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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Brian Fung

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Andrea Peterson

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.

Post Tech
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Posted at 08:28 AM ET, 07/26/2011

The Circuit: Netflix faces slower growth, data caps; GAO criticizes Pentagon cyber efforts; Google Street View

LEADING THE DAY: Netflix officially declared Monday that the time for DVDs has passed and that its future lies in its online streaming video offerings, The Washington Post reported late Monday. But as its stock fell after its earnings report showed its subscriber growth is down, Netflix also has to face another hurdle to embrace its online-centered future — data caps.

University of Pennsylvania professor Kevin Werbach, an innovation and telecommunications policy expert, told The Post that having to watch data caps keeps consumers from trying innovative products. Netflix has protested data caps in Canada in the past.

GAO criticizes Pentagon:The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon did a poor job of directing military and civilian organizations on how best to deal with a 2008 cyber attack at a Middle Eastern base, The Washington Post reported.

The lack of clarity in those operations, “significantly slowed” the department’s efforts to deal with the situation, according to a GAO report issued Monday, and may have increased the damage done in the attack. The report highlights the need for clear guidelines of how agencies should coordinate their efforts on such attacks, the GAO said.

Google Street view: CNET reported that Google Street View cars collected the locations of millions of electronic devices including laptops and cellphones. The cars supposedly collected the locations of WiFi access points but also the unique identifiers of devices and published them on publicly available databases.

Google has said in the past that it collects anonymous geolocation data when given permission.

Google acquires PittPatt: Google has acquired a facial-recognition software firm, PittPatt, which uses its technology to identify faces in photos and track them through videos, The Washington Post reported. In the past, Google has used facial recognition software for its Image search and other products — not to link an individual’s identity to his or her face, but merely to identify when a human face is included in an image.

When asked about this latest acquisition, Google spokesman Chris Gaither said in a statement, “We’ve said that we won’t add face recognition to our apps or product features unless we have strong privacy protections in place, and that’s still the case.”

DHS official steps down: A top cybersecurity official from the Department of Homeland Security has stepped down abruptly, effective Friday. Randy Vickers, the director of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, was in charge of the agency that protects the federal government from cyber attacks, InformationWeek reported. During the past several weeks, several federal agencies and government contractors have been targeted with high-profile attacks. Meanwhile, the White House and others have put forth cybersecurity initiatives, greatly increasing the visibility of the government’s efforts against such attacks.

Smartphone patents:Google’s General Counsel, Kent Walker, told Bloomberg that patents are “gumming up the works of innovation,” and called on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to step in to control software patents acquisition and litigation. “You create this mutually assured destruction scenario,but it’s very expensive to get all those munitions.”

Google recently lost its bid for a portfolio of patents from bankrupt tech giant Nortel to a consortium of rivals including Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion.

Apple’s embroiled in several patent lawsuits, and HTC is seeking to talk with the company about its ongoing patent dispute, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. “We have to sit down and figure it out,” Winston Yung, HTC’s chief financial officer. “We’re open to having discussions.”

The companies have been trading lawsuits and HTC stock took a hit earlier this month when a judge issued a preliminary ruling that found HTC had violated two of Apple’s patents. The ruling is reviewable by the International Trade Commission, which could block imports of HTC products.

NAB critical of FCC plan: The National Association of Broadcasters tore into the Federal Communication Commission’s spectrum plan Monday, The Hill reported, saying that it will shut down at least 210 television stations. According to an NAB study, implementing the FCC’s incentive auction plan would cause millions of viewers to lose access to their local stations.

In response, FCC spokesman Neil Grace said the association was using “scare tactics” and said auctions would be voluntary and market-driven. “Our proposal will not shut down hundreds of stations; it will open up massive innovation and investment,” Grace told The Hill.

By  |  08:28 AM ET, 07/26/2011

Tags:  FCC, APple, IP, HTC, Internaional, DHS, Cybersecurity, Google, Privacy, Netflix, Broadband

 
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