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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

IRS chief: We'll rewrite our e-mail search policy

Still unclear is whether taxpayers' other private communications, including on Facebook and Twitter, will receive the same treatment.
The head of the Internal Revenue Service said today the agency would abandon its controversial policy that claimed the right to read taxpayers' e-mail without first obtaining a search warrant.
Steven Miller, the IRS' acting commissioner, said at a U.S. Senate hearing that the no-warrant-required policy would be ditched within 30 days for e-mail, but he did not make the same commitment for other private electronic communications.
"We intend to do that" for e-mail, Miller said, in response to prodding from Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has become a frequent champion of civil liberties in the electronic realm.
Internal IRS memos prepared by the agency's lawyers and disclosed last week said Americans enjoy "generally no privacy" in their e-mail, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and similar online communications. Until today's Senate hearing, the IRS had declined to answer questions about the memos.
"When will we actually get a public statement that the agency will not seek to obtain electronic communications without a warrant?" Wyden asked. "When would we get that actual public statement?"
Miller said that it was currently the agency's policy to obtain a "search warrant in advance" when conducting a criminal probe that required access to taxpayers' e-mail records. However, he told Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, that he didn't know whether that was the case for private communications exchanged through Facebook and Twitter.
One IRS 2009 Search Warrant Handbook obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union argues that "e-mails and other transmissions generally lose their reasonable expectation of privacy and thus their Fourth Amendment protection once they have been sent from an individual's computer." The handbook was prepared by the Office of Chief Counsel for the Criminal Tax Division and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The IRS continued to take the same position, the documents indicate, even after a federal appeals court ruled in the 2010 case U.S. v. Warshak that Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their e-mail. A few e-mail providers, including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook, but not all, have taken the position that Warshak mandates warrants for e-mail.
In response to prodding from Sen. Ron Wyden (left), acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller said the agency would change its written policies.
In response to prodding from Sen. Ron Wyden (left), acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller (right) said the agency would change its written policies.
(Credit: U.S. Senate)
Before the Warshak decision, the general rule since 1986 had been that police could obtain Americans' e-mail messages that were more than 180 days old with an administrative subpoena or what's known as a 2703(d) order, both of which lack a warrant's probable cause requirement.
The rule was adopted as part of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act in the era of telephone modems, BBSs, and UUCP links, long before gigabytes of e-mail stored in the cloud was ever envisioned. Since then, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Warshak, technology had changed dramatically: "People are now able to send sensitive and intimate information, instantaneously, to friends, family, and colleagues half a world away.... By obtaining access to someone's e-mail, government agents gain the ability to peer deeply into his activities."
A March 2011 update to the IRS manual, published four months after the Warshak decision, says that nothing has changed and that "investigators can obtain everything in an account except for unopened e-mail or voice mail stored with a provider for 180 days or less" without a warrant. An October 2011 memorandum (PDF) from IRS senior counsel William Spatz took a similar position.
The IRS' criminal investigation division boasts nearly 4,000 employees, about 2,600 of whom are special agents who investigate suspected tax criminals. Willfully attempting to conceal income from the IRS is a crime.
IRS statistics for the fiscal year that ended last month show that it secured nearly 2,000 indictments against Americans during that period, with an average prison term of 46 months.
Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, a congressionally created position, said during today's hearing that her office was not consulted when the IRS drafted its now-abandoned e-mail access policy.
"Regrettably that memo was not shared with me prior to it being made public -- nor was it circulated for my comments," Olson said. "It might have looked different if the voice of the taxpayer had an opportunity to comment on it."

Windows 8, take 2? Let's see Start button, boot to desktop

Microsoft may be moving toward bringing back the Start button and allowing users to boot straight to the desktop with its coming Windows 8.1 release later this year.

What if Microsoft relented and granted users who are lukewarm about Windows 8 two of their biggest requests: Allow those who want to boot straight to the desktop, and bring back the Start button with Windows Blue, a.k.a. Windows 8.1?
Though supposedly not part of the original plan for Blue, these two UI options are looking more likely.
Reports from a couple of different forums from this past weekend raised the possibility that Microsoft might be moving toward allowing users to skip booting into the Metro-Style Start menu and instead start their PCs in desktop mode. (Winbeta.org noted the thread about this on April 14.)
One of my sources confirmed this is now looking like the plan and added that Microsoft is also considering bringing back the Start button as an option with Windows Blue.
It's not 100 percent sure that either/both of these options will be baked into the final Blue release, which is expected to be released to manufacturing on or around August 2013. I guess we'll have a better indication once the next milestone build, a.k.a. the Blue Preview, leaks -- or when the public version of that preview goes live around June.
"Until it ships, anything can change," said my source, who requested anonymity.
Microsoft officials have publicly maintained that users are not confused by the new Windows 8 interface and that they find it "easy to start to learn," especially on touch screens. I, myself, have adapted to the new UI well on my touch-screen Surface RT, but like a number of business users, I find the new UI more of a curse on non-touch-screen machines. As a result, I am still runningWindows 7 on two of my three Windows devices.
If Microsoft does end up adding the Start Button and boot to desktop options to Blue, it won't be the first time in recent history that the Windows client team has gone back and changed the Windows UI based on user dissatisfaction. Remember how users balked over the way Windows Vista first implemented User Account Control (UAC), the "most hated feature" in a hated OS release? Microsoft ended up changing direction with UAC in Windows 7, based on beta tester outcry.
What do you think? Would adding these two user-requested options soften resistance toWindows 8, especially among Microsoft's much-needed business user camp? Or would this be too little, too late?

Google: 'Glassware' developers prohibited from displaying ads

Google releases its policies for third-party Google Glass developers. In the fine print: they can't display ads or charge for the software.
Google, which relies on advertising for some 95 percent of its revenue, doesn't want ads on its hotly anticipated Google Glass eyewear.
The blanket prohibition came in the fine print of a policy made public this evening, which says "Glassware" developers may not "serve or include any advertisements" and they "may not charge" users to download apps for the device.
Today's announcement, which coincided with news that Google Glass Explorer Edition prototypes were about to ship, indicates that the Mountain View company is proceeding carefully, even slowly, when allowing third-party developers access to the head mounted display's full capabilities. It also means that developers won't have an obvious way of making money from their apps.
"We know a lot of you are eager to learn more about it, and I have some great news," Google developer programs engineer Jenny Murphy wrote in a post on Google+ this evening. "Today we're releasing the API documentation and a bunch of example code, so even though the API is in a limited developer preview, you can start dreaming with us."
Google co-founder Sergey Brin introduces the Google Class Explorer edition during Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, last year.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin introduces the Google Class Explorer edition during Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, last year.

Google has taken a different approach than other platforms have, including Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, and even Android: instead of encouraging native code that tends to be faster and more flexible, that approach is not permitted. The new Google Mirror API suggests that the intelligence behind Glassware will, at least for now, reside on third party servers and communicate with the eyewear through encrypted links, much like Web apps do today.

 That should reduce the likelihood of crashes, malware, and unexpected battery drain from buggy software -- at the expense of limiting developers' ability to take full advantage of Glass. Voice input, for instance, is not currently accessible to developers. User interaction with Glassware is limited, and more advanced hardware features like real-time image recognition that would lead to augmented reality applications are also not accessible. (So much for the makers of Adblock Plus' jest about the Glassware they want to build.)
The documentation does say that Glassware will be able to share "photos taken by the built-in camera," display images, and with permission access the user's current location.
Google representatives did not immediately respond to queries from CNET about allowing advertising or creating a Glassware store.
It's possible, of course, that advertisements from third-party developers or Google itself will eventually appear on the eyewear. Project Glass lead Babak Parviz left open that possibility in an interview in the January issue of IEEE Spectrum. "At the moment, there are no plans for advertising on this device," he said.
Also released today are the tech specs for Google Glass: a 5 megapixel camera, a bone conduction transducer for audio, Bluetooth, WiFi, and 12 GB of usable memory.

5 Signs You’ll Get Cancer

“You have cancer” are three words you never want to hear . . . 

Unfortunately, over 5,000 people in North America do hear those words — every single day. Even worse, cancer has become the second leading cause of death for Americans.

America’s foremost holistic health practitioner, David Brownstein, M.D., has spent much of his medical career studying cancer, and learning the best ways to avoid becoming its victim. 

And Dr. Brownstein does not shy away from the hard truth. Statistics demonstrate we are not winning the war on cancer. Far from it. In fact, cancer death rates have remained nearly unchanged over the last 80 years. Plus, traditional cancer treatments have been a dismal failure, particularly when the initial cancer returns — often with a vengeance.

Because the only big winner in the cancer treatment story to date has been the cancer industry’s multibillion-dollar profits, Dr. Brownstein has just released a complimentary video documentary revealing some of his startling findings.

In this video, you’ll discover five specific signs that you will be diagnosed with cancer during your lifetime. 

More important, you’ll see:

• Seven simple but smart steps to prevent cancer from taking over your body . . .

• How to help your body naturally kill cancer cells . . .

• Easiest ways to avoid known cancer-causing factors . . .

• The little-known relationship between iodine and cancer . . .

• And much, much more . . .

According to Dr. Brownstein, nearly all of us have cancer cells in our bodies at various times during our lives. The trick is to avoid letting those cells multiply and overwhelm the body’s natural defenses.
The good news is that you and your loved ones do not need to become cancer victims. With the simple strategies revealed in Dr. Brownstein’s eye-opening video, you can take steps to prevent this deadly disease, or even reverse it.

Editor’s Note: This video is so crucial and groundbreaking, Newsmax Health pulled out all the stops to bring it directly to you at no charge. Click here to start watching this powerful video about preventing cancer immediately. With so many people dying needlessly, there’s no time to waste.

Apple to sell 75 million low-cost iPhones next year, says analyst

A low-cost iPhone could see unit sales of 75 million in 2014, projects Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
In an investors note released today, Munster said he expects Apple to sell a $300 non-subsidized iPhone starting in September. Such a device is likely to trigger a 30 percent cannibalization rate, which means that for every three low-cost iPhones sold, one full-price iPhone is cannibalized.
As such, Apple's share of the high-end smartphone market may dip to 37 percent next year from 43 percent last year. But its share of the low-end (under $400) market will rise to 11 percent in 2014 from nothing in 2012.
Nearer term, Munster is eyeing flat iPhone growth for the current quarter ending in June, down from his prior forecast of a 15 percent gain. That would mean unit sales for the iPhone of around 26 million. As a result, Apple's overall revenues for the quarter are expected to reach $35.1 billion, down from Munster's previous estimate of $37.6 billion.
Wall Street in general is more optimistic, eyeing around 33 million in iPhone sales this quarter and around $39.6 billion in total revenue.
Rumors have been flying lately that Apple will unveil a low-cost, non-subsidized iPhone this year geared toward developing markets such as China. Some of those rumors have been driven by Apple analysts.
BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk expects Apple to charge $300 for the phone and launch it by year's end. Piecyk believes Apple needs such a device to boost its earnings and market share. KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo thinks Apple will start rolling out the iPhone 5S and the lower-end model as soon as July.

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