Businesses

Roku Has Hired a Team of Lobbyists As it Gears Up For a Net Neutrality Fight (recode.net) 85

Roku appears to be arming itself for the coming net neutrality war. From a report on Recode: The web video streaming and hardware company has plenty at stake as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to pull back rules that require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. For Roku and others in the business, an end to the Obama-era protections could make it harder -- or, in some cases, more expensive -- to offer content or services to customers at top download speeds. That's why Roku has hired a pair of Republican lobbyists through an outside government-affairs firm, according to a federal ethics reports filed this week, specifically to focus on net neutrality. It's the first time the company has ever retained lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Many in the tech industry support the Obama-era FCC's net neutrality rules, which currently subject telecom companies to utility-style regulation. To Democrats, it's the only way to stop the likes of AT&T, Comcast, Charter or Verizon from blocking competing services or charging media companies for faster delivery of their content.
Government

Connecticut May Become First US State To Allow Deadly Police Drones (reuters.com) 83

According to Reuters, Connecticut lawmakers are considering a new bill that would allow police to equip drones with potentially lethal weapons. The bill, which was approved overwhelmingly by the state legislature's judiciary committee on Wednesday, actually aims to ban weaponized drones, but exempts the ban from law enforcement agencies. From the report: Connecticut would become the first U.S. state to allow law enforcement agencies to use drones equipped with deadly weapons if a bill opposed by civil libertarians becomes law. The legislation was introduced as a complete ban on weaponized drones but just before the committee vote it was amended to exclude police from the restriction. "Data shows police force is disproportionately used on minority communities, and we believe that armed drones would be used in urban centers and on minority communities," said David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut. "That's not the kind of precedent we want to set here," McGuire said of the prospect that Connecticut would become the first state to allow police to use lethally armed drones. If Connecticut's Democratic-controlled House passes the bill it will move to the Senate, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
Government

House Approves Bill To Force Public Release of EPA Science (ap.org) 422

schwit1 quotes a report from Associated Press: House Republicans are taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, targeting the way officials use science to develop new regulations. A bill approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled House would require that data used to support new regulations to protect human health and the environment be released to the public. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said "the days of 'trust me' science are over," adding that the House bill would restore confidence in the EPA's decision-making process. Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty and other Democrats said the bill would cripple EPA's ability to conduct scientific research based on confidential medical information and risks privacy violations by exposing sensitive patient data. The bill was approved 228-194 and now goes to the Senate. According to The Hill, "The bill would also require that any scientific studies be replicable, and allow anyone who signs a confidentiality agreement to view redacted personal or trade information in data."
Communications

Senate Votes To Kill FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules (pcworld.com) 404

The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era law that requires internet service providers to obtain permission before tracking what customers look at online and selling that information to other companies. PCWorld adds: The Senate's 50-48 vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval would roll back Federal Communications Commission rules requiring broadband providers to receive opt-in customer permission to share sensitive personal information, including web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with third parties. The FCC approved the regulations just five months ago. Thursday's vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting to kill the FCC's privacy rules and Democrats voting to keep them. The Senate's resolution, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, would allow broadband providers to collect and sell a "gold mine of data" about customers, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat. Kate Tummarello, writing for EFF: [This] would be a crushing loss for online privacy. ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn't be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent. We can still kill this in the House: call your lawmakers today and tell them to protect your privacy from your ISP.
The Internet

'Dig Once' Bill Could Bring Fiber Internet To Much of the US (arstechnica.com) 174

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If the U.S. adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished. The idea is an old one. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband -- her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband. Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, put Eshoo's dig once legislation on the agenda for a hearing she held yesterday on broadband deployment and infrastructure. Blackburn's opening statement (PDF) said that dig once is among the policies she's considering to "facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure." But her statement did not specifically endorse Eshoo's dig once proposal, which was presented only as a discussion draft with no vote scheduled. The subcommittee also considered a discussion draft that would "creat[e] an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure." Dig once legislation received specific support from Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who said that he is "glad to see Ms. Eshoo's 'Dig Once' bill has made a return this Congress. I think that this is smart policy and will help spur broadband deployment across the country."
Government

New Bill Would Allow Employers To Demand Genetic Testing From Workers (businessinsider.com) 397

capedgirardeau quotes a report from Business Insider: A little-noticed bill moving through the U.S. Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. Giving employers such power is now prohibited by U.S. law, including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a "workplace wellness" program. The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. The 2008 genetic law prohibits a group health plan -- the kind employers have -- from asking, let alone requiring, someone to undergo a genetic test. It also prohibits that specifically for "underwriting purposes," which is where wellness programs come in. "Underwriting purposes" includes basing insurance deductibles, rebates, rewards, or other financial incentives on completing a health risk assessment or health screenings. In addition, any genetic information can be provided to the employer only in a de-identified, aggregated form, rather than in a way that reveals which individual has which genetic profile. There is a big exception, however: As long as employers make providing genetic information "voluntary," they can ask employees for it. Under the House bill, none of the protections for health and genetic information provided by GINA or the disabilities law would apply to workplace wellness programs as long as they complied with the ACA's very limited requirements for the programs. As a result, employers could demand that employees undergo genetic testing and health screenings.
Privacy

White House Supports Renewal of Spy Law Without Reforms (reuters.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The Trump administration does not want to reform an internet surveillance law to address privacy concerns, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday, saying it is needed to protect national security. The announcement could put President Donald Trump on a collision course with Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats have advocated curtailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year. The FISA law has been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the agency carried out widespread monitoring of emails and other electronic communications. Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.
Security

State-sponsored Hackers Targeting Prominent Journalists, Google Warns (politico.com) 102

State-sponsored hackers are attempting to steal email passwords of a number of prominent journalists, Google has warned. The hackers are suspected to be Russians, reports POLITICO. Some of the journalists who have received such warnings from Google as recent as two-to-three weeks ago include Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine, Julia Ioffe, who recently started at The Atlantic, Ezra Klein of Vox, and CNN's Brian Stelter. From the report: "The fact that all this started right after the election suggests to me that journalists are the next wave to be targeted by state-sponsored hackers in the way that Democrats were during it," said one journalist who got the warning. "I worry that the outcome is going to be the same: Someone, somewhere, is going to get hacked, and then the contents of their Gmail will be weaponized against them -- and by extension all media."
Earth

Sweden Pledges To Cut All Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2045 (independent.co.uk) 237

Sweden has announced ambitious plans to completely phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The nation also reaffirmed the urgency of tackling climate change and called for all countries to "step up and fulfill the Paris Agreement." The Independent reports: "Our target is to be an entirely fossil-fuel-free welfare state," said Climate Minister Isabella Lovin. "We see that the advantages of a climate-smart society are so huge, both when it comes to health, job creation and also security. Being dependent on fossil fuels and gas from Russia is not what we need now,â she added. All parties but the far-right Sweden Democrats party agreed to pass the law in the coming month, which will oblige the government to set tougher goals to cut fossil fuel emissions every four years until the 2045 cut-off date. Plans also include a 70 per cent cut to emissions in the domestic transport sector by 2030. The Government said the target would require domestic emissions to be cut by at least 85 per cent and the remaining emissions would be offset by planting trees or by sustainable investments abroad. The law is expected to enter into force as early as 2018.
Security

The Netherlands Opts For Manual Vote-Count Amid Cyberattack Fears (independent.co.uk) 117

Bruce66423 writes: Following revelations about the lack of security of the software, the Dutch government has decided to abandon the use of it to count the ballots at the forthcoming election in March. The Independent reports: The decision was taken amidst fears that hackers could influence next month's elections after allegations by the U.S. intelligence agency that Russia hacked into Democrats' emails to help Donald Trump get elected. Russia denies any wrongdoing. Intelligence agencies have warned that three crucial elections in Europe this year in the Netherlands, France and Germany could be vulnerable to manipulation by outside actors. In a letter to the Dutch Parliament, Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said that 'reports in recent days about vulnerabilities in our systems raise the question of whether the results could be manipulated' and that 'no shadow can be allowed to hang over the result.' In previous elections, the ballots were counted by hand locally but regional and national counts were done electronically. But this year, all ballots will be counted by hand after voters make their choice on 15 March. Dutch media have reported that the counting software may not only be insecure but also outdated. The counting software is reported to be distributed by CD-ROM to regional counting centers, where it is set-up on old computers that are internet connected."
Government

Ask Slashdot: Can US Citizens Trust Government Data? (msn.com) 460

mmell writes: An editorial in the Washington Post and made publicly available via an MSN news feed has asked the question: "In the Trump administration era of 'alternative facts,' what happens to government data?" Given that Slashdot members (and readers) may represent a somewhat more in-the-know crowd on matters concerning data integrity and trustworthiness, I thought this would be a good place to ask: can we trust (or has anyone ever really trusted) government data? One might think government data would all be cut 'n' dried and not subject to manipulation, but I personally remember when government data back early in the Reagan presidency went from reporting nearly 15% unemployment nationwide to well under 6% by redefining what "unemployed" meant. So . . . has government data ever been trustworthy, and is it still so?
Power

Two-Thirds of Americans Give Priority To Developing Alternative Energy Over Fossil Fuels (pewresearch.org) 333

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Pew Research Center: A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources, compared with 27% who would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources. Support for concentrating on alternative energy is up slightly since December 2014. At that time, 60% said developing alternative energy sources was the more important priority. There continue to be wide political differences on energy priorities. While a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found large majorities of Democrats and Republicans supported expanding both wind and solar energy, the new survey shows that Democrats remain far more likely than Republicans to stress that developing alternative energy should take priority over developing fossil fuel sources. About eight-in-ten (81%) Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party favor developing alternative sources instead of expanding production from fossil fuel sources. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are closely divided: 45% say the more important priority should be developing alternative sources, while 44% say expanding production of oil, coal and natural gas should be given more priority. There also are differences in public priorities about energy by age. Americans under the age of 50 are especially likely to support alternative energy sources over expanding fossil fuels. About seven-in-ten (73%) of those ages 18 to 49 say developing alternative sources of energy should be the more important priority, while 22% say expanding production of fossil fuels should be the more important priority. Older adults are more divided in their views, though they also give more priority to alternatives. Among those 50 and older, 55% say alternative energy development is more important, while 34% say it's more important to expand production of fossil fuel energy sources.
Democrats

Donald Trump Is Sworn In As the 45th US President (reuters.com) 1560

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to "America First" policies at home and abroad. Reuters reports: As scattered protests erupted elsewhere in Washington, Trump raised his right hand and put his left on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln and repeated a 35-word oath of office from the U.S. Constitution, with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.
Government

Republicans Propose Bill To Impose Fines For Live-Streaming From House Floor (digitaltrends.com) 157

Likely in response to the 25-hour sit-in staged by Democrats earlier in 2016, protesting the lack of gun reform, House Speaker Paul Ryan has proposed new fines and ethics violations for House members that take photo and video from the floor of the chamber. Digital Trends reports: According to Bloomberg, the first violation will net violators a $500 fine, which will be deducted from member's paychecks. Second and subsequent violations will carry a steeper fine of $2,500 per incident. Not only that, any other incidents that may disrupt decorum could be sent to the House Committee on Ethics, potentially leading to sanctions. "These changes will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people's work," a spokeswoman for Ryan said in a statement. Taking photo or video had already been prohibited on the floor, but was never enforced. But after the sit-in, led by John Lewis (D-Ga.), Ryan called a recess, effectively ending the C-SPAN broadcast. That is when Democrats used their phones and took to social media. "The imposition of a fine could potentially violate both the First Amendment, as well as, the Speech and Debate clause, which creates extensive protections for speech by legislators," Chip Gibbons, who serves as the policy and legislative counsel for the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, told Digital Trends in an email. According to Gibbons, courts have already found that under certain circumstances, recording footage does fall under speech. "Given the public interest -- and inherently political nature of the act -- it seems likely that videos, photography, and live streaming from the House floor would also be found to be speech, and protected by the First Amendment," Gibbons said.
Android

Russians Used Malware On Android Devices To Track and Target Ukraine Artillery, Says Report (reuters.com) 101

schwit1 quotes a report from Reuters: A hacking group linked to the Russian government and high-profile cyber attacks against Democrats during the U.S. presidential election likely used a malware implant on Android devices to track and target Ukrainian artillery units from late 2014 through 2016, according to a new report released Thursday. The malware was able to retrieve communications and some locational data from infected devices, intelligence that would have likely been used to strike against the artillery in support of pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, the report from cyber security firm CrowdStrike found. The hacking group, known commonly as Fancy Bear or APT 28, is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to work primarily on behalf of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency. The implant leveraged a legitimate Android application developed by a Ukrainian artillery officer to process targeting data more quickly, CrowdStrike said. Its deployment "extends Russian cyber capabilities to the front lines of the battlefield," the report said, and "could have facilitated anticipatory awareness of Ukrainian artillery force troop movement, thus providing Russian forces with useful strategic planning information."
Government

US Fails To Renegotiate Arms Control Rule For Hacking Tools (go.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: The Obama administration has failed to renegotiate portions of an international arms control arrangement to make it easier to export tools related to hacking and surveillance software -- technologies that can be exploited by bad actors, but are also used to secure computer networks. The rare U.S. move to push for revisions to a 2013 rule was derailed earlier this month at an annual meeting in Vienna, where officials from 41 countries that signed onto it were meeting. That leaves it up to President-elect Donald Trump's administration whether the U.S. will seek revisions again next year. U.S. officials had wanted more precise language to control the spread of such hacking tools without the unintended negative consequences for national cybersecurity and research that industry groups and lawmakers have complained about for months. Critics have argued that the current language, while well meaning, broadly sweeps up research tools and technologies used to create or otherwise support hacking and surveillance software. As one of those 41 member countries of the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, which governs the highly technical world of export controls for arms and certain technologies, the United States agreed to restrict tools related to cyber "intrusion software" that could fall into the hands of repressive regimes. The voluntary arrangement relies on unanimous agreement to abide by its rules on export controls for hundreds of items, including arms such as tanks or military aircraft and "dual-use" technologies such as advanced radar that can be used for both peaceful and military means.
United States

President Obama Threatens Retaliatory Actions Against Russia Over Hacks (nytimes.com) 531

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: [President Obama] said he was weighing a mix of public and covert actions against the Russians in his last 34 days in office, actions that would increase "the costs for them." Mr. Obama said he was committed to sending the Kremlin a message that "we can do stuff to you," but without setting off an escalating cyberconflict... "Some of it we will do in a way that they will know, but not everybody will," he said...

[T]he president was clearly wrestling with what he said the hacking affair and the reaction to it revealed about the state of American politics. Citing a recent poll that showed more than a third of Trump voters saying they approved of Mr. Putin...the president appealed to Americans not to allow partisan hatred and feuds to blind them to manipulation by foreign powers. "Unless that changes," Mr. Obama said, "we're going to continue to be vulnerable to foreign influence because we've lost track of what it is that we're about and what we stand for."

President Obama pulled Putin aside at a September meeting of the G20 to discuss Russian hacking, according to the article, telling Putin "to cut it out, there were going to be serious consequences if he did not."
Government

White House Supports Claim Putin Directed US Election Hack (bbc.com) 715

The White House is suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in a hacking operation aimed at interfering with the U.S. presidential election. BBC reports: Ben Rhodes, adviser to President Barack Obama, said that Mr Putin maintains tight control on government operations, which suggests that he was aware. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest added that it was "pretty obvious" that Mr Putin was involved. "Everything we know about how Russia operates and how Putin controls that government would suggest that, again, when you're talking about a significant cyber intrusion like this, we're talking about the highest levels of government," Mr Rhodes said. "And ultimately, Vladimir Putin is the official responsible for the actions of the Russian government." NBC reported that the U.S. had evidence that Mr Putin personally directed how information hacked by Russian intelligence was leaked. The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence also released a statement asserting Russia had orchestrated the hack, including breaches on the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The contents of those hacks, passed to Wikileaks and posted online, were embarrassing to the Democrats and shook up the presidential campaign. The NBC report, which cited two unnamed senior officials, said the hacking campaign began as a "vendetta" against Mrs Clinton before becoming "an effort to show corruption in American politics and split off key American allies." Mr Putin is said to have been furious when Mrs Clinton, as secretary of state, questioned the integrity of 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia. He publicly accused her of encouraging street protests.
Communications

Feds Unveil Rule Requiring Cars To 'Talk' To Each Other (thehill.com) 292

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: The Obama administration released a long-awaited rule on Tuesday requiring all new vehicles to have communication technology that allows them to "talk" to each another, which officials say could prevent tens of thousands of crashes each year. The proposal calls for all new light-duty cars and trucks to eventually be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology, a safety system that enables cars to send wireless signals to each other, anticipate each other's moves and thus avoid crashes. The rule would require 100 percent of new vehicle fleets to have V2V technology within four years of the final rule's enactment. The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days. The connected vehicle rule builds on previous work by the outgoing administration to accelerate the deployment of innovative safety technology. The Department of Transportation released the first-ever federal guidelines for driverless cars in September. "We are carrying the ball as far as we can to realize the potential of transportation technology to save lives," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This long-promised V2V rule is the next step in that progression. Once deployed, V2V will provide 360-degree situational awareness on the road and will help us enhance vehicle safety." Officials say V2V has the potential to mitigate 80 percent of non-impaired crashes and can interact with other crash avoidance systems, like automatic braking. V2V uses dedicated short-range radio communications to exchange messages about a car's speed, direction and location. The system uses that information from other vehicles to identify potentials risks and warn its driver. A pair of Democratic senators called on the agency to ensure that vehicles have "robust" cybersecurity and privacy protections in place before automakers deploy V2V.
Education

White House Silence Seems To Confirm $4 Billion 'Computer Science For All' K-12 Initiative Is No More 280

theodp writes: "2016 as a year of action builds on a decade of national, state, and grassroots activity to revitalize K-12 computer science education," reads the upbeat White House blog post kicking off Computer Science Education Week. But conspicuous by its absence in the accompanying fact sheet for A Year of Action Supporting Computer Science for All is any mention of the status of President Obama's proposed $4 billion Computer Science For All initiative, which enjoyed support from the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, and Google. On Friday, tech-backed Code.org posted An Update on Computer Science Education and Federal Funding, which explained that Congress's passage of a 'continuing resolution' extending the current budget into 2017 spelled curtains for federal funding for the program in 2016 and beyond. "We don't have any direct feedback yet about the next administration's support for K-12 CS," wrote CEO Hadi Partovi and Govt. Affairs VP Cameron Wilson, "other than a promise to expand 'vocational and technical education' as part of Trump's 100-day plan which was published in late October. I am hopeful that this language may translate into support for funding K-12 computer science at a federal level. However, we should assume that it will not."

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