TAP Media Feed

Fact Sheets

Patent Reform  New

A patent is an exclusive legal right to own and market an invention or improvement for a limited period of time, in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.

Cloud Computing  New

“Cloud computing” describes how computer-related services and software increasingly have been provided over the Internet and other networks since the late 1990s.

High Skilled Immigration Reform  New

The United States immigration policy is the set of laws and provisions that regulates the entry and the stay of non-US citizens on national territory. High-skilled, college-educated immigrants contribute to scientific and technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and job-creation in the U.S.

About Us

Technology – Academics – Policy (TAP), a “virtual think tank,” is a valuable resource designed to inform interested parties – from policymakers to the media – and spark a constructive dialogue about U.S. public policy issues involving technology and innovation.

Broadband Access and Infrastructure

High-speed Internet access – often referred to as “broadband” – is a set of technologies that, taken together, are recognized as a potential catalyst for global economic and social change.

Comparative Antitrust

In the United States, “antitrust law” refers to the body of State and Federal laws that prohibits unlawful agreements and practices by firms with market power that harm competition. Europe, Asia and Latin America call the governance of market competition “competition law”.

Global Antitrust (Competition)

The laws that set the ground rules prohibiting firms from engaging in anti-competitive practices are usually called “antitrust laws” in the United States, and “competition laws” in Europe and other regions. These laws differ among nations, and each country enforces its laws independently.

Government Procurement

“Procurement” is the process by which governments choose to obtain and buy goods and services from the private sector.

Health Information Technology

“Health Information Technology” or Health IT encompasses a wide range of hardware and software products used by patients, doctors, pharmacies, hospitals, insurers or other participants in the healthcare ecosystem to process and store data and communications related to health care.

Innovation

Innovation is a word used to describe new ideas and inventions that have impact – impact to consumers, to markets, to industries, to the economy as a whole, and even to society and culture.

Interoperability

When two or more devices, systems, or networks are made to work together, the systems are said to be “interoperable.” Interoperability issues often arise when systems offered by different firms are deployed simultaneously, or when old and new versions of a product from the same firm are deployed.

Net Neutrality

Given the significance of the Internet, preserving its “openness” – an idea often referred to as “network neutrality” or “net neutrality” – has been a long-standing issue.

Piracy and IP Enforcement

In the context of technology, “piracy” is a colloquial term for the illegal copying of copyrighted works. The related problem of counterfeiting is the illegal reproduction of patented or trademarked products.

Privacy and Consumers

There are a number of privacy issues related to how online companies collect, store, use and share personally identifiable information; and how consumers are informed about what is done with their information online.

Search Engines, Advertising, and Auctions

Search engines – such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and a variety of other smaller search engines – help users find what they are looking for online by finding web pages that match user-entered keywords. Search engines are free to users, but typically earn revenue through paid advertising.

Social Networking

Social networking websites are places on the Internet where people can connect with those who share their interests. Additionally, they can function as economic “platforms” that serve different groups of many users, including consumers, advertisers, game developers, and others. 

Software Patents

A patent provides an exclusive legal right to an invention for a limited period of time, in exchange for public disclosure of that innovation. As with other property rights, patents may be sold, transferred, or licensed for a third party’s use.

Wireless and Mobile Communications

Wireless or “mobile” devices send information one-to-one (like mobile phones), one-to-many (like AM or FM radio), or many-to-many (like Wi-Fi Internet access). Wireless devices send and receive signals along the electromagnetic spectrum in the form of waves similar to visible light or sound.

Quotes

Capital Spending in U.S. Seen from Macy’s to Berkshire

Source: Providence Business News

4/7/2014

This article presents an economic outlook based on speculated increased U.S. business investments. Economics professor Nick Bloom, Stanford University, is quoted.


“Conditions are perfect, so business-investment rates should be at the kind of levels we saw in the mid-2000s,” Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom said. Equipment expenditures climbed 8.6 percent on average from 2004 to 2006. “If it doesn’t come this year, it’s never going to come.”

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The Era of Facebook Is an Anomaly

Source: The Verge

3/13/2014

In this interview, Microsoft researcher danah boyd talks about teens, identity, and the future of digital communication. Below are a few excerpts. danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research; she is also a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.


My frustration about how we approach young people is that we think that everything must be so much worse because of technology. The funny thing is that we’ve had these moral panics for every generation. Comics were ruining everybody, rock and roll was ruining everybody, MTV was ruining everybody — we’ve had this in many different iterations. Part of the story of the book is that by and large, the kids are alright. …. The thing that I struggle with is … we distract ourselves in ways that don’t allow us to address the problems when people actually are in trouble.


We do this thing with kids where we try to keep them safe from every form of danger. Not only do we have diminishing returns in terms of time and energy, but we have unintended consequences just like we do with security, which is that we’ve eroded [kids'] opportunities to learn, to participate, to make sense of this world. They need this to come of age. We make it very difficult for them to be public.


The weird thing about Facebook and the dynamics of it becoming a utility — which [teens] really despise — is the fact that it becomes this backdrop. It’s not the place of passion. It’s really valuable when you want to reach everybody, it’s really valuable when you don’t have somebody’s cell to text them… That social graph is still extraordinarily valuable — that has the potential to really be long-standing.


That’s one of the things that teenagers struggle with about Facebook: how to deal with multiple contexts simultaneously. …. Online we don’t have that, so we have to deal with a lot of awkwardness. So of course people are going to have multiple identities.


[O]ne of the things we’re going to have to start playing with is a new model for how to negotiate privacy that isn’t just an access control list.

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Social Media, Teens, and a Q&A With It's Complicated Author, danah boyd

Source: Huffington Post

3/10/2014

danah boyd discusses her new book, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, which takes an intricate look at how teenagers are engaging and expressing themselves in social media spaces. danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research; she is also a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.


I was among the first cohort to get internet access as a teenager. I very much saw the internet as my saving grace and am deeply grateful for the opportunities that I had to interact with a world that was much larger than what I grew up with in my hometown.


Now, there's so much watchfulness, so much fear, that parents are expected to be constantly surveilling their children's practices or blocking their children from engaging. What worries me is that this fundamentally undermines the trust that parents and children need to maintain healthy relationships. Lack of knowledge is one thing, but fear and anxiety and distrust and misinterpretation are a different beast.


My hope is that adults will step back, take a deep breath, and think twice about how they're allocating their time, attention, and concerns. Many teens are fine. Many teens are not. This is not new. But what worries me is that we've started to use technology as an excuse to focus on the wrong things, rather than leveraging what's there to help those who really need our support and attention.

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Don’t Stalk Your Kid Online

Source: Slate

2/19/2014

In this interview, danah boyd discusses her new book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research; she is also a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.


Slate: What’s the most important thing you learned in talking to them that you think adults don’t get?

boyd: The more I think about this, the more I want to focus on how devastating and destructive parental anxieties and stress about technology are. These anxieties continue to create a wall between kids and parents. … It requires a level of stepping back and trying to be calm that is really hard in American society. And with technology, there is such a tendency for it to be a source of anxiety. I’d really like us to be in a place where we think of it instead as an opportunity for teenagers.


Slate: How should teachers and school counselors and administrators interact with kids on social media?

boyd: The moves educators have made away from using social media to talk to kids have been really destructive. Educators should have open-door policies for kids to reach out to them online. A teacher should create a profile that is herself or himself as a teacher, on Facebook or wherever your cohort of kids are. Never go and friend a student on your own, but if a student friends you, accept. And if a student reaches out to you online, respond. If you see something concerning about a student on a social media account, approach him or her in school. Give your password to the principal, so it’s all transparent, and then be present. … Social media is an opportunity for more informal interactions.


Slate: You’re pushing technology as an avenue of freedom for kids, right?

boyd: Right. I’d love for young people to have more opportunities to interact in casual and unstructured ways. The reason technology plays such a powerful role for them is that it’s how they can just get together. Other ways to do that have so eroded in the last two decades. We’re talking about systemic changes: fewer part-time youth jobs. … Kids are more likely to be in schools where their friends don’t live within biking distance. So I talk about technology not because I think it’s the end-all, be-all but because it has become the primary place where young people can hang out with their peers. Kids want to be on these sites because that’s where their friends are. That’s the whole thing.

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What Your Teen Is Really Doing All Day On Twitter And Instagram

Source: Fast Company

2/18/2014

danah boyd discusses the fears and misconceptions that adults have about teens' use of social media, revealing that online networks can be a lifeline and a safety valve for a generation under extreme pressure. Below are a few excerpts from this Fast Company interview. danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research; she is also a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.


Major Differences Between the Way Adults and Teens Use Social Media

The thing that is really different has to do with how your life is configured in relationship to technology versus other opportunities. As an adult… you have a choice over your time and your schedule in a way that young people do not. Their lives are very heavily configured and structured. Their ability to get together in unstructured time with friends is extremely difficult.


On top of that they're dealing with immediate experiences of people who hold power over them and have the right to control their lives. … When young people don't show up at school, that's a violation of the law. Kids in the suburbs, they have to rely on their parents to get them someplace. They have very few financial resources, not just because some of them are poor, but because they can't even get a job. So social media for them is a release valve. For us it might be fun, but for them it's very important.


Companies Using Social Media to Market to Teens

Young people are totally aware of when a company is making a YouTube video just to sell to them. They're not dumb, they totally get this. The thing is, it's funny when they're on YouTube and seeking it out, it's not funny when it's getting in the way of talking with their friends. So businesses always have that delicate balance.


The other thing that it's really important for marketers to realize is that very few of today's youth have access to part time jobs, which makes it very hard for them to get their own money, they have massive stress over the potential cost of college. You're going to see companies feel as though they're losing teens because the fact is they're losing a certain amount of flexible spending right now. It's not because young people are harder to reach, it's because they're actually in a much harder space monetarily.


Technology and Teens

The thing for me is it's less about focusing on the technology and more about focusing holistically on a particular young person and how they're doing. There are young people out there who are really doing poorly. Use the technology to figure out who's not doing okay, and figure out ways to intervene. Because most of the reasons they're not doing okay are classic--different kinds of stress or pressure, different kinds of family abuse. Mental health issues, peer social insecurities. …. Let's not get distracted by the technology, and realize that technology is showing us what's happening in kids' lives, and use that as an opportunity to make a difference in their lives, as opposed to thinking that if we make the technology go away we can solve problems. Because that is not at all the way this works.

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Some Errors in Software at Exchange for Bitcoins

Source: New York Times

2/10/2014

The article examines Bitcoin exchange businesses. Ed Felten, Director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, is quoted.


Edward W. Felten, a professor at Princeton University who has studied Bitcoin, said, “We’re seeing a shakeout where the companies that are weaker in terms of management and technical execution are being weeded out.”

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Disruptions: Paying to Travel in the Internet’s Fast Lanes

Source: New York Times

2/2/2014

The article examines the status of net neutrality regulation. Columbia law professor Tim Wu is quoted.


“The F.C.C. is afraid of the companies they regulate. They are capable of being intimidated by them,” said Mr. Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. But Mr. Wu, who has written extensively about similar regulatory issues, predicts that this could backfire on the Internet service providers, leading to stricter regulation or to companies like Google calling their bluff.


“Phone and cable companies should be careful what they wish for because this could all blow up in their face,” he said. “Verizon and Comcast could end up facing serious demands for money. It could be that Google will say to the telcos, ‘Actually, if you want your customers to be able to reach Google, I’m afraid you’re going to pay us.’ ”

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Inequality on the Docket at World Economic Forum in Davos

Source: American Public Media’s Marketplace

1/21/2014

The story reports that inequality is one of the agenda items for the 2014 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum which took place in Davos, Switzerland in January. Daron Acemoglu, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at M.I.T., is quoted.


“It’s good that the media, policymakers, and academics are paying more attention to it [inequality],” he says.


Acemoglu notes there is an irony here: “They can spend a week in the most luxurious circumstances, flying in their private jets, precisely because of the inequality that we are talking about.”


But, Acemoglu says, if the economic and political elites in our society are genuinely interested in a social problem like inequality, they can attract attention to it and contribute resources to address it.

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Robots Are Stealing Your Job: How Technology Threatens to Wipe Out the Middle Class

Source: Salon

1/17/2014

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both of MIT, are interviewed about their new book, “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.”


These titanic changes have had a huge effect on human living standards, and in many ways we can learn from how things changed with the first Industrial Revolution and the first machine age. But there are also some key differences. As we augmented and automated muscle power and our ability to use that power to manipulate the world — not just with the steam engine but with subsequent general-purpose technologies like the internal combustion engine and electricity — it acted largely as a complement to human decision making. The power wasn’t very valuable unless you had someone controlling it and deciding what to do with it.


We do believe that technology is a driver of change, but it doesn’t follow that there is nothing we can do to shape the future. We think that education, entrepreneurship and tax policy can all help in increasing both the bounty and decreasing the spread. That’s our grand challenge.

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How Virtual Currency Could Make It Easier To Move Money

Source: National Public Radio’s All Tech Considered

1/15/2014

This story examines the potential value of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Professor Joshua Gans, Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is quoted.


However, if the currencies themselves don't stay, the idea driving them will, according to [Nick] Holland and Joshua Gans, professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto.


"It's surprisingly difficult to transfer money between banks, and the question is, 'Why should that be?' " Gans says. "Some of these [virtual currencies] are trying to see if they can eliminate that, but of course the banks will come in and say, 'Well, we were charging people for those things in the past; we won't anymore.' "


Holland and Gans compare it to how Skype disrupted the market for telecommunications companies: Making calls over the Internet made business harder for traditional phone companies charging for long-distance calls.

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The Next Big Thing You Missed: There’s a Sure-Fire Way to Control the Price of Bitcoin

Source: Wired

1/14/2014

Given the extremely volatile value of bitcoins, this article looks at efforts of creating derivatives markets for the digital currency introduced in 2009. Law professor Eric Posner, University of Chicago, is quoted.


“It’s not surprising that people would try to do this [establish derivatives markets],” says Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago law school who explores financial markets and other economic issues. “If you’re a merchant or a business and you buy and sell stuff, you need to know how much you’re getting in return.”


“It’s [futures derivative] basically an insurance policy against fluctuations in exchange rates,” Posner says.

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Court Tosses Rules of Road for Internet

Source: The Wall Street Journal

1/14/2014

The article reports on the U.S. appeals court ruling that threw out federal rules requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. This ruling raises the prospect that bandwidth-hungry websites like Netflix Inc. might have to pay tolls to ensure quality service. Columbia University law professor Tim Wu is quoted.


"It takes the Internet into completely uncharted territory," said Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor who coined the term net neutrality.

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‘A FEMA-Level Fail’: the Law Professor Who Coined ‘Net Neutrality’ Lashes Out at the FCC’s Legal Strategy

Source: The Washington Post

1/14/2014

With the news that the U.S. federal appeals court overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality regulations, The Washington Post interviewed the man who coined the phrase, ‘net neutrality:’ Columbia University law professor Tim Wu.


It [the appeals court decision] leaves the Internet in completely uncharted territory. There's never been a situation where providers can block whatever they want. For example, it means AT&T can block people from reaching T-Mobile's customer service site if it wanted. They can do whatever they want.


The slightly more subtle thing is they [appeals court] upheld some FCC authority under the FCC's Title I or "auxiliary" authority. Under that provision, the court said that the FCC has some authority to regulate broadband.


The obvious alternative would have been to do what the FCC should have done and — in the future tense — now should do, which is to reclassify broadband under Title II authority.

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Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Net Neutrality Rules

Source: The Washington Post

1/14/2014

The article examines the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules, which prohibit Internet providers from blocking or prioritizing Web traffic. Columbia University law professor Tim Wu is quoted.


Denying that the FCC's open Internet order reflects common carriage regulation isn't likely to be a winning strategy, said Tim Wu, the Columbia University law professor who first coined the term "net neutrality." That's because the very notion of non-discrimination is central to common carriage, an idea that itself dates back to medieval times.

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Court Nixes Obama's Net Neutrality

Source: The Hill

1/14/2014

Reporting on the federal appeals court decision to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality regulations, the article offers reactions from opponents and supporters of the decision. Columbia law professor Tim Wu, who coined the phrase “network neutrality,” is quoted.


Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said that Wheeler “has to act” after the court struck down provisions that keep Internet providers from both blocking and slowing access to websites.


“It’s just a completely different world” if Internet providers are able to throttle traffic to certain websites and services, such as Netflix, Skype and YouTube, Wu said.

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The Bitcoin: Virtually as Good as Real Money?

Source: The European

1/13/2014

The article reports on the unpredictable value and growing use of bitcoins. Susan Athey, an economic theorist at Stanford Graduate School of Business, offers her thoughts on how the digital currency.


Susan Athey, Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, said that deflation should not be a concern, given that bitcoins “could be divided more finely and their protocol accordingly adapted”.


E-commerce is another field where bitcoin can flourish. Professor Athey said that bitcoin might create new e-commerce opportunities for businesses in the developing world that were so far constrained by borders. An example, she said, would be, “an African travel agency that wants to use Google Adwords to advertise and cannot use local currency”.


Professor Athey said that a reason for bitcoin’s appeal in China might be that most people do not have credit cards, which makes bitcoin the perfect alternative for e-commerce and small payments. She added that Chinese consumers might be using bitcoins to buy apps, as China has high smartphone adoption.

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What Secrets Your Phone Is Sharing About You

Source: Wall Street Journal

1/13/2014

The article explores how businesses use sensors to track customers and build shopper profiles. University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo is quoted.


Places where people didn't think they were being watched are now repositories for collecting information, says Ryan Calo assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law. "Companies are increasingly able to connect between our online and offline lives," he says.

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Will Smarter Computers Lead To A Better World?

Source: National Public Radio’s Here & Now

1/9/2014

MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson discusses how the effects of today’s technological revolution may be greater than the Industrial Revolution. Professor Brynjofsson, along with co-author Andrew McAfee, delve into the challenges and choices brought about by smart machines in their newly released book, "The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.”


“There’s no economic law that says that when technology advances, that everybody necessarily benefits: some people, even a majority of people, could be made worse off.” Brynjolfsson said. ”The earlier technologies tended to be complements to humans. They made human decision making, cognitive skills more valuable. But the new technologies, these cognitive technologies, are not necessarily complements for people. In some cases, they are substitutes.”


In order for us to fully harness the good that this new age of machines can do, Brynjolfsson says, we still need good public policy.


“We don’t think the solution is to smash the machines, or slow down technology,” Brynjolfsson said. “The answer is to speed up our adaptation to it: changes in our skills, our organizations, even our institutions. Technology can and should be good news.”

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Target Data Theft Fuels New Worries on Cybersecurity

Source: Los Angeles Times

12/19/2013

Professor Andrea Matwyshyn is quoted in this article that reports on one of the biggest retail breaches to date: hackers stole credit and debit card information on 40 million Target customers. Professor Matwyshyn is with the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. Her research focuses on corporate information security and risk management.


“We're seeing massive data breaches frequently due to low-hanging type of security problems,” said Andrea Matwyshyn, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who specializes in computer security. “Traditionally, questions of information security have been viewed by many companies as something that the IT department does, and that is a cultural mindset problem that is at the root” of some of the problems.

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After China Says No to Bitcoin, Should We Stop Thinking of It as a Currency?

Source: National Public Radio’s Marketplace

12/19/2013

Following the announcement that China's national financial agencies have banned the country’s banks and exchanges from using Bitcoin, NPR’s Marketplace asked Professor Eric Posner to discuss the validity of Bitcoin as a currency. Eric Posner is the Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School.


"It's [Bitcoin] more like a payment system that people can use to transfer dollars from one place to another, and the way you transfer your dollar is you buy a Bitcoin, ship it through the internet, and then the other person gets it and converts it into a dollar," Posner says.


One reason Posner says he's not bullish on the idea of Bitcoin as a currency has to do with the government's inability to control its supply. Governments, he says, need to be able to control currencies through economic highs and lows.


"If there's a recession, for example, you need to increase the money supply, and if there's a boom, you need to reduce the rate at which money grows," Posner says. "If the government has no control over the supply of the money that people use because people have used Bitcoin, it won't be able to use these instruments to help control the economy. … And, so I think the government would find a way to ensure that Bitcoins did not replace the dollar as our currency."


"If you think of [Bitcoin] as just a very useful mechanism for transferring value from one place to another, then regulation will not undermine that goal. It will actually improve that by making the use of Bitcoins more secure, protecting people from some of the illegal or undesireable uses of Bitcoin -- for example, to finance criminal activity or to buy drugs."

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Disruptions: Internet’s Sad Legacy: No More Secrets

Source: New York Times

12/15/2013

The article examines the number of ways that companies track, observe, and capture data about their customers. Ed Felten, Director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, is quoted.


“Just because information is unavailable to you and you don’t see it doesn’t mean that it is not being captured, stored, or even seen by someone else in transit,” said Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton.

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Native Ads Aren’t as Clear as Outlets Think

Source: Columbia Journalism Review

12/5/2013

The article reports on a recent Federal Trade Commission workshop on deceptive advertising. Privacy scholar Chris Hoofnagle, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, participated in the workshop and is quoted in this article.


“When I hear ‘sponsored by’ I think about things like PBS,” said Hoofnagle. “When you watch the MacNeil/Lehrer Show (PBS NewsHour), it starts out with ‘brought to you by BP.’ I would never think that BP told the television show what stories to run. What I assumed from that representation is that BP provided underwriting that laid a groundwork for the good reporting at PBS.” With native advertising, Hoofnagle learned Wednesday, the exact opposite is true. Rather than publishers independently creating content and then going out to get advertising to support it, advertisers approach publishers and say, “I want you to run a story that is compatible with my product,” continued Hoofnagle. “It doesn’t have to promote my product, but it has to puff it up in some ways. That’s a complete opposite mental model.”

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UPS Researching Delivery Drones that Could Compete with Amazon's Prime Air

Source: The Verge

12/3/2013

The article examines the use of unmanned flying drones by delivery companies such as Amazon and UPS. Ryan Calo, a robotics specialist with the University of Washington School of Law, is quoted.


"I think from both a tech and a policy perspective, delivering to consumers in residential areas is going to be tough thing to accomplish any time soon," says Calo. "But a company like UPS could use drones to bring packages quickly and cheaply from a major airport or city to pick-up centers in more remote locations, speeding up delivery for a lot of customers."

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Bitcoin's Bandwagon Has Never Been More Crowded

Source: New Republic

12/3/2013

In this article he wrote for the New Republic, Professor Eric Posner, University of Chicago School of Law, explains the various theories and escalating hype surrounding the virtual currency. Below are a few excerpts.


To cut through the confusion, one needs to see that there are two different theories as to how bitcoins work—a wrong theory which is driving the excitement, and a banal theory which may leave a marginal place for bitcoin in the financial system.


In the unlikely event that bitcoin ever threatens the dollar, the U.S. government would shut it down.


And if somehow bitcoin nonetheless thwarted efforts by the government to control it, it would surely be a victim of its own success, as other virtual currencies would flood the market, resulting in a volatile situation in which exchange rate risk—a problem faced by exporters and importers—would exist at home as well.


The key security problem introduced by bitcoins is that bitcoin makes a huge amount of money available to people on devices that they carry around with them or leave unsecure in their homes and offices, and thus makes those people juicy marks for criminals.


The real boon is for capital-control evaders, drug dealers, and terrorist financiers. If they, rather than legitimate businesses, are the real beneficiaries of the bitcoin phenomenon, then the government will bar legitimate institutions from the bitcoin market, eliminating its value for most users.

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Bitcoins: Widely Known and Widely Misunderstood

Source: Los Angeles Times

11/24/2013

The article provides an overview of what bitcoins are. Susan Athey, Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, is quoted.


"You just move the money in, move it across the ledger, and move it out again," says Susan Athey, an economist at Stanford. "In principle, you need to only worry about the exchange rate for 10 minutes." Athey says it's the transfer mechanism that's really revolutionary. "All these articles about how bitcoin has moved from $100 to $500 are missing the point," she says. "The point is that we have a new technology that allows any individual in the world to send value from one place to another instantly, in a way that's secure and verifiable."


That's a warning to traditional banks. "Some of their policies do seem archaic," Athey says, mentioning the inordinate delays and fees involved with moving even modest sums from your bank to your broker. "Having an alternative will put a lot of pressure on these systems to modernize."

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Siding With Google, Judge Says Book Search Does Not Infringe Copyright

Source: The New York Times

11/14/2013

The article reports on Judge Chin’s dismissal of the Authors Guild lawsuit against Google which claimed that the Googles Books project violates the copyright fair-use doctrine. Law professor James Grimmelmann is quoted.


“What seemed insanely ambitious and this huge effort that seemed very dangerous in 2004 now seems ordinary,” said James Grimmelmann, a law professor at the University of Maryland who has followed the case closely. “Technology and media have moved on so much that it’s just not a big deal.”

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Everything You Think You Know About Thomas Edison Might Be Wrong

Source: U.S. Science News

11/10/2013

The article references Professor Mark Lemley’s paper, “The Myth of the Sole Inventor,” which disputes the invention stories of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Morse, and Eli Whitney.


“Edison did not ‘invent’ the light bulb in any meaningful sense,” says Lemley. Electric lighting was long in the works when Edison came on the scene, and his work attracted several patent infringement lawsuits from his contemporaries. “What Edison really did well,” Lemley argues, “was commercialize the invention.”


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Privacy Is a Red Herring

Source: Foreign Policy

11/7/2013

The article examines the contradictory attitudes of those on opposing sides of the debates NSA surveillance and privacy. Daniel Solove, George Washington University is quoted, and his paper, “Understanding Privacy” is referenced.


As George Washington University Law School Professor Daniel Solove puts it, privacy is "a concept in disarray. Nobody can articulate what it means." Ask a dozen people to define privacy and you'll get a dozen different answers: privacy encompasses, notes Solove, "freedom of thought, control over one's body, solitude in one's home, control over personal information, freedom from surveillance, protection of one's reputation, and protection from searches and interrogations."


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Latest NSA Overreach Awakens Tech Giants in Washington

Source: National Journal

11/3/2013

The article reports on the efforts of leading technology companies (Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and America Online) to call for legislation that would curtail the National Security Agency’s (NSA) authority. Professor Ed Felten, Princeton University, is quoted.


Whether more revelations are coming or not, the latest spate [of NSA revelations] "will further strain the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA because it involves intruding into the internal communications of the companies," said Ed Felten, director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. "Rather than using court orders served on the companies, I think this will be seen as crossing a boundary that people didn't expect government to cross."

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Warily, Schools Watch Students on the Internet

Source: The New York Times

10/28/2013

This article examines the rising trend of school administrators’ surveillance of their students’ online speech. John Palfrey's work with his students at Phillips Academy is featured. Palfrey is the Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover and the Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.


John G. Palfrey Jr., head of Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, said he favored a middle ground. He follows his students on Twitter if they follow him, for instance, but he is wary of automated tools that try to conduct what he called National Security Agency-style surveillance.


Mr. Palfrey offered an offline analogy. “We wouldn’t want to record every conversation they [students] are having in the hallway,” he said. “The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority, but we also need for them to have the time and space to grow without feeling like we are watching their every move.”


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Is Ad Avoidance a Problem?

Source: The New Yorker

10/23/2013

In this article, Tim Wu, Columbia University law professor, asks if avoiding ads is sustainable for the development and delivery of content (articles, movies, live sportscasts). A few excerpts are quoted below.


The argument is pretty simple: if you destroy the advertising revenue that content depends on, we’ll end up in a cultural wasteland, or, worse, a culture plagued by advertising that masquerades as content. But things are more complex than they may at first appear.


Some of what’s called ad-avoidance might be better termed “paying for stuff.” Netflix, Amazon, HBO Go, and other subscription services are direct beneficiaries of people who hate ads. While not ad-free, the New York Times, reversing a trend that began in the eighteen-thirties, now makes more money from its subscribers than its advertisers.


As consumers, we should understand ad-avoidance as a way of setting a price on our time and attention. For the past century, we’ve arguably been selling it too cheap, trading it all for a few decent sitcoms and sports programming. The rise of ad-avoidance is a way of putting a higher price on the privilege of doing what ads do—make brands more valuable and convince us to spend money.


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Keeping Teens ‘Private’ on Facebook Won’t Protect Them

Source: Time

10/22/2013

In this article for Time, danah boyd debates the pros and cons of allowing teens to participate on social media with the general public, not just with their friends. boyd is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, a research assistant professor in media, culture and communication at New York University and a fellow at Harvard‘s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.


But why should youth not be allowed to participate in public life? Do paternalistic, age-specific technology barriers really protect or benefit teens?


Rather than trying to protect teens from all fears and risks that we can imagine, let’s instead imagine ways of integrating them constructively into public life. The key to doing so is not to create technologies that reinforce limitations but to provide teens and parents with the mechanisms and information needed to make healthy decisions.


But it should not be up to technology companies to determine when teens are old enough to have their voices heard publicly. Parents should be allowed to work with their children to help them navigate public spaces as they see fit.


I commend Facebook for giving teens the option and working hard to inform them of the significance of their choices.


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Bulk Phone Data Reveals 'Startling Insights,' Senate Committee Told

Source: United Press International (UPI)

10/4/2013

Princeton University computer scientist Ed Felten testified at a U.S. Senate Judiciary hearing on "Continued Oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." Excerpts from his testimony are quoted in this article.


Testifying before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week, Felten said merely combining an analysis of phone records with call times and durations can give investigators insights into people's work, social habits, religion and political affiliations.


"It is no longer safe to assume that this 'summary' or 'non-content' information is less revealing or less sensitive than the contents it describes," Felten said. "Just by using new technologies such as smart phones and social media, we leave rich and revealing trails of metadata as we move through daily life. Many details of our lives can be gleaned by examining those trails."


"The structured nature of metadata makes it easy to analyze massive data sets using sophisticated data-mining and link-analysis programs," Felten said. "Those advances have radically increased our ability to collect, store, and analyze personal communications, including metadata."


"When focused on intelligence targets, metadata collection can be a valuable tool," Felten said. "At the same time, unfocused collection of metadata on the American population gives government access to many of the same sensitive facts about the lives of ordinary Americans that have traditionally been protected by limits on content collection."

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Pig Sales Fly Blind as Data Cut by Shutdown Hampers Firms

Source: Bloomberg

10/3/2013

The article explores the impact of the government shutdown on a wide variety of businesses that rely on data from government agencies such as the Commerce Department (for information on new-home sales, demographics, and international-trade statistics), the U.S. International Trade Commission (access to its database of complaints and the agency filings), and the U.S. Labor Department (for its monthly employment report). Erik Brynjolfsson, MIT Center for Digital Business, is quoted.


Over the past decade, “we’ve seen a shift toward a more data-driven approach in business decision-making, and the combination of government and private data has been very valuable,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, director for digital business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management in Cambridge. “You lose one part of that, you lose the synergy.”

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Is This the Grossest Advertising Strategy of All Time?

Source: The Atlantic

10/3/2013

The article examines a study by the marketing firm PHD that identifies the times of day and days of the week when women feel the most vulnerable about their appearance, and recommends a strategy of advertising beauty products during those times. Privacy law professor Ryan Calo, University of Washington, and his recent paper on “Digital Market Manipulation” are quoted.


"Advertisers can only reach people at their most vulnerable if they can reach them practically anytime," he explained to me over email. For most of us, the Internet allows that opportunity, and even when we're not at a computer, we tend to have our phones with us. "The woman who (apparently, research suggests) feels bad about herself in the morning," he writes, "can receive a text right then and there from a company offering a 'beauty' product."

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Stale Cookies: How Companies Are Tracking You Online Today

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

10/2/2013

The article examines the current efforts from the online ad industry to track user behavior in order to effectively market to them, and consumers’ efforts to disable browser cookies that allow marketers to monitor their online movements. Law privacy expert Chris Hoofnagle, University of California, Berkeley, is quoted.


“Google knows exactly who you are because there is so much authentication built into Google’s services,” said Chris Hoofnagle, director of the information privacy programs at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, in an email. “We are moving to an authenticated web where one is always signed in, and that authentication, even if on the surface (it’s) pseudonymous, typically indicates the user’s identity.”


“[Google’s anonymous identifier] AdID appears to be one of those mechanisms that might be both good and bad for privacy,” Hoofnagle said. “Good for those who are worried about the many companies trying to track them, but bad for those who think that concentrating tracking power at a single company raises special risks.”

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6 Reasons We Share Too Much Online, According to Behavioral Scientists

Source: Mother Jones

10/1/2013

The article discusses findings from “What is Privacy Worth?,” a study by Alessandro Acquisti, Carnegie Mellon University, Leslie John, and George Loewenstein. In the study, Professor Acqusiti and his colleagues ran a series of experiments to understand the value individuals place on their privacy.


"Not even the experts have a full understanding of how personal data is used in an increasingly complicated market," points out Carnegie Mellon University public policy professor Alessandro Acquisti, who researches the psychology behind online privacy perceptions.


A study last year by Acquisti … found that people were willing to accept wildly varying sums of money in exchange for giving out their email address and information about their hobbies and interests—from $0 to $100,000.


"Even those that are privacy sensitive among us may rationally decide not to protect their privacy," Acquisti explains. "Not because they don't care, but because it's just too hard. You could be trying to do everything right, and your data could still be compromised."

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Don't Blame Technology for Persistent Unemployment

Source: Slate

9/30/2013

In this opinion piece for Slate, James Bessen, Boston University School of Law, argues that technological innovation, specifically in automation, can create jobs in many industries. Mr. Bessen shows that “technology is not the cause of the slow economic recovery” by outlining the offsetting benefits of automation.


When technology eliminates some tasks involved in a job, it makes remaining, related tasks more valuable. Sometimes this greater value can create job growth.


In other cases, technology creates offsetting job growth in different occupations or industry segments.


Technology does place a burden on displaced workers: They often suffer lower wages until they learn the skills to use new technology. The need for new skills might explain why wages are stagnant. But technology is not the cause of the slow economic recovery.

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Teens Shifting Privacy Settings on Facebook — Really?

Source: The Huffington Post

9/30/2013

The article examines teenagers’ choices with their privacy settings and control access to their photos and personal information on Facebook. A study conducted by Microsoft researcher danah boyd and Eszter Hargittai on Facebook privacy settings is quoted.


And in a fairly large study conducted in two waves at the University of Illinois by Danah Boyd and Ezster Hargittai, the researchers found that first year college students reported "far from being nonchalant and unconcerned about privacy matters, the majority of young adult users of Facebook are engaged with managing their privacy settings on the site at least to some extent. The frequency with which they adjust their settings and their confidence in doing so may vary, but most report modifying their settings."


Boyd and Hargittai found that there were some differences between young people who had more experience and skill with Facebook and those who had less in terms of the ways that they deal with their privacy settings. The researchers also suggested that it's really important to try to understand more about the "relationship between what people say they do, what they actually do, and what their settings functionally mean."

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In Battle Against Patent Abuse, Vermont Is Troll Hunting

Source: Vermont’s NPR News Source

9/30/2013

The story reports from a panel discussion on Patent Abuse at Champlain College. James Bessen, Boston University School of Law, presented at the event; he is quoted in this story.


James Bessen, co-author of Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk and lecturer at Boston University … said the problems the patent system is seeing now date back to the 1990s, when high-growth Internet and computer technology companies filed for thousands of patents that now seem over-broad and outdated.


Bessen said the problem with patent abuse is that it is contrary to the very purpose of patents. Instead of protecting innovative companies and allowing them to recover their research and development costs, it's making innovation costly.


"This is acting as a tax on R&D," he said.

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If Our Top Patent Court Screws Up Slipper Patents, How Can It Rule Sensibly on Smartphones?

Source: The Washington Post

9/24/2013

Professor James Grimmelmann, Director of the Intellectual Property Program and the University of Maryland, shows how the Federal Circuit court has weakened design patent law by examining a recent design patent case involving fur-lined slippers.


The nation's top patent court has been on a Frankenstein-like quest to reanimate design patent law, stitching together pieces of patent law, copyright law and even trademark law into an unnatural monster.


Like its utility patent doctrines, the Federal Circuit's design patent doctrines systematically uphold patents that should never have been granted in the first place, giving trolls and titans the ability to extort settlements and muscle out the competition.


Ultimately, only Congress can solve the problem by rolling back the Federal Circuit's jurisdiction and taking more intellectual property cases away from it.

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Are Robots Going To Kill Your Next Job Or Create It?

Source: Fast Company

9/13/2013

The article asks the question: will the robotics revolution be an aggregate job creator or job killer for humans? MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson shares his thoughts.


“Technological progress is not a rising tide that automatically raises all incomes,” say Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT’s Sloan School of Management and coauthors of Race Against the Machine. “Even as overall wealth increases, there can be, and usually will be, winners and losers.” What Brynjolfsson and McAfee refer to is the division of rewards that will potentially make “some people worse off than they were before the innovation, . . .” adding that, “the losers are not necessarily some small segment of the labor force, like buggy-whip manufacturers.”

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The Law that Gave Us the Modern Internet—and the Campaign to Kill It

Source: The Atlantic

9/12/2013

The article explains Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and examines its effect on innovation as well as a proposed exception to it. Section 230 states, essentially, that websites cannot be sued or prosecuted for content posted by their visitors. It is important to note that it does not apply to copyright infringement. Law professor Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University, responds to a proposal by a group of State Attorneys General for an exception to Section 230 that would allow states to prosecute internet companies for violations of state criminal law for their online publication of third party content.


As Santa Clara law professor Eric Goldman explains, the move would end up "eviscerating" Section 230, removing a "key internet immunity" that has been responsible for the "extraordinary Internet boom over the past 15+ years." Companies would be forced to take on the prohibitively expensive cost of policing their entire websites. Suddenly, speech law would have the same level of uncertainty as copyright.

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Here Are Some of America's Most Privacy Friendly Companies

Source: Forbes

9/11/2013

Leading privacy advocates were asked for suggestions of companies they see as especially privacy friendly. Chris Hoofnagle, University of California, Berkeley, offered his list.


Chris Hoofnagle, director of Information Privacy Programs at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, singled out an entirely different set of firms. “I think you’ll find that the companies that perform the best on that are B2B services, such as Salesforce, which explicitly says that the data you load into their service is yours, that you can encrypt it (so Salesforce cannot read it), and that they will never sell it,” he said. “App.net is probably in that category. It’s basically only going to be for-pay services.”


“In financial services, Amex and Discover are the best for payments, Square is also good, and non-profit banks such as USAA have good practices.”

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Big Data from Talking Turbines Signal Productivity Boom

Source: Bloomberg

9/11/2013

The article examines how innovative technology, such as interconnected computers and intelligent mobile monitoring, are setting the stage for a wave of productivity gains. Professor Erik Brynjolfsson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is quoted.


“I’m quite optimistic,” said Brynjolfsson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in Cambridge. “When I look at the technologies coming along, I project some big improvements from productivity.”


“There are always lags between the introduction of new technologies and productivity gains,” Brynjolfsson said. “In my papers, we found that companies that installed big, new enterprise information systems didn’t get the full benefits for five to seven years.”

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How the NSA Revelations Are Hurting Businesses

Source: Forbes

9/10/2013

The article explores the impact on businesses of the news about the National Security Agency’s practice of establishing ‘back doors’ into encryption programs. Computer science professor Ed Felten, Princeton University, is quoted.


Princeton technologist Ed Felten — who used to be government-employed at the Federal Trade Commission — writes, “This is going to put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage, because people will believe that U.S. companies lack the ability to protect their customers—and people will suspect that U.S. companies may feel compelled to lie to their customers about security.”

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Drone Skies: The Unmanned Aircraft Revolution Is Coming

Source: Popular Mechanics

9/9/2013

The article examines the proliferation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and the issues that will arise as the FAA creates regulations, mandated by Congress in 2012, to open the National Airspace System to these flying drones. Law professor Ryan Calo, University of Washington, is quoted.


The same things that make drones useful cause the public to worry: UAS are much cheaper to own and operate than helicopters or fixed-wing airplanes. "Drones drive down the cost of surveillance considerably," Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, testified before Congress in March 2013. "We worry that the incidence of surveillance will go up."

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Sales Pitches From Your Refrigerator

Source: The New York Times “Room for Debate”

9/8/2013

In this “Room for Debate” essay, law professor Ryan Calo addresses the question: What are some of the most exciting possibilities for Internet-connected objects, and how can we minimize the risks that come with them?


The Internet of things presents not just a window to peer through, but a door upon which to knock.


Where a new technology involves the collection of information, data tends to be the focus of scrutiny. And for good reason: the Internet of things could provide an unparalleled window in the consumer’s home life. But we should not lose sight of the fact that smart and networked things will not just record our world, but also will act upon it.


[But] ultimately, we need to think comprehensively about the impact of new technology on a range of values, and head off efforts to turn our appliances into salespeople.

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The Patent Troll Crisis Is Really a Software Patent Crisis

Source: The Washington Post

9/3/2013

In this article written for The Washington Post, James Bessen explains why software patents are prone to litigation abuses. James Bessen is Lecturer in Law at the Boston University School of Law and Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.


Today’s patent trolls are wreaking damage on a scale not seen in the past. And there's a specific reason for this: The last two decades saw a dramatic increase in the number of patents on software, and these patents are particularly prone to abuse, both by trolls and by other types of patent holders.


[But] Software patents are particularly prone to such abuses because software is inherently conceptual. Software is a technology that represents broad classes of interactions abstractly. That makes it inherently difficult to tie down a software patent to a specific inventive concept.


If they [the appellate court for patents] strictly enforce the Supreme Court’s doctrines, most software patents will be found invalid, disrupting powerful interest groups. If they don’t, then wasteful litigation will continue to grow, imposing large costs on society, costs that are already inhibiting innovation.


Today, the explosion of patent troll litigation provides stark evidence that old patent doctrines are not providing clear boundaries for information technology. The resolution will require substantial changes to the way the law treats software patents.

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Is Big Data an Economic Big Dud?

Source: The New York Times

8/17/2013

The article explores whether Big Data will have an impact on our economy. Professor Shane Greenstein, Northwestern University, offers his thoughts.


In addition, infrastructure investments often take years to pay off in a big way, said Shane Greenstein, an economist at Northwestern University. He cited high-speed Internet connections laid down in the late 1990s that have driven profits only recently. But he noted that in contrast to the Internet’s first wave, which created services like the Web and e-mail, the impact of the second wave — the Big Data revolution — is harder to discern above the noise of broader economic activity.


“It could be just time delay, or it could be that the value just isn’t there,” said Mr. Greenstein, who has studied the competitive success of online businesses in media, advertising and retailing.

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What Does It Really Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us Online?

Source: The Atlantic

8/16/2013

The article examines the arguments that Professor Ryan Calo makes for the potential harms of digital-ad targeting in his recently released a paper called, “Digital Market Manipulation.” Professor Calo is a privacy and robotics expert with the University of Washington School of Law.


Right now, he [Calo] writes, digital advertising's main strategy is relevance: putting the relevant ad in front of the right person. But Calo foresees a much more personalized approach down the road -- not just the right good, but a customized pitch, delivered late at night, when the company knows you, particularly, have a tendency to make impulse purchases.


The consumer is shedding information that, without her knowledge or against her wishes, will be used to charge her as much as possible, to sell her a product or service she does not need or needs less of, or to convince her in a way that she would find objectionable were she aware of the practice.


The value of Calo's paper is not in laying out where we should go from here but in disentangling the mess of problems related to identity and privacy online, and extracting from that mess a set of issues that are recognizable: consumer protection.

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The New Age of Algorithms: How It Affects the Way We Live

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

8/11/2013

The article examines how Big Data may revolutionize every facet of life. Professor Erik Brynjolfsson’s book, “Race Against the Machine” (with co-author Andrew McAfee) is referenced. Professor Brynjolfsson is the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and the Schussel Family Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.


[In "Race Against the Machine," Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Erik Brynjolfsson and MIT researcher Andrew McAfee write: ] "More data crosses the Internet every second than were stored in the entire Internet 20 years ago."


Evidence that Big Data promises enormous benefits is more than anecdotal. MIT's Mr. Brynjolfsson did a study in 2012 examining 179 companies. He found those whose decisions were "data-driven" had become 5 to 6 percent more productive in ways only the use of data could explain.


Brynjolfsson and Mr. McAfee compare Big Data to Leeuwenhoek's development of the microscope in the 1670s. They are, after all, both tools. They let people see lots of things that have always been around. Of course, the microscope also prompted us to ask questions we could never ask before. Big Data does that, too.

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Google Glass Sees All — And That Raises Privacy Concerns

Source: The Los Angeles Times

8/9/2013

The article examines the privacy implications with Google Glass. Glass are digital goggles that, according to Google, are a revolutionary way to quickly and effortlessly connect people with information. Professor Ryan Calo, University of Washington, is quoted.


That in-your-face quality of Glass could wake up more people to their ever shrinking privacy in the rapidly advancing digital age, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo said.


Not only will people be more keenly aware that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public, Glass and devices like it could make it easier for government authorities to gain access to everything they see and record without a warrant, he said.


And, with a warrant, the government might even be able to remotely turn on Glass' video recording capability without the user's knowledge, the way it has done with OnStar systems in cars, Calo said.

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Apple Wins Patent Ruling Against Samsung

Source: Chicago Tribune

8/9/2013

The article examines the recent ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission that Samsung violated two crucial mobile patents held by Apple and that products using the related technology should be banned from being imported into the U.S. Intellectual property law professor Mark Lemley, Stanford University, is quoted.


"Coupled with the veto, it definitely puts Samsung back on the defensive," said Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School. "Samsung's phones can be blocked but Apple's can't."

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Patent Case Has Potential to Give Apple the Upper Hand

Source: The New York Times

8/8/2013

The article details the upcoming ruling expected from the U.S. International Trade Commission on whether it will uphold a preliminary finding that Samsung mobile products violated a handful of Apple patents. Professor Robert Merges, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, is quoted.


The decision on Friday is not over essential patents. But if the commission hands Apple another victory, Robert P. Merges, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said the Obama administration could again overrule any import ban the commission puts in place, as part of a strategy to diminish the power of patent litigation as an industry weapon.


“I think there are a lot of political implications,” he said, referring to the possible reaction by other governments. “You’ll have the obvious favoring-the-home-team problem. But I would be shocked if they didn’t think this through carefully.”

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Apple, Samsung's Next Big Showdown Could Reshape Patent Law

Source: Silicon Valley

8/6/2013

In the latest round between Apple and Samsung, the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals will review U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s ruling last year rejecting Apple's bid for a permanent injunction against a line of older Samsung smartphones and tablets. The article discusses the potential for the appeals court ruling to reshape patent law. Intellectual property law professor Mark Lemley, Stanford University, is quoted.


"I think it is extremely important," said Mark Lemley, a Stanford University law professor and leading tech law scholar. "It could fundamentally change the way the patent system works in the (technology) industries."


If Koh is upheld, "it will be very hard for any company to get an injunction in a complex, multi-component industry like smartphones," Lemley said. "It may also finally prod the parties to settle if it is clear that there is only money and not market control at stake in these lawsuits."

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DOJ to Apple: Your Punishment Must Be More Severe

Source: The Washington Post

8/2/2013

The article looks at the actions the U.S. Department of Justice is proposing against Apple now that that the App Store leader has been found guilty of conspiring to fix e-book prices with publishers. Law professor Randy Picker, University of Chicago Law School, is quoted.


“When you’re going to launch a platform, you want to have stuff on it,” Randall Picker, an antitrust scholar at the University of Chicago, told my colleague Timothy Lee last month. “An e-book store with five books is not very attractive. They’re going to want to enter at a certain scale.”

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Department of Justice Proposes a Fix to Apple's E-Book Price Fixing

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

8/2/2013

The article examines the U.S. Department of Justice’s proposal that Apple be required to provide links to other companies’ e-book stores from within Apple’s e-book app at no cost to the other companies. Apple has been found guilty of conspiring to fix e-book prices in violation of antitrust laws. Professor Scott Hemphill, Columbia University, is quoted.


“The big picture concern is that the DOJ seems to be showing some interest in Apple's app platform," says Scott Hemphill, a law professor at Columbia University. While the company usually keeps 30 percent of the revenue made from purchases in the App Store, the DOJ would require Apple to link to other stores' prices free of charge. "The government did not allege in the case [against Apple that its] prohibition on links [to outside sites] was an anti-competitive act in the first place," Mr. Hemphill says. Tacking on this condition in the proposal could be a signal that the DOJ has taken interest in the wider question of how the App Store operates.

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Facebook Creates Guide for Domestic Violence Victims

Source: NBC News

8/1/2013

The story highlights Facebook and the National Network to End Domestic Violence work in creating a guide on privacy and safety aimed at survivors of abuse. danah boyd, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research and Research Assistant Professor at New York University, shares her expertise on youth and online behavior.


"Friends who have less motivation to lock down everything may post an announcement of an event that, in effect, announces the location of a victim. And when victims' comments on friends' posts are made visible, this too can be used to glean information," Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research, whose research focuses on young people and social media, countered in an email to NBC News. "What victims need — more than anything — is not to be able to be found, online or offline."

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How to Get Out of Your Wireless Phone Contract

Source: The Wall Street Journal

8/1/2013

The article provides information on how to avoid fees when terminating a cell-phone contract early. Omri Ben-Shahar, University of Chicago, is quoted.


University of Chicago Law School professor Omri Ben-Shahar, who studies consumer law and consumer protection, said that compared to a few years ago, cellphone consumers are now much more informed and have more choices, so anyone interested in avoiding termination fees can do so more easily. While early termination fees may be burdensome for some, he said, if they didn’t exist then neither would discounts on phones.


“It is a tradeoff,” Mr. Ben-Shahar said. “And while we tend sometimes to focus on the travails of those who want to switch and are stuck and have to pay a stiff penalty, we less often notice the reduction in price that is enjoyed by everyone else.”

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Microsoft to Drop ‘SkyDrive’ in Trademark Settlement

Source: The Seattle Times

8/1/2013

The article examines the settlement between Microsoft and British Sky Broadcasting Group, which had contended that Microsoft’s use of “SkyDrive” infringed on the British company’s “Sky” trademark. Intellectual property law expert Mark Lemley of Stanford Law School is quoted.


“Trademark owners have become increasingly aggressive, making more and more outrageous claims,” Stanford University law professor Mark Lemley said.


“The idea that consumers would be confused into thinking that SkyDrive and British Sky Broadcasting were the same thing is ludicrous. ... I think Microsoft simply decided that keeping the name wasn’t worth the additional time and uncertainty of an appeal,” Lemley said.

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Here’s Why Economists Hate Software Patents

Source: The Washington Post

7/31/2013

The article looks at economist and patent lawyers’ thoughts on the value of patent protection for software. Law professor Doug Lichtman, UCLA, is quoted.


Doug Lichtman, a law professor at UCLA, once told me that a rule against patents on software would be an “odd way to divide the world up.”

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We Don’t Need More Humanities Majors

Source: The Washington Post

7/30/2013

This opinion piece discusses the impact of innovation on the U.S. economy and the type of people who do the innovating. A report by economist Giovanni Peri, UC Davis, is referenced.


Another recent study from UC-Davis economics professor Giovanni Peri and Colgate economics associate professor Chad Sparber finds the small number of “foreign scientists and engineers brought into this country under the H-1B visa program have contributed to 10%-20% of the yearly productivity growth in the U.S. during the period 1990-2010.”

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We’re Using a Ton of Mobile Data. With Google Glass, We’re About to Use a Whole Lot More.

Source: The Washington Post

7/30/2013

The article examines the burden on the country’s Internet infrastructure with upcoming technologies such as Google Glass. Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display. Gregory Rosston, Deputy Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, shares his expertise in spectrum policy.


“The iPhone was a game changer in terms of how much data people used,” said Rosston. “That caused two things: The carriers built out much more capacity . . . and they pushed people to pay for data. I think if Google Glass takes off, two similar things will happen.”


All that cultural output will require an Internet connection. And it’s not just Glass that could take off this way. As Stanford’s Rosston said, other products in the wearable-tech category might wind up being the killer tethered device.


“We don’t know if it’s Google Glass that’s going to be the one to take off, or Apple’s iGlass, if you’ll excuse the expression,” Rosston joked. “But whatever it is . . . they either try to increase capacity or they try and take advantage of [the lack of supply] and raise prices. I think they’ll do both.”

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Apps That Know What You Want, Before You Do

Source: The New York Times

7/29/2013

The article takes a look at a range of new tools being developed that act as robotic personal assistants, anticipating what you need before you ask for it. Andrea Matwyshyn of the University of Pennsylvania is quoted.


"To the question of creepiness, the answer is it depends who you ask," said Andrea M. Matwyshyn, an assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies the legal implications of technology. "What works for a group of 30-something engineers in Silicon Valley may not be representative of the way that 60-year-old executives in New York tend to use their phones."


"People could find the interface disruptive rather than helpful," Matwyshyn said.

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House Panel Hears Call for Federal Breach Notice Law to Preempt States

Source: Bloomberg BNA

7/22/2013

University of Pennsylvania law professor Andrea Matwyshyn testified before the House Energy and Commerce committee on data breach reporting. Bloomberg BNA reported on the panel. Below are select quotes from Professor Matwyshyn.


Andrea M. Matwyshyn, assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, agreed with other panelists that some sort of unifying federal baseline standard could be useful, but took a largely contrary view in her testimony on whether it should preempt state laws or include exemptions.


Although she suggested that a central repository of data breaches reported to and maintained by the Federal Trade Commission would be a good idea, she emphasized that states should be able to maintain and enforce their breach notice regimes.


“Limiting states' rights to impose liability for information security misconduct will further erode consumer trust and damage innovation in the United States,” she said.


Matwyshyn argued for a threshold for breach notification that would eschew a risk of harm standard, instead saying that breaches should be reported for “unauthorized access of any protected information connected with a consumer login credential.”

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Following KKR's Footsteps, Blackstone Chases Retail Clients with First Ever Mutual Fund

Source: Forbes

7/16/2013

The story looks at the new trend of investment firms whose historic roots are in private equity, moving into the retail investment world with mutual funds to attract individual investors. Economics professor Josh Lerner, Harvard University, is quoted.


“The implications for alternative asset managers are staggering because the bulk of all their money has historically come from pensions that are now going away,” Josh Lerner, who teaches investment banking at Harvard Business School told Forbes. “Over the next five to ten years individual investors are going to be a very important source of capital for alternative asset managers, and you’ll see them rethinking their business models.”

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Do Not Track proposal is DOA

Source: CNN Money

7/16/2013

The article reports on the stalled efforts of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) to agree to the development of Do-Not-Track technology. Privacy expert Peter Swire, Georgia Tech, and co-chair of the global Do Not Track process for the World Wide Web Consortium, is quoted.


"There would be widespread confusion if consumers select a Do Not Track option, only to have targeting and collection continue unchanged," wrote Matthias Schunter and Peter Swire, co-chairs of the tracking protection working group.


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‘Do Not Track’ Rules Come a Step Closer to an Agreement

Source: The New York Times

7/15/2013

The article reports on the decision by the W3C’s Tracking Protection Working Group for a uniform Do Not Track standard for the Internet. Law professor Peter Swire, Ohio State University, is quoted.


“The public meaning of Do Not Track is to limit behavioral advertising,” said Peter P. Swire, a law professor at Ohio State University who is a chairman of the Tracking Protection Working Group, along with Matthias Schunter, principal engineer at the Intel Corporation.

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Apple Loses E-Book Price Fixing Case

Source: National Public Radio’s All Things Considered

7/10/2013

The report examines the federal district court decision against Apple in the e-books price fixing case. Law professor James Grimmelmann, University of Maryland, helps to explain Judge Cote’s decision.


James Grimmelmann, a law professor at the University of Maryland, says the judge laid out a convincing case that when Apple began talks with the publishers, they all knew exactly what they were doing.


JAMES GRIMMELMANN: The publishers wanted to transition to agency. But they were afraid of doing it on their own, but they would be happy to jump if Apple said let's all jump at the same time. So by saying jump, Apple was able to organize an effective conspiracy.


NEARY: Grimmelmann says Apple uses the agency modeled in other parts of its business but this decision should have no effect on that.


GRIMMELMANN: Doesn't say there is anything wrong with selling on the agency model where they take a commission; nothing wrong with having fixed priced buckets. It was purely about Apple's negotiating tactics in the run-up to the launch of the iBooks store. This means that for the most part, the app store, the music store, those things should be unaffected.

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In Apple Case, ‘The Line between the Legal and the Illegal Seems So Thin’

Source: The Washington Post

7/10/2013

In this interview, Professor Randy Picker, University of Chicago Law School, explains the antitrust implications from the Apple e-book price-fixing antitrust case.


I wish the opinion cited to the record more, but based on [Judge Cote's] rendition of the evidence, it seems very clear that Apple should have known, probably did know, that publishers would try to raise e-book prices.


The line between the legal and the illegal seems so thin.


I think it’s fair to say that one should be concerned that when we bring antitrust liability to bear in these situations that we’re going to make it harder for people to do these kinds of deals.

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Digital Books Are Under the Control of Distributors Rather than Readers

Source: Wired

7/8/2013

In his article for Wired magazine, Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain examines issues of censorship, content altering, and access restrictions that are unique to books in electronic formats. Below are a few excerpts from the article.


Digital books and other texts are increasingly coming under the control of distributors and other gatekeepers rather than readers and libraries.


With cloud-based services, one "master" copy of the book is always online, but that makes it vulnerable to manipulation or even deletion.


Anyone with claims of copyright infringement, defamation, plagiarism or obscenity now has a powerful new tool to compel the full or partial retraction or alteration of a book. Even the mere threat of a lawsuit could pressure authors to digitally alter or retract what they've written.

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Stanford Economist Musters Big Data to Shape Web Future

Source: Bloomberg

6/26/2013

The article profiles economics professor Susan Athey. Professor Athey is an economic theorist who has made significant contributions to the study of industrial organization. She is currently Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Below are a few quotes from the article.


Discussing search technology with Microsoft executives in 2007:

“The obvious question was, would this become a one-firm show or was it possible to have two competing search engines?” recalled Athey, an authority on timber auctions who had just begun studying the market for digital advertising. “I believed then, based on economic theory and some data, and I believe more strongly now that it’s indeed possible to have two competing search engines and that it’s also incredibly important for the Internet ecosystem.”


Opportunities for the future:

“We’ve never had data on that scale before to study behavior,” which “creates opportunities for new science,” she said. “I want to help the economics field embrace those opportunities.”

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States Move to Draft Their Own Drone Laws

Source: Homeland Security News Wire

6/20/2013

The article discusses the various parameters states are putting on drone use. Margot Kaminski, Executive Director of the Information Society Project at Yale University, is quoted.


Margot Kaminski, a scholar at Yale Law School … warns that private drone use can lead to First Amendment problems. “If you have a news organization hovering over a protest and videoing cops beating protesters, that’s really valuable for the First Amendment,” Kaminski told the Post. State courts have determined that private citizens have a First Amendment right to record the activities of public officials, meaning that recording police conduct is protected.


Although Kaminski does not agree with the provisions in the Texas and Idaho bills, she also does not want the federal government to determine what can and cannot be used in a drone bill, saying federal legislation could end up in a poorly crafted law on the entire country.

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Secrecy and Freedom

Source: The New York Times “Room for Debate”

6/10/2013

Given recent events about two government surveillance programs being leaked, law professor Eric Posner, University of Chicago, helps to answer the question: Is government surveillance a threat to our democracy?


Objections to this surveillance are theoretical, and the mere potential for abuse can’t by itself be a good reason to shut down a program. If it were, we would have no government.


Objections to the secrecy of the N.S.A. program are thus really objections to our political system itself, and, for all its flaws, there are no obviously superior alternatives.


I doubt meaningful democratic debate about the [N.S.A.] program would have been possible unless details were given, so that people actually understood what they were debating about. Details like who is targeted, and why, and on the basis of what evidence; details like what abuses might take place, and how they are corrected. … But once the N.S.A. reveals the details of the policy, its effectiveness diminishes as targets learn how to evade it. I wish there were a solution to this problem but I don’t see it.

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Debate on Secret Data Looks Unlikely, Partly Because of Secrecy

Source: The New York Times

6/10/2013

In light of the Edward Snowden leaks of secret documents about the National Security Agency’s surveillance, this article examines the legal and political obstacles to having a debate between national security and personal privacy. Law professor Peter Swire, Ohio State University, is quoted.


“The Democrats want to support Obama, and the Republicans supported FISA expansion,” said Peter Swire, an expert on privacy at Ohio State University, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “Both parties face internal tensions on this issue.”

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Data Scientists Led by NASA Star Most Sought for Century: Jobs

Source: Bloomberg

6/10/2013

The article examines the growing demand by U.S. employers for data scientists. Economics professor Susan Athey, Stanford Graduate School of Business, is quoted.


“In most areas of the modern economy, math and statistics have never been more important,” said Susan Athey, an economics professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business near Palo Alto, California. “As firms get more and more data-driven, there become fewer and fewer careers that don’t require those skills.”

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Key to Government’s Monitoring Power Lies in War, Technology

Source: The Washington Post

6/7/2013

The article examines the government surveillance practices that came to light with the recent leaking of National Security Agency data collection processes. Law professor Daniel Solove, George Washington University, is quoted.


“What the government can do is certainly much greater than before 9/11,” said Daniel Solove, a George Washington University law professor and author of “Nothing to Hide.” “The Obama administration by and large has not done anything to dial it back. If anything, maybe they’ve dialed it forward.”

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Local People React to NSA Collecting Verizon Telephone Data

Source: CBS Pittsburgh

6/7/2013

The story provides reaction from Professor Lorrie Faith Cranor to the recent news about the leaking of National Security Agency data collection practices. Professor Cranor is director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS) and teaches courses on privacy, usable security, and computers and society at Carnegie Mellon University.


“Telephony metadata is information about what phone number is calling what other phone number and the location of those devices,” says Professor Lorrie Cranor, a Carnegie Mellon University international expert on cyber security.


Cranor told KDKA political editor Jon Delano that she suspects that other secret court orders cover telephone providers like AT&T and Sprint. After all, this order is the 80th order issued this year.


“It seems unlikely to me that they’d only be looking at Verizon,” noted Cranor.

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NSA Surveillance Reflects a Broader Interpretation of the Patriot Act

Source: MIT Technology Review

6/7/2013

The article examines the government surveillance practices that came to light with the recent leaking of National Security Agency data collection processes. Law professor Deirdre Mulligan, University of California, Berkeley, is quoted.


Deirdre Mulligan, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley School of Information and the chair of the Center for Democracy & Technology, is also worried, and she’s not the only one. She attended the Privacy Law Scholars Conference at UC Berkeley on Friday and says the feeling was “morose.”


“I think this revelation makes clear there was a cost to not having a more detailed conversation and public decision about the balances between democracy and policing,” she says.


“It seems to me that the time is really ripe for Congress to, in a very detailed and public way, get a better handle on the sorts of activities that we are engaged in in the name of the war on terror,” Mulligan says.

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