(Dis)Connecting the Digital City

Among smart city enthusiasts, digital inclusion — the idea that nobody in the city should be deprived of digital technologies — is an oft-repeated social objective. Despite lofty commitments, the smart city is still a work-in-progress and its record in fostering social inclusion and diversity has been dismal so far. If technological interventions are as apt to deepen divides as redress them, why do proponents insist on the smart city’s promise of lessening urban inequalities?

U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with Microsoft data privacy fight

Supreme Court justices wrestled with Microsoft’s dispute with the US Justice Department over whether prosecutors can force technology companies to hand over data stored overseas, with some signaling support for the government and others urging Congress to pass a law to resolve the issue. Microsoft argues that laws have not caught up to modern computing infrastructure and it should not hand over data stored internationally. The Justice Department argues that refusing to turn over easily accessible data impedes criminal investigations.

FCC Commissioner Starks Seeks Details On Bidstream Consumer Data And Procedures To Ensure Data Privacy

On Aug 4, Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks sent letters to AT&T and Verizon inquiring about the aggregation and monetization of sensitive consumer data that is generated for advertising placement purposes. Recent reports indicate that this data is being used to track Americans’ locations to protests and places of worship.

OTI Issues 2020 Party Platform Recommendations

In comments submitted to the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee as they develop their party platforms for 2020, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) made recommendations on the following:

G&T Podcast: Tip of the Iceberg: How Law Enforcement Surveils Protestors & Communities of Color

On Episode 5 of G&T: Tech on the Rocks, Gigi Sohn talks to Color of Change Campaign Advisor Brandi Collins-Dexter about the history of surveillance of civil rights protestors and communities of color, how sophisticated technologies have made spying ubiquitous and what protestors can do to protect themselves. They also discuss Color of Change's efforts to get Facebook to moderate hate speech and how to ensure that tech companies incorporate civil rights principles in every aspect of their businesses.

The dangers of tech-driven solutions to COVID-19

Contact tracing done wrong threatens privacy and invites mission creep into adjacent fields, including policing. Government actors might (and do) distort and corrupt public-health messaging to serve their own interests. Automated policing and content control raise the prospect of a slide into authoritarianism. But most critics have focused narrowly on classic privacy concerns about data leakage and mission creep—especially the risk of improper government access to and use of sensitive data.

Senate passes FISA surveillance reform bill, paving way for House passage

The Senate adopted a package of surveillance reforms its backers say will help rein in abuses, following an inspector general report that found fault with the FBI’s handling of an investigation into a former Trump campaign aide. The 80-to-16 vote paves the way for final House passage of the bill to renew the USA Freedom Act.

Limits on FBI access to search histories fails by one Senate vote

An effort to protect Americans' browsing and search histories from warrantless government surveillance failed by a single vote in the Senate on May 13. The privacy measure, sponsored by Sens Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) got 59 votes, one vote fewer than was needed to overcome a filibuster. The vote was over a section of federal surveillance law that was originally part of the USA Patriot Act in 2001. That provision, known as Section 215, gave the FBI the power to obtain "any tangible thing," including "books, records, papers, documents, and other items," without a warrant.

Our digital privacy is at stake in the Senate

An amendment to the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) by Sens Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) would broaden a prohibition on warrantless surveillance by the government, from our online searches to our geolocation history. The appropriateness of allowing the government to warrantlessly surveil our every move and action is the issue Sens Wyden and Daines are forcing the Senate to examine. It is clear we cannot trust the intelligence bureaucracy to keep from colliding with the Constitution. Congress must provide stronger guardrails and splash them with fluorescent paint.

Reps Curtis, Engel, McCaul, and Malinowski Introduce Bill to Bolster Internet Freedom Globablly

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Rep Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) joined Rep John Curtis (R-UT) in releasing the bipartisan Open Technology Fund Authorization Act (HR 6621). The legislation will bolster US efforts to respond to oppressive censorship and internet restriction worldwide by authorizing the Open Technology Fund (OTF) as an independent grantee within the US Agency for Global Media.