Washington Post

Your Internet privacy shouldn’t be a ‘luxury item,’ FCC Chairman Wheeler says

Should your online privacy depend on whether you've paid your Internet provider a little extra this month? That's one of the key policy questions concerning the future of the Web. And the nation's top telecom and broadband regulator, Tom Wheeler, signaled that he's not a fan of the idea.

Talking to reporters, the head of the Federal Communications Commission implied that the Internet risks becoming divided into privacy haves and have-nots, if companies such as AT&T and Comcast can dangle discounts in front of consumers in exchange for slurping up their search and browsing histories for advertising purposes. "I would hope that privacy doesn't become a luxury item," Chairman Wheeler said. The FCC is waist-deep in crafting a set of privacy regulations for Internet service providers (ISPs). Some, such as Comcast, have met with the FCC to ask that it not restrict the ability of ISPs to tinker with a discount-for-data business model. "Low-income consumers have less disposable income with which to pay for privacy-protective plans, and therefore are much more likely to give up their privacy in exchange for access to the Internet," wrote Eric Null, a policy lawyer at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. "Low-income consumers should not have to decide between internet access and privacy, but pay-for-privacy forces that decision upon them."

Trump thought he could win through sheer media dominance. In reality, it’s killing him.

[Commentary] One of the most cherished assumptions about this race, one explicitly voiced by Donald Trump and even entertained by some neutral observers: Trump can win through sheer media dominance alone.

In a recent episode, Trump gained enormous amounts of media attention by publicly hallucinating about video of the cash transfer to Iran. But did he really gain anything from all that attention, other than widespread ridicule, at a time when his poll numbers are tanking? Press coverage tends to get harsher when a candidate gets weaker, and that’s what this episode brought. Trump himself has repeatedly said, in various ways, that his strategy is premised on sucking up all the media oxygen.

After Melania Trump’s convention speech was revealed as plagiarism, Trump said that all the publicity devoted to the speech was a positive, because “all press is good press.” Before that, Trump flatly stated that he had an advantage in the general election because “I have the loudspeaker.” But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that “the loudspeaker” is turning voters against Trump, perhaps to a point from which there will be no coming back. Trump’s ongoing battle with the Khan family drew enormous media scrutiny, but, given that it brought with it widespread media coverage of Republicans and military figures criticizing his conduct, all this attention has been simply awful for him. Indeed, the Clinton team is now explicitly premising its strategy on the idea that all the coverage has grown so lethal that its best play is to get out of the way and let it continue.

The idea that Trump’s media ubiquity is largely a positive for him is merely a subset of larger myths about this race — that everything he does is shrewdly calculated and a reflection of his ingenious media manipulation, or even worse, that he possesses some species of Magical Trumpian Political Powers that allow him to defy the conventional rules of politics. Trump could still win, of course. But as of now, all of this has been thoroughly discredited.

The most compelling reason to never talk politics on Facebook

There has never been a worse time to declare your politics publicly, according to a new and nationally representative online poll conducted by the Rad Campaign, Craigconnects and Lincoln Strategies. This year’s survey, the second in a biannual series, found that nearly a third of all Internet-using adults self-report that they’ve been “harassed online for expressing political opinions.” That abuse is highest among Democrats, the highly political and those ages 55 to 64. It’s also nearly double the rate of political harassment that users reported in 2014.

Alan Perce, Former Chief Economist at the Federal Communications Commission

Dr Alan Perce died at the family home in Lexington (VA) on July 10, 2016. Perce was born November 10, 1937, in Manchester, England. He studied at the London School of Economics and Indiana University, where he received a Doctor of Philosophy in Business.

Perce was one of the prime architects of the information era, coming to Washington (DC) in 1970 as Chief Economist at the Federal Communications Commission, and later working for the House Subcommittee on Communications, and at the White House, Office of Telecommunications. Dr. Pearce founded Information Age Economics, providing consulting services to high tech companies. Before coming to the US, Perce was a newspaper reporter, and worked as Foreign Desk Editor for Independent Television News (ITN). A Memorial Service will be held September 10.

Facebook could owe $5 billion in back taxes

Facebook is digging in over its fight with the Internal Revenue Service. The social network said that it faces a potential $5 billion tax bill after moving some of its assets to Ireland. The company’s tussle with tax authorities dates back to its decision in 2010 to transfer many of its global “intangible” assets — those not in the United States or Canada — to its Irish holding company. The transfer allowed the company to pay a lower tax rate on the profits made from those assets, tax experts say. (The corporate tax rate in Ireland is 12.5 percent, compared with 35 percent in the United States.)

The IRS said in court documents the way the assets were valued was “problematic” and that the “transferred intangibles” may have been undervalued by “billions of dollars." On July 28, Facebook, which reported more than $2 billion in profits during its second quarter, said it received a "deficiency" notice from the IRS and could end up with a tax bill of $3 billion to $5 billion, plus interest and penalties. "We do not agree with the position of the IRS" and will challenge the decision, the social network said in an Securities and Exchange Commission filing. If the IRS prevails it "could have a material adverse impact on our financial position." The tussle comes amid a worldwide reexamination of the tax strategies employed by US multinational corporations. French authorities raided the Paris headquarters of Google and McDonald’s in May and the European Commission is investigating tax deals that Amazon and Apple reached in Luxembourg and Ireland.

The FCC is pushing Internet innovation forward — and holding it back

[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission published a pair of decisions recently that show in sharp contrast the right and wrong ways regulators use their authority to shape the trajectory of disruptive technologies. This time, the continuing evolution of the Internet is at stake.

First, the agency voted to open large amounts of very high frequency radio spectrum for early developers of next generation mobile broadband, known as 5G. The United States is poised to be the first country in the world to take this critical step. In keeping with long-standing US policy, some of the newly allocated bands will be auctioned off to network operators, some will be set aside for anyone to use, and some will be shared. At the other end of the innovation life-cycle, the second decision further delayed the ongoing retirement of the decaying analog telephone network, which has long since been made obsolete by better and cheaper digital technologies. The proceedings have dragged on for more than a decade, and the FCC has once again punted on the final conclusion. The first decision, in short, was visionary. The second, on the other hand, will waste valuable time and resources.

[Downes is a project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy]

Donald Trump’s incredible new defense of his Russia-spying-on-Hillary comments: Just kidding!

A day after making comments calling on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails, Donald Trump has a novel explanation for all of it: I was joking! Here's his exchange with "Fox and Friends" from July 28:

BRIAN KILMEADE: Clinton campaign says this is a national security issue. Now, the idea that you'd have any American calling for a foreign power to commit espionage in the US for the purpose of somehow changing an election, I think that we're now in a national security space. Your reaction?
TRUMP: You have to be kidding. His client, his person, deleted 33,000 e-mails illegally. You look at that. And when I'm being sarcastic with something —
KILMEADE: Were you being sarcastic?
TRUMP: Of course, I'm being sarcastic. But you have 33,000 e-mails deleted, and the real problem is what was said in those e-mails from the Democratic National Committee. You take a look at what was said in those e-mails — it's disgraceful. It's disgraceful. They talk about religion, they talk about race, they talk about all sorts of things, including women, and what they said in those e-mails is a disgrace.

Trump backer and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani offered the same explanation later on CNN: "No. He was telling a joke. When he got off the plane, he tweeted out the e-mails should be sent to the FBI. He was joking around."

Washington Post reporter barred, patted down by police, at rally for Mike Pence

Donald Trump’s campaign has denied press credentials to a number of disfavored media organizations, including The Washington Post, but on July 27, the campaign of his running mate, Gov Mike Pence (R-IN), went even further. At Gov Pence’s first public event since he was introduced as the Republican vice-presidential candidate two weeks ago, a Post reporter was barred from entering the venue after security staffers summoned local police to pat him down in a search for his cellphone. Gov Pence’s campaign expressed embarrassment and regret about the episode, which an official blamed on overzealous campaign volunteers.

Post reporter Jose A. DelReal sought to cover Gov Pence’s rally at the Waukesha County Exposition Center outside Milwaukee (WI), but he was turned down for a credential beforehand by volunteers at a press check-in table. DelReal then tried to enter via the general-admission line, as Post reporters have done without incident since Trump in June banned the newspaper from his events. He was stopped there by a private security official who told him he couldn’t enter the building with his laptop and cellphone. When DelReal asked whether others attending the rally could enter with their cellphones, he said the unidentified official replied, “Not if they work for The Washington Post.” After placing his computer and phone in his car, DelReal returned to the line and was detained again by security personnel, who summoned two county sheriff’s deputies. The officers patted down DelReal’s legs and torso, seeking his phone, the reporter said.

Weather Service conducts ‘illegal surveillance’ on staff, union says

If it’s on Facebook, can it be secret? Members of the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) thought they had a secret Facebook page that was available only to them. But not only did National Weather Service (NWS) management officials know about the page, they accessed it and made scornful comments about the postings, according to the union. That amounts to “illegal surveillance” of union activities, according to the labor organization’s complaint filed July 27 with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

In the past six months, Weather Service officials “engaged in the surveillance of internal union communications about and discussions of protected activities” on the labor organization’s “ ‘secret’ (that is, ‘members only’) Facebook page,” according to the complaint. Susan Buchanan, an NWS spokeswoman, said the agency does “not conduct surveillance on our employees’ private social media accounts, including NWSEO’s members-only Facebook page.” Unlike other cases of surreptitious surveillance, managers did not try to keep their spying secret, the union’s complaint alleges. It says management officials made critical comments about some of the Facebook postings to stifle the commentary.

Jacob Appelbaum was an online privacy hero. Then a scandal exploded.

The Tor Project, a digital privacy group, said July 27 that an internal probe found that Jacob Appelbaum, a former employee who has been held up across the Web as a champion of online privacy, engaged in sexual misconduct. "Many people inside and outside the Tor Project have reported incidents of being humiliated, intimidated, bullied and frightened by Jacob, and several experienced unwanted sexually aggressive behavior from him," Tor Project Executive Director Shari Steele wrote.

The allegations against Appelbaum shook the online privacy community when they surfaced in June because he had become a bit of a celebrity in the online world as the debate intensified over government surveillance and online privacy. The scandal caused a divide in the broader privacy community, with some rushing to his defense and others coming forward with even more troubling stories.