Week in Review: February 25, 2016

by Muira McCammon

Apple: Encryption Debate Continues over Locked iPhone

Engineers at Apple are said to be developing new security measures that would make it challenging for U.S. governmental agencies to break into locked iPhones, such as the one at the center of the controversy: the locked iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Stakeholders in the tech community have taken a variety of stances. Bill Gates reflected, "This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They're not asking for some general thing, they're asking for a particular case.” Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on the matter as well: "We're sympathetic with Apple on this one. We believe in encryption. I expect it's not the right thing to try to block that from the mainstream products people want to use. And I think it's not going to be the right regulatory or economic policy to put in place." In an interview with ABC News, Apple’s CEO Timothy Cook reiterated his company’s stance: “For all of those people who want to have a voice but they’re afraid, we are standing up, and we are standing up for our customers because protecting them we view as our job.” Twitter Inc. founder Jack Dorsey and Google’s Sundar Pichar have both voiced support for Cook’s decision. 

France: Government Seeks 1.6 Billion Euros in Back Taxes from Google

The French government has allegedly demanded that Google pay approximately $1.76 billion in back taxes. A Reuters journalist contacted a spokeswoman for Google France, and she declined to comment on the claim. Earlier in the year French Finance Minister Michel Sapin stated, “The French tax administration does not negotiate the amount of taxes owed. It applies the rules.” Tensions between Google and the French government are not new. Back in 2014 French Deputy Minister for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire remarked, “France is not anti-Google. But when you look at the profit that they make in France, and the number of customers they have, and the tax they pay, it’s outrageous.”

MasterCard: Company Says Heartbeat Authentication on the Horizon 

In 2015, MasterCard piloted a program that would allow customers to use “selfies” as security checks when paying for products. Now the company has announced it will bring the facial recognition technology to more than a dozen countries, including the UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
MasterCard confirmed that the facial recognition technology would only be used in certain circumstances. "We will have a lot of information about your transaction," Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard's president of enterprise security solutions, said. "Where are you, where are the goods getting shipped, what is your location." One Canadian news outlet made the following observation: “Other technology companies such as Apple and Samsung already have facial recognition technology built in to their devices to allow users to access certain services. But MasterCard's plan is among the first to make the leap to using the technology to approve payments."

United States of America: President Obama Nominates a New Librarian of Congress

President Obama has nominated a new Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. One journalist noted, “[She] would be the first post-Internet Librarian of Congress.” Her predecessor, James Billington, had held his office for nearly three decades; many of his policy decisions were criticized by netizens and digital activists. When Hayden served as the American Library Association’s President from 2003-2004, she was critical of the Patriot Act and advocated for library users’ right to privacy. She said that the USA Patriot Act should be amended to "protect civil liberties and privacy of the public while at the same time ensuring that law enforcement has the appropriate tools necessary to safeguard the security of our country." A full interview that she gave is available as the Chief Executive Officer of the Enoch Pratt Free Library is available here.