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Restraining orders in the age of drones


Today Joshua Goldman of CNET reports that the FAA recommends requiring drone pilots to register instead of registering every single drone:

On November 21, the FAA task force made its registration recommendations, and instead of keeping track of each and every drone out there, it suggested registering the names and street addresses of the pilots (mailing address, email address, phone number and serial number of the aircraft are optional). The registration requirement will apply to any UAS less than 55 pounds (25kg) and heavier than half a pound (250 grams) and owners must be at least 13 years old. A parent or guardian can register for anyone younger than 13 years old.

That makes perfect sense to me. I am concerned, however, about the implications for drone use when it comes to what are widely known as restraining orders, although in Pennsylvania they are called protection from abuse orders. The function of such orders is simple: make the defendant’s physical proximity to or remote contact via telephone or third parties with the plaintiff an indirect criminal contempt. This triggers the ability to sanction and if necessary imprison a violating defendant.

As you can imagine, these are especially useful in domestic violence situations, custody disputes and stalking circumstances. Pennsylvania orders can last up to three years based on the judge’s discretion, while New Jersey orders can theoretically last forever. Importantly, in both states a protection order prohibits the defendant from owning or receiving firearms. The goal is obvious: you don’t want a nutcase kept 100 yards from his ex-wife by a protective order to have a gun with three times that range with which to attack her.

This is where my concern about drones comes into play. I think FAA registration of drone pilots is a great idea. However, the surveillance and yes, even remote attack capabilities of drones require the prohibition of their use by defendants in protection order matters. The FAA maintains a public-facing database of registered aircraft pilots in three categories, Airline Transport Pilot, Commercial Pilot and Private Pilot. It could add a fourth category, Drone Pilot. Then it could add registration information to its Web Services, for which it provides an API with which developers can interface with the data and present it to end users.

This would allow authorities to cross-reference their own protection order registries, like Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse Database, with the FAA registration information and remove drones when the state police remove firearms from the defendant’s possession. Drones are an awesome technology but their value to filmmakers, scientists and geeks generally shouldn’t blind to the fact that they can be put to nefarious uses as well.

Vizio TVs spy on you, here’s how to disable it

Vizio TVs spy on you, here’s how to disable it

Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address – the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone.

This is a damn good reason not to buy a Vizio TV. I won’t rant about opt-out/opt-in again. But I found Vizio generally had a good price-to-quality ratio: not top shelf hardware, but not top shelf prices, either. So this shadiness is a shame.

A shamey-ness?

Anyway, props to Samsung and LG, who, according to Julia Angwin at ProPublica, require user consent before enabling the sort of tracking Vizio turns on by default.

Disable Vizio “Smart Interactivity”

Vizio obviously knows how shady its default spying is because they have a page named after the feature which begins with information on how to turn it off:

VIA TV Interface

  1. Press the MENU button on your TV’s remote.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Highlight Smart Interactivity.
  4. Press RIGHT arrow to change setting to Off.

VIA Plus TV Interface

  1. Press the MENU button on your TV’s remote or open HDTV Settings app.
  2. Select System.
  3. Select Reset & Admin.
  4. Highlight Smart Interactivity.
  5. Press RIGHT arrow to change setting to Off.

Is the Russian kamikaze sub misinformation or an inadvertent warning to the West?

Is the Russian kamikaze sub misinformation or an inadvertent warning to the West?


The screen capture depicts a project called “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6.'” The weapon would apparently be delivered by a nuclear-powered underwater drone, carried externally by a nuclear submarine. The drone would be capable of depths of up to 3,280 feet and capable of speeds of up to 65 miles an hour. It would also have a range of 6,213 miles.

A weapon like this could take out the transatlantic data cables as mere collateral damage…

Russian Ships Too Close to Data Cables for U.S. Comfort

Russian Ships Too Close to Data Cables for U.S. Comfort

The first of two this-is-really-concerning posts you’ll find here today:

The role of the cables is more important than ever before. They carry global business worth more than $10 trillion a day, including from financial institutions that settle transactions on them every second. Any significant disruption would cut the flow of capital. The cables also carry more than 95 percent of daily communications.

I hope there are ways for at least economic, government and military organizations to route around those cables via satellite if necessary…

Apple has learned nothing from Microsoft’s Surface

Apple has learned nothing from Microsoft’s Surface – The Verge

iPad sales are indeed down, but it does not follow from that fact that iPad use is down. This Time article did the yeoman’s work of aggregating some data about iPad sales. The bottom line is that in the five years since the iPad’s 2010 launch, Apple has sold more than 258 million of the tablets. That’s more iPads in the wild than people living in Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Thailand, France, United Kingdom, or Italy (thanks Wolfram|Alpha).

My dad has an Android tablet and a Windows PC. Since he got the tablet (which, interestingly from a marketing perspective, he insists on calling an iPad) he does nothing on the PC except pay bills, and that’s primarily because most of the apps you use to pay bills on mobile devices are, to put it mildly, user-hostile antichrists of design and experience.

He is a sample of one, but my dad isn’t even your typical cutting edge older gentleman. For example, he was on Aol dial-up until sometime around 2013, and refuses to use a non-clamshell mobile phone. So his taking so quickly to using a tablet implies to me that the replacement of PCs by iPads and other tablets may be closer than Tom Warren of The Verge thinks, although still far off.

I don’t see my dad using an iPad Pro though because most of his use is on the couch as a second screen. I suspect that the second screen use case coupled with the price point will dampen iPad Pro sales outside of the geek and artist demographics.

Hackers Can Silently Control Siri From 16 Feet Away

Hackers Can Silently Control Siri From 16 Feet Away

Well this is concerning:

A pair of researchers at ANSSI, a French government agency devoted to information security, have shown that they can use radio waves to silently trigger voice commands on any Android phone or iPhone that has Google Now or Siri enabled, if it also has a pair of headphones with a microphone plugged into its jack. Their clever hack uses those headphones’ cord as an antenna, exploiting its wire to convert surreptitious electromagnetic waves into electrical signals that appear to the phone’s operating system to be audio coming from the user’s microphone. Without speaking a word, a hacker could use that radio attack to tell Siri or Google Now to make calls and send texts, dial the hacker’s number to turn the phone into an eavesdropping device, send the phone’s browser to a malware site, or send spam and phishing messages via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

You can disable Siri whenever your iOS device is locked by going to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Allow Access When Locked and toggling the Siri switch to the “off” (as in not green) position. This doesn’t guarantee a hack like the one deascribed above won’t work on your device, but it does guarantee you’ll see Siri doing something weird and can thus be alerted to the hackery.