TAP into This Week’s Tech Policy News

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on March 9, 2012


Tech policy news from this week includes several cybersecurity stories –two new bills in the works, China cyber capabilities, and updates on infamous hackers. Within innovation and economic growth, mobile devices are helping to boost employment and TAP scholar Eric Brynjolfssen is quoted discussing his recent study that measured an increase in productivity due to technology. Under antitrust and competition policy, the Justice Department is looking into price-fixing of electronic books. Additionally, there is a recent interview with FTC Commissioner Julie Brill. And this look at the week’s tech policy news concludes with an online privacy concern about Apple and Android devices uploading private photos and contacts without consumer express consent.

The Senate now has two cybersecurity bills in the works, with Senator McCain’s SECURE IT Act and Senators Rockefeller, Feinstein and Collins’ Cybersecurity Act of 2012. One cybersecurity expert said there are strong points in both bills and “rather than have a duel, we need to have the best of both.”

Looking into China’s cyber-attack capabilities, a congressional report released this week states that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) probably would target transportation and logistics networks before an actual conflict to try to delay or disrupt the United States’ ability to fight. Additionally, in recent years they have progressed to testing attack capabilities during exercises. According to this report, Chinese cyber warfare would pose a genuine risk to the U.S. military in a conflict, for instance over Taiwan or disputes in the South China Sea.

On the hacking front, experts said at the RSA computer security conference last week that hacktivists like Anonymous raise alarms over the “unguarded state of corporate computer systems.” Hackers take advantage of weak passwords, unencrypted email stashes, and persuade employees to click on rogue websites. That said, most of its corporate targets have not been irreparably damaged by the attacks. 

A collective of hackers claiming to belong to the group Anonymous defaced the Spanish security firm PandaLabs in an apparent retaliation for the Tuesday arrests of five alleged Anonymous members. Anonymous accused PandaLabs of having worked with the FBI to help arrest 25 members of the group last month.

Innovation & Economic Growth
A surge in technology-industry hiring is helping to spearhead a jobs-market revival as demand swells for computer-software applications and data. Online help-wanted advertising for computer and mathematical occupations rose 3.4 percent in January from December to the third-highest since the Conference Board began compiling the data in 2005.

A study completed by TAP scholar Erik Brynjolfsson and his colleagues was highlighted. The study analyzed 179 publicly-traded companies last year and found that those adopting data-driven decision making were about 5 percent more productive and profitable than their competitors. The effects on productivity will be ‘‘as great or greater than what they were in the 1990s,’’ Brynjolfsson said.

Antitrust & Competition Policy
The Justice Department believes that Apple Inc. and five of the biggest U.S. publishers acted in concert to raise prices on electronic books across the industry, and is prepared to sue them for violating federal antitrust laws. 

The recent issue of The Antitrust Source interviewed Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Julie Brill. The in-depth conversation covers topics such as the agency’s authority to address privacy violations, Do Not Track mechanisms, horizontal merger guidelines, and the scope of Section 5 of the FTC Act -- which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports that applications on the Apple Inc and Google Inc mobile systems steal private photos and contacts and post them online without consent. He also referred to a discovery last month that applications on devices such as the iPhone and iPad were able to upload entire address books with names, telephone numbers and email addresses to their own servers.

"These uses go well beyond what a reasonable user understands himself to be consenting to when he allows an app to access data on the phone for purposes of the app's functionality," Schumer said in a letter to the FTC.