Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – September 25, 2015

26 iOS 9 Tips for Apple Fanatics;  How to find free music online: We reveal our 5 favorite sources;  This Is How Many Apps You’re Really Using on Your Smartphone;  Young people think it’s OK to track your lover;  Firefox’s tracker-killing private browsing mode hits beta;  Snowden backs international campaign to outlaw mass surveillance;  Quickly create a VPN with the Hotspot Shield browser extension;  Facebook kicks off 360-degree video;  Firefox Gets Built-In Instant Messaging;  iOS 9 security flaw skips PIN to allow access to photos, contacts;  What’s the best free alternative to Microsoft Office?  Mobile devices are kids’ preferred gaming tools;  Ransomware pushers up their game against small businesses;  Sprint aims to undercut T-Mobile with $1-per-month iPhone deal;  The 16 best one-hand Android games for fun on the go;  Microsoft kills SafeDisc DRM on Windows 7 and 8;  How much are you worth to Facebook? About $48.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Snowden backs international campaign to outlaw mass surveillance – The former US National Security Agency worker who leaked NSA files to the press helped launch a campaign Thursday to pass what’s informally being called the Snowden Treaty. The proposed international agreement would outlaw mass surveillance and protect whistle-blowers like himself. “This is a global problem that affects all of us,” Snowden said via video from Russia to a room filled with reporters and activists. “We have to come forward with proposals to assert what our rights are, traditionally and digitally.” The Snowden Treaty has the potential to vastly change the way governments gather intelligence on their citizens and other countries. But it’s unclear whether such a sweeping regulation on information-gathering could win the support it needs from UN member countries.

Firefox’s tracker-killing private browsing mode hits beta – The latest Firefox Beta builds for PCs (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and Android come packed with a new featured called Tracking Protection. True to its name, Tracking Protection actively blocks third-party tracking. To do this, Tracking Protection prevents any element of a webpage from loading that may have code designed to track your browsing habits. Let’s say you regularly visit a news site that always displays an ad supplied by a third-party advertising company, and those ads always appear to the right of the news articles. With Tracking Protection enabled you may not see the ads if they contain browser cookies designed to follow you across the web.

Young people think it’s OK to track your lover, survey says – Technically Incorrect: An Australian survey of people from 16 to 24 years old suggests the world can’t end too soon. Almost half said tracking their partners using technology is just fine.

This Is How Many Apps You’re Really Using on Your Smartphone – Every other day it feels like there’s a new hot app on the market, but in reality people are plenty comfortable with their old standbys. A new study by comScore reveals that smartphone owners in the U.S. typically only use about three apps frequently. According to the study, the average American devotes about half their app time to a single app. The second-most used app gets about 18% of total app time, and the third most-used one gets 10% of the time. Combined these three programs total 80% of total app time.

Quickly create a VPN with the Hotspot Shield browser extension – Access blocked content and protect yourself at public hotspots with the Hotspot Shield extension for Chrome or Firefox. It’s free, easy and effective. I tried the Chrome extension, and it couldn’t have been easier to use. Hotspot Shield installs a button to the right of Chrome’s URL bar that when clicked provides a toggle switch to enable and disable the extension along with an option to set your virtual location. There are five countries from which to choose: Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the US. You can choose one of the five countries by clicking on its flag or choose the globe to have Hotspot Shield choose for you.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

26 iOS 9 Tips for Apple Fanatics – It’s time to upgrade to iOS 9. Here are the top tricks that make it a worthwhile upgrade. For anyone with the latest iPhones, the jump to iOS 9 is worth it. The following tips and tricks will help you make the most of it. Use this knowledge to become an iPhone (and iPad) master.

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It’s time to upgrade to iOS 9. Here are the top tricks that make it a worthwhile upgrade.

How to find free music online: We reveal our 5 favorite sources for scoring free tunes – Free music is hard to come by these days. The industry seems obsessed with having us rent music via subscription services instead. Even Apple has done away with its Free on iTunes section (after bringing it back for a few months earlier this year) so it can push its new Apple Music service. But free, legally downloadable music still exists online; you just have to know where to find it. Here are five services that offer free tracks with few strings attached.

What’s the best free alternative to Microsoft Office? – From the Cheapskate: Before you plunk down money for Office 2016, consider whether you can get by with a free suite — or even Microsoft’s free online version!

Facebook kicks off 360-degree video with a Star Wars speeder ride – It’s a first day of fall surprise from Star Wars and Facebook! The latter is unveiling the capability to post 3D video on the site and have it pop up in New Feeds across the world. Videos from GoPro, Vice, Satruday Night Live and more debuted on the site, but it was the Star Wars reveal that stole the show. In a collaboration between Industrial Light and Magic’’ X-Lab and Facebook, users can now click and drag their way through a 360 video that depicts a speeder ride through the new Star Wars planet of Jakku from The Force Awakens. From the point of view of the back of the speeder ridden by Daisy Ridley’’s character Rey in the new Star Wars movie, the 58 second ride takes us past the downed Star Destroyer and around the back past a junk dealer.

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Here’s how to get rid of Internet Explorer – You would think that, because Windows 10 comes with Microsoft Edge preinstalled, you’d be able to ditch Internet Explorer. But you’d be wrong. Because Internet Explorer 11 comes preinstalled on Windows 10 — and no, you can’t uninstall it. But you can turn it off. This Control Panel hack works in previous versions of Windows, too. Here’s how to do it:

When your Windows registry gets cluttered, here’s what’s worth doing about it – Your Windows registry may look like a big mess, especially if you install and uninstall a lot of software. But before you clean it, here’s something else to consider.

The new Gear VR will work with any new Samsung phone and cost $99 – The new Gear VR looks a lot like its most recent iteration, with the exception of a redesigned trackpad, which has a D-pad-style cross that could make it easier to feel when you’re in VR. But unlike the previous ones, it’s not being referred to as an “innovator edition.” It’s also half the price of the old Gear VR: $99. Koo says that the new Gear VR will ship in November — before Black Friday — in the US, and will head worldwide shortly after. Part of today’s news is also the amount of new content that’s coming out over the coming months — including Netflix, TiVo, and Twitch.

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Mobile devices are kids’ preferred gaming tools – Modern children prefer to play video games on mobile devices, according to a new report from NPD Group. The survey looked at kids ranging in age from 2 to 17, and discovered the PC has been knocked down from its top slot, no longer being the preferred gaming device. More than half of kids surveyed said they play video games on mobile devices regularly, while less than half of those kids reported playing games on a PC. The latter represents a 22 percent decrease over 2013’s report.

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Firefox Gets Built-In Instant Messaging – The latest version of the browser, Firefox 41, made its debut this week with a new built-in instant messaging feature, letting you send and receive IMs when you’re in a Hello video call. At this point, the feature is only available on the desktop version for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The feature comes after Mozilla in January officially launched the WebRTC-based Hello video-calling feature, developed in partnership with Spanish telecom giant Telefónica, in Firefox 35. Now, for the first time, Hello includes IM support as well.

Google Keep released to iPhone – Today Google brings one of its lesser-known super-helpful apps “Google Keep” to iPhone. This app has been out for Google’s own Android operating system for many months, just coming to iOS for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch for the first time today. This app will allow you to keep notes, save thoughts with audio, and keep images of odd objects in check in one colorful place. This app is out for free on iOS starting this afternoon and should work on most if not all iOS devices released over the past several years, just so long as they have all their requisite software updates from Apple.

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Google is now better at listening to you than ever – Google had already been employing deep neural networks — the same stuff responsible for those freaky distorted pictures — to compute the most likely thing you’re trying to say to your phone, but now it’s evolved its approach and started using recurrent neural networks. The new voice modelling allows Google to account for temporal dependencies, which is to say that it’s now better at analyzing every snippet of audio by referring to the sounds on either side of it. The upshot for users is an even faster, more accurate, and efficient voice search experience. The company even claims it’s more robust to noisy environment. The Google search app for iOS and Android is already using the new improved voice input, which is also present when dictating stuff into Android.

How to make Cortana search with Google instead of Bing in Windows 10 – Windows 10’s Cortana uses Bing for web searches by default with no official option to change it, but there are ways to get Cortana to embrace Google.

Microsoft’s new Invite app makes scheduling meetings on iPhone a breeze – Right now the app is only available for iPhone users in the U.S. and Canada, but Microsoft plans to bring it to Android and Windows Phone soon. The app is emblematic of the Garage’s tactics when it comes to creating and rolling out new products. A team working on a project inside the Garage starts with a hypothesis they want to test, like wanting to see if it’s possible to ease the pain of scheduling meetings. If a project is successful, it could get rolled into one of Microsoft’s larger products, so it’s possible that we could see this capability added into Outlook or another app at some point in the future.

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It’s official: North America is out of new IPv4 addresses – North America has finally run out of new addresses based on IPv4, the numbering system that got the Internet where it is today but is running out of space for the coming era of networking.

Security:

Security wares like Kaspersky AV can make you more vulnerable to attacks – Antivirus applications and other security software are supposed to make users more secure, but a growing body of research shows that in some cases, they can open people to hacks they otherwise wouldn’t be vulnerable to. The latest example is antivirus and security software from Kaspersky Lab. Tavis Ormandy, a member of Google’s Project Zero vulnerability research team, recently analyzed the widely used programs and quickly found a raft of easy-to-exploit bugs that made it possible to remotely execute malicious code on the underlying computers. Kaspersky has already fixed many of the bugs and is in the process of repairing the remaining ones. In a blog post published Tuesday, he said it’s likely he’s not the only one to know of such game-over vulnerabilities.

iOS 9 security flaw skips PIN to allow access to photos, contacts – While iOS 9 has seen early success, already being installed on 50% of Apple’s devices less than a week after launch, a new potential security flaw has already been discovered. As demonstrated in the video below, the exploit can allow users to bypass an iPhone’s PIN-protected lock screen and get full access to saved photos and contacts. The flaw appears to take advantage of a bug related to using Siri at the lock screen.

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Microsoft’s enterprise-grade security is coming to Windows 10 IoT – Microsoft launched a new Preview build for its version of Windows 10 that’s designed to run devices that are part of the Internet of Things, along with a development kit to help users test it out.

OPM revises hack details: 5.6m fingerprints compromised – In early June, the U.S. government revealed that four million federal employees were comprised as the result of a massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management. It has since been suggested the number could be higher, and that the type of data grabbed (supposedly by Chinese hackers) was more extensive than originally reported. Today the OPM made a new update about the hack, revealing the hackers stole a few million more fingerprints than originally believed.

Ransomware pushers up their game against small businesses – The majority of clicks on recent links spreading CryptoWall and TorrentLocker came from small and medium-sized businesses. CryptoWall is one of the most widespread ransomware programs, infecting nearly 625,000 systems between March and August 2014 and many more since then. Researchers estimate that it has earned well over $1 million for its creators. Small and medium-sized companies accounted for over 40 percent of clicks on TorrentLocker-related URLs in June and July. The number exceeds 50 percent when large enterprises are included.

Company News:

UberPOP ride-sharing service faces ban in Brussels – The low-cost service from San Francisco-based Uber lets drivers without a professional license transport customers, who hail them using a smartphone app, in their own cars. A Belgian commercial court on Thursday ruled in favour of cab firm Taxis Verts and ordered UberPop to shut down by October 15. UberX, which requires drivers to have a professional license, will continue to operate. Uber said it will appeal the court’s decision.

Microsoft ditches Bing for Baidu to push Windows 10 in China – Recently, tech companies have been taking major action to gain a foothold in the ripe market that is China, from Apple’s public apology to Google’s rumored censorship. The latest to make somewhat of a concession is Microsoft, though the implications are probably far less unprecedented or disruptive. The company has just announced one its latest major partnership in China, which will help it gain access to potentially hundreds of millions of users. But its deal with Baidu is coming at a small price, one that will see Bing out the door in the region.

Sprint aims to undercut T-Mobile with $1-per-month iPhone deal – On Thursday, Sprint announced a new deal in which customers who trade in their existing iPhone 6 can score a 16-gigabyte iPhone 6S by paying $1 a month or a 16GB iPhone 6s Plus for $5 a month. Available for an unspecificed “limited time only” (no end date has been announced), the new offer is part of Sprint’s iPhone Forever program, which lets new or existing customers eligible for a new phone get the latest iPhone as soon as it rolls out.

Facebook renames oft-criticized free website Internet.org – So what’s in a name? Apparently a lot to Facebook, which on Thursday renamed its controversial Internet.org website and app to Free Basics. The social network said the renaming was done to make a clearer distinction between the broader Internet.org initiative and the website that provides free basic Internet services to underserved parts of the world. The renaming coincides with Facebook’s announcement that the revised Internet.org platform is up and running.

Games and Entertainment:

The 16 best one-hand Android games for fun on the go – Clenching to the bus rail on your way to work, you don’t have both hands free to finish that Dead Trigger level you started last night. With a few minutes to spare, and one hand free, you need to find some games you can play with the same hand you’re holding your phone with. Your choices aren’t as limited as you might think. You’ll find that most of the titles are designed specifically with the portrait orientation in mind. However, some games are good enough to bend the rules, and you’ll see a couple games sprinkled in that are played in landscape mode.

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Official Angry Bird movie trailer debuts – One of the most popular mobile games of the decade is Angry Birds. The game was so popular that it made Rovio, the developer of the game. We have known for a while now that a movie based on the Angry Birds game was in the works. The release date is set for sometime in 2016. I’m sure many have been wondering what the movie would be like and now we know thanks to the release of the first official trailer for the film.

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Epic Games demos ‘Bullet Train’ game for Oculus Rift – Epic Games has demonstrated a new video game it has in the works titled “Bullet Train” — it is a VR game designed for the Oculus Rift, and as the name tongue-in-cheek references, it is a shooting game that takes place within a train station. Gamers get off the train in a train station and begin shooting a variety of firearms at various armor-clad baddies. Gameplay video after the jump! The trailer below shows the first look at Bullet Train as played on the Oculus Rift using Oculus Touch controllers. Said Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, “Using the Oculus Touch controller for locomotion, we’ve built a world-scale VR gunfight experience with gameplay that weaves in and out of bullet time. Presenting: Bullet Train.”

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E-sports go primetime as TBS preps weekly Counter-Strike: Global Offensive TV show – Competitive gaming has become a wildly popular spectator sport without the help of mainstream TV, but now one network is trying to get in on the action. Starting next year, TBS will launch a new league for e-sports, with telecasts on Friday nights, the Wall Street Journal reports. The competitions will run for 20 weeks a year, starting with Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the first season. Before each telecast, TBS will show preliminary competitions online, leading up to the Friday night showdowns. Players will compete for prize money, though TBS and partnering talent agency WME/IMG haven’t specified the amount. TBS is also considering drug tests for players, following other e-sports leagues that have grappled with the use of Adderall to boost attention.

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Team Fnatic is crowned champions at this year’s ESL One Cologne e-sports event, the world’s largest CS:GO tournament.

Sling TV updates user interface on Xbox One – Dish Network’s Sling TV has a bunch of visual changes up its sleeve, and those changes are arriving first for those on Xbox One. The service announced the new changes today; included among them is a new channel guide and more details than before. Says Sling TV, subscriber feedback directly influenced this newest improvement. As such, the company is wanting more feedback — if you have a Sling TV subscription, you can tweet your feedback at Sling and make your voice known. The new Sling TV for Xbox One, first and foremost, brings better streaming and stability and fixes a bunch of bugs. Beyond that comes an improved user interface — one that includes a refreshed guide that is better able to accommodate the increased number of channels Sling TV offers.

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Microsoft kills SafeDisc DRM on Windows 7 and 8 – When Windows 10 arrived, gamers found that some of their favorite older games would no longer fire up. Microsoft, it turned out, had declared both SafeDisc and SecuROM to be security risks. To that end, they made sure neither DRM scheme would function on Windows 10 systems. Now, they’ve decided to extend some of that protection to previous Windows versions, too. Microsoft has pushed a Windows Update to Windows 7 and Windows 8 that cripples SafeDisc. That’s good news from a security standpoint, but what if you feel like firing up some of your classic games that happen to rely on its DRM? Microsoft has provided a workaround. In the notes they provided for update MS15-097, they’ll walk you through the steps that are required to make SafeDisc functional again.

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HBO NOW Is 2015’s Top Video Streaming App By Revenue, Study Finds – Video streaming apps that target cord cutters and those who want to watch video on their mobile phones are on the rise. According to new data from app store analytics firm App Annie, apps like the still relatively new HBO NOW, along with Hulu, are dominating the top app store charts by revenue, while others like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, Amazon’s Twitch and more, rank among the top apps by downloads. The findings were based on studies of the streaming video market and related app store rankings for a 12-month period ending July 2015, the firm said.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How much are you worth to Facebook? About $48 – Did you know your Facebook profile is worth more than your Twitter handle? At least, it is in terms of ad revenue. Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 1.5 billion users, stands to make $12.76 in ad revenue off each user worldwide this year and about $48.76 off each user in the United States, according to data from research firm eMarketer.

Trinity portable wind generator keeps you charged on the go – There are many places where it can be hard to keep your gadgets powered up and usable. If you like to spend time in the outdoors, this is the hardest place to get power. There are no outlets on the side of a mountain in Colorado, but you need to be able to keep in contact in case of an emergency. A new device called the Trinity Portable Wind Turbine Power Station can keep you juiced up no matter how far you are from home.

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RePhone Lets You Turn Anything Into A Phone – Making a cellphone is easy. You go into a mine, pull up some ore, extract various metals and then add components that you manufacture from other mines. Then you have to get FCC clearance and create lithium ion battery. Finally, you need to write a Snake game. If you can’t do that, try RePhone. The project is actually a tiny circuit board with a SIM slot and an optional screen. It also supports Bluetooth. You’re going to want to get the $49 Kit Create, a tiny watch-like system that includes a little case and all the modules. It’s like getting a tiny unlocked cellphone for under $50.

U.S. drops to 55th in 4G LTE speeds – The average download speed on U.S. 4G networks inched up to 10Mbps (bits per second) in the June-August quarter, according to research company OpenSignal. That was an improvement from 9Mbps in the previous quarter, but the country’s global ranking fell from 43rd as users in other countries enjoyed much larger gains. New Zealand scored the highest average speed in the quarter with 36Mbps, coming up from nowhere in the rankings. But perennial standouts like South Korea and Singapore kept getting faster, too. The average LTE speed in Korea is now 29Mbps (up by 4Mbps), and in Singapore it’s 33Mbps, up by 5Mbps.

Dashcam captures plane calmly merging with rush hour traffic – The footage of the incident, which happened on the evening of September 16, is now reaching viral liftoff on YouTube. And who wouldn’t have reacted just as the driver who filmed it on his dashcam did, with an “Are you kidding me?”

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Donald Trump unleashes trademark-fury on critic’s website – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to stop StopTrump.us, a website that sells a variety of anti-Trump paraphernalia, including T-shirts and other doodads that have slogans like “Donald is Dumb” and “Stop Trump.” His lawyer has sent a cease-and-desist letter, ordering the website, to stop selling its anti-Trump wares, and hand over the domain name. Washington Post blogger and law prof Eugene Volokh points out that Trump has no case whatsoever. No one will be confused into thinking that the “Stop Trump” website or its gear for sale is authorized by Trump; and even if someone was confused, the trademark confusion and cybersquatting laws both allow for fair use, and criticism is the classic example.

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StopTrump.us

U.N. Says Cyber Violence Is Equivalent to Physical Violence Against Women – Cyber violence is just as damaging to women as physical violence, according to a new U.N. report, which warns women are growing even more vulnerable to cyber violence as more and more regions gain internet access. The report calls itself a “wake-up call” about cyber violence as a systemic concern, especially as technology is spreading across more regions.

BBC video shows animals attacking in slow motion – BBC, as you may know, has a YouTube channel dedicated to videos about the outdoor world (ones posted exclusively online), and it’s called “Earth Unplugged”. On Wednesday, the network published a new video that slows time down, giving us an incredible look at animals as they attack. The video is in slow motion, and includes everything from an alligator punching out of the water to a praying mantis grabbing a cricket.

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No sign of safety risks with longterm pot use for chronic pain – The study was conducted in Canada between 2004 and 2008. It followed 431 chronic pain patients for a year in order to assess the rates of adverse events, pulmonary effects, and neurocognitive function. The patients were divided into a group that used cannabis to treat that chronic pain (n=215) as well a control group that didn’t (n=216). A key strength of the work is that it was a prospective study; the participants were chosen before they started the treatment plan. As noted above, there was no difference in adverse effects in the cannabis-using group—in and of itself, that’s quite a useful finding. The study also found no significant change in neurocognitive function between cannabis users and control. That finding contradicts studies on recreational users that have found a negative effect on both attention and memory with longterm cannabis use.

Something to think about:

“First rule of holes. When you find yourself in one, stop digging.”

–    Will Rogers

Downloads:

AOMEI Partition Assistant (PA) Standard Edition – Safely and easily manage your partitions on the disk. As partition magic alternative, AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition is completely free partition manager software. It offers both magic partition management and disk management that keep your computer running smoothly and faster.

Free for home and home office users

Support Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, and XP

Awarded by many knowledgeable editors and smart users

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Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile 3.7.0.7170 – Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile is an advanced Android security app for smartphones & tablets.

It features antivirus, secure web browsing, lost device locator, call and SMS blocking and a mobile security management website.

The Webroot Secure Anywhere Mobile Premier Android app provides the ultimate protection:

Protects your identity and personal information Android antivirus blocks mobile threats before they infect your phone

Locates your Android smart phone if it’s lost or stolen

Keeps your device secure without interruptions

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Boycott tech companies supporting CISA, privacy group urges – Privacy advocates are stepping up their lobbying efforts against the controversial cyber threat information sharing bill currently in Congress after several tech giants indicated their support.

Activist group Fight for the Future criticized Salesforce for supporting legislation which would “grant blanket immunity for American companies to participate in government mass surveillance programs like PRISM, without meaningfully addressing any of the fundamental cyber security problems we face in the U.S.” Accordingly, Fight for the Future said it will abandon the Heroku cloud application platform within the next 90 days and encourages others to follow suit. The letter to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was posted on the site YouBetrayedUs.org.

Man arrested for disparaging police on Facebook settles suit for $35,000 – A Wisconsin man arrested for posting disparaging and profanity laced comments on a local police department’s Facebook page has settled a civil rights lawsuit and is being awarded $35,000.

Thomas G. Smith used the Facebook page of a rural Wisconsin village called Arena to, among other things, label local cops as “fucking racists bastards.”

He was charged criminally in state court on allegations of disorderly conduct and unlawful use of computerized communications. He was sentenced to a year of probation and 25 hours of community service. A state appeals court overturned his conviction last year.

Smith then sued, (PDF) leading to the $35,000 settlement Tuesday of a lawsuit that also accused the police department of deleting his and other critical comments while allowing favorable comments to remain online.

White House considered bypassing encryption with malware disguised as updates – A new report from The Washington Post details some of the latest ideas, including some that already have civil libertarians raising the alarm. The news comes from a draft memo from the president’s encryption working group, which was tasked with finding solutions that would be acceptable to tech companies and law enforcement alike. The result isn’t intended for public consumption, but it shows just how far we might need to go to appease law enforcement’s desire for backdoor access. The paper suggests four main proposals, including a forced backup system and a system triggered by combined consent from multiple parties. Another proposal suggested installing a special encrypted port that only the government would have access to.

The most controversial proposal was one that targeted the automatic software update system. “Virtually all consumer devices include the capability to remotely download and install updates,” the paper observes. It then proposes to “use lawful process to compel providers to use their remote update capability to insert law enforcement software into a targeted device.” It’s particularly ominous because the certificate system that protects those updates has been compromised before, most notably by the US-linked espionage malware known as Flame.

Forcing suspects to reveal phone passwords is unconstitutional, court says – The Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination would be breached if two insider trading suspects were forced to turn over the passcodes of their locked mobile phones to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

“We find, as the SEC is not seeking business records but Defendants’ personal thought processes, Defendants may properly invoke their Fifth Amendment right,” US District Judge Mark Kearney of Pennsylvania wrote.

The decision comes amid a growing global debate about encryption and whether the tech sector should build backdoors into their wares to grant the authorities access to locked devices. Ars reported today that an Obama administration working group “considered four backdoors that tech companies could adopt to allow government investigators to decipher encrypted communications stored on phones of suspected terrorists or criminals.”

Without this capability, the authorities are trying to get suspects to cough up their passwords instead. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of the issue. There’s been a smattering of varying court rulings nationwide on the topic. In 2012, a federal appeals court said that forcing a child-porn suspect to decrypt password-protected hard drives would amount to a Fifth Amendment violation.

Deal allowing tech companies to transfer data between US and EU is invalid – The “Safe Harbour” framework—which is supposed to ensure data transfers from the EU to the US are legal under European data privacy laws—does not satisfy the EU’s Data Protection Directive as a result of the “mass, indiscriminate surveillance” carried out by the NSA. That’s the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) Advocate General Yves Bot, whose views are generally followed by the CJEU when it hands down its final rulings.

The case was sent to the CJEU by the High Court of Ireland, after the Irish data protection authority rejected a complaint from Maximillian Schrems, an Austrian citizen. He had argued that in light of Snowden’s revelations about the NSA, the data he provided to Facebook that was transferred from the company’s Irish subsidiary to the US under the Safe Harbour scheme was not, in fact, adequately protected. The Advocate General Bot agreed with Schrems that the EU-US Safe Harbour system did not meet the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, because of NSA access to EU personal data.

According to the CJEU statement (PDF link), “the access enjoyed by the United States intelligence services to the transferred data constitutes an interference with the right to respect for private life and the right to protection of personal data, which are guaranteed by the [Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU].” Another issue, according to the Advocate General, was “the inability of citizens of the EU to be heard on the question of the surveillance and interception of their data in the United States,” which therefore amounts to “an interference with the right of EU citizens to an effective remedy, protected by the Charter.”

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