The Week in Tech Policy – Aug. 20th Edition

In this edition of The Week in Tech Policy, we’ve included stories on making political donations via wireless texting, spectrum sharing, post-secondary financial aid and jobs data and more.

Federal Election Commission clears the way for political donations via wireless text. Americans are one step closer to being able to make political contributions via their phones’ text messaging capabilities, Bloomberg recently reported. On Aug. 15, the FEC ruled that wireless carriers would not be responsible for potentially fraudulent campaign donations and “and could refuse text-donation services to campaigns if they are not deemed commercially viable,” according to Bloomberg. The FEC’s move comes in the wake of concern expressed by the wireless industry earlier in August, as reported by NPR and others.

New report warns voters to watch out for malware apps during election time. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has issued a new report focused on “the potential risks to voters who download election-related apps to their smartphones and tablets. The report contends that these apps promote greater citizen participation in e-democracy, but also may contain malware, disseminate false information — or, as was recently reported about an Obama campaign app, compromise voter privacy by making voters’ personal and locational information widely available.” The report is available here.

Federal court rules police don’t need warrant to track mobile phones. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled on Aug. 14 that warrantless tracking of mobile phones by law enforcement is legal. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit yesterday ruled (PDF) that law enforcement officials were within their legal right to track Melvin Skinner, an alleged drug trafficker, through his cell phone before his arrest in 2006. According to court documents, law enforcement officials were able to use the GPS feature on Skinner’s cell phone to track his whereabouts and eventually arrest him,” CNET, among others, reported on Aug. 15.

Federal Communications Commission approves spectrum sharing plan. The National Journal’s Tech Daily Dose Blog reported on Aug. 15 that the FCC “has given T-Mobile USA the green light to begin testing a plan to share spectrum with federal users in a swath of spectrum coveted by the wireless industry.” According to the report, the new program will test the impact of sharing spectrum in the 1755-1780 megahertz band to see how commercial use of those airwaves impacts federal agencies that now use that band. The FCC’s decision is the latest development in a back-and-forth process between federal regulators and the mobile operators regarding the most effective way to free up the airwaves to foster continued growth in the wireless and technology sectors. The Obama Administration has focused much of its effort on sharing spectrum currently used by federal agencies – an approach the carriers say they are open to. At the same time, the carriers have said they would rather see more spectrum cleared for their exclusive use.

New employment and financial aid data now available. Earlier this month, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report summarizing fall 2011 employment data and academic year 2010-11 student financial aid data submitted by all Title IV institutions to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the University of Washington’s Office of Planning & Budgeting OPBlog has reported. For more detail on the report’s findings, visit the OPBlog here.

Thanks again for reading the latest edition of The Week in Tech Policy. Come back to Microsoft on the Issues next Monday for the next installment.

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