Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
Hoss Sense, Court Delivered
When they throw good money after bad
This is a story about judges, common folk and gamblers; in a descending order of intellect. It’s about America; but we, too, have laws of similar ilk. So, rather than clamour about changing them, why not sit back and enjoy the fun? Illinois, Obama country, has a law on gambling, something that was frowned upon a long time ago. As with all legal fiction, a limit of $50 was imposed as the Laxmanrekha. To win over that amount meant that the winner had to return the balance to the loser. So, at any given time, no one, literally, lost his shirt.
Times change. ‘Online Everything’ is the world today. Gambling is big business on the Internet, though we have never met anyone who claims to have made a profit, virtual or otherwise, by banging away at a keyboard.
Two men, Sonnenberg and Farhner, went a-gambling on the Net. They lost money. They bet again. Lost more. Repeat show. Bottomless pit. And on it went. Gambling ‘fools’ do not stop. But they had ingenious mothers who knew the law. They sued the online gamer. “Take the $50 and give us the balance.”
You be the judge. Would you order the refund?
In law, there is, what is known as, equity. Not to be confused with equality. Common law, common sense, and equity make the judiciary greater, beyond the texts. America has a violent birth and it was guns and horses that made it what it is today. The old cowboys had a word for plain thinking. ‘Hoss-sense’. Fortunately, a lot of contemporary American judges display that. Richard Posner, about whom we have written before, is one such person who looks beyond the hidebound, to deliver path-breaking judgements.
Imagine the horse-racing tracks in Illinois. Punters would line up at the end of the day, claiming all but $50 of their daily horse-feed. The question, thankfully yet unanswered, would be, does the $50 rule apply? And to every race, or the day’s total?
To compound the court’s dilemma, the law allowed a third person to claim on behalf of the loser. In stepped mothers Sonnenberg and Farhner. To be sure, we, too, have such a provision, where a best friend can step into the shoes of a victim and approach the courts. A very helpful idea, especially when the victim is unable to seek the remedy himself.
The Illinois law, as it stands, states that anyone, “knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any [such] game.” It also punishes “any person who knowingly permits any premises or property owned or occupied by him or under his control to be used as a gambling place.” Shades of 1887. WOW.
More wow. The law states that if the gamblers could not claim within six months, their mothers could claim thrice the amount! There has to be some ‘logic in this madness’, but we will not tax our noggins on that right now. Suffice it to say that the courts owed one to the public, to set the conundrum straight.
More issues surfaced. Action could be brought against a ‘person’ who had won. But a gaming site was not a person. A person may induce another to gamble away his soul. A contraption, like a slot machine, cannot. A person-gambler takes away all. A site allows a gambler to put his cash in a kitty, takes its share and leaves the rest to some program.
Finally, in appeal, with the mothers crying for their sons, Justice Posner, for the three-judge bench, found for the respondents. The mothers’ (and the sons’) appeal was dismissed. Thank God!
Some laws seem crazy. About the best-in-class is one that says that a person cannot carry an ice-cream cone in his trouser pocket. One man did. With mod jeans, even a comb cannot slide in; but our victim had the space. As he turned around, a horse bit off the top of the cone and a bit of a bottom. “Hence,” as they say in legalese, “the law.” 
Remember Steve McQueen, in The Magnificent Seven, with his, “It looked like a good idea at the time?” 


What’s Really at Stake in the Apple Encryption Debate

The government has never been allowed to create a “backdoor” to encrypted devices. Now, it’s trying to force Apple to build one


The FBI's much-discussed request to Apple can seem innocuous: Help us extract six weeks of encrypted data from the locked iPhone of Syed Farook, an employee of San Bernardino's health department who spearheaded an attack that killed 14 people. Most people believe Apple should comply.


But the FBI is demanding a lot more than the data on a single phone. It has obtained a court order requiring Apple to build custom surveillance software for the FBI 2013 which computer security expert Dan Guido cleverly dubs an FBiOS.


Once that software exists, it is inevitable that other law enforcement agencies will approach Apple seeking to get it to use the FBiOS to unlock iPhones in other investigations. Already, Apple says it has received U.S. court orders, under the same legal authority, seeking to get it to unlock 12 other devices.


In effect, the FBI is asking for Apple to write software that will provide something the government has sought without success for more than a decade: A "backdoor" that cracks the increasingly sophisticated encryption on consumers' phones.


The government has previously attempted to create its own "golden key" that could unlock every device. That effort collapsed in the face of fierce objections across the political spectrum. Now, the government is pushing a private company 2013 Apple 2013 to create a key.


What's at stake in this clash of titans, therefore, is a much larger issue: How far should tech companies go to help the government conduct surveillance of their users.


The court has asked Apple to build special software that would disable the security on the device, and to install that software to the target iPhone as an update. Once the phone is updated with the new software, the FBI will be able to break into it.


Last year, a White House working group examined just this approach to creating a backdoor into encrypted devices 2013 which it described in typically dense bureaucratic language as "provider-enabled remote access to encrypted devices through current update procedures."


Translated into English, they were considering using the routine updates that every phone receives as a means for law enforcement to plant spyware that could track everything on the device, from whereabouts to text messages to all emails.


The panel saw a potentially fatal flaw in this approach, noting it "could call into question the trustworthiness of established software update channels."


This is no small thing: software updates are key to cybersecurity. Updates are issued regularly to patch the inevitable flaws that are discovered in today's complex software. Failing to install software updates leaves users' vulnerable to hackers. The lack of timely software updates, in fact, has forced the U.S. military to turn off certain features of its non-battlefield smartphones.


If Apple gives its stamp of approval to the FBiOS and the technique becomes common, phone users may start to wonder whether the updates they receive contain spyware.


In addition, Apple says the FBiOS would "be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals" hoping to obtain a copy of the golden key. The government counters that Apple can install the software on the device at Apple's physical premises. Apple will "retain control over it entirely," and is free to destroy it afterwards, the government states.


It's also not at all clear that the government will prevail in its court fight with Apple.


Albert Gidari, a leading surveillance lawyer who has represented Google and other companies and is now director of privacy at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society, argues that the government is over-reaching in its request. He points to a 1994 telecommunications law that says the government does not have the power to require companies to implement "any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features, or system configurations" for surveillance purposes.


The government argues that the 1994 law is irrelevant to its case, and instead is relying on a 1789 law, the All Writs Act, that gives courts "all writs necessary and appropriate" to conduct their business.


However, Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor and professor at George Washington University Law School, argues that the 1789 law may not support the government's position. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that the law did require a telephone company to help law enforcement set up surveillance equipment on certain lines, but that "the power of federal courts to impose duties upon third parties is not without limits; unreasonable burdens may not be imposed."


In a court filing, Apple argues that the government's request is "burdensome" and requires "involved engineering."


It is not a coincidence that the FBI has taken its battle to the courts. For the past two years, the FBI has been campaigning to win a so-called "backdoor" into encrypted devices. In 2014, FBI director James Comey called for a "regulatory or legislative fix" that would allow the agency to access devices with a court order.


But late last year, the Obama Administration decided not to pursue legislation.


With Congress out of the picture, the debate between tech and law enforcement will play out in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.


The FBI says that the debate is narrower than it has been portrayed. "The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve," FBI director Comey wrote in a blog post.


Microsoft founder Bill Gates told the Financial Times that he supports the FBI: "They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case."


But, several companies such as Google and Twitter 2013 which all could face similar surveillance requests 2013 have weighed in to support Apple.


"We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders," tweeted Google CEO Sundar Pichai, "But that's wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data."


ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.







Take Notes Easily with Keep
An easy-to-use app from Google
Those who want to take notes in Android are spoilt for options. ‘Keep’ is a very light note-keeper by Google. You can quickly make notes and access them from any of your devices. Keep is just so simple and easy to handle. Once you tap on Keep, you can make text notes, voice notes or photo notes or even turn your notes into a checklist by adding check boxes. You also have options to colour your notes, so that all notes for a particular group of tasks are colour-coded for easy access. When you are done with a note, you can just swipe it into an archive for future reference. The best part of this handy app is that you can use your notes from anywhere; they are safely stored on cloud and available on the web at http://drive.google.com/keep
Keep allows you to set reminders for notes, like: later today, tomorrow morning, or next week. You can also select the exact date and time for the reminder. An interesting feature is that you can set a reminder based on location. So, if you need to be reminded about a particular task when you reach office, you can easily set a location-based reminder and it will pop-up when you reach that location! This one is surely for keeps! 
Yazdi Tantra is a chartered accountant by training, computer consultant by profession, entrepreneur-developer by hobby and trainer in his leisure time. He is currently the vice-chairman of Zoroastrian Co-operative Bank Ltd and has been running a medium-sized computer company ON-LYNE for the past 24 years. 


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