UK Surveillance Law Marks a “Worse Than Scary” Shift

CNET, 11/29/2016

The Investigatory Powers Act, recently passed in the UK, will require telecom companies to store records of phone calls and websites visited for up to a year, and give authorities access to the latter without a warrant. It also legalizes bulk data collection by the British government. Groups like the Open Rights Group and Privacy International are openly critical of this law, calling it draconian.

Large DDoS Attacks Cause Outages at Twitter, Spotify, and Other Sites

TechCrunch, 10/21/2016

A recent large scale DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on DNS provider Dyn caused many sites to become temporarily inaccessible, including Twitter, Spotify, and a number of other important social media, e-commerce, news, and code-sharing sites. The attack was coordinated using a large group of compromised devices known as a “botnet”. Rather than computers, much of this botnet consisted of infected IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as security cameras.

Contract Expiration to End U.S. Authority Over Internet IP Addresses

The Washington Post, 9/30/2016

The contract that specified the U.S. government’s oversight over Internet address assignment has expired and ICANN (an international NGO) now has full control. ICANN holds the responsibility to protect the integrity, freedom, and security of the domain name system and IP address assignment. ICANN’s decisions thus have the potential to affect the communications of Internet users around the world.

Stanford Engineers Propose a Technology to Break the Net Neutrality Deadlock

Stanford News, 9/13/2016

The debate over net neutrality has largely focused on whether Internet service providers should allow some content providers to negotiate faster/cheaper access to their content for users. This article describes a prototyped system that would allow users to designate which content they want to special access to. Net neutrality has been seen as a digital divide issue; wide adoption of a user-choice system would change the parameters in that debate.

IoT Early Warning System Helps Save People From Mudslides

Network World, 08/24/2016

This article describes an early warning system for mudslides and flood in rural El Salvador that uses a mesh network of simple devices, within local villagers’ needs and cultural structures. The article can be used to highlight differences between the U.S., where a vast array of technological advances can aid in mitigating disasters, and remote areas of the world where many of the basic technologies involved, such as cell-phone networks, do not exist or are not reliable.

The Ad-Blocking Browser That Pays the Sites You Visit

Wired, 9/1/2016

The Brave web browser (released earlier this year) allows only ads that don’t track users from site to site; it has now added a feature to record how much time users spend on different sites and allow them to send micropayments to those publishers. The article raises examples of how the web has impacted the economics of media and publishing, and also touches on online tracking, data anonymization and de-anonymization, and even Bitcoin.

Inferring Urban Travel Patterns From Cellphone Data

MIT News, 8/29/2016

Researchers are using data on the locations people make calls from to model the movement patterns of Boston commuters; the system may replace or supplement surveys of residents. The article discusses the benefits of gathering and processing more data more quickly and cheaply, though students may be able to identify some disadvantages of using call data.

As FBI Warns Election Sites Got Hacked, All Eyes Are on Russia

Wired, 8/29/2016

Hackers have broken into the Illinois and Arizona state boards of elections’ records, following hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign in the last couple of months. This highlights concerns about the security of voter records and even ballot integrity, including effects on U.S. citizens’ confidence in election results.