|09-10-19, 06:54 AM||#1|
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Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - October 12th, ’19
October 12th, 2019
Music Piracy Continues To Drop Dramatically, But The Industry Hates To Admit That Because It Ruins The Narrative
This was wholly predictable, of course. Back in 2015, we released a detailed analytical report showing that the absolute easiest and most effective way to reduce piracy was to to enable more and better licensed services that actually gave users what they were seeking for reasonable prices and fewer restrictions. The data in that report showed that focusing on greater legal enforcement had no long term effects on piracy, but more and better authorized services did the trick every time. Then, earlier this year, we released another report showing that the music industry is in the midst of a massive upswing thanks almost entirely to the rapidly increasing success of licensed music streaming platforms. It was incredibly dramatic to look at the numbers.
Put two and two together, and you'd full expect to see a corresponding dramatic drop in piracy. And, indeed, it appears that's exactly what happened, but the recording industry doesn't want you to realize that. In IFPI's latest release, they play up the idea that piracy is still this huge existential problem.
Sounds bad, right? Later in the report it insists that:
Using unlicensed sources to listen to or download music, otherwise known as copyright infringement, remains a threat to the music ecosystem.
A "threat to the music ecosystem"? It also attacks stream ripping: "Stream ripping is the illegal practice of creating a downloadable file from content that is available to stream online. It is now the most prevalent form of online music copyright infringement." Of course, place shifting/time shifting copyright content has been found to be fair use in the past, so it's pretty rich for the industry to act like it's all bad. My own love of music was fueled from back in the day when I was a kid carefully setting up a tape player to tape my favorite songs off the radio. But, hey, to IFPI it's all evil.
Of course, what IFPI conveniently left out of its report is that these piracy numbers are dropping dramatically. Indeed, IFPI doesn't bother to mention the historical numbers here, because, boy would that really upset the narrative they're pushing.
This year 27% of Internet users classify themselves as music pirates, compared to 38% last year. Similarly, the percentage of stream-rippers dropped from 32% to 23% between 2018 and 2019, which is a rather dramatic decrease.
To put this into perspective, out of every 100 persons who were classified as music pirates last year, 29 kicked the habit. And for every 100 stream-rippers, 28 stopped. These groups obviously overlap, but it’s certainly a major shift.
It is, indeed, a major shift. And certainly correlates quite closely with the similarly dramatic rise in the use of licensed services. And this is during a period of time prior to draconian new copyright enforcement laws were put in place, so it's not like the IFPI has a story to tell about how its new legal regimes helped out here. It seems that the most likely story is exactly what we've said for years. Invest in giving the public what they want, in a reasonable manner at a reasonable price, and piracy kinda goes mostly away as a problem.
What an idea.
If only the IFPI would actually recognize that.
Instead, as Torrentfreak notes, IFPI seems to conveniently ignore its historical narratives when the data proves their fear-mongering was exaggerated or wrong:
Another thing we observed is that the role of search engines is no longer highlighted. This used to be a top priority. In 2016 IFPI reported that 66% of all music pirates used general search engines (e.g. Google) to find pirated music. A year later this went down to 54%, last year it dipped under 50%, and in 2019 it’s not mentioned at all.
For some reason, we think this may have been different if these trends had gone in the other direction. For example, in 2016, IFPI sounded the alarm bell when stream-ripping grew 10% while the 28% drop this year isn’t mentioned.
One wonders why a 10% increase was worth setting off the alarm bells, but a much more massive decrease is wholly ignored or, worse, still presented as evidence of a problem. Actually, no, no one wonders why. We know. It would just be nice if politicians finally recognized that IFPI isn't particularly honest in its framing of all of this. Might have saved us quite a bit of trouble.
Inside Disney’s New York Stream Factory
It’s early September, just two months before the Nov. 12 go-live date for Disney Plus. Michael Paull, president of Disney Streaming Services, sits five floors above Chelsea Market, the bustling mall and tourist attraction in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood — in the global nerve center of the Mouse House’s video-streaming operations.
On Disney’s earnings call a few weeks earlier, CEO Bob Iger called Disney Plus “the most important product that the company has launched” during his 14-year tenure in the job. Paull and his team at DSS are responsible for the development, delivery, design, support and marketing of Disney Plus, as well as ESPN Plus.
The stakes are high for Disney’s multibillion-dollar push into the streaming wars. Paull admits feeling “great responsibility” in delivering on the Disney Plus promise. But he expresses confidence that DSS has engineered Disney Plus with the right set of initial features and, just as important, has the technical personnel and infrastructure to deliver on the goal of racking up as many as 90 million subscribers within the next five years.
“Being able to operate at scale is very different from being able to operate in sort of single-digit-million subscribers. It’s night and day,” he says.
That operational know-how, and the group’s Chelsea Market home base, came to Disney through its deal to acquire majority control of Major League Baseball’s BAMTech for $2.6 billion. It’s a business that has been pumping video online since 2002 and has an unmatched track record, says streaming analyst and consultant Dan Rayburn — who calls DSS the “special forces of the streaming industry.”
“Disney Streaming Services has more expertise and more resources than anybody else in the industry,” he says. “They are just snapping up so many good people in the industry.”
What made BAMTech different is that it started life with a mission exactly aligned with Disney’s goals: taking media rights (in MLB’s case, launching the MLB.tv service) and monetizing them, says Joe Inzerillo, EVP and CTO of Disney Streaming Services.
“When you look at other companies that have acquired service providers it hasn’t always worked out, because those providers didn’t do in-house services,” says Inzerillo, who has been with the organization for 16 years. For BAMTech, “the technology grew as it needed to.”
Over the past year, Paull, who previously was Amazon’s VP of digital video, has dramatically expanded Disney Streaming Services to more than double its headcount, with most of its 1,600 employees based in New York. His hires have included senior VP of data Laura Evans, formerly with the New York Times, who has formed a new team dedicated to data and analytics. “We’re understanding user behavior,” she says. “And we’re reusing that data to enhance the customer experience.” Evans’ team also is applying data to marketing, with customer acquisition and retention programs.
Another key Paull hire was Jerrell Jimerson, SVP of product officer for Disney Streaming Services, who leads the group’s product management, user experience (UX), and design. Jimerson, a 30-year-plus tech veteran who has worked at companies including iHeartRadio, PayPal, Yahoo and Apple, joined DSS in 2018.
The design philosophy for Disney Plus is bringing the media conglomerate’s brands front and center and let subscribers with varying affinities find just what they want to watch. “It’s not a kids’ service. It’s a four-quadrant product,” says Jimerson. “We wanted to create excitement about the brands without overwhelming the viewer.”
The DSS New York headquarters at Chelsea Market are in a building complex originally built by Nabisco that’s more than a century old. Tucked deep inside the structure, behind several security checkpoints, the Disney group that manages real-time video distribution is ensconced in brick-lined furnaces where Oreo cookies were once baked. DSS staffers refer to the area, outfitted banks of large overhead monitors, as “The Ovens.”
Along with New York, DSS runs video operations centers in Amsterdam and San Francisco, and eventually will open a facility serving Asia-Pacific. The global scope of Disney’s direct-to-consumer strategy and aggressive rollout plans presents another significant challenge for Paull. The company expects Disney Plus to be in all major markets by 2021, starting with Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand in November.
“We have taken the programming that we had, and instead of selling that to third parties we’ve held it,” he says. “So once you made that decision to really do this, we recognized we need to do it quickly.”
DSS has been heavily focused on designing and testing Disney Plus, marking the first time movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and other brands will come together in a unified streaming service. Last month, it launched a free test of Disney Plus in the Netherlands, aiming to get the product as bulletproof as possible ahead of commercial launch.
Disney Plus promises a set of robust features, including 4K content, the ability to download everything in the catalog for offline viewing, up to seven profiles per account, and up to four simultaneous streams. But the relatively fast timeline to launch meant some ended up getting tabled for now, including the ability to submit content ratings (although Paull argues such omissions can keep things simple).
“The biggest challenge is, until you put it out there in the wild and have real consumers using the product, you don’t know what you don’t know,” Paull says.
Fact Box: Disney Streaming Services
• Employees 1,600 worldwide
• NYC office space 100,000+ square feet
• Major services Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, MLB.tv, Hulu’s live TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue
• Disney Plus operating costs (projected) Nearly $1b for fiscal 2020
• Disney Plus subscriber base (projected) 60m-90m by September 2024
With the coming launch of Disney Plus, Paull and other Disney Streaming Services execs point to the company’s years of battle-tested experience in the biz. In addition to MLB.tv, it powers the live streaming TV for Hulu and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. It also runs ESPN Plus, which grew to over 2 million subscribers less than a year after its launch in April 2018.
Russell Wolff, EVP and GM of ESPN Plus, joined DSS in October 2018 after 21 years at ESPN. He says one of the biggest differences at a digital-focused entity like Disney Streaming Plus versus the TV world is the amount of data and insights the organization uses to make decisions. DSS, he says, has a culture of constantly testing and iterating.
“In my old job, I got a 60-day-old subscriber report,” Wolff says. “Now I have an app that tells me who signed up in the last 10 minutes.”
In New York, Disney will have a massive presence for years to come. The media conglomerate plans to construct a 19-story building at 4 Hudson Square in Tribeca with 1.3 million square feet of space, under a $650 million development deal. There’s no timetable for the construction of the complex, but it’s expected to combine Disney Streaming Services offices in the city under one roof, along with those of ABC and other Disney businesses.
Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International (who is Paull’s boss), praises New York’s “vibrant, energetic and hardworking character.” The Big Apple ethos, he adds, is “a core part of the culture of [Disney Streaming Services] and why we’re excited to call NYC home for this important piece of the DTCI segment.”
To Paull, New York remains the ideal locale to recruit talent with a confluence of both tech and media experience. (He also likes that he can walk to the office from his home near Madison Square Park.)
“There’s no better city than New York,” says Paull. “The skills and capabilities we need are here in a way that you wouldn’t find in other parts of the country.”
Smart TVs are Data-Collecting Machines, New Study Shows
Roku and Amazon Fire TVs are tracking you like everything else
By Zoe Schiffer
Add smart TVs to the growing list of home appliances guilty of surveilling people’s movements. A new study from Princeton University shows internet-connected TVs, which allow people to stream Netflix and Hulu, are loaded with data-hungry trackers.
“If you use a device such as Roku and Amazon Fire TV, there are numerous companies that can build up a fairly comprehensive picture of what you’re watching,” Arvind Narayanan, associate professor of computer science at Princeton, wrote in an email to The Verge. “There’s very little oversight or awareness of their practices, including where that data is being sold.”
Of course, data is part of the reason TVs have gotten so cheap. Today, Roku’s sell for less than $200, subsidized in part by targeted advertising. Technically, people agree to have their data sold when they set up their devices. But many aren’t aware it’s even happening.
To understand how much surveillance is taking place on smart TVs, Narayanan and his co-author Hooman Mohajeri Moghaddam built a bot that automatically installed thousands of channels on their Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. It then mimicked human behavior by browsing and watching videos. As soon as it ran into an ad, it would track what data was being collected behind the scenes.
Some of the information, like device type, city, and state, is hardly unique to one user. But other data, like the device serial number, Wi-Fi network, and advertising ID, could be used to pinpoint an individual. “This gives them a more complete picture of who you are,” said Moghaddam. He noted that some channels even sent unencrypted email addresses and video titles to the trackers.
In total, the study found trackers on 69 percent of Roku channels and 89 percent of Amazon Fire channels. “Some of these are well known, such as Google, while many others are relatively obscure companies that most of us have never heard of,” Narayanan said. Google’s ad service DoubleClick was found on 97 percent of Roku channels.
“Like other publishers, smart TV app developers can use Google’s ad services to show ads against their content, and we’ve helped design industry guidelines for this that enable a privacy-safe experience for users,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Verge. “Depending on the user’s preferences, the developer may share data with Google that’s similar to data used for ads in mobile apps or on the web.”
Both Roku and Amazon Fire allow users to turn off targeted advertising. But doing so only stops a user’s advertising ID from being tracked — not the other uniquely identifiable information.
“Better privacy controls would certainly help, but they are ultimately band-aids,” Narayanan said. “The business model of targeted advertising on TVs is incompatible with privacy, and we need to confront that reality. To maximize revenue, platforms based on ad targeting will likely turn to data mining and algorithmic personalization/persuasion to keep people glued to the screen as long as possible.”
New Blockchain-Based Music Streaming Service Audius is a Copyright Nightmare
‘That’s just going to crash and burn’
New startup Audius says its blockchain-based music streaming service is the solution that finally pays attention to indie artists’ needs. It’s also full of pirated material.
Audius’ website says “music platforms were at their best when they listened to what artists and fans wanted - not corporations or major labels” and that uploaded tracks can “never be censored or removed.” TechCrunch called Audius’ blockchain move its “secret sauce,” while Yahoo finance said it is “adequately addressing the most pressing needs within the industry.” But one of the most pressing problems in music right now is copyright. Audius contains infringing material — such as an unlicensed version of Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea’s “Problem” — that, if its promotional materials are right, the company cannot remove.
Audius is directly competing for SoundCloud’s audience, which may explain its problems. Once SoundCloud was a haven for up-and-coming artists, hosting then-unknowns such as The Chainsmokers and Lorde, but it also hosted a lot of infringing material: remixes, mashups, and often entire songs. Although SoundCloud had a content ID system in place since 2011, it began more rigorously enforcing copyright complaints after inking deals with labels, often with haphazard results, so hardcore users started looking elsewhere. In trying to appeal to these users, Audius is running into the same problems.
“They say ‘We don’t have the ability to deplatform you or censor you.’ What I hear when I read that is, ‘It’s going to be real difficult for us to take down anything that you put up,’” says Kevin Casini, a professor of entertainment law at the Quinnipiac School of Law in Connecticut. “They’re trying to speak as if they’re talking to people who are afraid of this bogeyman intermediary. And they’re also saying, ‘Hey, this is a new spot where you can, at least for a brief amount of time, upload something, and we’re not going to look at it and see what it is.’ It seems that they know this is something that is going to happen quickly for them, and they’re signaling and advertising to the people that actually know what they’re saying, which is: ‘You can come here and do it.’”
Audius says it’s aiming at the up-and-comers who once would have used SoundCloud. “We really see ourselves getting into the same niche as SoundCloud right now,” Audius CEO Roneil Rumburg tells The Verge. Audius might even have a shot at it. Indie artists’ hackles were raised by a self-monetization contract rolled out by SoundCloud that allowed it to change payment terms without notification and blocked artists from ever suing the company.
But the problem is, all of the things Audius says it’s solving with the blockchain — a more direct line between fans and artists, discovery, self-monetizing — can be done without the blockchain. In fact, this is being done without the blockchain on Bandcamp and Patreon, among others.
There are real problems in the music industry: bad and non-standardized metadata, missing contributor credits, unidentified recordings that need to be matched, copyright infringement in every shape and form, and lack of sophisticated audio fingerprinting tools. Human errors with metadata mean musicians miss out on routine payments, for instance. Just recently, a scammer was able to put an unreleased Kanye West album on Apple Music as ringtones. Artist imposters are able to profit off others’ work on streaming services by simply mislabeling songs or making adjustments to the audio, like slightly pitching a song up or down.
Blockchain solves none of this and, in some cases, makes it worse.
“On the surface, a lot of people think, ‘blockchain is perfect for this,’” says Jack Spallone, senior product manager at ConsenSys. “Not quite. If [the music industry] could use Excel really well, it might not even be an issue.”
Blockchains make piracy more of a headache.
Audius is trying to avoid SoundCloud’s copyright issues by not hosting the user-uploaded content itself. Its open-source protocol, built on blockchain, means that the responsibility of hosting and making uploaded content available is spread out among people who register as node operators. They say this method should protect them from liability and the claws of major labels. This is actually an open question. Copying and distribution initiated by the user but carried out by a system has insulated some companies in the past, but it has not been a sufficient argument for others.
There are other red flags with how Audius is set up: the company confirmed to The Verge that there is no content ID system in place to catch potential infringement. Though individual uploaders can be held liable for infringement, there’s no way for Audius to remove infringing material, and there is also no way to file an infringement claim on the website. “A formal process is in the works,” a company representative said.
Whether this business model holds up in court or not, lawsuits from major publishers or labels could easily wipe out Audius’ capital. And if you’re buried with lawsuits, you have no money for anything else. It remains to be seen how labels and other rights holders will react to Audius, which has, in a short time, become saturated with infringing material.
Original Ed Sheeran songs are available to play on Audius right now, along with songs registered to labels like Dim Mak and Spinnin’ and scores of unsanctioned remixes using material from the likes of Kanye West and Eric Prydz. None of these artists are getting paid for this use. In fact, Audius says, no one at all is getting paid yet. The implementation of payments is slated “TBD as sometime next year,” Rumburg says.
Even if Audius isn’t directly liable for infringement, it can still be held secondarily liable if a court finds it promotes “its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement.”
Experts are skeptical about whether being on the blockchain is enough to protect Audius from washing their hands of bad actors. Historically, services like Grokster used similar arguments. After all, Grokster didn’t host any material; it only allowed the means for people to share files with each other. But it lost that fight in the Supreme Court, and it shut down in 2005. “That’s what all the early peer to peer services said too and it didn’t super work out for them,” says John Bergmayer, legal director at Public Knowledge.
Audius views its role essentially as an open-source software producer, Rumburg says. “We basically give artists and listeners the tools they need to interact with one another directly. We help steward that community but we’re not actively posting content or operating the code.”
I ask Bergmayer if that’s enough to protect the company. “I’m all for a looser copyright system, but I don’t want people to put forward these legal arguments that have lost,” he says. “If there is an underlying direct infringer and you’re doing something, anything at all, now or in the past that in some way facilitates that, there is probable claim against you.”
Out of all of the different types of art that can be protected with copyright, music is one of the messiest to deal with. To start, every song has two copyrights: one for the composition and one for the recording. Most songs have a lot of people and entities that need to get paid on both sides every time a song is played — from the record label to the songwriters to the people actually performing the song.
Here’s an example originally used by Annie Lin, senior corporate counsel at Twitch: Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Capitol Records owns the recording for “Firework,” but five different songwriters with five different music publishers own percentages of the composition rights. Most existing music works this way; imagine the logistical difficulties of convincing everyone from hundreds of territories around the world, which all have varying copyright laws, to switch over to blockchain.
But can Audius attract an audience?
This is probably why Audius is taking the SoundCloud route. The easiest way for blockchain to be used with music streaming services is to focus on controlled compositions — that is, songs that are written, owned, and controlled by a single entity (i.e., many up-and-coming artists). That market’s still a sliver of music as a whole.
Additionally, focusing on such a niche market means facing the economic reality of competing with the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and, yes, SoundCloud, all of which have licensing deals in place with the majors to provide massive catalogs. People are already getting music on these services for $10 a month, so convincing them to sign up for another service without any of their favorite popular artists is tough.
“Okay, well, we won’t deal with the majors,” says George Howard, associate professor of music business / management at Berklee College of Music and Brown University, describing this general strategy. “We’ll just stand up some music thing with a bunch of artists nobody’s ever heard of and wonder why the fuck nobody comes to our thing because they don’t understand network effect.”
There are other problems facing any blockchain-based music streaming service. How can a copyright holder identify who is hosting the infringing work other than by issuing a subpoena? How can the service comply with a DMCA notice when content is immutably embedded in a blockchain? What liability does a node operator face for hosting infringing material, which the operator may not have uploaded? Or users for uploading it?
Blockchain technology might be useful in some cases in music. For instance, it could create scarcity with limited edition digital releases or be used to reward and share revenue with fans, like Imogen Heap did on her last tour. But using it for a music streaming service is unnecessary, and claiming that it’s a solution for any of the biggest issues facing musicians is simply untrue. “They don’t understand copyright law,” Howard says of Audius. “They have a barrier to assume evil with the big stakeholders, and that’s just going to crash and burn. The problem with it is that, yet again, it sends a signal that blockchain and music doesn’t work.
Adobe is Cutting Off Users in Venezuela Due to US Sanctions
Users have until October 28th to download content, and no refunds will be issued
Adobe is shutting down service for users in Venezuela in order to comply with a US executive order issued in August that prohibits trade with the country. The company sent out an email to customers in Venezuela today to let them know their accounts would be deactivated, and posted a support document further explaining the decision.
In the document, Adobe explains: “The U.S. Government issued Executive Order 13884, the practical effect of which is to prohibit almost all transactions and services between U.S. companies, entities, and individuals in Venezuela. To remain compliant with this order, Adobe is deactivating all accounts in Venezuela.”
Users will have until October 28th to download any content stored in their accounts, and will lose access the next day. To make matters worse, customers won’t be able to receive refunds for any purchases or outstanding subscriptions, as Adobe says that the executive order calls for “the cessation of all activity with the entities including no sales, service, support, refunds, credits, etc.”
Well, is officially illegal has an Adobe products if you live in Venezuela pic.twitter.com/25zgaUIyqF
— Aender Lara (@AenderLara) October 7, 2019
The news is not only disastrous to designers and freelancers who rely on the company’s software like Photoshop and Illustrator, but to NGOs and media outlets that will no longer be able to use software like InDesign, Acrobat, and Reader. The ban will also affect all free services like Behance, Adobe’s portfolio site, which requires a Creative Cloud account.
It’s an unfortunate situation that highlights a downside of Adobe’s subscription-based model — users lose access to the company’s products immediately as soon as the option to pay for them is removed, no matter how long they’ve been a customer. Adobe says it’ll continue to monitor the US sanctions for more developments, but until then, accounts will remain deactivated.
When reached for comment, an Adobe spokesperson provided this comment to The Verge: “Due to the recent Executive Order (Executive Order 13884) regarding ‘blocking’ select activities with the Government of Venezuela, Adobe is currently evaluating our existing partnerships and agreements with individuals and organizations subject to the rule to ensure we remain compliant. Adobe will continue customer and partner support activities permitted under the Executive Order but will pause all activities which are not permitted. We regret any inconvenience this may cause to customers, as we continue to carefully monitor and assess the situation. We will share more details as to how our operations and customer activities might be impacted, as those details become available.”
I didn't find any solution. My account will be suspended. I will lose everything of my Behance account and other services.
We need to start again. For all the Venezuelans citizens, refugees and immigrants...This is just unfair.#Adobe #Venezuelans #Venezuela pic.twitter.com/DIyAa0AZ23
— Gabriela Yanez (@faintenkiu) October 7, 2019
Apple Removes HKmap.live App Used by Hong Kong Protesters Under Pressure from China
Apple removed a smartphone app that allows Hong Kong activists to report police movements from its online store Thursday after an official Chinese newspaper accused the company of facilitating illegal behavior. Apple Inc. was just the latest company to come under pressure to take Beijing's side against anti-government protesters when the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said Wednesday the HKmap.live app "facilitates illegal behavior."
The newspaper asked, "Is Apple guiding Hong Kong thugs?"
Apple said in a statement that HKmap.live was removed because it "has been used to target and ambush police" and "threaten public safety." It said that violated local law and Apple guidelines.
HKmap.live allows users to report police locations, use of tear gas and other details that are added to a regularly updated map. Another version is available for smartphones that use the Android operating system.
"We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement," said the Apple statement. "This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store."
The app's developers, however, rejected Apple's move and said there was, "0 evidence to support CSTCB's accusation that HKmap App has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety."
The app maker accused Apple of removing HKmap.live in a deliberate "decision to suppress freedom and human right in #HongKong," and added that it was "disappointing to see US corps such as @Apple, @NBA, @Blizzard_Ent, @TiffanyAndCo act against #freedom."
8. We once believed the App rejection is simply a bureaucratic f up, but now it is clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in #HongKong. It is disappointing to see US corps such as @Apple, @NBA, @Blizzard_Ent, @TiffanyAndCo act against #freedom
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 10, 2019
The Hong Kong demonstrations began over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include other grievances and demands for greater democracy.
Activists complain Beijing and Hong Kong leaders are eroding the autonomy and Western-style civil liberties promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997.
Criticism of Apple followed government attacks starting last weekend on the National Basketball Association over a comment by the general manager of the Houston Rockets in support of the protesters. China's state TV has canceled broadcasts of NBA games.
People's Daily warned Apple might hurt its reputation with Chinese consumers.
"Apple needs to think deeply," the newspaper said.
Brands targeted in the past by Beijing have been subjected to campaigns by the entirely state-controlled press to drive away consumers or disrupt investigations by tax authorities and other regulators.
China has long been critical to Apple's business.
The mainland is Apple's second-biggest market after the United States but CEO Tim Cook says it eventually will become No. 1.
Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, California, also is an important asset for China.
Most of its iPhones and tablet computers are assembled in Chinese factories that employ hundreds of thousands of people. Chinese vendors supply components for Mac Pro computers that are assembled in Texas.
Apple is Getting Slammed by Both Republicans and Democrats for Pulling an App Used by Hong Kong Protesters to Monitor Police Activity
• Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress slammed Apple on Thursday for the company's decision to pull a Hong Kong protest app from the App Store.
• The app, HKmap.live, allowed protesters to share the location of police activity.
• Apple pulled the app, saying the app was "used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong."
• "An authoritarian regime is violently suppressing its own citizens who are fighting for democracy," one senator tweeted. "Apple just sided with them."
Apple drew harsh criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress on Thursday after the tech giant decided to pull an app from the App Store that was being used by protesters in Hong Kong.
The app, HKmap.live, allowed protesters in Hong Kong to share the location of police and plan their movements accordingly, similar to apps like Waze.
Apple has repeatedly flip-flopped on whether to allow the app — it initially rejected the app earlier this month, then made it available for download a few days later, before ultimately removing it from the app store on Thursday.
"Apple assured me last week that their initial decision to ban this app was a mistake. Looks like the Chinese censors have had a word with them since," Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri tweeted. "Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?"
An Apple spokesperson was not immediately available to comment. In a previous statement explaining the rationale for removing the app, Apple said HKmap.live was "used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong," the New York Times first reported.
In response, developers of HKmap.live told The Verge that "HKmap App never solicits, promotes, or encourages criminal activity. HKmap App consolidates information from user and public sources, e.g. live news stream, Facebook and Telegram."
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who has a record of being tough on China, also criticized Apple's decision.
"An authoritarian regime is violently suppressing its own citizens who are fighting for democracy," Wyden tweeted. "Apple just sided with them."
Other lawmakers to blast Apple's decision included Republican senator Rick Scott of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Tim Cook, in a leaked memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, talked more about Apple's decision to remove the app. Cook wrote that the app was being used to "maliciously target individual officers for violence," and that he received "credible information" from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau as well as the app's users which indicated it was being used for those purposes.
Google on Thursday was accused of removing a game about the Hong Kong protests at the request of Hong Kong police, which the company has denied, saying instead it was because the app violated its policies.
The video game distributor Blizzard has also drawn backlash this week for banning a Hearthstone player for supporting the Hong Kong protests. Before that, a Houston Rockets manager walked back his statement in support of Hong Kong protesters after China's state broadcaster said it wouldn't show future Rockets games.
California-Based Game Company Blizzard Bans Pro Esports Player and Confiscates His Prize Money after He Voices Support for Hong Kong Protesters
• Blizzard Entertainment has sent a professional esports player home from a tournament and handed him a 12-month ban after he voiced support for Hong Kong protesters during a postgame interview.
• The esports player, whose real name is Chung Ng Wai but who is known as Blitzchung, will also be fined the full amount of the prize money he won from the Hearthstone Grandmasters regular-season tournament.
• During the interview on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream, Blitzchung appeared wearing a gas mask, which he lifted up before shouting "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" in Chinese.
• Blizzard appears to be arguing that Blitzchung's statements about the Hong Kong protests offended "a portion or group of the public" or damaged the company's image.
• The situation highlights the thorny trade-off US-based companies face when operating in China, which offers a lucrative and massive market but a different set of rules companies must play by.
A professional esports player has been fined his prize money and given a yearlong ban after he voiced support for Hong Kong's protesters during a postgame interview.
The Hong Kong-based player, known as Blitzchung, will be forced to forfeit his monetary prize and won't be able to compete for a year for making the remarks, the US-based video game giant Blizzard announced Tuesday. The two casters — esports commentators — who appeared alongside Blitzchung in the interview will also "not work with Blizzard anymore," according to the company.
The player, whose real name is Chung Ng Wai, was participating in the Hearthstone Grandmasters regular season, an esports tournament in which players play Hearthstone, the turn-based online card game developed by Blizzard.
On Sunday, the esports publication Inven Global tweeted out footage of Blitzchung's post-match interview on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream. Blizzard has since deleted footage of the interview from its official channels.
During the interview, Blitzchung appears wearing a gas mask, which he lifts up before shouting "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" in Chinese, as verified by Polygon.
After Blitzchung's exclamation, his two casters look down, seemingly in an attempt to distance themselves from his remarks. Blitzchung later told Inven Global it was his "duty" to speak out about the Hong Kong protests.
"As you know, there are serious protests in my country now," he said. "My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months that I sometimes couldn't focus on preparing my Grandmaster match.
"I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life," he told the publication.
Blizzard is a US-based company, where speech is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but it also operates in authoritarian China thanks to a partnership with one of its China-based investors, Tencent. China issues only a certain number of game licenses a year, and US-based companies often partner with game companies based in the country as a way to access the vast market and grow their sales — but partnerships like that often lead to a clash of values.
The situation highlights the thorny tradeoff US-based companies face when operating in China: It's a hugely profitable opportunity, but placating the Chinese government can require compromising on fundamental democratic values in ways that provoke backlash elsewhere in the world.
Tellingly, Tencent is also a partner of the NBA, which is in crisis after the Houston Rockets' general manager, Daryl Morey, faced a major backlash in China for tweeting in support of the Hong Kong protesters on Friday.
Several of the Rockets' Chinese sponsors and partners, including the state broadcaster China Central Television and Tencent's livestreaming platform, Tencent Sports, have since said they will no longer broadcast Rockets games.
Morey deleted the tweet and said he did not mean to "cause any offense," but the damage seems to have been done in a country where basketball is the most watched sports league.
The TV show "South Park" is another recent example of a US-based product angering the nation state. After a recent episode saw the character Randy visit a Chinese reeducation camp and endure forced labor, the show has reportedly been banned in China. The show promptly issued a mock apology through its Twitter account.
Elsewhere in the tech industry, Google's parent company, Alphabet, was recently criticized by its own employees and US lawmakers for quietly working on a version of the Google search engine designed for the Chinese market that would censor its results. The company has since said it's stopped work on the project.
Blizzard, announcing the bans, did not address whether Tencent or the Chinese government influenced its decision. Instead, it said Blitzchung violated the rules of its competition, specifically this rule:
"Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard's sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player's prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard's Website Terms."
Blizzard appears to be arguing that Blitzchung's statements about the Hong Kong protests offended "a portion or group of the public" or damaged the company's image. Blizzard did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment. The company has disabled comments on its blog post announcing the ban.
Gamers Are Organizing a Mass Protest at Blizzard's BlizzCon
"They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they've unleashed," the protest's organizers say.
Jason Koebler and Edward Ongweso Jr
A coalition of activists and gamers (and gamer activists) are planning an “umbrella protest” at BlizzCon, Blizzard Activision’s biggest annual conference, to push back against the company’s censorship of a high-profile Hearthstone player who voiced support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
Nonprofit activist group Fight for the Future is organizing the campaign, called GamersForFreedom.com, to keep a scorecard keeping track of companies that have publicly pledged to not censor players like Blizzard. It is calling on players to show up to BlizzCon, which starts November 1 in California, to protest against the company’s censorship. The BlizzCon protest is named after the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“This is not going away,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future said in a statement, “Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated.”
Fight for the Future has successfully organized a host of major protests over the last few years, including some of the internet’s largest pro net neutrality campaigns. Those campaigns included large-scale public commenting campaigns on the FCC’s website, purchasing billboards to shame anti-net neutrality lawmakers, and working to get Congress to support a bill that would restore net neutrality. In recent weeks, the organization has protested Amazon’s Ring partnerships with police, which allow police to obtain footage from Ring home surveillance cameras without a warrant.
The coalition has set up a Discord to plan the protests. So far, the Discord is relatively small, but Greer said she is hoping people to “come in cosplay, with signs, creative shirts, etc.” The protest is in the early stages, but Fight for the Future has a proven track record of being able to mobilize lots of people in the name of internet freedom: “So far we're just announcing it / calling for people to come,” Greer said on Discord. “We should def figure out all the logistics, location / police liaison / signs and messaging / maybe ridesharing, etc.”
Blizzard employees and gamers have been furious that the company censored a player and seems to be showing deference to the Chinese government. Players have staged mass protests, while employees have been protesting every day on the company’s campus.
Meanwhile, the list of prominent companies that have gone out of their way to censor on behalf of the Chinese government has been growing—mainly because it has been profitable enough to look the other way.
Blizzard Reinstates Hong Kong Protestor’s Prize, Says “China had No Influence”
Bans reversed; statement juggles cultural, political diversity with "focus on the game."
After four days of mounting public pressure, Blizzard Entertainment took a late Friday opportunity—8:30pm ET, where press releases go to die—to partially undo its ban on three members of the Hearthstone esports community for making statements in support of Hong Kong.
The outright ban applied to professional Hearthstone player Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung has since been changed to a six-month suspension from official Hearthstone esports tournaments. The original decision to strip him of the associated tournament's prize money has been reversed.
Additionally, the two Chinese broadcasters who interviewed (and possibly egged on) blitzchung during his shout of "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" had been fired; they too have had their punishment changed to a six-month suspension from their jobs as official Hearthstone esports "casters."
"Keep official channels focused on the game"
The announcement also includes an attempt by Blizzard President J. Allen Brack to explain how the terms of the existing punishment fit into the company's set of "core" values: "Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; and Every Voice Matters." While Brack's letter includes repeat defenses of its fans' and players' "different cultures and backgrounds," it points specifically to the belief that blitzchung's statements about Hong Kong were "in violation of rules he acknowledged and understood." To clarify what this violation was, Brack wrote:
Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome. In support of that, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game.
Brack's letter did not acknowledge exactly where Blizzard draws its line for when a player or caster's mid-tournament comments step outside this "focus on the game." A note later in the letter hints to harsher control of players' comments in tournaments from here on out: "Moving forward, we will continue to apply tournament rules to ensure our official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views."
This would imply that the message's content was indeed the point of contention. Yet in a section titled, "Were our actions based on the content of the message?" Brack tries to imply otherwise.
"The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made," Brack wrote. "I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision." However, Brack did not acknowledge a statement made by Blizzard China earlier in the week which read, in part: "We are very angered and disappointed at what happened at the event last weekend and highly object to the expression of personal political beliefs in any of our events. As always, we will defend the pride and dignity of China at all cost."
Microsoft Plans to Bring Internet Access to 40 Million People by 2022
The company will start with projects in Latin America and Africa.
As of last year, approximately half the world's population is now connected to the internet. While it's definitely a positive milestone, the flip side of that number is that there are still billions of people that don't have access to any sort of internet connectivity. Microsoft's 2017 Airband Initiative streamlined efforts to build out internet access across the US, and now it's applying that method to its work across Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Moving forward, the company plans to connect 40 million people across the world to the internet by 2022. Initially, Microsoft will focus on rural and remote communities in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, with other regions to follow. The company adds that it plans to employ a four-part approach that will focus on working with local ISPs and communities to build out affordable and reliable internet access. Microsoft is pushing regulators for access to TV White Space (TVWS), which are wireless frequencies that can be repurposed to deliver internet access across a wide area.
"A wireless technology or a business model that is suitable for connecting customers in one location might not be suitable for connecting customers in another location," Shelley McKinley, the company's head of technology and corporate responsibility, wrote in a blog post on the announcement. "Our experience has shown us that a multi-stakeholder approach is needed to close the connectivity gap."
Closer to home, Microsoft is working on building out internet access in rural communities across the US. The company currently aims to bring high-speed internet access to more than 9 million people in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
AT&T and Other Carriers Want to Hide Detailed 5G Maps from FCC and Public
As FCC requires more accurate broadband maps, carriers want 5G to be left out.
AT&T and other mobile carriers are trying to hide detailed 5G maps from the public despite constantly touting the supposed pace and breadth of their 5G rollouts.
With the Federal Communications Commission planning to require carriers to submit more accurate data about broadband deployment, AT&T and the mobile industry's top lobby group are urging the FCC to exclude 5G from the upgraded data collection.
"There is broad agreement that it is not yet time to require reporting on 5G coverage," AT&T told the FCC in a filing this week.
As evidence of that "broad agreement," AT&T cited comments by CTIA—the mobile industry lobby group that represents AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. "[A]s CTIA points out, service standards for 5G are still emerging, precluding reporting of service-level coverage for 5G networks (other than the 5G-NR submissions already required)," AT&T wrote.
That's a reference to 5G New Radio, the global standard for 5G. CTIA told the FCC in September that it doesn't object to the 5G-NR requirement because "the 5G-NR standards are technical ones; they do not establish what service level consumers should be able to expect when using 5G."
But CTIA said requiring more than that would be "premature" because "industry consensus is still emerging around how best to measure the deployment of this still-nascent technology." Verizon also told the FCC in September that "adoption of standardized parameters is premature" for 5G.
Calling 5G a "still-nascent technology" that can't properly be measured yet raises the question of why carriers have been telling the FCC and public that 5G is guaranteed to revolutionize modern life and that carriers need regulatory favors to speed its rollout. The mobile industry didn't think it was "premature" for the US government to preempt local regulation of 5G deployments, an action FCC Chairman Ajit Pai took more than a year ago.
The new industry filings were previously detailed in articles by Light Reading and Vice.
The FCC in October voted to require home Internet providers to submit geospatial maps of where they provide service instead of merely reporting which census blocks they offer service in. The FCC hasn't yet imposed such extensive requirements on mobile providers, but that's because it hasn't finished its investigation into complaints that Verizon and T-Mobile lied about the extent of their 4G coverage. The FCC is seeking public comment on how to incorporate mobile coverage into the new mapping system.
T-Mobile has published maps of its 5G coverage, but an FCC requirement could force carriers to provide more accurate and detailed data than they are willing to share voluntarily.
AT&T's filing this week complained that "requiring 5G coverage maps in this early stage of 5G deployment could reveal sensitive information about cell site locations and even customer locations, in cases where 5G is being deployed in high-band spectrum for specific enterprise customers."
AT&T also wants limits on requirements for reporting the speed of non-5G networks. AT&T said that carriers should only have to report two speed tiers: one for everything below 5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds, and another tier for everything at or above 5Mbps and 1Mbps.
AT&T claims it will "offer 5G nationwide in the first half of 2020," but AT&T also misled consumers about 5G availability by renaming a large portion of its 4G network, calling it "5G E." Verizon has been touting its plan to have 5G in parts of 30 cities by the end of 2019, while T-Mobile has claimed it has a better 5G plan than AT&T or Verizon.
Actually reporting detailed 5G maps would show just how sparse the networks are, even in cities where it's been rolled out. Early deployments have focused on the millimeter-wave variant of 5G, which is the only type of 5G expected to provide significantly faster speeds than 4G.
This high-frequency spectrum can greatly increase mobile speeds because there's more of it available. But the higher frequencies are easily blocked, and they don't travel as far as low-frequency signals. Verizon recently bragged about offering 5G in 13 NFL stadiums, but its 5G network isn't capable of covering all the seating areas in any one of those stadiums.
Consumers should not expect to get a consistent millimeter-wave 5G signal as they move through a city any time soon, and carriers admit that customers in rural areas may never get millimeter-wave 5G. Outside densely populated areas, Verizon says that 5G will be more like "good 4G."
New Bill Would Stop Internet Service Providers From Screwing You With Hidden Fees
Cable giants routinely advertise one rate then charge you another thanks to hidden fees a well-lobbied government refuses to do anything about.
Like the airline and hotel industries, the cable TV and broadband sector has a masterful knack for obnoxious, hidden fees. From fees for simply trying to pay your bill to broadband surcharges based entirely on fluff and nonsense, the industry has spent years advertising one rate, only to hit you with a significantly higher price once your bill actually comes due.
A new bill being proposed by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Anna Eshoo is attempting to put an end to the practice.
The duo’s Truth-In-Billing, Remedies, and User Empowerment over Fees (‘TRUE Fees’) Act would require cable TV or broadband providers to include all additional surcharges in the advertised price, helping consumers avoid sticker shock.
In recent years the industry has been under fire for its misleading “broadcast TV” fees, which simply takes a part of the cost of programming and buries it below the line. In many areas consumers can pay as much as $12 per month extra just from this fee alone. Several class action lawsuits against cable giants like Comcast have yet to derail the practice.
With so many consumers on auto-payment systems, most will never realize that they’re suddenly paying a higher rate, something consumer groups say is entirely by design.
"Communications service customers are almost used to being hit by mysterious fees at the end of the month, never knowing what the true cost of service will be until the bill shows up—or, if they have automatic bill payment set up, maybe never really knowing about or even seeing these hidden fees increase,” Matt Wood, General Counsel of Consumer Group Free Press told Motherboard in an email. “That's a shame, and they shouldn't have to accept it.”
Regulators and lawmakers have historically turned a blind eye to the practice across industries.
For example, the hotel industry in the States routinely imposes resort fees also intended to misleadingly jack up the advertised price, a practice banned in many European countries. And anybody that’s flown lately is well aware of the wide variety of nonsensical surcharges that can quickly result in a far more pricey trip than you may have originally expected.
Wood said that instead of addressing this problem for what it is (false advertising), American leadership tends to treat such spurious surcharges as the height of capitalistic creativity. And when bills addressing the problem arrive, they tend to go nowhere thanks to industry lobbying.
Consumer Reports has attempted to draw some additional attention to the problem via its “What the Fee?!” campaign, highlighting misleading charges like “regulatory recovery” fees (designed to trick users into believing government is to blame for higher rates), to soaring charges for antiquated cable boxes and DVRs that cost companies a pittance to provide.
“This legislation is simple, straightforward, and effective,” Consumer Reports said of this latest legislative effort. “The TRUE Fees Act would address the out-of-control fee problem in the telecommunications marketplace and deliver much-needed transparency for cable and internet providers’ unnecessarily-complicated billing practices.”
The government’s apathy has come with a steep price for cable and broadband customer wallets. Many of these fees have been jacked upwards of 241% in just the last few years, leaving American consumers paying even higher rates for what’s already some of the most expensive cable TV and broadband prices in the developed world.
Twitter Took Phone Numbers for Security and Used Them for Advertising
This could make people think twice about using a phone number to secure their account at all.
When some users provided Twitter with their phone number to make their account more secure, the company used this information for advertising purposes, according to a blog post from Twitter published on Tuesday.
This isn't the first time that a large social network has taken information explicitly meant for the purposes of security, and then quietly or accidentally use it for something else entirely. Facebook did something similar with phone numbers provided by users for two-factor authentication, the company confirmed last year.
"We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) this data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system," Twitter's announcement reads.
In short, when an advertiser using Twitter uploaded their own marketing list of email addresses or phone numbers, Twitter may have matched the list to people on Twitter "based on the email or phone number the Twitter account holder provided for safety and security purposes," the post adds.
"This was an error and we apologize," it read.
Twitter says it cannot say with certainty how many people were impacted by this issue, but says the problem was fixed as of September 17.
This use of data provided by users deliberately for the purposes of security for advertising could make people think twice about using a phone number to secure their account at all. Despite this, two-factor authentication remains a good security practice for the vast majority of Twitter users.
"We’re very sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don’t make a mistake like this again," Twitter's post added.
Senator Proposes Mandatory Labeling for Products with Mics, Cameras
The bill aims to protect consumers from unpleasant surprises.
Much in the same way that food labels are now required to disclose the potential presence of allergens such as peanuts, one Senator is proposing a law that would require tech companies to include a label on products disclosing the presence of recording devices.
The bill, dubbed the Protecting Privacy in our Homes Act, would mandate a new kind of labeling on goods that include Internet-connected microphones or cameras. The proposed law does not define what kind of labels would need to be appended but rather would order the Federal Trade Commission to put in place specific regulations "under which each covered manufacturer shall be required to include on the packaging of each covered device manufactured by the covered manufacturer a notice that a camera or microphone is a component of the covered device."
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced the bill to the Senate. "Consumers face a number of challenges when it comes to their privacy, but they shouldn’t have a challenge figuring out if a device they buy has a camera or microphone embedded into it," Gardner said. "This legislation is about consumer information, consumer empowerment, and making sure we’re doing everything we can to protect consumer privacy."
Most products that ship with cameras or microphones included tout the inclusion of such recording devices as a selling point, which could make this kind of regulation feel redundant at best. That said, there's quite a difference between "most" and "all." A rule such as the regulation Gardner proposes would close the gap that, for example, led owners of Nest Secure devices to the unpleasant discovery earlier this year that the products had shipped with undisclosed microphones.
Gardner is a co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, along with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). The two earlier this year led a bipartisan group of senators that co-sponsored the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Act of 2019, which would require existing regulators to develop security standards for connected devices.
The Senate, however, largely seems concerned with other events this year, and GovTrack.us gives the PPHA a 3% chance of actually becoming law.
‘Ignorance is Not an Excuse’: California Draft Rules on Data Privacy Released
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a series of draft regulations Thursday aimed at getting businesses to comply with the state’s landmark data privacy law, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, signed into law in June 2018, businesses must disclose to consumers the various kinds of data they collect about them. Companies must stop selling consumer data to third parties if customers ask them to, delete personal data on request, and explicitly seek consent from consumers aged 16 or younger to sell personal information.
The bill also states that consumers who exercise their rights under the law cannot be discriminated against.
The newly announced rules for businesses require notifying people before or when their data is collected. If notice is not given, data cannot be collected. The attorney general also provided guidelines for how to respond to consumers wanting to opt out, delete and know the data that’s collected on them, as well as how to verify the identity of people making such requests and how to maintain relevant records for two years.
“Help us get this right,” Becerra said.
Privacy is a right in California, he said, even as he acknowledged that some businesses may struggle to find the resources to comply. But, he added, “We want companies to understand that ignorance is not an excuse.”
Requirements outlined by the attorney general include:
• providing a “Do Not Sell My Info” link on the homepage of a company’s website or mobile app;
• for businesses with physical stores, paper notices on data collection;
• at least two methods for consumers to find or delete data that has been collected about them — for example, a toll-free number, an email address or a paper form.
Consumers, privacy advocates and businesses can weigh in about the proposals in written comments and at four public hearings in San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Los Angeles. The deadline for comments is Dec. 6.
The privacy act applies to a range of businesses, from tech companies like Google and Facebook to retail stores. Trade groups such as the Internet Association and the National Retail Federation opposed the legislation.
Not all California companies need to comply with data privacy law. Businesses will be subject to the law if they have annual revenue of more than $25 million; collect personal information of 50,000 or more consumers; or get at least half of their annual revenue from the collection of consumers’ data. Businesses handling personal information of more than 4 million consumers face additional requirements.
A recent study prepared for the state attorney general’s office by Berkeley Economic Advising and Research said 75% of California businesses will have to comply with the data privacy law. Costs for business could total between $467 million and $16.5 billion between 2020 and 2030, the study said.
“Data is today’s gold,” Becerra said. “Everyone is rushing to mine data and California is not unfamiliar with the Gold Rush. The big difference between now and 170 years ago was while gold was stripped from land, today, data is stripped from your privacy.”
Schneier Slams Australia's Encryption Laws and CyberCon Speaker Bans
Governments breaking encryption is bad, and 'will get worse once breaking encryption means people can die', says one of the world's leading security experts.
"Australia has some pretty draconian laws about forcing tech companies to break security," says cryptographer and computer security professional Bruce Schneier.
He's referring to the controversial Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018, which came into force in December.
"I actually don't like that, because stuff that you do flows downhill to the US. So stop doing that," he told the Australian Cybersecurity Conference, or CyberCon, in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Schneier's argument against breaking encrypted communications is simple.
"You have to make a choice. Either everyone gets to spy, or no one gets to spy. You can't have 'We get to spy, you don't.' That's not the way the tech works," he said.
"As this tech becomes more critical to life, we simply have to believe, accept, that securing it is more important than leaving it insecure so you can eavesdrop on the bad guys."
Schneier cited the so-called CIA triad model of cybersecurity: Confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Most data breaches have been about confidentiality failures. But as more and more critical systems rely on connectivity and the Internet of Things, data integrity and availability become critical to safety.
Publishing your medical records may cause embarrassment or discrimination, for example, but if data on your blood type is altered it could kill you.
A car is now a networked system of a hundred computers with wheels and a propulsion system. If that network isn't available, or is transmitting false data, a fatal crash could result.
"We need to maintain security as computers infiltrate the rest of the world," Schneier said.
"We are now living in a world where governments -- your government and my government -- are desperately trying to break encryption. This is bad, and this will get worse once breaking encryption means people can die," he said.
"The way to think of it is as one world, one network, and one answer."
Schneier placed the government urge to weaken encryption onto an historical context dating back to the 1950s and the founding of the US National Security Agency (NSA). It had two missions.
"One of them was to defend US military communications from eavesdropping, and the other was to eavesdrop on foreign military communications," Schneier said.
"The reason that worked is that our stuff and their stuff were different. Everything about them was different. And that's no longer true," he said.
"Today, everyone uses the same stuff. Everyone uses TCP/IP and Cisco routers and PDF files and iPhones, and either you build them to be secure for everybody, or you build them to be secure for nobody."
There's a real debate here, Schneier said, but it's not about security versus privacy. It's about security versus security.
One side is the security of everybody who carries a smart device, he said, "which is every world leader, and nuclear power plant operator, and CEO, and judge, and police officer".
On the other side is "the security that you get if you can listen to bad guys who are carrying one of these".
"You kind of get to pick one. You can pick one or the other, but you can't pretend to pick both."
Schneier also slammed CyberCon for dumping two speakers just days before the conference started. They were Thomas Drake, a whistleblower formerly with the NSA, and Dr Suelette Dreyfus from the the Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne.
CyberCon is organised by the Australian Information Security Association (AISA) and the government's Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), and Schneier's finger is pointed directly at the ACSC.
"[Drake] was going to talk about basically surveillance, the kind of talk I would give. Government and corporate surveillance, and how everybody's spying on all of us. I mean, nothing we don't know," Schneier said.
"[Dreyfus] was going to give a talk on work she did for the EU on building whistleblower platforms to reduce corruption in third world countries. Kind of mundane," he said.
"My guess is that someone at the ACSC saw the word 'whistleblower', and because that's kind of sensitive here, sort of freaked."
"I would say you're morally obligated to go read the two talks," Schneier said.
"Actually if you do want to read them, censorcon.net is where you'll find the slides and the abstracts."
The audience applauded.
Court Rules FBI Surveillance Violated Americans' Rights
Zack Budryk and Emily Birnbaum
The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ruled last year that some FBI surveillance violated the targets’ constitutional rights, the intelligence community revealed Tuesday.
The ruling, a rare loss for the government on surveillance matters, found that the FBI may have violated the law, as well as constitutional protections against unreasonable searches, as it searched through databases connected to its a warrantless communications surveillance program.
Judge James Boasberg, who sits on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, found last year that the FBI's efforts to query the sensitive databases and purge unnecessary results were "inconsistent with statutory minimization requirements and the requirements of the Fourth Amendment."
The ruling identified tens of thousands of improper FBI searches of intelligence databases in 2017 and 2018, according to the ruling, which found these searches may have been used to vet personnel and cooperating sources.
It also found that the FBI was not properly identifying and documenting which searches were connected to people in the U.S.
Federal law allows use of the database only to search for evidence of crimes or for foreign intelligence data, and requires an account of how many searches pertain to U.S. persons.
The ruling found improper use of the database by individuals, including at least one FBI contractor who searched an intelligence database for information on himself, relatives and other personnel.
Boasberg, who was appointed to the bench by former President Obama, wrote that the Trump administration failed to persuasively argue that the FBI would not be able to properly tackle national security threats if the program was altered to better protect citizen privacy.
The FISC issued the ruling, released on Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), in October 2018. The government appealed the court's finding to the FISA Court of Review, which sided with the lower court.
Ultimately, the FBI agreed to amend the querying process, requiring the agency to justify in writing why it is looking into any person in the U.S.
For years, civil liberties advocates have argued that the law at the center of the dispute – Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — violates constitutional rights as it allows the government to collect data on Americans without a warrant.
Congress last year reauthorized Section 702 with few alterations after a bitter battle between privacy activists and security hawks in both chambers.
“Last year, when Congress reauthorized Section 702 of FISA, it accepted the FBI’s outright refusal to account for all its warrantless backdoor searches of Americans,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said on Tuesday. “Today’s release demonstrates how baseless the FBI’s position was and highlights Congress’ constitutional obligation to act independently and strengthen the checks and balances on government surveillance."
"The information released today also reveals serious abuses in the FBI’s backdoor searches, underscoring the need for the government to seek a warrant before searching through mountains of private data on Americans," Wyden said. "Finally, I am concerned that the government has redacted information in these releases that the public deserves to know.”
The court documents released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday are partially redacted.
Until next week,
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|Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - January 16th, '10||JackSpratts||Peer to Peer||0||13-01-10 09:02 AM|
|Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - December 5th, '09||JackSpratts||Peer to Peer||0||02-12-09 08:32 AM|