European MPs want Google break-up

Google logoGoogle’s business is under close scrutiny at the European Commission

The European Parliament has voted in favour of breaking Google up, as a solution to complaints that it favours is own services in search results.

Politicians have no power to enforce a break-up, but the landmark vote sends a clear message to European regulators to get tough on the net giant.

US politicians and trade bodies have voiced their dismay at the vote.

The ultimate decision will rest with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

She has inherited the anti-competitive case lodged by Google’s rivals in 2010.

Google has around 90% market share for search in Europe and rivals asked the commission to investigate four areas:

  • The manner in which Google displays its own vertical search services compared with other, competing products
  • How Google copies content from other websites – such as restaurant reviews – to include within its own services
  • The exclusivity Google has to sell advertising around the search terms people use
  • Restrictions on advertisers from moving their online ad campaigns to rival search engines

Predecessor Joaquin Almunia tried and failed to settle the case. A series of concessions made by Google were rejected, leading Mr Almunia to suggest that the only option was a fine. This could be up to $5bn.

The Commission has never before ordered the break-up of any company, and many believe it is unlikely to do so now.

But politicians are desperate to find a solution to the long-running anti-competitive dispute with Google.

The motion brought by Andreas Schwab, a German Christian Democrat, and Spanish liberal Ramon Tremosa stated that the best way to resolve the row with the net giant was to separate search engines from other commercial services thereby ensuring a level playing field for rivals in Europe.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30228279#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Europe to vote on Google break-up

broken glassBreaking up Google is the latest attempt to solve long-running dispute

The European Parliament is due to vote later on a proposal to break Google’s search business away from its other services.

It is the latest twist in a four year antitrust investigation which has so far failed to reach a conclusion.

The body has no power to break up the net giant but the vote will send out a clear message about whether politicians want regulators to take a tough line.

Senior US politicians have criticised the proposal.

A joint letter from two US government committees said that the way the EU is targeting US technology companies raised questions about its commitment to open markets

“This and similar proposals build walls rather than bridges [and] do not appear to give full consideration to the negative effect such policies may have on the broader US-EU trade relationship,” wrote senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch and congressmen Dave Camo and Sander Levin.

Meanwhile trade body Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said that the “increased politicisation” of the Google competition investigation was “deeply troubling”.

Guenther Oettinger, Europe’s new commissioner for digital affairs, was also said to be opposed to the move. He is quoted by German business journalist Roland Tichy as saying there would be no break-up.

Adequate remedies

The vote, proposed by European Parliament members Andreas Schwab, a German conservative, and Ramon Tremosa, will be the first time the European parliament will have voted on the break-up of a company, underlining how serious the conflict between the EU and Google has become.

“In case the proceedings against Google carry on without any satisfying decisions and the current anti-competitive behaviour continues to exist, a regulation of the dominant online web search should be envisaged,” they said in a statement.

“In the past, Google has failed to propose adequate remedies to address the Commission’s concerns and continued to pursue its practices unabatedly. It continued thereby to suppress competition to the detriment of European consumers and businesses,” the pair added.

Failed attempts

Ultimately the decision about Google’s future in Europe will be made by antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager, after her predecessor Joaquin Almunia tried and failed to resolve the issue.

Google has around 90% market share for search in Europe and in 2010 rivals alleged that it was favouring its own products and services over those of rivals in search results.

The commission’s investigation centred on four areas:

  • the manner in which Google displays its own vertical search services compared with other, competing products
  • how Google copies content from other websites – such as restaurant reviews – to include within its own services
  • the exclusivity Google has to sell advertising around search terms people use
  • restrictions on advertisers from moving their online ad campaigns to rival search engines.

In February Google agreed to change the way it displayed search results for its own services but the concessions it suggested were heavily criticised by those who had lodged the original complaint, and the European Commission was forced to ask it to come up with a new plan.

Google has said that it continues to work with the EU to resolve the matter, but had no specific comment on the vote.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30208001#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Kim Dotcom declares he is ‘broke’

Kim DotcomMr Dotcom says Megaupload attracted about 50 million users a day at its peak

Kim Dotcom, the founder of the seized file-sharing site Megaupload, has declared himself “broke”.

The entrepreneur said he had spent $10m (£6.4m) on legal costs since being arrested in New Zealand in 2012 and accused of internet piracy.

Mr Dotcom had employed a local law firm to fight the US’s attempt to extradite him, but his defence team stepped down a fortnight ago without explaining why.

Mr Dotcom said he would now represent himself at a bail hearing on Thursday.

He denies charges of racketeering, conspiring to commit copyright infringement and money laundering.

He told a conference in London, via a video link, that his lawyers had resigned because he had run out of money.

“The [US authorities] have certainly managed to drain my resources and dehydrate me, and without lawyers I am defenceless,” he said.

“They used that opportunity to try and get my bail revoked and that’s what I’m facing.”

The law firm Simpson Grierson, which had represented Mr Dotcom, could not be reached for comment.

Political backlash

Mr Dotcom’s declaration comes seven months after he won back access to about $750,000 worth of property – including several of his cars – that had been taken at the time of his arrest. However, other assets, including dozens of bank accounts, remained frozen.

Kim DotcomMr Dotcom said that his decision to create a new political party had backfired

The German national’s finances have also been put under strain after he helped bankroll a political party that failed to win a seat in September’s general election in New Zealand.

“Before I started my political movement – the Internet Party – I was quite popular in New Zealand,” Mr Dotcom told the digital business conference.

“After I got involved in politics and the prime minister of New Zealand and his party attacked me viciously, labelling me a Nazi… and [saying] I’m only starting my political party to fight my extradition… New Zealanders unfortunately have bought into that narrative and today I’m a pariah.

“The witch-hunt worked, and everyone wants to see me burn, and next Thursday I might go to jail because of that.”

Mr Dotcom does, however, continue to retain a lawyer in the US, who gave an interview to Radio New Zealand after Mr Dotcom’s comments.

Dotcom Mansion with people playing chess outsideMr Dotcom has said that the rent on his mansion was pre-paid until partway through 2015

“There are assets frozen across the globe, there are mechanisms in place for getting relief from those frozen assets – we’re hopeful that courts across the globe, including in Hong Kong and New Zealand, will do the right thing and release funds to counsel,” said Ira Rothken.

“This is the largest copyright case in the history of the United States and New Zealand. It’s a very expensive case. And the governments are making this a war of attrition.

“They’re trying to outspend Kim Dotcom. They are trying to win on procedure rather than merit. And we’re going to do the best that we can so Kim Dotcom has a fair playing field.”

He added there were still about 20 lawyers working on the case.

Mr Dotcom launched a follow-up online storage company, Mega, in 2013, and in March said it was valued at 210m New Zealand dollars ($164m; £104m).

The business is set to be floated on New Zealand’s stock exchange later this year.

However, he does not directly own a stake in the business himself and is no longer one of its directors.

Mona DotcomMona Dotcom moved into a home close to her husband after their split

His wife, Mona, does own 16.2% of its shares, but the two are separated. Ms Dotcom revealed in June that she had moved into a guest house about 50m (164ft) away from Mr Dotcom’s mansion so their five children could still be close to their father.

Mr Dotcom has revealed that his rent is pre-paid until mid-2015 and he plans to return to court “soon” to try to unfreeze more of his assets.

The next extradition hearing into his case is not scheduled until February 2015, providing him an opportunity to hire more local lawyers if he can obtain the funds.

“Not having legal representation should not prevent an individual from challenging extradition proceedings if he or she has good grounds to do so,” Neil Smyth, a partner at the law firm Taylor Wessing, told the BBC.

“However, the process is such that having advisers that are experts on not only the law, but also the procedure and the tactics, undoubtedly gives that individual a greater advantage in fighting extradition.”

The US Justice Department claims Megaupload made more than $175m before it was closed and cost film, TV and other rights-holders more than $500m.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30209067#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Facebook hosted Rigby murder chat

Lee Rigby memorialFusilier Lee Rigby was murdered in London on 22 May last year

Facebook was the firm that hosted a conversation by one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers five months ahead of the attack, the BBC has learned.

Michael Adebowale said he wanted to kill a soldier and discussed his plans in “the most graphic and emotive manner”, according to the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

The ISC said the social network did not appear to believe it had an obligation to identify such exchanges.

Facebook said it does tackle extremism.

“Like everyone else, we were horrified by the vicious murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby,” said a spokeswoman.

“We don’t comment on individual cases but Facebook’s policies are clear, we do not allow terrorist content on the site and take steps to prevent people from using our service for these purposes.”

The ISC’s report said, however, that the company should do more.

“Had MI5 had access to this exchange, their investigation into Adebowale would have become a top priority,” it stated.

“It is difficult to speculate on the outcome but there is a significant possibility that MI5 would then have been able to prevent the attack.”

FacebookFacebook said it was horrified by Fusilier Lee Rigby’s murder

The ISC does not identify Facebook as the host service in the edition of its report released to the public, but the BBC understands it does do so in the complete version given to the Prime Minister.

In it, the committee states that the company’s failure to notify the authorities about such conversations risked making it a “safe haven for terrorists to communicate within”.

It highlights that the UK’s security agencies say they face “considerable difficulty” accessing content from Facebook and five other US tech firms: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo.

The companies in question have said in the past that they have a duty to protect their members’ privacy.

“If the government believes that it needs additional powers to be able to access communication data it must be clear about exactly what those powers are and consult widely on them before putting proposals before Parliament,” said Antony Walker, deputy chief executive at TechUK, a lobbying body that works with Facebook.

Automated checks

The ISC’s report identifies a “substantial” online exchange during December 2012 between Adebowale and a foreign-based extremist – referred to as Foxtrot – who had links to the Yemen-based terror group AQAP, but was not known to UK agencies at the time.

Michael Adebowale Michael Adebowale has been jailed for a minimum of 45 years

Foxtrot is reported to have suggested several possible ways of killing a soldier, including the use of a knife.

After the murder of Lee Rigby an unidentified third-party provided a transcript of the conversation to GCHQ.

The information was also said to have revealed that Facebook had disabled seven of Adebowale’s accounts ahead of the killing, five of which had been flagged for links with terrorism.

This had been the result of an automated process, according to GCHQ, and no person at the company ever manually reviewed the contents of the accounts or passed on the material for the authorities to check.

GCHQ notes that the account that contained the phrase “Let’s kill a soldier” was not one of those closed by Facebook’s software.

The agency added that the social network had not provided a detailed explanation of how its safety system worked.

ISC said that among the information Facebook did disclose was the fact it enabled users to report “offensive or threatening content” and that it prioritised the “most serious reports”.

However, the committee reflected that such checks were unlikely to help uncover communications between terrorists.

It acknowledged that in some other cases, Facebook had indeed passed on information to the authorities about accounts closed because of links to terrorism. However, it said the failure to do so after deactivating Adebowale’s account had been a missed opportunity to prevent Lee Rigby’s death.

“Companies should accept they have a responsibility to notify the relevant authorities when an automatic trigger indicating terrorism is activated and allow the authorities, whether US or UK, to take the next step,” its report concluded.

“We further note that several of the companies attributed the lack of monitoring to the need to protect their users’ privacy. However, where there is a possibility that a terrorist atrocity is being planned, that argument should not be allowed to prevail.”

But one digital rights campaign group has taken issue with these recommendations.

“The government should not use the appalling murder of Fusilier Rigby as an excuse to justify the further surveillance and monitoring of the entire UK population,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

“The committee is particularly misleading when it implies that US companies do not co-operate, and it is quite extraordinary to demand that companies pro-actively monitor email content for suspicious material.

“Internet companies cannot and must not become an arm of the surveillance state.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30199131#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Police arrest suspected film pirates

Actor Jason StathamThe Expendables 3 starred Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham (pictured)

Anti-piracy police have arrested two men on suspicion of leaking action film The Expendables 3 before its release date.

Detectives from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) arrested two men in Upton, Wirral, and Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Copies of the film began circulating online from 25 July. The official US release date was not until 15 August.

The high-quality pirated copy was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

The men, a 36-year-old and 33-year-old, were arrested at their homes and taken to local police stations.

The pair are suspected of stealing the film from a cloud-based system before uploading it on to the internet.

Lionsgate Films, which made the movie and referred the case to Pipcu, claims that the pirated copy had a significant financial impact on the film-makers, costing them millions of pounds in the UK alone.

Head of Pipcu, Det Ch Insp Danny Medlycott said of the action: “Today’s operation shows you the significant impact intellectual property crime has on our creative industries, with millions of pounds being lost as a result of criminal actions.

“The public need to be aware that piracy is not a victimless crime. By downloading illegal music, film, TV and books, not only are you exposing your own computer to the risk of viruses and malware, but you are also putting hard-working people’s livelihoods at risk as piracy threatens the security of thousands of jobs in the UK’s creative industries.”

Wolverine success

Pipcu is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police. It was launched in September 2012 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office.

It was recently announced that it will receive a further £3m from the IPO to fund itself until 2017.

It is notoriously hard to measure what effect leaked copies of movies have on box office takings.

The Expendables case is now seen as a litmus test for measuring the impact of piracy.

The move fell short of projected takings by roughly $10m according to film website Variety.

But an unfinished copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine which was also widely distributed online a month before the film opened in 2009, failed to have a significant impact on takings and the film went on to be a huge financial success.

Research in 2011 from Carnegie Mellon University suggested that when a film is pirated prior to its release it loses up to 20% of its potential revenue.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30192568#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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‘Stealthy’ spyware program uncovered

Passenger jet landing The sophisticated Regin malware had been used to spy on airlines, said Symantec

An “extremely complex” and “stealthy” spying program has been stealing data from ISPs, energy companies, airlines and research-and-development labs, a security company has said.

With a “degree of technical competence rarely seen”, Regin had probably taken years to develop, Symantec said.

And a nation state may have written it to serve its spying agencies’ needs.

The program had been used in “systematic spying campaigns” over the past six years, Symantec said.

Aimed at Windows users, Regin slowly infiltrated its targets, taking care at each stage to hide its tracks, the company said.

“Many components of Regin remain undiscovered and additional functionality and versions may exist,” it added.

Regin cases by country

“Its design makes it highly suited for persistent, long-term surveillance operations against targets.”

Jason Steer, director of technology strategy at security firm FireEye, said: “These types of toolkits have existed for a few years now.”

He added: “It’s a challenge to the whole security industry as to how they find these malicious and sophisticated pieces of code,”

Security firms were better at spotting such things even though Regin and its ilk were built to fool modern-day tools that look for malicious programs and monitor activity to spot anything suspicious. The techniques Regin used to sneak on to a network and communicate with its creators were very complicated, he said.



Symantec researchers likened the bug to Stuxnet, a computer worm that targeted Iran's nuclear program

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Vikram Thakur, Symantec: “We don’t believe it is being used… for mass surveillance”

“It’s clearly been written by someone that has much more than making money in mind,” he said.

Mr Steer said the tip-offs about Regin and similarly sophisticated threats often came from government agencies who kept an eye on the cyber spying capabilities of both friendly and hostile nations.

Recovering files

Victims had been infected via spoofed versions of well-known websites and by exploiting known vulnerabilities in web browser software, said Symantec in a detailed analysis.

In a blogpost, security company F-Secure said it had first encountered Regin in 2009 after investigating what was making a server on the network of one of its customers crash repeatedly. Closer investigation revealed the culprit to be Regin which was attempting to insert itself into the heart of the software controlling the server.

Chief research officer Mikko Hypponen said: “Finding malware of this calibre is very rare.

Regin cases by target

“We’re still missing big parts of the puzzle.”

“Nevertheless, it’s obvious this is a very complicated malware written by a well-equipped nation-state.” He added that the malware did not look like it originated in China or Russia – the places suspected of creating many other stealthy, spying programs.

Security firm Kaspersky Lab said it too had spotted Regin being used to infiltrate networks and steal data. In one attack, Regin was used to gather administrative details for a mobile phone network in the Middle East that, if used, would have given attackers control over the system.

Symantec said it had captured the first copies of Regin in a small number of organisations between 2008 and 2011.

Soon after, the malware had appeared to have been withdrawn, but a new version found in 2013 was now being actively used.

Only about 100 Regin infections have so far been identified.

It is believed to provide the ability to:

  • remote access victims’ computers remotely
  • take screenshots
  • control a mouse pointer
  • steal data
  • recover deleted files

Symantec said that Regin had a lot in common with other malicious programs such as Flame, Duqu and Stuxnet, also thought to be written by nation states to aid their spying efforts.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30145265#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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‘Sophisticated’ Regin spyware found

Passenger jet landing The sophisticated Regin malware had been used to spy on airlines, said Symantec

An “extremely complex” and “stealthy” spying program has been stealing data from ISPs, energy companies, airlines and research-and-development labs, a security company has said.

With a “degree of technical competence rarely seen”, Regin had probably taken years to develop, Symantec said.

And a nation state may have written it to serve its spying agencies’ needs.

The program had been used in “systematic spying campaigns” over the past six years, Symantec said.

Regin slowly infiltrated its targets, taking care at each stage to hide its tracks, the company said.

“Many components of Regin remain undiscovered and additional functionality and versions may exist,” it added.

Regin cases by country

“Its design makes it highly suited for persistent, long-term surveillance operations against targets.”

Jason Steer, director of technology strategy at security firm FireEye, said: “These types of toolkits have existed for a few years now.”

He added: “It’s a challenge to the whole security industry as to how they find these malicious and sophisticated pieces of code,”

Security firms were better at spotting such things even though Regin and its ilk were built to fool modern-day tools that look for malicious programs and monitor activity to spot anything suspicious. The techniques Regin used to sneak on to a network and communicate with its creators were very complicated, he said.

“It’s clearly been written by someone that has much more than making money in mind,” he said.

Mr Steer said the tip-offs about Regin and similarly sophisticated threats often came from government agencies who kept an eye on the cyber spying capabilities of both friendly and hostile nations.

Recovering files

Victims had been infected via spoofed versions of well-known websites and by exploiting known vulnerabilities in web browser software, said Symantec in a detailed analysis.

In a blogpost, security company F-Secure said it had first encountered Regin in 2009 after investigating what was making a server on the network of one of its customers crash repeatedly. Closer investigation revealed the culprit to be Regin which was attempting to insert itself into the heart of the software controlling the server.

Chief research officer Mikko Hypponen said: “Finding malware of this calibre is very rare.

Regin cases by target

“We’re still missing big parts of the puzzle.”

“Nevertheless, it’s obvious this is a very complicated malware written by a well-equipped nation-state.” He added that the malware did not look like it originated in China or Russia – the places suspected of creating many other stealthy, spying programs.

Symantec said it had captured the first copies of Regin in a small number of organisations between 2008 and 2011.

Soon after, the malware had appeared to have been withdrawn, but a new version found in 2013 was now being actively used.

Only about 100 Regin infections have so far been identified.

It is believed to provide the ability to:

  • remote access victims’ computers remotely
  • take screenshots
  • control a mouse pointer
  • steal data
  • recover deleted files

Symantec said that Regin had a lot in common with other malicious programs such as Flame, Duqu and Stuxnet, also thought to be written by nation states to aid their spying efforts.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30145265#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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New computer spying bug discovered


Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

A man uses a laptop at a coffee shop in Hanoi - 28 November 2013Symantec researchers likened the bug to Stuxnet, a computer worm that targeted Iran’s nuclear program

A leading computer security company says it has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen.

Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world.

Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.

Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most.

It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say.

Researchers say the sophistication of the software indicates that it is a cyber-espionage tool developed by a nation state.

They also said it likely took months, if not years, to develop and its creators have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks.

Sian John, a security strategist at Symantec, said: “It looks like it comes from a Western organisation. It’s the level of skill and expertise, the length of time over which it was developed.”

Symantec has drawn parallels with Stuxnet, a computer worm thought to have been developed by the US and Israel to target Iran’s nuclear program.

That was designed to damage equipment, whereas Regin’s purpose appears to be to collect information.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30171614#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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New web data powers plan for police

Theresa MayHome Secretary Theresa May says new powers are needed to tackle terrorism and child sexual exploitation

A law forcing firms to hand details to police identifying who was using a computer or mobile phone at a given time is to be outlined by Theresa May.

The home secretary said the measure would improve national security.

Under the Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill, providers would have to hold on to data linking devices to users.

But campaigners warned it could see the revival of the so-called “snoopers’ charter” – a previous attempt to bring in wide-ranging web monitoring powers.

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Cyber-bullies and terror suspects

A hand typing

The Home Office says the new measures would help police and security services identify:

  • Organised criminals
  • Cyber-bullies and hackers
  • Terror suspects and child sex offenders communicating over the internet
  • Vulnerable people such as children using social media to discuss taking their own life

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The new measure, which is expected to be introduced to the Commons this week, would help police to identify suspects via a computer or mobile device’s individual Internet Protocol (IP) address.

Each device has such an address, but they can change – such as when a modem is switched off and then on again – and are usually shared between different users.

Internet service providers currently have no business reason for holding data showing which IP address was allocated to a device at a given time, meaning it is not always possible for police and security services to match individuals to internet use, said the Home Office.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mrs May said the new bill would help security services “deal with the increased threat that we now see”.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Do you absolutely trust the people doing this never to make a mistake… never to misuse it?”

End Quote
David Davis MP
Conservative

“This is a step but it doesn’t go all the way to ensuring that we can identify all the people we will need to,” she said.

To “fully identify” everybody, she said police would need the power to access communication data, as previously proposed in the Communication Data Bill.

That bill – labelled a snooper’s charter by critics – was scrapped following Lib Dem opposition.

It would would have forced companies to keep data about people’s online conversations, social media activity, calls and texts for 12 months.

Mrs May added: “It will still be the case, even with these IP addresses being within the legislation that the National Crime Agency… will still not be able to identify everybody who is accessing illegal content on the internet.”

The new measure, which is expected to be introduced to the Commons this week, would help police to identify suspects via a computer or mobile device’s individual Internet Protocol (IP) address.

‘Unworkable and disproportionate’

The Liberal Democrats welcomed Mrs May’s announcement but ruled out agreeing to the “much wider and disproportionate proposals” previously mooted.

“This is exactly the kind of thing that we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate snoopers’ charter.

“There is absolutely no chance of that illiberal bill coming back under the coalition government – it’s dead and buried.”

But Conservative backbencher David Davis said the new measure was a “stepping stone back” to those proposals that would cause Mrs May “real trouble”.

David Davis on the Andrew Marr showDavid Davis said Theresa May saw the bill as a “route back into the whole snoopers’ charter”

The former Tory leadership contender told Andrew Marr there was a “simple question” for the home secretary on how police and security services would use the proposed new powers.

“Do you absolutely trust the people doing this never to make a mistake… never to misuse it?” he said.

“If you do, let the judges decide when they can do it – don’t let them decide whether they can do it themselves.”

Emma Carr, from privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch, said: “Before setting her sights on reviving the snooper’s charter, the home secretary should address the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing the police is making use of the huge volume of data that is already available, including data from social media and internet companies.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30166477#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Robots face new creativity test

A robotThe new test requires robots to be creative by writing a story or painting a picture

A US professor is proposing a new way to test whether artificial intelligence (AI) is on a par with that of humans.

Currently scientists use the Turing test – named after computer scientist Alan Turing – which evaluates whether an AI can convince a judge that it is human in a conversation.

Prof Mark Riedl, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, is proposing a new test.

It would ask a machine to create a convincing poem, story or painting.

Dubbed Lovelace 2.0 it is an iteration of a previous Lovelace Test, proposed in 2001.

Named after one of the first computer programmers, the original test required an AI to create something that it would be incapable of explaining how it was created.

Lovelace 2.0 develops that idea.

“For the test, the artificial agent passes if it develops a creative artefact from a subset of artistic genres deemed to require human-level intelligence and the artefact meets certain creative constraints given by a human evaluator,” explained Prof Riedl.

The artefact could be painting, poetry, architectural design or a fictional story.

“Creativity is not unique to human intelligence, but it is one of the hallmarks of human intelligence,” said Prof Riedl.

Algorithms have already created stories and paintings although according to Prof Riedl “no existing story generation system can pass the Lovelace 2.0 test”.

Inspiring music

Experts had mixed feelings about how good such a test would be.

Prof Alan Woodward, a computer expert from the University of Surrey thinks it could help make a key distinction.

“I think this new test shows that we all now recognise that humans are more than just very advanced machines, and that creativity is one of those features that separates us from computers – for now.”

But David Wood, chairman of the London Futurists, is not convinced.

“It’s a popular view that humans differ fundamentally from AIs because humans possess creativity whereas AIs only follow paths of strict rationality,” he said.

“This is a comforting view, but I think it’s wrong. There are already robots that manifest rudimentary emotional intelligence and computers can already write inspiring music.”

The 65-year-old Turing test is successfully passed if a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five-minute keyboard conversations.

Back in June a computer program called Eugene Goostman, which simulates a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, was said to have passed the Turing test although some experts disputed the claims.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30144069#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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