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Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
- The Washington Post and Reuters reported that the Obama administration is considering leveling sanctions against Chinese individuals and entities for cyberattacks that steal trade secrets from United States corporations. If deployed, they would be the first application of an executive order signed by President Obama in April authorizing the Treasury Secretary to freeze the assets of overseas actors who engage in economic espionage in cyberspace. While the announcement provoked an angry response in the Chinese state press, there’s little chance of sanctions actually being leveled against China. The United States is unlikely to insult a country whose leader it will be hosting for a state visit later this month. Jack Goldsmith does a great job highlighting similar stories in the past, where anonymous administration officials teased that sanctions or policy responses to Chinese espionage were to be announced only to have them fizzle out.
- Russia is giving Facebook and other online platforms a temporary reprieve from its data localization laws. As of yesterday, Russian law requires that technology companies that collect personal information from Russians store that data in Russia. However, Russian officials and tech executives quoted in the Wall Street Journal have said that Moscow doesn’t plan to check the compliance of U.S. tech giants until January, at the earliest. It is unclear whether Facebook, Google, and Twitter will comply. Facebook and Twitter don’t have offices in the country and Facebook has said that it doesn’t plan on putting servers in Russia. While Google maintains a sales and marketing team in the country, the search giant pulled its engineering staff late last year. Data localization requirements gained favor in some circles as a result of the Snowden revelations. Their proponents argue that it makes data less vulnerable to intelligence collection activities and will give people more control over their personal data. Detractors counter that data localization laws are economically inefficient and do not contribute to increased privacy.
- There’s been a lot of debate as to whether metadata should be offered the same level of protection as the content of communications in the wake of the Snowden revelations. If ever you doubted the power of metadata to reveal a person’s day-to-day activities, you may want to look at this. A journalist for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation put a year’s worth of his cellphone’s metadata online and asked readers to guess facts about his life: where he works, where he lives, where he goes on holiday, and what sorts of restaurants he likes. Turns out that readers were able to accurately determine the answers to most of the questions and were even able to figure out the bus routes he took to and from work.