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Who Is the NSA Really Spying On? - Brought to you by SoftBank

By Laura Ryan (@NJLJRyan) with help from Alex Brown (@AlexBrownNJ), Brendan Sasso (@BrendanSasso), and Dustin Volz (@dnvolz).

TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The latest Snowden leak shows that the NSA is collecting a lot of personal information—mostly on people who aren't even targets. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is asking the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on Facebook over its controversial emotions study. Google is following in Netflix's footsteps by publishing the performance of Internet providers.



NSA MOSTLY SPIES ON ORDINARY PEOPLE: Nine in ten account holders in a large batch of intercepted communications were not surveillance targets, according to the latest Snowden leak. The NSA "minimized" 65,000 names and email addresses of Americans. But according to the Washington Post, an additional 900 email addresses could be "strongly linked" to Americans.

The NSA held on to communications that "tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes," the Post writes. The NSA has medical records, pictures of people in various stages of undress, and other private information.

The trove of documents includes valuable intelligence, but will raise questions about the scope of the NSA's spying under Section 702 just days after the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board mostly endorsed the programs. (Gellman/ Tate/ Soltani, Washington Post)


...ADMINISTRATION FIRES BACK: "These reports simply discuss the kind of incidental interception of communications that we have always said takes place under Section 702," Robert Litt, the general counsel to the Director of National Intelligence, said. "We target only valid foreign intelligence targets under that authority, and the most that you could conclude from these news reports is that each valid foreign intelligence target talks to an average of nine people." (Sanger/ Apuzzo, NYT)

FACEBOOK TO FACE FORMAL COMPLAINT FOR EMOTIONS STUDY: The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a formal complaint with the FTC on Thursday over Facebook's controversial study of people's moods. The complaint alleges the experiment was a "deceptive" trade practice. Although Facebook's privacy policy now states data can be used for "research," the company added the term after the study was conducted.

Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said he may file his own complaint over the study, which manipulated the positive and negative content in people's News Feeds. (Sasso, NJ)

GOOGLE BLAMES BUFFERING ON INTERNET PROVIDERS: Taking a cue from Netflix, Google is posting the speeds of various Internet service providers. Like Netflix, Google appears to be trying to pin the blame for problems on the providers. "Experiencing interruptions?" the new webpage asks, "Find out why." (Zachary Seward, Quartz)


EXPERTS RAISE CONCERNS ABOUT INTERNET'S FUTURE: A new poll from Pew Research Center forecasts the future of the Internet, and it's not looking bright. The survey–which polled 1,400 experts including Vint Cerf and Jeff Jarvis– reveals anxieties that the Internet might be cracking under the pressures of surveillance, commercialization, political censorship, and the stifling effects of information overload on creativity. Jarvis said the Internet is threatened by countries from China and Iran to the U.S. and Australia. "I don't know which force—censorship or spying—will lead to greater degradation of net freedoms," he wrote.

But it wasn't all bad news. There was also widespread optimism that technological advances would make the Internet more accessible by 2025. Cerf said artificial intelligence and natural language processing will make the Internet "far more useful."

COMMERCE CHIEF SPEAKS OUT ON NET NEUTRALITY: Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said Thursday that the Internet service providers have formed an "oligopoly." At the Aspen Ideas Festival, she emphasized the importance of net neutrality, saying "we need to make sure that innovators can have equal access to getting their innovations to the marketplace, through the ISPs, through the last mile to your home."

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Pritzker's views are important because the Commerce Department would state the Obama administration's official view on the FCC's net neutrality proposal—if the administration chooses to weigh in.


GOOGLE DECIDES NOT TO FORGET SOME WEB PAGES: Google has restored several links to articles from The Guardian which had previously been taken down to comply with the EU's 'right to be forgotten' decision. (Mark Scott, NYT)

E-RATE PLAN IN FLUX: With teachers revolting, it's not clear whether FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai will support the plan to upgrade WiFi in schools. (Kate Tummarello, The Hill)

T-MOBILE CHIEF SPEAKS OUT ON FTC CHARGES: "The FTC certainly did a good job of sensationalizing their story and their news at the expense of both T-Mobile's reputation and mine."

CRITICS BLAME COURT FOR PATENT WOES: Critics want Congress to loosen the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's tight grip on patent lawsuits. (Ashby Jones, WSJ)

EUROPEANS STILL LOVE AMERICAN TECH: Europeans may criticize U.S. tech companies like Facebook and Amazon, but that doesn't mean they are ready to sacrifice convenience for their principles. (Mark Scott, NYT)

GERMANY CALLS OUT U.S. FOR SPYING ON U.S. SPYING INVESTIGATION: German authorities arrested a man working for German intelligence under the surpsician that he was spying for the U.S. (BBC)

TSA FORCING US-BOUND PASSENGERS TO TURN ON PHONES: Powering on devices before boarding a plane is intended to identify bombs. (Will Lester, AP)

HOSPITALS MINE PATIENT DATA TO PREDICT VISITS: Health care providers are mining patient's credit card, loyalty program, and public records to predict who will get sick. (Shannon Pettypiece/Jordan Robertson, Businessweek)

KICKSTARTER CEO QUESTIONS FCC'S NET NEUTRALITY PLAN: Yancey Strickler said "fast lanes" and price negotiations could have prevented Kickstarter from getting off the ground—and might do the same for future online entrepreneurs. (WaPo)

TAG HEUER EXEC JOINS IWATCH TEAM: Patrick Pruniaux is leaving the Swiss watchmaker to help Apple prepare its smartwatch for an expected fall launch. (Jenny Cosgrae, CNBC)



  • Reps. Alan Grayson Zoe Lofgren will talk about how the NSA has undermined national security at a panel discussion hosted by the New America Foundation at 4 p.m.


  • The Senate Intelligence Committee will vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.

  • Sen. Al Franken will participate in a discussion on net neutrality hosted by Free Press at 3:30 p.m.

  • The Cato Institute will host an event on digital privacy reform at 4 p.m.


  • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn will speak at a FCC workshop on inmate calling reform beginning at 9:30 a.m.

  • The U.S. Copyright Office will hold a meeting at 10 a.m. to vote on new procedures to allow the office to audit royalty payments that cable and satellite carriers deposit in the office.

  • Politico will host a discussion on big data and decision-making at noon.


  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on legislation to allow consumers to unlock their phones at 9:30 a.m.

  • The State Department will address the role of technology in international security during its fifth annual Generation Prague Conference beginning at 8:45 a.m.

  • The Intelligence and National Security Alliance will host a discussion on millennial's social media habits and national security at 7 p.m.


  • The FCC will meet at 10:30 a.m. to vote on a plan to spend $2 billion over the next two years to upgrade WiFi in schools and libraries across the country. The agency will also vote on rules requiring closed captioning of online video clips that have already aired on TV.

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