STLR Link Roundup – September 3, 2013

The Syrian Electronic Army Attacks

On August 27, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a group of hackers supportive of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, attacked several media organizations, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, and Twitter. Earlier in the month, the SEA had attacked the websites of The Washington Post and CNN. The attack continued to cause problems for the New York Times website through August 29. SEA also temporarily modified Twitter’s domain name server records, resulting in sporadic issues with viewing images and photos.

Facebook Reports Compliance with Data Requests

Facebook released a report on data requests from governments this week.  In the first half of 2013 alone, Facebook received requests from 74 countries involving 38,000 users. In 79 percent of the 11,000 to 12,000 requests from the United States, Facebook provided data to the requesting organization, less than Google’s 88 percent compliance rate, but higher than Twitter’s 67 percent compliance rate.  The data requested often includes users’ names and when they joined Facebook, but governments have also tried to obtain users’ IP addresses and content posted to Facebook. In the report, Facebook notes that it has “reported the numbers for all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law.”  This reflects the fact that Facebook is not allowed to report certain kinds of government data requests.

Aereo Arrives for Android in September

Aereo, a service that allows users to access live broadcast television over the internet, plans to launch an app for Google’s Android mobile operating system in September. The service works by using traditional antennae to pick up over-the-air broadcasts, which are then streamed to users on the internet.  Aereo is currently available in Boston, New York City, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta, with plans to expand to additional cities, including Chicago and Houston.  Earlier this summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied a preliminary injunction from broadcasting networks that would have prevented Aereo from transmitting programs to subscribers and declined to rehear the case.  Aereo has been sued numerous times by Comcast, CBS, the Walt Disney Company, and News Corp. for retransmission and licensing fees.

Justice Department Updates Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Eric Holder has informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Justice Department will not sue to pre-empt state laws allowing for recreational marijuana use.  A memorandum issued on August 29 detailed the priorities of the federal government with respect to marijuana.  These priorities include preventing distribution to minors, preventing revenue from going to criminal enterprises, and preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.  The Justice Department will not take legal action against states as long as the priority areas in the memorandum are reflected by state policies, such as the implementation of strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems.  Currently, eighteen states have legalized medical marijuana, although only Colorado and Washington allow recreational use.

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