Personal drones remain free to fly the CA sky

DronePublic and private interests have combined in California to discourage statewide legislation regulating the use of personal drones, putting the prospect of new rules on ice indefinitely.

Gov. Jerry Brown went out of his way to sink prior legislation that would have applied a layer of state law to California drone operators. “But not every governmental authority feels that it has enough power to deal with drones,” as the San Francisco Chronicle noted. “An increasing number of California cities, worried about the safety and privacy of their citizens, have passed laws restricting drone use. The result is a patchwork, and one that might be thoroughly cleared up with state legislation. But this year, it seems highly unlikely that legislation will even make it to the governor’s desk.”

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Supporters of the rules Brown vetoed had hoped to find a way forward. But this year, “the pushback to new rules is coming not from the governor but through the lobbying efforts of a budding industry that hopes to influence policy at the state Capitol and nationwide,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“As drones multiply in number and category, cities and states want to set boundaries. But drone manufacturers and associations this legislative session boosted their politicking, successfully beating back several bills they said would create a patchwork of laws that vary by state and hinder innovation.”

Although each bill initially passed, both were killed off in committee. “Senate Bill 868 failed on a vote in the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, while Assembly Bill 1820 was voted down by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” as the Electronic Freedom Foundation, which opposed the legislation, enthused. With consumer interest in drones growing and going mainstream — the gadgets can now readily be acquired online or in big box stores like Target or Best Buy — lobbyists would appear to have public opinion on their side, at least until the volume of drones in the skies reaches a considerably greater size.

Fire focus

The impact of drone law on the Golden State has come under greater scrutiny this summer as a grueling fire season has dangerously attracted amateur operators. As CNBC recently reported, “Firefighters battling the Sand Fire in Southern California had to shut down aerial firefighting operations for about 30 minutes after an unauthorized drone entered airspace that the FAA put under temporary restriction due to the active wildfire.” To the frustration of firefighters nationwide, wildfire intrusion incidents involving drones have “more than doubled from 2014 to 2015,” the network noted, citing the U.S. Department of the Interior.

To address the problem, the federal government has taken the first step toward a comprehensive new approach. The Interior Department recently rolled out a “national system intended to prevent hobby drones from interfering with planes and helicopters fighting wildfires,” the Associated Press noted, with a pilot project offering a “smartphone app and real-time wildfire information to create virtual boundaries, or geofences, that drones can’t cross.”

The Interior Department partnered on the project with drone navigation data companies AirMap and Skyward and the leading manufacturer of civilian drones, DJI, opening up its Integrated Reporting Wildland-Fire Information database. Through the new program, “information contained in the database is immediately pushed to drone pilots through apps on their smartphones, with the smartphones themselves typically used to navigate in combination with the drone’s GPS,” according to the AP.

A California edge

In fact, the onset of new federal regulations around drone usage has helped strengthen California’s lead in drone technology and performance. As the California Council on Science and Technology recently observed, “The new rules on commercial drone usage allow farmers to use drones to help more precisely monitor water usage, allowing more efficient use of water.” In the interest of pushing similar functions ahead, the Tesla Foundation has partnered with the San Bernardino International Airport to launch a national center for commercial drone research, the National Commercial Drone Research Center, the CCST reported.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

New smoking age to take effect in California

As reported by the Associated Press:

Andrew Rodriguez was 15 years old when he smoked his first cigarette. He knows how addictive smoking can be and hopes a new California law raising the smoking age will discourage young people from taking up the habit.

“I think it’s better,” said the 21-year-old chef-in-training from Los Angeles. “I just hope they don’t raise the drinking age.”

Beginning Thursday, smokers have to be at least 21 to buy tobacco products in California. The nation’s most populous state joins Hawaii and more than 100 municipalities in raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Anyone who sells or gives tobacco to people under 21 could be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime.

Huthyfa Ali, a convenience store clerk near downtown Los Angeles, doesn’t expect the new rule to affect business since he doesn’t serve many teenage customers. Ali applauded the effort to deter minors from using tobacco products, but noted that determined youngsters tend to find a way around the law.

“Sometimes they send other people to buy for them. Maybe some people will be too scared to ask” under the new law, he said.

The push to raise the minimum smoking age in California stalled for months over …

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Californians Must Know What NSA Spies Know About Us

President Obama is going to Hiroshima.

When the president travels to Japan later this month for a G-7 summit meeting, he will visit a memorial site that honors the memory of those killed in 1945 when President Harry Truman made the decision to use the atomic bomb to end World War II in the Pacific.

It’s a reminder that the fearsome power of the United States government is under the control of elected civilians.

The atomic bomb was new in 1945, but the structure that controlled its use dates to the 18th century. The U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war — and to spend or withhold funds for it — not to military leaders or intelligence professionals but to Congress. The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, outranking everyone in uniform even if he (or she) never served in the military personally.

The design was intended to ensure that the American people control the U.S. government, and not the other way around.

barack obama nsa phone verizonThat’s why the information that has come to light about the National Security Agency’s secret data collection programs is so troubling. In the name of keeping the American people safe from terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has been collecting and saving the email and Internet activity records of innocent Americans and allowing government agents to search the data without a warrant.

Congress is asking questions, and not getting answers.

Sometime next year, lawmakers will have to decide whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act, which is set to expire. The law has allowed the U.S. attorney general and the director of national intelligence to intercept the communications of targeted foreign nationals, but it turns out that data from Americans has been swept up in the process.

How many Americans have had their emails and Internet activity records collected by this warrantless surveillance? The Obama administration won’t say. Last month 14 lawmakers from both parties sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper demanding an answer, but Clapper would only say he’s looking at “several options” for providing the information, “none of which are optimal.”

In a recent hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, senators were told that the intelligence agencies are ignoring the required “minimization” procedures, which call for the communications of innocent Americans to be deleted when discovered.

But a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found that the information is never deleted. “It sits in the databases for five years, or sometimes longer,” board chairman David Medine told the senators, and the program “does not just target terrorists” but anyone with “foreign intelligence value.”

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, expressed concern over the government’s “backdoor searches” of the collected data. Without a warrant, just by filing a “query,” government agents can read every private word.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, insisted that the surveillance program has helped U.S. authorities foil terrorist plots. She said the government should declassify more reports so the public can see the value of the law.

That’s really not enough. The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires the government to get warrants. That constitutional right can’t simply be erased by a couple of declassified reports declaring the usefulness of warrantless searches.

If Congress doesn’t get answers to all its questions, lawmakers shouldn’t hesitate to let Section 702 fade into the sunset.

The power of the U.S. government is too great to be uncontrolled.

An Apple a Day Keeps Nationalism Away

AppleTaking a bite out of crime took on a whole new meaning for the iPhone producing giant Apple, finding itself under pressure from the FBI to help with the San Bernardino terrorism investigation. The G-Men want Apple to digitally crack open a seized iPhone found in the possession of the Islamist terrorist murderer Syed Farook. The problem for the feds is that the software installed on the device wipes the phone clean if a passcode attempt is entered more than 10 times unsuccessfully. To change that, apple would have to provide new custom code (even if intended only for this one phone), thus potentially redefining the security capability of the system for all users permanently.

Advocates for cracking the phone have said that Apple should do it, claiming it’s their patriotic duty to help crack the phone, but this oversimplification misses the point that programming can be reverse engineered to allow other phones to be opened the same way. This raises questions about the responsibilities versus the rights of Apple from a product liability standpoint and for the future for information technology providers.

They say all publicity is good publicity, and for Apple an opportunity to use public attention to its advantage is rarely missed. That’s partly why they so quickly came forward, in an orchestrated fashion, with their statements refusing the request.

They gain the perception of solidarity with their customers by looking like they are standing up to government pressure.

The feedback they have received says a lot about the public distrust of government, given the growing concern over terrorism. Is this the healthy fear of government that Jefferson referenced when writing about preferring dangerous freedom, or is it a cynical backlash against an incurably ineffective government that is overstepping our liberties?

The real story here isn’t just about iPhone security or patriotism, it’s about the interplay between government officials and a large multinational corporation. It’s about a society at the intersection of conflicts of technology, privacy and government. It’s illustrative of the pressures building between consumers and citizens, governments and multinational corporations, and the public versus private split in a connected world.

The globalized economy is among the largest growing contradiction of capitalism, one that puts national borders and governments in a race for relevance against forces they can no longer fully control. Both governments and multinational corporations are becoming increasingly defined by exchange driven relationships.

In the best case scenario, multinationals see governments as generating taxes from the business operations within defined borders, a cost of doing business that generates revenue drawn from transactions through their shared spheres of influence. Governments theoretically provide security, stability, a functioning legal framework, important infrastructure, and most of all, access to well established markets. Without a sound marketplace and ready purchasers, multinationals would struggle to connect with the right consumers in a predictable way.

The friction comes not only between countries and companies, but between countries at odds with non-state actors, leaving companies in the middle. Events may arise that see a national government’s agenda directed against a rival state, and in so doing jeopardize the wellbeing of a resident company and its brand. Form the company’s perspective, it may no longer be possible to remain loyal to one country without jeopardizing their business position with others.

Consider that Apple is the most valuable brand in the world. At $536 billion the market cap dominates most other tech companies by a wide margin. With sales of $234 billion, its revenue producing activities are greater than the total national economy of New Zealand, or Slovakia, or Ecuador. Apple operates 481 retail stores across 18 different countries. Their online services are available to consumers in 39 different countries. It employs some 92,000 workers with an additional supply chain that creates economic value employing factory workers, technicians, developers, programmers, producers of every type, across every industry involved in the creation and management of its products. This is a staggering amount of positive human output from vendors and allies of Apple. But all this does not a national company make.

In the brave new world of the global economy, we are familiar with transnationalism, but we relegate its true impact to the subconscious. We are comforted in our belief that an American company is one that has historical ties to America.

But increasingly how can a company remain tied to any one country the way we that individually pledged citizens do? Loyalty is to production, profitability, investor return, and progress as arguably it should be. So why then do we personify companies, and what reason should we have to think they would behave any different than we would when pressured?

In the strictest sense a corporation is a legal person. But that is not at the same as a legal citizen. Well run corporations operate by evaluating economic factors and conduct cost benefit analysis devoid of emotionalism. Can it be said that Apple is an American Company? What does that really mean? Are they exercising rights or responding to governance that does not fully apply?

Is a company’s national identity found in its incorporation? Is its perceived nationality determined by their corporate headquarters geography? What of the employees it hires, when they are comprised from among several different countries? Does a majority of their workforce having citizenship in one country or another make them definitively loyal to one country over another?

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” said Marshall McLuhan, as such the world that shapes us also defines us. The economics of globalization are inseparable from their influence on culture. The spirit of entrepreneurship has doubtlessly benefitted from interaction with international market opportunities, but what we have gained in innovation, lower costs, and greater prosperity, we have partly lost in identity, community, and fidelity to the intangibles that make us American’s. This question of nationalism, and therefore corporate loyalty is a multidirectional question that affects both companies and citizens.

The story of the Apple iPhone hack isn’t simple. It’s not about whether Apple is patriotic, it’s about whether corporate citizenship is a meaningful concept and whether it applies in a substantive way.

The nostalgia for a simple binary world of American Corporations and foreign corporations is fading. What does a Patriotic American company, grounded in American values and traditions even look like in a globalized world? How can we reasonably expect companies who represent shareholder interests to trust an anti-prosperity equality obsessed government with detailed functionality of products that define a brand?

The people are searching for answers, and the Apple issue is but one of many fissures in our collective understanding of ourselves. The “Make America Great Again” rhetoric, whatever you may think of its standard-bearer, the phrase encapsulates an indisputably brilliant insight reflecting this paradigm. It plays to a unifying concept running counter to meaningless, ever changing policy nuance and word bending. The empty promises of the old politics just won’t do anymore. It reflects a passion for a simpler time, a place we used to call home.

A country that was indivisible, united, and was one nation under God. That was the time of great things, when citizens were called forward to sacrifice their lives to protect their families at home and save the world, preserving a free future.

The greatest generation ran America’s companies transitioning from war production and leading the world, carrying American ideals forward as exemplars of our way of life. Such times have passed and the winds of change may be blowing ever counter to those ideals.

There remains though, deep with many of our people a longing for a connection to the ordered liberty that a limited and healthy government gave us. That government of the people, for the people, and by the people is under attack from many different directions.

Big government redistributionist, (self-describing as progressives) have pushed a perpetual entitlement debt encumbrance that will burden future generations with restrained growth and reduced opportunity. The left’s prescription has been and always will be for the necessity of freedom sacrifices. Excellence, wealth creation, and the risk taking leaders of the economy create naturally occurring inequalities. These (according to their thinking), must be slain to appease an insatiable appetite for fundamental fairness, a self-righteous construct of their own imaginations. As true believers, (even though they know a rising tide lifts all boats) they prefer to run such aground rather than allowing unequal ships to set sail. As Churchill said “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. We must continue to confront and defeat this ideology at home and abroad.

Whether Apple ultimately decides to assist the FBI with its investigation remains to be seen. Whether their decision ends up being right or wrong is becoming harder to know. But what is knowable is that the government that fails to protect us from terrorism fails not because of Apple, but because of its own lack of commitment to serious citizenship and preserving the integrity of our boarders. Apple didn’t give a special visa waiver to the terrorist black widow bride, and it doesn’t continue to allow thousands upon thousands of unknown’s to pour into our country daily.

Our national future may be slipping beyond our control. Empty promises lead to failed institutions. Runaway spending, the entitlement culture, empty pursuits of consumerism, these are the forces proliferating under weakened national identity. Multinational corporate complexity won’t fit into a neatly packaged red white and blue box anymore. Forces of our own creation have changed our people into consumers first, and citizens second, where there are markets first and nations as an afterthought.

One day when our country and all that it stood for is gone, a future generation may discover a time when prosperity was not confused with blatant consumerism. A time where the type of people leading companies and countries were leaders who “more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”

Judge’s order could expose 10M California schoolkids’ personal info

As reported by Fox News:

A federal judge’s order earlier this month that California public schools turn a trove of personal information on millions of children over to two nonprofits has parents worried and privacy rights advocates outraged.

The nonprofits, who advocate for special needs kids, say they need the info to gauge compliance with federal law, but critics don’t believe Social Security numbers, home addresses and other sensitive records should be included. The ruling by Judge Kimberly Mueller of the Eastern District of California, applies to all students enrolled in Golden State public schools at any time since 2008, a number estimated at 10 million.

“People are confused, worried and angry,” said Bill Ainsworth, a spokesman for the California Department of Education.

The order from Mueller, who sits in Sacramento, stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by …

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FBI Overreach in Pursuit of Apple Compliance

appleThe Apple-FBI saga playing out in a very public way is a classic case of overreach by a law enforcement agency. The FBI is putting extraordinary (and unprecedented) pressure on Apple following the horrific San Bernadino shootings. The U.S. government has filed a motion in court to compel Apple to re-engineer its operating system so that the FCC can investigate whether the shooter used his iPhone to communicate or plan with other potential co-conspirators.

Forcing Apple to crack open its own code might appeal to some people clamoring for a quick fix for the ever-increasing threat of terrorism in our country. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes and the government’s move is an extraordinary threat to civil liberty. It also won’t solve the larger problem. A backdoor won’t stop terrorism, but it will weaken smartphone security systems with no likelihood of any real public benefit. The public, and policymakers, should support Apple’s public resistance to the FBI’s pressure tactics. The FBI’s proposal is dangerous for at least these four reasons:

It Won’t Stop Terrorism

The FBI wants Apple to build a post-incident forensic investigation tool to unpack what may have happened. But that will not actually deter or prevent terrorism. Terrorists will simply switch to using encrypted phones from other countries.

It Will Open Security Loopholes

If the government is allowed to force Apple to provide a backdoor to its operating system, it will weaken security for all U.S. consumers on a go-forward basis This will not force committed terrorists to think twice, but instead could make Apple’s operating system vulnerable to the hacking of consumer data on a large scale given the way this story is playing out publicly as the hacking community will be awaiting the court decision with baited breath.

It Sets A Terrible International Precedent

If the courts force this technology mandate on Apple, it’s also making this technology available to the rest of the world. That means rogue regimes and dictatorships interested in cracking down on the communications and online interests of its citizens will have access to the same security busting technology as the U.S. government. Limiting security on iPhones could put regular citizens, journalists or freedom fighters, who are often on the frontlines of fights against oppression, in peril.

It Encourages Malware

What the FBI is requesting is as akin to introducing a dangerous virus into Apple’s operating system. The FBI is demanding that Apple create malware by reformulating its software. Backdoor access not only creates access for the government but it creates a flaw that black hat hackers will attempt to exploit. There’s a good chance this will create unintended consequences for Apple and its operating system, which could create a myriad of issues for millions of iPhone users.

Terrorism is a serious problem and one we, as a country, must face head-on. But we need to approach the situation in a way that yields results without creating new vulnerabilities. Knee-jerk reactions, like the one we’re seeing from the FBI are certainly not the answer. They only harm civil liberties and create new problems down the line. We need to hold true to our societal principles, including a right to privacy or we risk handing the terrorists their first real victory by causing us to subvert our values for a gamble that evidence collected after this attack might prevent future attacks.

Tim Sparapani is founder of the consulting firm SPQR Strategies and senior policy counsel for CALinnovates. He was the first director of public policy at Facebook and was senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. He is on Twitter: @TimSparapani.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Apple headed for showdown over San Bernardino shooter’s phone

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Apple’s refusal to help the FBI access information from the retrieved cell phone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook sets up a long-brewing confrontation between Silicon Valley and members of Congress including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator.

Apple’s rejection of a court order demanding the company unlock the phone represents a pivotal crossroads in a growing debate over digital privacy versus security and is likely to determine whether law enforcement can access data that increasingly is being encrypted.

The outcome of the battle also will have implications not only for the growing use of cell phones in business transactions but for the ability of foreign governments such as China to pry into the personal lives of their citizens, analysts of the dispute said. …

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CARTOON: Death of Vaccination Referendum

vaccination cartoon

Bill requiring search warrants for electronic communications sent to Jerry Brown

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Will Gov. Jerry Brown finally sign legislation shielding personal digital information from police searches?

The California Senate on Wednesday sent the governor Senate Bill 178, which would require officers to obtain a warrant before accessing electronic devices and the e-mails, text messages and geolocation data found on them, except in instances where a loss of life or evidence is imminent.

Despite a late push by law enforcement groups that nearly held up the measure in the Assembly over concerns about its effect on child pornography investigations, SB 178 passed the Senate with little objection on a 32-4 bipartisan vote.

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Drone Bill Will Stifle Innovation, Fail to Protect Privacy

DronePrivacy matters. Giving consumers control of their personal information is central to many pieces of good legislation in California. Unfortunately, SB142 (Jackson) – which is intended to provide privacy protections related to small, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – will instead stifle innovation without providing real privacy protections. AB856 (Calderon), on the other hand, does afford meaningful privacy protections. The juxtaposition between these two bills, both of which are currently on Governor Brown’s desk, is clear. A veto of SB142 paired with a signing of AB856 demonstrates a willingness to stand against hollow messaging legislation while supporting meaningful protections of privacy.

If an irresponsible operator spies on your family by flying a small UAV in his or her own yard, you have no recourse under SB142. However, if a delivery drone with no recording mechanism flies over your property without your express permission to deliver a package of medical supplies to your neighbor, SB142 considers it an invasion of privacy. If this doesn’t make sense to you from a privacy perspective, you are right. SB142 doesn’t address behaviors that constitute privacy breaches – it creates arbitrary guidelines, including a 350 foot altitude limit that is inconsistent with limits set by the Federal Aviation Administration, that are impractical and unworkable.

Ironically, the author explains, “When we’re in our backyards, with our families, we have an expectation that we have a right to privacy.” SB142 simply doesn’t ensure that is the case. Instead, it restricts UAVs that pose no threat to privacy and provides no recourse if an operator were actually spying on you.

According to the Assembly Judiciary Committee synopsis, SB142 “establishes a new and unusual definition of trespass.” Even if done so unintentionally, legislation that creates new definitions and standards of harm that allow for more litigation should be reconsidered so that California businesses are not subject to repeated frivolous, yet costly, lawsuits.

As an alternative to SB142, AB856 addresses privacy in a straightforward manner by creating a right of action against anyone who uses a UAV to take images (still photos or video) of a person engaging in personal, familial, or private activities on his or her property. By tailoring the offense to this conduct, AB856 is at the core of what the right to privacy is all about.

Privacy protection is worthy goal, but SB142 is unfortunately a step in the wrong direction. Governor Brown should veto SB142 and sign into law AB856.

Executive Director of the Small UAV Coalition

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily