Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. Apple responds to FBI’s request over access to San Bernardino iPhone. Apple filed a motion to vacate the order requiring it to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. In it, Apple argues the order would set a dangerous precedent because software developed for this specific case could be adapted for use on any other iPhone in the future. Apple also argues that creating the software the FBI requests would be too burdensome and would violate the First and Fifth amendments to the Constitution. Google, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft are among the companies that will file court motions to support Apple. Also this week, FBI Director James Comey Jr. testified before Congress and admitted that the outcome of the dispute will likely “guide how other courts handle similar requests.” Comey also remarked that the encryption debate is the hardest question he’s ever been involved in while in government. Next week, Comey, an Apple executive, and others will testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Grab your popcorn--should be a good one.
2. Moving towards the finish line in the IANA transition process. The Internet community is expected to approve a plan next week in Marrakesh, Morocco that will transition the IANA functions over to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The plan, which still needs final approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce, represents a delicate balance over the competing interests at the heart of the management of some of the critical functions that enable the Internet to work. Under the plan, the Governmental Advisory Committee, which represents the interests of governments in the ICANN system, would be required to obtain consensus before exercising their influence on ICANN’s decision-making system and crucially, would not obtain a veto power over ICANN board decisions, as some had feared. The plan also reforms ICANN’s accountability mechanisms, allowing ICANN stakeholders to replace board members and to take the IANA functions away from ICANN if the community feels that ICANN isn’t up to the job. For more on the process, Internet governance expert Milton Mueller lays out his thoughts here.
3. Internet for everyone by 2020? Not going to happen at the current rate. The Alliance for Affordable Internet, a coalition created in 2013 to make the Internet affordable to people across the globe, released its annual affordability report. The report examines the policies, incentives and infrastructure that promote (or can promote) affordable Internet access in 51 developing countries. Although the United Nations seeks to achieve low-cost, universal internet access in the least developed countries by 2020 (part of last September’s Sustainable Development Goals), the report states that the goal will be missed by twenty-two years. Among the report’s highlights: 9 out of 10 people in the developing world do not have access to the Internet, and that the cost to connect is especially high for women, due to gender inequality, and for those living in rural populations. The report also found that affordability in the developing world is a challenge due to the failure of policymakers to combat the effects of poverty and income inequality--large income inequality creates a skewed, inflated national “average” income that is misleading when determining what is actually “affordable” for the majority of the population. You can find the full report here.
4. Google launches free service to help sites fend off denial of service attacks. Google launched Project Shield, an initiative to help media websites and other organizations protect themselves against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Project Shield works by allowing websites to redirect traffic through Google’s infrastructure, effectively making it impossible to be DDoSed. DDoS are frequently used to censor news, human rights, and election monitoring sites. When Project Shield was first set up in 2013, it only offered protection for the most at-risk sites. Now it is being expanded to news and human rights sites, including smaller sites that do not have the money or infrastructure to combat the attacks.