Technology

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Unfortunately, we are reminded nearly every week of the growing threat of being constantly connected to the web, with the reporting of high profile companies and organizations being victims of a cyberattack.

As technology and demand have made unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – commonly called drones – cheaper and more accessible, concerns about their use by law enforcement have grown. In an attempt to balance public safety with privacy rights, the California legislature recently passed AB 1327, making it the most recent state to tackle the issue.

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A few months after it ranked first in a national study of state spending transparency, Indiana has taken another step to provide more information online to the public. The Management and Performance Hub opened this summer. It includes details on the state budget, public retirement system and tax revenue. The site also lists and tracks indicators of performance for various state agencies.

In certain cities across the United States, there is a battle for broadband brewing in the halls of municipal and state legislatures. Currently, 19 states have laws in place that make it difficult for municipal governments to provide broadband service via public power utilities. Cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to preempt state laws that restrict the right to offer broadband.

In T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell the Supreme Court will decide whether a letter denying a cell tower construction application that doesn’t explain the reasons for the denial meets the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA) “in writing” requirement.  The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief argues it does.  This case will...

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Under a first-of-its-kind state law that takes effect next July, Minnesota will require all new smartphones sold within its borders to be equipped with an anti-theft “kill switch.” The passage of SF 1740 reflects growing concerns in Minnesota and other states about a rise in phone thefts.
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Under a first-of-its-kind state law that takes effect next July, Minnesota will require all new smartphones sold within its borders to be equipped with an anti-theft “kill switch.” The passage of SF 1740 reflects growing concerns in Minnesota and other states about a rise in phone thefts.
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Aerial and camera surveillance of public areas is nothing new, but as lawmakers learned this July during a roundtable discussion, advances in technology are raising new policy questions about everything from privacy and private property to the practices of law enforcement.

Take, for example, the increased capabilities of a drone.

It now can be equipped with high-resolution cameras that observe objects, in detail, as small as 6 inches from as far as 17,000 feet away and can track 65 different targets over a 65-square-mile zone.

“There are a lot of good things that drones can be used for,” said Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, noting how effective and inexpensive they have become. “But there need to be some types of guidelines in place for their use.”

States have a central role to play in setting those guidelines, added Scott, who helped facilitate the discussion among state and provincial lawmakers at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting.

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For farmers and ranchers, the promise of “big data” to vastly improve operations is hard to ignore. Take, for example, the idea of “prescriptive production.” By merging a decade’s worth of fertilizer, climate and yield data with advanced soil maps and existing conditions, a producer can make more-informed management decisions — down to the fertilizer used and seeds planted on each acre of land. Evidence shows that this approach can increase yields by between 10 and 25 percent.
“Big data” is the term applied to the sorting and processing of enormous quantities of data. And the ability to crunch massive amounts of data may be as important to the future of food production as the development of the tractor was for 20th-century agriculture.
But it is also hard to ignore the myriad policy and privacy issues arising from increased use of “big data.”

A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, sponsored by McAfee (Intel Security), estimates that cybercrime cost the U.S. economy $100 billion and up to 200,000 jobs in 2013. The annual cost to the global economy is estimated to be between $375 and $575 billion. Politico calculated that if cybercrime were a country, it would have the 27th largest economy in the world and about 15 percent of the population in the U.S. - around 40 million people - have had their personal information stolen by hackers.

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