Tag Archives: Congress Watch

“I have nothing to hide. Why should I care about my privacy?”

By Fábio Esteves – There are two sets of reasons to care about your privacy even if you’ve got nothing to hide: ideological reasons and practical reasons.

Don’t confuse privacy with secrecy. I know what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door. That’s because you want privacy, not secrecy.

A company like Facebook or Google allows you to upload unlimited data to their servers, for free. What’s their business model? How do they make so much money? They sell your info to advertising companies. But they never asked you if you wanted to sell your information. If someone asked you in person 100 questions about your personal life to sell it, would you answer them? Probably not, right? But you let this happen every time you use a service that makes money selling your info. more> https://goo.gl/mstSm5

How social media filter bubbles and algorithms influence the election

By Alex Hern – One of the most powerful players in the British electiLogusNoes9]on is also one of the most opaque. With just over two weeks to go until voters go to the polls, there are two things every election expert agrees on: what happens on social media, and Facebook in particular, will have an enormous effect on how the country votes; and no one has any clue how to measure what’s actually happening there.

Not all of that comes from automation. It also comes from the news culture, bubbles of education, and people’s ability to do critical thinking when they read the news. But the proximate cause of misinformation is Facebook serving junk news to large numbers of users.” more> https://goo.gl/wmkDhT

You Can’t Solve These Problems on an Ad Hoc Basis

By Sasha Cohen O’Connell – Resolving today’s most pressing cyber security and Internet governance challenges is dependent on the tech industry and the government working together on both policy development and policy implementation.

Specifically, collaboration is required to successfully research, design, debate, and ultimately implement effective solutions.

While there is overwhelming consensus on the need for collaboration, it remains a huge challenge. Why?

While many factors contribute to the problem, including differing incentive structures, cultures and business models, one critical element—organizational structure—is a significant and often overlooked hurdle that needs attention and creative solutions.

Most collaborations today are done by ad hoc teams of operational personnel, lawyers, government affairs departments, and/or trade associations or other outside third parties. This setup is neither efficient nor effective. more> https://goo.gl/B0j8RA

Net neutrality 2.0: Perspectives on FCC regulation of internet service providers

By Stuart N. Brotman – The final outcome of this high-profile, high-impact proceeding will not be apparent until sometime late in 2017, at the earliest. Congress may also become more seriously involved at some point on the legislative front.

But without a doubt, as Chairman Pai noted in his Newseum speech, a “fierce debate” lies ahead for a number of months at least. And if past is prologue, the FCC may well receive an avalanche of comments in response to these proposed changes; the record in the Title II Order shows that over four million comments were filed by interested parties and the general public combined.

There will be no lack of political discourse, to be sure.

As we move into 2016, an unresolved national communications policy dilemma remains: whether the public-switched telephone network and the internet are parallel systems or parts of a larger ubiquitous network environment. Determining which characterization will be followed has profound consequences for regulatory treatment.

Given the emerging dominance of mobile over fixed service, if the FCC can’t regulate both, it may win the battle but lose the war. Given that a further appeal is likely regardless of which side prevails, including possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress may find itself re-emerging as the best source of guidance for the FCC. Legislative action can definitively clarify whether Congress intends for the telephone network and internet to be joined at the hip, or should continue to function in parallel with differing regulatory treatment. more> https://goo.gl/f4x8Uh

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A Political, Not Constitutional, Crisis

By Joseph P. Williams – A constitutional crisis is often used [synonymously] with a political crisis. What people see as a confrontation between the branches is often defined as a crisis. The Constitution is designed to have a certain degree of tension between the branches. It is also designed to deal with confrontations between a president and both Congress and the courts.

This is not a constitutional crisis. It’s a political crisis.

The thing is, the FBI director is essentially an at-will employee. He serves at the pleasure of the president. That should come as no surprise to those familiar with our system.

Our Constitution is designed for bad weather, not for good weather. It has survived crises that would have reduced other countries to a fine pumice.

President Trump is allowed to exercise the authority that he used to terminate James Comey.

Congress is allowed to investigate the conditions or reasons of that termination.

The constitutional system is working just fine. more> https://goo.gl/3wRPHf

Donald Trump’s drive for “law and order” undermines the rule of law

By Dara Lind – The Trump administration does not value the rule of law. It values law and order. It values law enforcement as a weapon to be wielded in a particular direction: against social disorder, real and feared. It respects the “front lines” of conflict to protect order, but sees less need to preserve the independence of investigators or prosecutors to choose which violations of law to pursue.

In other words, it’s embracing the brute reality of power — while obliterating one of its most important constraints.

Both “rule of law” and “law and order” are tossed around as political slogans more often than not — and often by the same people. But in practice, they represent slightly different sets of values.

The “rule of law” is a procedural value: It says that the right thing for the government to do is to set, and adhere to, proper processes in all cases, without favor or prejudice to where those processes might lead.

“Law and order,” by contrast, is a substantive value: It says something about what sorts of results the government ought to be getting out of its activity (namely, a reduction in crime and social disorder, and the assurance of a safe and loyal populace). more> https://goo.gl/B0pnlP

Why cyber warfare isn’t

By Mike Hearn – One of the issues (though not at all the only one) is how governments understand the term “cyber warfare”. This term has spread rapidly throughout government in the past 20 years. Presidents, Prime Ministers, generals and journalists all believe they understand what “cyber warfare” is, but they don’t and this lack of understanding leads to events like today’s.

The big problem is that cyber warfare is totally different to normal warfare, in fact it’s so different that calling it warfare at all is meaningless. In regular warfare you can build up your own defenses without improving your opponent’s defenses, and you can develop new weapons that your opponents will not have. This basic asymmetry is key to the very concept of war: the side with the better weapons, defenses and tactics should normally win.

But cyber warfare doesn’t work like that. Because everyone uses the same software infrastructure, and the “weapons” are nothing more than weaknesses in that global infrastructure, building up your own defenses by fixing problems inherently builds up your opponents defenses too. And developing new “weapons” is only possible if your opponents are able to develop the very same weapons for themselves, by exploiting the very same vulnerabilities in your country that you are exploiting in theirs.

Governments have huge problems understanding this fact because politicians tend to reflexively trust their own intelligence agencies, who deliberately obfuscate about it. more> https://goo.gl/t1YWuS

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The American healthcare system is for profit, not patients

BOOK REVIEW

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, Author: Elisabeth Rosenthal.

By Elisabeth Rosenthal – Everyone knows the healthcare system is in disarray. We’ve grown numb to huge bills. We regard high prices as an inescapable American burden. We accept the drugmakers’ argument that they have to charge twice as much for prescriptions as in any other country because lawmakers in nations like Germany and France don’t pay them enough to recoup their research costs.

But would anyone accept that argument if we replaced the word prescriptions with cars or films?

The current market for healthcare just doesn’t deliver. It is deeply, perhaps fatally, flawed.

Imagine if you paid for an airplane ticket and then got separate and inscrutable bills from the airline, the pilot, the copilot, and the flight attendants. That’s how the healthcare market works.

In no other industry do prices for a product vary by a factor of ten depending on where it is purchased, as is the case for bills I’ve seen for echocardiograms, MRI scans, and blood tests to gauge thyroid function or vitamin D levels.

The price of a Prius at a dealership in Princeton, New Jersey, is not five times higher than what you would pay for a Prius in Hackensack and a Prius in New Jersey is not twice as expensive as one in New Mexico.

The price of that car at the very same dealer doesn’t depend on your employer, or if you’re self-employed or unemployed. Why does it matter for healthcare? more> https://goo.gl/5oBK5k

Only governments can safeguard the openness of the internet

By Rufus Pollock – On 6 October 1536, in the prison yard of Vilvoorde castle near modern-day Brussels, a man named William Tyndale was strangled then burnt at the stake. His crime? To translate the Latin Bible into English, his native tongue. A priest and scholar, Tyndale was an information freedom-fighter, whose mission was to open up the scripture for ordinary men and women.

Tyndale worked in the midst of an extraordinary new information era, ushered in by the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press. Prior to the press, there were just 30,000 books in all of Europe; some 50 years later, in 1500, there were more than 10 million. The Catholic Church had responded to these developments with alarm. It tried to retain a monopoly on biblical interpretation by declaring translations from Latin heretical. Their logic was simple: control the flow of information, and you control its power.

Like Tyndale, today’s citizens are living through another information revolution.

Tyndale set out to use the technology at his disposal to empower and liberate ordinary people, giving them the opportunity to understand, think and make decisions for themselves. Open information meant believing that people should be free to encounter and recombine ideas at will, without some grand designer dictating the appropriate ends.

Radio offers a cautionary tale. Commentary about radio in the 1920s sounds eerily similar to discussions of the internet today. more> https://goo.gl/2qtcu6

Our world outsmarts us

BOOK REVIEW

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves, Author: Robert Burton.

By Robert Burton – Whether contemplating the pros and cons of climate change; the role of evolution; the risks versus benefits of vaccines, cancer screening, proper nutrition, genetic engineering; trickle-down versus bottom-up economic policies; or how to improve local traffic, we must be comfortable with a variety of statistical and scientific methodologies, complex risk-reward and probability calculations – not to mention an intuitive grasp of the difference between fact, theory and opinion.

Even moral decisions, such as whether or not to sacrifice one life to save five (as in the classic trolley-car experiment), boil down to often opaque calculations of the relative value of the individual versus the group.

If we are not up to the cognitive task, how might we be expected to respond? Will we graciously acknowledge our individual limits and readily admit that others might have more knowledge and better ideas?

Will those uneasy with numbers and calculations appreciate and admire those who are?

Or is it more likely that a painful-to-acknowledge sense of inadequacy will promote an intellectual defensiveness and resistance to ideas not intuitively obvious? more> https://goo.gl/Bjkogb