Science and Technology Update

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By Science and Technology Staff

Data Caps and You

A December report by the Open Technology Institute details how data caps on wireless networks aren’t necessary. The data limit you’re faced with on your smartphone, tablet or computer is set by your provider not out of necessity, but instead to maximize profitability.

The report states, “Broadband appears to be one of the few industries that seek to discourage their customers from consuming more of their product.” Even though the actual cost to your provider stays the same, they continue to charge the customer more based on their data usage.

Maybe data caps exist just to prevent network congestion (over-use of the network)? Nope. In a document submitted to the FCC, Comcast stated that data caps “do not address the issue of network congestion, which results from traffic levels that vary from minute to minute.”

In actuality, it turns out that while network providers experience a higher number of subscribers, their costs of network operation decreases.

The report finds this process to have negative effects on society, “making bandwidth an unnecessarily scarce commodity is bad for consumers and innovation.” What is to be done to curb price increases? The report provides a bit of advice, “[there is] a critical need for policymakers to implement reforms to promote competition in the broadband marketplace.”

Google wants passwords to be a thing of the past

Google thinks passwords are old fashioned and they want to get rid of them. In a paper written by Google Vice President of Security Eric Grosse and Google Engineer Mayanl Upadhyay, the two outline alternatives to the traditional password.

As the number of cyber-crimes and stolen online accounts increase, passwords have become more vulnerable. Google agrees, stating “Along with many in the industry, we feel passwords and simple bearer tokens such as cookies are no longer sufficient to keep users safe,” in their soon to be published report.

Google has proposed a number of potential solutions in its report, “We’d like your smartphone or smartcard-embedded finger ring to authorize a new computer via a tap on the computer, even in situations in which your phone might be without cellular connectivity.” In the near future, you might be able to log in to accounts by simply plugging a USB into your computer, rather than having to memorize and change increasingly complicated passwords.

However, there remain challenges for such a change to occur; Google can’t make this change happen on their own, it would require substantial change by many other password handlers. Such change has been attempted before, and failed due to a lack of cooperation. Google boasts heavy influence, so maybe they’ll be successful at reshaping the way people login across the web.

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