A Couple of Poorly Conceived Tech Policy Bills

Mike Masnick at Techdirt quickly sketches out problems with a couple of new legislative proposals. One, advanced by Senators Schumer and Graham, is nominally aimed at immigration concerns but unfortunately looks set to re-commit the sins of the poorly thought out and ultimately rejected Real ID. In some of my other reading, I seem to recall Schumer explaining there would be no central database behind the national ID cards this bill would institute. Not at first, perhaps, but we’ve definitely seen government mandated fixtures of one sort co-opted and put to uses for which they are ill suited if not outright dangerous. *cough* SSNs.

The other bill he mentions is one of two cyber security bills. The problematic one, introduced by Senators Rockefeller and Snowe, would set government standards that schools and technology companies would have to meet. This is being hotly debated not just amongst vendors concerned about the government’s snail pace when it comes to technology but also among academics. There is no real consensus across the current curricula of computer science departments so it is a bit mystifying what exactly Congress expects here in terms of training and certification.

Hopefully both bills will die in committee. For the latter, in particular, I expect the outspoken tech and academic communities to weigh in heavily.

Congressional Consensus May Literally Avalanche

MIT Technology Review shared a link to an interesting paper analyzing the data around how support attached to a particular bill. Their original hypothesis was that influencers would have more affect on subsequent support.

Not so, say Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury at the University of California, Los Angeles. It turns out that the way a particular resolution gains support can be accurately simulated by the avalanches that occur when grains of sand are dropped onto each other to form a pile.

This explains so much while also being so evocative of Congress as little more than a mindless, emergent phenomenon.