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

September 26, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPT. 25: U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) speaks while flanked by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) during a news conference on Capitol Hill Sept. 25, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The bipartisan group of senators announced new legislation for comprehensive surveillance reform. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

NSA reform bill to trim back U.S. surveillance unveiled in Congress. The most outspoken critics of the NSA's surveillance activity have unveiled a bill to reform the agency's spying program, the Guardian reports. "The draft bill represented the first sign that key Republican and Democratic figures in the Senate are beginning to coalesce around a raft of proposals to roll back the powers of the National Security Agency in the wake of top-secret disclosures made by whistleblower Edward Snowden."

Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung plead for a patent-troll-free Europe. Leading tech companies are asking the European Union to head off patent trolls by strengthening new rules that are set to take effect next year, according to GigaOm. "Europe has been trying to unify its patent system for a good three decades, largely on the basis of cost -- it is currently crazily expensive to get a patent that applies everywhere in Europe, because it means applying in dozens of different countries, many with their own languages." For Silicon Valley, the stakes are high; with the new rules, outcomes in one country could now affect operations across the continent.

A password even a hacker supervillain can't crack. For a long time, security researchers have been hunting for a suitable alternative to the password. As Bloomberg Businessweek reports, that thing might be your heartbeat — at least for protecting pacemakers. "When the medical technician touches the patient, the touch device would pick up the electrocardiogram (EKG) signature of the patient’s heartbeat at that instant and compare it with the EKG picked up by the implanted device itself. If the two match, then it’s proof that the technician is actually with the patient and not someone trying to hack in from afar."

The 15 percent of Americans who are offline, in charts. A Pew Research Center study highlights the nearly one-fifth of the country that still lacks Internet access. As my colleague Andrea Peterson explains, an overwhelming share of these Americans are seniors, poor or undereducated. "Fears about usability are also reflected in how offline adults report they would need help if they decided to go online in the future. Some 63 percent say they would need assistance, while only 17 percent say they could figure it out on their own."

Patent troll firm Lodsys demands $5,000 from Martha Stewart. Speaking of patent trolls, a high-profile lawsuit is targeting Martha Stewart — but her company doesn't intend to roll over. GigaOm reports Martha Stewart has filed a countersuit against Lodsys in an attempt to "crush its patents." "In a complaint filed this week in federal court in Wisconsin, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia asked a judge to declare that four magazine iPad apps are not infringing Lodsys’ patents, and that the patents are invalid because the so-called inventions are not new."

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.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business

business/technology

the-switch

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters