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

September 20, 2013

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), committee chairman, listens as Rep. Louie Gohmert questions Attorney General Eric Holder during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about journalists' phone records and IRS improprieties, on May 15, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

House Judiciary chairman readies tougher 'patent troll' bill. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) intends to drop a new draft bill targeting abusive patent litigation in the coming weeks, The Hill's Brendan Sasso reports. "The lobbyists who attended Thursday's meeting said the new draft included more aggressive fee-shifting provisions. Two lobbyists expressed disappointment that the draft does not allow businesses to petition the Patent Office to reconsider whether a technology patent is valid."

Britain's GCHQ hacked Belgian telecoms firm. While the NSA was widely suspected to be behind the hacking of a Belgian communications provider, the real culprit appears to have been Britain's spy agency, Der Spiegel reports. "The presentation suggests that it was Belgium's own European Union partner Britain that is behind 'Operation Socialist,' even though the presentation indicates that the British used spying technology for the operation that the NSA had developed. ... According to the presentation, the British wanted to use this access for complex attacks ("Man in the Middle" attacks) on smartphone users."

Facebook launches advanced AI effort. The social network is moving beyond Big Data and investigating the use of simulated brain cells to mimic and predict human behavior. It's an approach known as "deep learning," according to MIT Technology Review, and the idea — at first — is to develop better curation for the Newsfeed. "Deep learning systems can learn with much less human intervention because they can figure out for themselves which features of the raw data are most useful to understanding it. They can even work on data that hasn’t been labeled, as Google’s cat recognizing software did."

Microsoft explains its new financial reporting structure – sort of. Microsoft has done away with the five traditional buckets of its business and has now grouped everything into two categories for the purposes of financial reporting: Devices & Consumer (D&C) and Commercial, The Register reports. "But so far, how these groups' numbers represent the actual health of Microsoft's various business activities seems as clear as mud."

Hackers eager to crack fingerprint scanner on iPhone 5S. A team of security researchers is offering a $13,000 bounty to the first hacker who can crack the iPhone 5S's new Touch ID fingerprint scanner, according to the South China Morning Post. The contest is aimed at white-hats who simply want to find potential vulnerabilities, not exploit them.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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