A US Senate Subcommittee heard testimony Monday from cell phone safety researchers. The researchers said that more money was needed for… you guessed it, cell phone safety research. Their solution to this quandary is a one dollar government imposed tax on every mobile phone bill. These funds would go directly to further investigate the effects of cell phone use.
Devra Davis, of the University of Pittsburgh, claimed that additional study may support claims of mobile phones causing cancer. As a counterpoint, Linda Erdreich, of Exponent's Health Sciences Center for Epidemiology, cited current scientific studies demonstrating no causal effect. “The current scientific evidence does not demonstrate that wireless phones cause cancer or other adverse health effects," said Erdreich.
The safety researchers claim that cell phone radiation is causing damage to DNA, leading to cancer. Though, opponents are quick to point out that there is no known mechanism by which cell phones can damage DNA. Only two of the twelve senators on the committee managed to show up, so this probably isn’t going anywhere. If it were, would you be willing to foot the bill for additional research, or is it the manufacturer’s problem? Is it even necessary?
Australia’s Internet Industry Association (IIA) has released a new set of guidelines designed to limit the effect of malware infected computers. The non-mandatory code of conduct instructs ISPs to contact owners of infected PCs and provide advice to fix the problem. Failing that, the ISP may even cut service to the affected PC.
IIA spokesman, Stephen Conroy, points to a recent government program to get users to change their passwords as evidence that not enough is being done. "I think there's about two or three websites doing exactly the same thing and they all assume you've got to log on to the website. It's kind of like a web 1.0 style approach," said Conroy.
Many in government and industry welcome the proposed rules, but some worry about cost. Would ISPs actually be able to deal with the added costs of contacting users and walking them through a malware cleanup? Australian ISP iiNet said it would be happy to adhere to the new standards, if the process could be automated. So, would this policy help, or would droves of customers find themselves disconnected without explanation?
Back in April we reported on new legislation which, if passed, would give the president the authority to take control of the Internet. Over four months later it appears that not only has this bill continued to be worked on, but it is now closer to fruition than ever before. Revisions to the legislation made by the office of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, remains “vague” according to Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance. “It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill.
The legislation which is now up to 55 pages in length isn’t all controversial, in fact the only section that is being hotly debated at the moment is Section 201. In this section the President is permitted to “direct the nations response to the cyber threat” if necessary for “the national defense and security.” This would allow the White House to engage in “periodic mapping” of private networks that are determined to be critical, and those companies will “share” requested information with the federal government. In plain English, this simply means that if your company is deemed “critical”, regulations determine who you can hire, what information you can disclose, and under what conditions the government can take control over your companies computers or network.
“The language has changed but it doesn’t contain any real additional limits,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous version. The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process”.
Want to read the official White House response to all the controversy? Click the jump to read the statement made to CNET’s Declan McCullagh.
Jammie Thomas is running out of options. Found guilty in 2007 of copyright infringement and ordered to pay $220,000 for willfully making available 24 songs via peer-to-peer, she now owes a whopping $1.92 million following a retrial earlier this year. Surely the Department of Justice would step in and find the nearly $2 million fine unconstitutional, right?
Wrong. According to ArsTechnica, the huge of amount of damages (Thomas ended up owing $80,000 per song) were not intended just to apply to big corporations, but also to "deter the millions of users of new media from infringing copyrights." The only time the DOJ would have a problem with a fine is if it become "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportional to the offense and obviously unreasonable," something for which a $1.92 million fine for sharing 24 songs doesn't qualify.
"We are pleased the Administration has filed a brief supporting our position," an RIAA spokesperson told ArsTechnica. "Its views are consistent with the views of every previous Administration that has weighed in on this issue."
A coalition of some of the biggest names in the OSS world have banded together to create Open Source for America, a brand-new advocacy group that's going to try and highlight the advantages of open-source software to help achieve the goals set out in President Barack Obama's push for an open-data government. But as we pause to "ooh" and "ahh" at the list of companies and open-source celebrities contributing to the new group--Novell, the Mozilla Foundation, the EFF, Tim O'Reilly, and Mark Shuttleworth, amongst many others--let us not forget the uphill battle that the concept of "openness" tends to face in the government sector.
I just can't find myself getting that excited over open-source software when we still have fundamental issues of transparency and openness in governmental data. There's a wealth of information out there that's free and easily accessible to the public. But that doesn't mean that legislators, agencies, and departments are going out of their way to make this information as useful as it could be. In fact, it was only as recently as two months ago that the U.S. Senate itself opened up its own voting records for third-party applications and mashups.
Click the jump and put on your safety helmet--we're going data diving!
The Democratic Leadership Council, a political think tank with well-connected members, has proposed that all K-12 students in America be handed an Amazon Kindle each. They believe Kindle can be made into a cost-effective platform for distributing digitalized textbooks. DLC has tried to forestall any attempts to dismiss its proposal by suggesting that all such attempts would eventually prove futile, as gadgets like Kindle will inevitably supplant textbooks.
An estimated $11.2 billion will be devoured by this mammoth project. The DLC wants the government to test the proposal’s viability, prior to taking a final call, by distributing only 400,000 Kindles in the first year. As per the proposal, annual savings to the tune of $700 million – possible by the 5th year - can be made by phasing out printed study material.
“The ‘Kindle in every backpack’ concept isn’t just an educational gimmick—it could improve education quality and save money,” the proposal reads. What does the American taxpayer make of this?
With a mighty "yehhh," the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, passed a motion to adopt open standards in its local government this past May. I find it to be a wonderful development--not just because I write about open source. Rather, I think that the move is a twofold triumph: It allows governments to free themselves of pricy, proprietary software burdens while simultaneously opening up more areas of government for access by conventional citizens.
It's no secret that programs like HOST and CRADA are helping the U.S. bring new, open standards of communication and accessibility to the forefront of the discussion. I'd nevertheless like to see more cities working the answer from a bottom-to-top approach, adopting motions like Vancouver's--or, for that matter, using Vancouver's exact template--to call for the integration of open-source ideas and programs wherever possible in local government.
It's not an idle dream, as various cities in the United States have already started to dip their toes into open waters. If our brethren to the north can take the plunge into open source sans hesitation, why not us as well?
Click the jump to learn more about Vancouver's open initiative!
Depending on where you check your stats, the US ranks anywhere from 15th to 22nd in broadband speeds, falling way behind other countries such as Iceland, Denmark, and even Canada. The broadband problem in the US gets even worse as you move out further into the rural areas where some communities have the choice of dial up, or if they have a ton of money to burn, super high latency satellite. This is a problem that won’t be solved overnight, but a new bill proposed in Congress last week by Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo, might just be the long term solution everyone is looking for.
The new bill would force governments to build fiber conduit into the sides of all new road projects allowing high-speed connections to flow naturally throughout the country. The costs are expected to be relatively low, since the bulk of the cost associated with laying new fiber is digging up and burying the cables.
Eshoo is the representative pushing the proposal forward in Congress, but doesn’t deserve full credit for the idea. The concept was initially proposed last year in the New America Foundation’s playbook, a guide published by Ben Lennett and Sascha Meinrath who were advisors to the Obama campaign on tech issues. The cost of the fiber optic cables will still be paid by private companies, but it will make for a much more compelling return on investment for fiber deployments in the future.
With all the new roads the Obama administration is proposing to stimulate the economy, this certainly seems like an idea they should implement sooner, rather than later. What do you think?
We have spent a lot of time speculating about who would be the US’s first CTO. Heck, even Intel’s CTO has chimed in on the issue. But when all the smoke cleared, Obama had chosen Aneesh Chopra, currently Virginia’s secretary of technology to fill the new and very high profile national position. Working side by side with chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, Chopra will be responsible for setting technology policy within government, and help to find ways to improve security while lowering costs.
Vivek Kundra was widely speculated to be a strong contender for the position, but so were several other Silicon Valley hopefuls. The announcement of Chopra as CTO puts to rest months of speculation, and will allow him to get down to business. As always, critics of the decision are lining up, but for the most part many respected industry leaders are coming out in favor of Obama’s decision.
According to Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, “He is an excellent selection”. “He served proficiently in Virginia as Secretary of Technology and also has a strong background in the private sector advising the health care industry on technology management issues," he said in a statement. "He will bring to the position real world technology and public policy experience."
Does this mean Obama is going to hand over the Internet off switch? What do you think of the new CTO?
New legislation proposed on April 1st will give a whole new meaning to geeks who like to joke that the President has his finger on the button. If the proposed legislation comes to pass, the president will have the ability to shut down public and private networks, including internet traffic should the need arise. This power is part of a new cybersecurity emergency plan that is designed to help protect the US against attack, but also gives the government unprecedented control over our networks.
The critics of this bill however are lining up, and are voicing their concerns over how this power could be abused. According to Leslie Harris of the Center for Democracy and Technology, “This is pretty sweeping legislation. Seems the President could turn off the Internet completely or tell someone like Verizon to limit or block certain traffic. There is a lot to worry about in this bill.”
Since the bill is still in its early stages, it is unclear what amendments will be made, or if it will even be passed at all. West Virginia Democratic Senitor John Rockefeller made it clear to the media that this is the first draft of the proposal, and that they will be in close contact with internet-centric companies who obviously have a lot more at stake here than the average user.
Obama may soon have the power to nuke the real world, and World of Warcraft. Are you comfortable with this?