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tl;dw – The Future of Privacy

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Living in a digital world means that simply by existing and interacting with digital devices, we generate a lot of data. Even though privacy and security of user data is generally of the upmost importance to reputable firms, breaches and hacks do happen, and not every firm is reputable. What should the government’s role be in data privacy and security?  Does the FTC or other agency need to take a more active approach, or do there exist adequate incentives to ensure private firms sufficiently protect user data? Is some sort of […]

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Trump’s Infrastructure Plan is Revenue-Neutral Only Under Unrealistic Assumptions

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President-elect Donald Trump wants $1 trillion to be spent on infrastructure projects, but he doesn’t want the government to be the one spending it. So he is proposing a scheme based on tax credits intended to stimulate private investment. The projects will then repay the cost of the tax credits through “incremental tax revenues that result from project construction in a design that results in revenue neutrality,” as Peter Navarro explains (p.4). He goes on to claim “Two identifiable revenue streams for repayment are critical here: (1) the tax revenues […]

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Election Predictions: A Failure of Bad Data, not Big Data

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Pollsters and other politically-minded data jockeys likely spent much of Wednesday questioning their life choices as their predictions made them seem more akin to numerologists than to data scientists. The failure of polling and modelling to correctly predict the outcome of the presidential election has caused some to question the overall use of data and algorithms to answer important societal questions, at least those involving human behavior. The lessons from these failures, however, are not about the limits of data, as a recent New York Times article concluded, but instead […]

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The FTC PAE Report: PAEs no longer the poster child for patent reform?

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Patent Assertion Entities—businesses that monetize patents acquired from third parties—have been a convenient poster child illustrating the need for patent reform. The narrative goes like this: PAEs, less charitably known as “patent trolls,” are a major source of excessive and wasteful litigation, often involving patents of dubious value. Some trolls send out hundreds or even thousands of “demand letters” to small businesses and others with the aim of collecting a large number of small settlements. PAEs make money by obtaining settlements from defendants whose principal motivation is to avoid potentially […]

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Research Roundup 6: Make Your Voice Heard

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It’s almost that most patriotic time of the year when Americans perform their civic duty, gather together, celebrate their support for one of two teams, and huddle around a TV anxiously awaiting the results: The Super Bowl[1] Election Day.[2] Regardless of what you believe, or who you believe in, The Super Bowl Election Day is your chance to make your voice heard and bond with your fellow citizens, because in the end, no matter the outcome, we all still live in this great nation called America. Unless some people decide […]

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The FCC’s Mad Men: Why Do Government Agencies Use Social Media?

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Like the rest of the world, government agencies find themselves with the ability to communicate with the public in real-time via Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. For several years, federal agencies have struggled with various aspects of social media, including who is allowed to tweet, the type of content permitted, and so on. Even so, today most agencies, ranging from Agriculture to Veterans’ Affairs have official social media accounts. A perusal of agencies’ Twitter feeds shows that agencies typically use social media to convey information to the public. The Federal […]

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What is a “Regulatory Backstop?”

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A fun aspect of this FCC’s modus operandi of announcing new rules and rule changes by op-ed and “fact-sheet” is all the hours one can spend speculating on what the upcoming rule will say. In my case, that mostly involves not having enough information to facilitate useful discussion and epic confusion about how to evaluate proposals that aren’t actually proposals. Last week, for example, I fretted about the potential issues raised by the “standard license” the fact sheet discussed. This week, my confusion regarding the standard license continues, spurred by […]

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We Don’t Know How to Close the Digital Divide, But We Can Figure it Out

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There’s a lot to like in Hillary Clinton’s technology agenda, not the least of which is its existence. After all, Donald Trump’s tech agenda appears to include only the use of Twitter (sad!).[1] Assuming Hillary is elected we’ll surely have robust debates about the wisdom of some of the plan’s suggestions and the most effective ways to implement others. Even though the election is still weeks away, it’s useful to look at one goal that most people share across the political spectrum: closing the digital divide, especially one based on […]

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Some Questions About the FCC’s Proposed “Standard License”

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The FCC recently released a “fact sheet” on its new proposal regarding video set-top boxes. Despite reports that it reflects a compromise, and because the final rules are unlikely to be unveiled before the Commission votes on September 29, the new proposal raises additional questions.[1] In particular, the new proposal aims to create a “standard license governing the process for placing on app on a device or platform.” The document explains that a standard license will give device manufacturers the certainty required to bring innovative products to market. Programmers will […]

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Research Roundup 5: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World

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That’s two extra ‘Mads’ compared to the classic movie. Each article seemed deserving of its own bit of madness, illustrating the nature of our mad world. Is privacy now just an illusion? Would you be able to recognize a school if you saw it? Just because you bought something, does that mean you own it? Does our nation’s drone policy fight terrorism or cause it? And what is the relationship between our lives in social media and the real world? This isn’t the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror: it’s just […]

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