Washington Post

With a comfortable lead, Clinton begins laying plans for her White House agenda

Hillary Clinton’s increasingly confident campaign has begun crafting a detailed agenda for her possible presidency, with plans to focus on measures aimed at creating jobs, boosting infrastructure spending and enacting immigration reform if current polling holds and she is easily elected to the White House in November.

Clinton has started ramping up for a presidency defined by marquee legislation she has promised to seek immediately. The pace and scale of the planning reflect growing expectations among Democrats that she will win and take office in January alongside a new Democratic majority in the Senate. While careful not to sound as if she is measuring the draperies quite yet, Clinton now describes what she calls improved odds for passage of an overhaul of immigration laws — the first legislative priority she outlined in detail last year — and what could be a bipartisan effort to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, airports, rail system and ports. She also could be immediately confronted with a choice about a Supreme Court vacancy that could set the tone for her relationship with Congress, and she plans to immediately champion new measures on campaign-finance reform and ending legal immunity for gun manufacturers. Her campaign’s to-do list includes assembling a Cabinet that has women in roughly equal numbers to men and that otherwise reflects American diversity, and lobbying has intensified for those and scores of other jobs that Clinton would fill in her administration.

NSA’s use of software flaws to hack foreign targets posed risks to cybersecurity

To penetrate the computers of foreign targets, the National Security Agency relies on software flaws that have gone undetected in the pipes of the Internet. For years, security experts have pressed the agency to disclose these bugs so they can be fixed, but the agency hackers have often been reluctant. Now with the mysterious release of a cache of NSA hacking tools over the weekend, the agency has lost an offensive advantage, experts say, and potentially placed at risk the security of countless large companies and government agencies worldwide. Several of the tools exploited flaws in commercial firewalls that remain unpatched, and they are out on the Internet for all to see. Anyone from a basement hacker to a sophisticated foreign spy agency has access to them now, and until the flaws are fixed, many computer systems may be in jeopardy.

Civil liberties groups ask FCC to probe Baltimore police use of cellphone tracking devices

Several civil liberties organizations filed a complaint asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the use of cellphone tracking devices by the Baltimore Police Department.

The complaint alleges that the Baltimore police, like many other police agencies across the country, are using devices that mimic cellphone towers to track suspects through their cellphone locations, in violation of federal law that requires a license. The groups are also alleging that the use of the disruptive surveillance technology overwhelmingly affects black residents — and does so without appropriate transparency and oversight. “There’s a pattern of law enforcement agencies around the country engaging in racially discriminatory policing, and that extends to surveillance technology,” said Laura Moy, director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Representation, who filed the complaint on behalf of the groups. The Communications Act, the groups say, requires a license to operate the devices on frequencies reserved for wireless carriers. But an FCC official said that local police agencies do not need a license under the law. She said at one point that the devices did not transmit on the wireless spectrum — which experts dispute. At another point, she suggested that local law enforcement is exempt from the requirement. In general, she could not give a clear explanation of why a license was not needed.

Google wants to help you vote. Could it affect the election?

One of the things that makes Google so powerful is that the sheer amount of data it gathers makes it possible to understand what the people as a whole are interested in. Now, the company is using all that data to make it easier for Americans to vote.

Google says it will now provide what it calls an "in-depth" search result when users look for information on how to cast a ballot — a search that's seen triple-digit growth in contested states like Arizona since the last presidential election. Basically, this means telling you exactly what you need to bring to the polls and when the registration deadlines are. The information, which is tailored to the exact state you're in, will also tell you precisely how to register. In-depth results are what Google gives you when it has the exact answer to a question, such as what today's date is. The company has increasingly been using these to supply information directly, as opposed to presenting users with links to sources that may have the right information. What will be the practical outcome of all this information?

Clinton’s transition team grows

With an eye toward what happens after November, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, announced new members of a leadership team to start preparing for a potential administration. The move comes two weeks after paperwork was filed to formally establish the Clinton-Kaine Transition Project, a nonprofit group that will oversee the effort to create a Democratic administration headed by Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Podesta, who is also serving as president of the transition project, said that Ken Salazar, the former Secretary of the Interior and former senator from Colorado, will serve as chairman of the new entity. He will be joined by four co-chairs: Tom Donilon, a former national security adviser under President Obama; Jennifer Granholm, a former governor of Michigan; Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank; and Maggie Williams, director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Williams also served as chief of staff to Clinton when she was first lady. Podesta said that Ed Meier and Ann O'Leary, two top Clinton campaign policy advisers, will shift full-time to the transition project to manage its day-to-day operations. In the previously filed paperwork, Minyon Moore, a senior adviser to Clinton, was named as the project’s secretary.

You think you’re using your smartphone — but it also uses you

You touch your phone an average of 2,617 times per day — more, if you’re a heavy user. That’s 18,000 times a week. Nearly one million times a year. Enough that all those swipes, taps, drags, flicks and pinches feel both hard-wired and totally natural. Of course, our interactions with our touch screens are neither of those things: They’re deliberately strategized, user-tested and designed toward specific purposes, by people with self-serving goals. And Ben Grosser, an artist whose work interrogates power and technology, thinks we ought to pay more attention to both. Grosser released the first in a series of three videos that will examine how we interact with our touch screens and how those interactions are represented in modern television and movies.

‘Wireless fiber’ could give us gigabit Internet speeds with no cables at all

So, you're on the hunt for a new home-Internet provider. The one you like seems to offer fast, reliable service, but its footprint ends just short of where you happen to live — and there aren't many other options in your area. Too bad: Looks like you'll be sticking with slow speeds and lackluster customer support while your luckiest neighbors get to surf without interruption. For many Americans, this isn't hypothetical. It's reality.

Until now, there weren't many ways around this problem. But thanks to a technology some Internet service providers (ISPs) expect to roll out next year, Americans dreaming of better, faster broadband may actually be able to get it.

To understand how, let's start with key concepts about how Internet service works. Most residential broadband today runs over cables that are laid in the ground or strung on telephone poles, that then branch off and tunnel directly into your house. Laying these cables is costly, which is why many Internet providers expand slowly — or not at all, if they're worried the returns can't justify the outlays.

Cellular Internet is a little different. Cell towers are expensive, too, but they create a one-to-many connection that serves thousands of mobile devices wirelessly — rather than creating a dedicated pipe to a single, fixed destination such as a home or business. The speeds aren't quite as fast on mobile data as what you get with fixed broadband, but for basic Web browsing and video, it's good enough.

Now, imagine if you could take the convenience of cellular data and combine it with the superfast download speeds associated with fixed, wired broadband. What might that look like?

The copyright case that should worry all Internet providers

Will Internet providers have to start cracking down harder on their own customers for suspected copyright infringement? That's one of the big questions being raised in the wake of an obscure court ruling that finds that Cox Communications is liable for the illegal music and movie downloads of its subscribers.

A federal judge said Cox Communications will have to pay a $25 million penalty that a jury had awarded in December to BMG, the music rights company. BMG had been using a third-party company called Rightscorp to monitor the Internet for filesharing activity and notify Internet providers when it found evidence of it. The expectation was that Cox would pass along Rightscorp's notices to consumers. BMG claimed that Cox was dragging its feet and using a variety of technical means to keep the notices from reaching its affected customers. The court ruled in favor of BMG's argument that Cox should be held liable because it not only knew that its users were illegally downloading copyrighted content, it also took actions that contributed to it.

The finding that Cox is liable for its customers' piracy should absolutely worry other Internet providers, according to legal analysts at the consumer group Public Knowledge.

The next frontier of online activism is ‘woke’ chatbots

Since early June, an account called @StayWokeBot has been doing its best to help keep others aware. The bot, a collaboration between activists DeRay Mckesson and Sam Sinyangwe and the tech cooperative Feel Train, is intended to protect and maintain morale among the black protest community. As of this writing, the bot does two things, though it may do more in the future: When a Twitter user initially follows @StayWokeBot, it auto-tweets them a singsong affirmation; when a follower tweets at the bot with his or her state, it responds with contact information for that state’s senators and a prompt to ask them to vote in favor of two gun-control measures. These sorts of repetitive, exhausting social media tasks — rallying the community, calling for action, facing down the angry @-replies of haters and critics — have long been the undertaking of activists themselves. But there’s a growing understanding that this work takes a lot of time, not to mention a profound emotional and psychological toll. And bots, of all things, could be the ones to absorb that kind of emotional labor. This idea, that bots could serve as a sort of proxy or extension of human activists, is a subtle shift from the activist and protest bots of the past.

Do menacing comments about Hillary Clinton cross the First Amendment line?

[Commentary] The 2016 presidential election has been notable for the rhetorical vitriol pervading the campaign, and unfortunately Donald Trump’s suggestion that “Second Amendment people” might be able to offer some sort of corrective to a Hillary Clinton presidency is merely a continuation of this well-established pattern. Do any of Trump’s statements or those of his supporters cross the line of protected speech under the First Amendment? Probably not.

The relevant federal statue here — 18 USC Section 879(a)(3) — makes it a felony to threaten a presidential candidate with death or bodily harm. But the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled that speakers should be accorded fairly wide latitude to express themselves in ways that do not pose a real and imminent threat. We look for guidance to the Supreme Court’s most recent case to test the limits of this sort of speech: Brandenburg v. Ohio. In that 1969 decision, the court set forth a three-part test to determine the contours of First Amendment sanctuary: Was criminal action (1) intended, (2) imminent and (3) likely? We all celebrate the First Amendment and its broad protections of speech, as egregious and unpresidential as that language might sometimes seem. But all political liberties come with limits, and a case could be made that Trump’s brutal entreaties have exceeded that limit. Should he continue to exhort violence at his rallies, it may be his own legal defense needs, rather than those of his followers, that he will need to worry about.