In response to the coronavirus epidemic, the Chinese government has started requiring citizens to use a phone application that dictates whether they should be allowed into subways, malls, or other public spaces. The app assigns citizens a health code (green, yellow, or red) that indicates their status. The application’s classification algorithm is a black box: creators say it uses “big data” to generate conclusions about whether someone is a contagion risk, and the app appears to use government-held data on plane, train, and bus bookings. Further, the New York Times found that the software appears to share personal information with the police, heralding a worrying new expansion in state surveillance through digital devices.
This week the FCC told major American cell-phone carriers to pay more than $200 million in penalties for mishandling sensitive location data. T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint are accused of not taking precautions to safeguard consumer data, by not making reasonable efforts to police third-party data handlers that had access to location information. Reactions were mixed, and T-Mobile pledged to challenge the fine. Some Democratic commissioners criticized the ruling, saying that it didn’t go far enough and criticizing the FCC’s 30-day grace period for violations.
This week, the House and Senate approved the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act. Among other provisions, the Act creates a $1 billion fund that will help small telecom providers remove and replace Huawei and ZTE networking equipment. The law also prohibits telcos from using FCC funding to purchase equipment from these companies, although this is duplicative of an existing FCC ban.
The Air Force is concerned that vertical lift aircraft production and expertise will move offshore to China. They argue this has already happened with drones and that action must be taken to prevent the same result in vertical lift electric aircraft. To confront this concern, the Air Force is offering to assist any new aircraft through the testing and certification necessary for eventual use by military and government buyers. They are also offering to share manufacturing strategy expertise. The project, called “Agility Prime” will continue until 2025.
This month, Pakistan unveiled some of the world’s most sweeping rules on internet censorship. New rules give regulators the power to demand takedown of a wide range of content. In response, this week Facebook, Google, and Twitter threatened to leave the country. This forced the government to retreat and may lead to new pushback in other countries pushing for similar legislation, such as India, Vietnam, and Singapore.