Innovation Files has moved! For ITIF's quick takes, quips, and commentary on the latest in tech policy, go to

Archive for May, 2011

Greenpeace’s Misdiagnosis

A couple weeks back, Greenpeace released a report that draws attention to energy consumption patterns and choices in the IT industry. From the executive summary:

A quick glance at the letter grades on our Cloud Energy Report Card (found on page 7 of this report) indicates that many IT brands at the vanguard of this 21st century technological shift are perpetuating our addiction to dirty energy technologies of the last two centuries. We analyzed the data centre investments of 10 top global cloud companies and our findings show a trend across the industry towards extolling the external effects of IT products and services, while failing to take seriously the need to power this widespread aggregation of the world’s information with clean, renewable electricity.

While the report has drawn criticism, it actually does have some kind things to say about the IT sector’s energy efficiency efforts, and rightly so (the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign is a great resource for more on these efforts). But the real thrust of the report is to criticize the industry’s energy choices, while also calling for more “transparency.” On this issue, the report loses some

Read the rest
Transportation Security Administration Logo

How To Get the E-Government Wrong: The TSA Case

While there are an array of great things going on currently in e-government in the U.S. government, including a shift to cloud computing, more efforts at using mobile platforms and social media, and efforts to streamline and consolidate the hundreds if not thousands of legacy systems, at the end of the day the way the public still mostly interacts with government digitally is through government agency web sites.

And yet, too many of them remain user-unfriendly and poorly maintained. A case in point is the Transportation Security Administration. I suppose it’s to be expected that the first thing a visitor to sees is a picture of a two people holding a puppy. I am sure that has something to do with airport security, but don’t really know or care.

So, as a traveler, I see the “For Travelers” tab and click on it. I don’t know about you, but the main thing I want to know is what are the average security checkpoint wait times at the airports I am traveling through at various times of the day. But there is no link to anything like this. If one

Read the rest

All About the Fundamentals: Three Misconceptions of the Heritage Foundation’s Deficit/Energy Proposal

Last week ITIF, along with the Breakthrough Institute and Americans for Energy Leadership released Counterpoint: Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, a fact sheet listing the numerous errors and misunderstandings found in Heritage’s recent proposal to dismantle the Department of Energy.  The proposal was not only stunning in that if implemented it would nearly cripple the United States energy innovation system, but also because of the overwhelming use of failed logic to justify program budget reductions or program elimination.  In a new briefing by ITIF, BTI, and AEL, three fundamental misconceptions in Heritage’s thinking are discussed, including:

1. The Proposal fails to meanigfully reduce the budget deficit now or in the future.

In advocating that the government cuts nearly half of the FY2012 budget request for DOE energy programs, Heritage’s stated goal is to alleviate, “the huge debt burden that the government is placing on future generations, and thus [reign] in federal spending.”  Their proposal fails to meet this goal for two reasons.

First, the DOE represents a tiny portion of the federal budget and contributes little to the budget deficit and national debt. Even the proportionately large cuts to DOE

Read the rest

Do Not Track for Doctors vs. Do Not Track for Consumers

Last Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in IMS Health v. Sorrell. This case centers on a Vermont law that prohibits the use of prescriber-identifiable data for marketing purposes unless the prescriber of the drug gives consent. This case is not about patient privacy or the use of patient-identifiable data which is protected under federal law. Other states, notably Maine and New Hampshire, have passed similar legislation that prohibits the commercial use of prescriber-identifiable data. Opponents have challenged the Constitutionality of the law on the basis that the law restricts speech protected under the First Amendment. Supporters argue that the law is only restricting conduct, not speech, and thus should be allowed.

Pharmaceutical companies routinely use prescriber-identifiable data to target advertising to doctors. For example, a drug company may provide information to an allergist about the benefits of a new allergy medication for patients that have fewer side effects. The previously-mentioned states passed legislation to prevent this, ostensibly to protect doctor privacy, but also with the clear intent of controlling health care costs. As Chief Justice Roberts succinctly put it when addressing Vermont’s Assistant Attorney General, “You

Read the rest