C-Turtle: The landmine-detecting robot ‘turtle’

A disposable landmine detecting robot has been developed by Arizona State University.

Current de-mining robots can handle repeated blows but are big and expensive.

The disposable C-Turtle is made from cardboard, powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero computer and costs £50 ($65).

BBC Click’s Nick Kwek finds out more.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40598887

YouTube to redirect searches for IS videos

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YouTube will offer curated playlists denouncing terrorism

YouTube says it will redirect people searching for “violent extremist propagandaand offer them videos that denounce terrorism.

People searching for certain terms relating to the so-called Islamic State group will be offered playlists of videos “debunking its mythology”.

YouTube said it wanted to help prevent people being radicalised.

The company told the BBC that uploading IS propaganda was already against its terms and conditions.

In a blog post, the video-streaming giant said it was implementing ideas from the Redirect Method, a campaign that tries to steer the IS audience towards videos that debunk the group’s recruitment tactics.

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Redirect Method

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In one of the videos, an elderly lady confronts so-called Islamic State fighters

The themed video playlists challenge claims by the so-called Islamic State group that it provides good governance, is a strong military force, and that world powers are conspiring to harm Muslims.

Rather than producing new material, the playlists contain videos already uploaded to YouTube that present an opposing point of view, such as:

  • testimony from people who have left IS, describing what life in the group was really like
  • footage of a suffering elderly lady confronting two IS fighters and telling them to “return to the way of God”
  • speeches by imams denouncing violence and extremism
  • footage from inside IS-controlled areas, showing the reality of life there

The Redirect Method says pre-existing videos, rather than specially commissioned content, are more effective because they are seen to be more trustworthy.

“Media created by governments or Western news outlets can be rejected on face value, for a perception of promoting an anti-Muslim agenda,” the organisation says in its methodology.

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Footage on YouTube shows a long queue for food in IS-controlled areas

It said videos uploaded by the public “would not be be rejected outright by our target audience”.

YouTube told the BBC that it would begin redirecting users searching for particular terms in English, but would later add other languages including Arabic.

Algorithms will help determine whether other search keywords need to be included in the scheme, and the company will monitor whether people are engaging with the curated playlists.

While anybody searching for terrorist propaganda would be redirected, including academics and journalists, YouTube said such content was already against its terms and conditions and was removed when discovered.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40681625

UK to bring in drone registration

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Under an existing code, drones must be kept within sight of their pilot

The UK government has announced plans to introduce drone registration and safety awareness courses for owners of the small unmanned aircraft.

It will affect anyone who owns a drone which weighs more than 250 grams (8oz).

Drone maker DJI said it was in favour of the measures.

There is no time frame or firm plans as to how the new rules will be enforced and the Department of Transport admitted that “the nuts and bolts still have to be ironed out”.

The drone safety awareness test will involve potential flyers having to “prove that they understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations”, it said.

The plans also include the extension of geo-fencing, in which no-fly zones are programmed into drones using GPS co-ordinates, around areas such as prisons and airports.

‘Protect the public’

“Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones,” said Aviation Minister Lord Martin Callanan.

“Increasingly, drones are proving vital for inspecting transport infrastructure for repair or aiding police and fire services in search and rescue operations, even helping to save lives.

“But like all technology, drones too can be misused. By registering drones and introducing safety awareness tests to educate users, we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”

There has not been a significant accident involving a drone yet, but there have been several reports of near misses with commercial aircraft. There have also been incidents of drones being used to deliver drugs to prison inmates.

“Registration has its place. I would argue it will focus the mind of the flyer – but I don’t think you can say it’s going to be a magic solution,” said Dr Alan McKenna, law lecturer at the University of Kent.

“There will be people who will simply not be on the system, that’s inevitable.”

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There have been occasions of near misses between drones and other aircraft

Similar registration rules in the US were successfully challenged in court in March 2017 and as a result are currently not applicable to non-commercial flyers.

Dr McKenna said there were also issues around how a drone’s owner could be identified by police and whether personal liability insurance should also be a legal requirement in the event of an accident.

‘Common sense’

DJI spokesman Adam Lisberg said the plans sounded like “reasonable common sense”.

“The fact is that there are multiple users of the airspace and the public should have access to the air – we firmly believe that – but you need systems to make sure everybody can do it safely,” he said.

“In all of these issues the question is, where is the reasonable middle ground? Banning drones is unreasonable, having no rules is also unreasonable.

“We’re encouraged that [the British government] seems to be recognising the value drones provide and looking for reasonable solutions.”

Have you had any accidents or mishaps with drones? Please email

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40684581

Bitcoin swings as civil war looms

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Bitcoin’s value has dipped and soared as opinion about whether it will split has shifted

The value of the virtual currency Bitcoin has always been volatile.

Even so, there has been particular turbulence in recent days as fears of a “civil war” among its adherents first grew and then subsided, although they have not gone away altogether.

On Sunday, the value of one bitcoin dropped to about $1,863 (£1,430) before bouncing back to $2,402 on Wednesday, according to data from the news site CoinDesk – still some way off a June high of $3,019.

What’s at stake?

Bitcoin risks becoming a victim of its success.

The popularity of the financial technology has caused transactions to be processed slower, with some users complaining of having to wait three days or more for confirmation of trades when the backlog was at its worst, in May.

Moreover, fees have also risen, hitting a high of $5 per transaction at the start of June.

That makes it too costly to justify its use for some purchases, such as buying a pint of lager in a Bitcoin-accepting pub.

There are ways around the problem, but the cryptocurrency’s community has been split over which solution to adopt.

The risk is that Bitcoin could effectively split in two, with one type becoming incompatible with another, ultimately undermining confidence in the project altogether.

In simple terms, why does this problem exist?

The issue is that Bitcoin’s underlying technology has an in-built constraint: the ledger of past transactions, known as the blockchain, can have only 1MB of data added to it every 10 minutes.

To understand why, it’s helpful to first understand how Bitcoin works.

To authenticate Bitcoin transactions, a procedure called “mining” takes place, which involves volunteers’ computers racing to solve difficult mathematical problems.

For each problem solved, one block of bitcoins is processed. As a reward, the successful miners are given newly generated bitcoins.

An updated copy of the blockchain database is then copied to all the computers involved in the validation process, which are referred to as “nodes”.

Bitcoin originally did not have the 1MB/10min blockchain limit, but the feature was added to help defend the technology against denial of service (DoS) attacks, which might overwhelm the blockchain by flooding it with tiny transactions.

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Buying bitcoins has become expensive in itself

Mining, by the way, has become a big business in its own right, with some companies investing in huge “farms” of computers dedicated to the activity. Several of the biggest are based in China.

So, why not just raise the limit?

Many of the miners have, in fact, favoured the so-called Bitcoin Unlimited solution.

They said that allowing them to increase the 1MB block size would speed up transactions and reduce transactions fees.

But this could also make mining more expensive, and impractical for small “mom and pop” operations, leaving it under the control of a handful of large corporations.

That is because more processing power would be needed to verify transactions.

Furthermore, additional data bandwidth and storage space would be needed to transmit and store the blockchain, since it would become much bigger.

Critics also say the move would make Bitcoin more vulnerable to hackers.

Moreover, some people are concerned that giving the miners power to vary the block size might undermine the principle of Bitcoin being decentralised, with no equivalent to a central bank running the show.

What is the rival plan?

Some software developers have favoured reorganising the format of Bitcoin transactions to make the blockchain more efficient.

Specifically, they propose relocating ” transaction signatures” – which unlock bitcoins so they can be spent – from within the blockchain to a separate file transmitted alongside it.

Doing so should make it possible to process transactions at double the current rate.

And as an added benefit, “node” computers could save on storage space by opting not to keep records of the oldest signatures.

This scheme is known as Segregated Witness, or Segwit.

However, critics say it would deliver only a temporary respite while adding an extra level of complexity.

Is compromise possible?

It appears so.

A middle-ground solution – called Segwit2x – aims to start sending signature data separately from the blockchain later this week and then to double the block size limit to 2MB in three months’ time.

An initiative called Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 91 (BIP 91) states that if 80% of the mining effort adopts the new blockchain software involved and uses it consistently between 21 July and 31 July, then the wider community should accept this as the solution.

The good news for those who like the idea is that close to 90% of miners appear to back the effort, according to Coin Dance, a Bitcoin-related statistics site.

Other plans exist to try again after August if the target is missed.

But a risk remains that if use of Segwit2x software never reaches the required threshold or that hardcore opponents refuse to buckle, then it could result in two different versions of the blockchain, and in effect two types of Bitcoin.

Such as schism could help rival cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, prosper and ultimately doom Bitcoin altogether.

One expert, however, said he believed that was an unlikely outcome.

“The vast majority of people in the Bitcoin community are opposed to splitting Bitcoin into two competing cryptocurrencies,” said Dr Garrick Hileman, research fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance.

“Such a move would weaken Bitcoin’s network effect advantage and sow confusion.

“It is much more likely that people who are dissatisfied with Bitcoin’s direction will simply move on to something else, which is what we’ve seen in the past.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40654194

Kodi magazine ‘directs readers to pirate content’

The Complete Guide to Kodi on a newsstand

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The Complete Guide to Kodi is on sale at a number of retailers

A British magazine is directing readers to copyright-infringing software, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) has said.

Kodi is a free, legal media player for computers but software add-ons that in some cases make it possible to download pirated content.

The Complete Guide to Kodi magazine instructs readers on how to download such add-ons.

Dennis Publishing has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment.

The magazine is available at a number of retailers, including WH Smith, Waterstones and Amazon and was spotted on sale by cyber-security researcher Kevin Beaumont.

It repeatedly warns readers of the dangers of accessing pirated content online, but one article lists a series of software packages alongside screenshots promoting “free TV”, “popular albums” and “world sport”.

“Check before you stream and use them at your own risk,” the guide says, before adding that readers to stay “on the right side of the law”.

Police discussions

A spokesman for Fact said the body was working with the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) as it made enquiries.

“We are fully aware of this magazine and have already been in communication with Dennis Publishing regarding our concerns that it signposts consumers to copyright infringing add-ons,” said Kieron Sharp, chief executive of Fact.

“[...] it is concerning that the magazine’s content provides information to consumers on add-ons that would potentially allow criminality to take place,” he added.

In April, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that selling devices pre-configured with add-ons allowing access to pirated content is illegal, and that streaming such content was also against the law.

Two of the add-ons listed in the article are on a banned list maintained by the Kodi developers.

“We don’t support piracy add-ons and so we don’t like the idea of someone selling a magazine encouraging people to use them,” said Nate Bentzen, Kodi’s community and project manager.

“I am a bit surprised anyone is still selling a magazine like this physically, given all the lawsuits and the recent EU court decision,” he added.

WHSmith declined to comment but the BBC understands that the newsagent has no plans to stop sales of the magazine.

In February, it was reported that five people had been arrested and accused of selling set-top boxes with modified versions of Kodi allowing them to stream subscription football matches, TV channels and films for free.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40670015

AlphaBay and Hansa dark web markets shut down

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US Department of Justice

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AlphaBay went offline earlier this month

Two of the largest dark web marketplaces have been shut down following a “landmark” international law enforcement investigation.

The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.

According to Europol, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay.

Hansa was seized and covertly monitored for a month before being deactivated.

The agency said it believed the bust would lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe.

“The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today,” said Europol’s executive director Rob Wainwright.

It was a “landmark” operation, according to US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) acting director Andrew McCabe.

AlphaBay has been offline since early July, fuelling suspicions among users that a law enforcement crackdown had taken place.

‘You cannot hide’

“We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay,” said US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“One victim was just 18 years old when in February she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid which she had bought on AlphaBay.”

He also said a 13-year-old boy died after overdosing on a synthetic opioid bought by a high school classmate via the site.

Mr Sessions cautioned criminals from thinking that they could evade prosecution by using the dark web: “You cannot hide,” he said, “We will find you.”

Media captionJeff Sessions highlighted the significant quantities of illegal drugs traded via the dark web

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that illegal drugs listed for sale on AlphaBay included heroin and fentanyl.

It added in a court filing that $450m (£347m) was spent via the marketplace between May 2015 and February 2017.

Investigations were led by the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police.

Police in other countries, including the UK, France and Lithuania, also contributed.

The Dutch National Police took over the Hansa marketplace on 20 June after two men in Germany were arrested and servers in Germany, The Netherlands and Lithuania were seized.

This allowed for “the covert monitoring of criminal activities on the platform” until it was eventually shut down a month later.

Ever since AlphaBay went offline earlier in July, users of the site had discussed potential alternative dark web marketplaces on online forums.

Hansa was frequently mentioned, meaning that the authorities were likely able to uncover new criminal activity on Hansa as users migrated to it from AlphaBay.

“We recorded an eight times increase in the number of human users on Hansa immediately following the takedown of AlphaBay,” said Mr Wainwright.

Media captionTechnology explained: What is the dark web?

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco

The significance of today’s announcement will only truly be known over the coming year or more as authorities follow up the “many new leads” they said had been found as a result of infiltrating and shutting down these two enormous networks.

While the sites’ closure is a massive boost, the DoJ and Europol both readily acknowledge that new services will simply pop up to replace them. After all, the closure of previous dark web marketplace Silk Road in 2013 was eventually followed with AlphaBay – bigger, more lucrative and, by the looks of it, more dangerous.

What authorities really want to do is start putting significant numbers of people behind bars.

This huge coordinated action has only resulted in a handful of arrests – and one key suspect apparently took his own life seven days after being brought into custody.

It’s clear such big services require a large, intricate network of criminals – and that’s what authorities are targeting.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

An alleged administrator of AlphaBay, 26-year-old Canadian Alexandre Cazes, was arrested in Thailand on 5 July following a joint operation between US, Canadian and Thai authorities.

Police also seized millions of dollars in assets, three properties and four Lamborghini cars.

But Cazes was later found dead in a Bangkok jail cell.

The DoJ said that he apparently took his own life.

A previous dark web marketplace, Silk Road, was shut down by the FBI in 2013 and a successor – Silk Road 2.0 – was deactivated the following year.

However, in its press release today the DoJ said that AlphaBay had more than 350,000 listings for illicit items of various kinds – Silk Road only had 14,000 when it was seized in 2013.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40670010

HTC backlash over pop-up ads on keyboard

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The HTC 10 was one of the devices affected

Phone-maker HTC says it will fix an “error” that let advertisements pop up on the keyboard on some of its phones.

Many users expressed anger online that ad banners had started appearing above the touchscreen keyboard while they were typing.

HTC’s latest smartphones are sold with a third-party keyboard called TouchPal pre-installed as the default.

The free version of TouchPal does usually show ads, but HTC said it was unintended on its devices.

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Advertisements for apps started appearing above the keyboard

HTC phones run the Android operating system, which lets people download and install a variety of third-party keyboards so that they can customise their typing experience.

Android comes with a default touchscreen keyboard built-in, but many companies including Google and BlackBerry design their own.

Other phone makers, including HTC, pre-install a third party keyboard such as Swiftkey or TouchPal.

Criticising the software, TouchPal user Selina wrote: “It used to be good but recently ads keep popping up when I’m in the middle of something and it’s really inconvenient and annoying.”

Others were less kind.

“I am done with your junk app forever,” said Ramtin.

“The way you show your junk ads whenever I want to write something is the most stupid and annoying way of advertising ever. You don’t care about anything other than money.”

Some reviewers said they would switch from TouchPal and download a different keyboard from the Google Play app store.

In a statement, HTC said: “This is absolutely not the experience we intended and we’re working to immediately fix the error and remove the ads as quickly as possible.”

Responding to a review on Google Play, TouchPal said an issue with its server was responsible. However, many people remain critical of the company.

“Ads should go nowhere near a keyboard app,” wrote intripletime on social media site Reddit.

“They knew what they were doing.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40629953

Drone ‘threat’ to planes over Israel

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Sde Dov airport mainly handles domestic flights

A man has been arrested on suspicion of flying a consumer drone close to planes as they prepared to land in Tel Aviv.

The 21-year-old was held after footage was posted to YouTube and shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Israeli reports say that he has been put under five days of house arrest and the police have confiscated a drone and mobile phone while they carry out further investigations.

Israel’s Transport Ministry described a “disturbing and serious incident”.

The YouTube posting suggested the drone had been flying as close as 90ft (27m) to the passenger aircraft.

However, the suspect was later quoted on the Hebrew-language Israel Today news site as saying that the true distance had been more than three times that figure.

The video, which is still online, states a Mavic Pro drone was used to capture the footage of aeroplanes making their final descent to Sde Dov airport.

In some cases, the planes appear to be the same altitude as the drone. In others, the jets are closer to the sea.

The video also appears to show a man, filmed from above, controlling the drone while seated outside a bar.

The edited material was uploaded to YouTube on Thursday and shared on other social media the same day.

It has since clocked up more than 70,000 views, with many of the resulting comments criticising the film-maker’s “stupidity” and saying that viewers had reported it to the local authorities.

DJI – the Chinese-maker of the Mavic Pro – has also condemned the filming.

“We stand ready to assist national aviation authorities as they investigate a recent wave of photos and videos showing clear and intentional lawbreaking in ways that pose real danger to manned air traffic,” it said in a statement.

DJI said its drones came equipped with software that should prevent them flying within five miles (8km) of Sde Dov airport unless the feature had been disabled.

Consumer drones are an increasing headache for airport operators across the globe.

Earlier this month, Gatwick Airport, near London, had to close its runway and diverted flights after a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was spotted close by.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating a suspected midair collision between a drone and a light aircraft near to Adelaide.

Research by Cranfield University into aircraft-drone collisions indicates they need not be fatal but lithium-ion batteries used by UAVs mean they can pose a greater threat than bird strikes.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40633913

Porn ID checks set to start in April 2018

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The age-check requirement is supposed to make it harder for children to see pornography

A nine-month countdown to the introduction of compulsory age checks on online pornography seen from the UK has begun.

The April 2018 goal to protect under-18s was revealed as digital minister Matt Hancock signed the commencement order for the Digital Economy Act, which introduces the requirement.

But details as to how the scheme will work have yet to be finalised.

Experts who advised ministers said the targeted date seemed “unrealistic”.

The act also sets out other new laws including punishing the use of bots to snatch up scores of concert tickets, and mandating the provision of subtitles on catch-up TV.

Credit cards

The age-check requirement applies to any website or other online platform that provides pornography “on a commercial basis” to people in the UK.

It allows a regulator to fine any business that refuses to comply and to ask third-party payment services to withdraw support.

The watchdog will also be able to force internet providers to block access to non-compliant services.

Ministers have suggested one of several ways this might work would be for pornographic sites to demand credit card details before providing any access, since in the UK consumers typically have to be over 18 to have a card of their own.

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But the specifics are being left to the as-yet unappointed regulator to determine.

While it has been proposed that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will assume this role, a spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media Sport said the appointment would not be formalised until the autumn.

“We are already working closely with DCMS to ensure the effective implementation of the act,” a spokeswoman for the BBFC told the BBC, but added that it was too early to say more about what guidance it might issue.

‘Premature date’

The measure has been welcomed by child protection charities including Childnet.

“Protecting children from exposure, including accidental exposure, to adult content is incredibly important, given the effect it can have on young people,” said its chief executive Will Gardner.

“Steps like this help restrict access.”

Mindgeek, which operates several of the world’s most popular porn sites, has also previously indicated support.

But two experts who advised the government on its plans have expressed reservations about both how quickly the scheme is being rolled out and its wider implications.

“It seems to me to be a very premature date,” commented Dr Victoria Nash, lead author of a report commissioned in the run-up to the law being drafted.

“The idea you can get a regulatory body up and running in that timeframe seems extraordinary to me.

“And while I don’t have a problem with asking these companies to act responsibly, I don’t see it as a solution to stopping minors seeing pornography.”

This, she explained, was because the act does not tackle the fact that services including Twitter and Tumblr contain hardcore pornography but will not be required to introduce age-checks. Nor, she added, would teens be prevented from sharing copied photos and clips among themselves.

“It may make it harder for children to stumble across pornography, especially in the younger age range, but it will do nothing to stop determined teenagers,” Dr Nash concluded.

One cyber-security expert on the same advisory panel was more critical.

“The timeline is unrealistic – but beyond that, this is one of the worst proposals I have seen on digital strategy,” said Dr Joss Wright from the Oxford Internet Institute.

“There are hundreds of thousands of websites where this material can be accessed and you are not going to catch all of those.

“There’s privacy issues – you’re requiring people to effectively announce the fact they are looking at this material to the credit card authorities.

“And there’s serious security issues from requiring people to enter their credit card details into untrusted sites.

“They may well say there will be other magical ways to do the age check, but I very much doubt they will be non-discriminatory [against adults without credit cards], transparent, privacy-preserving and secure for end-users.”

Bot bashing

Other topics covered by the act on which work can now formally begin include:

  • requiring video-on-demand programmes to contain subtitles as an option
  • making it a criminal offence to use automated computer programs, known as bots, to bulk-buy event tickets before selling them on at inflated prices
  • simplifying planning rules to make it easier to install mobile and broadband infrastructure
  • raising the maximum penalty for instances of online piracy from two to 10 years

Some provisions set out by the act have already come into force, including the introduction of a “broadband universal service obligation” to give households the right to request download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second, and increased fines for firms behind nuisance calls.

“The Digital Economy Act is about building a strong, safe and connected economy,” said Mr Hancock.

“It will secure better support for consumers, better protection for children on the internet, and underpin a radical transformation of government services.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40630582

Judge rules pacemaker data admissible in court

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The ruling could mean that data from medical devices is more widely used in court cases

An Ohio judge has ruled that data from a pacemaker can be used in court.

Defendant Ross Compton, who faces aggravated arson charges, claims he was woken by a fire at home, packed a case, broke a window and threw out the bag.

A cardiologist told police his explanation was “highly improbable” based on his heart rate and cardiac rhythms at the time.

Mr Compton’s lawyer said allowing pacemaker evidence expanded government snooping into private data.

“We take the strong position that medical data regarding the inner functions of one’s body, designed to assist a doctor in keeping a patient alive, should be safeguarded against government overreach,” he told tech news website CNet.

“As was argued to the court, what is next on this slippery slope as technology advances?”

The fire, which caused $400,000 (£309,000) in damages, broke out in September last year.

According to local paper Journal News, Judge Charles Pater said: “There is a lot of other information about things that may characterise the inside of my body that I would much prefer to keep private rather than how my heart is beating. It is just not that big of a deal.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40592520