David McCabe

Google: Requests for data rose in second half of 2015

Google said that global government requests for its user data had risen in the second half of 2015 to an all-time high. Authorities made 40,677 requests in the second half of 2015, according to an update made to the company’s transparency report, up from 35,365 in the first half of the year. The number of users and accounts affected rose from 68,908 to 81,311. More than 12,000 requests were made in the United States, affecting 27,157 users or accounts.
Requests have risen every year since at least 2010, the first year when Google released 12 months worth of data. The proportion of instances in which Google handed over some data remained relatively constant, rising from 63 percent to 64 percent. That figure was 79 percent in the United States.

Convention puts GOP tech to the test

The team behind the Republican National Convention has spent more than a year building their technology infrastructure for the big event. Now that work is being put to the test, as the convention kicks off in Cleveland (OH). “We’re launching a startup every four years,” said Max Everett, the chief information officer for the Republican National Convention, of the massive effort to keep attendees informed, connected and secure. It takes more than a year for Everett to set up a convention — he’s worked on four — with networks built from the ground up each time. “We’ve had staff, including myself, who’ve been in and out of Cleveland for over a year now,” Everett said. The party is also working with tech and communications giants, including Google, Microsoft and AT&T, to deliver services. Here are some of the notable ways the GOP is using technology to cater to the estimated 50,000 people — not counting protesters — who will attend and cover the convention.

  • Expanded Wi-Fi: A great amount of work has gone into getting the convention venue, Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, ready to handle the thousands of devices expected to connect to its public Wi-Fi network.
  • Strong connections for video: Those not in Cleveland will have options to stream the convention’s many speeches and events.
  • Cybersecurity: Everett said his convention networks have been breached "like any organization."
  • A beefed-up app: Not all of the convention’s technology is behind-the-scenes. When convention planners released their mobile app for the event, it was downloaded more times in its first week online than the total for the 2012 convention app.

Spotify vs. Apple comes to Washington

The escalating fight between Spotify and Apple is turning heads in Washington. Spotify, a Swedish service, blasted Apple for rejecting an updated version of its popular streaming app in the online store used by iPhone users. At issue, according to Apple, is Spotify’s decision to take out a feature that let its users buy premium subscriptions through Apple’s in-app purchase feature or take steps to sign up online. In the most recent version, users are simply told that premium service is available. When users buy through the in-application purchase tool, Apple gets a cut; when they buy online, Apple gets nothing. Apple says that Spotify is violating rules designed to prevent an end-run around the commissions system. Spotify says Apple is trying to stifle competition.

Lawmakers, including Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are paying attention to the debate. The Federal Trade Commission reportedly began looking into the issue in 2015, though not through a formal investigation, as streaming services ramped up their criticism of Apple. Sen Al Franken (D-MN) also asked for a federal probe into the issue. Spotify has been making its case on Capitol Hill. The company reached out to over a dozen offices over its most recent criticisms of Apple, according to a person familiar with the effort. Their pleas have not gone unnoticed.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Thune puts heat on FCC Chairman Wheeler over press leaks

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) took to the floor to amplify his questions about whether Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler authorized a March leak about the commission’s activities. In March, a source told Politico that a deal had been reached between two Republican commissioners of the agency and Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn on reforms to the Lifeline subsidy program. The report prompted supporters of Wheeler's proposed reforms to lobby Commissioner Clyburn to forsake the deal. Chairman Thune used a portion of a floor speech to hit Chairman Wheeler for not directly answering whether he had personally authorized that leak.

“Now since Mr. Wheeler could have just said no if he did not actually authorize the leak of non-public information, that leaves only two possible conclusions,” Chairman Thune said. “One, that Chairman Wheeler did authorize the leak but is not confident in his roundabout interpretation of the rules and fears admitting to violating them. Or, second, Chairman Wheeler simply does not respect the legitimate role of Congressional oversight and believes and he is unaccountable to the American people.”

House passes two tech investment bills

The House passed two bills aimed at improving conditions for startup investing. The Fix Crowdfunding Act (HR 4855) raises the amount that a company can crowdfund, from $1 million to $5 million. A 2012 law opened up the rules for crowdfunded investments, but Republicans say the rules still need to be tweaked. The bill was approved by a vote of 394-4. “These bills today are targeted fixes to restore the original spirit of the JOBS Act: To harness innovation and bring together millions of Americans with potential new businesses through crowdfunding,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said. The new crowdfunding rules went into effect earlier in 2016, after being formally approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2015.

The second bill, Supporting America’s Innovators Act (HR 4854), would expand the legal limit on investors in venture funds doing early-stage funding that can help a company get off the ground — called angel investing — to 250 from 100. The legislation passed 388-9. Both bills are part of a House GOP initiative focused on passing bills related to the tech industry and innovation in the months before November’s elections. Democrats have backed a similar initiative.

Tech industry wants Trump agenda

The tech industry is pressing Donald Trump to “get into the game” after Hillary Clinton released a wide-ranging platform that touched on internet connectivity, cybersecurity and computer science education. Industry officials generally applauded Clinton’s agenda as hitting many of their top priorities. Now they want to hear from Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Republicans on Capitol Hill said it is important for candidates to detail their platforms early, but said the decision is Trump’s to make. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said he expects Trump to release something on tech policy before the general election debates begin, noting the presumptive nominee's business background and social media savvy. “I think both candidates are going to be vying on some of these issues for the so-called tech vote, and whether it happens now or some point in the future, I’m sure that Donald Trump will also have an agenda that will compete for the support of the tech community,” said Chairman Thune, a major voice on tech issues. A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign did not respond to a question about the campaign’s plans.

Trump appears to be lacking support in the tech industry heading into the general election, after the candidate clashed with several major companies during the Republican primaries.