Policy

Trump’s China tariffs could drive up the price of the Apple Watch and Fitbit trackers

A new $200 billion round of tariffs on Chinese goods could have some broader implications for U.S.-based hardware companies. New government rulings on the Trump-imposed tariffs single out a couple of key devices buy name, including the Apple Watch, Fitbit trackers and Sonos speakers. Products like smartphones have thus far been unimpacted by fees leading to product price spikes, but other electronics could potentially be hit, due to what Reuters deems “an obscure subheading of data transmission machines in the sprawling list of U.S. tariff codes.” That’s among the 6,000+ codes cited by the White House’s proposed tariffs. That could mean upwards of a 10 percent tariff on popular products, including the Apple Watch, Fitbit Charge and Surge and the Sonos Play:3, Play:5 and SUB. While Trump re...

Facebook, Google and more unite to let you transfer data between apps

The Data Transfer Project is a new team-up between tech giants to let you move your content, contacts, and more across apps. Founded by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, the DTP today revealed its plans for an open source data portability platform any online service can join. While many companies already let you download your information, that’s not very helpful if you can’t easily upload and use it elsewhere — whether you want to evacuate a social network you hate, back up your data somewhere different, or bring your digital identity along when you try a new app. The DTP’s tool isn’t ready for use yet, but the group today laid out a white paper for how it will work. Creating an industry standard for data portability could force companies to compete on utility instead of being prot...

Why self-regulation is better than legislative regulation

Yale Fox Contributor We are moving toward a society controlled by algorithms, but very few of us actually understand how they work. This asymmetry of information is a recipe for disaster. Case in point: Recently in the U.K., an algorithmic failure put the lives of 450,000 woman at risk through a technical error that inhibited their ability to detect breast cancer. Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly, and if the tech industry doesn’t take the lead on imposing oversights to our algorithms, the government may create its own regulations — causing roadblocks to innovation. We have seen time and time again the mistake of placing our blind trust in algorithms. Even our best intentions can go awry when we’re working with something we don’t always understand, which has the ability to scale global...

The 21st Century Internet Act aims to enshrine net neutrality in law

Congress may soon vote on a new bill that would set net neutrality down as a matter of law rather than a set of rules to be changed every few years by the FCC. The “21st Century Internet Act,” introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), would ban blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and eliminates all questions of jurisdiction. The bill, announced online and at an event in Washington, DC today, would modify the Communications Act of 1934 (greatly built upon by the 1996 Telecommunications Act) and add a new “Title VIII” full of stipulations specific to internet providers. This would settle the decades-long dispute over whether internet access is an “information service” or a “telecommunications service,” a legal distinction that either reins in (the former) or unleashes (the latter) the F...

WeWork takes meat off the menu as part of environmental policy drive

WeWork, the co-working startup that’s valued at ~$20 billion and has some 200,000 members across 200 locations globally plus nearly 6,000 staff of its own, will no long allow employees to expense meat. It will also no longer serve meat at company events. The policy shift is intended to reduce the business’ environmental impact. The new internal policy was reported on Friday by Bloomberg which obtained a company memo in which co-founder Miguel McKelvey revealed the policy, writing: “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact — even more than switching to a hybrid car.” So Elon Musk take note. A WeWork spokeswoman confirmed the new policy to us — which specifically removes red meat, poultry and por...

Apple announces clean energy fund in China

Apple has announced a new investment fund to foster clean energy usage in China. The company isn’t just trying to switch its own offices and facilities. Apple is also working with its suppliers to expand the use of clean energy across the board. For this fund in particular, Apple and 10 suppliers will invest $300 million over the next four years. Overall, the company expects to finance multiple clean energy projects to produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in China. Apple isn’t going to manage the fund itself. The company is partnering with DWS Group, a division of Deutsche Bank. DWS will also participate in the fund. The company started working on renewable energy projects a few years ago. Earlier this year, Apple claimed that 100 percent of its offices, retail stores, data centers and A...

Facebook would make a martyr by banning Infowars

Alex Jones’ Infowars is a fake news-peddler. But Facebook deleting its Page could ignite a fire that consumes the network. Still, some critics are asking why it hasn’t done so already. This week Facebook held an event with journalists to discuss how it combats fake news. The company’s recently appointed head of News Feed John Hegeman explained that, “I guess just for being false, that doesn’t violate the community standards. I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice.” In response, CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted: “I asked them why InfoWars is still allowed on the platform. I didn’t get a good answer.” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel meanwhile wrote that allowing the Infowars Page to exist shows that “Facebook simply is...

The Department of Justice isn’t done fighting the AT&T-Time Warner merger

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed to appeal a federal judge’s decision to approve AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. Back when he was campaigning for the presidency, Donald Trump said his administration would block the deal, and indeed, the DOJ sued to stop the merger, arguing it would hurt competition. Last month, however, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that the deal could move forward without conditions. He said from the bench, “The court has now spoken. … The defendants have won” — and the deal closed later that week. In fact, we’re already starting to see some of the fallout, with AT&T’s reported plans for Time Warner-owned HBO leading to a flurry of worried headlines in just the past couple days. The deal also seemed to set the stage for even more conso...

FCC looks to revamp children’s media rules, but advocates cry foul

One of the FCC’s many jobs as a media regulator is to make sure that there is adequate time being dedicated by broadcasters to educational content for kids. As the media landscape changes, however, so too should the regulations — and the FCC is looking to update its “Kid Vid” rules for the 21st century. But the agency’s proposal is half-baked, warn some advocates. This latest move, one of several in the FCC’s so-called “modernizing media regulation” efforts, got its start back in January, when Commissioner Michael O’Rielly wrote a blog post explaining why he felt it was high time children’s television regulations were revisited. The chief reason for this was essentially that with the plethora of different avenues by which kids can reach educational media these days, it doesn’t make sense t...

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s brutal education in net neutrality

DC Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated for the position of Supreme Court Justice, and on this occasion I think it warranted that we revisit in detail the sound intellectual thrashing this man suffered at the hands of his colleagues just last year on the topic of the internet and net neutrality. Because Kavanaugh was very, very wrong then and gives every indication that he will take his ignorance unapologetically to the highest court in the land. To set the scene: In 2015 the United States Telecom Association sued the FCC, alleging the Open Internet Order that passed earlier that year, establishing net neutrality as we know it — or rather, knew it — was illegal. This highly watched case was heard late in 2015 and the decision was issued six months later, in June of 2016. ...

Facebook under fresh political pressure as UK watchdog calls for “ethical pause” of ad ops

The UK’s privacy watchdog revealed yesterday that it intends to fine Facebook the maximum possible (£500k) under the country’s 1998 data protection regime for breaches related to the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. But that’s just the tip of the regulatory missiles now being directed at the platform and its ad-targeting methods — and indeed, at the wider big data economy’s corrosive undermining of individuals’ rights. Alongside yesterday’s update on its investigation into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published a policy report — entitled Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence — in which it sets out a series of policy recommendations related to how personal information is used in modern poli...

Trump’s Supreme Court nominee opposes net neutrality, supports NSA bulk collection

President Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee will face more scrutiny for his ideological leanings around issues like abortion than his thoughts on tech, but we do know a bit about the latter. On Monday, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat that opened when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in late June. A list of Trump’s potential picks circulated previously and Kavanaugh was believed to be a frontrunner. Kavanaugh, who previously clerked for Kennedy, was appointed to the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003 by former president George W. Bush and eventually confirmed in 2006. As future digital privacy cases wend their way toward the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh’s stated views on the NSA’s spying program could prove relevant. In 2015, Kavanaugh sided in fav...