Apple opens iOS 10 code: Why?

One of the guiding principles at Apple Inc. is to keep its software proprietary, closed and secret. Apple’s code is the antithesis to open source software. Steve Jobs zealously and jealously guarded Apple’s operating systems especially to prevent hackers, jailbreakers and the US and foreign governments from understanding exactly how Apple products function and operate. Tim Cook has followed in Steve’s path, securing Apple’s code and locking the door to outsiders.ios-10-nimblechapps

Now comes the iPhone 7 and with it, a new mobile telephone operating system: iOS 10. To great surprise, the heart (called the kernel) of the computer program (called code) has been released without encryption. The kernel is a crucial part of the operating system. It manages security and restricts the ways that apps can access the hardware of the device.

The computing community initially thought that Apple had made a mistake by releasing its newest mobile iOS without imbedded security. Apple announced this week that it had not made a mistake.

According to the company’s spokesperson:

“The kernel cache doesn’t contain any user info, and by unencrypting it we’re able to optimize the operating system’s performance without compromising security.”

Was the open kernel approach really taken for the purpose of optimization? Some industry observers don’t think so. With decryption,

APPLE VS FBI pictureApple wants to eliminate the United States government’s numerous requests and court orders directing it to create “back doors” that would allow the FBI to peer deeply into an iPhone and locate personally identifiable information about the iPhone’s owner. Court orders were issued in the aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre during 2015. Apple does not want to re-live that experience. It does not want to run the risk once again of a judge directing it to assist the government with accessing customers’ protected and personal information.

What better way to deter the government from compelling Apple to dig deep into iPhones and furnish protected information, than for computer gurus around the world to inspect the kernel code and write fixes and patches? Apple hopes that its code and  encryption will be stronger with the input of outsiders.

The stronger the encryption, the more protected is the data that rests on the phone. In addition, if code is open and freely available, the FBI will not have to go to court seeking intrusive writs and orders directed against Apple, with all the notoriety and publicity that goes along with it.

For the sake of being complete and clear, Apple has not made iOS an open source computer language. It would be illegal and infringing to copy the code and use it for one’s own products.

Apple owns the code. Now, you can look at it.

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Yahoo patents are for sale

Yahoo owns thousands of patents that are at the crossroads of the Internet. For decades Yahoo has dominated web marketing, search engine, social media, mobile and cloud technology. Yahoo was born at the inception of the 1990s dot-com book. Jerry Yang and David Filo founded Yahoo in 1994 while they were electrical engineering students at Stanford University.logo-yahoo

As a software development company, Yahoo is constantly designing new products and disruptive technologies. It is a prolific patent owner, having filed 112 patents between January and June 2016 alone!

In April 2016, Yahoo sold a vast patent portfolio to its subsidiary company Excalibur IP. The 3,000 patents are the backbone of Internet technology. You can buy them yourself for about $3 billion or so.

image-20150728-13725-tg9wugA patent troll would have a great time with Yahoo’s patents. Think of all the companies which could be sued for allegedly having infringed these foundational patents.

Hopefully an operating company with sufficient working capital will purchase the patents. We may witness the deployment of Yahoo’s software to build new and disruptive technologies.

The Internet of Things lies beyond. Yahoo, into whatever it eventually morphs , has done ourplanet a real service. Its patent portfolio will survive the likely demise of the moribund company. Yahoo lost sight of the goal line and lost its way.

Move over, Kodak. It’s time for another great company to lose its patents as its death knell approaches.instaflash104

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Copyright 2016. Paul Rubell. All rights are reserved.

Tech and Social Media Companies Fight Hate Speech in Europe

by Paul Rubell, Esq.

Social media encourages people to talk and interact. For bad people, social media can be a safe haven to use hate speech and to spread hate speech virally. In order to combat this, Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter agreed on May 31, 2016 to uphold a Code of Conduct relating to hateful speech posted by European residents.  The European Union (EU) has adopted this Code.

What does hate speech in Europe have to do with American social media and American technology?

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Free societies including the United States and the EU promote freedom of speech as a core value and a primary law. In America, the right to free speech is much stronger than in Europe. The First Amendment to the American Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is lawful in America to speak words that are hateful, mean-spirited, bigoted or racist. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that hate speech is illegal only when it incites “violent or imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969)

us-free-speech-zoneIn contrast, the EU and most European countries have outlawed hate speech, including on the Internet and social media. These anti-hate laws are designed to protect people who reside in the EU.

Surprisingly, these laws are binding on American tech and social media companies that do business in Europe. This is because there are many people in every country in the EU who use Microsoft software and hardware and who engage on social media. If American companies do not comply, they would be violating EU laws. This is a very serious matter because hate crimes are punished in the EU with both mandatory imprisonment for at least one year and monetary penalties. Conviction of hate crimes can also include loss of public benefits as well as being placed under a court’s supervision.

Terrorism is a primary reason why the EU is concerned about the rise of hate speech. microsoft-logoIn the recent Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks, some of the bad actors had communicated via social media. According to Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, “social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalize young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred.”

Hate speech is defined by the EU as follows:

“public incitement to violence or hatred against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.”  Council Framework Decision on 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.

twitter-logoThe groundbreaking Code of Conduct calls for Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to ban all text, images, videos and other speech that promotes or incites violence and hateful conduct. Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter will review notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services so they can remove or disable access to such content. Efforts will be made to review notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours.

Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter will provide regular training to their staff about hate speech. They also agreed to cooperate among themselves to enhance best practices.

Europe and America have very different views about freedom of speech. The technology and social media giants are falling into line to comply with the rising tide of anti-hate speech sentiment in Europe.

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Is Facebook Monitoring your Messenger Texts?

by Paul Rubell, Esq.

Facebook Messenger is neither secure nor encrypted. Despite Facebook’s marketing of Messenger as a private way to communicate safely, it is not private at all.

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First, the encryption claim. Messenger is not as secure as WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage. Facebook’s text product disguises the data in transit while your text message travels through the Internet pipeline from your computer or mobile device to your recipient’s. However, once the text arrives at its destination, it is decrypted and can be read by anyone with access – both by Facebook staff as well as by anyone looking at your device. In contrast, WhatsApp and iMessage are “end-to-end” encrypted, keeping all “data at rest” as safe and private as “data in transit.”

Second, the Facebook spying. Facebook regularly scans messages sent by its users. Facebook tracks all messages that contain a hyperlink to a Facebook page or webpage. The name of the sender and recipient is used to market and advertise Facebook’s services to the host of the link page or site.

According to a complaint filed in federal court in California, when a Facebook user composes a message with a URL in the message’s body, Facebook generates a “URL preview” consisting of a brief description of the website and a relevant image from the website, if availablebrent's graphic. Facebook keeps a record of each “URL preview”, which is called an “EntShare.” The “EntShare” is tied to the specific user who sent the message. Facebook also creates another record called an “EntGlobalShare” which tracks all users who sent a message containing the same hyperlink.  The lawsuit alleges that Facebook uses the information to fuel its algorithms for measuring user engagement and making recommendations. The accompanying flow chart illustrates Facebook’s information tracking.

It is claimed that Facebook shares this user data by redirecting the content of private messages to the operator of the linked webpage. This is intended to help the website customize content for its existing visitors and target advertising to attract new visitors.

Facebook also scans messages in order to increase a page’s “Like” count. When a Facebook user sends a message with a URL, Facebook counts that as equivalent to a user actively clicking “like” on the website link. In this way, even though the user has not ‘liked’ the page or website, Facebook shows the message link as a ‘like’ for purposes of tabulating the number of likes. Testimony in the lawsuit claims that Mark Zuckerberg complained in an email that Twitter’s numbers for its “like”-equivalent were much higher than Facebook’s, and he told his staff that “we should be showing the largest number we can rationalize showing.”

An expert witness in the case testified that Facebook uses a share object called an “EntShare” that is created in Facebook’s source code. Each message has a unique EntShare with a unique numerical identifier, and each EntShare is tied to the Facebook user ID of the message’s sender. All of this information is stored in a database called Titan that shows the date and time that the message was sent, the sender’s user ID, the recipient’s user ID, and the EntShare ID.

The federal  Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (ECPA) regulates data in transit. Briefly, it is illegal to monitor data that is flowing through the pipes of the internet. However the law focuses on the content of messages, not their metadata. The ECPA statute contains exceptions that permit “record information” such as the name, IP address and identifiers about the sender of a message to be monitored.

The Facebook users who brought the lawsuit claimed that Facebook has used a uniform system architecture and source code to intercept and catalog its users’ private message contents. Facebook did not deny that charge.

Encryption is a way for people and businesses to communicate securely. False advertising by Facebook that its messages are encrypted like Apple’s is wrong.

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(c) Copyright 2016 by Paul Rubell. All rights are reserved.

Going Dark: United States vs. Apple

by Paul Rubell, Esq.

Encryption has become mainstream. Formerly, encryption was an arcane technology that only geeks with private keys (whatever they are) could manage.

Thank you to Apple and (I never thought I’d say) Google for bringing the world encryption by default, the next wave of built-in privacy protections. These companies and others, including WhatsApp, have developed products and platforms that have strong encryption built in by default.When you use a phone or similar device, your data is automatically made secret and inaccessible to the outside world.

I have been speaking about this topic lately. My PowerPoint slides can be viewed here: Apple vs. FBI presentation

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Who owns your 3d printed creations?

by Paul Rubell, Esq.

I enjoy 3d printing. Creating artwork, designing functional products, writing code to instruct a printer how, when and where to extrude its molten lava. 3d printing has become a great consumer hobby as well as a sophisticated additive manufacturing technique with innumerable industrial and medical applications today and into the future.

3-dimensional printing allows you to clone an existing object and to change its very nature. An object made of metal can be copied in lightweight plastic. An object with a weak support structure can be copied with greater tensile strength and durability. Yellow-colored objects can be copied with green substrates. Materials can be varied, examined, tested without impairing the structural integrity of the original. Objects that were expensive for manufacturers to design and build can be quickly, easily and inexpensively copied in the comfort of your basement or on a larger scale, on the factory floor.Miniature_human_face_models_made_through_3D_Printing_(Rapid_Prototyping)

But have you ever stepped back to think about who owns the copies that you have created? All of us are used to making photocopies of pictures and documents without giving a thought to its ownership. If I need to distribute copies of the handout material at a meeting, I can simply use the copier machine to make life simple. The days of the Gutenberg printing press and the monk writing with a quill pen on papyrus reeds are long gone.

So why is 3d printing any different? First of all, the copyright myth is not true: you cannot simply photocopy a picture with a traditional two-dimensional copy machine unless you own the rights to the picture. This is a fundamental aspect of copyright law that I will talk about in future blogs. Suffice it to say that the right-click of a mouse is one of the most dangerous inventions confronting artistic and intellectual creativity. In the realm of 3d printing, the potential for copyright and patent infringement looms even larger. It is one thing to make copies of a generic object like a pencil or a vase and even if the object that you are copying is protected by copyright or patent law, it may be possible for you to change or enhance its features or functionality sufficiently so that the original owner of the model that you copied cannot claim it as her own.

But think about this: should you be allowed to create “knock offs “of artwork that is owned by a sculptor? It can take a sculptor a lifetime of training and many weeks or months of effort to create her work of art. It is true that copying may be the most sincere form of flattery. However that does not mean that an artist wants to be flattered! Sometimes the inherent value in the work of art or any object like a collector’s vintage automobile is that it is so rare and hard-to-find. Cloning an object maybe seen as good for the world because it can put a useful product in the hands of so many.

But what if the owner of the object does not want you to own her work? You cannot possess a work if the author or artist or inventor denies access to you. Personal ego maybe at stake. Economics such as supply and demand may be a factor. The psyche of the artist may be troubling — but none of this matters.

The owner is the owner is the owner.

A 3-dimensional photocopy machine amounts to a giant right-click mouse button that has the potential to destroy intellectual property protection. Why should this matter to any of us? One of the reasons America’s founding fathers gave special rights to authors, musicians and inventors was to encourage creativity and the growth of a new nation. Economic incentives afford artists a grand opportunity to create beauty, improve the world, and make money in the process. 3d printing can change the world for the better. It can also create financial ruin to artists and inventors and discourage them from doing the very thing that all of us want so dearly: to make the world a more beautiful, functional and enjoyable place to live.

The advent of 3d printing and additive manufacturing may be a mixed blessing.

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(c) Copyright 2016 by Paul Rubell. All rights are reserved.

Why did Facebook block you?

by Paul Rubell

Today, more and more Facebook users are temporarily blocked from accessing their accounts. This is mystifying to so many people who know that they have not engaged in improper online conduct. How can this be? What is going on? Why am I being blocked?

Keep in mind: Facebook is a corporation that sets its own ground rules and regulations about how its customers participate on its social media platform. Each of us is a “customer,” not really a “user,” of the giant social media engine. From Facebook’s perspective, we are simply cash that rings its cash register.

From a legal perspective, none of us has any inherent right to use Facebook, Twitter or the other platforms. We are granted a license, which is nothing more than a privilege to use the site and its features and functionality. Facebook can revoke the license for innumerable reasons. Facebook has a seemingly endless set of rules, policies and requirements that regulate your use of its site and the enormous number of third-party applications that are deployed on the Facebook platform.

If Facebook determines that you have violated or even pushed the envelope of its guidelines and rules, you may be surprised to find that the next time you log on, you are restricted in accessing your account, or perhaps blocked from using at least some of the social features that you enjoy using the most.

A word about mathematics:

With more than a billion online users in total and hundreds of millions at any one time, it would be truly impossible for live Facebook employees to monitor each user’s account. Facebook’s personnel cannot keep up with the roar of the crowd. For this reason, Facebook uses mathematical algorithms to test and determine what features and how many resources are being used by each user’s account at any moment in time. We can scarcely imagine the complexity of the computers and software code that Facebook’s engineers have developed to try to gauge how you are managing, using and maybe abusing your account.2-2-chalkboard

We all know that math does not lie and that 2+2 always equals 4. The certainty of mathematics does not apply to the equations that Facebook uses. Instead, Facebook relies on probability theory as it tries to create markers and make predictions about what each user is doing at any given time, and whether or not the user is engaging in improper conduct or not.

There are three basic reasons why your account maybe blocked:

  1. Overuse of Facebook’s features and functionality.
  2. Copyright infringement.
  3. Abusive, harmful and illegal conduct.

This blog article addresses the first factor. How can someone overuse Facebook’s features? Isn’t over-use exactly what Facebook wants each of us to do: to use Facebook to its fullest potential, to engage other users and thereby increase Facebook’s profits? Sure, that is Facebook’s corporate goal, to deliver value to its shareholders.

However like every online service, there are limitations created by the Internet’s infrastructure. Bandwidth is a valuable and limited resource. Just as your local cable service provider will throttle your ability to upload and download data if you are uploading and downloading massive video and other files frequently, or that too many users in your household are sharing the same Internet signal.

Facebook faces a similar conundrum. Bandwidth is limited. Facebook gives us the ability to upload videos, music and other digital files. These files have grown immensely in size as technology has advanced. If Facebook’s computers determine a spike in your uploading activity, or that you are messaging many people at the same time or that you are reaching out to the new friend to request friend relationships in a short period of time, Facebook may take steps to halt your activity for a brief period of time. Most temporary blocks last from 20 minutes to a few days. Facebook is treating us like a small child whose kindergarten teacher tells her to sit in the corner facing the wall so that she can think about the bad things that she may have done that day in school.Capture

Facebook has a wall too, and if you are creating too much activity on your wall, Facebook may want to give you a timeout.

So what can you do if Facebook blocks your account temporarily? The short and sad answer is the one that we all know to be true: you cannot do a darned thing about it. While your account is blocked, you should look at the rest of your account and you will probably be surprised to find out that there is still functionality available to you. Facebook typically blocks access to only that part of your account that is being used excessively, such as uploading videos.

A final remark: Facebook is definitely not Twitter or YouTube. The concept of viral retweets and videos are alien to Facebook. Whereas Twitter encourages the retweets, Facebook discourages the same thing. Your wall is for you to post on and for your friends to enjoy. Replicating walls and copying and pasting posts, especially over and over again, is not the Facebook model.

If you do not follow Mark Zuckerberg’s rules, he will put you in the corner and give you a timeout.mark-mnn.jpg.560x0_q80_crop-smart