After spending a lot of his time keeping Google’s servers running smoothly, Mikey Dickerson is officially a government employee. After resolving launch issues with HealthCare.gov last year, the White House asked the former Googler to be its deputy chief information officer of the federal government and administrator of the United States Digital Services Team.
Tom Wheeler — the Chairman of the FCC, the federal commission currently in the middle of a firestorm surrounding net neutrality — today praised Google for its checklist of requirements for cities to meet that are interested in working with Google to roll out fiber networking.
Google’s checklist includes various measures and decisions that help enable the company to quickly add their fiber services to a city or municipality. Wheeler specifically cites this as something that the FCC should look into, as it effectively cuts through red tape and speeds up deployment of faster service: Read more
There is a United States federal agency that specializes in collecting and cataloguing scientific research papers of all kinds. The NTIS — National Technical Information Service — will serve up files or paper copies of these records for $25 or $73, respectively. The issue, as pointed out by NPR, is that most of these records are available for free elsewhere, and are easier to find with Google than with the NTIS’ outdated website. And so, ever the enemy of a wasteful budget, Tom Coburn has introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act of 2014 to abolish the NTIS. Read more
Google chariman Eric Schmidt joined a group of tech CEOs who met with the president and members of the administration today to discuss the implementation of recently-announced changes in the National Security Administration’s spying practices. Other CEOs in the group represented Facebook, Dropbox, Netflix, and more. Along with the president were several advisors and councilors, including the Deputy Director of the NSA.
The executives were updated on the status of changes to the NSA’s spying policies that were first detailed last year and continued to be further expanded upon in recent months. These CEOs were among those who signed an open letter to the federal government comdemning the unwarranted sue of spying tactics to intercept and store communications sent via various online platforms.
Earlier this week Google’s Larry Page also discussed the NSA and issues of privacy during the TED conference.
Following reports last night when the device was spotted going through the FCC, Reuters reports Boeing today officially announced a new Android smartphone with a number of innovative security features. Dubbed “Boeing Black,” the device will be marketed towards government officials and other organizations that highly value keeping their data secure. The tamper-proof device builds in a number of security features for encrypting calls and more and is designed to wipe itself clean of any data if someone attempts to open the physical casing of the phone. Here’s a bit more from Boeing’s website: Read more
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has joined Microsoft, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, and other giants in the tech industry in calling for a reform of the NSA’s surveillance tactics. Earlier this year it was revealed that the National Security Agency was using information from these companies and more to monitor citizens across the nation without warrants.
The companies allegedly involved in the “PRISM” program denied turning over any user data to the government, but a leaked NSA slidedeck (seen above) seemed to imply the opposite.
The new collaborative campaign, called Reform Government Surveillance, cites five driving principles in its drive to curb excessive government spying:
A lot of false facts were spread around when the original news regarding the NSA’s relationship with technology companies broke. Since then, Google, Apple, and other others have been on a mission to repair their public image. In an interview with the Guardian, Google’s top legal chief reaffirmed the fact that the company is not “in cahoots” with the NSA, nor does it give the government direct access to its servers.
“We’re not in cahoots with the NSA and there is no government programme that Google participates in that allows the kind of access that the media originally reported,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said. “There is no free-for-all, no direct access, no indirect access, no back door, no drop box,” Drummond reaffirmed.
“We didn’t know [Prism] existed,” he said, suggesting that Google was just as surprised by the leaked reports as citizens were. Read more
Earlier this month, we told you about government officials calling on major tech companies to improve anti-theft features of their devices. At WWDC this year, Apple did just that and announced its new Activation Lock feature. Now, all eyes have shifted to the other large smartphone manufacturer, Samsung. According to a report out of Korean site MK, Samsung is set to launch its anti-theft features for smartphones as early as July.
The feature will essentially be a kill switch that will allow carriers, manufacturers, and even the government to remotely wipe, lock, and disable any smartphone that has been stolen. Once this is done, the device would be rendered useless, even when a new SIM card is installed.
A kill switch is exactly what government officials called for earlier this month, and what it and manufacturers likely discussed when they met last week at a “smartphone summit” to talk about mobile security. Read more
Google has been signing up a lot of Google Apps for Government customers over the last year, including Colorado and the US Naval Academy, and today The Boston Globe reports that Boston is soon making the switch from Microsoft to a Google Apps environment for city employees.
As noted in the report, Boston was previously relying on Microsoft’s Exchange for much of its tasks and making the switch to Google will save the city around $280,000 a year:
It’s not just the gee whiz factor: It’s also a matter of money. It will cost Boston around $800,000 to move over to Gmail, Google Docs for word processing, and Google’s cloud service for storing documents. But by dropping some Microsoft products, the city government will save at least $280,000 a year.
Microsoft responded to the decision in a statement to the Boston Globe, claiming, “Google’s investments in these areas are inadequate, and they lack the proper protections most organizations require.” Read more
Father of the Internet and Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf took to the company’s Public Policy Blog today to urge people to join the freeandopenweb.com petition hours before a closed-door meeting with governments and the International Telecommunication Union in Dubai. Google launched the Free and Open Web campaign in response to what it called the ITU and governments attempts to “further regulate the internet.” As noted by Cerf in the post, the ITU is holding a conference in Dubai from Dec. 3 to Dec. 14 that would “revise a decades-old treaty, in which only governments have a vote.” Late last week, Cerf outlined some of the topics rumored to be discussed at the meetings:
Some of these governments are trying to use a closed-door meeting of The International Telecommunication Union that opens on December 3 in Dubai to further their repressive agendas. Accustomed to media control, these governments fear losing it to the open internet. They worry about the spread of unwanted ideas. They are angry that people might use the internet to criticize their governments. Read more
Late last night, Google’s Sergey Brin took to his Google+ account to post his thoughts on the eve of the U.S. elections and offer a plea to the winner. Brin explained he is “dreading today’s elections,” while describing government as “a giant bonfire of partisanship”:
I must confess, I am dreading today’s elections…Not because of who might win or lose…Not because as a Californian, my vote for President will count 1/3 as much as an Alaskan (actually it won’t matter at all — I’m not in a swing state)…Not because my vote for Senate will count 1/50 as much as an Alaskan…But because no matter what the outcome, our government will still be a giant bonfire of partisanship
His request for the winner? Withdraw from any political party and govern independently: Read more
The United States government traditionally prefers BlackBerries for their security features and it is known for barring its employees from sending classified messages using smartphones that do not meet security certifications. That is changing, though, as Uncle Sam is putting forth a test program that will see some U.S. officials, including troops, use smartphones running a modified version of Google’s Android software rather than a commercial one.
This modified Android version will be installed on commercially available phones sporting hardware that meets certain security criteria. According to “people involved in the project” who spoke to CNN, the forked Android version with added security features will let U.S. troops and government workers handle classified government documents over cellular networks. These secure devices will be first deployed to U.S. Army that has been testing touchscreen smartphones and tablets for nearly two years. Later, secure Android phones will arrive to certain federal agencies that will use them to send and receive government cables, the report noted.