like in old age, the FBI just told @SenSchumer that “the FBI considers any mobile application or similar product developed in Russia, such as FaceApp, to be a potential counterintelligence threat…” [via Frank Thorpe – producer and off-air reporter, NBCNews – his Tweet includes a copy of the FBI’s letter to Sen. Schumer.