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Member since: Fri Sep 8, 2006, 12:47 PM
Number of posts: 13,697

Journal Archives

On Apple v. the FBI: "(Y)ou can't make a backdoor that only good guys can fit through"

X-post from GD:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Feb 24, 2016, 03:56 PM (0 replies)

On Apple v. the FBI: "(Y)ou can't make a backdoor that only good guys can fit through"

An astute observation from Cory Doctorow, here:


in regard to his Guardian op-ed...


The FBI’s demand that Apple create a defeat device for decrypting a phone that belonged to a mass murderer has all the ingredients for a disastrous public conversation.

Combine a highly technical debate about information security with an emotionally charged subject matter, then confuse the whole issue with a 24-hour news cycle tick-tock about who did what, when, and you end up bogged down in questions like, “Does it matter if the FBI directed the local cops to try to change the phone’s password, inadvertently creating the lockout?”

The questions raised by this court order are deliberately the wrong ones: questions whose answers don’t get us any closer to a lasting peace in the crypto wars. After all, the order emanates from a lowly magistrate judge, meaning that no matter how the ruling comes down, it will be appealed, possibly all the way to the supreme court, given the seriousness of the issue. It could be years before we even get a final ruling...

...The thing about this controversy is that it isn’t one. Independent cryptographers are virtually unanimous in their view that you can’t properly secure a system while simultaneously ensuring that it ships with a pre-broken mode that police can exploit.

X-posted in Civil Liberties:


Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Feb 24, 2016, 03:55 PM (0 replies)

Eleven years and counting: EFF scores a major victory in its NSA mass surveillance suit

X-post from LBN:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Feb 20, 2016, 01:33 AM (0 replies)

Eleven years and counting: EFF scores a major victory in its NSA mass surveillance suit

Source: BoingBoing

In 2005, a former AT&T engineer named Mark Klein walked into the Electronic Frontier Foundation's offices and revealed that he had helped the phone company build a secret NSA surveillance outpost at the Folsom Street switching station, through which AT&T was helping the US government conduct mass, warrantless, domestic surveillance.

EFF has been in court with the US government ever since, fighting round after round of attempts by DoJ lawyers to get the case thrown out, usually on the basis that since all the evidence of NSA wrongdoing was secret, EFF couldn't proceed. The Snowden revelations helped some, but it's been touch and go for more than a decade.

Now, Judge Jeffrey White has ruled in Jewel, a case that's been underway since 2008, and given EFF leave to conduct discovery on the NSA, forcing the agency to produce documents that will answer key questions about their program of mass domestic spying.

This marks the first time a party has been allowed to gather factual evidence from the NSA in a case involving the agency’s warrantless surveillance. The government had fought all our requests to proceed with this lawsuit, arguing that the state secrets privilege protects it against both discovery and liability. Judge White previously rejected that argument for our statutory claims under the Wiretap Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Stored Communications Act. This ruling affirms Judge White’s previous decision and opens the door for discovery.

Read more: https://boingboing.net/2016/02/19/eleven-years-and-counting-eff.html

More here at the EFF site:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Feb 20, 2016, 01:29 AM (12 replies)

Four men—including a pair of pastors—sue Tacoma police over stingray documents


Four men—including a pair of pastors—sue Tacoma police over stingray documents

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state has sued the Tacoma Police Department (TPD) on behalf of four community leaders, claiming that TPD has not adequately responded to their public records requests concerning the use of cell-site simulators, or stingrays.

The Thursday lawsuit comes nine months after Washington imposed a new warrant requirement for stingray use in the state and about 15 months after local Pierce County judges imposed stricter guidelines for their use.

Stingrays are in use by both local and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide. The devices determine a target phone’s location by spoofing or simulating a cell tower. Mobile phones in range of the stingray then connect to it and exchange data with the device as they would with a real cell tower. Once deployed, stingrays intercept data from the target phone along with information from other phones within the vicinity—up to and including full calls and text messages. At times, police have falsely claimed that information gathered from a stingray has instead come from a confidential informant.

"Stingray devices provide police departments with an unprecedented ability to sweep up information from cellular devices. It affects many others in the neighborhood along with the targets of an investigation," La Rond Baker, an ACLU Washington attorney, said in a statement. "The Constitution protects Americans against searches without suspicion, and we are very concerned about the secrecy concerning the use of its stingray."



Lawsuit Says Tacoma Police Withheld Documents About Use of Stingray Surveillance Device

posted by ACLU of Washington on Feb 11, 2016

Suit Says Tacoma Police Department Violated Public Records Act

The ACLU of Washington today filed a lawsuit against the Tacoma Police Department (TPD) over its failure to disclose records related to its use of stingray surveillance technology. The suit says the TPD’s failure to produce these records violates the State’s Public Records Act, which is designed to ensure that the public can hold its government accountable.

The stingray is an invasive device that indiscriminately gathers information about cell phone locations and usage from any cell phone within its range. Every time the TPD uses its stingray to obtain information from one person for a criminal investigation it is actually gathering information from everyone whose phone is in range of the device – whether they are at home, at school, or just walking down the street.

“Stingray devices provide police departments with an unprecedented ability to sweep up information from cellular devices. It affects many others in the neighborhood along with the targets of an investigation.” said ACLU-WA Staff Attorney La Rond Baker. “The Constitution protects Americans against searches without suspicion, and we are very concerned about the secrecy concerning the TPD’s use of its stingray.”

For years, the Tacoma Police Department has hidden its use of stingray surveillance equipment from the public and from the courts. The suit seeks documents that would shed light on how and when this equipment is being used, both to help community members understand what their own police department is doing and to enable the public to hold its government accountable.

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Feb 13, 2016, 11:05 PM (1 replies)

Arcade Fire /w Preservation Hall Jazz Band tribute to David Bowie video:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Feb 11, 2016, 05:10 PM (0 replies)

Boston Globe: "Gun licenses on the rise in Mass.; 7.8% increase seen" (+44% over 5 years)


Gun licenses on the rise in Mass.; 7.8 percent increase seen
By Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff January 27, 2016

Tens of thousands of new gun licenses were issued to Massachusetts residents in 2015, continuing a recent surge, according to state data.

There were 342,622 active Class A firearms licenses statewide, according to figures provided by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services earlier this month. That was up about 24,700, or 7.8 percent, from the same time a year ago.

A Class A license, the broadest license available under state law and by far the most popular, allows the holder to carry rifles, shotguns, or handguns. It also allows the holder to carry a concealed handgun.

The number of Class A licenses has increased by 104,150, or 44 percent, from five years ago....

Of course, the Globe had to dig out John Rosenthal to peddle some more of his old claims:

“More guns, more fear — more fear, more gun violence — more gun sales.”

Too bad no one as yet has had the huevos/ovarios to tell him to his face that his
timeworn screeds are, frankly, bullshit:

Massachusetts Violent Crime Rates: 2010 (before the recent surge in
gun ownership) compared to 2014 (the latest available full-year statistics)

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports/ Crime in the United States


2014 is the latest full year available

Massachusetts violent crime rate

2010: 466.6 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants
2014: 391.4/100K

Murder/nonnegligent manslaughter:

2010: 3.2/100K
2014: 2.0/100K

Aggravated assault:

2010: 331.8/100K
2014: 267.6/100K


2010: 105.0/100K
2014: 89.5/100K

I didn't include rape as the reporting criteria changed. Nonetheless, the disinterested reader
can find at the FBI site that the rate under the old definition is also lower

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Fri Jan 29, 2016, 11:00 PM (8 replies)

The prohibitionists have yet another truthiness problem:


Yet another study refutes the notion that guns make anyone safe.

I'll leave the citation-free argument from authority to the disinterested reader, my
interest lies in the last line from the OP

More guns, more dead women. Period.

hence my reply to their x-post in the Women's Rights & Issues group:


"More guns, more dead women. Period." Wrong- the number of women murder victims decreased...

...both in rate *and* absolute number over the last 15 years, all while the number of guns in
the US nearly doubled:

There were 3,076 women murdered in the US in 2000- source:


143.4 women in the US in 2000-source:


Rate: 1 in 46,619

There were 2,715 women murdered in the US (that number includes victims of unknown sex)
in 2014- source:


161,979,384 women in the US in 2014- source:


Rate: 1 in 59,661

A decision to obtain (or not) a gun should be made for real reasons, not ficticious ones.

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Jan 27, 2016, 03:27 PM (15 replies)

Chicago police must finally produce stingray records, judge orders


Chicago police must finally produce stingray records, judge orders

by Cyrus Farivar - Jan 11, 2016 6:10pm EST

Court knocks police for relying on generic FBI affidavit as argument for withholding.

A local activist has won an important intermediary step in his legal quest to force the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to produce documents that fully explain the department's use of cell-site simulators, also known as IMSI catchers.

In a Monday opinion in Martinez v. Chicago Police Department, Cook County Circuit Judge Kathleen Kennedy denied the city’s motion to dismiss. This decision paves the way later this month for a closed-door hearing (in camera review) where the judge gets to privately review the documents in question.

Back in September 2014, activist Freddy Martinez filed a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Among other items, Martinez initially asked for:

All court orders for any instances in which Chicago Police deployed IMSI Catchers

All formal or informal policies, procedures, orders, directives, or other such records that pertain to when, why, where, how, and by whom IMSI Catchers may be deployed

All records discussing the constitutionality of deploying IMSI Catchers

That request was originally denied by the CPD. By the end of that month, Martinez sued—his second records-related lawsuit against the CPD of 2014. As of nearly a year ago, the city owed over $120,000 to defend the cases. Martinez and his legal team still don’t know exactly how many documents will now be released.
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Tue Jan 12, 2016, 02:11 AM (4 replies)

Layered perovskite-on-silicon could boost photovoltaic efficiencies to 30 percent


Layered perovskite-on-silicon could boost PV efficiencies to 30 percent
by John Timmer - Jan 7, 2016 2:52pm EST

Given how fantastically cheap silicon-based photovoltaic cells have gotten, it might be hard to muster much excitement for developing any other material. But the cost of silicon-based PV has created a potential niche—it's so cheap that installation costs now dominate the price of solar power. If we could squeeze more energy out of a single installation, it could drop the costs even further.

That's one of the reasons researchers have been trying to develop perovskites. Not only are these made from chemicals that are cheap and easy to manufacture, there are indications that they can be tuned to absorb some wavelengths while allowing others to pass through to an underlying silicon photovoltaic. The big problem: they tend to decompose when exposed to intense light.

Now, an Oxford-Berlin collaboration is reporting they may have solved the decomposition problem and, in the process, accidentally made a material where they could tune the absorbance across a wide range of wavelengths. With some additional improvements, they suggest a combined silicon-perovskite cell could reach 30 percent efficiencies—up from the neighborhood of 22 for silicon alone.

Perovskites aren't actually a single material; instead, they're a variety of chemicals that all form a similar crystal structure. For photovoltaics, they're often a mix of lead, bromine or iodine, and a small nitrogen-containing organic molecule. None of these is very expensive, and it's relatively easy to form a layer of perovskite materials using bulk techniques. The best of these materials has photovoltaic efficiencies in the teens. That's lower than silicon, but expectations are that it can be brought up even higher...
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Fri Jan 8, 2016, 11:29 PM (0 replies)
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