Federal worker computer monitoring spooks privacy advocates#thecircuit

August 17, 2012

Monitoring of federal workers prompts privacy worries: Privacy advocates have raised concerns about the increased monitoring of federal workers’ computers, The Washington Post reported, as agencies work to catch information leaks.

Nonintelligence agencies spent $5.6 billion in fiscal 2011 to safeguard their classified information with hardware, software, personnel and other methods according to the Information Security Oversight Office.

But the rising surveillance has raised red flags.

“How do you distinguish between a constitutionally protected contact with the press and an illegal leak?” said Stephen M. Kohn, an attorney for FDA scientists whose e-mails were secretly monitored after they warned Congress about risky agency-approved medical devices. “You can’t. What you have right now is the ability to find every single Deep Throat in the government.”

Facebook stocks keeps sliding: Facebook shares continued to fall Friday, approaching a 50 percent drop from its opening share price of $38. In late afternoon trading, the company’s shares were priced at $19.06 and the paper net worth of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg fell to $10 billion, Bloomberg reported.

The plunge accelerated Thursday after early investors in the company were given their first chance to sell their shares. Over 2 billion shares will become eligible for sale by the end of the year.

Samsung rests in Apple case: Apple and Samsung began talking about damages in court Friday as the intellectual property case between the two electronics giants wraps up. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in damages — a figure the Journal said could be adjusted if the jury finds Samsung did not infringe on some of the patents at stake.

Text-message donations: In an op-ed for Wired on Friday, a counsel for a New York University public policy and law institute said that plans for submitting campaign donations via text message pose a privacy risk that must be weighed against the technology’s benefit to democracy.

Rachel Levinson-Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program argued that law enforcement officials can easily collect mobile information and that “it is small political donors who would be disproportionately affected by this back-door information capture and retention” because they are the most likely to contribute via text message.

Verizon, cable deal approved: Federal officials have set conditions for the Verizon agreements with cable companies to maintain existing competition. The new rules would limit elements of the collaboration to 2016, with the possibility of renewal if the Justice Department approves the extension, The Washington Post reported. In areas where Verizon offers FiOS and Comcast offers Xfinity, for instance, neither can market the other company’s services.

Lawmakers weighed in quickly on the news. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) both issued statements criticizing the approval, saying that the deal’s conditions didn’t go far enough to ensure meaningful competition for broadband access.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was “pleased” that regulators and the companies had reached an agreement, Politico reported, and that it will help foster innovation while maintaining competition.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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