Katie's Week in Review: March 6, 2016

A bit more fallout this week from Apple v. FBI and a few carry over items that didn’t make last week’s post. Here are the the links I found of note for the week ending March 6, 2016:

  • Apple’s General Counsel Bruce Sewell gave testimony to the House Judiciary committee this week on Apple’s objections to the a court order requiring it to assist the FBI in accessing information on an iPhone that was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. The Verge has reprinted a copy of his prepared opening remarks. If you’d like to watch the entire session, or portions thereof, C-SPAN has video of the hearing available (it runs approximately 9 hours). If you’re looking for a summary, Dawn Chmielwski of Re/code has a recap of a few of the Most Interesting Things Apple and the FBI Said About Encryption.
  • In a different case, though argued on a similar legal theory, Apple has won a victory when a New York Judge ruled in favor of Apple where investigators sought to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone 5S running iOS 7. Although the New York case involves a phone belonging to a drug dealer, in both cases the government was seeking to use the All Writs Act to compel Apple’s assistance. In the New York Case the magistrate said the government was asking too much of Apple. Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica provides additional details.
  • Apple has begun linking Amicus (friend of the court) Briefs in Support of Apple on their official Web site. Currently several of the major tech companies including Twitter, Amazon, Dropbox, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and many more have filed briefs in support of Apple.
  • Walt Mossberg in his weekly column for The Verge explains “the iCloud Loophole” and how the government, and potentially others, are able to access much of the information on iOS devices by subpoenaing data that is backed up or stored on servers where third parties hold the encryption keys. Dave Hamilton of The Mac Observer has written a Guide to Who Holds the Decryption Keys for 16 common Cloud and Backup Services that will give you an idea of the types of data that can be accessed by third parties.
  • In a stumble this week, Apple accidentally blacklisted its own Ethernet kernel extension for a short period of time which may have caused the Ethernet connection on several Macs to stop working. Apple quickly corrected the problem and posted a knowledge base article with information on a fix for users who are experiencing problems. Oops.
  • As reported by Husain Sumra at MacRumors, Apple TV Universal search gains Watch ABV, Disney Channel and More channels, brining the the number of sources in Universal Search to 14. While Apple has an API for universal search, it is apparently only open at this point to “select partners” though Apple has said that it plans to open access to Universal Search to more partners and apps in the future.
  • The FCC has approved a proposal that would require TV providers to open up set-top boxes. Dan Moren, writing for Macworld explains how this could have an impact on hardware manufacturers. Currently 99% of people who subscribe to a TV service lease their set-top boxes from their providers. While CableCards have opened up the platform somewhat to third party set top boxes like TiVo, they are notoriously flakey. Under the proposed framework, customers would have more freedom to access their paid television programing on the hardware or software of choice.
  • Amazon has expanded its popular Echo line of products and released the Amazon Dot and Tap. Dan Moren of Six Colors, also known as the ultimate Echo enabler, has more details on the two devices. I’ve been debating about picking up an Echo for some time but have hesitated due to the price. At $90 the Dot is more of an impulse purchase, so I bought one. (Although Amazon is officially only selling it through Alexa-enabled products - there’s a workaround).
  • Speaking of the Amazon Dot, here’s a peak at Amazon’s introduction video. I’ll admit, part of my fascination with Alexa (and the promise of Siri) is I just want to live in the world where we can talk to our homes like characters in Star Trek talk to the ship’s computer.