CEOs demand North Carolina Gov. repeal anti-LGBT law

Signatures from over 80 CEOs adorn a high profile letter that has been addressed to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. This letter, released by The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality NC, urges the Governor to repeal a recent law that will eliminate non-discrimination ordinances that protect the rights of LGBT people in the state of North Carolina. House Bill 2. H.B. 2 will force trans-gender students to use bathroom facilities that are inconsistent with their gender identity, which ultimately puts the school’s Title IX funding at risk. The legislation was hastily passed last Wednesday.

Several CEOs and high ranking executives are demanding that the Governor repeal this discriminatory bill. “Put simply, HB 2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians”, the letter states.

The letter goes on to deploy the actions of North Carolina’s lawmakers, and cites how destructive these far reaching actions can be. “Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.”

This comes just one day after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that was designed to allow businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. The veto came after Salesforce, along with other companies, threatened to stop doing business in the state.

The letter includes signatures from CEOs of high profile companies, many residing in Silicon Valley. The list of CEOs includes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Chad Griffin, president of the HRC and Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, will deliver the letter to McCrory’s office on Thursday morning and follow up with a request for the CEOs to meet with the Governor to discuss this matter further.

 

Article via TechCrunch, 29 March 2016

Photo: Pat McCrory by Hal Goodtree [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


FBI-Apple showdown ends

Just before a court hearing schedule for Tuesday, the FBI decided to pursue and attack method that would not require Apple’s assistance. This effectively put the FBI’s case on pause, and created an anti-climactic end to the battle between the government and the tech giant over hacking into the San Bernardino shooters iPhone. A U.S. District Court in California ruled that good cause had been shown by the government for the delay and ordered it to file a status report with the court on April 5.

Originally the FBI had wanted Apple to write software that would change the amount of password attempts that could be made before the phone erased itself. Currently, an iPhone will be erased after 10 unsuccessful attempts with the wrong passcode. The FBI stated that it would need Apple’s help to get around this hurdle, but apparently that has changed. This leave many to wonder how to agency might defeat the phone’s security.

“You can always attack the phone while it’s running. There are hundreds of people in the world, if not more, who can do that,” said Rod Schultz, vice president of product at Rubicon Labs.”They can attach a debugger to the device, and modify the instructions that are doing the policy check,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The password also could be recovered through a technique known as NAND mirroring. It requires making a copy of the iPhone’s memory. Then, after 10 wrong password guesses erased the phone’s contents, the memory would be reloaded into the phone and the FBI could take 10 more tries at cracking it. That process would be repeated several times until the FBI was able to hack into the phone. The downside is that it takes a long time, and that is most why the FBI didn’t want to do it.

The is some skepticism about the reasons why the FBI asked for the delay. “Those of us who are watching both the technology arguments and the legal arguments are somewhat skeptical of the claim that the FBI suddenly discovered they could get into the phone,” said Mike Godwin, general counsel and director of innovation policy at the R Street Institute.

“The legal arguments that Apple produced were quite strong,” Godwin told TechNewsWorld. “I think the FBI was worried it was going to lose based on the legal arguments.”

As for Apple, its public stance is that the issue must be settled outside the courts. “Tim Cook has never said Apple will never cooperate with the FBI,” observed R Street’s Godwin.

Article via TechNewsWorld, 23 March 2016

Photo: The Apple – FBI Electronic Encryption Fight RGB Triptych v1.3 by Surian Soosay [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Facebook exec arrested in WhatsApp case

Facebook is becoming the next tech giant to spar with law enforcement over privacy concerns.

Diego Dzodan, a Facebook executive, was arrested by Brazilian federal police on Tuesday for “repeated non-compliance with court orders”, according to a statement released by police. Brazilian police want information from a WhatsApp account that is linked to a drug trafficking investigation. WhatsApp is a messaging service that is used monthly by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide. Dzodan was taken into what the Brazilian police call preventative prison and could be held for a week or more.

Facebook wants to ensure that it maintains the privacy of its users from government intervention. In WhatsApp’s case, the company may not be able to help Brazilian authorities because it does not store users’ messages. In addition, WhatsApp is undergoing increased end to end encryption, which will make it even harder for the company to turn over user data. WhatsApp said in a statement that it disagreed with the Brazilian authorities on the case. “We are disappointed that law enforcement took this extreme step,” the messaging business said. “WhatsApp cannot provide information we do not have.”

Facebook, which bought WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion in 2014, condemned the Brazilian government’s move releasing this statement:

“We’re disappointed with the extreme and disproportionate measure of having a Facebook executive escorted to a police station in connection with a case involving WhatsApp, which operates separately from Facebook,” a spokesman said. “Facebook has always been and will be available to address any questions Brazilian authorities may have.”

This isn’t the first time Brazil has gone head to head with WhatsApp. In December, a judge ordered the shutdown of WhatsApp for the country for two days after not complying with a criminal investigation, but the ruling was overturned the next day.

 

Article via CNET, 1 March 2016; The New York Times, 2 March 2016

Photo: WhatsApp / iOS by Álvaro Ibáñez [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Apple refuses to hack into terrorist iPhone

Apple is being criticized by a British solider’s family for refusing to hack into an iPhone linked to December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook spoke out against the court order on Wednesday, calling the demand “chilling” and saying that compliance would be a major setback for online privacy. Many digital rights groups agree.  The federal government’s attempts to capture data from tech companies has been met with apprehension and fear. Just a few months ago, several tech companies started standing up to government data requests. But not everyone agrees with Apple’s stance on this issue.

Major tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple all want to protect their customers’ data by securing it at the highest levels. But, federal governments like the US and the UK want these companies to find ways to hack into customer hardware and accounts, arguing that privacy should not come at the expense of national security. This ongoing battle over encryption puts tech giants on one side, and law enforcement and intelligence on the other.

Fusilier Lee Rigby was off duty and walking down the street near his barracks in Woolwich, England, in May 2013 when he was the victim of a brutal attack by two men who told witnesses they were avenging the killing of Muslims by British soldiers.  Ray McClure, Rigby’s uncle, believes that Apple is doing nothing more than “protecting a murderer’s privacy at the cost of public safety.”

“Valuable evidence is on that smartphone and Apple is denying the FBI access to that information,” McClure said, arguing that a warrant to search a smartphone should be no different than a warrant used to search a property.

In the court order handed to Apple, the company was told it must assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone linked to San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. In addition to unlocking the phone, The FBI wants Apple to build a new version of its iOS mobile software that would be able to bypass the iPhone’s security so that the agency could hack any device remotely. In an open letter published on Apple’s website, Tim Cook stated that Apple has been working with the FBI, providing data and advice on how to move forward. But the creation of software that would allow the FBI to bypass Apple’s security simply doesn’t exist. “The US government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create,” said Apple CEO Time Cook.

Article via Cnet, 18 February 2016

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook by Mike Deerkoski [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Facebook sets things straight with India

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is trying to set things straight after tweets from board member Marc Andreessen put the company’s image in hot water. Andreessen reacted to the Indian telecom regulator’s ban on Facebook’s Free Basics service by bringing up India and colonialism.

Zuckerberg was quoted as saying, “I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.”

The comments that he refers to start with Andreessen’s tweet, “Another in a long line of economically suicidal decisions made by the Indian government against its own citizens,” referencing the Free Basics ban. He continues saying, “Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong.”

Indian entrepreneur Vivek Chachra reportedly tweeted in response that the Free Basics argument that some Internet is better than no Internet sounded like a “justification of Internet colonialism.” To which Andreessen responded, “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”

Zuckerberg wants to bring the Internet to the entire planet by 2020. India would be a major factor in making that goal come true. Andreessen’s comments make it appear as though Facebook may have other motives for expanding into India, and may jeopardize future growth in that market. Some say that Facebook should ask Andreessen to step down, and make an example out of him showing that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

In response, Zuckerberg has made statements of his own, via Facebook, to combat the controversy. India “has been personally important to me and Facebook….I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the need to understand India’s history and culture” and “I look forward to strengthening my connection to the country.”

Facebook has withdrawn Free Basics from India and continues to weather the storm of this controversy.

Article via TechNewsWorld, 12 February 2016

Photo: facebook global by Global Panorama [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Farmers in India use WhatsApp to sell organic produce

Farmers in India are now using WhatsApp to network with customers. Santhosh Kittur and Abhijit Kamath, for example, grow pesticide-free vegetables using traditional farming techniques. But they have a very modern method of advertising their produce: an 80-member WhatsApp group that receives updates and photographs of the farm.

Members of the group can message Kittur and Kamarth to reserve specific vegetables. “First preference is given to the members of the group. The system has worked well for us, even financially,” Kittur commented.

The trend of using WhatsApp to connect farmers to customers is a result of rising demand for organic produce in India. An October report by the Agriculture Ministry exposed that the amount of vegetables, fruit, meat, and spices treated with pesticides over the legal maximum level had almost doubled since 2009.

“It is very hard to find chemical-free vegetables. We had stopped using cabbage, cauliflower, and brinjal [eggplant] after learning about their high chemical content,” said customer Shraddha Bagi. “When these farmers [Kittur and Kamath] supply fresh and safe vegetables right at our doorsteps, we should definitely encourage them. It’s come to such a point where we eagerly wait for their produce.”

WhatsApp has exceeded its role as an advertiser to become a support system for farmers. Over a hundred farmers from different villages are part of the group named Baliraja, which serves as a forum for the farmers to share advice and connect with experts.

“Farmers’ queries are getting answered quickly,” said the coordinator of another agricultural WhatsApp group.

Article via: Mashable, 11 February 2016

Photo: Woman Laughing with Hoe, Purna Wildlife Sanctuary by Adam Cohn  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]