Law and Legal
The Atlantic – The question now is how to leverage its nature to make it maximally useful and used…”The debate about the Obama library exhibits a fundamental confusion. Given its origins and composition, the Obama library is already largely digital. The vast majority of the record his presidency left behind consists not of evocative handwritten notes, printed cable transmissions, and black-and-white photographs, but email, Word documents, and JPEGs. The question now is how to leverage its digital nature to make it maximally useful and used…the record of President Obama’s White House: 1.5 billion “pages” in the initial collection, already more than 33 times the size of President Johnson’s library. I use “pages” because the Obama Foundation has noted that “95 percent of the Obama Presidential Records were created digitally and have no paper equivalents.” The email record alone for these eight years is 300 million messages, which NARA (the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) estimates amounts to more than a billion printed pages. In addition, millions of other “pages” associated with the Obama administration are word-processing documents, spreadsheets, or PDFs, or were posted on websites, apps, and social media. Much of the photographic and video record is also born-digital. There are also 30 million actual pages on paper, which are currently stored in a suburb near Chicago. Given the likelihood that a decent portion of this paper record actually came from digital files—think about all of the printouts of PDFs, for instance—only a miniscule portion of what we have from Obama’s White House is paper-only…”
Transparency tool on FB inadvertently provides window into confusing maze of companies who have your data
BuzzFeedNews – “On Facebook under Settings, there’s a page in the Ads section where you can view your Ad Preferences. Most of this is fairly straightforward — choices about how you’ll allow ads and how advertisers target you based on things like what pages you’ve liked. But there’s one section there that will probably surprise you: a list of advertisers “Who use a contact list added to Facebook.”…According to the description, “These advertisers are running ads using a contact list they or their partner uploaded that includes info about you. This info was collected by the advertiser or their partner. Typically this information is your email address or phone number.” The list of Advertisers, a feature Facebook added for transparency, is incomprehensible to anyone who isn’t an expert in advertising (and even some who are!), and leads to the unsettling realization that…, man, our data is out there and trafficked without our consent and being used by advertisers in ways we have no clue about…”
“…One Concern debuted Flood Concern in late 2018. It creates map-based visualizations of where water surges may hit hardest, up to five days ahead of an impending storm. For cities, that includes not just time-lapse breakdowns of how the water will rise, how fast it could move, and what direction it will be flowing, but also what structures will get swamped or washed away, and how differing mitigation efforts–from levy building to dam releases–will impact each scenario. It’s the winner of Fast Company’s 2019 World Changing Ideas Awards in the AI and Data category…”
The New York Times Deal Book – A simple rule that bolsters the banking system – “know your customer” — could help combat fake news and hate speech online if companies like Facebook and Twitter embraced it. “…The concept is “know your customer” — or KYC, as it’s called on Wall Street — and it’s straightforward: Given concerns about privacy, security and fraud when it comes to money, no bank is allowed to take on a new customer without verifying its existence and vetting its background. The idea of applying such a rule to social media has been floated before, but it has so far failed to take hold. Now may be the right time. Consider this: Facebook has said it shut down over 1.5 billion fake accounts from April through September last year (yes, that’s a “B” in billion). That was up from the 1.3 billion such accounts it eliminated in the six previous months. To put those numbers in context, Facebook has a reported user base of 2.3 billion. What if social media companies had to verify their users the same way banks do? You’d probably feel more confident that you were interacting with real people and were not just a target for malicious bots…”
The New York Times: “Claudio E. Cabrera, who specializes in search engine optimization, describes how he keeps track of what’s hot in search and how that informs coverage — and what the limits are…How do you keep track of search trends? A lot of it really starts with taking a dive into the journalism your website is producing. I’m big on looking at our Times Wire tool when I wake up and the stories we’ve published overnight. I pick and choose what to read based on headlines and jot down anything that stands out. There are always stories within the story, and when we may not catch that story ourselves, another brand will and aggregate it, and it then becomes a trend. That becomes a missed opportunity for us. On a tools front, I use Google Trends, Kaleida, NewsWhip, Reddit and CrowdTangle. I like these tools because they incorporate search, social and the conversations around them…”
Washington Post: “If the Trump administration succeeds at dismantling the Office of Personnel Management, the closure could be a blueprint for shuttering other departments as it tries to shrink government….The agency would be pulled apart and its functions divided among three other departments. An executive order directing parts of the transition by the fall is in the final stages of review, administration officials said, with an announcement by President Trump likely by summer. OPM employees were briefed at a meeting in March. For Trump, the breakup of the 5,565-employee federal personnel agency would offer a jolt of bureaucratic defibrillation to a slow-to-change workforce that the president and his top aides have targeted as a symptom of a sluggish, inefficient government…”
“Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class: “Middle-class households feel left behind and have questioned the benefits of economic globalisation. In many OECD countries, middle incomes have grown less than the average and in some they have not grown at all. Technology has automated several middle-skilled jobs that used to be carried out by middle-class workers a few decades ago. The costs of some goods and services such as housing, which are essential for a middle-class lifestyle, have risen faster than earnings and overall inflation. Faced with this, middle classes have reduced their ability to save and in some cases have fallen into debt. This report sheds light on the multiple pressures on the middle class. It analyses the trends of middle-income households through dimensions such as labour occupation, consumption, wealth and debt, as well as perceptions and social attitudes. It also discusses policy initiatives to address the concerns raised by the middle class, by protecting middle-class living standards and financial security in the face of economic challenge.”
So now we need an app to fix our apps. Ok – here is the latest via TechCrunch: “Jumbo could be a nightmare for the tech giants, but a savior for the victims of their shady privacy practices. Jumbo saves you hours as well as embarrassment by automatically adjusting 30 Facebook privacy settings to give you more protection, and by deleting your old tweets after saving them to your phone. It can even erase your Google Search and Amazon Alexa history, with clean-up features for Instagram and Tinder in the works. The startup emerges from stealth today to launch its Jumbo privacy assistant app on iPhone (Android coming soon). What could take a ton of time and research to do manually can be properly handled by Jumbo with a few taps…The full list of what Jumbo can adjust includes Who can see your future posts?, Who can see the people?, Pages and lists you follow, Who can see your friends list?, Who can see your sexual preference?, Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?, Who can post on your timeline?, and Review tags people add to your posts the tags appear on Facebook? The full list can be found here…”
Poynter: “As the Pulitzer Prize Board prepares to select its slate of 2019 winners to announce next week, likely little time will be spent reacting to presidential tweets — such as the March 29 one that urged the board to invalidate last year’s National Reporting prizes to the Washington Post and New York Times. “There was so much extraordinary work submitted” this year, Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy told Poynter in an email, “even in a year when journalism is yet again under relentless assault, including from the highest office in the land, and when the security threats remain high for journalists simply seeking to do their jobs.” Naming new winners is the 18-member Board’s main job now, of course. And the result of its secret deliberations to honor the best work in 14 journalism categories, and seven for arts, letters and music, will be livestreamed from Columbia University by Canedy next Monday, April 15 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Typically, one winner and two finalists are announced in each category, based on the recommendations of jury panels…Among the work mentioned: The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi coverage as a Public Service contender, and The Wall Street Journal’s stories on “Trump’s Hush Money” and ProPublica’s coverage of immigration, both for National Reporting.)..”
DCReport – Move Comes After Outcry Over Planned Destruction of Interior Department Documents – “The National Archives is changing the way it decides what records to destroy after an outcry about proposed mass destruction of records at the Interior Department. The change follows a campaign by writer Russ Kick whose website, AltGov 2, features government data and other researchers. “This is a huge deal,” said Kick. “The process whereby agencies and NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] decide which records get destroyed is absolutely crucial.” The Interior Department under disgraced Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed a massive purge of records about endangered animals, oil and gas leases, timber sales, dams and land purchases. National Archives traditionally posted notices about schedules of documents that could be shredded, but researchers who wanted to learn more about what was proposed for deletion had to request the actual schedules. Now they’ll be able to see the schedules online and also to comment online. “We are making this change as a result of clear, widespread interest from the public,” said Laurence Brewer, our country’s chief records officer…”
Zendrive: “…Last year, 6,227 pedestrians lost their lives to the hands of drivers who were most likely driving under the influence of a smartphone. On a national level, drivers are 10 percent more distracted this year than last. And from out under the shadows, Phone Addicts have positioned themselves as public enemy number one, replacing drunk drivers as the ultimate threat on public roads… Phone Addicts are glued to their phones, so they’re more distracted, more dangerous, and more likely to cause a crash. When comparing this year’s data to the 2018 report, we found that the number of ‘Phone Addicts’ doubled in the last year.
Overall, ‘Phone Addicts:’
- Spend 3x more drive time actively using their phones
- Actively ignore the road 28% of the time they’re driving
- Are on the road 1.5x more times than the general population
- Are more of a public danger than drunk drivers…”
cent.com: More information is available online than ever. Libraries are stepping in to make sure everyone can access it. “…NYPL has rolled out a host of services aimed at closing the digital divide, which is exactly what it sounds like: the gap between those who can easily get online and those who can’t. The famous library — who hasn’t seen Patience and Fortitude, the marble lions who guard its main entrance, in the movies? — provides computers and laptops at its locations, and lends out mobile hotspots for months at a time. And like at Starbucks, the Wi-Fi is free. The NYPL is far from the only library rethinking its role in the digital age. Around the globe, libraries are repositioning themselves to meet the needs of a world where almost everything on the shelves can be found online. Many see themselves as centers of digital culture offering classes in the latest tech, such as 3D printing and digital video editing. Key to that mission is helping patrons who can’t afford internet service, like Marx’s young friend, find a way to get online. As of Sunday, libraries across the US began celebrating their evolving mission as part of National Library Week…
Providing internet connections is increasingly important for libraries as more aspects of our lives move online. Forty-seven percent of US households earning less than $30,000 don’t have broadband, according to Pew, and 44 percent don’t have a desktop or laptop. At the NYPL, three quarters of the people who check out the hotspots live in households earning less than $25,000 a year..”
BBC Future – It took nearly five years into the internet’s life before anyone made a concerted effort to archive it. Much of our earliest online activity has disappeared. “…The Million Dollar Homepage shows that the decay of this early period of the internet is almost invisible. In the offline world, the closing of, say, a local newspaper is often widely reported. But online sites die, often without fanfare, and the first inkling you may have that they are no longer there is when you click on a link to be met with a blank page…”
See also Axios: “The internet is an invisible mesh that enables instantaneous global communications, but delivering all those bits quickly to more people in more places requires increasingly exotic approaches. That latest viral video might start out in an underwater data center before traveling to a satellite, undersea cable or balloon — then hopping wirelessly to reach your phone…”
ProPublica: “Just in time for Tax Day, the for-profit tax preparation industry is about to realize one of its long-sought goals. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system. Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa. In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry’s profits.
“This could be a disaster. It could be the final nail in the coffin of the idea of the IRS ever being able to create its own program,” said Mandi Matlock, a tax attorney who does work for the National Consumer Law Center…”
BuzzFeedNews – “There will soon be more people aged 65+ in the US than in any other demographic, and it will stay that way for decades. I’ve spent months collecting data on the online habits of older people, with a particular focus on how they interact with false content. I just published a new story that dives deep into this — here are some of the most compelling points:
- Four recent studies found that those over 65 are more likely to consume and share fake news on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and the web.
- They don’t have a good understanding of the role algorithms play in determining what content we see online.
- They have a harder time differentiating between news and opinion.
- They are often targeted with ads from hyperpartisan and fake news sites.
- They’re also targeted by online scams, malware, and other internet ills. Just last month, the Department of Justice announced “the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.”
Ramadorai, Tarun and Uettwiller, Antoine and Walther, Ansgar, The Market for Data Privacy (March 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3352175 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3352175“We scrape a comprehensive set of US firms’ privacy policies to facilitate research on the supply of data privacy. We analyze these data with the help of expert legal evaluations, and also acquire data on firms’ web tracking activities. We find considerable and systematic variation in privacy policies along multiple dimensions including ease of access, length, readability, and quality, both within and between industries. Motivated by a simple theory of big data acquisition and usage, we analyze the relationship between firm size, knowledge capital intensity, and privacy supply. We find that large firms with intermediate data intensity have longer, legally watertight policies, but are more likely to share user data with third parties.”
Does Google meet its users’ expectations around consumer privacy? This news industry research says no
Neiman Lab – A significant majority of consumers do not expect Google to track their activities across their lives, their locations, on other sites, and on other platforms. “…Our findings show that many of Google’s data practices deviate from consumer expectations. We find it even more significant that consumer’s expectations are at an all-time low even after 2018, a year in which awareness around consumer privacy reached peak heights. The results of the study are consistent with our Facebook study: People don’t want surveillance advertising. A majority of consumers indicated they don’t expect to be tracked across Google’s services, let alone be tracked across the web in order to make ads more targeted…”
Search Engine Land: “Multiple sources have concluded Amazon has a growing fake-reviews problem. Yet the majority of consumers appear to be unaware of it, according to new consumer survey data from CPC Strategy (part of Elite SEM)…Fake reviews problem not subsiding. Multiple third party analyses (Washington Post, ReviewMeta, Fakespot) have concluded that some product categories on Amazon are heavily polluted by tainted reviews (fake or paid-for). Most recently Fakespot said that in product categories such as electronics and beauty, a majority of the reviews are illegitimate in one way or another…”
R Street: “We have created a new resource for those who want to learn more about Supreme Court confirmation hearings. This spreadsheet—and a web version (displayed below)—contain the text of every Supreme Court confirmation hearing for which Senate Judiciary Committee transcripts are available (beginning in 1971 with hearings for Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist and concluding with Neil Gorsuch’s 2017 hearing). The transcript for Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 hearing is not yet publicly available but will be added once it is. More details regarding what is and is not included are detailed below. Although other transcripts of these hearings exist, this database is unique in that it is fully searchable, customizable and user-friendly. For example, each time someone speaks, it is indicated on the next line of text. Each line of text is accompanied by information including the year of the hearing, the nominee in question, the name and title of the speaker, the speaker’s political party and the full text of the statement…”