WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan group of senators took a first step Thursday to blocking a Justice Department proposal that they say would make it too easy for the government to hack into computers during investigations.
The proposal would change a rule of federal criminal procedure that generally permits judges to approve warrants for property searches only in the districts where they serve.
Justice Department officials say that requirement is not practical in complex computer crime cases where investigators don’t know the physical location of the device they want to search. In instances when cybercriminals operate on networks that conceal their identity and location, the government wants to ensure that any magistrate in a judicial district where a crime may have occurred can sign off on a search warrant that gives investigators remote access to the computer.
The Obama administration says that authority is equally critical in cases involving botnets, which are networks of computers infected with a virus that spill across those districts. As it now stands, federal officials say, they might have to apply for nearly identical warrants in 94 different courthouses to disrupt a botnet.
Technology companies including Google have aligned with civil liberties advocates in opposing the proposal, which they say raises important privacy concerns.
A group of senators on Thursday introduced legislation to block the proposal, which has cleared several administrative hurdles, including approval by the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Supreme Court. The change would take effect at the end of the year unless Congress rejects it.
The lawmakers, including Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., say the proposal would give the government broad new surveillance powers and allow access to potentially millions of computers on a single warrant. A House bill is expected, too.
“When the country is in the middle of one of the most heated presidential campaigns in a long time, the Justice Department is trying to maneuver a vast expansion of the government’s hacking authority,” Wyden said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Department officials insist the rule change would not give investigators any additional authorities to search and seize a computer, or change the government’s requirement to have probable cause to obtain a warrant. They say they simply want to ensure that courts can be asked to review search warrant applications in cases where investigators can’t locate the computer.
“This rule change would make clear that where the suspect has hidden the location of his computer using technological means, agents know which judge to go to apply for a warrant,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement.
The proposal would help, he said, in cases of online child sexual exploitation in which criminals upload videos while masking their location. The rule change would help investigators go to court to obtain a warrant to discover where they are located.
“One recent investigation of this sort rescued 38 children who were suffering ongoing sexual abuse,” Carr said.
But Wyden and other senators say the government is minimizing the impact that the rule change would have. He called the proposal an “enormous change from the current rule.”
“I don’t think the (Justice Department) should be able to just wave its arm and say this really isn’t doing anything new when in fact this is a major policy change that warrants the Congress’s participation,” he said.
Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The virtual reality company Oculus relies heavily on Facebook for security and shares information about its users with VR creators.
Those details were among the insights Oculus provided in response to Sen. Al Franken’s questions about consumers’ privacy when using Oculus’ VR systems.
Franken posted the response from the Facebook-owned company Thursday detailing how Oculus collects and stores user data.
Oculus’ head-mounted Rift system features a pair of high-definition screens that surrounded users’ visions with views of virtual worlds. The headset is worn on users’ heads and can detect movement, location and sound.
Oculus said collecting the physical movements of users is a necessary tool to deliver “a safe, comfortable and seamless VR experience.”
The company also said it relies on Facebook’s data centers and technical infrastructure to host its VR platform, as well as over 200 security professionals from Facebook to help keep the data secure.
“We believe VR has the power to change the world by enabling people to experience anything, anywhere, with anyone, and know that this will only be possible if we invest in the security of our community,” Jordan McCollum, Oculus’ general counsel, wrote in the letter dated May 13.
Oculus noted that it shares information with Facebook and aggregated data about users with VR developers but stopped short of indicating whether it has sold such information to third parties.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote an open letter to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe on April 7 asking for details about user data collected by the new VR system. He asked the company to respond by May 13.
Franken called Oculus’ response detailed and said he plans to continue working with the company to ensure that users know how data is being collected, used and shared.
The Oculus Rift began shipping to consumers March 28. It costs $599 and features a headset with a microphone and a pair of high-definition screens capable of broadcasting images when connected to a high-powered PC. The company has struggled to fulfill orders because of component shortages.
Samsung’s $100 Gear VR also utilizes the Oculus’ VR platform. Unlike the Rift, the mobile headset must work in tandem with a smartphone.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/derrik-j-lang .
PARIS (AP) — French authorities have tightened security at Paris airports since last year’s attacks in the city with thousands of border police officers, custom personnel, soldiers and private guards patrolling daily in the three airports serving the French capital.
In addition to thousands of police, army and customs members, some 5,000 security guards working for private contractors are assigned to the Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget airports, according to Paris Aeroport, the authority in charge.
These forces are responsible for ensuring security both in the airports’ public areas and in reserved areas, such as boarding areas, baggage sorting sections and tarmac areas where only passengers with boarding passes and airport staff with special red badges are allowed.
At the Charles-de-Gaulle airport, a few hours after learning a Paris-Cairo plane went missing approaching Egypt, Salama Kordeya, a 66-year-old business traveler, shrugged off questions about whether he was comfortable stepping on to the next EgyptAir flight to Cairo.
“Thousands of car accidents (happen every day) and we use cars,” he told journalists waiting outside departures. “I’m not afraid.”
Since the deadly attacks last year in Paris, several security-building measures have been put in place in the city’s airports.
In the terminals, the number of patrols has increased in public areas, video surveillance has been strengthened with 9,000 CCTV cameras overall, bags and coats have been subject to random checks at the entrances, police dog teams who can detect explosives are patrolling, and “profiling” agents trained to detect “unusual behaviors” have been recruited.
Earlier this month, Christophe Blondel-Deblangy, an official with the special State representative in charge of the security at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport, said a “specific intelligence cell” made up of some 30 police, army and custom officers, will be assigned to CDG airport on a daily basis, starting next month
In Charles-de-Gaulle airport alone — the second biggest in Europe and the ninth in the world for passenger traffic — some 86,000 of the 100,000 airport staff — baggage handlers, airline boarding staff, duty free shop employees, maintenance workers, restaurant staff, firefighters, rescue workers, air traffic controllers — carry “red badges” that provide access to restricted areas of the airports. These badges are given for three years by local authorities, not by the airports, after several police investigations.
Last December, after the deadly Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the head of the Paris Aeroport authority, Augustin de Romanet, said that nearly 70 red badges had been withdrawn “for the phenomenon of radicalization,” and 4,000 lockers of personnel were searched.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the U.S., all luggage going in the hold is controlled, particularly to detect explosives, with the help of more than 150 specialized machines, the authority said. The Paris airports have 250 checkpoints with X-ray screening to check all the passengers, luggage, airport staff, goods and vehicles entering the restricted areas.
Elaine Ganley in Paris and Raphael Satter in Roissy contributed to this report.
TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized before the Canadian Parliament for a third time Thursday, saying he expects better behavior of himself after elbowing a female lawmaker in the chest and grabbing another lawmaker.
Trudeau, 44, said he should not have made physical contact with the one lawmaker and said he accidentally bumped into the female lawmaker.
“I made a mistake. I regret it and I’m looking to make amends,” Trudeau said. “I expect better behavior of myself.”
Opposition lawmaker Ruth Ellen Brosseau said she had to leave the House of Commons chamber after being elbowed.
TV footage shows Trudeau hurriedly wading into a clutch of lawmakers who were blocking a lawmaker from getting to his seat as Trudeau’s Liberals tried to get a vote in on time.
The video shows Trudeau pulling the lawmaker in order to get a vote started on limiting debate on the government’s euthanasia legislation. As Trudeau turned around to pull the lawmaker, Brosseau can be seen grimacing in pain. Lawmakers said the prime minister used an expletive.
The kerfuffle comes as a blow to Trudeau’s image as a modern, feminist leader who has talked about bringing “sunny ways” to politics and threatens to end his honeymoon after October’s election.
He apologized before Parliament twice on Wednesday and again Thursday.
“I ask Canadians’ understanding and forgiveness,” Trudeau said.
Geoff Regan, the House of Commons speaker and a member of Trudeau’s Liberal party, admonished him on Wednesday, saying “it is not appropriate to manhandle other members.”
The Speaker concluded that Brosseau’s privileges as a member of Parliament had been breached, which means the encounter will be examined by an all-party committee. Trudeau said he is fully prepared to accept its decision.
Physical contact between lawmakers is rare in legislatures in Canada. Still, the incident reminded Canadians of when late former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford barreled over a 63-year-old female city councilor while rushing to defend his brother, Councilor Doug Ford, who was insulting spectators in the council chamber.
“His behavior was unbecoming for the office of the prime minister,” interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose told Parliament on Thursday. “It was unsettling for all of us.”
The incident has already impacted the government’s agenda and could delay the passing of the euthanasia bill. Trudeau’s government backed down on a controversial motion that would have taken away some of the procedural tools opposition members use to delay the government, including on the euthanasia bill. Ambrose called it a “great start.” Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc said they still hope to pass the euthanasia bill before a Supreme Court deadline of June 6.
Conservative lawmaker Peter Kent went so far as to suggest that Trudeau’s actions were in contempt of Parliament. Conservative Candice Marie Bergen said Trudeau, a one-time boxer and bar bouncer, has to deal with his “anger issues and his temper and his entitlement” and noted he previously stuck out his tongue in a childish manner at the opposition.
Opposition New Democrat lawmaker Dan Davies, a former labor lawyer, said there’s not a workplace in Canada where an employee would be allowed to be physically moved along by their boss.
“While an apology is absolutely essential, that is not sufficient,” Davies said.
Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, said the incident is getting a lot of attention and “tarnishes Trudeau’s image.”
“Trudeau appeared compulsive and not prime ministerial, although I thought much of what the opposition was saying and doing did not put them in a positive light,” Wiseman said
Not everyone was so concerned about Trudeau’s move.
Toronto resident Nisha Shirali said she chuckled to herself when she saw the news.
“I think it’s hilarious that this issue is actually news here in Canada! The elbowing was obviously accidental and has been blown way out of proportion.”
Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — In a story May 18 about the suspension of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Wisconsin, The Associated Press reported erroneously that university documents did not say how a fraternity member was disciplined by the fraternity for an alleged assault of a black member. According to the documents, the member was suspended for the next three social events, was required to serve as a sober monitor for the three events after that, and was barred from a December formal.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Wisconsin SAE chapter suspended over racist, bigoted slurs
The University of Wisconsin has suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at its flagship campus after finding that members of the fraternity repeatedly used racist and bigoted slurs and ostracized a black member who tried to stop it
By BRYNA GODAR
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin has suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at its flagship campus after finding that members of the fraternity repeatedly used racist and bigoted slurs and ostracized a black member who tried to stop it.
The suspension handed down Tuesday by the school’s Committee on Student Organizations comes a year after the fraternity’s University of Oklahoma chapter was disbanded after video emerged showing members engaging in a racist chant.
Under the Wisconsin suspension, the chapter cannot participate in any Greek activities until Nov. 1 and can’t recruit new members this fall. Members also have to undergo diversity and mental health training before the chapter can be reinstated. The chapter had already been on probation for an unrelated incident of underage drinking.
The Wisconsin incidents allegedly occurred from the fall of 2014 until February of this year and were reported by a black member of the fraternity, according to university documents.
That student, who wasn’t named in the report and who was listed as an active member as of its March filing, said fellow members regularly used racist, anti-gay and anti-Semitic language. He said a particular anti-black slur was often used, including in March 2015 when a fraternity member ran down a main commercial street near campus yelling it. School officials said that student was kicked out of the fraternity.
The reporting student also accused a fellow fraternity member of assaulting him, and school officials said that member was disciplined by the fraternity as a result. According to the documents, the member was suspended for the next three social events, was required to serve as a sober monitor for the three events after that, and was barred from a December formal.
After video was posted online last year showing the Oklahoma SAE members engaging in a racist chant on a bus, the fraternity’s Evanston, Illinois-based national leadership made several changes. In addition to disbanding the Oklahoma chapter, it hired a director of diversity and inclusion, said it was reviewing all 237 of its chapters for racially offensive behavior and required all of its members to complete online diversity training.
In February, SAE’s leadership said members at five other chapters acknowledged having heard the racist chant over the past five years.
In a letter sent Tuesday to SAE’s executive director, Blaine Ayers, about the decision to suspend the Madison chapter, school Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote that she understands the organization has tried to address these issues, but that they clearly persist.
“It suggests that your efforts to address an intolerant and discriminatory culture have not been effective,” Blank wrote. “The conduct in this situation must not be repeated.”
Blank wrote she would like Ayers and the chapter president to meet with her before the suspension is lifted to explain how the organization will bring about lasting change.
In a statement, SAE spokesman Brandon Weghorst said the fraternity’s national leadership has been investigating the allegations regarding the Madison chapter. He apologized for the actions of “former members” and said the chapter’s leaders imposed sanctions in response to the behavior.
In a follow-up email, he said he didn’t have more information about former members. He also didn’t specify how many members have been kicked out due the incidents that led to the chapter’s suspension.
Weghorst disputed Blank’s assertion that SAE has an inability to address discrimination.
“In fact, the fraternity has enacted a large number of initiatives in the past year to combat intolerance, discrimination or morally unacceptable behavior,” the statement said. “We view our relationship with colleges and universities as a partnership.”
The national fraternity began collecting racial and ethnic data in 2013. Ayers reported in 2015 that about 3 percent of the fraternity’s reporting members identified as African-American and about 20 percent identified as non-white.
Follow Bryna Godar on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bgodar
NEW YORK (AP) — Upcoming virtual-reality headsets based on Google’s new Daydream VR system could give more people a taste of VR and make better games and applications affordable.
But there are hurdles, including a need to buy a new Android phone — no iPhones.
On Thursday, Google offered more details on its plans to develop a range of VR headsets that promise to be more comfortable and durable than its ultra-cheap Cardboard headset. Google will make one and share design guidelines with other manufacturers.
There will also be a wireless motion controller — functioning like a fishing rod, a steering wheel or a pointer — to permit more-sophisticated VR experiences.
Sophisticated systems such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are expensive, limiting their appeal to gamers and other tech enthusiasts. Alternatively, cheaper VR headsets that tap the power of smartphones are typically tied to one manufacturer’s phones, such as Samsung’s or LG’s.
Daydream headsets will work with a range of phone brands. Gartner analyst Brian Blau says he believes the Daydream-powered devices could prove to be a “thorn in the side” of both Samsung and Oculus, which teamed up to make a similar VR headset , called Gear VR, late last year.
Here’s a look at challenges that come with the opportunities:
YOU MUST BUY A NEW PHONE
You’ll need a higher-end phone running the upcoming “N” version of Android. Existing phones won’t have the right hardware, and cheaper “N” phones won’t either, so you might have to spend a few hundred dollars more for a top-of-the-line model.
Google says at least eight manufacturers, including Samsung, HTC, and Huawei, will make compatible phones this fall. It’s a matter of adding sensors and good-enough screens, among other things.
Because these phones don’t exist yet, Daydream will need time to grow, says Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.
Furthermore, Daydream won’t work with Apple’s iPhones, whereas Google Cardboard headsets do.
CHEAPER, BUT NOT CHEAPEST
Though no price was announced, the Daydream headsets will be more expensive than Cardboard, likely in the ballpark of Samsung’s $100 Gear VR. By contrast, Google sells Cardboard for as little as $15, and many brands, including The New York Times, give them away as part of promotions. The price difference gives you better materials — not cardboard — and a strap to keep your hands free.
Still, the new headsets will be much cheaper than high-end VR systems like the Rift and the Vive. Those cost several hundred dollars, not including a powerful personal computer with fast-enough graphics.
IT’S NOT FULL VR
Higher-end systems offer more, including full position tracking on the Vive. As you walk around a room, images on the headset change to reflect your new perspective.
Smartphone-based VR is more like a 360-degree movie in 3-D. You’re meant to watch it sitting down at the same spot. Moving around won’t change the perspective.
It’s the difference between climbing Mount Everest by gripping virtual ladders, or watching someone with a 360-degree camera do it.
Where Google’s system advances over other smartphone headsets is in its motion controller. Cardboard and Gear VR don’t offer much control beyond pushing a button on the headset as you move your head. Google’s controller will be able to sense motion, so you can swing it like a tennis racket when playing a tennis game in VR.
THE COMPATIBILITY QUESTION
The introduction of yet another VR system might create more confusion and persuade some people to wait. After all, no one wants to be stuck with VR’s equivalent of Betamax video recorders after the world has moved to VHS.
On the other hand, these headsets are cheap enough that consumers aren’t taking a huge financial risk, certainly nothing near what it takes to commit to a Rift, Vive or Sony’s upcoming PlayStation VR, says Ian Fogg, head of the mobile analyst group at IHS.
And while some people might be buying VR games and apps that won’t work with a future, competing system, Fogg says these are cheap, too — priced like a phone app, along the lines of a few dollars.
BETTER APPS, BUT NOT THE BEST
Once Google’s devices are in the hands — and heads — of consumers, there will be more incentive for companies, educators and individuals to create VR apps. Google says leading brands like Netflix, HBO, The Wall Street Journal and game maker Electronic Arts have committed to Daydream. More apps and video could encourage even more people to buy headsets.
And the motion controller could lead to better VR experiences, ones where you do more than sit and swivel in a chair to look behind you.
But you’ll need something far more sophisticated to unlock the true power of VR.
“You miss out on rich graphics, the fully immersive audio and the fully simulated environment,” says Jason Paul, general manager for the VR business for Nvidia, which makes chips powering the graphics behind the Rift and the Vive.
But Paul is supportive of mobile headsets, given that casual users aren’t likely to experience a sophisticated VR device.
“Each has their value,” he says. “We can use the mobile platform to get the word out.”