With the second week of December coming and going, we’re quickly seeing the end of the year approaching. Some may be shifting into holiday mode, but those in the tech policy world aren’t seeing any respite. From test driven development of tech policy, to health privacy, USMCA and Section 230 to tech job growth, and global misinformation – it’s all in this week’s Protego Press Weekly Round Up.
In Case You Missed It: Technology policies and the processes used by policymaking teams to create them need to be more robust. Ginny Fahs, Brandie Nonnecke and Neal Parikh ponder if the same processes that made software more robust might be applied to technology policy to do the same. In Applying Test-Driven Development to Technology Policy, they propose the implementation of a popular approach to software testing called “test-driven development” which has shown the ability to create software of higher quality and which is more reliable. Specifically, an individual employing TDD for policy would consider the intent of the policy, brainstorm hypothetical and real situations the policy might influence, develop test cases to evaluate the impacts of the policy language on the hypothetical and real situations, and consider appropriate remedies to mitigate negative consequences. Read more here.
In Case You Missed It 2: The nation’s second-largest health system, Ascension, has agreed to allow the software behemoth Google access to tens of millions of patient records. The partnership, called Project Nightingale, aims to improve how information is used for patient care. Specifically, Ascension and Google are trying to build tools, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, “to make health records more useful, more accessible and more searchable” for doctors. Information can be used to identify health threats, understand how diseases spread and decide how to spend resources. But it’s more complicated than that. While The law deals with what can be done with data; Cason Schmit, Assistant Professor of Public Health at Texas A&M University writes about the ethics of the deal and asks what should be done.
USMCA and Tech Protections: Legal protections for technology companies are still in the free-trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada that was endorsed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) on Tuesday despite her efforts to remove them. The language of the trade pact mirrors Section 230, meaning that tech companies will have the same legal protections in Mexico and Canada as they do here at home. As Axios writes, “Getting Section 230-style language into trade agreements is a big win for the tech industry. It extends the law’s protections into other countries, and it makes it harder for U.S. lawmakers to tinker with tech’s liability shield.”
Video Games and The Dark Corners of the Web: The NYT has a deep expose on how video games and online chats have become the hunting grounds for sexual predators. Specifically, Nellie Bowles and Michael H. Keller write how “sexual predators and other bad actors have found an easy access point into the lives of young people: They are meeting them online through multiplayer video games and chat apps, making virtual connections right in their victims’ homes.” And, unfortunately, “there are a few seemingly simple protections against online predators, but logistics, gaming culture and financial concerns present obstacles.”
Tech Job Growth: The majority of job growth in high-tech industries is concentrated in just a handful of metropolitan areas in the U.S., and this regional divide drives “national inequality” as the rest of the nation struggles to keep up, according to a new report.
More than 90% of the country’s growth in “innovation sector” jobs between 2005 and 2017 have taken place in just five cities: Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and San Diego, according to a report from Washington, D.C.-based think tanks the Brookings Institute and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
The result: Wealth and productivity are becoming even more concentrated in fewer, primarily coastal cities. One-third of the nation’s innovation jobs resides in just 16 counties; half are concentrated in 41 counties. These jobs are high-paying and contribute to overall faster wage growth in the areas they’re located, than in areas with fewer innovation jobs. They also result in a lot of secondary work — jobs created to help serve those workers.
Misinformation Around The World: Facebook users have been bombarded with misleading ads about medication meant to prevent the transmission of HIV, according to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates, who say the tech giant’s refusal to remove the content has created a public-health crisis. The ads have been viewed millions of times in recent months, Facebook’s archive reveals, and LGBT organizations argue they’ve had a dire effect: They’ve scared patients, potentially those who may be most at risk of contracting HIV, out of taking preventative drugs, known as PrEP, even though health officials and federal regulators have said they are safe.
And, in Pakistan, a series of anti-vaccination propaganda videos went viral on social media shortly after the launch of a nationwide polio eradication campaign in April 2019.
The mass panic triggered by the spread of the propaganda culminated in a record number of locals refusing the vaccine alongside an increase in attacks on health workers and security personnel. An investigation by the authorities found that the campaign had been coordinated by a local resident who was later arrested, alongside 12 accomplices, for spreading the false information.