Tag Archives | Computers

Internet Connection Is Civil Right, German Court Rules

In the near future, in certain regions of the world, denying someone internet will be considered a barbaric, criminal act. Computer World UK reports:

Internet access is crucial to everyday life and the loss of connectivity is deserving of financial compensation, the German Federal Court of Justice has ruled. Because having an internet connection is so significant for a large part of the German population, a customer whose service provider failed to provide connectivity between December 2008 and February 2009 is entitled to compensation.

The plaintiff was erroneously disconnected and demanded that the unnamed telecommunications company pay for costs that incurred in switching to a new provider. The plaintiff also demanded compensation of €50 per day for the period his was unable to use his DSL service.

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A Box For Manipulating The News On Other People’s Computer Screens

The artistic creation of Julian Oliver and Daniil Vasiliev, the Newstweek device allows for “altering reality on a per-network basis” by literally changing the headlines on people’s screens:

Newstweek is a device for manipulating news read by other people on wireless hotspots. Built into a small and innocuous wall plug, the Newstweek device allows writers to remotely edit news read on wireless devices without the awareness of their users.

While news is increasingly read digitally, it still follows a top-down distribution model and thus often falls victim to the same political and corporate interests that have always sought to manipulate public opinion. Newstweek intervenes upon this model, providing opportunity for citizens to have their turn to manipulate the press; generating propaganda or simply ‘fixing facts’ as they pass across a wireless network.

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Man Arrested For ID Theft Of Most Of Greece

It’s reaching the point where we probably should give up even trying to have identities. Via the Toronto Star:

Greek police have arrested a man on suspicion of stealing the personal data of roughly two thirds of the country’s population, police officials in Athens said on Tuesday.

The 35-year old computer programmer was also suspected of attempting to sell the 9 million files containing identification card data, addresses, tax ID numbers and licence plate numbers. Greece’s population is 11 million.

Police were also looking into whether the man had obtained the data files by hacking into a government server and whether he had an accomplice, officials said. The files were discovered after police raided his home.

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British ‘UFO Hacker’ Gary McKinnon Will Not Be Extradited To United States

Curiosity about UFOs is what inspired McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, to engage in what American officials have called the “biggest military computer hack of all time.” The Guardian reports:

The home secretary, Theresa May, defied the American authorities on Tuesday by halting the extradition of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, a decision criticised by the US state department but welcomed with delight by campaigners and politicians across parties in the UK.

McKinnon was first indicted by an American grand jury in November 2002 for hacking into US military computers, including the Pentagon and NASA, from his north London bedroom while he was looking for UFOs. He could have faced a prison sentence of up 70 years under US law.

May told Members of Parliament she had taken the quasi-judicial decision on human rights grounds because of medical reports warning that McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome and suffers from depressive illness, could kill himself if sent to stand trial in the US.

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Judge Rules Against Man Suing Over Sickness From Wi-Fi And Cellphones

A blow for the millions of Americans who claim to be allergic to the electromagnetic waves given off by 21st century technology. Arthur Firstenberg should perhaps join the Wi-Fi refugees living in the mountains of West Virginia. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:

Arthur Firstenberg lost what might have been his final round in court Tuesday, when state District Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that no scientific study has yet proved that electromagnetic stimulus adversely impacts personal health.

In January 2010, Firstenberg, who has long argued that electromagnetic radiation emitted by cellphones, smartphones, wireless routers and other apparatus can cause illness, sued his neighbor, Raphaela Monribot, for $1 million over the use of such electronic equipment at Monribot’s west-side home.

Court documents quote Firstenberg as complaining that he suffered acute effects of electromagnetic stimulus (EMS) and that, “Whenever I returned home, even for a few minutes, I felt the same sickness in my chest and my health was set back for days.”

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Captured Lulzsec Hacker On Life Without The Internet

Scottish teenager Jake Davis, one of two Lulzsec-associates arrested over the hacking of websites including the CIA, Pentagon, News International, and Sony, may face decades in prison if he is extradited to the United States. Right now Davis is free on bail but forbidden to use the internet. Discussing the experience via the Guardian, he sounds like someone freed from shackles:

The last time I was allowed to access the internet was several moments before the police came through my door in the Shetland Isles, over a year ago. During the past 12 months I have pleaded guilty to computer misuse under the banners of “Internet Feds”, “Anonymous” and “LulzSec”.

I’m often asked: what is life like without the net? In a word, life is serene. I now find myself reading newspapers as though they weren’t ancient scrolls; entering real shops with real money in order to buy real products…Nothing needs to be captioned or made into an elaborate joke to impress a citizenry whose every emotion is represented by a sequence of keystrokes.

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World Wide Web Creator Denies ‘Off Switch’

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says we must be cautious of attempts to centralize the internet. Via Yahoo! News:

The inventor of the world wide web has denied there is an “off-switch” which could turn off the internet across the globe. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who launched the web on Christmas Day 1990, said the only way the internet could ever be entirely shut down is if governments all over the world co-ordinated to make it a centralised system.

It comes after moves by the Egyptian government last year to suppress use of the web led to speculation that the Hosni Mubarak regime had found a kill switch for the internet.

The 57-year-old computer scientist [Berners-Lee] said: “The way the internet is designed is very much as a decentralised system. At the moment, because countries connect to each other in lots of different ways, there is no one off-switch, there is no central place where you can turn it off.

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Why Is There No HTTP Code For Censorship?

When your viewing a website is blocked due to censorship, should your internet service provider should inform you? A 403 or 404 error code amounts to lying, argues Terance Eden. Some have suggested a new ’451′ internet censorship signifier, inspired by Ray Bradbury:

There is no HTTP code for censorship. But perhaps there should be.

My ISP have recently been ordered to censor The Pirate Bay. I am concerned that this [sort of] censorship will become more prevalent. As network neutrality dies, we will see more sites ordered to be blocked by governments who fear what they cannot understand. However, chief among my concerns is the technical way this censorship is implemented. At the moment, my ISP serves up an HTTP 403 error.

$ wget -v thepiratebay.org
Resolving thepiratebay.org… 194.71.107.50
Connecting to thepiratebay.org|194.71.107.50|:80… connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response… 403 Forbidden

As far as I am concerned, this response is factually incorrect.

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The Internet As The New Religion

The New Inquiry on the Internet as a god to be worshipped:

The relentless enthusiasm that cyber-utopians have for the potential of new technologies to transform the world often borders on religious fervor. In the case of Wired’s founding editor Kevin Kelly, it is literally true. After experiencing a religious awakening at the age of 27, Kelly now professes a unique form of Christianity that sees profound spiritual implications in technological progress. He believes that as our networks become more interconnected and our software becomes more intelligent, a vast planetary consciousness will emerge, knitting together our infrastructure into a sublime artificial mind that will inspire religious devotion.

Although this sounds far-fetched, current discourse about the Internet confirms the general prediction. We may not discuss the Internet as a planetary consciousness from on high, but we increasingly reify it as if it were a singular, invisible agency like God. This discourse heralds not the return to explicit belief that Kelly hoped for; instead, belief in Web divinity appears more subtly, slipping into everyday language in enthusiastic, worshipful comments like “This is why I love the Internet!”

The logic at work here is an obvious extension of the longstanding slogan of Internet activists, “Information wants to be free,” which assigns agency to information in a way that a more humanistic phrasing, like “Information ought to be free,” would not.

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