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EFF Launches New AI Progress Measurement Project

EFF Launches New AI Progress Measurement Project

Reader Peter Eckersley writes: There’s a lot of real progress happening in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and also a lot of hype. These technologies already have serious policy implications, and may have more in the future. But what’s the ratio of hype to real progress? At EFF, we decided to find out. Today we are launching a pilot project to measure the progress of AI research. It breaks the field into a taxonomy of subproblems like game playing, reading comprehension, computer vision, and asking neural networks to write computer programs, and tracks progress on metrics across these fields. We’re hoping to get feedback and contributions from the machine learning community, with the aim of using this data to improve the conversations around the social implications, transparency, safety, and security of AI.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
EFF Sues FBI For Records About Paid Best Buy Geek Squad Informants

EFF Sues FBI For Records About Paid Best Buy Geek Squad Informants

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the FBI for records “about the extent to which it directs and trains Best Buy employees to conduct warrantless searches of people’s devices.” The lawsuit stems around an incident in 2011 where a gynecology doctor took his computer for repairs at Best Buy’s Geek Squad. The repair technician was a paid FBI informant that found child pornography on the doctor’s computer, ultimately resulting in the doctor being charged with possessing child pornography. From the EFF’s report: A federal prosecution of a doctor in California revealed that the FBI has been working for several years to cultivate informants in Best Buy’s national repair facility in Brooks, Kentucky, including reportedly paying eight Geek Squad employees as informants. According to court records in the prosecution of the doctor, Mark Rettenmaier, the scheme would work as follows: Customers with computer problems would take their devices to the Geek Squad for repair. Once Geek Squad employees had the devices, they would surreptitiously search the unallocated storage space on the devices for evidence of suspected child porn images and then report any hits to the FBI for criminal prosecution. Court records show that some Geek Squad employees received $500 or $1,000 payments from the FBI. At no point did the FBI get warrants based on probable cause before Geek Squad informants conducted these searches. Nor are these cases the result of Best Buy employees happening across potential illegal content on a device and alerting authorities. Rather, the FBI was apparently directing Geek Squad workers to conduct fishing expeditions on people’s devices to find evidence of criminal activity. Prosecutors would later argue, as they did in Rettenmaier’s case, that because private Geek Squad personnel conducted the searches, there was no Fourth Amendment violation. The judge in Rettenmaier’s case appeared to agree with prosecutors, ruling earlier this month that because the doctor consented both orally and in writing to the Geek Squad’s search of his device, their search did not amount to a Fourth Amendment violation. The court, however, threw out other evidence against Rettenmaier after ruling that FBI agents misstated key facts in the application for a warrant to search his home and smartphone. We disagree with the court’s ruling that Rettenmaier consented to a de-facto government search of his devices when he sought Best Buy’s help to repair his computer. But the court’s ruling demonstrates that law enforcement agents are potentially exploiting legal ambiguity about when private searches become government action that appears intentionally designed to try to avoid the Fourth Amendment.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
EFF Warns Most Of Intel's Chipsets Contain 'A Security Hazard'

EFF Warns Most Of Intel's Chipsets Contain 'A Security Hazard'

The EFF is issuing a warning about the “tiny homunculus computer” in most of Intel’s chipsets — the largely-undocumented “Management Engine” which houses more than just the AMT module. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
While AMT can be disabled, there is presently no way to disable or limit the Management Engine in general. Intel urgently needs to provide one….vulnerabilities in any of the other modules could be as bad, if not worse, for security. Some of the other modules include hardware-based authentication code and a system for location tracking and remote wiping of laptops for anti-theft purposes… It should be up to hardware owners to decide if this code will be installed in their computers or not. Perhaps most alarmingly, there is also reportedly a DRM module that is actively working against the user’s interests, and should never be installed in a Management Engine by default…

While Intel may put a lot of effort into hunting for security bugs, vulnerabilities will inevitably exist, and having them lurking in a highly privileged, low-level component with no OS visibility or reliable logging is a nightmare for defensive cybersecurity. The design choice of putting a secretive, unmodifiable management chip in every computer was terrible, and leaving their customers exposed to these risks without an opt-out is an act of extreme irresponsibility… EFF believes that Intel needs to provide a minimum level of transparency and user control of the Management Engines inside our computers, in order to prevent this cybersecurity disaster from recurring. Unless that happens, we are concerned that it may not be appropriate to use Intel CPUs in many kinds of critical infrastructure systems.
TLDR: “We have reason to fear that the undocumented master controller inside our Intel chips could continue to be a source of serious vulnerabilities in personal computers, servers, and critical cybersecurity and physical infrastructure.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF.  EFF Sues Them Back

Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF. EFF Sues Them Back

“The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued an Australian company that it previously dubbed as a ‘classic patent troll’ in a June 2016 blog post entitled: Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer.” An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica:
Last year, that company, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove its post — but EFF did not comply. In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still did not comply. The new lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, asks that the American court declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the U.S.

GEMSA’s attorneys reportedly threatened to have the EFF’s post de-indexed from search engine listings — on the basis of the Australian court order — so now the EFF “seeks a court order declaring the Australian injunction ‘repugnant’ to the U.S. Constitution and unenforceable in the United States.”

The Register reports that GEMSA has already sued 37 companies, “including big-name tech companies Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Spotify, and eBay. In each case, GEMSA accused the company’s website design of somehow trampling on the GUI patent without permission.” But things were different after the EFF’s article, according to Courthouse News. “GEMSA said the article made it harder to enforce its patents in the United States, citing its legal opponents’ ‘reduced interest in pursuing pre-trial settlement negotiations.'”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
London Police Ink Shadowy Deal With Industry On Website Takedowns

London Police Ink Shadowy Deal With Industry On Website Takedowns

AmiMoJo writes: The EFF is warning about unregulated activity against websites by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) of the City of London Police. A program called RogueBlock accepts notifications from IP holders, which the PIPCU then acts on, giving private companies legal jurisdiction over the entire internet, with appeals in the case of malicious reports and mistakes being extremely difficult to make. For example, Spanish sports streaming site Rojadirecta had its domain name seized by the U.S. government for over a year, despite the site being lawful in its native Spain. The EFF terms this kind of activity “Shadow Regulation.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff
EFF Issues April Fool's Day Newsletter

EFF Issues April Fool's Day Newsletter

An anonymous reader writes:

There were some surprises in today’s edition of the EFF’s “EFFector” newsletter. Noting that it’s their sqrt(-1)th issue, they report that the EU will protect the privacy of its data by building a 30-foot wall around the United States. “Only U.S. tech companies that comply with EU privacy restrictions and prohibit U.S. government access to their data will be given fiber optic grappling hooks to transport Europeans’ data across the Atlantic, over the wall, and back to their U.S.-based servers.”
The newsletter also reports that the bipartisan leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Intelligence Committees “apologized during a press conference this morning for failing to provide rigorous supervision of the intelligence community.” And the newsletter also reports that Deadpool won an Oscar after PricewaterhouseCoopers mistakenly handed the presenters an envelope with a list of the most-frequently torrent-ed movie of 2016. But perhaps its most unexpected headline is “Comcast to Assimilate with the Borg.”
The Borg said the deal would increase its market share, nationwide reach, and overall reputation for evil — while Comcast claimed that the deal would boost competition.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, eff