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March 27, 2015

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March 18, 2015

California State Lawmaker Plans to Introduce Online Home-Sharing Bill

A California state lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation that would require online home-sharing companies to report homeowner rental information to local governments, which would make collection of certain taxes from the homeowners easier for cities, The Sacramento Bee reports.

From The Sacramento Bee story:

Setting up what could become another big fight over how much to regulate the emerging “sharing economy,” a California senator plans to introduce a bill that would make it easier for cities to collect taxes from homeowners who rent out rooms on Web-based house-sharing services such as Airbnb.

Under Senate Bill 593 by Sen. Mike McGuire, online home-sharing companies would have to make regular reports to cities and counties about which homes in their area are renting rooms, for how many nights and how much money the homeowners are collecting for the short-term rentals. That would make it easier for local governments to collect transient occupancy taxes from the homeowner.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 3:17 p.m.

March 6, 2015

Weekend Reads: Ellen Pao Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

The high-profile trial for Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers , is ongoing and if you’re looking for some weekend reading, here are some stories to catch up and look ahead.

On Thursday The New York Times had an overview and notes the broader issue here:

The money she might win if Kleiner is found liable is probably trivial in a world where start-up geniuses are worth billions. What is really under examination in this trial is the question of why there are so few women in leadership positions in Silicon Valley. At stake is any hope that the tech world can claim to be a progressive place, or even a fair one.

The story also has an interesting note about the jury:

The men and women sitting in judgment of all this behavior look nothing like what Silicon Valley would consider a jury of its peers. Instead of being young, white and male, with a sprinkling of Asians — what critics say is the furthest limit in Silicon Valley in terms of diversity — the jury is half female and ethnically diverse. Testimony ended abruptly Thursday afternoon when one of the jurors had a family emergency.

Reuters reported Thursday that Ellen Pao’s testimony “will likely make or break the case.”

From Reuters:

Questioning Pao provides the best opportunity for each side to clinch their arguments, but it is also extremely risky, according to employment law attorneys following the trial.

The San Jose Mercury News is liveblogging the trial and a story Thursday from the papers’ SiliconBeat blog reports: “The investigator Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers hired in late 2011 to investigate claims of its women employees being mistreated at the firm took the stand Thursday in the venture capital firm’s high-profile sex discrimination trial.”

Venture capitalist John Doerr testified earlier this week and you can find stories here, here and here.

February 18, 2015

Michigan State Senate Votes to Ban Hunting with Drones

Michigan’s state Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would prohibit hunters from using drones, according to an Associated Press report on WOOD TV8’s website.

The bill also would ban drone use by those “seeking to interfere with hunting,” the story said.

MLive has more on the measures’ legislative history and notes that:

States including Alaska, Montana, and Colorado have reportedly banned the use of drones in hunting, according to a review by the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency. Other states cover drones in existing hunting regulations.

February 11, 2015

Drone Legislation in the Other Washington

Under a bill before lawmakers in Washington State, prosecutors could seek additional prison time if a drone is used to conduct a crime, according to an Associated Press report.

From the AP story:

If a drone aircraft is used for a crime, from running drugs to scoping a house for robbery, prosecutors would be able to seek an extra year in prison for the offenders under a bill now before Washington state lawmakers.

A state Senate committee held a hearing on a measure from state Sen. Pam Roach on Tuesday, according to the story.

The AP report adds: “At least three other bills concerning drones have been filed in the Legislature this session in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s veto of a bill last year that would have restricted how state and local government agencies use the unmanned aircraft.”

More on Inlsee’s veto last year is here.

February 10, 2015

Couples Counseling for Tech Startup Co-Founders?

It looks like couples counseling isn’t just for couples anymore. Northern California public radio station KQED has an interesting feature on couples counseling, or “partnership coaching,” for co-founders of tech startups.

From April Dembosky’s story:

It’s something more and more start-up founders are doing. Jonathan Horowitz is a psychologist with offices in San Francisco and San Mateo. He says the requests he’s gotten for co-founder counseling have doubled in the last year.

Demobsky’s story features friends and business partners Jon Chintanaroad and Mike Prestano who have a tech recruiting startup and decided to go to counseling when their relationship saw problems after their business “hit some rough patches”

January 28, 2015

FAA Warns No Drones Allowed at the Super Bowl


In case you were thinking of bringing your drone to the Super Bowl this weekend, the Federal Aviation Administration is issuing a reminder that no drones are allowed.

According to this FAA release:

The FAA bars unauthorized aircraft – including drones – from flying over or near NFL regular- and post-season football games.

A FAA fact sheet for Sunday’s game says:

All unmanned aircraft operations – also known as drones—are prohibited within the restricted areas. These include model aircraft operations, model rocketry and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Anyone who operates an unmanned aircraft in the restricted area could face civil penalties or criminal charges.

They also uploaded this YouTube video Wednesday with the following voice over: “Going to the big game? Have fun, cheer on your team and keep it a no drone zone. Don’t spoil the game. Leave your drone at home.”

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 3:34 p.m.

January 23, 2015

Weekend Reads: Internet Archive, Bitcoin Exchange and Pinterest

If you’re planning this weekend to grab some coffee, throw your feet on the table and catch up on some reads you missed during this busy, busy week, here are a few stories to get you started:

  • The New Yorker has a piece on the Internet Archive, a San Francisco nonprofit, and its Wayback Machine: “The Wayback Machine is a Web archive, a collection of old Web pages; it is, in fact, the Web archive.”
  • The New York Times has a story on Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’s bid to create the “first regulated Bitcoin exchange for American customers — what they are calling the Nasdaq of Bitcoin.”
  • The Wall Street Journal has a story about Pinterest’s efforts to attract more male users: “The male experience on Pinterest has been similar to visiting a women’s department store. Now Pinterest is trying to make it easier for them to find the men’s section.”

January 14, 2015

Upton and Thune Lay Out Net Neutrality Proposal

In an op-ed in Reuters on Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., lay out a net neutrality proposal for which they say “public discussion” will start this week:

The House of Representatives and the Senate, working together, have come up with a working proposal. We plan to begin a public discussion of it this week.

We need unambiguous rules of the road that protect Internet users and can help spur job creation and economic growth. The rules we propose would prohibit blocking and throttling (the selecting slowing of data), and also ensure that Internet service providers could not charge a premium to prioritize content delivery.

An approach using Title II of the Communications Act would “perpetuate years of litigation and even more uncertainty for consumers and job creators,” they write.

“Seeking a better way forward, we are working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to establish clear, updated and reasonable rules of the digital road to protect an open Internet,” they write.

Over at the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to circulate a proposal for a final net neutrality rule on Feb. 5 and the commission is slated to vote on a final rule Feb. 26.

But Congress has more flexibility than the FCC to “narrowly tailor rules appropriate for today’s digital ecosystem,” Thune and Upton write.

“Congress can establish clear protections for consumers that can make sure innovators are free from gatekeeper interference, without affecting incentives for robust private-sector investment,” they write. “By updating our communications laws for today’s online world, Congress can ensure the continued growth of our digital economy while preventing harmful government overreach.”

They’re planning to “pursue a public process” to write bipartisan net neutrality rules in the coming days, they write.

January 13, 2015

Facebook Launches AMBER Alerts on News Feeds

Mock-up of what the AMBER Alerts on Facebook would look like. The case referenced, though, is an active AMBER Alert. (Image from Facebook)

Mock-up of what the AMBER Alerts on Facebook would look like. The case referenced, though, is an active AMBER Alert. (Image from Facebook)

Starting today, if you’re in a search area for an AMBER Alert, you could see it on your Facebook News Feed.

The social media company launched a feature with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to automatically send AMBER alerts to its users.

Emily Vacher, the company’s security, trust and safety manager, says alerts will “only be delivered to members of the Facebook community who are actually in a position to be able to help.”

The company’s automated systems will “try and look for signals that would indicate that somebody is in that search area,” Vacher said, pointing to factors like the location information users provide when they sign up for Facebook, check-in information, and IP addresses.

“So our automated tools would look at these signals and try to deliver these alerts to people who are most likely in the search area,” she said.

Those AMBER Alerts will show up on user’s Facebook feeds. Facebook gets its information directly from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which gets its information from law enforcement, according to Vacher.

A “Learn More” button redirects users to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s poster on the child and a “Share” button lets you, obviously, share on Facebook.

If users aren’t interested, they can click the “x” at the top of the alert, which will remove it from their feeds and they won’t see it again, Vacher said.

From a release:

Law enforcement determines the range of the target area for each alert. The number of alerts people will see depends on how many alerts are issued in their area — some people may see a few each year and many people will likely get no alerts at all.

How did the idea come about?

“It actually came about because of what we’ve seen people who use Facebook are already doing,” Vacher said. They noticed in the past year or two that people have been sharing information about missing children in their communities.

They wanted to figure out a way to “amplify” that in order to potentially maximize the number of people at the right place and time who might see the information, she said.

The new system isn’t the first time Facebook users could see AMBER Alerts. They could previously sign up for alerts from state law enforcement.

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