February 19, 2006

A Look At The Changing Debate On Wiretapping [7:54 pm]

Legalize it? [pdf]

This week, however, congressional Republicans pushed the debate in a new direction. Even as they prepare to investigate some aspects of the NSA program, many are apparently willing to accept that warrantless surveillance of Americans is an important tool in tracking terrorists. Some members of Congress are now asking how they can revise the law to make domestic eavesdropping legal some of the time.

[...] Scrapping court-approved warrants for some category of domestic wiretaps would be a major departure for American law. So while congressional Republicans are beginning to argue, along with the president, that such a step is necessary because of the value of the NSA program to national security, Democrats (and many scholars) think it’s entirely premature. They want to keep the focus on whether Bush exceeded his authority in approving the program in the first place. For better or worse, however, efforts to find a legal framework to accommodate warrantless wiretapping are already underway. The tug of war over what could be one of the most important changes to American law in a generation reveals very different opinions about how best to balance national security and civil liberties-and who should watch the watchers.

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More on Pandora [7:19 pm]

Introducing . . . Your New Favorite Band [pdf]

The station is truly customized because it builds a play list around your personal tastes. Essentially, you create the station by naming favorite artists. Then Pandora analyzes the type of music that that artist plays and will find similar types of songs — maybe a top-40 track or a lesser-known tune still trying to find an audience.

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Start of a WaPo Series: The Great Firewall of China [7:13 pm]

The Click That Broke a Government’s Grip [pdf] (see also U.S. Firms Balance Morality, Commerce [pdf])

Although just a fraction of all Chinese go online — and most who do play games, download music or gossip with friends — widespread Internet use in the nation’s largest cities and among the educated is changing the way Chinese learn about the world and weakening the Communist Party’s monopoly on the media. Studies show China’s Internet users spend more time online than they do with television and newspapers, and they are increasingly turning to the Web for news instead of traditional state outlets.

The government has sought to control what people read and write on the Web, employing a bureaucracy of censors and one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated system of filters. But the success of those measures has been mixed. As a catalyst that amplifies voices and accelerates events, the Internet presents a formidable challenge to China’s authoritarian political system. Again and again, ordinary Chinese have used it to challenge the government, force their opinions to be heard and alter political outcomes.

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Lenovo Comes Clean on Trusted Computing [7:00 pm]

Yes, Trusted Computing is used for DRM

Ever since the Trusted Computing Group went public about its plan to put a security chip inside every PC, its members have been denying accusations that the group is really a thinly-disguised conspiracy to embed DRM everywhere. IBM and Microsoft have instead stressed genuinely useful applications, like signing programs to be certain they don’t contain a rootkit. But at this week’s RSA show, Lenovo showed off a system that does use the chips for DRM after all.

The system is particularly frightening because it looks so simple. There’s no 20-digit software key to type in, no dongle to attach to the printer port, no XP-style activation. (Is this what Bill Gates was thinking of when he said in his keynote that security needs to be easier to use?) The user interface is just a Thinkpad, albeit one of the new models with an integrated fingerprint sensor.

When someone tries to open a DRM-restricted document (in this case, a PDF file: break that DRM and go to jail), Lenovo software asks the user to swipe a finger across the sensor. My finger results in an access denied message; the Lenovo security guy’s finger opens the document.

Slashdot: DRM Based on Trusted Computing Chips

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