Federal Trade Commission Pushes Forward With Online Privacy Initiative

Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released the final version of its report on consumer privacy online. It issued a draft report in December 2010 and received over 450 comments in response, including those filed by USACM.

The final report retains the same general framework outlined in the December 2010 draft, and is broadly consistent with the effort to develop a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights announced by the Obama Administration last month. In announcing the release of the report, the FTC indicated it would focus on the following areas in its online privacy work over the next several months.

Do-Not-Track – The Commission commends the progress made in this area: browser vendors have developed tools to allow consumers to limit data collection about them, the Digital Advertising Alliance has developed its own icon-based system and also committed to honor the browser tools, and the World Wide Web Consortium standards-setting body is developing standards. “The Commission will work with these groups to complete implementation of an easy-to-use, persistent, and effective Do Not Track system,” the report says.

Mobile – The FTC urges companies offering mobile services to work toward improved privacy protections, including disclosures. To that end, it will host a workshop on May 30, 2012 to address how mobile privacy disclosures can be short, effective, and accessible to consumers on small screens.
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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 26

March 27 – edited to reflect time change for Thursday’s hearing on public access.

Original Post:

March 27

The Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the effect of federal policies on innovation.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

March 28

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold another hearing on cybersecurity and communications networks.
10 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building

March 29

The Investigations and Oversight Committee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on public access to federally funded research.
9:30 10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the interaction of online privacy and innovation.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 19

March 21

The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the REAL ID Act’s standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

The Technology, Information Policy Intergovernmental Affairs and Procurement Reform Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on technology and the Freedom of Information Action (FOIA).

Judea Pearl is the 2011 A.M. Turing Award Recipient

The Association for Computing Machinery has awarded the 2011 A.M. Turing Award, considered the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in Computing, to Judea Pearl, a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. Pearl is recognized for his work in transforming research in artificial intelligence (AI). From his Turing citation:

“Judea Pearl’s work has transformed artificial intelligence (AI) by creating a representational and computational foundation for the processing of information under uncertainty. Pearl’s work went beyond both the logic-based theoretical orientation of AI and its rule-based technology for expert systems.

“Equally significant is Pearl’s work on causal reasoning, where he developed a graph-based calculus of interventions that makes it possible to derive causal knowledge from the combined effects of actions and observations. This work has been transformative within AI and computer science, and has had major impact on allied disciplines of economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and statistics.”

The A.M. Turing Award is ACM’s most prestigious technical award. Each year the winner is invited to present a lecture at the ACM Awards Banquet, and thanks to the support of the Intel Corporation and Google, the winner receives a $250,000 prize.

2012 marks the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth, which ACM will celebrate in June. In addition to his contributions to code-breaking for the British during World War II, Turing is an important figure in modern computing, making advances in computer architecture, algorithms, formalization of computing, and artificial intelligence.

USACM and SIGCHI Comment on Section 508 Refresh on Accessibility

USACM and SIGCHI submitted comments this week to the Access Board on the Draft ICT Standards and Guidelines on accessibility of federal government information and communication technologies.

The U.S. Access Board is revising the accessibility standards that require federal agencies to make electronic content and customer premises electronic equipment equally accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities. USACM and the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI) submitted comments to the Access Board on the proposed standards and guidelines.

This “refresh” of the Draft Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines will jointly update the accessibility requirements under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. The current standards were last updated in 2000 and went into effect in 2001.

The Section 508/255 Refresh seeks, in part, to ensure and improve accessibility in light of innovative and emergent developments within the computer and technology industries, such as webcasts, mobile applications and devices, interactive kiosks, laptop computers, onscreen keyboards, and wireless assistive devices. The Refresh also seeks to foster increased compliance through increased ease of use and understanding of the standards by federal agencies, their contractors, and equipment manufacturers.

Continue reading “USACM and SIGCHI Comment on Section 508 Refresh on Accessibility”

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 5

March 6

The Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on research and development investments.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

March 7

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on communications networks and cybersecurity.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

March 9

The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) will meet.
10 a.m., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

USACM Comments on the Menlo Report

On Monday USACM submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the Menlo Report, which was issued in September 2011. The goal of the report was to extend ethical guidelines for research involving human subjects to computer and information security research. It based its framework on the Belmont Report for 1979, which developed similar guidelines for biomedical and behavioral sciences.

While this effort is a good start, as USACM noted in its comments, “developing directly usable guidance for researchers requires both broader and deeper
consideration of these issues” than can be found in the Menlo Report. We recommend that the DHS:

  • Collect and analyze data on current practices before taking action.
  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of research ethics board models, including national and regional review bodies as well as IRBs.
  • Systematically consider related work and guidance from around the globe.
  • Include specialists in research ethics as part of the process.
  • The work DHS is doing is important, but is not on its own. As reflected in our comments from last September, the Department of Health and Human Services is working out revisions on its own human subjects research regulations, and DHS would benefit from exploring that effort and using it to inform its own work.

    We think the Menlo Report is necessary, research in computing and information technology needs to live up to its responsibilities concerning the human subjects affected by that research. USACM is willing and able to assist in furthering the work needed to do so.