Apple Vs The FBI is Over!

The legal case of the year is over already. Apple vs the FBI is over in a court case that saw the question of security vs privacy raised on a national, and even global, level. After cancelling a court hearing with Apple, the FBI have officially closed the court case.

It would seem that even without their assistance, the FBI claim to have managed to break into and access the data required on the iPhone in question. In their response, the FBI stated that the new hack was “sufficiently plausible” to a point where they could stop pursuing Apple’s assistance.

Currently, there is no information about who performed the hack or how many iPhones the hack works against. With so little information about the hack, it’s hard to tell if the court case could reemerge in the future with over a hundred phones in government control still locked.

In their response the Department of Justice reminded us that they would continue to gather information from encrypted devices, saying that “It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety”, and then there is a small reminder that with or without help, “either with cooperation from relevant parties or through the court system”.

Valve Found Guilty of Breaking Australian Consumer Law

Valve is known for creating the popular digital sales platform Steam, which does everything hardware to regular sales on video games. One thing they’ve been keen to improve on for a while has been their refund policy, something which saw the original policy replaced with one that could offer full refunds to people who purchased a game on the platform. The problem is that the original policy wasn’t in place when the court case against Valve was raised, a case which has now ended with Valve being found guilty of breaking Consumer Law in Australia.

In the court case, that was started back in 2014 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Valve was taken to court because it lacked a refund policy, something that is required by Australian consumer law. In their defence they stated that it doesn’t “officially” conduct business, instead offering a portal to video games through clients.

Overlooking the case, Justice Edelman stated that Valve was doing business in Australia and must, therefore, follow Australian law. This is the first time that the term “goods” has been applied to computer software in Australia, something that is bound to have far-reaching impacts in Australia in regards to their legal statement.

With a hearing set for the 15th April to see how much Valve will have to pay in “relief”, including the likely outcome that they will pay the ACCC’s legal fees, it would seem that initial attempts to resolve this matter and follow the law will still cost the company.

Who Created Ark: Survival Evolved? Find Out In Court!

Ark: Survival Evolved has gathered quite a bit of a following, with players taking to the island in hopes of finding answers while building new technology and training dinosaurs. From riding on a pterodactyl to building a base on a brontosaurus, players are eagerly awaiting the next set of features but they may have to wait as the court answers the question, who created Ark: Survival Evolved?

The question is being raised by Trendy Entertainment, the creators of popular co-operative game Dungeon Defenders. In a lawsuit filed against Wildcard, the studio credit with Ark: Survival evolved, Trendy alleges that game designer Jeremy Stieglitz had in fact been secretly working on Ark since he resigned from his position at Trendy in 2015.

The lawsuit states that Trendy violated his contract which stated he could not compete with his former company and was told: “not to solicit Trendy employees”. If this wasn’t enough on April 27th the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida will hear arguments regarding Trendy’s most recent motion and will ask for an injunction until the case is over.

If an injunction sounds bad then you are hearing it right. The injunction would, in fact, stop development on Ark: Survival Evolved and even force Wildcard to remove the game from Steam and stop them from distributing it until the case was closed. Wildcard has yet to file briefs in defence but has requested the case be dismissed on the grounds that the claims are “irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous.”

If you like the game, grab it soon because it may come down to the modders to keep the game alive while the court case is ongoing.

FBI Calls Off Court Hearing With Apple Because They Might Have Another Solution

The battle between Apple and the FBI could soon be over with the FBI calling off a court hearing.

After several hearings with Congress, the story may finally be over with the latest meeting between Apple and the FBI being canceled after FBI received another party has come forward offering their support. In a document filing with the court the Department of Justice (DoJ) stated:

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is available method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forthin the All Writs Act Order in this case.

As much as the FBI would love to think that they came up with the solution, but it was Snowden criticizing the FBI’s claims about unlocking the phone that seems to have been the tipping point. With numerous groups claiming to have ways to unlock the iPhone, the FBI pushing for Apple to create a way for them to unlock an iPhone has long been suspected of being an entry to the encrypted software.

If the FBI had this alternative available since the start, it would appear suspicions about the FBI using this an attempt to make future requests easier were true. If this is the case, trust in the FBI could be damaged even more with people questioning why the FBI wanted easy access to everyone’s iPhones.

Senate Holds Online Ad Company ‘Backpage’ in Contempt of Congress

The internet can be a wonderful thing and lets you view everything from your favourite show several days early to downloading the latest games on their day of release. The problem being though is that not all content on the internet should be there, with several groups using it to advertise less than legal practices. In a recent vote, the Senate has held an Ad company in contempt of congress for failing to provide details when asked for them.

The vote (96-0) finds Backpage, a classified ads company, in contempt of congress. Previously Homelands Security Permanent Subcommittee requested documentation on how it screens the ads the company was being asked to provide. The company in return shared general documentation, avoiding the specifics that the subcommittee wanted.

The company is currently being investigated after allegations that it allows ads advertising illegal practices through, even going to far as to edit the ads and using keywords that would help avoid the ad being flagged up for its content.

Backpage has apparently been waiting for the issue to go to congress, saying that their adverts are posted under the first amendment that protects free speech and that the law itself protects companies that post third-party content (that is content provided by someone else). It should also be noted that this is the first time the Senate has issued a contempt of congress charge since 1995, so it’s not an everyday action by any standard.

Segway Patent Looks To Ban Hoverboards

Segways are the next best thing when it comes to showing off your technology in public. The end result though was the creation of “hoverboards” or swagboards as some call them. A device that operates in a similar fashion just without the handlebars that you find in Segways. A Segway patent could see away with the competition though as it looks to ban Hoverboards and other such devices.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has accepted a patent complaint that Segway filed in 2014 that is now going to be enforced by a general exclusion order. A general exclusion order is considered the most powerful remedy the ITC can issue, even involving people not directly involved in the complaint.

US Patent No 8,830,048 describes a device with wheels, a drive, and sensors to detect the pitch of the user support among other things. The second claim then carries this on by mentioning the use of a handlebar extending the features previously mentioned.

While the second claim covers the segway, the first claim would effectively cover devices such as the hoverboard which have been received and purchased by the public in far greater quantities than the original Segway.

President Obama has 60 days to accept the exclusion (something that is rarely blocked) and if it is accepted the exclusion order will then need enforcing, blocking imports and sales of anything that would infringe on Segway’s patent.

Feds Tell Court Apple Creates Technology To Thwart iPhone Warrants

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently working with the FBI in a legal battle against technology giant Apple. After being told to help unlock an iPhone through a software modification, the company began to argue that they could not be made to bypass their own security features by use of an All Writs Act. The DOJ have now filed fresh claims that specifically say that Apple is creating technology to thwart iPhone warrants.

The Department of Justice filed a brief on Thursday stating that Apple had created technology to render search warrants useless because of a “deliberate marketing decision”. The result of this decision is the current legal battle between the FBI and Apple and the questions being asked in congress regarding privacy vs security.

The brief carries on to that the use of the All Writs Act ensures “that their lawful warrants were not thwarted by third parties like Apple”. The brief continues to say:

Apple deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and an iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans. Apple alone can remove those barriers so that the FBI can search the phone, and it can do so without undue burden. Under those specific circumstances, Apple can be compelled to give aid. That is not lawless tyranny. Rather, it is ordered liberty vindicating the rule of law.

Given that it’s been pointed out by several other people could also hack the iPhone, and while they claim it could be done without undue burden (an argument Apple has used to say that it won’t do it because of the impact it would have on their business), we have already been told that there are hundreds of iPhones in criminal cases which the FBI “could” want to be unlocked. Security experts are already coming out speaking about this latest filing

Security experts are already coming out speaking about this latest information about a topic which seems to escalate with every passing day.

https://twitter.com/JZdziarski/status/708059202107928577?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

https://twitter.com/agcrocker/status/708034792026050561?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Facebook Fined In German Intellectual Property Dispute

This is a story that dates back to four years ago when a German court found that Facebook’s terms and conditions did not address the circumstances in which users intellectual property could be used by Facebook or even licensed to third parties. That still seems to be an issue as a regional court in Berlin found that Facebook still hasn’t changed their terms and conditions to properly reflect these concern and in return, they were slapped with a €100,000 fine.

The complaint was originally filed by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) and the court agreed that Facebooks terms and conditions weren’t clear on the issue. Naturally Facebook complied with the request, or at least partially. They did change the wording of the statement on intellectual property in the terms, but according to this new ruling, the message remained the same. Now Facebook has to write them a small check for the amount of hundred thousand Euros while they still need to change their wording and make it clear to the users when they give up their intellectual rights.

This ruling comes just a week after Mark Zuckerberg visited Berlin where he got the first ever Axel Springer Award for entrepreneurship and innovation. If timed better, he could have paid the fine before heading home again. Jokes aside, terms and conditions for software usage are, generally speaking, a nightmare for any user to navigate and understand. For the most part, they are written in ambiguous ways that benefit the creator rather than the user and in such lengths that barely anyone bothers to read it before they agree. This is a huge problem in my opinion and I hope that we’ll see more companies fined for bad practices in this area. Maybe one day we’ll actually understand what we agree to.

While the court’s ruling stated that the problem was with the wording, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We complied with the order to clarify a single provision in our terms concerning an IP license a while ago. The court felt we did not update our terms quickly enough and has issued a fine, which we will pay.”

I’m sure that this isn’t the last time that we hear about this issue.

Apple’s Official Response To The FBI Is Here!

In the last few weeks, the news has been awash with a single topic when it comes to technology, Security. Brought to life by a judge ordering Apple to unlock an iPhone, a move which has split America almost down the middle. The time has finally come and you can now read Apple’s official response.

Apple’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, wrote that “Apple is a private company that does not own or possess the phone at issue, has no connection to the data that may or may not exist on the phone”. This argument is a fair one, Apple has already said that they would comply and provide the information to the FBI if someone hadn’t changed the passcode.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens argued back in 1977 that “if the All Writs Act confers authority to order persons to aid the Government the performance of its duties… it provides a sweeping grant of authority entirely without precedent in our Nation’s history”.

Apple is continuing to argue with these points saying that their use of the All Writs Act even goes as far as breaking Apple’s First and Fifth Amendment rights. They argue that having to hire anywhere from six to ten engineers to work on this project for months, and maybe longer if more phone unlocks are ordered, would be an undue and overly burdensome task. Referring to the aforementioned changing of the passcode, Boutrous stated that the FBI haven’t even asked other agencies for their support, saying:

“Here, by contrast, the government has failed to demonstrate that the requested order was absolutely necessary to effectuate the search warrant, including that it exhausted all other avenues for recovering information. Indeed, the FBI foreclosed one such avenue when, without consulting Apple or reviewing its public guidance regarding iOS, the government changed the iCloud password associated with an attacker’s account, thereby preventing the phone from initiating an automatic iCloud back-up. See supra II.C. Moreover, the government has not made any showing that it sought or received technical assistance from other federal agencies with expertise in digital forensics, which assistance might obviate the need to conscript Apple to create the back door it now seeks.”

With the legal proceedings only set to continue, it could be a while before we see this case end but one thing is for certain. This case is more than likely to bring about a change in how companies, governments and even people think when it comes to their digital security.

LARPing Company Sued Then Silenced

In the past, there have been cases where people have attempted to use the law to manipulate and control people’s choices. From the recent case of the hoverboard company raided at CES only to then have the case dropped before it appeared at court, we can see that some companies may be using the very same law we rely on to protect us against their competitors. This was something Jordan Gwyther found out the hard way when he opened up the website Larping.org.

Larping, short for live-action role playing, is an event where people dress up to a theme and act out battles or events in character. From a medieval village (with modern day toilets) to a battle scene between elves and knights, larping is enjoyed by hundreds. Gwyther founded larping.org to act as a communications hub for larping fans everywhere, with the ability to talk to other LARPers and find events the site proved popular. Gwyther started to use the site to sell popular items amongst LARPers, such as armour or latex/foam weapons.

In order to sell the foam arrows, Gwyther imports them from a german company, selling them on in the U.S. for just over $2,000. That was until Global Archery, an Indiana-based company who also sell foam arrows under the name Archery tag, decided to sue Gwyther for patent and trademark infringement.

Gwyther went to court only to find that Global Archery bragged about having a $150,000 budget for the litigation, a fund that father of two Gwyther could not match without help. In order to combat the lawsuit, Gwyther started up a GoFundMe campaign titled “Save LARP Archery”. Seems this didn’t go down too well either as Global Archery have now requested that his pleas for help be silenced in the form of a restraining order.

The restraining order states that Gwyther would have to “cease issuing any press releases, advertisements, letters, promotional materials, articles, and oral or other written statements including posts on social media sites such as Gofundme, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, that falsely… imply that this action was initiated and is being prosecuted to interfere with the general public’s ability to engage in live action role playing (LARP)”. The reason for this clause is that in his video for the GoFundMe Campaign, Gwyther explains that if the lawsuit is accepted, foam arrows sold by distributors in the U.S. could be stopped by everyone but resellers of Global Archery’s products.

The end result has been that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has become involved. Known for protecting people;s rights when it comes to the law and technology, the EFF have come forward saying that “the first amendment guarantees that even patent owners are subject to the slings and arrows of public criticism”.

Judge Rules That FBI Tor Hack Must Be Revealed to Lawyer

FBI this, FBI that. It would seem that the FBI just can’t help but keep out of the news these days with Apple Vs the FBI seeming to turn companies against the government, but this is not the only case where the FBI is having trouble. The other case is when they were able to hack over 1,000 computers on the infamous Tor network, leading to a series of convictions. The Judge presiding over the case has now stated that the defence lawyer should be provided with the code used to hack their computers.

Colin Fieman is the federal public defender working on the case and has requested that they are given access to a copy of the code used to identify his client. In a response to Motherboard, Fieman stated that the code would include “everything”, including the methods used to bypass security features of the Tor Browser.

Vlad Tsyrklevith is the defence’s consulted expert on code and he has since received the “code” used, but it seems that the FBI were holding out with several key elements missing from the code. This included the exploit used to break into the defendant’s computer, a key feature that should be provided in the case with the agreement that “subject to the terms of the protective order currently in place” they would have access to the code used to identify and potentially, charge, the defendant.

It would seem the FBI can’t stop getting caught short, with this case drawing criticism because of the use of a single warrant to hack an unknown number of computers located around the world. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the FBI hadn’t kept the site which contained illegal materials online, effectively meaning that the FBI were distributing the same thing they are now prosecuting people for.

Apple To Fight Government On Creating iPhone Backdoor

We reported earlier that Apple had been ordered to not unlock a phone, something they have constantly stated they could not do, but instead create the means for the government to access it. It would seem Apple were as happy to hear about this as we were and are looking to fight them about creating a backdoor into their iPhones.

In our story so far, Apple are not unknown for facing court trials that have tried to make them unlock an iPhone, even after cases have ended. The latest court case tried to do just that, but instead of asking for a way to the phone, Judge Sheri Pym has used the All Writs Act to demand that Apple creates a backdoor to enable the FBI to unlock the iPhone in a court case. The All Writs Act is an 18th-century piece of legislation which says if the government asks you to jump, you jump.

In Tom Cook’s letter to their customers, he clearly expresses what they are asking for and why he believes it is outrageous that they can do this. Before we see his response though the following extract from the court order shows just what they are requesting.

“Apple’s reasonable technical assistance shall accomplish the following three important functions: (1) it will bypass or disable the auto-erase function whether or not it has been enabled; (2) it will enable the FBI to submit passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE for testing electronically via the physical device port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other protocol available on the SUBJECT and (3) it will ensure that when the FBI submits passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE, software running on the device will not purposefully introduce any additional delay between passcode attempts beyond what is incurred by Apple hardware.”

What they end up saying is that Apple will have to remove the passcodes that protect the iPhone, enabling the FBI to try every single passcode possible. This is often known as a “brute force hack”, a method where every possible combination is used in order to try gain access to something, similar to how you could spin the dials on a combination lock to open up your luggage on holiday.

Tom Cook’s understanding of it is that the FBI want them to create a new version of their iOS for the phone, bypassing all their security features when it was installed on to the phone. While they say it will only be used in this one case, Cook explains that this cannot be guaranteed and would only seek to put more iPhones at risk.

With the request essentially being an order it’s being called a “frightful precedent” that a judge could request the removal of key security features. Given their history with hacking, it may come as no surprise that people aren’t too keen to give the keys to the kingdom to government agencies.

Apple Ordered To Unlock iPhone

Apple is known for their court battles, after having the latest revelation reveal an agreement with Google. One of the things Apple is keen to go to court for is the encryption on smartphones, and they have now been told they must help unlock an iPhone by a judge.

The iPhone in question is a 5C running iOS9, it belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, who attacked an office party in December 2015 in a terrorist attack. The judge presiding over the case,  Sheri Pym, cited the all writs act and ordered Apple to provide the FBI with a custom firmware file that will enable them to brute force the passcode lockout that is currently on the phone.

Since iOS 8, Apple has made it so that it enabled full encryption by default, meaning that the company cannot be forced to extract data or grant access. Likewise, it is not the first time that the all writs act has come out in court against Apple. The 18th-century act makes it that a company or person must assist the government in that way, and is seen as a dangerous precedent for the future. After being asked for what is essentially custom software to disable the protection on a smartphone, what’s to stop Facebook or other companies being forced to provide agencies with access? There is no point in security if it only applies to certain people while others can keep trying over and over again without any risk of alerting or being locked out an account.

This is a scary way around the “we can unlock this device” answer, and if using an 18th-century act in such a way is allowed, then anyone could be “ordered” to provide back doors or restrict security measures so that their protection can be forced open.

Camera Attached To A Utility Poll Used To Spy On Suspects

While they work to enforce the law, recently they have come into conflicts with it when technology was used in new ways. From the use of mobile interception technologies, like the Stingray, to the watching people’s online activity. In a recent court appeal, a new tactic was revealed, a Webcam attached to a utility pole being used to spy on suspects.

Roane County Sheriff’s Office arrested Rocky Houston, a known felon, for possession of a firearm. ATF agents installed a remote-controlled camera to a utility pole around 200 yards away from Houstons farm, all without a warrant. Normally required to install surveillance technology such as cameras or phone taps, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that Houstons conviction will remain in place as “no reasonable expectation of privacy” was present in the video footage. The reason for this ruling is that as the camera was placed on a public utility pole and only captured what could have seen by a passerby, the images it took would not be considered an invasion of privacy and wouldn’t require a warrant to be legally admissible.

The camera was located on the pole for a grand total of 10 weeks. With such as a short time frame, the observations were not considered unconstitutional.

Judge Thomas Rose, while believing that even if the surveillance was in breach, said that the video evidence would have been permitted, although due to the probable cause they could have gotten a warrant.

Silk Road Investigator Arrested Again!

The message we are often told is that no one is above the law. This became all too apparent last year when a secret service agent was caught stealing money in the Silk Road case. Shaun Bridges, the aforementioned agent, has now been re-arrested after looking to leave the country.

Silk Road was an online drug marketplace, where people could buy and sell drugs without any legal oversight or regulation. The case saw worldwide media attention, only expanding when it became apparent that one of the agents involved in the case had stolen bitcoins worth around $800,000. The former agent was scheduled to turn himself in on Friday to begin 71 months in a minimum-security prison; Imagine their surprise then when he was arrested at his home in possession of a bag containing passports, corporate records for three offshore accounts and even bulletproof vests.

Something tells me that the judge won’t be so lenient on Bridges now, with everything pointing towards him leaving the country and attempting to avoid his sentence. Seems a little weird though packing a bullet proof vest if you just wanted to leave the country?

Facebook Tagging Violates Protective Orders

Remember when you kept getting tagged in all those status? How about when you were tagged in pictures which didn’t even contain you? Sometimes it can get a little annoying, and sometimes it can go beyond reasonable. A judge has now ruled though that if you are meant to stay away from people and you tag them, that tagging violates protective orders.

Acting Westchester Country Supreme Court Justice Susan Capeci stated that tagging someone (which will send them a notification and normally an email as well) is enough to be considered a breach of any protective orders. A protective order is similar to a restraining order but is the highest level of protection permitted by the law.

The case features a sister-in-law (Maribel Calderon) being tagged by Maria Gonzalez ( Maribel’s sister-in-law)in status that included calling Maribel “stupid” while another alleged to have read “You and your family are sad…You guys have to come stronger than that!! I’m way over you guys but I guess not in ya agenda”.

Gonzalez has now been charged with second-degree criminal contempt, which her representatives argue she was explicitly banned from contacting Calderon via Facebook or similar services. The Judge ruled though that being ordered not to contact her via “electronic or any other means” meant she was in breach.

Capeci stated:

“The allegations that she contacted the victim by tagging her in a Facebook posting which the victim was notified of is thus sufficient for pleading purposes to establish a violation of the order of protection.”

While I believe this is a great step, I worry that you are required to be notified before it becomes a problem. How do you define a notification? Is it the email saying you’ve been tagged or is the symbol saying “you’ve been tagged” on Facebook enough? While a step forward in helping protect people, the law will need to catch up to technology in order to help protect them to the full extent of the law.

FBI Tracked People Across The Dark Web

The FBI are known to by active in the digital world, having recently admitting to the use of Stingrays to monitor mobile communications and to use zero-day exploits to gain access to systems. It would now seem that there is nowhere that is safe for those who break the law as the extent of the FBI’s digital prowess is revealed by Joseph Cox of Motherboard.vice.

The FBI are reported to have hacked over a thousand computers as part of their action to help track down and identify individuals who were viewing or responsible for indecent child images on the Dark Web, a variation of the internet that is designed to be accessed through in secret using encrypted and rerouted traffic.

A bulletin board was created on the dark web in August 2014 allowing users to sign up and upload a variety of images, the site was later confirmed to be known as “Playpen”. After gaining nearly 60,000 in the first month, within a year of this, the site had exploded to include almost 215,000 posting over 117,000 posts. There was just one problem for people that wanted to use this site at this point, a month before this explosion of users, the server was obtained by law enforcement in North Carolina. This didn’t stop the service, the site was continued from a server in Virginia, one of the FBI’s servers none the less.

While the site was being run on the FBI’s servers, they used the opportunity to deploy a network investigative technique (NIT) also known as a hacking tool to the public. This tool was said to have been used in the identification of approximately 1300 IP addresses.

This is not the first time that actions of this kind have been used by law enforcement or even the FBI in particular, but it is the first time that such a large-scale has been made public. With all these actions covered under a single warrant, with no specific targets, some are even stating that this way of tracking, hacking and identifying is illegal no matter the warrant it uses.

Find below a section of the affidavit that was used in support of the search warrant application, showing just how much information going on a website could have revealed.

The basic idea behind their warrant was that if you visited the site and started to log in or even sign up it authorised the deployment of the NIT. The question is then raised that did the Judge who authorised the action knew what they were authorising, or if they were even informed about the scope and the methods that were going to be used as part of the action.

More and more the use of technology and government use of it within the real world is being questioned as practises and methods used for years are brought to light and identified as legally questionable.

Hobbyist Wants FAA’s Drone Registration Legislation Cancelled

After the recent surge of drones, governments are playing catch up to both companies, such as Amazon who are looking at drones for delivering your orders, and those who would use them recreationally. Sadly though when people are given new technology, it doesn’t mean that people won’t get hurt or cause trouble. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has started to combat this by announcing a law that comes into effect this year requiring users to register their drones, but one lawyer is suing the FAA with the hopes that this could annul their registration law.

Under the petition for review, John Taylor asks that the new registration system is cancelled. The new system would see drone users forced to register online, mark their drones with unique ID numbers and possibly face fines if they are not registered by the time of their first flight. The petition was filed on the 24th of December 2015, only four days after the registration system went live. Taylor argues that this new system actually breaches part of the FAA’s own rules, citing section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This section states that the agency may not create new rules or regulations for model aircraft if “the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use”.

With some details from the registration set to become publically available, the court could soon face a difficult choice as defining what is recreational use could see some previous issues resurface, these include when drones are used at sporting or public events.

Patent Troll to Pay Legal Fees

Patents are legal pieces of documentation to say that you are the creator or mind behind an idea or design, they are kinda like copyright although they can be a wider range of things such as the concept behind a piece of technology, rather than the exact components and designs needed to implement it. More often than not we find that there are groups or companies seeking to use these documents to gain money where none is due, these groups of individuals are called “Patent Trolls”. In a first, a District Judge in the US has asked a group to pay the legal fees of various companies it sued.

The concept is simple, claim you have the rights to a patent for a design or idea and then request that they pay you for anything they might have used that design for, this is especially common with things like software.

Judge Rodney Gilstrap has stated that due to the exceptional circumstance of the case eDekka LLC should be made to pay the legal fees from the various companies it sued. eDekka used a patent to sue more than 200 companies in 160 separate cases, the basis from which was their use of a database which eDekka claims their patent would reduce the time needed to retrieve information, however, when they were pressed more they began to explain the technology as a teaching tool that would help improve people’s ability to program databases and the systems that use them.

With it being considered an easy win by many patent trolls tend to hope for an early payment or a long drawn of battle resulting in the opposition not being able to continue the case. Hopefully this will deter people from trying to claim others works in exchange for an early payday.

Image courtesy of Book Masters.

Lie Detection Software Learns from Real Court Testimony

Machine learning is one of the hot computing topics of today. With Google releasing its own open source machine learning tools and both IBM and Intel not wanting to be left out of the party with their own offerings. Most of the uses for these platforms right now are almost entirely academic, with researchers frequently coming up with new and useful ways to employ machine learning in the real world. This has led to researchers at the University of Michigan experiment with utilizing it for lie detection.

In order to test out the system, as well as show it’s worth in a high-stakes environment, the researchers used footage of testimony from real court cases as their sample, claiming that the software was able to discern a liar with as much as 75% accuracy. Comparatively, humans could only reliably tell the difference between lies and truth 50% of the time.

The software made use of both the words and gestures of the speaker under analysis, using techniques ranging from simply counting certain words and gestures to where the speaker was looking in regard to the questioner and their vocal fill. The ability to employ these techniques potentially makes computers far better lie detectors than humans, according to professor of computer science and engineering Rada Mihalcea.

“This isn’t the kind of task we’re naturally good at. There are clues that humans give naturally when they are being deceptive, but we’re not paying close enough attention to pick them up. We’re not counting how many times a person says ‘I’ or looks up. We’re focusing on a higher level of communication.”

The team are not planning to stop with this, with plans to tie in the subject’s heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature changes using thermal imaging. As well as this, they plan to let the system analyze and classify human gestures on its own, instead of through input by the researchers.

Gone could be the days of a suspect being hooked up to a polygraph lie detector that simply relies on the body’s physiological responses and draws the iconic graphs seen in many a movies. Criminals who think they can lie their way out of trouble could find themselves far harder pressed to deceive thanks to this.

National Security Letters Are Starting To Be Exposed

Security and secrecy are commonplace these days, with hacks and threats all around the world coming together in the digital world. Not only does our information being accessible from all over the world pose a danger, but we also have the threat that even the people we trust, the very organisation that pertain to protect us, can get to this information. One way of doing this within the U.S. has been the National security letter, but finally some light is being shed on what these actually contain.

National Security Letters (NSL) is a tool which means that federal investigators can request a person’s information from any organisation it deems necessary, your doctors or car dealer, your bank or your even your work. The problem people have had with these documents is that all they need to be considered valid is an agent’s signature saying it was relevant to a case. This meant there was no legal process, no Judge’s or legal oversight.

What made the NSL even more fighting was that it came with a built-in gag order, making it illegal to even state you had been issued one to disclose information. Citing the first amendment the federal Judge in a case of a small ISP being requested information from an NSL, as shown in the court document here, show that the list is quite extensive.

Your name and “related subscriber information”, account number, addresses and phone numbers, screen names and billing information, even your IP’s and “any other information which you consider to be electronic communication transactional record”. While some of these may seem completely irrelevant it even includes to things ordered or shipped relating to the account.

Nicholas Merill, the president of Calyx Internet Access in New York back in 2004, has been fighting the gag order contained within the NSL for 11 years in an attempt to reveal the information the FBI was seeking.

The gag orders have since been lessened, as stated by the Director of National Intelligence, the gag orders will be terminated after three years unless a special agent and case agent can determine and provide in writing why the gag order is required for an extended period.

It’s scary just how much information they could legally obtain, without any legal restrictions or oversight.

iPhone Unlock Perused After Defendant Pleads Guilty

In recent years, technology has evolved in such a way that the law is often trying to catch up with the technology that comes out. In the last few months, technology companies have come to odds with the government regarding a range of topics but none more so than encryption.
Encryption is the process of messing up information in a logical way so if you just so happen to bump into it (or catch it on purpose), unless you were meant to read it you are unable to (or at least find it difficult). Apple has recently come at odds with the U.S. government as they have been asked to unlock (effectively disabling the protection and encryption on) an iPhone. The case just got more interesting though with them claiming that they should still unlock the phone after the defendant pleaded guilty.

The government quoted a law written in the 18th Century called the All Writs Act. A writ is essentially an order for a company or person to perform an action, and its use has displeased many people, with Ken Dreifach (the attorney representing Apple) clarifying why this is a worrying use of an old power,

“The government could seemingly co-opt any private company it wanted to provide services in support of law enforcement activity, as long as the underlying activity was authorized by a warrant. The All Writs Act does not confer such limitless authority.”

Even though the defendant, Jun Feng, has since pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, the prosecutors are still requesting that Apple unlock the phone just in case it contains information that could help other “ongoing” cases. The iPhone in question is running iOS7, as of iOS 8 Apple have enabled full encryption in an act it has stated would prevent them from complying with such orders.

Do you think Apple should unlock the phone? Should companies be forced to perform any action they can at the request of a court?

ITC Court Rules in Favour of Samsung in Nvidia Patent Dispute

Nvidia and Samsung have been locked in a bit of a patent war for a while now, with Nvidia filing a class action lawsuit claiming that they effectively invented the modern 3D GPU and that Samsung is using it without their permission. Of course, Samsung wasn’t going to back down from such a fight, as they’ve got a huge business of their own to protect and they filed a counter suit against Nvidia.

Recent developments are certainly looking good for Samsung, as the ITC has declared that Samsung has no infringed upon the Nvidia patents for modern GPUs. Nvidia lost 2 out of 3 patent infringement claims, but to rub salt into the wound, the third claim was thrown out on ground of invalidity, giving Samsung a clean win.

Of course, the battle is far from over and Nvidia won’t be packing up their bags and going home just yet. The case is still under review by the full commission and is subject to revision. The final decision will not arrive until February and an Nvidia spokesperson says that they’re still confident in their case against Samsung.

This is patent trolling on the highest level, and if Nvidia did prove to have created the first modern graphics card, the GeForce 256 (see above) and subsequently hold the patents to them thereafter, it could have huge repercussions on Samsung and also Qualcomm, but again, that remains to be seen.

Thank you WCCF for providing us with this information.

German Court Rules Apple Didn’t Invent “Slide to Unlock”

A German court has dismissed Apple’s patent claim regarding the “slide to unlock” mechanism and supported a ruling by the lower Federal Patent Court. Apple’s patent was rejected on the basis that it was too similar to an existing product by Swedish company, Neonode. More specifically, Neonode invented the basic principle of slide to unlock two years before the iPhone’s launch. However, their implementation only involved basic text and Apple decided to add a visual slider. As a result, Apple tried to argue that this was enough of a difference to warrant a patent in Apple’s favour. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and the highest court in Germany found the differences to be negligible.

This ruling means, Apple didn’t invent the intuitive slide to unlock feature which made the iPhone such a recognizable device. Neonode continued to sell many handsets up to 2008 with their original design before declaring bankruptcy. Interestingly, their original patent is still valid, so they could have a legal basis to sue Apple on copyright grounds.

Apple’s patent crusade against Samsung and dispute with Kodak has done little to earn the respect of companies it was trying to destroy. This latest revelation will give a strong boost to Samsung in their patent war with Apple.

Do you respect Apple as a company?

Thank you ITProPortal for providing us with this information.

iTunes is Deemed Illegal According to UK Copyright Law

The UK Government’s tirade against common sense has hit absurd levels and shown how outdated the copyright legal framework is. Towards the end of last year, the UK’s infamous Intellectual Property Office acknowledged how Draconian the law was and decided to make CD ripping legal. Only a few months later, this measure was revoked after several music labels protested in the High Court.

To find out what these changes actually entailed, TorrentFreak requested information from the IPO. A spokesperson clearly said,

“It is now unlawful to make private copies of copyright works you own, without permission from the copyright holder – this includes format shifting from one medium to another.”

This means that the integrated ripping feature in iTunes makes it an illegal piece of software and no different to downloading any pirated content. The software is in direct contravention of copyright law. Even more laughable, the law also applies to backups and cloud-based storage. A Government official explained,

“…it includes creating back-ups without permission from the copyright holder as this necessarily involves an act of copying,”

Technically, the law forces you to repurchase any physical media content if you want to use a portable, digital version. Stupid measures like this only encourage piracy and make consumers feel like criminals. If the music industry offered cross purchasing, or an open model, people would be less inclined to illegally download content. Spotify is the perfect example of a pro-consumer measure which has a positive effect and can reduce the piracy rate.

The Government themselves even admitted how silly the law is and said,

“As this is a complex area of law, the Government is carefully considering the implications of the ruling and the available options, before deciding any future course of action.”

“The Government is not aware of any cases of copyright holders having prosecuted individuals for format shifting music solely for their own personal use,”

Despite the reassurances, it is perfectly legal and feasible for anyone to be sued by copyright holders for backing up their physical media collection, or using iTunes. Governments change but their out-of-touch laws and pathetic pandering to media companies remains the same.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Twitter Sued Again for Failing to Comply with Takedown Request

It has happened before that someone sued Twitter on the grounds of failing to remove copyrighted material upon request and now it is happening again. This time it is the award-winning photographer Kristin Pierson that has filed a lawsuit against the social-media giant Twitter after she claimed that they failed to respond to a takedown request on one of her photographs and equally failed to remove it.

User-generated sites can generally not be held accountable for copyright infringement done by their users, as long as the have a takedown policy and responds to the requests made. This is the same for twitter and they’re taking down a lot of links and images based on that, but this time it must have failed.

This week Kristen Pierson filed a complaint against Twitter at a California District Court where she accuses Twitter of hosting or linking to one of her works without permission.

“A Twitter user or users copied the Infringing Image without license or permission from Pierson and on information and belief sent one or more Tweets publicizing and linking to it. The Infringing Uses were hosted either on Twitter or on third-party servers,” the complaint reads.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened and Twitter got sued by a photographer. Christopher Boffoli previously sued the company for the same offense and that case was settled outside of the courtroom.

Pierson didn’t mention whether she sent any follow-ups on the original request and TorrentFreak couldn’t find the takedown notice in question on Chillingeffects.com where Twitter publishes its takedown notices. Pierson wants to prevent Twitter from hosting or linking to her work and in addition she demands both statutory and actual damages which could very well exceed $150,000 USD.

The photo in question was still online available until yesterday, but it has since been removed and can’t be found on twitters twimg.com URL anymore. The original takedown request was sent on March 4th last year.

Thank You TorrentFreak for providing us with this information