Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for November, 2015

Full Text of TPP Released

Rob Beschizza, Boing Boing:

Quick highlights dug out by first responders on Twitter and Reddit: Copyright is lifetime plus 75 years; Internet service providers must give your name if requested by copyright holders; ISPs must remove material upon receipt of a copyright claim; and you can’t sue if the claim was bogus.

The copyright term appears to vary country-by-country, with some — like Canada — being granted a different set of terms.

Jeremy Malcolm and Maira Sutton of the EFF:

Similarly, the provision on net neutrality in Article 14.10 is so weak as to be meaningless. Rather than establishing any sort of enforceable obligation, the parties merely “recognise the benefits” of the access and use of services and applications of a consumer’s choice, the connection of end-user devices of the consumer’s choice, and the availability of information on network management practices. To the extent that the TPP countries can falsely point to this provision as “addressing” net neutrality, it may actually impede the development of stronger, more meaningful global standards.

Jordan Pearson, Vice:

Experts say that a stipulation in the investment chapter of the TPP means that lawsuits from foreign corporations—Hollywood studios and device manufacturers like Apple or Samsung, for example—are on the way for Canada, especially over issues like device hacking, tinkering, and digital piracy.

The chapter states that intellectual property rights are one of the grounds a company can sue a government over, which is too bad, because the IP chapter is a fucking mess. For example, if Apple took issue with Canada’s laws that say it’s okay to bypass Apple’s digital “locks” on the iPhone so you can switch carriers, it would have grounds for a lawsuit.

The intellectual property contents of this treaty sound appalling. It tramples basic rights and tilts the scales even farther away from the general public.

Proposed Bill to Require Record of U.K. ISP Customers’ Access for One Year

The BBC:

It would order communications companies, such as broadband firms, to hold basic details of the services that someone has accessed online – something that has been repeatedly proposed but never enacted.

This duty would include forcing firms to hold a schedule of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices. Police and other agencies would be then able to access these records in pursuit of criminals – but also seek to retrieve data in a wider range of inquiries, such as missing people.

Mrs May stressed that the authorities would not be able to access everyone’s browsing history, just basic data, which was the “modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill”.

But investigating officers will not have to obtain a warrant, just get their request signed off by a senior officer, just as they do now – some 517,000 such requests were granted last year.

The theoretical benefits behind a bill like this should be enhanced protections for web users. That is, instead of the GCHQ snooping secretly and indiscriminately without a warrant, ISPs would hold the data and only release it upon legal command.

However, there’s no indication that this would compel the GCHQ to stop their intrusive and rights-violating behaviour, nor would it require a warrant to be obtained for basic access to the data that ISPs retain. Moreover, a choice exclusively between ISPs retaining our browsing history and intelligence agencies doing the same isn’t one we should accept. How about nobody retains browsing history? At least, until a court order compels an ISP to monitor a specific customer for a legitimate reason.

Another component of this bill:

The Wilson doctrine – preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians’ communications – to be written into law

So the only way to have a reasonable expectation of privacy is to be elected to Parliament? I think this should be reversed: if this bill becomes law, Parliamentarians’ browser history should be publicly posted in real time.

Red Hearts

Twitter is changing the “fav” star to a “like” heart, and I don’t like that. Neither does Dave Winer:

You may have Favorited something about a terrorist group, but would you have clicked on a red heart? At the very least that’s going to take some getting used to.

No surprise that third-party clients will be required to obey the new terminology and symbolism. Welcome to the new Twitter; same as the old Twitter.

Ununlimited, Again

Rich McCormick, the Verge:

Just over a year after it started offering unlimited OneDrive cloud storage for Office 365 subscribers, Microsoft is going back on the deal. Complaining that too many users were taking advantage of the unlimited space to store entire movie collections, hours of recorded video, and entire PC backups, Microsoft has introduced a new limit of 1 TB on OneDrive storage. At the same time, the company has reducing its free OneDrive storage from 15 GB to 5 GB, and removed its 100 GB and 200 GB plans, to be replaced by a new 50 GB plan for $1.99 a month.

Shorter Microsoft: “We did not anticipate users with unlimited storage would not limit their storage.” If you can’t fulfill the promise of unlimited anything, don’t bill it as “unlimited”.

Fuzziness and Friction

Riccardo Mori reacts to my piece on Siri and other “fuzzy” UIs:

Siri’s raison d’être is assisting, is being helpful. And indeed, Siri is the kind of interface where, when everything works, there’s a complete lack of friction. But when it does not work, the amount of friction involved rapidly increases: you have to repeat or rephrase the whole request (sometimes more than once), or take the device and correct the written transcription. Both actions are tedious — and defeat the purpose. It’s like having a flesh-and-bone assistant with hearing problems. Furthermore, whatever you do to correct Siri, you’re never quite sure whether your correcting action will have an impact on similar interactions in the future (it doesn’t seem to have one, from my experience).

What I said in my piece still holds true: Siri can only learn the accents, speech patterns, and enunciation levels of the world if it is used the world over, all the time. Mori is right in that it is expecting a lot out of users to keep trying commands while Siri turns a deaf ear. Real-time dictation, added in iOS 8, helps us see where Siri is going wrong, but it remains frustrating that there is little we can do about it.

“Secure Empty Trash” is No Longer Available In El Capitan

I didn’t spot this in the El Capitan security notes, but it turns out that it was removed:

Impact: The “Secure Empty Trash” feature may not securely delete files placed in the Trash

Description: An issue existed in guaranteeing secure deletion of Trash files on some systems, such as those with flash storage. This issue was addressed by removing the “Secure Empty Trash” option.

FileVault is on by default in the setup process of recent versions of OS X. OS X Daily, who I’m linking to, recommends the use of the srm command, but my understanding is that “Secure Empty Trash” is just a prettier way of accessing the same command, and which has been flagged as insecure.

Update: Eric K on Twitter:

@nickheer secure empty trash is gone in elcap *only* on systems with flash storage, because Apple couldn’t guarantee that drive controller was writing zeroes, or even erasing correct pages, on SSDs they sourced.

And:

@nickheer srm is still present and on flash drives still suffers the same issue, yes.

Pew’s Technology Device Ownership Survey

Steve Jobs, speaking with the New York Times in 2008 about Amazon’s then-new Kindle:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Jobs was being hyperbolic; it’s more like people don’t just read anymore. But he wasn’t wrong — here’s Monica Anderson of the Pew Research Center:

Today, about one-in-five adults (19%) report owning an e-reader, while in early 2014 that share was a third (32%). […] These changes are all taking place in a world where smartphones are transforming into all-purpose devices that can take the place of specialized technology, such as music players, e-book readers and gaming devices.

The smartphone is truly the ultimate convergence device, at least for today and the foreseeable future. Smartwatches, tablets, and even computers are peripheral. (Pew’s survey also says that tablet ownership is climbing, albeit at a rate slower than a couple of years ago.)