Law and Legal
“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…”
FAS – Secrecy News: “The number of leaks of classified information reported as potential crimes by federal agencies reached record high levels during the first two years of the Trump Administration, according to data released by the Justice Department last week. Agencies transmitted 120 leak referrals to the Justice Department in 2017, and 88 leak referrals in 2018, for an average of 104 per year. By comparison, the average number of leak referrals during the Obama Administration (2009–2016) was 39 per year. There are a “staggering number of leaks,” then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at an August 4, 2017 briefing about efforts to prevent the unauthorized disclosures. “Referrals for investigations of classified leaks to the Department of Justice from our intelligence agencies have exploded,” AG Sessions said at that time. He outlined several steps that the Administration would take to combat leaks of classified information, including tripling the number of active leak investigations by the FBI. “We had about nine open investigations of classified leaks in the last 3 years,” he told the House Judiciary Committee at a November 2017 hearing. “We have 27 investigations open today.” (Some of those investigations pertain to leaks that occurred before President Trump took office.) “We intend to get to the bottom of these leaks. I think it reached—has reached epidemic proportions. It cannot be allowed to continue,” Sessions said then, “and we will do our best effort to ensure that it does not continue.” But it has continued. Despite preventive efforts, the 2018 total of 88 leak referrals was still higher than any reported pre-Trump figure. (The previous high in recent decades had been 55 referrals in 2013 and in 2007. The lowest was 18 in 2015.)..”
“In the first online safety laws of their kind, social media companies and tech firms will be legally required to protect their users and face tough penalties if they do not comply. As part of the Online Harms White Paper, a joint proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Home Office, a new independent regulator will be introduced to ensure companies meet their responsibilities. This will include a mandatory ‘duty of care’, which will require companies to take reasonable steps to keep their users safe and tackle illegal and harmful activity on their services. The regulator will have effective enforcement tools, and we are consulting on powers to issue substantial fines, block access to sites and potentially to impose liability on individual members of senior management…A range of harms will be tackled as part of the Online Harms White Paper, including inciting violence and violent content, encouraging suicide, disinformation, cyber bullying and children accessing inappropriate material. There will be stringent requirements for companies to take even tougher action to ensure they tackle terrorist and child sexual exploitation and abuse content. The new proposed laws will apply to any company that allows users to share or discover user generated content or interact with each other online. This means a wide range of companies of all sizes are in scope, including social media platforms, file hosting sites, public discussion forums, messaging services, and search engines…”
“The State of America’s Libraries report is a summary of library trends released during National Library Week, April 7 – 13, that outlines statistics and issues affecting all types of libraries. Never have our nation’s libraries played such a pivotal role in strengthening communities through education and lifelong learning. Libraries are a microcosm of the larger society. They play an important and unique role in the communities that they serve and provide an inclusive environment where all are treated with respect and dignity. No longer just places for books, our public libraries serve as a lifeline for some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities. From community-wide issues as illiteracy, homelessness and community silos, our nation’s public libraries are acting as catalysts in fostering community-wide solutions that strengthen communities.”
We have been enjoying a remarkably beautiful Spring here in the DC metro area. There are more blossoming trees than in past years due to the sustained warm weather. There are more than 10 different kinds of cherry trees and magnolias, as well as eastern redbuds, and so many flowering shrubs and flowers. Please take as many walks as you can, and enjoy this updated map from the terrific folks at Casey Trees.
Automation is an important ingredient driving economic growth and progress. “Automation has enabled us to feed a growing population while allowing workers to transition from subsistence farming to new forms of work. Automation helped moved us from a craft system to mass production, from blue-collar to white-collar to “new collar” work—with better work, higher wages, more jobs, and better living standards.
But without adequate policies and institutions, automation can also have negative effects on individuals and communities. Emerging technologies—including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced robotics—have the potential to automate many tasks currently performed by workers, leading to renewed questions over what the future holds for the American workforce. We must ensure the proper support structures are in place to promote opportunity and prosperity for all. Automation and a Changing Economy is divided into two sections. – Automation and a Changing Economy: The Case for Action and Policies for Shared Prosperity.”
Before you read the report – Test your science knowledge by taking the interactive quiz. The short quiz tests your knowledge of questions recently asked in a national poll. After completing the quiz, you can compare your score with the general public and with people like yourself.
“A new Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans can answer at least some questions about science concepts – most can correctly answer a question about antibiotics overuse or the definition of an “incubation period,” for example. But other concepts are more challenging; fewer Americans can recognize a hypothesis or identify that bases are the main components of antacids. The survey, conducted Jan. 7 to 21, 2019, takes stock of the degree to which the public shares a common understanding of science facts and processes in an era of easy access to information and sometimes-intense debate over what information is true and false. Americans’ knowledge of specific facts connected with life sciences and earth and other physical sciences varies, of course. About eight-in-ten (79%) correctly identify that antibiotic resistance is a major concern about the overuse of antibiotics. A similar share (76%) know an incubation period is the time during which someone has an infection but is not showing symptoms…”