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The Week in Tech: Big Brother May Be Watching, but for How Long?

Then there’s a growing trend for local governments to introduce bans: San Francisco was the first city to restrict use of facial recognition by city authorities, and then Somerville, Mass., did something similar. A quasi-national ban could bubble up if many more follow suit.

Professor Donath argues that it may be easier to regulate through limits on how facial recognition data can be collected, stored and used by law enforcement and government.

It looks increasingly as if Big Brother’s gaze is destined to be limited. The questions now appear to be how, and by how much.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: We’re losing the 5G race to China, Huawei’s dominance in the technology around the globe is a threat to national security, and we had better clamp down on it.

But Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, explained that things were more nuanced. It’s a wide-ranging (often technical) analysis of the broader 5G policy landscape, and it’s worth a read if you have the time.

I chatted with him about it, and here are a few of his points about the China situation that I thought were interesting:

Coming first may not be important. President Trump has said that “the race to 5G is a race that we must win,” but it’s not clear what that means. What might winning look like? “The U.S. wasn’t first in any of the G’s, and yet it’s the dominant force in the wireless ecosystems,” Mr. Wheeler said. “I believe that winning is dominance over the things that use the network,” he added, as opposed to simply having the network in place first.

Railing against Huawei could undermine the United States’ dominance. The Trump administration has been trying to cut off Huawei from American tech, most recently by blocking American companies from selling to it. (That has softened a little, but the effect is unclear.) “My concern is that these trade policies are forcing the Chinese to develop their own alternatives” to United States technology, Mr. Wheeler said. The danger: that the resulting products and services are not just good but made widely available, and cheaply, too. “That will have an impact on our ability to lead,” Mr. Wheeler said.

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