The Switchboard: Five tech policy stories you need to read today

September 18, 2013

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (Eraldo Peres/Associated Press)

FISA court releases opinion upholding NSA phone program. "A federal surveillance court on Tuesday released a declassified opinion upholding the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of billions of Americans’ phone records for counterterrorism purposes," reports my colleague Ellen Nakashima. "The gathering of 'all call detail records' from phone companies is justified as long as the government can show that it is relevant to an authorized investigation into known — and, significantly — unknown terrorists who may be in the United States."

RIAA Wants Web Browsers to Warn Users about Pirate Sites. "After more than a decade of aggressive anti-piracy actions directed through the courts, the world’s largest entertainment companies are now looking to forge less confrontational partnerships with companies in the technology sector," reports TorrentFreak. "Later today, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman will tell a House Judiciary Subcommittee that such voluntary agreements have a vital role to play."

Obama wanted an open Internet he could spy on. Thanks to the NSA, he may get neither. "Brazil has taken extraordinary steps to challenge the Obama administration over the NSA leaks," reports my colleague Brian Fung. "Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's president, has canceled a state visit to Washington because of the surveillance issue, White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed Tuesday." At the same time, Brazil's legislature is "considering a bill that would store Brazilian citizens' Web data on domestic servers rather than on U.S. ones in a bid to keep the information out of the NSA's reach."

GAO finds $321 million in redundant government IT spending. "In a spot-check of IT spending by the three federal departments with the largest IT budgets," reports Ars Technnica, "the GAO found that a total of $321.25 million was spent between 2008 and 2013 on projects that duplicated other efforts within those same agencies." However, he notes, "considering the entire government spends about $80 billion a year on IT, $321.25 million over six years is almost a rounding error."

How Chattanooga beat Google Fiber by half a decade. "They may not realize it, but starting today, some high-end Internet subscribers in Chattanooga, Tenn., will turn on their computers and start browsing the Web at a gigabit per second — 10 times the speeds they're used to," reports our colleague Brian Fung. "For that, city residents have an unlikely business to thank: the publicly owned electric utility."

More stories:

Pirate Party Crashes Spy Drone in Front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (TorrentFreak)

Failed Pentagon fax machine blocks FOIA requests (Ars Technica)

'Do not track' law needed for consumers, says Sen. Rockefeller. (The Hill)

Update: This post originally quoted a TorrentFreak headline suggesting that the RIAA wanted browsers to block pirate sites. In reality, RIAA head Cary Sherman only suggested that browsers should warn users before visiting pirate sites.

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Brian Fung · September 17, 2013