|18-08-21, 05:45 AM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - August 21st, ’21
August 21st, 2021
Now-Defunct RomUniverse Ordered to Destroy All of Its Pirated Nintendo Games After $2.1 Million Lawsuit
This follows the court granting a $2.1 million summary judgment against RomUniverse operator Matthew Storman.
Not only did a California federal court order the now-defunct RomUniverse to destroy all of its pirated Nintendo games, but it has also filed an injunction that ensures the site won't be allowed to come back online.
As reported by TorrentFreak, these new orders follow Nintendo's victory in the lawsuit against the ROM-hosting site RomUniverse that was seeking damages for copyright infringement and federal trademark infringement. While the court had initially ordered RomUniverse to pay Nintendo $2.1 million in damages, the punishment has now become more severe.
Back in May 2021, the court granted this $2.1 million summary judgment against RomUniverse operator Matthew Storman, but Nintendo was denied a permanent injunction that would forbid the site from staying online. One of the reasons was related to the fact that Storman had taken the site down, and the court saw this as a sign that there would be no future infringements.
However, Nintendo asked the court to reconsider, especially after Storman hinted that RomUniverse could have a potential comeback.
"Plaintiff’s evidence demonstrates a threat of continued infringement based on Defendant’s representations that he may relaunch his website which previously contained Plaintiff’s copyrighted games. Accordingly, Plaintiff demonstrates irreparable harm warranting an injunction for Plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim," The court said.
This injunction prohibits RomUniverse's operator to "copy, distribute, sell, or even play unauthorized copies of Nintendo games." It is also forbidden from using Nintendo trademarks, logos, or names in a "confusing" way.
Lastly, Judge Consuelo B. Marshall ordered that Storman must destroy all pirated Nintendo games by August 17, 2021.
"Defendant shall permanently destroy all unauthorized Nintendo games or other unauthorized copies of Nintendo's intellectual property including movies, books, and music no later than August 17, 2021; and Defendend shall file a declaration, under penalty of perjury, with the court certifying his compliance with these terms no later than August 20, 2021," the court wrote.
This is another example of Nintendo's focus on stopping these ROM-hosting sites from pirating its games, and follows another victory that awarded Nintendo $12 million from two other sites.
T-Mobile Apparently Lied to Government to Get Sprint Merger Approval, Ruling Says
T-Mobile ordered to prove it didn't lie to Calif. agency about network-shutdown plan.
T-Mobile apparently lied to government regulators about its 3G shutdown plans in order to win approval of its merger with Sprint, according to a ruling in a proceeding in front of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The ruling issued Friday ordered T-Mobile "to show cause why it should not be sanctioned by the commission for violating" a CPUC rule with "false, misleading, or omitted statements."
T-Mobile won approval for its 2020 acquisition of Sprint in part by agreeing to sell Sprint's Boost Mobile prepaid business and other assets to Dish, which is building its own 5G network and reselling capacity from other networks. T-Mobile agreed to make its 4G LTE and 3G CDMA networks available to Dish customers during a three-year transition period from 2020 to 2023, the CPUC ruling said. But T-Mobile now plans to stop providing CDMA network services nationwide on January 1, 2022, and Dish has urged government regulators to force T-Mobile to live up to its commitments.
T-Mobile's false and misleading statements under oath indicated, among other things, that T-Mobile would make its CDMA network "available to Boost customers until they were migrated to Dish Network Corporation's LTE or 5G services" and that Dish would have up to three years to complete the migration, the ruling said.
The CPUC can impose penalties against T-Mobile of up to $100,000 for each offense.
T-Mobile used “false” statements to get merger done
The ruling was made by Administrative Law Judge Karl Bemesderfer and a CPUC commissioner who was assigned to the case, Clifford Rechtschaffen. They ordered T-Mobile to appear via video conference at a hearing before the administrative law judge on September 20.
Their ruling said there is "a reasonable basis to conclude that T-Mobile... misrepresented material facts and misled the commission" with statements under oath. The ruling said that when the CPUC allowed the merger, it "relied on the specific false statements, omissions, and/or misleading assurances T-Mobile gave regarding its use of [Sprint's] PCS spectrum and its repeated references to a three-year customer migration period without a degraded experience... it appears that these false statements, omissions and/or misleading assurances and the related time references were intended to induce the commission to approve the merger." The premerger statements made in testimony to the commission were later contradicted by T-Mobile's response to a Dish complaint, the ruling said.
"The discrepancy between information in T-Mobile's testimony and information provided in its response is so serious that it warrants further investigation by this commission. Furthermore, impacts on service could harm Boost prepaid customers, who are frequently low-income, rural, and transient," the ruling said.
The CPUC fight may extend beyond 3G, as the ruling said that "upon further investigation, we may amend this Order to Show Cause to include charges related to the early retirement of the Sprint LTE network."
T-Mobile/Dish feud escalates
When contacted by Ars today, T-Mobile said the decision "is meritless and without basis in fact. We look forward to presenting evidence and setting the record straight through the upcoming process. For months, T-Mobile has been working aggressively to ensure no customer is left behind as we transition to technology that will better serve them into the future. We remain committed to that goal."
In a blog post last week, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert called the situation "a manufactured crisis, orchestrated by Dish" and accused Dish of "dragging their feet in getting their customers upgraded to the superior 4G/5G world." Sievert also suggested that Dish customers switch to T-Mobile to "get onto more advanced and reliable technology."
Dish, which recently decided to switch most of its network traffic from T-Mobile to AT&T, has said T-Mobile should have to maintain the 3G CDMA network until at least July 2023, three years after Dish's purchase of Boost. Dish told the Federal Communications Commission that T-Mobile's "blatantly anticompetitive decision to prematurely shut down the operation of the legacy Sprint CDMA network" will likely "harm millions of Boost consumers, [including] many who already face economic challenges."
T-Mobile “contradicted sworn statements”
T-Mobile is moving its PCS spectrum from CDMA to 5G, even though it previously "omitted and/or provided misleading information regarding the fact that PCS spectrum was used to provide service to Boost customers on the CDMA network" and "never indicated that using PCS spectrum for CDMA service could impact T-Mobile's 5G buildout," the ruling said.
After Dish complained to the CPUC in April 2021, "T-Mobile flatly contradicted its witness [CTO Neville] Ray's prior statements regarding the type of spectrum needed for CDMA and 5G service, now saying that 'PCS spectrum comprises the significant majority of spectrum being used to provide CDMA.'" In premerger testimony, Ray listed the types of spectrum T-Mobile needed for 5G "several times" but never mentioned PCS spectrum.
"T-Mobile further contradicted prior sworn statements that maintaining CDMA services would not delay its 5G buildout, now saying that the buildout requires both the PCS spectrum and the cell towers presently employed to provide CDMA service including the equipment on the towers," the ruling said.
Before the merger was approved, Ray said in testimony that T-Mobile's MVNO [mobile virtual network operator] agreement with Dish "will have no adverse impact at all on our existing LTE network or on our planned world-leading 5G network," the CPUC ruling said.
"In a December, 2019 pleading, T-Mobile stated that its 'service to existing Sprint CDMA and LTE customers will be maintained until they are migrated to the New T-Mobile network as customers of New T-Mobile or Dish,'" the ruling said. "Emphasizing the three-year duration of the migration period ('That's why we've always said it's a three-year integration program'), T-Mobile pledged 'to make sure that no Sprint customer during that migration process, be they a Boost customer or a Sprint customer... suffers anything approaching a degraded experience."
Summary of findings
The CPUC commissioner and administrative law judge's ruling summarized T-Mobile's false and misleading statements as follows:
Specifically, 1) T-Mobile previously represented that it would not need PCS spectrum for its 5G build-out and the 800 MHz spectrum would be used for CDMA service for Boost customers but now indicates a significant need for PCS spectrum for both CDMA service and its 5G build-out, 2) T-Mobile generally stated that the MVNO agreement with Dish would have no adverse impact on T-Mobile's existing and 5G networks but now claims that maintaining the CDMA network would delay the 5G build-out, and 3) T-Mobile previously stated that service would be maintained for Boost customers until migration was completed during the migration period (2020-2023), but now contends that it cannot delay its planned shutdown of its CDMA network on January 1, 2022, which could impair the service of customers who have not yet migrated to Dish's LTE or 5G service.
Department of Justice has “grave concerns”
The US Department of Justice said in a letter to both Dish and T-Mobile on July 9 that it has "grave concerns about the potential for a nationwide CDMA shutdown to leave a substantial proportion of Boost's customers without service." The DOJ said that either or both companies could potentially violate the merger agreement "if the network shutdown strands a substantial proportion of Boost customers, particularly if either or both parties have not taken all appropriate steps to affirmatively alleviate any such harms in the leadup to implementing the network shutdown."
While T-Mobile is forbidden from "impeding Boost's customer relationships, rejecting their lawful traffic, and unreasonably frustrating Dish's use of T-Mobile's networks," Dish is required "to pursue all available avenues to prevent a widespread loss of services to the customers," the DOJ said.
Apple’s Device Surveillance Plan is a Threat to User Privacy — and Press Freedom
When Apple announced a new plan this month for scanning photos on user devices to detect known child sexual abuse material (CSAM), the company might have expected little controversy. After all, child sexual abuse is a problem everyone wants to solve.
But the backlash from privacy and human rights advocates was swift, loud, and nearly unanimous. The complaints were not largely about the precise implementation Apple announced, but rather the dangerous precedent it sets. The ways in which the technology could be misused when Apple and its partners come under outside pressure from governments or other powerful actors are almost too many to count.
Very broadly speaking, the privacy invasions come from situations where "false positives" are generated — that is to say, an image or a device or a user is flagged even though there are no sexual abuse images present. These kinds of false positives could happen if the matching database has been tampered with or expanded to include images that do not depict child abuse, or if an adversary could trick Apple’s algorithm into erroneously matching an existing image. (Apple, for its part, has said that an accidental false positive — where an innocent image is flagged as child abuse material for no reason — is extremely unlikely, which is probably true.)
The false positive problem most directly touches on press freedom issues when considering that first category, with adversaries that can change the contents of the database that Apple devices are checking files against. An organization that could add leaked copies of its internal records, for example, could find devices that held that data — including, potentially, whistleblowers and journalists who worked on a given story. This could also reveal the extent of a leak if it is not yet known. Governments that could include images critical of its policies or officials could find dissidents that are exchanging those files.
These concerns aren’t purely hypothetical. China reportedly already forces some of its citizens to install apps directly onto devices that scan for images it deems to be pro-Uyghur.
Apple has promised to stand up against the forced inclusion of non-CSAM images to the hash database in an FAQ document it published amidst the backlash: "Apple would refuse such demands and our system has been designed to prevent that from happening." If only it were that simple! Even with the best of intentions, Apple (and the organizations that maintain the databases in question) are likely to face extreme pressure from governments all over the world to expand their efforts to all sorts of other types of “illegal” content. And legal orders are not exactly something companies can just “refuse.”
As EFF said, “if you build it, they will come.”
After extensive criticism, Apple last week issued more clarifications about efforts to mitigate those concerns. It would only match against images that had been flagged by groups in multiple countries, and sophisticated users would be able to check that the list of images their own phone was checking against was the same as on every other phone. While these assurances help mitigate the risk of a single point of failure, they do not fully address the risks posed by a state-level actor.
And unfortunately, the company has in some cases yielded to that kind of pressure. Reporting earlier this year documented Apple agreeing to store user data and encryption keys in China, at the government's behest, and complying with requests for iCloud data. The company has also removed apps and games from its marketplace to comply with local regulations. What would it do differently in the face of new demands to misuse this image matching tech?
Beyond the possibility of database tampering, another way false positives could occur is if adversaries are able to generate files that are "collisions" with known images in the database. Since even before Apple's formal announcement, researchers have called for the company to publish its matching algorithm so they could see how susceptible it is to these kinds of generated bogus matches (which are usually called "adversarial examples" in the world of machine learning).
Apple has thus far declined to make that matching function available, even as the company has called on security researchers to check its work. However, researchers appear to have recently extracted the matching function from iOS, and even generated a "pre-image" match — that is, generating a file from scratch that Apple's matching function cannot distinguish from another known image.
This research represents a serious problem for Apple's plans: adversaries that can generate false positives could flood the system with bad data, even using the devices of unsuspecting users to host it. The earliest adversarial examples look like white noise, but it is likely only a matter of time before they can be embedded in another image entirely.
Journalists, in particular, have increasingly relied on the strong privacy protections that Apple has provided even when other large tech companies have not. Apple famously refused to redesign its software to open the phone of an alleged terrorist — not because they wanted to shield the content on a criminal’s phone, but because they worried about the precedent it would set for other people who rely on Apple’s technology for protection. How is this situation any different?
No backdoor for law enforcement will be safe enough to keep bad actors from continuing to push it open just a little bit further. The privacy risks from this system are too extreme to tolerate. Apple may have had noble intentions with this announced system, but good intentions are not enough to save a plan that is rotten at its core.
The Illusion of Privacy Is Getting Harder to Sell
Even iPhone users with nothing to hide could be forgiven for being a little creeped out that Apple will scan their photos and see if they match existing databases of known illegal pornographic images. Privacy experts called the idea a potential backdoor for governments to request or demand scans for other images or files. Some of Apple’s own employees are reportedly pushing back on the idea.
It’s a good indication that things are headed in the wrong direction when your company’s anti-child pornography initiative gets panned.
A major reason for the failure of Apple’s defense is that the photo-scanning program confirms a fear many users already harbor: Personal data, even the most sensitive, is effectively out of users’ control, accessible at the flip of a switch.
Apple says, relentlessly, that privacy is the central feature of its iPhones. But as the photo scanning demonstrates, that’s true only until Apple changes its mind about its policies.
The iPhone is a gluttonous collector of user information. The devices beam location data as well as information about Wi-Fi usage and internet usage to Apple’s servers, even when we think the devices are slumbering. That type of data opens up iPhone owners to alarmingly accurate tracking by third parties, including their whereabouts, political leanings, job and family status, ethnicity and net worth.
A particular concern around the photo-scanning initiative is that countries may compel Apple to use the technology for their own ends, which Apple says it will resist. But, through a third party, Apple has made Chinese users’ data accessible to the Chinese government, as The Times reported, a sleight of hand that allows the company to say it doesn’t directly turn the information over. That makes it hard to believe that Apple might not act similarly where its business interests demand it — even at home in the United States, where technology companies fulfill secret personal data requests daily.
It’s not just the child pornography project that should give users pause. Apple received plaudits, including from me, for rolling out an option earlier this year to prevent apps from tracking users’ activity as they surf the mobile web. But the tracking was enabled in the first place by something Apple created called an “identifier for advertisers,” which turned on the fire hose of personal data available to marketers for the purpose of targeted ads. If Apple believes that tracking is anathema to privacy, why not disable the identifier itself, or disable tracking as a default?
“The do-not-track option didn’t really solve privacy,” said Patrick Jackson, chief technology officer of the privacy firm Disconnect. “It was designed to make users feel like they could press a button and fix it.” Mr. Jackson said advertisers and others can still use a process known as fingerprinting — which relies on things like phone model, operating system version and screen resolution — to identify a user and continue keeping tabs on them.
Apple is also building out its own online advertising business, portions of which a French privacy watchdog said may run afoul of European laws. The agency said that Apple doesn’t appear to require users’ consent for tracking, as it now does from other app makers, meaning it could benefit from the targeted advertising that its “do not track” feature is meant to hinder.
Google’s Android mobile software also has a voracious appetite for data, but may be less vulnerable than the iPhone to broad attacks, such as the recently uncovered one affecting tens of thousands of phones reportedly targeted by NSO Group’s Pegasus software. That’s because Android runs on many different phone types, each with slightly different versions of the software, said Zuk Avraham, C.E.O. of the cybersecurity firm ZecOps. Pegasus software reportedly collected all manner of personal information, such as emails, voice mail messages, passwords, contacts, call logs, social media posts, web browsing history and photos, and it can remotely activate a user’s phone camera and microphone, according to The Washington Post.
Of course, no software will be invulnerable to every type of hack, but when your marketing states, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone,” the bar ought to be set higher.
One way to keep prying eyes off your data is to resist putting files into Apple’s iCloud service, but that means potentially choosing another service, with its own privacy concerns. The child pornography scanning project, Apple says, is only for consumers who store their photos in iCloud. Apple also has access to text messages that it says are otherwise encrypted when they are backed up in iCloud, a workaround that’s apparently necessary to aid law enforcement. But for most consumers it’s a distinction without a difference — photos and text messages are primarily created and accessible on the phones that Apple tells us are sacrosanct.
Apple could take a big lead over its rivals by supporting a single setting at the browser level, known as the Global Privacy Control, to prohibit companies from selling your data to others. That would take the place of prohibiting such actions site by site. (The initiative is supported by a host of privacy and media organizations, including The New York Times, as well as California’s attorney general).
Tech companies would like users to believe that they hold the keys to their own privacy. But, locked into Apple’s or Google’s ecosystems, our data is as secure as their policies. I’d like to trust that the biggest technology companies have the best intent, but when they have to say out loud that our privacy is paramount, it sure is difficult.
Policy Groups Ask Apple to Drop Plans to Inspect iMessages, Scan for Abuse Images
More than 90 policy and rights groups around the world published an open letter on Thursday urging Apple (AAPL.O) to abandon plans for scanning children’s messages for nudity and the phones of adults for images of child sex abuse.
"Though these capabilities are intended to protect children and to reduce the spread of child sexual abuse material, we are concerned that they will be used to censor protected speech, threaten the privacy and security of people around the world, and have disastrous consequences for many children," the groups wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Reuters.
The largest campaign to date over an encryption issue at a single company was organized by the U.S.-based nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT).
Some overseas signatories in particular are worried about the impact of the changes in nations with different legal systems, including some already hosting heated fights over encryption and privacy.
"It's so disappointing and upsetting that Apple is doing this, because they have been a staunch ally in defending encryption in the past," said Sharon Bradford Franklin, co-director of CDT's Security & Surveillance Project.
An Apple spokesman said the company had addressed privacy and security concerns in a document Friday outlining why the complex architecture of the scanning software should resist attempts to subvert it.
Those signing included multiple groups in Brazil, where courts have repeatedly blocked Facebook’s (FB.O) WhatsApp for failing to decrypt messages in criminal probes, and the senate has passed a bill that would require traceability of messages, which would require somehow marking their content. A similar law was passed in India this year.
“Our main concern is the consequence of this mechanism, how this could be extended to other situations and other companies,” said Flavio Wagner, president of the independent Brazil chapter of the Internet Society, which signed. “This represents a serious weakening of encryption.”
Other signers were in India, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Ghana and Tanzania.
Surprised by the earlier outcry following its announcement two weeks ago, Apple has offered a series of explanations and documents to argue that the risks of false detections are low.
Apple said it would refuse demands to expand the image-detection system beyond pictures of children flagged by clearinghouses in multiple jurisdictions, though it has not said it would pull out of a market rather than obeying a court order.
Though most of the objections so far have been over device-scanning, the coalition’s letter also faults a change to iMessage in family accounts, which would try to identify and blur nudity in children’s messages, letting them view it only if parents are notified.
The signers said the step could endanger children in intolerant homes or those seeking educational material. More broadly, they said the change will break end-to-end encryption for iMessage, which Apple has staunchly defended in other contexts.
"Once this backdoor feature is built in, governments could compel Apple to extend notification to other accounts, and to detect images that are objectionable for reasons other than being sexually explicit," the letter says.
Other groups that signed include the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access Now, Privacy International, and the Tor Project.
Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Edwina Gibbs
Why 80% of Aussies Say they Pirate Less in 2021
Reviews.org believe, with limited access to overseas streaming content, pirating used to be the norm for watching the latest movies and TV shows in Australia. But now VPNs are a cheap and easy way for Aussies to watch overseas content, and many streaming platforms have newer and better content than they used to.
Reviews.org surveyed 1,000 Aussies about their pirating habits, and if they pirate less because of VPNs and better streaming options. According to the survey, 19% say they’ve pirated a movie in the past year, but 80% say they pirate less than they used to.
Some interesting findings from the Review.org report:
• 19% of Aussies say they’ve pirated a movie in the past year.
• Review.org asked Aussies why they pirated a movie or TV show:
- 39% say because it wasn’t available in Australia.
- 30% say because it’s free.
- 27% say because it’s cheaper than paying for streaming services or a VPN.
• When asked how often they pirated, 68% say a few times a year.
• 3 in 4 try to find a legal source before pirating something.
• When asked if they pirate more than they used to, 80% said no because Australian streaming services have access to better content now, or because they use a VPN.
• 1 in 4 use VPNs to watch content that isn’t available in Australia.
You can see the full report here.
Until next week,
Current Week In Review
Recent WiRs -
August 14th, August 7th, July 31st, July 24th
Jack Spratts' Week In Review is published every Friday. Submit letters, articles, press releases, comments, questions etc. in plain text English to jackspratts (at) lycos (dot) com. Submission deadlines are Thursdays @ 1400 UTC. Please include contact info. The right to publish all remarks is reserved.
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