Assange: 'I'm fond of your work, Cumberbatch, but let's leave it at that'

Plus: 'You don't need to bug an entire city to bug one guy's phone calls'

Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate

Quotw This was the week when billionaire Julian Robertson decided to dump all of his Apple stock because he read a biography of Steve Jobs and decided he didn't like him all that much.

After perusing a bio of the late founder of the fruity firm, Robertson decided that Jobs wasn't a totally nice guy so he was going to sell off his Apple shares:

I read the book. I read it, and I came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that a man as really awful as I think that Steve Jobs was could possibly create a great company for the long term.

He's not the kind of guy I think that would develop a long-standing company. How can you create a great organization of people and be that mean a person?

Although, confusingly, if Jobs were still alive and running Apple, Robertson would reconsider his position:

I think if he were still there, I'd still be in it. I think he's one of the great geniuses of the world.

In other Apple news, analyst Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research has pondered whether or not there are enough rich people in the whole world to keep buying top shelf iDevices. Just going on the numbers, there is a finite number of people who can afford a $450-plus smartphone, he argued:

Invariably, we and most investors believe that Apple should introduce a lower-priced device, in large part because the high end of the smartphone market is becoming increasingly saturated, leaving limited room for ongoing growth.

We estimate that approximately 800 million people have a high-end smartphone, and that – based on income levels across geographies – perhaps 1.25 billion can afford one, suggesting we are past the steep part of the adoption curve for new high-end smart phone users.

Meanwhile, Julian Assange has revealed that he refused to meet up with Benedict Cumberbatch ahead of the actor's portrayal of him in The Fifth Estate film, out this weekend in the UK. Assange's Wikileaks released a letter the white-haired embassy-dweller sent to Cumberbatch, saying he wouldn't help him out with the movie because it was going to be mean:

I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film. I do not believe it is going to be positive for me or the people I care about.

I believe that it is going to be overwhelmingly negative for me and the people I care about. It is based on a deceitful book by someone who has a vendetta against me and my organisation.

Assange said that even though he was a fan of the Sherlock and Star Trek actor, he couldn't be seen to even tangentially support such a "wretched" film.

My assistants communicated your request to me, and I have given it a lot of thought and examined your previous work, which I am fond of.

I think I would enjoy meeting you.

I believe you are well-intentioned but surely you can see why it is a bad idea for me to meet with you.

By meeting with you, I would validate this wretched film, and endorse the talented, but debauched, performance that the script will force you to give.

I cannot permit this film any claim to authenticity or truthfulness. In its current form it has neither, and doing so would only further aid the campaign against me.

And from one kind of Wiki to another... a Wikimedia Foundation exec has said she's worried that the organisation is spending too much money on local offices and not enough on the individual editors who work on Wikipedia pages. Executive director Sue Gardner said:

I wonder whether it might make more sense for the movement to focus a larger amount of spending on direct financial support for individuals working in the projects.

Too large a proportion of the movement's money is being spent by the chapters [whereas] the value in the Wikimedia projects is primarily created by individual editors: individuals create the value for readers, which results in those readers donating money to the movement. ... I am not sure that the additional value created by movement entities such as chapters justifies the financial cost.

Even more worryingly is the fact that the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) is not immune to corrupt practices when handing out the dosh:

And, although I trust the current FDC members to put the interests of the movement first, I believe the FDC process, dominated by fund-seekers, does not as currently constructed offer sufficient protection against log-rolling, self-dealing, and other corrupt practices. I had hoped that this risk would be offset by the presence on the FDC of independent non-affiliated members, but thus far the evidence suggests their number will be small and may diminish over time, and I do not believe it's reasonable to expect a minority of independent members to act as the only failsafe mechanism against corruption.

In NSA news this week, MI5 boss Andrew Parker accused Edward Snowden of helping terrorists by leaking documents to the press. The newly-appointed director general said:

Reporting from GCHQ is vital to the safety of this country and its citizens. GCHQ intelligence has played a vital role in stopping many of the terrorist plots that MI5 and the police have tackled in the past decade. We are facing an international threat and GCHQ provides many of the intelligence leads upon which we rely. It makes a vital contribution to most of our high priority investigations.

It causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques. Such information hands the advantage to the terrorists. It is the gift they need to evade us and strike at will. Unfashionable as it might seem, that is why we must keep secrets secret, and why not doing so causes such harm.

And newly unsealed court documents have shown that the Feds wanted the former operator of secure email service Lavabit, which was once used by Snowden, to hand over encryption keys that would have given them "real time" access to not just his account, but the accounts of all 40,000 of its customers. But Ladar Levison, who shut down the service rather than complying with the order, said the FBI wanted too much:

You don't need to bug an entire city to bug one guy's phone calls. In my case, they wanted to break open the entire box just to get to one connection.

When Levison wouldn't do as he was told, the Feds took him to court, after which he did deliver the keys, but only as strings of numbers printed out on paper, rather than as electronic files, intentionally printing them in a font designed to be hard to scan. But the judge found him in contempt of court and fined him $5,000 a day until he complied.

Levison lasted two days but finally relented, only to shut down Lavabit at the same time he gave up the certificates – a move a prosecutor later described as "just short of a criminal act". ®

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