Law and Legal
Washington Post – “Our privacy experiment found that automakers collect data through hundreds of sensors and an always-on Internet connection. Driving surveillance is becoming hard to avoid…Cars have become the most sophisticated computers many of us own, filled with hundreds of sensors. Even older models know an awful lot about you. Many copy over personal data as soon as you plug in a smartphone…We’re at a turning point for driving surveillance: In the 2020 model year, most new cars sold in the United States will come with built-in Internet connections, including 100 percent of Fords, GMs and BMWs and all but one model Toyota and Volkswagen. (This independent cellular service is often included free or sold as an add-on.) Cars are becoming smartphones on wheels, sending and receiving data from apps, insurance firms and pretty much wherever their makers want. Some brands even reserve the right to use the data to track you down if you don’t pay your bills…”
The Noun Project – Over 2 million curated icons, created by a global community….Icons for everything. Users may search or browse for icons and create an account, get icons, and identify favorites. Icons may be used under a Creative Commons License – either free or with a small fee. I had no idea there were so many icons available – this site is useful for presentations, reports, memos, emails and just for fun.
The Atlantic – It’s underwater—and the consequences are unimaginable: “Today, many of the largest mineral corporations in the world have launched underwater mining programs. On the west coast of Africa, the De Beers Group is using a fleet of specialized ships to drag machinery across the seabed in search of diamonds. In 2018, those ships extracted 1.4 million carats from the coastal waters of Namibia; in 2019, De Beers commissioned a new ship that will scrape the bottom twice as quickly as any other vessel. Another company, Nautilus Minerals, is working in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea to shatter a field of underwater hot springs lined with precious metals, while Japan and South Korea have embarked on national projects to exploit their own offshore deposits. But the biggest prize for mining companies will be access to international waters, which cover more than half of the global seafloor and contain more valuable minerals than all the continents combined…”
nature: “Leading scholars and publishers from ten countries have agreed a definition of predatory publishing that can protect scholarship. It took 12 hours of discussion, 18 questions and 3 rounds to reach…Predatory journals are a global threat. They accept articles for publication — along with authors’ fees — without performing promised quality checks for issues such as plagiarism or ethical approval. Naive readers are not the only victims. Many researchers have been duped into submitting to predatory journals, in which their work can be overlooked. One study that focused on 46,000 researchers based in Italy found that about 5% of them published in such outlets. A separate analysis suggests predatory publishers collect millions of dollars in publication fees that are ultimately paid out by funders such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)…”
“The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of 23 news organizations are urging a Delaware court to reject a defamation claim that could threaten the use of hyperlinks in news stories.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, filed on Dec. 19 by Reporters Committee attorneys and David L. Finger of Finger & Slanina LLP, the coalition urges the Delaware Superior Court to rule that linking to previously published articles online does not constitute republication…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
Longform recommends its top 100 articles [eclectic, insightful writing from a range of publications on issues of significant interest in 2019 – and beyond – grouped into the following categories:
LifeHacker – “If you’ve ever been using a website and wished it had a voice input, now you can add one yourself. Voice In is a Chrome extension that adds speech-to-text to most any website. That means you can do things like respond to Slack messages or send emails using your voice rather than typing all the words out. It’s not entirely hands-free. You will have to select a “Start Recording” function on a text box before you’ll be able to start having your voice transcribed, but once you do it will work almost anywhere…[h/t Pete Weiss]
Via LLRX – 2020 Open Educational Resources (OER) Sources and Tools – This is a comprehensive listing of Open Educational Resources (OER) sources and tools available in the United States and around the world, by Marcus P. Zillman. His guide includes references to: search engines, directories, initiatives, books, E-books, E-textbooks, free online seminars and webinars, subject guides, open and distance learning, open access papers and research, as well as related costs and metrics to identify and choose reliable, subject matter expert sources for free and open continuing education and research on the internet.
FRB launches new Twitter account highlighting research published in Board’s working papers and notes series
“The Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 – launched a new Twitter account aimed at increasing access to the research done by the more than 400 economists and other research staff at the Board. The new account—@FedResearch—will highlight research published in the Board’s working papers and notes series, other staff articles, and conferences. Staff members at the Board conduct research on a wide variety of topics in economics and finance. The Board’s Finance and Economics Discussion Series and its International Finance Discussion Papers—along with the FEDS Notes series—offer a venue for Board staff to publish their work to stimulate discussion. The papers and notes reflect the views of the individual authors and do not communicate policy positions of the Board or the Federal Reserve System. The Board’s @FederalReserve Twitter account will continue to provide official news and information about the Board…”
The New York Times – Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy – By Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel, December 19, 2019. “Every minute of every day, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists. It holds more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Each piece of information in this file represents the precise location of a single smartphone over a period of several months in 2016 and 2017. The data was provided to Times Opinion by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so. The sources of the information said they had grown alarmed about how it might be abused and urgently wanted to inform the public and lawmakers.
After spending months sifting through the data, tracking the movements of people across the country and speaking with dozens of data companies, technologists, lawyers and academics who study this field, we feel the same sense of alarm. In the cities that the data file covers, it tracks people from nearly every neighborhood and block, whether they live in mobile homes in Alexandria, Va., or luxury towers in Manhattan. If you lived in one of the cities the dataset covers and use apps that share your location — anything from weather apps to local news apps to coupon savers — you could be in there, too. If you could see the full trove, you might never use your phone the same way again…”
Los Angeles Times – Michael Hiltzik [h/t Barclay Walsh]: “…At any newspaper worth its salt, articles and photos were clipped and placed in cross-referenced envelopes, along with archival copies of every edition. As reporters we were drilled never to start writing a story without “checking the clips” to see what had been written about our subject before. But what has happened to these treasures with the passage of time, especially as their owners have gone bust? Some papers donated their morgues to their local libraries — that of the Buffalo Courier-Express, my first daily newspaper employer, now resides at the Buffalo State University library, bless its soul. Some sold them off to commercial firms, which will make them available via a searchable database or provide you with a facsimile of the front page from the day you were born, for a fee. Some historical archives can be found at the Chronicling America online collection of the Library of Congress at no charge. Writers of financial history know that archives of the Commercial and Financial Chronicle, a weekly founded in 1865 more than two decades before the Wall Street Journal, have been placed online by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. But others have been strewn to the winds — saved, if at all, thanks to heroic individual efforts. They include the creation of the American Newspaper Repository in 1999 by the author Nicholson Baker, who rescued the remains of the British Library’s excellent collection of American newspapers from dispersion or pulping by buying the collection at auction and installing it in what he described in the New Yorker as “six thousand square feet of space in a nineteenth century brick mill building in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, with room to shelve all the papers and to hold a small reading room.”…
Economic Policy Institute: Noncompete agreements – Ubiquitous, harmful to wages and to competition, and part of a growing trend of employers requiring workers to sign away their rights. Report • By Alexander J.S. Colvin and Heidi Shierholz • December 10, 2019
“In recent decades, the U.S. labor market has been marked by rising inequality and largely stagnant wages among all but the highest-paid workers. At the same time, job mobility and other measures of labor market fluidity have declined substantially. There are many factors underlying these trends, but growing empirical evidence suggests that one among the vast set of factors is the rise of the use of noncompete agreements. Noncompete agreements are employment provisions that ban workers at one company from going to work for, or starting, a competing business within a certain period of time after leaving a job. It is not difficult to see that noncompetes may be contributing to weak wage growth, given that changing jobs is how workers often get a raise. And given that noncompetes limit the ability of individuals to start businesses or take other jobs, it also is not difficult to see that noncompetes may be contributing to the declines in dynamism in the U.S. labor market. But how common are they? This report uses data from a national survey of private-sector American business establishments to investigate the extent of noncompete usage. We find:
- Roughly half, 49.4%, of responding establishments indicated that at least some employees in their establishment were required to enter into a noncompete agreement. Nearly a third, 31.8%, of responding establishments indicated that all employees in their establishment were required to enter into a noncompete agreement, regardless of pay or job duties…”
The FOIA Project at the Newhouse School TRAC/Syracuse University – “In the last few years, the number of FOIA lawsuits has risen dramatically, much faster than the rise in FOIA requests. Anecdotal reports suggest that delays in receiving responses to FOIA requests may be increasing and a reason for rising litigation. TRAC’s FOIA Project, with the help of a talented summer legal intern, explored the possible impact that delays in receiving responses could be having. The study found that the number of suits challenging agencies substantive responses had not materially changed in the last four years. Their numbers remained relatively small. Instead, most litigation occurred when agencies failed to respond to FOIA requesters. Suits filed when agencies failed to respond to FOIA requesters have skyrocketed. In more than four out of every five suits the agency had failed to respond. The statute provides that agencies need to respond within 20 business days. However, in 2019 requesters waited an average of nearly six months (177 days) before filing suit when they failed to receive any response to their request. In addition to not jumping into court quickly when an agency didn’t respond, requesters actually waited an average of over 30 days longer before filing suit in 2019 than they had in 2015. Where agencies did provide a substantive response, average days between a request and the filing of a suit was even longer – over 11 months (339 days). This period also increased between 2015 and 2019.
Because taking the agency to court still only occurs infrequently in FOIA matters, the study next conducted interviews to identify some of the factors entering into the decision of whether or not to file. Attorneys interviewed represented large media organizations, public interest groups, and a variety of law firms…”
The Conversation: “Digital assistants can be found in your office, home, car, hotel, phone and many other places. They have recently undergone massive transformation and run on operating systems that are fuelled by artificial intelligence (AI). They observe and collect data in real-time and have the capability to pull information from different sources such as smart devices and cloud services and put the information into context using AI to make sense of the situation. Although we have come a long way in the design and execution of these AI technologies, there is still more work to be done in this arena.
Much of the data that these digital assistants collect and use include personal, potentially identifiable and possibly sensitive information. Can Alexa or other personal digital assistants violate the privacy and security of our data? Possibly. There is a dark side to these virtual assistants…”
The New York Times – President Trump is the third president in history to be charged with committing high crimes and misdemeanors and face removal by the Senate. “On a day of constitutional consequence and raging partisan tension, the votes on the two articles of impeachment fell largely along party lines…”
CNN – Speaker Pelosi Will Not Select House Managers or Send Articles to Senate Until House Sees Proposed Senate Trial Rules; Chance of Articles Being Withheld From Senate Persists.
National Geographic – This year, a gecko, a songbird, and a minnow joined the short list of recovered American endangered species. “…The list of 27 (plus specific recovered populations of an additional five animal species) is modest when put into context. Since the Endangered Species Act took effect in 1973, 719 animal species native to the U.S. have been declared threatened or endangered under the law. Of those, some, such as the Caribbean monk seal, have subsequently been declared extinct. The rest remain on the list—federally protected, but still imperiled. (See a different endangered animal in every U.S. state in this interactive map.) The process of taking a species off the list, called delisting, is complex. Recovery can be lengthy in the best of circumstances and impossible in the worst. But when it happens, sometimes through decades of effort, it signals conservation triumph manifesting the full intent of the Endangered Species Act: the ability not just to protect animals, but to actually bring them back from the brink…”
Future Crunch – If we want to change the story of the human race in the 21st century, we have to change the stories we tell ourselves. “…There were other stories out there, stories of conservation, better health, rising living standards, tolerance, peace, cleaner energy and environmental stewardship. Most of them didn’t make it onto our Facebook feeds though, and that means that what we saw on our screens in 2019 was not the world. It was a negative image of the world, in both the photographic and tonal senses. Here’s a slightly different picture…”
The New York Times – The authorities can scan your phones, track your face and find out when you leave your home. “One of the world’s biggest spying networks is aimed at regular people, and nobody can stop it. China is ramping up its ability to spy on its nearly 1.4 billion people to new and disturbing levels, giving the world a blueprint for how to build a digital totalitarian state. Chinese authorities are knitting together old and state-of-the-art technologies — phone scanners, facial-recognition cameras, face and fingerprint databases and many others — into sweeping tools for authoritarian control, according to police and private databases examined by The New York Times. Once combined and fully operational, the tools can help police grab the identities of people as they walk down the street, find out who they are meeting with and identify who does and doesn’t belong to the Communist Party.
The United States and other countries use some of the same techniques to track terrorists or drug lords. Chinese cities want to use them to track everybody. The rollout has come at the expense of personal privacy. The Times found that the authorities parked the personal data of millions of people on servers unprotected by even basic security measures. It also found that private contractors and middlemen have wide access to personal data collected by the Chinese government…”
The Bookseller: “The London Review of Books has launched a new website, rounding off its 40th anniversary celebrations with a comprehensive overhaul of the paper’s online presence, with its archive freely accessible for a month. The new website launched on Monday (16th December) with the entire LRB archive of almost 17,500 pieces—including writers such as Frank Kermode, Hilary Mantel, Oliver Sacks and Angela Carter—available to read for free until 15th January. The refreshed site makes it easier navigate the archive and find articles, the literary journal said, with a “subjects” search function and curated “best of” lists featuring favourite pieces selected by the LRB editorial team, initially in the areas of Arts & Culture, Biography & Memoir, History & Classics, Literature & Criticism, Philosophy & Law, Politics & Economics, Psychology & Anthropology, and Science & Technology. Contributor pages now include articles about the contributor, as well as all pieces written by them…”
“The UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) has published an update in its examination of online platforms and digital advertising, uncovering new detail about how the sector’s biggest names operate. The CMA’s interim report [12/18/19] has found that:
- Last year, Google accounted for more than 90% of all revenues earned from search advertising in the UK, with revenues of around £6 billion
- In the same year, Facebook accounted for almost half of all display advertising revenues in the UK, reaching more than £2 billion
‘Big’ is not necessarily ‘bad’ and these platforms have brought very innovative and valuable products and services to the market. But the CMA is concerned that their position may have become entrenched with negative consequences for the people and businesses who use these services every day. A lack of real competition to Google and Facebook could mean people are already missing out on the next great new idea from a potential rival. It could also be resulting in a lack of proper choice for consumers and higher prices for advertisers that can mean cost rises for goods and services such as flights, electronics and insurance bought online. The market position of Google and Facebook may potentially be undermining the ability of newspapers and other publishers to produce valuable content as their share of revenues is squeezed by large platforms…”