Social media monitoring is critical for government operations

As Congress goes about grilling Homeland Security over the department’s monitoring of social media—as it did in a hearing last week—a more fulsome understanding of the benefits of social media monitoring and analysis is needed. The value of social media monitoring extends far beyond the important but niche domain of monitoring terrorist chatter online. Rather than asking why the federal government should monitor social media, Congress should be asking why aren’t more agencies monitoring social media?

Monitoring and analyzing terrorist conversations to gain actionable intelligence is simply the low hanging fruit that agencies can pick to aid their missions. There are at least three additional ways social media monitoring can be useful—even critical—for government agencies, and a variety of other, smaller benefits as well.


To be competetive, New Mexico must look to the stars

Special interest groups in Santa Fe have harmed New Mexico’s competitive edge as the home to commercial space flight. Up until now, New Mexico had been the leader in this burgeoning global industry. Today, we stand on the precipice of losing our future to Colorado, Texas, Virginia and Florida.  
It should surprise no one that spaceflight is still riskier than airline flight. In 2004, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act was signed into federal law and has worked very well in fostering the development of new companies in the United States -- especially New Mexico. This law has allowed for the creation of a new commercial business -- suborbital spaceflight for average citizens. It allows commercial space travel companies to obtain insurance by having passengers sign a consent agreement, in exchange for the thrill, the excitement and the experience of a lifetime. To date, hundreds of potential passengers have signed a federally approved consent agreement that protects these new companies in federal court.


Spectrum allocation is not a short-term budget matter

Exactly 100 years ago, Congress decided to give broadcasters exclusive licenses to use the nation’s public spectrum. It has been clear for at least 50 years that was not the most efficient way to allocate this public resource. Unfortunately, that is not stopping the debate on Payroll Tax Extenders legislation from making another 100-year mistake. By refusing to make additional high-quality spectrum available for shared use, Congress will suppress the growth of the wireless sector, slow innovation and job creation and reduce federal revenues.

By every measure of economic performance – device shipments, users, usage, efficiency, value and innovation – the unlicensed model has equaled or exceeded the exclusive licensed model in the past decade. Ironically, the FCC, which fathered this remarkable success, has never studied it in detail.  Predictably, the advocates of exclusive licenses have never come to grips with the remarkable success of shared use. Appreciating the success of shared spectrum is the key to avoid making another 100-year mistake.


Failing to consult with stakeholders on Internet gaming is an unacceptable gamble

As Congress debates whether to legalize Internet gaming, it’s important to guarantee that Native American tribes are dealt a fair and honest hand. They deserve nothing less.

Not inviting majority stakeholders to weigh in when drafting game changing legislation is as shortsighted as doubling down at a poker table before you see your cards.

Yet that’s exactly what some lawmakers are doing when they draft Internet gaming legislation and deny tribal leaders and tribal gaming regulators a seat at the policy table. We believe that’s wrong, and we’re determined to make certain the voices of Native Americans are heard. Today, there are 565 federally-recognized tribes and nearly 3 million Native Americans spread across the United States. They have a huge stake in this outcome, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the legislation which has been introduced so far.


Convergence of Internet search and social networks

For the last several years, technology gurus have predicted that Internet searches will become “more social.” They anticipated that information people shared about themselves, their interests, and their opinions through social media outlets would increasingly appear in results delivered by Internet search engines like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft’s Bing. The reason for their prediction: users want this information to help in making their own decisions about what products to buy or services to use.

The predictions are rapidly becoming reality. A simple search on all three of these large search engines already yields results that include Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Tumblr sites and LinkedIn profiles. All three search engines have begun to merge Internet searches with social media data, and the trend is likely to accelerate.

Just as the search engines work to fold in social results, the largest social media sites are acting more like search engines. An entry in Facebook’s “search” box once returned only results on Facebook users. But today it also includes results from Microsoft’s Bing search engine along with Facebook user data. The boundaries between the search and social media sites are increasingly disappearing - yet another example of the fluidity of the Internet. In fact, Facebook, citing the highly competitive nature of its business in its recent S-1 filing, identifies both Google and Microsoft as competitors.


Cybersecurity is a 'team sport'

The federal government possesses cybersecurity threat information and technical capabilities that private enterprises simply do not have. But what is the proper role of the government in the cyber realm? Should it provide cybersecurity for the private sector, or should the government require that the private sector secure its own networks to a particular standard? These topics are currently under great debate in both the House and Senate.

The Internet is a complex system, made up of a growing number of networks and digital devices. It would be exceedingly difficult for any one body or organization to manage and ensure the integrity (viability) of the Internet and all devices that connect to it without massive resources and sweeping authorities, including the standardization of security practices. Such standardization could restrict and slow the innovation that has sparked the global technology industry; could limit the flexibility, and thereby the value, a network provides to its owner; and, in the long run, could actually make networks more vulnerable, especially in instances of state-sponsored hacking. At a time when we’re still struggling with the impact of the economic downturn, new standards and regulations would be poorly received.  


Privacy concerns and technological change: the legislative option

In the recent Supreme Court case where all nine justices agreed that placing a GPS tracking device on a car without a warrant violated the Fourth Amendment, Justice Alito observed that "in circumstances involving dramatic technological change, the best solution to privacy concerns may be legislative." But since there was no GPS tracking device law for guidance, Justice Alito and his colleagues looked to Fourth Amendment precedent to analyze warrantless use of the new(ish) GPS technology and to create a privacy solution. Henceforth, as a matter of Constitutional law, police need a warrant before they attach a GPS tracking device to someone's car. The Supreme Court came up with the right result even without a specific statute.

Justice Alito is not alone in thinking that privacy legislation is the best way to deal with technological change. Last year, dozens of bills were introduced in Congress to regulate online tracking, to create rules for the collection of geolocation data, to protect children's privacy and to regulate the collection and use of personal data generally. None were passed, but attention to privacy issues reached a new high and included a series of high-profile Congressional


What I saw at the revolution

With all due respect, the golden-penned Peggy Noonan said it first, but I hope she doesn’t mind that I borrow her iconic phrase because I think we may have just had another revolution. It’s politics of a different sort this time, though - or maybe it’s not politics at all.  Unlike the big-haired, big-everything 80s, (I know. I was there and my hair was big) in 2012 you have bitter, polarized Republicans and Democrats – and then you have the Internet. If any of that was in doubt, on January 18, 2012, the Internet officially arrived, albeit with the weirdest terms ever – SOPA and PIPA - bills that may be dissected and discussed and obsessed over for years to come as the acronyms that changed everything.

Perhaps you saw it. Perhaps you participated; clicked through Google’s censorship Doodle or found that Wikipedia was dark and clicked to find out more instead of being annoyed you might have to actually go to the library, whatever that is. Maybe you went to Craigslist to look for used IKEA furniture in suburban Chicago only to find SOPA and PIPA all over the page and the next thing you knew, you were calling your Senator for the first time in your life. Maybe you were standing in the checkout line at a Walgreens in Atlanta and heard the checkout guy explaining to the stock clerk that SOPA is a threat to Internet freedom.


FCC can prevent crisis by moving on Spectrum now

Congress and the Federal Communications Commission are mired in a debate over how to free more spectrum for wireless broadband. Meanwhile, it’s been nearly two years since the White House and FCC promised to double the amount of spectrum we currently have for mobile broadband. It’s time for government to stop standing in the way of solutions to the looming spectrum crisis.

Americans are beginning to feel the spectrum crunch already in densely populated cities. While most may blame their cell phone company for slow or unresponsive service, the true fault is government. Wireless carriers spend over $20 billion dollars per year just to upgrade and maintain wireless networks. But maintaining roads only has a residual impact on traffic when what are needed are more lanes. With spectrum, the government has been slow to provide.

The last major spectrum auction was back in 2008. Yet, the FCC is sitting on spectrum it can auction today, including the D Block. Meanwhile, they helped kill the AT&T/T-Mobile merger aimed at using spectrum more efficiently to expand coverage and capacity. And they’ve slowed AT&T's purchase of Qualcomm spectrum. Here’s to hoping they don’t stall Verizon’s purchase of unused spectrum from cable companies.


Spectrum delay is not an option

From connected cars, to pet-tracking tools, to cutting-edge advances in medical devices, last week's International Consumer Electronics Show was nothing short of dazzling in the diversity of the devices that were on display. Indeed, it seemed the one thing all the new devices shared -- along with the tens of thousands of innovators who came to Las Vegas to see them first-hand -- is a wireless Internet connection. In many ways, mobile technology and wireless connectivity is now the glue that is holding the dynamic centrifuge of American innovation together.

This increasing reliance on the wireless Internet holds great promise, not only for American consumers but also for the American economy. But progress can quickly be stalled -- or even reversed -- unless policymakers move immediately to free-up more mobile spectrum to meet exponentially growing demand.

We've no time to waste. The FCC has warned that unless we act now, spectrum capacity in the U.S. could exceed supply as soon as next year. For Americans, this will mean more than longer downloads and more dropped calls. It will mean missed opportunities, and slower innovation, and slower job growth.