Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed.
China’s Great Firewall a trade barrier. In its annual report on trade impediments, the U.S. government said that China’s Great Firewall--China’s system of Internet filters--constitutes a trade barrier by limiting the free flow of information, data, and goods. U.S. trade officials wrote that the Great Firewall has “posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers, hurting both Internet sites themselves and users who often depend on them for business.” It’s unlikely that the designation will pose an impediment to U.S.-China trade given that China is unlikely to relax Internet controls anytime soon. The move comes a few days after China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued new draft rules stating that websites hosted in China must have their domain name registered with a Chinese registrar. In an unrelated development, Fang Binxing, widely regarded as the Great Firewall’s father, was ironically forced to use a VPN to bypass his own invention during a lecture he was giving on internet safety.
Senators propose encryption bill, White House says "no thanks." The White House has declined to support legislation that would require technology companies to assist law enforcement access plain text information from products that encrypt data. Reuters noted the White House’s lack of support after reports emerged earlier in the week that said the White House was providing input on leaked legislation proposed by Senators Richard Burr and Diane Feinstein that would do just that. The White House’s position comes roughly a month after President Obama warned Silicon Valley against fetishizing phones over everything else and a few days after WhatsApp made headlines by rolling out end-to-end encryption to its one billion users worldwide. Are you still trying to make sense of the encryption issue? Here’s an infographic to demystify the debate.
Who uses Tor? A paper recently published in the academic journal New Media & Society revealed that Tor usage is highest in the most oppressive and the most liberal settings. The report examined Tor, a service that enables people to use the Internet anonymously, in 157 countries from 2011 to 2013 and found that countries that were neither strictly authoritarian nor free democracies had the lowest amount of Tor usage. Tor can be used for several reasons, including to circumvent censorship, to protect privacy, or for criminal purposes. Although the reasons for these trends were not covered by the study, the author hypothesizes that citizens of repressive regimes use Tor as a necessity, while members in liberal settings use it just because they can.
Cruz missile directed toward the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz, together with Senators James Lankford and Michael Lee, sent ICANN a letter chastising it for not responding to a previous letter they sent. The three senators ask ICANN chairman Steve Crocker for clarification on the organization’s relationship with the Chinese government after former CEO Fadi Chehade said he would join the organizing committee of China’s annual Wuzhen Internet conference.