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WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast with Joe Miller

The WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast is your resource for tech law and policy news and interviews. Each week, the WashingTECH Policy Podcast presents the latest developments across the tech policy landscape plus interviews with a diverse array of tech policy influencers.
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WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast with Joe Miller
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Now displaying: November, 2016
Nov 29, 2016

Melinda Epler (@changecatalysts) is Founder and CEO of Change Catalyst, a certified B Corp whose mission is to empower diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation through education, mentorship and funding. Change Catalyst won a Certified B Corporation "Best for the World” award for community impact in 2014 and “Best in the World” overall in 2015.

Melinda has more than 20 years of experience elevating brands and developing business innovation strategies for social entrepreneurs, mature social enterprises, Fortune 500 companies and global NGOs.

As Founder & CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation through events, education, mentorship and funding. Through Tech Inclusion, an initiative of Change Catalyst, she partners with the tech community to solve diversity and inclusion together. Her work spans the full tech ecosystem, from Education to Workplace, Entrepreneurship and Policy.

Melinda speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, social entrepreneurship, women entrepreneurs and investing. She is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker – her film and television work includes projects that exposed the AIDS crisis in South Africa, explored women’s rights in Turkey, and prepared communities for the effects of climate change. She has worked on several television shows, including NBC’s The West Wing.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • building bridges toward inclusiveness in tech after a damaging and divisive presidential campaign season
  • key areas the diversity and inclusion and policy communities should focus on in a Trump administration.

Resources

Insight Timer

Headspace

Tara Brach

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg

NEWS ROUNDUP

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and members of the intelligence community want President Obama to fire National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, according to Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post.

Clapper and Rogers cite numerous instances of security breaches under Rogers' watch, including one by Booz Allen Hamilton contractor Harold T. Martin III, who was arrested in August for the largest ever theft of classified government data. There was also another breach in 2015 allegedly carried out by an individual whose name has not been disclosed, but who has since been arrested.

President-elect Trump is considering putting Rogers in charge of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, and Congressional Republican leaders have come out in support of Rogers, including California Representative David Nunes who also serves on Trump's transition team, who praised Rogers in the Washington Post.

Rodgers is also the head of U.S. Cyber Command. Ash Carter has not been impressed with Rogers' performance in that role, either, as the cyber command's operations in Syria and Iraq have been largely unsuccessful, according to Carter.

Further annoying Carter and Clapper is the fact that Rogers met with Trump last week unbeknownst to the White House.

Further complicating matters, Clapper and Carter are also looking to split Cyber Command from the National Security Administration, a move opposed by Senate Republicans including John McCain.

Meanwhile, as Mallory Shelbourne at The Hill reports, at a news conference in Peru last week, President Obama called Rogers a "patriot".

In separate comments, Obama told German newspaper Der Spiegel that he had no plans to pardon Edward Snowden. The president said Snowden would first need to appear before a court.

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Mark Jamison, a member of Trump's tech policy transition team, suggested in a blog post last week that maybe the FCC shouldn't exist. Jamison wrote, "Most of the original motivations for having the FCC have gone away." He also said there are few monopolies in telecom, an assertion with which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has disagreed. Brian Fung has this story in the Washington Post.

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A new Stanford University report found that most students from Middle School to college are unable to tell the difference between sponsored content and real news.

The study of 7,804 students found 82% could not tell what was sponsored and what was real. Seventy percent of middle schoolers also found no reason to distrust a finance article that was written by the CEO of a bank. Amar Toor has the story on The Verge.

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Downloads of the encrypted messaging app Signal have soared by 400% since Donald Trump's election, according to Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike. Governments have the ability to tap unencrypted text messages for intelligence gathering. Paresh Dave has the story in the LA Times.

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Following a successful effort to get the FCC to clear its entire November meeting agenda, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune have now asked Federal Trade Commission Chair Edith Ramirez and Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Elliott Kaye not to move forward on any controversial regulations. Upton and Thune wrote that the American people decided to make a change on November 8th and that agencies should this refrain from passing new regulations. Trump, of course, lost the popular vote by over 2 million.

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Finally, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai issued a statement last week praising Trump's Department of Justice nominee Jeff Sessions. The Washington Post reports that Sessions is widely seen as a climate change skeptic and his entire career has been dogged by accusations that Sessions is a virulent racist, which cost him a federal judgeship back in '86. Sessions has been quoted as saying that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was "okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana."

Pai is reportedly on the short list to become Trump's nominee to Chair the FCC.

 

Nov 22, 2016

Andrew Jay Schwartzman (@aschwa02) is the Benton Senior Counselor at the Institute for Public Representation of Georgetown University Law Center. He directed Media Access Project, a public interest media and telecommunications law firm, for 34 years. Mr. Schwartzman serves on the International Advisory Board of Southwestern Law School’s National Entertainment & Media Law Institute and on the Board of Directors of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and was the Board President of the Safe Energy Communications Council for many years.

Mr. Schwartzman’s work has been published in major legal and general journals, including Variety, The Nation, The Washington Post, COMM/ENT Law Journal, the Federal Communications Law Journal, and The ABA Journal. He has also been a frequent guest on television and radio programs. In recognition of his service as chief counsel in the public interest community’s challenge to the FCC’s June, 2003 media ownership deregulation decision, Scientific American honored Schwartzman as one of the nation’s 50 leaders in technology for 2004. Schwartzman was the 2002 Verizon Distinguished Lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University, the 2004 McGannon Lecturer on Communications Policy and Ethics at Fordham University in 2004, and the Distinguished Lecturer in Residence at the Southwestern University School of Law Summer Entertainment and Media Law Program at Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge (2004).

In this episode we discussed:

  • possible scenarios regarding the AT&T/Time Warner merger.
  • what an FCC under an Ajit Pai Chairmanship might look like.
  • the possible future of net neutrality under a Donald Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress.

Resources

Andy's Schwartzman's 'The Daily Item' Newsletter (subscribe here)

Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump by G.B. Trudeau

NEWS ROUNDUP

A BuzzFeed analysis of news stories appearing on Facebook found fake news stories received more engagements during the final three months before the presidential election than news stories from the leading real news outlets. The difference was some 1.4 million combined likes, shares and comments. At a news conference in Germany, President Obama expressed concern about the spread of fake news saying Q“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not ... if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems".

On the Washington Post's The Intersect Blog, a fake news writer by the name of Paul Horner, who has written numerous fake news stories which have gone viral, expressed regret for the stories he wrote and said he thinks President-elect Trump won the election because of him.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg  was initially dismissive, saying the week before last that the notion of fake news having impacted the election in any significant way is a "pretty crazy idea". Since then, Zuckerberg has announced initiatives to identify fake news, such as through user generated reports.

Meanwhile, a group of students participating in a hackathon at Princeton last week developed a Chrome plug-in that allows users to assess the veracity of news stories.

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Policymakers are increasingly concerned about the role that mobile apps play in distracted driving incidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that between January and June of this year, highway fatalities were up 10.4% to 17,775, compared to the same period in 2015. Neal Boudette reports in The New York Times on goals set during the Obama administration to eliminate highway fatalities by 2047.

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SnapChat filed for an initial public offering last week. The IPO is expected to be valued at around $20 billion. It is the largest IPO since Facebook's in 2012.  Reuters has more.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has submitted his resignation after a 50- year U.S. intelligence career. In October, Clapper's office formally concluded that Russia was behind cyberattacks intended to sway the U.S. presidential election, and that Rusian President Vladimir Putin has almost certainly approved them. Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee that submitting his resignation "felt pretty good." Greg Miller has the story at the Washington Post.

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A new Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure--Rule 41--which would give federal authorities sweeping powers to search devices, is set to go into effect on December 1st. Currently, federal judges can only authorize searches within their own jurisdictions. Once Rule 41 goes into effect, judges will have the authority to issue search warrants for computers located outside their jurisdictional boundaries, potentially allowing a single judge to issue searches of millions of computers.  Civil rights groups are concerned about the rule would intrude on innocents, particularly communities of color. Senator Ron Wyden has proposed legislation to scale back Rule 41, but it hasn't even gotten a committee hearing. On Thursday, Delaware Senator Chris Coons introduced legislation that would delay Rule 41's implementation. David Kravets covers this for Ars Technica.

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Twitter has suspended several accounts linked to the alt-right--super-conservative ideologues, many of whom promote white nationalism. The Southern Poverty Law Center had asked Twitter to remove about 100 accounts expressing white nationalist views for violation of Twitter's terms of service. Among the suspended accounts -- Richard Spencer, President of the National Policy Institute--an organization whose website says is "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of  people of European descent in the United States." Spencer said Twitter's deletion of his account was akin to a "digital execution". USA Today notes that Spencer has called for removing blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Jews from the United States. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also apologized last week for allowing an ad promoting a white supremacist group. Jessica Guynn has the story at USA Today.

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Amar Toor at the Verge reported that China has threatened to cut iPhone sales if President-elect Trump follows through on his threat to declare China a currency manipulator and impose a 45% tariff on Chinese exports. China also threatened to limit automobile and other sales.

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It appears that the Trans-Pacific Partnership--the trade deal that would have enhanced American ties with 11 countries, counterbalancing China's influence in the region--appears to have been defeated even before President-elect Trump has taken office. The deal simply doesn't have enough votes in Congress, and President-elect Trump has stated he would oppose the deal. Elise Labott and Nicole Gaouette reported this for CNN.

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The GOP has successfully forced the FCC to cancel nearly its entire November open meeting agenda, which was supposed to take place last Thursday. Up for consideration were bulk data caps, the Mobility Fund, and a proposed rule on roaming obligations of mobile providers. One Freedom of Information Act request remained on the agenda. Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune had sent a letter to the FCC Tuesday warning against “complex, partisan, or otherwise controversial items.” Massachusetts Senator Markey blasted Thune's heavy-handed approach, with Thune responding that he was only referring to the most controversial items. Brendan Bordelon has the story in Morning Consult.

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Finally, the hold on Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel's nomination has been lifted. Democrats Ron Wyden and Ed Markey had put a hold on the Commissioner's nomination following her rejection of the set-top box competition proposal. Rosenworcel will need to be confirmed before the end of the Commission in order to stay on. Some analysts are speculating that Rosenworcel might vote in favor of the set-top box rules currently on circulation.  Brendan Bordelon covers the story in Morning Consult.

Nov 15, 2016

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how traditional and social media platforms perpetuate stereotypes.
  • the role of the advertising industry in promoting accurate portrayals of underrepresented groups in the media

Resources:

Reality TV: Entertaining But No Laughing Matter (AAF, 2015)

American Advertising Federation (AAF)

American Advertising Federation's Mosaic Council

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

NEWS ROUNDUP

The tech sector and tech-related progressive thinks tanks are reeling following the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. At Benton.org, Robbie McBeath discusses the totally changed political landscape in which Republicans will now control all three branches of government. South Dakota Senator John Thune is expected to continue to Chair the Senate Commerce Committee. Three Congressmen--Greg Walden, John Shimkus and Joe Barton are expected to pursue the House Energy and Commerce Chairmanship, with Walden being the favorite since House speaker Paul Ryan credits Walden, who served as Republican Congressional Committee Chair, with helping Republicans maintain control of Congress.

Anticipated legislative initiatives include rewriting the Communications Act and an effort to override the FCC’s net neutrality rules, as well as expanding mobile and internet access to rural areas and capping Lifeline expenditures to $1.5 billion.

President-elect Trump will of course nominate a new FCC Chair to replace Tom Wheeler who is expected to leave before the inauguration on January 20th.

Tech sector stocks declined following last week’s election, as investors anticipated a new administration that would be less friendly to tech than Obama. The tech sector opposed Trump vigorously during the campaign, contributing barely anything to his campaign, outside of PayPal founder Peter Thiel who contributed $1.25 million late in the election season.

Companies like Apple are concerned about what a new Trump administration will mean for encryption and the company’s resistance to law enforcement requests for access to iPhone data during criminal investigations. Almost all of the Valley is concerned about what the new administration will mean not just for things like net neutrality and science-based policymaking, but also the sector’s influence in Washington, which had grown exponentially during the Obama era.

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Facebook announced that it will no longer allow advertisers to exclude audiences based on their race and ethnicity for ads related to housing, credit or employment. The company will also require advertisers to pledge not to place any discriminatory ads on Facebook. The company had come under fire from civil rights activists, the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, as well as several attorneys general after Pro Publica released a report showing how Facebook allowed advertisers selling real estate to exclude racial and ethnic groups. Two plaintiffs also sued Facebook under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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Following the 2016 presidential election, Facebook executives are now evaluating the role the platform plays in the dissemination of fake news, and the extent to which misinformation on the social network led to the election of Donald Trump. One piece of fake news shared over 1 million times falsely claimed that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump.

Facebook has been under fire for bias in its newsfeed over the past year, and earlier this year was accused of suressing conservative news from its trending news results. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denies fake news on Facebook impacted the election in any way.  Mike Isaac has the story in the New York Times.

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John Wagner reported in the Washington Post on Hillary Clinton’s data driven campaign, one that was far more sophisticated than both Romney and Obama’s, but which ultimate failed. It appears that both the Democratic establishment and the complex algorithm they used known as Ada, completely missed opportunities to campaign in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Minnesota, which Clinton lost. Campaign managers will look at this as a case study for many years to come into both how biases are reflected in algorithms and the extent to which campaigns should continue to rely on alogrithms to determine which states they should campaign in.

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A group of hackers known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, widely believed to be affiliated with Russia, launched an attack on the servers of several NGOs, think tanks, universities, government agencies and other institutions on Wednesday, shortly after Trump claimed victory in Tuesday’s election. The hackers sent phishing emails to the targets containing malicious links and zip files. Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai at Motherboard has the story.

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Finally, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit blocked the FCC’s prison phone rate cap last week, granting a petition for stay by a company called Securus technologies. The rate caps were set at 13 cents to 31 cents per minute. The Court stated that these caps were significantly below what prison phone providers need to fulfill their contractual obligations to prisons. John Brodkin has the story in Ars Technica.

 

Nov 8, 2016

David Robinson (@dgrobinson) is a Principal at Upturn, a public interest technology and policy consulting firm. Prior to co-founding UpTurn, David was the Associate Director of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy. He also launched The American, a national magazine of business and economics at the American Enterprise Institute, growing The American's website to more than 1.5 million unique visits in its first year.

David holds a JD from Yale, was a Rhodes Scholar, and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Philosophy from Princeton.

In this episode we discussed:

  • what predictive policing is.
  • how predictive policing technologies fall short of their marketing claims.
  • how predictive policing enables disparities within the criminal justice system.
  • what policymakers should consider as they incorporate predictive policing technologies into their law enforcement activities.

Resources:

UpTurn

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Asana

NEWS ROUNDUP

Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr. at Pro Publica raised a lot of red flags last week when they reported that Facebook allows advertisers to exclude audience segments on the basis of race. Angwin and Parris discovered a chilling echo of race-based redlining in real estate where African Americans and other minority groups were prevented from buying real estate in predominantly white neighborhoods. Angwin and Parris purchased an ad on Facebook targeting Facebook users who are house hunting and allowed them to exclude anyone who was African American, Asian-American or Hispanic.

But the Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “"to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”

Facebook says it does what it can to prevent discrimination.

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Did FBI Director James Comey break the law when he announced 11 days before the election that his agency was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails? Several leading experts say it was. Passed in 1939, the Hatch Act limits federal employees, with a few exceptions, such as the President, from engaging in activities that would impact the outcome of an election.

Legal experts such as former Chief White House Ethics attorney Richard Painter, who filed a formal ethics complaint against Comey and the FBI last week, think there was no other reason for Comey to make the disclosure other than to impact the outcome of the election.

Comey did, however, announce to members of Congress on Sunday that the agency will not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton based on the emails discovered on former Congressman Anthony Weiner's computer.

Lauren Hodges has the story reporting for NPR. You should also read Painter’s Op-Ed in The New York Times.

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1.4 million people “checked in” to Standing Rock on Facebook, even though they weren’t actually there, to support opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Rumors had spread that the police were monitoring Facebook to crack down on protesters. But how exactly do the police use social media data to surveil protests?  Jeff Landale has the analysis in Christian Science Monitor.

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A new University of Washington and Stanford study of 1,500 rides found Uber and Lyft drivers discriminate against black passengers. For example, blacks waited 30% longer for rides--5 minutes and 15 seconds--versus 4 minutes for white passengers, according to the study. The ride cancellation rate was also 6 points higher, or 10.1 %, for black sounding names compared to white sounding names. Elizabeth Weise has the story at USA Today.

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Mobile browsing as surpassed desktop browsing for the first time. This is according to a new report from StatCounter. Mobile browsing now accounts for over 51% of all online browsing actvitiy. Check Samuel Gibbs’ story in the Guardian.

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Black Lives Matter is opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership arguing the trade deal would further disenfranchise blacks by sending capital to nations with lower wages and poorer working conditions,  allowing employers to avoid domestic courts, increase mobility for workers with higher paying jobs but no one else, and prevent the formation of unions.

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AT&T had a tough legal and regulatory week

The Dodgers Channel, owned by Time Warner Cable, offered customers exclusive access to live Dodgers games.  Even though Time Warner Cable owned the Dodgers Channel, the company attempted to license it to other cable providers, which would have provided each licensees’ customers access to the games.  But, as Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post, the Department of Justice is now suing AT&T and its subsidiary, DirectTV, for colluding with their LA competitors, including Cox and Charter, to make sure none of them agreed to license the Dodgers Channel from Time Warner Cable. This way, the three companies could take comfort in knowing they wouldn’t lose subscribers.  Charter of course has now acquired Time Warner Cable.

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Finally,  the FCC says AT&T incorrectly interpreted FCC rules when it sued the City of Louisville in federal court for granting Google access to utility poles in order to build out its fiber network. AT&T had said the FCC’s pole attachment rules pre-emept state rules.  However, the FCC submitted a statement of interest to the Department of Justice saying the federal pole attachment rules do not pre-empt state rules at all and, in fact, defer to state regulations where states show they have the situation under control with its own regulations. John Brodkin has the story in Ars Technica.

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