Back in April, wireless carriers and the government announced
that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal is to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.
The move came after AT&T was sued for doing little to track or stop theft
, the lawsuit alleging it was more profitable to do nothing and cash in on stolen phone re-activations. The lawsuit (and government prodding) spurred AT&T to develop new anti-theft tools
, and carriers in general have been working hard to try and prove they care about cell phone theft.
Still, law enforcement has complained the database has proven ineffective because many phones wind up overseas. New York and San Francisco lawmakers have been eyeing the idea of a "kill switch" that would automatically render a phone useless once its owner has reported it stolen. However, according to the New York Times
, city DAs say carriers are fighting the proposals because they'll lose money on stolen device re-activations:
Mr. Gascón said he is evaluating what action to take regarding the carriers’ refusal to allow Samsung to pre-load a kill switch on its phones. "We have repeatedly requested that the carriers take steps to protect their customers. We are now evaluating what course of action will be necessary to force them to prioritize the safety of their customers over additional money in their pockets," he said.
Carriers are justifying their opposition to a kill switch by claiming they're concerned that hackers could abuse the function to disable devices used by consumers or law enforcement.
Wikileaks this week released a copy
of the latest version of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that has been under construction behind closed doors for years. As we've long noted
, the TPP attempts to take some of the worst aspects of U.S.
One of the most notable bits in Sandvine's recent study on bandwidth and Internet traffic
is that the doomsday bandwidth apocalypse scenarios breathlessly predicted by numerous analysts, lobbyists, and ISPs never materialized. While peak bandwidth usage is still healthy and growing at 40%, overall bandwidth growth continues to slow substantially, continuing to be manageable with only modest network investment.
Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge has announced that the organization's President & CEO Gigi Sohn will be leaving to go work at the FCC. According to a Public Knowledge press release
, Sohn will be joining the Office of Chairman Tom Wheeler as Special Counsel for External Affairs.
On the heels of growing outrage from last week that the NSA has been spying on numerous world leaders
(which isn't much of a revelation since it's clear now the NSA is spying on effectively everything, everywhere). Media reports had previously claimed Obama was briefed on the spying on foreign leaders in 2010 but allowed it to continue.
Following on the heels of decisions to shut down their secure e-mail services by Lavabit
and Silent Circle
, CryptoSeal says they too will be shutting down their VPN service due to government requests for the company's cryptographic keys. The companies that have been closing have protested that government requirements have made their very existence as secure service providers untenable, while also claiming gag orders violate their free speech rights.
The entertainment industry's "Copyright Alert System" (aka "six strikes) was launched back in February
with the cooperation of major ISPs including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. While the program integrates "educational" material and a variety of short-lived punishments ranging from throttling to click through warnings, early indications are the program hasn't had much if any impact on BitTorrent piracy traffic
for a variety of reasons (users hiding behind VPNs or proxies, no punishment after the sixth "strike").
Despite being the author of what's considered one of the more draconian expansions of surveillance power in US history, even Patriot Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has come out against the NSA
, going so far as to join the EFF's court battle against the intelligence agency.
Back in August the Obama administration tried to get out in front of the NSA scandal by announcing a number of intelligence reforms
, including the creation of a high-level task force of "outside intelligence and civil liberties specialists" to review NSA procedures. That committee has been created, and groups like the EFF aren't too impressed that it's being lead by the NSA's James Clapper (accused of repeatedly lying to Congress) and a number of intelligence insiders
. "At the end of the day, a task force led by Gen. Clapper full of insiders – and not directed to look at the extensive abuse – will never get at the bottom of the unconstitutional spying," said Mark Jaycox, a policy analyst for the EFF.
Like many government agencies impacted by the government shutdown, the FCC has stated that they'll be operating with a skeleton crew moving forward, with some 1,700 full-time employees sent home until the shutdown ends. According to the FCC shutdown plan
(pdf), FCC commissioners and three inspectors general will be working given they're not paid they are not paid via annual appropriations.
Another sixteen employees will be on staff to handle things like interference detection and disaster response, national security issues and IT support (though the FCC website just went down
). Consumer protection will be one of the things put on hiatus (well, greater hiatus than is usually the case at the FCC).
"Consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines cannot be answered; consumer protection and local competition enforcement must cease; licensing services, including broadcast, wireless, and wireline, must cease; management of radio spectrum and the creation of new opportunities for competitive technologies and services for the American public must be suspended; and equipment authorizations, including those bringing new electronic devices to American consumers, cannot be provided," said the FCC.
A new study by NetNames commissioned by Comcast NBC Universal released this week
tries to get a handle on the global scope of online piracy. According to the study, some 432 million people engaged in copyright infringement during January of this year in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific alone.
The latest Edward Snowden bombshell comes courtesy of the New York Times, who in a report this week notes that the NSA has managed to defeat most of the most common encryption schemes available
using a wide variety of tactics. According to the documents received by the Times, the NSA has spent decades using supercomputers, "technical trickery," backdoors, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine major encryption tools.
The entertainment industry and ISP joint "Copyright Alert System" (aka "six strikes) has had absolutely no impact on piracy statistics, judging from a preliminary look at popular BitTorrent website traffic levels. The six strikes program was launched back in February
with the cooperation of major ISPs including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
The Wall Street Journal
is the latest to join the NSA scandal fun with a bombshell report that once again shows the NSA has been lying to the press, public and Congress. According to the Journal, the NSA's surveillance apparatus has the ability to reach roughly 75% of all US Internet traffic, with inadequate safeguards leading to frequent over collection.
The government is continuing to ponder a small tax on cellphone users in order to expand the government's USF and E-Rate programs so that they can shore up broadband shortcomings. While it was overshadowed by the blossoming NSA scandal at the time, back in June the Obama administration unveiled their "ConnectED" broadband initiative
, which promised to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the Internet within 5 years.
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