Law and Legal

Update: After Congress complains, USDA restores animal welfare reports

Science: “Following Congress’s request for greater transparency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has apparently restored detail in its most recent animal welfare inspection reports. Reports published on the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website since last August have omitted inventories that list the number and species of animals housed at facilities within companies and research institutions. But newly posted reports seem to reflect lawmakers’ concerns that such redactions make it hard to track the agency’s findings and activities. Newly posted inspection reports, dated March, are apparently the first since last August to show animal inventories. USDA did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether it plans to include such information in all future reports. Below is our original story from 22 March. There was an outcry from both animal welfare groups and animal research defenders 13 months ago when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) blacked out a public database containing thousands of animal welfare inspection reports, as well as records of enforcement actions that USDA took against violators of the Animal Welfare Act, including research facilities. Months later, the agency began posting the inspection reports again, but in a redacted form that critics said made the records much harder to analyze. And USDA did not continue to post enforcement actions, forcing outsiders who wanted those records to file a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIA process typically takes many months to yield a response and often produces heavily redacted documents. Now, Congress is telling USDA that it isn’t happy about the situation, and is ordering the agency to clean up its act and make the database more user-friendly. Yesterday, lawmakers released a report accompanying USDA’s 2018 spending bill. The report notes the agency “is now posting heavily redacted inspection reports that make it difficult in certain cases for the public to understand the subject of the inspection, assess USDA’s subsequent actions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its enforcement.”..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Visualizing the Pay Gap Between Men and Women in the UK

Center for Data Innovation – “The Financial Times (paywall) has created a collection of data visualizations showing that 89 percent of women in the United Kingdom work at companies with a pay gap favoring men. The newspaper analyzed data from firms with more than 250 employees, which were required to submit data comparing men and women’s average pay in their organization to the government in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, to demonstrate that three out of four companies pay men more than women. Readers can search the pay gap for each firm through interactive charts, and line graphs show that the worst-performing sectors—construction, finance, insurance, and education—each have a pay gap of at least 20 percent in men’s favor. A major reason for the gap is a lack of women in senior positions, according to the Financial Times.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Proposed rulemaking by LC to include ebooks in mandatory depository program “The world’s largest collection of literature is expanding into e-books. In a notice of proposed rulemaking to be published April 16, the Library of Congress will begin including published e-books under its mandatory deposit rule, but only on a by-request basis. Mandatory deposit requires publishers to submit two copies of the work’s “best edition” — the edition determined by the Library to be most suitable for its purposes — within three months of publication. Previously, the mandatory deposit rule specifically excluded electronic-only works from the collection of copyrightable works. The motivation for changing the rule was simple, said Cindy Abramson, assistant general counsel at the Library of Congress: to update the Library’s definition — and collection — of books to match an increasingly digital environment…”

Categories: Law and Legal

LA Times – Trump lawyers urge high court to bolster his power to fire executive officials

David Savage – LA Times: “The Supreme Court is set to hear a seemingly minor case later this month on the status of administrative judges at the Securities and Exchange Commission, an issue that normally might only draw the interest of those accused of stock fraud. But the dispute turns on the president’s power to hire and fire officials throughout the government. And it comes just as the White House is saying President Trump believes he has the power to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.Trump’s Solicitor Gen. Noel Francisco intervened in the SEC case to urge the high court to  clarify the president’s constitutional power to fire all “officers of the United States” who “exercise significant authority” under the law. “The Constitution gives the president what the framers saw as the traditional means of ensuring accountability: the power to oversee executive officers through removal,” he wrote in Lucia vs. SEC. “The president is accordingly authorized under our constitutional system to remove all principal officers, as well as all ‘inferior officers’ he has appointed.”…

But Francisco’s brief suggests the administration lawyers believe the Constitution itself authorizes the president to remove officials who wield executive power in the government. Last week White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration had been advised that the president has the power to fire the special counsel. On Friday the court agreed to Francisco’s request to participate in the April 23 argument so he can advocate for a ruling on the president’s removal power.

Categories: Law and Legal

The premise that AI will save Facebook is – false

Quartz: “…Facebook’s challenge is finding all these permutations of hate speech, bullying, threats, and terrorism, in order to train its AI to look out for similar examples. The problem gets messier because not everyone can agree what makes a post harmful or abusive. Facebook faced this problem in 2016 when the social media platform was deluged by reports of fake news during the US presidential election. While Zuckerberg cited AI as a potential savior to the problem then, the company now is hiring 20,000 humans to oversee all content moderation. Mevan Babakar, head of automated fact checking at UK non-profit Full Fact, says that regardless of whether AI or humans are used to moderate content, both methods share the common question about who determines whether certain speech is acceptable.

“AI comes with big questions on definitions. Hate speech is sometimes obvious but in some cases people can’t agree. The same is true for matching factchecks to content. Who will be making these choices? Small choices have big consequences here,” Babakar said.” [h/t Pete Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

New on LLRX – Can Legal Research Be Taught? Part 3: Pushing Ourselves Further

Via LLRX – Can Legal Research Be Taught? Part 3: Pushing Ourselves Further – In the conclusion of his three part series, Paul Gatz joins the themes of the first two articles, the teaching of metacognition, legal bibliography, and legal analysis and argument to his conclusion that “to be the experts in legal research we must also be leaders in developing knowledge in our field, furthering the understanding of the legal domain and of our own place within it.” The accuracy of Gatz’s conclusions can enrich our work as we teach students on range of expert subject matter that aligns with and overlaps legal research.

Categories: Law and Legal

Study – older people want the same things from a job as millennials

A new study says older people want the same things from a job as millennials: A good boss and a chance to change the world – “Older workers are more likely to look for work where they can have a positive impact, new data shows. The study also found that regardless of age, workers want a job where they can develop personally and have confidence in leadership. The survey collected responses from 500,000 employees at 750 companies. Older workers may not be as jaded as you might think. New data provided to Business Insider from employee feedback platform Culture Amp found that employees between the ages of 55-64 are more likely than their younger counterparts to want a job that does good in the world. Culture Amp, which is used by Airbnb, Lyft, and a number of prominent tech companies, gives employees a platform to give feedback to employers. The startup has raised $36.3 million in venture capital funding since it was founded in 2011. Since the company has a wide user base, CEO Didier Elzinga tells Business Insider that he wanted to see if he could debunk some of the prevailing narratives about Millennial workers — especially the idea that younger workers want more autonomy and purpose than older ones. “It certainly surprised me,” Elzinga said. “It’s not just young people that want to make a difference in the world, it’s us old fuddy duddies as well.”The survey, which collected responses from 500,000 employees at 750 companies, asked respondents to answer questions about “engagement drivers” — or what is important to them about a job. The companies surveyed were mostly in the U.S., Australia, and Europe.

Across all age groups, employees indicated that confidence in company leadership and the ability to provide personal development were important. But where the responses differed, the survey found, was whether a job allows someone to make a positive impact. No other age group besides employees ages of 55-64 listed it in their top five “engagement drivers.” Elzinga has a theory about why this may the case: Older workers may be disillusioned by the prospect of earning lots of money, and instead want to focus on work that’s meaningful…” [h/t Pete Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

What if a nuke goes off in Washington, D.C.? Simulations of artificial societies help planners cope with the unthinkable

Science – M. Mitchell Waldrop, Apr. 12, 2018: “…Known as National Planning Scenario 1 (NPS1), that nuclear attack story line originated in the 1950s as a kind of war game, a safe way for national security officials and emergency managers to test their response plans before having to face the real thing. Sixty years later, officials are still reckoning with the consequences of a nuclear catastrophe in regular NPS1 exercises. Only now, instead of following fixed story lines and predictions assembled ahead of time, they are using computers to play what-if with an entire artificial society: an advanced type of computer simulation called an agent-based model. Today’s version of the NPS1 model includes a digital simulation of every building in the area affected by the bomb, as well as every road, power line, hospital, and even cell tower. The model includes weather data to simulate the fallout plume. And the scenario is peopled with some 730,000 agents—a synthetic population statistically identical to the real population of the affected area in factors such as age, sex, and occupation. Each agent is an autonomous subroutine that responds in reasonably human ways to other agents and the evolving disaster by switching among multiple modes of behavior—for example, panic, flight, and efforts to find family members. The point of such models is to avoid describing human affairs from the top down with fixed equations, as is traditionally done in such fields as economics and epidemiology. Instead, outcomes such as a financial crash or the spread of a disease emerge from the bottom up, through the interactions of many individuals, leading to a real-world richness and spontaneity that is otherwise hard to simulate…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Editorial – Obfuscating with transparency

Obfuscating with transparency, Jeremy Berg. Science 13 Apr 2018: Vol. 360, Issue 6385, pp. 133. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8121

“Transparency is critical when it comes to decision-making that broadly affects the public, particularly when it comes to policies purported to be grounded in scientific evidence. The scientific community has been increasingly focused on improving the transparency of research through initiatives that represent good-faith efforts to enhance the robustness of scientific findings and to increase access to and utility of data that underlie research. Yet, concerns about transparency associated with scientific results continue to emerge in political discussions. Most recently in the United States, a new proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would eliminate the use of publications in its policy discussions for which all underlying data are not publicly available. Here, a push for transparency appears actually to be a mechanism for suppressing important scientific evidence in policy-making, thereby threatening the public’s well-being…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Google loses landmark ‘right to be forgotten’ case in UK

The Guardian: “A businessman has won his legal action to remove search results about a criminal conviction in a landmark “right to be forgotten” case that could have wide-ranging repercussions. The ruling was made by Mr Justice Warby in London on Friday. The judge rejected a similar claim brought by a second businessman who was jailed for a more serious offence. The claimant who lost, referred to only as NT1 for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990s; the claimant who won, known as NT2, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiracy to intercept communications. NT1 was jailed for four years, while NT2 was jailed for six months. Granting an appeal in the case of NT1, the judge added: “It is quite likely that there will be more claims of this kind, and the fact that NT2 has succeeded is likely to reinforce that.” Both men demanded that Google remove search results mentioning the cases for which they were convicted. These include links to web pages published by a national newspaper and other media. Google refused their request and the men took the company to the high court. The decision in NT2’s favour could have implications for other convicted criminals and those who want embarrassing stories about them erased from the web. Warby ruled out any damages payment, however. Explaining his decision, the judge said NT1 continued to mislead the public, whereas NT2 had shown remorse. He also took into account the submission that NT2’s conviction did not concern actions taken by him in relation to “consumers, customers or investors”, but rather in relation to the invasion of privacy of third parties…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Right to Communications Confidentiality in Europe: Protecting Trust, Privacy, and Freedom of Expression

Borgesius and Steenbruggen on The Right to Communications Confidentiality in Europe: Protecting Trust, Privacy, and Freedom of Expression

“In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides comprehensive rules for the processing of personal data. In addition, the EU lawmaker intends to adopt specific rules to protect confidentiality of communications, in a separate ePrivacy Regulation. Some have argued that there is no need for such additional rules for communications confidentiality. This paper discusses the protection of the right to confidentiality of communications in Europe. We look at the right’s origins as a fundamental right to assess the rationale for protecting the right. We also analyse how the right is currently protected under the European Convention on Human Rights and under EU law. We show that the right to communications confidentiality protects three values: trust in communication services, privacy, and freedom of expression. The right aims to ensure that individuals and businesses can safely entrust communication to service providers. Initially, the right protected only postal letters, but it has gradually developed into a strong safeguard for the protection of confidentiality of communications, regardless of the technology used. Hence, the right does not merely serve individual privacy interests, but also other interests that are crucial for the functioning of our information society. We conclude that separate EU rules to protect communications confidentiality, next to the GDPR, are justified and necessary to protect trust, privacy and freedom and expression.”

Categories: Law and Legal

NIST – Cyber Resiliency Considerations for the Engineering of Trustworthy Secure Systems

“This publication is intended to be used in conjunction with NIST Special Publication 800-160 Volume 1, Systems Security Engineering – Considerations for a Multidisciplinary Approach in the Engineering of Trustworthy Secure Systems. It can be viewed as a handbook for achieving the identified cyber resiliency outcomes based on a systems engineering perspective on system life cycle processes, allowing the experience and expertise of the organization to determine what is correct for its purpose. Organizations can select, adapt, and use some or all of the cyber resiliency constructs (i.e., goals, objectives, techniques, approaches, and design principles) described in this publication and apply them to the technical, operational, and threat environments for which systems need to be engineered. The system life cycle processes and cyber resiliency constructs can be used for new systems, system upgrades, or repurposed systems; can be employed at any stage of the system life cycle; and can take advantage of any system or software development methodology including, for example, waterfall, spiral, or agile. The processes and associated cyber resiliency constructs can also be applied recursively, iteratively, concurrently, sequentially, or in parallel and to any system regardless of its size, complexity, purpose, scope, environment of operation, or special nature. The full extent of the application of the content in this publication is informed by stakeholder protection needs, mission assurance needs, and concerns with cost, schedule, and performance. The tailorable nature of the engineering activities and tasks, and the system life cycle processes, ensure that the systems resulting from the application of the security and cyber resiliency design principles, among others, have the level of trustworthiness deemed sufficient to protect stakeholders from suffering unacceptable losses of their assets and associated consequences. Trustworthiness is made possible in part by the rigorous application of security and cyber resiliency design principles, constructs, and concepts within a structured set of systems life cycle processes that provides the necessary traceability of requirements, transparency, and evidence to support risk-informed decision making and trades.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Surveys of Consumers – Univ of Michigan

Surveys of Consumers – chief economist, Richard Curtin – Preliminary Results for April 2018 – “Consumer sentiment slipped in early April, largely reversing the gains recorded in the prior two months. The small decline was widely shared by all age and income subgroups and across all regions of the country. Importantly, confidence still remains relatively high, despite the recent losses that were mainly due to concerns about the potential impact of Trump’s trade policies on the domestic economy. Uncertainty surrounding the evolving trade policy has caused many small (and at times inconsistent) changes in expectations. Spontaneous references to trade policies were made by 29% of all consumers in early April, with nearly all the mentions negative (27% out of 29%). The Expectations Index was just 64.2 among those who made negative comments about trade policies, while among those who made no mention of trade policies, the Expectations Index was 93.9, a substantial difference. Consumers who negatively mentioned trade policies also anticipated that the year-ahead inflation rate would be 0.4 percentage points higher than among those who did not spontaneously mention Trump’s trade policies; there was a differential of 0.2 percentage points for long term inflation expectations. There were other factors responsible for the small overall April decline, the most important was the expectation of rising interest rates, which slightly slowed the anticipated pace of growth in the economy. Overall, the data are consistent with a growth rate of 2.7% in consumption from mid-2018 to mid-2019.”

Categories: Law and Legal

CRS – Data, Social Media, and Users: Can We All Get Along?

CRS INSIGHT – Data, Social Media, and Users: Can We All Get Along? April 4, 2018 (IN10879). “In March 2018, media reported that voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica had exceeded Facebook’s data use policies by collecting data on millions of Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica did this by working with a researcher to gain access to the data, so the company itself was not the entity seeking access to the information. This allowed Cambridge Analytica to “scrape” or download data from users who had granted access to their profiles, as well as those users’ Facebook friends (whose profiles the first user had access to, but for which the friends did not authorize access). At this time, it is publicly unknown what data were accessed. Facebook hired a digital forensics firm to audit the event. Based on media reporting and old Facebook applications, user profile data such as interests, relationships, photos, “likes,” and political affiliation may have been accessible, but not all data held by Facebook appear to have been accessed by an outside party. Additionally, as initial access to a user’s profile was granted via an app, other information about the user, such as other apps installed on the device and Internet Protocol addresses, may have been accessed. With this information, Cambridge Analytica built profiles of potential voters to test messaging and target advertisements. In addition to ads on Facebook, search engine optimization may have been used to drive users toward ads and other web content (i.e., blogs) outside Facebook. This event could be characterized as a data breach despite Facebook systems not being breached (i.e., hacked) because a third party was able to access data that neither users nor Facebook intended to share. Rather than compromise a vulnerability in Facebook’s information technology (IT), Cambridge Analytica compromised weak security controls and violated Facebook’s data policies. This breach is akin to an insider exceeding authorized access to retrieve information, or an outsider using information they were authorized to access for purposes prohibited by contractual agreement. In response to this incident, some Members of Congress have questioned Facebook and have invited Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg to testify before House and Senate committees. This Insight examines policy issues surrounding this incident and provides options for Congress to consider. While this event has started discussions on election security and social media company requirements to report advertising, this Insight addresses data security concerns without discussing the impacts or consequences of data use…”
Categories: Law and Legal

NYT Book Review – A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership – James Comey

Book Review – James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It’s Very Persuasive. “…In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions. “This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.” Decades before he led the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Comey was a career prosecutor who helped dismantle the Gambino crime family; and he doesn’t hesitate in these pages to draw a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses he helped pack off to prison years ago and the current occupant of the Oval Office…”

See also – The New York Times: “The 304-page memoir by Mr. Comey is the only firsthand, insider account to emerge so far by a former Trump official describing what it was like to work in the chaotic early days of the administration. In it, Mr. Comey, a veteran law enforcement agent, writes unsparingly about Mr. Trump, calling him a tempestuous president whose connection to honesty was tenuous at best. “This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Mr. Comey writes in the book, saying his service to Mr. Trump recalled for him the days when he investigated the mob in New York. “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

OPM – Feds face sizable pay gap with private sector

Federal Times: “Federal employees on average see a 31.86 percent difference between their paychecks and those doing the same work in the private sector, according to an April 10, 2018, report submitted to the Federal Salary Council by its Locality Pay Working Group. The working group calculates the pay gap between federal employees and their private-sector counterparts by taking sample data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey in areas of the country in which federal employees receive locality pay and averaging those pay rates into a format that is comparable with federal general schedule rates. Federal employees can receive locality pay on top of what the general schedule rates allow for their position if the government has determined that the cost of living in that locality is higher than the rest of the U.S…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Smart Grid: Status and Outlook

CRS report via FAS – The Smart Grid: Status and Outlook. Richard J. Campbell, Specialist in Energy Policy. April 10, 2018. “The electrical grid in the United States comprises all of the power plants generating electricity, together with the transmission and distribution lines and systems that bring power to end-use customers. The “grid” also connects the many publicly and privately owned electric utility and power companies in different states and regions of the United States. However, with changes in federal law, regulatory changes, and the aging of the electric power infrastructure as drivers, the grid is changing from a largely patchwork system built to serve the needs of individual electric utility companies to essentially a national interconnected system, accommodating massive transfers of electrical energy among regions of the United States. The modernization of the grid to accommodate today’s more complex power flows, serve reliability needs, and meet future projected uses is leading to the incorporation of electronic intelligence capabilities for power control purposes and operations monitoring. The “Smart Grid” is the name given to this evolving intelligent electric power network. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) describes the Smart Grid as “an intelligent electricity grid—one that uses digital communications technology, information systems, and automation to detect and react to local changes in usage, improve system operating efficiency, and, in turn, reduce operating costs while maintaining high system reliability.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Facebook, This Is Not What “Complete User Control” Looks Like

EFF: “If you watched even a bit of Mark Zuckerberg’s ten hours of congressional testimony over the past two days, then you probably heard him proudly explain how users have “complete control” via “inline” privacy controls over everything they share on the platform. Zuckerberg’s language here misses the critical distinction between the information a person actively shares, and the information that Facebook takes from users without their knowledge or consent. Zuckerberg’s insistence that users have “complete control” neatly overlooks all the ways that users unwittingly “share” information with Facebook. Of course, there are the things you actively choose to share, like photos or status updates, and those indeed come with settings to limit their audience. That is the kind of sharing that Zuckerberg seemed to be addressing in many of his answers to Congressmembers’ questions. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface are Facebook’s often-invisible methods for collecting and generating information on users without their knowledge or consent, including (but not limited to):

Categories: Law and Legal

Think macro: record actions in Google Sheets to skip repetitive work

Google Blog: “Since their debut nearly 40 years ago, spreadsheets have remained core to how businesses get work done. From analyzing quarterly revenue to updating product inventory, spreadsheets are critical to helping companies gather and share data to inform quicker decisions—but what else can you do if they’re in the cloud? We’ve been focused on making Google Sheets better for businesses for this reason, which is why we’ve recently added new features to help teams analyze and visualize their data. Today we’re adding more updates to Sheets, including a way to record macros in the cloud to automate repetitive tasks, as well as more formatting options. Check it out. Record macros in Sheets, skip mundane tasks – We want to help companies automate work by approaching macros differently: cloud-first. Starting today, you can record macros in Sheets. Let’s say you need to format new data imports or build the same chart across multiple sheets of quarterly data. Repeating the same steps manually can take hours, but the Sheets macro recorder lets you record those actions and play them back on command without having to write any code…”

Categories: Law and Legal

NIST’s New Quantum Method Generates Really Random Numbers

“Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a method for generating numbers guaranteed to be random by quantum mechanics. Described in the April 12 issue of (link is external)Nature (link is external), the experimental technique surpasses all previous methods for ensuring the unpredictability of its random numbers and may enhance security and trust in cryptographic systems. The new NIST method generates digital bits (1s and 0s) with photons, or particles of light, using data generated in an improved version of a landmark 2015 NIST physics experiment. That experiment showed conclusively that what Einstein derided as “spooky action at a distance” is real. In the new work, researchers process the spooky output to certify and quantify the randomness available in the data and generate a string of much more random bits. Random numbers are used hundreds of billions of times a day to encrypt data in electronic networks. But these numbers are not certifiably random in an absolute sense. That’s because they are generated by software formulas or physical devices whose supposedly random output could be undermined by factors such as predictable sources of noise. Running statistical tests can help, but no statistical test on the output alone can absolutely guarantee that the output was unpredictable, especially if an adversary has tampered with the device…”

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