Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 30, 2015

Stop Google from tracking your voice;  Tor Project releases beta version of its anonymous instant messenger;  Microsoft Aces Antivirus Test;  TV tech terms demystified, part one: Screen size, resolution, and speed;  Google is merging Chrome OS and Android;  Facebook helps Tor project to get official recognition for .onion hidden sites;  Google Photos Will Hide Pics of Your Ex;  Microsoft’s radical Android launcher “Arrow” now public;  This is what a $50 Tablet looks like;  Three iOS 9 battery management tricks that will delight you;  This One GIF Explains How BitTorrent Finds Files;  Microsoft to users: You’ll download Windows 10, and you’ll like it;  Five apps perfectly suited for a one-person IT shop;  Spice Up Your Skype Video Messages With New Filters;  Disk wiping and data forensics: Separating myth from science;  Three baseline IT security tips for small businesses;  Everything you need to know about YouTube Red;  Google Play Games Now Lets You Record And Share Gameplay;  SystemRescueCd  (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Stop Google from tracking your voice – When you ask Google a question, these recordings are automatically saved to your Google account. While the recordings are only accessible by you, they may include some private information you don’t feel comfortable having in the cloud. There’s no reason to panic. It’s easy to access and delete recordings, and prevent Google from saving them in the first place. Here’s what you need to know:

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The Tor Project releases beta version of its anonymous instant messenger – The Tor Project has just released the beta version of Tor Messenger, a chat client that allows for anonymous, “off-the-record” chats based on Tor’s secure browsing system. The instant messenger is a beta release more than a year in the making, and promises to create a more seamless, accessible way for people to chat securely on the web, built on the instant messaging client Instantbird but routing all traffic through Tor. Similar instant messaging clients, like Pidgin and Adium, can be set up for encrypted chatting, but the Tor Project says Messenger takes the idea one step further, enforcing encrypted chats “out of the box” and disabling logging of information by default. The cross-platform client supports Jabber (XMPP), IRC, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Twitter, and Yahoo.

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Facebook helps Tor project to get official recognition for .onion hidden sites – With the efforts from Facebook and the Tor project, it should become easier to browse securely via SSL on the so-called Darknet.

Microsoft Aces Antivirus Test – For years, Microsoft’s antivirus has been the sad sack in antivirus tests. Several labs have taken to calling Microsoft’s performance a baseline. If you can’t beat the baseline, you’re doing something wrong. That trend seems to be changing, though. In the latest test results reported by AV-Test Institute, Microsoft earned a respectable 14 points (out of a possible 18). That’s a lot better than its previous score of 9.5 points; 10 points is the minimum to pass this test. It seems that Microsoft is on a roll. Dennis Technology Labs certifies antivirus products at a number of different levels: AAA, AA, A, B, and C. For the first time, Microsoft managed AAA certification.

TV tech terms demystified, part one: Screen size, resolution, and speed – Don’t be befuddled by the alphabet soup of acronyms, spec charts, and feature lists you’ll encounter when shopping for a new TV. This guide series explains it all in plain language.

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Credit: Panasonic

Google is merging Chrome OS and Android – Google’s two operating systems will soon be one. Chrome OS is going to be combined with Android, and the combined OS could be revealed as soon as next year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports that Chrome is essentially being folded into Android, because Android has emerged as the dominant operating system by quite a long stretch. Combining the two operating systems means setting up Android to run on laptops and desktop computers, which would require big changes, as well as supporting the Google Play Store. Chromebooks will reportedly receive a new name to reflect the new OS.

Google Photos Will Hide Pics of Your Ex – Google Photos will let you hide certain individuals from appearing under People.

Microsoft’s radical Android launcher “Arrow” now public – All the troubleshooting is done and what’s left is a home screen replacement app for your Android device that’ll make you wish the company had skipped over Windows for mobile devices and gone straight to Google for their software. While Google may have been catching up with Microsoft’s “most used apps” tray topper, here you’ll find the ability to select what you want for starters. This launcher also has a pull-up quick-select menu with settings and a set of apps – again, of your choosing.

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This is what a $50 Tablet looks like – While most tablets in the $50 range aren’t much more than glorified alarm clocks, the $49.99 Amazon Fire is a fully realized, functional slate with access to tons of content. It’s good for reading books, watching movies, running apps, or just browsing the Web. With a decent screen, a portable form factor, solid parental controls, and helpful technical support for newbies, there’s simply no other meaningful competition in this price range. That makes the 7-inch Amazon Fire our Editors’ Choice for budget tablets.

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Three iOS 9 battery management tricks that will delight you – iOS 9 includes new ways to keep track of the battery life on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Learn the ins and outs of using these management techniques.

Microsoft Integrates Skype With Office Online, Rolls Out An Office Chrome Extension – Microsoft today announced its plans to extend the social features of Office by integrating Skype into Office Online, allowing users to communicate by voice and video chat within Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Online documents, as well as in Outlook.com. With the integration, users will be able to see and chat with Skype contacts right from within their file, which Microsoft says will help teams better collaborate. In addition, Skype’s chat history will remain connected to the document, so you’ll be able to see where you left off after closing a file and later returning. Microsoft also rolled out a new Chrome browser extension, which makes it easier to quickly access or create new Office documents with a click on Chrome’s toolbar.

Spice Up Your Skype Video Messages With New Filters – Add balloons to video messages, change the appearance of your face, or go color negative to spook out your friends.

This One GIF Explains How BitTorrent Finds Files – While services like Popcorn Time have been simplifying BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol, for end users, it’s becoming easier and easier to look at torrenting as an abstract streaming service rather than a tangle of users passing files between each other. The BitTorrent team has put together some visualizations that’ll help you imagine what’s happening here. The team is putting together a browser called Project Maelstrom, which can visualize torrent networks using data pulled from their popular µTorrent client and also promises to allow websites to leverage BitTorrent technology in users’ actual browsers.

Disk wiping and data forensics: Separating myth from science – Strongly held opinions about the proper method to wipe data from hard drives reflect bygone eras. Learn about disk wiping for modern platter hard drives, and securing data on solid-state drives.

Google’s Snapseed app can now edit RAW photos on Android – An increasing number of Android smartphones are now able to shoot photos in RAW, which gives users much greater flexibility when it comes to editing and retouching their shots after they’ve been taken. But finding a good app for editing RAW files on a smartphone isn’t easy, so Google’s updating one of its own to fill the void. The latest version of Snapseed, released today, offers full support for DNG RAW files. Google says the new Snapseed will help you “correct exposure after the fact” with far better results than you’d see from a JPG file, where mucking with the exposure too much can easily ruin an image. And you’ll also have much more control over white balance, color, and tone.

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Giphy Expands Beyond Messenger With Its New GIF-Sharing App – Giphy, the popular resource for finding and sharing GIFs, has rolled out a significant upgrade to its flagship mobile application today, which sees the app rebranded from an add-on utility for Facebook Messenger users, to a fully-featured, standalone app for finding and sharing GIFs across a number of channels, including social networks, text messages, Messenger, email and more.

Linksys launches new range extenders to terminate WiFi dead spots – Linksys has added a pair of new WiFi range extenders to its lineup of devices that includes the AC1200 Boost EX Range Extender RE6400 and the AC750 Boost Range Extender RE6300. Both of the devices are designed to expand your wireless network into areas of your home or office where signal strength is weak.

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Five apps perfectly suited for a one-person IT shop – You’ve broken out on your own to start a one-person IT shop. To do this successfully, you’re going to need a bit of help to make the daily grind, well, a grind. Since you’re an “army of one,” you can’t hire support staff to keep you organized, get you paid, keep an inventory… etc. To keep from losing your mind (or your shirt), you’ll need a few apps to pick up the slack. Fortunately, there are plenty of good ones available to keep your efforts moving forward.

Microsoft to users: You’ll download Windows 10, and you’ll like it – Microsoft really wants people to get on the Windows 10 bandwagon, so much so that the company plans to start automatically downloading its new operating system to some users’ computers next year.

Everything you need to know about YouTube Red – Google’s well aware that YouTube is a video powerhouse of viral hits, music videos and unique shows you cannot find anywhere else. Hoping to capitalize on its unstoppable success, Google created YouTube Red, a new paid monthly subscription service with several perks that make your viewing experience better. Here’s what you should know before you sign up.

Security:

Three baseline IT security tips for small businesses – Millions of small businesses are vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks that can cost an average of $20,000 per attack. Here is some basic wisdom to help SMBs protect themselves.

Free website hosting service 000webhost has suffered a data breach which has placed the service’s security practices under scrutiny – 000webhost is a free web hosting service which supports both PHP and MySQL, catering for millions of users worldwide. On Wednesday, the firm told users in a Facebook message that the company had suffered a databreach on its main server. A hacker used an exploit in an old, unpatched version of PHP to upload malicious files and gain access to the service’s systems. Not only was the full database containing the usernames, passwords and email addresses compromised, but this information has been dumped online.

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Cryptowall ransomware revenue may flow to one group – Just one cybercriminal group may be collecting the revenue from Cryptowall 3.0, a malicious program that infects computers, encrypts files and demands a ransom, according to a new study.

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Cryptowall 3.0, which encrypts files on a computer and demands a ransom, may have generated as much as $325 million for its developers. Credit: Cyber Threat Alliance study

Company News:

Zuckerberg visits India to boost Facebook numbers amidst Internet.org hiccups – The social network has received fierce criticism for allegedly violating net neutrality, and if that isn’t bad enough, if media articles are to be believed, Internet.org doesn’t seem to be attracting many takers either.

Apple asks Supreme Court to overturn decision in ebooks antitrust case – As reported by Reuters, Apple filed a petition with the court on Wednesday, arguing that the most recent appeal ruling against the company would “harm competition and the national economy.” In its most recent letter to the court, Apple suggested that its actions were not anticompetitive, writing that a decision was “exceedingly important to the United States economy as it concerns the rules that will govern disruptive entry by dynamic companies into new or stagnant markets.” Apple has been set to pay out $450 million if the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, or if the lower court’s decision is upheld. That would be the conclusion to a battle that’s been unfolding since 2013, when Apple was found guilty of the conspiracy.

LinkedIn Earnings Beat Expectations With $780M In Revenue, Stock Jumps 9% – LinkedIn handily beat analyst expectations today with revenue of $780 million and earnings of 78 cents per share. Analysts were expecting earnings of 45 cents per share on about $756 million in revenue. LinkedIn shares promptly spiked as much as 8% in extended trading. In total, the company’s revenue grew 37% year-over-year, up from around $568 million in the third quarter last year.

Still fuming over HTTPS mishap, Google makes Symantec an offer it can’t refuse – Google has given Symantec an offer it can’t refuse: give a thorough accounting of its ailing certificate authority process or risk having the world’s most popular browser—Chrome—issue scary warnings when end users visit HTTPS-protected websites that use Symantec credentials. The ultimatum, made in a blog post published Wednesday afternoon, came five weeks after Symantec fired an undisclosed number of employees caught issuing unauthorized transport layer security certificates. The mis-issued certificates made it possible for the holders to impersonate HTTPS-protected Google webpages.

PayPal reports solid Q3, $2.26 billion in revenue – Wall Street was looking for revenue of $2.27 billion. The slight miss caused PayPal’s stock to drop nearly seven percent after hours.

Sony Records $280M Profit In Q2 2015 But Its Smartphone Struggles Continue – Sony’s financial turnaround continues with its Q2 2015 period. The Japanese company posted a slim net profit of $280 million (33.6 billion JPY) on revenue of $15.8 billion (1,892.7 billion JPY). Operating profit came in at $733 million (88 billion JPY). The firm didn’t quite hit the highs of the previous three-month period, when it bagged an eight-year high $780 million operating profit on revenue of $14.5 billion, but Q2 2015 is a big jump on the $785 million loss suffered one year prior, when it wrote down $1.5 billion from its struggling mobile division. That said, revenue for Q2 2014 was around half a percent higher.

Samsung’s Q3 results are in, lets company breathe a bit – Samsung has just posted its financial numbers for the third quarter in a year and finally the Korean manufacturer has some room to breathe. But probably not for long. Even though the numbers are still small and still somewhat disappointing, consolidated revenues and operating profits have gone up, mostly thanks to its semiconductor and display panel businesses. The bad news, smartphone sales are still lower than hoped. The worse news, Samsung expects that the next quarter, nay the next year, will be even more difficult.

Games and Entertainment:

Google Play Games Now Lets You Record And Share Gameplay – Twitch? Who needs it. Today, Google Play Games announced a new feature which will let you record and share your gameplay moments with others. No, it’s not for streaming hours of footage, it’s more for when you want to share yourself beating a level or getting a high score. You can then pop it onto YouTube Gaming to get those views and make that revenues.

Here’s what the team had to say:

Today, we’re launching a new feature on the Google Play Games app that lets you easily record and share with others your own best gaming moments from your favorite mobile games.

It’s simple. In the Play Games app, select any game you want to play, then tap the record button. You can capture your gameplay in 720p or 480p, and choose to add video of yourself and commentary via your device’s front facing camera and microphone. When you’re done recording, you can quickly edit and upload your video to YouTube.

Valve resurrects Halloween modes for Team Fortress 2 – Valve might not be good at trilogies, but they love community events. This year marks the seventh Halloween event for Team Fortress 2, and they’re making it a doozy. Instead of making just one new game mode, they’ve decided to bring back all six previous Halloween modes. They’re not just slacking off by re-hashing old content, there will be some new stuff to enjoy, as well.

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The 11 weirdest MMORPGs still online – The era of the massively multiplayer online game might be one of the strangest in PC gaming history. Some of the earliest online experiences were called “multi-user dungeons,” or MUDs, which allowed people to dial in to a server and explore a text-based world with other real people. That concept eventually mutated in 1997 with the release of Ultima Online, Richard Garriott’s transformation of his classic series into the MMORPG realm. A few others followed, but it was the release of World Of Warcraft in 2004 that really kicked the MMORPG craze into full swing. Blizzard managed to perfectly capture what millions of players wanted in an online world, and over multiple expansions it’s managed to dominate the market for over a decade in the face of some tough challenges.

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Sony Provides Sneak Peek at Upcoming PS4 Game Lineup – Sony kicked off this year’s Paris Games Week with a slew of PlayStation 4 announcements. Eight trailers—and one gameplay walkthrough—highlighted upcoming releases, from the Battleborn open beta to the multiplayer Vector. A number of established franchises are getting a boost from new iterations, like the Gran Turismo Sport beta, expected to begin in the spring.

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Gran Turismo Sport

Terrifying PC horror classic Outlast is getting a sequel – Spooky asylum hellhole Outlast is getting a sequel, developer Red Barrels announced today. There’s not much to the trailer, aside from a burning upside-down cross and a guy yelling scripture and/or pseudo-scripture about death, judgment, et cetera. Oh, and a release date of Fall, 2016. Check it out:

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20 terrifying PC horror games to play with the lights off – Horror games are a dime a dozen. Good horror games—well, those are much rarer. We’ve rounded up some of the best horror games ever made, running the gamut from big-budget extravaganzas released this very year to… text adventures. I’m serious. Turn out the lights, put on some headphones, make sure you’ve got a spare pair of underwear nearby, and enjoy these spine-tinglers.

How to watch the World Series live online – Can’t get to a TV for the Fall Classic? Here are your options are for streaming the games online.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Cord-cutter Confidential turns one: What a crazy year it’s been – One year ago today, I kicked off my weekly Cord Cutter Confidential column by declaring there’s never been a better time to cut the cord. I’m happy to say that since writing that first column, living cable-TV-free has only gotten easier. Those who ditch the bloated cable bundle now have more choices and better programming than they did a year ago, as TV networks and service providers realize they must start appealing to this rapidly-growing audience. Let’s look back at some of the highlights:

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US govt drafts Google, Walmart, Amazon, BestBuy execs for drone registration system – The task force will help the FAA and DOT decide how to go about setting the new rules and procedures for registering private drones in the US. The registration will allow cops and Feds to track drones back to their owners when FAA rules are broken. The FAA said the task force will have until November 20 to decide what recommendations it should make on how to roll out drone registration. The group will gather to meet from November 3-5 to hash out the recommendations.

Students In India Held A Massive Celebration to Honor Bill Gates On His Birthday – Bill Gates, philanthropist and cofounder of Microsoft, turned 60 years old on Oct. 28. Gates is the wealthiest man in the world, and he along with his wife Melinda have put their fortunes towards starting numerous campaigns aimed at making the world a better place. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation runs various programs that seek to improve global health, eliminate poverty, and provide easier access to education among solving other issues impacting the world. In these photos, school children in Chennai, India honored Gates’ birthday by holding portraits of him during a celebration.

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Sit? Stand? Nifty new workstation lets you lie down on the job – The debate over the health impact of working at a computer continues to rage. Standing desk fans insist that being on their feet is the way to go for health and productivity, but for many of the rest of us, standing up for hours on end looks like an awful lot of hard work. The science isn’t exactly clear-cut, either. California startup Altwork has what may be the solution with its first product: the Altwork Station. While adjustable sit/stand desks have been done before, the Altwork Station takes things to the next level: it’s an integrated workstation combining seat, desk, and monitor stand, and it’s all electrically controlled to support not just sitting and standing but also a supine position: you lie back with your monitor or monitors above you. The keyboard and mouse stay affixed to your desk through the magical power of magnets.

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Watch a Soccer Player’s Punt Drop This Drone Out of the Sky – There are few things more satisfying for a shotgun-wielding technophobe than dropping drones out the sky. But rarely do you see a kill as dead-on as this one. That’s a ball kick from a Rosmini College soccer player in New Zealand that landed squarely on a passing DJI Phantom 3 drone. The quadcopter had been recording the match before being hit and spiralling down near the goalpost. It’s hard to tell just how high up the drone was when it got nailed. 75 feet? 100 feet? Either way, quite a shot.

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Hudway Glass gives you augmented reality nav on your windshield – Typically, when we are using a navigation device we are using it on a device built into the dash of our car or via something stuck to the windshield. A new device is on Kickstarter called Hudway Glass that aims to make looking at those navigation cues easier and safer while we drive. The device turns your smartphone into a head up display and holds it safely on the dash of your car. The device is designed to eliminate any issues with doubling of the image, lack of reflection during the day, image size, and other issues.

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Here’s How Airplane Wi-Fi Works – Nearly two-thirds of flights over the U.S. have on-board wi-fi these days, according to a survey by travel platform Routehappy. But how does in-flight Internet work, anyway? Watch the video to find out.

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‘C By GE’ Smart Bulbs Change Color Depending on Time of Day – Does the glow of your home’s lights make it difficult to wind down at night? Maybe things too are too dim during the day? GE has some new connected bulbs that can serve up the best lighting based on the time of day, all from your smartphone. Unlike other smart lighting solutions, you don’t need a hub to operate C by GE bulbs; just fire up the smartphone, connect via Bluetooth, and select your desired setting. A $50 starter pack contains two C Life bulbs and two C Sleep bulbs, GE said, which should last 20 years.

Something to think about:

“Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, and lessens the frictions of social contacts.”

–     Clare Booth Luce     (1903 – 1987)

Downloads:

SystemRescueCd – SystemRescueCd is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the hard disk partitions.

It comes with a lot of linux software such as system tools (parted, partimage, fstools, …) and basic tools (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It can be used for both Linux and windows computers, and on desktops as well as servers.

This rescue system requires no installation as it can be booted from a CD/DVD drive or USB stick, but it can be installed on the hard disk if you wish. The kernel supports all important file systems (ext2/ext3/ext4, reiserfs, btrfs, xfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs), as well as network filesystems (samba and nfs).

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RAM Disk for Windows – SoftPerfect RAM Disk is a free high-performance RAM disk application that lets you have a disk on your computer entirely stored in its memory. As the memory is much faster than physical hard disks, storing temporary data on a fast in-memory disk achieves a higher performance. Whatever your job is, read on to find out what a RAM disk can offer you.

SoftPerfect RAM Disk creates a virtual disk residing in the computer RAM accessible in Windows Explorer and other applications, allowing you to store any temporary information on this disk. Furthermore, Windows can be configured to use the RAM disk for temporary files, so that the system and most applications would use the fast in-memory disk for their temporary data. As Windows and other third-party applications often create a large number of temporary files for a short time only, using a RAM disk will extend your hard disk’s life by sparing it from excessive reading and writing.

Modern computers are equipped with at least 1 GB of RAM, and most of the time there is a lot of unused memory that could be used as a high-performance alternative to the slower HDD storage. This product lets you create any number of virtual RAM disks limited only by the memory available. You can also work with on-disk images and RAM disks associated with an on-disk file, that ensures your data is preserved between sessions.

Key features of the RAM Disk:

Any number of RAM disks. In practice, up to 26 disks due to the number of drive letters available.

Any RAM disk size on 64-bit systems. Up to approximately 3.5 GB on 32-bit systems.

Persistent RAM disks with an associated on-disk image.

Volatile RAM disks whose content disappears on shutdown.

Built-in disk image manipulation tools.

Five very good reasons to use the RAM Disk:

Higher PC performance. Provided you have got a sufficient amount of RAM, using a fast in-memory disk for temporary data will boost the computer performance.

Reduced file system fragmentation. The file system on your hard disks will be far less fragmented as the temporary files will never be written to the hard disk.

Reduced wear-and-tear of the physical disk. Because the temporarily files are not written to the hard disk, there will be fewer read/write cycles, which is especially important for prolonging the life of Solid State Drives (SSD) often installed in laptops.

Less junk on the hard disk. Many software applications create temporary files that remain undeleted although no longer needed. The contents of RAM disks is cleared every time the computer is restarted or switched off, so the unneeded files won’t clutter your HDD.

Less noise and heat from the hard disk because the system will use the hard disk less intensively.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

EU Parliament calls for charges against Snowden to be dropped – In a 285 to 281 vote, the European Parliament has called on member states to drop criminal charges against Edward Snowden, saying he is an “international human rights defender” who must be protected as a whistleblower. In a statement, the Parliament asked that countries “grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties.”

A very similar version of the vote was reportedly set to be tried last year, but ultimately could not be agreed on.

The vote came alongside a broader resolution passed by the Parliament, which gauged the responses from EU member countries following the Snowden leaks. According to the Parliament, not enough progress has been made to curb mass surveillance in the wake of the leaks.

The organization also cited concerns about new laws that have increased “surveillance capabilities of intelligence bodies.” France passed a controversial surveillance law in April, and the UK and Netherlands were also named by the Parliament. The resolution also praised a ruling from earlier this month that invalidated Europe’s controversial data-sharing agreement with the United States.

Australia: Government accessed 820,000 customer records in 2014-15 – More than 820,000 customers had their account details revealed to law-enforcement, emergency services, and national security agencies by telecommunications providers during 2014-15, according to a report published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

In its 10th annual ACMA Communications Report 2014-15 [PDF], tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, the ACMA revealed that 824,841 customers had their details revealed by carriers and carriage service providers (CSPs) during the year under Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act 1997, with the majority of these for enforcing criminal law: 584,029 customer records were handed over for this purpose during 2014-15.

“Customer information provided by telecommunications carriers and CSPs to law-enforcement and national security agencies is protected under Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act,” the report says.

Petition calling for strong encryption will get White House response – The White House will respond to a call for strong encryption protections after a petition organized by activists received more than 100,000 signatures. The petition asks that the Obama administration endorse support for privacy and “[r]eject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine our security.”

The petition, started by Access Now and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was based on the White House’s We The People platform. Today, the petition reached its goal of 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the threshold for a direct response from the White House. (It’s unclear when, exactly, that response will be made.)

The statement from the administration will come at a contentious moment in the political battle over cryptography. Law enforcement officials have been lobbying for “backdoor” access to tech companies’ products, with FBI director James Comey suggesting that encryption has become an unnecessary hurdle to law enforcement. But privacy activists argue that adding such systems necessarily makes it more likely that criminal hackers will break in.

EFF: We found 100+ license plate readers wide open on the Internet – Law enforcement agencies around the country have been all too eager to adopt mass surveillance technologies, but sometimes they have put little effort into ensuring the systems are secure and the sensitive data they collect on everyday people is protected.

Earlier this year, EFF learned that more than a hundred ALPR cameras were exposed online, often with totally open Web pages accessible by anyone with a browser. In five cases, we were able to track the cameras to their sources: St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Kenner Police in Louisiana; Hialeah Police Department in Florida; and the University of Southern California’s public safety department. These cases are very similar, but unrelated to, major vulnerabilities in Boston’s ALPR network uncovered in September by DigBoston and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.

After five months of engagement with these entities, we are releasing the results of our research and the actions these offices undertook in response to our warnings.

NSA can keep illegally spying on Americans into November – The NSA can continue its illegal spying on Americans for one final month after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that wanted it shut down immediately.

The New York Appeals Court declined to block the surveillance program, which is due to be overhauled by the end of November, because the US Congress had already approved a “transition period” for the spying system.

“That orderly transition requires that the government retain the tools it has been using to investigate threats of foreign terrorism until new tools may be put in place,” said Judge Gerard Lynch in his opinion [PDF].

“Congress has balanced privacy and national security by providing for a 180‐day transition period, a decision that it is uniquely suited to make. Congress’s decision to do so should be respected,” he argued, with the backing of the two other appeals judges.

Since that transition period is going to end next month, the court decided not to weigh in on the topic of whether the NSA program – in this case, the use of section 215 of the Patriot Act to store records of all phone calls in the United States – was constitutional or not.

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