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

President Obama Signs Order for New Supercomputer Initiative

President Obama recently signed an executive order, the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), with the intention of creating the first exaflop supercomputer. This computer would be about 30 times faster than today’s fastest machine, and would be geared toward the development of ongoing scientific and defense research projects. Although the supercomputer would be useful for a vary of governmental projects, many see this initiative as a response to China’s 33.86 petaflop Tianhe-2, now the fastest supercomputer in the world. Continue reading President Obama Signs Order for New Supercomputer Initiative

Tech Industry Presses Government to Address Patent Reform

A number of top technology executives representing the Internet Association submitted a letter this week to leaders of the House of Representatives calling for quick passage of the Innovation Act of 2015. CEOs of Etsy, Gilt, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Rackspace, TripAdvisor, Twitter, Yahoo and Yelp are among those urging politicians to pass the patent-reform bill this summer. The letter explains that these execs have “direct experience of the negative consequences of the patent troll business model on our economy.” Continue reading Tech Industry Presses Government to Address Patent Reform

FCC Calls for Safeguards as Telecoms Upgrade Copper to Fiber

U.S. regulators have proposed a new rule that would require major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T to maintain their current levels of service while they update aging copper networks with new fiber. The FCC’s proposal would require that the big carriers offer “reasonably comparable” services and conditions for their new technologies as well, in an effort to prevent an immediate impact on smaller carriers. The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposed rule next month. Continue reading FCC Calls for Safeguards as Telecoms Upgrade Copper to Fiber

FTC Examines Apple’s 30 Percent Charge for Rival Music Apps

Antitrust regulators are reportedly taking a preliminary look at whether Apple’s business model for selling streaming music apps may be illegal under current antitrust law. While the company now has its own music streaming service, Apple also takes a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases through its App Store for competing services such as Jango, Rhapsody and Spotify. According to industry sources, the Federal Trade Commission has not announced a formal investigation, but has started to look into the issue by meeting with concerned parties. Continue reading FTC Examines Apple’s 30 Percent Charge for Rival Music Apps

Tech Companies Urge White House to Leave Encryption Alone

Tech companies in the U.S. are urging the Obama administration not to impose policies that could potentially weaken encryption systems created to protect the privacy of consumers. “We are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption as an available and effective tool,” stated a letter to President Obama this week from the Information Technology Industry Council and the Software and Information Industry Association, representing companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft. Continue reading Tech Companies Urge White House to Leave Encryption Alone

NSA Preps Shutdown of Controversial Phone Tracking Program

After the Senate declined to reauthorize the bulk collection of phone records, the National Security Agency began shuttering its controversial counter-terrorism program over the weekend. The Senate failed to reach an agreement to extend the program beyond May 31, when the law used to authorize it will expire. Some intelligence and law enforcement officials have argued that the program is crucial to tracking terrorists. While the Senate rejected two bills that would have continued the program, some believe an agreement could still be reached before the deadline. Continue reading NSA Preps Shutdown of Controversial Phone Tracking Program

Tech Industry Urges President to Not Weaken Encryption Tech

Tech companies including Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft joined Internet security experts and civil liberties organizations this week to draft a letter to President Obama warning that a “backdoor” for U.S. law enforcement could also serve as a backdoor for hackers and other governments. The Obama administration has been considering whether companies should only be allowed to use encryption that provides law enforcement with unscrambled access (or a “backdoor”). Critics are concerned about weakening encryption tech that protects Internet communications. Continue reading Tech Industry Urges President to Not Weaken Encryption Tech

FCC Unanimously Votes to Repeal the Sports Blackout Rule

The Federal Communications Commission voted to eliminate its sports blackout rule yesterday. For nearly four decades, the blackout rule has prevented cable and satellite systems from broadcasting certain National Football League games. The unanimous decision will result in the repeal of the blackout rule, which should take about six weeks to be finalized. The NFL opposed the FCC action, arguing that eliminating the rule would impact the availability of games via free, over-the-air television. Continue reading FCC Unanimously Votes to Repeal the Sports Blackout Rule

Google Settles with FTC, Will Refund $19 Million to Customers

The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that Google will refund consumers at least $19 million for unauthorized charges that resulted from their children making in-app purchases on Android mobile devices. The FTC alleged that Google was guilty of unfair commercial practices since 2011 by making it relatively simple for children to make purchases from the Google Play store without permission. As part of the settlement, Google will also be required to modify its billing practices. Continue reading Google Settles with FTC, Will Refund $19 Million to Customers

President Obama Names Two Googlers to Fill Key Tech Posts

The White House announced that it has hired Google exec Megan Smith to become the next U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President. Smith replaces Todd Park, who is moving to Silicon Valley in a new position as recruiter of tech talent for the federal government. The White House also announced that Alexander Macgillivray, former counsel for Twitter and Google, will serve as a deputy CTO with a focus on Internet and intellectual property policies and the intersection of big data and privacy. Continue reading President Obama Names Two Googlers to Fill Key Tech Posts

NAB Files Lawsuit Over FCC’s Auction Rules for TV Airwaves

The National Association of Broadcasters filed a lawsuit yesterday in response to the FCC’s plan to auction airwaves next year. NAB argues that the spectrum reverse auction, the first of its kind, would negatively impact TV stations financially and reduce coverage areas. The auction would allow stations in large cities to accept bids so their spectrum can be resold to wireless carriers for mobile broadband. Participating stations can close shop or move to another channel with fewer airwaves. Continue reading NAB Files Lawsuit Over FCC’s Auction Rules for TV Airwaves

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