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Surprise! Audit finds automated license plate reader programs are a privacy nightmare

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Automated license plate readers, ALPRs, would be controversial even if they were responsibly employed by the governments that run them. Unfortunately, and to no one’s surprise, the way they actually operate is “deeply disturbing and confirm[s] our worst fears about the misuse of this data,” according to an audit of the programs instigated by a Californian legislator.

What we’ve learned today is that many law enforcement agencies are violating state law, are retaining personal data for lengthy periods of time, and are disseminating this personal data broadly. This state of affairs is totally unacceptable,” said California State Senator Scott Weiner (D-SF), who called for the audit of these programs. The four agencies audited were the LAPD, Fresno PD and the Marin and Sacramento County Sheriffs Departments.

The inquiry revealed that the programs can barely justify their existence and do not seem to have, let alone follow, best practices for security and privacy:

  • Los Angeles alone stores 320 million license plate images, 99.9% of which were not being sought by law enforcement at the time of collection.
  • Those images were shared with “hundreds” of other agencies but there was no record of how this was justified legally or accomplished properly.
  • None of the agencies has a privacy policy in line with requirements established in 2016. Three could not adequately explain access and oversight permissions, or how and when data would or could be destroyed, “and the remaining agency has not developed a policy at all.”
  • There were almost no policies or protections regarding account creation and use and have never audited their own systems.
  • Three of the agencies store their images and data with a cloud vendor, the contract for which had inadequate if any protections for that data.

In other words, “there is significant cause for alarm,” the press release stated. As the programs appear to violate state law they may be prosecuted, and as existing law appears to be inadequate to the task of regulating them, new ones must be proposed, Wiener said, and he is working on it.

The full report can be read here.

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mrobold
2 days ago
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Orange County, California
freeAgent
3 days ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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DoorDash drivers use their forced arbitration clause to force DoorDash into arbitration

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

DoorDash contractors have turned a forced arbitration clause in their contract against their employer, as a federal judge has ordered DoorDash to arbitrate 5,010 labor disputes, potentially costing the company millions in arbitration fees (via Quartz). And in a rich bit of irony, DoorDash essentially brought this situation onto itself.

The DoorDash workers originally sought arbitration because they felt DoorDash violated federal and California labor law and wanted to settle the dispute. DoorDash argued it was under no obligation to pay the fees needed to arbitrate those thousands of disputes.

But DoorDash also originally hoped to dismiss a pending class-action case about the same dispute by arguing that the workers had a duty to...

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mrobold
5 days ago
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Orange County, California
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Why I won't buy an Ipad: ten years later

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Ten years ago, Apple released the Ipad. I was in a hotel room in Seattle, jetlagged and awake at 4AM while my wife and daughter slept.

I had been thinking about Apple's impending Ipad release and what a reversal it meant for everything I loved about tech: taking away your right to decide whose code you'd run -- even your right to change the battery! I wrote about my feelings and many people read it. It even rated a mention in Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.

A decade later, the Ipad is ten years old and Apple has killed 20 state Right to Repair bills, in part to lock out third parties who might change you batteries for you.

I just reread that piece, and I still stand by it.


Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)

I've spent ten years now on Boing Boing, finding cool things that people have done and made and writing about them. Most of the really exciting stuff hasn't come from big corporations with enormous budgets, it's come from experimentalist amateurs. These people were able to make stuff and put it in the public's eye and even sell it without having to submit to the whims of a single company that had declared itself gatekeeper for your phone and other personal technology.

Danny O'Brien does a very good job of explaining why I'm completely uninterested in buying an iPad -- it really feels like the second coming of the CD-ROM "revolution" in which "content" people proclaimed that they were going to remake media by producing expensive (to make and to buy) products. I was a CD-ROM programmer at the start of my tech career, and I felt that excitement, too, and lived through it to see how wrong I was, how open platforms and experimental amateurs would eventually beat out the spendy, slick pros.

I remember the early days of the web -- and the last days of CD ROM -- when there was this mainstream consensus that the web and PCs were too durned geeky and difficult and unpredictable for "my mom" (it's amazing how many tech people have an incredibly low opinion of their mothers). If I had a share of AOL for every time someone told me that the web would die because AOL was so easy and the web was full of garbage, I'd have a lot of AOL shares.

And they wouldn't be worth much.

Incumbents made bad revolutionaries
Relying on incumbents to produce your revolutions is not a good strategy. They're apt to take all the stuff that makes their products great and try to use technology to charge you extra for it, or prohibit it altogether.

I mean, look at that Marvel app (just look at it). I was a comic-book kid, and I'm a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was -- and is -- huge, and vital. I can't even count how many times I've gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I'd missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It's part of a multigenerational tradition in my family -- my mom's father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

So what does Marvel do to "enhance" its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.

Infantalizing hardware
Then there's the device itself: clearly there's a lot of thoughtfulness and smarts that went into the design. But there's also a palpable contempt for the owner. I believe -- really believe -- in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can't open it, you don't own it. Screws not glue. The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+.

But with the iPad, it seems like Apple's model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother as appears in a billion renditions of "that's too complicated for my mom" (listen to the pundits extol the virtues of the iPad and time how long it takes for them to explain that here, finally, is something that isn't too complicated for their poor old mothers).

The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a "consumer," what William Gibson memorably described as "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote."

The way you improve your iPad isn't to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn't a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it's a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.

Dale Dougherty's piece on Hypercard and its influence on a generation of young hackers is a must-read on this. I got my start as a Hypercard programmer, and it was Hypercard's gentle and intuitive introduction to the idea of remaking the world that made me consider a career in computers.

Wal-Martization of the software channel
And let's look at the iStore. For a company whose CEO professes a hatred of DRM, Apple sure has made DRM its alpha and omega. Having gotten into business with the two industries that most believe that you shouldn't be able to modify your hardware, load your own software on it, write software for it, override instructions given to it by the mothership (the entertainment industry and the phone companies), Apple has defined its business around these principles. It uses DRM to control what can run on your devices, which means that Apple's customers can't take their "iContent" with them to competing devices, and Apple developers can't sell on their own terms.

The iStore lock-in doesn't make life better for Apple's customers or Apple's developers. As an adult, I want to be able to choose whose stuff I buy and whom I trust to evaluate that stuff. I don't want my universe of apps constrained to the stuff that the Cupertino Politburo decides to allow for its platform. And as a copyright holder and creator, I don't want a single, Wal-Mart-like channel that controls access to my audience and dictates what is and is not acceptable material for me to create. The last time I posted about this, we got a string of apologies for Apple's abusive contractual terms for developers, but the best one was, "Did you think that access to a platform where you can make a fortune would come without strings attached?" I read it in Don Corleone's voice and it sounded just right. Of course I believe in a market where competition can take place without bending my knee to a company that has erected a drawbridge between me and my customers!

Journalism is looking for a daddy figure
I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who'll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of "content" isn't just that they can get it for free, though: it's that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too. The open platform has allowed for an explosion of new material, some of it rough-hewn, some of it slick as the pros, most of it targetted more narrowly than the old media ever managed. Rupert Murdoch can rattle his saber all he likes about taking his content out of Google, but I say do it, Rupert. We'll miss your fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the Web so little that we'll hardly notice it, and we'll have no trouble finding material to fill the void.

Just like the gadget press is full of devices that gadget bloggers need (and that no one else cares about), the mainstream press is full of stories that affirm the internal media consensus. Yesterday's empires do something sacred and vital and most of all grown up, and that other adults will eventually come along to move us all away from the kids' playground that is the wild web, with its amateur content and lack of proprietary channels where exclusive deals can be made. We'll move back into the walled gardens that best return shareholder value to the investors who haven't updated their portfolios since before eTrade came online.

But the real economics of iPad publishing tell a different story: even a stellar iPad sales performance isn't going to do much to stanch the bleeding from traditional publishing. Wishful thinking and a nostalgia for the good old days of lockdown won't bring customers back through the door.

Gadgets come and gadgets go
Gadgets come and gadgets go. The iPad you buy today will be e-waste in a year or two (less, if you decide not to pay to have the battery changed for you). The real issue isn't the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.

If you want to live in the creative universe where anyone with a cool idea can make it and give it to you to run on your hardware, the iPad isn't for you.

If you want to live in the fair world where you get to keep (or give away) the stuff you buy, the iPad isn't for you.

If you want to write code for a platform where the only thing that determines whether you're going to succeed with it is whether your audience loves it, the iPad isn't for you.

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mrobold
20 days ago
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Orange County, California
freeAgent
22 days ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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Kobe Bryant is Gone

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kobe bryant

You could write an entire book on the tall tales that surrounded Kobe Bryant throughout his career. He’s like Paul Bunyan.

Jay Williams once said that he showed up to a game 4 hours early thinking he was going to be alone in the gym and “getting in more work than anyone”, only to find Kobe already there in a full sweat mid-workout. Shaq says he’d see Kobe doing full-on workouts where he wouldn’t even be using a ball, just him working on cuts where he would sometimes mime dribbling and shooting. Dwyane Wade once told a story where, during Team USA, everyone had just woke up and come down for breakfast, only to have Kobe show up in sweaty workout clothes with ice packs on his knees because he’d already been up for hours getting work in.

Kobe himself once said that a game winner he hit was honed by throwing rocks at a light pole while riding a bike as a kid, that he’d make his high school teammates play him in games of 1-on-1 to 100, and that footage of a cheetah using it’s tail to balance while hunting was his inspiration for how he’d kick-out his leg to keep his balance on his fadeaway.

No story with Kobe seemed too farfetched; no story ever seemed unbelievable.

That changed today when the news story broke that Kobe was involved in a helicopter crash that ended his life, the life of his 13 year old daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers. This story, couldn’t be true, I thought. Or, really, I just hoped it wasn’t. But it is. Kobe Bryant, is dead at 41.

Writing about Kobe has often been as complicated as he could be. A masterful basketball tactician with unrivaled fundamentals, Kobe had a flair for trying insane moves and taking wild shot attempts. A true student of the game who watched more film than anyone, Kobe would go off-script of the game-plan whenever it suited him. A historically great scorer, some of Kobe’s best moments as a player were passes — be it a lob or an over the shoulder no-looker or a simple swing to an open teammate. Off the court, Kobe was a truly devoted father to his four daughters and who has a clear love for his wife, but was also once accused of sexual assault and whose wife once filed for divorce,and who had a very public falling out with his parents.

Covering him, then, whether you were a national scribe who wasn’t around the team as often, a day-to-day beat reporter, or a blogger with a site like this one, was never that straightforward. The complexities of him as a person, teammate, or as an individual player and his approach to the game were always there, bubbling to the surface. To appreciate and adore, to loathe and lash-out against. He was someone you loved or loved to hate, but he was never someone you could be dispassionate about. He was Kobe and you had an opinion about him.

I, personally, loved him. For his dedication and commitment, for his unabashed expressiveness and creativity on the court, for his want and ability to make the right play and for his determination to make the wrong play work, for playing through injury, for the scoring binges, for the highlights, and, as a Lakers fan, for the winning. For all the goddamned winning.

Sports, in its most basic form, is settled on the scoreboard and Kobe Bean Bryant was on the right side of that scoreboard more often than he wasn’t. In the regular season, in the playoffs, in the fucking NBA Finals. Through his play, and his success, he brought me an unfair amount of joy. He brought me memories that will live with me forever…even now that he’s gone.

For that, I am thankful. Truly, and eternally, thankful.

I am also incredibly sad.

Honestly, I have seen too much death lately. Three and a half years ago my father checked into the hospital and never came out. Only a few months later, my only brother was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer and passed away within 18 months. Kobe is not my kin, but he is my family. He’s my Lakers family. He was born in the same year as me and shared a birthday with my brother. I watched his entire career, from those infamous airballs to those made free throws on a ruptured achilles, and lapped it up like a kitten does warm milk.

There will never be another player who captures my attention and appreciation in the same way as him. How our lives overlapped, in the exact moment in time they did, make that so. Today, then, I weep. I weep for Vanessa and their girls. For the rest of his family. For Jeanie and Phil and Rob Pelinka and Shaq and B-Shaw and LO and Pau and Ron and D-Fish. For you. And for myself.

Rest in peace, Bean. Gone too soon, but never forgotten. You made damn sure about that.

The post Kobe Bryant is Gone appeared first on Forum Blue And Gold.

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mrobold
22 days ago
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Orange County, California
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It’s not just you: Google added annoying icons to search on desktop

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Google : Illustration Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images

Google added tiny favicon icons to its search results this week for some reason, creating more clutter in what used to be a clean interface, and seemingly without actually improving the results or the user experience. The company says it’s part of a plan to make clearer where information is coming from, but how?

To give you an idea of how minimal the change is, here’s what it looked like when Google made the same tweak last year to the browsing experience on phones:

In my Chrome desktop browser, it feels like an aggravating, unnecessary change that doesn’t actually help the user determine how good, bad, or reputable an actual search result might be. Yes, ads are still clearly marked with the word “ad,” which is a good...

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mrobold
31 days ago
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Orange County, California
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The Blueprint Iran Could Follow After Soleimani’s Death

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The Iranian government’s swift pledge to avenge the Trump administration’s killing of its infamous military commander Qassem Soleimani, and the U.S. government’s deployment of thousands of additional troops to the Middle East and urgent call for Americans to leave Iraq, has left a distinct impression: that some fearsome Iranian retaliation is coming any minute and that it could quickly spiral into an all-out war between the United States and Iran that would surpass the horror of the Iraq War.

But that’s not exactly how Iran operates. The U.S. and Iran have been locked for the past four decades in a shadowy, shape-shifting struggle—what the historian David Crist memorably termed a “twilight war”—and Iran has tended to follow a certain blueprint: compensate for its inferior military capabilities relative to the United States by waging wide-ranging proxy warfare that stops short of direct conflict, allows it to maintain plausible deniability, and is carefully calibrated to advance Iranian interests at a low cost and with minimal risk.

The Iranians “don’t lash out,” Ariane Tabatabai, a scholar at the Rand Corporation who has studied Iran’s military doctrine, told me. “I suspect whatever will happen—and there’s no doubt in my mind that there will be a response”—won’t be some knee-jerk action to appease a domestic audience but will instead reflect a “more strategic, more careful, planned approach,” she said. “That's going to keep us on our toes for the foreseeable future.”

Iran’s way of war is informed by the recognition that while it is a major regional power, it is no match for America militarily. According to the Global Firepower ranking, which the United States leads, Iran has the 14th-most-powerful military in the world, in between Brazil’s and Pakistan’s. The Iranians have a nuclear program but no nuclear weapons yet. They have a ballistic-missile program but no long-range missiles that can reach the United States. Iran has decent relations with Russia and China but no stalwart great-power allies; as one of the world’s most isolated countries, it does not have many allies at all. And while the Iranians have 523,000 active-duty forces and another 350,000 reserves, which is nothing to scoff at, their conventional military is hobbled by aging equipment, international sanctions, and restrictions on arms imports.

Tehran’s solution has been to engage with the United States asymmetrically, including influence operations and, more recently, cyber activities. At the forefront of this effort has been the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and especially its Quds Force unit, which Soleimani commanded. The IRGC has exploited internal conflicts and weak states in the Middle East, cultivating proxy forces—such as Shiite militias in Iraq, Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon—that serve as a kind of alliance network to rival America’s regional alliances.

In a recent analysis, the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that Iranian leaders have concluded that their most potent weapon is their “sovereign capability to conduct warfare in battlefields across the Middle East through third parties,” which “has encountered no effective international response but has consistently delivered Iran advantage without the cost or risk of direct confrontation with adversaries,” which could endanger the Iranian regime.

[Read: The Soleimani assassination is America’s most consequential strike this century]

Indeed, a list recently compiled by the Congressional Research Service of 20 Iran-related terrorist attacks or plots against the U.S. and its allies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution show that nearly all were carried out by proxies such as Hezbollah, by the IRGC, or by Iranian intelligence. Be it the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military housing facility in Saudi Arabia or the deaths of hundreds of American troops at the hands of Shiite militias during the Iraq War, the details and extent of Iran’s involvement in harming the United States are often sketchy.

This pattern has continued with Iran’s reaction to Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal and to reimpose sweeping sanctions on Tehran. After a year-long period of calculated restraint in Tehran came mysterious attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and a shoot-down of an unmanned U.S. drone in June (the latter of which the Iranians uncharacteristically admitted to carrying out), a murky attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, and a rocket barrage that killed an American contractor by an Iran-backed Iraqi militia in December, leading to the latest surge in tensions.

Tabatabai said that the only historical U.S. actions she could think of that approached the level of provocation of the Soleimani killing were American support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the U.S. military’s downing of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988, and the suspected U.S.-Israeli Stuxnet cyber campaign against Iran’s nuclear program under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. U.S. support for the Iraqis may have played a role in Iran supporting militants who launched deadly attacks on the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. But the Reagan administration claimed that the shoot-down of the Iranian plane was a mistake and apologized for the incident, which perhaps contributed to Iran’s restrained response. And the Stuxnet attack was difficult to attribute definitively, though Tehran did react by beefing up its offensive cyber capabilities.

[Graeme Wood: Two questions to ask now that Qassem Soleimani is dead]

Now the United States has taken out arguably the second-most-powerful figure in Iran, and has claimed responsibility for the killing publicly and boastfully. In the 40 years of conflict between the two countries, such a moment has never come before. And that’s why, despite such a long track record, it’s so hard to predict what will happen next. What is predictable is that Iran will seek to exact revenge, and that it will aim for elements of surprise that will throw the United States off balance.

Just because Iran wants to avoid a direct war with the United States doesn’t mean its response to Soleimani’s killing won’t be fierce. The fear of that blowback is, in fact, what kept previous U.S. administrations from striking Soleimani when they had the chance.

The former U.S. official Ilan Goldenberg, who has forecast what war with Iran could look like, foresees Iran breaking free of the remaining restraints on its nuclear-weapons program. He also expects Tehran to green-light “all-out conflict” by Shiite militias in Iraq against American forces, diplomats, and personnel in Iraq, Hezbollah attacks against Americans in Lebanon and targets in Israel, rocket attacks on international oil assets or U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and potentially even terrorist attacks in the United States and around the world. The counterterrorism analyst Charles Lister anticipates intense violence in Syria and Iraq that will pressure the United States to withdraw militarily from both countries, while the Middle East expert Jon Alterman thinks cyber warfare is coming. “The entire world will need to be on high alert for months or (more likely) years,” he writes.

As Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, noted on Friday, war with Iran, in contrast to the Gulf War or the Iraq War, will be fought across the region and perhaps the wider world against an array of civilian, economic, and military targets. There’s a reason U.S. allies in the region, no fans of Iran and Soleimani, have reacted with considerable foreboding to this week’s developments. The Saudis, for example, have urged “self-restraint” to avert “unbearable consequences,” while the Israeli government has expressed muted approval for the operation while bracing for Iranian retaliation.

Tabatabai noted that Washington, like Tehran, has traditionally been careful to not take actions that would bring it into direct conflict with the Iranians, and added that she’s been surprised by the brazen actions each country has taken in recent weeks. (Less than 24 hours after the Soleimani killing came yet another surprise: more air strikes against Shiite militias in Iraq.) The twilight war has been brought into more daylight than ever before, and the big question is whether the rules of the past four decades still apply.

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mrobold
45 days ago
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Orange County, California
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