Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Celebrity Cyber Report – Oprah Winfrey, Akon,

Apple, making a push into the streaming television market, scored a major coup by signing Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year deal to produce streaming content. The Wall Street Journal reported that Winfrey is expected to become part of Apple’s billion dollar push into direct-to-consumer video streaming.  Although what Oprah will produce has not yet been determined the programming is expected to debut in 2019.  

Apple stated to Reuters, “Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

Apple is in stiff competition with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon to produce original streaming content. Apple has signed other big name celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Durant to produce shows for their platform.

Even with this huge deal Apple is in hardball competition with Netflix and Amazon. Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama signed a deal to produce content for Netflix. Netflix and Amazon have both invested heavily in their streaming content by spending $6.3 and $4.5 respectively in 2017 alone.  

Akon

Singer Akon (Courtesy Dagency)

Singer Akon is jumping into the cryptocurrency game. The singer announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity  the launch ofAkoin” to finance his “Akon Crypto City,” a 100 percent crypto-based city in Africa.

According to the Page Six website Akon said  “I think that blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people, and brings the security back into the currency system, and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves, and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down.”

According to the Akoin website Akon Crypto City is being developed in African on land donated by the President of Senegal. The city will be modeled on the fictional country of Wakanda from the movie “Black Panther.” According to Akon the new city will offer everything any normal city would including homes, retail businesses, parks, universities and schools.

The singer, who is of Senegal-descent, has moved his career efforts to giving back to African communities in recent years. In 2015 Akon  launched Akon Lighting Africa in an effort to solve chronic shortages of electricity in African nations.

 

Mignon Clyburn Resigning from FCC Post

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

After eight years Mignon Clyburn, the only African-American on the FCC board of commissioners is stepping down. Clyburn, the daughter of James Clyburn, member of the U.S. House of Representatives  for South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District was appointed by President Barack Obama. Recently Clyburn fought valiantly against the repeal of net neutrality put in place during the Obama administration. Current commissioner, Ajit Pai, successfully killed net neutrality by repealing the Open Internet Order that reclassified telecoms as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

Clyburn briefly served as the FCC’s first female chairperson in 2013 before Obama appointee Tom Wheeler stepped in as chairman. With Wheeler, Clyburn pushed the FCC to pass the strictest net neutrality rules to date.

During her time on the commission Clyburn worked to secure the middle ground of both pro-competition and pro-consumer regulation. She fought for and achieved the unlocking of smartphones, Internet access for low-income and minority communities, and per-minute rate caps on long-distance phone calls for prison inmates. In addition she advocated for diversity in media ownership and emphasized diversity and inclusion in STEM opportunities.  

Before joining the FCC Clyburn spent 11 years as a member of the Public Service Commission (PSC) of South Carolina. Prior to that she was the publisher and general manager of the Coastal Times a family-founded newspaper that focused on issues affecting the African-American community. Clyburn is a graduate of the University of South Carolina.

 

Net Neutrality War Rages On!

On April 23rd of 2018 net neutrality will die. The FCC ruling will take affect and the Internet as we know it will change dramatically. There is a lot that could happen between now and then so the war against the ruling rages on.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong

Lies were told.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating claims that millions of comments provided to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the repeal were fake. The GAO is looking into the claim that the comments were made by bots impersonating real people.

One study estimated that removing the fake comments left 98.5 percent majority against the FCC’s repeal. According to Emprata.com “The lack of user authentication by the Electronic Comments Filing System (ECFS) makes it difficult to determine ‘genuine’ comment submissions.”

Emprata.com also pointed out that, “9.93 million comments were filed from submissions listing the same physical address and email, indicating that many entities filed multiple comments. This was more prevalent in comments against repeal of Title II (accounting for 82% of the total duplicates), with a majority of duplicate comments associated with email domains from FakeMailGenerator.com.”

ARS Technica did an analysis of the comments and found that hundreds of comments were filed with identical time stamps. Other evidence indicated that others were posted at a steady rate, “unlike the way humans would send in comments.” Others were considered suspicious because the were in all caps indicating they may have been generated or submitted from a database.

The fake comments were so blatant and obvious that even Barack Obama of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was listed as commenting in favor of repealing net neutrality.

The FCC, under the command of Ajit Pai has steadfastly refused to investigate this evidence or hear from others who have complained of the fake comments.

Another lie that came from the net neutrality war was that the Obama administration put pressure on the FCC to maintain net neutrality. The FCC’s own investigation proved otherwise. Motherboard.com obtained a copy of the investigation’s findings via the Freedom of Information Act. Reaching back to 2015 FCC investigators reviewed at least 600,000 emails from all five commissioners seeking evidence indicating the Obama White House pressured the FCC. The report’s final summary reads as follows;

“In conclusion, we found no evidence of secret deals, promises or threats from anyone outside the Commission, nor any evidence of any other improper use of power to influence the FCC decision-making process. To the contrary, it appears that to the extent entities outside of the Commission sought to influence the process, the positions were made known in the record, in full view of all.”

The rebellion inside the FCC.

As you probably already know the Democratic members of the FCC have been vociferous about their opposition to the repeal of net neutrality. But they are not alone among those inside the FCC who oppose the ruling.

The FCC’s own Chief Technology Officer, Eric Burger, who was appointed by Chairman Pai in October, pointed out that the repeal could allow internet service providers (ISP) to block or throttle specific websites. In an email Burger said “Unfortunately, I realize we do not address that at all. Burger went on to say, “If the ISP is transparent about blocking legal content, there is nothing the Federal Trade Commission can do about it unless the FTC determines it was done for anti-competitive reasons. Allowing such blocking is not in the public interest.”

States Rebel

Regardless of the FCC effort to rollback net neutrality it appears that states have declared an open rebellion to the new rule. According to the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution federal law wins if state laws conflict with federal laws. But several states have take it upon themselves to fight for net neutrality Supremacy Clause be damned!

Currently more that half of the states are setting their own net neutrality protections. California, New York, Montana, Hawaii, and Vermont have all passed legislation that is intended to protect net neutrality. According to the FCC states aren’t allowed to pass their own net neutrality laws.  But that hasn’t stopped them. At least 21 states have sued the FCC to restore its original rules.

Most recently Nebraska, a state glowing Republican red, has also struck back at the the ruling. State Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) introduced legislation to establish net neutrality regulations in law on the state level.  Morfeld’s bill prevents broadband providers from slowing down or blocking internet content and from cutting deals with content companies to give them faster connection speeds. It should be noted that this is just a bill and not yet law.

In Montana the governor, Steve Bullock, a Democrat, issued an executive order in January making ISPs who do not observe net neutrality ineligible for state contracts. This move is intended to preserve net neutrality in the state without passing any law that violates the Supremacy Clause. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a similar order.

Currently there are 21 states and various interest groups that have launched legal challenges to the FCC ruling. In Congress there are currently 50 votes to block the net neutrality rule, one short of the number needed to stop it. The war rages on.

Breaking It Down.

If anyone thinks that the end of net neutrality is near think again. This issue will be fought all the way into the mid-term elections and even the next presidential election. There are just too many questions around the legitimacy of the decision. For such an unpopular decision to take affect is mind boggling. Even if the decision stands, which I doubt very seriously, the states are basically going to undermine it. They have already begun to institute rules forcing the ISP to disregard the new FCC ruling. It it won’t stop there. The big telecoms are playing a game of chicken with the market. Let me explain. The big ISPs and cell service providers were living fat and happy with the cellphone market firmly in their grasp. The had consumers locked up with long term contracts and high rates. Then along came the little guys with a better deal. They were forced to bow to market pressure and now the rates are pretty cheap and the contracts are gone. Same for cable television. They got too expensive and now everybody is cutting the cord. The Internet is the only game left in the telecommunications sector. The big ISPs can start throttling data or blocking websites if they want to. But how long before some small company starts screaming, “NO THROTTLING AND NO BLOCKED WEBSITES!  in their advertising. And before long the game is back where it started. What I am saying is that big ISPs are going to fold. There will be a lot more and a lot smaller ISPs taking over the market soon. The big companies need to move on to something else.

 

 

 

ShearShare – App of the Week and Start-Up of the Year

ShearShare Founders Courtney and Tye Caldwell

Business success is about finding the sweet spot where supply meets demand. The right recipe mixing supply and demand creates opportunity. Thats is why ShearShare is the App of the Week and Start Up of the Year.

ShearShare is the brainchild of Courtney and Tye Caldwell. This ingenious couple created an app that allows barbers, beauticians, manicurist and stylist to find a space to work. An empty barber chair or hair station does not make money. But using ShearShare a shop owner can fill that spot and a barber or beautician can have a place to work, on demand.

ShearShare has exploded on the scene in 250 cities and in 11 countries and expanding to another 32 cities. ShearShare plans to be in every state where booth rentals are allowed by June of 2017. ShearShare was named Tech.co Start-Up of the Year for 2016.

One of things that makes this app so powerful is the fact that it solves a problem by using technology to address a changing industry. Stylists were no longer renting space for very long. Many stylist became more transient. This is where supply and demand became genius for this Texas couple.

Tye is the owner of  Salon74 by Tye.  Calls came into his Plano, TX salon from stylists seeking to borrow a seat in his salon for a day or two. These calls came in from local stylists and out of state. A good stylists or barber is hard to find and the good ones have dedicated and loyal clients. But people move. And smart stylists wanted to continue to service their clientele. Let me give you an example; former President Barack Obama flew his barber in from Chicago every two weeks.  Short term rental of salon space was not an industry practice but it was a good idea.

Tye saw the opportunity. “We were still trying to fill our empty salon suites the old way, by having stylists sign long-term contracts,” said Tye. “But we soon realized that we could make some money on our space rather than none. We said ‘let’s try it out, it can’t hurt.’ Then it kept happening over and over again. We were manually matching stylists to salons at first, but at state number 5, we thought there had to be something out there to scale this. There has to be an app for that.”

The result of this action lead to the creation of an app that allows mobile and home beauticians an opportunity to work for their clients in a professional setting while at the same time creating revenue for the shop owner.

ShearShare is available for Android and Apple devices.

 

Cops & Data Collection: Lawsuit Challenges Virginia Cops

License plate readers mounted on a police cruiser

License plate readers mounted on a police cruiser

Right now in the U.S. there is a serious focus on the police. As black people we know this was long overdue. But the scrutiny has to go beyond police action on the streets. More and more attention had been focused on police data collection.

In Virginia a man is suing the County of Fairfax over their collection of license plate data. Fairfax resident Harrison Neal,  filed the suit after he learned that his license plate had been scanned by an automatic license plate reader twice last year and stored in a police database. Neal was not a suspect in any criminal investigation. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on behalf of Neal last Tuesday.

Neal filed a public records request and discovered images of his car in the database maintained by the Fairfax Police Department. In response to his request he received two sheets of paper containing an image of his car. He also received a chart indicating the times and dates the images were taken along with a map revealing street locations believed to be where the reader  was when it snapped the images.

Other individuals have sued before to obtain records stored in police databases. However this is the first known case targeting a law enforcement agency over an alleged illegal use of a database.

The complaint (.pdf) asserts that the database violates a Virginia law entitled the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act.  The law bars government agencies from collecting, storing, or disseminating the personal information of individuals unnecessarily.

The topic of automatic license plate readers has heated up recently. Some have related the use of the readers to the government’s warrantless use of GPS trackers, stingrays or IMSI catchers used to track the location of cars, cell phones and other mobile devices.

The readers, often mounted on police vehicles or in a fixed location, use cameras and optical character recognition technology to take images of license plates. The images are stored in searchable databases. Insurance agencies, vehicle re-possessors, impounders and others use them to locate stolen vehicles or vehicles belonging to people who are behind on their payments. But law enforcement agencies also use them.

Civil liberties and privacy groups oppose the readers and databases as a violation of privacy. They believe that it’s possible to gain a person’s personal information simply by tracking the location of their car over a period of time. The readers also collect much more than just license and location data. California computer security consultant Michael Katz-Lacabe discovered local authorities in his San Francisco Bay Area town had in their possession images of his two cars 112 times.  In the database was one image taken in 2009 that clearly showed him and his two daughters exiting one of the cars while it was parked in their driveway.

Proponents of the technology argue that it is no more harmful to a person’s privacy than  cell-phone location information.

Terry Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association said “We’re not insensitive to people’s right to privacy,” in 2013 over a battle in his state about license plate databases. “If Big Brother is going to abuse information, there’s better information to abuse than this.”

Virginia’s state law should have prevented Neal’s images from being stored. The State Attorney General, in February 2013, issued an opinion advising the State Police that automatic license plate readers do collect personal information. In accordance with the law, agencies cannot legally collect and store data unless it’s related to a specific criminal investigation. It was discovered that Virginia State Police had used license plate readers in 2008 at political rallies for both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. The readers were used to collect information about people who had attended the rallies triggering the attorney generals pronouncement.

As a result the Virginia State Police stopped storing license plate records and instituted a policy of deleting such information within 24 hours after being collected by a reader, unless the information is relevant to a criminal investigation.

But the ACLU of Virginia claims that other government agencies in the state have failed to heed the order. The Fairfax Police Department, in particular, stored license plate images for up to a year without reason.

Fairfax also has an agreement with nearby Maryland and Washington D.C. law enforcement agencies to share information collected in its database.

“Like many other technologies, ALPRs have legitimate law enforcement uses,” Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia said in a statement. “We do not object to the real-time use of ALPRs to compare license plate numbers to a current ‘hot list’ of vehicles involved in current investigations. The danger to privacy comes when the government collects tens of thousands of license plate records so it can later find out where people were and when. The intrusion is magnified in the Washington, D.C. area, where multiple law enforcement agencies may access each other’s information.”