Freedom of Information:
Just How Many Drone Licenses Has the FAA Really Issued?
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the FAA has issued 1,428 permits to domestic drone operators since 2007 and noted this was "far more than were previously known." This new number points out again how difficult it is to answer the most common questions EFF gets from reporters about drones — just how many agencies have applied for drone licenses? How many licenses has the FAA issued since it started issuing licenses (which was earlier than 2007)? And how much has domestic drone use increased over the years?
Action sought on Farm Bill amendment that would exempt factory farms from Freedom of Information Act
I just got word that the terrible Farm Bill Amendment #970 proposed by Grassley-Donnelly could go to a vote as soon as tomorrow. The amendment would exempt factory farms from the Freedom of Information Act so that EPA would not be able to release any information about them to the public as it relates to any of their environmental regulations (e.g., the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, CERCLA, EPCRA, etc.).
Luckily Senator Ben Cardin (MD) has introduced a side-by-side amendment that will hopefully be voted on as an alternative to Senator Grassley’s Amendment. It balances Freedom of Information to protect the public, but also respects information personal in nature.
States’ Hospital Data for Sale Puts Privacy in Jeopardy
Hospitals in the U.S. pledge to keep a patient’s health background confidential. Yet states from Washington to New York are putting privacy at risk by selling records that can be used to link a person’s identity to medical conditions using public information. The potential for a patient’s hospital record to be made public by anyone buying data compiled by states adds to ways privacy is vulnerable in an age of digitized health record keeping and increasingly sophisticated hacking. State public-health agencies received an exemption from the federal law, formally the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, enacted in 1996. The privacy rules took effect in 2003, though they apply only to health-care providers, insurers, billing and claims processors and their contractors.
ALA calls for accountability and transparency in nation’s surveillance laws
The American Library Association (ALA) is gravely concerned, but unfortunately not surprised, at this week’s revelations that the U.S. government obtained the phone records of all Verizon customers for the last seven years. Leaders of the association again call upon Congress to provide more accountability and transparency about how the government is obtaining and using vast amounts of information about innocent people. ALA’s response follows media reports that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has every three months, for seven years, been renewing a Section 215 order to obtain phone records of all Verizon customers.
The "Internet of Things": New Technologies and the Promise of Ubiquitous Computing
Refrigerators that can order fresh gallons of milk. Electricity meters that provide detailed usage analytics. Medical devices that can collect detailed biometric data. Until recently, such consumer products have been confined to the dreams of futurists and Jetsons devotees. But with the rise of smart grid technology and Internet-enabled consumer goods, the so-called "Internet of Things" has become less of a fantasy and more of a foreseeable future in consumers’ lives. However, the rise of such technologies will create new challenges for companies, policymakers, and regulators seeking to determine adequate privacy and security models.
Protecting Military Whistleblowers and Victims of Sexual Assault
Members of Congress are rightly outraged at the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. No one should have to suffer the trauma of sexual assault – least of all those Americans who have volunteered to serve our country, and whom our military has a duty to keep safe. Sadly, that promise is not being kept. Approximately 26,000 service members were victimized in the past year, according to a recent Defense Department survey. Even worse, of the women service members who suffered sexual assault, nearly 70 percent did not report the crime to a military authority – a majority of which said that they felt uncomfortable making a report. And no wonder why: of the women who did report, more than 60 percent said they suffered retaliation for doing so.
In response, lawmakers have proposed ways to strengthen whistleblower protections for members of the armed services. The legislation comes against a broader backdrop of government and media reports that have found problems with the handling of military whistleblower protection cases and weaknesses in the current state of the law over the last several years.
Publishers Offer CHORUS as Solution to Federal Open Access Requirements
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has put forward its bid for a coalition of publishers to handle many of the requirements outlined in the recent Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memo requiring open access to federally funded research, in the form of the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS). The publishers are in discussions with OSTP, the funding agencies, universities and research library communities (as are other proposed solutions by other stakeholders, not yet announced).
Others in the scholarly community have raised sinister ideas as possible motivations. "Given that the AAP clearly thinks that public access policies are bad for their businesses, they would have a strong incentive to make their implementation of a public access policy as difficult to use and as functionless as possible in order to drive down usage and make the policies appear to be a failure," PLOS co-founder Michael Eisen wrote.
The Impact of Opening Up Zoning Data
The content, format, and quality of the zoning information municipalities share varies widely. Posting this information online empowers policymakers to better understand the impact of their decisions and allows people to provide accountability on the process. Access to this information can also help people understand what they are or are not allowed to do — but zoning data, even in an open format, is not always easy to understand. Thankfully, having this data publicly available has also enabled applications and news stories that contextualize the information and show people just how zoning regulations and processes can impact them.
US Takes Apple to Trial Over E-Books Price-Fixing
Apple goes to trial Monday over allegations by federal and state authorities that it conspired with publishers to raise the price of e-books. The trial pits the maker of the popular iPad and iPhone against the U.S. Justice Department in a case that tests how Internet retailers interact with content providers. "This case will effectively set the rules for Internet commerce," said David Balto, a former policy director for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
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The Intersect Alert is a newsletter of the Government Relations Committee, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Special Libraries Association.