The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

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

(Seth Wenig/AP)

Codename 'Apalachee': How America Spies on Europe and the U.N. The German publication Spiegel reports on an NSA operation to bug E.U. offices at the U.N. "The floor plans are part of the NSA's internal documents relating to its operations targeting the EU. They come from whistleblower Edward Snowden, and SPIEGEL has been able to view them. For the NSA, they formed the basis for an intelligence-gathering operation -- but for US President Barack Obama they have now become a political problem."

Here’s what Steve Ballmer didn’t get about the tablet revolution. Our own Timothy B. Lee explains how outgoing Microsoft CEO let the company jump the technological shark while Apple dominated the emerging touch screen market: "Jobs thought tablets and smartphones represented a fundamentally new kind of computing platform, and he had his engineers design a new user interface from scratch optimized for small, cheap touchscreen devices. Ballmer saw the tablet as just another kind of PC, and so he built a single OS designed to work both on tablets and on desktop PCs."

Mr. Geek goes to Washington: America’s tech tycoons are seeking to “hack” politics. "The few tech bosses with open party-political affiliations span pretty much the entire spectrum," the Economist reports. "But what these people have in common is more important than their differences. Most are likely to be socially liberal and economically pro-market, even if they have differing ideas on the right size for government. And, as people who have thrived on disruptive change, they are more likely than many other industrial leaders to be focused on the future and its challenges."

Wiring the planet could be a $14 billion opportunity for Facebook. "Mark Zuckerberg recently embarked on a laudable, altruistic mission to bring Internet to the 5 billion people in the world who don’t have it," writes our own Caitlin Dewey. "But here’s what the Facebook CEO’s white paper didn’t tell you: If 5 billion new people got online, Facebook could make in the ballpark of $3.5 billion in the first quarter."

LOVEINT: When NSA officers use their spying power on love interests. "The National Security Agency admitted in a statement Friday that there have been “very rare” instances of willful violations of agency protocols by agency officers. The Wall Street Journal reports that some of those willful violations involved officials turning their private eyes on love interests."