Washington Post

So my phone can be tracked anywhere. Can I make it stop?

The story on surveillance technology that can track cell phone users anywhere in the world left some readers with a question: What can they do, short of tossing their phones into the sea, to keep their locations private?

The answer is, individually, not much if you are an ordinary cell phone user. As long as your phone connects to a carrier’s cellular network, the carrier must keep records of your location. Sophisticated users can opt for personal solutions: Encrypted e-mail or apps that use the Internet, rather than cell phone networks, to carry calls.

The Chief Technology Officer of the United States is leaving. What now?

Todd Park, who took over the job of US Chief Technology Officer nearly two and a half years ago, is returning home to California at by the end of August. He will, according to those familiar with the situation, remain part of the White House team, helping to recruit technologists to government service and keeping an eye on how the evolution of tech might impact the creation of public policy.

And Park's departure reopens the debate over what the nature of the US CTO role should be. One read of the job suggests that, in ideal times, the CTO post should be far more focused on developing public policy than rebooting botched IT projects. Also renewed by Park's decision to head west is the question of what sort of person should fill the US Chief Technology Officer’s slot.

A top net neutrality defender is trying to poke holes in Mozilla’s plan for the open Internet

[Commentary] Leading network neutrality proponent Barbara van Schewick, a Stanford University law scholar, pointed out three tiny words that threaten to undermine Mozilla's proposal to heavily regulate the relationship between Internet service providers (ISPs) and digital content companies as telecommunications services.

"The definition of 'telecommunications service' requires that telecommunications is offered 'for a fee,'" van Schewick wrote. That's problematic, van Schewick argued, for a couple of reasons. If the FCC adopts Mozilla's proposal, then the FCC's net neutrality regulations wouldn't cover Internet providers that don't charge content companies an access fee.

More troubling to van Schewick, though, is how the phrase "for a fee" would complicate efforts to ban fee-based content prioritization. At a basic level, what Mozilla is asking the FCC to do is to single out fee-charging ISPs (because non-fee-charging ISPs would be exempted under the definition of "telecommunications service") and then turn around and tell them, based on that very same part of the Communications Act, that they can't charge those fees.

How the US Digital Service could upset DC’s ‘IT vendor ecosystem’

The recently-launched United States Digital Service (USDS) is modeled on the UK Cabinet Office's Government Digital Service which helps deploy new citizen-centric technologies throughout British government.

Since its launch in 2010, GDS has emerged as the gold-standard in the global world of digital government.

Democrats, Republicans go after data-driven TV ads that know -- like, really know -- voters

DirecTV and Dish Network customers may notice something a little different this election season: Your television ads know who you are.

The satellite television providers have partnered with Democratic and Republican data shops to harness information about their 20 million customers and deliver television ads tailored to the viewer.

The technology, known as "addressable advertising," is the latest front in a growing battle to reach voters.

The television providers will take over a customer's digital video recorder, or DVR, when it's not in use -- likely in the middle of the night. The targeted ads are downloaded. When a cue is sent by an advertiser of the perfect moment to run, one of those ads are picked off the box and run on the television screen, appearing just like any ol' television commercial.

Some questions to ask yourself before you sign up for a new smartphone plan

Here are a few tips to choose the smartphone plan that's best for you.

Figure out your priorities: how much data do you really need?

Location, location, location: Consider how the coverage is in the area you're going to be using the phone the most.

Think about commitment: If you're not the kind of person who needs to get a new phone every year, you might prefer a contract plan in order to subsidize the price of your device.

Just adding a line? For families, the options get a little more interesting, because you'll be sharing pools of data and talk time among multiple lines.

Jumping ship: Keep an eye out for deals like these, particularly if you're unhappy with your current network, to get the most out of a new plan.

The real world is undermining Silicon Valley’s apolitical fantasyland

[Commentary] Like Hollywood, Silicon Valley has an idea of how politics works. And that idea is generally wrong. But some tech startups are finding that they can't get ahead without grappling with bureaucrats and lobbyists -- a dirty, petty business that reminds us more of the fading 20th century than the sleek, futuristic promise of the 21st.

Most of the time, tech companies would simply rather disengage from the squabbling that's characteristic of Congress and city hall. George Mason University researcher Adam Thierer calls this the principle of "permissionless innovation": When businesses don't have to justify their experiments to anyone, they can simply focus on building the next great tool or platform. This is the bedrock of startup culture, in which low barriers to entry allow the best ideas to bubble to the top whether you're a college dropout or have a Ph.D hanging on your wall.

A belief in permissionless innovation is what gives the tech industry its libertarian streak. Silicon Valley is in the throes of another tech bubble. Only this time, instead of ballooning stock prices, the bubble is one of political culture. Insulated from the challenges facing more established companies, the Bay Area's youngest have been socialized to believe that most problems can be fixed with enough money and engineering. As some companies are discovering, the reality is less straightforward.

What those creepy-sounding app permissions mean -- and when to be wary

Here's how to make sense of what to do when an app requests access to a particular part of your phone:

Your microphone: Many people look at this app permission and stop immediately, assuming that downloading an app that accesses the microphone means giving a company like Google or Facebook the greenlight to eavesdrop on all of your conversations.

Your camera and photos: If you were nervous about having your microphone accessed, then you're probably even more concerned when you see a request to access your camera. But, again, there are reasons for an app such as Messenger to connect with your camera.

Your "phone status and identity": This is, admittedly, one of the creepier permissions that comes up on the permissions list, and one that can certainly set heads scratching. But this can just mean that the app in question needs to know when your phone is about to ring, so that your game doesn't keep going while you're chatting away.

Your contacts: Another permission that often catches people's attention is when apps ask for access to your contacts -- and, quite frankly, it should.

Your location: This is probably one of the most common permissions, and also one of the most personal pieces of information that you can grant to an app. If that makes you uncomfortable, then you can opt not to share your location data with that app, by heading to your location settings and disabling that function.

Why the Congressional Black Caucus is urging the FCC to save the sports blackout rule

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus want to save a controversial rule whose critics say makes it impossible for sports fans to watch their local teams.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, over a dozen black lawmakers said repealing the sports blackout rule, as at least one FCC commissioner has suggested, would hurt the business model that supports sports leagues like the NFL, as well as broadcasters.

"Without this rule in place," the lawmakers wrote, "cable and satellite television providers would potentially be able to undermine contractual agreements between professional sports leagues and broadcast networks that both support attendance at games and improve the viewing experience for fans in the stadium, as well as those watching at home."

Sprint launches $100 family plan with 20GB data share amid bad performance ratings

Sprint is offering a new family plan that provides 20GB data at $100 for a maximum 10 lines. For people who are willing to switch to Sprint’s new “Family Share Pack,” the company will reimburse up to $350 of the early termination fee for their old wireless carriers.

The monthly fee per-device varies. Tablets and mobile broadband devices can join the plan with additional fees.