All posts by Daniel Castro
Today is Data Privacy Day, an annual reminder to all of us to check our digital zippers. But while Data Privacy Day was originally devoted to educating consumers about how to protect their data online, in recent years it has become better known for the privacy activists who participate in such rowdy traditions as midnight Twitter rants and feats of endurance like “Who can sound the shrillest?” The kids might even get swept up in the festivities and help their parents build tin-foil hats.
Some years back privacy activists realized that Data Privacy Day was a perfect opportunity to further peddle their stories of a coming digital apocalypse brought about by Big Brother and Big Data. And faster than you can say “fundraising bonanza,” Data Privacy Day morphed from an attempt to improve people’s cyber hygiene to the activist-fueled orgy of fear, where everyone is invited and tips are appreciated.
Unfortunately, many people have fallen victim to these tales of doom. While we’ve seen this before—the great grandparents of today’s privacy activists were decrying Kodak for inventing the portable camera—privacy activism has reached new heights and now
The Internet of Things offers many opportunities to grow the economy and improve quality of life. Just as the public sector was instrumental in enabling the development and deployment of the Internet, it should play a similar role in the Internet of Things to ensure its success.
Here are the eight reasons why national governments should create comprehensive national strategies for the Internet of Things:
- Network externalities
Many of the social and economic benefits from large-scale deployment of the Internet of Things accrue not to those buying or selling these products and services, but to competitors—through the expansion of network benefits—and to non-users, if the application generates an external benefit. Government efforts can help correct these market failures so that consumers and businesses can seize the full set of benefits.
- “Chicken-and-egg” dynamics
The success of some Internet of Things applications depends on the success of other technologies and vice versa. While the market will eventually be able to establish effective interdependent systems, it would take longer and happen much more incrementally than it would with government support to resolve chicken-and-egg dilemmas and encourage mutual adoption of these technologies until
Earlier this week a number of Yahoo Mail users took to social media and online forums to announce that, as a result of recent actions by the company, they were henceforth refusing to use the service. You might wonder what transgression would be so serious that it would cause users to abandon their preferred email platform. Was Yahoo secretly using child labor to run its cloud services? Did the company announce plans to open offices in North Korea? No, Yahoo’s sin was significantly worse—the company told users of its free webmail service that they had to stop using ad blockers to continue using its service.
For those who are uninitiated, ad-blockers are web browser plug-ins that do exactly what their name suggests—block online ads from displaying on a website. Users install these plug-ins because it allows them to view websites without the indignity of seeing ads. As you have surely surmised, this is truly an outrage. How dare a company expect its users to view ads on its free, ad-supported email service? This would be like a restaurant expecting its customers to pay the prices listed on its menu for
From the Snowden revelations to the collapse of the Safe Harbor, transatlantic data sharing has gotten significantly more complicated over the past few years. The primary problem is that the underlying policies supporting the digital economy are showing their age, and this framework is sorely in need of updating to match today’s globally-connected economy. Without modernizing these policies, U.S. tech companies stand to lose more than $35 billion and digital free trade will suffer as countries erect restrictions on cross-border data flows.
We need a renewed transatlantic dialogue on solutions to these problems. ITIF has proposed many ideas to solve this issue including:
- Creating a Safe Harbor 2.0 that builds in respect for European privacy laws and has strict limitations on exceptions for national security purposes
- Establishing a “Geneva Convention” for data to resolve international questions of jurisdiction and transparency regarding the exchange of information
- Strengthening the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process so that, where appropriate, law enforcement can gain access to data overseas
- Reforming U.S. law to provide equitable treatment of European citizen data
- Incorporating data free trade rules into new trade agreements
- Supporting strong encryption to
ITIF is counting down the days until the launch of a new report “How Tech Populism is Undermining Innovation” that discusses how recent policy debates on technology issues, including the fights over net neutrality and SOPA, have been dominated by heated and overblown populist rhetoric, rather than fact-based policy analysis to advance the public interest. ITIF argues that an “us vs. them” populism has taken over technological debates in recent years and has had a deleterious effect on policymaking.
To help those who might know someone suffering from tech populism (or themselves might be a victim), for the next two weeks ITIF will release a helpful hint each day on how to identify the symptoms of this terrible affliction.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Friday, March 20, 2015
Monday, March 23, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
Earlier this year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its intention to relinquish oversight of key technical functions of the Internet. Towards this end, NTIA asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to take over the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). This process is currently underway.
As the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) told Congress in testimony earlier this year, the transition away from U.S. oversight creates unique risks and challenges for Internet governance, many of which we may not be able to anticipate today. Without the current oversight provided by the United States, ICANN will not be accountable to anyone and will only be motivated by the interests of those individuals who control the organization. This makes it incumbent on the NTIA, the ICANN leadership, and global Internet stakeholders to insist that a comprehensive set of principles for the responsible management of Internet resources be firmly embedded within ICANN before the transition is allowed to be completed.
In 1895, Lord Kelvin, the renowned physicist, declared “Heavier than air flying machines are impossible” and dismissed those who were pursuing such research. Had the scientific community heeded his words and those of other skeptics, the advancements in aviation that define our modern world would have sadly been held back. Yet, unfortunately some in the scientific community have not learned the lesson that betting against human ingenuity is a fool’s game. The most recent example of this comes from Arvind Narayanan and Ed Felten who in a recent paper declared that de-identification has never and will never work. (Their paper was intended as a rebuttal to a piece written by Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the former Ontario Privacy Commissioner, and me, which demonstrated that the claims made in the popular press about academic research on re-identification methods often overstate the findings or omit important details.)
The authors are making an incredible claim. They are not saying that de-identification sometimes fails (which is painfully obvious to even the casual observer), but rather that there is no such thing as anonymous data. Narayanan and Felten write, “there is no evidence that de-identification works
The importance of data to the U.S. economy continues to grow. For example, in the United States the economic value from health care data is estimated at $300 billion annually, while $90 billion is generated from global positioning system (GPS) data, and $10 billion from weather data. And these examples just scratch the surface of the potential for data to transform a wide range of sectors including energy, education, finance, health care, manufacturing, and transportation.
Unfortunately, while President Obama has signed an historic executive order on open data and various government agencies have begun to promote data-driven innovation within their communities, such as the successful Health Datapalooza, there is still no federal government agency responsible for developing and implementing a national strategy to promote data-driven innovation across all sectors of the economy. To help fill this void, the Department of Commerce should establish an Office of Data Innovation.
The Office of Data Innovation would be responsible for facilitating data sharing between organizations and reducing barriers to global information flows. It would evaluate the impact of data-related regulations on competition and innovation in different industries, work with other
Some technological changes sneak up on us so quietly we do not even know it has happened. A perfect example of this is video programming. It was not too long ago when consumers had to drive to a store to rent a movie at the local Blockbuster rather than just start streaming a movie instantly with a few clicks on Netflix. Today consumers have more options than ever for legally obtaining video content. The market shows an unprecedented amount of competition as businesses experiment with different business models and technologies to deliver consumers video content. Both ISPs and over-the-top providers deliver video on a variety of formats including traditional programming, on-demand, and “on the go” options. In fact, there are so many options—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, HBO Go, Dish Online, Crackle, etc.—that consumers have more choice today in video programming than ever before.
These changes are not only occurring in the United States, but also globally. Worldwide there are hundreds of legitimate streaming services that consumers can access. And consumers are accessing this content in new ways. Whereas we used to measure the percent of
Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a lawsuit against Google for illegal wiretapping could proceed.
The case involves Google’s Street View project which provides online access to panoramic views of public streets in cities around the world. To build the database of images, Google sent vehicles into cities to photograph public streets. At times, these vehicles also unintentionally recorded data that users were transmitting over unencrypted wireless networks. The central claim of the lawsuit is that this collection of unencrypted data from wireless networks is a violation of the Wiretap Act. Google argued that the case should be dismissed because the Wiretap Act exempts “electronic communications” that are “readily accessible to the general public.” In its ruling, the Court denied Google’s motion to dismiss.
The basic logic of the Wiretap Act is that if people do not take action to make their communications private, then they do not have an expectation of privacy. For example, if two individuals use unscrambled CB radios to have a conversation, then other radio users are not in violation of the Wiretap Act if they hear this conversation.