Businesses

Online Gaming Could Be Stalled by Net Neutrality Repeal, ESA Tells Court (arstechnica.com) 152

A video game industry lobby group is joining the lawsuit that seeks to reinstate net neutrality rules in the US, saying that the net neutrality repeal could harm multiplayer online games that require robust Internet connections. From a report: The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) yesterday filed a motion for leave to intervene so that it can support the case against the Federal Communications Commission. The lawsuit, filed by a mix of Democratic state attorneys general, tech companies such as Mozilla, and consumer advocacy groups, seeks to reverse the FCC's December 2017 vote to eliminate net neutrality rules. The ESA said its members will be harmed by the repeal "because the FCC's Order permits ISPs to take actions that could jeopardize the fast, reliable, and low-latency connections that are critical to the video game industry."
The Courts

CenturyLink Fights Billing-Fraud Lawsuit By Claiming That It Has No Customers (arstechnica.com) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: CenturyLink is trying to force customers into arbitration in order to avoid a class-action lawsuit from subscribers who say they've been charged for services they didn't order. To do so, CenturyLink has come up with a surprising argument -- the company says it doesn't have any customers. While the customers sued CenturyLink itself, the company says the customers weren't actually customers of CenturyLink. Instead, CenturyLink says they were customers of 10 subsidiaries spread through the country. CenturyLink basically doesn't exist as a service provider -- according to a brief CenturyLink filed Monday.

"That sole defendant, CenturyLink, Inc., is a parent holding company that has no customers, provides no services, and engaged in none of the acts or transactions about which Plaintiffs complain," CenturyLink wrote. "There is no valid basis for Defendant to be a party in this Proceeding: Plaintiffs contracted with the Operating Companies to purchase, use, and pay for the services at issue, not with CenturyLink, Inc." CenturyLink says those operating companies should be able to intervene in the case and "enforce class-action waivers," which would force the customers to pursue their claims via arbitration instead of in a class-action lawsuit. By suing CenturyLink instead of the subsidiaries, "it may be that Plaintiffs are hoping to avoid the arbitration and class-action waiver provisions," CenturyLink wrote.

Privacy

Suit To Let Researchers Break Website Rules Wins a Round (axios.com) 71

An anonymous reader writes: Anyone following Facebook's recent woes with Cambridge Analytica might be surprised to hear that there's a civil liberties argument for swiping data from websites, even while violating their terms of service. In fact, there's a whole world of situations where that thinking could apply: bona fide academic research. On Friday, a judge in a D.C. federal court ruled that an American Civil Liberties Union-backed case trying to guarantee researchers the ability to break sites' rules without being arrested could move forward, denying a federal motion to dismiss. "What we're talking about here is research in the public interest, finding out if there is discrimination," Esha Bhandari, an ACLU attorney representing the academics, told Axios.
Microsoft

Microsoft Email Privacy Case No Longer Needed, Says The US (cnn.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The U.S. Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court to abandon its case against Microsoft over international data privacy. A new law signed by President Donald Trump last week answers the legal question at the heart of Microsoft's case, the DOJ says. So the case "is now moot," the department said in a court filing posted Saturday.

Microsoft's legal battle began in 2013, when it refused to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland to US officials who were investigating drug trafficking. Microsoft argued at the time that sharing data stored abroad could violate international treaties and policies, and there was no law on the books to provide any clarity. That changed with the The Cloud Act, which was tucked into the spending bill that Trump signed March 23. The act establishes a legal pathway for the United States to form agreements with other nations that make it easier for law enforcement to collect data stored on foreign soil... Microsoft cheered the new law, saying the Cloud Act provides the legal clarity the company sought.

The ACLU's legislative counsel argues that the new act hurts privacy and human rights, "at a time when human rights activists, dissidents and journalists around the world face unprecedented attacks."

"Would even a well-intentioned technology company, particularly a small one, have the expertise and resources to competently assess the risk that a foreign order may pose to a particular human rights activist?"
The Courts

'GTA V' Character Doesn't Resemble Lindsay Lohan, Court Rules (rollingstone.com) 67

Actress Lindsay Lohan has failed in her latest attempt to sue the maker of the video game Grand Theft Auto V. From a report: While the court said in an opinion a computer generated image may be considered a "portrait" under current state civil rights law, "the artistic renderings are indistinct, satirical representations of the style, look, and persona of a modern, beach-going young woman that are not reasonably identifiable as the plaintiff." Lohan sued GTA V publisher Take-Two Interactive in 2014 over a NPC in the game called Lacey Jonas. Players encounter her while she's hiding in an alley from the paparazzi. She describes herself as an "actress slash singer" and the "voice of a generation."

Artwork during the game's loading screens depict similar blonde women. One is wearing a red bikini and flashing a peace sign as she takes a selfie. Another wears a fedora and large sunglasses while being frisked by a female police officer. Lohan claimed developer Rockstar Games modelled the character and screens after her, using her "image, likeness, clothing, outfits, clothing line products, and ensemble in the form of hats, hairstyle, and sunglasses" without her permission.

The Courts

Coffee Requires Cancer Warning, California Judge Rules (cnbc.com) 330

Scientists haven't rendered a verdict on whether coffee is good or bad for you but a California judge has. He says coffee sellers in the state should have to post cancer warnings. From a report: The culprit is a chemical produced in the bean roasting process that is a known carcinogen and has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny nonprofit group and Big Coffee. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing -- like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago -- or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs or labels. The industry, led by Starbucks, said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail.
Businesses

Comcast Supports Ban On Paid Prioritization, Except For 'Specialized Services' (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast would support a ban on paid prioritization as long as there is an exception for "specialized services" that benefit consumers, a company executive said this week. Comcast Senior Executive VP David Cohen, who is generally the public face in Comcast's dealings with government policymakers, spoke about paid prioritization at the Free State Foundation's Telecom Policy Conference on Tuesday. (Video available on C-SPAN's website; the segment begins at 2:20.) "How about if we agree to a prohibition on paid prioritization and we have a limited exception created in some way for this concept of specialized services," Cohen said.

Cohen's suggestion of a paid-prioritization ban with an exception for specialized services is similar to an early version of net neutrality rules that was passed in 2010 but thrown out in court in 2014. (The FCC was able to impose stricter net neutrality rules in 2015; that's the set of rules that is being thrown out by the current FCC.) The FCC in 2010 said that specialized services may share capacity with broadband networks but wouldn't be the same as regular broadband. There has never been a great definition of the term, but the 2010 FCC said that broadband providers' facilities-based VoIP and Internet Protocol-video offerings would be included. These services "differ from broadband Internet access service and may drive additional private investment in broadband networks and provide end users valued services, supplementing the benefits of the open Internet," the FCC said at the time. Under the 2010 rules, ISPs could have charged other companies for the right to offer specialized services over broadband networks. Cohen didn't say exactly what types of future services should be covered by an exemption for specialized services. But the services may come along soon enough, he said. "There is a recognition that something might come along that is not anti-competitive, that is pro-consumer, that is a specialized service available not to every user of the Internet, [and] that would be in consumers' interests and in the public interest," Cohen said.

The Courts

Uber Settles With Family of Woman Killed By Self-Driving Car, Avoids Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 124

It appears that Uber won't go to court to settle a lawsuit after one of its self-driving cars killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona earlier this month. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from Ars Technica: Uber has reached a settlement with the family of the woman killed by an Uber self-driving car. Uber reached the settlement with the daughter and husband of Elaine Herzberg, who died at age 49 after being hit by the Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. The settlement presumably includes a cash payment, but no details were provided by either Uber or the family's attorney. "The matter has been resolved," said Christina Perez Hesano, an attorney for Herzberg's family, according to reports by Reuters and NPR.
AT&T

AT&T/Verizon Lobbyists To 'Aggressively' Sue States That Enact Net Neutrality (arstechnica.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A lobby group that represents AT&T, Verizon, and other telcos plans to sue states and cities that try to enforce net neutrality rules. USTelecom, the lobby group, made its intentions clear yesterday in a blog post titled, "All Americans Deserve Equal Rights Online." "Broadband providers have worked hard over the past 20 years to deploy ever more sophisticated, faster and higher-capacity networks, and uphold net neutrality protections for all," USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter wrote. "To continue this important work, there is no question we will aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure that made all this progress possible." The USTelecom board of directors includes AT&T, Verizon, Frontier, CenturyLink, Windstream, and other telcos. The group's membership "ranges from the nation's largest telecom companies to small rural cooperatives."
Facebook

Facebook is Being Sued Over Housing Discrimination (fastcompany.com) 125

The National Fair Housing Alliance, along with three other nonprofit housing advocacy organizations around the country, has filed a lawsuit against Facebook over its alleged discriminatory advertisements. From a report: The nonprofits, over the last few months, created a fake real estate company and used the Facebook ad platform to place housing ads. According to the lawsuit, the NFHA was able to place advertisements that "[excluded] families with children and women from receiving advertisements, as well as users with interests based on disability and national origin." In the NFHA's press release, the organization writes that "Facebook's advertising platform enables landlords and real estate brokers to exclude families with children, women, and other protected classes of people from receiving housing ads."

The lawsuit follows extensive reporting from ProPublica that investigated these potentially discriminatory practices. For over a year, the journalism outlet tested various ways that landlords could place ads for housing, and found that the targeting allowed for many people to be kept out of the loop. Given Facebook's massive user base of over 2 billion users, the group believes that the social network is in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Government

FBI Had No Way To Access Locked iPhone After Terror Attack, Watchdog Finds (zdnet.com) 126

The FBI did not have the technical capability to access an iPhone used by one of the terrorists behind the San Bernardino shooting, a Justice Department watchdog has found. ZDNet: A report by the department's Office of Inspector General sheds new light on the FBI's efforts to gain access to the terrorist's phone. It lands almost exactly a year after the FBI dropped a legal case against Apple, which had refused a demand by the government to build a backdoor that would've bypassed the encryption on the shooter's iPhone. Apple said at the time that if it was forced to backdoor one of its products, it would "set a dangerous precedent." Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in the southern Californian town in December 2015. The 11-page report said that the FBI "had no such capability" to access the contents of Farook's encrypted iPhone, amid concerns that there were conflicting claims about whether the FBI may have had techniques to access the device by the time it had filed a suit against Apple. Those claims were mentioned in affidavits in the court case, as well as in testimony by former FBI director James Comey.
Google

Oracle Wins Revival of Billion-Dollar Case Against Google (bloomberg.com) 332

Google could owe Oracle billions of dollars after an appeals court said it didn't have the right to use the Oracle-owned Java programming code in its Android operating system on mobile devices. From a report: Google's use of Java shortcuts to develop Android went too far and was a violation of Oracle's copyrights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled. The case was remanded to a federal court in California to determine how much the Alphabet unit should pay.

The dispute is over pre-written directions known as application program interfaces, or APIs, which can work across different types of devices and provide the instructions for things like connecting to the internet or accessing certain types of files. By using the APIs, programmers don't have to write new code from scratch to implement every function in their software or change it for every type of device. The case has divided Silicon Valley for years, testing the boundaries between the rights of those who develop interface code and those who rely on it to develop software programs.

The Courts

Confirmation of a US Government Probe Pushes Facebook's Market Loss To $90 Billion (qz.com) 73

The US Federal Trade Commission has confirmed that it is investigating Facebook over its privacy practices, following recent revelations that data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested and exploited tens of millions of users' data without their permission. From a report: Facebook's stock renewed its downward slide, bringing the company's total loss of market value to around $90 billion since the scandal broke 10 days ago. "The FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices," said Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.
The Internet

Megaupload Founder Kim Dotcom Wins Battle in Ongoing Fight Against US Extradition (reuters.com) 98

Eccentric Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has won a major court battle today in his ongoing fight against his extradition from New Zealand to the U.S. From a report: German-born Dotcom faces extradition to the United States relating to his Megaupload site, which was shut down in 2012 following an FBI-ordered raid on his Auckland mansion. U.S. authorities say Dotcom and three co-accused Megaupload executives cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material. Dotcom, who has New Zealand residency, is fighting those charges and the extradition. The Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded Dotcom damages of NZ$30,000 ($21,816) for the "loss of a benefit" and NZ$60,000 for "loss of dignity and injury to feelings."
Encryption

Justice Department Revives Push To Mandate a Way To Unlock Phones (nytimes.com) 171

"FBI and Justice Department officials have been quietly meeting with security researchers who have been working on approaches to provide such 'extraordinary access' to encrypted devices," reports The New York Times (alternative source), citing people familiar with the matter. Justice Department officials believe that these "mechanisms allowing access to the data" exist without weakening the devices' security against hacking. Slashdot reader schwit1 shares the report: Against that backdrop, law enforcement officials have revived talks inside the executive branch over whether to ask Congress to enact legislation mandating the access mechanisms. The Trump White House circulated a memo last month among security and economic agencies outlining ways to think about solving the problem, officials said. The FBI has been agitating for versions of such a mandate since 2010, complaining that the spreading use of encryption is eroding investigators' ability to carry out wiretap orders and search warrants -- a problem it calls "going dark." The issue repeatedly flared without resolution under the Obama administration, peaking in 2016, when the government tried to force Apple to help it break into the iPhone of one of the attackers in the terrorist assault in San Bernardino, Calif. The debate receded when the Trump administration took office, but in recent months top officials like Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, have begun talking publicly about the "going dark" problem. The National Security Council and the Justice Department declined to comment about the internal deliberations. The people familiar with the talks spoke on the condition of anonymity, cautioning that they were at a preliminary stage and that no request for legislation was imminent. But the renewed push is certain to be met with resistance.
United Kingdom

UK High Court 'Perma-Bans' Efforts to Extradite Lauri Love to the US (arstechnica.com) 315

The U.K.'s High Court will not send Lauri Love to face trial in the U.S. for hacking government computer systems. Instead they've issued a final refusal to overturn Love's successful appeal of his extradition, Ars Technica reports, "effectively ending the extradition effort permanently." Love was originally arrested in the UK in October of 2013 after using an automated scanner to locate servers within a large range of IP addresses for SQL injection and ColdFusion vulnerabilities and then breaching vulnerable systems and installing Web shells to give him remote administrative-level access. He allegedly managed to compromise servers belonging to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Army, the Federal Reserve, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Love's attorneys fought the extradition on the grounds that Love -- who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, severe depression, and antibiotic-resistant eczema -- would not get appropriate medical attention in a U.S. prison and would be at risk of suicide if he faced the potential 99-year prison term associated with the charges...

The U.S. had already essentially dropped efforts to extradite Love, but the ruling by the High Court now sets legal precedent that may bar future extraditions of British citizens on hacking charges. In a statement e-mailed to Ars, Naomi Colvin -- acting director of the Courage Foundation, an organization that has assisted Love in his extradition appeal -- said that as a result of the ruling, "there is now very little prospect of any British hacker ever finding themselves in the same position as Lauri Love or Gary McKinnon. Fifteen years of terrible public policy in which British hackers were left open to the vindictive instincts of US prosecutors have now been brought to an end."

Lauri Love told the site that with this ruling, "The era of the U.S. Department of Justice as world police is over."
The Courts

Pirate Music Site's Owner Sentenced to Five Years in Prison (torrentfreak.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares an update on Artur Sargsyan, who owned the music-pirating site Sharebeast as well as Newjams and Albumjams. TorrentFreak reports: Thursday a U.S. District Judge sentenced the 30-year-old to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and more than $642,000 in restitution and forfeiture... The RIAA claimed that ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States... "Millions of users accessed songs from ShareBeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music," RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time...

If Sargsyan had responded to takedown notices more positively, it's possible that things may have progressed in a different direction. The RIAA sent the site more than 100 copyright-infringement emails over a three-year period but to no effect. This led the music industry group to get out its calculator and inform the Deparmtment of Justice that the total monetary loss to its member companies was "a conservative" $6.3 billion "gut-punch" to music creators who were paid nothing by the service... "His reproduction of copyrighted musical works were made available only to generate undeserved profits for himself," said U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak. "The incredible work done by our law enforcement partners and prosecutors in light of the complexity of Sargsyan's operation demonstrates that we will employ all of our resources to stop this kind of theft."

David J. LaValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said "His sentence sends a message that no matter how complex the operation, the FBI, its federal partners and law enforcement partners around the globe will go to every length to protect the property of hard working artists and the companies that produce their art."

Today if you visit ShareBeast.com or AlbumJams.com, they display an "FBI anti-piracy warning" image notifying visitors the domain has been seized, adding "Willful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution." The image is surrounded by a red border with the word "seized" written over and over again.
Cellphones

How Technology Caught the Austin Serial Bomber (foxnews.com) 148

Wednesday police in Austin, Texas finally located the "serial bomber" believed to be responsible for six package bombs which killed two people over the last three weeks. "The operation was aided by different uses of technology, including surveillance cameras and cell phone triangulation." An anonymous reader shares this article: The suspect, who has been identified as 24-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt, was killed near the motel he was traced to thanks to surveillance footage from a Federal Express drop-off store, The Austin American-Stateman reported. The authorities were able to gather information after police noticed the subject shipped an explosive device from a Sunset Valley FedEx store, a suburb approximately 25 minutes away from Austin. The evidence included the security footage from the store, as well as store receipts obtained showing suspicious transactions. The authorities were also able to look at the individual's Google search history, the Statesman noted, which gave them further insight into his dealings...

The authorities were also able to use cell phone triangulation technology, which provides a cell phone's location data via information collected from nearby cell towers... The phone's GPS capabilities can track the phone within 5 to 10 feet and can also provide "historical" or "prospective" location information. It can also "ping" the phone, forcing it to reveal its exact location... As cell phone companies store this type of data, law enforcement authorities must request it via the appropriate court processes.

"Authorities in Austin were able to use this technology to trace the suspect to a hotel in Williamson County."
Facebook

Facebook Gets Hit With Four Lawsuits Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal (sfgate.com) 102

Facebook has had a terrible week. Since it was revealed that political data firm Cambridge Analytica obtained information about 50 million Facebook users, the social media company has been in damage control mode, apologizing for its mistakes and conducting forensic audits to determine exactly what happened. SFGate reports today that Facebook "has been hit with four lawsuits in federal court in San Francisco and San Jose thus far this week." From the report: One lawsuit was filed by a Facebook user who claims the Menlo Park company acted with "absolute disregard" for her personal information after allegedly representing that it wouldn't disclose the data without permission or notice. That lawsuit, filed by Lauren Price of Maryland in San Jose on Tuesday, seeks to be a class action on behalf of up to 50 million people whose data was allegedly collected from Facebook by London-based Cambridge Analytica. The lawsuit says that during the 2016 election, Price was "frequently targeted with political ads while using Facebook." It seeks financial restitution for claims of unfair business practices and negligence. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are named as defendants. Cambridge Analytica also announced today that the company will undergo an independent third-party audit to determine whether it still holds any data covertly obtained from Facebook users. "We take the disturbing recent allegations of unethical practices in our non-U.S. political business very seriously," CEO Alexander Tayler writes. "The Board has launched a full and independent investigation into SCL Elections' past practices, and its findings will be shared publicly."

UPDATE: Eighteen enforcement officers have entered the Cambridge Analytica headquarters in London's West End to search the premises after the data watchdog was granted a warrant to examine its records, reports The Guardian.
Security

Atlanta City Government Systems Down Due To Ransomware Attack (arstechnica.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The city of Atlanta government has apparently become the victim of a ransomware attack. The city's official Twitter account announced that the city government "is currently experiencing outages on various customer facing applications, including some that customers may use to pay bills or access court-related information." According to a report from Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA, a city employee sent the station a screen shot of a ransomware message demanding a payment of $6,800 to unlock each computer or $51,000 to provide all the keys for affected systems. Employees received emails from the city's information technology department instructing them to unplug their computers if they noticed anything suspicious. An internal email shared with WXIA said that the internal systems affected include the city's payroll application. "At this time, our Atlanta Information Management team is working diligently with support from Microsoft to resolve the issue," a city spokesperson told Ars. "We are confident that our team of technology professionals will be able to restore applications soon." The city's primary website remains online, and the city government will continue to post updates there, the spokesperson added.

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