Category: Government

June 9, 2019 Off

Top voting machine maker reverses position on election security, promises paper ballots

By Jill T Frey

Voting machine maker ES&S has said it “will no longer sell” paperless voting machines as the primary device for casting ballots in a jurisdiction.

ES&S chief executive Tom Burt confirmed the news in an op-ed.

TechCrunch understands the decision was made around the time that four senior Democratic lawmakers demanded to know why ES&S, and two other major voting machine makers, were still selling decade-old machines known to contain security flaws.

Burt’s op-ed said voting machines “must have physical paper records of votes” to prevent mistakes or tampering that could lead to improperly cast votes. Sen. Ron Wyden introduced a bill a year ago that would mandate voter-verified paper ballots for all election machines.

The chief executive also called on Congress to pass legislation mandating a stronger election machine testing program.

Burt’s remarks are a sharp turnaround from the company’s position just a year ago, in which the election … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

FCC passes measure urging carriers to block robocalls by default

By Jill T Frey

The FCC voted at its open meeting this week to adopt an anti-robocall measure, but it may or may not lead to any abatement of this maddening practice — and it might not be free, either. That said, it’s a start toward addressing a problem that’s far from simple and enormously irritating to consumers.

The last two years have seen the robocall problem grow and grow, and although there are steps you can take right now to improve things, they may not totally eliminate the issue or perhaps won’t be available on your plan or carrier.

Under fire for not acting quickly enough in the face of a nationwide epidemic of scam calls, the FCC has taken action about as fast as a federal regulator can be expected to, and there are two main parts to its plan to fight robocalls, one … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

Economic development organizations: good or bad for entrepreneurial activity?

By Jill T Frey

In developing VC markets such as the Midwest, some may think that funding from the government or economic development organizations are a godsend for local entrepreneurs. Startups are often looking for all the help they can get, and a boost in funds or an attractive set of economic incentives can be perceived as the fuel they need to take the next step in their growth journey.

While this type of funding can be helpful, a startup should ensure that funding from these sources is … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Protecting the integrity of US elections will require a massive regulatory overhaul, academics say

By Jill T Frey

Ahead of the 2020 elections, former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos and his colleagues at Stanford University have unveiled a sweeping new plan to secure U.S. electoral infrastructure and combat foreign campaigns seeking to interfere in U.S. politics.

As the Mueller investigation into electoral interference made clear, foreign agents from Russia (and elsewhere) engaged in a strategic campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. As the chief security officer of Facebook at the time, Stamos was both a witness to the influence campaign on social media and a key architect of the efforts to combat its spread.

Along with Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, and a host of other academics from Stanford, Stamos lays out a multi-pronged plan that incorporates securing U.S. voting systems, providing clearer guidelines for advertising and the operations of foreign media in the U.S. and integrating government action more closely with media and … Read the rest

June 4, 2019 Off

Apple is now restricting Chinese language podcasts in China

By Jill T Frey

Just as podcasting hits the mainstream in the west, China, which is also experiencing an audio boom, is seeing restrictions tighten around shows as evidenced by new curbs from Apple.

This week, the U.S. tech giant has pulled a handful of Chinese-language podcasts from its Chinese Podcasts store, one of the few remaining channels for people in mainland China to find content immune from scrutiny by the country’s media regulators.

The crackdown seems to be taking an incremental pace so far. Three podcasters, including hosts of NickTalk and Two I.T. Uncles (两个iT大叔), confirmed with TechCrunch on Tuesday that their shows disappeared from Apple’s Chinese Podcasts app this week.

Several other noted shows, including Yitianshijie (一天世界), appear to remain unaffected, while others, such as Suijiya (随机鸭), seem to have suffered from a partial blockade. That’s to say that individual episodes appear in search results, but the podcast homepages are inaccessible, Read the rest

June 2, 2019 Off

China lays out official stance on trade talks with U.S.

By Jill T Frey

On Sunday, China released a comprehensive white paper to formalize its positions on trade negotiations with the U.S. The set of statements come as the trade war escalates and Beijing threatens to hit back with a retaliatory blacklist of U.S. firms. Here are some key takeaways from the press conference announcing the white paper:

U.S. ‘responsible’ for stalled trade talks

The “U.S. government bears responsibility” for setbacks in trade talks, chided the paper, adding that the U.S. has imposed additional tariffs on Chinese goods that impede economic cooperation between the two countries and globally.

While it’s “common” for both sides to propose “adjustments to the text and language” in ongoing negotiations, the U.S. administration “kept changing its demands” in the “previous more than ten rounds of negotiations,” the paper alleged.

On the other hand, reports of China backtracking on previous trade deals are mere “mudslinging,” Wang Shouwen, the Chinese vice … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Following US Huawei ban, China threatens own blacklist for foreign firms

By Jill T Frey

Odds of the U.S. and China cooling off their trade war further diminished on Friday after the world’s most populous nation said it would create a list of “unreliable” foreign firms of its own.

Gao Feng, a spokesman of China’s commerce ministry, said today that the nation will create an “entity list” that will include, in part, foreign companies that have stopped or curtailed their businesses with Chinese firms.

“Foreign enterprises, organisations or individuals that do not comply with market rules, deviate from a contract’s spirit or impose blockades or stop supplies to Chinese enterprises for non-commercial purposes, and seriously damage the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises, will be included on a list of ‘unreliable entities’,” he was quoted as saying by state-owned local media.

The retaliation comes weeks after the U.S. Commerce Department enlisted Huawei and 68 affiliates in an entity list over national security concerns, … Read the rest

May 30, 2019 Off

Apple, Google, Microsoft, WhatsApp sign open letter condemning GCHQ proposal to listen in on encrypted chats

By Jill T Frey

An international coalition of civic society organizations, security and policy experts and tech companies — including Apple, Google, Microsoft and WhatsApp — has penned a critical slap-down to a surveillance proposal made last year by the UK’s intelligence agency, warning it would undermine trust and security and threaten fundamental rights.

“The GCHQ’s ghost protocol creates serious threats to digital security: if implemented, it will undermine the authentication process that enables users to verify that they are communicating with the right people, introduce potential unintentional vulnerabilities, and increase risks that communications systems could be abused or misused,” they wrire.

“These cybersecurity risks mean that users cannot trust that their communications are secure, as users would no longer be able to trust that they know who is on the other end of their communications, thereby posing threats to fundamental human rights, including privacy and free expression. Further, systems would be subject to … Read the rest

May 29, 2019 Off

FCC’s broadband deployment report called ‘fundamentally at odds with reality’

By Jill T Frey

The FCC has officially issued this year’s Broadband Deployment Report, summarizing the extent to which the agency and industry have closed the digital divide in this country. But not everyone agrees with it: “The rosy picture the report paints about the status of broadband deployment is fundamentally at odds with reality,” said Geoffrey Starks in a lengthy dissenting statement.

The yearly report, mandated by Congress, documents things like new broadband customers in rural areas, broadband expanding to new regions and all that sort of thing. The one issued today proclaims cheerfully:

[The FCC] has made closing the digital divide between Americans with, and without, access to modern broadband networks its top priority. As a result of those efforts, the digital divide has narrowed substantially, and more Americans than ever before have access to high-speed broadband.

We find, for a second consecutive year, that advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed

Read the rest
May 29, 2019 Off

Paris opens a data center to control its digital infrastructure

By Jill T Frey

The city of Paris is doing something I didn’t expect — they’re launching their own data center to host their digital services. The data center is going to be operated by city employees, so Paris plans to control their digital destiny from end to end.

I visited the data center yesterday. Located in the north of Paris in the 18th arrondissement, the data center is hidden in the basement of an office building — nothing tells you that there’s a data center in there.

But why is Paris creating its own data center? It seems a bit counterintuitive as many organizations are moving to the cloud so that they don’t have to manage any physical infrastructure.

The City of Paris says that it comes down to remaining in control of public data, providing more reliable services and reducing the environmental impact — the data center is injecting warm water from the … Read the rest