Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Soon, The Pirate Bay will turn over their database to another company looking to turn the site into a money making venture.  If you’re so inclined, you can grab a 21.3GB torrent of their entire database.  I don’t know why you’d need it, but it’s there if you want it.

There are currently 6 seeders and 3197 leechers on the torrent.  That’s 3203 people who want it for some use.

flattr this!

Just in case you forgot, the Times Online is here to remind you of one very important fact if you live in Europe.

Every e-mail you send is stored on not only your computer but also the recipient’s machine; your internet service provider (ISP) will have one too, as will the many servers that have handled your message in its travels across cyberspace. And the government is allowed, under a European commission directive, to dip into some of that data.

flattr this!

The SEC has announced that people attending any SEC football games are barred from posting on Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, TwitPic, or any other service because they own the copyright to everything that happens at the stadium.  The SEC claims that all such media coverage rights belong to CBS because the two have just signed a 15 year, $3 billion contract.

Earlier this month, the conference informed its schools of the new policy, which reads: “Ticketed fans can’t “produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event.”

While Major League Baseball has had a similar policy for years, they have not enforced it in relation to social media sites that post video clips or short messages about their games.  If the SEC is serious about enforcing this policy, they will soon find that it is an impossible task.

Unlike the SEC, the Big Ten has embraced social media.  Abilene Christian University of the Lone Star Conference is also planning a big social media event for the start of their season.

I suspect that the SEC has implemented this policy to 1) placate CBS with a promise to crack down on copyright.  After all, a $3 billion investment needs some guarantees and 2) When the SEC does crack down on people who abuse the privilege, for example by uploading full games and/or selling them, the have a legal leg to stand on.

What this really amounts to is the SEC is covering their asses, however, they should have been more clear on the matter.  Individuals will be upset at the changes as they have been made with no explanations.  This leads to speculation and fear.  While we all want to keep our rights to take photos at the game or film a short clip, we need to know that we won’t be hauled off to jail for it.  The SEC should have been more forthcoming about the changes and been upfront as to why they’re doing it.  Everyone understands that CBS needs to protect their investment.  Just don’t treat the fans like idiots because of it.

flattr this!

DNA evidence is the standard that most people rely on.  It clears the innocent and convicts the guilty.  But what happens when science can fake DNA results?  Scientists in Israel have now demonstrated that you can do just that.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

Dr. Frumkin is a founder of Nucleix, a company based in Tel Aviv that has developed a test to distinguish real DNA samples from fake ones that it hopes to sell to forensics laboratories.

The falsifying of DNA evidence is a serious issue.  It is much easier to plant DNA at a crime scene than fingerprints and you’re less likely to get caught planting that evidence.

From a pooled sample of many people’s DNA, the scientists cloned tiny DNA snippets representing the common variants at each spot, creating a library of such snippets. To prepare a DNA sample matching any profile, they just mixed the proper snippets together. They said that a library of 425 different DNA snippets would be enough to cover every conceivable profile.

Nucleix’s test to tell if a sample has been fabricated relies on the fact that amplified DNA — which would be used in either deception — is not methylated, meaning it lacks certain molecules that are attached to the DNA at specific points, usually to inactivate genes.

The use of the “chain of evidence” in of utmost importance here.  The integrity of the chain is relied upon to rule out any tampering, but what happens when the evidence has been tampered with before the police even arrive?  Can all police labs be equipped with the necessary tools to identify fake DNA?

While common criminals would probably just steal DNA from you to frame you and Dr. Frumkin is trying to sell you something, the entire matter should not be easily discarded.  While anyone with a little biology training can accomplish this task, we must remember that DNA is not the absolute answer in court cases.  It is fallible.  It can be planted.  It can be faked.  With this knowledge, DNA should remain a piece in a larger puzzle, but should not be relied upon to be the only piece.

flattr this!

Police are investigating the beating of a man stopped for speeding. The police say he was drunk and the original officer called for backup. Though the charges have been dropped, the question of police brutality remains.

flattr this!