Law and Legal
Lawfare: “Does the Senate have an obligation to conduct a trial of the president if the House impeaches him? With the increased prospects for an impeachment inquiry now that the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives, most discussions of impeachment have assumed that, should the House vote to impeachment, the Senate will then hold a trial. This is the logical construction of the Constitution’s provisions setting out the impeachment process: If the House impeaches, then it would follow that the Senate tries the case. This is what the Senate did on the two occasions, in the cases of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, that the House voted articles of impeachment.
The current Senate rules would further support this view. They contemplate that when the House has voted an impeachment, the Senate will be notified, the House managers will present their case and trial proceedings, which the rules prescribe in some detail, will begin.
But it also possible that, in this time of disregard and erosion of established institutional practices and norms, the current leadership of the Senate could choose to abrogate them once more. The same Mitch McConnell who blocked the Senate’s exercise of its authority to advise and consent to the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, could attempt to prevent the trial of a House impeachment of Donald Trump. And he would not have to look far to find the constitutional arguments and the flexibility to revise Senate rules and procedures to accomplish this purpose…”
Chen, Daniel L., Machine Learning and the Rule of Law (January 6, 2019). Computational Analysis of Law, Santa Fe Institute Press, ed. M. Livermore and D. Rockmore, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3302507“Predictive judicial analytics holds the promise of increasing the fairness of law. Much empirical work observes inconsistencies in judicial behavior. By predicting judicial decisions—with more or less accuracy depending on judicial attributes or case characteristics—machine learning offers an approach to detecting when judges most likely to allow extra legal biases to influence their decision making. In particular, low predictive accuracy may identify cases of judicial “indifference,” where case characteristics (interacting with judicial attributes) do no strongly dispose a judge in favor of one or another outcome. In such cases, biases may hold greater sway, implicating the fairness of the legal system.”
- “The global expansion has weakened. Global growth for 2018 is estimated at 3.7 percent, as in the October 2018 World Economic Outlook (WEO) forecast, despite weaker performance in some economies, notably Europe and Asia. The global economy is projected to grow at 3.5 percent in 2019 and 3.6 percent in 2020, 0.2 and 0.1 percentage point below last October’s projections.
- The global growth forecast for 2019 and 2020 had already been revised downward in the last WEO, partly because of the negative effects of tariff increases enacted in the United States and China earlier that year. The further downward revision since October in part reflects carry over from softer momentum in the second half of 2018—including in Germany following the introduction of new automobile fuel emission standards and in Italy where concerns about sovereign and financial risks have weighed on domestic demand—but also weakening financial market sentiment as well as a contraction in Turkey now projected to be deeper than anticipated.
- Risks to global growth tilt to the downside. An escalation of trade tensions beyond those already incorporated in the forecast remains a key source of risk to the outlook. Financial conditions have already tightened since the fall. A range of triggers beyond escalating trade tensions could spark a further deterioration in risk sentiment with adverse growth implications, especially given the high levels of public and private debt. These potential triggers include a “no-deal” withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and a greater-than-envisaged slowdown in China.
- The main shared policy priority is for countries to resolve cooperatively and quickly their trade disagreements and the resulting policy uncertainty, rather than raising harmful barriers further and destabilizing an already slowing global economy. Across all economies, measures to boost potential output growth, enhance inclusiveness, and strengthen fiscal and financial buffers in an environment of high debt burdens and tighter financial conditions are imperatives.”
Center for Data Innovation: “Only one in four Americans want online services such as Facebook and Google to collect less of their data if it means they would have to start paying a monthly subscription fee, according to a new survey from the Center for Data Innovation.
Few surveys of Internet users’ attitudes toward online privacy ask about such tradeoffs, so the Center probed Americans’ reactions to a series of likely consequences of reducing online data collection. The survey found that when potential tradeoffs were not part of the question approximately 80 percent of Americans agreed that they would like online services such as Facebook and Google to collect less of their data. But that support eroded when respondents considered these tradeoffs. For example, initial agreement dropped by 6 percentage points when respondents were asked whether they would like online services to collect less data even if it means seeing ads that are less useful. Support dropped by 27 percentage points when respondents considered whether they would like less data collection even if it means seeing more ads than before. And it dropped by 26 percentage points when respondents were asked whether they would like less data collection even if it means losing access to some features they use now. The largest drop in support (53 percentage points) came when respondents were asked whether they would like online services to collect less of their data even if it means paying a monthly subscription fee. Only 27 percent of respondents agreed with reducing data collection in that circumstance…”
Copyright Office Releases “Copyright and Visual Works: The Legal Landscape of Opportunities and Challenges”
“The U.S. Copyright Office has submitted a letter to Congress detailing the results of the Office’s public inquiry on how certain visual works, particularly photographs, graphic artworks, and illustrations, are registered, monetized, and enforced under the Copyright Act of 1976. The Office sought commentary on the marketplace for these visual works, as well as observations regarding the real or potential obstacles that creators and users of visual works face when navigating the digital landscape. A number of stakeholders raised specific issues they face on a regular basis regarding current copyright law and practices that fall within three general categories: (1) difficulties with the registration process; (2) challenges with licensing generally and monetizing visual works online; and (3) general enforcement obstacles.
The Copyright Office takes these concerns seriously and has already taken steps to address them where it can, most notably with the ongoing Office modernization efforts in preparation for a wholesale technological upgrade to the Office’s systems. In other areas, the Office finds that legislative action is the best solution. The Office continues to strongly support the idea of a small copyright claims tribunal, as well as a legislative solution to the orphan works conundrum. Congress’ action in these two areas would go far to alleviate several important concerns raised by visual artists. The letter, public comments, and background material are available on the Copyright Office website at https://www.copyright.gov/policy/visualworks/.”
WSJ.com [paywall]: “The partial government shutdown is affecting a wide range of business and financial concerns nationwide. From a report: Shuttered government offices are stalling the approval of new loans, initial public offerings, the processing of tax documents, and the approval of new products such as prescription drugs, among other effects. While some programs are reopening on a temporary basis or providing workarounds for affected companies, most services won’t return to normal until the government fully reopens and 800,000 federal workers sift through the backlog.
Here is a round up of the impact: The partial closure of the Securities and Exchange Commission is delaying the ability of companies to open the IPO market. Companies that were seeking to list shares in January are delaying plans since the regulator has stopped reviewing and approving new and pending corporate registration statements. Airlines expect to have sluggish revenue growth in the first quarter in part because of revenue lost from government travel cancellations. Delta Air Lines Inc. Chief Executive Ed Bastian, for instance, said the shutdown would cost his airline $25 million in lost revenue from government travel. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has dramatically curtailed inspections of domestic facilities at food-processing companies during the shutdown, though unpaid inspectors have resumed work inspecting higher-risk products such as fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, seafood and dairy products.
At the Internal Revenue Service, the shutdown has created delays in getting some employer identification numbers, holding up some routine business deals. Some small-business loans are also stuck in limbo. The Small Business Administration has stopped approving routine loans that the agency backs to ensure entrepreneurs have access to funds, halting their plans for expansion and repairs and forcing some owners to consider costlier sources of cash. The government process for reviewing proposed mergers has been slowed by the shutdown, but it is still operating. Businesses that have government contracts are feeling the strain across a variety of industries, including the building of highways and bridges…”
Quartz: “The eight Ivy League schools are among the most prestigious colleges in the world. They include Brown, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, and Columbia universities, and the University of Pennsylvania. All eight schools place in the top fifteen of the US News and World Report 2018 national university rankings. These Ivy League schools are also highly selective and extremely hard to get into. But the good news is that all these universities now offer free online courses across multiple online course platforms.
So far, they’ve created over 494 courses, of which around 396 are still active. Here’s a collection of all of them, split into courses in the following subjects: Computer Science, Business, Humanities, Social Sciences, Art & Design, Science, Health & Medicine, Data Science, Education & Teaching, Mathematics, Science, Engineering, Personal Development, and Programming…”
“Can your students tell the difference between fact and fiction? The Checkology® virtual classroom can help. What is the Checkology virtual classroom? It’s where students learn how to navigate the challenging information landscape by mastering the skills of news literacy. The virtual classroom’s lessons help educators equip their students with the tools to evaluate and interpret the news and learn how to determine what news and other information to trust, share and act on. Leading journalists, along with First Amendment and digital media experts, guide students through the platform’s interactive multimedia lessons. These e-learning experiences use real-world examples of news and information that test students’ emerging skills and lead them to mastery…” [h/t Walt Mossberg]
MIT Technology Review – Using historical data to train risk assessment tools could mean that machines are copying the mistakes of the past. “AI might not seem to have a huge personal impact if your most frequent brush with machine-learning algorithms is through Facebook’s news feed or Google’s search rankings. But at the Data for Black Lives conference last weekend, technologists, legal experts, and community activists snapped things into perspective with a discussion of America’s criminal justice system. There, an algorithm can determine the trajectory of your life. The US imprisons more people than any other country in the world. At the end of 2016, nearly 2.2 million adults were being held in prisons or jails, and an additional 4.5 million were in other correctional facilities. Put another way, 1 in 38 adult Americans was under some form of correctional supervision. The nightmarishness of this situation is one of the few issues that unite politicians on both sides of the aisle. Under immense pressure to reduce prison numbers without risking a rise in crime, courtrooms across the US have turned to automated tools in attempts to shuffle defendants through the legal system as efficiently and safely as possible. This is where the AI part of our story begins.
Police departments use predictive algorithms to strategize about where to send their ranks. Law enforcement agencies use face recognition systems to help identify suspects. These practices have garnered well-deserved scrutiny for whether they in fact improve safety or simply perpetuate existing inequities. Researchers and civil rights advocates, for example, have repeatedly demonstrated that face recognition systems can fail spectacularly, particularly for dark-skinned individuals—even mistaking members of Congress for convicted criminals But the most controversial tool by far comes after police have made an arrest. Say hello to criminal risk assessment algorithms…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
Los Angeles Review of Books – Nicholas Carr’s review of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power By Shoshana Zuboff
To the Googles and Facebooks of the world, we are neither the customer nor the product. We are the source of what Silicon Valley technologists call “data exhaust” — the informational by-products of online activity that become the inputs to prediction algorithms. In contrast to the businesses of the industrial era, whose interests were by necessity entangled with those of the public, internet companies operate in what Zuboff terms “extreme structural independence from people.” When databases displace goods as the engine of the economy, our own interests, as consumers but also as citizens, cease to be part of the negotiation. We are no longer one of the forces guiding the market’s invisible hand. We are the objects of surveillance and control…”
“For much of human history, most individuals have lacked economic freedom and opportunity, condemning them to poverty and deprivation. Today, we live in the most prosperous time in human history. Poverty, sicknesses, and ignorance are receding throughout the world, due in large part to the advance of economic freedom. In 2018, the principles of economic freedom that have fueled this monumental progress are once again measured in the Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Heritage Foundation, Washington’s No. 1 think tank. For over twenty years the Index has delivered thoughtful analysis in a clear, friendly, and straight-forward format. With new resources for users and a website tailored for research and education, the Index of Economic Freedom is poised to help readers track over two decades of the advancement in economic freedom, prosperity, and opportunity and promote these ideas in their homes, schools, and communities. The Index covers 12 freedoms – from property rights to financial freedom – in 186 countries.”
IEEE Spectrum: “San Diego’s network of smart streetlights, which has been rolling out since early 2018, continues to grow. To date, some 2,000 of the sensor-laden devices have begun gathering pictures, sounds, and other data. So far, the city has focused on the image data, using it to count pedestrians and cars as they move around the city. This data is only just starting to feed into the way the city designs and manages traffic flows, and any consumer applications remain far in the future, says Erik Caldwell, the city of San Diego’s interim deputy chief operating officer for smart and sustainable communities. Officials are still talking through all other possible applications, such as using the streetlights to locate gunshots, track airport noise, or monitor air quality. But the city is already fond enough of the sensor-laden lamps that it has placed an order with manufacturer Current by GE for an additional 1,000. Meanwhile, the initial 3,200 streetlights will finish being installed in the next month or two. The rollout has fallen a bit behind schedule, admits Caldwell. As of last October, the city expected most of the network to be complete in May 2018. But Caldwell says that the original deadline was aspirational, and he isn’t too dismayed by the current pace of installation. And the streetlights installed to date have given the city plenty of data to work with…”
“EPIC joined 16 organizations in support of a “A Framework for Privacy Protection in the United States.” The consumer groups outlined a new approach to privacy protection: (1) enact baseline federal legislation; (2) enforce fair information practices; (3) establish a data protection agency; (4) ensure robust enforcement; (5) establish algorithmic governance; (6) prohibit “take it or leave it” terms; (7) promote privacy innovation; and (8) limit government access to personal data. The consumer framework states that the Federal Trade Commission has failed to enforce the orders it has established. “The US needs a federal agency focused on privacy protection, compliance with data protection obligations, and emerging privacy challenges.” [Press Release]
FCW.com: “The Federal Aviation Administration will give commercial drones more freedom to operate over people and grant longer flight times under proposed new rules. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the proposals at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting on Jan. 14. The initiatives include a draft rule proposal to allow drones to fly at night and over people without requiring operators to get a waiver, if certain conditions are met. It is unclear when the new rules will appear in the Federal Register and how the commenting process will be managed because the Department of Transportation is currently operating in shutdown mode due to the partial lapse in appropriations. Chao only said the proposals are available in draft form on the FAA website and will be published “as soon as possible.” Chao also said that three drone flight research operators were selected as FAA traffic control test sites: Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota, Nevada’s Unmanned Aircraft System Test Site and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech University…”
the scott blog irregular: “This is the third post in my full-stack dev (f-s d) series on the secret life of data. This installment is about a single text message: how it was typed, stored, sent, received, and displayed. I sprinkle in some history and context to break up the alphabet soup of protocols, but though the piece gets technical, it should all be easily understood. The first two installments of this series are Cetus, about the propagation of errors in a 17th century spreadsheet, and Down the Rabbit Hole, about the insane lengths one occasionally needs to go through to track down the source of a dataset…”
Politico: “The website used by the public to comment on proposed federal regulations has gone dark, but the agency that runs it says it’s not due to the government shutdown, despite what a message on the website said. The site, regulations.gov, this morning showed only a message that it is “not operational due to a lapse in funding, and will remain unavailable for the duration of the government shutdown.” The EPA, which runs the site, however, said in a statement that the message was posted in error.
“The language from the banner on the active page was inadvertently used to describe the regulations.gov outage,” an EPA spokesperson said. “It is currently being revised to reflect that we are actively working to restore the website following a technical glitch.” The website is a key part of the federal rulemaking process, as it’s where the public is able to comment on regulations proposed by the administration, including major rules pitched by the Trump administration on campus sexual assault, the use of drones and taxes. It was operational until at least Wednesday evening.”
Lawfare: “Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers annouced that the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP has entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice regarding its liability for violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), specifically concerning its work for the government of Ukraine, which was commissioned in part by Paul Manafort. The document can be read via LawFare.”
Learn about robots our faculty have developed and studied since the 1960s, hear from some of our current robot makers, and see how our students are learning to create the robots of the future. “For decades, Stanford University has been inventing the future of robotics. Back in the 1960s, that future began with an Earth-bound moon rover and one of the first artificially intelligent robots, the humbly christened Shakey. At that time, many people envisioned robots as the next generation of household helpers, loading the dishwasher and mixing martinis. From those early ambitions, though, most robots moved out of the home and to the factory floor, their abilities limited by available technology and their structures too heavy and dangerous to mingle with people. But research into softer, gentler and smarter robots continued. Thanks in large part to advances in computing power, robotics research these days is thriving. At Stanford alone, robots scale walls, flutter like birds, wind and swim through the depths of the earth and ocean, and hang out with astronauts in space. And, with all due respect to their ancestors, they’re a lot less shaky than they used to be. Here we look at Stanford’s robotic legacy – the robots, the faculty who make them and the students who will bring about the future of robotics…”
Social Media Examiner: “Need help monitoring your company’s mentions on social media? Looking for tools to simplify the process? In this article, you’ll discover five social media monitoring tools to help you better engage online.”
- Enhance Customer Service: Agorapulse
- Understand Your Customers: Awario
- Handle a Reputation Crisis: Talkwalker Alerts
- Identify Brand Advocates: Mention
- Analyze Competitors: Brand24