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Found 7 results

  1. A new law that took effect in California on January 1, 2017 punishes conviction of distributing ransomware with a prison sentence of up to four years. In the past, ransomware cases were tried under existing extortion statutes. According to the bill's sponsor, California State Senator Bob Hertzberg, "This legislation provides prosecutors the clarity they need to charge and convict perpetrators of ransomware." Source
  2. The Way Fire burns in the Sierra National Forest near Kernville. The Shirley Fire burns at night off of Old State Rd near Lake Isabella. A helicopter circles overhead and crews work on a slopover. There have been more than 3,600 wildfires in California this year, the most recent Rocky Fire devouring some 50,000 acres and requiring 12,000 people to evacuate. Photographer Stuart Palley is right in the middle of it, documenting infernos across the state for the last three years. The Los Angeles native has captured nearly 50 wildfires for his series Terra Flamma. Palley mostly shoots at night, making long exposures that pulse in a cosmic blaze of heat and color. It’s strange to be mesmerized by something so destructive, but he can’t get enough. “I am fascinated by the way wildfires behaves,” he says. “We’re in a historic drought and it’s important to create a visual record.” Palley is constantly checking weather forecasts and radio communications for fires. He also has firefighter friends that keep him in the loop. When Palley hears about a blaze he wants to cover, it’s often a race to get there in time. He once drove 10 hours to a rapidly spreading fire in the Sierras that was nearly extinguished when he arrived. Once in the field, Palley goes where he pleases as California law grants media members access to natural disasters. Sometimes he shadows firefighter crews, especially if a situation gets chaotic and he doesn’t feel comfortable being out on his own. Other times he goes solo, shooting from his car on winding forest roads or hiking on foot in mountainous areas to capture the flames up close. Unsurprisingly, the photographer often finds himself in risky situations. Palley’s watched propane tanks and paint cans explode like fireworks. He once even had to duck for cover after ammunition started blasting off in a burning house. Individuals first to the blaze are the ones in the most peril. “Usually right when a fire starts and firefighters are scrambling to position themselves is when things can be dangerous,” he says. “The fire is calling the shots and doing what it wants.” Palley does his best to stay safe. He never heads to a location without full safety gear, or Person Protective Equipment (PPE). It’s the same suit wildland firefighters wear, decked out in special boots, helmet, goggles and nomex. Palley’s also taken a US Forest Service class on fire behavior so he can predict its next move. A radio helps him keep tabs on fire communications, and he never strays too far from his car in case the wind changes and he needs to make a run for it. If Palley ever needs a reminder of the dangers of his job, the proof is in his camera: smoke, ash, and dirt frequently cloud the sensor. “I have especially high repair bills, but unfortunately it goes with the territory,” he says. The photographer was out shooting at the Rocky Fire this past Friday, and was able to witness the destruction firsthand. “So far it’s the biggest, worst fire of the year in Northern California,” he says. Palley posts recent images on Instagram and says he will keep documenting year after year until the phenomenon subsides. It’s all worth it to him if it raises awareness and inspires more people to prepare. Palley still thinks about the first wildfire he shot in 2012 while interning at The Orange County Register. “I remember arriving on scene and seeing a million-dollar house going up in flames,” he says. “It was heartbreaking. Fire crews were pulling out any salvageable items — toolboxes, a Barbie car, pictures. The palm trees in the yard were burning like candles.” See more photos here
  3. Facebook is in trouble once again regarding its users' privacy. Facebook is facing a class-action lawsuit in Northern California over allegations that the company systematically scans its users' private messages on the social network without their consent and makes the profit by sharing the data with advertisers and marketers. According to the lawsuit filing, Facebook might have violated federal privacy laws by scanning users' private messages. Facebook routinely scans the URLs within users' private messages for several purposes like anti-malware protection and industry-standard searches for child pornography, but it has been claimed that the company is also using this data for advertising and other user-targeting services. The plaintiffs, Matthew Campbell, and Michael Hurley argue that the Facebook is scanning and collecting URLs-related data in a searchable form, violating both the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California Invasion of Privacy Act, reported the Verge. Facebook argues that the company scans users' private messages in bulk, and maintains the URL records in an anonymized way, which is only used in aggregate form. However, according to a technical analysis done on behalf of the plaintiffs, each URL-related message is stored in "Titan," a private message database that displays the date and time the message was sent, along with the user IDs of both the sender and the recipient. However, it turns out that Facebook used this practice in past, but the company claimed to have stopped such practices a long time ago. However according to the plaintiffs, Facebook is still continuing to collect links from users' private messages. Meanwhile, you can check out the lawsuit here. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2012 and for now, the case is expected to proceed. Plaintiffs have until June 8 to file an amended complaint, following a scheduled conference toward the end of the month. The Source
  4. OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Hidden microphones that are part of a clandestine government surveillance program that has been operating around the Bay Area has been exposed. Imagine standing at a bus stop, talking to your friend and having your conversation recorded without you knowing. It happens all the time, and the FBI doesn’t even need a warrant to do it. Federal agents are planting microphones to secretly record conversations. Jeff Harp, a KPIX 5 security analyst and former FBI special agent said, “They put microphones under rocks, they put microphones in trees, they plant microphones in equipment. I mean, there’s microphones that are planted in places that people don’t think about, because that’s the intent!” FBI agents hid microphones inside light fixtures and at a bus stop outside the Oakland Courthouse without a warrant to record conversations, between March 2010 and January 2011. Federal authorities are trying to prove real estate investors in San Mateo and Alameda counties are guilty of bid rigging and fraud and used these recordings as evidence. Harp said, “An agent can’t just go out and grab a recording device and plant it somewhere without authorization from a supervisor or special agent in charge.” The lawyer for one of the accused real estate investors who will ask the judge to throw out the recordings, told KPIX 5 News that, “Speaking in a public place does not mean that the individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy…private communication in a public place qualifies as a protected ‘oral communication’… and therefore may not be intercepted without judicial authorization.” Harp says that if you’re going to conduct criminal activity, do it in the privacy of your own home. He says that was the original intention of the Fourth Amendment, but it’s up to the judge to interpret it. The Source
  5. AB 2880 will give state and local governments dramatic powers to chill speech, stifle open government, and harm the public domain. The California Assembly Committee on Judiciary recently approved a bill (AB 2880) to grant local and state governments' copyright authority along with other intellectual property rights. At its core, the bill grants state and local government the authority to create, hold, and exert copyrights, including in materials created by the government. For background, the federal Copyright Act prohibits the federal government from claiming copyright in the materials it creates, but is silent on state governments. As a result, states have taken various approaches to copyright law with some granting themselves vast powers and others (such as California) forgoing virtually all copyright authority at least until now. EFF strongly opposes the bill. Such a broad grant of copyright authority to state and local governments will chill speech, stifle open government, and harm the public domain. It is our hope that the state legislature will scuttle this approach and refrain from covering all taxpayer funded works under a government copyright. What Does the Bill Do? AB 2880 sets out to "clarify" that all works created by public entities are eligible for intellectual property restrictions. This includes trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and copyrights. As things stand today, works created by California state and local governments (like reports, video, maps, and so on) aren't subject to copyright except in a few special cases. That ensures that Californians who funded the creation of those works through their tax dollars can use those works freely. The bill would change California from having one of the best policies on copyright of any U.S. state to among the worst. It authorizes public entities to register copyrights in their work. That means that state and local governments will have the power to seek statutory damages that can reach as high as $30,000 per infringement and potentially as life altering as $150,000 for willful conduct against people who use state-created materials. Therefore, if a citizen infringed on a state owned copyright by making a copy of a government publication, or reading that publication out loud in a public setting, or uploading it to the internet, they could be liable for statutory damages. The harms felt by this bill's approach are wide ranging because it would take very little to claim that a work is protected by copyright law. Imagine local officials having the power to issue a DMCA takedown notice of YouTube videos of city council meetings simply because they did not like them (sounds crazy? read on). Chilling Effect on Free Speech We've seen many copyright claims that are in reality attempts to censor speech. California local and state governments are not exempt from the temptation of suppressing disfavored speech under a copyright claim as evidenced by the Teixeira case. In 2015, the city council of Inglewood had filed a lawsuit against a citizen (Teixeira) for uploading video clips of city council meetings to YouTube with his criticisms of the mayor. The lawsuit was dismissed by the court outright because California cities don't have the power to claim copyright. The court went even further to explain how Mr. Teixeira's use of the videos to criticize the mayor was a fair use. So while the litigation ended on the correct note (though it cost Inglewood taxpayers $110,000 in legal fees), it demonstrated how copyright law can be abused in the hands of government. If all works produced by state and local government from city council recordings to documents that embarrassed a local official become subject to copyright law, the Teixeira case really represents a harbinger of things to come. Citizens concerned with litigation threats will refrain from sharing or copying government works despite the fact that their tax dollars created those works. Worse yet is the perverse incentive for governments to litigate given the substantial money that can obtained through statutory damages. Restrictions on Open Government In an attempt to address this obvious potential for censoring the public by exerting copyright controls on state owned works, the bill provides an exemption for all works requested under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) but explicitly reserves all of the powers granted to a holder of a copyright (the holder in this instance being the government). That means a state or local government cannot resist a CPRA request for a document on the grounds of protecting copyright. But by explicitly reserving all of the exclusive rights given to a copyright holder, the state and local governments keeps extraordinary powers to restrain the ability for a citizen to distribute documents they obtain through a CPRA request. Those powers could be used in many ways such as denying a citizen the right to make copies, distribute copies, create derivative works of the original, or to publicly perform or display the work. While fair use might apply, its application can be uncertain and risky, and it's no substitute for keeping copyright out of the mix altogether. A Massive Loss to the Public Domain Currently, California has one of the most citizen-friendly state copyright regimes on the books where a vast majority of state created works are free to the public with only five exceptions. All other audio, visual, and written work of state and local govenment employees is in the public domain upon creation and free for the public to use however they see fit. For the most part, this follows the federal model where works created by taxpayer money are by default owned by the public. The federal approach makes sense when we consider the goals of the intellectual property clause in the Constitution. The purpose of providing a limited government monopoly through copyright was to incentivize creativity and provide a market mechanism to monetize that creative expression. However, governments do not need an incentive because their source of funding comes from taxes and the government employees creating the works are already compensated by the public. The general policy rationale against governments from exerting copyrights over publicly funded works is founded on the premise that public funding means public property and that it belongs to citizens by default. EFF hopes that the state legislature will recognize the fundamental problems with AB 2880's approach and forgo covering all state and local government works under copyright law. As the LA Times Editorial Board correctly noted at the conclusion of the Teixeira case, "there's something fundamentally outrageous about using tax dollars to sue a taxpayer over the use of a public record that taxpayers paid to create." Source: EFF
  6. The first full-scale Hyperloop test track could be ready for trial runs as early as next year and it won't be in Texas. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Elon Musk over the years, it’s that once he sets his mind to something, he wastes little time making it happen. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT for short) has acquired rights to 7,500 acres of land in California’s Quay Valley (a planned community) in order to build a five-mile test track. Construction of the project will be funded from money the company expects to take in through a public offering during the third quarter of this year. HTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn doesn’t like to call the project a test track. As Wired notes, this really isn’t a proof of concept or a scale model; it will apparently be open to the public at some point in which potential riders will be able to buy a ticket and go for a spin. To reiterate, this is just a five-mile stretch of tube – far from the 400-mile version that Musk eventually wants to build to connect northern and southern California in just half an hour. As such, the shortened version won’t come close to the promised 800 mph speeds of the final Hyperloop as you need about 100 miles of track to reach such speeds. Top speed runs won’t be a key metric with the first iteration. Instead, the HTT team wants to tweak practical elements of the setup such as boarding procedures and pod design. Either way, it’s exciting to see the Hyperloop project move one step closer to reality and with any luck, it could seriously change the way we look at long-distance travel. http://www.techspot.com/news/59873-full-scale-hyperloop-test-track-launch-next-year.html
  7. A California federal court has granted Lionsgate's request for a preliminary injunction against six file-sharing sites that distributed the Expendables 3 leak. As a result, all bank accounts and other financial assets will be frozen. In addition, the sites' domain names are also at risk. Two weeks ago a high quality leak of the upcoming Expendables 3 film appeared online. Fearing a massive loss in revenue, movie studio Lionsgate issued thousands of takedown requests to limit the film’s availability. While most sites swiftly removed links to the pre-release leak, according to the studio some did not respond at all. Late last week Lionsgate sued the operators of six file-sharing sites that allegedly failed to remove the infringing files – Limetorrents.com, Billionuploads.com, Hulkfile.eu, Played.to, Swankshare.com and Dotsemper.com. Lionsgate accused the sites of several copyright infringement offenses and asked for a permanent injunction to stop further distribution of the film, as well as seizure of the sites’ bank accounts and other assets. Yesterday the case appeared before Judge Margaret Morrow at the California federal court. None of the file-sharing sites had responded to the allegations and the judge granted Lionsgate’s request for a broad preliminary injunction. The preliminary injunction prevents the sites from hosting and linking to copies of the movie. The same applies to all companies that provide services to or in connection with the sites, which means that the sites are at risk of losing their domain names. In addition, the court also ordered that all bank accounts and other financial assets of the sites can be frozen. “All banks, savings and loan associations, payment processors or other financial institutions, payment providers, third-party processors and advertising service providers of Defendants or any of them must, upon receiving notice of this Order, immediately locate all accounts connected to Defendants,” the injunction states. The seized funds may be needed to compensate Lionsgate for the losses it suffered as a result of the leak, the judge argues. “Such an asset freeze is appropriate in this case to preserve Lions Gate’s right to such recovery against Defendants, who are trafficking in the Stolen Film and may secret assets to insulate them from judgment,”Judge Morrow notes. This is not the first ruling in favor of the movie studio. Earlier this week Lionsgate also obtained permission to subpoena various third-party web services including Google, Cloudflare and GoDaddy to obtain personal details on several of the defendants. With the preliminary injunction, Lionsgate now has the potential to severely cripple the accused file-sharing sites. Whether it will be enough to stop the distribution of the leaked film has yet to be seen. Thus far all six sites remain operational and links to the Expendables 3 leak are still widely available. Source: TorrentFreak