Monthly Archives: February 2014

February 28, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- 1776 Wraps Up Regional Challenge Cup Competitions and Announces Winning Startups For San Francisco Region

Street Insider
1776 Wraps Up Regional Challenge Cup Competitions and Announces Winning Startups For San Francisco Region
Posted February 28, 2014 2:31 PM EST

Today, 1776, an incubator platform located a few blocks from the White House, in partnership with RocketSpace, an open innovation campus for startups, announced the winners of Challenge Cup for the San Francisco region.

Challenge Cup is a startup competition spanning 16 cities around the world and culminating in Washington, D.C. to find the world’s most promising startups innovating in the categories ofeducation, healthcare, energy, and smart cities. The San Francisco event marks the end of the regional competitions, which began last fall. Winning competitors are now preparing for the global festival, kicking off May 10th.

Twenty-two startups competed during the event on February 27. The competitors also participated in an accelerator program for the two days preceding the competition, which included a fireside chat led by Yelp CEO, Jeremy Stoppleman.

In addition to Evan Burfield, cofounder of 1776, judges included Doug Solomon, IDEO Fellow; Bob Linscheid, President and CEO of San Francisco Chamber of Commerce; Aleda Schaffer, Strategic Partnerships Manager of American Airlines; Shannon Spanhake, Deputy Innovation Officer for the City of San Francisco; Freddi Rokaw, Purdue University; Mike Beckerman, President and CEO of the Internet Association and representatives from Pearson.

“San Francisco was the 16th and last city of the Challenge Cup tour and the startups lived up to expectations with a lineup of amazing pitches,” said Evan Burfield, cofounder of 1776. “The competition was so steep that the judges required triple the amount of time to decide who would advance to the final round in Washington, D.C. this May at the Challenge Festival. It seems only fitting that in the city of startups, the cofounders were prepared and put on a great show.”

The regional winners include:

•      Education: UClass – A venture-backed, Common-Core-lesson marketplace that aims to disrupt the curriculum industry. On UClass, both teachers and textbook companies sell their vetted resources in bite-sized formats.
•     Energy: Enact Systems – A home-energy marketplace that allows you to plan money-saving projects, view live bids from local service providers and financiers in an area, schedule appointments with them and more.
•     Healthcare: ReferralMD – A web application that offers a comprehensive, business-management solution designed to track and monetize health care referrals.
•     Smart Cities: HandUp – A direct donation system for homeless people and others in need in a given neighborhood. With HandUp, users can donate to a specific person via their web profile or SMS, learn about their story and needs and hear updates on their progress.

The Challenge Festival will run from May 10th to May 17th, with the headline event, the Challenge Cup Global Finals, taking place the afternoon of May 17th. View the schedule and register for badges here. Challenge Cup Global Partners include: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, District of Columbia, Pearson, TechCocktail, iStrategyLabs, Microsoft, The Aspen Institute and Booz Allen Hamilton.

To be accepted, companies must be less than three years old, have less than $3M USD in revenue to date, have a scalable product or service already in the market, evidence some level of traction (active users, enterprise customers, or revenue), and have raised less than $1.5M USD in capital. Companies can apply on http://challengecup.1776dc.com/apply.

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February 28, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- Senators to Investigate NSA Role in GCHQ ‘Optic Nerve’ Webcam Spying

The Guardian
Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ ‘Optic Nerve’ webcam spying
Posted Friday 28 February 2014 12.14 EST

Three US senators are planning to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner’s mass collection of Yahoo webcam images.

Reacting to the Guardian’s revelation on Thursday that UK surveillance agency GCHQ swept up millions of Yahoo users’ webcam chats, senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement that “any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized”.

The senators described the interception as a “breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties”.

On Friday, the Internet Association – a trade body representing internet giants including Google, Amazon, eBay, Netflix, AOL and Twitter – joined the chorus of condemnation, issuing a statement expressing alarm at the latest GCHQ revelations, and calling for reform.

According to documents provided to the Guardian by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the GCHQ program codenamed Optic Nerve fed screengrabs of webcam chats and associated metadata into NSA tools such as Xkeyscore.

NSA research, the documents indicate, also contributed to the creation of Optic Nerve, which attempted to use facial recognition technology to identify intelligence targets, particularly those using multiple anonymous internet IDs.

Neither NSA nor GCHQ addressed the Guardian’s questions about US access to the images themselves. Outgoing NSA director Keith Alexanderwalked away from a reporter on Thursday who asked the army four-star general about the NSA’s role in Optic Nerve.

Wyden, Udall and Heinrich are all members of the Senate intelligence committee. They said they were “extremely troubled” by Optic Nerve and planned to investigate it during the committee’s announced omnibus inquiry into the scope of US surveillance activities revealed over the nine months since the Guardian and other news outlets began reporting the Snowden disclosures.

“We are extremely troubled by today’s press report that a very large number of individuals – including law-abiding Americans – may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing. If this report is accurate it would show a breathtaking lack of respect for the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding citizens,” they said.

GCHQ’s program, which uses data collected by cable taps as it transits the internet, does not filter out information from British or American webcams. Under UK law, there is no requirement for UK or US material to be removed from the agency’s databases. Additional legal safeguards apply when analysts come to search the database for material on individuals located in the British Isles, though there are no UK laws banning searches for US citizens’ data without a warrant.

The documents seen by the Guardian make clear the lengths to which GCHQ has gone to prevent sexually explicit material appearing in the analysts’ searches. According to one document, it made up between 3% and 11% of the material stored under Optic Nerve.

The agency used face recognition software in an attempt to prevent explicit images clogging up search results but the documents make it clear that those tools were not always successful. Analysts were advised that if they were “uncomfortable about such material” they should not open the images. The guidance adds: “Retrieval and or reference to such material should be avoided.”

GCHQ declined to comment on Optic Nerve but said all its programs operated in full accordance with UK law.

The three US senators said the revelation prompted new thinking about how the interconnectedness of global communications had “dramatically increased the likelihood of innocent Americans being swept up in intelligence collection nominally aimed at foreigners.

“It is becoming clearer and clearer that more needs to be done to ensure that ‘foreign’ intelligence collection does not intrude unnecessarily on the rights of law-abiding people or needlessly undermine the competitiveness of America’s leading industries.”

President Barack Obama said in a 17 January speech that foreigners ought to enjoy some degree of privacy from US surveillance, but has left the specifics undefined.

In a statement, the Internet Association’s CEO Michael Beckerman said:

Today’s revelations, about British intelligence practices, are alarming and reaffirm the need for greater transparency and reform of government surveillance.

Governments must immediately act to reform the practices and laws regulating surveillance and collection of Internet users’ information. The most pressing Internet user privacy issue continues to concern governments’ access to and use of electronic data. The Internet Association supports the Reform Government Surveillance principles and encourages legislation to limit governments’ authority to collect users’ information and increase transparency about government demands.

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February 27, 2014 | News, Statements

Statement Denouncing the British Intelligence Violation of Privacy on Webcam Surveillance

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In reaction to today’s news reports detailing the UK government’s secret interception of millions of Yahoo! users’ webcam images, The Internet Association’s President and CEO Michael Beckerman issued the following statement supporting government surveillance reform and denouncing the violation of privacy:

“Today’s revelations, about British intelligence practices, are alarming and reaffirm the need for greater transparency and reform of government surveillance. Governments must immediately act to reform the practices and laws regulating surveillance and collection of Internet users’ information. The most pressing Internet user privacy issue continues to concern governments’ access to and use of electronic data. The Internet Association supports the Reform Government Surveillance principles and encourages legislation to limit governments’ authority to collect users’ information and increase transparency about government demands.”

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February 27, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- Tech industry slams NSA webcam spying

The Hill
Tech industry slams NSA webcam spying
Posted February 27, 2014, 05:27 pm

The tech industry came out against what it called an “outrageous” surveillance program that allowed intelligence agencies to capture images from users’ webcams.

Reports surfaced Thursday that the National Security Agency helped its British counterpart to access and capture images, including sexually explicit ones, from millions of Yahoo chat users between 2008 and 2012.  Yahoo denied having any knowledge of the program and repeated calls it has made with other tech companies for reform of U.S. surveillance laws.

Trade associations representing major players in the tech industry followed suit.  The latest report about webcam spying “indicates government privacy violations have reached an alarming new level of intrusiveness,” Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said in a statement.

Black’s group includes Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Sprint and T-Mobile.  “The size and audacity of this online spying is outrageous and shows how government surveillance officials will go as far as they can to gather data with minimal regard for privacy expectations, ethics or laws,” Black said.

The Internet Association, which includes Facebook, Google, Amazon and Yahoo, called for surveillance reform measures “to limit governments’ authority to collect users’ information and increase transparency about government demands.”

“The most pressing Internet user privacy issue continues to concern governments’ access to and use of electronic data,” the group’s president, Michael Beckerman, said in a statement.  Beckerman called on governments to “immediately act to reform the practices and laws regulating surveillance and collection of Internet users’ information.”

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February 24, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- Consumer Privacy Rights Need Urgent Protection in Washington, Activists Say

The Washington Post
Consumer Privacy Rights Need Urgent Protection in Washington, Activists Say
Posted February 24, 2014

Citing revelations of government spying and massive theft of credit card information, civil liberties and consumer activist organizations are pressing the White House this week for action on a long-promised consumer privacy bill of rights.

“Never has the need to update the privacy laws of the United States been more urgent,” says a letter planned for delivery Monday morning and signed by three dozen organizations, including Consumers Union, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen.

The Club for Growth has labeled Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) a “liberal” for some of his votes.

A preview of the contraception case going to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.  The Fact Checker is seeking reader suggestions for the biggest lies uttered by a president since the television age began.  The three-page letter will arrive exactly two years after President Obama announced a framework for a privacy bill of rights, promising to seek swift congressional action. The president’s original call to action was made more than a year before former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed massive surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies. The proposal, however, was largely ignored by Congress.

Meantime, private companies have been compiling ever more detailed dossiers on consumers’ browsing habits and medical and purchasing histories. Recently, the president named his chief of staff, John Podesta, to review the role of “big data” and their relationship to privacy.

This week, the activist groups will ratchet up the pressure, with some signers suggesting that the White House has been constrained in acting in the public interest by the economic power of technology companies that specialize in gathering data on consumers.

“It seems to me that the administration is more interested in protecting the U.S. data collection industry — the Googles, the Facebooks and the Amazons,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of one of the groups that signed the letter, the Center for Digital Democracy. It added: “The White House needs these companies for its own political and economic agenda. The White House has not seriously engaged with critics of the data collection system to help figure out the road map to providing privacy protection.”

Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post. An advocacy organization representing Amazon, Google, Facebook and other major firms, the Internet Association, did not respond to requests for comment Sunday. Nor did the White House. In the past, the industry trade group and others advocating for advertisers have called for self-regulation rather than government restrictions on private-sector data-gathering. In their letter to the White House, the activists say this approach has not worked.

“Industry self-regulation has failed and opt-out techniques force consumers to check their privacy settings every time a company changes its business model,” the letter says.

Privacy protection demands have increased in recent months as data-collection companies face new pressure from European regulators alarmed by disclosure of U.S. government spying. Now that pressure seems to be spreading to Washington.

“The president made an important commitment two years ago to introduce privacy legislation,” said Marc Rotenberg, a Georgetown University Law School professor who directs the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Given what we have now learned about the scope of surveillance and the absence of meaningful safeguards, this should now be a top priority for the administration.”

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February 21, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- On Topic: Tech News To Know Now

Silicon Beat
On Topic: Tech News To Know Now
Posted 2/21/2014 8:00

Have you seen our excellent coverage of the big Facebook-WhatsApp deal? There’s a closer look at how Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to rule mobile drove the big purchase. There’s a look at Sequoia Capital, whose return on its investment in WhatsApp is a cool $3 billion. And WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum’s story? It’s as rags-to-riches as they come.

Elsewhere: WhatsApp has been called the “anti-Facebook.” The New York Times takes a look at how the founders were won over. And the Huffington Post compiles a list of anti-Facebook quotes that have been uttered by WhatsApp’s founders. A couple of key differences between the two companies are related to their attitudes about privacy and advertising.

Tesla’s most disruptive technology may not be its cars, but its batteries, writes Quartz.  Also from Quartz, highlights from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s AMA session on reddit this week, which include thoughts about why Intel was late to the mobile revolution.

Tim Bray, XMl co-inventor, is leaving Google. He says the company wouldn’t let him work remotely from Canada. Also, he says the Bay Area is :congested, racist, incestuous and overpriced.”

IBM’s Watson chief is leaving to join Silicon Valley-based The Entrepreneur’s Fund, Fortune reports.  For real this time? An Amazon TV box may come in March, according to Recode.  Businessweek has a cover story on Uber as disrupter, and the taxi industry’s animosity toward it.

The Internet Association gives its first Congressional Internet Freedom Award to Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrell Issa for their support of a free and open Web, according to Hillicon Valley.  And that massive multiplayer Pokemon game is overloading Twitch’s servers, Ars Technica reports.

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February 20, 2014 | News, Statements

White House Action On Patent Reform Highlights Why Congress Must Move Forward With Comprehensive, Bipartisan Legislation

The Internet Association Applauds President’s Commitment to Ending Patent Troll Abuses

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association, which represents the interests of the world’s leading Internet companies, made the following statement regarding new efforts by the White House to strengthen America’s patent system and combat patent trolls:

“At a time when patent trolls are taking $80 billion out of the economy each year and threatening the livelihoods of businesses and workers across the country, The Internet Association welcomes the Administration’s new efforts to improve patent quality and transparency.

“At the same time, the seriousness of this problem, and the bipartisan support for addressing it, highlight why Congress must pass comprehensive patent reform legislation this year. It is our hope that the Senate will build on the House-passed Innovation Act and pass the strong reforms required to deter the abusive litigation practices of patent trolls wielding low-quality patents and promote innovation and economic growth.

“The time to act is now. We are encouraged by President Obama’s actions today and hope the Senate will soon take advantage of the strong bipartisan support for comprehensive patent reform.”

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February 20, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- The FCC Will Allow (Some) Online Discrimination and Patent-Troll Hunters Head to the White House

The National Journal
The FCC Will Allow (Some) Online Discrimination and Patent-Troll Hunters Head to the White House
Posted February 20, 2014 17:22

The FCC plans to write new net-neutrality rules—but a senior agency official told NJ that the new rules will allow for at least some online discrimination. That means the agency will likely allow a “two-sided” market to develop, where Internet providers charge both users and websites. But the agency has yet to write the new rules, and there will likely still be discrimination restrictions in place aimed at promoting competition. Expect Chairman Tom Wheeler to face questions about the new rules following Thursday’s open commission meeting at 10:30 a.m. The agency will also vote on proposals to improve quality of closed captioning and ensure accuracy of wireless calls to 911.

But the FCC isn’t the only agency making tech news—as part of an all-day summit with with patent-reform stakeholders, the White House will discuss the administration’s progress on certain patent litigation initiatives at 3:30 p.m. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, and others will talk publicly.

PATENT REFORM SUMMIT AT WHITE HOUSE TO INCLUDE PRIOR ART INITIATIVE: The administration is underscoring an afternoon progress report on existing policies to curb patent-troll abuses, but less advertised is a 9 a.m. morning session where White House IP counsel Colleen Chien and patent-holding companies will discuss a joint initiative to make prior art holdings more transparent and accessible for officials at the Patent and Trademark Office. Proponents say greater access to prior art would improve overall patent quality by reducing the number of patents granted, thereby limiting potential for abusive patent litigation.

A public announcement of this initiative, and, possibly, other new anti-troll measures, is expected during the open afternoon session. After the policy update, about 25 associations (including the Innovation Alliance, BSA, the Internet Association and representatives from the universities) will sit down for a roundtable with Michelle Lee, the PTO’s deputy director. Invitees expect the discussion to mirror briefings with Senate Judiciary staffers held over the past month and a half, and highlight some of the same controversial topics, such as customer stay and fee shifting.

UTAH COURT SHUTS DOWN AEREO: The District Court of Utah delivered broadcasters their first major victory over Aereo. Judge Dale A. Kimball told Aereo to temporarily stop its broadcasting services in Utah and Colorado because of copyright infringement. The court denied Aereo’s request to transfer the case to a New York court that is hearing three other cases involving Aereo, but granted the company’s request to stay the case until Supreme Court’s ruling. Riding on the confidence of two major legal victories in Boston and New York courts, Aereo challenged broadcasters to take their case to the Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 22.

TRACKING WORKSHOP YIELDS LITTLE CONSENSUS: The FTC’s first of three privacy seminars on emerging technologies did little to soothe the concerns of privacy advocates worried about tracking shoppers via their mobile phones could lead to intrusive spying. “There’s not much sensitivity in a momentary observation [like] ‘oh, this person went to a store’, but long-term, habitual observations are much more troubling,” said Seth Schoen, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, during the Wednesday workshop. Schoen reiterated that he views an opt-out standard, like the website rolled out this week by the Future of Privacy Forum, wouldn’t suffice, and that retailers needed to first acquire consent before tracking.

But retail and big data interests attempted to ease concerns. ‘It’s important to keep in mind what’s theoretically possible and practically applicable,” argued James Riesenbach, CEO of iInside, a digital analytics firm. “The worse-case scenarios won’t come to be because the customer won’t allow it.”

WIRELESS COMPETITION HEARING: The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee will hold a hearing next Wednesday on competition in the wireless industry, an aide confirmed to NJ.

LAWSUITS MAY MAKE NSA SAVE DATA: The lawsuits against the NSA may actually cause the agency to expand its controversial phone database. The agency is considering whether to retain the records for longer than intended in order to preserve evidence for the suits.

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February 20, 2014 | News, Press Releases

Announcing Recipients of First Annual Congressional Internet Freedom Award

Chairman Ron Wyden and Chairman Darrell Issa Honored for Pro-Internet Advocacy and Leadership

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Internet Association today announced that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) are the 2014 recipients of the Congressional Internet Freedom Award, the Internet Association’s highest recognition for excellence in public service.

“Senator Wyden and Representative Issa are champions of Internet freedom and the innovation economy. These awards are a well-deserved recognition of their unwavering leadership and longtime support of pro-Internet policies,” said Michael Beckerman, Internet Association President and CEO. “These two dedicated public servants understand the importance and vitality of a free and open Internet. We are grateful for their support of our industry, the fastest growing economic sector in the world.”

2014 marks the inaugural presentation of the Internet Association’s Congressional Internet Freedom Award, honoring a Senator and a Representative who have distinguished themselves as vanguards of the Internet economy. Awards will be presented at The Internet Association’s philanthropic “Girls Who Code” gala on April, 8, 2014.

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February 20, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- Web Group Honors Wyden, Issa

The Hill
Web group honors Wyden, Issa
Posted February 20, 2014, 04:35 pm

The Internet Association is giving its first annual Congressional Internet Freedom Award to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

The trade organization, which counts Internet giants like Google, AOL and Facebook among its members, said the two lawmakers deserve the honor for their support of a free and open Web.

“Senator Wyden and Representative Issa are champions of Internet freedom and the innovation economy. These awards are a well-deserved recognition of their unwavering leadership and longtime support of pro-Internet policies,” Michael Beckerman, the association’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “We are grateful for their support of our industry, the fastest growing economic sector in the world.”

In a statement, Issa said that he was honored to receive the award.

“A free and open Internet is critical for not only innovation and job growth in America, but also for the democratic process,” he said. “I will continue to advocate for the Internet users and policies that empower them.”

Issa is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has stood in defense of the Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide last year while under federal investigation.

Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has been a prominent critic of government surveillance programs, which many tech groups have also opposed, and he recently introduced a bill to protect an open Internet in trade deals.

The Internet Association is a relatively young trade group that hired its first lobbyists last March. Since that time, it has been active on data security, patent reform and other issues.

The awards will be presented at the groups’ Girls Who Code gala in April.

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Top Internet Business Leaders Confirmed To Speak At Internet Association’s Third Annual Virtuous Circle Summit BECKERMAN: “The value of the Virtuous Circle Summit is the conversations that take place when you bring together the leading voices in the internet innovation and policy space.” Washington, DC — Today, Internet Association announced its initial list of confirmed speakers Read more »

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