SIIA Signs on to USCIB Letter on Data Flow Provisions in TPP

Wednesday, SIIA joined with 40 business groups in signing on to a USCIB letter on the need for data flow provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. Sent out to TPP Ministers and negotiators, the letter stresses the necessity for businesses to be able to transmit data seamlessly, regardless of geography:

“The seamless movement of data across borders enables businesses of every size, in every sector, in every part of the world to access innovative products and services that enhance their productivity and help them reach new customers, driving growth and job creation.”

Co-signers of the letter include business groups  from 11 of the 12 TPP negotiating countries demonstrating the importance of this issue for business in all sectors in both developed and developing economies. Within the letter four factors were identified as crucial to promoting the health of the digital economy:

  1. Clear, enforceable obligations to allow the cross-border flow of data and that prohibit requirements to localize data in particular jurisdictions
  2. Exceptions and limitations to such obligations that are limited and consistent with existing international trade law
  3. Dispute settlement mechanisms on a par with all the other TPP obligations
  4. No additional reservations that undermine the effect and enforceability of such obligations

To read the letter in full, click here.

Sabrina Eyob is the Public Policy Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the Policy team on Twitter @SIIAPolicy.

Intellectual Property Roundup

Google Asks Supreme Court to Decide Oracle Copyright Fight (Reuters)
Google has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to wade into contentious litigation against Oracle Corp, arguing that the high court must act to protect innovation in high tech.

Anti-Piracy Group Plans to Block in Excess of 100 Sites (Torrent Freak)
An anti-piracy outfit ‘blockaded’ by the Pirate Party last week in Austria has revealed its expanded plans for website blocking. The Hollywood-affiliated group says it will strive for blocks of hundreds of sites while applying to the court for more effective blocking technical solutions.

YouTube’s Ads on Unauthorized Content Pay Off (Financial Times)
YouTube has hit $1 billion in payments to companies through Content ID, a program that scans user-generated content for copyright infringement and sells advertising on those clips as a way to monetize unauthorized use of the copyrighted material.

Patent Trolling Pays (GigaOM)
Since 2010, non-practicing entities (or patent trolls), have made three times as much money in court as real companies, according to recently published statistics.

Obama Urges Patent Reform (The Hill)
Obama stated that patent “trolls” are one of the “biggest problems” the administration is targeting, indicating the White House is still interested in moving forward with patent reform.

Sen. Cornyn: We Need to Limit the Business of ‘Frivolous’ Patent Litigation(VentureBeat)
Sen. John Cornyn says introducing new patent reform legislation is high on his agenda when a new body of Congress convenes in 2015.

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

SIIA, Industry Offer Guidance to NIST Privacy Engineering

Privacy engineering can offer tremendous value to consumers. This is the premise of a new privacy engineering initiative launched by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) earlier this year.  After two workshops, a webcast and substantial outreach to industry, NIST is still seeking feedback to help them provide technical guidance to information system users, owners, developers and designers.

On October 10, SIIA joined with a dozen industry groups in submitting comments to NIST to help scope their initiative.  In the letter, the groups note that many of our member companies utilize privacy engineering solutions as part of their “privacy-by-design” practices and internal information management.  And we concur that refining and improving privacy engineering processes requires a collaborative effort involving information technology, compliance, legal, product development, marketing, customer service and other functional areas.

However, as SIIA has often pointed out, expectations surrounding the collection and processing of personal information are not purely personal.  They reflect evolving social norms – which often vary significantly across jurisdictions around the world.  As technologies evolve to become instrumental in all facets of our lives, our experience and expectations of privacy also evolve.  As for the legal framework, there are numerous ongoing discussions within myriad self-regulatory and governmental policy-making bodies, and a diversity of existing laws not just in the U.S., but around the world.

In short, the policy framework for privacy is still in flux.  As a result, an exercise to develop guidance in the form of technical standards could prove counterproductive, getting ahead of diverse international user expectations and policies.  The establishment of a technical framework or standard can only follow when we have achieved a consensus on policy objectives.  In the absence of clear, predefined policies, the result could have a chilling effect on innovation, thrusting engineers into the complicated process of critical decision-making on the various gray areas of privacy expectations and legal requirements.  For instance, is it really a matter for technical standards to be set by engineers whether a particular form of consumer consent should be opt-in or opt-out?

To that end, SIIA supports a more tailored effort, where NIST focus its efforts on cataloging, in a policy-neutral manner, how privacy engineers accomplish various privacy-by-design or information management processes.  This represents a pivot from what policy goals should be to how privacy engineering might achieve privacy goals that are defined elsewhere.

We value NIST’s technical expertise and interest in contributing to the shared goal of promoting privacy by design, and by developing a catalog to this end, NIST can make a significant contribution to the field by undertaking such an initiative.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.

Congress Needs to Give Green Light to Health IT Innovation

Healthcare systems around the world are being challenged by aging populations, chronic illness and revolutionary—but expensive—treatments.  Appropriate solutions are often not available to patients in need, while medical providers, academics and innovators often work  independently or in small groups, with unconnected health datasets that provide incomplete pictures of the health statuses and health care practices of Americans.

While information technology (IT) products hold the promise of dramatically changing this situation and improving health care for those in need, current public policy is standing in the way.  It’s time for Congress to change that.

Applying new information technology (IT) products and services, particularly data analytics, to healthcare, delivered when and where it is needed in a digestible manner, can help medical professionals access evidenced based medicine to deliver better treatments and accelerate the search for timely cures. Some of the potential outcomes include: faster treatments coming to market, aligned health care incentives—lowering  costs for patients and providers (eliminating needless procedures), and a more  efficient, patient-centered healthcare systems that enable a more comprehensive view of patient care across a variety of conditions and procedures.

Unfortunately, America’s broad regulatory approach is harming the development and application of a wide range of software supporting this evolution, threatening to delay or prevent the implementation of revolutionary healthcare solutions. There is significant confusion in the market about what technologies may be regulated, by which agencies, and to what standards. This uncertainty is standing in the way of myriad promising technologies that can help clinicians access more evidence-based medicine, provide patient populations with more individualized care, and generate better patient-caregiver-provider engagement.

This week, SIIA joined with dozens of technology providers, health organizations and trade associations urging Congress to pass legislation to provide much-needed statutory clarity and a stable foundation for continued innovation in health IT.  Now is the time for Congress to give the green light to foster the necessary innovation to improve our Nation’s healthcare system and reducing costs. There is broad consensus on the need for a risk-based framework for health IT.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPubPolicy.

SIIA Software Industry Study- Software Increases Economic Growth and Creates Jobs

At a hill event last month SIIA released a new study The U.S. Software Industry: An Engine for Economic Growth and Employment. The study revealed that software is a $425 billion industry that directly employs 2.5 million U.S. workers and supports millions of other jobs by driving American productivity.

This finding is counterintuitive to the dominant narrative which dictates that software kills jobs. The software industry, on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, often prompts fears of human inadequacy and futility. The news is rife with speculative stories about a near future where robots will rule, much like the Will Smith’s 2004 movie I, Robot.

At SIIA we work with the software industry every day.  We knew that this assessment was wrong based on the experience of our member companies.  But we wanted an independent look at the situation, using publicly available data and methodologies that could be duplicated by any researcher. At our request, economist Robert J. Shapiro former Undersecretary of Commerce during the Clinton administration, embarked upon an independent analysis of the economic growth, trade and employment impacts of the software industry in the United States.  What Shapiro found is that the software industry has been, and continues to be, a key contributor to economic, export and employment growth in the United States.

Based on this study, SIIA VP of Public Policy Mark MacCarthy weighed in on the debate in a Hill op-ed “Time to kill the tech job-killing myth.” MacCarthy wrote,

“But widespread, long-term technological unemployment simply hasn’t materialized. Instead, technology-driven increases in productivity are leading to the creation of less-expensive goods and services, and the resulting demand is increasing employment throughout the U.S. economy.  Technology and job creation have gone hand-in-hand – with productivity and employment rising together over the decades.”

The software industry study demonstrates that fears of software eating jobs are just wrong. On balance, the industry creates jobs. A few of the key findings were this:

  • From 1997 to 2012, U.S. software industry production increased from $149 billion to $425 billion, increasing its direct share of U.S. GDP from 1.7 to 2.6 percent.
  • The industry accounted for 12.1 percent of all U.S. labor productivity gains from 1995 to 2004, and 15.4 percent from 2004 to 2012.
  • Software plays a central role in job creation – generating jobs on its own, while also creating jobs through purchasing from other industries and by enabling business expansion that leads to job growth.
  • Software industry direct employment grew from 0.9 percent of American workers in 1990 to 2.2 percent today, and currently employs 2.5 million workers, up from 778,000 in 1990.
  • Every 10 software jobs supports five more jobs in other industries. This 1.5 multiplier is well ahead of other industries, such as education (1.12), retail (1.14) and health care (1.18).

Software, a core enabling technology used in virtually every sector of the economy, is a key contributor to increasing productivity and investment, job creation, exports and economic growth. To learn more about the software industry’s impact on the economy take a look at this detailed executive summary of the SIIA software industry study.

Sabrina Eyob is the Public Policy Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the Policy team on Twitter @SIIAPolicy.

Intellectual Property Roundup

Google Removes News Snippets From German Search Results (Computerworld)
In a move to minimize legal risks, Google has stopped showing news snippets and thumbnails for some well-known German news sites in search results.

Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? (Slate)
Hasbro’s recent crackdown on the dissemination and use of its Scrabble word lists raises an intriguing legal question: Can a list of words be copyrighted?

Warner Bros. Anti-Piracy Methods Revealed in Court Docs (Slash Gear)
Unsealed court documents have revealed how Warner Bros. goes about finding infringing content and issuing takedown notices.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Superman Heirs’ Copyright Case (Ars Technica)
The Supreme Court declined to hear the petition filed by Superman heirs’ lawyers. That leaves standing a ruling form the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and the heirs won’t be allowed to wrest the copyright away.

Keith Kupferschmid

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

Data Analytics in Education Promotes Social and Economic Opportunity

The recent FTC workshop “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” posed important questions on whether and how analytics could be used to restrict life chances for people rather than create economic and social opportunity.  The answer lies in the hands of the user of the technology, not in the technology itself.  The critical question is how people use, implement or otherwise act on the discoveries – the indicators, insights and evidence – that data analytics can uncover or reveal.

As with all knowledge, the value of the insights made possible by research and science depend in large part on the purposes they are used to advance and the environment in which they are deployed.  Data analytics in education is a good example.

A study by Johns Hopkins University research professor Robert Balfanz shows that most students who eventually drop out can be identified as early as the sixth grade by their attendance, behavior and course performance. Using those indicators, it is possible to identify by the middle of ninth grade virtually everyone who will drop out. As Professor Balfanz put it recently, “These young men are waving their hands early and often to say they need help, but our educational and student-support systems aren’t organized to recognize and respond to their distress signals.”

What should be done with this knowledge?  While one could worry that some might take an exclusionary path to perhaps stop wasting resources on students who are predicted to fail, the popular consensus created by recent educational innovators, such as Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify and former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, is to use these potential drop-out indicator as discoveries to develop a path of inclusion to take corrective actions early for these students, thereby promoting social and economic opportunity in education:

“Using data to help identify these students and give them meaningful supports and interventions as early as possible would have a significant impact on the number of students that graduate ready for success in either college or career. This isn’t the stuff of science fiction. These are actionable steps we can take right now, thanks to the power of technology.”

Which path is chosen is a matter for educators, not a matter of data analytics.  It would be disheartening, to say the least, if policymakers, fearful of data analytics used as a possible tool of exclusion, were to, in essence, call for educators to put their heads in the sand – not to see, and worse, not to use for good, the indicators that data analytics discovers.  Would anyone really argue that schools around the country would be better off not knowing the determinants of student failure, since it is possible that such knowledge might be used to discriminate against at-risk students?

In fact, many schools throughout the country are raising their heads, and hands, to apply data analytics to help their students succeed.

  • Research shows that attendance, behavior and course performance can assess dropout risk in a way that allows schools to design early intervention systems to support students. Miami Carol City Senior High in Florida designed an intervention system based on this kind of data. In 2013, one-third of students flagged for missing school got back on track to graduation. Two-thirds of the students who were having behavioral problems made a turnaround.
  • In Hamilton County Board of Education in Tennessee, early student interventions led to increased graduation rates by more than 8 percentage points and standardized test scores in math and reading by more than 10 percent thanks to applying predictive analytics.
  • In Mobile County, Alabama the dropout rate has been nudged downward by three percent since the application of data analytics on a broad range of factors including demographic variable to identify at risk students.

As J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO and superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools, the 14th largest school district in the U.S., put it, “data analytics can help us both identify the child and create a better picture of who they are, what areas they’re deficient in, and point to things we can do differently. As we perfect our use of analytics, I think we can even get to the point where it’ll suggest, this student is weak in fractions; here are some activities that can help improve that.”

These examples and countless more show that educators are putting discoveries from data analytics to use for the good of all students, using indicators not to exclude students but rather to develop personalized courses of study for each one to succeed.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.

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