Last Week in Tech Policy #56: LEDs Talk About Lights!

(By Sophia Galleher, Colorado Law 2L)

Some people enter Newark Airport and look up. The lights, like many LEDs, seem almost too crisp—too bright. But most travelers, perhaps worried about missing a connection or losing a wayward child in the terminal, rush through the airport without raising a brow; the LEDs lights, twinkling down from their chic, architectural fixtures, don’t really beg much thought. They seem innocuous enough.

But just know, the next time you walk through Newark Airport, that those lights are watching you.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #55: CRISPR Possibilities and Concerns

(by Trey Reed, Colorado Law 2L)

CRISPR Cas9, a gene editing software, is increasingly being used by researchers to modify the genetic code of organisms. Recently, scientists from Spain have found the genetic sequence that produces most of the gluten in wheat. They removed this sequence and produced wheat with 85% reduced gluten toxicity. In the United Kingdom, scientists have found a gene (OCT4) that, if absent, causes the embryo to fail to implant correctly which leads to a miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. By ensuring that this gene is present, doctors can help in vitro fertilization pregnancies survive. Scientists in the United States received permission to begin testing on human embryos this past July.

From taking the gluten out of wheat, to preventing miscarriages, the possibilities are almost endless. However, while the possibilities are staggering, the ethical considerations are also large.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #50: Open Innovation in the Federal Government

(By Connor Boe, Colorado Law 3L)

Federal agencies have been feeling the pressure to use fewer resources while at the same time creating better outputs for the public good. Traditionally, public services were created and implemented by government experts hired to solve a specific subset of civic problems. Some have argued that this method of solving problems has become too outdated, too bureaucratic, and too politically driven to effectively solve some public issues. People expect their government to do more with less and create innovative solutions to complex problems. How can government actors create effective solutions in the face of competing interests?

Many agencies have turned to a trend in that has its roots in the private sector known as Open Innovation. Federal agencies in the last decade or so have begun to experiment with new forms of problem solving like prize challenges, citizen science, crowdsourcing, and entrepreneurial methodologies. This new trend has had a profound impact on the way government functions and how the public perceives the work that agencies produce.

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TLPC Facilitates Makerspace Webinar for Librarians

On February 28th, student attorneys Andi Wilt and Sean Doran and TLPC Director Blake Reid delivered a webinar on best practices for public library makerspaces hosted by the Colorado State Library Association.

The webinar focused on addressing problems and concerns that arise when a public space like a library provides access to 3D printing technology. 3D printers present challenges to libraries stemming from objects that may infringe intellectual property rights or raise other concerns under library policies.

The best way for libraries and other public makerspaces to mitigate against these risks may be to set up a positive agenda, training, and programming for the use of the space. For example, libraries should provide education and training of design technologies that work with 3D printers. Programs like Tinkercad are now free and easy to use, and many of them offer free training programs. Webinar attendees contributed a variety of helpful best practices that have worked in libraries across the country.

The webinar was recorded and archived by the CSLA and can be viewed anytime along with links to various resources and best practice ideas.

Last Week in Tech Policy: #46 Is Taxing Robots Really the Answer?

(by Ben Epel, Colorado Law 2L)

The world is facing a new problem when it comes to innovation: automation and robots increasingly have been replacing individual workers. Robots have moved out of the factories and will soon be coming to a fast food restaurant near you; in 2016, McDonald’s former CEO Ed Rensi said that it is cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who makes $15 an hour bagging French fries. As robots become cheaper and the need for higher wages increases, what will happen to displaced employees?

What would Bill Gates do? A robot tax. Private companies would be taxed whenever the company replaces an individual with a robot. Gates claims that the government should implement this tax to slow down the rate of automation in the United States.  Continue reading “Last Week in Tech Policy: #46 Is Taxing Robots Really the Answer?”

Last Week in Tech Policy: #45 Inspection of Electronic Devices and Passwords

(By Gabrielle Daley, Colorado Law 2L)

NASA scientist and U.S citizen Sidd Bikkannavar flew back into the United States on January 30th, 2017 and was detained by U.S customs and border patrol agents.  Mr. Bikkannavar was detained upon his arrival at the Houston airport by agents who stated the reason for the detention was to ensure that he was not bringing anything dangerous into the country. However the agents never searched Mr. Bikkannavar’s luggage. Instead he was handed a document entitled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and asked for his cell phone and cell phone password.

Mr. Bikkannavar was reluctant to hand over the phone because as it belonged to his employer, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories. However, agents insisted on access to the phone and password, and eventually Mr. Bikkannavar gave an agent both. The agent then left the room with the device. Mr. Bikkannavar has no idea what the agent did with the phone outside of his presence, but in a Tweet last week confirmed that JPL is running digital forensics on the phone to try and determine what may have been taken—or left—on the phone.

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Piloting Risk-Informed Assessments in the FCC Waiver Applications

Working with Silicon Flatirons Senior Fellow Pierre de Vries, TLPC student attorneys Andrew Manley and Jonathan Bair endorse prior recommendations that the Federal Communications Commission improve its waiver application process for radio operations through the adoption of Risk-Informed Interference Assessment (RIA). The TLPC and de Vries submitted a filing to the Commission suggesting how RIA might be adopted as a tool to assist the Commission in its decision making process. The filing elaborates on the RIA method, offers a checklist by which the Commission can request RIA from parties, and explores three test waivers for the application of RIA.

Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol. 38: Colonizing Mars—Fact or Fantasy?

(by Jodi Wallace, Colorado Law 2L)

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong proclaimed, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin followed, describing the moon’s surface with the words “magnificent desolation.” For a few short hours, the two men explored the lunar surface, gathered samples, and then climbed back aboard the lunar modular to come back to Earth.

47 years after Apollo 11 was launched to take the first astronauts to the moon, Elon Musk  (chief executive of SpaceX) has announced his plans to create a permanent human settlement on the surface of Mars. But Elon Musk is not alone in this ambition—his announcement is only the most recent, and perhaps the broadest in scope.

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Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol. 35: Microtargeting and the Use of Voter Data to Win Elections

(By Sean Doran, Colorado Law 3L)

Both major political parties in the United States currently gather and aggregate massive amounts of data on American voters. Over the last several election cycles, with the advent of advanced data analytics and advances in data storage and processing, campaigns have gained the ability to learn and track a surprising amount of data about voters. This creates a level of precision that allows campaigns to build advanced models for identifying and targeting individual voters to receive (or not receive) individual messages (microtargeting).  Parties are building “political dossiers” on American voters which are some of the largest, unregulated aggregations of personal data that currently exist.

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Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol. 34: Algorithm Bias, Discrimination, and the Law

(By Max Brennan, Colorado Law 2L)

This week’s blog post examines the concept of algorithm bias. It begins with a definition of algorithm bias, turning to  its interactions with the law, some real-world examples of bias, and ends with considerations for future legal treatment of algorithm bias.

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