The Switchboard: NSA discussed using porn habits to discredit Muslim radicals


A Microsoft office in Beijing. (Bo Gao)

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

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit "Radicalizers." "The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document," the Huffington Post says. "The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as 'exemplars' of how 'personal vulnerabilities' can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority."

Microsoft, suspecting NSA spying, to ramp up efforts to encrypt its Internet traffic. "Microsoft is moving toward a major new effort to encrypt its Internet traffic amid fears that the National Security Agency may have broken into its global communications links, said people familiar with the emerging plans," three of our Washington Post colleagues report. "Documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggest — but do not prove — that the company is right to be concerned."

Law professors lobby for patent reform. "A group of intellectual property law professors wrote a letter to Congress this week, expressing their support for patent reform," the Hill writes. "The professors asked Congress to pass reforms that 'will improve our nation’s patent system and accelerate the pace of innovation in our country.'"

Here’s why Obama trade negotiators push the interests of Hollywood and drug companies. A leaked draft of a trade agreement shows that the Obama administration has been pushing other countries to expand copyright and patent protection, an agenda that benefits major rightsholders in the United States. "Two major factors contribute to the USTR's strong pro-rightsholder slant," I wrote yesterday. "An obvious one is the revolving door between USTR and private industry. A more subtle factor is the structure and culture of USTR itself."

Musician groups celebrate as Pandora ditches Internet radio bill. "Musician advocacy groups are celebrating reports that Pandora is dropping its lobbying effort in Congress," according to the Hill. "Last year, Pandora backed the Internet Radio Freedom Act, which would allow Internet radio services to pay the same, lower royalty fees for music that cable and satellite radio services pay. Billboard reported last week that Pandora is dropping its lobbying effort on that bill and turning its attention to the Copyright Royalty Board, which determines those royalty fees."

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Andrea Peterson · November 26, 2013