Federal Regulators Need More Time to Vote on Set-Top Boxes

The FCC delayed its vote yesterday on the proposal to unlock cable set-top boxes. FCC members “could not agree on a set-top box proposal that requires cable operators to provide their shows and movies on alternative devices rather than just on a cable box,” reports The New York Times. “The plan was intended to bring more competition to the television industry and liberate consumers from an average of $231 in annual cable box fees.” While the proposal will be considered for a future vote, FCC chair Tom Wheeler said commissioners needed additional discussions. However, with an upcoming change of administration, Wheeler’s window to adopt the regulation may be dwindling. Continue reading Federal Regulators Need More Time to Vote on Set-Top Boxes

Tech, Media Firms Join Microsoft’s Suit Against Secrecy Laws

On Friday, Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, saying that part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 is unconstitutional. The provision in question prevents Microsoft from letting customers know when their communications have been turned over to law enforcement, which Microsoft says violates the First and Fourth Amendments. Approximately 80 different companies — including Amazon, Google, Snapchat, and Salesforce — have signed briefs in support of Microsoft. Continue reading Tech, Media Firms Join Microsoft’s Suit Against Secrecy Laws

FCC Pushes for 5G Standards with Emphasis on Cybersecurity

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is reminding the tech industry that cybersecurity standards should be a significant consideration while moving forward with the development of 5G wireless Internet. Last week, the FCC published a request “for comment on a new set of proposed 5G rules to the Federal Register focused on adding specific ‘performance requirements’ for developers of example Internet-connected devices,” reports FedScoop. Companies interested in a license to access 5G spectrum will need to comply with the new requirements, which will include network security plans. Continue reading FCC Pushes for 5G Standards with Emphasis on Cybersecurity

Court Rules Against FCC Effort to Allow Municipal Broadband

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, a federal appellate court, ruled that the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its authority in its effort to eliminate state laws preventing municipal broadband networks. The FCC wanted cities to be able to build their own broadband networks. Last year, Wilson, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee petitioned the FCC for permission to be able to build out their own networks, to increase competition in their municipalities despite state laws that prevent that. Continue reading Court Rules Against FCC Effort to Allow Municipal Broadband

Consumers Report Financial Data Breaches, Still Trust Banks

According to a new Accenture report, 23 percent of consumers claim their financial data has been breached at least once in the past two years. Interestingly, most remain willing to share their data if it means better service. “About 63 percent of respondents are willing to give their bank direct access to personal information,” reports HousingWire. The National Association of Federal Credit Unions recently called on Congress to combat hacking with legislation that would create stricter standards for retail businesses. Accenture surveyed 4,013 bank customers in North America — 70 percent in the U.S. and 30 percent in Canada. Continue reading Consumers Report Financial Data Breaches, Still Trust Banks

Feds, Tech Titans Grapple Over Approaches to Cybersecurity

President Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity met with tech industry executives at UC Berkeley to gather suggestions on how to improve cybersecurity. Executives from Google, Facebook, Dropbox and others had their own agenda: to move the issues of consumer data privacy, transparency and sharing of cyber threats towards more openness. Former NSA director General Keith Alexander and Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan are among the members of the commission. Continue reading Feds, Tech Titans Grapple Over Approaches to Cybersecurity

Twitter Withholds Data, Tensions Rise Between Police, Tech

The battle over encryption is heating up on Capitol Hill where Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said his office hasn’t been able to decrypt 230 iPhones possibly containing important crime-related information. Google general counsel Kent Walker and Microsoft president Brad Smith also visited lawmakers to make the counter-argument that weakened encryption would make their technology less secure. These latest salvos are part of a battle that ignited when Apple refused to decrypt a mass-shooter’s iPhone. Continue reading Twitter Withholds Data, Tensions Rise Between Police, Tech

FCC Approves Broadband Subsidy Plan, Looks at Privacy Rules

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved a $9.25 per month subsidy that will bring broadband Internet to millions of low-income families. Three out of the FCC’s five commissioners voted for the subsidy plan, which is part of a reform of the Lifeline program and the latest FCC effort to treat broadband as a public utility. The subsidy for broadband comes at a time when high-speed Internet has become indispensible for school homework, finding and keeping employment and other essential tasks. Continue reading FCC Approves Broadband Subsidy Plan, Looks at Privacy Rules

Government Says iPhone Unlocked, Apple No Longer Needed

The Justice Department revealed it has learned a way to unlock Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone without help from Apple. Farook was a gunman in the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people. The announcement stalls the legal standoff between the federal government and Apple; the Justice Department will withdraw its efforts to enlist the tech company’s help in the investigation. While the news suspends the privacy vs. security debate, at least temporarily, law enforcement’s ability to open the device without Apple’s assistance raises new concerns. Continue reading Government Says iPhone Unlocked, Apple No Longer Needed

Europe Divides in Battle Between Privacy, Digital Decryption

As the issue of digital encryption versus privacy roiled in the U.S. over the FBI’s demand that Apple unlock the iPhone of a mass murderer in California, recent violence in Brussels and Paris has brought those same issues to the fore in Europe. Although privacy is enshrined as a basic right in much of Europe, lawmakers in some countries are considering proposals that would give greater powers to law enforcement to access personal digital data. But privacy advocates in those same countries are fighting back. Continue reading Europe Divides in Battle Between Privacy, Digital Decryption

FBI Tests Method to Unlock iPhone, Cancels Today’s Hearing

The FBI asked to postpone a hearing scheduled for today regarding the Apple encryption case. The Justice Department may no longer need the tech company’s help in opening an iPhone used by gunman Syed Rizwan Farook in the San Bernardino shootings. A third party has reportedly come forward with a technique to help unlock the phone, which is currently being tested. Judge Sheri Pym of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the Justice Department’s motion to postpone. The government is required to provide an update to the court by April 5. Continue reading FBI Tests Method to Unlock iPhone, Cancels Today’s Hearing

FTC Studies Privacy Issues Inherent in Cross-Device Tracking

Prompted by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the Federal Trade Commission has scheduled a workshop to discuss cross-device tracking technologies. Using ultrasonic, inaudible pitches, the technology allows a user’s online behavior to be tracked across phones, TVs, tablets and computers. The pitches can be — and are already — embedded in TV commercials, ads in a computer browser and apps. The consumer is not made aware that the tracking technology has been activated and there is no way to opt out. Continue reading FTC Studies Privacy Issues Inherent in Cross-Device Tracking

Leaked Documents Offer Details of U.S. Military’s Drone Wars

Two years after government contractor Edward Snowden famously leaked secret NSA documents, another release of classified information has occurred. This time, The Intercept — which is staffed by journalists who previously worked with Snowden — has published what it claims is a comprehensive breakdown of the U.S. government’s military drone program. The report, featuring documents provided by another whistleblower, offers details regarding U.S. strategy to kill foreign targets in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen — and highlights the unintended consequences involved with drone wars. Continue reading Leaked Documents Offer Details of U.S. Military’s Drone Wars

Lawsuit Claims Streaming Tax on Digital Entertainment is Illegal

Chicago recently extended its 9 percent “amusement” tax — originally intended primarily for live shows and sporting events — to include an array of online services. Now, subscribers to streaming services such as Netflix, Xbox Live and Spotify are fighting back with a lawsuit that contends taxing such digital entertainment should be ruled illegal. The policy challenge in Chicago could prove significant to the larger media industry since its outcome could possibly shape how cities and states could tax parts of the Internet economy in the future. Continue reading Lawsuit Claims Streaming Tax on Digital Entertainment is Illegal

U.S. Renews Contract with ICANN, Delays Giving Up Oversight

The Department of Commerce announced that it would renew its contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for one year (with options to extend it another three years), delaying its plans to relinquish oversight of one aspect of Internet governance. Commerce has overseen ICANN’s management of the Internet’s domain-name system since 1998. But last year, the Obama administration proposed transferring the oversight to international stakeholders, a plan that has met criticism regarding the potential impact to free expression. Continue reading U.S. Renews Contract with ICANN, Delays Giving Up Oversight