Story 2014-09-30

U.S. law enforcement officials urge Apple and Google not to encrypt smartphone data

in legal on (#2T14)
After Edward Snowden revealed the extent to which the NSA had unfettered access to corporations' internal networks, and several high-profile hacker data leaks, technology companies have stepped up efforts to shield their customers' data. Apple's IOS8 and Google's Android L both encrypt user data if the user selects a pass-phrase, making it inaccessible to 3rd parties.

But in a move reminiscent of the Clinton-era clipper chip initiative (which would have required all cryptographic software to provide the US Government with unfettered access to your encrypted data) US Law enforcement agencies are pushing back, calling for Apple and Google to weaken or eliminate the new security features. U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials are trying to understand how the new Apple and Google Android systems work and how the companies could change the encryption to make it accessible when court ordered.

This comes after years of the FBI, TSA, ICE, and police departments across the country routinely appropriating all the data on personal electronic devices, without a warrant, of anyone they stopped to search for any reason. Only recently have some of these warrant-less searches been ruled illegal by unanimous supreme court decision.

FFmpeg back in Debian

in code on (#2T0R)
More than 3 years ago, January 2011, ffmpeg was forked by a part of the development team into libav. Then, by the end of that year, the fork had replaced FFmpeg in Debian's packages, with, notably, the binary in the ffmpeg package marking itself as deprecated and recommending users to use avconv instead. As the split didn't happen in the most friendly way (to say the least), these events sparkled a lot of debates and flames and it is quite difficult to find articles on the topic that are not biased one way or the other.

In November 2013, a bug report was filed for Debian to reintroduce an actual ffmpeg package and all the associated libraries. Fast forward to mid-September 2014, after some technical discussions and soname changes (all ffmpeg-related libraries with a libav* name have been renamed into libav*-ffmpeg), ffmpeg has been quietly reintroduced in Debian unstable and it might even be just in time to be included for release in Jessie.

Let's hope this solution where both versions can co-exist will help calm things down.