In today’s Bulldog roundup of technology news:

  • President Obama throws his weight behind more choices for cable boxes
  • Microsoft’s suit is latest from tech industry against government about privacy
  • Wind power sets a record
  • Police are monitoring hundreds of websites in Europe after terror attacks

The details:

  • Obama backs effort to give consumers options on cable boxes

President Barack Obama threw his weight Friday behind an effort to give consumers more choice when it comes to the cable boxes that control which television channels they watch.

Most TV subscribers lease boxes from their cable service provider. The Federal Communications Commission is pursuing new regulations giving consumers more options to buy elsewhere.

Obama described it as a model for expanding competition in other areas, including financial services.

“The potential here is for cheaper, more effective services that are provided,” Obama said in an interview with Yahoo. “Across the board, if we have more players that can potentially participate, fewer barriers to entry, the rules aren’t rigged, then you get more people trying to get your business and you get better products at cheaper prices.”

Jason Furman, who advises the president on economic policy, said the administration sparingly weighs in on FCC rulemaking. When the president gets involved, Furman said, the issue is of “real great importance in his mind to consumers, to competition and to the economy more broadly.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that U.S. consumers typically pay $231 a year to rent their cable boxes. According to one analysis, their costs have nearly tripled since 1994, while the cost of computers, televisions and mobile phones has fallen sharply.

“Like the 1980s with telephones, that’s a symptom of a market that is cordoned off from competition. And that’s got to change,” Furman and fellow economic adviser Jeff Zients wrote.

An industry group made up of cable companies has said the FCC’s proposal could lead to higher prices, “eliminates security protections, and provides no reassurance on privacy rights.” The group also noted that many consumers are already watching cableusing different kinds of apps and devices.

  • Microsoft suit is latest tech clash with US over privacy

As we live more of our lives online, the companies we trust with our digital secrets are increasingly clashing with authorities who want access to the messages, pictures, financial records and other data we accumulate in electronic form.

Microsoft opened a new front in the battle over digital privacy this week, suing the Justice Department over its use of court orders requiring the company to turn overcustomer files stored in its computer centers — often without notifying the customer involved.

It’s the latest in a series of legal challenges brought by Microsoft and some of its leading competitors. Apple recently fought a high-profile battle over the FBI’s demand for help unlocking an encrypted iPhone in San Bernardino, California, and it’s continuing to challenge similar demands in other cases.

Other companies, including Google, Facebook and Yahoo, have increased their use of encryption. They’ve also sued for the right to report how often authorities demand customer information under national security laws, after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of government data-gathering efforts.

Privacy advocates have applauded those moves, while authorities complain they could stymie legitimate investigations. But those legal maneuvers may benefit the companies as well as their customers. In the wake of Snowden’s revelations and high-profile hacking attacks, tech firms want to reassure customers their information is safe.

“Privacy is an economic good at this point,” said Jennifer Daskal, a former Justice Department attorney who now teaches law at American University in Washington, D.C. “It’s good for business because consumers care about it. So the companies are competing over being privacy protective.”

Many tech companies make money directly from customer information, of course, by selling advertising targeted to their users’ interests and behavior. While some privacyadvocates have criticized those practices, others note that’s different from handing overinformation to authorities who have the power to put people in jail.

In the latest case, Microsoft Corp. says the U.S. Justice Department is using a decades-old law to obtain court orders for customers’ data, while in some cases prohibiting the company from notifying the customer. Microsoft says those “non-disclosure” orders violate its constitutional right to free speech, as well as its customers’ protection against unreasonable searches.

Microsoft is also fighting a court battle in New York over the government’s demand for emails of a non-U.S. citizen that the company has stored in a data center located in Ireland. Microsoft President Brad Smith has argued the case could open the door to other governments demanding information stored in the United States.

  • US wind energy output hit record in ’15, industry group says

Wind energy generated a record 191 megawatt-hours of electricity last year, enough for 17.5 million homes, an industry group said Tuesday.

The American Wind Energy Association said wind produced 4.7 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2015. Coal generated 33 percent and natural gas slightly less than that, the association said.

The association released the statistics at a Vestas Wind Systems turbine plant in Brighton, Colorado, near Denver.

Demand for wind energy is also driving up employment. The industry employed the equivalent of 88,000 full-time workers last year, up 20 percent in a year, the report said.

“We need wind technicians to keep these machines running smoothly,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the association, said at a news conference.

Chris Brown, president of Vestas America, said it can be difficult to find qualified workers.

Starting pay for wind technicians is about $25 an hour, said Auston Van Slyke, windenergy technology director for Ecotech Institute in Aurora, a private school that trains workers for the renewable energy industry.

Texas remains No. 1 for wind energy while Iowa is second. Iowa generated more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind last year, a record for any state, the report said.

  • Police target hundreds of websites after Paris attacks

French police have targeted hundreds of websites suspected of “inciting or glorifying acts of terrorism” after the Paris attacks by ordering content removals, delisting sites from search engines or blocking access.

The French privacy watchdog in charge of monitoring website closures said Friday that more than 1,000 pieces of web content have been removed, nearly 400 URL’s have been ordered delisted and that 68 websites have been blocked since last November.

Alexandre Linden, the privacy commission’s ombudsman, says he gave the green light for all of the web closures except for one: a photograph of dozens of dead people killed by attackers inside the Bataclan.

Linden says the photograph’s context meant it was not “inciting or glorifying terrorism” and the Interior Ministry agreed to reverse its decision.