Communications

How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text 145

Posted by timothy
from the message-could-not-be-lawfullly-transcribed dept.
Presto Vivace writes: Dan Froomkin reports at The Intercept: "Though perfect transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the Intelligence Community's 'holy grail,' the Snowden documents describe extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs designed to analyze and 'extract' the content of voice conversations, and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest." I am torn between admiration of the technical brilliance of building software like this and horror as to how it is being used. It can't just be my brother and me who like to salt all phone conversations with interesting keywords.
Programming

Singapore's Prime Minister Shares His C++ Sudoku Solver Code 221

Posted by samzenpus
from the prime-programmer dept.
itwbennett writes: Several weeks ago, during a speech at the Founders Forum Smart Nation Singapore Reception, Singapore's prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he used to enjoy programming, and that the last program he wrote was a Sudoku solver in C++. To back that up, earlier today he announced (on Facebook and Twitter) that his code is available to download. He wrote on Facebook that he wrote the program 'several years ago' and that the code does 'a backtrack search, choosing the next cell to guess which minimises the fanout.'
United States

House Panel Holds Hearing On "Politically Driven Science" - Without Scientists 336

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-got-politics-in-my-science dept.
sciencehabit writes: Representative Louie Gohmert (R–TX) is worried that scientists employed by the U.S. government have been running roughshod over the rights of Americans in pursuit of their personal political goals. So this week Gohmert, the chair of the oversight and investigations subpanel of the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing to explore "the consequences of politically driven science." Notably absent, however, were any scientists, including those alleged to have gone astray.
China

China Takes Its Already Strict Internet Regulations One Step Further 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-what-you-say dept.
New submitter DaveS7 writes with this story about new regulations from the Chinese government designed to further crack down on online media. Chinese authorities have released a new set of regulations for online media, raising concerns about tightening control over freedom of expression by the Communist regime. Contained in the ordinance, released on April 28 by the Cyberspace Administration of China, is a clause saying that persons responsible for managing flagged sites will be summoned by state personnel in case of violations. Internet censorship in China is mostly managed by individual websites, which are encouraged to toe the Party line before the Party steps in to rectify things for them. The new ordinance increases the number of conditions that, if met by online media, result in automatic state intervention.
China

Uber Office Raided By Police In China, Accused of Running 'Illegal' Car Business 174

Posted by timothy
from the didn't-ask-enough-permission dept.
albert555 writes: Uber's curse keeps on striking after Uber's office in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou was raided by authorities on the 30th of April 2015. Uber is accused of running an 'illegal' transport service, according to the Guangzhou Daily. Uber has been implanted in China since August 2013 and is suspected of not having the proper qualifications to run a private car business in the city. Following the recent German court ban two weeks ago, who will win the fight for private transportation? Long-term, established transportation companies with powerful lobbying arms or the newcomer making use of disruptive technology? Does Schumpeter's creative destruction also apply to the transportation sector?
Communications

WikiLeaks' Anonymous Leak Submission System Is Back After Nearly 5 Years 26

Posted by timothy
from the drop-'em-a-line dept.
Sparrowvsrevolution writes: On Friday, WikiLeaks announced that it has finally relaunched a beta version of its leak submission system after a 4.5 year hiatus. That file-upload site, which once served as a central tool in WIkiLeaks' leak-collecting mission, runs on the anonymity software Tor to allow uploaders to share documents and tips while protecting their identity from any network eavesdropper, and even from WikiLeaks itself. In 2010 the original submission system went down amid infighting between WikiLeaks' leaders and several of its disenchanted staffers, including several who left to create their own soon-to-fail project called OpenLeaks. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that the new system, which was delayed by his legal troubles and the banking industry blockade against the group, is the final result of "four competing research projects" WikiLeaks launched in recent years. He adds that it has several less-visible submission systems in addition to the one it's now revealed. "Currently, we have one public-facing and several private-facing submission systems in operation, cryptographically, operationally and legally secured with national security sourcing in mind," Assange writes.
Government

Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic 391

Posted by timothy
from the never-eat-or-hire-or-grow-fruit-outside-your-zipcode dept.
Presto Vivace writes: The H-1B visa issue rarely surfaces during presidential races, and that's what makes the entrance by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) into the 2016 presidential race so interesting. ... ...Sanders is very skeptical of the H-1B program, and has lambasted tech firms for hiring visa workers at the same time they're cutting staff. He's especially critical of the visa's use in offshore outsourcing.
United States

Inside the Military-Police Center That Spies On Baltimore's Rioters 200

Posted by timothy
from the cynics-were-optimists dept.
Lasrick writes: Adam Weinstein on a program designed to catch terrorists attacking Baltimore that is now being used to spy on protesters: 'On Ambassador Road, just off I-695 around the corner from the FBI, nearly 100 employees sit in a high-tech suite and wait for terrorists to attack Baltimore. They've waited 11 years. But they still have plenty of work to do, like using the intel community's toys to target this week's street protests.' Great read.
Communications

The Pioneer Who Invented the Weather Forecast 33

Posted by timothy
from the kept-it-hidden-in-his-conestoga dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Peter Moore has a fascinating article on BBC about how Admiral Robert FitzRoy, the man who invented the weather forecast in the 1860s faced skepticism and even mockery in his time but whose vision of a public forecasting service, funded by government for the benefit of all, is fundamental to our way of life. Chiefly remembered today as Charles Darwin's taciturn captain on HMS Beagle, during the famous circumnavigation in the 1830s, in his lifetime FitzRoy found celebrity from his pioneering daily weather predictions, which he called by a new name of his own invention — "forecasts". There was no such thing as a weather forecast in 1854 when FitzRoy established what would later be called the Met Office. With no forecasts, fishermen, farmers and others who worked in the open had to rely on weather wisdom — the appearance of clouds or the behavior of animals — to tell them what was coming as the belief persisted among many that weather was completely chaotic. But FitzRoy was troubled by the massive loss of life at sea around the coasts of Victorian Britain where from 1855 to 1860, 7,402 ships were wrecked off the coasts with a total of 7,201 lost lives. With the telegraph network expanding quickly, FitzRoy was able to start gathering real-time weather data from the coasts at his London office. If he thought a storm was imminent, he could telegraph a port where a drum was raised in the harbor. It was, he said, "a race to warn the outpost before the gale reaches them".

For FitzRoy the forecasts were a by-product of his storm warnings. As he was analyzing atmospheric data anyway, he reasoned that he might as well forward his conclusions — fine, fair, rainy or stormy — on to the newspapers for publication. "Prophecies and predictions they are not," he wrote, "the term forecast is strictly applicable to such an opinion as is the result of scientific combination and calculation." The forecasts soon became a quirk of this brave new Victorian society. FitzRoy's forecasts had a particular appeal for the horseracing classes who used the predictions to help them pick their outfits or lay their bets.

But FitzRoy soon faced serious difficulties. Some politicians complained about the cost of the telegraphing back and forth. The response to FitzRoy's work was the beginning of an attitude that we reserve for our weather forecasters today. The papers enjoyed nothing more than conflating the role of the forecaster with that of God and the scientific community were skeptical of his methods. While the majority of fishermen were supportive, others begrudged a day's lost catch to a mistaken signal. FitzRoy retired from his west London home to Norwood, south of the capital, for a period of rest but he struggled to recover and on 30 April 1865 FitzRoy cut his throat at his residence, Lyndhurst-house, Norwood, on Sunday morning. "In time, the revolutionary nature of FitzRoy's work would be recognised," says Moore. "FitzRoy's vision of a weather-prediction service funded by government for the benefit of its citizens would not die. In 1871, the United States would start issuing its own weather "probabilities", and by the end of the decade what was now being called the Met Office would resume its own forecasts in Britain."
Government

American Psychological Association Hit With New Torture Allegations 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the protip-don't-torture-people dept.
sciencehabit writes: Did the American Psychological Association (APA) collude with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to enable the torture of detainees in the War on Terror? The answer won't be known until June, when an independent investigation is due to conclude. But at least one thing was made clear in a report from an independent group of psychologists based on e-mail exchanges between APA and CIA officials from 2003 to 2006: The world's largest professional organization for psychologists has maintained a surprisingly cozy relationship with the defense and intelligence community.
Government

NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-stop-yelling dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that after more than a decade of wrenching national debate over the intrusiveness of government intelligence agencies, a bipartisan wave of support has gathered to sharply limit the federal government's sweeps of phone and Internet records. A bill that would overhaul the Patriot Act and curtail the metadata surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden overwhelmingly passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of a 25-2, and is heading to almost certain passage in the House of Representatives. An identical bill in the Senate — introduced with the support of five Republicans — is gaining support over the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing the prospect of his first policy defeat since ascending this year to majority leader. "The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law," says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act who has now helped author the Freedom Act. "It increases the transparency of our intelligence community and it does all this without compromising national security."

The Patriot Act is up for its first reauthorization since the revelations about bulk data collection. The impending June 1 deadline for reauthorization, coupled with an increase of support among members of both parties, pressure from technology companies and a push from the White House, have combined to make changes to the provisions more likely. The Snowden disclosures, along with data breaches at Sony Pictures, Target and the insurance giant Anthem, have unsettled voters and empowered those in Congress arguing for greater civil liberties protection — who a few years ago "could have met in a couple of phone booths," says Senator Ron Wyden. The Freedom Act very nearly passed both chambers of Congress last year, but it failed to garner the 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. It fell short by two votes.

However some say the bill doesn't go far enough. The bill leaves intact surveillance programs conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists. It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019. "This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards," says American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. "The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform."
Open Source

How an Open Standard API Could Revolutionize Banking 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Open bank data will give us the freedom to access all banks in real time and from a single view, automatically calculating the best deals in complete transparency, which will be a significant step forward for social good and give people more control over their finances. Meanwhile, financial tech incubators, accelerators, and startups are creating a more experienced talent pool of developers ready to act upon these newly available assets. From the article: "The United Kingdom government has commissioned a study of the feasibility of UK banks giving customers the ability to share their transactional data with third parties via an open standard API. First mentioned alongside the autumn statement back in December, the chancellor has now outlined plans for a mandatory open banking API standard during the recent budget in March."
Encryption

FBI Slammed On Capitol Hill For "Stupid" Ideas About Encryption 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the stupid-is-as-stupid-does dept.
blottsie writes: At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the FBI endured outright hostility as both technical experts and members of Congress from both parties roundly criticized the law enforcement agency's desire to place so-called back doors into encryption technology. "Creating a technological backdoor just for good guys is technologically stupid," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a Stanford University computer science graduate. "That's just stupid. Our founders understood that an Orwellian overreaching government is one of the most dangerous things this world could have," Lieu said.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Is Disrupting the Argentine Economy 251

Posted by timothy
from the when-promises-are-fulfilled dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Nathaniel Popper writes in the NYT that with its volatile currency and dysfunctional banks, Argentina is the perfect place to experiment with a new digital currency. The number of Bitcoin users in Argentina is relatively small; it barely registers on most charts of global Bitcoin usage. But Argentina has been quietly gaining renown in technology circles as the first, and almost only, place where Bitcoins are being regularly used by ordinary people for real commercial transactions. For example, BitPagos is selling bitcoins in over 8,000 Argentine convenience stores and is helping more than 200 hotels, both cheap and boutique, take credit-card payments from foreign tourists. The money brought to Argentina using Bitcoin circumvents the onerous government restrictions on receiving money from abroad

The Rock Hostel is one of hundreds of hotels in the country using BitPagos to collect credit-card payments from foreign customers. If owner Rodriguez Pons accepted credit-card payments from American customers through the usual financial channels, customers would be billed in dollars, and when those dollars came to Pons's Argentine bank account, they would be converted at the official rate, about 30 percent lower than the black-market rate. It would also take 20 days for Pons to get her pesos. BitPagos helped counter these drawbacks by taking the credit-card payment in the United States and then using the dollars to buy Bitcoins, generally from Coinbase, before sending them to Pons immediately.

Bitcoin proponents like to say that the currency first became popular in the places that needed it least, like Europe and the United States, given how smoothly the currencies and financial services work there. It makes sense that a place like Argentina would be fertile ground for a virtual currency. Inflation is constant: At the end of 2014, for example, the peso was worth 25 percent less than it was at the beginning of the year. And that adversity pales in comparison with past bouts of hyperinflation, defaults on national debts and currency revaluations. "In the long run, Bitcoin will be very disruptive to the developed world," says Dan Morehead, a former Goldman Sachs executive who now runs a hedge fund focused on Bitcoin. Things are happening sooner in Argentina, he says, because its financial system creates hassles for the people there. But, he added, "Argentina is just a more extreme example of the situation in every country."
Government

Tech Credited With Reducing Nigerian Election Death Toll 58

Posted by timothy
from the pat-answers dept.
jfruh writes: Dozens died in the runup to Nigeria's most recent election — a shocking statistic to many Westerners, but a relief in comparison to the much more serious violence that plagued earlier elections. Observers are crediting technology with making the election safer: the use of biometric IDs gave voters more confidence in the results, and social media gave people a chance to blow of anger that might've otherwise results in street brawls.
Australia

Australia To Grade Written Essays In National Exam With Cognitive Computing 108

Posted by timothy
from the oh-this-will-work-well dept.
New submitter purnima writes: Australia keeps on giving and giving. Each year school kids in Australia sit The National Assessment Program (NAPLAN) which in part tests literacy. The exam includes a written page-long essay aimed at examining both language aptitude and literacy of students. Of course, human-marking of such essays is costly (twenty teacher-minutes per exam). So some bright spark has proposed that the essays be marked by computer. The government is convinced and the program is slated for the 2017 school year. Aside from the moral issues, is AI ready for this major task?
United Kingdom

Windows XP Support Deal Not Renewed By UK Government, Leaves PCs Open To Attack 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-for-all dept.
girlmad writes: The government's one-year £5.5m Windows XP support deal with Microsoft has not been extended, sources have told V3, despite thousands of computers across Whitehall still running the ancient software, leaving them wide open to cyber attacks. It's still unclear when all government machines will be migrated to a newer OS.
Government

Senate Advances "Secret Science" Bill, Sets Up Possible Showdown With President 352

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-others-eyes-only dept.
sciencehabit writes: Republicans in Congress appear to be headed for a showdown with the White House over controversial "secret science" legislation aimed at changing how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses scientific studies. A deeply divided Senate panel yesterday advanced a bill that would require EPA to craft its policies based only on public data available to outside experts. The House of Representatives has already passed a similar measure. But Democrats and science groups have harshly criticized the approach, and the White House has threatened a veto.
Advertising

How Google Searches Are Promoting Genocide Denial 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the revising-history-through-seo dept.
merbs writes: If you use Google Turkey to search for "Ermeni Krm", which means "Armenian genocide" in Turkish, the first thing you'll see is a sponsored link to a website whose purpose is to deny there was any genocide at all. If you Google "Armenia genocide" in the U.S., you'll see the same thing. FactCheckArmenia.com may reflect Turkey's longstanding position that the Ottoman Empire's systematic effort to "relocate" and exterminate its Armenian population does not qualify as a genocide, but it certainly does not reflect the facts. The sponsored link to a credible-looking website risks confusing searchers about the true nature of the event. Worse, it threatens to poison a nascent willingness among Turkish citizens to recognize and discuss the horrors of its past.
Canada

The Power of Backroom Lobbying: How the Music Industry Got a Copyright Extension 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-wouldn't-download-a-lobbyist dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Canadian government's unexpected budget decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings came as a surprise to most copyright watchers, but not the music industry lobby, which was ready with a press release within minutes. How did the industry seemingly know this was coming? Michael Geist reports that records show the extension is the result of backroom lobbying with monthly meetings between senior government officials and music industry lobbyists paving the way for copyright term extension without public consultation or debate.