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Timothy B. Lee

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Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 12:13 PM ET, 10/10/2012

China responds to Huawei, ZTE accusations #thecircuit

Huawei: China responded angrily to a report from the House Intelligence committee that raised national security worries about two of the country’s largest telecom firms, The Washington Post reported.

Chinese authorities called the charges “groundless”and suggested that the report could damage future cooperation between the U.S. and China, now the world’s two largest economies.

“It is based on subjective speculation and false foundations,” Shen Danyang, a spokesman for China’s Commerce Department, said in a written statement.

The companies have denied that their equipment could be used for cybersurveillance, pointing out that doing so would destroy their relationships with consumers.

Rockefeller asks about data brokers: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) wrote to nine major data brokers Wednesday asking the companies information on how they compile and sell consumer information.

“Collecting, storing and selling information about Americans raises all types of questions that require careful scrutiny,” Rockefeller said in a statement. “While these practices may offer some benefits to consumers, they deserve to know what’s being collected about them and how companies profit from their information. We are sending letters to nine different companies today to learn how this industry works.”

In the letter, Rockefeller pointed to the Federal Trade Commission’s statement that self-regulation measures in the data broker industry had “fallen short” and asked the companies for more information on the types of data they collect and their processes for selling that data.

Microsoft shifting focus: Microsoft announced in a letter to shareholders from chief executive Steve Ballmer that it is entering a “new era” and refocusing its efforts on devices and services. Ballmer, in the letter, called the move a “significant shift” that affects every part of the company. The letter codifies a strategy Microsoft has been headed toward for a while, pulling a page out of Apple’s playbook.

The trend toward this focus was clear when the company announced the release of its Windows 8 Surface tablet, a move said to unsettle its many manufacturing partners.

Ballmer said that Microsoft will continue to “work with a vast ecosystem of partners” on Windows PCs, tablets and phones. But, he added that the company, on occasion, also will build “specific devices for specific purposes,” as it did with the Xbox gaming console and the Surface.

“It is truly a new era at Microsoft,” Ballmer said. “Although we still have a lot of hard work ahead, our products are generating excitement.”

Iran aids Syrian surveillance: The Washington Post reported U.S. officials have found evidence that Iran is giving aid to Syria in tracking opposition forces through the Internet. According to the report, Iran is advising Syrian officials of the best ways to gain access to Web forums and chatrooms to identify and track members of opposition forces.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, has given rebels communications gear of their own and passed on intelligence and techniques to help the opposition forces avoid government detection.

Facebook, Twitter and moderation: The British newspaper the Guardian reported that the director of public prosecutions is eager to explore whether social media companies should take a more active role in moderating content on their Web sites and services.

The news comes as British courts are fielding more and more online abuse and harassment cases over updates that social media users post on the sites, including a teenager who made jokes about a missing child and a man who said defamatory things about soldiers on Facebook. The report said that law enforcement officials would like social networks to delete offensive posts more quickly to avoid arrests.

In Britain, it is illegal to post or sends “grossly offensive” material online.

By  |  12:13 PM ET, 10/10/2012

 
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