Another View: Insurers win, consumers lose in California ridesharing crackdown

Ridesharing companies and their customers are the newest target of California’s bizarre crusade to crack down on Internet-powered businesses (“Risky business behind wheel of new economy”; Forum, June 22). This time, regulators are getting help from deep-pocketed insurers and personal injury lawyers who look at the sharing economy and see dollar signs.

The ostensible target of this latest misadventure: something called an “insurance gap” when consumers get a ride with a Lyft or Uber driver instead of a taxicab.

READ MORE at Sacramento Bee


Making ICANN History in the Shadow of the Magna Carta

Making ICANN History in the Shadow of the Magna Carta

Two miles (and a short Tube ride) from where ICANN is gathering in London, rests an original copy of the Magna Carta, which introduced the concept of imposing limits on the powers of the king. I’m taking the proximity of this icon of constitutional history as a good omen for our task: to create a charter to limit ICANN’s powers and enhance its accountability, in the wake of the U.S. Government’s decision to terminate its legacy role.

ICANN management has only recently — and reluctantly — acknowledged the need for enhanced accountability mechanisms to replace the leverage the US government wields through its ability to withhold the IANA contract from ICANN’s custody. It now falls to the broader Internet community to create a permanent mechanism by which to review (and potentially reverse) actions of the ICANN the corporation.


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Using the Internet to erase history

Using the Internet to erase history

The day Google opened its online submission process to comply with the European “right to be forgotten” ruling, the company received 12,000 requests – one every seven seconds – from users demanding that information be pulled from search results.

The cost of ignoring those requests, or getting them “wrong” in the eyes of the EU courts? Google could face fines of a billion dollars per incident. In the European Union, the process of whitewashing history is underway.

With the ruling, the court is forcing Google to perform the impossible balancing act between the newly invented “right” be forgotten and the Internet’s unique power to preserve, contextualize, and disseminate information.


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As You Were Saying . . . Mass. driving to extremes

As You Were Saying…Mass. driving to extremes

As the national debate over license plate readers reaches consensus on an approach that protects privacy and safety concerns alike, Massachusetts has veered down a radical path by considering a new bill that would sidetrack cops and severely weaken technology that saves lives and protects communities.

This bill does nothing to strengthen or safeguard Registry of Motor Vehicle databases or in any way ensure that they are being used effectively for purposes allowed under existing federal privacy protections.

Instead, the bill borrows heavily from an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) draft in banning private collection of license plate data and drastically limiting how long police can store license plate images.


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Privacy advocates say “No” to tagging, even on your own computer

Privacy advocates say “No” to tagging, even on your own computer

The debate over commercial and personal use of facial recognition technology was bound to be contentious once you put technology companies in the same room with hard-line privacy advocates.  But recent developments call into question whether compromise is even possible.

In February, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) kicked-off a process to develop a voluntary code of conduct for how companies and their customers use facial recognition tools. This week, participants in the process – including privacy advocates, companies, and technologists – will meet again to try finding areas of consensus.

If recent history is any indication, consensus will be very hard to find.


California Constution

Californians Overwhelmingly Support Use of License Plate Readers and Their Ability to Solve Crimes, New Survey Finds

The majority of Californians agree that license plate reader (LPR) technology helps law enforcement solve crimes and any restrictions on who can photograph license plates would be unacceptable, according to a new poll conducted by Zogby Analytics and commissioned by Vigilant Solutions. 

The poll of 800 California residents (with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%), conducted during the first week in April, showed overwhelming support for the benefits of LPR technology and disdain for government limits on personal and corporate photography.

By more than a 6:1 margin, California residents said that they believe that license plate recognition technology helps to solve crimes.  Read more


Catch the Criminals – Don’t Pass the Buck

When a crime is committed it’s the criminal that is responsible.  But some in Congress think that since capturing cyber-criminals is challenging we should hold online services accountable.  That’s like holding Ford accountable for making the car a bank-robber uses.

But that didn’t stop the attempts by Sen. McCain to assign false blame at today’s Senate hearing on a threat to consumers called “malvertisements” — when a cyber-criminal injects malware into an online ad and then misleads an ad network into displaying the contaminated ad.

I appreciated the shift in focus from privacy to security as threats to consumers’ security pose real harms.  Unfortunately, the hearing was more about trying to assign liability rather than talking about catching the criminal perpetrators of this new form of malware. Read more


Doubling Down on Wrong: Massachusetts and LPR Legislation

As the weight of public opinion, legislation and expert analysis swings nationally in the direction of common-sense policy for license plate recognition technology, Massachusetts is digging in its heels, doubling down on an extreme, unconstitutional measure that will hamstring technology and undermine safety in exchange for no tangible benefit.

In the wake of the Snowden revelations, privacy extremists saw a unique opportunity to demonize a popular, widely-used technology that had never before been controversial in mainstream circles. Conjuring images of mass surveillance and tracking, the ACLU successfully prodded several states to introduce legislation to curb the use of license plate recognition (LPR) technology.

White House Technologists Say Focus on Use

But in the past six months, a funny thing has happened. As technologists, law enforcement, and legal experts began to explain what license plate recognition technology actually does (as opposed to what the ACLU baselessly claims it could do in some dystopian future) the national discussion has shifted away from hard-line restrictions on LPR and toward a balanced approach which focuses on access controls (i.e. logging who has accessed the data and for what purpose) and best practices in database security to ensure the protection stored LPR data. Read more


White House Delivers a Mixed Bag with Big Data Report

Like many in the technology space, I was pleasantly surprised last week when the White House delivered a balanced report on Big Data addressing the challenges posed by ubiquitous information sharing with the real value that sharing provides us. It’s just unfortunate that the report didn’t address the greatest public concern post-Snowden — government surveillance.

The report could have analyzed government access to our online accounts but instead chose a less self-critical route by raising bombastic specters of corporate misuse. Read more


Internet Sales Tax Winners and Losers

Last week, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a report that identifies the real winners of a new online sales tax regime. To the surprise of no one, the study found that small businesses struggling on MainStreet should not expect the taxman to be their savior.

Everyone likes and roots for small entrepreneurs. We know the people in our community who run local retail and we respect what they do. Their efforts are felt and admired on a daily basis. That is why the generic idea of supporting Main Street is so powerful.

But, in the case of online taxation, we now have proof that Main Street won’t see a boost in sales if the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) is passed. Read more