Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Is the CFAA Masking Systematic Discrimination?

Masking-Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a key computer crime law, arguing that it violates the Constitution and specifically prevents researchers from identifying systemic discrimination, such as those related to housing and job searches.

The group is backing several anti-discrimination researchers and First Look Media — publishers of the Intercept — in a legal challenge filed Wednesday. At issue is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This law, among other things, makes it a jailable offense to break the terms of service of any Internet company. (That means that, technically, using a pseudonym on Facebook or lying to let a 12-year-old create a Google account breaks the law.)

The researchers and journalists say that breaking those rules can be necessary for research, and argue that simply violating websites' rules shouldn't carry such a heavy penalty. In particular, the lawsuit says that those looking to investigate whether housing and job sites discriminate against applicants often must create several fake accounts to test how sites' algorithms view similar candidates.

"The law has long protected such socially useful misrepresentation in the offline world," the complaint reads.  "In the online world, however, conducting the same kind of audit testing generally violates websites’ terms of service," the filing notes, which in turn violates the CFAA.

The complaint also argues that researchers must be able to scrape sites — using tools to pull massive amounts of information from them — to collect the datasets they need to conduct their research. Companies tend not to like this, as it pulls what they may consider proprietary data from the businesses they've built.

The researchers and the ACLU argue that the CFAA, as written, violates the First and Fifth amendments by preventing news organizations and researchers from conducting their investigations without fear of harsh punishment. They also argue that the law puts too much power in the hands of companies, which can change their terms at any time — and, in doing so, criminalize any number of behaviors.

The CFAA has been sharply criticized in the past for being overly broad, poorly defined and disproportionately harsh. The debate came to the fore after the 2013 suicide of noted programmer Aaron Swartz, who was facing jail time for scraping information from the academic site JSTOR.

A reform law, called Aaron's Law, was introduced some months later, and proposed that those who violate terms of service should be punished for any damage caused, rather than simply for breaking the rules. The bill has languished in Congress ever since.

By highlighting how the CFAA specifically prevents further research into housing and job discrimination, the ACLU and researchers have found a way to use the government's own priorities against itself. The Obama administration has repeatedly called for close study of whether companies use big data in a discriminatory way. The Federal Trade Commission, for example, asked explicitly whether the use of big data is inclusive or exclusive. And the White House itself released a major report last month cautioning that, used poorly, big data can perpetuate damaging stereotypes.

"Without deliberate care, these innovations can easily hardwire discrimination, reinforce bias, and mask opportunity," the report's authors — including U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith — said in a blog post.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

Agreements or contracts are binding to both parties. But it appears that companies are exempt from penalties of violating said agreements or contracts. To quote a comment of the article: “If breaking the terms of service is a crime, then when an Internet company does not fulfill their 'unlimited speed' or bandwidth agreement, their CEO should also go to jail.”

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Ineffective EHRs and Inaccurate Wearable Gadgets

Ineffective-Health-Records

If there was a wearable that could alert you and your doctor if you were in danger of having a heart attack, would you want it? I sure would. But apparently, not everyone feels the same way, just because most current wearables are not accurate enough.

Take Dr. James Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association, for example. Earlier this month, he took time to explain how inaccurate wearable devices are overrunning healthcare in his speech at the AMA annual meeting in Chicago.

“From ineffective electronic health records (EHR), to an explosion of direct-to-consumer digital health products, to apps of mixed quality,” said Madara, according to his prepared remarks, "this is the digital snake oil of the early 21st century.”

Certainly, much of the U.S. healthcare system now has electronic health records. And it’s largely ineffective.

According to a survey released early this year by HIMSS, a health IT trade group, only 29% of physicians report positive benefits from electronic health records. And an AMA survey found that nearly one-half of physician’s report implementing the technology has resulted in a higher cost, lower productivity and reduced efficiency.

So it’s not hard to understand why many healthcare providers have a jaundiced view of the technology, and why they bristle at the notion of funneling oceans of remote patient monitoring data into the system.

Caregivers resist

To the extent that electronic health records have been ineffective, I believe it’s due more to a failure of our system of care than it is of the technology. Because while most facilities met their obligation to install electronic health records, few have embraced it.

I can tell you that from personal experience.

Recently, I got an email from an outpatient facility asking me to input my medical data into their system. This was weeks ahead of a planned arthroscopic procedure. I dutifully took the time to gather the information and enter it into the portal. So I was surprised a couple weeks later when, during my pre-op appointment, the doctor asked me what meds I was taking. And then, just after surgery, he gave me pictures from the procedure and told me to bring them to my follow-up appointment so they could explain to me what they did.

So much data. So little access. I’d have to agree, that’s pretty ineffective. It’s also pretty common.

I do understand why some healthcare providers resist electronic health records. Change is difficult. And time consuming. They already have taxing jobs. They’re busy, stressed. And they may have a bad taste in their mouths from previous forays into technology.

But guess what? Sooner or later, they will have to take the plunge, and incorporate the technology into their workflow. And they will have to incorporate remote patient monitoring devices into the records. Because wearables, connected scales, glucometers and blood-pressure cuffs will be what give healthcare professionals the insight they need to make better decisions.

The practice of medicine urgently needs to make better decisions. Because the $3 trillion US healthcare system is beginning to bow under the weight of an aging population that needs increasing care and attention. It will only get worse if they don’t get better.

Think about this: the meteorologist on the Weather Channel has far better tools at her disposal to forecast whether it will rain on your upcoming trip to Boston than your doctor does to assess whether you might need medical attention while you’re away.

Let that sink in for a second. The meteorologist has sophisticated, self-adjusting computer models, fed by streams of data from satellites, weather balloons and weather stations that detail temperatures, atmospheric pressure and the state of approaching systems.

And your doctor? All she has to go on are a few bloodwork reports, a few sets of vital signs recorded during your office visits and some insight you’ve chosen to share in the examination room – accurate or no. In climatic terms, it would be like forecasting rain armed with little more than yesterday’s highs and lows.

To make the best medical decisions, physicians need insight gleaned during the eleven months, 29 days and 22 hours you’re not in their office each year. Insight akin to what meteorologists have. Fortunately, that’s starting to come.

It’s coming in the form of stick-on patches, injectable biosensors and smart clothing, They’re typically paired with companion hardware, smartphones apps and cloud services to monitor the steady stream of data, make suggestions for improving the results and notify caregivers at the first hint of a problem.

In the past few weeks alone:

  • Medtronic and Qualcomm announced they are partnering on next-generation continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs. A CGM pairs a monitoring patch with a device that constantly records blood sugar levels, giving diabetics and their caregivers much finer control over their condition.
  • Startup VitalConnect unveiled VitalPatch, a stick-able device that continuously monitors heart patients’ condition. The device has been tested in Europe and is beginning trials in the US this summer.
  • Startup Profusa announced the Lumee, an injectable biosensor that sits in the tissue just underneath the skin and a companion reader to collect measurements from the device. The first product is called the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, which will be available in Europe later this year to help monitor recovery after vascular surgery.

Devices like these, I believe, will prove to be the Doppler Radar of medicine. Because what they bring to the practice of healthcare is a healthy injection of insight.

That’s not snake oil. It’s science. And it’s long overdue.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

First, let’s set the record straight about these devices the marketing strategist author talks about. There are two groups of medical devices available, one group has been through trial testing with proven published results. The other group has not gone through trail testing and has no proven published results. (Snake oil)

Meteorologist use devices from the first group, proven electronics with published results. It’s no secret that unproven devices are not accurate enough for doctors to rely upon their data, yet. Some manufacturers are finally starting to provide the needed testing results that will garner that trust, which is needed to accurately diagnose a person’s health.

Many of the devices from these startups will go down the same path as lumosity and for the same reason, unproven technology.

Wearables have many downsides other than accuracy such as limited functions or no cellular connection.

A paid lobbyist is no substitute for trial testing and published results.

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Is Hyperloop Transportation Ahead of its Time?

Hyperloop-Transportation

SAN FRANCISCO – In a white-board world, Hyperloop sounds ideal.

Take a sleek pod, place it in a vacuum-sealed tube and let it float frictionless above its rails using tested magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology at speeds up to 800 mph. Picture a puck effortlessly racing across an air hockey table and you have the idea, one that can already be seen in action on Shanghai's speedy maglev train.

By erasing the vehicle-clogged arteries of our national highway system and those aging miles of transcontinental railroad track, commute times get slashed and fossil fuel gets saved. What’s not to like?

Yet moving this transportation alternative from sci-fi vision to real-world ubiquity involves financial and logistical roadblocks that call into question its wisdom, according to technology and transportation experts.

The issues raised include Hyperloop’s cost (a 350-mile run between Los Angeles and San Francisco has been estimated at $6 billion or more), technological demands (tubes would have to be straight and vacuum-tight to keep speeds high), practicality (short hops would not make sense) and comfort (humans might not go for travel that feels like a roller coaster ride lodged in tunnels).

“I sense a bit of hucksterism right now that’s helping companies raise money,” says Ralph Hollis, a research professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University who is an expert on maglev tech.

His concerns range from whether endless links of welded tubes can retain the vacuum integral to maintaining high speeds given the inevitable geological shifts in California's earthquake country, to the physiological impact on passengers of speeds that approach the supersonic.

“A lot of different things have to go right for this to really work, business, legal, technical,” says Hollis. “Demonstrating that it runs isn’t really enough.”

Premise is solid, promise is murky

"That it runs" refers to a recent demo in the Nevada desert, where Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One successfully launched its maglev-enabled sled across a 100-yard track. The company plans to build a five-mile enclosed loop by year’s end. More boldly, last week it announced a Russian partnership to explore a new Silk Road route across Asia.

Hyperloop One has taken the lead in this tube race, raising $90 million and boasting investors such as GE Ventures and SNCF, the French national railway company. A rival concern, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, announced in March that its futuristic pods could appear first in Slovakia, where officials are studying a proposal.

Do we want Hyperloop?

Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing Hyperloop is the poor reception offered to its slower cousin, high-speed rail.

Consider that for its size, the U.S. has only one such run – Amtrak’s Acela Express line along the Northeast Corridor — while smaller England and France each have an example, the Eurostar and TGV respectively.

In 2008, California voters approved $10 billion in funding for an ambitious San Francisco to Los Angeles bullet train akin to Japan's Shinkansen, but it has yet to make headway. The $68 billion effort, which uses an alternative to maglev technology, was able to gain some initial traction thanks to billions in federal funding, but has been bogged down in lawsuits from aggrieved communities and by cumbersome land acquisition deals.

“Just getting a maglev train here would be great, but the U.S. is a strange place. Most people consider high-speed rail a boondoggle," said Jim Mathews, spokesman for the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Mathews, a former Aviation Week editor, says he's learned not to bet against Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX and Tesla Motors and drew up the concept of Hyperloop in a white paper three years ago.

But he's not the only one doubting appetite for such projects, especially in the U.S.

John Macomber, senior lecturer on infrastructure and urbanization issues at Harvard University, says he remains unclear "why Hyperloop would be more valuable than trains or airplanes. I know speed matters, but maybe not that much.”

Macomber considers Hyperloop a fascinating but likely money-losing proposition that "could show up in a Gulf nation eager to try something new, where it could stand as a technological proof of concept but not an economic one,” he says. “Here in the U.S., it’s easier to make incremental improvements to the systems we have, like going to self-driving cars, than leaping to Hyperloop.”

Even when a high-speed train does pique interest, investors seem to get cold feet.

Tony Morris, CEO of American Maglev, an Atlanta-based company that has developed a small maglev train that could soon make its U.S. debut in Orlando, where it will run between airport and convention center. But first, officials there would need to opt for that variant over traditional trains.

“Maglev trains use 60% less energy than their steel-wheeled counterparts, but even though we say maglev’s time has come, the people making the decisions to build new lines aren’t all about taking risks,” says Morris. “The good news is this is new technology, and that’s also the bad news.”

Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd is unfazed by suggestions that Hyperloop One is a moonshot or boondoggle, preferring instead to call it simply ahead of its time. It's focused on developing a proof of concept that can be licensed to investors with the cash and desire to build Hyperloop.

Transportation shifts inevitable

Hyperloop or not, something does have to give on the transportation landscape.

A swelling and aging population is straining a highway ecosystem that President Eisenhower inaugurated 60 years ago this month. In Los Angeles, commuters waste a record 81 hours a year in traffic, according to transportation data company Inrix. The National Safety Council reports that traffic deaths jumped 8% in 2015 to 38,300.

“The terrain ahead for transportation is an increasing demand for mobility, especially from boomers who won’t want to drive as they age,” says Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research at Trips, a non-profit transportation advocacy group.

Moretti says that transportation officials from every state met this spring to discuss how to tackle these challenges, and the conclusion was to “make the best use of the resources available” while paying close attention to the growing progress made by tech and auto companies alike on self-driving cars.

And Hyperloop?

“We see a lot of changes coming, so I suppose anything’s possible,” he says. “I’d say the biggest demand isn’t so much to make the system faster, but safer.”

Read Article (Marco della Cava | usatoday.com | 06/25/2016)

Whether you agree with the article (the Hyperloop is too much too soon) or not, it going to happen. Once you give society a glimpse of the future, they will have it no matter the cost or danger. So hang on tight and get ready for the Hyperloop tax we are gonna pay.

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How Brexit Affects Global Technology Industry

Brexit-Affects

Brexit has officially happened, and the implications of the vote to leave the European Union has raised many questions for the global technology industry.

In Britain, a majority of tech firms were against leaving the E.U. A technology industry group survey found that 87 percent of British technology firms wanted to stay in the European Union, and that 70 percent of them worried a vote to leave would damage London’s reputation as a technology hub. Global companies with offices in Britain, such as Microsoft, also campaigned against the move.

Now that the votes have been cast, here are some major issues facing the tech industry in Britain and abroad, in light of the decision.

Data flow and data privacy: The U.S. and the E.U. are in the process of making the final adjustments to their latest data privacy agreement, which governs the flow of data between U.S. and Europe. With a major player in the E.U. now backing out of the coalition, there are obviously some questions about what happens to data flowing in and out of Britain from the U.S. and elsewhere.

Despite the referendum results, however, things in this area will remain with the status quo — for now.

“The Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the referendum result,” confirmed the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office, but added that the Brexit does mean that the U.K. will not be subject to upcoming reforms the E.U. is planning to make around data protection.

However, Britain is unlikely to deviate from the policies of the E.U. in this particular area, simply because E.U. standards have become basically standard around the world. Should Britain shy away from those regulations, experts said, it would face dire consequences.

“It will be left out of the group of progressive and forward looking countries with suitable safeguards for personal data,” wrote privacy law expert Eduardo Ustaran ahead of the vote.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Brexit will have no effect on the world’s data economy. There is also a sense, now that Britain has voted to leave the E.U., that the counterweight it provided against privacy-heavy countries such as Germany and France will also disappear. Germany and France have been leading the charge against major American tech firms -- notably Google, with the “right to be forgotten” ruling.

“This will help strengthen calls from the E.U. member states more concerned about protecting privacy rights,” said privacy advocate Jeff Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Some are optimistic that, with fewer E.U. regulations, British companies would thrive. But the uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of the vote makes some uneasy.

“Europe is such an important economy, it would be a shame if this and some existing policy proposals by some in the E.U. came into effect in a way that dampened the ability to use technology and grow their economies,” said Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

Funding: One of the key reasons that many British technology firms said they were against a British exit from the E.U. was that it would be more difficult for them to secure funding for start-ups. London’s technology industry has been on the rise for the past several years.

Britain benefits in large part from funds such as the European Investment Fund, which backs an estimated 41 percent of venture capital investments in Europe. Its majority investor is the European Investment Bank.

But if Britain is no longer a part of Europe, that dries up a source of funding just as questions about how a U.K. shorn of its E.U. ties will regulate health tech, financial tech and other technology industries.

For its part, the EIF has said that it will continue business as usual for the time being. But the vote has injected a note of uncertainty into the start-up market, as Britain will now have to make its own negotiations with the fund.

“The European Investment Fund takes note, with regret, of the vote of the British people to leave the European Union,” the group said in a statement. “EIF will actively engage with the EIB and relevant European institutions to define the EIF’s activity in the UK as part of the broader discussions to determine the future relationship of the UK with Europe and European bodies."

Others also have financial concerns. For example, the video game industry in particular has said that it's worried that the new tax environment won't be as favorable to it as the E.U.'s has been.

Immigration: British tech firms — and technology firms from around the globe with offices there — have also raised concerns that the Brexit will fundamentally harm the tech industry’s ability to fill positions for highly skilled workers. Without the E.U.’s allowances to let workers move freely between countries, British companies are now worried about a shortage of qualified workers. That might be something that gets ironed out in a later agreement. But right now, there are plenty of expat workers in and outside of Britain that are raising questions about how Brexit affects their lives.

The concerns echo the talking points of the tech industry’s calls for immigration reform in the U.S. right now. The tech industry has repeatedly said that it needs to be able to recruit highly skilled foreign-born workers from across the globe in order to meet its labor demands.

Todd Schulte, president of the U.S. immigration group FWD.us, said that while the situations between the U.S. and Britain are obviously different, the need for support for a foreign-born workforce is not.

“In a globalized economy, when you’re trying to sell to the world, a diverse workforce is an asset,” he said.

There are also worries that companies that looked to London as an ideal place to start a company will now look elsewhere. Some start-ups have already begun to evaluate whether London is still the right place for their offices.

"To us, it was obvious to have London as a headquarters for all of Europe," said Allan Martinson, chief operating officer of the delivery startup Starship Technologies. "Today we may need to look for another location if we're working with continental Europeans."

Read Article (Hayley Tsukayama | washingtonpost.com | 06/24/2016)

Leading countries in the digital era have prospered through the sharing of methodologies, agreements and policies. To suddenly stand-apart, exposes one’s self to unknown ramifications.

We can only hope that nothing negative results from this decision.

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Broadband Internet Providers Lose to Net Neutrality

Providers-Lose

WASHINGTON — In a long-awaited decision, a federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules, dealing a punishing blow to telecom and cable companies that have sought to overturn the regulations.

Characterizing the government’s net neutrality effort as an “attempt to achieve internet openness” and “the principle that broadband providers must treat all internet traffic the same regardless of source,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concluded that the rules are authorized under current law.

The FCC rules — which the Obama administration has strongly supported — prevent internet service providers, or ISPs, from charging content producers for faster or more reliable service, a practice known as “paid prioritization.” The rules also ban blocking and purposefully slowing the traffic of lawful services, and apply to both mobile and fixed broadband service.

Taking each of these proposals in turn, the appeals court looked at how they fit within the legal framework that Congress has given the FCC to set the rules for internet service — from dial-up to DSL to cable modem service — and determined that the agency has the power to reclassify broadband service in its various forms as a “telecommunications service” for regulatory purposes.

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, praised the ruling in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth.”

For years, activists, businesses, politicians and regulators have debated how ISPs should be treated. The ISPs want less regulation so they have more freedom to choose how they manage their services. President Barack Obama and major tech companies have argued that ISPs should be treated more like the legacy phone companies, which cannot unjustly discriminate when providing services.

The current legal spat is an extension of that dispute. Last year, the FCC voted 3-2 to reclassify broadband internet service as a utility under a 1934 law called the Communications Act, which originally aimed to ensure that customers would have access to universal radio and wire service at a reasonable price.

This didn’t mean ISPs would be treated the same as old-school utility companies — they have their own unique rules — but defining them this way gave the FCC broader powers to regulate them. The agency used this authority to enact the net neutrality rules.

AT&T and cable and wireless trade groups sued the agency last year, arguing that the FCC had overstepped. They argued that the Communications Act, which provided legal backing for the new rules, is an outdated framework that was never intended to be used this way. Providers have repeatedly said that they support net neutrality, but believe it can be accomplished under a lighter regulatory regime.

But the FCC already tried using a lighter touch with net neutrality rules. In 2010, it adopted an order that drew authority from a section of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a law meant to promote investment and competition. Verizon sued the FCC in 2011 to overturn the rules, and the same appeals court agreed that the FCC did not have solid legal footing, even as it upheld the commission’s power to promulgate open internet rules.

The agency went back to the drawing board and — after receiving more than 4 million comments from the public, activists and business — came up with its new approach, which is how broadband providers ended up with rules they disliked even more. (Verizon is now the parent company of The Huffington Post.)

Though the ruling is a victory for the government and consumer advocates, other big winners include “edge providers” — companies such as Netflix and Google that depend on third parties’ broadband services to drive their product offerings.

In a prior ruling, one of three touching on the legality of regulating broadband services, the D.C. Circuit said these businesses are part of the “virtuous circle” that leads to increased innovation and investment. They, too, were giddy with Tuesday’s watershed result.

“The third time was the charm,” Pantelis Michalopoulos, a lawyer who argued in favor of the net neutrality rules on behalf of Netflix and other intervenors, said in a statement. “The open Internet rules are here to stay.”

Read Article (Liebelson & Farias | huffingtonpost.com | 06/14/2016)

In plain words, ISP’s have distributed Internet service as if “They Owned It!” Yes, some people have forgotten that the Internet belongs to us, the public. We built it and paid for it, we only need ISP’s to access what we own. Hopefully, this will finally put them in their place.

As owners of the Internet, don’t you think you should know how to fully take advantage of it and any device that connects to it? That’s what our campaign is all about.

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