The Washington Post

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


(Robert Galbraith / Reuters)

Feds back away from forced decryption — for now. Federal prosecutors are no longer demanding that a suspect in a child pornography case decrypt his hard drives after investigators managed to crack the drives themselves, Wired reports. While the government is dropping its request, Hanni Fakhoury of the Electronic Frontier Foundation expects more battles over encryption to come: “The one silver lining: I think courts are not buying into the government’s theory that encryption is evidence of criminal behavior."

Facebook to pay $20 million to settle class-action privacy suit. The settlement resolves a 2011 case in which five plaintiffs accused Facebook of sharing a user's "Likes" activity with friends without giving them the chance to opt-out. "Under the terms of the settlement," Reuters reports, "Facebook will pay $20 million to compensate class members, and promised to give users more control over how their content is shared — changes which plaintiff lawyers estimate to have a value of up to $145 million."

Microsoft’s best hope after Ballmer? A breakup. Microsoft's centrally planned operation isn't unlike the Soviet Union, argues Vivek Wadhwa in The Washington Post. The solution? Splitting the company into more nimble parts. "This breakup could be along the lines of the markets that Microsoft goes after: enterprise, personal computing, mobile and entertainment. Or it could be by product: Windows, Office, Xbox and Surface, for example."

DRM for 3D printing. One company dreams of streaming CAD files to a printer in much the same way that Netflix streams movies to your PC, according to MIT Technology Review. "The company’s software makes it possible for a design to be sent to a 3-D printer in such a way that it can be printed only once. 'You don’t receive the raw design file,' says Andre Wegner, co-founder and CEO of the company, “so you can’t copy and share it.”

Security researchers discover Dropbox flaw that circumvents two-factor authentication. In a paper presented at the Usenix security conference, Dhiru Kholia and Przemyslaw Wegrzyn explained that by reverse-engineering the Dropbox client, they were able to hijack entire accounts, intercept secure traffic to Dropbox, and bypass two-factor authentication, according to TechRepublic. But Dropbox's engineers are also responsive to the threats. "The two also mentioned in the paper with each new version of Dropbox, developers were able to harden the client’s security, which in turn eliminated one or more attack vectors."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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