Archive for May, 2010

Google’s WiFi Controversy Deserves a Slap on the Wrist, Not a Punch in the Nose

On May 14, 2010 Google announced that while developing its location-based services, it had been inadvertently collecting samples of payload data from wireless network traffic since 2007. This means that Google had captured data packets sent over unencrypted wireless networks—data packets that could include sensitive Internet traffic such as email and web browsing activity. The disclosure from Google followed an internal review prompted by the German data protection authority’s request for an audit of Google’s data collection for wireless networks. The company has apologized for its mistake and it has halted its wireless network data collection indefinitely.

Not surprisingly, this mistake has prompted outrage and criticism among privacy advocates and consumer protection agencies in the United States and Europe. While no company should be illegally collecting information about citizens without their permission, this situation is not as straightforward as some would like to make it seem. Certainly the legality of Google’s actions should be explored, as with any alleged crime, but this incident should not be used to impose punitive sanctions on Google unless it is found that the company caused consumer harm or did not act in good … Read the rest

Facebook Is Not the Enemy

The criticism of Facebook has reached an all-time high this past week as privacy advocates have fanned the flames of discontent among Facebook users, some of who are confused and upset by recent changes in the service and new features for sharing data. This criticism centers around two new features Facebook debuted at its F8 Developer Conference in April–instant personalization and social plugins. The first feature, instant personalization, allows certain partner sites to use data from a Facebook user’s profile to customize their online experience. For example, if a Facebook user visits Pandora, a customizable Internet radio website, instant personalization will allow Pandora to create a custom radio station for the user based on their likes and dislikes from their Facebook profile. The second new feature, social plugins, allows developers to place a Facebook widget on their website so that visitors can “Like” a page or post comments. These interests can then be shown on a Facebook user’s news feed and users can see their friend’s activity. It is important to note though that websites, like the Washington Post, that use Facebook’s social plugin do not see any of the … Read the rest

Progress Report: Revisiting “Rules of the Road” for a New Economy

When PPI established its New Economy Task Force 11 years ago, its first product was a pamphlet entitled “Rules of the Road: Governing Principles for the New Economy.” In Internet time, 11 years is a lifetime. But that short but powerful statement still holds up — and, I would argue, is just as relevant today as it was in 1999. This seems as good a time as any to revisit what we said and take stock of how far — or not — we’ve come.

The pamphlet started off with this statement:

The U.S. economy has undergone a profound structural transformation in the last decade and a half. The information technology revolution has expanded well beyond the cutting-edge high-tech sector. It has shaken the very foundations of the old industrial and occupational order, redefined the rules of entrepreneurship and competition, and created an increasingly global marketplace for a myriad of new goods and services.

I would venture to say that it’s even truer today than when we first wrote it. The introduction went on to state:

Yet while economic reality is fundamentally changing, much of our public policy framework remains

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America’s Green Innovation Problem

As has been widely reported, U.S. company Applied Materials (AMAT), the world’s biggest manufacturer of equipment used to make solar cells, recently decided to construct the world’s largest, most advanced nongovernment solar energy research and development facility in Xian, China. Applied Materials also relocated its chief technology officer, Mark Pinto, to China—the first such case of a top U.S. technology executive moving there.

According to Pinto, researchers in the U.S. and Europe must be willing to move to China if they want to do cutting-edge work on solar manufacturing research. Thus, unlike most R&D in developing markets—adapting products to meet local needs—China’s growing clean energy market is cultivating the sector’s most advanced R&D.

Applied Materials is not alone. IBM (IBM) has announced it will invest $40 million to create the company’s first “energy-and-utilities-solution lab” to develop innovative new technologies for smart grid and other applications. The new lab will also be located in China. These decisions suggest that investment is starting to flow not just to low-cost manufacturing in China, but to high-value R&D as well, threatening the U.S.’s historical “comparative advantage” in innovation.

We shouldn’t … Read the rest