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


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US and UK spy agencies defeat privacy and security on the Internet. "U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails," reports the Guardian. "The files show that the National Security Agency and its U.K. counterpart, GCHQ, have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments."

Sudden spike of Tor users likely caused by one “massive” botnet. "Researchers have found a new theory to explain the sudden spike in computers using the Tor anonymity network," Ars Technica reports. "A massive botnet that was recently updated to use Tor to communicate with its mothership." A Tor project leader says that "there's basically no way that there's a new human behind each of these new Tor clients."

Shuster: Driverless car ride 'impressive.' "House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said he enjoyed his ride in a driverless car this week, calling the technology 'impressive' and 'the future of transportation,'" reports the Hill. "Shuster rode from Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Mellon University to the Pittsburgh International Airport on Wednesday in a driverless 2011 Cadillac SRX that is owned by the school." Shuster said the technology had "significant potential to make transportation safer and more efficient."

Who’s backing the ACLU’s lawsuit against the NSA? High-profile conservatives. "The American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the NSA is gaining steam — and the support is coming from some interesting quarters," writes our colleague Brian Fung. "High-profile conservatives have begun filing amicus briefs on behalf of the ACLU." The National Rifle Association and Patriot Act author Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) both filed briefs opposing the Obama administration's interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

How we got busted buying drugs on Silk Road's black market. "Spending Bitcoins to anonymously score drugs online isn’t as simple as it’s often made out to be," writes Forbes's Andy Greenberg. "We at Forbes should know: We tried, and we got caught." Greenberg didn't get arrested by the authorities, but his transactions were traced by researchers at the University of California at San Diego.

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Timothy B. Lee · September 5, 2013