Weekly output: debating privacy regulation

I feel bad for being so checked out of the NCAA tournament, but once again, my Hoyas have no part in March Madness. My wife’s Hoos are in it, having managed to avoid repeating last year’s improbable first-round collapse–yet I’m still a little leery about getting too invested.

3/19/2019: Approaches to Regulating Technology—From Privacy to A.I., American Action Forum

I debated possible regulatory strategies for protecting privacy with the Charles Koch Institute’s Neil Chilson, the Niskanen Center’s Ryan Hagemann, and the George Mason University Mercatus Center’s Jennifer Huddleston. My fellow speakers suggested that we didn’t really need a new batch of data-protection laws along the lines of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation or the California Consumer Privacy Act, which struck me as an exceedingly optimistic perspective to hold after a year of bad news about Facebook’s privacy failings. But they could very well be right in suggesting that Congress won’t get it together to pass any such bill this year.

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Weekly output: privacy-law prospects, switching wireless carriers, cable and broadband fee inflation, Android messages on your computer

ces 2019 badgeOnce again, a Sunday in January finds me in Las Vegas for CES. It’s like I’ve been doing this since 1998 or something…

12/31/2018: Why 2019 might finally bring a national privacy law for the US, Yahoo Finance

Writing a story optimistic about the prospects for a national privacy bill makes me feel like Charlie Brown lining up to the kick the football, so if the year ends with Congress having yanked the ball away I’ll be disappointed but not enormously surprised.

12/31/2018: How to Switch Cell Phone Carriers, Wirecutter

This how-to post started with some banter on Wirecutter’s Slack about the mechanics of switching carriers.

1/1/2019: How your TV or broadband bill might creep up in the new year, Yahoo Finance

Just as I predicted a year ago, cable and broadband companies marked the new year with a round of rate hikes. This time around, I focused on increases to the add-on fees that are usually confined to the fine print of ads.

1/4/2019: You can read your Android phone’s texts on your Mac or PC. Here’s how, USA Today

A couple of readers complained that this column didn’t address third-party solutions for reading your texts on your Mac or PC–for example, MightyText, Pushbullet, Pulse SMS. That, I have to admit, is a fair point.

Updated 1/15/2019 to add a link to the Wirecutter how-to post that I’d missed at the time. 

Weekly output: Google hearings (x2), Microsoft wants facial-recognition rules, Google Maps and Lime scooters, U2F security keys, U.S. newspapers vs. the GDPR

My calendar for the coming week looks strange: There isn’t a single work appointment on it. I plan to celebrate that by not shaving tomorrow.

12/10/2018: Congress will grill Google’s CEO this week — here’s what to expect, Yahoo Finance

The House Judiciary Committee–in particular, certain of its Republican members–obliged me by living up so completely to this preview of Google chief executive Sundar Pichai’s Tuesday appearance there.

12/10/2018: Microsoft is asking the government to regulate the company’s facial recognition tech, Yahoo Finance

Microsoft president Brad Smith came to the Brookings Institution last week to make an unusual plea: Please regulate us before we get dragged into a race to the bottom with ethically-unbounded vendors of facial-recognition technology.

12/13/2018: Google Maps will now help you find Lime scooters, Yahoo Finance

I got an advance on this news from one of Lime’s publicists; by itself, this new feature isn’t a huge development, but covering it allowed me to discuss broader failings in both Google and Apple’s navigation software.

12/13/2018: On privacy, Google CEO’s congressional hearing comes up short, The Parallax

I wrote about several security and privacy questions that should have been asked during Pichai’s grilling but never came up. The single worst omission: Not a single representative even mentioned the name of a non-Google search engine.

12/14/2018: Primer: How to lock your online accounts with a security key, The Parallax

I’ve had the idea of an explainer about “U2F” security keys on my to-do list for a while. In the time it took for me to sell the piece, Microsoft and Apple finally began moving to support this particularly secure two-step verification option.

12/16/2018: Post-Dispatch, Tribune haven’t caught up with EU rules, Gateway Journalism Review

My former Washington Post colleague Jackie Spinner wrote about how the sites of some U.S. newspapers continue to block European readers instead of complying with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. She gave me a chance to critique this self-defeating practice–I’d earlier griped about it in a Facebook comments thread with her–and I was happy to give her few quotes.

Weekly output: Senate privacy hearings (x2), a split Internet, Chrome vs. Flash, cord cutting, D.C. tech, Chrome sync, Facebook hack

The last few days of Brett Kavanaugh drama in the Senate really took a hammer to my productivity. Yours too, I’m sure.

9/24/2018: What to expect when Apple, Amazon, and Google get grilled in Congress this week, Yahoo Finance

This was what you saw me talk about the previous Friday on Yahoo Finance’s Midday Movers show. One point I wish I’d made in this post: the absence of customer voices in this hearing.

9/24/2018: China’s Internet, Al Jazeera

I come on at about the 5:30 mark in the linked video to discuss remarks by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt that China’s increasingly-tight control of the Internet inside its borders means we’re now dealing with two Internets.

9/24/2018: Google’s latest Chrome update tightens the locks on Adobe Flash, USA Today

With Chrome now making it harder than ever to run Flash content, I checked in with two Flash holdouts: Intuit’s Mint.com, which requires it to view stock charts, and United Airlines’ “personal device entertainment” inflight service, which demands it to stream most TV shows and movies to a browser.

9/25/2018: Your wireless carrier may stop you from dumping cable TV, Yahoo Finance

I got an advance look at two studies that came out Tuesday: one looking at cord cutters’ motivations, another at how reliably wireless carriers deliver streaming video. The second provided important context to complaints cited in the first, so I wrote up both in this post.

9/26/2018: Are you ready for the spotlight?, DC Startup Week

SilverStrategy founder Tara Silver quizzed me, Technical.ly DC‘s Michelai Graham, and DC Inno’s Kieran McQuilkin about how startups try to get media attention, the state of the D.C.-tech scene, and this region’s odds of landing Amazon’s second headquarters. Update, 10/8: The organizers posted video of our panel to their Facebook page.

9/27/2018: Why now is a good time to reconsider browser-sync options on Google Chrome, USA Today

The latest Chrome release’s barely-documented switch to logging you into the browser if you log into any Google sites both upset some information-security types and gave me an opportunity to write this post, reminding readers that you can add a sync password to stop Google from monitoring and monetizing your Web activity and that Mozilla Firefox’s own Web-activity synchronization comes encrypted end-to-end.

9/27/2018: Tech execs to senators: Regulate us, but not too much, The Parallax

I wrote up Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee tech-privacy hearings, noting the questions the senators asked of executives with Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Charter, Google, and Twitter as well as the queries that didn’t come up.

9/29/2018: Facebook hacked, Al Jazeera

I made a second appearance on AJ’s Arabic-language channel (overdubbed live as usual) to talk about the series of bugs that could have let unknown attackers into 50 million Facebook accounts. Unlike my earlier appearance this week, this show doesn’t seem to be online.

Weekly output: whither the small smartphone, medical-device security, Senate privacy hearings

I watched my last Nats game of the year this afternoon and had scant company in the ballpark, thanks to the chilly temperatures, near-constant rain, and yesterday’s elimination of the team from postseason contention. But even in those crummy circumstances, baseball still offers its less-likely rewards: seeing us turn a 5-2-3 double play, then watching Trea Turner break the franchise record for stolen bases.

(Confession: I wasn’t in the stands after the 5th. I believe that staying for all 18 innings of game 2 of the 2014 NLDS gives me a pass to leave the very-occasional game early.)

9/19/2018: With Apple maxing out iPhone sizes, the small smartphone looks even more endangered, USA Today

If you’re a fan of smartphones small enough to allow easy one-handed use–and to fit into what passes for pockets on many women’s clothing–then the big part of Apple’s iPhone news this year was the quiet discontinuation of the compact iPhone SE. Unfortunately, Android vendors appear even more set on ignoring market demand for smaller devices.

9/20/2018: How weak IoT gadgets can sicken a hospital’s network, The Parallax

I wrote an explainer about how badly-configured or insecure-by-default connected devices can allow remote exploitation, then traversal of a hospital’s network. To get a fuller sense of your risks, replace “hospital’s network” with “your home’s network.”

9/21/2018: Midday Movers: Stocks mixed after a day of record highs, Yahoo Finance

Yahoo Finance runs four live video shows each weekday, and I made an appearance on one of them after an editor basically asked what was taking me so long. I had already been planning on attending Yahoo’s All Markets Summit conference Thursday (I hope my livetweeting from it didn’t get too annoying), so this gave me even more reason to head up to NYC for a few days. I come on at the 40-minute mark, when I talk about a post I have coming up that outlines the questions I hope will be asked at Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee tech-privacy hearings–plus what I’m afraid we’ll hear instead.

Weekly output: Stasi Museum, new iPhones

For the first time since I-don’t-know-when, I didn’t watch an Apple new-iPhone event live. I had planned on doing that in the air on my way to Austin Wednesday for the Online News Association’s conference, but the plane was a regional jet with Gogo WiFi–and I realized after takeoff that I’d forgotten my Gogo password, didn’t have that password saved in LastPass and could not reset it without, you know, Internet access. Then I further realized that a) since nobody had asked me to opine on Apple’s new hardware as of noon, that probably wasn’t going to happen later on, and b) since my upgrade had cleared on this flight, I could skip creating a new Gogo account for the occasion and instead enjoy a leisurely lunch before napping in a chair in a sky.

9/10/2018: Remember Stasi spying to understand the GDPR, The Parallax

The day I arrived in Berlin for IFA, I set aside a few hours to explore the Stasi Museum, a grim monument to the oppressive surveillance of the German “Democratic” “Republic.” I’d prepared myself for the visit by watching “The Lives of Others,” but it was something else to see the physical relics of East Germany’s campaign to take up residence in the heads of its subjects. Writing this gave me a chance to quote a co-worker from 1993: Shane Green, who was a fellow intern at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and went on to work in Berlin and learn about the Stasi’s destruction of privacy before a lot of other Americans.

9/12/2018: Apple’s upcoming iPhones, Al Jazeera

My one bit of punditry–so far!–about Apple’s new phones came late Wednesday morning (or that evening if you watched the Arabic-language channel in in Qatar), an hour and a half before Apple’s event. I did a quick live interview to talk about the prospects of higher prices and a wider array of iPhone models, plus the chances that President Trump would slap a tariff on Chinese-made iPhones.

Weekly output: Michael Chertoff on privacy, TV-streaming rate hikes

I only had four workdays this week, thanks to Monday being spent in the air on my way back from London to D.C. That said, my productivity was not as bad as this scant list would suggest, since I filed three other posts in those four days… and now I can find out how much more work edits on those posts will entail.

7/12/2018: Ex-Homeland Security chief Chertoff wants EU-style data privacy laws, Yahoo Finance

I spent about half an hour on the phone with Michael Chertoff Wednesday afternoon about his views on various privacy and security issues and came away with far more material than I could fit in this post, as well as a renewed appreciation of the time it takes to transcribe quotes from a recording of an interview.

7/15/2018: As cord-cutting prices rise, here’s what you can do to keep costs down, USA Today

No, rate hikes at such live-TV streaming services as DirecTV Now and Sling TV don’t mean that returning to the embrace of cable or satellite TV–both subject to the same inflationary pressures, both also fond of sticking you with monthly fees to return a tuner box–now makes financial sense for a lot more people.