Washington Post

How data caps could reshape the economics of the Internet (again)

[Commentary]The Government Accountability Office is out with a new preliminary report on data caps, in response to a request by Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

Among its findings? Broadband companies can take advantage of usage-based pricing to "generate more revenues" for their business, but ordinary consumers are often befuddled by the rules, potentially leading to over-payment.

GAO interviews with ordinary consumers revealed that most people have little to no idea how much data they actually use, despite some ISPs' offer of tools to help customers track their intake. Many incorrectly assumed, for instance, that online shopping requires a lot of data. Others believe that "leaving social media applications running in the background used large amounts of data."

OkCupid reveals it’s been lying to some of its users. Just to see what’ll happen.

OkCupid cofounder Christian Rudder explained that OkCupid has on occasion played around with removing text from people's profiles, removing photos, and even telling some users they were an excellent match when in fact they were only a 30 percent match according to the company's systems. Just to see what would happen. OkCupid defends this behavior as something that any self-respecting Web site would do.

Proliferation of new online communications services poses hurdles for law enforcement

Federal law enforcement and intelligence authorities say they are increasingly struggling to conduct court-ordered wiretaps on suspects because of a surge in chat services, instant messaging and other online communications that lack the technical means to be intercepted.

A “large percentage” of wiretap orders to pick up the communications of suspected spies and foreign agents are not being fulfilled, FBI officials said. Law enforcement agents are citing the same challenge in criminal cases; agents, they say, often decline to even seek orders when they know firms lack the means to tap into a suspect’s communications in real time.

What a new law about cellphone unlocking has to do with coffee, cars and consumer freedom

In the coming months, expect to hear a lot about something called "circumvention." According to a House Judiciary Committee aide, lawmakers are going to take a specific look this fall at the Copyright Act's provisions that presume cellphone unlocking and similar activities to be illegal by default.

In the context of cell phones, circumvention involves bypassing the controls that a wireless carrier has placed on a phone so that the device can't be used with a different network. The results of the these Congressional hearings, advocates say, will likely shape the future of all technologies involving intellectual property -- ranging from self-driving cars to media and entertainment to the Internet-connected home.

Congress passes cellphone unlocking legislation

The House unanimously voted to make it easier for consumers to take their mobile phone with them when they switch carriers or travel overseas.

Because of a quirk in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, "unlocking" cellphones so they can be used on other networks is illegal, as it involves circumventing the technological protections of copyrighted software on the phones.

President Barack Obama said, “I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget.”

The government wants to wiretap online communications -- or in some cases hack them

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies want to be able to wiretap social media, instant message and chat services. But building in ways to wiretap these kinds of communication can lead to less secure systems, say technical experts, including former National Security Agency officials.

Some security experts suggest hacking as an alternative, but other experts -- including FBI officials -- say that method poses serious risks.

Right now, only phone companies, broadband providers and some Internet phone services are required by law to build in intercept capabilities, but the government wants to extend that requirement to online communication providers.

How spy agencies keep their ‘toys’ from law enforcement

The prospect that classified capabilities can be revealed in a criminal case means that the most sophisticated surveillance technologies are not always available to law enforcement because they are classified, current and former officials say.

And sometimes it's not just the tool that is classified, but the existence itself of the capability -- the idea that a certain type of communication can be wiretapped -- that is secret.

Ready for Hillary's latest tech mines your relationship data

Ready for Hillary, the super political action committee that's laying the groundwork for a potential Hillary Clinton run in 2016, is testing software to determine whether data about social ties can help identify likely grassroots leaders and new supporters.

If the insights into online relationships prove useful in the 2014 midterm elections, further experiments could even lead to campaigns picking out the most active organizers before those people even know it.

The tool is called Recruiter. While campaigns have largely reached the limits of improving the voter file -- those massive databases of names, e-mail addresses and commercial information that became so important in the 2012 cycle -- the next step is to figure out how to identify and leverage the connections between entries in those files.

This Republican wants to keep the FTC from regulating data security

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) thinks the Federal Trade Commission shouldn't be allowed to sue companies for breaches of customer data using its main legal authority.

In a hearing, Rep Issa slammed the agency for using what he called an "unlimited power" under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Section 5 is what gives the FTC the authority to take legal action against companies it believes has been behaving deceptively or unfairly.

Now the scope of that authority is coming into question just as technology have opened up new risks of data-related crimes like fraud and identity theft.

Wikipedia blocks anonymous edits (and trolling) from a congressional IP address

A Wikipedia administrator has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" edits being made by someone located in the House of Representatives.

These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by the Twitter account @Congressedits which was set up to automatically tweet changes to Wikipedia pages made from within the Capitol.

The Wikipedia community was notified of the block, according to Katherine Maher, chief communications officer for the Wikimedia Foundation. Maher said the "temporary, 10-day block on the IP address associated with the US Congress [was] due to disruptive editing originating from that address."