In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, we’ve seen a lot of discussion about the crucial role that the abundance of surveillance cameras and smartphones played in finding the suspects. The general consensus seems to be that these technologies were useful. For example, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “The Boston bombing is a terrible reminder of why we’ve made these investments—including camera technology that could help us deter an attack, or investigate and apprehend those involved.” And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel similarly endorsed surveillance cameras when he said, “I will say, as I always have, because we have continued to put cameras throughout the city for security … purposes, they serve an important function for the city in providing the type of safety on a day-to-day basis—not just for big events like a marathon, but day-to-day purposes.”
Not surprisingly privacy advocates worry that such a high-profile display of the benefits of these camera systems will lead to more public acceptance and adoption, and so they are trying to minimize the value of these systems by arguing that this is a rare event. Jeff Chester, the executive director of … Read the rest
I had the opportunity to speak at the Bahrain International e-Government Forum this year—an annual conference which promotes the development of e-government in Bahrain. As part of the event, numerous Bahrain government agencies participated in an expo where they showcased their latest e-government services. One of the most impressive aspects of e-government in Bahrain is its successful deployment of electronic IDs.
I’ve written quite a bit about electronic ID systems in other countries, the benefits that they provide, and how the United States can more aggressively pursue this goal. The ability to securely identify users is a prerequisite to many e-government and e-commerce services, and the lack of a common identity platform raises costs for both the public and private sectors who must establish their own one-off systems for identification and authentication. Given how much the United States has been lagging on this technology, it was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to visit a country that has implemented an advanced electronic ID system.
I recently wrote about the potential impact on differential pricing caused by the Supreme Court decision in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley and Sons which found that the first sale doctrine applies to copyrighted works lawfully made abroad. I noted in that article that since most digital goods are licensed, not sold, differential pricing is still possible for digital goods, but that licensing has had side effects, such as limiting the ability of consumers to resell their digital goods in the used goods market.
Generally, consumers are allowed to legally buy and sell used goods. For example, if you buy a music CD, you can listen to it as many times as you want and then, if you don’t plan to listen to it again and you haven’t made any copies, legally sell the CD. But the same isn’t true of digital goods that the consumer does not own but instead has only received a licensed to use.
For example, Amazon’s MP3 store license agreement includes the following restrictions:
“You must comply with all applicable copyright and other laws in your use of the Music Content. Except as set forth in
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 this week in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley and Sons in favor of Supap Kirtsaeng, a college student from Thailand who was challenging a copyright infringement charge for textbooks he bought overseas and resold in the United States. The publishers argued that the first-sale doctrine, which allows legally-acquired copyrighted works to be resold without the permission of the copyright owner, does not apply to goods made abroad. The heart of the case depended on the court’s interpretation of the meaning of the term “lawfully made.” Does it mean “made in the United States” (i.e. where Congress has jurisdiction) or “made according to copyright laws” (i.e. not a counterfeit copy)? Ultimately, the majority opinion rejected the geographical interpretation put forth by the publishers and found that the first sale doctrine applies to copies of copyrighted works lawfully made abroad.
The majority opinion acknowledged potential difficulties that could arise if it ruled in favor of the publishers, such as requiring libraries to get permission to lend books that were printed overseas or requiring owners of foreign-made cars to get permission from the copyright holders of the software in … Read the rest
I understand that experts are not the only ones who have the right to comment on complex policy issues. And that experts are sometimes wrong and often ideological in their views. But at least with experts, they have spent time studying the evidence before offering their advice to policymakers. Alas, the same cannot be said of some Sunday newspaper columnists. Case in point, pieces by op-ed writers in the Post and the Times.
The first comes from Tom Friedman who makes the claim in “No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy” that “Nothing would do more to clean our air, drive clean-tech innovation, weaken petro-dictators and reduce the deficit than a carbon tax.” Really? As ITIF has shown, many European nations have a defacto carbon tax in excess of $400 a ton (ala their massive gas taxes) – a carbon tax 20 times higher than anything that is remotely politically possible in the United States and they have even fewer electric cars than we do. Carbon taxes don’t drive the kind of breakthrough zero carbon innovations the world so desperately needs; they lead businesses to tweak existing … Read the rest
The past two weeks have seen two important announcements come out of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). First, Commissioner Edith Ramirez was designated to replace outgoing Commissioner Jon Leibowitz as Chairman. Second, identity theft has been reported as the top consumer complaint to the FTC for the 13th year in a row.
Why are these two announcements related? It’s simple. As Chairwoman Ramirez considers how she will lead the FTC throughout her term, it’s worth looking at where the FTC can help Americans the most, particularly in an era of limited budgets. And the most recent data from the FTC overwhelmingly shows that the top priority for the Commission should be on identity theft.
The latest data on identity theft comes from the FTC’s recently released Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for 2012. The Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) is a database of consumer complaints received by a variety of sources including the FTC, state law enforcement agencies, state attorneys general, the FBI, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Better Business Bureau. While there are limits to how the data should be used … Read the rest
Sharon Biggar is the CEO of Path Intelligence, a company which is bringing online analytics to the offline world by providing retailers with real-time intelligence about how people move within buildings. I asked Sharon to share with me her thoughts on how this type of data will improve offline experiences for consumers.
Castro: You have an incredibly novel product with FootPath. Can you briefly explain what it does?
Biggar: FootPath enables retailers and malls to optimize their space to improve shopper profitability. Until now it has been challenging for shopping centers and retailers to understand and quantify how shoppers moved through their physical spaces, but with our FootPath solution retailers and malls can understand how many shoppers there are, how long they stay and where they go within the mall or store. For example, if shoppers visit the menswear section do they also visit kids wear? Or if they visit Gap do they also visit Sears? What happens if the mall or store owner moves these products or stores, how do shoppers react? Our solution helps retailers and malls to answer those questions.
Castro: What do retailers do with … Read the rest
Although we are only a month into it, 2013 is already shaping up to be an important year for health information technology (IT).
Two recent developments have increased pressure on the health care community to deliver results from government investments in health IT systems. First, concerns about the federal budget are causing policymakers to take a close look at programs with a large budget. As of July 2012, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that the government has spent almost $6.6 billion in incentive payments for electronic health record (EHR) systems, and the amount of money spent on health IT will only continue to grow.
Second, policymakers are taking an extra critical look at any program that appears to be underperforming. Whether fair or not, health IT will likely fit this profile as well because of recent concerns that have been raised about the effectiveness of some of these investments. In particular, earlier this month, the RAND Corporation released a report backtracking on its earlier assertion that health IT could save the United States more than $81 billion … Read the rest
I had the pleasure of presenting, along with Marvin Ammori, at last week’s State of the Net Conference on the economic impact of the Internet and how to maximize it. Among the points I made on the impact:
- The Dot-com domain makes global economy $1.5 trillion larger and will add $3.8 trillion annually to the global economy in 2020 – more than the total GDP of Germany
- IT workers contribute significantly more to productivity than non-IT workers and IT has more impact on productivity than non-IT capital
- Between 2001 and 2011, jobs in IT occupations increased 22% while non-IT jobs were stagnant. Between 2007-2011, jobs declined 4.5%, while IT jobs up 6.8%, contributing $37 billion to the economy.
Among the points I made on how to maximize its impact:
- First, we should recognize that Internet freedom does not mean Internet anarchy. In other words we should promote Internet innovation and free speech, but also work to limit Internet crime (like malware and copyright theft).
- Second, we need to get a clearer overall framework to guide Internet policy. Right three competing narratives compete for attention: Abdicate, Regulate, Facilitate. Abdicate says that