mk1004 writes with news from The Register that U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York has written to Apple and Google regarding their use of 'military-grade spy planes.' The Senator claims concerns ranging from voyeurism to terrorism. Suggested protections: Warn when areas are going to be imaged, give property owners the right to opt out, and blurring of individuals. Schumer seems happy enough, though, with the more detailed versions of such surveillance being in the hands of law enforcement agencies, and phrases his complaint to emphasize what he perceives as risks to infrastructure brought about by detailed maps that anyone can browse: "[I]f highly detailed images become available, criminals could create more complete schematic maps of the power and water grids in the United States. With the vast amount of infrastructure across the country, it would be impossible to secure every location."
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judgecorp writes "Frustrated at the off-topic chatter on Twitter, British MP Louise Mensch has launched a supposedly rival service. Despite the name, Menshn, this is apparently not a hoax, but a site aimed at 'on-topic' conversation, initially around the U.S. election. Mensch is a former 'chick lit' author, and a Member of Parliament since 2010. She has taken part in questioning of Rupert and James Murdoch, and urged control of social media." If "control of social media" urged by sitting politicians strikes you as undesirable, or the hyper-focused content seems constraining, take heart: an anonymous reader points out an online community of a different stripe — a social network launched by Wikileaks, intended to be "a secure, surveillance-resistant social network purpose-built for Friends of WikiLeaks." Whether or not your politics line up with those of most Wikileaks supporters, you might wish for some of the features FoWL is designed to provide: "By design your details are encrypted, and hidden from everyone except your immediate contacts. Even we can't access them. Connected by FoWL, friends of WikiLeaks will communicate however they like, including using secure person-to-person methods. As the network grows away from the site infrastructure, it becomes autonomous and decentralized, opaque to observers and impossible to compromise."
An anonymous reader writes "Thought Do Not Track was strictly a geeks' issue? Think again. After Microsoft was slapped down for enabling DNT by default in Internet Explorer 10, the co-chairs of the US's Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus have sent a strongly-worded letter to the W3C urging it to reconsider. As webdev360.com points out, it's an interesting (unprecedented?) example of Congress interacting with the standards body: 'Whether members of the [working group] will take kindly to the Representatives' interference remains to be seen. Ed Markey's legislative director, Joseph Wender, has brought the letter to the attention of the group's mailing list, but, as of the time of writing, he hasn't received any replies.'"
MarkWhittington writes "With the flight of the Shenzhou 9, which includes the first docking between a Chinese spacecraft and a prototype space station module, a renewed debate has arisen over the implications of Chinese space feats. China is planning a large space station by the end of this decade. It has expressed the desire to land people on the moon sometime in the next decade. Scientists, foreign policy experts and journalists debate whether China has supplanted the U.S. as a space power and whether that matters. 'In reality, the implications of China's move could be a much cooler third option: a new space race between the Chinese government and U.S. startups. While China is 50 years behind the U.S. government, they are much more comparable to U.S. companies. It was only a couple of weeks ago that SpaceX made history by becoming the first private company to successfully dock a space module to a station in orbit. This means they are roughly 10-15 years behind the Chinese government, but they could gain fast.'"
retroworks writes "Bloomberg News makes the case that when the federal government offers tuition assistance, students apply to more expensive colleges, giving the institutions an incentive to raise tuition and a disincentive to lower it. (The Wall Street Journal has a similar article, but it's paywalled.) This reminds me of the debate over President Reagan's cuts to the Pell Grant program in the 1980s. MIT's Campus Paper 'The Tech' quoted the MIT administration as saying it had 'no idea what really will occur' when Reagan's proposal to cut Pell came to Washington. So the question is, 25 years later, do we know now? Did cuts to federal tuition assistance hurt the education of the lower income students? Did increases to Pell grants create more opportunity? Or is federal money the milkshake, and students are just the straw?"
ananyo writes "In a revelation that could bring down the country's government, Romania's Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, stands accused of copying large sections of his 2003 PhD thesis in law from previous publications, without proper reference. Documents compiled by an anonymous whistle-blower indicate more than half of Ponta's 432-page, Romanian-language thesis on the functioning of the International Criminal Court consists of duplicated text. Last month, the country's education and research minister, computer scientist Ioan Mang, resigned following accusations of plagiarism in at least eight papers." Looks like it's contagious.
alphadogg writes "Revelations by The New York Times that President Barack Obama in his role as commander in chief ordered the Stuxnet cyberattack against Iran's uranium-enrichment facility two years ago in cahoots with Israel is generating controversy, with Washington in an uproar over national-security leaks. But the important question is whether this covert action of sabotage against Iran, the first known major cyberattack authorized by a U.S. president, is the right course for the country to take. Are secret cyberattacks helping the U.S. solve geopolitical problems or actually making things worse? Bruce Schneier, whose most recent book is 'Liars and Outliers,' argues the U.S. made a mistake with Stuxnet, and he discusses why it's important for the world to tackle cyber-arms control now."
First time accepted submitter crtitheories writes "In response to the national kill list revealed by the New York Times a few weeks ago, an online "Do Not Kill" Registry has been launched where users can sign up to avoid being mistakenly added. From the Do Not Kill website: 'Through an active collaboration between the Do not Kill Registry, the brave pilots and operators of the U.S. drone program, and the American public, we believe that we can find the political and moral solutions needed to both protect the security of the United States while also satisfying the concerns of the broader global community'. "
An anonymous reader writes "Nearly 15 years of debate over digital copyright reform will come to an end today as Bill C-11, the fourth legislative attempt at Canadian copyright reform, passes in the House of Commons. Many participants in the copyright debate view the bill with great disappointment, pointing to the government's decision to adopt restrictive digital lock rules as a signal that their views were ignored. Despite the loss on digital locks, the "Canadian copyright" led to some dramatic changes to Canadian copyright with some important wins for Canadians who spoke out on copyright. The government expanded fair dealing and added provisions on time shifting, format shifting, backup copies, and user generated content in response to public pressure. It also included a cap on statutory damages, expanded education exceptions, and rejected SOPA-style amendments."
OverTheGeicoE writes "Over a month after Sen. Rand Paul announced his desire to pull the plug on TSA, he has finally released his legislation that he tweets will 'abolish the #TSA & establish a passengers "Bill of Rights."' Although the tweet sounds radical, the press release describing his proposed legislation is much less so. 'Abolition' really means privatization; one of Paul's proposals would simply force all screenings to be conducted by private screeners. The proposed changes in the 'passenger Bill of Rights' appear to involve slight modifications to existing screening methods at best. Many of his 'rights' are already guaranteed under current law, like the right to opt-out of body scanning. Others can only vaguely be described as rights, like 'expansion of canine screening.' Here's to the new boss..."
Last week, you asked questions of Vermont Senate candidate Jeremy Hansen, running on an unusual platform: Hansen pledges to take advantage of modern communications if elected, and (with exceptions he outlines in his answers) vote based on the opinion of his district's voters on a per-issue basis. Read below Hansen's answers about such a system could work; he addresses concerns about security, practicality, morality, and more. "Before I start with the answers," he writes in introduction, "I want to clear a few things up. I am running as an independent for a Vermont Senate seat, not the U.S. Senate, so questions about classified and similar material do not (for the most part) apply. Also, for everyone's reference, there are 44,000 registered voters in Vermont's Washington County Senate district. Many of the concerns about managing input from very large populations are not as applicable here." Read on for more.
New submitter matt.a.f writes "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has published a first-draft Internet Bill of Rights, and it's open for feedback. He wrote, 'While I do not have all the answers, the remarkable cooperation we witnessed in defense of an open Internet showed me three things. First, government is flying blind, interfering and regulating without understanding even the basics. Second, we have a rare opportunity to give government marching orders on how to treat the Internet, those who use it and the innovation it supports. And third, we must get to work immediately because our opponents are not giving up.' Given the value of taking an active approach agains prospective laws such as SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, I think it's very important to try to spread awareness, participation, and encourage elected officials to support such things."
derekmead writes "Despite being used for drugs and beef jerky, Bitcoin is finding legitimate purposes. Bitcoin's decentralized convenience means international efficiency, in areas where local restrictions on money transfers to foreign companies make legal businesses cumbersome. 'I've been able to have cash in my bank account in a matter of hours using Bitcoin, rather than three days with traditional banking,' one British businessman in China told Reuters. In embattled Europe, Bitcoin offers some a viable alternative against central banks, said a Greek owner of an island bar and restaurant who accepts payment in Bitcoin. 'I don't put money in the banks. I trust the euro as a note, but I don't trust banks. I don't want them making money out of my earnings.' Indeed, Europe's financial woes are caused an unprecedented surge of interest in the alternative currency, as the continent loses economic credibility with each new bailout, according to a report by the Financial Post."
Glyn Moody writes "We hear a lot about politicians and countries rejecting ACTA, but not so much from the treaty's supporters. Here's a new site, called 'ACTA Facts,' which invites Europeans to 'get the facts' on how wonderful ACTA really is. Judging by its content, this one will be about as successful as Microsoft's 'Get the Facts' campaign a few years ago, which tried to dissuade people from using GNU/Linux. For example, a new report linked to by the site claims that ACTA could 'boost European output by a total of €50 billion, and create as many as 960,000 new jobs.' Unfortunately, that's based on numerous flawed assumptions, including the idea that countries like China and India are going to rush to join ACTA, when the treaty is actually designed as a weapon against them, as they have already noticed."
ananyo writes "Hungary's Medical Research Council (ETT), which advises the government on health policy, has asked public prosecutors to investigate a genetic-diagnostic company that certified that a member of parliament did not have Roma or Jewish heritage. The MP in question is a member of the far-right Jobbik party, which won 17% of the votes in the general election of April 2010. He apparently requested the certificate from the firm Nagy Gén Diagnostic and Research. The company produced the document in September 2010, a few weeks before local elections. Nagy Gén scanned 18 positions in the MP's genome for variants that it says are characteristic of Roma and Jewish ethnic groups; its report concludes that Roma and Jewish ancestry can be ruled out." Adds ananyo: "The test is of-course nonsense, and notions of 'racial purity' have long been discredited." Just when you think the world is too modern for such things, modernity gets hijacked by flim-flam.