The Switchboard: Report claims NSA, FBI secretly monitored American Muslim activists and academics


The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

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

NSA and FBI covertly monitored emails of several American Muslims, including a political candidate and civil rights activists "The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies," reports the Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussein, citing documents from the information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. "The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”—short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

Senate intelligence panel advances cybersecurity bill "The Senate Intelligence Committee advanced a cybersecurity bill Tuesday that would grant legal immunity for companies to share computer threat data with the government," reports The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima."The 12-3 vote, which moves the bill closer to a floor debate, cheered lawmakers who have been pushing for such legislation for several years. But it dismayed civil liberties advocates who say the Cyber Information Sharing Act, or CISA, fails to adequately shield Americans’ privacy."

U.S. military studied how to influence Twitter users in Darpa-funded research "The activities of users of Twitter and other social media services were recorded and analysed as part of a major project funded by the US military, in a program that covers ground similar to Facebook’s controversial experiment into how to control emotions by manipulating news feeds," reports the Guardian's Ben Quinn and James Ball. "While some elements of the multi-million dollar project might raise a wry smile – research has included analysis of the tweets of celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, in an attempt to understand influence on Twitter – others have resulted in the buildup of massive datasets of tweets and additional types social media posts."

With Big Data comes big responsibility "The reality is that with all this information that is out there about me, then we should have a talk about things such as our rights as a citizen over that data," argues tech writer Om Malik in an essay on his personal site. "I am not saying let’s all go back to the villages and caves, but instead why not have a conversation (that is not hysterical but also not dismissive) about these issues around data, expectations of privacy and transparency,"  In the essay, Malik also asserts that the onus is on companies to engender trust because, "the legislators and the judiciary bodies of our nations are woefully under equipped to deal with the monumental change that as a society are experiencing."

Uber agrees to limit surge pricing during emergencies "Uber’s practice of “surge pricing” — hiking prices during times of high demand, including holidays like New Year’s Eve or Halloween — is well-known to people who use the service. Now, the company has agreed to cap prices during natural disasters and other emergencies," reports The Washington Post's Mark Berman. "Eric T. Schneiderman, attorney general of New York state, announced the news Tuesday, saying that his office and Uber had agreed to limit surge pricing during these types of events."

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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Hayley Tsukayama · July 8