By Marsha Sukach
FCC and CTIA Announce Plan to Reduce “Bill Shock”
The FCC, the wireless communications association CTIA, and Consumers Union have announced a plan to help customers avoid “bill shock,” or the discovery of unexpected charges that consumers must pay when they exceed their monthly voice, data, and text limits. The FCC identified bill shock as a major problem, CNET reports, with many complaints from consumers who were surprised to find additional charges on their bill. A year ago, the FCC proposed adopting a regulation forcing wireless providers to send alerts to consumers, but this regulation was heavily opposed in the industry. Instead, under the current deal, wireless providers covering 97 percent of users have agreed to provide consumers with alerts voluntarily, according to the Washington Post. The new alerts will begin within 18 months, and will include wireless phone and tablet services, CNET explains.
Verisign Wants Authority to Shut Down Websites Without a Court Order
Verisign, the company that manages .com and .net registrations, wants the power to shut down websites on the request of law enforcement, TIME reports. Verisign filed a request with ICANN, the nonprofit that oversees the Internet’s domain name system, to “allow the denial, cancellation or transfer” of domain name registrations to comply with “laws, government rules or requirements, requests of law enforcement or other governmental quasi-governmental agency, or any dispute resolution process.” The policy is aimed largely at taking down sites that harbor malware, launch phishing attacks, or are otherwise used to launch attacks across the Internet, reports Ars Technica. However, the language does not indicate that the proposed policy will be limited to such cases, and some experts worry that this authority would create an opportunity for abuse by law enforcement.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire Raises Privacy Concerns
Amazon’s coming tablet, the Kindle Fire, is raising privacy concerns with its new Silk browser, ZDNet reports. While Silk may provide faster browsing, funneling all user activity through Amazon’s own servers, it can also track everything that a user does on the web, and create a permanent record of those activities. In Congress, there has been unease on both sides of the aisle, as well as a demand for answers, according to Ars Technica. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), co-Chair of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos inquiring about the nature of the information that Amazon plans to collect, how it plans to use the information, and the level of control that customers will have over their data. When Amazon first introduced the Fire, writes the New York Times, it drew a distinction between activity on its own site, which is individually tracked with the user’s permission, and activity on the rest of the internet, which would be aggregated but not linked to users’ identities. Concerns remain, but EFF concludes that it is generally satisfied with Silk’s privacy design, saying that users can easily turn off cloud acceleration mode, and that the safeguards create sufficient protection.