The Switchboard: White House approved of spying on world leaders, report says

October 29, 2013

(SAUL LOEB / Getty Images)

Published every weekday, The Switchboard highlights the five tech stories you need to read.

White House okayed spying on allies, U.S. intelligence officials say. Intelligence officials say the Obama administration signed off on the NSA's surveillance of allied leaders, the Los Angeles Times reports. If true, it would contradict the White House's claim that it did not know about the activity. "Professional staff members at the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies are angry, these officials say, believing the president has cast them adrift as he tries to distance himself from the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have strained ties with close allies."

Feinstein 'totally opposed' to spying on foreign leaders. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an outspoken defender of the NSA's bulk metadata collection, thinks spying on foreign leaders is taking it too far, the Post's Ed O'Keefe reports. “'Unlike NSA’s collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed. Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased,' Feinstein said. 'With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.'"

Netflix flirts with a new idea. Netflix wants to start showing blockbuster films the day they come out, according to AllThingsD. "What we’re trying to do for TV, the model should extend pretty nicely to movies," Netflix's head of content Ted Sarandos told an audience at the Film Independent Forum recently. "Meaning, why not premiere movies on Netflix, the same day they’re opening in theaters? And not little movies — there’s a lot of ways, and lot of people to do that [already]. Why not big movies? Why not follow the consumers’ desire to watch things when they want?"

Motorola reveals ambitious plan to build modular smartphones. The handset maker intends to experiment with something called Project Ara, reports The Verge. "The company plans to create an ecosystem that can support third-party hardware development for individual phone components — in other words, you could upgrade your phone's processor, display, and more by shopping at different vendors." The idea draws inspiration from Google's Android operating system, which is open source and can be modified by anyone.

Mozilla starts crowdsourcing data to help devices find your location without GPS. The folks behind the Firefox browser are working on a new service to help phones determine their own location using data gathered from publicly available WiFi hotspots, Engadget reports. In a blog post, Mozilla writes that Android devices with a weak or nonexistent GPS signal can now begin finding their approximate location using an app called MozStumbler, which searches for nearby hotspots to determine where you are.

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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