US Senate Panel Releases Draft of Controversial Encryption Bill

US Senate Panel Releases Draft of Controversial Encryption Bill

Two US senators on Wednesday issued a formal draft of a controversial bill that would give courts the power to order technology companies like Apple to help authorities break into encrypted devices or communications for law enforcement or intelligence purposes.

The proposal arrives just days after an earlier draft leaked online and drew fire from security researchers and civil liberties advocates who warned it would undermine Internet security and expose personal data to hackers.

Those same groups on Wednesday said the new draft is little different from the leaked version.

The bill comes as the US Justice Department has redoubled its efforts to use the courts to force Appleto unlock encrypted iPhones.

Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Senate intelligence committee’s Republican chair and top Democrat, said in a statement they intended now to “solicit input from the public and key stakeholders before formally introducing the bill.”

“I am hopeful that this draft will start a meaningful and inclusive debate on the role of encryption and its place within the rule of law,” Burr said. “Based on initial feedback, I am confident that the discussion has begun.”

The new discussion draft does not require manufacturers or communications companies to process, transmit or store data in any particular format.

Rather, it requires companies, upon receipt of a court order, to turn over to the government “data in an intelligible format” even if encryption has rendered that data inaccessible to anyone other than the owner.

Companies must ensure their products “be capable of complying,” the bill states. Critics say that amounts to a ban on strong encryption.

The latest version of the bill narrows the scope of cases where a court can issue an order. Those include crimes that caused or could cause death or serious injury or that involve drug offences or child victims, in addition to foreign intelligence operations, according to the text.

Andrew Crocker, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said changes in the new discussion draft were minimal and the bill still threatened Internet security because companies would only be able to comply by weakening encryption in all their products.

The proposed legislation, which is expected to continue facing strong opposition from the technology sector and privacy advocates, faces an uphill battle in a gridlocked Congress.

“This flawed bill would leave Americans more vulnerable to stalkers, identity thieves, foreign hackers and criminals,” said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in a statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Apple, Encryption, Internet, Mobiles

Fertiliser subsidy bill set to reduce by Rs 10,000 crore next fiscal: Crisil

The reduction in the subsidy bill could help the government narrow its fertiliser subsidy arrears.

The reduction in the subsidy bill could help the government narrow its fertiliser subsidy arrears.

Overall reduction in the subsidy bill will be about Rs.10,000 crore.

The next financial year will see the government’s subsidy bill reduce by around Rs 10,000 crore thanks to the cut in the nutrient-based subsidy rates and the low price of gas, according to Crisil.

“The reduction in nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) rates announced last week could trim the government’s subsidy bill for phosphatic fertilisers by Rs 5,000 crore next fiscal,” a report by Crisil said. “The cut, which follows declining international prices of di-ammonium phosphate and ammonia, would influence the contracted price for phosphoric acid, the key raw material, for fiscal 2017.”

“Overall subsidy bill reduction would be around Rs 10,000 crore next fiscal-Rs 5,000 crore through the cut in NBS rates, and a similar amount in urea subsidy because of lower gas costs,” Sudip Sural, Senior Director, CRISIL Ratings said.

The current price of gas in India is $3.82 per million British thermal unit, which is set to be changed in April. The consensus view is that the April review will see gas prices falling further.

The reduction in the subsidy bill could help the government reduce its fertiliser subsidy arrears of around Rs 35,000 crore that have been carried forward since 2012, Mr Sural added.

“But achieving a balanced nutrient ratio, which was one of the objectives of NBS, remains a far cry, given the continuing price disparity between urea and phosphatic fertilisers,” he said.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on March 23 announced that the subsidy rates for nitrogen and phosphatic nutrients would be cut by Rs 5 per kg and Rs 5.4 per kg, respectively, amounting to a 25-30 per cent reduction. The subsidy rate for potassic nutrients was kept largely unchanged.

The fertiliser subsidy has been estimated at Rs 70,000 crore for 2016-17, lower than the Rs 72,437.58 crore estimated for the ongoing financial year.

Crisil finds that the poor monsoon over the last two years has created a vicious cycle in the fertiliser sector.

“Two consecutive years of deficient monsoon has burdened the fertiliser industry with excess inventory, estimated around 5 million tonne, which is equivalent to 90-100 days of consumption. That means manufacturers will have limited ability to increase prices to compensate for the reduction in subsidy, which, in turn, increases their dependence on monsoons,” the report said.

Keywords: Fertiliser subsidy bill


Gujarat Passes Bill to Impose Tax on E-Commerce Transactions

Gujarat Passes Bill to Impose Tax on E-Commerce Transactions

With an aim to provide a level playing field for traders and retailers in the state, Gujarat government Wednesday passed a bill to levy entry tax on goods purchased through e-commerce portals.

The Gujarat Tax on Entry of Specified Goods into Local Areas (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was passed in the state assembly in the absence of Congress MLAs, who were Tuesday suspended for two days by the Speaker.

The bill amended the present Act of 2001 that did not cover e-commerce transactions, which according to the government, was adversely affecting the local traders as the goods coming in the state through such means was sold at a much cheaper rate due to non-payment of any tax.

“Due to the recent development in the field of online purchase, web-based software applications or through tele-shopping platforms, which does not attract any tax under the present Act, local businesses were adversely affected,” state Finance Minister Saurabh Patel said while presenting the bill.

As per the bill, the word “importer”, as specified in the present Act, now also covers those who “bring or facilitate to bring any specified goods for consumption, use or sale in Gujarat from any part of the country using online platforms.”

Further, such importer is now liable to collect the tax from the person (consumer) for whom the goods are brought and pay it to the government in a prescribed manner, as per the bill.

This bill was introduced after several trader bodies made representations to the state about online platforms selling “cheap” goods in the absence of a proper tax structure applicable to them.

After taking into account their demands and to provide these local businesses a level playing field, Patel had announced that he will bring a bill while presenting the state budget earlier this month.

“The state government would announce the rate of tax as well as other procedures to be followed by the importers through a separate notification,” Patel added.

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Tags: E Commerce, Ecommerce, India, Internet, Online Shopping

Alexa, Pay My Credit Card Bill Please!

Alexa, Pay My Credit Card Bill Please!

Amazon Echo users can already ask their virtual assistant Alexa to update their calendars, dim the lights and play some music. But soon they will also be able to ask Alexa to help them pay their credit cards.

Capital One announced Friday that it is the first bank to partner with Amazon to let customers review their finances through Alexa-enabled devices, including the Amazon Echo, Amazon Tap, Echo Dot and Fire TV.

(Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

People who own one of those devices and have a Capital One credit card or bank account will be able to request information on their account balance and most recent transactions. Instead of having to log in through their laptop or phones, customers will be able to speak the commands while they’re doing the dishes or doing other tasks around the house, said Ken Dodelin, vice president of digital products at McLean, Virginia-based Capital One.

“Maybe you’re wondering whether or not a check cleared,” he said. Credit card users can also request an update on when their payment is due and how much credit they have available. They’ll be able to ask Alexa to pay their monthly credit card bill if they’ve set up a checking account for that purpose.

For security reasons, customers will have to create a four-digit code when they set up the program, and they’ll have to provide that code by default whenever they ask for anything related to their credit cards or checking accounts, Dodelin said. But users can decide to turn off the password requirement later. “As a bank we obviously take security very seriously,” Dodelin said.

With the exception of credit card payments, the first rollout is focused mostly on helping consumers gather information about their accounts – rather than complete transactions. But the service could have broader uses in later editions. (More security measures would probably be needed before other transaction-based services could be included, Dodelin said.)

For example, Capital One is also testing out whether credit card holders would eventually want to use Alexa to put a freeze on their credit card after it has been lost or to request updates on their credit card rewards, Dodelin said, but those uses aren’t being introduced yet.

© 2016 The Washington Post

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Tags: Alexa, Amazon, Amazon Echo, Internet, Jeff Bezos

Bill Gates Says ‘Will Look Into’ Age of Empires Sequel

Bill Gates Says 'Will Look Into' Age of Empires Sequel

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and one half of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently took to user-curated social news website Reddit to answer any questions people had in what he said was his fourth Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).

Gates dealt in a lot of topics, from bio-terrorism to his life at Harvard to what he prefers between sushi and Thai food. A user by the name of le-click took the opportunity to ask him about the possibility of a sequel for popular real-time strategy game Age of Empires, which has been published by Microsoft since its inception.

“Mr. Gates, can we please have another Age of Empires? Not sure if this is your department, but I figured I’d ask since you were here…


Fortunately for all video gamers, Gates obliged and cheekily replied:

“I will look into this. How many empires do you need?”

Age of Empires remains one of the most successful RTS franchises in video gaming history. It has been responsible for a lot of innovation in the genre, and also spawned a critically acclaimed and popular spin-off in Age of Mythology, which transported the game’s elements into the Greek, Egyptian, and Nordic mythical stories.

AOE2_wallpaper_official.jpgThe 1999 Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is generally heralded as the series’ finest entry, and following the failure of Age of Empires III, developer Ensemble Studios has focused on improving the second chapter, by way of giving it a HD upgrade in 2013, and adding a new civilisation and campaign in following years.

Are you interested in a new Age of Empires game? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet to us @Gadgets360 with #AoE.

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