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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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Jul 25, 2017

The Rise of Technology is a Double-Edged Sword for many African Americans

Recent reports suggest that African Americans have the most to gain, and yet the most to lose, from advances in technology.

  • The digital divide persists. Recent Pew research shows 86% of blacks reported being internet users, compared to 90% of all respondents. However, just 65% of Black survey respondents to the Pew study have access to broadband at home, compared to 73% of Internet users overall, and 78% of white users.
  • African Americans are both disproportionately impacted by climate change, and underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations. Paradoxically, the Koch brothers' lobbying efforts have tended to focus on increasing STEM skills among African Americans to prepare them to work in the fossil fuels industry.
  • African American citizens have as much to gain as anyone else from law enforcement's proper implementation of technology. However, newer law enforcement technologies, such as facial recognition technologies, have proven to be less accurate in correctly identifying African Americans than they are at identifying others.
  • A recent Global Policy Solutions report entitled Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work illustrates the ways in which African Americans, who are highly represented in driving occupations, will could be negatively affected by a poorly-regulated self-driving vehicles industry.

How can local officials, particularly mayors, address these and other concerns? Stephanie Mash Sykes shares her insights.

Bio

Stephanie Mash Sykes (@StephMashSykes) is the Executive Director and General Counsel of the African American Mayors Association. Prior to joining AAMA, she served as the Director of Governmental Affairs for African Americans working with the Office of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Stephanie has also worked as an executive compensation and employee benefits attorney in top law firms in New York City, NY and Palo Alto, CA. As an attorney, she also devoted many pro bono hours to advising non-profit organizations and small businesses. She has received the New York Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding pro bono legal service.

Prior to law school, Stephanie worked as a policy analyst at the New Jersey General Assembly where she focused on legislation related to municipal governance, consumer affairs, and economic development. Stephanie also assisted with the Black Caucus of the General Assembly. Stephanie received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Princeton University . At Princeton, she majored in Politics and received certificates in African American Studies and Latin American Studies.

Resources

African American Mayors Association

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Compton, CA Mayor Aja Brown

Stockton, CA Mayor Michael Tubbs

News Roundup

Federal Judge reports sevenfold increase in warrantless searches

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia released information last week showing a sevenfold increase in warrantless data searches by law enforcement. Judge Howell released the previously sealed information following a petition by BuzzFeed investigative journalist Jason Leopold. According to the data release, law enforcement requests for phone location and internet activity jumped from 55 in 2008, to 1,136 in 2016. Spencer Hsu has the story in the Washington Post.

WH supports overturning net neutrality

The White House has endorsed overturning the FCC's net neutrality rules. Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Congress needs to weigh in with new legislation instead of having the FCC write the regulations.

Sheriff's to implement iris scanners along U.S./Mexico Border

Demos's George Joseph reports for The Intercept that every sheriff's department along the U.S./Mexico border will now be using iris detection scanners. That's right. Trump's campaign promise to build a border wall has stalled, but the "digital wall", of sorts, is moving forward. Apparently iris scanners can detect as many as 240 unique identifying characteristics, compared to just 40 to 60 for fingerprints. And, of course, what would new law enforcement technology be without the typical disproportionate impact on communities of color? Check out the Intercept for more.

House approves self-driving car legislation

By a voice vote last week, the House Commerce consumer protection committee approved self-driving car legislation. The bill would set the annual number of autonomous cars that automobile companies can manufacture to 100,000. The legislation would also preempt state laws pertaining to autonomous vehicle manufacturing. Harper Neidig has the story in the Hill.

House passes bill to re-authorize the Department of Homeland Security

The House last week passed a new bill to re-authorize the 15-year old Department of Homeland Security. The bill includes provisions for TSA and the US Coast Guard to issue reports on cyber risks to airlines and ports. You can find the story in Next.gov.

Elon Musk claims provisional approval to build "hyperloop'

Finally, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted last week that he had obtained verbal pre-approval from regulators to build a "hyperloop" that would link New York and Washington. Musk claims this hyperloop would send commuters speeding in pods through vacuum tubes allowing them to travel from midtown Manhattan to downtown Washington in just 29 minutes. The increased speed would be achieved by having the pods travel on magnetic cushions. Of course, the first obstacle would be getting the cost to build down from $1 billion per mile. Peter Henderson has the story in Reuters.

 

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