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

October 3, 2013

(The Guardian)

Edward Snowden's e-mail provider defied FBI demands to turn over crypto keys, documents show. Federal authorities tried to force the operator of the secure e-mail service Lavabit to hand over a private encryption key that would have allowed them to read NSA leaker Edward Snowden's messages, according to Wired. Ladar Levison, the founder of Lavabit, finally complied with a court order to do so — but submitted the key on an illegibly small printout. Levison publicly announced he was shutting down the service when the government said his efforts weren't good enough, and the judge began fining him $5,000 a day until he backed down.

Feinstein vows to kill Leahy's NSA bill. "Two powerful Senate Democrats are poised for a battle over the National Security Agency's surveillance powers," reports The Hill's Brendan Sasso. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he intends to rein in the National Security Agency. But his counterpart on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is a staunch defender of the surveillance programs.

Former NSA CIO calls enterprise network security 'appalling.' A former chief information officer for the National Security Agency says companies are unprepared to handle hackers and other online threats, according to Computing. "'As we look at the situation in the security arena at the Chertoff Group, we see an awful lot of big companies — Fortune 100-level companies — with, to be perfectly candid, appalling security. They have fundamentally no idea what they're doing," said Winter, who argued big data has a role to play in improving this." (via Slashdot)

Patent firm Lodsys backs out of dispute with Kaspersky Lab. A major patent troll has withdrawn its lawsuit against the Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab after Kaspersky insisted on bringing the lawsuit to trial, according to Computerworld. "Lodsys claimed that each of the companies was infringing on one or more of four patents, that pertain to collecting user's perceptions about the product, including purchases, and upgrades with computer applications." The retreat is a blow to Lodsys, one of many patent firms that have come under increased scrutiny in recent years.

Oracle defends Ellison pay against critics. An Oracle shareholder advisory group is in revolt against the company's CEO, Larry Ellison, over claims of "excessive pay," according to Computerworld. "Last week, CtW Investment Group sent a letter to Oracle compensation committee chairman Bruce Chizen, criticizing Oracle's "top-heavy" executive compensation practices and saying Ellison's pay "far outstrips" his peers. CtW represents union pension funds that are "substantial" Oracle shareholders."

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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Caitlin Dewey · October 3, 2013