from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: April 6, 2017

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on stage during the Facebook F8 conference in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. Stephen Lam/Reuters

This week: Facebook, the CLOUD Act, using blockchain to bypass sanctions, and the convergence of outer space and cyberspace. 

April 4, 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on stage during the Facebook F8 conference in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. Stephen Lam/Reuters
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Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1. Should we call this "Facebook week in review" instead? There are five noteworthy Facebook-related stories to mention. First, Mark Zuckerberg will testify before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees and the House Energy and Commerce committee on Facebook's collection and dissemination of user data next week. Second, the company announced that Cambridge Analytica could have collected information from approximately 87 million Facebook accounts, significantly more than the 50 million originally estimated. Third, Facebook confirmed that the new privacy settings it is developing in order to comply with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be rolled out to all users. That is likely to please European regulators, who designed the GDPR to export their approach to privacy around the world. Fourth, Facebook removed additional pages and accounts controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm in St-Petersburg the U.S. Department of Justice indicted over its meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Fifth, Facebook announced that it will verify the identities and location of anyone wanting to publish an issue ad on the platform, as well as the identity of any account managing a large number of pages. The company hopes that these measures will improve ad transparency and reduce the ability of troll farms to influence discussion on the platform. 

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2. I am moot. The U.S. Justice Department and Microsoft urged the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the case they brought before it in light of new legislation that makes it moot. In February, the court heard oral arguments over whether the U.S. government could compel Microsoft to hand over data stored abroad in the Microsoft-Ireland case. Last month, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) became law through an omnibus spending bill. It amends the Stored Communications Act by requiring a U.S. provider of a electronic communication or cloud computing service to "preserve, backup, or disclose" a communication within the provider's "possession, custody, or control" regardless of where it is held. The new law, which had the support of both the Department of Justice and Microsoft, effectively answers the question the justices were asked to consider. The court, some members of which had hoped for a legislative solution, is expected to grant the motion. 

3. Blockchain all the things! A senior official at the Central Bank of Russia said that it was looking to implement blockchain technology to facilitate financial transfers between banks in Russia, and eventually across the Eurasian Economic Union--a single market of 183 million people. Russia is seeking to alleviate its reliance on what it perceives as a western-dominated financial system. Moving to a blockchain-based system would allow Russian individuals and organizations under U.S. and EU sanctions to bypass linchpin institutions like the SWIFT messaging system used to send money around the world. The Russian central bank official's remark comes a month after the Bank of International Settlements--a central bank to central bankers, of sorts--cautioned central banks from issuing their own digital currencies, arguing they could add instability into financial markets. 

4. Using outer space to make cyberspace more accessible isn't without risks. SpaceX now has the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) approval to go ahead with project "Starlink"--an effort to provide internet access to everyone in the world via 4,425 low orbit satellites by 2024. The FCC approved SpaceX's application over the objections of competitors like Telsat and OneWeb, who argued that Starlink didn’t comply with the International Telecommunications Union’s frequency sharing rules or previously respected buffer zones between orbiting objects. As companies increasingly look to use satellites to provide internet access, CFR Senior Fellow David P. Fidler argues that space companies aren't taking the cybersecurity risks to space assets seriously enough. In a new brief, he argues that the new space race is creating a number of security risks that the U.S. government and private space companies should address. 

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