Bitcoin miner Milly Bitcoin has done a little citizen letter-writing, and the results should make virtual currency miners breathe a sigh of relief. Milly Bitcoin's mining company Atlantic City Bitcoin last June wrote to the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) requesting an official administrative ruling on whether ACB must register as a money transfer service. FinCEN has now replied, and the answer is no.
The White House has released a lengthy report written by a five-member panel recommending sweeping reforms of the NSA. Included among the 46 recommendations by the "Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies" is one to delete all bulk telephone metadata on Americans from the NSA's servers. The panel also suggested that the data should be allowed to be stored by the private telecoms for a capped length of time -- five years in most cases -- accessible by the NSA only through court order or other official third-party permission.
A veritable pantheon of top-ranking emissaries from some of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the United States descended on the White House today to press the Obama administration to move aggressively on reforming the NSA's nearly universal surveillance of US citizens and the world. Their message was clear: Stop the spy agency from forcibly or stealthily seizing and storing bulk data about their customers. The message comes during an ongoing firestorm of public opposition to the agency's bulk data collection programs, ignited and continually stoked by the revelation of Edward Snowden's cache of an estimated 1.7 million stolen NSA documents detailing its ongoing quest for data omniscience.
Patent reform could well be on its way. Last week the US House passed the "Innovation Act", a bill that would make it harder to win overly broad patents and force claimants to present more detailed evidence when suing for infringement. That bill awaits the Senate. This week, it was revealed that former Google top patent lawyer Michelle Lee is to lead the US Patent and Trademark Office starting in about a month.
The Boston Police Department has suspended their use of license plate scanners for now. It seems the optical character recognition technology was working just fine, but the department wasn't following up on all of the hot crime fighting leads the technology was generating. The scanners collected about four million plate IDs a year, prompting onlookers to ask whether the inherent privacy issues were outweighed by the law enforcement benefits.
The major US telecoms delivered at minimum 1.1 million cell phone records to law enforcement at all levels of government in 2012. The records include voicemail and text content. The telecoms earned $26 million from the transactions. Many of the fulfilled information requests legally required no warrant, no subpoena, and no probable cause. These and other irresistible revelations come compliments of US Sen. Edward Markey, whose voluminous correspondence with the involved telecoms revealed the information. They include US Cellular, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, Leap Wireless/Cricket Communications, MetroPCS, Verizon, AT&T and C Spire Wireless.
The FBI has been using malware as a means to hunt down certain suspects, as exemplified in the case of a man who has been making bomb threats since June 2012, reports the Washington Post. Some of the malware was a surveillance program planted onto the suspect's computer when he signed into his Yahoo account, but the malware didn't work. The suspect, Mohammed Arian Far -- "Mo" for short -- has not yet been apprehended, though the FBI continues its high-tech search tactics of Mo and others.
The National Football League and Major League Baseball have filed a petition with the US Supreme Court arguing that antenna-streaming service Aereo violates copyright law and should be stopped by legal injunction. The petition is an amicus ("friend-of-the-court") brief in support of the four major TV broadcasters, whose most recent of many failures to stop Aereo occurred in a New Court Court of Appeals suit. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case sometime in 2014.