By Hayley Tsukayama
Published every weekday, the Switchboard is your morning helping of hand-picked stories from the Switch team.
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FBI blasts Apple, Google for locking police out of phones “FBI Director James B. Comey sharply criticized Apple and Google on Thursday for developing forms of smartphone encryption so secure that law enforcement officials cannot easily gain access to information stored on the devices — even when they have valid search warrants,” report The Washington Post’s Craig Timberg and Greg Miller. “His comments were the most forceful yet from a top government official but echo a chorus of denunciation from law enforcement officials nationwide.” Comey told reporters, “he could not understand why companies would ‘market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.’”
San Francisco, L.A. threaten Uber, Lyft, Sidecar with legal action“The San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys have sent letters to ride-share companies Uber, Lyft and Sidecar claiming they are operating illegally and warning them that legal action could follow if they don’t make major changes,” reports Heather Knight and Benny Evangelista of the San Francisco Chronicle. “The two district attorney offices conducted a joint investigation into the ride-share companies and found a number of practices that violate California law.”
Yahoo transparency report: Data requests drop, but FISA stats are worrying “Yahoo released its third transparency report, revealing 18,594 government data requests impacting 30,511 users,” reports VentureBeat’s Harrison Weber. “Yahoo details that from July 1, 2013, to December 31, 2013, it received between 0 and 1998 FISA requests for user data, affecting up to 54,997 users (including national security letters). Yahoo’s latest FISA data requests figure mirrors stats reported by the company from January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013. However, in the first half of 2013 Yahoo reported up to 32,997 affected accounts,” indicating a sharp rise in the number of affected accounts.
The FTC was built 100 years ago to fight monopolists. Now, it’s Washington’s most powerful technology cop. “The Snapchat settlement was a turning point in the company’s short history,” reports The Washington Post’s Brian Fung. “But the moment was just as important for the FTC, an agency that was created as a bulwark against monopoly but that has grown into a powerful consumer watchdog.”
Google sends open letter to Rupert Murdoch Last week, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch penned an open letter to the European Commission with competition concerns about Google; Google sent one back Thursday on its European policy blog. Answering Murdoch’s concerns point by point, Google’s Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of corporate communications, refuted claims that Google has too much control over the Web and stifles — in Murdoch’s words — “freedom of expression” and “high quality content of enduring value.” “We agree about free expression and the importance of high quality content,” Whetstone said. “Access to information in any given country, particularly news content, used to be controlled by a relatively small number of media organizations. Today, people have far greater choice.”