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Videos Emerging Tech for Social Change

April 29, 2019 Array

How would you use tech for social change? Tell us using the hashtag #TechForChange and join us for our free conference on Capitol Hill and at Google this Thursday: publicknowledge.org/TechForChange.

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charlotte slaiman interoperobility

As Congress and other relevant stakeholders debate how to protect Americans’ privacy, a key concern is making sure that new legislation doesn’t entrench the power of big tech incumbents. In this post, we argue that incorporating data interoperability into privacy legislation is essential to empowering consumers’ data rights and fostering a competitive marketplace.

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The Federal Communications Commission is required by law (under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to initiate a notice of inquiry and report annually on whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. This annual broadband report is incredibly important because the findings and conclusions are designed to help Congress and the FCC develop policies that ensure all Americans have robust broadband access. Reports with inaccurate data on broadband availability can skew the findings and prevent unserved and underserved areas from gaining access to broadband. The public has not yet seen the draft 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, but the FCC published a news release about the key findings.

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About a week ago, I did my usual check-in with Rick Beato’s channel on YouTube to see what new videos he had in store for me. I’m a former working musician, and one who supplemented my income by teaching music, so I was easily sold on Beato’s combination of fun music-related videos like “Top 20 Greatest Rock Guitar Sounds” and in-the-weeds educational videos on music theory. His channel is one of many on YouTube that offer music education, cultural preservation, and creative ways to bring great music to wider audiences. So, needless to say, I was less-than-thrilled to see that he had just live streamed a rant against a huge uptick of efforts to block his videos and those by other creators who also rely on using musical elements to create new content. These copyright strikes had been targeting many of these creators’ most successful videos, which often had been around for years and had attracted big audiences -- some with over a million views. One of the impacted videos was Beato’s 20-minute piece on the history of rock guitar, which was taken down for using just 10 seconds of a live, improvised guitar solo by Ozzy Osbourne’s former guitar player, Randy Rhoads. One of Paul Davids’s videos was blocked for playing one chord (Dsus2 for those music geeks following along) in a guitar lesson video. Even in the squishy world of fair use, these seem as close to slam dunk examples of fair use as you can get.

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Back in November, Public Knowledge and Open Markets Institute argued to the International Trade Commission that it would violate the public interest to grant Qualcomm’s request to ban iPhones that used Intel baseband technology from the U.S. market. We wrote then,

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Nothing has dominated recent music news (at least not since the passage of the Music Modernization Act) as much as Spotify’s decision to appeal the findings of the Copyright Royalty Board, or CRB. The move prompted backlash from music publishers and a rebuttal from Spotify, but the actual facts of the debate are buried under piles of legalese.

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Last week, the European Parliament voted 348 to 274 to pass the Copyright Directive. Unless something truly extraordinary happens during the upcoming meeting of the European Council -- think of it as the Senate of the EU, where the governments of Member States are represented -- draconian and highly disruptive new rules on content licensing and monitoring will become EU law.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently published an op-ed in the Washington Post naming a role for government and regulation around four specific policies that continue to be concerns for users of Facebook and broader digital platforms. In two areas (privacy and political advertising) Zuckerberg reiterates Facebook’s agreement with previous legislative proposals, including parts of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and (although not named) concepts from the Honest Ads Act introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, and the late John McCain. In addition to these two topics, Zuckerberg also moves towards responding to calls from the public interest community for stronger content moderation of hateful content and for meaningful data portability to promote competition in a market that trends towards dominant platforms. While some may view yet another Facebook op-ed cynically, I believe this one should be welcomed.

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HBCU Logo Design Winner Announcement

April 2, 2019

Public Knowledge is pleased to announce the winner of our HBCU logo design competition for Emerging Tech for Social Change: Jaylin Paschal from Howard University.

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Last week, thanks to investigative reporting, we learned that Facebook discovered in January that it was storing millions of users’ passwords in plain text format, making them fully readable for thousands of its employees. Facebook has acknowledged that this was a serious security error and privacy breach on its side, as its systems, ideally, “are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable”, and promised that it “will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.” There is no evidence that any of the thousand employees with access to these unencrypted passwords actually accessed them, but Facebook’s decision to remain mum reveals an important lesson for the overarching privacy and security policy debate. Importantly, data security incidents are a widespread problem that goes well beyond Facebook.

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