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Leon Walker could face up to 5 years in prison for reading his wife's e-mail, despite uncovering her affair.

In Michigan, a man has been charged with a felony after reading his wife’s email without permission. If convicted, this could set the precedent that anyone reading a family member’s private mail would be committing a crime.

In some cases this might seem reasonable, but could it mark the beginning of a slippery slope? What about parents who have legitimate reasons to monitor their childrens’ internet usage – could they soon be deemed criminals?

Read the full story at the Detroit Free Press.

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39 years after it began, Internet-based electronic mail has finally been granted the same recognition as other forms of communication, meaning that it cannot be intercepted by authorities without a warrant. It’s nice to see some privacy rights being given back in a time when much of our privacy is being eroded in the name of fighting terrorism. The interesting question now is whether this will affect Project Echelon and its routine monitoring of e-mail traffic. It will also be interesting to see if it serves as a precedent for other countries.

Read more at Geekosystem.

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The PlaneFinder Augmented Reality app identifies planes in the sky

If an aircraft enthusiast monitors position broadcasts from passing flights and records the identifiers and positions of those planes, is it a threat to security? Most would say no, the information is already being broadcast. What about if he publishes that information on a website? Well, now it’s easier for anyone to use that information – but it’s the same information.

Now, an app, PlaneFinder, has been released for the Android and iPhone which  makes that same information even more usable – you can now point your phone at the sky and get a live readout of the flight number, speed, destination and route of that otherwise unknown dot in the sky – a pretty powerful tool for plane-spotters and the public.

US authorities including the Federal Aviation Authority and the Department of Homeland Security are concerned that this could be used by terrorists and are investigating the matter. The Daily Mail and other tabloids are concocting horror stories of how the app could be used to target surface-to-air missiles. There are reports that “security experts” have deemed the app “an aid to terrorists”.

Clearly, there is some fear-mongering here, as with any story that can be linked to terrorists – but the pattern is one that is repeating more and more. Using new technology, people are harvesting publicly accessible data, making it usable in new ways, in new situations – and shifting the balance of power from the establishment to the individual. And the establishment doesn’t like that. Should tools that offer such access be banned, as the tabloids suggest? Or would that just deny the public access to a useful tool – and make little difference to the determined wrong-doer?

Read more at ndtv or on Slashdot.

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Is photography a human right?

Today we photograph more than ever before – and thanks to the negligible cost, we film situations that would never have been captured before. But police and other authority figures do not want to be recorded, and all over the world a battle is playing out between officials pushing current laws to extremes to prevent such recordings, and citizens who fight back with equal vigour to protect their freedom to photograph.

Should photography be criminalized and recording devices banished from any situation where that recording might be used for ill? Or should we assert our right to capture anything we experience as a fundamental right?

Read more »

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Via @lennysan, this is a great piece on how public, prosthetic memories will change us forever. Humans forget things with good reason: forgetting lets us discard old ideas in favor of new ones, and pain recedes so we can try things like childbirth again. Not so digital memory.

There’s a growing movement to put a statute of limitations on public digital data, even as Google reveals that it’s stored every search since its launch and the Library of Congress is archiving every Tweet.

As this Ars Technica piece points out, “in an age of ever-cheaper storage, the data committed to machine memory requires an act of will to delete.”

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Finland becomes the first country in the world to make Internet access a legal right for its citizens, at a minimum speed of 1Mbps, when a new law comes into force today.

This means that ISPs cannot refuse to connect someone, no matter how costly or remote. It’s a technical and financial challenge for ISPs, but great for helping the world move towards an open, connected future and avoiding a divided society with “haves and have nots”.

Meanwhile, the UK is moving in the opposite direction, with the recently passed Digital Economy Act threatening to disconnect users who are accused of copyright infringement. A new government initiative called Your Freedom invites the public to reclaim lost freedoms by voting for laws to repeal. Perhaps we will see a course-correction soon.

Read more here and here.

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Mashable has a look at how social networks are the tool of choice for divorce lawyers.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 81 percent of its members have used or faced evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites, including YouTube and LinkedIn, over the last five years.

It’s not just compromising pictures that are being used: sometimes, the evidence is nasty–parents tugging at their children’s social graphs to try and pull children away from their alienated spouse. With Overshare the word of the year in 2008, it’s no surprise that all that disclosure is catching up with us.

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Colt firearm from SZuppo on Flickr

September, 2014 was unusually cold for Boston. The chill from the Charles drifted in through an open window and slid across the floor of the one-bedroom apartment. Special Agent Ross took in the mess of books, records, and DVDs scattered around the room, framing the dead body of Janet Somers.

Back at the office, he started filing in the forms of the homicide report, detailing the execution-style killing—one shot to the back of the head—and signs of struggle. He’d barely had time to fetch a fresh cup of coffee when the PDA on his hip started buzzing. “Ross.” he answered curtly, annoyed by yet another interruption in what was already looking like a long day.

“This is Mike Lynch. I work for the U.S. Marshals,” explained the caller. “You filed the homicide report on Janet Somers, right?”

“Sure. You knew her?” asked Ross.

“Detective Ross, I work in Witness Protection. It’s not that I knew her, so much as I tried to make the world forget her. Based on what happened today, it sounds like I failed,” said Lynch.

“Yeah, it looked like a professional job: one shot to the back of the head at close range. What’s up?” asked Ross.

“I need you to tell me what music Janet listened to,” Lynch replied.

Ross scowled at the thought of spending hours in Janet’s frosty apartment. “Oh, come on. She’s dead. What difference does that make?”

“Listen, we’ve had six other killings this week. Same M.O. I need your help here.” replied Lynch.

And I thought I was having a bad week, muttered Ross under his breath.  “All these victims were under your protection?”

“Nope, none of them were,” said Lynch. “But the other six victims were all women in their mid-thirties, like Janet. They were all killed, execution-style, late at night, just as Janet was. And most importantly, all six of them liked the same music.

Ross took a sip of coffee and furrowed his brow. “I don’t get it,” he said, “what does their music have to do with it? You don’t shoot people for bad taste.”

“Listen, Ross,” growled Lynch, clearly annoyed. “If Janet liked the same music as the other six, then that means the killer’s using wishlists, iTunes, Last.fm and other online services to find people we’ve spent years working to hide.” The Marshal paused, letting it sink in. “We can change their faces, their cities, their jobs — but we can’t stop them listening to shitty music. And that might just get them killed.”

The US Witness Protection Program has hidden nearly 20,000 people since it was launched in the 1970s. So far, nobody in its custody has been harmed, despite Hollywood’s love of this plot device. Witnesses change their names, their appearance, and even their jobs — anything to hide their past. But can we hide who we really are?

Read more »

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The social graph land grab

The map of how humans know one another will be a tremendously valuable thing. Internet giants like Facebook and Google know how valuable the data will be — it will govern everything from how we advertise to how we give people security clearances. We’re in the middle of the biggest social graph land grab in history.

In the absence of clear guidelines or legislation with teeth, however, the industry is taking an ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission approach to social mapping.

Google has had to pivot quickly in recent months from mapping the web to mapping its users. At least it’s transparent about what it knows: the company publishes its social network mapping, showing who it knows you relate to and how.

Others aren’t so up-front. A Facebook gaffe installed applications when you visited other sites. As this piece points out, when apps install themselves it’s called malware; but on Facebook it’s a feature.

There’s little to discourage Internet giants from building this map, and if you’re online in any way, you probably can’t hide. On today’s Internet, everybody knows you’re a dog.

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