By Doug Porter
San Diego’s County District Attorney has been distributing internet monitoring software that exposes users to the very predators, identity thieves, and bullies they claim the program protects children against, according to a story by Dave Maass posted at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Deeplinks Blog.
The free Computer Cop program featuring a photo of DA Bonnie Dumanis on the CD cover, “is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies,”according to Maass. His investigation found the program, usually branded with a department’s name, is handed out by hundreds of law enforcement agencies around the country with the promise that using it constitutes a “first step” in protecting children online.
In addition to advocating for parents to protect their children by using the software via the county website, DA Bonnie Dumanis also appears in promotional videos for the company. The EFF story also includes allegations that false endorsements from the ACLU and the Treasury Department were used in marketing materials for Computer Cop.
Here’s the sales pitch via a screen grab from the County DA’s website:
Installing the program introduces keylogging software indiscriminately tracks everything typed on a computer and stores it in a folder on the hard drive. Using an email program to forward suspicious messages or images involves transmitting the unencrypted data (not protected by using HTTPS) to a third party server.
According to the EFF post, “When a child with ComputerCOP installed on their laptop connects to public Wi-Fi, any sexual predator, identity thief, or bully with freely available packet-sniffing software can grab those key logs right out of the air.
The ComputerCop soft can be used from the CD without installation to search a hard drive to search for keywords related to drugs, sex, gangs, and hate groups, but produces false positives and misses materials that can be found using Finder or File Explorer, which are factory installed on most computers.
From the EFF Deeplinks Blog:
While the marketing materials claim that this software will allow you to view what web pages your child visits, that’s only true if the child is using Internet Explorer or Safari. The image search will potentially turn up tens of thousands of hits because it can’t distinguish between images children have downloaded and the huge collection of icons and images that are typically part of the software on your computer.
Here’s a collage of promotional videos, featuring Bonnie Dumanis, along with other law enforcement luminaries:
To make a long story–and you should really read Dave Maass’ post for the details–a government agency has been handing out free software that doesn’t work very well and exposes users to internet scams.
The NFL’s Woes Continue
The National Football League’s run of bad luck continues.
Last night PBS Frontline aired a report saying “new data from the nation’s largest brain bank focused on traumatic brain injury has found evidence of a degenerative brain disease in 76 of the 79 former players it’s examined.”
The disease in question is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE occurs when repetitive head trauma begins to produce abnormal proteins in the brain known as “tau.” The tau proteins work to essentially form tangles around the brain’s blood vessels, interrupting normal functioning and eventually killing nerve cells themselves. Patients with less advanced forms of the disease can suffer from mood disorders, such as depression and bouts of rage, while those with more severe cases can experience confusion, memory loss and advanced dementia.
Among the NFL legends found to have had CTE are [Chicago Bears star Dave] Duerson, Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster and former San Diego Chargers legend Junior Seau. On Monday, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that a New York neuropathologist had discovered signs of CTE in the brain of Jovan Belcher. In 2012, the former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker shot and killed his girlfriend before driving to a Chiefs practice facility, where he committed suicide in front of team officials.
A proposed settlement between the NFL and the survivors of players found to have died from CTE is jeopardized by this latest research, as the league was hoping to limit payouts to persons already diagnosed with the disease. The family of Junior Seau has already announced plan to opt out of the settlement.
And then there’s this item from Reuters yesterday:
The FCC, which enforces broadcast indecency violations, has received a petition from legal activist John Banzhaf III, asking that regulators strip local radio station WWXX-FM of its broadcasting license when it comes up for renewal for using the name “Redskins.”
Banzhaf says the word is racist, derogatory, profane and hateful, making its use “akin to broadcasting obscenity.”
“We’ll be looking at that petition, we will be dealing with that issue on the merits and we’ll be responding accordingly,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters.
“There are a lot of names and descriptions that were used over time that are inappropriate today. And I think the name that is attributed to the Washington football club is one of those,” Wheeler added.
California’s Plastic Bag Law May Not Hold
Gov. Brown signed a law yesterday phasing out the use of single-use plastic bags over the next two years. Under the law stores will offer paper and reusable plastic bags instead, and charge at least 10 cents each.
From the Los Angeles Times:
California’s prohibition is the first statewide law passed by a legislature, although more than 125 local ordinances against plastic bags have been adopted in the state, including in the city of Los Angeles.
The local laws are grandfathered in under the new overall measure, SB 270 by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), and the state will provide $2 million in loans to help plastic-bag businesses convert to the manufacture of reusable bags.
There are already more than 125 bag bans in place in California. San Francisco passed the first such ordinance in 2007.
But it ain’t over ‘till it’s over says the plastic-bag industry group American Progressive Bag Alliance. Executive director Lee Califf dismissed SB270 as “a backroom deal between the grocers and union bosses … under the guise of environmentalism.”
And the group announced it’s already filed papers, hoping to qualify a referendum to repeal SB 270 on the November 2016 ballot. If the group collects 504,760 petition signatures in the next 90 days, the new law will be suspended until the 2016 vote.
You can expect to see TV ads like the one embedded here in coming weeks, with the usual deceit and distractions employed by industry campaigns:
One of the most oft heard claims by the plastic bag industry (propped up by Big Oil, which supplies their raw materials) is that single use bags are somehow recycled or, worse decompose on their own.
Also, if you happen to visit UT-San Diego or just about any other site with a news account about SB270, getting rid of single use plastic bags is a dog whistle for Right-Wing Nut Jobs (RWNJs). The trolls and schmoos are out in full force.
Here’s a few Bag Facts, courtesy of Mother Jones, in the hope the air of ignorance surrounding these comments can be cleared:
No one is sure how long a plastic bag takes to decompose, but estimates range from 500 to 1,000 years. Even then, they never fully biodegrade; they just break down into ever-tinier plastic pellets. Each year, tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals, and turtles die after getting entangled with bags or mistaking them for food. In 2010, a gray whale that was beached and died in Seattle was found to have more than 20 plastic bags in its stomach.
Improperly recycled bags also cause problems for recycling centers like San Francisco’s Recology. “When people put them in the recycling bin—and they should not do that—they wind up down at the recycling plant and they wrap around a lot of the recycling equipment,” public relations manager Robert Reed tells Mother Jones. About twice a day, “you have to turn your equipment off and send mechanics in with box knives to cut them out.”
Designated plastic bag recycling facilities exist, but the EPA estimates only 12 percent of bags make it there. CalRecycle puts the statewide number even lower at 3 percent. Even when bags are returned to the proper bin, they aren’t truly recycled, but downcycled. “Because plastic bags have a variety of dyes and other additives, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting if you melt down a bunch of bags that consumers have used,” explains Larsen. Instead, used bags “generally get turned into something else, such as park benches or flooring material.”
So please, stop signing petitions outside grocery stores.
On This Day: 1935 – Thousands of dairy farmers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa went on strike, demanding of higher prices for their milk. 1946 – The first baseball play-off game for a league championship was played. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-2. 1977 – Elton John became the first rock star to be honored in New York City’s Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame.
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