Discrimination & AI protections removed from ARPA privacy bill

Robot ponders AI algorithms
Source: Wikipedia

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, House co-sponsors of the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) reportedly will announce a hearing on Thursday to mark up the legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee. A discussion draft of APRA was first released in April.

The most recent draft no longer includes critical civil-rights protections that are needed to ensure that even when companies collect information for a necessary purpose, they are not allowed to use it to discriminate against individuals and communities.  

The co-sponsors of this latest version of APRA, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, struck language that explicitly prohibited such data-driven discrimination and that required AI-impact assessments. The new draft also introduces a broad exemption for “on-device” data even as more and more devices, from watches to cars, collect information on their users. Also on Tuesday, in response to these bill changes, a coalition of civil- and privacy-rights groups called on committee leadership to postpone the hearing and to restore these provisions.

Free Press Action opposes APRA as currently written, and calls on members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to oppose the legislation unless its sponsors restore these vital civil-rights provisions and strengthen other privacy protections.

Free Press Action VP of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood said:

“Rampant, virtually unchecked harvesting of personal data enables and exacerbates discrimination against people on the basis of race, gender, immigration status, medical conditions and more. This data-driven discrimination will only pose greater risks as companies and governments increasingly adopt algorithmic decision-making tools, particularly given the recent rush to both develop and adopt AI products.

“Free Press Action has long called for and supported efforts to advance comprehensive federal privacy legislation. We’re overdue for enforceable federal protections against the extraction and exploitation of our personal data for profit, as well as the use of our data to target and discriminate against specific individuals and communities. But this latest version of APRA is the wrong approach.

“APRA contains important measures to minimize the collection, transfer and sale of personal data, including highly sensitive biometric and genetic information. But removing anti-discrimination provisions — as well as people’s ability to opt out of algorithmic decision-making implicating their access to critical services such as housing, health care or education — is unacceptable. It’s not good enough today, and it would create a bad precedent for privacy legislation going forward at both the state and federal levels.

“It’s worrying to see members of Congress back away from key civil-rights provisions in an attempt to appease extremists who oppose these safeguards. Congress must restore this essential language to the bill so that we can have privacy legislation that protects everyone from discrimination.”

Background: national poll that the African American Research Collaborative and BSP Research conducted for Free Press found that 78 percent of Americans are concerned that technology companies will sell their personal information to marketing companies. The poll found that 76 percent are concerned that foreign countries are collecting their personal information. In addition, 37 percent of all poll respondents said they had received a letter from a company informing them that their data had been stolen. read more

SBA has hardship help for defaulted PPP & EIDL loans

SBA Introduces 60-Day Goodwill Exception Period, Expands Hardship Accommodation Plans

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced expanded flexibility and accommodations for COVID EIDL and PPP borrowers to help bring them into compliance and avoid the repercussions of defaulting on a government loan.

For COVID EIDL and PPP borrowers with loans under $100,000, the SBA has implemented a 60-day goodwill exception period starting January 1 and lasting through March 3, 2024. During this period, the SBA will build on its extensive outreach to affected businesses to ensure that PPP borrowers know how to apply for forgiveness and COVID EIDL borrowers are aware of all repayment options — including the opportunity for hardship repayment plans. Further, the SBA will refrain from escalating collections activities until after the goodwill exemption period. read more

New Jersey will pay for businesses to upgrade worker’s skills

TRENTON – On 23 November 2023, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) announced the availability of $10 million in funding through the UPSKILL: NJ Incumbent Worker Training Grant to help employers further train existing workers. 

The FY24 funds will be competitively awarded to New Jersey employers to reimburse up to 50 percent of their cost for training frontline employees to meet current and future occupational skills needed for mid- and high-skill jobs.  read more

Governor Murphy appoints Tahesha Way as New Jersey Lt. Governor

Lt. Governor Tahesha Way

Governor Phil Murphy today announced Secretary of State Tahesha L. Way as the next Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey. In a ceremony in the New Jersey Executive State House, Lieutenant Governor Way was sworn into her new role, which she assumes after the unexpected passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver on August 1, 2023.

“Sheila Oliver was the greatest partner in government I could have ever hoped for, and she leaves incredibly big shoes to fill,” said Governor Murphy“While no one can truly replace her, I am deeply proud to appoint Secretary of State Tahesha Way to succeed her as Lieutenant Governor. Tahesha has been with our administration from the very beginning, and her work over the past five and a half years leading the Department of State has grown New Jersey’s tourism economy, uplifted small businesses, and strengthened our election system. Tahesha is the perfect candidate to join me in finishing the job that Sheila and I started.”

“I considered Lieutenant Governor Oliver a close friend and mentor – someone I looked to for guidance to better serve the people of New Jersey,” said Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way. “To have been selected as her successor as New Jersey’s next Lieutenant Governor is one of the greatest honors of my career. I come to this position as the child of two public servants who molded me into the person I am today. Having experience at different levels of government has showed me the important role that those of us in public office can play in improving the lives of families across our state. I look forward to finishing the work of this Administration with Governor Murphy and continuing to build on the legacy Lieutenant Governor Oliver fostered.”

“We are very pleased with Governor Murphy’s selection of Tahesha Way as Sheila’s successor to be the next Lieutenant Governor,” said the Oliver Family. “Our beloved Sheila dedicated her heart and soul to serving the people of New Jersey –displaying an unwavering commitment to public service that we know Tahesha shares. We know Sheila would have been proud that Tahesha has been selected to carry out her legacy.”

Lieutenant Governor Way comes to the position with over two decades in public service. In addition to fulfilling her duties as Lieutenant Governor, she will also continue to serve as Secretary of State. 

During her tenure as Secretary of State, Way became the first Black person and first Secretary of State from New Jersey to lead the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) as President, helping to defend democracy at both the state and national level. Prior to becoming Secretary of State, Secretary Way was an Administrative Law Judge for the State of New Jersey. She was elected to the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2006, where she later served as the Freeholder Director in 2009. She also served as a Council Member for the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council. 

Lieutenant Governor Way is a graduate of Brown University. She also holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law at Charlottesville. She and her husband Charles have four children and reside in Wayne. 

The Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver served as New Jersey’s second Lieutenant Governor and the only woman of color to be elected to statewide office in New Jersey history.  read more

Peggy Shephard Tells About Her Harlem EJ Group’s Astonishing Accomplishments

Peggy Shephard at TedX Harlem

The WE ACT grassroots organization Peggy Shephard founded in Harlem, New York City has brought extraordinary benefits to the community: they have transformed the once filthy and decrepit Harlem piers into a gem of a neighborhood park, forced the city to upgrade its entire bus fleet to a cleaner diesel system, spearheaded robust community engagement activities and have led initiatives to bring fresh food and cleaner air to residents of upper New York City. In her TedX talk, Shephard tells about these and other of WE ACT’s fantastic accomplishments. read more

SanDisk SSDs are failing and becoming big paperweights

SanDisk SSD

Photographers and videographers enjoy the speed and storage capacity of SanDisk’s solid state drives (SSDs). Unfortunately, these disks have a growing history of total failure, where the data on them gets wiped out. And by the way, some of those failed disks are replacements issued by SanDisk’s current owner Western Digital – for other disks that also failed. Yeeps!

The Verge advises: “If you’re thinking of buying a SanDisk Extreme Pro, Extreme Portable, Extreme Pro Portable, or WD MyPassport SSD, maybe just don’t.” The news portal is following up to find out why WD is still selling the faulty disks. read more

Flying taxis could be here in 2026

evtol air taxi

Completely electric flying taxis called eVTOLs (for electric vertical take-off and landing) could be in use in the United States by 2026. United Airlines has already advance purchased 200 of them to air-taxi folks above LA traffic to the airport and has also investigated a significant amount of money for developing the technology that flies them.

Depending on your perspective, the air taxis look like large drones, or small helicopters. They will be piloted on rollout but pilot-free flying is under consideration for future operations. eVTOL technology is being developed by Brazilian company Eve Air Mobility. read more

Narcan free at participating New Jersey pharmacies

Naloxone images

The State of New Jersey has created a database of all pharmacies offering free Narcan (a brand name for Naloxone) to individuals over the age of 14. Naloxone is used to counteract opioid drug overdose and is now available as an over-the-counter nasal spray. Narcan®, Evzio® and Zimhi® are registered brand names for Naloxone in the US.

See the listing of pharmacies enrolled in the NJ Free Naloxone at Pharmacies Program.

Read instructions for how to administer Narcan.