The UN’s special investigator on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism has opened an investigation into Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance by the U.S., the U.K. and their close allies. Ben Emmerson will report back to the UN general assembly in autumn 2014, having looked into: whether Snowden is a whistleblower; whether his leaks weakened American and British counter-terrorism efforts; whether surveillance powers in those countries should be curbed; whether oversight of their spying is adequate; and whether the U.K. Parliament was misled by the country’s intelligence services. The UN itself was a target of NSA surveillance.
The latest example of European web censorship in the name of copyright doesn’t just target internet service providers — it also requires Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to remove links to the offending sites. Read more »
German police are considering the use of a Shazam-like app for identifying neo-Nazi rock music, Der Spiegel reports. The app would identify far-right bands and their songs, apparently sparing police resources and speeding up investigations as they tackle extremist gatherings (and online radio stations, the article suggests). Nazism is illegal in Germany, as is racist hate speech. However, this app is unlikely to enter into use if legal authorities decide it’s a form of acoustic surveillance, which it plainly is.
Facebook may soon buy a Bangalore startup, called Little Eye Labs, that provides performance analysis and optimization tools for Android developers. According to a Monday report in India’s Business Standard, advanced talks are being facilitated by the Indian Software Products Industry Roundtable (iSpirt). This may be connected with Facebook’s quest to better optimize its apps to run on low-end devices and spartan internet connections — like Google, the firm is trying to push further into developing markets. In recent months, Google bought French mobile optimization outfit Flexycore and Facebook picked up data compression specialist Onavo.
The Finnish company, which is largely staffed by ex-Nokians, has finally put its smartphone on sale. The device runs a derivation of the Linux-based MeeGo operating system. Read more »
Prime Minister Tony Abbott still refuses to allow an inquiry into the Australian intelligence services, after it emerged that they were content with sharing surveillance data with the U.S. and U.K. without stripping out data relating to normal Australian citizens. Read more »
Bitcoin may be riding high, but spending it is still hardly an intuitive process. A new device called the nio Card, currently in Kickstarter mode, may provide an answer by allowing contactless Bitcoin payments — and because it has built-in NFC, it will work with the iPhone. Read more »
The European Parliament’s industry committee has approved a draft law that will make the sharing of infrastructure such a sewage and gas pipes and drainage systems a lot easier — thereby making broadband rollouts a lot cheaper. Read more »
The Geeksphone Revolution promises an intriguingly versatile device, but it’s not all good news — Geeksphone has had to inform those who pre-ordered its current theoretical flagship, the Peak+, that the device has been cancelled due to supply chain problems. Read more »
A team at Georgia Tech has come up with an ingenious way to steer a wheelchair if you can’t move your limbs and torso: your tongue, featuring a magnetic titanium piercing full of sensors. Currently, the most common driving method for people with tetraplegia involves sucking on or blowing into a straw, but the researchers’ method — which basically turns the tongue into a joystick by having the sensors talk to a headset that controls the chair — is apparently just as accurate and much faster. Associate professor Maysam Ghovanloo hopes to commercialize the technology through his startup, Bionic Sciences.
A government minister has confirmed plans, mentioned recently by the prime minister in a poorly reported parliamentary exchange, to force ISPs to censor access to “extremist” online material. But that term is open to interpretation. Read more »
Today’s secure email technology is too clunky for really widespread deployment. Now the creators of Lavabit and Silent Mail — including encryption legend Phil Zimmermann — have funding to help realize their dream of a usable yet genuinely secure email system. Read more »
European courts can order ISPs to block sites that offer copyright-infringing material, in the opinion of the EU advocate general. Of course, some EU countries already allow this. Read more »
The European Commission has set out its plan for restoring “trust” in the way the U.S. treats Europeans’ data. However, while it calls for more respect for EU ciitizens’ rights, the plan mostly amounts to asking the Americans to stick to the rules they’ve agreed to, and to be clearer about when surveillance may take place. Read more »
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show how the NSA has at least considered using evidence of alleged Islamist extremists’ online sexual activities to discredit them. The targets were not suspected of involvement in terrorist plots. Read more »
The New York Times has published further details of an NSA operation that involves spying on the fiberoptic cables running between the data centers of companies such as Google and Yahoo. The piece highlights the role played by Level 3, the company that runs such cables for Google and Yahoo. Level 3 has already been identified as one of the telecommunications firms working with the UK’s NSA partner, GCHQ. These fiber connections are crucial to the affair, as they may provide a way for the NSA and GCHQ to effectively tap into major web firms’ systems without their cooperation.
There’s a battle of the bike locks going on — melding physical security with smartphone smarts and sharing-economy potential, Lock8 and Bitlock offer different takes on the same idea. And Lock8 just got an extra boost through funding from Horizon Ventures and Otto Capital. Read more »
Newegg’s use of industry-standard online encryption techniques infringed on an obscure modem patent, a Texas jury found. However, the e-commerce outfit has promised to appeal, which has worked out well for it in the past. Read more »
500 workers at Amazon’s German logistics centers have walked out in protest at the company’s working conditions, and in support of better pay. This is the fourth strike by German Amazon workers this year, and union Verdi says more are coming. Meanwhile in the UK, a BBC investigation has also uncovered Amazon distribution center conditions than one stress expert described as “all the bad stuff at once”, with workers suffering increased risk of mental and physical illness. This is one way to offer market-beating prices, as is not paying very much in the way of taxes.
The Dutch publication NRC has published claims, based on Edward Snowden’s leaks, that more than 50,000 computing networks around the world have been infected with NSA or GCHQ malware, Belgacom-style, in order to siphon off information. The New York Times has revealed the NSA’s plans for grabbing more powers in future, in a report that also mentions a fascinating NSA data visualization tool called Treasure Map. And journalist Glenn Greenwald has challenged assertions by the Norwegian intelligence service that it only spied on Norwegians outside the country.
The deal gives Apple proven technology (it powers Microsoft’s Kinect controllers) that could be used in a wide range of contexts. Read more »
The British platform will have some immediate advantages over many local rivals as it leaps across the English Channel, namely continent-wide scale and a higher funding limit than that available in some mainland European countries. Read more »
Earlier this week the Korea Herald quoted an unnamed ARM executive as saying 128-bit processors could make their way into mobile devices within a couple of years. On Friday the British chip design house, whose designs power the vast majority of mobile devices today, said the report was simply “not true”.
In a blog post the firm said, “64-bit processors are capable of supporting the needs of the computing industry now and for many years to come” and “there are absolutely no plans underway for 128 bit ARM-based chips because they simply aren’t needed.” Quite so — the mobile industry is only just starting to move to 64-bit architecture, which is arguably overkill for a smartphone’s current requirements.
Amazon Coins are now available in the UK and reportedly Germany too. The company’s virtual currency is intended for use in its Kindle Fire tablet ecosystem, and owners of the tablet will receive £4 ($6.50) worth of them — that’s 400 Coins — to buy apps, games and in-app items.
Developed-world governments are more likely than those in the developing world to spy on their citizens’ online communications, a report from the World Wide Web Foundation has warned. Meanwhile, a U.N. resolution on online privacy has been softened but retains some bite. Read more »
The box takes a minute to set up and promises anonymity for all surfing done through the connected router. It may not prove quite that simple to use in reality, but it’s certainly an intriguing and cost-effective privacy tool. Read more »
The speed of technological progress is enabling rapid change in our societies and threatening the principles we claim to hold dear. We have to decide — now — whether we want to accept or resist the loss of our freedoms. Read more »
Politicians from Germany’s two biggest parties are currently negotiating what their grand coalition will look like, and they’ve reportedly decided on at least one thing: they need encrypted phones. According to local newspaper Bild, this means no iPhones, because Apple’s platform doesn’t support encryption software developed by Germany’s federal office for information security, and all official business will henceforth require encrypted communications.
It recently emerged that the U.S. and British embassies in Berlin have been used as bases for spying on German parliamentarians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel (who, for the record, was using a highly-hackable old Nokia slider-phone before the Snowden revelations this summer, when she switched to BlackBerry).
The tool, which is gaining a degree of popularity within the maker movement, now provides a way to include moving images in its instructional storyboards. Read more »
LG’s Smart TVs may be reporting a tad too much information back to the company’s servers, according to a detailed and convincing post by British blogger “DoctorBeet”. Apparently in the name of targeted advertising, it appears some of the sets are monitoring not only what channels are being watched (even when told not to), but also details of files stored on external hard drives hooked up to the TV. And here comes the really dumb bit: they’re sending that data back to LG’s servers sans encryption. I’m awaiting comment from LG.
A Berlin court has upheld a complaint by the Federation of German Consumer Associations, which argued that Google’s users can’t be certain what they’re signing up to when they agree to the firm’s terms and conditions. Read more »
Android tablet users can now get a specially-optimized version of Opera that opts for tabs, rather than the firm’s usual carousel approach to flipping between pages on mobile devices. Read more »
As Norway becomes the latest European country to be dragged into the surveillance scandal, it’s worth running through the revelations we’ve seen thus far. Read more »
Nokia’s extraordinary general meeting, convened to discuss the takeover of the Finnish firm’s handset division by Microsoft, is still ongoing at the time of writing. However, The Financial Times reports that it’s a formality — 99.7 percent of shareholders who voted before the meeting (that’s 4 in 5) have already said yes to the $7.2 billion deal. The remaining bits of Nokia are nothing to be sneezed at: the Here location business, a division creating new advanced materials, sensors and so on, and of course the NSN networking business.
What does a national cloud look like? In France’s case, it looks like two fairly similar ventures — one based on OpenStack and the other soon to follow in its footsteps. Does this approach make sense? Read more »
Luxembourg’s data protection regulator says Microsoft and Skype’s transfer of Europeans’ data to the U.S. remains legal, despite the Snowden revelations about what happens to that data. It’s a messy situation where neither side is, strictly speaking, wrong. Read more »
The app lets users check their balances and recent transactions without needing to fire up their smartphones or browsers. Read more »
The Finnish handset maker is about to launch its handset on a small scale, but last year we were told of widespread distribution plans in China, as well as $260 million in backing from the “Sailfish Alliance”. Turns out that’s all on hold. Read more »