Apache Ignite was always appreciated by its users for two primary things it delivers - scalability and performance. And now it grew to the point when the community decided to revisit its discovery subsystem that influences how well and far the database scales out. The goal was pretty clear - Ignite has to scale to 1000s of nodes as good as it scales to 100s now. Check what we did to solve the challenge.
Among the many privacy challenges posed by social media, one has flown largely under the radar: balancing defendants’ due process rights to access exculpatory information against the crucial privacy protections of the Stored Communications Act (SCA). Here’s the problem: prosecutors have broad powers to demand access to stored communications as necessary to pursue their case, but defendants do not. That means the scales are tipped in favor of prosecutors, which seem unfair. But a more balanced approach would likely require eroding privacy protections – protections that are more necessary than ever.
The issue was squarely raised last week in Facebook v. Superior Court (Hunter). Defendants sought communications from Facebook and Instagram that could be highly relevant to their guilt or innocence. However, in a narrow ruling, the California Supreme Court largely sidestepped the question, holding that social media providers must turn over public communications when served with a lawful state subpoena, but are forbidden under the SCA from producing the content of private electronic communications to defendants. The court then punted the case back down to the trial court to determine whether the specific posts sought by the defense were “public” or “private.”
The SCA was enacted to implement important privacy protections by prohibiting communications providers from sharing the contents of communications with both public and private actors, with limited exceptions. In particular, when the government wants access to user communications, the SCA requires it to use legal process ranging from a subpoena to a search warrant, depending on the scenario. After a series of hard-fought legal battles, the rule is clear: the Fourth Amendment requires the government to get a judicially authorized search warrant to access the contents of communications in all cases. Given the range of extraordinarily sensitive communications users entrust to third-party providers, this rule is vitally important to protect users from government fishing expeditions.
But the reality is that the SCA’s protections also create a barrier for criminal defendants who need exculpatory or impeachment information from adverse witnesses’ online accounts. Non-state actors can’t use search warrants, and the SCA forbids them from getting the contents of communications directly from providers. That creates an unequal playing field—and the price of losing the game can be fatal to liberty or even life. What is worse, this imbalance is not unique to electronic communications; defendants face many disadvantages, beginning with the stark reality that they don’t have equal resources to spend gathering evidence.
The defendants in this case, Derrick Hunter and Lee Sullivan, are awaiting trial for murder and other gang-related charges arising out of a drive-by shooting at a bus stop in San Francisco. Hunter’s 14-year-old brother, Quincy, confessed to the shooting and explained to police that he shot the victim, Joaquan Rice, because he feared that Rice would kill him first if he did not act. Quincy reported that Rice repeatedly threatened and bullied him at his job, at his home, and on social media by tagging Quincy in violent posts on Facebook and Instagram. Quincy told police that Sullivan was not in the car during the shooting. The only witness who implicates Sullivan is his ex-girlfriend, Raneesha Lee, who had rented the car used in the drive-by and who was detained in the car shortly after the shooting occurred.
In preparation for trial, Hunter and Sullivan’s defense attorneys served subpoenas on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get access to Rice’s and Lee’s social media posts and messages. They hope to corroborate Quincy’s stated fear of Rice and show evidence that Lee might be motivated to lie about her ex-boyfriend, Sullivan.
Facebook and the other social media providers argued that section 2702(a) of the SCA precluded them from turning over the content sought by the defense attorneys because the SCA states that providers can’t “knowingly divulge to any person or entity the contents of” any “communication” that they store or maintain. The providers suggested that the defendants seek the social media content directly from the parties to the communication.
That suggestion might be reasonable in some instances, but didn’t work here given that one of the authors, Rice, could not consent or be compelled (because he was dead); and the other witness, Lee, could not be found. Indeed, even if Lee could be found, she could refuse to comply with any subpoena by invoking her right to remain silent. That would create yet another constitutional conundrum: pitting a defendant’s rights to a fair and impartial jury trial, and to compel evidence in his defense, against another witness’s constitutional right not to be compelled to incriminate herself.
In this case, the court held that the defense subpoenas were unenforceable under the SCA “with respect to communications addressed to specific persons, and other communications that were and have remained configured by the registered owner to be restricted,” but were enforceable as to “communications that were configured by the registered user to be public” because they fell within SCA section 2703(b)(3)’s lawful consent exception and should thus be disclosed to the defense.
We’re not quarreling with the ruling itself. But this distinction leaves untouched the fundamental imbalance: the SCA provides a means for law enforcement agencies to potentially get access to all content, public and private, via a search warrant if they can show probable cause to believe they will find evidence of a crime, while defense access is restricted to only publicly available information and whatever information they can get directly from the social media user via subpoena. In particular, the court raised but did not decide whether the prosecution could be obliged to seek the exculpatory material sought by the defense.
There does not seem to be an easy answer to this constitutional conundrum. While the imbalance of power between the prosecution and the defense in access to available electronic evidence is unfair, we should not seek to correct it by sacrificing hard-won privacy protections. We need to get this issue right, and that starts with giving it more visibility and debating solutions. One proposed fix, for example, would allow a criminal defendant to seek a court order to obtain stored content after making a rigorous showing that other methods of gaining access to the data have been unsuccessful, that the information is relevant and material to the case, and that the subscriber/user and the ISP have been given notice and an opportunity to be heard. We’re not endorsing this approach, but we do welcome the effort to find a way forward that recognizes the multiple public interests in play.
A news item from Software Freedom Conservancy.
We are really excited to announce that Selenium's WebDriver has become a World Wide Web Consortium *recommendation* today, May 31st.
Selenium is a free software project that has been a Conservancy member since 2011. It's a suite of tools that enables browser automation across most modern browsers and operating systems. Selenium is also the core technology in many other types of browser automation tools, APIs and frameworks. Selenium's WebDriver is particularly innovative because it binds tightly to a browser implementation, enabling web developers to run tests as if they were the actual user on many different environments in parallel.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international body dedicated to shepherding the Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth. On May 31st, W3C will add the Selenium WebDriver to its list of Recommendations. This means that many other projects around the world will be able to use WebDriver knowing that it's been vetted by a thorough, multi-stakeholder process and found to be the best and most interoperable tool for browser automation. It also means that other standards can build upon the foundation offered to open those new standards to automation.
Conservancy aims to make it easy for our member projects to send people to important working group meetings and fund the kind of critical development needed to achieve these kinds of milestones. To help in this instance, we hired Simon Stewart to contract for several months to work on this as well as facilitated his travel from London to California. Conservancy applauds the Selenium developers for tirelessly pursing the standard as well as W3C's decision to recommend WebDriver as the best tool for the development of a more accessible and collaborative web. Nothing makes us happier than seeing our projects succeed in their goals, whether that is building fantastic free software or making technology better and more responsive to users' needs -- or in this case, both!
Congratulations to Selenium for receiving global recognition for their hard work and savvy leadership in web testing!
Selenium is a suite of tools for browser automation. It is composed of “IDE”, a recording and playback mechanism, “WebDriver” which provide an API for browser automation in a wide variety of languages, and “Grid”, which allows many tests using the APIs to be run in parallel. It works with most browsers, including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari and Opera.
Conservancy, a public charity focused on ethical technology, is home to over forty member projects dedicated to developing and promoting free and open source software. Conservancy acts as a corporate umbrella, allowing member projects to operate as charitable initiatives without having to manage their own corporate structure and administrative services.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. Led by Web inventor and Director Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe, W3C's mission is to lead the Web to its full potential.
Funding opportunities from OTF and elsewhere
Each month, OTF sends an announcement of upcoming funding deadlines for Internet freedom and related projects and fellowships to our OTF-announce mailing list. The announcement includes funding opportunities from both OTF and alternative funding sources, as well as some new funders we’ve recently added to our list. Below you can find the May 2018 edition.
If you’d like to receive this announcement directly in your inbox, you can sign up for our low traffic OTF-announce mailing list here. In addition, you can find a compiled list of alternative funding sources here. The opportunities listed below are only for those with approaching deadlines, while a number of funders accept applications on a rolling basis.
OTF - Internet Freedom Fund
Next deadline: July 1, 2018
The Internet Freedom Fund is OTF’s primary way to support projects and people working on open and accessible technology-centric projects that promote human rights, internet freedom, open societies, and help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks. Successful applicants are awarded monetary support up to $900,000 and no less than $10,000, with preference given to those projects and people who are new to the internet freedom community, helping those living within repressive environments, and are requesting less than $300,000 for a duration of less than 12 months.
OTF - Core Infrastructure Fund
Next deadline: July 1, 2018
The Core Infrastructure Fund supports building blocks of digital security and circumvention projects. This may include efforts focused on sustaining or improving PGP, SSL, SSH, Tor, OTR, pluggable transports, code libraries, and other technologies used within the core building blocks of everyday Internet Freedom technology used by people throughout the world to increase their access, privacy, and security online.
OTF - Rapid Response Fund
The Rapid Response Fund is part of a broader OTF initiative which aims to facilitate the development of a strong digital emergency response community that can work together to resolve threats in a timely and comprehensive manner. OTF offers both direct financial support as well as technical services from trusted partners to resolve digital emergencies experienced by high-risk Internet users and organizations, such as bloggers, cyber activists, journalists. and human rights defenders.
OTF - Request for Proposals: Rapid Response Services
Deadline: June 4, 2018
In support of the Rapid Response Fund, OTF is currently seeking multiple service partners to expand its offered services and better support the urgent digital threat mitigation against targeted individuals and organizations. Specifically, OTF seeks service providers with capabilities in four areas: web hosting and resiliency, auditing, circumvention support, and analysis.
More information: https://www.opentech.fund/requests/rfp-rapid-response
OTF - Labs
For more specific, one-off support needs and services, check out OTF’s Labs: Localization, Community, Engineering, Usability, Red Team, and Legal. Of note, the Usability Lab recently expanded its offered services, which you can read about here.
Learn more about OTF’s Labs at: https://www.opentech.fund/labs
NLNet Foundation - Network and Internet Technology
Deadline: June 1, 2018
“NLnet foundation supports a large array of activities, from software development, standardisation work and development of educational material up to hacker festivals, digital rights activities and the international development of open source software licences. The NLnet contribution can also be used as so called “matching” for other subsidies from organisations such as the EU and Science foundations.” Funding requests must be for less than EUR 30,000.
More information: https://nlnet.nl/news/2018/20180601-call-en.html
DefendDefenders - Training of Trainers and Cyberwoman Forum
Deadline: June 1, 2018
DefendDefenders is hosting two upcoming events back-to-back in Nairobi, Kenya: a three-day “training of trainers” workshop from June 18-20 and a two-day “cyberwoman forum” held from June 21-22. The former will “cover basic topics around digital security practices and pedagogy to equip trainers to pass on the learning to their communities” while the latter will allow participants to “work together to advocate and influence policy aimed at protecting the rights of women and girls on the internet,” with a focus on the East Africa context.
More information: https://www.defenddefenders.org/2018/05/call-for-applications-training-of-trainers-and-cyberwoman-forum/
Ford Foundation - Digital Infrastructure Research RFP
Deadline: June 13, 2018
The Sloan and Ford Foundations are seeking to fund multiple research projects centered around “digital infrastructure” - or, the “foundation of free and public code that is designed to solve common challenges” on which many of society’s most vital institutions operate. Specific focus will be given to “better understanding the economics, maintenance and sustainability of digital infrastructure.” Projects are expected to run anywhere from 6-24 months in duration, with funding available in “tiers” from Small (<$50k) to Medium ($50 - 125k) and Large (>$125k).
More information: https://ford-foundation-6.forms.fm/digital-infrastructure-research-rfp/forms/4770
Internews - Pluggable Transports Funding
Deadline: June 15, 2018
RIPE Internews is offering small grants to support pluggable transports, specifically around the “implementation of new transports,” implementing pluggable transports in apps “providing security, privacy, or access to information,” and updating existing transports to the 2.x spec. Efforts may be supported for up to 6 months in duration and should be for $25,000 USD or less.
More information: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/pluggabletransports
DARPA - Computers and Humans Exploring Software Security (CHESS)
Deadline: June 15, 2018
“DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals to develop techniques and systems that will substantially accelerate software vulnerability research (VR). The goal of the CHESS program is to develop computer-human systems to rapidly discover all classes of vulnerability in complex software…with the goal of finding 0-day vulnerabilities at a scale and speed appropriate for the complex software ecosystem upon which the U.S. Government, military, and economy depend.”
More information: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=303775
EU - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Research Grants (PhD)
Deadline: June 15, 2018
JOLT, “a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) European Training Network aimed at harnessing digital and data technologies for journalism,” is currently seeking to support 15 PhD candidates based at universities throughout the EU around a range of topics related to digital and data journalism, including “Journalism, Security, and Surveillance,” “Algorithms and News,” and “Impact of Infomediaries and Platforms on Journalism,” among others. Research funding is available for three years and includes a living allowance/salary, which varies depending on the topic/host university.
More information: https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/BKA865/15-phd-positions-in-digital-and-data-technology-for-news-media/
Sixth African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) - Call for Applications
Deadline: June 16, 2018
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the African Union Commission are seeking participants for the upcoming sixth African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG), a five-day learning and knowledge-sharing event. Applications are welcome from a diverse array of disciplines, whether you are “a policy maker, a researcher, a regulator, an engineer, a journalist, an entrepreneur or a gender equality and human rights defender.” The annual event’s “primary goal is to give Africans from multiple sectors and stakeholder groups the opportunity to gain knowledge that will enable them to participate confidently and effectively in internet governance processes and debates at the national, regional and global levels.” A limited number of scholarships are available for successful applicants.
More information: https://afrisig.org/2018/05/29/call-for-applications-for-the-sixth-african-school-on-internet-governance-now-open/
US Department of State, Mission to India - Workshops for Journalists to Counter Disinformation in the Digital Age
Deadline: June 27, 2018
The U.S. Consulate General, Public Affairs Section in Hyderabad is supporting a series of workshops for journalists, focusing on ways to build capacity for local journalists to fact check and source information responsibly in the digital age. Support for the conduct of four workshops is sought, with broad goals for the trainings including “an overview of media tools used for dissemination of information,” “tools and smart solutions to counter disinformation,” and ways to identify disinformation with discussion on “the ways it gets propagated.” Funding between $45,000 and $50,000 USD is available.
More information: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=304373
RIPE NCC - Community Projects Fund
Deadline: June 29, 2018
RIPE NCC is now offering project funding through its Community Projects Fund, providing EUR 250,000 total per year to efforts that are “of value to the operation and resilience of the Internet” with special focus on those that support the technical community in RIPE NCC’s service region (viewable here).
More information: https://www.ripe.net/support/cpf
USAID - Investigative Journalism, Mexico
Deadline: June 29, 2018
In support of advancing the capacity of local Mexico-based media outlets, USAID is seeking applications from qualified applicants around activities including improving the digital security of local journalists (including ensuring that “Journalists understand cyber-security best practices, utilize secure communications methods, and have a reduced exposure for data breaches and monitoring”), and increasing “local capacity in data journalism” (including by enabling local journalists to “utilize public data and technology- based approaches [machine learning, data scraping, social network analyses, etc] to develop stories.”
More information: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=304719
Call for Proposals: g0v Summit
Deadline: June 30, 2018
The 2018 edition of the Taiwan-based g0v community’s biannual summit will take place from October 5-7, 2018 in Taipei. The conference theme is examining the “ecosystem” of Civic Tech, both globally and locally. Proposals may draw from a wide variety of topics and fields including “fake news and fact checking, participatory and deliberative democracy, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ rights and gender equality, community-building and governance models, Civic Tech ecosystem and sustainability, and more.”
More information: https://summit.g0v.tw/2018/cfp/
Newly Added Alternative Funding Sources
Given the large amount of funding requests OTF receives, we’re always on the lookout for new funding sources that may be of interest to the community - keeping a special eye out for funders that are relevant in some way to Internet freedom, technology development, or the broader intersection between human rights and technology. Here are a few recently added to our list:
Coinbase - Coinbase Ventures
Cryptocurrency-exchange site Coinbase has announced plans for a startup funding arm, Coinbase Ventures, which will “provid[e] financing to promising early stage companies that have the teams and ideas that can move the [cryptocurrency] space forward in a positive, meaningful way.”
Snap Inc. - Yellow
The makers of Snapchat have launched Yellow, providing startup funding ($150k over three months) for ideas and projects centered around mobile storytelling.
A new Palo Alto-based “tech incubator” focused on “the consumer media and artificial intelligence space,” currently seeking developers to build prototypes.