Marginalized Native American communities throughout the United States could have better access to high-speed internet if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decides to allow tribes to use the Educational Broadband Services (EBS) spectrum for services like telemedicine, transmitting medical records electronically, or an online high school. Read the rest
[[Editor's note: I was the Electronic Frontier Foundation's first-ever European Director, which was a crazy and amazing job at a time when the organization was much smaller; now EFF is much bigger, and international issues are a much bigger deal for us, with bad policy ideas ricocheting around the globe and needing a coordinated response; the below is from my colleague Rainey Reitman, EFF's Chief Program Officer; you can find the formal listing here -Cory ]]
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Bruce Schneier (previously
) has spent literal decades as part of the vanguard of the movement to get policy makers to take internet security seriously: to actually try to make devices and services secure, and to resist the temptation to blow holes in their security in order to spy on "bad guys." In Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World
, Schneier makes a desperate, impassioned plea for sensible action, painting a picture of a world balanced on the point of no return.
In an effort to save its members from being exploited, sexually assaulted or be otherwise forced to spend time with human turds in a private setting, the Screen Actors Guild has put the kibosh on holding meetings in "high-risk" locations.
According to The Guardian, the Screen Actor's Guild, which functions as a labor union for actors who appear on TV and in movies, has laid down the law, declaring that it's no longer cool for movie executives to set up meetings with actors in private locales such as hotel rooms or at someone's home address. Moving forward, if you want to yap with a member of SAG, it's gotta be in a workplace setting. The new measure comes as a result of handsy pricks like Harvey Weinstein and other high-powered executives in the entertainment business taking advantage of their position and the protection that Hollywood's elite formerly afforded them when it came to their sexual transgressions.
According to The Guardian, since accusations were first leveled against Weinstein this past October, SAG representatives have been hearing an average of five reports of sexual misconduct from its members, per day.
As a tech journalist, I'm sometimes brought to a hotel room by PR types from small to mid-sized firms to see a new product that they're representing. It usually happens during a trade show as the larger meeting rooms at convention centers and hotels are typically spoken for by large companies. I can't recall a single time that I've ever entered a hotel room, for work, where there weren't at least three or four people in the room with me. Read the rest
Drone manufacturer DJI published a white paper proposing a kind of license plate for drones in the form of a wireless identifier that the buzzing UAVs would be required to broadcast. The paper describes a possible way to balance the privacy of drone operators with perceived public concern about whose controlling the bots buzzing overhead. You can read the full paper as a PDF here. From David Schneider's column in IEEE Spectrum:
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As the company points out in its whitepaper, drone operators might want to maintain anonymity even if there were people around to witness their flights. Suppose, for example, that a company were surveying land in anticipation of purchasing and developing it. That company might not want to clue in competitors. Or perhaps the drone is being flown for the purposes of investigative journalism, in which case the journalists involved might not want others to know about their investigations.
DJI proposes that drones be required to broadcast an identifying code by radio . . . That code would not include the name and address of the owner, but authorities would be able to use it to look that information up in a non-public database—a kind of electronic license plates for drones.
At the same time, it’s easy to understand why law-enforcement or regulatory authorities would sometimes want to identify the owner or operator of a drone, say, if somebody felt the drone were invading their privacy or if a drone were being flown close to a nuclear power plant.
There are certain languages that don't differentiate between the present and the future. Estonian is the classic example of a "futureless tongue." According to new research by Efrén O. Pérez, co-director of Vanderbilt University's Research on Individuals, Politics & Society Lab and Margit Tavits, professor of political science at Washington University, language has a sizable impact on how we think about future-oriented policies. As William S. Burroughs said, language is a virus. From their scientific paper in the American Journal of Political Science:
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Can the way we speak affect the way we perceive time and think about politics? Languages vary by how much they require speakers to grammatically encode temporal differences. Futureless tongues (e.g., Estonian) do not oblige speakers to distinguish between the present and future tense, whereas futured tongues do (e.g., Russian). By grammatically conflating “today” and “tomorrow,” we hypothesize that speakers of futureless tongues will view the future as temporally closer to the present, causing them to discount the future less and support future-oriented policies more. Using an original survey experiment that randomly assigned the interview language to Estonian/Russian bilinguals, we find support for this proposition and document the absence of this language effect when a policy has no obvious time referent. We then replicate and extend our principal result through a cross-national analysis of survey data. Our results imply that language may have significant consequences for mass opinion.
An internal memo from a key Democratic Party electioneering group tells candidates to listen but “don’t offer support” for the “concrete policy positions” of Black Lives Matter protesters—and offers tips on getting past it. Whatever you do, don't say all lives matter! "This is the worst response," the memo warns.
The 2015 memo was allegedly swiped by hackers supporting Russian efforts to influence election season in America.
“Presidential candidates have struggled to respond to tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement,” reads the memo, sent by a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffer in November. “While there has been little engagement with House candidates, candidates and campaign staff should be prepared. This document should not be emailed or handed to anyone outside of the building. Please only give campaign staff these best practices in meetings or over the phone.” ...
If approached by BLM activists, campaign staff should offer to meet with local activists,” the memo reads. “Invited BLM attendees should be limited. Please aim for personal or small group meetings.”
“Listen to their concerns,” it continues. “Don’t offer support for concrete policy positions.”
The memo includes advice on what, exactly, to say to Black Lives Matter activists. It recommends avoiding phrases like “all lives matter” and warns not to bring up “black on black crime,” since the “response will garner additional media scrutiny and only anger BLM activists.”
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We are disappointed at the DCCC’s placating response to our demand to value all Black life. Black communities deserve to be heard, not handled.
Pew Research Center just released an interactive chart showing gaps between scientific consensus and public opinion. Refine results by gender, age, race, education, ideology, political party, and level of science knowledge. Read the rest
There is one justifiable use of a privately owned gun to kill a criminal for every 34 murders committed with a firearm in America. Looking at the horrible gun death statistics recently shared by the Violence Policy Center, I can only shake my head and wonder what it'll take to reform America's love of guns. Read the rest
Harvard/Chicago economist Luigi Zingales published a sharply argued, searing paper about the finance industry's reputation for corruption and social uselessness, concluding that it's largely deserved and that academic economists have a role to play in reforming it. Read the rest
NSA director Michael S Rogers says his agency wants "front doors" to all cryptography used in the USA, so that no one can have secrets it can't spy on -- but what he really means is that he wants to be in charge of which software can run on any general purpose computer. Read the rest
Cory Doctorow summarizes the problem with the idea that sensitive personal information can be removed responsibly from big data: computer scientists are pretty sure that's impossible.
You'll remember Derek Khanna as the Republican House staffer who got fired for writing a paper that used careful objective research to argue for scaling back copyright. Now, Khanna is a volunteer fellow at R Street, where he's expanded on his early work with a paper called Guarding Against Abuse:
Copyright [PDF], which tackles the question of copyright terms from a market-economics approach, citing everyone from Hayek to Posner to the American Conservative Union.
There are lots of critiques of copyright term and scope from the left, but this is not a left-right issue. Khanna is a rigorous thinker, a clear writer, and someone who shows that whether you're coming at the question from a business/markets perspective or one of free speech and social benefit, limits on copyright make objective sense. Read the rest
In March 2012, the National Science Foundation released the results of its "Business Research and Development and Innovation Survey" study, a rigorous, careful, wide-ranging longitudinal study on the use of trademark, copyright, and patents in American business. The study concluded that, overall, most businesses don't rate these protections as a significant factor in their success (in 2010, 87.2% said trademarks were "not important"; 90.1% said the same of copyright, and 96.2% said the same of patents).
What's striking about the survey is that even fields that are traditionally viewed as valuing these protections were surprisingly indifferent to them -- for example, only 51.4% of software businesses rated copyright as "very important."
In a very good post, GWU Political Science PhD candidate Gabriel J. Michael contrasts the obscurity of this landmark study with the incredible prominence enjoyed by a farcical USPTO study released last year that purported to show that "the entire U.S. economy relies on some form of IP" and that "IP-intensive industries" created 40 million American jobs in 2010. The study's methodology was a so sloppy as to be unsalvageable -- for example, the study claimed that anyone who worked at a grocery store was a beneficiary of "strong IP protection."
The NSF study doesn't merely totally refute the USPTO's findings, it does so using a well-documented, statistically valid, neutral methodology that was calculated to find the truth, rather than scoring political points for the copyright lobby. It's a study in contrasts between evidence-based policy production and policy-based evidence production. Read the rest
Victoria from the UK's Sense About Science writes in with news about its Ask For Evidence campaign, a structured system for demanding evidence of sciencey-sounding claims from governments and companies, such as claims that wheatgrass drinks accomplish something called "detox" (whatever that is). The campaign has been remarkably successful to date, and they're looking for people to carry the work on in their own lives. Read the rest
I was on CBC Radio 1's Day 6 last weekend, talking about some of the reasons why scientists can't answer key questions about guns — whether current gun policies do anything to reduce violent crime, for instance, or whether more guns cause less (or more) violence. In a related debate, you should also read the article on the science of video games and real-life violence that Brandon Keim wrote for PBS' NOVA. The truth is that this branch of science also has big problems connecting cause and effect and, as with gun policy research, the best kinds of experiments can't really be done for logistical and ethical reasons. Read the rest
This is a fascinating problem that affects a lot of scientific modeling (in fact, I'll be talking about this in the second part of my series on gun violence research) — the more specific and accurate your predictions, the less reliable they sometimes become. Think about climate science. When you read the IPCC reports, what you see are predictions about what is likely to happen on a global basis, and those predictions come in the form of a range of possible outcomes. Results like that are reliable — i.e, they've matched up with observed changes. But they aren't super accurate — i.e., they don't tell you exactly what will happen, and they generally don't tell you much about what might happen in your city or your state. We have tools that can increase the specificity and accuracy, but those same tools also seem to reduce the reliability of the outcomes. At The Curious Wavefunction, Ashutosh Jogalekar explains the problem in more detail and talks about how it affects scientist's ability to give politicians and the public the kind of absolute, detailed, specific answers they really want. Read the rest