Public defender lambastes judicial ruling to not fix flawed court software

The public defender’s office in Alameda County, California, has recently appealed a local judge’s recent rejection of its demands to fix an upgraded court software. That software led to the unconstitutional and erroneous jailing of some of its clients.

“These delays and errors violate Government Code § 69844’s express requirement that Superior Court clerks enter judicial orders ‘forthwith,’ as well as the constitutional right to a complete and accurate record on appeal and the Fourth Amendment prohibition upon unlawful arrests and illegal searches,” Charles Denton, an assistant public defender, wrote in his April 10 brief.

Denton largely reprised many of the same arguments that his office made when he appeared before the Superior Court.

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How a Slack UI change sparked the Ars Technica civil war

Something strange happened at work the other day: internecine warfare broke out over emoji use on Slack. The psycho-nerdism level was at 11, and it happened among a geeky staff that included someone who had recently merged a toy teddy bear with Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service. The things you can do with that freaky device are probably illegal in several states. But I’m digressing.

Our civil war was straight out of HBO’s Silicon Valley. It kinda rivaled the Tabs versus Spaces scene from Season 3, Episode 6. However, we weren’t fighting about coding methods. What sparked our “first-world problems” brouhaha was Slack finally answering our staff’s wishes.

This month’s Slack update granted Slackers the ability to type a “status” message—or an emoji—next to their name and avatar. Presumably, this new feature would be used by staffers to display their availability—useful because our US staff of 26 doesn’t see each other much. We all work remotely, and much of our real-time communications occur on Slack. We also use Slack to instantly communicate with our London-based Ars brethren and with freelancers across the globe.

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NSA ends spying on messages Americans send about foreign surveillance targets

Today, a spokesperson for the National Security Agency announced that the agency would end the practice of “upstream” collection of messages sent by American citizens—messages that were not directed to targets of NSA intelligence collection but referred to “selectors” for those targets in the body of the communications. According to the statement, the NSA has put an end to that practice, which has been authorized since 2008 under the agency’s interpretation of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The announcement posted today states:

After a comprehensive review of mission needs, current technological constraints, United States person privacy interests, and certain difficulties in implementation, NSA has decided to stop some of its activities conducted under Section 702. These changes are designed to retain the upstream collection that provides the greatest value to national security while reducing the likelihood that NSA will acquire communications of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with one of the Agency’s foreign intelligence targets.

The changes have been made part of a new Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court order that has narrowed the authorized scope of NSA surveillance.

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Trump order helps offshore drilling, stops marine sanctuary expansion

In an executive order signed on Friday, President Trump directed his secretary of the interior to review current rules on offshore drilling and exploration. This review is likely to result in a relaxation of the strict protections the previous administration put on offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and in the Arctic.

According to the Washington Post, a review of the rules is likely to “make millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing.”

At the same time, Trump’s executive order directed the secretary of commerce to cease designating new marine sanctuaries or expanding any that already exist. According to USA Today, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is also “directed to review all designations and expansions of marine monuments or sanctuaries designated under the Antiquities Act within the last 10 years.” The Post says this “includes Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Obama quadrupled in size last year, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off Massachusetts.”

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Russian spy ship sunk by sheep barge; sheep (and sailors) unhurt

A veteran of the Cold War and a recent participant in Russian operations off Syria has been sent to the bottom of the Black Sea by a boat full of sheep. The 47-year-old Russian intelligence collection ship, the Liman, sank on April 27 after a collision in the Black Sea with a Togo-flagged livestock carrier carrying sheep from Romania to Jordan. The sheep-carrying Youzarsif H suffered only slight damage to its bow, but the Liman suffered a rupture in its hull below the waterline.

Designated by the Russian Navy as a “medium reconnaissance ship” (“Средний разведывательный корабль”), the Liman was smaller than more recently constructed, purpose-built intelligence ships like the Leonov (the spy ship that traveled up the US East Coast in February). Originally built as a hydrographic survey ship in 1970, it was converted in 1989 into a signals-intelligence collection ship, a class of vessels known in US naval parlance as AGIs (auxiliary, general intelligence). The conversion added passive underwater acoustic sensors along with electronic warfare equipment for collecting radio and radar signals.

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Internal Uber e-mail reveals Levandowski stepping down from self-driving car job

Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski will be stepping back from his position as head of the company’s self-driving car project.

Levandowski is at the heart of a heated trade-secrets lawsuit that Google’s Waymo division filed against Uber in February. Google says Levandowski, an ex-Googler, illegally grabbed more than 14,000 files on his way out the door. Levandowski went on to create his own self-driving car startup, Otto, which Uber later bought for $680 million.

In an internal Uber e-mail, which was obtained and published by Business Insider, Levandowski said he’s being removed from all work related to Lidar, a key self-driving car technology which uses lasers to map objects in the physical world.

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Miami sextortion case asks if a suspect be forced to decrypt an iPhone

Next week, a local judge in Miami-Dade County, Florida, is expected to issue a key ruling in a bizarre sextortion case involving two Miami-area social media personalities.

The question before the court is one that has vexed other judges in recent years: can a person be forced to give up a password to decrypt their seized devices? Or, put another way, does the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination allow people to keep their encrypted devices locked? “I’m going to have to read these cases with a fine-tooth comb,” Circuit Judge Charles Johnson said at a hearing this week, according to the Miami Herald. “I’m surprised by this case.”

This issue is far from settled law. A former Philadelphia police officer has remained in custody for 18 months and counting for refusing to decrypt a seized hard drive that authorities believe contains child pornography. While the facts in that Pennsylvania case are different from the Florida case, the underlying issue remains the same.

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Trump’s first 100 days: The good, the bad, and the ugly for tech and science

The first 100 days of President Donald Trump’s administration come to a close Saturday. By any account, this presidential honeymoon of sorts was a mixed bag. The 45th president’s biggest achievement was the confirmation to the Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch. His biggest defeat was the failure to live up to a campaign promise to get Congress to repeal Obamacare—officially known as the Affordable Care Act. “We couldn’t quite get there. We’re just a very small number of votes short in terms of getting our bill passed,” the president said. And throughout it all, the administration’s first three months remained clouded in political turmoil, largely because the FBI is investigating whether Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government.

The current administration will claim several crowning achievements that fall somewhere in between the president’s Supreme Court victory and his healthcare reform defeat. These achievements—or setbacks, depending on your political leanings—run the gamut when it comes to policy areas. The president’s FCC appointment has pushed net neutrality to the chopping block. Online privacy took a hit as well after Trump signed legislation allowing home Internet and mobile broadband providers to sell or share Web browsing history without consent from consumers. Trump also signed legislation designed to limit federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The president ordered the termination of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and he rolled back the Obama administration’s move to require automakers to increase fuel efficiency.

“If the standards threaten auto jobs, then common sense changes could’ve and should’ve been made,” Trump said about the mileage standards. And speaking of jobs, Trump also notably signed an executive order requiring a wholesale review of the H-1B visa program. That program has allowed tens of thousands of foreign tech-sector workers to come and work in the US each year.

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