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Another court tells police: Want to use a stingray? Get a warrant

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled[3] that the warrantless use of a cell-site simulator violated the Constitution when a man suspected of sexual assault and robbery was located by local police.

In a 2-1 opinion issued Thursday, the DC Court of Appeals—effectively the equivalent of a state supreme court—agreed with the lower court’s ruling that the use of the device, also known as a stingray, was unconstitutional. In addition, however, the judges went further: they found that the violation was so egregious that any evidence derived from the stingray should be excluded from the case, which overturned the conviction.

The case, Prince Jones v. United States, joins a recent string of judgements from around the country that concluded that stingrays are a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. That means they require a warrant, barring exigent circumstances or other known exceptions.

“A person’s awareness that the government can locate and track him or her using his or her cellphone likewise should not be sufficient to negate the person’s otherwise legitimate expectation of privacy,” the majority concluded[4] in the Thursday ruling.

As Ars has long reported, stingrays[5] can be used to determine a mobile phone’s location by spoofing a cell tower. In some cases, stingrays can also intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone[6] along with information from other phones within the vicinity. At times, police have falsely claimed[7] the use of a confidential informant when they have actually deployed these particularly sweeping and intrusive surveillance tools.

Last month, a federal judge in Oakland, California, reached the same conclusion[8] as the DC court. However, in that case, US v. Ellis, US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton found that there was exigency, which is the notion in American criminal procedure that law enforcement can search or seize persons or things if there are imminent circumstances where bodily harm or injury is in process, evidence is being destroyed, or a suspect is in flight. In such situations, warrants aren’t required.

In July 2016, a federal judge in New York ruled along similar lines as the DC Court of Appeals in a case known as United States v. Lambis.

“Absent a search warrant, the Government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device,” US District Judge William Pauley wrote[9] in that case.

ACLU attorney Nate Wessler, who argued as an amicus (friend of the court) on behalf of Jones, applauded the ruling. In an statement e-mailed to Ars, he wrote:

This opinion joins the growing chorus of courts holding that the Fourth Amendment protects against warrantless use of invasive, covert technology to track people’s phones,” he e-mailed in a statement sent to Ars. “The court’s recognition that constitutional protections must keep pace with advancing technology is an important reminder of what is at stake as the Supreme Court takes up the issue of police requests for historical cell phone location data.

References

  1. ^ Enlarge (cdn.arstechnica.net)
  2. ^ Elvert Barnes (www.flickr.com)
  3. ^ ruled (www.documentcloud.org)
  4. ^ concluded (www.documentcloud.org)
  5. ^ stingrays (arstechnica.com)
  6. ^ intercept data from a target phone (arstechnica.com)
  7. ^ falsely claimed (arstechnica.com)
  8. ^ reached the same conclusion (arstechnica.com)
  9. ^ wrote (www.documentcloud.org)
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Judge overturns local law that effectively banned drones over small town

A federal judge in Massachusetts has struck down[3] four key portions of a 2016 municipal ordinance in Newton, a Boston suburb which effectively banned drones.

The lawsuit, which was filed in January 2017 by a local doctor[4], involves a question that has yet to be fully resolved in the age of increasingly pervasive and inexpensive drones: how much can localities restrict them?

The Newton[5] law, which was passed in December 2016, among other provisions, specifically bans drone flights over private property at or below 400 feet without the property owner’s permission. The law also requires that all drones be registered with the city and that drones not overfly schools, city property, or sporting events without specific permission.

In a Thursday court order, US District Judge William Young concluded[6] that these particular parts of the law went too far. He allowed the other sections of the law to stand and noted to city officials that they could re-draft it to accommodate federal law.

The judge wrote:

Newton’s choice to restrict any drone use below this altitude thus works to eliminate any drone use in the confines of the city, absent prior permission… This thwarts not only the FAA’s objectives, but also those of Congress for the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace. Although Congress and the FAA may have contemplated co-regulation of drones to a certain extent, see 81 Fed. Reg. 42063 § (III)(K)(6), this hardly permits an interpretation that essentially constitutes a wholesale ban on drone use in Newton.

Judge Young allowed other unchallenged sections of the ordinance that had to do with privacy, noise, and safety to remain in force.

As Ars reported[7] earlier this year, other cities have already tried to restrict how and where drones can fly. Over a year ago, lawmakers in West Hollywood, California, voted to regulate drone flights[8] after one crashed into a power line.

Last year, a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures noted[9] that in Nevada, property owners now have the right to sue for trespass for any drone operator who flies at a height of less than 250 feet over their property if the owner has warned the pilot once before. Similarly, a law in Oregon also allows for civil suits, but the height requirement is less than 400 feet. Ars is not aware of any civil complaints that have been filed in those states as a result.

Amanda Essex of the NCSL told Ars that at least seven states—Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia—have passed laws that forbid municipalities in those states from regulating drones.

For his part, the Newton doctor, Michael Singer, told Ars that he was pleased with the ruling.

“The Newton ordinance would have outlawed life-saving technology that may soon be available to our community,” he e-mailed, citing this June 2017 press release[10] from Sweden.

Attorneys for Newton did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

References

  1. ^ Enlarge (cdn.arstechnica.net)
  2. ^ Andrew Turner (www.flickr.com)
  3. ^ struck down (www.documentcloud.org)
  4. ^ which was filed in January 2017 by a local doctor (arstechnica.com)
  5. ^ The Newton (www.documentcloud.org)
  6. ^ concluded (www.documentcloud.org)
  7. ^ reported (arstechnica.com)
  8. ^ voted to regulate drone flights (arstechnica.com)
  9. ^ noted (www.documentcloud.org)
  10. ^ press release (media.jamanetwork.com)
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Joomla patches eight-year-old critical CMS bug

RIPS
Joomla has patched a critical bug which could be used to steal account information and fully compromise website domains.
This week, the content management system (CMS) provider issued a security advisory[1] detailing the flaw, which is found in th…

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There's no apocalypse Saturday, but there is reason to worry

Don’t scrap your weekend plans on account of this warning.


NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

The latest end-of-the-world prophecies tell us that our doom gets underway this Saturday, Sept. 23[1]. Almost everything about these predictions is wrong and at the same time, not far off from a very real threat.

YouTube[2] is filled with videos explaining why the end of the world begins this week, citing some combination of numerology, Biblical interpretations and the hidden planet Nibiru[3], which is somehow supposed to appear Saturday on a collision course with Earth.

Luckily, there’s no credible evidence that such a rogue world exists (a fact NASA has attested[4] to) anywhere near the inner solar system (although there might be one way, way out at the edge of the solar system[5]), and physics as we understand it says one won’t suddenly spring into existence to kick off the weekend.

If you want to go down the online rabbit hole of Nibiru (also known as “Planet X”) lore, feel free: There’s probably enough material to keep you occupied until the real end of the world, especially since it’s become a fake news staple[6] in recent years. 

Just keep in mind that the fictional planet and its related conspiracy theories and doomsday predictions have been kicking around for decades[7] without ever panning out. In case you haven’t heard, Nibiru did not destroy Earth in 2003 as was foretold, or in 2012, or earlier this year when it supposedly flung a comet at us[8] (and missed by quite a distance). 

The real threat

A very real threat to our existence is not far off from the Nibiru scenario; it’s just a lot smaller. The collision that wiped out the dinosaurs[10] and nearly brought life on Earth to a halt in the cretaceous period involved what’s sometimes referred to as a minor planet, aka an asteroid a few miles wide.

And there’s no reason it can’t happen again. 

The meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013[11] wasn’t seen until it was blowing out thousands of windows. In fact, smaller asteroids like that are often discovered after they’ve already buzzed just above our planet[12].

Scientists believe there are about a million asteroids in our solar system that could level a city but only about 1 percent have been discovered. Initiatives like Asteroid Day[13] and NASA’s proposed NEOcam[14] are just a few of the projects hoping to use technology to improve that ratio.

Crowd Control[15]: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

Solving for XX[16]The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”

References

  1. ^ our doom gets underway this Saturday, Sept. 23 (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
  2. ^ YouTube (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ hidden planet Nibiru (en.wikipedia.org)
  4. ^ NASA has attested (www.nasa.gov)
  5. ^ way, way out at the edge of the solar system (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ fake news staple (www.cnet.com)
  7. ^ kicking around for decades (en.wikipedia.org)
  8. ^ supposedly flung a comet at us (www.cnet.com)
  9. ^ 15 Gear you need to weather the apocalypse (pictures) (www.cnet.com)
  10. ^ collision that wiped out the dinosaurs (www.cnet.com)
  11. ^ meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013 (www.cnet.com)
  12. ^ discovered after they’ve already buzzed just above our planet (www.cnet.com)
  13. ^ Asteroid Day (asteroidday.org)
  14. ^ NASA’s proposed NEOcam (en.wikipedia.org)
  15. ^ Crowd Control (www.cnet.com)
  16. ^ Solving for XX (www.cnet.com)
  17. ^ Tags (www.cnet.com)
  18. ^ Sci-Tech (www.cnet.com)
  19. ^ NASA (www.cnet.com)
  20. ^ Space (www.cnet.com)
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We Trained With Goku and Rode a Gundam in VR

I needed a senzu bean.

By Miranda Sanchez[1]

With every event I attend or arcade I wander into in Tokyo, I’m reminded that Japan truly does get some of the best stuff. That certainly applies to Bandai Namco’s virtual reality arcade, VR Zone Shinjuku.

It’s a cool, dark space with 14 activities – they’re not all necessarily video games. Using the HTC Vive and a handful of other peripherals, each attraction offers to immerse players in new experiences. The rock climbing wall and terrifyingly high drop onto a slide and into a ball pit omitted the headset. We didn’t have much time at VR Zone, though, so my team stuck with the licensed anime experiences. Though these were all in Japanese I did receive English instructions.

Side note: If you happen to have a short skirt or dress, the VR Zone team will kindly provide you with a blanket or longer skirt if you’re at an attraction that requires you to sit or squat. VR Zone has excellent service.

Dragon Ball VR Master the Kamehameha

Dragon Ball[2] VR Master the Kamehameha is a fun glimpse at what’s it’s like to exist in the Dragon Ball universe, though the VR equipment is a little lacking when it comes to precision in combat. Aiming my ki blasts with the Vive controller that was strapped to my hands was difficult, though directing a Kamehameha felt better. Dragon Ball VR uses your whole body with sensors on your head, hands, waist, and feet, so it requires total immersion to completely work. Attendants taught us how to perform a proper Kamehameha before jumping in the game.

To perform a Kamehameha, you actually need to be in the proper stance (and power level) to do it; after charging up, I put my right foot back, did a little bit of a squat, and threw my right hands to my right side. After charging up, you throw it. The coolest thing was, while all this was going on, the floor shook and air blew from the ground. For a few seconds I felt like I was really doing something neat.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Goku likes me very much. After teaching me how to perform rapid-fire ki blasts, which involved me vigorously punching the air, and learning how to semi-effectively Kamehameha, I was tasked with fighting the three other students in the simulation. Not understanding what I was supposed to do, I tried to fight Goku instead. He yelled at me until the game ended. Sorry, Goku!

Evangelion VR The Throne of Souls

Piloting an Evangelion required a lot less gear than what was needed to train with Goku. It was also the most fun of the available anime VR experiences (certainly because it was the closest thing to a game). I sat in a seat that was very reminiscent of an Evangelion’s cockpit before actually being submerged in the entry plug’s LCL once the Vive was on. As a temporary Evangelion pilot, I was tasked with saving the world from an incoming Angel with two other pilots.

Since Shinji couldn’t be bothered to get in his robot, my fight against the 10th Angel began with only one other pilot. In Throne of Souls, piloting the Eva means moving around a battlefield, avoiding the Angel’s attacks, and collecting and emptying various rounds of weapons into the Angel as fast as possible. Throne of Souls has a time limit, which meant I needed to find my bearings quickly.

Walking around a nearly destroyed Tokyo-3 was neat, especially since I was accidentally causing some of that destruction as I crashed into buildings. Piloting my Eva was simple, but dodging the 10th Angel’s beams meant I didn’t have time to care about my surroundings. With only two Evas on the field, we weren’t able to complete our mission. There’s still a reward in that, too. Spoilers: if you fail, you get eaten by the Angel, and it’s awesome.

Gundam VR Daiba Assault

This activity was by far the most… experiential. There’s no game aspect to Gundam VR Daiba Assault; all I did was walk forward and sit on a Gundam’s hand. Even though it’s simple, it was mostly neat. Gundam VR transports you to the recently torn down RX-78-2 Gundam in Odaiba. Having visited it before it was replaced with the new Unicorn Gundam, seeing it stand in front of the huge mall in Odaiba again warmed my heart. After admiring it for a few seconds, a Zeon Zaku unit attacks.

The attack takes a little longer than it should. It fires left, right, and above me at the Gundam until the Gundam lowers its hand. At that point I was guided by an attendant toward a cushioned seat vaguely modeled after the Gundam’s hand. When I sat down, the seat moved as the Gundam lifted me in the air and fought against the Zaku. It was cool for a bit, but since the fight was kind of repetitive and didn’t feature much movement, the fight ended up taking a little too long. Still, being picked up by a Gundam is a cool feeling.

While it may not be an anime attraction, we also made time for Mario Kart VR. It’s as awesome as they say it is.[3] The VR Zone Shinjuku is also adding a Ghost in the Shell: Arise player versus player activity in the future.

For more coverage from Tokyo Game Show, visit IGN’s TGS 2017 event hub[4].

Miranda Sanchez is an Editor at IGN. You can chat with her about video games and anime on Twitter[5].

References

  1. ^ Miranda Sanchez (people.ign.com)
  2. ^ Dragon Ball (uk.ign.com)
  3. ^ we also made time for Mario Kart VR. It’s as awesome as they say it is. (www.ign.com)
  4. ^ IGN’s TGS 2017 event hub (www.ign.com)
  5. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)