TheHoot.org: What Sandberg and Modi didn't talk about

What Sandberg and Modi didn't talk about
Facebook's violation of privacy and ethics in its 'emotional contagion' research is causing a furore yet does not seem to have figured in Narendra Modi's talks with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.   The PM should have questioned her closely on behalf of India's millions of Facebook users, says GEETA SESHU. PIX: Screenshot of PNAS research
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Election Commission to scrap EVMs whose infallibility was questioned during Lok Sabha polls

Ritika Chopra, ET Bureau Jun 28, 2014, 04.00AM IST 

NEW DELHI: It's vanaprastha time for these old warhorses of Indian elections. And unlike some lush forest, the setting for this will probably be in a junkyard for electronics goods.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) could soon embark on a wholesale junking exercise in which up to 900,000 electronic voting machines, or EVMs, could be headed for the scrapyard in the next five years, after their supposed infallibility was questioned during the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls when some defective machines reportedly recorded all votes in favour of just one political party.

In early April, in the run-up to the final polling day in Assam, election officials stumbled upon a voting machine in Jorhat constituency which transferred all votes cast to the BJP candidate.

A similar incident was reported from a polling booth in Pune a few weeks later, when voters found their vote being cast in favour of the Congress party irrespective of the button pressed on the electronic voting machine.

Although the defective units were replaced immediately, media reports on the faulty machines had political parties and activists questioning the efficacy of EVMs in general.

An embarrassed EC has now decided to embark on a major revamp — the largest ever — of its EVM stock and abandon all 15-year-old voting machines and replace them with new ones before the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

According to senior EC officials, some 900,000 EVMs are set to complete 15 years of age before the year 2019.

"The commission has prepared a detailed plan to get rid of them and replace them with new ones over the next five years," said a senior EC official, who requested anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The proposal for the exercise, which could cost around Rs 1,000 crore, was sent to the Modi government last week. EVMs, which are now the backbone of elections, were first used across the country in the 2004 Lok Sabha election, making India even ahead of several developed countries where paper ballots are still the norm.

The use of EVMs in India started in 1981, but these were mostly done in the form of pilot programmes and were scaled up in subsequent elections. The adoption of EVMs accelerated from 2000-01 onwards and by 2004, EVMs were the norm.

In the 2014 general elections, the commission had deployed close to 16 lakh EVMs. Complaints regarding these machines, senior EC officials say, have surfaced recently and only in those EVMs which were procured in the year 2000-2001 at the cost of around Rs 10,000 per unit.

One of the machines' manufacturer, Hyderabad-based state-run Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, on EC's directive, found that the 2000-2001 batch machines were acting up because of a defective part.

"They offered to repair these machines, but the commission decided to not take chances and dispose them off. There are about 1-1.5 lakh EVMs from this batch and they will be destroyed first as soon as the law ministry (EC's parent body) approves the proposal," the official added.

FN P +91-832-2409490 M +91-9822122436 http://goa1556.in
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Arun Mehta | 27 Jun 14:28 2014

Indian language speech recognition on Android

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=appinventor.ai_arun_mehta.TellMyPhone is my free app for the deaf with low vision -- dare I say, our future too, should we live long enough?

Anyway, it uses Android speech recognition, made accessible to novices in programming by App Inventor, http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/ -- my video on the app https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BnM_VF16rSo&feature=youtu.be is 5 minutes long, yet shows not only how the app works and what it does, but also how I made it. So, those of you who learnt Basic once, do check out App Inventor. But my main purpose in posting this is different.

I discovered by accident, after the app was written, that it also recognized Hindi. It didn't do German or French, though. Google put out a press item about how well Voice did in recognizing Indian accents, which I can confirm.

What I'm wondering, is if the app is downloaded in Hungary or Japan, which languages it will recognize. Can't seem to find this information on the web.

Arun Mehta

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Jim Forster | 11 Jun 20:23 2014

Re: Out in the Open: This Super-Cheap Cellphone Network Brings Coverage Almost Anywhere | Enterprise | WIRED

(apologies if you're getting this twice; I got a bounce message from the list claiming I wasn't a subscriber..

Ram, all:

I know quite a bit about this, as I am an early Angel investor in Range Networks, am on the Board, and also active in a Biz Dev role.

I'm happy to explain more, answer questions, etc., either to the list or off-list.

I think it's very cool -- on the one hand OpenBTS takes as given the mobile phones of today via their Air interface (Um).  But after that it converts the calls and texts to Internet standard based protocol, SIP.  The RF is done using a software defined radio, with the software running on an x86 process (Intel Atom, or more usually Core i.7, or sometimes ARM).  OpenBTS is also open sourced -- not only the software, but even our first Software Defined Radio is Open Source.  You can send our CAD files to a manufacturer and get back radio cards.  

In theory it could run on any frequency (SDR), but in practice it runs in the cellular bands, so that normal phones will work.

Cell systems used to be obscure, mysterious and even intimidating.  Not any more.  It's just some software. 

  -- Jim

PS: At the risk of veering into a commercial message: we have nice little Dev Kits available for very little $$; and 50% discount for Universities.  The students can then examine every line of code, and change them if they want :-)

On Jun 9, 2014, at 9:20 PM, Ramnarayan.K <ramnarayan.k-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org> wrote:


For you kind info

Apologies for multiple cross posting
Sent from an android device

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Vickram Crishna | 31 May 10:13 2014

Cryptic moves


published 05/28/2014 17:05, from latimes.com
Following a break-in at a county health contractor's office that led to the theft of computers containing personal information about more than 342,000 patients, Los Angeles County supervisors moved to tighten protocols for protecting data.

From where I stand, it looks like the inevitable result of years, perhaps decades, of systematically weakening standards and enabling state conduct of mass surveillance, brought in its wake a fan club of criminals and quasi-criminals, and now personal data is fair game.

In India, of course, applying such protection in any functional manner invariably trips over one law or another, while the laws that support patient confidentiality do not seem to be used or are not effective when thefts are wholesale, and may not even require physical access, hence inverstigators conveniently fall back upon the two IT laws, Indian Telegraph and Information Technology.
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Vickram Crishna | 25 May 13:33 2014

India shows the way


The House passed a bill Thursday aimed at reforming the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records, a policy that came to light due to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, would shift responsibility for retaining telephonic metadata from the government to telephone companies. Providers like AT&T and Verizon would be required to maintain the records and let the NSA search them in terrorism investigations when the agency obtains a judicial order or in certain emergency situations. The bill passed on an 303 to 121 vote.
But privacy advocates, technology companies and lawmakers warned that the version of the bill passed by the House was watered down to the point where they could no longer support it.
"This is not the bill that was reported out of the judiciary bill unanimously," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee who was a co-sponsor of the initial version of the bill. "The result is a bill that will actually not end bulk collection, regrettably."
Lofgren said she was particularly concerned about the bill's definition of "selector terms," which are the terms that would be used by the NSA to define the scope of their data request to the phone companies.
The initial version of the bill included a more narrow definition, but some privacy advocates fear the definition in the Freedom Act passed Thursday could be used to collect broad swaths of information. 
"If we leave any ambiguity at all, we have learned that the intelligence community will drive a truck through that ambiguity," she said. Others, including Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) also expressed their concern with the legislation. Holt specifically attacked the bill for using a "weak and inferior standard that does not meet probable cause" as the benchmark for judicial orders to search phone records.
On Wednesday, the White House endorsed the bill. "The bill ensures our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the authorities they need to protect the Nation, while further ensuring that individuals’ privacy is appropriately protected when these authorities are employed," an official statement of policy read. "Among other provisions, the bill prohibits bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters."
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) was the primary sponsor of the bill and the author of the Patriot Act, legislation passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Section 215 of the Patriot Act was used as the legal basis of the NSA's phone records collection program. In a floor speech before the vote, Sensenbrenner said that the government misapplied that earlier legislation through a feat of "legal gymnastics."
"I don't blame people for losing trust in their government because the government betrayed their trust," he said.
Sensenbrenner urged his fellow members to support the bill, although he said wished the version of the bill voted on Thursday "did more."
"Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good," he said.
Others were more enthusiastic in their support. "This is a carefully crafted, bipartisan bill," Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said, adding that the bill "once again proves that American liberty and security are not mutually exclusive."
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, tried to assuage concerns about the selector term, calling them "largely theoretical."
"We stand poised to end domestic bulk collection across the board," Conyers said while endorsing the bill before the vote. While Conyers admitted that the bill was "imperfect" he called it "a significant improvement over the status quo."
But in a blog post, Kevin Bankston the policy director at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute identified a number of areas where he says the bill had been weakened, including limiting transparency reporting provisions for tech companies affected by government data requests and the selector term issue decried by Lofgren.
In a statement to The Washington Post after the bill's passage, Bankston said it was "still better than the Intelligence committee's competing bill, or no bill at all," but that privacy advocates would have to work hard in the Senate to reverse the changes that weakened the bill.
Julian Sanchez, a scholar at the Cato Institute working on these issues, says a lot will turn on how the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court interprets phrases like “specific selection term.”
"Unfortunately nobody has much expectation that anything better is coming to the floor anytime soon—and even the New Coke version of this bill is better than nothing, and certainly better than the House Intelligence bill."
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the USA Freedom Act requires telephone companies to maintain phone records for 18 months. The legislation does not contain such a requirement.

In India, as we know, recording metadata as well as some kinds of communications is the job of the telecom companies already, built right into their licenses. No fear of any law to prevent it, as the combination of the two IT Acts, the telegraph and the telecommunications, spanning 125 years of colonial thinking on command and control are quite effective on stripping us of most of the rights we might have thought a given. The media's reportage on this complex issue has not helped, although there has been some blowback from the social media itself, but that is deliberately considered 'unofficial' by all, including the media, which naturally fears it, and would rather stop it if it can't control and profit from it.

However, the call for a privacy law may not be as straightforward as it seems. All over the world, and as the above example shows, that includes the USA, the natural trend is to weaken such laws and ensure that government has the actual power over citizens, not quite the definition of democracy spelled out by Abraham Lincoln. Since we don't have one yet, the departments of various ministries (DoPT, in its 4th attempt to date, for instance) are working overtime (I don't mean that anyone actually works after hours, they hardly work during hours either) to draft out a law that will be acceptable to the State. In keeping with its provisions, the draft of the Privacy Law has not been made public, since acceptability to the people it affects is hardly a priority, although copies can be found now and then here and there. It definitely looks more professional now, from the first attempt, which involved physical cut and paste (involving paper and glue) from earlier documents.

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Arun Mehta | 6 May 05:12 2014

India suggesting renaming of Internet as ‘Equinet’ ?


even the AP regional IGF (August 3, Greater Noida) has as its theme "Internet to Equinet".

We really seem to have a lack of problems in this country, for the government to come up with such nonsense to keep its bureaucrats busy.

Arun Mehta

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Ramnarayan.K | 4 Apr 06:46 2014

Wireless Mesh Technology - FireChat ignites new way to communicate on phones


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A new mobile messaging application called FireChat is empowering nearby smartphone users to stay in touch even when there's no cellular service or Internet connection.

In just two weeks since its release on the iPhone, FireChat already has provided a flicker of hope for people pining for more effective, secure and affordable ways to communicate. That's because the free messaging app harnesses a technology called wireless mesh networking, which might someday allow a myriad of devices to connect like links in a chain.

The technique might someday be used to tie together thousands of devices with built-in radios and make it possible to be online without having to pay for the access. It could also enable online communications in remote areas or disaster zones without Wi-Fi or cellular signals. Furthermore, the conversations in these so-called "off-the-grid" networks can't be easily hacked into by spies and mischief makers or shut down by governments trying to stifle free speech.

"We trying to create networks built by the people for the people," said Micha Benoliel, CEO of Open Garden, maker of the FireChat app.

Open Garden, a San Francisco startup with just 10 employees, is taking another step toward its ambitious goal with Thursday's release of a FireChat app for Android phones.

FireChat could be an even hotter commodity on Android given the demographic differences between that platform's user base and the typical iPhone owner. The app already has been installed on more than 1 million iOS devices.

Many smartphones running on Google Inc.'s free Android software are cheaper than Apple Inc.'s iPhone. That has made Android phones the top-selling mobile devices in less affluent countries, including in regions where Internet access is inadequate or expensive.

Google is among the big Internet companies intrigued with mesh networking's potential to bring more of the world online.

Sundar Pichai, Google's executive in charge of Android, has touted mesh networks as a way to connect wearable computers, such as the company's Glass eyewear. Mesh networks also could be used to bring a wide variety of everyday appliances online, helping to build an Internet of things instead of just websites.

FireChat's reach so far is limited. When connecting off the grid, iPhone app users have only been able to send text and photos to other FireChat users within a range of 30 to 100 feet.

Later this year, Open Garden plans to upgrade FireChat's iPhone app so off-the-grid users will be able to hopscotch through a daisy chain of devices to extend the reach of a local network. If this works, a FireChat user sitting in the right-field bleachers of a baseball game would be able to text with a friend on the other side of the stadium if enough other iPhone users in the ballpark also are on FireChat.

This extended range will be available immediately on FireChat's Android app because Open Garden released a mesh networking app for that operating system nearly two years ago.

FireChat's iPhone app piggybacks on an often overlooked feature called the Multipeer Connectivity Framework that Apple Inc. included in its latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, released last September. Apple says more than 80 percent of people using its mobile devices rely on iOS 7.

For now, Android phones and iPhones with the FireChat app won't be able to engage in off-the-grid conversation. Open Garden, though, believes it will eventually be able to make mesh networking work on phones running on different operating systems.

As the mesh networking software improved, Benoliel realized Open Garden needed to come up with application to demonstrate what the technology could do. In that practical sense, FireChat is similar to the word processing and spreadsheet programs that Microsoft released decades ago to help broaden the appeal of its Windows operating system for personal computers, said Christophe Daligault, Open Garden's marketing chief.

FireChat's development was driven by the popularity of other mobile messaging apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp that enabled smartphone users to text and send pictures to their friends and family without having to pay smartphone carriers.

Like texts and photos sent on Snapchat, nothing transmitted through FireChat is saved. All content evaporates once the app is closed. FireChat also allows all its users to remain anonymous, another feature that is becoming popular on a variety of mobile messaging apps, such as Wickr and Rumr.

There still aren't enough people using FireChat to ensure users will find someone nearby to message. To pique people's interest in the app, FireChat offers an "everyone" option that allows users to enter a digital chat room with up to 80 other random users located in the same country. This option requires a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

Dailigault concedes FireChat's chat room isn't as high-minded as mesh networking.

"We are finding a lot of people are using it when they are just looking for something to do for a few minutes," Dailigault said. "Some of the discussions there are turning out to be more interesting than anything they can find on Facebook."

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Ramnarayan.K | 3 Apr 12:47 2014

EVM Fraud Detected

Am not sure what exactly to think about this. But If its true then the oncoming elections lose any sense of credibility and any sense that people do actually have a choice. 


An EVM that 'votes' only for BJP stuns poll staff in Assam

GUWAHATI: An electronic voting machine raised many eyebrows across the state during a mandatory mock poll in Jorhat on Tuesday. Every time a button was pressed, the vote went in favour of BJP. 

The Jorhat parliamentary constituency returning officer and deputy commissioner Vishal Vasant Solanki told TOI that all EVMs in his custody are being put through a second level of test by engineers of the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), one of the two companies from Hyderabad, which manufactures EVMs. 

This Jorhat Lok Sabha seat has Congress stalwart and former Union minister Bijoy Krishna Handique locking horns with BJP youth and tea tribal leader Kamakhya Tasa. This will be Handique's record seventh successive attempt for the Lok Sabha election. Jorhat goes to the polls on April 7. 

State chief electoral officer Vijyandra on Wednesday said, "An EVM in Jorhat was found malfunctioning yesterday. It is a defective machine and it was noticed when EVMs were readied in front of representatives of all political parties. We will not send the faulty unit to any polling station." 

An EVM consists of two units, a control unit and a balloting unit. Both unites are connected with cable. The balloting unit is a small box-like device, on top of which each candidate and his or her election symbol appears. The voter selects his candidate by pressing the blue button. 

The returning officer said, "These EVMs were here for long. Usually, EVMs are kept in the custody of the deputy commissioner and during elections they are taken to strong rooms." 

Congress lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of India on Wednesday and demanded thorough inspection of all EVMs in just not Jorhat, but the entire state. Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Ranjan Bora, who lodged the complaint with EC, said, "The mock poll was done at random and the EVM for Teok assembly constituency took everyone by surprise. When the hand symbol button was pressed for Congress, the vote was found to be recorded in favour of BJP." 

He said the incident has fuelled suspicion in their minds that EVMs may have been tampered with to favour a particular political party. 

Interestingly, after Congress got an overwhelming mandate in the 2011 assembly polls, Asom Gana Parishad had lodged a complaint against Congress accusing it of tinkering with EVMs. The Congress leadership had rejected this charge and pointed out that EVM results could not be manipulated. 

"EVM tampering could be possible in the Jorhat case," a senior Congress leader said.

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Vickram Crishna | 30 Mar 07:58 2014

Re: Fwd: Aadhaar & NPR: a corrupt surveillance tool, Rebuttal of Nilekani's blog

Sent this reply the other day, accidentally direct to Sarbajit instead of the list.

Actually, no. The petition was filed in the High Court here in Mumbai, and transferred to the Supreme Court on the request of UIDAI. And I didn't join it, I initiated it, together with four others from different walks of life, once the PSCoF report was ignored.

As experience has shown, the petitions were necessary, in order to bring about this interim stoppage. Perhaps interministerial dialogue might have brought a better result, it is hard to say. Certainly an NPR card, perhaps a smart card, perhaps a smart card option rather than a necessity, but one based on responsible identity verification rather than paternalistic identity generation, might be that better choice, perhaps it may not.

If it is a question of delivering cash subsidies to those who deserve them, based on leveraging digital networks, the premise itself is debatable, though not a subject for this list. Also questions of citizenship etc, relevant to the subject of cards and numbers, but again not for debate here. If the purpose is to enable the government to identify its citizens, whether we call it NPR or UID, it is critical to ask why this deserves the spending of public money.

None of these questions and doubts are adequately being addressed today, at any level.


Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

From: Sarbajit Roy <sroy.mb-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org>;
To: Vickram Crishna <v1clist-/E1597aS9LT10XsdtD+oqA@public.gmane.org>; india-gii <india-gii-v1sgj04l83nsrOwW+9ziJQ@public.gmane.org>;
Subject: Re: [india-gii] Fwd: Aadhaar & NPR: a corrupt surveillance tool, Rebuttal of Nilekani's blog
Sent: Thu, Mar 27, 2014 10:35:29 AM

I presume that sitting in Mumbai, you loaned your name to a
broad-based PIL filed by like-minded persons in Delhi. Once your docs
are filed in the court the matter is essentially out of your control.
The legal scene has changed dramatically in the last 10 years and
today 90% of case are not disposed of on merits but on other

I would suggest that you speak to the RGI/NPR guys (like I do), They
are bitterly opposed to UIDAI but unable to stop it because of lack of
public support and the huge clourt NN enjoys.

Had concerned people used their ADMINISTRATIVE remedies (instead of
rushing to courts) the NPR could have saved the day and the citizens
would have been a part of the process at every stage. There is
unfortunately a section of NGO-dom which encourages divisiveness in
Civil society - especially by encouraging people to go to court, and
dropping out after 3 or 4 hearings.


On 3/27/14, Vickram Crishna <v1clist-/E1597aS9LQ@public.gmane.org.uk> wrote:
> Having acknowledged which, this mango person does not intended to either
> stop at the first sign of victory, nor remain complacent about the outcome
> of a Court order.
> Sarbajit has been responsible for many of the discoveries about the
> mismanagement of the UIDAI project. Rightly or wrongly, he has not favoured
> using the judiciary to act in this matter, but the alternative is, IMHO,
> only parliament, and that body has failed to assert itself in the past four
> years. Even the flagrant disregard of the scathing Standing Committee report
> on the enabling Bill sought to be legislated to justify UIDAI had no
> reaction at all. For the information of list members, executive decisions
> (UIDAI was created via the Cabinet, not Parliament) must be legislated
> within a reasonable period. Since 2011, no Bill to enable the activities of
> UIDAI has been in parliament.
> The NPR displays every sign of being as ignorant of the Indian reality. It
> is the successor to the border identity card that Advani wanted,
> inexplicably assuming that the presence of a card is all that is necessary
> to overturn secessionist movements. Actually, when he made the suggestion, I
> remember hearing a joke after Kargil that the brave villagers would rush out
> and defeat any marauders, using their trusty cards, presumably the edges, to
> slash attackers.
> Anyway, the issues with NPR are not directly the concern of list members
> here, and I don't think we should spend time discussing it.
> ---
> Vickram
> communicall.wordpress.com
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Ramnarayan.K | 30 Mar 07:42 2014

Re: Connection issues through BSNL Broadband (DSL)

Dear Tarun

Thank you , reducing the MTU has done the trick. Issue is resolved and broadband is back on track.
On 29/03/2014, Tarun Dua <lists-w/I/dHsHQyvk1uMJSBkQmQ@public.gmane.org> wrote:
> Did you also try reducing the MTU

kind regards 
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