Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. I see your cyber and raise you a nuke. The United States could respond to a devastating cyberattack on its communications networks or electrical grid with nuclear weapons, according to the New York Times and a leaked Pentagon document. The document, called the nuclear posture review, sets out the role of nuclear weapons in the United States' defense strategy and was submitted to the White House for approval. The United States has long argued that international law applies to cyberspace, and that military responses to cyberattacks should be proportional but not necessarily tied to cyberspace. For example, in a 2011 interview with the Wall Street Journal, a Pentagon official was quoted as saying "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks." Threatening a nuclear response to a devastating cyberattack (e.g. a loss of power in the United States leading to mass casualties) is consistent with this approach and U.S. deterrence strategy. Nevertheless, the draft policy is raising some eyebrows. George Perkovich in Politico argues that using nuclear weapons in retaliation to a cyberattack is akin to choosing a cure worse than the disease.
2. Knocking on China's door. Google and Chinese tech giant Tencent reached a long-term agreement to cross-license patents on a range of products this week. The agreement tops off a positive past few weeks for the U.S. internet search giant in China, which has long struggled to leave its mark on the Chinese market. In December Google opened a research lab for artificial intelligence in Beijing, and just this week signed a lease for its third China office, this one in Shenzhen. Now, with this new license agreement, Google has found a partner in China’s booming tech industry. The agreement also creates an opening for future technology cooperation--a promising prospect, given China’s growing investment in artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. One company that’s still not having any luck cracking the Chinese market is Facebook. This week Facebook’s lead in charge of mounting Facebook’s return to China resigned, highlighting the social network giant’s continued inability to curry favor with Beijing, despite mounting a very public charm offensive.
3. See you in six years folks! After the House reauthorized Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act last week, the Senate did the same this week, clearing the way for the controversial program to be renewed for another six years. The measure allows the U.S. intelligence community to collect foreign intelligence from U.S. communications service providers, including from or about U.S. individuals, without a warrant. Privacy and civil liberties groups had been clamoring for reforms to the program all year, hoping to close perceived loopholes that allow the FBI and other government agencies to collect data about U.S. persons unconstitutionally. Senate critics of the program were hoping to filibuster the bill, but proponents of the reauthorization were able to corral the 60 votes needed to overcome it. The reauthorization bill is now headed to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it.