Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 11, 2015

7 ways hackers can use Wi-Fi against you;  All Windows users should patch these two new ‘critical’ flaws;  Apple Music is available on Android right now;  10 cost-effective ways to quickly beef up your company security;  NSA: We Disclose 91 Percent of Security Bugs We Find;  Google giving away goodies to Chromecast, Chromebook, and Android TV owners;  Don’t Freak Out When a Smartphone App Asks for Permission;  Get more out of Android Marshmallow with these tips and tricks;  This free fix will stop Cryptowall 4 from holding your PC hostage;  Periscope Gets Better Maps, Skip Ahead And 3D Touch Shortcuts;  Trim Will Find Your Subscriptions, Cancel Those You No Longer Want;  Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s watching you;  Here are the first 100+ backward-compatible Xbox 360 games;  10,000 historic phonograph cylinder audio recordings hit the web for free;  Zemana AntiLogger Free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

All Windows users should patch these two new ‘critical’ flaws – Out of the dozen patches, four of the security vulnerabilities are considered “critical” and should be patched immediately.

7 ways hackers can use Wi-Fi against you – Wi-Fi — oh so convenient, yet oh so dangerous. Here are seven ways you could be giving away your identity through a Wi-Fi connection and what to do instead.


Image courtesy Thinkstock

Don’t Freak Out When a Smartphone App Asks for Permission – A study from the Pew Research Center published Tuesday found that Android apps in the Google Play store make 235 different types of permission requests between them. The knowledge that apps request permission to access your phone and, in some cases, personal data, isn’t a new revelation. But Pew’s study is a reminder of how important it is to read an app’s permission requests before installing it. If a simple app like a calculator is asking for something it shouldn’t need, like access to your location or contacts list, that’s a red flag it’s doing something it shouldn’t be doing.

Chrome to end support for Windows XP, Vista, and OS X 10.8 on April 2016 – If you use Chrome on an older operating system, your browser could stop getting updates in just a few months. Google’s official Chrome Blog announced that it will be ending support for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 in April 2016. Chrome browsers on those operating systems will continue to work, but they will stop getting updates from Google.

Google giving away a batch of goodies to Chromecast, Chromebook, and Android TV owners – The rewards just keep on coming if you’ve bought into Google’s ecosystem. Here’s a roundup of the latest deals.

Get more out of Android Marshmallow with these tips and tricks – Learn how to mute notifications, change your default Web browser, customize the Quick Settings tray, and more on Android Marshmallow.

Apple Music is available on Android right now – It’s the day that Apple Music fans and Android users have been waiting for: Apple’s new streaming music service is now available to download from the Google Play store. This is Apple’s first major service to arrive on Android as an app, but the third overall, following the release of Move to iOS earlier this year, and the recent launch of the companion app for the Beats Pill+ speaker.

Google Maps is adding offline navigation and search starting today – Offline search and navigation was one of the biggest announcements at I/O this May — and now, nearly six months later, that feature is finally reaching users. Today, Google Maps will roll out a new offline mode allowing for driving directions and search. It’s designed to fit seamlessly alongside the online version of Maps, allowing data connection to drop in and out without interrupting the app itself. The new features will begin rolling out to Android users later today, and Google says the iOS rollout will follow “soon.”

Pre-Order the $99 Oculus-Powered Samsung Gear VR Now – The device works with Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones, including the Note 5, S6 Edge+, S6, and S6 Edge.


Periscope Gets Better Maps, Skip Ahead And 3D Touch Shortcuts Including ‘Teleport’ – Some pretty notable updates for Periscope, the live broadcasting service owned by Twitter, just dropped today. Included among the new goodies for users of Periscope for iOS is teleporting, a feature courtesy of 3D Touch support that will transport you to a random part of the world and drop you right into a broadcast from there. In line with making the experience more global, Periscope’s world map for locating broadcasts has been updated to include more livestreams — it was previously capped at 250 — and also replays of streams from within the past 24 hours. That’ll massively ease discovery, and allow you to look back at breaking news events to get a more local, eyes-on-the-ground perspective.

Trim Will Find Your Subscriptions, Cancel Those You No Longer Want – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Birchbox, Spotify, HBO NOW, newspapers, box of the month clubs, meal services, and more: The rise of subscription-based commerce means consumers now pay for a number of items on a recurring basis. But even a few dollars spent here and there have a way of adding up, and eating into your household’s budget. A new startup called Trim wants to help you better track all the subscriptions you pay for, and easily cancel those you don’t need. And it does all this over text messaging.

Tumblr launches instant messaging on Android, iOS, and the web – Tumblr users can finally carry on real time conversations with one another. Today the company announced that instant messaging launches today across Android, iOS (assuming you’ve got the latest versions of each app), and the web. But it’s not immediately available to everyone; Tumblr says it’s taking a “viral” approach to rolling out messaging. It’s giving the new feature to 1,500 users to start. Everyone those people message will also gain the new function, and the chain goes on from there. “You’ll receive the messaging feature when a friend who has it already messages you, passing it along,” reads a new support page with more specifics on messaging.

Fb Messenger’s Facial Recognition “Photo Magic” Reminds You To Send Friends Photos Of Them – We are busy and lazy, so we forget to send friends the photos we take of them. But Facebook Messenger‘s newest feature Photo Magic scans your newly taken photos with facial recognition, and immediately notifies you with an option to send pics to friends that are in them. The test is rolling out in Australia today on Android and later this week on iOS, before reaching other countries if people enjoy it. Chief Messenger David Marcus says it will be available in the US soon.


Try these 15 PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts for masterful slide creation – A good PowerPoint presentation has a lot to do with what you see on that deck, and how it was put together. These keyboard shortcuts will make it all easier.

Easily share a web page on your next tech support call with Shove for Chrome – No matter how little you think you know about computers, if you read tech news sites you inevitably become somebody’s PC support line. The worst calls are the remote ones where a family member on the other side of the country regularly needs help. With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, here’s a tool you can install on your friend or family member’s PC to make remote help easier.


Amazon Echo to be sold at over 3,000 US retail stores – With Black Friday quickly approaching in the US, and thus the onslaught of the holiday shopping season, Amazon has just announced that its Echo, the internet-connected speaker and digital assistant, is making a formal move from the online marketplace to the physical retail environment. Amazon says that in the near future over 3,000 stores will begin selling the Echo, including Home Depot, Staples, Sears, BJ’s, P.C. Richard & Son, Brookstone, RadioShack, and Fred Meyer locations.

T-Mobile’s Binge On frees Netflix and Hulu from data caps, but not YouTube – T-Mobile USA will exempt a list of video streaming services from monthly data caps with Binge On, a feature that could let some subscribers watch more clips and shows without buying a more expensive plan.


So You’ve Been Breached – Breaches happen the way Hemingway said you go bankrupt: gradually then suddenly. There is no telling where and when a hacker can enter your servers and there is no telling when or where all of your customer’s private information will appear – whether neatly packaged for sale on the dark web or splashed on a torrent site. All that is clear, however, is that breaches affecting millions of people are now commonplace and smart companies are getting hit all the time. We are getting punched full of holes as surely as if we were orbiting the Earth through a field of space debris. And, according to experts, the pace is not letting up.

10 cost-effective ways to quickly beef up your company security – Is your company security a bit on the lean side due to a budgetary shortfall? Here are some affordable ways to prop up that weak security and protect your data.

This free fix will stop Cryptowall 4 from holding your PC hostage – Known as Cryptowall 4, the ransomware infects Windows machines, encrypts files, and demands users cough up crypto-cash to unlock their documents. The new variant, thought to have been developed by Russian hackers, emakes it even harder to crack the files by scrambling file names. Romanian antivirus firm Bitdefender said Monday it has developed a “vaccine” that can prevent a user from becoming infected with the malware. The tool, which can be downloaded for free from its site, does not undo the damage if the malware has already infected a machine, and only applies to the latest Cryptowall 4 malware.

Apple and Google remove third-party Instagram app that stole hundreds of thousands of passwords – Third-party app InstaAgent was found to be storing users’ Instagram usernames and passwords in an unencrypted form, before sending them on to unknown servers by iOS developer David L-R, who posted his discovery on Twitter late last night. Google responded quickly to the revelation, removing the app from its Play Store, but Apple took a little longer to kill any mention of InstaAgent from the App Store, finally removing it a few hours after the first tweets indicated its malicious intentions. While Instagram warns against using third-party apps to access your profile for precisely this reason, InstaAgent promised extra features for its users, including the ability to see who was viewing your profile.

Official Premier League Fantasy Website Pushes Malvertising – Soccer, or rather football aficionados in the UK may have had their computers infected whilst browsing the Premier League’s official fantasy website A malicious advert displayed on the sports portal which draws in over 16 million visitors per month according to SimilarWeb automatically redirected unsuspecting soccer fans to the Nuclear exploit kit. The Flash-based ad for a British yacht company was hosted on a highly suspicious server and distributed over https, making detection at the firewall or gateway much more difficult because it would encrypt the content of the page.


Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s watching you – Vizio’s Smart TVs track your viewing habits and share it with advertisers, who can then find you on your phone and other devices. The tracking—which Vizio calls “Smart Interactivity”—is turned on by default for the more than 10 million Smart TVs that the company has sold. Customers who want to escape it have to opt-out. In a statement, Vizio said customers’ “non-personal identifiable information may be shared with select partners … to permit these companies to make, for example, better-informed decisions regarding content production, programming and advertising.”

Comcast resets passwords after logins posted to dark web, but denies breach – Comcast will reset passwords for about 200,000 customer accounts, after some valid user accounts were posted online. About 590,000 purported login and password combinations were put up for sale on a dark web marketplace over the weekend. But about one-third of those were active, working logins, the company confirmed. The broadcast and media giant denied it had fallen victim to a data breach. It’s not clear where the data came from. With a sizable minority of valid information taken, it’s possible that a third-party company may have suffered a data breach, leading to the leak of some valid information.

USB Killer ruins your computer in the name of security – Want to make your desktop or laptop more secure? There’s a new gadget you can buy that will help — by frying all of its USB ports. That’s the pitch for USB Killer, though the description is a bit more colorful on the IndieGogo campaign page. It’s billed as “an entirely new concept in the field of data security” that can “permanently stop data theft on any computer.” Well, any data theft that’s done through a USB port, anyway. It can’t do a damn thing to prevent wireless attacks, it can’t stop a remote attacker from breaching your system, and it doesn’t permanently scramble the contents of your hard drive. What USB Killer will do is permanently cook any port you plug it in to. Oh, and there’s a slight chance that it might also damage your system’s mainboard, but apparently that’s the price you pay for the ultimate in security.


New encryption ransomware targets Linux systems – The antivirus software company Doctor Web has issued an alert about a new form of crypto-ransomware that targets users of Linux-based operating systems. Designated as “Linux.Encoder.1” by the company, the malware largely targets Web servers, encrypting their contents and demanding a ransom of one Bitcoin (currently about $500). Many of the systems that have been affected by the malware were infected when attackers exploited a vulnerability in the Magento CMS. A critical vulnerability patch for Magneto, which is used to power a number of e-commerce sites, was published on October 31. Doctor Web researchers currently place the number of victims in the “at least tens” range, but attacks on other vulnerable content management systems could increase the number of victims dramatically.

With just a password needed to access police databases, the FBI got basic security wrong – Someone in the FBI’s own IT department is probably having a very bad week. Hackers earlier this month were able to access a US law enforcement arrest database, and posted screenshots to Twitter — including some high-profile arrestees, like hacker Jeremy Hammond, convicted for his part in the Stratfor leak. It wasn’t just that arrest database. The hackers, according to Wired, also gained access to a police file transfer service, and an instant messaging service for police, and a real-time intelligence-sharing platform, among others.

Three Men Indicted In U.S. Over Last Year’s Massive J.P. Morgan Hack – Three men were charged in a 23-count indictment in connection with the 2014 hacking of J.P. Morgan Chase and multiple other financial institutions. Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein were first arrested in Israel in July. The third man, Joshua Samuel Aaron, is a U.S. citizen who attended school in Florida and then lived in Tel Aviv and Moscow. The charges, first reported by Reuters, include computer hacking and wire fraud. 83 million household and business accounts were jeopardized in the J.P. Morgan breach last year. According to the indictment, the victims of the hack were in New York, Boston, Omaha, St. Louis and Charlotte.

Company News:

Alibaba sales hit $5B in first 90 minutes of ‘Singles Day’ promotion – An annual sales promotion on China’s biggest online shopping site is off to an spectacular start with $5 billion of goods sold in just 90 minutes. That’s equal to more than half of last year’s total sales volume of $9.3 billion for the entire day and close to the 2013 all-day total of $5.8 billion. Alibaba’s “Singles Day” is an attempt to get customers who are single to buy themselves gifts and has taken place for several years on Nov. 11, chosen for its numeric date of 11/11.

Microsoft Goes For Another Israeli Security Firm Buying Secure Islands – Israel is a small country with a thriving security startup industry, and Microsoft appears to be have a taste for them. Today it announced an agreement to buy Secure Islands, its third Israeli security firm in the last year. While Microsoft did not reveal a specific price, various reports peg the deal at between $77 million and $150 million. Microsoft made the announcement official in a company blog post this morning. Secure Islands gives Microsoft a way to secure data across services, including its Office 365 and Azure cloud products. It’s not exactly a big secret that security is top of mind for everyone these days with high profile breaches coming on a regular basis. Down 6% On 3rd-Quarter Earnings – reported third quarter earnings after the bell Monday. The Utah-based discount e-tailer reported a quarterly loss of 8 cents per share or $2.1 million, down from $1.6 million in profit last year. Overstock brought in $391.2 million in revenue, an 11% increase year-over-year, but beneath the Yahoo Finance analyst estimate of $401.6 million. A 9% increase in total orders coupled with a 2% in order size, contributed to the rise in sales. In a statement, CEO Patrick Byrne cited a change to Google’s search algorithm, which is negatively impacting growth. “While we work to adapt to Google’s changes, we are increasing our emphasis on other marketing channels, such as sponsored search and display ad marketing, which are generating revenue growth but with higher associated marketing expenses than natural search,” said Byrne.

Qualcomm details Snapdragon 820: Phones, drones and VR — There’s a lot riding on the Snapdragon 820; it’s fair to say Qualcomm hasn’t had the home-run success with the Snapdragon 810 that it might have hoped for. Questions about the chipset’s heat output, not to mention some high-profile defections from flagship device makers like Samsung, cast a shadow over the 810’s roll-out.


Google Offers Up Its Entire Machine Learning Library as Open-Source Software – Via its research blog, Google announced on Monday that it was releasing the second generation of its machine learning framework as an open-source library called TensorFlow. “The most important thing about TensorFlow is that it’s yours,” write Google Technical Lead Rajat Monga and Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean. “We’ve open-sourced TensorFlow as a standalone library and associated tools, tutorials, and examples with the Apache 2.0 license so you’re free to use TensorFlow at your institution (no matter where you work).”

Uber And Lyft Join Forces With The White House To Offer Free Rides To Veterans – Just before Veterans Day, Uber and Lyft are teaming up with the U.S. government to offer free transportation to former military men and women who lack a way to get to jobs and interviews. Lack of adequate transportation is one of the major problems affecting the veteran population, particularly homeless veterans.

Games and Entertainment:

Here are the first 100+ backward-compatible Xbox 360 games – The full list, copied below, is dominated by downloadable Xbox Live Arcade titles and classic re-releases from even older systems. There are a few high-end retail best-sellers on there, though, including Fallout 3, Fable II, and the entire Gears of War series. Microsoft also promises that Xbox One support is “on the way” for more “fan favorites,” including Halo Reach, Halo Wars, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite, and Skate 3. Newly compatible titles will be announced “on a regular basis” starting in December, and users can send in specific requests for games they want added to the list using Microsoft’s online form.


Pixar’s going back underwater with first ‘Finding Dory’ trailer – There will undoubtedly be lots of swimming in “Finding Dory,” the highly anticipated upcoming sequel to the Oscar-winning 2003 animated feature “Finding Nemo.” Pixar released an official new trailer for “Finding Dory” on Tuesday, giving a sense of the adventures that Dory and company face this time around in the deep blue sea.


The new Tomb Raider lets Twitch viewers influence the gameplay – The just-launched Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One may be a largely single-player experience, but if you stream it on Twitch other people will be able to get in on the action as well. As part of a new feature, the new Tomb Raider will allow Twitch viewers to interact with the game they’re watching, influencing the gameplay at specific points.


Ultra-addictive space dots game Auralux returns with “Constellations” – One of the most addicting games on any platform, Auralux, is about to get a sequel. This game will be called Auralux: Constellations, and it’ll have the same gameplay mechanics at its base, but will work with ever-so-slightly modified graphics and the ability to play multiplayer. Therein lies the key to the expansion of this already-excellent game. Another completely separate game, this time coming with the ability to battle your buddies.


10 upcoming indie games you should be most excited about – The quality of indie games continues to skyrocket, and these are the ones you should be most excited about.


The Time Project

Fallout 4 review: Won’t set the world on fire, but might start a (tiny) flame in your heart – Fallout 4 goes down easy, but only because we’ve already played this exact game twice before.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10,000 historic phonograph cylinder audio recordings hit the web for free – Over 10,000 audio recordings from over 100 years ago have recently been digitized by the University of California, Santa Barbara since they began hosting their Cylinder Audio Archive online. And for the first time, all the recordings have been made available for easy search and download to us average non-collegent Joes and Janes.


Surgical simulators get Hollywood special effects – What’s creepy to one person can be lifesaving to another: Boston Children’s Hospital teamed up with Hollywood special-effects artists to create lifelike simulators to train surgeons on complex, high-stakes operations. Two new trainers are under development and were unveiled at the hospital’s Pediatric Innovation Summit in Boston. These will join Surgical Sam and other simulators.


Jawbone user data shows Indians sleep less than most westerners – The US-based wearables company has been compiling data on the sleeping and walking habits of its Indian Jawbone Up users, reporting that they rest and walk less than many westerners.

Overcoming our auto-petulance – We all are asked to do things we don’t want to do at work. If your reaction is to just not do them, you are in danger of harming more than just your career.


Sony Says Farewell to Betamax Cassettes – Yes, you read that right. Sony this week said it will finally stop producing Betamax cassettes in March 2016. Sony, which has been selling Beta cassette tapes in Japan for the past four decades, announced Tuesday that it will finally stop producing them in March 2016. So, this means if you’re still in possession of the vintage VCR, and a compatible video camera, you better stock up on some of the remaining cassette tapes pretty soon if you ever want to produce new content for your Betamax again.


10 reasons why IT support will cause you to lose your hair – Working in the world of PC support isn’t like working the average job or career. Yes, it’s incredibly rewarding. But it’s also challenging on numerous exhausting levels. During your career in IT or PC support, you will experience situations that might make you want to run straight for the unemployment line. What situations could do this? Let me lay out a few and see if some of them don’t send stripes of white cascading through your hairline.


The ITC does not have authority over the internet, according to Federal Circuit – The internet has one less regulator, thanks to a ruling passed down this morning from The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. According to the decision, the United States International Trade Commission does not have the authority to regulate information on the internet, blocking what many advocates saw as a major threat to the open web. Thanks to its broad powers, the ITC has become an increasingly popular venue for patent and copyright disputes, but its jurisdiction traditionally only extends to physical goods as they pass over borders. This latest case looked to change that, with potentially profound implications for data as it crosses international borders.

Foil vs. parchment vs. wax paper: Here’s when to use them – You probably know that foil is silver and parchment paper and wax paper are, well, waxy, but does your knowledge about them end there? These three kitchen staples have a variety of uses that can make cooking time much simpler. Here’s the difference and tips on how you should use them.


Something to think about:




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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA: We Disclose 91 Percent of Security Bugs We Find – The good news: the National Security Agency (NSA) says it discloses more than 90 percent of the harmful, Web-based bugs its discovers. The bad news: the agency likely waits until it has used those vulnerabilities to its advantage before disclosing them.

In an infographic made public recently, the NSA shares how it collects security information and ultimately disseminates it to those affected. The government agency says it performs regular security checks on products like smartphones, tablets, computers, and other devices, and reveals 91 percent of the vulnerabilities it discovers. The remaining 9 percent are either fixed in the time since the issues are discovered or are not disclosed for “national security reasons,” the agency says.

But as Reuters pointed out, that’s probably not the whole story. It cited current and former U.S. government officials, who said the NSA likely exploits these bugs as much as it can before making them public.

UN privacy head slams ‘worse than scary’ UK surveillance bill – The United Nations’ new privacy head has slammed the UK’s draft surveillance bill, calling it “worse than scary.”

Speaking at the annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Brazil, special rapporteur on privacy Joe Cannataci referred to the Investigatory Powers Bill as the “Snooper’s Charter” and accused the UK government of an orchestrated campaign to get hold of new mass surveillance powers that the evidence shows will not prevent terrorism.

The outspoken chief also accused “father of the internet” Vint Cerf of being “dumb” by claiming that modern privacy “may be an anomaly.” The claim that anonymity only occurred in modern time with the move to big cities was “pure, undiluted rubbish,” said Cannataci.

Giving a presentation at an open forum on the Right to Privacy in The Digital Age, Cannataci was highly critical of a number of recent efforts by countries to expand surveillance, including France’s new law created following the attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but he focused in on the UK and the surveillance bill currently going through Parliament.

Tim Cook: UK crypto backdoors would lead to ‘dire consequences’ – IPB Apple boss Tim Cook has once again warned of what he says would be the “dire consequences” of opening up backdoors to allow spies to access our data.

He said it would be wrong for the UK government’s latest super-spy bid – the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which landed in Parliament last week – to weaken cryptography.

Cook was speaking to the Daily Telegraph during a visit to London on Monday.

“It’s not the case that encryption is a rare thing that only two or three rich companies own and you can regulate them in some way. Encryption is widely available,” he told the newspaper.

“It may make someone feel good for a moment but it’s not really of benefit. If you halt or weaken encryption, the people you hurt are not the folks that want to do bad things. It’s the good people. The other people know where to go,” Cook added.

Facebook must stop tracking Belgian users in two days or be fined – $267K daily – A Belgian court yesterday gave Facebook 48 hours to stop tracking Internet users who do not have a Facebook account. If the US company refuses to comply, it faces fines of up to €250,000 (£177,000 or ~$267,500) per day.

“Today the judge… ordered the social network Facebook to stop tracking and registering Internet usage by people who surf the Internet in Belgium, in the 48 hours which follow this statement,” the Belgian court said according to AFP.

The judgment is a result of Belgium’s independent Privacy Commission taking Facebook to court for failing to comply with the country’s privacy laws, as Ars reported back in June. The Privacy Commission wanted Facebook to implement a number of changes to its operations, including refraining from “systematically placing long-life and unique identifier cookies with non-users of Facebook.” The commission always wanted Facebook to stop collecting and using user data through the use of cookies and social plug-ins unless it obtained an unambiguous and specific consent through an opt-in.

The demands were prompted by research carried out for the Privacy Commission, which found that Facebook tracked all visitors, even those who did not have an account or who had explicitly opted out of tracking. The court has now confirmed that the tracking cookie “is personal data, which Facebook can only use if the Internet user expressly gives their consent, as Belgian privacy law dictates.”

Weeks before NSA bulk phone spying ends, US judge (kinda) reins in program – US District Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia ruled Monday that a challenge to the program “will likely succeed in showing that the Program is indeed an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.” But in that decision, the judge said the program, because of the legal posture of the lawsuit, could continue unabated—but with a caveat. The authorities have to stop scooping up the telephone metadata on J.J. Little, a Los Angeles trial lawyer, and his boutique firm of a handful of lawyers now at the center of the case that is as old as the Snowden disclosure.

All of which means that, nearly 2.5 years following Snowden’s revelation, a handful of Americans have beaten the NSA’s spy program. But it would be foolhardy to suggest that it’s anything close to a victory. That’s because the program, which has successfully beaten multiple court challenges, has been spying on hundreds of millions of people, has been modified by Congress, and will expire in its original form on November 29.

Nevertheless, Judge Leon talked a tough game in his 43-page ruling in a case that ping-ponged to the appellate courts and back.

Supreme Court declines to decide whether you need a warrant to get cell site data – On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the nationwide legal confusion to continue regarding a bread-and-butter privacy topic in the digital age: whether the constitution demands that the authorities need a probable cause court warrant to obtain cell-site location data records of suspects under investigation.

That’s because the justices, without comment, declined (PDF) to consider the case of Florida man Quartavious Davis who got a life term for several robberies in a 2010. Prosecution in that trial built its case with Davis’ mobile phone’s location data, which the police obtained without a warrant from mobile provider MetroPCS. The data linked the man to several crime scenes. The government’s position on the topic is that Americans’ mobile devices can be tracked without the Fourth Amendment’s probable case standard being met.

For the moment, there is no clear legal standard on whether a warrant is required. Two federal appellate courts have ruled that no warrant was necessary (PDF), but a third appeals court said that warrants are required. That divergence of views normally is enough to create a so-called “split” in the appellate courts, which would necessitate Supreme Court intervention to resolve the conflict. But the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of privacy, set aside (PDF) its decision two weeks ago and agreed to rehear the issue.


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