Communications

Fake News Sharing In US Is a Rightwing Thing, Says Oxford Study (theguardian.com) 997

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Low-quality, extremist, sensationalist and conspiratorial news published in the U.S. was overwhelmingly consumed and shared by rightwing social network users, according to a new study from the University of Oxford. The study, from the university's "computational propaganda project", looked at the most significant sources of "junk news" shared in the three months leading up to Donald Trump's first State of the Union address this January, and tried to find out who was sharing them and why. "On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, "extreme hard right pages -- distinct from Republican pages -- share more junk news than all the other audiences put together." The research involved monitoring a core group of around 13,500 politically-active U.S. Twitter users, and a separate group of 48,000 public Facebook pages, to find the external websites that they were sharing.
Facebook

Facebook Hired a Full-Time Pollster To Monitor Zuckerberg's Approval Ratings (theverge.com) 109

According to The Verge, Facebook hired a full-time pollster to track Mark Zuckerberg's approval ratings last year as the young CEO was making his 50-state tour across the country. The pollster, Tavis McGinn, reportedly "decided to leave the company after only six months after coming to believe that Facebook had a negative effect on the world." From the report: It was April, and Facebook was caught up in the fallout of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. After initially discounting the possibility that fake news had contributed to Donald Trump's victory, Facebook acknowledged that Russia-linked groups had spent more than $100,000 on political advertising. Zuckerberg undertook a nationwide listening tour modeled after a modern political campaign. McGinn would fill another role common to political campaigns: leading an ongoing poll operation dedicated to tracking minute changes in Zuckerberg's public perception. "It was a very unusual role," McGinn says. "It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they've even heard of him. That's especially important outside of the United States."

McGinn tracked a wide range of questions related to Zuckerberg's public perception. "Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark's speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It's a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you're constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark's doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?" Facebook worked to develop an understanding of Zuckerberg's perception that went beyond simple "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down" metrics, McGinn says. "If Mark gives a speech and he's talking about immigration and universal health care and access to equal education, it's looking at all the different topics that Mark mentions and seeing what resonates with different audiences in the United States," he says. "It's very advanced research."

Businesses

US Consumer Protection Official Puts Equifax Probe on Ice (reuters.com) 145

From a report on Reuters: Mick Mulvaney, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has pulled back from a full-scale probe of how Equifax failed to protect the personal data of millions of consumers, according to people familiar with the matter. Equifax said in September that hackers stole personal data it had collected on some 143 million Americans. Richard Cordray, then the CFPB director, authorized an investigation that month, said former officials familiar with the probe. But Cordray resigned in November and was replaced by Mulvaney, President Donald Trump's budget chief. The CFPB effort against Equifax has sputtered since then, said several government and industry sources, raising questions about how Mulvaney will police a data-warehousing industry that has enormous sway over how much consumers pay to borrow money. The CFPB has the tools to examine a data breach like Equifax, said John Czwartacki, a spokesman, but the agency is not permitted to acknowledge an open investigation. "The bureau has the desire, expertise, and know-how in-house to vigorously pursue hypothetical matters such as these," he said.
Government

GOP Memo Criticizing FBI Surveillance is Released (washingtonpost.com) 875

The controversial four-page memo created by Republican staffers on the House Intelligence Committee alleging abuse of surveillance authority by the Justice Department and FBI has been released Friday after being declassified by the president. The memo is unredacted. (Alternative link for the memo.) The Washington Post: The four-page, newly declassified memo written by the Republican staffers for the House Intelligence Committee said the findings "raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain (Justice Department) and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) calling it "a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process."

The memo accuses former officials who approved the surveillance applications -- a group that includes former FBI Director James B. Comey, his former deputy Andrew McCabe, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates and current Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein -- of signing off on court surveillance requests that omitted key facts about the political motivations of the person supplying some of the information, Christopher Steele, a former intelligence officer in Britain. The memo says Steele "was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations -- an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI."
The FBI Agents Association on Friday said that agents "have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission." The full statement: The men and women of the FBI put their lives on the line every day in the fight against terrorists and criminals because of their dedication to our country and the Constitution. The American people should know that they continue to be well-served by the world's preeminent law enforcement agency. FBI Special Agents have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission.
Government

White House Seeks 72 Percent Cut To Clean Energy Research (engadget.com) 390

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The Trump administration has made it very clear that it is pro fossil fuels and has little interest in pushing programs the promote renewable energy. Now, the Washington Post reports that the president's proposed 2019 budget slashes funds for Energy Department programs focused on energy efficiency. While the proposal is just a jumping off point, the fact that it seeks to cut such funding by 72 percent underscores where the administration's interests lie and in which direction its policies will continue to go. The draft budget documents viewed by Washington Post staff showed that the president is looking to cut the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) budget to $575.5 million, down from the current $2.04 billion level. Included in the budget cuts are funds for programs researching fuel efficient vehicles, bioenergy technologies, solar energy technology and electric car technologies. Additionally, the draft budget proposal seeks to cut jobs, dropping staff levels from 680 down to 450. One EERE employee told the Washington Post, "It shows that we've made no inroads in terms of convincing the administration of our value, and if anything, our value based on these numbers has dropped." The report notes that the Energy Department had requested less extreme spending cuts, but the Office of Management and Budget pushed for the more substantial ones found in the draft proposal. It's also worth noting that the proposal could still be changed before being released in February.
Communications

FCC Chairman Slams Trump Team's Proposal To Nationalize 5G (axios.com) 248

The Federal Communications Commission's Republican chairman on Monday opposed a plan under consideration by the Trump White House to build a 5G mobile network, nationalizing what has long been the role of private wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon. From the report: "I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network," he said. The FCC's reaction doesn't bode well for the proposal the Trump administration is considering, first reported by Axios on Sunday night, since it's one of the main government agencies when it comes to wireless issues.
Facebook

Russian Trolls Created Facebook Events Seen By More Than 300,000 Users (cnn.com) 220

"Posing as American activists, Russian government-linked trolls created 129 Facebook events between 2015 and 2017," writes CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: On multiple occasions, the events prompted real Americans to take to the streets. In a written statement Facebook gave to the Senate Intelligence Committee released on Thursday, the social media network said that the events created by one Kremlin-linked troll group were seen by more than 300,000 Facebook users. About 62,500 users marked that they would attend the event, and an additional 25,800 expressed an interest in attending.

Facebook told Congress it does "not have data about the realization of these events," but CNN has previously found evidence that the Russian group successfully convinced Americans to attend the demonstrations. The events were organized on a range of divisive issues and were designed to pit Americans against each other.

"The company also told Congress it had removed Kaspersky Lab from a list of free anti-virus offerings it provides users."
Facebook

Robert Mueller's Team Reportedly Interviewed Facebook Staff As Part of Russia Probe (thehill.com) 229

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has interviewed at least one Facebook employee tasked with helping the Trump campaign's digital operations during the 2016 campaign, Wired reported on Friday. The report, which cited a source familiar with the matter, does not say when the employee was questioned nor does it detail the focus of the interview. Mueller's team has been investigating for months any collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia. During the election, Facebook deployed employees to embed with the Trump campaign to assist its digital operations. The company also worked with Hillary Clinton's campaign team but did not have employees embedded with them. The company has also been scrutinized by Congress for selling more than 3,000 ads to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll farm" alleged to have carried out misinformation operations online during the campaign.
Government

Tech Firms Let Russia Probe Software Widely Used by US Government (reuters.com) 115

Major global technology providers SAP, Symantec, and McAfee have allowed Russian authorities to hunt for vulnerabilities in software deeply embedded across the U.S. government, Reuters reported on Thursday. From the report: The practice potentially jeopardizes the security of computer networks in at least a dozen federal agencies, U.S. lawmakers and security experts said. It involves more companies and a broader swath of the government than previously reported. In order to sell in the Russian market, the tech companies let a Russian defense agency scour the inner workings, or source code, of some of their products. Russian authorities say the reviews are necessary to detect flaws that could be exploited by hackers. But those same products protect some of the most sensitive areas of the U.S government, including the Pentagon, NASA, the State Department, the FBI and the intelligence community, against hacking by sophisticated cyber adversaries like Russia.
ISS

Trump Administration Wants To End NASA Funding For ISS By 2025 (theverge.com) 344

According to budget documents seen by The Verge, the Trump administration is preparing to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025. As a result, American astronauts could be grounded on Earth for years with no destination in space until NASA develops new vehicles for its deep space travel plans. From the report: The draft may change before an official budget request is released on February 12th. However, two people familiar with the matter have confirmed to The Verge that the directive will be in the final proposal. We reached out to NASA for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication. Any budget proposal from the Trump administration will also be subject to scrutiny and approval by Congress. But even announcing the intention to cancel ISS funding could send a signal to NASA's international partners that the U.S. is no longer interested in continuing the program. Many of NASA's partners still have yet to decide if they'd like to continue working on the station beyond 2024. The International Space Station has been an ongoing program for more than two decades. It costs NASA between $3 to $4 billion each year, and represents a more than $87 billion investment from the U.S. government. It's become a major hub for conducting both government and commercial experiments in microgravity, as well as testing out how the human body responds to weightlessness.
Businesses

Tax Change Aims to Lure Intellectual Property Back to the US (wsj.com) 186

U.S. companies rich in intellectual property are looking at a new tax-friendly regime: the U.S (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). From a report: A provision in the newly revised U.S. tax code slashes the income tax companies pay on royalties from the overseas use of intellectual property or so-called intangible assets, such as licenses and patents. The new tax break, for what is dubbed foreign-derived intangible income, effectively reduces tax on foreign income from goods and services produced in the U.S. using patents and other intellectual property to 13.125% until the end of 2025, after which the rate rises to 16.4%. Previously, royalties paid to a unit in the U.S. would have been taxed similarly to other U.S. income, for which the top corporate tax rate was 35%. The new headline corporate rate is 21%. The deduction is meant to induce companies with large U.S. operations and significant foreign income from patent royalties to base more of those assets in the U.S. Such companies, especially in technology and pharmaceutical sectors, often hold foreign rights for their IP in a company based in a low-tax country.
China

Ecuador is Fighting Crime Using Chinese Surveillance Technology (scmp.com) 35

Ecuador has introduced a security system using monitoring technology from China, including facial recognition, as it tries to bring down its crime rate and improve emergency management, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. From a report: A network of cameras has been installed across the South American nation's 24 provinces -- keeping watch on its population of 16.4 million people -- using a system known as the ECU911 Integrated Security Service, Xinhua reported. Used by the country's police, armed forces and fire brigade, it went into operation in November 2016 and has an emergency response and monitoring system.
Privacy

Trump Signs Surveillance Extension Into Law (thehill.com) 94

President Trump took to Twitter this afternoon to announce that he has signed a six-year renewal of a powerful government surveillance tool. "Just signed 702 Bill to authorize foreign intelligence collection," Trump tweeted. "This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election. I will always do the right thing for our country and put the safety of the American people first!" The Hill reports: Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which the Senate voted to renew with a few small tweaks this week, allows the U.S. to spy on foreigners overseas. The intelligence community says the program is a critical tool in identifying and disrupting terror plots. But the broader surveillance law, which governs U.S. spying on foreigners, has become politically entangled with the controversy over the federal investigation into Trump's campaign and Russia. Some Republicans have claimed that the FBI inappropriately obtained a politically motivated FISA warrant to spy on Trump during the transition and on Friday, Capitol Hill was consumed with speculation about a four-page memo produced by House Intelligence Committee Republicans that some GOP lawmakers hinted contained evidence of such wrongdoing.
Crime

Facebook Is a 'Living, Breathing Crime Scene,' Says Former Tech Insider (nbcnews.com) 144

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: With more than 2 billion users, Facebook's reach now rivals that of Christianity and exceeds that of Islam. However, the network's laser focus on profits and user growth has come at the expense of its users, according to one former Facebook manager who is now speaking out against the social platform. "One of the things that I saw consistently as part of my job was the company just continuously prioritized user growth and making money over protecting users," the ex-manager, Sandy Parakilas, who worked at Facebook for 16 months, starting in 2011, told NBC News. During his tenure at Facebook, Parakilas led third-party advertising, privacy and policy compliance on Facebook's app platform. "Facebook is a living, breathing crime scene for what happened in the 2016 election -- and only they have full access to what happened," said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. His work centers on how technology can ethically steer the thoughts and actions of the masses on social media and he's been called "the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience" by The Atlantic magazine.

In response to the comments, Facebook issued a statement saying it is a "vastly different company" from when it was founded. "We are taking many steps to protect and improve people's experience on the platform," the statement said. "In the past year, we've worked to destroy the business model for false news and reduce its spread, stop bad actors from meddling in elections, and bring a new level of transparency to advertising. Last week, we started prioritizing meaningful posts from friends and family in News Feed to help bring people closer together. We have more work to do and we're heads down on getting it done."

Businesses

Apple Says It Will 'Contribute' $350 Billion in the US Economy Over the Next 5 Years (cnbc.com) 164

Apple said on Wednesday it will invest $350 billion in the U.S. economy over the next five years, touting the creation of 20,000 new jobs and a new campus thanks, in part, to the prospect of tax reform. From a report: The company said it expects tax repatriation payments of about $38 billion, indicating that it will bring a portion of its $250 billion overseas cash back to the U.S. As of November, the company had $268.9 billion in cash, both domestically and overseas. The job creation will focus on direct employment, but also suppliers and its app business, which it had already planned to grow substantially. "We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible," chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement.
Businesses

Turning Soybeans Into Diesel Fuel Is Costing Us Billions (npr.org) 264

This year, trucks and other heavy-duty motors in America will burn some 3 billion gallons of diesel fuel that was made from soybean oil. They're doing it, though, not because it's cheaper or better, but because they're required to, by law. From a report: The law is the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. For some, especially Midwestern farmers, it's the key to creating clean energy from American soil and sun. For others -- like many economists -- it's a wasteful misuse of resources. And the most wasteful part of the RFS, according to some, is biodiesel. It's different from ethanol, a fuel that's made from corn and mixed into gasoline, also as required by the RFS. In fact, gasoline companies probably would use ethanol even if there were no law requiring it, because ethanol is a useful fuel additive -- at least up to a point. That's not true of biodiesel. "This is an easy one, economically. Biodiesel is very expensive, relative to petroleum diesel," says Scott Irwin, an economist at the University of Illinois, who follows biofuel markets closely. He calculates that the extra cost for biodiesel comes to about $1.80 per gallon right now, meaning that the biofuel law is costing Americans about $5.4 billion a year.
AT&T

US Lawmakers Urge AT&T To Cut Commercial Ties With Huawei and Oppose China Mobile Citing National Security Concerns (reuters.com) 60

U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides told Reuters. From the report: The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing's role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters. The U.S. government has also blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions over national security concerns, including Ant Financial's proposed purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International.
Democrats

Democrats Are Just One Vote Shy of Restoring Net Neutrality (engadget.com) 331

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer now says Democrats in the Senate are a single vote away from restoring net neutrality. According to the senator from New York, they now have a total of 50 votes for a Senate resolution of disapproval that would restore the Open Internet Order of 2015 and deliver a stiff rebuke to Ajit Pai and other Republican members of the FCC. It would also prevent the agency from passing a similar measure in the future, all but guaranteeing Net Neutrality is permanently preserved. Right now the resolution has the support of all 49 Democrats in the Senate and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine. But Schumer and the rest of the caucus will have to win over one more Republican vote to prevent Vice President Mike Pence from breaking tie and allowing the repeal to stand. Under the Congressional Review Act, the Senate has 60 days to challenge a decision by an independent agency like the FCC. Democrats have less than 30 days to convince a "moderate" like John McCain or Lindsey Graham to buck their party. Further reading: The Washington Post (paywalled)
Government

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Use Computers To Make Elections Better? 498

shanen writes: Regarding politics, is there anything that Americans agree on? If so, it's probably something negative like "The system is broken," or "The leading candidates are terrible," or even "Your state is a shithole." With all our fancy technology, what's going wrong? Our computers are creating problems, not solutions. For example, gerrymandering relies on fancy computers to rig the maps. Negative campaigning increasingly relies on computers to target the attacks on specific voters. Even international attacks exploit the internet to intrude into elections around the world. Here are three of my suggested solutions, though I can't imagine any of today's politicians would ever support anything along these lines:

(1) Guest voting: If you hate your district, you could vote in a neighboring district. The more they gerrymander, the less predictable the election results.
(2) Results-based weighting: The winning candidates get more voting power in the legislature, reflecting how many people actually voted for them. If you win a boring and uncontested election where few people vote, then part of your vote in the legislature would be transferred to the winners who also had more real votes.
(3) Negative voting: A voter could use an electronic ballot to make it explicit that the vote is negative, not positive. The candidate with the most positive or fewest negative votes still wins, but if the election has too many negative votes, then that "winner" would be penalized, perhaps with a half term rather than a full term.

What wild and crazy ideas do you have for using computers to make elections better, not worse?
United Kingdom

Ecuador Grants Citizenship To WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange (cbsnews.com) 252

hcs_$reboot writes: Ecuador has granted citizenship to Julian Assange, who has been holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over five years. Quito, Ecuador, has said naturalization should provide Assange with another layer of protection. However, naturalization appeared to do little to help the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder's case, with the British foreign ministry stressing that the only way to resolve the issue was for "Assange to leave the embassy to face justice." Earlier on Thursday, Britain said that it had refused a request by Ecuador to grant Assange diplomatic status, which would have granted him special legal immunity and the right to safe passage under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
United States

Top US Government Computers Linked to Revenge-Porn Site (thedailybeast.com) 97

Joseph Cox, reporting for The Daily Beast: Data obtained by a security analyst and shared with The Daily Beast reveals the behind-the-scenes of the epicenter of revenge porn: a notorious image board called Anon-IB, where users constantly upload non-consensual imagery, comment on it, and trade nudes like baseball cards. The data shows Anon-IB users connecting from U.S. Senate, Navy, and other government computers, including the Executive Office of the President, even as senators push for a bill that would further combat the practice, and after the military's own recent revenge-porn crisis. "Wow tig ol bitties. You have any nudes to share?" someone wrote in November, underneath a photo of a woman who apparently works in D.C., while connecting from an IP address registered to the U.S. Senate.

Anon-IB is a free-to-use message board where users post images, typically of women, and which is split into various genre or location sections. Some parts are focused on countries, while U.S. sections may narrow down to a state. Many users pursue so-called wins, which are nude or explicit photos, and may egg each other on to share more images. Anon-IB was also intertwined with a 2014 breach of celebrity nudes referred to as The Fappening. "Looking for wins of [redacted]. She used to send nudes to my friend all of the time. Would love to see some more," someone connecting from the U.S. Senate IP address wrote last August.

United States

North Carolina Congressional Map Ruled Unconstitutionally Gerrymandered (nytimes.com) 409

An anonymous reader shares a report: A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina's congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections. Judge James A. Wynn Jr., in a biting 191-page opinion, said that Republicans in North Carolina's Legislature had been "motivated by invidious partisan intent" as they carried out their obligation in 2016 to divide the state into 13 congressional districts, 10 of which are held by Republicans. The result, Judge Wynn wrote, violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. The ruling and its chief demand -- that the Republican-dominated Legislature create a new landscape of congressional districts by Jan. 24 -- infused new turmoil into the political chaos that has in recent years enveloped North Carolina. President Trump carried North Carolina in 2016, but the state elected a Democrat as its governor on the same day and in 2008 supported President Barack Obama.
Privacy

Congress Is About To Vote On Expanding the Warrantless Surveillance of Americans (vice.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On Tuesday afternoon, a handful of U.S. Representatives will convene to review an amendment that would reauthorize warrantless foreign surveillance and expand the law so that it could include American citizens. It would, in effect, legalize a surveillance practice abandoned by the NSA in 2017 in order to appease the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which found the NSA to have abused its collection capacity several times. If it passes Tuesday's review, the bill may be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives as early as Thursday. Drafted by the House Intelligence Committee last December, the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 is an amendment to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It is one of six different FISA-related bills under consideration by Congress at the moment, but by far the most damaging to the privacy rights of American citizens.

FISA was enacted in 1978, but Section 702, referred to by former FBI Director James Comey as the "crown jewels of the intelligence community," wasn't added until 2008. This section allows intelligence agencies to surveil any foreigner outside the U.S. without a warrant that the agency considers a target. The problem is that this often resulted in the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens as well due to two loopholes known as "backdoor searches" and "about collection." Backdoor search refers to a roundabout way of monitoring Americans' communications. Since intelligence agencies are able to designate any foreigner's communications as a target for surveillance, if this foreigner has communicated with an American this means this American's communications are then also considered fair game for surveillance by the agency.

Government

Senate Bill to Block Net Neutrality Repeal Now Has 40 Co-Sponsors (thehill.com) 106

New submitter Rick Schumann writes: The senate bill to block the FCC repeal of Obama-era internet net neutrality rules now has 40 co-sponsors, up from the 30 co-sponsors it had yesterday. The bill, being driven by Senate minority Democrats, requires only a simple majority vote in order to be passed, although Washington insiders are currently predicting the bill will fail. "The bill would use authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the FCC's repeal from going into effect," reports The Hill. "And with more than 30 senators on board, the legislation will be able to bypass the committee approval process and Democrats will be able to force a vote on the floor."
Privacy

UK Backs Off From Banning Reidentification Research (theguardian.com) 10

An anonymous reader writes: The United Kingdom has recently debated banning reidentification in its new data privacy law. This proposal has quickly been identified as dangerous and criticized, as it was argued this is not only ineffective but would also put at risk legitimate security and privacy researchers. Following public outcry, the UK government amended the bill to include safe-guards allowing researchers to study anonymization weaknesses. Researchers will also gain a new channel of disclosure via the Information Commissioner Office (ICO). According to The Guardian, "Researchers will have to notify the ICO within three days of successfully deanonymizing data, and demonstrate that they had acted in the public interest and without intention to cause damage or distress in re-identifying data."
United States

Trump Pushes To Expand High-Speed Internet In Rural America (reuters.com) 317

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday to make it easier for the private sector to locate broadband infrastructure on federal land and buildings, part of a push to expand high-speed internet in rural America. Reuters reports: "We need to get rural America more connected. We need it for our tractors, we need it for our schools, we need it for our home-based businesses," a White House official told reporters ahead of Trump's speech at the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "We're not moving mountains but we're certainly getting started," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview Trump's actions. The White House described the moves as an incremental step to help spur private development while the administration figures out what it can do to help with funding, something that could become part of Trump's plan to invest in infrastructure. "We know that funding is really the key thing to actually changing rural broadband," a second White House official said. Reuters cites a 2016 report from the Federal Communications Commission, noting that 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to high-speed internet service.
The Internet

Senate Will Force Vote On Overturning Net Neutrality Repeal (theverge.com) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has mustered the 30 votes necessary to force a vote on the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) announced that she's signed onto Markey's request to overturn the new rules, under the Congressional Review Act -- which lets Congress nullify recently passed regulations with a simple majority. Markey announced his intention to file a resolution of disapproval in December, just after the FCC voted on new rules that killed net neutrality protections from 2015. These new rules were officially published last week, and with 30 sponsors, Markey can make the Senate vote on whether to consider overturning them. If this happens, it would lead to a debate and final vote. That's not remotely the end of the process: if it's approved, the resolution will go to the House, and if it passes there, the desk of Donald Trump, who seems unlikely to approve it.
Twitter

Why Twitter Hasn't Banned President Trump (theverge.com) 449

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amid vocal calls for the company to act, Twitter today offered its first explanation for why it hasn't banned President Donald Trump -- without ever saying the man's name. "Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society," the company said in a blog post. "Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions." In its blog post, Twitter reiterated its previous statement that all accounts still must follow the company's rules. The statement seemed to leave open the possibility that it might one day take action against Trump's account, or the accounts of other world leaders who might use the platform to incite violence or otherwise break its rules. "We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly," it said. In response to the claims that Twitter doesn't ban President Trump because he draws attention -- and ad revenue -- to the company, Twitter said: "No one person's account drives Twitter's growth, or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind."
Businesses

Leading Lobbying Group for Amazon, Facebook, Google and Other Tech Giants is Joining the Legal Battle To Restore Net Neutrality (recode.net) 77

A leading lobbying group for Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter and other tech giants said Friday that it would be joining the coming legal crusade to restore the U.S. government's net neutrality rules. From a report: The Washington, D.C.-based Internet Association specifically plans to join a lawsuit as an intervening party, aiding the challenge to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's vote in December to repeal regulations that required internet providers like AT&T and Comcast to treat all web traffic equally, its leader confirmed to Recode. Technically, the Internet Association isn't filing its own lawsuit. That task will fall to companies like Etsy, public advocates like Free Press and state attorneys general, all of which plan to contend they are most directly harmed by Pai's decision, as Recode first reported this week. As an intervener, though, the Internet Association still will play a crucial role, filing legal arguments in the coming case. And in formally participating, tech giants will have the right to appeal a judge's decision later if Silicon Valley comes out on the losing end. "The final version of Chairman Pai's rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers," said the group's chief, Michael Beckerman, in a statement. "This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet."
Businesses

What Happens When States Have Their Own Net Neutrality Rules? (bloomberg.com) 179

Last month FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dismantled Obama-era rules on net neutrality. A handful of lawmakers in liberal-leaning U.S. states plan to spend this year building them back up. FCC anticipated the move -- the commission's rules include language forbidding states from doing this, warning against an unwieldy patchwork of regulations. But lawmakers in New York and California aren't aiming to be exceptions to the national rules; they're looking to, in effect, create their own. From a report: In New York, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy introduced a bill that would make it a requirement for internet providers to adhere to the principles of net neutrality as a requirement for landing state contracts. This would mean they couldn't block or slow down certain web traffic, and couldn't offer faster speeds to companies who pay them directly. Fahy said the restrictions on contractors would apply even if the behaviors in question took place outside New York. She acknowledged that the approach could run afoul of limits on states attempting to regulate interstate commerce, but thought the bill could "thread the needle." Even supporters of state legislation on net neutrality think this may go too far. California State Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill this week that would only apply to behavior within the state, saying any other approach would be too vulnerable to legal challenge.

But this wouldn't be the first time a large state threw around its weight in ways that reverberate beyond its borders. The texbook industry, for instance, has long accommodated the standards of California and Texas. [...] The internet doesn't lend itself cleanly to state lines. It could be difficult for Comcast or Verizon to accept money from services seeking preferential treatment in one state, then make sure that its network didn't reflect those relationships in places where state lawmakers forbade them, said Geoffrey Manne, executive director of the International Center for Law & Economics, a research group.

Censorship

France's President Macron Wants To Block Websites During Elections To Fight 'Fake News' (gizmodo.com) 299

French President Emmanuel Macron has a rather extreme approach to combat fake news: ban entire websites. In a speech to journalists on Wednesday, Macron said he planned to introduce new legislation to strictly regulate fake news during online political campaigns. Gizmodo reports: His proposal included a number of measures, most drastically "an emergency legal action" that could enable the government to either scrap "fake news" from a website or even block a website altogether. "If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules," Macron said. "When fake news are spread, it will be possible to go to a judge... and if appropriate have content taken down, user accounts deleted and ultimately websites blocked."

Macron, himself a target of election interference, also outlined some less extreme measures in his speech yesterday. He proposed more rigid requirements around transparency, specifically in relation to online ads during elections. According to the Guardian, Macron said the legislation would force platforms to publicly identify who their advertisers are, as well as limit how much they can spend on ads over the course of an election campaign.

Cellphones

White House Bans Use of Personal Devices From West Wing (cbsnews.com) 205

In the wake of damaging reports of a chaotic Trump administration detailed in a new book from Michael Wolff, the White House is instituting new policies on the use of personal cellphones in the West Wing. CBS News reports: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released the following statement on the policy change: "The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration and therefore starting next week the use of all personal devices for both guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing. Staff will be able to conduct business on their government-issued devices and continue working hard on behalf of the American people."

Wolff reportedly gained access to the White House where he conducted numerous interviews with staffers on the inner-workings of the Trump campaign and West Wing operations. Sanders told reporters Wednesday that there were about "a dozen" interactions between Wolff and White House officials, which she said took place at Bannon's request. The White House swiftly slammed the book and those who cooperated with Wolff.

The Internet

Ajit Pai Backs Out of Planned CES 2018 Appearance (techcrunch.com) 277

New submitter sdinfoserv writes: Ajit Pai, the most hated person in tech since Darl McBride, backed out of a speaking engagement at CES 2018. Apparently he lacks the spine to justify himself before the group of individuals his decisions affect most. Consumer Technology Association head Gary Shapiro announced: "Unfortunately, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is unable to attend CES 2018. We look forward to our next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience."
The Almighty Buck

NSA's Top Talent is Leaving Because of Low Pay, Slumping Morale and Unpopular Reorganization (washingtonpost.com) 225

Ellen Nakashima and Aaron Gregg, reporting for the Washington Post: The National Security Agency is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel, some disillusioned with the spy service's leadership and an unpopular reorganization, take higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). Since 2015, the NSA has lost several hundred hackers, engineers and data scientists, according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. The potential impact on national security is significant, they said. Headquartered at Fort Meade in Maryland, the NSA employs a civilian workforce of about 21,000 there and is the largest producer of intelligence among the nation's 17 spy agencies. The people who have left were responsible for collecting and analyzing the intelligence that goes into the president's daily briefing. Their work also included monitoring a broad array of subjects including the Islamic State, Russian and North Korean hackers, and analyzing the intentions of foreign governments, and they were responsible for protecting the classified networks that carry such sensitive information.
The Internet

The FCC Is Still Tweaking Its Net Neutrality Repeal (techcrunch.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: You may think, from the pomp accompanying the FCC's vote in December to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules, that the deed was accomplished. Not so -- in fact, the order hasn't even reached its final form: the Commission is still working on it. But while it may be frustrating, this is business as usual for regulations like this, and concerned advocates should conserve their outrage for when it's really needed. The "Restoring Internet Freedom" rule voted on last month was based on a final draft circulated several weeks before the meeting at which it would be adopted. But as reports at the time noted, significant edits (i.e. not fixing typos) were still going into the draft the day before the FCC voted. Additional citations, changes in wording and more serious adjustments may be underway. It may sound like some serious shenanigans are being pulled, but this is how the sausage was always made, and it's actually one of Chairman Ajit Pai's handful of commendable efforts that the process is, in some ways at least, more open to the public. The question of exactly what is being changed, however, we will have ample time to investigate: The rules will soon be entered into the federal register, at which point they both come into effect and come under intense scrutiny and legal opposition.
Democrats

New Bill Could Finally Get Rid of Paperless Voting Machines (arstechnica.com) 391

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A bipartisan group of six senators has introduced legislation that would take a huge step toward securing elections in the United States. Called the Secure Elections Act, the bill aims to eliminate insecure paperless voting machines from American elections while promoting routine audits that would dramatically reduce the danger of interference from foreign governments. "With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again," said co-sponsor Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). So a group of senators led by James Lankford (R-Okla.) wants to shore up the security of American voting systems ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. And the senators have focused on two major changes that have broad support from voting security experts.

The first objective is to get rid of paperless electronic voting machines. Computer scientists have been warning for more than a decade that these machines are vulnerable to hacking and can't be meaningfully audited. States have begun moving away from paperless systems, but budget constraints have forced some to continue relying on insecure paperless equipment. The Secure Elections Act would give states grants specifically earmarked for replacing these systems with more secure systems that use voter-verified paper ballots. The legislation's second big idea is to encourage states to perform routine post-election audits based on modern statistical techniques. Many states today only conduct recounts in the event of very close election outcomes. And these recounts involve counting a fixed percentage of ballots. That often leads to either counting way too many ballots (wasting taxpayer money) or too few (failing to fully verify the election outcome). The Lankford bill would encourage states to adopt more statistically sophisticated procedures to count as many ballots as needed to verify an election result was correct -- and no more.

Microsoft

Big Tech and Democracy Need To Work Together, Microsoft Executives Say (axios.com) 89

From a report: It's not often that Big Tech calls for more government action. But two top Microsoft executives -- Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, and Carol Ann Browne, director of executive communications -- write in a tech trends forecast out today. "2018 will be a year when democratic governments can either work together to safeguard electoral processes or face a future where democracy is more fragile. [T]his needs to include work to protect campaigns from hacking, address social media issues, ensure the integrity of voting results, and protect vital census processes," they wrote.
Google

How Do You Vote? 50 Million Google Images Give a Clue (nytimes.com) 103

Artificial Intelligence is now being used to scan millions of pictures taken by Google Street View to glean insights like income or voting patterns, The New York Times reports. In a Stanford project, computers scanned millions of pictures of parked cars to predict voting patterns and pollution. From the report: The Stanford project gives a glimpse at the potential. By pulling the vehicles' makes, models and years from the images, and then linking that information with other data sources, the project was able to predict factors like pollution and voting patterns at the neighborhood level. "This kind of social analysis using image data is a new tool to draw insights," said Timnit Gebru, who led the Stanford research effort. The research has been published in stages, the most recent in late November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the end, the car-image project involved 50 million images of street scenes gathered from Google Street View. In them, 22 million cars were identified, and then classified into more than 2,600 categories like their make and model, located in more than 3,000 ZIP codes and 39,000 voting districts.
Businesses

Trump Wants Postal Service To Charge 'Much More' For Amazon Shipments (reuters.com) 338

President Donald Trump said the U.S. Postal Service should charge Amazon more to deliver packages, the latest in a series of public criticisms of the online retailer and its billionaire founder. From a report: "Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!" Trump wrote on Twitter. The president's tweet drew fresh attention to the fragile finances of the postal service at a time when tens of millions of parcels have been shipped all over the country for the holiday season. The U.S. Postal Service, which runs at a big loss, is an independent agency within the federal government and does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses, according to its website. The U.S. president does not determine postal rates. They are set by the Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent government agency with commissioners selected by the president from both political parties. That panel raised prices on packages by almost 2 percent in November.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Trump's Website Is Coded With a Broken Server Error Message That Blames Obama (techcrunch.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: If you're a fan of Easter eggs hidden in source code, this is a pretty good one. Apparently, as Washington Post data reporter Christopher Ingraham observed on Twitter, some Trump administration and GOP websites have a portion of code with a joke that throws shade at Obama's golf habits, the irony nowhere to be found. We checked the source code and sure enough the line "Oops! Something went wrong. Unlike Obama, we are working to fix the problem and not on the golf course" appears on action.donaldjtrump.com sites, like the one hosting this surely statistically sound, Obama-obsessed "Inaugural Year Approval Poll," but not on donaldjtrump.com pages. As Ingraham pointed out, it's also present on some official GOP sites, including the GOP.com homepage. In both instances, the Obama dig is paired with a 404 error message that states "What do Hillary Clinton and this link have in common? They're both dead broke." To top it off, the code itself is apparently itself broken, swapping a single equal sign where there should be two. An honest mistake? Or perhaps the world was never meant to be gifted with these very good jokes at all?
Crime

Two Romanians Charged With Hacking Washington DC Police Surveillance Cameras Days Before Trump's Inauguration (bbc.com) 47

US prosecutors have charged two Romanians with hacking Washington DC police computers linked to surveillance cameras just days before President Donald Trump's inauguration. From a report on BBC: The pair are being held in Romania, having been arrested at Bucharest Otopeni airport on 15 December. Mihai Alexandru Isvanca, 25, and Eveline Cismaru, 28, allegedly accessed 123 outdoor surveillance cameras as part of a suspected ransomware scheme. Mr Trump was sworn in on 20 January. The US Department of Justice said the case was "of the highest priority" because of the security surrounding the presidential inauguration. The perpetrators intended to use the camera computers to send ransomware to more than 179,600 email addresses and extort money from victims, the justice department said in a statement.
Government

People Who Know How the News Is Made Resist Conspiratorial Thinking (arstechnica.com) 368

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Conspiracy theories, like the world being flat or the Moon landings faked, have proven notoriously difficult to stomp out. Add a partisan twist to the issue, and the challenge becomes even harder. Even near the end of his second term, barely a quarter of Republicans were willing to state that President Obama was born in the U.S. If we're seeking to have an informed electorate, then this poses a bit of a problem. But a recent study suggests a very simple solution helps limit the appeal of conspiracy theories: news media literacy. This isn't knowledge of the news, per se, but knowledge of the companies and processes that help create the news. While the study doesn't identify how the two are connected, its authors suggest that an understanding of the media landscape helps foster a healthy skepticism.

[...] "Despite popular conceptions," the authors point out, "[conspiratorial thinking] is not the sole province of the proverbial nut-job." When mixed in with the sort of motivated reasoning that ideology can, well, motivate, crazed ideas can become relatively mainstream. Witness the number of polls that indicated the majority of Republicans thought Obama wasn't born in the U.S., even after he shared his birth certificate. While something that induces a healthy skepticism of information sources might be expected to help with this, it's certainly not guaranteed, as motivated reasoning has been shown to be capable of overriding education and knowledge on relevant topics.

[...] As a whole, the expected connection held up: "for both conservatives and liberals, more knowledge of the news media system related to decreased endorsement of liberal conspiracies." And, conversely, the people who did agree with conspiracy theories tended to know very little about how the news media operated.

Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg's Real Campaign: Save Facebook (axios.com) 158

From an Axios report: Mark Zuckerberg started 2017 scoffing at the idea of Russia election manipulation on Facebook, and looked like he was contemplating his own possible run for the presidency. Facebook's CEO ends 2017 a very changed man: scrambling to curtail (some of) the manipulation he now acknowledges exists, and to save the most powerful platform in human history. A Facebook exec tells us: "This is the year people will see we get that there's real work to do. We have to change."
Social Networks

Obama Warns Against Irresponsible Social Media Use (bbc.com) 360

In his first interview since leaving the White House in January, former President Barack Obama spoke about the dangers of irresponsible use of social media. From a report on BBC: He warned that such actions were distorting people's understanding of complex issues, and spreading misinformation. "All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet," he said. The former president expressed concern about a future where facts are discarded and people only read and listen to things that reinforce their own views. "One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn't lead to a Balkanisation of society and allows ways of finding common ground," he said.
Social Networks

Russia's Putin Calls For Web Activities of Some Firms To Be Monitored (reuters.com) 57

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the Russian authorities should monitor the activity of "some companies" on social media during next year's presidential election and assess the extent of their involvement in domestic politics. From a report: He did not name the companies or say if he was concerned about the activities of foreign or local firms, but Russia has been accused by the United States and other Western nations of meddling in their elections. "We need to look carefully at how some companies work in internet, in social media, and how widely they are involved in our domestic political life," Putin said, speaking at a meeting with leaders in Russia's parliament about a new "foreign agents" law.
Earth

UFO Existence 'Proven Beyond Reasonable Doubt', Says Former Head of Pentagon Alien Program (newsweek.com) 300

An anonymous reader shares a Newsweek report: The existence of UFOs had been "proved beyond reasonable doubt," according the head of the secret Pentagon program that analyzed the mysterious aircrafts. In an interview with British broadsheet The Telegraph published on Saturday, Luis Elizondo told the newspaper of the sightings, "In my opinion, if this was a court of law, we have reached the point of 'beyond reasonable doubt.'" "I hate to use the term UFO but that's what we're looking at," he added. "I think it's pretty clear this is not us, and it's not anyone else, so no one has to ask questions where they're from." Elizondo led the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, investigating evidence of UFOs and alien life, from 2007 to 2012, when it was shuttered. Its existence was first reported by The New York Times this month.
United States

Republican's 'Net Neutrality' Proposal Called 'Bait and Switch' (techcrunch.com) 121

Remember that net neutrality legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)? TechCrunch is calling it "half-hearted" -- and suspect. It's not going to happen, it wouldn't help if it did and Blackburn isn't someone you want writing this kind of legislation. Among other things, she thinks it's the ISPs' job to police content, and voted to kill the Broadband Privacy Rule.
In fact, Blackburn's legislation would deal a "fatal blow" to net neutrality, argues Evan Greer, campaign director at the nonprofit Fight for the Future, writing in Newsweek: Already one of Big Cable's best friends in Congress, Marsha Blackburn, who has taken more than $600,000 from the industry, is pushing for legislation that would permanently undermine the FCC's ability to enforce open internet protections. This bait and switch has been in the works for months. The telecom lobby's end game is to use the crisis they've created to ram through legislation that's branded as a compromise but amounts to a fatal blow to net neutrality... We don't need legislation that's been watered down with kool-aid.
A better solution, he suggests, is pushing Congress to overrule the FCC with a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval.
Facebook

How Facebook's Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda (bloomberg.com) 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Under fire for Facebook Inc.'s role as a platform for political propaganda, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has punched back, saying his mission is above partisanship. "We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg wrote in September after President Donald Trump accused Facebook of bias. Zuckerberg's social network is a politically agnostic tool for its more than 2 billion users, he has said. But Facebook, it turns out, is no bystander in global politics. What he hasn't said is that his company actively works with political parties and leaders including those who use the platform to stifle opposition -- sometimes with the aid of "troll armies" that spread misinformation and extremist ideologies.

The initiative is run by a little-known Facebook global government and politics team that's neutral in that it works with nearly anyone seeking or securing power. The unit is led from Washington by Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist who worked on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign. Since Facebook hired Harbath three years later, her team has traveled the globe helping political clients use the company's powerful digital tools. In some of the world's biggest democracies -- from India and Brazil to Germany and the U.K. -- the unit's employees have become de facto campaign workers. And once a candidate is elected, the company in some instances goes on to train government employees or provide technical assistance for live streams at official state events.

Republicans

Republican Lawmaker Introduces Net Neutrality Legislation (variety.com) 350

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Variety: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced net neutrality legislation on Tuesday that prohibits internet providers from blocking and throttling content, but does not address whether ISPs can create so-called "fast lanes" of traffic for sites willing to pay for it. The legislation also would require that ISPs disclose their terms of service, and ensure that federal law preempts any state efforts to establish rules of the road for internet traffic. "A lot of our innovators are saying, 'Let's go with things we have agreement on, and other things can be addressed later,'" Blackburn told Variety. She said that she was "very hopeful" about the prospects for the legislation because "an open internet and preserving that open internet is what people want to see happen. Let's preserve it. Let's nail it down. Let's stop the ping-ponging from one FCC commission to another. This is something where the Congress should act." Blackburn chairs a House subcommittee on communications and technology.
Government

New York City Moves To Create Accountability For Algorithms (propublica.org) 183

The algorithms that play increasingly central roles in our lives often emanate from Silicon Valley, but the effort to hold them accountable may have another epicenter: New York City. From a report: Last week, the New York City Council unanimously passed a bill to tackle algorithmic discrimination -- the first measure of its kind in the country. The algorithmic accountability bill, waiting to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, establishes a task force that will study how city agencies use algorithms to make decisions that affect New Yorkers' lives, and whether any of the systems appear to discriminate against people based on age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status. The task force's report will also explore how to make these decision-making processes understandable to the public. The bill's sponsor, Council Member James Vacca, said he was inspired by ProPublica's investigation into racially biased algorithms used to assess the criminal risk of defendants. "My ambition here is transparency, as well as accountability," Vacca said.

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