Microsoft President Brad Smith is not amused by the United States' antiquated technology laws. Photo by Doc Searls / CCBY

Microsoft President Brad Smith is not amused by the United States’ antiquated technology laws. Photo by Doc Searls / CCBY

Much of Silicon Valley remained quiet last week when Apple began fighting a court order to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. But tech companies are now rallying behind Apple, and Microsoft is leading the charge.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, testified in support of Apple during a hearing with the House Judiciary Committee, but he used the opportunity to do more than back his Cupertino brethren; instead, Smith went to Washington to more broadly express the need for updated information technology laws.

Smith came with props. To protest the FBI’s citing of the All Writs Act, Smith displayed a 1912 adding machine — technology as old as that law. He also brought along a 1986 IBM computer that was built the same year the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed.

Media focus has largely been on Apple’s specific case, but Smith brought to light the inconsistencies (at least perceived ones) between current technologies and the laws that govern their use. But new technology alone isn’t reason to change the law; for Microsoft, Apple, and the like to convince Congress to adopt a new suite of digital privacy guidelines, they have to convince Washington that today’s technology has fundamentally changed the way we do business, communicate, and interact with other nations.


Speaking of other nations…

Apple really doesn’t want to acquiesce to the FBI, which is interesting because the company has been far more lax with the Chinese government, one not known for tech friendliness.

The Los Angeles Times reports that, to gain access to China’s enormous market, Apple has censored apps and submitted to security audits. Perhaps most ironic is that Apple stores some user data on state-run servers in China. Think there’s a chance for government intrusion there?


Expedia in your head

With the rise of online vacation-booking services, convenience alone isn’t enough of a selling point. So companies like Expedia are attempting to play a more intimate role in the entire vacation process:

The goal of Expedia’s usability researchers is not only to make Expedia’s various sites and mobile apps more efficient but also to make them an extension of the vacation fantasies that are always running in the back of our heads.

To do that, as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Expedia is undergoing a psychology barrage. It’s studying how visitors use their site, tracking what makes them happy or upset during the vacation booking process, and playing on research that suggests anticipation for a vacation contributes to a vacationer’s overall satisfaction. Thus, if Expedia becomes the de facto spot for vacation planning, it becomes a service customers might attribute to their best vacations.


Elsewhere on the web

The downtown Bellevue office market produced two pieces of good news this week: The announcement that Huawei is opening an R&D office there, and a Seattle builder is planning to build two more towers.

The Spring District also picked up a new tenant.

Paul Allen is going to help pay for restoration of the Cayman Islands reef his yacht destroyed.

Puget Sound companies seem to be environmentally progressive. So why don’t they pay climate lobbyists?

That “revenue-neutral” carbon tax is in trouble: The latest estimate says it’d cost the state $900 million over four years.

The Gates released their annual letter (it told teens to consider, you know, stopping climate change), did the media circuit, and had their “support” of the FBI exaggerated. Busy week.