Governments are using the pandemic to crack down on digital rights, report finds

The Freedom on the Net 2020 report, an assessment of 65 countries released Wednesday, found that the pandemic has accelerated a decline in free speech and privacy on the internet for the tenth consecutive year, and accused some governments of using the virus as a pretext to crack down on critical speech.

“The pandemic is accelerating society’s reliance on digital technologies at a time when the internet is becoming less and less free,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, which is funded by the US government. “Without adequate safeguards for privacy and the rule of law, these technologies can be easily repurposed for political repression.”

Amid the pandemic, internet connectivity has become a lifeline to essential information and services — from education platforms, to health care portals, employment opportunities and social interactions. But state and nonstate actors are also exploiting the crisis to erode freedoms online.
Nowhere has
Read More

The FAA is opening the door a crack for self-flying drones like Skydio to reach their potential

You can’t fly a drone at night. You can’t fly a drone over people. You need to be able to see it with your naked eye at all times — or have a dedicated observer who can. These rules exist to keep dumb drones (and reckless pilots) from crashing into people, property, and other aircraft in the skies.

But what happens when drones get smarter, and can dodge obstacles on their own? That’s the kind of drone that Skydio builds, and it appears to be successfully convincing the FAA to create exceptions to that naked-eye, Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) rule.

This week, the FAA granted the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) a first-of-its-kind blanket waiver to fly Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to inspect any bridge, anywhere across the state, for four whole years. They just need to make sure the bridge isn’t occupied by

Read More

Google to crack down on Play Store billing policy and make it easier to use other app stores on Android

google-hq-sede-mountain-view.jpg

Google has drawn criticism for its Play Store policies.


Getty

Google on Monday said it’s clarifying its policies for app makers on its Play Store marketplace, telling developers they have up to a year to get in compliance with its policies for in-app purchases. 

The system, which allows Google to take a 30% cut of in-app purchases, has been criticized sharply by developers who argue it’s too high a tax for using Google’s mobile platform. Apple, which takes the same cut from developers who use its App Store for iPhones, has also faced intense scrutiny. Some companies, like Spotify and Netflix, have skirted the policy by encouraging people to use the companies’ own billing systems. 

The one-year grace period, which expires Sept. 30, 2021, applies to any developers

Read More