Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

How tech companies are shaping the rules governing AI

May 19th, 2019
How tech companies are shaping the rules governing AI

Enlarge (credit: Mina De La O | Getty Images)

In early April, the European Commission published guidelines intended to keep any artificial intelligence technology used on the EU’s 500 million citizens trustworthy. The bloc’s commissioner for digital economy and society, Bulgaria’s Mariya Gabriel, called them “a solid foundation based on EU values.”

One of the 52 experts who worked on the guidelines argues that foundation is flawed—thanks to the tech industry. Thomas Metzinger, a philosopher from the University of Mainz, in Germany, says too many of the experts who created the guidelines came from or were aligned with industry interests. Metzinger says he and another member of the group were asked to draft a list of AI uses that should be prohibited. That list included autonomous weapons, and government social scoring systems similar to those under development in China. But Metzinger alleges tech’s allies later convinced the broader group that it shouldn’t draw any “red lines” around uses of AI.

Metzinger says that spoiled a chance for the EU to set an influential example that—like the bloc’s GDPR privacy rules—showed technology must operate within clear limits. “Now everything is up for negotiation,” he says.

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Man who threatened to kill Ajit Pai’s children gets 20 months in prison

May 17th, 2019
Closeup shot of handcuffs hanging from a metal bar in a prison.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Putra Kurniawan | EyeEm)

A man who threatened to kill the family of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was today sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Markara Man, a 33-year-old from California, pleaded guilty on August 31, 2018 after making threats to Pai because he disagreed with the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules. In one email to Pai, Man wrote, "I will find your children and kill them."

"Threatening to actually kill a federal official’s family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal,” US Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia said in a Justice Department announcement of the sentencing today. The case was heard at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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Posted in ajit pai, markara man, Policy | Comments (0)

AT&T denies that selling phone location data was illegal as FCC investigates

May 17th, 2019
A smartphone mounted on a car dashboard and displaying a GPS map.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Witthaya Prasongsin)

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all told the Federal Communications Commission that they recently stopped selling their customers' phone location information to other companies. Sprint said it is phasing out the sales and will shut them down by the end of this month.

The details came in letters to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who had demanded an update on the carriers' sale of customers' real-time geolocation data. Rosenworcel released the carriers' responses yesterday.

Rosenworcel, a Democrat, criticized the Republican-controlled FCC for not taking action against the carriers over the privacy invasions.

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Posted in AT&T, FCC, location data sales, Policy, Sprint, t-mobile, verizon | Comments (0)

Utility equipment sparked massive California wildfire, investigators say

May 16th, 2019
workers rebuilding power lines in California.

Enlarge / Workers make repairs to utility lines in a neighborhood that was destroyed by the Camp Fire on February 11, 2019, in Paradise, Calif. Three months after the deadly and destructive Camp Fire, the community is beginning the rebuilding process. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Fire officials have determined that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), one of the state's largest utilities, was responsible for the deadliest fire in a century.

The Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and burnt down nearly 15,000 homes, was sparked by PG&E power lines, according to a report that Cal Fire officials discussed with the press. The report was not widely released, but it was forwarded to the Butte County district attorney's office.

The district attorney may bring criminal charges against the utility, and Cal Fire Deputy Director Mike Mohler told reporters that, "Investigators determined there were violations of law." According to the San Francisco Chronicle, charges could include "recklessly causing a fire or manslaughter."

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Posted in Biz & IT, Energy, equipment, PG&E, Policy, power lines, utility | Comments (0)

Trump tries to shut Huawei out of US market with executive order

May 16th, 2019
Customers purchase mobile phones at a Huawei store in China.

Enlarge / Customers purchase mobile phones at the Huawei Experience Center on May 16, 2019 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. (credit: Getty Images | VCG/Long Wei)

The Trump administration yesterday took two actions that could effectively prevent Huawei from buying US technology and prevent it from selling products to US companies.

An executive order issued by President Trump and a separate action taken by the US Commerce Department could "cut the Chinese telecommunications giant off from American suppliers and ban it from doing business in the US," The Wall Street Journal wrote.

The order doesn't mention Huawei or China by name, but it was widely seen as targeting Huawei and other Chinese companies such as ZTE. Huawei is the second-biggest smartphone vendor in the world, according to IDC, and it sells a large amount of network equipment to telecom providers and other companies.

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Posted in Biz & IT, china, Huawei, Policy, Trump | Comments (0)

White House unveils new tool to report censorship by social media giants

May 16th, 2019
The landing page for the White House censorship reporting tool.

Enlarge / The landing page for the White House censorship reporting tool. (credit: whitehouse.gov)

Donald Trump has long accused social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube of political bias. On Wednesday, his White House launched a new online form that allows members of the public to report political bias in their content moderation decisions.

"SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH," the form says (capitalization in the original, of course). "Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear 'violations' of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump."

The form asks users to provide their name and basic demographic and contact information. Users then provide details about the content that was censored and can provide screenshots of messages from social media companies about moderation decisions.

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Posted in Donald Trump, Policy, political bias, social media, White House | Comments (0)

White House refuses to sign international statement on online extremism

May 15th, 2019
White House refuses to sign international statement on online extremism

(credit: Matt Wade)

The Trump administration will not sign an international pledge by governments and online services to combat extremist content online. The Christchurch Call is named after the New Zealand city where a terrorist livestreamed the shooting deaths of 50 Muslims in March.

The statement is being formally released today as part of an international summit in Paris. It will bear the signatures of more than a dozen nations, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Leading technology companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, have also signed on. But not the US government.

"The United States stands with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online in the strongest terms," the White House said in an emailed statement Wednesday. The US government says it will "continue to support the overall goals reflected in the Call," however, it is "not currently in a position to join the endorsement."

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Posted in Christchurch shooting, Donald Trump, Facebook, new zealand, Policy, trump administration | Comments (0)

Ajit Pai’s robocall plan lets carriers charge for new call-blocking tools

May 15th, 2019
Ajit Pai’s robocall plan lets carriers charge for new call-blocking tools

Enlarge (credit: ullstein bild | Getty Images)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is calling on carriers to block robocalls by default without waiting for consumers to opt in to call-blocking services. But he hasn't proposed making this a requirement and is leaving it up to carriers to decide whether to charge for such services.

To encourage carriers, Pai is proposing rule changes making it clear that carriers are allowed to block calls by default. Call blocking by default isn't explicitly outlawed by the FCC, but Pai's announcement today said that "many voice providers have held off developing and deploying call-blocking tools by default because of uncertainty about whether these tools are legal under the FCC's rules."

In a call with reporters this morning, Pai said the uncertainty stems from a 2015 FCC order in which "the FCC suggested that its rules and regulations would not prohibit call-blocking services to the extent that consumers opted into them. Many members of the industry perceived that interpretation to make illegal, potentially, the blocking of calls by default."

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Posted in ajit pai, Biz & IT, FCC, Policy, robocalls | Comments (0)

5G likely to mess with weather forecasts, but FCC auctions spectrum anyway

May 14th, 2019
A weather satellite orbiting the Earth.

Enlarge / A weather satellite in orbit. (credit: Getty Images | Erik Simonsen)

A US Navy memo warns that 5G mobile networks are likely to interfere with weather satellites, and senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission to avoid issuing new spectrum licenses to wireless carriers until changes are made to prevent harms to weather forecasting.

The FCC has already begun an auction of 24GHz spectrum that would be used in 5G networks. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to avoid issuing licenses to winning bidders "until the FCC approves the passive band protection limits that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determine are necessary to protect critical satellite‐based measurements of atmospheric water vapor needed to forecast the weather."

Wyden and Cantwell said that the "ongoing sale of wireless airwaves could damage the effectiveness of US weather satellites and harm forecasts and predictions relied on to protect safety, property, and national security." They chided the FCC for beginning the auction "over the objections of NASA, NOAA, and members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). These entities all argued that out-of-band emissions from future commercial broadband transmissions in the 24GHz band would disrupt the ability to collect water-vapor data measured in a neighboring frequency band (23.6 to 24GHZ) that meteorologists rely on to forecast the weather."

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Posted in 24gz, 5G, Biz & IT, FCC, NASA, Navy, NOAA, Policy, Spectrum Auction | Comments (0)

AT&T promised 7,000 new jobs to get tax break—it cut 23,000 jobs instead

May 14th, 2019
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson speaking and gesturing in an appearance at the World Economic Forum.

Enlarge / AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

AT&T has cut more than 23,000 jobs since receiving a big tax cut at the end of 2017, despite lobbying heavily for the tax cut by claiming that it would create thousands of jobs.

AT&T in November 2017 pushed for the corporate tax cut by promising to invest an additional $1 billion in 2018, with CEO Randall Stephenson saying that "every billion dollars AT&T invests is 7,000 hard-hat jobs. These are not entry-level jobs. These are 7,000 jobs of people putting fiber in ground, hard-hat jobs that make $70,000 to $80,000 per year."

The corporate tax cut was subsequently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The tax cut reportedly gave AT&T an extra $3 billion in cash in 2018.

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Posted in AT&T, Policy | Comments (0)