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


Senator Ron Wyden (Harry Hamburg/AP)

Lawsuit alleging Gmail ads are “wiretapping” gets judge’s okay. "It's widely understood that the ads Google puts in Gmail are based on the content of e-mails. The millions of Gmail users presumably accept the company's promise that 'no humans read your e-mail,'" Ars Technica reports. "Despite that, a lawsuit claiming that Google's practice violates pre-Internet anti-wiretapping laws will be going forward. Lawyers representing non-Gmail users of various stripes in a class-action lawsuit say their clients never agreed to have their e-mails intercepted and scanned by Google."

Dem senator hints that NSA tracked locations for millions of cellphones. "Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) suggested on Thursday that the National Security Agency tracked or considered tracking the cellphone location data of millions of people in the United States," the Hill reports. "During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Wyden asked NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander whether 'the NSA has ever collected — or made any plans to collect — Americans' cell site information in bulk.'" Alexander refused to answer, saying the information was classified.

Mignon Clyburn’s making her mark as acting head of FCC. Mignon Clyburn is the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission until the Senate confirms Tom Wheeler for the post. "Clyburn, the first woman to head the commission and the first black woman to serve on the panel, is determined to make her time in the top spot count," Politico reports. "Since the departure of Chairman Julius Genachowski in May, Clyburn has pushed through rules to lower the cost of prison phone calls, engineered a deal that allows the wireless gadgets used by smaller carriers to operate on the larger carriers’ networks in a critical set of frequencies, set an auction for a valuable slice of the airwaves and approved a major merger."

FAA to weigh easing limits on electronic devices. "The Federal Aviation Administration will begin considering a recommendation next week that it ease restrictions on airline passengers' use of smartphones, tablets, e-readers and other personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings," reports the Associated Press. "A 28-member advisory committee agreed on the recommendation during a closed-door meeting Thursday, industry officials familiar with the deliberations said. The recommendation will be included in a report to be delivered to the FAA on Monday."

House GOP proposes killing net neutrality to raise debt ceiling. "Repealing the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality regulations is part of a list of demands from House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling," the Hill reports. "The memo, circulated on Capitol Hill this week, includes a host of Republican policy priorities related to health care, energy, taxes and other issues. The most significant demand is a one-year delay of the president's healthcare law."

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Brian Fung · September 26, 2013