Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
- A U.S. federal appeals court struck down the provision of the PATRIOT Act that allowed the NSA to collect the call records (e.g. numbers dialed and the duration) of every phone call made within and from the United States. The court reasoned that the provision, known as section 215, could not have been reasonably interpreted to allow the wholesale collection of call records. The ruling is a blow to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorized the NSA’s collection under section 215 for years. It is unclear where this leaves the controversial provision. Section 215 expires on June 1, 2015 and Congress is divided over how to reauthorize it, if at all, and the appeals court’s decision did not order an end to the program. Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy argues the decision is mostly symbolic, Marty Lederman at Just Security thinks the court made the right call, and Liza Goitein at Lawfare examines the ruling’s effect on legislative options before Congress. Net Politics’ own David Fidler will have his analysis of the ruling next week.
- The European Commission released its Digital Single Market strategy, which aims to streamline digital commerce and spur economic growth in the European common market. The strategy proposes a slew of reforms, from harmonizing telecom regulations to improving parcel delivery, to enhance Europe’s access to digital goods and foster the creation of European tech companies to rival American ones. While the strategy was bound to draw criticism from U.S. companies given the European Union’s antitrust investigations into Google and Amazon, it has also drawn criticism for implying that a single digital market in the EU is even desirable. The Register’s Andrew Orlowski argues European Commission’s crusade against geo-blocking—the practice of restricting online content based on a user’s geographic location—could undermine cultural diversity in the union.
- Facebook seems to have bowed to criticism of its Internet.org platform and is opening it up to all developers provided they follow certain guidelines. Facebook launched its Internet.org program in 2013 as a way provide free Internet access to individuals in the developing world provided that they access it through Facebook. This led to criticism, particularly in India, that Facebook was violating net neutrality principles given that people would be incentivized to access the net through the Facebook ecosystem, instead of paying money to access the rest of the Internet. This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that any developer could make an app to be hosted on Internet.org. Despite some positive reception to the move, net neutrality advocates claim that Facebook will still act as a curator of the Internet for the world’s poor.
- Germany will stem its intelligence cooperation with the United States in light of revelations that the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, helped the NSA spy on the French and Airbus. It is unclear how Germany will restrict its cooperation given that the decision was reached in secret and was only confirmed by anonymous German officials in response to press inquiries. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, formerly Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, has been under fire for weeks over allegations that he lied about the extent of his knowledge of the collaboration between the BND and the NSA.