Wednesday Morning: All the Range from Sublime to Silly

We start with the sublime, welcoming astronaut Scott Kelly back to earth after nearly a year in space — 340 days all told. Wouldn’t you like to know how these first hours and days will feel to Kelly as he regains his earth legs?

And then we have the silly…

Apple’s General Counsel Sewell and FBI Director Comey appeared before House Judiciary Committee
You’d think a Congressional hearing about FBI’s demand to crack open Apple iPhone would be far from silly, but yesterday’s hearing on Apple iPhone encryption…Jim Comey likened the iPhone 5C’s passcode protection to “a guard dog,” told Apple its business model wasn’t public safety, fretted about “warrant-proof spaces” and indulged in a thought exercise by wondering what would happen if Apple engineers were kidnapped and forced to write code.

What. The. Feck.

I think I’ll read about this hearing in French news outlets as it somehow sounds more rational: iPhone verrouillé: le patron du FBI sur le gril face au Congrès américain (iPhone locked: FBI boss grilled by US Congress – Le Monde). Other kickers in Comey’s testimony: an admission that a “mistake was made” (oh, the tell-tale passive voice here) in handling the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, the implication that the NSA couldn’t (wouldn’t?) backdoor the iPhone in question, and that obtaining the code demanded from Apple would set precedent applicable to other cases.

Predictably, Apple’s Bruce Sewell explained that “Building that software tool would not affect just one iPhone. It would weaken the security for all of them.” In other words, FBI’s demand that Apple writes new code to crack the iPhone 5C’s locking mechanism is a direct threat to Apple’s business model, based on secure electronic devices.

Catch the video of the entire hearing on C-SPAN.

Facebook’s Latin American VP arrested after resisting release of WhatsApp data
Here’s another legal precedent, set in another country, where a government made incorrect assumptions about technology. Brazilian law enforcement and courts believed WhatsApp stored data it maintains it doesn’t have, forcing the issue by arresting a Facebook executive though WhatsApp is a separate legal entity in Brazil. Imagine what could happen in Brazil if law enforcement wanted an Apple iPhone 5C unlocked. The executive will be released today, according to recent reports. The underlying case involved the use of WhatsApp messaging by drug traffickers.

USAO-EDNY subpoenaed Citigroup in FIFA bribery, corruption and money laundering allegations
In a financial filing, Citigroup advised it had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s office. HSBC advised last week it had been contacted by U.S. law enforcement about its role. No word yet as to whether JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have been likewise subpoenaed though they were used by FIFA officials. Amazing. We might see banksters perp-walked over a fútbol scandal before we see any prosecuted for events leading to the 2008 financial crisis.

Quick hits

I’m out of here, need to dig out after another winter storm dumped nearly a foot of the fluffy stuff yesterday. I’m open to volunteers, but I don’t expect many snow shovel-armed takers.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
17 replies
  1. lefty665 says:

    From the short clip of Comey I heard on the radio, his response as to whether they asked NSA or anyone else with cryptanalysis skills to help was passive too. It was to the effect we asked other people but did not get a response.
    .
    Is anyone at FBI competent to identify who has those skills. Who did they ask?

  2. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 (10:21) — Three issues with that article:
    1) What kind of engines do those barges use? Diesel?
    2) Ever look at a map of Paris? Franpix still needs a lot of street-based transport.
    3) The city’s residents and tourism industry will resist — note:

    Yet as Paris rediscovers the charms and assets of the Seine, the scenic river risks a clash of competing activities — on the one hand, riverbanks reclaimed for pedestrians, floating structures such as swimming pools and hotels, and the popular Paris Plage, which transforms the Seine into an urban beach every summer; on the other, the rise of river-based urban logistics and the building of new facilities, along with ever-increasing passenger traffic.

    “One thing is certain: today the Seine is Paris’s most attractive public space,” Missika says. “That is why we need to get urbanists and architects thinking about how to anticipate and resolve these conflicts.”

    I could see Franpix being limited to night transport on the Seine only.

    (p.s. I follow stories at the intersection between technology and transportation, not just diesel engines. Hence both the VW emissions defeat device scandal and Google’s self-driving cars in yesterday’s morning roundup.)

    • bloopie2 says:

      Agree 100% that drowning the gorgeous Seine in barges (Peapod trucks?) will never happen. I think the French just need to stop eating so much food. Either that or go back to the days before refrigeration when Ma walked to the store daily for fresh food to cook for dinner; that would reduce tremendously the need for any kind of delivery vehicles. Think that’ll ever happen? Hmm. Or just fill up the skies with Amazon drones. My daughter lives in Manhattan and gets her non-perishable foodstuffs from Amazon – less effort, and cheaper to boot. Is it good for the environment? Who knows it’s a fait accompli.

  3. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 (11:20) — OMG Many Parisians still walk to the market to get their food daily. Franprix isn’t like our hypermarts; they’re much smaller stores, still walk or ride the Metro to them in Paris. Parisians avoid cars as much as they can because the city simply wasn’t constructed for them, and the public transport is so much better. The problem is that fresh foods still must be delivered to many locations within one of the largest, densely-populated cities in the world; there’s no getting around motorized transport of some kind, and the Seine offers a means to avoid already too-busy Paris streets and highways. As for Amazon delivery: you’ll see an attempt emerge like Amazon’s partnership with Morrisons in UK. But it will probably not be as successful in Paris because they are far more choosy about produce, may have limited success with consumer goods instead.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    “Silicon Valley companies are shying away from selling cyberwarfare services to the Pentagon to avoid jeopardising their relationship with the Chinese market, a leading geopolitical strategist has suggested. … In the past the government led the way with innovation and industry followed,” said Singer, citing the Arpanet, a precursor to the internet, as an example. Now it’s the private sector – as seen in the debate over encryption. This is changing the way that government leaders talk – the tone alternates between asking for help and threatening.” (Per The Guardian today.)
    .
    That would be something now, wouldn’t it? Seems like that old saw about “Bite the hand that feeds you” can be applied in many directions here — US, China, Tech. As Rodney King said, “Can’t we all get along?”

  5. harpie says:

    Hi Rayne…bet you’re ready for spring!

    Something for the timeline…
    ****
    Michigan Democrats said Wednesday that the state of Michigan blocked Flint from returning to Lake Huron water from the Detroit water system when it agreed to grant the city an emergency loan of $7 million in April 2015. […] Another condition was that Flint not leave the Karegnondi Water Authority [Approved on 4/29/15]
    http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2016/03/02/dems-say-state-blocked-flint-return-detroit-water/81199076/
    ****
    [From the 4/8/15 news report]: [Ambrose asked the City Council on 4/8/15 to approve the application to the loan board, and to reply at 4/13/meeting.] “Council members discussed the loan briefly, and some said they might support the loan but were surprised by the emergency manager’s proposal, which came to them without warning. […] Councilwoman Jackie Poplar agreed, but said, “I don’t know all of a sudden why the goose laid the golden egg.”
    *[I’ll put that link in the next comment.]*

    Why, indeed? Placing that nugget in the timeline sheds some light.

        • harpie says:

          http://somcsprod2govm001.usgovcloudapp.net/files/Staff_2.pdf [pdf page 150/930]
          ***
          4 (c) The Mayor, City Administrator, and City Council shall implement all of the following financial best practices within the City and do all of the following:
          *
          9) Take all steps necessary to successfully establish, develop, and complete the Karegnondi Water Authority (KW A) project.
          ***
          4 ( d) Limitations upon the City Council, Mayor, and the City Administrator:
          *
          1) The City Council, Mayor, or City Administrator shall not revise any Order that was implemented by the Emergency Manager during his or her term prior to one year after the termination of receivership. Amendments to Emergency Manager Orders may be made pursuant to the procedures identified in Section 5.
          ****
          5. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, the power to rescind or amend any order issued by the Emergency Manager shall rest solely with the Board, with approval by the State Treasurer, to the extent permitted under PA 436. This Order may be amended, modified, repealed, or terminated by a subsequent Order issued by an Emergency Manager.

  6. jerryy says:

    When James Comey was commenting about ‘warrant free areas’, it seemed, at first, he was using hyperbole to play to the crowd. But after thinking about it, maybe he is trying to find a way to repeal the 5th Amendment(*) — which is certainly a warrant free area.
    .
    (*) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
    .
    After a few more years of development, self-driving cars could be for sale or lease to folks. Will the law enforcement officials be able to force a driverless car to shutdown, locking the doors etc. until they arrive essentially arresting any occupants? Who will take the blame when hackers find out how to do the same, forcing the car to kidnap its occupants?

    • martin says:

      quote”Will the law enforcement officials be able to force a driverless car to shutdown, locking the doors etc. until they arrive essentially arresting any occupants?”unquote

      Naw, LE will simply have a algorithm that will lead the car directly to a fenced in area at the jail.

      quote”Who will take the blame when hackers find out how to do the same, forcing the car to kidnap its occupants?”unquote

      Unless RollsRoyce/Bently/Mercedes starts implementing this tech, I highly doubt anyone using a Google car or other domestic brand will be worth a ransom large enough to make it worthwhile. Even then, if hackers can access one, so can LE, making it moot. I can see a tug of war in real time. Hahaha!
      Also, I’ve got $20 that says eventually, since there’s no driver, the auto makers will start selling interior window space for banner, or video advertising. Of course, you’ll be able to opt out…for a small monthly fee. I mean, imagine a captive audience of billions of passengers. And no, I’m not kidding.

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