#166: Hacking the CIA

March 24, 2017

Earlier this month, Wikileaks published 9,000 pages of hacked CIA files. The haul, dubbed “Vault 7,” catalogues some of the spy agency’s hacking techniques, including exploits of Android and iOS phones, and even Samsung Smart TVs. When the feds discover vulnerabilities in the products we use, should they tell the companies so they can patch things up? Or does the government sometimes need to keep these things secret for national security purposes? What are the trade-offs? Evan is joined by Heather West, Senior Policy Manager for the Americas at Mozilla and Mieke Eoyang, Vice President of the National Security Program at Third Way. They discuss what Vault 7 means for encryption, the Apple v. FBI case, and the government’s “Vulnerabilities Equities Process” (VEP).

For more, see Mozilla’s primer on VEP and its statement on Vault 7.


#165: Regulating the Universe

March 21, 2017

Who's in charge of the universe? "Innovative space activities" like asteroid mining and private missions to Mars raise key questions for countries and their regulators. Can you "plant a flag" on an asteroid? How can countries cooperate in space without interfering with each other? Is the "weaponization of space" a growing concern between the US, Russia, and China? Congress is trying to figure out the answers. Evan and Berin discuss a recent hearing with Jim Dunstan, longtime space lawyer and founder of the Mobius Legal Group.


#164: Blogging in Ethiopia

March 16, 2017

Blogging in the United States isn’t risk free. You might get deluged by trolls, or even receive death threats. But it’s nothing compared to what happens in Ethiopia when bloggers find themselves on the wrong side of their government. Endalk Chala is the founder of Zone 9, named in reference to an infamous Ethiopian prison divided into eight zones — the oppressed country itself being the ninth. A doctoral journalism student at University of Oregon, Endalk founded the platform to advocate for bloggers in his home nation and foster free speech. How did his government respond? How important are encryption and other technologies in Ethiopia? Evan is joined by Endalk and Robert Chapman-Smith, producer for the series Coded, whose season finale features Zone 9.


#163: Online Sales Tax

March 10, 2017

Big-box retailers have long griped that untaxed online sales put them at a competitive disadvantage. Congress is exploring legislation to “level the playing field,” but will the solution be worse than any perceived problems caused by e-commerce? Supporters of bills like the “Marketplace Fairness Act” say that states and cities are being starved of lost revenue from Internet sales. But critics charge the bill would discriminate against Internet businesses with burdensome reporting requirements while allowing states and cities to tax people outside their borders. Is there room for common ground? What other approaches could Congress and the states pursue? Evan discusses with Steve Delbianco, Executive Director of NetChoice. For more info, see this op-ed.


#162: Should Government Pay for Broadband?

March 7, 2017

Should the government pay for broadband? In his joint address to Congress, President Trump laid out plans to spend a lot of taxpayer money on infrastructure. Many in the tech community want some of that money to go toward broadband, but will that actually help get people online? What about subsidies? Uncle Sam has long subsidized telephone service for low-income Americans. Will broadband subsidies bridge the Digital Divide? Evan is joined by Will Rinehart, Director of Tech and Innovation Policy at the American Action Forum.


Will’s blog, “How Well Do Rural Broadband Subsidies Work?”
Coalition letter opposing FCC action on Lifeline
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s response on Medium


#161: Spying on the World

February 28, 2017

Innocent Americans don’t like getting spied on by their government. But should they care when their government spies on foreigners? Countries do this all the time for intelligence purposes, right? Congress even authorized our government to do this in Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.

But in the Digital Age, it’s increasingly common for large swaths of the American public to communicate with people outside the country. That leads to U.S. residents being caught in the foreign surveillance dragnet, and their communications collected without a warrant. Current laws allow the NSA and other agencies to share information with your local police department. Could you end up in jail without due process?

As Section 702 nears its December expiration date, should Congress reform the law, or just reauthorize it as is? Meanwhile, what does the European Union think? Will fears over American surveillance lead nations to “localize their Internet?” Evan is joined by Jake Laperruque, Privacy Fellow at the Constitution Project and Ashkhen Kazaryan, Legal Fellow at TechFreedom. For more, see Jake’s blog post on Section 702.


#160: Privacy at the Border

February 22, 2017

What are the privacy rights of non-US citizens? The Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigration has dominated the headlines. But while most of the focus is understandably on detentions and deportations, privacy could actually decide who stays and who goes in some cases. A recent executive order reverses long-standing policies that gave certain non-US persons rights under the Privacy Act, including limits on dissemination and the right to access information and seek corrections. How will this impact immigrants and refugees? What role should Congress play? Evan discusses with Neema Guliani, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU in DC.


#159: Next-Gen TV

February 17, 2017

Are you a “cord-cutter?” Did your ditch your cable bundle for Netflix? Or, maybe you remembered that you can still get over-the-air television for free with a cheap antennae? Watching NFL games in high-def for free is pretty sweet, but wouldn’t it be even sweeter if the games were in 4K or Ultra HD?

The technology might be right around the corner for households, as broadcasters have invented a new standard, ATSC 3.0 — a thoroughly unsexy acronym better known as “Next-Gen TV” — that can bring 4K to your over-the-air signal. Will the FCC approve the new standard? How will this affect competition in the 4K marketplace? What else can consumers expect from the new standard? Evan is joined by two experts from the National Association of Broadcasters: Allison Neplokh, Vice President of Spectrum Policy, and Patrick McFadden, Associate General Counsel.


#158: Who Owns Your Data?

February 14, 2017

Property rights in the US are rooted in the physical world — your house and your car are yours. But does this concept transfer to the digital world? It’s not so simple. When you share data about yourself in exchange for free services, who owns the data? You? The company? Third-party advertisers? This question is a lightning rod in tech policy debates over privacy, data security, and government surveillance. There may not be an easy answer, but in the meantime, how can individuals get a piece of the action? Matt Hogan, CEO of DataCoup, joins the show to discuss his business model and how you can monetize your data (or donate to a non-profit...cough cough TechFreedom). If you like this podcast as much as you hate opening your wallet, check out GiveWithData.com. It won’t cost you a cent!


#157: Counterpoint on Trump’s FCC

February 9, 2017

If you're a regular listener of this podcast, you've probably heard many episodes where TechFreedom President Berin Szóka rants about telecom and the FCC. That's always fun, of course, but on today's show we're bringing you a different view. For those who supported much of the Obama-era FCC's policies, how are they reacting to President Trump? Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge, joins the show to discuss. TF and PK are often at odds on telecom policy, but is there room for common ground on legislation?