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Tech newsletter: NYPD puts down robot dog, providers sue over broadband law

Here is a look at tech and politics news from the last week.

May 4, 2021, 11:38 am*

Tech

 

Andrew Wyrich

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Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Internet Insider, where we dissect tech and politics unfolding online. Today:

  • New York wants broadband to be accessible for all—cable companies would rather sue than provide it
  • NYPD gets rid of police robot dog after public pressure
  • Here’s what happens when the cops try to subpoena Signal

A gavel resting on a laptop's keyboard.
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BREAK THE INTERNET

New York wants broadband to be accessible for all—cable companies would rather sue than provide it

Several lobby groups representing internet service providers (ISPs) have sued New York over a new law that requires them to offer $15-a-month broadband plans.

Last month, New York passed a law as part of its budget plan that would require ISPs in the state to offer low-income residents an option for $15-a-month broadband plans. The plan would be for 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds.

Experts told the Daily Dot at the time that New York’s plan was a “substantial step forward in addressing the challenge of broadband affordability that so many families around the country are confronting.”

However, it appears that ISPs feel differently.

Numerous lobby groups representing ISPs filed a lawsuit late last week arguing that New York does not have authority to require ISPs to offer a $15-a-month plan.

In response to the lawsuit, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told the lobby groups to “bring it on.”

“If these companies want to pick this fight, impede the ability of millions of New Yorkers to access this essential service and prevent them from participating in our economic recovery, I say bring it on,” Cuomo said in a statement. 

—Andrew Wyrich, deputy tech editor


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Police in New York with a 'Spot' robot
1800SPOILED/Twitter (Fair Use) Mikael Thalen

SURVEILLANCE

NYPD gets rid of police robot dog after public pressure

The NYPD announced that it plans to return its police robot dog after receiving significant pushback.

In a statement, John Miller, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, revealed that the department would be canceling its $94,000 contract with robotic design company Boston Dynamics.

Known officially as “Spot” but referred to as “Digidog” by police, the robot stirred controversy in February after footage of it being deployed in the Bronx went viral.

In a tweet at the time, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) condemned the department’s acquisition and accused police of deploying “robotic surveillance ground drones.”

In remarks to the New York Daily News, Miller disputed the claim from Ocasio-Cortez that the robot was being used for surveillance.

The removal of the robot dog also comes after City Councilman Ben Kallos filed a subpoena to learn just how much the NYPD had spent on Digidog. Kallos also introduced a bill that would ban the NYPD from using weaponized robots

— Mikael Thalen, contributing writer


Signal app next to a data request
TechZG/YouTube Signal (Fair Use) Mikael Thalen

PRIVACY

Here’s what happens when the cops try to subpoena Signal

The encrypted messaging app Signal has once again shown just how little data it collects on users after publicly revealing its response to a recent government subpoena.

Signal was ordered last month by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California to provide a wide array of information on numerous users currently under criminal investigation.

But there’s just one problem: Given that the app was built from the ground up with privacy in mind, Signal doesn’t collect large amounts of data like other messaging services do.

In a blog post, Signal detailed how it was unable to provide nearly all of the information requested. 

“Because everything in Signal is end-to-end encrypted by default, the broad set of personal information that is typically easy to retrieve in other apps simply doesn’t exist on Signal’s servers,” the company wrote.

The only data Signal was able to hand over for the accounts listed in the subpoena were the times and dates when they were created and the last time they connected to the app.

— M.T.

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*First Published: May 4, 2021, 11:27 am