Slashdot Deals: Cyber Monday Sale Extended! Courses ranging from coding to project management - all eLearning deals 20% off with coupon code "CYBERMONDAY20". ×

Using Fourth-Party Data Brokers To Bypass the Fourth Amendment 181

An anonymous reader writes "Coming out of Columbia Law School is an article about commercial data brokers and their ability to provide information about individuals to the US government despite Fourth Amendment or statutory protections (abstract, full PDF at Download link). Quoting: 'The Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment does not protect information that has been voluntarily disclosed to a third-party or obtained by means of a private search. Congress reacted to these holdings by creating a patchwork of statutes designed to prevent the government's direct and unfettered access to documents stored with third-parties; thus, the government's access is fettered by various statutory requirements, including, in many cases, notice of the disclosure. Despite these protections, however, third-parties are not restricted from passing the same data to other private companies (fourth-parties), and after the events of September 11, 2001, the government, believing that it needed a greater scope of surveillance, turned to the fourth-parties to access the personal information it could not acquire on its own. As a consequence, the fourth-parties, unrestricted by Fourth Amendment or statutory concerns, delivered — and continue to deliver — personal data en masse to the government.'"

Ireland's Blasphemy Law Goes Into Effect 845

stereoroid writes "As of January 1, it is a crime in Ireland to commit Blasphemy. The law was changed in July 2009 to fill a gap in the Irish Constitution, which states that it is a crime but does not define what it is, an omission highlighted in a Supreme Court decision in 1999. To mark the occasion, Atheist Ireland published a list of 25 blasphemous quotations on the website, from such controversial figures as Bjork, Frank Zappa, Richard Dawkins, Randy Newman, and Pope Benedict XVI. (The last-mentioned was quoting a 14th Century Byzantine Emperor, but that's no excuse.)"

Apple Fails To Deliver On Windows 7 Boot Camp Promise 279

SkydiverFL writes "For those fans of Apple's Boot Camp package, it looks like you might be waiting on the next 'end of year' to use Windows 7 on your shiny silver boxes. Back in October of this year, Apple published a rather short, but affirmative promise stating quite simply that, 'Apple will support Microsoft Windows 7 (Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate) with Boot Camp in Mac OS X Snow Leopard before the end of the year. This support will require a software update to Boot Camp.' The support page has no updates regarding the new version. Maybe they're waiting for iSlate?"

Myths About Code Comments 580

theodp writes "Jason Baker gives his take on the biggest misconceptions about code comments: 1) Comments are free ('When you update the code that the comment references, you usually have to update the comment as well'). 2) Comments make code more readable ('by far the most pervasive myth that I've encountered'). 3) You should comment every function, method, class, and module ('documenting something that needs no documentation is universally a bad idea'). 4) Code must always be 'self documenting' ('would you rather use a one-liner that requires a 3-line comment, or a 10-liner that requires no comments?')."

TSA Nominee's Snooping Raises Privacy Concerns 134

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that Erroll Southers, President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration, gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws. Southers accepted full responsibility for a 'grave error in judgment' when he accessed confidential criminal records twenty years ago about his then-estranged wife's new boyfriend. Southers's admission that he was involved in a questionable use of law enforcement background data has been a source of concern among civil libertarians, who believe the TSA performs a delicate balancing act in tapping into passenger information to find terrorists while also protecting citizens' privacy."

NASA Mars Rover Spirit May Move Forward By Spinning Its Wheels 175

coondoggie writes "As NASA celebrates its Mars rover Spirit's sixth anniversary exploring the red planet, it is hunting for a way to keep the machine, which is mired in a sand trap, alive to see a seventh year. On its Web site, the space agency this week noted there may indeed be such an option. That option would be spinning the wheels on the north side of Spirit, letting it dig in deeper in the Martian sand but at the same time improving the tilt of the rover's solar panels toward the Sun."

Technology Changes To Kill Netbooks? 394

The BBC is reporting that the netbook craze may already be nearing the end of its run. Citing rising netbook prices and many other evolving technologies that can potentially fill that gap, some critics think that the limited power of netbooks will ultimately bring about the quick demise of the once popular device. "Ian Drew, spokesman for chip designer Arm, also believes netbooks are in for a shake-up. Consumers, he said, were chafing against the restrictions that using a netbook imposed on them. 'We have failed the consumer because we have imposed constraints on them,' he said. Changing web habits and greater use of social media will mean consumers will be looking for gadgets that are tuned to specific purposes. 'It will be a lot of different machines for a lot of different people,' he said. 'This whole market will be exploding in the next couple of years.' Impetus for this change will come, he believes, from the phone world where many, many types of gadgets are already blooming."

Online Services Let Virus Writers Check Their Work 61

An anonymous reader writes "Former Washington Post Security Fix blogger Brian Krebs has launched a new blog at, and his first story highlights a pair of underground antivirus scanning services that cater to virus writers. Scanning services like scan submitted files against dozens of antivirus products, and share the results with each of the vendors so that all benefit from learning about threats they don't yet detect. But there are number of budding online services that allow customers to pay per scan, and promise that the results will never get reported back to the antivirus companies. One service even tests how well web site 'exploit packs' are detected, while others promise additional layers of protection. 'The service claims that it will soon be rolling out advanced features, such as testing malware against anti-spyware and firewall programs, as well as a test to see whether the malware functions in a virtual machine.'"

The Key To Astronomy Has Often Been Serendipity 51

Ars Technica has a great look at just how often serendipity plays a part in major astronomy advances. From Galileo to the accidental discovery of cosmic microwaves, it seems that it is still better to be lucky than good. "But what's stunning is a catalog of just how common this sort of event has been. Herschell was looking for faint stars when he happened across the planet Uranus, while Piazi was simply creating a star catalog when he observed the object that turned out to be the first asteroid to ever be described, Ceres I."

Top Scientific Breakthroughs of 2009 57

Wired has posted their favorite scientific breakthroughs of the past year. The feats include things like the confirmation of element 114, a cancer-detecting breathalyzer, the power of jellyfish and more. What other discoveries should have made the list and what might we look forward to in 2010? "Also this year, researchers at the University of Washington cured two adult monkeys of colorblindness by giving them injections of a gene that produces pigments necessary for color vision. After the treatment, the animals scored higher on a computerized color blindness test. In the coming years, gene therapy will be tested as a remedy for all sorts of inherited diseases, cancer, viral infections and even high cholesterol."

Nintendo Shuts Down Fan-Made Zelda Movie 222

Andorin writes "An independently filmed adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, called The Hero Of Time, has been taken offline by Nintendo as of the end of December. The film's producers write: 'We came to an agreement with Nintendo earlier this month to stop distributing the film... We understand Nintendo's right to protect its characters and trademarks and understand how in order to keep their property unspoiled by fan's interpretation of the franchise, Nintendo needs to protect itself — even from fan-works with good intentions.' Filming for the feature-length, non-profit film began in August 2004 and the movie was completed in 2008. It premiered in various theaters worldwide, including in New York and Los Angeles, and then became available online in the middle of December, before it was targeted by Nintendo's legal team. As both an avid Zelda fan and an appreciator of independent works, I was extremely disappointed in Nintendo's strong-arming of a noncommercial adaptation to the Game of the Year for 1999."

Codeplex 100 Day Deadline Passes Unremarked 106

Andy Updegrove writes "As you may recall, Microsoft announced back on September 10 that it had launched a new, open source organization called the CodePlex Foundation. Since then, it has announced Project Acceptance and Operation Guidelines, its first 'Gallery' (a project area), supporting Microsoft's ASP.NET, and two projects in that gallery. But it had also launched in a 'less than open' state with an interim Board of Directors, and a promise to elect a permanent one in 100 days. Problem is, December 19 — the 100 day mark — passed quietly, with no announcement of a new Board or a status update on the other goals it had set for the launch period. So what's up with the CodePlex Foundation, and its pledge to promptly transition into a more independent organization?"

Microsoft Says Goodbye GUI, Hello MUI 79

theodp writes "On New Year's Eve, the USPTO revealed that Microsoft is seeking patents for controlling a computer by simply flexing a muscle. Microsoft proposes using Electromyography (EMG) sensors and a wired or wireless human-computer interface to interact with computing systems and attached devices via electrical signals generated by specific movement of the user's muscles. 'It is important to consider mechanisms for acquiring human input that may not necessarily require direct manipulation of a physical implement,' explained the inventors. 'For example, drivers attempting to query their vehicle navigation systems may find it advantageous to be able to do so without removing their hands from the steering wheel, and a person in a meeting may want to unobtrusively communicate with someone outside. Also, since physical computer input devices have been shown to be prone to collecting microbial contamination in sterile environments, techniques that alleviate the need for these implements could be useful in surgical and clean room settings.'"