The FCC’s Jessica Rosenworcel on the digital divide in 2021
Image: Collision Conference / Protocol
Good morning! This Tuesday, we look back at the privacy fight in 2020. Also, Jessica Rosenworcel reflects on a crazy year in tech (and what it means for 2021), Qualtrics is going public for real this time, and the House voted to override Trump's defense spending bill veto.
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Almost no one, apparently. Issie Lapowsky took a deep dive into how the coronavirus pandemic shaped the privacy debate this year, and her conclusion was … not great for the privacy fans.
The pandemic created a "cash grab" moment for surveillance tech companies, Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told Issie.
Contact tracing is a perfect microcosm of the debate: The technology comes with huge upsides and huge risks, most of them far more obvious than those of the technologies we usually think about. Privacy advocates say they're not trying to slow innovation or prevent help, but without legal protections in place, there's no way to guarantee that contact tracing data won't be used for other purposes in every situation.
There were some big wins this year, though, for police reform and racial justice advocates in particular: Portland, Maine banned facial recognition technology, and Michigan voted to require police to seek search warrants for electronic data. And a few other states passed privacy laws, too.
For more on the nitty-gritty of this year's privacy debate, you can check out the rest of Issie's privacy year-in-review story right here.
To mark the end of 2020, we've asked the same questions of some of the most interesting people in tech to find out what they've learned this year, how their work has changed and what's going to stick going forward. Today, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
What was the biggest change to your personal work habits in 2020, outside all the obvious stuff like "more video calls?"
With two kids doing remote learning and a spouse who is also working from home, there aren't many quiet spaces in our house. Plus, we're using a lot more bandwidth during the day than we ever have before. So I find myself — like a lot of people — playing a lot of different roles. One moment I'm running an office call, another I'm speaking via video at an online conference, and in yet another I'm Wi-Fi fixer and snack-maker. My days are full!
Is there anything you wish you had done sooner (in 2020 or even before), knowing what we know now about how the world works?
During this pandemic, like a lot of others, we brought a new dog into the family. He's a four-year-old rescue pup named Bo. He's seventy pounds of energy and joy. But I wish we had brought him on board before this began. It would have been great to head out and about with him before so many restrictions were put in place. Even so, I'm so glad he's in our lives.
What's one thing that was new to you or your team in 2020 that you're definitely going to carry over in 2021?
At the start of this pandemic, I noticed that if the routine noise of life at home interrupted anyone during a work call, they would apologize. But at some point, I think we all recognized that's no longer necessary. If the doorbell rings or a pet appears, so be it. There's no need to ask for forgiveness. There are a lot of people balancing a lot at home right now. I hope we can all take this attitude into the future with us because saying sorry that life interferes with work — be it basketball practice, a parent-teacher conference, or a doctor's visit — isn't necessary. We can make space for that to happen, no apologies necessary.
What 2020 tech story or trend are you most interested in following next year?
Long before this virus changed so much, I talked about how the cruelest part of our digital divide is the Homework Gap. That's when students do not have the internet access they need at home to do nightly schoolwork. But right now this Homework Gap is turning into an education gap because as many as 17 million kids in the United States do not have the broadband they need for remote learning. They're locked out of the virtual classroom. This is not acceptable. We absolutely need to put policies in place to fix this problem so no child is left offline.
Contactless payments are no longer a nice to have.
At Synchrony, we understand the challenges of running a business. Our financial and technology solutions, like touchless payment tools, help you offer your customers more tailored experiences, so they keep coming back.
"Ratatouille: The Musical" started off as a joke, then became a meme, and now it's very, very real. (Like, "Wayne Brady is starring" real.) Mark your calendar, because "Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical" is happening on Friday at 4 p.m. PT. And based on the songs we've seen so far, you're going to want to get tickets.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.