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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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Now displaying: December, 2016
Dec 27, 2016

Alondra Nelson (@alondra) is the Dean of Social Science at Columbia University. An interdisciplinary social scientist, she writes about the intersections of science, technology, medicine, and inequality. She is author of the award-winning book Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination. Her latest book, The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation after the Genome, was published in January.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the meaning and importance of "racial reconciliation" and the potential for genetic research in helping to promote it.
  • the extent to which the concept of race is based on biology as opposed to being socially-constructed.
  • the role of DNA evidence in historical analysis.
  • key national priorities policymakers ought to focus on as they consider ways in which genetic research can help to advance social equality.

Resources

Columbia University Division of Social Science

The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome by Alondra Nelson

Dark Matters on the Surveillance of Blackness by Simone Browne

 

NEWS ROUNDUP

FCC Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly sent a letter to associations representing Internet Service Providers saying they plan to roll back the FCC's net neutrality rules. The FCC passed the landmark rules which state that ISPs must treat all internet traffic equally, without prioritizing their own content, in 2015. The rules were subsequently upheld by a 3-judge DC Circuit Panel.

A complete reversal of the rules would take some time, since a public comment period would need to be conducted first. Ajit Pai, who is expected to serve as the interim FCC Chairman once current Chairman Wheeler resigns in January, has said the days of the net neutrality rules are quote-unquote "numbered".

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The FCC has passed new rules enabling consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing to communicate. Previously, those who are deaf and hard of hearing had to rely on clunky, so-called teletype (TTY) devices to communicate with others. TTY devices converted tones into text and required the recipients to read on paper. Under the new rules, the FCC will now require wireless carriers and device manufacturers to enable "real time" text messaging, or RTT standard, which allows messaging recipients to see, in real time, what deaf and hard of hearing individuals are communicating. Sam Gustin has the story in Motherboard.

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Researchers at Google, UT Austin, and the Toyota Technological Institute in Chicago have devised a new way to test algorithms for biases. Examples of biases in machine learning have included computer programs that take data and target black neighborhoods, show advertisements for payday loans to African Americans and Latinos, or display executive-level jobs only to white male applicants.

The approach developed by the researchers, entitled the Equality of Opportunity in Supervised Learning, would enable algorithms to determine that particular demographic groups were more likely to have particular behaviors, but would not target or exclude all individuals based on their race, ethnicity or gender, simply because some individuals within a particular sample had the behaviors. For example, if the algorithm determined that white women were in general more likely to buy wine, and then conclude that someone who bought wine was likely to be a white woman, that would be less biased than excluding non-white women from ad campaigns for white wine. Hannah Devlin has the story in The Guardian.

Separately, the White House released a report warning of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the workforce. The report concludes AI can lead to significant economic opportunities, but have detrimental impact on millions of workers.

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Nokia has sued Apple for patent infringement in Germany and in a federal court in Texas, accusing Apple of not renewing some patents the mobile industry relies on, and which Nokia now relies on for profit. Apple is stating that Nokia is acting like a patent troll by extorting Apple and not licensing the patents on reasonable terms. Nate Lanxon, Ian King and Joel Rosenblatt have the story at Bloomberg.

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Two consumer groups have filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint against Google accusing it of privacy violations after the company updated its privacy policy back in June. Consumer Watchdog and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse claim the company had its users opt-in to a privacy change in which the company allegedly merged data from several Google services without providing adequate notice. Craig Timberg has the story in the Washington Post.

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Pinterest released its diversity data, and while the company hit some of its internal hiring goals, black employment at the company remains at 2% with Hispanic employment at 4% of the company's total, tech and non-tech workforce.

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Facebook released its annual Global Government Requests report showing a 27% uptick globally in the number of government requests for user data, to over 59,000 total requests.

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Finally, HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced a major White House initiative to help students living in HUD-assisted housing to gain access to computers and the internet at home. In the partnership between HUD, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, the New York City Housing Authority and T-Mobile, 5,000 families living in public housing in the Bronx will get internet connected tablets. The ConnectHome program has thus far reached 43 states, with other major partners including Google Fiber, Comcast, AT&T, Sprint, Best Buy, the Boys and Girls Club of America, PBS, and others.

Dec 20, 2016

Dr. Sepehr Hejazi Moghadam (@sepurb), Head of Research and Development, K-12 Pre-University Education at Google. Previously, Sepehr was an Associate at both A.T. Kearney and Booz Allen. He also served as Associate Director of Teacher Effectiveness for the New York City Department of Education. He has broad experience leading key components of strategic human capital plans in the public and government sectors. He has led the design of human capital policies, programs, and practices; and managed the implementation of highly effective, performance-based systems. He is an expert on research methods, data analytics, emerging technologies, business development, program management, high-level negotiation and partnership strategy, data visualizations, performance reporting and education policy. Sepehr received a PhD from Columbia University, where his dissertation was on the Treatment of African Americans in Education Research. He also has a Masters from Stanford and Bachelors from UC Santa Barbara.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Google's research on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) achievement gaps.
  • The two key factors affecting African-American and Latino participation in STEM careers.
  • How Google is using this research to make the company and the tech sector more inclusive.

Resources

Google for Education - Computer Science Education Research

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

NEWS ROUNDUP

The FBI announced last week that it agrees with the CIA's finding that Russia deliberately hacked into the Democratic National Committee's servers in order to help Donald Trump's candidacy for president.

At first, the President-elect called the allegations "ridiculous", but on Fox News Sunday, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus suggested Trump may consider accepting the accusations if the CIA and FBI issue a joint report. But, of course, the report would be done under the Trump administration, spearheaded by a Director of National Intelligence who would be nominated by Trump. It is not clear whether FBI Director James Comey, although he is a Republican, would stay on board at the FBI, but the head of the Department of Justice, under which the FBI sits, would also be selected by Trump.

For an analysis of how Russia carried out the intrusions into the DNC, check out Eric Lipton, David Sanger, Scott Shane's coverage in the The New York Times, which you can find the link for in the show notes.

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The Department of Defense's Office of Inspector General has concluded that the DOD is almost totally deficient when it comes to cybersecurity. The report on 21 audits and reports found the DOD isn't up to par on 7 out of 8 cybersecurity metrics. Sean Carberry has more in FCW.

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President-Elect Trump invited Silicon Valley luminaries to Trump Tower last week to discuss working together after the tech industry snubbed Trump on donations during the campaign season. In attendance were Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Tesla's Elon Musk, Tim Cook from Apple, Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and others.

Although diversity has been a major topic of discussion in tech, no black or Latino tech executives were present at the meeting.

Donald Trump assured those in attendance that he's "here to help" them do well.

As a side note, all the gentleman in attendance wore ties to the meeting except for Paypal founder Peter Theil. Thiel supported Trump with more than a million dollars late in the campaign season, roiling tech sector diversity and inclusion advocates. David Streitfeld has the story for The New York Times.

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Yahoo revealed yet another hack. This time it affected 1 billion accounts. The hack took place in 2013. Yahoo is currently negotiating an acquisition by Verizon, with Verizon asking for either a reduction in the sale price or exit from the deal given this breach, plus another breach the company revealed in September that affected 500 million users.

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Twenty-two social justice organizations sent a joint letter to tech companies urging them to refuse participation in helping the Trump Administration build a Muslim Registry.

The groups take aim at the so-called National Security Entrance Exit Registration System or NSEERs, a post-9/11 program that requires Muslims entering the U.S. on non-immigrant visas to register. According to the groups, the NSEERS registry hasn't led to a single arrest. Thus far, Twitter is the only company that has refused to participate in building up the registry. Sam Biddle has the story in The Intercept.

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Google has announced a new agreement with Cuba to improve internet speeds there. The agreement gives Cuba access to Google's Global Cache Network, which brings YouTube and Gmail closer to end users. It's not clear how Cuba's commercial relationship with the U.S. will evolve under the Trump administration. Mark Frank at Reuters writes the Obama-era Executive Agreements  that have normalized relations with the communist country can be easily reversed.

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Justin Ling at Motherboard reports that blacklivesmatter.com suffered some 100 DDoS attacks between January and July alone.

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Senate Republicans failed to confirm Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to another term at the agency. Rosenworcel, who is a highly-regarded public servant who fought on behalf of underserved communities, will end her term at the end of the month.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will leave the Commission on January 20th, giving the Republicans a 2-1 majority at the agency. Sam Gustin has the story in Motherboard.

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Free Press released a study tying systemic racial discrimination to the digital divide. The report finds lower investments in broadband in both rural and urban areas hit by high rates of unemployment and low incomes. Sam Gustin has the story in Motherboard.

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Finally, Twitter has reinstated white supremacist Richard Spencer, President of the National Policy Institute who has advocated that the United States was created by and for white people. Twitter reinstated Spencer because he was not found to have violated Twitter's policy against inciting violence.

Dec 13, 2016
Alan S. Inouye heads public policy for the American Library Association (ALA). In this role, Alan leads ALA’s technology policy portfolio ranging from telecommunications to copyright and licensing, to advance the ability of libraries to contribute to the economic, educational, cultural, and social well-being of America’s communities.
 
Alan is a recognized expert in national technology policy, published in various outlets such as The Hill, Roll Call, and the Christian Science Monitor. He serves on advisory boards or committees of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the U.S. State Department, Library For All, and the University of Maryland.
 
From 2004 to 2007, Dr. Inouye served as the Coordinator of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) in the Executive Office of the President. At PITAC (now merged into the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology—PCAST), he oversaw the development of reports on cybersecurity, computational science, and other topics.
 
Prior to PITAC, Alan served as a study director at the National Academy of Sciences. A number of his major studies culminated in book-length reports; three of these are LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress, The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age, and Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity.
 
Dr. Inouye began his career in the computer industry in Silicon Valley. He worked as a computer programmer for Atari, a statistician for Verbatim, and a manager of information systems for Amdahl (now Fujitsu). Alan completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley and earned three master’s degrees, in business administration (finance), systems engineering, and computer systems.
 
In this episode, we discussed:
  • the role of libraries in creating opportunities.
  • library resources for entrepreneurs.
  • how libraries and the incoming Tump administration might align on tech policy.
 
Resources:
 
American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy
The Future of the Professions: How Technology will Transform the Work of Human Experts by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind
 
 
NEWS ROUNDUP
 
What a mess. The CIA has officially concluded that Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election not just to undermine voter confidence, but to get Donald Trump elected.  This is according to a widely reported secret assessment conducted by the agency. The FBI on the her hand, isn't going that far. The FBI acknowledges that Russia did something--it's just saying it's not clear about Russia's motive: it thinks Russia carried out the intrusions for a mix of different reasons. The National Security Agency is due to release its own findings in the coming weeks before the election. The investigation is getting bi-partisan support from Chuck Schumer and Democrats, but it is also getting support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
 
Here's what we know. We know the Director of the FBI, James Comey, sent a letter to Congress 11 days before the election saying more of Hillary Clinton's emails found on Anthony Weiner's computer could lead to a new investigation. Of course, that inquiry was dropped after a few days but, by then, the damage had already been done. Outging Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is calling for a Congressional investigation of Comey.
 
We know Trump said many times that the election was rigged.
 
We know that Trump called on Russia during the campaign season to leak Hillary Clinton's emails.
 
And now, Trump wants to appoint ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, whom the Wall Street Journal reports has close ties to Russia.
 
We also now know that hackers got into the Republican National Committee's servers as well but, for whatever reason, only the DNC's emails were released to the public.
 
Trump and others on his transition team called the CIA's conclusions "ridiculous". Ridiculous or not, whether those advocating to get 37 Electors to change their votes in favor of Hillary Clinton win or not, this isn't going away.
 
The electoral system of the country that prides itself on being the greatest democracy the world has ever seen, has been, according to the CIA, hacked to favor a particular candidate. And that particular candidate, by the name of Donald J. Trump, won. He won! This is is crisis mode.
 
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Andrea Wong reports in Bloomberg that Apple is taking advantage of a massive tax loophole that allows it to earn free money from American taxpayers without paying any taxes. The loophole lets Apple stash its foreign earnings, untaxed, overseas, and then use the money to buy U.S. bonds. The Washington Post reports that this has yielded Apple some $600 million in payments from the U.S. Treasury over the last 5 years.
 
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The Wall Street Journal reported that the State of Georgia allegedly sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security accusing the agency of attempting to hack the state's voter database. The State of Georgia opposes Federal efforts to declare election systems critical infrastructure, which would enable more robust federal monitoring for cyberattacks.
 
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USA Today reports that the Trump transition team has scheduled a meeting with the tech sector for Wednesday, December 14th in New York City. Should be interesting since most of the tech sector essentially opposed Donald Trump during the campaign, with the exception of Peter Thiel who now sits on President-elect Trump's transition team. Interestingly, Google has posted a job posting for a conservative outreach manager. e
 
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Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are partnering to weed on content posted by terrorists. The companies will be creating a shared database that will included "hashes" or digital encoding or fingerprints, which will enable the companies to alert each other as to the offensive content. Each company will retain the power to make decisions for themselves as to whether to take down the content.
 
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The White House has announced further investments in science, technology, engineering and math education in 2017. The National Science Foundation will spend $20 million in addition to the $25 million it spent in 2016. Ali Breland has the story in The Hill.
 
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John Horrigan at Pew  released survey results last week showing those who lack access to smartphones, broadband and tablets actually report more stress and lack of confidence accessing information than those who have access to the technologies. Conventionally, we tend to think of having all of these devices at our constant disposal as the contributing factor to information overload.
 
 
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Finally, the FCC set letters to Verizon and AT&T about their so-called zero-rating practices. With zero rating, multichannel video providers select which programming their customers will have access to without it counting against their data caps.  Net neutrality advocates argue this is a Trojan horse against the net neutrality rules, allowing the companies to prioritize the content they choose over competing content. Colin Gibbs has the story at Fierce Wireless.
Dec 6, 2016

Hannah Putman (@nctq) is the Director of Research at the National Council on Teacher Quality. Hannah's recent work includes a study on trends in teacher diversity in collaboration with researchers from the Brookings Institution, an examination of 100 early childhood teacher preparation programs, and a report that quantified the rigor in coursework offered by teacher preparation programs. She has also worked on all editions of NCTQ's Teacher Prep Review. Prior to joining NCTQ, Hannah conducted education research with Westat, a social science research company. Her projects included work on informal science education and teacher incentive programs. Previously, Hannah taught seventh and ninth grade English for three years in the Bronx, New York, as a Teach For America corps member. Hannah holds BA's in English and Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, an MS in Teaching from Pace University, and an MPP from the George Washington University with a focus on education policy and evaluation.

In this episode we discussed:

  • how teacher diversity affects student performance.
  • statistics policymakers should be focusing on as they consider how to address teacher diversity.
  • how teachers and administrators from a different racial and ethnic background than their students can help offset the effects of low teacher diversity.

Resources:

National Council on Teacher Quality

High Hopes and Harsh Realities: The real challenges to building a diverse teacher workforce by Hannah Putman, Michael Hansen, Kate Walsh and Diane Quintero (Brookings, 20016)

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

NEWS ROUNDUP

Fake news has gone too far. Here in Washington, D.C. Sunday, a man armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a Colt .38 and a shotgun entered Comet Ping Pong--a popular family restaurant in Chevy Chase. The restaurant has been targeted by conspiracy theorists who have claimed, with no evidence, that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager were running a child sex ring out of the restaurant. Twenty-eight year old North Carolina resident Edgar Maddison, said he decided he was going to QUOTE "self investigate", and so he got all his guns together then went up to Comet Ping Pong, pointed the assault rifle at an employee, and started shooting. Police said there were no injuries, but they have charged Welch with assault with a deadly weapon. Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis released a statement saying "What happened today demostrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope thatbthose involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away." Faiz Saddiqui and Susan Svrluga have the story in the Washington Post.

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The controversial Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal procedure went into effect last week, giving judges the power to issue search warrants for computers located anywhere outside their jurisdiction. The rules got the Supreme Court's stamp of approval earlier this year, and several legislative attempts to scale back the rules all failed.

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The U.S. Customs and Border Control (CBP) came under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union last week, after the ACLU learned that border patrol agents seized an award-winning Canadian photojournalist's smartphone without a warrant, as he was on his way to cover the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

The photojournalist, Ed Ou, said the agents had asked him to unlock his phone and, when he refused, confiscated the smartphone. The ACLU said the phone's SIM card had been tampered with, suggesting the agents copied the phone's data.

Normally, the police must obtain a warrant before searching smartphones, but CBP claims an exception at the border.

Andrea Peterson has the story in the Washington  Post.

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Google warned several prominent journalists that their gmail accounts may have been hacked by foreign-based hackers. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, GQ correspondent Keith Olbermann and others received e notification. Dan Goodin has the story in Ars Technica.

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Trump has a new telecommunications advisor who opposes Title II regulation for Internet service. Rosyln Layton is a Visiting Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and joins Trump's other two advisors--Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison, who also oppose the net neutrality rules. Jon Brodkin has this story in Ars Technica.

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Trump also named his nominee for Commerce Secretary last week. The 80-year-old billionaire Wilbur Ross made is fortune in real estate by investing in distressed properties. He is own as the King of Bankruptcy. Jim Puzzanghera has this in the Washington Post.

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Finally, House Republicans have elected Oregon Representative Greg Walden to Chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden opposes most if not all Obama-era regulations including net neutrality.

 

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