Weekly output: debating privacy regulation

I feel bad for being so checked out of the NCAA tournament, but once again, my Hoyas have no part in March Madness. My wife’s Hoos are in it, having managed to avoid repeating last year’s improbable first-round collapse–yet I’m still a little leery about getting too invested.

3/19/2019: Approaches to Regulating Technology—From Privacy to A.I., American Action Forum

I debated possible regulatory strategies for protecting privacy with the Charles Koch Institute’s Neil Chilson, the Niskanen Center’s Ryan Hagemann, and the George Mason University Mercatus Center’s Jennifer Huddleston. My fellow speakers suggested that we didn’t really need a new batch of data-protection laws along the lines of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation or the California Consumer Privacy Act, which struck me as an exceedingly optimistic perspective to hold after a year of bad news about Facebook’s privacy failings. But they could very well be right in suggesting that Congress won’t get it together to pass any such bill this year.

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Weekly output: Audi stoplight smarts, Big Tech banter at SXSW, SXSW strangeness, Facebook outage, Spotify vs. Apple

I’ve been recuperating from SXSW in the lamest way possible: by spending a lot of time weeding the lawn. Early returns suggest that my prior years of springtime toil have led to less chickweed, so I’ve got that going for me.

3/11/2019: How traffic lights might talk to your next car, Yahoo Finance

I spent a few days driving around D.C. and northern Virginia in an A8 that Audi loaned to test its Traffic Light Information system. The whole experience got a little more terrifying when I looked at the spec sheet for the loaner vehicle and realized that I was trying test-driving Audi’s stoplight-to-car data service in a sedan with a list price above six figures.

3/13/2019: Breaking up Big Tech: Advocates spar over how to trim sails of technology giants at SXSW, USA Today

I did not get to as many SXSW panels as I wanted, but I did watch the session featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.). Warren advocated forced break-ups of tech giants, and over the next several days multiple SXSW speakers took it to task. The critiques you’ll see in USAT comments on this piece, however, amount to trash.

3/13/2019: SXSW 2019: Synthetic sushi, a buggy demo, and other weird gadgets, Yahoo Finance

I didn’t even have the SXSW trade-show exhibits on my must-see list until meeting a friend for lunch, at which point he strongly suggested I check out Sushi Singularity. He was right.

3/14/2019: Facebook outage, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on to talk about the Wednesday outage of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. My takes: Securities and Exchange Commission regulations give us strong reasons to take Facebook at its word about the causes of this downtime; we should all work to depend less on Facebook and its vassal states for communication with bystanders, customers and fans.

3/15/2019: Spotify has a point about Apple’s App Store fees, Yahoo Finance

If you were reading me eight years ago, this column should not have surprised you. My opinion hasn’t changed since because Apple still acts as if it has a God-given right to annex up to 30 percent of the content income of many App Store developers.

Weekly output: value-priced Android phones, Star Alliance lounges, Howard Schultz, bots and bias

AUSTIN–I’m here for my eighth SXSW conference, but only my second with a speaking role. And this one, unlike the tech-policy panel I moderated here in 2012, came together much later in the game.

3/4/2019: MWC highlights include affordable smartphones, not just foldable ones, USA Today

This MWC recap covers a few phones coming to the U.S. market, plus one that’s not–but whenever Xiaomi does bring its budget-priced Android phones here, a lot of other vendors will find themselves in serious trouble.

3/6/2019: The Lounges You Didn’t Know You Could Use on Domestic Flights, The Points Guy

I’ve had this how-to post in my head ever since the first time a United 1K elite told me he had no idea he could use the Lufthansa lounge at Dulles.

3/10/2019: Howard Schultz just showed he doesn’t have a grasp of the issues, Yahoo Finance

I saw not one but two talks by the former Starbucks CEO–his morning SXSW talk and a later appearance before an entrepreneurs’ group. They left me convinced of Schultz’s ethical-capitalist aspirations and of his fundamental unseriousness in talking about such issues as health care and the definition of “socialism.”

SXSW 2019 mic

3/10/2019: On Bots and Bias: When What Machines Learn Is Wrong, SXSW

I basically vultured my way into moderating this panel. Speakers Anamita Guha, with IBM Watson, Pandorabots’ Lauren Kunze, and Dashbot’s Justina Nguyen had gotten their topic approved months ago but needed a moderator, and when my friend Mike Masnick asked in a Feb. 20 tweet if any journalists he knew wanted that gig, I replied almost immediately that I did. Fortunately, the short-notice panel prep did not turn out to be a problem. My fellow panelists were all aces and capably explained this complicated subject.

Weekly output: EU digital copyright, MWC (x4), USB-C headphone-jack adapters, HoloLens 2, tech’s privacy gap, 5G phones, good affordable phones

I came home from Barcelona Thursday, then further trashed my jet-lagged, MWC-damaged sleep cycle Friday night by staying up until 3 a.m. to watch the liftoff of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on its debut, unmanned flight to the International Space Station. I assure you that was worth the multiple naps I needed Saturday afternoon.

For more from MWC 2019, see my Flickr album after the jump.

2/25/2019: How Europe could cement American online dominance, Yahoo Finance

The proposed changes to copyright law nearing a final vote in the European Parliament are criminally stupid.

2/25/2019: U.S.-Huawei fight becomes focus of Barcelona’s trade show, Yahoo Finance

I talked to host Alexis Christoforous via Skype over a bad connection about Huawei’s role in the industry. For a second Yahoo video hit that day–I haven’t been able to find a link to that–I switched to a spot in the press center that not only had much better WiFi but also had a good backdrop: the MWC hashtag on a wall visible behind me.

2/26/2019: Foldable phones are taking over the Mobile World Congress, Yahoo Finance

I made another appearance on Yahoo’s morning show, once again in the press center. The prop for my laptop each time? A trash bin dragged into position in front of my chair.

2/27/2019: Why a USB-C headphone adapter can’t amount to jack, USA Today

A friend’s report last October that a third-party USB-to-3.5-mm adapter didn’t work with his phone led me to realize I didn’t hate the removal of headphone jacks from phones quite enough.

2/27/2019: How Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 is bringing augmented reality to your job, Yahoo Finance

Before heading out to MWC, I e-mailed a couple of friends who have been developing on HoloLens for a while, then followed up to get their impressions of the new version.

2/28/2019: Why tech still can’t explain its own requests for your data, The Parallax

I wrote this essay after yet another bout of outrage over tech privacy that was made worse an inability to explain things clearly to customers (as opposed to investors and advertisers).

2/28/2019: No, you don’t need a 5G phone yet, Yahoo Finance

I know, I’m usually cranky about the first generation of anything. But in the case of 5G, the limits and likely high costs of the first generation of phones compatible with this new wireless standard make them an especially unwise purchase.

3/1/2019: The best cheap phones from Mobile World Congress, Yahoo Finance

I had meant to file this early in my flight back from Barcelona to Newark, but the already-sluggish WiFi was particularly hostile towards Gmail and Google Docs, leaving me unable to file or e-mail my editor for much of the flight.

3/3/2019: The weirdest gadgets from MWC 2019, Yahoo Finance

I wrote much of this short, fun list of bizarre MWC hardware at Newark and then on the short flight from EWR to DCA, then banged out the rest at National Airport before taking Metro home–some 18 hours after my day had begun on the other side of the Atlantic.

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Weekly output: tech talk with Mark Vena

MWC 2019 badgeBARCELONA–I’m now into my seventh Mobile World Congress, and the experience has been reminding me that it’s a treat to come to this city for work. Plus, the WiFi generally works at MWC.

(Minus: I’m typing this from my second morning press event at which there’s no free coffee. What kind of monsters run these things?)

2/21/2019: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (2-21-19), What’s Hot in Tech

I talked to analyst Mark Vena, an occasional source, about 8K television, cord cutting, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 announcements, and foldable phones. He also gave me a little grief about my city’s football team, and I can’t blame him for that one bit.

Weekly output: AirPlay gaps, smart-home security

This will be a short workweek for me on both ends. I can’t expect many people to answer my e-mails tomorrow, and then the second half of Friday will be occupied by me starting my journey to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. This trip will be seventh to MWC; if you will be heading there for your first time, you may appreciate the cheat sheet I wrote last year.

2/13/2019: More smart TVs are getting Apple AirPlay but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use it, USA Today

Now that connected televisions from Samsung and others are arriving with support for Apple’s AirPlay in-home media streaming built-in, many more people are likely to discover how many cable-TV apps disable this output option.

2/15/2019: A new tactic for smart-home security: shaming Walmart, Yahoo Finance

I wrote about an open letter from the Mozilla Foundation, the Internet Society and several other interest groups urging Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart to stop selling insecure Internet-of-Things hardware. One complicating factor: There isn’t any canonical list of secure or insecure IoT gear that a retailer or a customer could consult. The best such option at the moment seems to be Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included, which excludes a great many devices.

Weekly output: digital technology and personal relationships, vulnerability reporting

I got in a quick trip to New York this week, thanks to an invitation to speak at a conference at Columbia University that arrived after the event organizer read the Data Privacy Day piece I wrote for the Washington Post last month.

2/7/2019: Panel IV:​ Connection: Building or Destroying Personal Relationships?, Greater Good Gathering

I talked about the problems and possibilities of social media–more of the former than the latter–with Fred Davie of the  Union Theological Seminary, the University of Southern California’s Todd Richmond, the Women’s Media Center’s Soraya Chemaly, and Robin C. Stevens of the University of Pennsylvania’s nursing school. My contribution to the discussion was suggesting that these social apps might be less amenable to abuse if their development teams weren’t dominated by people whose race and gender render them immune to the usual racist, misogynistic word vomit online.

2/8/2019: How you can report security problems to tech companies like Apple, Yahoo Finance

This post unpacking Apple’s delayed response to a 14-year-old’s discovery of a serious vulnerability in Group FaceTime–which looks pretty good compared to how many companies handle “vuln” reports–went through a couple of post-publication revisions.