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Netanyahu's UN Address

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 04/10/2014 - 02:21
Netanyahu's UN Address
by Stephen Lendman
Note: This article was intended for September 29. Illness intervened. Netanyahu Big Lies need exposing. This article takes its best shot.
Forthrightness isn't his long suit. He's toxic. Unwelcome. A menace to world peace and security. He finds new ways to disgrace the office he holds. 
He never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to act responsibly. State terror is official policy. 
So is institutionalized racism. Big Lies substitute for hard truths.Neranyahu's UN addresses are reprehensible. His self-defense argument against lightly armed Gazans wore thin long ago.
Steven Salaita was right saying Israel is the only nation responsible for killing hundreds of Palestinian children and self-declaring itself victimized.
Netanyahu never disappoints. He made a fool out of himself before a world audience. His anti-Iranian bluster is polar opposite truth.
He falsely claims the Islamic Republic wants Israel destroyed. He lies about its peaceful nuclear program.
He menaces people regionally. Jews and non-Jews alike. Why Israelis put up with him, they'll have to explain.
Last year his cartoon bomb went viral. It bombed. He was more cartoonish than his prop. 
One cartoonist showed a picture of Daffy Duck's head exploding. Another compared his explosive to what Warner Bros.' animated character Wile E. Coyote used in Looney Tunes cartoons.
The Wall Street Journal compared his stunt to Nikitia Krushchev's shoe-banging incident.
He rages against Iran every chance he gets. He does so unjustifiably. Tehran threatens no one. Netanyahu knows it. So does America.
Both countries partner in high crimes against peace. They defile core rule of law principles. They murder innocent civilians.
They do so in cold blood. They threaten humanity's survival. Stopping them matters most.
World leaders suffered through Netanyahu's rant. It made painful listening. He repeated one Big Lie after another. 
It was beginning-to-end rubbish. It was typical Netanyahu. He mocks democratic values. He shames legitimate governance. 
He spurns rule of law principles. He exceeds Sharonian evil. Israelis have themselves to blame for electing him.
He deplores peace. He once called the so-called peace process "a waste of time." 
He craves violence and instability. He lied saying otherwise. He's a serial liar. Nothing he says can be believed.
His press office promoted "rape as a terror deterrent" advocate Professor Mordechai Kedar. After three Israeli children's bodies were found in June, he said:
"Terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, The only thing that deters them is if they know that their sister or their mother will be raped in the event that they are caught." 
"What can you do, that’s the culture in which we live.”
"The only thing that deters a suicide bomber is the knowledge that if he pulls the trigger or blows himself up, his sister will be raped." 
"That’s all. That’s the only thing that will bring him back home, in order to preserve his sister’s honor. It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East."
During Israel's Operative Protective Edge, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights said Gazan detainees were tortured.
They were "intimidated with threats that Israel would demolish their houses, kill their families and rape their wives."
Netanyahu is a world class thug. He's a war criminal multiple times over. He supports what demands condemnation.
He mass murders and destroys because no one stops him. Washington provides full support and encouragement.
Netanyahu lied claiming he "c(ame) (to New York) to speak about the dangers we face and about the opportunities we seek." 
He called hard truths about Israeli lawlessness "brazen lies." He shamelessly called IDF killers "brave soldiers."
He lied claiming "(n)o other country and no other army in history (goes) to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies."
"…Israel's citizen army, the brave soldiers of the IDF, our young boys and girls, they upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world."
They "deserve not condemnation but admiration, admiration from decent people everywhere."
Netanyahu fooled no one. World leaders know Israeli ruthlessness well. It's shameful they didn't walk out in protest.
Many have their own crosses to bear. Western ones support Israeli genocide. Operation Protective Edge was the latest example.
It was well-planned, premeditated Israeli aggression. Previous articles explained.
It had nothing to do with Israeli teenager deaths. Or Hamas rockets, self-defense or security.
It had everything to do with Israeli "promised land" propaganda. It's wanting unchallenged control of all valued parts of Judea and Samaria.
Extending it from the Nile Valley to the Euphrates. Including parts of Syria, Jordan and south Lebanon to the Litani River.
It's about maintaining occupation harshness. Stealing Palestinian land and resources. Controlling their borders, air space and offshore waters.
Denying Palestinian self-determination. Their right to live free on their own land in their own country.
Israel wants all regional challengers eliminated. It wants Arab nations and Iran balkanized along ethnic and sectarian lines. 
It wants weakened, fragmented, divided, reconfigured controllable satellites. Its Judaization of Palestine master plan involves slow-motion genocide.
It wants Arabs excluded from all valued Judea and Samaria areas. It wants irreversible facts on the ground established.
Ideally, it wants Palestine entirely Judaized. It wants Arabs ethnically cleansed by whatever means possible.
Bertrand Russell once asked "(h)ow much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?"
In his book "Peace Not Apartheid," Jimmy Carter said: 
"Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law."
"The United States is squandering international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization of Palestinian territories."
Israel's only enemies are ones it invents. It believes it has a divine right to operate extrajudicially.
Its ruthlessness involves colonization, occupation, apartheid, militarized repression and wars of aggression. 
They repeat with disturbing regularity. They include mass slaughter and destruction.
Noncombatant men, women, children, infants, the elderly and infirm are considered legitimate targets. 
Obama supports Israel's worst crimes. So do nearly all congressional members. They lie calling it Israel's right to self-defense. 
A July State Department statement lied saying "(n)o country should be expected to stand by while rocket attacks from a terrorist organization are launched into their country."
Hamas is no terrorist organization. It's Palestine's democratically elected government. It responds solely to Israeli aggression.
International law affirms its right to do so. Israel and America are the world's most egregious human rights abusers.
They ignore fundamental international laws, norms and standards. They operate extrajudicially. 
They wage terror wars without mercy. They're guilty of virtually every crime imaginable and then some.
Not according to Netanyahu. He ludicrously said "the people of Israel pray for peace, but our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace are in danger because everywhere we look militant Islam is on the march."
He's viciously racist. Anti-Muslim. He considers Arabs subhuman. He compared so-called  "militant Islam" to cancer.
Its "goal is to dominate the world," he claimed. It "starts out small…But left unchecked, (it) grows, metastasizing over wider and wider areas." 
"To protect the peace and security of the world, we must remove this cancer before it's too late."
He outrageously compared Hamas to ISIS. They're "branches of the same poisonous tree," he said.
They "share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control."
"So when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common all militant Islamists share in common."
They're "ideolog(ically) fanatic(al)." They seek "ever-expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance, where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice, convert or die."
"(T)he question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions."
"There is one place where that could soon happen - the Islamic State of Iran." He outrageously call it "the world's top initiator of terror."
Israel holds the region's distinction and then some. With America, it does so globally by far.
Both countries know Iran threatens no one. Its nuclear program is peaceful.
They lie claiming otherwise. Doing so is red herring cover for longstanding regime change plans. 
Israel wants a regional rival removed. Washington wants Middle East dominance. It wants it unchallenged globally. 
It wants all independent governments toppled. It wants pro-Western vassal states replacing them.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani spoke responsibly in New York. His message was peace, mutual cooperation, good will and friendship.
Not according to Netanyahu. Rohani "shed crocodile tears over what he called the globalization of terrorism," he said.
He lied saying Iran wages "global terror." In "two dozen countries on five continents since 2011 alone," he claimed.
"(D)on't be fooled my Iran's manipulative charm offensive," he added. "It's designed…to lift the sanctions and remove the obstacles to Iran's path to the bomb."
Western sanctions have no legitimacy whatever. Iran justifiably wants them removed. They never should have been imposed in the first place.
Iran "is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will remove the sanctions…and leave it with a capacity…to enrich uranium," Netanyahu hyperventilated.
It has every right to do so. Dozens of other countries have similar peaceful nuclear programs.
Israel is nuclear armed and dangerous. It uses chemical, biological and radiological weapons.
It does so lawlessly against Palestinians and Lebanese victims. Don't expect Netanyahu to explain.
"(W)ould you let ISIS enrich uranium," he asked? "Would you let (it) build a heavy water reactor?"
"Would you let it develop intercontinental ballistic missiles?"
It bears repeating. Netanyahu fooled no one. World leaders know he repeats one Big Lie after another.
Israeli "aggressive fanaticism" is real. It wages terror wars without mercy. It menaces world peace. It threatens mass destruction.
Israel and America are humanity's greatest threat. None are more egregious human rights abusers.
None cause more harm to more people. None more give rogue state governance new meaning. 
None wage more wars. Preemptive ones of choice. Aggressive ones. Lawless ones against nonexistent enemies.
None are more ruthless. More reckless. More malicious. More merciless. More brutal. More barbarous. More sanctimonious.
None more contemptuously flout human and civil rights. Or proliferate more Big Lies harming millions worldwide.
None more self-righteously claim exceptionalism. None more exemplify terror states. 
Don't expect Netanyahu to explain. He represents mass slaughter, destruction and human misery. He gives rogue state governance new meaning.
World peace and security depend on stopping US/Israeli ruthlessness. Humanity's survival depends on it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Argenina's Christina Fernandez de Kirchner's UN Address

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 03/10/2014 - 20:40
Argentina's Christina Fernandez de Kirchner's UN Address
by Stephen Lendman
Note: This article was intended for September 29. Illness intervened. It remains timely. As much now as then.
Most UN addresses are bland. Few stand out. Fewer are remembered. Fewer still matter.
Argentina's President de Kirchner shook things up and then some. Enough to get media scoundrels to bury her comments. 
They ignored her harsh criticism of US-led Western policies. Her address was wide ranging. 
She questioned Washington's motives for waging war. Targeted countries. Takfiri terrorists it supports.
"Where do ISIS and Al Qaeda (get) their guns from," she asked? "Yesterday's freedom fighters are today's terrorists."
Today's terrorists are US allies. They're trained to fight America's enemies.
She called financial predators "economic terroris(ts)." She urged multi-lateral cooperation to regulate sovereign debt.
"The vulture funds threaten and attack with actions against our country's economy, causing rumors, mistruths and outright lies," she said.
"It is almost a type of economic and financial terrorism," she added.
"We have also claimed the need to reform the UN security organisms and the International Monetary Fund based on what has happened in Argentina."
She referred financial predators strip-mining countries of material wealth and resources. Shifting them from public to private hands.
Compromising democratic values. Transforming nations into dystopian backwaters.
Destroying middle class societies. Exploiting workers. Establishing permanent debt bondage. Eliminating core freedoms at the same time.
A race to the bottom benefits monied interests at the expense of most others. Neoliberal harshness is neo-Malthusianism writ large. 
Its holy trinity mandates no public sphere, unrestrained corporate empowerment, and repressive control for phony national security reasons.
For monied interests, it's the best of all possible worlds. For most others, the worst by far. 
Economies are financialized into debt bondage. Ordinary people suffer most. They endure increasing poverty, unemployment, underemployment, homelessness, hunger, depravation and despair.
Governments collude lawlessly with financial crooks. Other corporate predators cash in. Pillaging for profit matters most. So does unchallenged control.
In the 1980s, 187 IMF loans caused horrific poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease and death for many independent developing countries.
Their growth on average declined 2.2% annually. Per capita income dropped below independence levels.
Debt service required cutting health expenditures by 50%. Education by 25%.
During Mexico's 1982 debt crisis, wages as well as spending for health, education, and basic infrastructure dropped by half. 
Infant mortality tripled. Vital human needs were unmet. Paying bankers matters most.
By 1990, developing nations were worse off, not better. Deeper in debt. It burgeoned. Devaluations followed. Growth declined.
From 1976 to 1982, Latin American borrowing doubled. About 70% of new loans were needed to service old ones.
Yet Article I of the IMF's Articles of Agreement says it lends:
"to give confidence to members by making the general resources of the Fund temporarily available to them under adequate safeguards, thus providing them with opportunity to correct maladjustments in their balance of payments without resorting to measures destructive of national or international prosperity."
Its web site says it provides loans to reduce poverty and increase economic development. It lied claiming "(i)n difficult economic times, (it) helps countries protect (their) most vulnerable in a crisis." 
Its mandate is polar opposite. It entraps nations in debt, poverty and depravation. It's the loan shark of last resort.
Chile under Augusto Pinochet was a model of unfairness. Unfettered capitalism was official policy.
Chileans experienced brave new world harshness. State terror enforced it. 
Hardline shock therapy was instituted. It transformed South America's most vibrant democracy into laissez faire hell. 
Coup d'etat viciousness ruled. Technocrats ran economic policy. Inflation exploded. In the first year, it hit 375%. 
Mass layoffs cost thousands of jobs. Social safety net protections disappeared. 
Economic contraction caused mass suffering. Cheap imports flooded the country. Local businesses died.
Free market paradise meant unemployment, poverty, hunger, homelessness, and brutal crackdowns on nonbelievers. 
By the late 1980s, nearly half of Chilean households were impoverished. Privileged elites benefitted hugely. 
Inequality remains extreme. Chile is one of Latin America's most unequal societies. Longstanding policies shifted wealth upward. 
One percent of the population benefitted greatly. It has over one-third of Chile's wealth. Inflation adjusted pay for 90% of society declined. It rose 150% for its 1% and 300% for its 0.1%.
Predatory capitalism creates wastelands. Chile remains a model of economic unfairness. 
Crony capitalism reflects out-of-control corruption, inequality and injustice. It exploits ordinary people for profit. It robs them of futures.
It works the same way everywhere. Kirshner spoke truth to power. Disturbing ones explained publicly aren't welcomed.
In the 1980s, ordinary Bolivians suffered hugely under Victor Paz Estenssoro.
Force-fed austerity included wage freezes, lost food subsidies and price controls, oil prices hiked 300%, deep social spending cuts, unrestricted imports, downsized state enterprises, mass privatizations, and sharply higher unemployment.
The decade through the early 1990s saw Latin American debt rise from $110 billion in 1980 to $473 in 1992. 
Interest payments tripled. It grew from $6.4 billion to $18.3 billion. Worker livelihoods, health and welfare suffered enormously. 
Millions lucky enough to have work endured sub-poverty wages. Corporate predators profited hugely on human misery. 
Things replicated globally. From sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America to Russia and Asian Tiger countries in 1997/98. 
Looting them turned Asia's miracle into disaster. The International Labor Organization estimated 24 million lost jobs.
State enterprises were sold at fire sale prices. Western brands replaced local ones. Corporate predators benefitted from what The New York Times called "the world's biggest going-out-of-business sale." 
Asian workers became human wreckage. IMF scoundrels perpetuate the myth about offering troubled economies help. 
Their mandate is plunder for profit. The more the better. No matter the human wreckage caused.
Today's Greece is a model example. Legitimate rule is absent. Western banker interests come first.
Governance combines travesty, tragedy and shame. Democracy's birth place spurns it. 
Unprincipled disregard for human need continues. It does so at a time of horrific depravation, rampant corruption, prioritized military spending, and paying bankers first.
Transparency International earlier said "Greek people live in a state of 'corrupt legality.' " It's endemic. It thrives in a culture of impunity.
Oversight is entirely absent. Privileged elites benefit hugely. They hide stolen wealth in offshore tax havens.
Unaccountability lets them get away with what no one should tolerate. Especially at a time of economic crisis and appalling human deprivation. 
Force-feeding more pain exacerbates deplorable conditions. Greece is a failed state. A zombie country. Only its obituary remains to be written.
Eurozone membership comes with strings. No country should accept them. They include forgoing rights to:
  • to devalue currencies to make exports more competitive;

  • sovereignty over members' own money; and

  • expansive fiscal policies to stimulate growth.

Mandated bondage prevents effective counter-cyclical fiscal policies. Growth, stability and human welfare suffer.
Structural adjustment harshness exacerbates conditions. It makes bad situations worse.
It requires new loans to service old ones. Social injustice writ large follows. In December 2001, Argentina bucked systemic unfairness.
It halted all debt payments to domestic and foreign creditors. Months earlier, an IMF loan didn't help. 
Nearly $100 billion in debt was restructured. It was completed in 2005. It was on a take it or leave it basis.
Bondholders had to accept stiff haircuts. Recovering about one-third of invested capital was better than nothing. 
In 2010, most holdouts capitulated. They did so on similar terms. From 2003 - 2007, sustained growth followed.
Restructured debt and devaluated currency turned things around. Other troubled economies can recover the same way.
Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece can do it. Troika EU/ECB/IMF power decides things. Euro straightjacket policy rules. Banker-imposed diktats.
Member countries have no say. Combining 17 dissimilar ones under one monetary/fiscal system assured disaster. 
One size fits all rules don't work. So does paying bankers first. Michael Hudson calls predatory finance "war by non-military means."
"It's objective is the same as military conquest." It's mainly though privatizations. Selling off state enterprises at fire sale prices.
Eliminating social benefits at the same time. Neoliberal harshness works this way. Predatory bankers run things.
Strip-mining countries for profit is official policy. Ordinary people suffer most.
So-called free market fundamentalism is everywhere. Margaret Thatcher's dictum applies. "There is no alternative," she said.
Anti-New World Order ones aren't tolerated. People are sacrificed for profits. It's the US-led Western way. It's the wrong way.
Inside the bubble it's paradise. Outside it's neoliberal hell. Kirchner calls it "financial terrorism."
She urged IMF reform. Vulture funds reigned in. Who are they, she asked? Defaulted bond buyers, she said. For exorbitant profits.
They're blocking payments to other Argentinian sovereign debt holders. She called them the 92% who accepted restructuring.
"I thus celebrate that the UN General Assembly has faced the issue and hopefully by the next assembly we should have concluded a regulatory framework for sovereign debts, so that no other country has to go through what Argentina" experienced, she said.
"(W)e are going to pay despite the harassment from the vulture funds," she added.
"Terrorists are not only those putting bombs. (They're) those who cause misery, poverty and hunger."
"The great powers change the concept of friend and enemy far too easily."
She called for independent UN leadership. It's "the only way we can leave a better world to our children," she said.
It's not what Western governments wanted to hear. Or supportive scoundrel media.
They silenced her through non-coverage. Her message is too important to ignore.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Follow-up notice to my readers

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 03/10/2014 - 08:04
Discharged and home from hospitalization Thursday PM.
Touch and go for a while. Thankfully I'm OK.
Catching up. Hopefully back in writing mode on Friday.
I miss it and media work so much when unable to do them.
Health has a way of overriding other obligations. It has final say.
Thankfully I have wonderful doctors. They went way out of their way for me. I'm deeply grateful for all they did.
They're trying to keep this old guy's body and soul together. They do a terrific job.

Knowledge Should Not Be Trapped Behind A Paywall: Get Ready For Open Access Week

eff.org - Fri, 03/10/2014 - 06:48

Open Access Week is less than a month away! Now in its eighth year, Open Access Week is an international event that celebrates the wide-ranging benefits of enabling open access to information and research–as well as the dangerous costs of keeping knowledge locked behind publisher paywalls.

From October 20 to 26, academics, researchers, and curious minds everywhere will be encouraged to learn about the various hurdles to open knowledge and share stories of positive advancements in the effort to make open access the norm in scholarship and research.

Whether you’re looking to learn more, to champion open access policies, or to raise awareness in your community, there are plenty of ways to get involved in Open Access Week. Read on to find out why we fight for open access to knowledge and how to take part in Open Access Week activities.

Why Open Access?

When we say “open access” we are referring to the practice of making scholarly research available online for free upon publication (or soon after). Open access policies should aim to remove barriers and encourage scholarly and educational reuse of research. Copyright restrictions sometimes undermine scientific ideals of openness and collaboration; good open access rules help to bypass traditional copyright limits by encouraging full use of open licensing systems that enable sharing.

Reasons for supporting open access policies abound. From maximizing taxpayer funded research to increasing the exposure and use of publications, facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration, and enhancing the overall advancement of scholarship, the need for open access is more important now than ever. As tuition prices continue to rise and Internet adoption is at an all time high, trapping knowledge behind prohibitively expensive paywalls is a disservice to scientists and problem solvers across the world. Progress is stifled.

Research institutions, academics, and the intellectually curious are increasingly embracing the open access model for research worldwide. Open Access Week is about keeping the dream of easy-to-access knowledge alive. And we have a chance to connect this global momentum toward open sharing with the advancement of constructive policy changes on the local level.

This year's theme is Generation Open. We'll be focusing on the importance of students and early career researchers embracing open access, and exploring how changes in scholarly publishing affect academics and researchers at different stages of their careers.

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What You Can Do

There are all kinds of ways to get involved. We invite you and your community to join us for this exciting week of action. Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post or place an op-ed in your local newspaper or on-campus publication. Find out if your campus has an open access policy and tell your story about why open access is important to you. Let us know if you write something.

  • Share on social media: simply spreading the word is important ... and easy! Post your thoughts about open access and share articles and media that EFF will be posting throughout the week. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

  • Host a screening and discussion about the film The Internet’s Own Boy, a powerful documentary that tells the story of activist and innovator Aaron Swartz, who also was a passionate and outspoken advocate for open access. Here is our guide to help you organize a screening of this important film. Be in touch if you decide to organize a viewing.

  • Print and share handy guides to help people in your community get up to speed on why we demand open access to research. There’s one on Diego Gomez's case and one on the open access movement more broadly.

EFF has long been a leader in the open access movement. The Internet should be a place where we can share ideas and get educated, unimpeded by unfair paywalls. We are thrilled to join forces with dozens of organizations across the world for this year’s Open Access Week to spread message loud and clear: research should be free, available, and open for everyone’s benefit. Generation Open, here we come.

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Media Alert: Oral Arguments in EFF’s National Security Letter Case

eff.org - Fri, 03/10/2014 - 06:07
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Stream October 8 Hearing on Key Patriot Act Tool

Update: The court announced early Wednesday that it will not livestream the audio of the NSL case.  Audio available here http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view.php?pk_id=0000013407.

San Francisco, CA - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal appeals court next week to uphold a groundbreaking ruling that the National Security Letter (NSL) provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional. The hearing is set for 9 a.m. on October 8 in San Francisco.

Months before Edward Snowden kicked off the international debate over electronic surveillance, EFF scored a major victory when a federal judge ordered the FBI to cease its practice of issuing NSLs—demands to telecommunication providers to provide information about their users that are not approved in advance by a judge.

The lower court found that the gag orders, which are almost always issued by the FBI in tandem with the NSLs, violate the First Amendment. In EFF's cases, these gag orders have forced EFF's clients to keep their identities hidden, preventing them from discussing the NSLs publicly or even revealing their involvement in this case. The court also found that the limited, after-the-fact judicial review procedures violate the separation of powers.

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl will deliver oral arguments at the hearing at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Audio of the arguments will be live streamed through the court's website. The identity of the clients will not be disclosed in Wednesday's hearing.

What: Oral Arguments in Under Seal v. Eric Holder, Jr. (consolidated cases)

Who: EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl

When: 9 a.m. PT, Oct. 8, 2014

Where: James R. Browning Courthouse, Courtroom 4
95 7th Street
San Francisco, CA

Opsahl will be available for interviews at the courthouse immediately after the hearing.

Applications to bring a camera into the courtroom must be submitted by the close of business on Friday, Oct. 3. Details at: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/news_media/

Live oral arguments will be streamed at:
http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_video.php?pk_vid=0000006581

For EFF's briefs:
https://www.eff.org/files/2014/03/27/nsl.13-15957.13-16731.secondoffourbriefs.redacted.0320141.pdf

https://www.eff.org/files/2014/07/08/casesqw.reply_.brief_.redacted.pdf

For more on NSLs, visit our NSL Frequently Asked Questions page:
https://www.eff.org/issues/national-security-letters/faq

Contact:

Dave Maass
   Media Relations Coordinator
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   press@eff.org


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Facebook Increases its Tracking Reach with Atlas, and Users Have Little Choice About It

eff.org - Fri, 03/10/2014 - 05:56

Update (10/2/14): Facebook requested and we agreed to add that many of the problems we list in our post are industry-wide issues, from collection of users' browsing habits, to the collection of consumer purchase information for "conversion tracking," to offering an "opt out" that does not protect consumers against the collection and retention of data. We encourage Facebook to join companies like Pinterest, Twitter, and Medium in stopping collection of data from users' browsing habits when Do Not Track is enabled.

Facebook expanded its ever-growing advertising and tracking reach this week with new integration between the giant social network and Atlas, an advertising platform it purchased from Microsoft. The company now lets advertisers target you across all of your devices and on participating websites, based on characteristics from your Facebook profile such as age, gender, and location. It will also attempt to track the products you buy both online and off, in order to measure the ads' effects on our purchases.

You can fight back against nonconsensual tracking by installing Privacy Badger today.

As a user, the industry offers you no simple options to protect yourself against this intrusive data collection, whether for advertising purposes or not, most particularly because Atlas and Facebook do not currently respect Do Not Track. When you enable Do Not Track in your browser, it sends a clear signal to sites that you don't want your browsing habits to be collected; it's up to companies to heed this request. But with the data it gets from "Like" buttons on sites across the Web and through these new forms of ad tracking, Facebook knows what its users are doing all of the time. And if the company sees users enable Do Not Track but continues its Web-wide collection of their reading habits, it is clearly doing so without their consent.

Atlas uses the advertising industry's phony definition of "opt out," which has the unfortunate characteristic of meaning "pretend not to track" and offers no privacy benefits whatsoever. While you may think you are opting out of a large data collection scheme by, as Atlas expects you to do, accepting an opt-out cookie, the platform will merely stop serving you targeted ads. The advertising industry's "opt out" does not require companies to stop collecting data about you or your reading habits across the Web.

Opting users out of targeted ads while still collecting information about them is the worst of both worlds: it destroys all the potential usefulness of advertisements and simultaneously reduces the transparency of data collection practices to consumers. If anything, targeted ads at least let users know their information has been collected in the first place.

EFF calls upon Facebook to start honoring user requests to opt out from their third-party tracking, both across the Web and on mobile devices. We are also working on a new proposal called dnt-policy.txt for a simple way that sites can commit to respecting their users' privacy. This mechanism will allow tools like Privacy Badger, Disconnect, and other privacy protection software to know (and act upon) the difference between advertisers who respect the principle of consent to tracking, and those that don't.

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Dear Facebook: Sorry is a Start. Now Let's See Solutions.

eff.org - Thu, 02/10/2014 - 10:17

When it comes to Facebook’s real names policy, it’s really clear—something needs to change. Over the last few weeks, we’ve joined dozens of advocates in saying so. And in a meeting with LGBTQ and digital rights advocates, Facebook agreed. Of course, admitting there’s a problem is always the first step towards a solution. But what’s not clear is what that solution will be.

EFF continues to believe that the best solution is simply to get rid of the "real names” policy entirely. But barring that, Facebook needs to find a solution that takes into account the myriad groups of people affected by Facebook’s faulty policy, from undocumented immigrants, to activists in oppressive regimes, to survivors of domestic violence.

Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, posted a statement [if you don’t have a Facebook account, click here to read the text of the statement] on Facebook in which he apologized to “members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.”

With regards to the policy, and solutions moving forward, he states:

Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life….[W]e're already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors. And we're taking measures to provide much more deliberate customer service to those accounts that get flagged so that we can manage these in a less abrupt and more thoughtful way.

We’re encouraged by Facebook’s commitment to continue to work on this issue. There’s no question that the way Facebook’s system is implemented now is incredibly flawed and ripe for misuse. The enforcement mechanism has allowed abusive users to recreate the very online bullying the policy is supposed to prevent by going on reporting sprees. And when accounts like Sister Roma’s are suspended, users have had no recourse.

While getting rid of the policy altogether would be a better move, and easier to implement, if Facebook is really committed to prohibiting anonymity on the site, there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the way any names policy is enforced. Account suspensions shouldn’t be virtually automatic. There must be mechanisms in place that allow real review of accounts, so that they don’t ever get to the checkpoint that asks for an ID in the first place. Additionally, reporting sprees like the one that targeted the trans community last month should be treated as abusive behavior. But most importantly, Facebook’s standards and enforcement team should be focused on bad behavior, not names.

But Facebook hasn’t addressed the real problem here: the company will not stop requiring verification of names. And that means that, unless Facebook can commit to an extraordinary level of review when accounts are reported, trans people who don’t have an ID with their real name (as opposed to their legal name) will continue to have their accounts suspended. Activists using pseudonyms, even pseudonyms they might use in all of their political activity, will have their accounts suspended. Undocumented immigrants, who may not have any form of identification at all or may feel uncomfortable providing it, will have their accounts suspended.

Facebook’s proposed solutions don’t really get to the heart of the problem: the real names policy itself.

And it’s also problematic that Cox stated both that Facebook’s policy has never been to require legal names and that the real names policy has only now become a problem.

Facebook’s publicly available policies state: “The name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver's license or student ID.” While the words “legal name” aren’t here, the forms of ID listed in the policy will, in almost every case, match the ID on a birth certificate. If that’s not what Facebook means, it needs to change the language of its policies right now. Facebook also needs to be clear that it will treat reporting sprees—both the individual accounts that engage in them, as well as groups formed to encourage them—as abusive.

What’s more, this is hardly the first time Facebook has been confronted with its policy's problems. EFF and other digital rights organizations such as ACCESS have been pointing to problems with Facebook’s policy for years. And over four years ago EFF’s Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York wrote about a spree of account suspensions focused on activists including  accounts critical of Islam, “gay rights activists, Jewish activists, activists for a free Palestine, and activists against the Venezuelan regime (among others).” In fact, it turns out “a group was created on Facebook (in Arabic) for the sole purpose of reporting, and thus having removed, Facebook profiles of atheist Arabs.” So it’s disingenuous for Facebook to say that this only now has become a problem.

With all of those caveats, we do believe that Facebook’s decision to apologize and commit to working on solutions is a positive sign. We will continue to work towards solutions that help Facebook users now, while pushing for an end to the real names policy in the long term.

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How to Remove ComputerCOP

eff.org - Wed, 01/10/2014 - 23:59

As EFF outlined in a special report, ComputerCOP is a piece of "Internet Safety" software of dubious value that law enforcement agencies around the country have distributed to families for free. One of the main components of the software is KeyAlert, a keystroke-capturing function that records everything a user types.

KeyAlert has two major functions. First, it logs keystrokes on the user's hard drive. Second, it allows the person installing the software to set certain keywords. Whenever those keywords are typed, the computer sends an email with those keystrokes to the person who installed the software.

ComputerCOP doesn't appear in any of the major malware/spyware registries, so you'll need to do a little digging yourself. With this easy guide, we'll show you how to identify whether ComputerCOP has been installed on your  computer and how to remove it.

Step One: To determine if KeyAlert is running, open the Task Manager and look for CCNet.exe. Alternatively, if the user installed it in the default location, you can find it installed in “C:\Program Files\WinSS\Book”.  You may also be able to spot its icon in the system tray.  On a Mac, open Finder and navigate to the root directory of your Mac's hard drive. If there is a file named "LogKextUninstall.command" then the Mac version of ComputerCOP's keylogger is installed.

How to find ComputerCOP's keylogger on your Windows computer.

When KeyAlert is running, all keystrokes are logged to text files located in the folder “C:\Windows\WinCCNet”. These text files are completely unencrypted. (On a Mac, these keystroke logs are actually encrypted, but can be decrypted with the software's default password. Instructions for viewing them are available here.)

Unencrypted logs can contain usernames and passwods.

When KeyAlert's email warning functionality is activated, these logs are also transmitted over the Internet unencrypted. This allows anyone on the same network to view the content of the ComputerCOP alert email, including any usernames or passwords that may have been typed before one of the keywords.

ComputerCOP transmits keystrokes unencrypted over the Internet.

KeyAlert can be uninstalled even without the installation CD. Go to Add/Remove Programs, select “KeyAlert”, and then click “Remove”, or if the user installed it in the default location, delete the folder “C:\Program Files\WinSS\Book” and then make sure to reboot your computer. On a Mac, open Finder and navigate to the root directory of your Mac's hard drive. Find the file named "LogKextUninstall.command" and double-click on it to uninstall the keylogger.

How to uninstall Key Alert.

You will also want to delete all the keystrokes records stored on your hard drive. Go the folder “C:\Windows\WinCCNet" and delete the entire folder. On Mac these are deleted automatically.

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ComputerCOP: The Dubious 'Internet Safety Software' That Hundreds of Police Agencies Have Distributed to Families

eff.org - Wed, 01/10/2014 - 23:59

ComputerCOP in Maricopa County, Arizona

For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online.

Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to families for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. The packaging typically features the agency’s official seal and the chief’s portrait, with a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.

As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies.

The way ComputerCOP works is neither safe nor secure. It isn’t particularly effective either, except for generating positive PR for the law enforcement agencies distributing it. As security software goes, we observed a product with a keystroke-capturing function, also called a “keylogger,” that could place a family’s personal information at extreme risk by transmitting what a user types over the Internet to third-party servers without encryption. That means many versions of ComputerCOP leave children (and their parents, guests, friends, and anyone using the affected computer) exposed to the same predators, identity thieves, and bullies that police claim the software protects against.

Furthermore, by providing a free keylogging program—especially one that operates without even the most basic security safeguards—law enforcement agencies are passing around what amounts to a spying tool that could easily be abused by people who want to snoop on spouses, roommates, or co-workers.

EFF conducted a security review of ComputerCOP while also following the paper trail of public records to see how widely the software has spread. Based on ComputerCOP’s own marketing information, we identified approximately 245 agencies in more than 35 states, plus the U.S. Marshals, that have used public funds (often the proceeds from property seized during criminal investigations) to purchase and distribute ComputerCOP. One sheriff’s department even bought a copy for every family in its county. 

In investigating ComputerCOP, we also discovered misleading marketing material, including a letter of endorsement purportedly from the U.S. Department of Treasury, which has now issued a fraud alert over the document. ComputerCOP further claims an apparently nonexistent endorsement by the American Civil Liberties Union and an expired endorsement from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Law enforcement agencies have purchased a poor product, slapped their trusted emblems on it, and passed it on to everyday people. It’s time for those law enforcement agencies to take away ComputerCOP’s badge.

Click here for a list of agencies that have distributed ComputerCOP.

Click here for a guide to removing ComputerCOP from your computer.

What is ComputerCOP?

Bo Dietl's One Tough Computer Cop (Source: UCSF Library)

In an era when hackers use botnets, zero day exploits, and sophisticated phishing to compromise billions of online accounts, ComputerCOP is a software relic that not only offers little protection, but may actually expose your child’s (and potentially your) most sensitive information to danger.

ComputerCOP’s interface is a throwback to an earlier, clunkier age of computing. Indeed, its origins trace back 15 years, when software companies began to target a new demographic: parents worried about their children’s exposure to all manner of danger and inappropriate material on the Internet.

When ComputerCOP debuted in the late 1990s, its original title was “Bo Dietl’s One Tough ComputerCOP,” which capitalized on the fame of celebrity New York detective, Bo Dietl, who had just had his career adapted into a major motion picture, “One Tough Cop,” starring Stephen Baldwin.  At the time, the program could only perform basic forensic searches of hard drives, but in the early 2000s, Bo Dietl’s toughness was dropped from the title and a keylogger was added to the “deluxe” version of the package. 

EFF obtained copies of ComputerCOP and related materials from law enforcement agencies on the East Coast, West Coast, and in Texas. Each one was branded to the specific department, but the software package was otherwise the same, containing two main elements:

ComputerCOP's image search (OS version) turned up a haystack of 19,000 files

"Basic" Search Functions: ComputerCOP’s search utility does not require installation and can run right off the CD-ROM. The tool allows the user to review recent images and videos downloaded to the computer, but it will also scan the hard drive looking for documents containing phrases in ComputerCOP’s dictionary of thousand of keywords related to drugs, sex, gangs, and hate groups. While that feature may sound impressive, in practice the software is unreliable. On some computer systems, it produces a giant haystack of false positives, including flagging items as innocuous as raw computer code. On other systems, it will only produce a handful of results while typing keywords such as "drugs" into Finder or File Explorer will turn up a far larger number of hits.  While the marketing materials claim that this software will allow you to view what web pages your child visits, that's only true if the child is using Internet Explorer or Safari. The image search will potentially turn up tens of thousands of hits because it can't distinguish between images children have downloaded and the huge collection of icons and images that are typically part of the software on your computer.

Interface for installing ComputerCOP keylogger

KeyAlert: ComputerCOP’s KeyAlert keylogging program does require installation and, if the user isn’t careful, it will collect keystrokes from all users of the computer, not just children. When running on a Windows machine, the software stores full key logs unencrypted on the user’s hard drive. When running on a Mac, the software encrypts these key logs on the user's hard drive, but these can be decrypted with the underlying software's default password. On both Windows and Mac computers, parents can also set ComputerCOP up to email them whenever chosen keywords are typed. When that happens, the software transmits the key logs, unencrypted, to a third-party server, which then sends the email. KeyAlert is in included in the "deluxe," "premium," and "presentation" versions of the software.

The keylogger is problematic on multiple levels. In general, keyloggers are commonly a tool of spies, malicious hackers, and (occasionally) nosy employers. ComputerCOP does not have the ability to distinguish between children and adults, so law enforcement agencies that distribute the software are also giving recipients the tools to spy on other adults who use a shared computer, such as spouses, roommates, and coworkers. ComputerCOP addresses this issue with a pop-up warning that using it on non-consenting adults could run afoul of criminal laws, but that’s about it.

The lack of encryption is even more troubling. Security experts universally agree that a user should never store passwords and banking details or other sensitive details unprotected on one’s hard drive, but that’s exactly what ComputerCOP does by placing everything someone types in a folder. The email alert system further weakens protections by logging into a third-party commercial server. When a child with ComputerCOP installed on their laptop connects to public Wi-Fi, any sexual predator, identity thief, or bully with freely available packet-sniffing software can grab those key logs right out of the air.

Example of intercepted, unencrypted keylogs using Wireshark, a free packet sniffer

The software does not appear in any of the major malware/spyware databases we tested, so it can’t be detected with a normal virus scan. 

Eight months ago, we contacted Stephen DelGiorno, the head of ComputerCOP operations, and informed him of these problems. He denied there was an issue.

“ComputerCOP software doesn’t give sexual predator [sic] or identity thieves more access to children’s computers, as our .key logger [sic] works with the existing email and Internet access services that computer user has already engaged,” he wrote via email.

He further said that ComputerCOP would update the software's licensing agreement to say "that no personal information is obtained nor stored by ComputerCOP."

These are unacceptable, and fairly nonsensical, answers from a company that claims to be a leader in child safety software. Even if the company isn't storing data, as it claims, information captured by the keylogger still passes through a commercial server when the target types a keyword. Further, the keylogger actually may undermine other services' security measures.

Some of the most common online services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail (as well as most financial sites), use HTTPS by default, automatically encrypting communications between users and those websites. In fact, one of the truly effective tools parents can use to protect their children is HTTPS Everywhere, an EFF plug-in that makes an Internet browser connect by default to secure versions of websites.

But HTTPS is rendered ineffective with ComputerCOP, because ComputerCOP captures text as it is being typed, before it has been encrypted. While HTTPS is protecting the users' connection to a website, ComputerCOP separately transmits that same communication unprotected whenever a keyword is triggered.

In EFF’s testing, we were able to snatch passwords (faked ones, of course) with shocking ease.

Law Enforcement and ComputerCOP

Privacy info. This embed will serve content from youtube-nocookie.com

A compilation of ComputerCOP promotional videos

“The ComputerCOP outreach program is the best way for Parents/Guardians to monitor their children’s activity online and bring positive media attention to your Office,” DelGiorno writes in the first line of the form letter his company sends to law enforcement agencies.

ComputerCOP’s business model works like this: the company contracts with police and district attorneys around the country, particularly ones that have federal grants or special funds to spend, such as asset forfeiture windfalls (police often describe this as money seized from drug dealers). Agencies then buy the software in bulk, usually between 1,000 and 5,000 at a time, and give it out for free in their communities. Agencies often tell the press that the software has a value of $40, even though they pay only a few bucks per copy and the software is not available through any major online store other than eBay (where surplus new copies are going for as little as $.99). Even ComputerCOP’s online store is currently broken.

There is no official central repository for data about which agencies have purchased the software, how many copies they’ve distributed, or how much they have spent. Based on ComputerCOP’s own online map of agencies, as well as online searches and public records requests, we have identified approximately 245 agencies in more than 35 states that purchased ComputerCOP. (After we began our investigation, ComputerCOP took the map offline, promising an updated one soon.)

In February, DelGiorno told EFF the keystroke-logging feature was a recent addition to the software and that most of the units he’s sold did not include the feature. That doesn’t seem to jibe with ComputerCOP’s online footprint. Archive.org’s WayBack Machine shows that keystroke capture was advertised on ComputerCOP.com as far back as 2001. Although some versions of ComputerCOP do not have the keylogger function, scores of press releases and regional news articles from across the country discuss the software’s ability to capture a child’s conversations.

Among the most notable in the last two years: the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Arizona, the San Diego District Attorney's Office in California, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in Missouri and the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office in Texas each purchased 5,000 copies at a cost of $25,000 per agency.  Bexar County even has an interactive map on its website showing the dozens of locations where ComputerCOP can be picked up for free.

ComputerCOP promotional poster

Other agencies have purchased the software in even larger quantities. In 2008, the Highlands County Sheriff in Florida spent $42,000 to purchase 10,000 copies, or, as one newspaper put it, “enough computer disks for every parent of every school child in Highlands County.” The Alaska Department of Public Safety bought enough copies for it to be available at every "school, public library and police agency" in the state.

Since 2007, Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco’s office in New York, where ComputerCOP is based, has bought 43,000 copies of the software—a fact trumpeted in DeMarco’s reelection campaign materials. ComputerCOP’s parent company directly donated to DeMarco’s campaign at least nine times over the same period.

Indeed, ComputerCOP markets itself as the “perfect election and fundraising tool.” As part of the package, when a law enforcement agency buys a certain amount of copies, ComputerCOP will send out a camera crew to record an introduction video with the head of the department. The discs are also customized to prominently feature the head of the agency, who can count on a solid round of local press coverage about the giveaway.

Delgiorno also said he would contact his accountant to get a list of which agencies purchased which version of ComputerCOP (i.e. the versions with the keylogger versus those without). Eight months later, we're still waiting.

Dubious Claims

ComputerCOP letter, 2011

Through a public records act request, EFF obtained a copy of the marketing materials submitted by ComputerCOP to the Harris County District Attorney’s office in Texas, which purchased 5,000 copies in 2011. The documents reveal several dubious and outdated claims.

For one, ComputerCOP claims that it is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and that it is the only software product supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). 

When asked about the origin of the ACLU endorsement, DelGiorno told EFF that someone from the ACLU recommended the software in a Newsday article as the “most non-intrusive of the products as it did not filter web pages nor block user access to them.” EFF contacted Newsday, which was unable to locate any such article, as well several branches of the ACLU, all of which denied any such endorsement.

On the eve of publication of this report, DelGiorno told reporter Alice Brennan at Fusion that the endorsement came from Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, citing a 2005 story in the Detroit Free Press. However, in the article, Moss is endorsing the idea that parents should take responsibility for monitoring their children as opposed to relying on the government to act as a babysitter.

“I can say unequivocally that it was not an endorsement of the product," ACLU of Michigan Deputy Director Rana Elmir told EFF. "Our position as an organization is not to endorse technology like this.”

NCMEC told EFF that in 1998 it did allow ComputerCOP to use its name for a one-year period, but has not had any contact with the company over the last 15 years. A NCMEC attorney said the organization was unaware that ComputerCOP was still advertising its imprimatur and that it would tell ComputerCOP to stop using it immediately.

In its promotional packet, ComputerCOP includes a letter from the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture, in which the head of the division calls the software an “effective law enforcement aid” and a “valid crime prevention tool” that will “identify and locate perpetrators and possibly missing children.” The uncharacteristically positive nature of the letter caused EFF to examine it closer and, as it turns out, the document had been significantly altered.

Letter marked "fraudulent" by Treasury Dept.

In an email exchange, DelGiorno acknowledged that ComputerCOP had taken a prior letter from the Treasury Department, highlighted text and “recreated the letterhead to make more it presentable for other agencies to view.” In doing so, ComputerCOP removed the 2001 date stamp from the letter. As a result, law enforcement agencies were unaware that the letter was outdated by more than a decade and that the agency head who signed it had long left office.1

Through the Freedom of Information Act, EFF is seeking the unaltered letter, as well as any material ComputerCOP submitted to the Treasury Department. So far the agency has been unable to locate those file and ComputerCOP would not provide a copy of the original letter to EFF.  

However, after we submitted the suspicious letter to the Treasury Department, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General issued a fraud alert over ComputerCOP, including a copy of the letter with the words “Fraudulent Document” stamped on it in red.

ComputerCOP Conclusions

We estimate somewhere between a few hundred thousand and more than a million copies of ComputerCOP have been purchased by law enforcement agencies across the United States, but it’s difficult to say how many individual people have been exposed by the software’s vulnerabilities.

In our tests, ComputerCOP was so unwieldy to use that it’s possible that very few people actually use it. But even if it’s a pointless giveaway from the police, it’s still being purchased with our tax dollars and other public funds. As law enforcement agencies around the country face budgetary shortfalls, spending $25,000 on an ineffective product is not only unwise, but fiscally irresponsible.

Law enforcement agencies should cease distributing copies immediately and tell parents not to use it. Any local media outlet that reported on ComputerCOP should consider alerting parents to its dangers. The Treasury Department should reexamine its approval of ComputerCOP as a permissible use of funds from the federal equitable sharing program.

There are certainly risks for kids on the Internet, and indeed for adults too. Let’s not make it easier for villains with bogus safeguards.

EFF Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula and Web Developer Bill Budington conducted the security analysis of this software.

Clarification: In the third to last paragraph we added "and other public funds" to clarify that law enforcement agencies use a variety of funding sources to purchase the software, including seized assets, appropriations from governing bodies, federal grants and the rare private donation to an agency.

  • 1. In 2010, the Treasury Department did issue a new letter authorizing ComputerCOP as a permissible use of asset forfeiture money, but this time the department clearly stated that it does not endorse the product “in any way” and that law enforcement agencies should make sure that the software does not run afoul of local laws.
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Serial Litigant Blue Spike Wins September’s Stupid Patent of the Month

eff.org - Wed, 01/10/2014 - 04:40

Blue Spike LLC is a patent litigation factory. At one point, it filed over 45 cases in two weeks. It has sued a who’s who of technology companies, ranging from giants to startups, Adobe to Zeitera. Blue Spike claims not to be a troll, but any legitimate business it has pales in comparison to its patent litigation. It says it owns a “revolutionary technology” it refers to as “signal abstracting.” On close inspection, however, its patents1 turn out to be nothing more than a nebulous wish list. Blue Spike’s massive litigation campaign is a perfect example of how vague and abstract software patents tax innovation.

The basic idea behind Blue Spike’s patents is creating a digital fingerprint (which the patents refer to as an “abstract”) of a file that allows it to be compared to other files (e.g. comparing audio files to see if they are the same song). In very general terms, the patents describe creating a “reference generator,” an “object locator,” a “feature selector,” a “comparing device,” and a “recorder.” You will be amazed to learn that these five elements “may be implemented with software.” That task, however, is left for the reader.

Even worse, Blue Spike has refused to define the key term in its patents: “abstract.” In a recent filing, it wrote that even though the term “abstract” is “a central component to each of the patents,” a single definition of this term is “impossible to achieve.” This is a remarkable admission. How are defendants (or the public, for that matter) supposed to know if they infringe a patent when the central claim term is impossible to define? This is a perfect illustration of a major problem with software patents: vague and abstract claim language that fails to inform the public about patent scope.

Admitting that the key claim term in your patent is “impossible” to define is probably not a great litigation strategy. And the defendants in some of Blue Spike’s cases have already protested that this means the patents are invalid. The defendants should win this argument (especially since a recent Supreme Court decision tightened the standards applied to vague and ambiguous patents). Though regardless of whether the defendants prevail, Blue Spike’s litigation campaign has already imposed massive costs.

Blue Spike’s patents illustrate another major problem with software patents: vague descriptions of the "invention" that provide no practical help for someone trying to build a useful implementation. This is why many software engineers hold patents in low regard. As one programmer told This American Life, even his own patents were little more than “mumbo jumbo, which nobody understands, and which makes no sense from an engineering standpoint.” You can judge for yourself, but we contend that Blue Spike’s patents consist similarly of little more than legalese and hand waving.

Real products take hard work. A commercially successful product like the Shazam app (one of Blue Spike’s many targets) is likely to consist of tens of thousands lines of code. Actually writing and debugging that code can require months of effort from dozens of engineers (not to mention the fundraising, marketing, and other tasks that go into making a real-world product successful). In contrast, it's easy to suggest that someone create a "comparison device" that "may be implemented with software."

Last month, we selected a bizarre patent to illustrate that the Patent Office conducts a cursory review of applications. In contrast, this month’s winner is not so unusual. In fact, Blue Spike’s patents are typical of the kind of software patent that we see in litigation. That such a low-quality patent family could fuel over 100 cases is a stark illustration of the problem with software patents.

Dishonorable mentions:

US 8,838,476 Systems and methods to provide information and connect people for real time communications (a patent on presenting an advertisement at the outset of a “telephonic connection”)

US 8,838,479 System and method for enabling an advertisement to follow the user to additional web pages (Lots of patentese that says put an ad in a frame and keep the frame constant as the rest of the page changes. Awesome.)

US 8,818,932 Method and apparatus for creating a predictive model (this patent claims to apply the “scientific method” to “the problem of predicting and preventing violence against U.S. and friendly forces” and includes hopelessly vague claim language such as “verifying causal links” and “utilizing the social models to … predict future behavior”)

  • 1. Blue Spike owns a family of four patents – US 7,346,472, US 7,660,700, US 7,949,494, and US 8,214,175 – all titled “Method and Device for Monitoring and Analyzing Signals.” These patents share the same specification which means they describe the same supposed invention but include slightly different patent claims. We award the entire patent family our Stupid Patent of the Month prize.
Files:  blue_spike_v_texas_instruments_complaint.pdf blue_spike_claim_construction_brief.pdf blue_skpike_defs_msj_on_invalidity.pdfRelated Issues: PatentsPatent TrollsInnovation
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