STLR Link Roundup – March 31, 2017

Congress Repeals FCC Privacy Rules 

On March 28, house lawmakers voted to overturn an Obama-era privacy rule* that required telecommunications firms to get customers’ permission to market their app and web-browsing history to third parties. Following the House’s decision, the White House issued its support for the bill.

The reversal of the rule was considered a major win for broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, because they are expected to take advantage of the relaxed regulations to increase their advertising revenues. In response to public outcry over the new bill, Comcast has attempted to assuage consumer fears by issuing a press release assuring that it will not sell customers’ individual Internet browsing information. It

* As a note, the FCC initially adopted the overturned privacy rules in October 2016. These rules imposed a range of guidelines on Internet providers regarding how they were expected to treat and protect consumer data.

Uber’s Legal Woes Continue

2017 has not been a kind year for Uber. Still touted as the largest “unicorn,” the popular ride-sharing app has faced a fair amount of criticism over the course of the last three months. From accusations of acting as a “scab” during the initial protests over President Trump’s immigration ban to employee descriptions of ongoing sexism in the workplace, Uber’s public perception is in a tailspin.

Last month, Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo, filed suit against Uber. In its complaint, Waymo asserts that a former engineer, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems. This past week, Mr. Levandowski asserted his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. However, the judge overseeing the case suggested that Uber could face an injunction if Mr. Levandowski does not testify.

New Executive Order Expected to Unwind Obama Climate Policies

On March 27, President Trump issued an executive order to nullify President Obama’s previous environmental policies. The order revokes the moratorium on coal mining on U.S. federal lands and weakens a number of environmental protection policies that are not narrowly elated to climate change.

A major component of the bill calls for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The key component of the CPP related to its targeting of carbon emissions at power plants fueled by coal and other fossil fuels. However, the plan had yet to take effect, as federal courts were still deciding its constitutionality.

A Modern Version of John Henry and the Battle of Man Verse Machine  

The treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, recently caused a stir when he stated that he did not believe that artificial intelligence posed a threat to workers. Various news outlets have subsequently responded by criticizing the statement. As a concrete example, Laurence Fink, CEO of the largest fund company in the world, BlackRock, recently decided to side with the machines. Earlier this week, he laid out an ambitious plan to “consolidate a large number of actively managed funds with peers that rely more on algorithms and models to pick stocks.” More simply, this reorganization would include job losses, pricing changes and a greater emphasis on computer models to inform investments. It is considered a massive shift within the industry, and many analysts are invested in whether or not machine can outpace man this time.

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