Tech Companies Urge Congress to Protect Search and Browsing Data



Several tech companies are asking the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation that would prevent the FBI from obtaining people’s browser history without a warrant. The tech companies include: Mozilla, Reddit, Twitter, and Patreon.

Mozilla Corporation, Engine, Reddit, Inc., Reform Government Surveillance, Twitter, i2Coalition, and Patreon sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary Jerry Nadler, and Ranking Member of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. From the letter:

We urge you to explicitly prohibit the warrantless collection of internet search and browsing history when you consider the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172) next week. As leading internet businesses and organizations, we believe privacy and security are essential to our economy our businesses, and the continued growth of the free and open internet. By clearly reaffirming these protections, Congress can help preserve user trust and facilitate the continued use of the internet as a powerful contributing force for our recovery.

This comes after the U.S. Senate voted down an amendment to the USA Patriot Act that would create a tougher standard for government investigators to collect web search and browsing histories of people in the states.

It was a bipartisan amendment that would have required the Department of Justice to show probable cause when requesting approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to collect the data for counterterrorism or counterintelligence investigations.


More Backgrounds to Hide the Clutter



The lockdown might be easing in your country, but it doesn’t look like working from home is going to go away anytime soon: VPNs, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet are all the new norms for the working day. With all the family at home, flat surfaces are at a premium and the kitchen table is now my office, though the view from my webcam is a less-than-professional untidy pile of cookery books, mismatched placemats and unfinished school homework. Unlike Satya Nadella of Microsoft, I don’t have anyone to dress the background.

Fortunately, there are now loads of fun backgrounds that can be inserted into videoconferencing to hide the clutter. Over the past few days Nintendo, Lego, Studio Ghibli and Star Wars have all dropped suitable images, and don’t forget Disney Pixar has been busy too. Even if you aren’t chatting over the interweb, the images are great desktop backgrounds too.

Click through on the links to see more as there are many additional images on the web sites.

Nintendo

https://www.nintendo.com/wallpapers/

Studio Ghibli

http://www.ghibli.jp/info/013251/

Lego

https://www.lego.com/en-gb/themes/letsbuildtogether/backgrounds

Star Wars

https://starwarsblog.starwars.com/news/star-wars-backgrounds

Have fun and stay safe.


Court Rules Turning on Phone Qualifies as Search



A judge has ruled that the act of looking at a phone’s lock screen requires a warrant – in some circumstances. This ruling was made by the Honorable John C. Coughenour in the United States District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle. It seems to me that this ruling requires the FBI to have a warrant before they can look at the lock screen on someone’s phone.

The case is United States of America v. Joseph Sam. It is regarding a motion filed by Mr. Sam’s lawyer arguing that the evidence obtained from looking at the lock screen should not have been sought without a warrant and should be suppressed.

There were two things to consider in this case: the actions taken by the police when they arrested Mr. Sam, and the actions of the FBI taken later. The Court saw these actions as two separate things.

In regards to the actions of the FBI, Judge John C. Coughenour pointed out that the Fourth Amendment protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures” of “their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” The FBI powered on Mr. Sam’s phone in order to take a picture of the lock screen. In short, the FBI needed a warrant in order to do that, and did not have a warrant. Based on this, the Judge determined that this search was unconstitutional. Mr. Sam’s motion to suppress the evidence the FBI gathered during this search was granted.

Things get a little cloudy in regards to the actions of the police at the time of Mr. Sam’s arrest. It was unclear to the Court why the police “felt it was necessary to power on or manipulate Mr. Sam’s cell phone to properly inventory the phone”.

It was also unclear if that police department procedures require officers to power on every cell phone that they inventory, or whether the police searched the phone. As such, the Judge could not resolve Mr. Sam’s motion to suppress the evidence found during the police’s examination of his phone.

To me, it sounds like the FBI needs to obtain a warrant to power on someone’s phone, and to take a photo of the lock screen, beforehand. Pushing the buttons on a phone in order to activate it counts as a search.


Home servers and media computers, have I become a dinosaur?



Going back about 12 years I built two computers, a media center for the home theater cabinet in the living room and a server to back up all files – that one resided in my home office. 

These days those things seem to be gone from our tech landscape, and I miss them. I miss building them myself and setting up everything. I want to do it again. 

Both of those computers I mentioned are gone now, thigs age. I miss them, but time moves forwards, after all my kids grew up and are hundreds of miles away now. 

For the media center PC I bought a used desktop – I needed something to fit on one of the cabinet shelves. I changed the video card, audio card, added RAM and storage and fed it out to the AV receiver to relay to my TV. 

To start I used Windows Media Center Edition, but wasn’t happy so I tried XBMC (since changed to Kodi), but I didn’t care for that either. I settled on Media Portal. My kids used that system all the time growing up. 

I want to build another, but don’t know that it’s worth it these days. 

Speaking of wanting to build again, a home server. The last one I ran on Free NAS, which is Unix related operating system. I built that from a tower case I had laying around. I added about 1.5 TB of storage to it. 

Setup isn’t difficult, but you need to hook a monitor to the PC to get through it. After that disconnect the monitor, it runs headless. Just enter the URL for the dashboard on another PC and you have control. 

Again, I do want to build another, but is it worth it with the cloud? My files are backed up to OneDrive and Google Drive, do I need a server? Do I need a media center PC? Granted I want both, and I’d like to check out Linux MCE, although I’d probably still end up back on Media Portal. 

So, is either worth my time and money? Let me know what you think. 


Winners and Losers and who’s picking them! #1449



Well several things to talk about tonight is the ongoing picking of winners and losers. I also share a bit of news I have not yet made public but thought to do so in light of everything that is going on. I hope your all well and enjoy the memorial day weekend if you are allowed to go outside without being arrested. I think a bit cynical tonight is a word I was looking for during the show.

Your show support at this time is doubly appreciated as we had a pretty tough month. I hope you will consider a monthly insider donation and or a one-time annual donation.

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New Tom Hanks movie to be released straight to Apple TV as an exclusive



I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone of who Tom Hanks is. The man who gave us things like Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Captain Phillips and Sully, just to name a few.

Now Hanks has a new movie and this release will be unique, but also a sign of the times we’re living in. With theaters closed Sony reached a deal with Apple TV to give it exclusive rights to the World War II submarine movie “Greyhound”

The movie had been slated for father’s day weekend, but Apple has given no date when they’ll begin showing it.

This is not the only movie going this route,  “Scoob” is now on Amazon Prime directly. And others have or will follow suit.

What will this do to the theater industry? It’s hard to say. It may recover when all of this passes, but will people return or will they become used to this new way of doing business? It will be interesting to see this play out.

In the meantime Sony has released a trailer which you can watch here


Twitter is Testing New Conversation Settings



Twitter announced that it is testing new conversations settings. These settings give the person who posts a tweet more control over who can reply to it. Individual users will have the ability to choose who can reply to their tweet and who can join that conversation.

Before you Tweet, you’ll be able to choose who can reply with three options: everyone (standard Twitter, the default setting), only people you follow, or only people you mention. Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out so that it’s clear for people if they can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, and like these Tweets.

The Twitter announcement of this new feature was written by Director of Product Management Suzanne Xie. She wrote: Twitter is where you go to see and talk about what’s happening. But sometimes, unwanted replies make it hard to have meaningful conversations. (Ahem, reply guys.)

I think she brings up a very good point. There are many of us on Twitter who mostly use the platform to talk to our friends. Nobody wants some random person to jump into that conversation with a mean comment in an attempt to derail the conversation or to start an argument. Those people make Twitter an unpleasant place to be. It sounds like Twitter’s new feature – after it rolls out completely – will make it impossible for reply guys to hassle people in the way that they do now.

Another interesting thing about this is that it has the potential to limit the spread of the garbage posted by trollbots. Right now, the only thing people can do is block and report trollbots, and hope Twitter removes them. The new feature would function as a filter that prevents trollbots from spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other nonsense in the way that they do now.