New Legislation Suggests Implementing Emergency Alerts Into Streaming Services Like Netflix and Spotify

Currently, when users in a certain area face potentially bad weather, threats of danger, or a nearby AMBER alert, their iPhone or other smartphone sounds off and displays a message explaining the emergency.

In new legislation shared today, United States senators Brian Schatz and John Thune hope to "explore" ways this system could improve to enhance reliability, including implementing these alerts into audio and video online streaming services (via TechCrunch)


According to the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act, more people would be successfully alerted to and aware of potential emergencies if these alerts played on services like Netflix and Spotify. In these situations, the legislation argues, users might have left their smartphone behind in another part of the house while streaming on a TV or computer, missing an alert in the process.

Senator Schatz explained that the mishap with the false missile alert in Hawaii earlier this year "exposed real flaws in the way people receive emergency alerts," inspiring change and the new legislation.
“When a missile alert went out across Hawai‘i in January, some people never got the message on their phones, while others missed it on their TVs and radios. Even though it was a false alarm, the missile alert exposed real flaws in the way people receive emergency alerts,” said Senator Schatz, lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet. “Our bill fixes a number of important problems with the system responsible for delivering emergency alerts. In a real emergency, these alerts can save lives so we have to do everything we can to get it right.”

“Emergency alerts save lives but management mistakes can erode their credibility and effectiveness. The READI Act implements lessons learned from past incidents and recognizes that emergency protocols must change along with communication technology,” said Senator Thune, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Other aspects of the READI Act also propose eliminating the option for users to opt out of receiving "certain" federal alerts, like missile alerts, on smartphones. For iPhone, users can toggle off AMBER Alerts and Emergency Alerts completely under the "Government Alerts" section in Notifications settings.


Otherwise, the legislation would encourage State Emergency Communications Committees to "periodically review and update" their own alert system plans to keep them more up-to-date, as well as compel FEMA "to create best practices" for state, tribal, and local governments for issuing alerts, avoiding false alerts, and retracting false alerts if they happen. This false alert system would also see a reporting system implemented under the READI Act so the FCC can track when they occur and "examine their causes."


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White House Reportedly Interested in Developing ‘Counter-Weight’ to Europe’s GDPR Privacy Laws

Last month, Europe implemented its General Data Protection Regulation in an effort to protect the data of all individuals within the European Union, with some aspects affecting users worldwide. According to a new report by Axios, the White House is "in the early stages" of figuring out what a federal approach to online data privacy would look like in the United States.

So far, special assistant to President Trump on tech, telecom, and cyber policy Gail Slater has met with industry groups about the issue. Discussions include possible "guardrails" for the use of personal data online, according to a few sources familiar with the talks. Furthermore, Slater has talked about the implementation of GDPR with Dean Garfield, CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents tech companies like Apple and Google.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Slater and the Trump administration have reportedly referred to the U.S. proposal as a "counter-weight to GDPR," aimed at ensuring that the European law doesn't become the global standard of online privacy, sources said. Still, Slater also stated that there is no desire to create a "U.S. clone" of the European rules.

Axios theorized that one possible outcome from the conversations could be an executive order that leads to the development of a privacy framework for U.S. citizens.
One option is an executive order directing one or more agencies to develop a privacy framework. That could direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an arm of the Commerce Department, to work with industry and other experts to come up with guidelines, according to two sources.

An executive order could also kick off a public-private partnership to lay out voluntary privacy best practices, which could become de-facto standards, according to sources.
News about the potential new privacy practices comes as "pressure" is being placed on lawmakers in the U.S., following high-profile data breaches like the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. Beginning with reports in March, it was discovered that Facebook was connected with consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which itself was tied to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Using a survey app called "This Is Your Digital Life," the firm secretly amassed data from millions of Facebook users that targeted and attempted to sway votes in the election.

Slater claimed that "giving consumers more control over their data" and "more access to their data" are high marks of the GDPR, suggesting these aspects would be emphasized in the U.S. law.
"We're talking through what, if anything, the administration could and should be doing" on privacy, Slater said at a conference hosted last month by the National Venture Capital Association
In the wake of GDPR, Apple itself launched a new Data & Privacy website that lets users download all of the data associated with their Apple ID. While the feature was limited to Apple accounts registered in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland at launch, Apple said it will roll out the service worldwide "in the coming months."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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U.S. Department of Homeland Security Seeking New Anti-Drone Legislation in National Security Effort

In a renewed effort to clamp down on potentially threatening drone use, the United States Department of Homeland Security today will be urging Congress to approve new anti-drone legislation. Specifically, the proposed legislation would give the U.S. federal government new powers "to disable or destroy" any drone perceived to be "threatening" (via Reuters).

The DHS deputy general counsel Hayley Chang and undersecretary for intelligence and analysis David Glawe are set to speak on behalf of the department in an effort to seek "new authority" on the drone issue. Specifically, the DHS is looking at national security threats that can and have emerged from drone flights, as well as the use of drones by terrorist groups.


According to the prepared testimony seen by Reuters, the officials argue that drone terrorism use is a "looming threat" that the U.S. is "currently unprepared to confront" because of "outdated legal restrictions." Senate homeland security committee chairman Ron Johnson further urged action for new legislation:
“The federal government does not have the legal authorities it needs to protect the American public from these kinds of threats. The threats posed by malicious drones are too great to ignore,” Johnson said.

“It is not enough to simply tell operators of unmanned aircraft not to fly in certain areas; we must give federal law enforcement the authority to act if necessary.”
According to Johnson, the number of drone flights over sensitive areas jumped from eight in 2013 to around 1,752 in 2016. In the testimony, the DHS cites numerous recent incidents involving potentially malicious drone use, like when a Coast Guard helicopter was forced to take evasive action when a drone flew nearby in California this past March, or when a small civilian drone hit an Army helicopter and damaged a rotor blade in New York City last year.

Many high-security locations have already banned drones, like U.S. military bases and some national landmarks, and the proposed legislation is said to expand to high-profile events like the Super Bowl and presidential inaugurations, as well as federal installations and "the protection of officials." If a drone is perceived to be threatening, government officials could "disrupt communications" of the drone, seize control of it, or "destroy" it completely if needed.

While the new legislation appears to be targeted mainly towards terrorism threats, the growing popularity of drone flights have affected many tech companies, including Apple. Last summer, multiple reports emerged about Apple's first efforts at stopping drone pilots from accessing the airspace above Apple Park in Cupertino, California. In April, drone videographer Duncan Sinfield put a potential expiration date on drone flights over the site by admitting it's "only a matter of time until the campus becomes shut-off to drones completely."

Apple is likely attempting to prevent prying eyes from gaining access to its new campus and employee work going on there, following revamped anti-leak measures that emerged in a leaked memo earlier in the year. Still, the company itself is interested in drone technology as it participates in a pilot program that allows it to operate drones in ways typically restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration, reportedly focused on improving Apple Maps in North Carolina.

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