Gone Fishin’ (kind of!)

The spring 2018 class of the TLPC is off to their summer clerkships and post-graduation endeavors! Blog posts and podcasts will return in the fall, but the TLPC will be open with an active docket this summer. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to collaborate on a project.

Last Week 69: The Privacy Bargain

(by Jay Gurney, Colorado Law 2L)

“She sees you when you’re sleeping
She knows when you’re awake . . .”

Smart Home devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home are increasingly prevalent in American homes. Users prime the device by uttering a trigger word, in Amazon’s case, “Alexa.” Upon activation Alexa lights up, listens to, records, and responds to user’s requests.

These devices are often asked to stream music, sync to other “smart home” devices or answer questions varying from “What is the weather?” to “What is the net worth of Cardi B?” After processing a user’s Spotify request, for example, Alexa’s light turns off—signaling it is not recording—while the music continues.

As with other technological products, the data gathered from smart home requests can be provided to third parties such as advertisers. It can also be used to tailor and improve user experiences. Furthermore, the data acts as inputs for complex artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, creating “smarter” products.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #67: One Policy, Universal Service?

(by Galen Pospisil, Colorado Law 2L)

For most of the 20th Century, a single company provided telecommunications services in the United States. Under the slogan “one policy, one system, universal service,” AT&T provided local and long distance telephone service at uniform prices to almost every home and business in America.

Today, hundreds of companies provide telecommunications services under individual pricing policies. And yet, the goal of universal service remains.  Policymakers face the challenge of ensuring that all Americans have access to telecommunications services without the intricate system of regulated rates that the Bell System relied upon.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #64: A Glimpse Into Your Future and Your Past: The Implications of At Home Genetic Testing

(by Casey Warsh, Colorado Law 2L)

Human beings are unique compared to all other species. We learn, communicate, and navigate the earth in ways that are distinct from most other living things. What distinguishes human beings from other species is our DNA, a complex set of instructions that dictates the way our cells, tissue, muscle, and bone come together to create our human form. Despite its complex make up, the mystery behind the double helix is almost a notion of the past.

DNA testing is now accessible to the masses through providers like Helix, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA. Of course, DNA testing has its place when performed by doctors for medical purposes, but should we be engaging in genetic testing from the comfort of our own living rooms? Consumers have responded with a resounding yes. 1.5 million people on Black Friday alone shipped off DNA samples to AncestryDNA for testing.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #59: Smart Glasses for Law Enforcement

In 2015, ABI Research estimated that approximately 90% of smart glasses would be sold to police, military, security, warehouse, and bar code scanning operations. Smart glasses, such as Google Glass, have to potential to improve the safety of police officers and bring wanted individuals to justice, but also present major issues in the realms of privacy and government surveillance.

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TLPC Files Reply Comment in 911 Apps Proceeding

After the release of the Federal Communications Commission’s public notice seeking comment on 911 applications, student attorney Eilif Vanderkolk filed a reply comment addressing the issues of locational data, interface design, and cybersecurity in 911 smartphone applications. These issues were previously raised by TLPC in the whitepaper published by the Clinic last fall, and remain important during the NG911 transition .

 

TLPC and Boulder Valley School District File Comments and Replies in E-Rate Waiver Proceeding

After releasing a public notice seeking comment on the Boulder Valley School District’s (BVSD) petition to waive certain provisions of the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate rules, the Commission has now received two rounds of comments. TLPC student attorneys Max Brennan and Caroline Jones filed comments and reply comments on behalf of BVSD requesting that the Commission grant the waiver, which seeks to bridge the homework gap for students living in Boulder’s low-income housing community.

Over 50 parties filed initial comments, including industry and trade groups, public interest organizations, and school districts.

User-Testing Requirements for Accessibility in the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act

This comment explains why user-testing requirements for accessibility are necessary for usable advanced communications services or products. Written in conjunction with Professor Clayton Lewis of CU-Boulder’s Coleman Institute, the TLPC’s comment explains why user-testing best serves the purposes of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The comment additionally explains how the Act applies to people with cognitive disabilities and, moreover, analyzes how the Act may be defined to the full extent that Congress intended. This interpretation ensures that people with disabilities have full access to advanced communications technologies. The comment proposes a complaint-based enforcement process that will help implement reasonable user-testing requirements for accessibility.

User-Testing Requirements for Accessibility in the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act

Online Privacy: Concerns About Employer or Insurance Company Detection of Disability-Related Browser Add-ons

This comment raises concerns about an individual’s digital fingerprint as revealed by browser add-ons. Add-ons are pieces of software that enhance the capabilities of a larger software application, such as a web browser. When an individual visits a website, most websites ask the computer for the browser’s installed add-ons, and other information about a user’s computer (such as screen size), to ensure that the content and information it sends to a computer is properly formatted. This information may be thought of as an individual’s “digital fingerprint.”

Add-ons have many useful benefits. However, a digital fingerprint also creates the potential for employers, insurance companies, and others to discriminate based on add-on information. The TLPC’s comment to the FTC highlights concerns that a party (for example, an employer) could see that a user (for example, a job applicant) has an add-on installed that is specific to his disability. This information could be potentially misused. Consider a person with a vision impairment, who uses a screen reader add-on, in applying for a job on the potential employer’s website. The potential employer sees the installed add-on and decides not to hire the applicant because the employer does not want to pay for accessibility programs for the applicant. The TLPC argues that regulatory agencies should be sensitive to such abuse and consider whether additional safeguards are warranted.

Comment on FTC’s Proposed Privacy Framework