FCC Chair Unveils Sweeping Changes to Net Neutrality Rules

FCC chair Ajit Pai yesterday outlined his proposed changes to net neutrality rules and the federal regulation of ISPs. Pai is calling for high-speed Internet service to no longer be classified as a public utility, as a counter to policy approved under the Obama administration intended to treat the delivery of all online content equally. Pai’s proposal would lessen new rules and largely leave policing to the industry. He believes strict regulation of telecom, broadcast and cable companies is detrimental to business and innovation. However, his proposals will likely face resistance from companies and advocacy groups that fear such changes would result in broadband providers awarding unfair accommodations to specific news and video sites. Continue reading FCC Chair Unveils Sweeping Changes to Net Neutrality Rules

Google Blocks Burger King Ad From Activating Google Home

Burger King released a TV ad in which an actor activates the Google Home digital assistant to describe the ingredients in the Whopper sandwich. Prompted by the actor, Google Home searches Wikipedia for the Whopper and lists the makings of the sandwich. Within hours of the ad’s release, however, both The Verge and BuzzFeed discovered that the commercial no longer activated the device. Burger King did not work with Google to create this marketing approach, and Google reacted by stymying it. Continue reading Google Blocks Burger King Ad From Activating Google Home

Roku Hires Lobbyists, Prepping for Changes to Net Neutrality

Roku seems to be gearing up for a battle regarding net neutrality, as the FCC is expected to repeal or change regulations that require ISPs to treat all Internet traffic equally. Such changes could make it more challenging and potentially more expensive for Roku and others to provide services at top download speeds. In a first for the company, Roku has hired two DC lobbyists to focus on net neutrality issues. The President Obama-era net neutrality rules treat telecoms similarly to utilities. Those who support the regulations believe they are necessary to prevent service providers from throttling speeds or charging media companies more for content delivery. Continue reading Roku Hires Lobbyists, Prepping for Changes to Net Neutrality

Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Respond to Backlash on Privacy

Since Congress overturned the Internet privacy rules preventing Internet service providers from sharing or selling customers’ Web browsing history, ISPs have been under attack. Now, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have published blog posts to reassure their customers. Comcast said it does not sell its broadband customers’ Web browsing histories and has no plans to do so in the future. Verizon made a similar claim, and AT&T’s tack is to tell customers that the nixed privacy laws wouldn’t have really protected them. Continue reading Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Respond to Backlash on Privacy

Internet Privacy Legislation Is Overturned in Win for Telecoms

In a 215-to-205 vote that largely followed party lines, House Republicans successfully dismantled the new FCC Internet privacy protections for individuals, which was landmark legislation of the Obama administration. Overturning the legislation marks a victory for telecoms that are now free to collect and sell data on users’ online activities without permission, although some have expressed plans to honor voluntary privacy policies. The protections were originally slated to go into effect later this year. Continue reading Internet Privacy Legislation Is Overturned in Win for Telecoms

Congress Makes a Move to Change New Internet Privacy Rules

The Republican-controlled Senate voted yesterday to reverse FCC privacy protections created under the Obama administration and former FCC chair Tom Wheeler that would have forbidden Internet service providers from using customer data without permission for use in targeted ads. “The measure passed in a 50-to-48 vote largely along party lines,” reports The New York Times. “The House is expected to mirror the Senate’s action next week, followed by a quick signature from President Trump.” The decision means service providers would not require permission to track and share the browsing and app activities of its customers. Continue reading Congress Makes a Move to Change New Internet Privacy Rules

U.S. Claims That Russian Hackers Were Behind Yahoo Attack

The Department of Justice officially charged four people yesterday in connection with Yahoo’s 2014 data breach that reportedly resulted in the theft of data from 500 million Yahoo accounts. According to the indictment, the Russian government used the data obtained by two intelligence officers (Dmitry Dokuchaev, Igor Sushchin) and two hackers (Alexsey Belan, Karim Baratov) to spy on White House and military officials, bank executives, cloud computing companies, a senior level airline official, a Nevada gaming regulator, as well as Russian journalists, business execs and government officials. Continue reading U.S. Claims That Russian Hackers Were Behind Yahoo Attack

Facebook Data Policy Update Will Curb Surveillance of Users

Under pressure from the ACLU and other advocacy groups, Facebook announced it would not allow law enforcement and third party vendors to use its data for surveillance purposes. Facebook did not define surveillance in the update to its data policy, but police have reportedly been using the social network to track protesters and activists. In October, the ACLU published documents from startup Geofeedia that detailed how the location-based, social media analytics platform tracked protestors in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri. Continue reading Facebook Data Policy Update Will Curb Surveillance of Users

Eyewear Makers Take Focused Approach with Smart Glasses

After Google Glass failed to gain traction, eyewear companies are designing a new generation of smart glasses. Unlike Google Glass, these new wearables are not designed to emulate the functionality of a smartphone. Instead, the new glasses are aimed at narrower audiences. Snap’s Spectacles let users record photos and videos. Oakley’s Radar Pace eyewear acts as a fitness tracker. Italian company Safilo makes glasses that track brain waves and helps users concentrate. The new approach may finally help smart eyewear find a mass market. Continue reading Eyewear Makers Take Focused Approach with Smart Glasses

WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

WikiLeaks released thousands of documents yesterday that it claims detail methods used by the CIA “to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions,” reports The New York Times. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA and allied intelligence services bypassed encryption on messaging services including Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. WikiLeaks also suggests that agencies can collect audio and messaging data from Android phones “before encryption is applied.” The Wall Street Journal notes that such activities, if actually taking place with consumer electronics, could fuel tensions between intelligence agencies and the tech industry, which has been concerned about customer privacy. Mobile devices are a major concern; NYT published an article detailing potential smartphone vulnerabilities. Continue reading WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

After a 2-to-1 vote, the FCC put a halt to a portion of the privacy rules passed in October. New FCC chair Ajit Pai said those rules required high-speed Internet providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, to secure their customers’ data against hacking and other unauthorized uses. This stay of new government rules may be a foreshadowing of a broader repeal of privacy protections, believe some experts. In line with that, Pai also stated that the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, should “oversee broadband and Internet industries.” Continue reading FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

Verizon to Pay $350 Million Less for Yahoo Internet Businesses

Verizon and Yahoo announced yesterday plans to move forward with the sale of Yahoo’s core Internet businesses. In the wake of major data breaches at Yahoo, the purchase price has been lowered by $350 million for a new deal valued at $4.48 billion. The companies plan to split future costs related to the data breaches. “The revised agreement,” notes The New York Times, “paves the way for the deal to proceed to a shareholder vote as early as April, although securities regulators are still assessing how Yahoo disclosed information about the breaches to investors.” Verizon is looking to compete with Facebook and Google in digital advertising and, according to The Wall Street Journal, plans to fold Yahoo’s ad tech and websites “into AOL, which Verizon acquired in 2015.” Continue reading Verizon to Pay $350 Million Less for Yahoo Internet Businesses

India Opens its Massive Biometric Database to App Developers

Having created the world’s largest biometric-identity database, India is now opening it up for use by tech firms, healthcare providers and app developers. The country’s government had already culled fingerprints and eye scans, among other digital ID records, of nearly all its 1.2 billion citizens. Now, “India Stack,” a government-backed initiative, plans to standardize the digital exchange of that data. The result will make it easier for citizens to conduct financial transactions, get jobs and verify their identity. Continue reading India Opens its Massive Biometric Database to App Developers

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

The Signal app from non-profit Open Whisper Systems provides end-to-end encrypted messaging, voice calling, and now video chatting. The new feature, along with improved voice calling functionality, comes as part of a beta update for the app’s Android and iOS versions. Signal is a popular choice for activists and journalists who need a private communications platform, but it is still struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream because it sacrifices some popular features for security.  Continue reading Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

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