OVERNIGHT TECH: Transparency reports show data requests increasing

THE LEDE: Web companies received thousands of government requests for user data last year, according to transparency reports published on Thursday. 

The reports, covering the second half of 2013, showed an increase in requests for users’ information at many companies. Twitter, for instance was asked for information about accounts more than 1,400 times in the last six months of the year — nearly 300 more than the first six months. The U.S. government asked Yahoo about almost 11,800 accounts.

Worldwide, governments asked Microsoft about 58,600 users’ data, which was actually 7,800 fewer than in the first half of the year. 

Google reported nearly 27,500 requests for data about its users in the second half of the year, an increase from earlier in the year. Since 2009, when the company first began publishing the numbers, government requests have increased by about 120 percent.

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“We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information, but it’s also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach,” Richard Salgado, legal director for law enforcement and information security, wrote in a blog post. The company has signed up with other major tech firms to push for reforms to government surveillance.

Google’s blog post was accompanied by a video “to explain in plain language” how it responds to warrants. 

FCC chief, commissioner slam agency’s tech: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said Thursday that the technology his agency uses “is intolerable” due to how outdated it is. “It’s a situation that no American business would allow to exist,” he said while testifying about the agency’s requested budget during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

Wheeler argued that an increase in the agency’s technology budget would allow the FCC to operate more efficiently.

Asked by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) whether Wheeler would prefer funding to upgrade the agency's technology or funding to hire more personnel, Wheeler said he thinks "we have fiduciary responsibility on both points."

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai agreed that the agency’s technology needs an update but told lawmakers that the FCC should use its technology budget “more effectively.” He pointed to the FCC’s recently redesigned website, which “many people find incredibly difficult to use.” Pai said he, like others, often prefers using the agency’s older, less design-savvy website.

FCC ‘phasing-in’ rural phone rate increase: During Thursday’s hearing, Wheeler responded to concerns from lawmakers about the agency’s recent announcement that rural phone companies that use federal funding will have to charge at least $20.46. That “rate floor” — set to increase in July — is an increase from the previous rate floor of $14, which lawmakers have said will take a toll on rural constituents.

Wheeler said at the hearing that his agency will “delay the implementation beyond July” by phasing in the rate floor increase, rather than having it hit rural phone companies and their customers all at once. He said he has asked the agency to “develop phase-in so that this isn’t hitting everybody’s bills” at once, “but comes in over time.”

Laptop at center of first presidential email for sale: The laptop former President Clinton (D) used to send the first ever email from a president is up for sale. The computer, which the former president used to send an email to astronaut John Glenn in outer space in 1998, is coming up for auction by Massachusetts-based RR Auction. The auction begins on Friday and will end on the evening of April 16. 

Megaupload founder starts political party: Kim Dotcom is starting the Internet Party.

The founder of the MegaUpload site, who is fighting extradition to the U.S. over a slew of copyright violation charges, launched the party in New Zealand on Thursday “to get an open, free, fair, connected and innovative society,” the organization said.

The party is founded on a platform of delivering cheap high-speed Internet to everyone, doubling research funding, fighting mass surveillance and creating a state-sponsored digital currency “that is safe, secure and encrypted, providing for instant international transactions at minimal cost.”

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

A group of House Republicans introduced a bill that would prohibit the Obama administration from moving forward with its announced plans to relinquish oversight of the technical side of the Internet's Web address system.

Facebook wants to use drones, lasers and satellites “to deliver the internet to everyone.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wants to keep mobile apps from secretly tracking users.

The White House on Thursday offered support for legislation to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection and storage of phone records.

 

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