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To Fight $5.2B In Identity Theft, IRS May Need To Change the Way You File Taxes

Soulskill posted 5 hours ago | from the your-tax-dollars-at-work dept.

Government 233

coondoggie writes: Based on preliminary analysis, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates it paid $5.2 billion in fraudulent identity theft refunds in filing season 2013 while preventing an additional $24.2 billion (based on what it could detect). As a result, the IRS needs to implement changes (PDF) in a system that apparently can't begin verifying refund information until July, months after the tax deadline. Such changes could impact legitimate taxpayers by delaying refunds, extending tax season and likely adding costs to the IRS.

Secret Service Critics Pounce After White House Breach

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the owen-wilson-has-the-president-well-protected dept.

Government 221

HughPickens.com writes On Friday evening, a man jumped the White House fence, sprinted across the North Lawn toward the residence, and was eventually tackled by agents, but not before he managed to actually enter the building. Now CBS reports that the security breach at the White House is prompting a new round of criticism for the Secret Service, with lawmakers and outside voices saying the incident highlights glaring deficiencies in the agency's protection of the president and the first family. "Because of corner-cutting and an ingrained cultural attitude by management of 'we make do with less,' the Secret Service is not protecting the White House with adequate agents and uniformed officers and is not keeping up to date with the latest devices for detecting intruders and weapons of mass destruction," says Ronald Kessler. "The fact that the Secret Service does not even provide a lock for the front door of the White House demonstrates its arrogance." But the Secret Service must also consider the consequences of overreaction says White House correspondent Major Garrett. "If you have a jumper and he is unarmed and has no bags or backpacks or briefcase, do you unleash a dog and risk having cell phone video shot from Pennsylvania Avenue of an unarmed, mentally ill person being bitten or menaced by an attack dog?" But Kessler says Julia Pierson, the first woman to head the Secret Service, has some explaining to do. "If the intruder were carrying chemical, biological or radiological weapons and President Obama and his family had been in, we would have had a dead president as well as a dead first family."

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.

Democrats 388

An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the HealthCare.gov Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."

Canadian Regulator Threatens To Impose New Netflix Regulation

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the play-ball-or-go-away dept.

Canada 321

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix appeared before the Canadian broadcast regulator today, resulting in a remarkably heated exchange, with threats of new regulation. The discussion was very hostile — the CRTC repeatedly ordered Netflix to provide subscriber information and other confidential data. As tempers frayed, the Canadian regulator expressed disappointment over the responses from a company that it said "takes hundreds of millions of dollars out of Canada." The CRTC implicitly threatened to regulate the company by taking away its ability to rely on the new media exception if it did not cooperate with its orders.

Putin To Discuss Plans For Disconnecting Russia From the Internet

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the taking-his-e-toys-and-going-home dept.

Censorship 240

New submitter GlowingCat writes: Russian President Vladimir Putin and several high-ranking officials will discuss the security of the Russian segment of the Internet at the meeting of the Russian Security Council next week. According to various reports, the officials will make a number of decisions about regulating the use of the Internet in Russia. This includes the ability to cut off the Russian Internet, known as Runet, from the outside world, in case of emergency.

Science Has a Sexual Assault Problem

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the not-immune dept.

Crime 458

cold fjord writes: Phys.org reports, "The life sciences have come under fire recently with a study published in PLOS ONE that investigated the level of sexual harassment and sexual assault of trainees in academic fieldwork environments. The study found 71% of women and 41% of men respondents experienced sexual harassment, while 26% of women and 6% of men reported experiencing sexual assault. The research team also found that within the hierarchy of academic field sites surveyed, the majority of incidents were perpetrated by peers and supervisors. The New York Times notes, "Most of these women encountered this abuse very early in their careers, as trainees. The travel inherent to scientific fieldwork increases vulnerability as one struggles to work within unfamiliar and unpredictable conditions."

U2 and Apple Collaborate On 'Non-Piratable, Interactive Format For Music'

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the good-luck-with-that dept.

Music 349

Squiff writes U2 and Apple are apparently collaborating on a new, "interactive format for music," due to launch in "about 18 months." (A direct interview is available at Time, but paywalled.) Bono said the new tech "can't be pirated" and will re-imagine the role of album artwork. Marco Arment has some suitably skeptical commentary: "Full albums are as interesting to most people today as magazines. Single songs and single articles killed their respective larger containers. ... This alleged new format will cost a fortune to produce: people have to take the photos, design the interactions, build the animations, and make the deals with Apple. Bono’s talking point about helping smaller bands is ridiculous ... There's nothing Apple or Bono can do to make people care enough about glorified liner notes. People care about music and convenience, period. As for “music that can’t be pirated”, I ask again, what decade is this? That ship has not only sailed long ago, but has circled the world hundreds of times, sunk, been dragged up, turned into a tourist attraction, went out of business, and been gutted and retrofitted as a more profitable oil tanker."

Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died

samzenpus posted 5 days ago | from the get-out-of-the-mine dept.

Privacy 232

HughPickens.com writes When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: "Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us." Now Jeff John Roberts writes at Gigaom that Apple's warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company's last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the "canary" language is no longer there suggesting that Apple is now part of FISA or PRISM proceedings.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request. This may also give some insight into Apple's recent decision to rework its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police.

Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

timothy posted 5 days ago | from the just-what-they-want-you-to-think-part-827398 dept.

Encryption 504

SternisheFan writes with this selection from a story at the Washington Post: Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user data. The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal dilemma: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company – or anyone else but the device's owner – to gain access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers. The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails, recordings or other documents. Apple once kept possession of encryption keys that unlocked devices for legally binding police requests, but will no longer do so for iOS8, it said in a new guide for law enforcement. "Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," Apple said on its Web site. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."

FCC Chairman: Americans Shouldn't Subsidize Internet Service Under 10Mbps

samzenpus posted 5 days ago | from the reasonable-speed dept.

United States 327

An anonymous reader writes On Wednesday at a hearing in front of the US House Committee on Small Business, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated that for ISPs to be eligible for government broadband subsidies, they would have to deliver speeds of at least 10 Mbps. Said Wheeler: "What we are saying is we can't make the mistake of spending the people's money, which is what Universal Service is, to continue to subsidize something that's subpar." He further indicated that he would remedy the situation by the end of 2014. The broadband subsidies are collected through bill surcharges paid for by phone customers.

New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the bring-our-benjamins-home dept.

Businesses 324

HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD's work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits (and thereby hampering trade and limit global growth). But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channeled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally.

For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. "We are putting an end to double non-taxation," says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.For the recommendations to actually become binding, countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. Even if they do pass, these changes are likely 5-10 years away from going into effect.
Speaking of international corporate business: U.K. mainframe company Micro Focus announced it will buy Attachmate, which includes Novell and SUSE.

AT&T Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the you-aim-the-gun,-we'll-pull-the-trigger dept.

The Internet 241

An anonymous reader writes: The net neutrality debate has been pretty binary: ISPs want the ability to create so-called "fast lanes," and consumers want all traffic to be treated equally. Now, AT&T is proposing an alternative: fast lanes under consumer control. Their idea would "allow individual consumers to ask that some applications, such as Netflix, receive priority treatment over other services, such as e-mail or online video games. That's different from the FCC's current proposal, which tacitly allows Internet providers to charge content companies for priority access to consumers but doesn't give the consumers a choice in the matter."

AT&T said, "Such an approach would preserve the ability of Internet service providers to engage in individualized negotiations with [content companies] for a host of services, while prohibiting the precise practice that has raised 'fast lane' concerns." It's not perfect, but it's probably the first earnest attempt at a compromise we've seen from either side, and it suggests the discussion can move forward without completely rejecting one group's wishes.

Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor

samzenpus posted about a week ago | from the no-tor-for-you dept.

Businesses 418

An anonymous reader writes Comcast agents have reportedly contacted customers who use Tor and said their service can get terminated if they don't stop using Tor. According to Deep.Dot.Web, one of those calls included a Comcast customer service agent who allegedly called Tor an “illegal service.” The Comcast agent told the customer that such activity is against usage policies. The Comcast agent then allegedly told the customer: "Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules. Do you have any other questions? Thank you for contacting Comcast, have a great day." Update: 09/15 18:38 GMT by S : Comcast has responded, saying they have no policy against Tor and don't care if people use it.

New Details About NSA's Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden's Emails

samzenpus posted about a week ago | from the taking-a-good-look dept.

Government 200

An anonymous reader points out this Vice story with new information about the NSA's search of Edward Snowden's emails. Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden's available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency's vast surveillance programs. According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.

In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA's associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a "comprehensive" investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs "would be expected to be found within the agency." Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a "original classification authority," which means he can classify documents as "top-secret" and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he'd raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden's account and emails "obtained by restoring back-up tapes." He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with "NSA affiliates" with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.

Treasure Map: NSA, GCHQ Work On Real-Time "Google Earth" Internet Observation

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the lets-see-what-you're-doing dept.

United States 266

wabrandsma) writes with the latest accusations about NSA spying activity in Germany. According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet.
Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn't just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them. The breathtaking mission is described in a Treasure Map presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden which SPIEGEL has seen. It instructs analysts to "map the entire Internet — Any device, anywhere, all the time." Treasure Map allows for the creation of an "interactive map of the global Internet" in "near real-time," the document notes. Employees of the so-called "FiveEyes" intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird's eye view of the planet's digital arteries.

Navy Guilty of Illegally Broad Online Searches: Child Porn Conviction Overturned

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the looking-too-far dept.

United States 286

An anonymous reader writes In a 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit Court ruled that Navy investigators regularly run illegally broad online surveillance operations that cross the line of military enforcement and civilian law. The findings overturned the conviction of Michael Dreyer for distributing child pornography. The illegal material was found by NCIS agent Steve Logan searching for "any computers located in Washington state sharing known child pornography on the Gnutella file-sharing network." The ruling reads in part: "Agent Logan's search did not meet the required limitation. He surveyed the entire state of Washington for computers sharing child pornography. His initial search was not limited to United States military or government computers, and, as the government acknowledged, Agent Logan had no idea whether the computers searched belonged to someone with any "affiliation with the military at all." Instead, it was his "standard practice to monitor all computers in a geographic area," here, every computer in the state of Washington. The record here demonstrates that Agent Logan and other NCIS agents routinely carry out broad surveillance activities that violate the restrictions on military enforcement of civilian law. Agent Logan testified that it was his standard practice to "monitor any computer IP address within a specific geographic location," not just those "specific to US military only, or US government computers." He did not try to isolate military service members within a geographic area. He appeared to believe that these overly broad investigations were permissible, because he was a "U.S. federal agent" and so could investigate violations of either the Uniform Code of Military Justice or federal law."

California Declares Carpooling Via Ride-Share Services Illegal

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the welcome-to-the-world-of-red-tape dept.

Transportation 288

An anonymous reader writes: Ride-share companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar got letters from the California Public Utilities Commission this week telling them that carpool features for their services are illegal. "Basically, the CPUC says that under California law it's illegal for these ride-sharing services to charge passengers an individual fare when carrying multiple people in one vehicle. If the companies would like to add a carpool feature, they first have to request an adjustment to their existing permits with the CPUC or petition the state legislature to modify the law. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar all unveiled carpool features last month. The three companies say the feature lets strangers in multiple locations, but heading the same direction, share rides and split fares — saving passengers up to 50 percent per ride." This news arrives just as Uber gave in to the demands of striking drivers who claim the company is undermining their ability to earn a livable wage.

City of Turin To Switch From Windows To Linux and Save 6M Euros

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the frugal-tux dept.

Government 249

jrepin writes: The municipality of Turin in Italy hopes to save 6 million Euro over five years by switching from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux in all of its offices. The move will mean installing the open source operating system on 8,300 PCs, which will generate an immediate saving of roughly €300 per machine (almost €2.5m altogether, made up from the cost of Windows and Office licences) — a sum that will grow over the years as the need for the renewal of proprietary software licences vanishes, and the employees get used to the new machines.

Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the one-of-the-few-things-congress-actively-tries-to-do-these-days dept.

Space 213

Jason Koebler writes: Earlier this week, the House Science Committee examined the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, a bill that would ensure that "any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources."

The problem is, that idea doesn't really mesh at all with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a document that suggests space is a shared resource: "Unlike some other global commons, no agreement has been reached at to whether title to extracted space resources passes to the extracting entity," Joanne Gabrynowicz, a space law expert at the University of Mississippi said (PDF). "There is no legal clarity regarding the ownership status of the extracted resources. It is foreseeable that the entity's actions will be challenged at law and in politics."

Windows Tax Shot Down In Italy

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the note-that-it's-not-a-tax dept.

Microsoft 421

An anonymous reader writes Italy's High Court has struck a blow to the practice of forcing non-free software on buyers of PCs and laptops. According to La Repubblica, the court ruled on Thursday that a laptop buyer was entitled to receive a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows license on his computer. The judges sharply criticised the practice of selling PCs only together with a non-free operating system as "a commercial policy of forced distribution". The court slammed this practice as "monopolistic in tendency." It also highlighted that the practice of bundling means that end users are forced into using additional non-free applications due to compatibility and interoperability issues, whether they wanted these programs or not. "This decision is both welcome and long overdue", said Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "No vendor should be allowed to cram non-free software down the throats of users."

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