Voices in AI – Episode 71: A Conversation with Paul Daugherty

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About this Episode

Episode 71 of Voices in AI features host Byron Reese and Paul Daugherty discuss transfer learning, consciousness and Paul’s book “Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI.” Paul Daugherty holds a degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, and is currently the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Accenture.
Visit www.VoicesinAI.com to listen to this one-hour podcast or read the full transcript.

Transcript Excerpt

Byron Reese: This is Voices in AI brought to you by GigaOm. Today my guest is Paul Daugherty. He is the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Accenture. He holds a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan. Welcome to the show Paul.

Paul Daugherty: It’s great to be here, Byron.

Looking at your dates on LinkedIn, it looks like you went to work for Accenture right out of college and that was a quarter of a century or more ago. Having seen the company grow… What has that journey been like?

Thanks for dating me. Yeah it’s actually been 32 years, so I guess I’m going on a third of a century, joined Accenture back in 1986, and the company’s evolved in many ways since then. It’s been an amazing journey because the world has changed so much since then and a lot of what’s fueled the change in the world around us has been what’s happened with technology. I think [in] 1986 the PC was brand new, and we went from that to networking and client server and the Internet, cloud computing mobility, internet of things, artificial intelligence and the things we’re working on today. So it’s been a really amazing journey fueled by the way the world’s changed, enabled by all this amazing technology.

So let’s talk about that, specifically artificial intelligence. I always like to get our bearings by asking you to define either artificial intelligence or if you’re really feeling bold, define intelligence.

I’ll start with artificial intelligence which we define as technology that can sense, think, act and learn, is the way we describe it. And [it’s] systems that can then do that, so sense: like vision in a self-driving car, think: making decisions on what the car does next, acts: in terms of they actually steer the car and then learn: to continuously improve behavior. So that’s the working definition that we use for artificial intelligence, and I describe it more simply to people sometimes, as fundamentally technology that has more human-like capability to approximate the things that we’re used to assuming and thinking that only humans can do: speech, vision, predictive capability and some things like that.

So that’s the way I define artificial intelligence. Intelligence I would define differently. Intelligence I would just define more broadly. I’m not an expert in neuroscience or cognitive science or anything, but I define intelligence generally as the ability to both reason and comprehend and then extrapolate and generalize across many different domains of knowledge. And that’s what differentiates human intelligence from artificial intelligence, which is something we can get a lot more into. Because I think the fact that we call this body of work that we’re doing artificial intelligence, both the word artificial and the word intelligence I think lead to misleading perceptions on what we’re really doing.

So, expand that a little bit. You said that’s the way you think human intelligence is different than artificial, — put a little flesh on those bones, in exactly what way do you think it is?

Well, you know the techniques we’re really using today for artificial intelligence, they’re generally from the branch of AI around machine learning, so machine learning, deep learning, neural nets etc. And it’s a technology that’s very good at using patterns and recognizing patterns in data to learn from observed behavior, so to speak. Not necessarily intelligence in a broad sense, it’s ability to learn from specific inputs. And you can think about that almost as idiot savant-like capability.

So yes, I can use that to develop Alpha Go to beat the world’s Go master, but then that same program wouldn’t know how to generalize and play me in tic-tac-toe. And that ability, the intelligence ability to generalize, extrapolate, rather than interpolate, is what human intelligence is differentiated by, and the thing that would bridge that, would be artificial general intelligence, which we can get into a little bit, but we’re not at that point of having artificial general intelligence, we’re at a point of artificial intelligence, where it could mimic very specific, very specialised, very narrow human capabilities, but it’s not yet anywhere close to human-level intelligence.

Listen to this one-hour episode or read the full transcript at www.VoicesinAI.com
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Byron explores issues around artificial intelligence and conscious computers in his new book The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity.

Voices in AI – Episode 59: A Conversation with Tiger Tyagarajan

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About this Episode

Episode 59 of Voices in AI features host Byron Reese and Tiger Tyagarajan talking about AI, augmented intelligence, and its use in the enterprise. Tiger Tyagarajan is the President and CEO at GenPact. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, and he also holds an MBA.
Visit www.VoicesinAI.com to listen to this one-hour podcast or read the full transcript.

Transcript Excerpt

Byron Reese: This is Voices in AI, brought to you by GigaOm, I’m Byron Reese. Today I’m so excited my guest is Tiger Tyagarajan, he is the President and CEO at GenPact. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, and he also holds an MBA. Welcome to the show Tiger.
Tiger Tyagarajan: Byron, great to be on the show, thank you.
So let’s start, tell me about GenPact, what your mission is and how it came about.
Our mission continues to be, Byron, to work with global enterprises in a variety of industries, to actually help them become more competitive in the markets they are in. We do that by actually helping them undertake change agendas—transformation agendas to drive value for them—either by helping them drive growth or better pricing, or better risk management or lower fraud, better working capital, better cash flow etc.
Our history goes back to when we were set up as an enterprise and 100% subsidiary of the General Electric company (GE) in the late 90s. Then in 2005, seven years into our existence we spun off into a separate company, so that we could serve other clients. Today we are about $3 billion in revenue, serving 700 clients across the globe. GE continues to be a big relationship of ours, but only accounts for less than 10% of our revenue, as compared to everyone else that accounts for the balance of about 95%.
And tell me, you’re using artificial intelligence to achieve that mission in some cases. Can you talk about that, like what you’re doing?
So Byron, early days, I would say about 5+ years back, we came to the conclusion that digital is going to pretty dramatically change the way work gets done along many dimensions. We picked 12 different digital technologies to actually bring into the company, build capabilities, and change the way a lot of our services get delivered, and a lot of the way work gets done by our clients, and one of them we picked was artificial intelligence. Within the family of AI, we picked computer vision, we picked computational linguistics, we picked machine learning, three examples that are very relevant to the kind of services we offer. We’ve gone down the path of building those capabilities, acquiring those capabilities, partnering with other companies in the ecosystem on these capabilities, so that we can change the way work gets done and services will get delivered, in, I would say, a dramatic fashion that I would suspect some of us could not have imagined.
Well, don’t just leave it there, give me an example of something dramatic that’s happened.
I’ll give you a couple. Some of the clients that we deal with are banks, and think about a bank that is in the business of small and medium business lending. So half a million dollar leases for equipment or a loan for equipment to a mid-market company, that is actually manufacturing a product somewhere in Ohio etc. And the way the small business lending world works is that the customer gives to the sales person a bunch of documents, and this would be financial statements of the company, cash flows of the company etc. A lot of those documents are produced by these companies, in their own way they are audited by a small audit firm, somewhere in the vicinity and therefore they are written up in different ways, with different accounting standards and so on.
Now when a bank receives it, typically they would have to change it to actually match their understanding of cash flow the way they define it. They have to recast all the numbers, they have to read the footnotes, and then after a few days, they have 5 questions to ask, so they go back to the customer, ask those questions, and finally [it] takes about 15 days, 20 days in some cases to say, “hey customer, I’ve given an approval for half a million dollars, go buy our equipment.”
Now, in today’s world, that is way too long. Now if you bring in a combination of being able to read those documents, read unstructured data, read the language in the footnotes, interpret it using computational linguistics that then converts it into a specific standard financial statement in the way that particular bank understands financial statements, the way their definition works… You could actually argue that I could take a decision, the bank would take a decision in 30 minutes.
So think about the ability to tell a customer that your application for a loan to buy your equipment is approved in 30 minutes versus 3 weeks. I mean that makes a huge difference to the small/medium enterprise, that makes a huge difference to their business, their ability to grow, and if you think about the U.S. and if you think about small/medium enterprises in the U.S., that is the backbone of this economy, we’re beginning to see the use of this in a number of banking relationships.
I would say it’s still early days, and I would say it could make a huge difference to the top line of the banks, to the pricing power of the banks, to the ability to actually satisfy your customer dramatically. I think that is a great example of some of the ways that service changes versus a human being spending a lot of their time in actually passing the data before they take a decision. Now in the end the decision, by the way, is still taken by the human being who brings their expertise which is why we think about AI, and it’s always a combination of man + machine.
Listen to this one-hour episode or read the full transcript at www.VoicesinAI.com
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Byron explores issues around artificial intelligence and conscious computers in his new book The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity.

How Regulation Will Unlock A New Crypto-Boom

Regulation is quickly becoming a hot topic in the crypto-world.
The unregulated, “Wild West” environment of the crypto market left investors wide open to fraudsters, scammers, and shady firms out to make a quick buck.
The technology of blockchain and Bitcoin is here to stay. But to bring value to investors, it’s going to need tighter rules and more responsible companies with their eyes on the future.
The crypto market, worth $450 billion, won’t disappear overnight. The next step will be figuring out how to establish rules, expectations and regulations for making the market work smoothly.
And one company is positioned to meet that need: Hashchain Technology Inc. (TSX:KASH.V; OTC:HSSHF)
This is a blockchain company that can do it all: mine coins, diversify investment in a variety of different crypto-currencies, and navigate the crypto marketplace.
But KASH is going a step further: it’s working on proprietary methods and new technologies to make compliance with new regulations easier.
At a time when state agencies are cracking down on the free-for-all within the crypto world, KASH is set to making earnings from crypto-currencies regulation.
Here’s five reasons to take a strong look at Hashchain Technology Inc.:
#1 Order to Chaos
Last year, Bitcoin and blockchain was on everyone’s mind. The value of crypto-currencies was shooting through the roof, and everyone wanted in on the action.
Major papers ran multiple stories trying to explain what cryptos were, how the blockchain worked to facilitate crypto transactions without middle-men, and investors were offered dozens of opportunities to buy into new cryptos through initial coin offerings (ICOs).
Now, the view is a bit different.
Governments, banks and investors are all worried that the frenzy over Bitcoin and other cryptos was fed by fraud.
South Korea and China began considering bans on crypto mining, which is immensely energy-intensive and difficult to monitor. South Korea specifically wants to start licensing crypto-currency exchanges to bring trading under closer surveillance, in order to prevent fraud.
Authorities in the U.S. are worried about crypto-currencies being used to launder money, and want investors to start ponying up their taxes.
The crypto-currency Bitcoin has been accused of acting as a Ponzi scheme. Coinbase, the popular crypto market hub, has even been subpoenaed by the IRS to get information on its customers.
Both political parties have now called for tighter crypto regulations.
While a full ban on mining isn’t being seriously considered, it’s certain that the crypto marketplace is going to come under greater control in the coming months and years.
#2 The KASH Way
Hashchain Technology Inc is ready.
The company sees regulation of crypto-currency as the logical next step for the industry, and it’s taking steps to meet the new business conditions.
The company, which began as a crypto-currency miner, has acquired the assets of Node40, a blockchain technology and accounting software firm, for $8 million and stock consideration. The acquisition indicates KASH (TSX:KASH.V; OTC:HSSHF) is diversifying beyond its mining strategy.
The Node40 software, called Balance, reports transactions from major crypto-currency exchanges. Individuals on the blockchain trigger taxable events when they buy and sell crypto, but until now, no one was charting these events in a way that ensured regulatory transparency. The potential for fraud was huge.
With Balance at its disposal, KASH is providing tools to investors and regulators to account for transactions, providing up-to-date information on the crypto marketplace.
“The acquisition of the NODE40 Business,” said CEO Patrick Gray in the company’s press release, “is an important next step of creating a global blockchain technology company.”
Regulation is the company’s “niche,” and it’s what makes KASH “different from everyone else,” Gray told Oilprice.com.
#3 Mining for Crypto Gold
Outside of its new approach to crypto regulation compliance, KASH (TSX:KASH.V; OTC:HSSHF) is a mining company with a fresh approach to the crypto marketplace.
The company currently has 870 rigs, with further acquisitions set to bring KASH to a total of 8.4 MW of crypto-currency mining capacity by the end of Q2 of this year.
What does it mean to “mine” bitcoin? Well, companies like KASH use massive amounts of computer processing power to verify bitcoin transactions, and gets paid in  new “coins” which can then be bought and sold on the crypto market.
Even with the booms and busts in the price of Bitcoin, the profits from crypto mining can be immense.
Where gold mining only yielded an 11 percent return last year, investment in certain crypto-currencies can yield returns as high as 20,000 percent.
And KASH doesn’t put its eggs all in one basket. The company plans to diversify its crypto-mining operation, from the major coins like Bitcoin, Dash and Ethereum to a host of smaller coins, which have the potential to bring significant returns.
That means that KASH can profit from the market, regardless of the ups and downs, and as mining difficulty increases for any particular crypto, the company plans to maximize profits by shifting its mining power to different types of crypto-coins.
When KASH scales up from its humble beginnings, it has plans to be one of the biggest crypto mines in the business. And its close appreciation of regulation means it’ll be in an excellent position to work with government agencies who may start cracking down on the more undisciplined crypto firms.
With a small market cap, KASH could be set expand quickly.
#4 Quality Leadership
Hashchain Technology Inc. (TSX:KASH.V; OTC:HSSHF)has a solid leadership team that will guide it through the transition in the crypto marketplace.
CEO Patrick Gray has already achieved tech success: his first start-up was sold to Xerox for $220 million. He was a recipient of Business Review’s “40 Under 40” award and he’s raised millions in start-up capital from investors.
Behind Gray, who provides the strategic vision for the company, there’s CTO Sean Ryan, co-founder of NODE40 and a blockchain expert. CCO George E. Kveton is a “lifelong dealmaker” with 20 years of experience in Fortune 500 companies. He’s signed deals in Israel, China and Silicon Valley.
The team at KASH aren’t the millennial millionaires who caught the media’s attention when Bitcoin took off last year – these are professional tech innovators, blockchain specialists and crypto-currency insiders who are taking the crypto revolution to the next stage, and are doing so in a responsible way.
#5 The Next Stage in Currency Evolution
While the price of Bitcoin may have dipped, the crypto-currency revolution has only just begun.
Investors learned that crypto-currencies are super volatile, prone to dramatic booms and busts, and offer plenty of opportunity for fraud.
But that hasn’t stopped innovators from continuing to develop the market. Branded corporate coins are starting to take off, and blockchain technology has been introduced in real estate, banking and shipping.
There are signs that even Wall Street is taking crypto-currencies more seriously. The price of Bitcoin, which sank below $6,000, has now jumped back above $10,000, suggesting that interest is still very strong.
Regulation won’t kill cryptos. Instead, it will make them more reliable and more secure from fraud.
KASH (TSX:KASH.V; OTC:HSSHF) is ready to take advantage of the need for order in the crypto market.
The company’s acquisition of Node40 means it’s positioning itself on the forefront of the regulatory swing in the crypto market, and the company’s mining vision truly sets it aside from the competition.
KASH is prepared for the next phase, and investors should take notice.
Other companies looking to revolutionize their industries:
 
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Forward-Looking Information
Certain disclosure in this release, including statements regarding the performance of the Company’s current and ordered Rigs, and expectations regarding future operations may constitute forward-looking statements. These include that KASH will dramatically increase operations,  that the 5,000 Rigs will be successfully ordered and delivered, the 5,000 Rigs will perform as expected by management and the timing, installation and performance of KASH’s current and ordered Rigs will be consistent with management’s expectations; that mining capacity will increase to 8.7 MW; that KASH will utilize its committed Montana facility space and increase capacity to mine 20 MW;  that KASH will hold a diverse portfolio of cryptocurrencies through mining and otherwise; and that KASH’s software can become part of a regulatory push for regulation of cryptocurrencies.  The forward-looking statements in this release are subject to numerous risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause future results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in such forward-looking statements. Such risk factors may include, among others, the risk that the 5,000 Rigs will not be successfully ordered or delivered from the manufacturer or, if delivered, not when expected by management, and the risk that the Company’s current and ordered Rigs will not perform as expected by management or that expected capacity is not achieved; that KASH may not earn cryptocurrencies through mining and may not be able to purchase them;  risks related to changes in cryptocurrency prices, and the profitability of mining them; that cryptocurrencies will not increase in use as expected; the under-estimation of personnel and operating costs; that KASH will not receive required regulatory approvals for building new facilities, using power, or other aspects of its business; that cryptocurrency regulators don’t accept KASH’s accounting and other solutions; the availability of necessary financing; permitting of businesses that KASH intends to invest in; general global markets and economic conditions; uninsurable risks; risks associated with currency and cryptocurrency fluctuations; risks associated with competition offering better or cheaper solutions, attracting away employees or using tactics to drive out competition; risks associated with changes in the financial auditing and corporate governance standards applicable to cryptocurrencies; risks related to potential conflicts of interest; the reliance on key personnel; capitalization and liquidity risks including the risk that the financings necessary to fund continued development of KASH’s business plan may not be available on satisfactory terms, or at all; the risk of dilution through the issuance of additional common shares of KASH; the risk of litigation; the risk that KASH’s management and advisors may not contribute as much as expected to the company’s success; the risk and the risk that cyber-crime may severely damage the value of any or all of KASH’s investments. There may be many other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking information.
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Is re-regulation, not deregulation the answer to the financial world’s continuing woes?

The amount of financial regulation in the world continues to increase, creating an ever-growing burden on banks and other financial institutions. Banks only have themselves to blame, goes the pervading view, creating exploitative situations such as sub-prime mortgages and credit swaps, thus collapsing the bond of trust they maintained with their customers.

But the reality is that we all suffer under the cosh of increased bureaucracy and cost, with no real benefit other than (we hope) reducing the risk to ourselves of being exploited, or indeed, of the 2008 financial crisis from happening again. In part the collapse of global finance was caused through direct exploitation, but a bigger crime was how financial organisations demonstrated their institutional incompetence.

They had one job — to support and protect the dollars and cents of their customers — but organisations from Lehman Brothers to RBS showed not only their ineffectiveness against corrupted behaviours, but also their poor grasp of shared risk. Above all, and even with the caveats of how complex the situation became, our smart-suited financiers proved themselves to be really crap at maths.

The result was the undermining of global confidence. “2008 saw the collapse of trust and legitimacy,” said Anne Leslie-Bini of consulting firm BearingPoint, at a recent analyst event in Paris. “Governments, central banks and trusted financial intermediaries found themselves brutally exposed, meaning the public lost faith in the very institutions that are meant to represent, protect and further their interests.”

We are still dealing with the consequences, one being more power in the hands of the regulators — whose systems were also proved to be ineffective, but who no doubt feel the are doing the right thing by creating more. The result is a continued flood of regulations — nearly ten times as many publications being released per year compared to pre-1994 levels. “There is no end in sight,” continued Anne.

Of course regulators will have the best intentions, but the effect is to stymie financial institutions without necessarily dealing with the potential for rogue trading, product mis-selling or other, yet to emerge financial malpractice or imploding bubble. It reinforces the notion that working within a regulation is by definition ethical — the “I did nothing wrong” school of thought.

At the same time however, we are not seeing any regrowth of trust. Precisely the opposite could be said to be true, in this environment of fake news and political spin. We live in a context of post-truth where nobody knows who to trust, which can be exploited by both the untrustworthy and those looking to gain from promoting distrust. Such a situation ultimately serves nobody.

We are neither willing nor likely to go back to that rose-tinted world where the default behaviour was blind trust in our institutions and elders, as computers and the economics of big business have put paid to that. All the same we need a rethink in how we develop and deliver regulation, one which aligns with how the world is today rather than trying to follow a historical, institution-based model.

According to Anne Leslie-Bini, this is the opportunity presented by regulatory technology (RegTech) — we can fight like with like, creating regulations according to the same principles as the technologies used by institutions. So for example, rather than expecting banks to produce monthly reports, access to banking data should be available in real-time, via APIs.

Such ideas can be taken much further, however. If we are in the platform economy for example, regulation can, and should be built into the platform. Just as “Data should come out of the pipe clean,” as Cisco’s Charlie Giancarlo once pointed out, so should it be expected that the virtual money coursing around our networks is correctly sourced and with traceable provenance (using Blockchain, for example).

Thinking beyond technology, a third pillar is to consider how business practice is changing and to expect regulation to follow suit. So, if agility, scalability, co-creation and customer experience are key levers for driving business value, so should we expect agile, scalable regulation and so on. Co-creation of regulations is a model already tested and being proven by regulators and financial organisations in Austria.

Such thinking is a long way from the expectation of sheep-like compliance with laws conjured up by some inaccessible people in a distant corner of the globe. “As long as we are operating in a system where we have to constrain behaviours that act contrary to the common good, regulation will always be playing catch-up.,” says Anne.

The future is not about de-regulation but re-regulation, delivering models that enable our very necessary institutions to fit how the world works today. Regulation should not be based on building ever-higher walls around our financial institutions but aimed towards striking a balance, to deliver the right levels of protection for citizens and businesses within a framework of ethics that increases, rather than undermines trust.

[Disclaimer: BearingPoint is a client]

Personal drone registration will become necessary, U.K. Lords say

A U.K House of Lords committee has recommended that, in the long term, people operating drones for leisure may need to register them so their owners can be traced.

The House’s European Union Committee issued a report on Thursday into various aspects of drone regulation. It said there would soon be a need for commercial drone operators to register their flights somewhere, so as to keep airspace safe, but it also noted that hobbyist or leisure-use drones were on the increase, and this may cause issues in the long run.

The committee said there were many potential benefits to civilian use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), so “we certainly do not support banning the leisure use of RPAS,” but it laid out several recommendations on how to maintain safety.

A licensing regime or the use of digital identity chips in the drones are some of the options that were raised by industry and police representatives, leading to the following recommendation:

We have already recommended the creation of an online database through which commercial RPAS pilots can provide details of their flights to inform other airspace users. We heard compelling arguments as to why the leisure use of RPAS presents risks to the general public and other airspace users. Therefore, in the long term, we foresee the need for a system which can track and trace all RPAS, especially those flying below 500ft, irrespective of whether they are flown by commercial or leisure pilots. This will be essential not only to manage the increased traffic in the sky, but also to enforce existing and future laws governing RPAS use.

The committee also said it was keen on having media campaigns and messages in drone packaging to remind people that they’re flying aircraft, and encourage them to do so safely. It also pushed for geo-fencing features, which bring down drones when they encounter the borders of restricted areas, to be made more widely available.

The report was a response to communications issued by the European Commission on the subject of drones, and will be debated by the wider House of Lords.

On the issue of drone-enabled state surveillance, the committee said this was “beyond the scope of this inquiry … but the acceptability of state use of RPAS should be subject to urgent public debate.” It also recommended that, given privacy concerns, media regulators should launch a public consultation on the use of drones for reporting.

Car makers clash with Congress over Wi-Fi

Congress wants U.S. regulators to hurry up and open a chunk of federal 5.9 GHz airwaves for commercial Wi-Fi, which would let more smartphones, tablets and laptops milk faster speeds out of wireless routers and hotspots. But the automotive industry, which has designs on the same frequencies, really wants the government to slow down.

The airwaves in question are part of a big spectrum package the White House wants to put to shared use, allowing government and military agencies and the private sector to split time over the airwaves. The Federal Communications itself has been searching for more spectral real estate for Wi-Fi. It seems that everyone is on the same page – well almost everyone.

Automakers plan to use one of those spectrum bands (5850-5925 MHz to be exact) for new automotive networks that would connect cars to each other on the highway and to roadside infrastructure, creating the first smart transportation grids. Talking vehicles could coordinate highway navigation, thereby preventing accidents and easing the flow traffic as well as bringing us one step closer to the autonomous car.

This kind of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, as its called, is another priority of the Obama Administration, but the automotive industry has asked the government to apply the brakes on the Wi-Fi plan until the proper safeguards are in place to make sure commercial and vehicle networks can play nice in the 5.9 GHz band. Backers of the plan, however, think the automakers are stalling, and they’ve gotten their representatives in Congress to apply a little political heat.

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) revived legislation from last session called the Wi-Fi Innovation Act, which sounds a lot more impressive than what the legislation would actually accomplish. Specifically the bill would require the FCC to “move swiftly” in conducting a feasibility study on the 5.9 GHz band while balancing the need of the automotive industry with those of commercial users. The bill also calls for a study on how Wi-Fi could be used in low-income areas for internet access. Representative Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House.

Big automotive is not happy. AAA and all of the big car manufacturing lobbying groups sent a letter to Congressional bigwigs asking them to oppose the legislation. In a statement, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America said that the automotive and Wi-Fi industries are already working together to see if sharing in the 5.9 GHz band is feasible.

“This collaborative process should continue without Congressionally-imposed deadlines, restrictive parameters or political pressure that creates regulatory uncertainty and could delay bringing these life-saving crash prevention technologies to consumers,” ITS-America CEO and President Thomas Kern said.

But the automotive industry is pretty lonely in its stance. [company]Google[/company], [company]Microsoft[/company], the Consumer Electronics Association, [company]Comcast[/company] and [company]Time Warner Cable[/company] (through their wireless lobbying group WiFiForward), the Wi-Fi Alliance, the Telecom Industry Association and consumer advocates Public Knowledge all applauded the legislation.

Spotify reportedly scraps Russian launch plans

The music streamer Spotify was all set to plow into the Russian market, having poached a former Google exec, Alexander Kubaneishvili, to lead the offensive. However, that plan has gone out the window for now.

According to Russian broadcaster RBC, Kubaneishvili announced the pause on Monday, citing Russia’s political and economic situation, as well as pending Russian legislation about regulating the internet. Spotify will not launch in the country “for the foreseeable future,” he said, adding that he does not work for the company anymore.

According to TASS, the firm is also shutting down its Russian office in its infancy. RBC reported that Spotify’s Russian launch had already been delayed because it had failed to agree partnerships with local mobile operators, though TASS indicated some progress had been made with Vimpelcom. I asked Spotify for comment on all this, but the company refused to provide any.

Russia’s ruble is having a very rough time, largely due to the falling oil price and sanctions related to the country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Meanwhile, the country has also been pumping out various new laws designed to clamp down on internet freedom. The most relevant is probably Russia’s local data storage mandate, through which it intends to force web service providers servicing Russians to store their personal data in local data centers. This rule is set to come into force in 2016.

Google to give all users clearer information about data use

Google has vowed to revise its privacy policy and account settings, in order to make it clearer to people what it does with their data and give them more control. This comes as part of a settlement with the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office, announced on Friday, but the changes will apply globally.

The ICO and other data protection regulators across the EU have been coordinating a crackdown on Google’s practices since 2012, when the company introduced a new unified privacy policy. The unified policy allowed [company]Google[/company] to mix and match personal data across its various services – between YouTube and Search, for example. However, many people did not, and still do not, appreciate what this means in terms of user profiling.

Google has faced repeated fines over its refusal to change the policy in countries such as France, Italy and Germany, but the sums involved were chickenfeed for a company of Google’s girth. The U.K.’s ICO hasn’t fined Google in this way, but has repeatedly said that Google’s settlement proposals didn’t go far enough.

Now this long-running drama may be drawing to a close. On Friday the ICO triumphantly brandished an undertaking in which Google said it would do the following things during the next two years:

  • Make its privacy policy easier to find, and be clearer in that policy about what user information it processes and why.
  • Provide users with “information to exercise their rights” and launch a redesigned account settings version to give them more control.
  • Add two provisions from the Google terms of service to the privacy policy, regarding email data and the “shared endorsement” feature.
  • Add to the privacy policy information about “the entities that may collect anonymous identifiers on Google properties and the purposes to which they put that data.”
  • “Take several measures” to tell passive users – those using third-party services that are plugged into Google services, such as advertising – more about what’s happening with their data. Those running the third-party services will also need to “obtain the necessary consents” for this data collection.
  • “Enhance its guidance for employees regarding notice and consent requirements.”

Google also said it would continuously evaluate the privacy impact of future changes to its services and keep users informed, especially where the changes “might not be within the reasonable expectations of service users.” Particularly significant changes to the privacy policy will be “reviewed by user experience specialists and with representative user groups before the policy and associated tools are launched as appropriate.”

The changes will make sure Google is compliant with the U.K. Data Protection Act, which is based on European law. It is not yet clear whether this is the end of the matter as far as the other EU data protection authorities are concerned — I understand that the changes will apply in all countries around the world, though.

Here’s what ICO enforcement head Steve Eckersley said in a statement:

Google’s commitment today to make these necessary changes will improve the information UK consumers receive when using their online services and products.

Whilst our investigation concluded that this case hasn’t resulted in substantial damage and distress to consumers, it is still important for organisations to properly understand the impact of their actions and the requirement to comply with data protection law… This investigation has identified some important learning points not only for Google, but also for all organisations operating online, particularly when they seek to combine and use data across services.

Although the list of commitments is fairly comprehensive, some terms are vague and the proof may lie in the implementation. For example, the EU privacy watchdogs previously demanded that users get the opportunity to “choose when their data are combined, for instance with dedicated buttons in the services.” That’s not merely a matter of giving users “information to exercise their rights”, so it will be interesting to see what the redesigned account settings entail.

So far, Google has merely said:

We’re pleased that the ICO has decided to close its investigation. We have agreed improvements to our privacy policy and will continue to work constructively with the Commissioner and his team in the future.

Even if this does indicate a conclusion to the unified privacy policy saga, then Google still faces major regulatory headaches in Europe. These include the big search antitrust case – tied in with digital agenda commissioner Günther Oettinger’s apparent desire to extend a version of the “Google tax” copyright levy across Europe – and a potential second antitrust case over Android.

Still, one at a time, eh?

This article was updated at 8.15am PT to note that the changes will apply globally.

4G spectrum auction ends, raising a record $45B

It took a grueling two and half months, but the Federal Communications Commission auction of new 4G airwaves is finally over. The provisional winning bids totaled $44.9 billion for 65 MHz of airwaves, the most the FCC has ever raised at an auction, but we won’t know that actual winners for a few days when the commission releases the official results.

The contest came to a close Thursday morning at the end of 341st round when no new bids were submitted. As you might expect the heftiest prices accrued to the big cities: A single 20 MHz license in New York City metro region went for $2.8 billion, while the same license in Los Angeles went for $2.1 billion. Once you got past the third largest metro area, Chicago, winning bids fell under $1 billion. The cheapest license? That would be a 5 MHz block in the territory of American Somoa, which cost just $2,800.

Unlike previous auctions, which opened up new spectrum bands for 3G and 4G services, Auction 97 centered on a band already widely used for LTE: the Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) band. It’s where [company]T-Mobile[/company]’s main LTE network lies as well as the new LTE overlays built by [company]Verizon[/company] and [company]AT&T[/company]. All three of those carriers participated in the auction, as they can easily add capacity to their networks with these new licenses.

The big question mobile industry wonks are debating, though, is just how heavily [company]Dish Network[/company] bid in the auction. These AWS airwaves complement the satellite spectrum it recently repurposed for 4G use, but the wily satellite TV operator may have had other goals in the auction. Analysts have suggested that Dish might be driving up bid prices for its competitors or gathering a stockpile of spectrum it can use for future leverage over the carriers.

The auction more than quadupled the $10 billion reserve price the FCC set, producing far more interest than anyone in the industry predicted. There are a lot of different opinions on what the record-busting conclusion of the auction means, though. My colleague Jeff John Roberts recently pointed out it’s a victory for net neutrality, as the high prices paid show that the carriers were bluffing when they claimed that Obama’s net neutrality plan would stifle investment.

Gigaom contributor Peter Rysavy said that the participation in the auction shows that the “spectrum crisis” is very real. If carriers could add more capacity and speed to their networks through technology upgrades and more cell towers, then they wouldn’t be paying such ridiculous prices for new airwaves, he wrote in a recent Gigaom post.

The mobile industry’s lobbying group CTIA tends to agree with Rysavy’s conclusion. CTIA’s new President Meredith Atwell Baker issued this statement:

The AWS-3 auction is the highest-revenue generating auction in the 20 year history of FCC spectrum auctions, and with the last major auction six years ago, this reflects wireless companies’ demand for this finite resource to meet Americans’ growing mobile broadband usage. With nearly $45 billion in bids – and billions more in capex – this auction is yet another illustration of the significant economic impact that exclusive, licensed use spectrum provides taxpayers and the U.S. economy. ?