Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. To amend or not to amend? Reuters reports that the Trump administration intends to seek a "clean" re-authorization of section 702 of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which sunsets later this year. Section 702 is the legal basis for the National Security Agency’s intelligence collection efforts targeting non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It became a lightning rod of controversy when Edward Snowden disclosed the PRISM and Upstream programs, both of which exist due to section 702. Privacy and civil liberties advocates in the United States, as well as some members of Congress, want to amend section 702 to prevent what they view is the mass surveillance of people outside the United States. A coalition of human rights organizations have even brought Europe into the fight, asking the European Commission to suspend the Privacy Shield until section 702 is significantly reformed.
2. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Early this week, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cyberspace Administration of China released China’s first strategic document on cyberspace, which laid out the country’s plan for promoting international cyberspace cooperation. For observers of China’s internet cyber diplomacy, the document rehashes a familiar vision of international cyber cooperation rooted in the principal of cyber sovereignty. This includes familiar policy prescriptions as well: the document advocates reforming ICANN and the UN Internet Governance Forum and promoting bilateral cooperation on issues like "cyber terrorism" and cybercrime. Notably, while the document paints a rosy image of “win-win cooperation” in cyberspace, China is evidently not relying on harmonious cyber relations. “Building national defense cyberspace capabilities is an important part of China’s military modernization, which complies with the principal of active defense,” the document said.
3. Houston, we have a problem. “High error rates” at data centers snowballed into a five-hour “mega-outage” for Amazon Web Services’ Simple Storage Service (S3) earlier this week. The meltdown affected software ranging from smart phone applications, to web services, to internet of things devices, all reliant on Amazon S3 cloud-based storage. The tech giant chalked up the massive outage to an Amazon staffer’s mistyped command. Oops.
4. China enters the race for 5G dominance. The Wall Street Journal profiled Huawei’s efforts at becoming a powerhouse in setting the standards for 5G wireless. Largely shut out from the 3G standards-setting process, Huawei successfully got its foot in the door during 4G development, ultimately becoming a principal supplier of wireless technology. Now, Huawei is further ramping up research and development, employing some 80,000 staffers who exclusively focus on 5G capabilities. Huawei is trying to elbow out its European and U.S. competitors in standards setting bodies, with hopes that its patents and technology become the defacto standard for 5G equipment.
5. Should sex offenders be allowed on social media? An attempt by North Carolina to bar sex offenders from using social media sites did not sit well with the U.S. Supreme Court this week. The presiding justices indicated they would strike down the North Carolina law on the basis of the First Amendment, arguing that platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become a critical communication channel for political discussion, debate, and even job opportunities. The Court maintained that to refuse sex offenders access to those services would be to deny them not only their constitutional right to speak, but also their constitutional right to information.