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Technology 13 September 2021

The Week in Internet News: U.K. Government Pushes Against Encrypted Photos

Grant Gross
By Grant GrossTechnology Reporter

Big brother, yet again: The U.K. government has backed Apple’s plan, suspended for the moment, to scan its device users’ uploaded photos for child pornography, 9to5Mac reports. But the U.K. government wants to go beyond Apple’s plans to circumvent encryption: Home Secretary Priti Patel announced a new Safety Tech Challenge Fund that will award £85,000 to five different organizations to “develop innovative technology to keep children safe in environments such as online messaging platforms with end-to-end encryption.”  She added, “Just one solution, by one company, won’t solve everything. Big Tech firms collectively need to take responsibility for public safety and greater investment is essential.”

No subsidies for satellite: An article at Slate argues that Starlink, SpaceX’s new satellite broadband service, should get subsidies from the U.S. government to deliver broadband to rural and other underserved areas. While Starlink shows some promise, including much faster speeds than current satellite-based Internet services, there are several questions about the service Slate says. “While beta testers and Starlink fans have shared information about their personal experiences with the service, the company itself has yet to release any data about service locations, speeds, or its reliability. But we do know that beta-testers have experienced regular outages anywhere from eight minutes to 90 minutes that remain unexplained.”

Outlawing content moderation: In a move certain to be challenged, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill that would prohibit large websites and social media outlets from blocking or restricting users and their posts based on their viewpoint, the Washington Post reports. The law applies only to huge sites with more than 50 million monthly active users, so Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. While some Republicans, without a lot of hard evidence, have complained that large websites are blocking conservative voices, tech advocates argue that a prohibition on blocking their most toxic users violates the free speech rights of the websites.

Smart glasses, part 2: Years after Google launched its Google Glass initiative, Facebook is getting in on the smart glasses game, in partnership with Ray-Ban maker EssilorLuxottica, Reuters reports. Ray-Ban Stories glasses will allow users to listen to music, take voice calls, and take photos and short videos and share them to Facebook. The New York Times seems skeptical of the move, noting that Google Glass didn’t take the market by storm. And the sharing of photos and videos will inevitably lead to privacy complaints.

How will a policy, technology, or trend impact the foundation that makes the Internet work for everyone? The Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit starts with five questions.
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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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