Law and Legal
- “It may be getting easier to link your private and anonymized DNA data to your identity.
- That means the genetic data you share with a testing company — which may include sensitive health information like your risk of cancer — could one day be matched with your name by an unintended party.
- While some at-home DNA tests like 23andMe have privacy protocols to protect against this, they’re not a guarantee, experts say. Other companies have fewer safeguards.
- One key issue is the ability for users to upload their private DNA data to publicly-accessible genetic databases like the one used in the Golden State Killer case…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
Perkins Coie – “The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) has published the first in a series of guidelines for what it colloquially refers to as “smart derivatives contracts” (the Guidelines).* A smart derivatives contract is a derivative that incorporates software code to automate aspects of the derivative transaction and operates on a distributed ledger, such as a blockchain. This series of papers is intended to “provide high-level guidance on the legal documentation and framework that currently governs derivatives trading, and to point out certain issues that may need to be considered by technology developers when introducing technology into that framework.”Derivatives have long been thought to be a fitting use case for smart contract solutions. It is little surprise that derivatives industry incumbents and startups alike are working on novel smart contract solutions to facilitate the execution and clearing of derivatives. Smart derivatives contracts have the potential to create significant efficiencies in the derivatives market by automating the performance of obligations and operations under a derivatives contract. Derivatives settlement is largely reliant upon conditional logic informed by certain data points that can be made available via oracle.However, swaps trading under lengthy master agreements and at heavy volumes add significant complications. There can be many barriers to smart contract implementation because of the complexity of the legal frameworks, the significant payment netting that occurs, subjective elements of event of default provisions, as well as other costs, fragmentation risks, and technological issues.ISDA recognizes these complexities and has discussed this with industry participants to determine where it can lend assistance as companies experiment with smart derivatives contracts. ISDA and derivatives traders have voiced concerns about technology developers being sufficiently aware that the legal terms of the ISDA Master Agreement, the supporting documentation, and each individual transaction that sits underneath it, should be appropriately incorporated and not be disturbed without due legal consideration and advice on the potential impact. As a result, ISDA has initiated a series of Guidelines designed to illuminate the core principles of ISDA documentation – and certain important legal terms – that should be maintained when technology is applied to derivatives trading, in a comprehensive fashion with a practical approach.”
The Guardian Data Visualization – How Brexit has created four new political factions – Analysis of Commons voting patterns show how Europhobe and Europhile rebels from both main parties are forming new parliamentary blocs
“Our study clusters MPs by the similarity of their voting patterns: if two MPs always vote the same way, the chart groups them tightly together. The patterns on key Brexit votes reveal the emergence of four cross-party political factions that are wrangling for control of the negotiations. A cross-party group of pro-European MPs usually votes with each other, with or against their own frontbenches, while Europhobe Conservatives now constitute a party within the party. Search for your MP to see which faction they were most closely aligned with as the Brexit votes unfolded…”
National Geographic – In 1792, leading architects entered a competition to build the President’s House, George Washington judged it, and the winner built an American icon. “It may seem like Washington, D.C. was the perfect spot for the U.S. captial, but its selection was controversial. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and others wanted the capital to be located in a northern commercial center. Southern leaders proposed that the federal city be built in an agricultural region to avoid concentrating financial and political power. Businessmen in Philadelphia and New York sought to lure the president by building great residences for him, but George Washington selected a site currently located between Virginia and Maryland on the Potomac River. He believed that the location would be the seed for a great capital city, the equal of Paris or London...”
The New York Times Magazine – The Secret History of Women in Coding – Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong? by Clive Thompson (adapted from “Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World,” available March 26, 2019): “When digital computers finally became a practical reality in the 1940s, women were … pioneers in writing software for the machines. At the time, men in the computing industry regarded writing code as a secondary, less interesting task. The real glory lay in making the hardware. … If we want to pinpoint a moment when women began to be forced out of programming, we can look at one year: 1984. A decade earlier, a study revealed that the numbers of men and women who expressed an interest in coding as a career were equal. … From 1984 onward, the percentage dropped; by the time 2010 rolled around, … 17.6 percent of the students graduating from computer-science and information-science programs were women. One reason … has to do with a change in how and when kids learned to program. … Once the first generation of personal computers, like the Commodore 64 or the TRS-80, found their way into homes, teenagers were able to play around with them [before entering college] … By the mid-’80s, some college freshmen … were remarkably well prepared. … [T]hese students were mostly men, as two academics discovered when they looked into the reasons women’s enrollment was so low…”
Quartz: “There are gender pay gaps … and then there are median gender pay gaps. Understanding the difference between the two may determine just how much progress women make in terms of fairer compensation in the next decade. So first, the definitions: “Equal pay” gap: What women are paid versus their direct male peers, statistically adjusted for factors such as job, seniority, and geography. Often referred to in the context of “equal pay for equal work.” “Median pay” gap: The median pay of women working full time versus men working full time. This is an unadjusted raw measure used by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Women in the US, for example, make 80 cents on the dollar versus men on this basis.
Equal pay gaps measure whether women are being paid commensurate with their peers for the work they are doing today. But median pay gaps measure whether or not women are holding as many high-paying jobs as men. Narrowing the median pay gap means putting more women in leadership (and reaping the performance benefits that diversity affords). And that’s where investors come in. Concerned shareholders in major US financial and tech companies want to make sure the pay gap difference is understood—and acted upon. Consider the case of Citigroup. While it is true that women at Citi are paid 99% of what men are paid on an equal-pay basis when adjusting for job function, level, and geography, the median pay gap at the financial giant paints a very different picture: Women at Citigroup earn just 71% of what the men earn…”
Shane Parrish – Farnam Street – The Dying Art of Conversation: My Interview with Author and Speaker Celeste Headlee [The Knowledge Project Ep. #51 – Podcast] “Speaker, author and radio journalist Celeste Headlee has had decades of experience fine tuning the recipe for engaging and rewarding conversation. She shares some tips to help us instantly improve our conversational skills and meaningfully connect with others.”
Interactive map shows what the climates of 540 urban areas in US and Canada will feel like in 60 years
The University of Maryland: “The map was created by Matt Fitzpatrick at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Robert Dunn of North Carolina State University [previously], who have also published an accompanying paper that details their methods for climate-analog mapping. In general, the closest analogs for future North American climates are to the south. But due to changing precipitation patterns significant eastward or westward shifts may also be involved. And for higher altitude cities, the nearest equivalent future climate may even exist to the north at lower elevations. The map and study look at two different scenarios: a business-as-usual future with no significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, and a moderate reduction in emissions as envisioned under the Paris Agreement.
“Under the business as usual emissions the average urban dweller is going to have to drive nearly 1,000 km to the south to find a climate like that expected in their home city by 2080,” said Fitzpatrick. “Not only is climate changing, but climates that don’t presently exist in North America will be prevalent in a lot of urban areas.”
“The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is advocating for the passage of the Electronic Court Records Reform Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), chair of the Congressional Transparency Caucus. This legislation would, for the first time, allow free access to electronic federal court records through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system and improve the efficiency and transparency of the courts. AALL coordinated a letter signed by 15 other organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Data Coalition, and the Project on Government Oversight—urging passage of the bill. “Access to the law, and information about the law, is the cornerstone of any democracy. The American Association of Law Libraries has long advocated for no-fee access to federal court records through PACER,and the Electronic Court Records Reform Act would finally make that vision a reality,” said Femi Cadmus,president of AALL. “Eliminating PACER fees will improve transparency of the courts and allow law libraries to preserve and provide access to court records.
We urge Congress to enact this legislation.”The Electronic Court Records Reform Act would: Consolidate the case management/electronic case files system and require all documents in the system be searchable, machine-readable and available to the public and to parties before the court free of charge; Protect private information, requiring the courts to redact any information prohibited from public disclosure…”
“It’s a continuing love story for most owners and their vehicles as overall dependability for three-year-old vehicles improves 4% from last year, according to the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (SM) (VDS). “Vehicle dependability continues to improve, but I wouldn’t say that everything is rosy,” said Dave Sargent, Vice President of Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “Vehicles are more reliable than ever, but automakers are wrestling with problems such as voice recognition, transmission shifts and battery failures. Flawless dependability is a determining factor in whether customers remain loyal to a brand, so manufacturers need to help customers who are currently experiencing vehicle problems and address these trouble spots on future models.” The study, now in its 30th year, measures the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old model-year vehicles. The 2019 study measures problems in model year 2016 vehicles. A lower score reflects higher quality, and the study covers 177 specific problems grouped into eight major vehicle categories…”
Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For – This year’s annual list of best companies to work for features Hilton in the top spot. But the companies on this list belong to a variety of industries, from grocery chains to tech organizations. Fortune research partner Great Place to Work evaluated everything from company perks to opportunities for innovation for this year’s list. Learn more about the companies – here.
“Innovation by all. How do you encourage it? How do you harness it? And most important, how do you make sure you’re not stifling it? As we talked to top-performing companies of every size and across every industry on our 22nd annual list, the challenge of getting the best ideas from all your employees is the theme that came up more than any other. One obvious example is at our new No. 1: Hilton. Relying on a Millennial Team Member Resource Group is just one of the ways this 100-year-old hospitality company is making sure all employees (in this case, its youngest) get a chance to contribute their best ideas. Attempting to “actively solicit input, new ideas, learnings, and experiences” has become paramount, says Hilton’s chief human resources officer Matthew Schuyler.
Elsewhere on our list, Cisco (No. 6) is developing more and more programs to seed innovation, such as an annual companywide competition in which employees can “invest” tokens in the best ideas (the contest has led to seven proofs of concept and eight patents). Indeed, this list includes dozens of role models for encouraging innovation (which is also the theme of our February Great Place to Work for All Summit). Still, we wondered: Could this magic formula be quantified?…”
The Washington Post: “In a month, the National Weather Service plans to launch its “next generation” weather prediction model with the aim of “better, more timely forecasts.” But many meteorologists familiar with the model fear it is unreliable. The introduction of a model that forecasters lack confidence in matters, considering the enormous impact that weather has on the economy, valued at around $485 billion annually. The Weather Service announced Wednesday that the new model, known as the FV3 (which stands for Finite Volume Cubed-Sphere dynamical core), is “tentatively” set to become the United States’ primary forecast model on March 20, pending tests. It will replace the current version of the GFS, popularly known as the American model, which has existed in various forms for more than 30 years. The introduction of the FV3 is intended as the Weather Service’s next step toward building the best weather prediction model in the world, a stated priority of the Trump administration. The current GFS model trails the European model in accuracy, and it has for many years, despite millions of dollars in congressional funding dating back to 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hit.
Numerous meteorologists who have experience using the FV3 worry it’s not ready for prime time and have been underwhelmed by its performance. For months, its predictions have been publicly available, on an experimental basis for forecasters to evaluate. When news broke about the Weather Service’s intention to make the FV3 the United States’ primary model, meteorologists unleashed a torrent of complaints and negative reviews on Twitter…”
The Guardian UK – “The Society of Authors (SoA) is threatening legal action against the Internet Archive unless it stops what the writers’ body claimed is the unauthorised lending of books unlawfully scanned for its Open Library. Set up in San Francisco 1996 to preserve pages published on the internet, the Internet Archive also collects digital books, offering borrowers access to hundreds of thousands of titles through its Open Library arm. Some are out of copyright, but the collection includes books from authors including AS Byatt, Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel, William Boyd, Philip Pullman and Iain Banks that are still in copyright and currently available to be borrowed in the UK. According to its website, the organisation began digitising books in 2005, because “not everyone has access to a public or academic library with a good collection, so to provide universal access we need to provide digital versions of books”. Today the archive scans 1,000 books a day in 28 locations around the world, through its book scanning and book drive programmes – with the “ultimate goal of [making] all the published works of humankind available to everyone in the world”. Users can borrow up to five books at a time, with each loan expiring after two weeks.
The SoA, which represents more than 10,000 writers in the UK, called on the Internet Archive to “cease making available to UK users the unauthorised lending of scanned books” via Open Library. In an open letter, the SoA said that in the UK, all scanning and lending must be authorised by the copyright owner. Despite this, users in the UK are currently able to borrow scanned copies of physical books from Open Library. “That is a direct and actionable infringement of copyright,” said the SoA. “Authors are not asked for permission before their work appears on Open Library, and they do not receive any royalties … We are calling on you to cease this practice, which … is unquestionably unlawful in the UK.”
In Custodia Legis – “In January, Robert announced the first version of the new Committee Schedule that we have been working on. It is a great way to see quickly which meetings and hearings the House and Senate committees have scheduled for the week…”
Transparency Report 2018 – January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 – “Every year, Reddit produces a Transparency Report to provide users with information about the types of requests that we receive from third parties that want Reddit to disclose user data or remove content from the platform. Reddit takes the privacy of its users seriously. Reddit therefore insists on compliance with procedural requirements, scrutinizes requests and legal process for facial validity and legal sufficiency, and objects to process when appropriate. This year, we will be sharing additional information with you about copyright removals, restorations, and retractions, as well as removals for violations of Reddit’s Content Policy and subreddit rules. Not only does this additional information increase transparency for our users, but it helps bring Reddit into line with The Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation, the goals and spirit of which we support as a starting point for further conversation. Reports for previous years can be found here…”
“Some level of bafflement attends tax-filing season every year. But in 2019, as Americans examine their returns for the first time under the full effect of the sweeping new Republican tax law, the situation is the most cryptic in memory. Some tax breaks have been erased or capped, while others have been expanded or introduced. This is equal-opportunity anxiety. Blue-state professionals feel micro-targeted by new limits on state and local tax deductions, while filers elsewhere can’t figure out why they’re no longer getting a fat refund, if the law was supposed to be so good for them. We asked accountants across the country to tell us their clients’ most common queries. Here are some answers…”
PCWorld: “Some governments, schools, and businesses try to block websites in order to reduce distractions, conserve bandwidth, or censor content. If you want to circumvent such limitations—and you’re willing to assume any attendant risks—you can try to enlist the aid of a VPN, or virtual private network. A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your PC and a server in another location. When you connect to a VPN server, all of your communication travels through that tunnel, so third parties can’t monitor it. In this setup, your online identity—your IP address—becomes anonymized, and you can access blocked websites…”
“Algorithms are all around us, using massive stores of data and complex analytics to make decisions with often significant impacts on humans – from choosing the content people see on social media to judging whether a person is a good credit risk or job candidate. Pew Research Center released several reports in 2018 that explored the role and meaning of algorithms in people’s lives today. Here are some of the key themes that emerged from that research…”
Motherboard – Reading the terms and conditions of online consumer contracts requires, on average, more than 14 years of education. Two law professors analyzed the sign-in terms and conditions of 500 popular US websites, including Google and Facebook, and found that more than 99 percent of them were “unreadable,” far exceeding the level most American adults read at, but are still enforced. According to a new paper published on SSRN (Social Science Research Network), the average readability level of the agreements reviewed by the researchers was comparable to articles in academic journals. “While consumers are legally expected or presumed to read their contracts, businesses are not required to write readable ones. This asymmetry—and its potential consequences—puzzled us,” wrote co-author Samuel Becher, a law professor at Victoria University of Wellington, in an email to Motherboard. We’ve all been there, signing up for a new digital service such as Amazon or Uber and being asked to tick the box saying that we agree to the terms of service, or ToS. These agreements typically include clauses on intellectual property, prohibited use, and termination, among many others. Most of us accept the terms without bothering to read the fine print. But with these relatively new types of contracts, known as sign-in-wrap agreements, there is a danger in clicking “agree” without reading or understanding them—they’re regularly enforced…”
Popular Mechanics: “When you’re browsing online, who sets the prices? An algorithm, most likely. A study from 2015 showed that a third of all items on Amazon had prices set by an algorithm, and chances are that percentage has only risen. A new study shows how easy it would be for price-setting algorithms to learn to collude with each other and keep prices at a disadvantage for customers. This sort of collusion would stem from a certain type of algorithm, the researchers say. Reinforcement algorithms learn through trial and error. In the simplest terms, a walking robot would take a step, fall, and try again. These algorithms have often been used to teach algorithms to win games like Go.
“From the antitrust standpoint,” say professors Emilio Calvano, Giacomo Calzolari, and others from the University of Bologna in Italy, “the concern is that these autonomous pricing algorithms may independently discover that if they are to make the highest possible profit, they should avoid price wars. That is, they may learn to collude even if they have not been specifically instructed to do so, and even if they do not communicate with one another.” To test their theory they built two AI pricing agents and let them interact with each other. They found that “even relatively simple pricing algorithms systematically learn to play sophisticated collusive strategies.”..