Law and Legal
TeleRead – David Rothman – “Toxic for libraries? The KKR investment firm is buying none other than OverDrive—the biggest library ebook company, providing ebooks and audiobooks to 43,000+ libraries and schools in 75 countries. The seller is Rakuten, also owner of the Kobo ereader, audiobook and ebook business. “The two sides did not provide a price tag for the Ohio-based property, which Rakuten purchased for $410 million in 2015,” MarketWatch reports, “but Rakuten said it would recognize about $365.6 million in profit from the sale in the first quarter of 2020.” Investment firms have been poison to the newspaper business, including the shrunken newspaper in Ohio, where I once worked. The Morning Journal in Lorain must now operate out of a former McDonald’s hamburger stand. Newspapers have been in trouble for other reasons, and the buyer of my old paper was not KKR. Just the same, this illustrates the risks of expecting profit-crazed investment companies to care about the public…”
EFF: “If 2019 confirmed anything, it is that we should not trust the microphones and cameras that large corporations sell us to put inside and near our homes. Thanks to the due diligence of reporters, public records requesters, and privacy researchers and activists, consumers have been learning more and more about how these “smart” home technologies can be hacked, exploited, or utilized by the police and other law enforcement agencies. Because many technologies that record audio and video store their data on a cloud maintained by the company, police can gain access to stored content by presenting a warrant to those companies—bypassing consumers altogether. For instance, in November, police in Florida obtained a warrant for the recordings from an Amazon Echo that may have overheard a crime. This means that whether people think their Alexa is listening or not, their Alexa could be listening. Because Amazon stores and maintains that data, things said in the device’s presence can be made accessible to police via a warrant presented to the company…”
Berkman Klein Center – Julia Reda – “Last spring, 200,000 Europeans took to the streets to protest against a new EU copyright law that risks to restrict online culture and block vast numbers of legal online communications such as memes, reaction gifs, video game reviews or remixes. It is the latest clash between a generation that has grown up with the Internet as a means of cultural expression and a much older generation of lawmakers who prioritize the interests of entertainment companies over online culture. Although the protests were sparked by EU legislation, US academics and activists should be paying close attention. Ever since the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation, EU regulation of online platform companies has become a topic of global interest. Not only are European policy-makers keener than their US counterparts to regulate the mostly American tech companies that have gained significant market power over the last two decades. For better or for worse, the European Union has increasingly become capable of setting global regulatory standards, through the inclusion of its internet legislation in trade agreements, or by making compliance with these rules a precondition for accessing the vast EU market of over 500 million consumers..”
Scientific American – The evolutionary history of humans explains why physical activity is important for brain health…Clinical trials will tell us much more about the efficacy of cognitively engaged exercise—what kinds of mental and physical activities are most impactful, for example, and the optimal intensity and duration of exercise for augmenting cognition. But in light of the evidence we have so far, we believe that with continued careful research we can target physiological pathways linking the brain and the body and exploit our brain’s evolved adaptive capacity for exercise-induced plasticity during aging. In the end, working out both the body and the brain during exercise may help keep the mind sharp for life.”
Washington Post – “When Syracuse University freshmen walk into professor Jeff Rubin’s Introduction to Information Technologies class, seven small Bluetooth beacons hidden around the Grant Auditorium lecture hall connect with an app on their smartphones and boost their “attendance points.” And when they skip class? The SpotterEDU app sees that, too, logging their absence into a campus database that tracks them over time and can sink their grade. It also alerts Rubin, who later contacts students to ask where they’ve been. His 340-person lecture has never been so full. “They want those points,” he said. “They know I’m watching and acting on it. So, behaviorally, they change.”
Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health. But some professors and education advocates argue that the systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, breaching students’ privacy on a massive scale. The tracking systems, they worry, will infantilize students in the very place where they’re expected to grow into adults, further training them to see surveillance as a normal part of living, whether they like it or not…
Cambridge Geek: “Right, here’s the big list of every new Audio Drama/Fiction/RPG show I found that debuted in 2019, sorted by genre. I think it contains 660 shows. It’s probably a fair chunk of data, so I’ve taken the embedded episodes out – you’ll have to look at a show itself to have a listen. If you disagree with my genre assignments (and you’re a creator!) tell me, and I might manage to move categories. Also, if you got missed, let me know. So, what did you like this year? Shout your favourites in the comments…”
LISNews – Ten Stories That Shaped 2019: “As we limp headfirst into a new decade, it’s beginning to feel like many of these stories have become perennial entries. 2019 saw yet more drag queen story hour protests, vendor buyouts, the persistence of fake news, scandals, and lawsuits aplenty, along with the usual spate of book burning and banning. Below are some of the other notable headlines from the past year’s library-related news…”
Axios – Momentum for smart cities projects, which has been fed by big promises from industry and big hopes in government, is slowing down in the face of a wave of public skepticism. Driving the news: Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs, which has proposed a futuristic smart-city development for Toronto’s waterfront, has pledged not to sell personal data collected at the project or use it for advertising to assuage privacy concerns. Instead, if the plan is approved, local government entities will take the lead on managing data.
Context: “The U.S. has a general optimism that technology can make our lives easier if used in right way. But that’s countered by mistrust of intentions or capabilities of state and local governments,” said Todd Daubert, chair of the communication and technology practice at Dentons, a law firm that works on smart city developments. There’s also distrust of the tech companies that see cities as a huge market for selling their data-guzzling tools.
- Sidewalk Labs originally proposed an independent “urban data trust” to manage the data collected in Toronto’s Quayside project.
- But residents and city officials were uneasy about how it would work, and lack of clarity around Sidewalk’s business model spurred opposition.
- The company has now pledged to minimize data collection and to build only about 25% of the technology systems used.
- Sidewalk’s concessions “shows that Waterfront Toronto was able to stand up to Big Tech — not kick them out but not be bullied by them either,” said Alex Ryan, SVP of partnerships at MaRS Discovery District, an innovation hub in Toronto. “People don’t want it to be just Big Tech doing this development.”…
The New York Times: “A new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 2017 means that as of now, companies are no longer subject to prosecution or fines even after a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 that destroyed or injured about one million birds and for which BP paid $100 million in fines…Across the country birds have been killed and nests destroyed by oil spills, construction crews and chemical contamination, all with no response from the federal government, according to emails, memos and other documents viewed by The New York Times. Not only has the administration stopped investigating most bird deaths, the documents show, it has discouraged local governments and businesses from taking precautionary measures to protect birds…”
- See also links to a DOI memorandum (Dec. 22, 2017): https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/m-37050.pdf (concluding that Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not prohibit incidental take)
PC World – “Set up antivirus, clear out bloatware, and perform other tasks to keep your PC humming well into the future…a new PC isn’t like a new car; you can’t just turn a key and put the pedal to the metal. Okay, maybe you can—but you shouldn’t. Performing just a few simple activities when you first fire it up can help it be safer, faster, and better poised for the future. Here’s how to set up a new laptop or desktop computer the right way, step by step…”
PC World – “Start off right with solid security tools, productivity software, and other programs that every PC needs…”
8 forecast tools to use this winter – “We’ve got 8 winter weather forecast tools you can tinker with on your mobile device or computer. Use them regularly to see where, when and how much snow, ice and wind is predicted…”
WSJ.com – “The most intriguing books coming this winter, from a critique of minimalism to explorations of a provocative painter and a famed Belle Époque doctor, as well as debuts from Nicole Flattery and Jessi Jezewska Stevens…”
but please stop saying ‘UFO’…The Washington Post – [watch this Christmas Eve in full screen mode – stay focused and read the text that that explains the event] “In December 2017, two videos emerged that showed Navy pilots encountering mysterious spherical objects that appeared, at first glance, to move through the air in ways that baffled experts. A third, released in March 2018, depicted a similar encounter. Everyone who watched — including the pilots who filmed them — had the same question: What, exactly, are these things? Last week [September 2019], a Navy official publicly called these mysterious objects “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP),” giving name to the inscrutable little dots and reigniting scrutiny around the unidentified flying objects (a term the Navy does not want to use even though the objects that are flying cannot be identified.)…” [Note – UFOs are now UAPs]
Vox – It never quite came. “Publishing spent the 2010s fighting tooth and nail against ebooks. There were unintended consequences…at the other end of the decade, ebook sales seem to have stabilized at around 20 percent of total book sales, with print sales making up the remaining 80 percent. “Five or 10 years ago,” says Andrew Albanese, a senior writer at trade magazine Publishers Weekly and the author of The Battle of $9.99, “you would have thought those numbers would have been reversed.” And in part, Albanese tells Vox in a phone interview, that’s because the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. “They’re glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print,” he says. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. “Older readers are glued to their e-readers,” says Albanese. “They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.”…
elephant journal: “Kurt Vonnegut, one of the best writers of any lifetime, once wrote a sentence that—if you recite it—can literally expand your capacity for experiencing and retaining happiness. But before I give you that magical sentence from Mr. Vonnegut, let me share two memories…”
The Atlantic – The shared phone was a space of spontaneous connection for the entire household. “…Over the course of the 20th century, phones grew smaller, easier to use, and therefore less mystical and remarkable in their household presence. And with the spread of cordless phones in the 1980s, calls became more private. But even then, when making a call to another household’s landline, you never knew who would pick up. For those of us who grew up with a shared family phone, calling friends usually meant first speaking with their parents, and answering calls meant speaking with any number of our parents’ acquaintances on a regular basis. With practice, I was capable of addressing everyone from a telemarketer to my mother’s boss to my older brother’s friend—not to mention any relative who happened to call. Beyond developing conversational skills, the family phone asked its users to be patient and participate in one another’s lives…”
Quartz at Work: “Checking email, responding to it, and remembering what’s been dealt with and what hasn’t creates a huge drag on many of our days. It also makes for an almost-constant distraction if an email client is open alongside other work windows, or if alerts are enabled. The people who felt most stressed shared the same belief: I just need a system, they said, and then I’ll be able to deal with it. Well, here’s a different suggestion. Maybe the problem isn’t that you need a better system. Maybe the problem is that email is a terrible system in the first place…”
Law Technology Today Video – “Making the decision to change software solutions is one that many law firms will encounter at some point along the way. The start of a new year provides a great opportunity for offices to make a change and start fresh, and with 2020 right around the corner, many lawyers are starting to wonder what steps they can take to make a clean and efficient transition to a new tool. Though the decision to switch is a common one, so is the list of mistakes made during the process. This presentation will introduce you to the process of selecting a new technology vendor and help you navigate the often arduous task of data migration. You’ll be provided with usable tips and a downloadable checklist that you can use to guide your transition to your new practice management system and ensure your team starts off on the right foot in 2020…”
“DPLA is proud to release this preliminary version of The Impeachment Papers: A Compendium of Documents Related to the Impeachment of President Donald J. Trump and The Report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian Active Measure Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election. These add to the work we started with our award-winning ebook version of the Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, i.e. The Mueller Report. This is version one of The Impeachment Papers. In January we anticipate releasing an updated version with more papers including the documents related to the FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfile Hurricane Investigation and the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee reports, all of which were released in December 2019, as well as other enhancements including links to sources that are referenced. These books are part of the Open Bookshelf, a free collection of openly-licensed ebooks available to libraries and the public. They were created in collaboration with the Internet Archive…”