Communications

A Florida Man Has been Accused of Making 97 Million Robocalls (bloomberg.com) 166

A Florida man accused of flooding consumers with 97 million phone calls touting fake travel deals appeared Wednesday before lawmakers to explain how robocalls work and to say, "I am not the kingpin of robocalling that is alleged." From a report: Adrian Abramovich, of Miami, who is fighting a proposed $120 million fine, told senators that open-source software lets operators make thousands of phone calls with the click of a button, in combination with cloud-based computing and "the right long distance company." "Clearly regulation needs to address the carriers and providers and require the major carriers to detect robocalls activity," Abramovich said in testimony submitted in advance to the Senate Commerce Committee. He has asked the Federal Communications Commission to reduce the fine proposed last year, calling it disproportionate, in part because most calls went unanswered or resulted in a quick hang-up by consumers. The panel's chairman, Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, called Abamovich and officials from the FCC and other agencies to discuss ways to stop abusive calls.
The Courts

Supreme Court Set To Hear Landmark Online Sales Tax Case (gizmodo.com) 243

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could at least somewhat clarify Donald Trump's complaints about Amazon "not paying internet taxes." It will also decide if those cheap deals on NewEgg are going to be less of a steal. The case concerns the state of South Dakota versus online retailers Wayfront, NewEgg, and Overstock.com in a battle over whether or not state sales tax should apply to all online transactions in the U.S., regardless of where the customer or retailer is located. It promises to have an impact on the internet's competition with brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as continue to address the ongoing legal questions surrounding real-world borders in the borderless world of online.
United States

Facebook Must Face Class-Action Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition, Says Judge (kfgo.com) 79

U.S. District Judge James Donato ruled on Monday that Facebook must face a class-action lawsuit alleging that the social network unlawfully used a facial recognition process on photos without user permission. Donato ruled that a class-action was the most efficient way to resolve the dispute over facial templates. KFGO reports: Facebook said it was reviewing the ruling. "We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously," the company said in a statement. Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment. Facebook users sued in 2015, alleging violations of an Illinois state law about the privacy of biometric information. The class will consist of Facebook users in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored facial recognition algorithms after June 7, 2011, Donato ruled. That is the date when Facebook launched "Tag Suggestions," a feature that suggests people to tag after a Facebook user uploads a photo. In the U.S. court system, certification of a class is typically a major hurdle that plaintiffs in proposed class actions need to overcome before reaching a possible settlement or trial.
United States

US Bans American Companies From Selling To Chinese Electronics Maker ZTE (reuters.com) 66

An anonymous reader shares a report: The U.S. Department of Commerce is banning American companies from selling components to leading Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp for seven years for violating the terms of a sanctions violation case, U.S. officials said on Monday. The Chinese company, which sells smartphones in the United States, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Texas for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran. It paid $890 million in fines and penalties, with an additional penalty of $300 million that could be imposed. As part of the agreement, Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp promised to dismiss four senior employees and discipline 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, senior Commerce Department officials told Reuters. Update: The UK's cyber security watchdog has warned the UK telecoms sector not to use network equipment or services from Chinese supplier ZTE as it would have a "long term negative effect on the security of the UK."
Robotics

Europe Divided Over Robot 'Personhood' (politico.eu) 246

Politico Europe has an interesting piece which looks at the high-stakes debate between European lawmakers, legal experts and manufacturers over who should bear the ultimate responsibility for the actions by a machine: the machine itself or the humans who made them?. Two excerpts from the piece: The battle goes back to a paragraph of text, buried deep in a European Parliament report from early 2017, which suggests that self-learning robots could be granted "electronic personalities." Such a status could allow robots to be insured individually and be held liable for damages if they go rogue and start hurting people or damaging property.

Those pushing for such a legal change, including some manufacturers and their affiliates, say the proposal is common sense. Legal personhood would not make robots virtual people who can get married and benefit from human rights, they say; it would merely put them on par with corporations, which already have status as "legal persons," and are treated as such by courts around the world.

Businesses

Apple Sued an Independent iPhone Repair Shop Owner and Lost (vice.com) 139

Jason Koebler, reporting for Motherboard: Last year, Apple's lawyers sent Henrik Huseby, the owner of a small electronics repair shop in Norway, a letter demanding that he immediately stop using aftermarket iPhone screens at his repair business and that he pay the company a settlement. Norway's customs officials had seized a shipment of 63 iPhone 6 and 6S replacement screens on their way to Henrik's shop from Asia and alerted Apple; the company said they were counterfeit. Apple threatened to take action, unless Huseby provided the companies with copies of invoices, product lists, and a plethora of other things. The letter, sent by Frank Jorgensen, an attorney at the Njord law firm on behalf of Apple, included a settlement agreement that also notified him the screens would be destroyed. [...] Huseby decided to fight the case. Apple sued him. Local news outlets reported that Apple had five lawyers in the courtroom working on the case, but Huseby won. Apple has appealed the decision to a higher court; the court has not yet decided whether to accept the appeal.
Piracy

Telegram is Riddled With Tens of Thousands of Piracy Channels; Apple and Google Have Ignored Requests From Creators To Take Action (theoutline.com) 49

joshtops writes: Instant messaging platform Telegram, which is used by more than 200 million users, has had an open secret since its inception: The platform has served as a haven for online pirates. The Outline reports that the platform is riddled with thousands of groups and channels, many with more than 100,000 members, whose sole purpose of existence is to share illegally copied movies, music albums, apps, and other content. The files are stored directly to Telegram's servers, allowing users to download movies, songs, and other content with one click. Channel admins told The Outline that they have not come across any resistance from Telegram despite the company, along with Apple and Google, maintaining a 'zero tolerance' stance on copyright infringement. This permissiveness on Telegram's part has led to the proliferation of a cottage industry of piracy marketplaces on the service.

[...] The Outline also discovered several groups and channels on Telegram in which stolen credentials -- i.e., the username and password for a website -- from Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, HBO, CBS, EA Sports, Lynda, Sling, WWE Network, Mega, India's Hotstar, and dozens of other services were being offered to tens of thousands of members each day. The Outline sourced nearly three-dozen free credentials from six Telegram channels, all of which worked as advertised.
The report says that content creators have reached out to Apple, requesting the iPhone-maker to intervene, but the company has largely ignored the issue.

In an unrelated development, a Moscow court cleared the way on Friday for the local government to ban Telegram, the messaging app, over its failure to give Russian security services the ability to read users' encrypted messages.
Google

Google Loses 'Right To Be Forgotten' Case (bbc.com) 160

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a High Court action against Google. BBC reports: The man, who has not been named due to reporting restrictions surrounding the case, wanted search results about a past crime he had committed removed from the search engine. The judge, Mr Justice Mark Warby, ruled in his favour on Friday. But he rejected a separate claim made by another businessman who had committed a more serious crime. The businessman who won his case was convicted 10 years ago of conspiring to intercept communications. He spent six months in jail. The other businessman, who lost his case, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiring to account falsely. He spent four years in jail.
Businesses

Uber Drivers Are Independent Contractors, Not Employees, Judge Rules (reuters.com) 187

Uber drivers are independent contractors, not full-time employees of the ride-hailing company, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled in what is said to be the first classification of Uber drivers under federal law. Reuters reports: U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson on Wednesday said San Francisco-based Uber does not exert enough control over drivers for its limo service, UberBLACK, to be considered their employer under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The drivers work when they want to and are free to nap, run personal errands, or smoke cigarettes in between rides, Baylson said. Jeremy Abay, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he would appeal the ruling to the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 3rd Circuit would be the first federal appeals court to consider whether Uber drivers are properly classified as independent contractors.
Businesses

Apple Must Pay Patent Troll More Than $500 Million In iMessage Case (bloomberg.com) 75

A federal court in Texas today has ordered Apple to pay $502.6 million to a patent troll called VirnetX, the latest twist in a dispute now in its eighth year. "VirnetX claimed that Apple's FaceTime, VPN on Demand and iMessage features infringe four patents related to secure communications, claims that Apple denied," reports Bloomberg. From the report: The dispute has bounced between the district court, patent office and Federal Circuit since 2010. There have been multiple trials, most recently one involving earlier versions of the Apple devices. A jury in that case awarded $302 million that a judge later increased to $439.7 million. Kendall Larsen, CEO of VirnetX, said the damages, which were based on sales of more than 400 million Apple devices, were "fair." "The evidence was clear," Larsen said after the verdict was announced. "Tell the truth and you don't have to worry about anything." For VirnetX, the jury verdict in its favor could be a short-lived victory. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has said the patents are invalid, in cases that are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington. The Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals, declined to put this trial on hold, saying it was so far along that a verdict would come before a final validity decision.
Privacy

'Big Brother' In India Requires Fingerprint Scans For Food, Phones, Finances (nytimes.com) 132

The New York Times reports of the Indian government's intent to build an identification system of unprecedented scope. The country is reportedly "scanning the fingerprints, eyes and faces of its 1.3 billion residents (alternative source) and connecting the data to everything from welfare benefits to mobile phones." Here's an excerpt from the report: Civil libertarians are horrified, viewing the program, called Aadhaar, as Orwell's Big Brother brought to life. To the government, it's more like "big brother," a term of endearment used by many Indians to address a stranger when asking for help. For other countries, the technology could provide a model for how to track their residents. And for India's top court, the ID system presents unique legal issues that will define what the constitutional right to privacy means in the digital age. The government has made registration mandatory for hundreds of public services and many private ones, from taking school exams to opening bank accounts.

Technology has given governments around the world new tools to monitor their citizens. In China, the government is rolling out ways to use facial recognition and big data to track people, aiming to inject itself further into everyday life. Many countries, including Britain, deploy closed-circuit cameras to monitor their populations. But India's program is in a league of its own, both in the mass collection of biometric data and in the attempt to link it to everything -- traffic tickets, bank accounts, pensions, even meals for undernourished schoolchildren.

Google

Google Seeks To Limit 'Right To Be Forgotten' By Claiming It's Journalistic (cjr.org) 203

"In the first 'right to be forgotten' case to reach England's High Court, two men are fighting to keep their past crimes out of Google's search results, and the tech giant is fighting back by claiming it's 'journalistic.'" Chava Gourarie reports via Columbia Journalism Review: The case, which is actually two nearly identical cases, involves two businessmen who were both convicted of white-collar crimes in the '90s, and requested that Google delist several URLs referencing their convictions, including news articles. When Google denied their requests, they sued under a 2014 European Union ruling which established the right of individuals to have information delisted from search indexes under certain conditions. In its defense, Google has argued that it should be protected under an exception for journalism because it provides access to journalistic content. Even as a legal sleight of hand, the argument is quite a departure from Google's customary efforts to present itself as a disinterested arbiter of information, a position that has become more untenable with time.

Gareth Corfield, a reporter for The Register who covered the cases from the courtroom, said it's disingenuous of Google to put on the mantle of journalism only when it suits them. "They've gone through great lengths to say they don't make any editorial judgement in processing results," Corfield said, but "it now wants you to believe it is on a par with journalism." As the first case to test the "right to be forgotten" in England's High Court, its outcome will likely set some ground rules in the roiling debate between personal privacy and freedom of expression on the internet. Google's sudden identification with journalism may be a legal gambit, but it could have far-reaching effects across the landscape of data protection laws.

Piracy

Three Execs Get Prison Time For Pirating Oracle Firmware & Solaris OS Update (bleepingcomputer.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: Three of four TERiX executives were sentenced to prison yesterday for a scheme through which they created three fake companies to pirate Oracle firmware patches and Solaris OS updates. By doing this, the execs avoided paying a per-server fee for every Oracle product their company serviced, instead paying for one patch/update alone.

Court documents show that Oracle was aware of the scheme and eventually connected the dots between the fake companies and TERiX when one of the execs downloaded files from Oracle's servers via one of the fake company's accounts from a TERiX IP address. Oracle filed a complaint with the FBI, but also a civil suit. A judge awarded Oracle damages last year totaling $57.423 million. The judge also barred TERiX from servicing Oracle products.

The Internet

FBI Seizes Backpage.com, a Site Criticized For Sex-Related Ads (reuters.com) 163

The FBI has reportedly seized the sex marketplace website Backpage.com, according to a posting on its website on Friday. "The posting said the U.S. Justice Department would provide more information at 6 p.m. EDT," reports Reuters. "It said U.S. attorneys in Arizona and California, as well as the Justice Department's section on child exploitation and obscenity and the California and Texas attorneys general had supported the work in shutting down the website." From the report: Lawmakers and enforcement officials have been working to crack down on the site, the second largest classified ad service in the country after Craigslist that is used primarily to sell sex. The U.S. Senate passed legislation last month making it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep sex trafficking and other exploitative materials off their platforms. The Supreme Court in January 2017 refused to consider reviving a lawsuit against backpage.com filed by three young women alleging the site facilitated their forced prostitution. But the site has since then faced a slew of other lawsuits alleging child sex trafficking. According to AZCentral, local FBI officials have confirmed "law enforcement activity" Friday morning at the Sedona-area home of Michael Lacey, a co-founder of Backpage.com. The raid comes amid what appears to be a shut-down of the website.
The Courts

The Supreme Court Fight Over Microsoft's Foreign Servers Is Over (theverge.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The much-anticipated Supreme Court case U.S. v. Microsoft -- which could have decided the extent of American jurisdiction over foreign servers -- is now, for all intents and purposes, dead. On March 30th, the Department of Justice moved to drop the lawsuit as moot, and today, Microsoft filed to agree with the motion. While the Supreme Court has yet to officially drop the case, it's a foregone conclusion that they will. Both the government and Microsoft agree that the newly passed CLOUD Act renders the lawsuit meaningless. In U.S. v. Microsoft, federal law enforcement clashed with Microsoft over the validity of a Stored Communications Act warrant for data stored on a server in Dublin. The CLOUD Act creates clear new procedures for procuring legal orders for data in these kinds of cross-border situations. In last week's motion to vacate, DOJ disclosed that it had procured a new warrant under the CLOUD Act.
Businesses

Online Gaming Could Be Stalled by Net Neutrality Repeal, ESA Tells Court (arstechnica.com) 152

A video game industry lobby group is joining the lawsuit that seeks to reinstate net neutrality rules in the US, saying that the net neutrality repeal could harm multiplayer online games that require robust Internet connections. From a report: The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) yesterday filed a motion for leave to intervene so that it can support the case against the Federal Communications Commission. The lawsuit, filed by a mix of Democratic state attorneys general, tech companies such as Mozilla, and consumer advocacy groups, seeks to reverse the FCC's December 2017 vote to eliminate net neutrality rules. The ESA said its members will be harmed by the repeal "because the FCC's Order permits ISPs to take actions that could jeopardize the fast, reliable, and low-latency connections that are critical to the video game industry."
The Courts

CenturyLink Fights Billing-Fraud Lawsuit By Claiming That It Has No Customers (arstechnica.com) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: CenturyLink is trying to force customers into arbitration in order to avoid a class-action lawsuit from subscribers who say they've been charged for services they didn't order. To do so, CenturyLink has come up with a surprising argument -- the company says it doesn't have any customers. While the customers sued CenturyLink itself, the company says the customers weren't actually customers of CenturyLink. Instead, CenturyLink says they were customers of 10 subsidiaries spread through the country. CenturyLink basically doesn't exist as a service provider -- according to a brief CenturyLink filed Monday.

"That sole defendant, CenturyLink, Inc., is a parent holding company that has no customers, provides no services, and engaged in none of the acts or transactions about which Plaintiffs complain," CenturyLink wrote. "There is no valid basis for Defendant to be a party in this Proceeding: Plaintiffs contracted with the Operating Companies to purchase, use, and pay for the services at issue, not with CenturyLink, Inc." CenturyLink says those operating companies should be able to intervene in the case and "enforce class-action waivers," which would force the customers to pursue their claims via arbitration instead of in a class-action lawsuit. By suing CenturyLink instead of the subsidiaries, "it may be that Plaintiffs are hoping to avoid the arbitration and class-action waiver provisions," CenturyLink wrote.

Privacy

Suit To Let Researchers Break Website Rules Wins a Round (axios.com) 71

An anonymous reader writes: Anyone following Facebook's recent woes with Cambridge Analytica might be surprised to hear that there's a civil liberties argument for swiping data from websites, even while violating their terms of service. In fact, there's a whole world of situations where that thinking could apply: bona fide academic research. On Friday, a judge in a D.C. federal court ruled that an American Civil Liberties Union-backed case trying to guarantee researchers the ability to break sites' rules without being arrested could move forward, denying a federal motion to dismiss. "What we're talking about here is research in the public interest, finding out if there is discrimination," Esha Bhandari, an ACLU attorney representing the academics, told Axios.
Microsoft

Microsoft Email Privacy Case No Longer Needed, Says The US (cnn.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The U.S. Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court to abandon its case against Microsoft over international data privacy. A new law signed by President Donald Trump last week answers the legal question at the heart of Microsoft's case, the DOJ says. So the case "is now moot," the department said in a court filing posted Saturday.

Microsoft's legal battle began in 2013, when it refused to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland to US officials who were investigating drug trafficking. Microsoft argued at the time that sharing data stored abroad could violate international treaties and policies, and there was no law on the books to provide any clarity. That changed with the The Cloud Act, which was tucked into the spending bill that Trump signed March 23. The act establishes a legal pathway for the United States to form agreements with other nations that make it easier for law enforcement to collect data stored on foreign soil... Microsoft cheered the new law, saying the Cloud Act provides the legal clarity the company sought.

The ACLU's legislative counsel argues that the new act hurts privacy and human rights, "at a time when human rights activists, dissidents and journalists around the world face unprecedented attacks."

"Would even a well-intentioned technology company, particularly a small one, have the expertise and resources to competently assess the risk that a foreign order may pose to a particular human rights activist?"
The Courts

'GTA V' Character Doesn't Resemble Lindsay Lohan, Court Rules (rollingstone.com) 67

Actress Lindsay Lohan has failed in her latest attempt to sue the maker of the video game Grand Theft Auto V. From a report: While the court said in an opinion a computer generated image may be considered a "portrait" under current state civil rights law, "the artistic renderings are indistinct, satirical representations of the style, look, and persona of a modern, beach-going young woman that are not reasonably identifiable as the plaintiff." Lohan sued GTA V publisher Take-Two Interactive in 2014 over a NPC in the game called Lacey Jonas. Players encounter her while she's hiding in an alley from the paparazzi. She describes herself as an "actress slash singer" and the "voice of a generation."

Artwork during the game's loading screens depict similar blonde women. One is wearing a red bikini and flashing a peace sign as she takes a selfie. Another wears a fedora and large sunglasses while being frisked by a female police officer. Lohan claimed developer Rockstar Games modelled the character and screens after her, using her "image, likeness, clothing, outfits, clothing line products, and ensemble in the form of hats, hairstyle, and sunglasses" without her permission.

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