Household appliances will become easier to repair thanks to new standards being adopted across the European Union. From 2021, firms will have to make appliances longer-lasting, and they will have to supply spare parts for machines for up to 10 years. The rules apply to lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges. Decent start, but we still have a long road ahead of us on this issue.
The Internet is forever, we tell social media users: be careful what you put online, because you can’t ever take it back off. And while that’s gospel for US users, there’s some nuance to that dictum across the Atlantic. In Europe, individuals have a right to be forgotten and can request that information about themselves be taken down—but only, a court has now ruled, within Europe. The Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s highest court, issued a ruling today finding that there is no obligation under EU law for a search service to carry out a valid European de-listing request globally. I think this is a logical, common-sense ruling. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the right to be forgotten, since I can see valid uses for it, but it’s also very open to abuse, and one has to wonder just how effective it really is.
Japan’s Fair Trade Commission is investigating Apple Inc over its pressure on Japanese parts makers and whether it abused its power in violation of antimonopoly rules, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Tuesday. The investigation is the latest by the country’s regulators against the tech giant after they found last year that the company may have breached antitrust rules on the way it sold its iPhones in Japan. Apple illegally pressuring smaller companies into doing its bidding? Surely such is preposterous.
Companies that embed Facebook’s “Like” button on their websites must seek users’ consent to transfer their personal data to the U.S. social network, in line with the bloc’s data privacy laws, Europe’s top court said on Monday. According to the European Court of Justice ruling, a site that embeds the Facebook “like” icon and link on its pages also sends user data to the US web giant. Hopefully this will lead to the systematic removal of Facebook buttons from websites that serve the EU. Facebook’s buttons are trackers, and should be treated as such.
Remember the deal Apple made with Amazon that killed all third party repair services and used Apple product sellers that aren’t specifically approved by Apple, thereby increasing prices for consumers sharply? Turns out the FTC isn’t too happy with this deal. Last year, Amazon cut a deal with Apple to bring direct iPhone sales to its platform for the first time. Now, that deal is coming under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, The Verge has learned. Good. This deal is about as clear cut an example of monopolistic, anticompetitive behaviour as you can possibly get
British, American and other intelligence agencies from English-speaking countries have concluded a two-day meeting in London amid calls for spies and police officers to be given special, backdoor access to WhatsApp and other encrypted communications. GCHQ, the UK agency which monitors and breaks into communications, has suggested that Silicon Valley companies could develop technology that would silently add a police officer or intelligence agent to conversations or group chats. The moment these fascists turn the backdoor into a legal requirement and manage to steer it through their respective legislitave bodies – by calling it the If You Do Not Support This You Are A Pedophile Act or whatever – the game is pretty much over. The technology companies will roll over and implement these backdoors overnight – just look at how happily technology companies work with the Chinese government. In fact, Facebook is already testing a backdoor in this style today: To solve this problem, Facebook announced earlier this year preliminary results from its efforts to move a global mass surveillance infrastructure directly onto users’ devices where it can bypass the protections of end-to-end encryption. In Facebook’s vision, the actual end-to-end encryption client itself such as WhatsApp will include embedded content moderation and blacklist filtering algorithms. These algorithms will be continually updated from a central cloud service, but will run locally on the user’s device, scanning each cleartext message before it is sent and each encrypted message after it is decrypted. This is going to happen, and it’s going to be a disaster.
Among the 23 recommendations is a call for the government to set up an office in the commission to scrutinize the algorithms used by Google and Facebook to rank news and advertising. The report said the office would have the power to order Facebook, Google and other tech giants to hand information over to regulators. “This particular branch of the will be able to be approached by various companies who believe that the algorithms have been misused,” Mr. Frydenberg said. He promised the government would “lift the veil” on how tech firms made money out of user data they collect. No proper person who believes in freedom, democracy, and an open society would ever advocate for the government to tell newspapers and TV stations what they can and cannot print and broadcast. Yet, plans like this Australian one seem to advocate for complete control over Google, Facebook, and others to do pretty much the same thing. Somewhere, a line has to be drawn between what constitutes the free press on one side, and non-press websites on the other. Current laws and lawmakers seem quite inept at drawing this line in a consistent, safe way, but you can’t really blame them for that – we’ve entered a new era, and the lines are ever fuzzier and more difficult to discern. Even if lines can be properly drawn, we have to worry about the potential for government abuse. Especially in countries with winner-takes-all two-party systems – such as the United States and the United Kingdom – where one party tends to have pretty much total control over the branches of government, the potential for abuse towards the opposing party is incredibly tempting. Many countries will be facing this issue head-on over the coming years, and don’t be fooled – it will have a tremendous impact on how societies in those countries function.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by hackers linked to the Russian government, according to a heavily redacted report released today. And — as previously reported — the report says that Russia could have actually tampered with election systems if it wanted to: “Russian cyber actors were in a position to delete or change voter data,” the report reads. On a related note, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell blocked two bills designed to secure the voting process and prevent more Russian meddling. At this point, one has to wonder what kind of videos the Russians have of McConnell. In any event, securing the voting process against foreign interference should be the number one concern for any democratic society – it’s why The Netherlands went back to paper voting several years ago – regardless of political affiliation. Treason is a real thing.
Amazon’s home security company Ring has enlisted local police departments around the country to advertise its surveillance cameras in exchange for free Ring products and a “portal” that allows police to request footage from these cameras, a secret agreement obtained by Motherboard shows. The agreement also requires police to “keep the terms of this program confidential.” In any functional democracy, this would be highly illegal.
Facebook’s stock went up after news of a record-breaking $5 billion FTC fine for various privacy violations broke today. That, as the New York Times’ Mike Isaac points out, is the real story here: the United States government spent months coming up with a punishment for Facebook’s long list of privacy-related bad behavior, and the best it could do was so weak that Facebook’s stock price went up. Facebook was one of the most important tools that Russia used to interfere in the US presidential elections. Do you really think that the regime profiting from said interference is going to punish their golden ticket?
Senior Trump administration officials met on Wednesday to discuss whether to seek legislation prohibiting tech companies from using forms of encryption that law enforcement can’t break — a provocative step that would reopen a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley. The encryption challenge, which the government calls “going dark,” was the focus of a National Security Council meeting Wednesday morning that included the No. 2 officials from several key agencies, according to three people familiar with the matter. On a related note, just today head of the American regime, Donald Trump, joked about murdering journalists with the head of the Russian regime, Vladimir Putin. Gosh tootin’ darnit, I wonder what profession relies on encryption.
Slowly but surely, though, consumers and third parties outside of vendor-sanctioned circles have been pushing to change this through so-called “right to repair” laws. These pieces of proposed legislation take different forms—19 states introduced some form of right to repair legislation in 2018, up from 12 in 2017—but generally they attempt to require companies, whether they are in the tech sector or not, to make their service manuals, diagnostic tools, and parts available to consumers and repair shops—not just select suppliers. It’s difficult to imagine a more convincing case for the notion that politics make strange bedfellows. Farmers, doctors, hospital administrators, hackers, and cellphone and tablet repair shops are aligned on one side of the right to repair argument, and opposite them are the biggest names in consumer technology, ag equipment and medical equipment. And given its prominence in the consumer technology repair space, iFixit.com has found itself at the forefront of the modern right to repair movement. All repair information for mobile devices, computers, etc. ought to be publicly available and free for everyone to use, no exceptions. The behaviour of companies like Apple is deeply amoral, unethical, anti-consumer, and just generally scummy.
“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius,” said Ben Gross, Genius’s chief strategy officer, in an email message. The company said it used a watermarking system in its lyrics that embedded patterns in the formatting of apostrophes. Genius said it found more than 100 examples of songs on Google that came from its site. Starting around 2016, Genius said, the company made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song. When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.” This is such a clear and shut case – but I do wonder, can anyone other than the actual copyright holders even claim ownership over the lyrics? I mean, neither Genius nor Google wrote these lyrics in the first place, and yet, here they are fighting over ownership. Posting lyrics online may fall under fair use, but I doubt you’d be able to make a fair use appeal if you have a massive library of lyrics online, paid for through ads.
The Trump administration is working to ban Huawei products from the US market and ban US companies from supplying the Chinese company with software and components. The move will have wide-ranging consequences for Huawei’s smartphone, laptop, and telecom-equipment businesses. For the next 90 days, though, Huawei will be allowed to support those products. The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has granted temporary general export license for 90 days, so while the company is still banned from doing business with most US companies, it is allowed to continue critical product support. Meanwhile, ARM has also cut ties with Huawei. This story is far, far from over.
In recent weeks, an Apple representative and a lobbyist for CompTIA, a trade organization that represents big tech companies, have been privately meeting with legislators in California to encourage them to kill legislation that would make it easier for consumers to repair their electronics, Motherboard has learned. According to two sources in the California State Assembly, the lobbyists have met with members of the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, which is set to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon. The lobbyists brought an iPhone to the meetings and showed lawmakers and their legislative aides the internal components of the phone. The lobbyists said that if improperly disassembled, consumers who are trying to fix their own iPhone could hurt themselves by puncturing the lithium-ion battery, the sources, who Motherboard is not naming because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said. Apple employing the ever effective think of the children argument. In typical Apple-fashion, anti-consumer, scummy, and full of lies.
A new report has found that 26 states now either restrict or outright prohibit towns and cities from building their own broadband networks. Quite often the laws are directly written by the telecom sector, and in some instances ban towns and cities from building their own broadband networks—even if the local ISP refuses to provide service. Everything about this is disgusting. It goes to show corporatism and unfettered capitalism are cancers upon out society that must be exterminated.
From the company’s joint press release (at either Apple’s or Qualcomm’s website): Qualcomm and Apple today announced an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm. The companies also have reached a six-year license agreement, effective as of April 1, 2019, including a two-year option to extend, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement. And just like that, one of the possibly most expensive lawsuits in technology is a thing of the past.
Just in time for Tax Day, the for-profit tax preparation industry is about to realize one of its long-sought goals. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system. Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa. In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry’s profits. This is straight-up corruption.
The European Commission (EC) has been looking into how PC video games are bought and sold within EU Member States, and it doesn’t like what it’s seen. Issuing an official statement of objections today, directed at Valve, whose Steam online portal is the biggest store for PC games in the world, and five game publishers — Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax — the Commission takes the view that they’ve all engaged in antitrust violations by putting geographic restrictions on the games they sell. Good. Geofencing digital goods is clearly not allowed, but a lot of companies still try and get away with it.
The U.S. government claimed that turning American medical charts into electronic records would make health care better, safer, and cheaper. Ten years and $36 billion later, the system is an unholy mess: inside a digital revolution gone wrong. It seems to be a recurring theme all over the world that governments are absolutely terrible at doing anything related to the digital world. I’m sure insane bidding requirements set by special interests play a huge role in this problem, but that doesn’t mean politicians tend to be terrible at properly understanding the digital world.