Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

What happened in San Diego with its smart streetlights is easily cast as a story of technology creep: LED lights turned into surveillance machines without citizen knowledge. But it is also the opposite story: intrusive data-gathering in plain sight. No subterfuge, just surrender. What started out as energy-saving smart streetlights became a tool to surveil Black Lives Matter protests in the spring of 2020. What was part of the movement to open up urban data for public use also boosted the enclosure of data for private profit. San Diego “woke up” in 2020 to the outrage that police were using…


During his push to erect Google/Alphabet’s first smart city on Toronto’s eastern waterfront, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff admitted, “I don’t think I fully appreciated what I was getting myself into.” He had not been prepared, it seems, for public resistance to the vision of a big-tech city “built from the internet up.” And perhaps the resistance would not have been so vigorous but for the history of tech companies exploiting personal data and crashing into guardrails meant to protect the public interest. It was in large part because of this resistance that, some three years into the project, on…


Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash

The cockfight between Facebook and Twitter over how to handle political advertising on digital platforms — and the all-too serious consequences — is only the most recent manifestation of western democracies’ failure to regulate digital platforms. There are a number of regulatory proposals and new laws, especially in Europe, to create oversight for digital media platforms, content regulations, transparency requirements, and responsibilities for monitoring political communications, among other interventions. For the most part, these moves extend analog media regulatory modalities onto digital platforms, ending the misplaced deference to a passé internet exceptionalism by which digital platform owners were able to…


It’s as Bad As We Thought

Sidewalk Labs — IDEA District, Quayside/Port Lands Eastern Waterfront Toronto

In June 2019, Sidewalk Labs released its opus 1500 page master innovation and development plan for the Port Lands area of the Toronto waterfront, or what Sidewalk calls the IDEA space. It was a beautiful set of PDFs that laid out a vision for the kind of housing, building, public spaces, transit, grid, sanitation, sustainability, and digital infrastructure that might arise in that part of the city, captained ambiguously by Sidewalk Labs with the Waterfront Toronto development authority and the city. The basic deal envisions that Sidewalk Labs gets some choice property, rights to control technology and data, and rights…


Written with Timon Cline

In a recent column, Kara Swisher observes that sudden Congressional action on antitrust and big tech may be too late and orthogonal to what’s really needed, which is regulation. We have come to a moment of such urgency because tech has operated almost entirely on a handshake that it would self-regulate. One area of self-regulation that has failed most spectacularly is transparency. And the company that has failed most blatantly is Facebook. None of the major digital platforms provides enough transparency into their advertising and data practices. …


We have a media policy design problem when it comes to digital speech platforms. Media policy has been entirely privatized, with speech platforms assuming the role of government without transparency or accountability.

I will briefly address how First Amendment (“FA”) doctrine has evolved to place ever greater restrictions on government power over platforms at the same time that platforms have grown more powerful. This is principally an American story, but the platforms have exported this structure globally and we are seeing push back in new laws in Europe, South America and elsewhere that are trying to reign in platform power.


From a point along the path…

I wish that when I was the working mom of babies and toddlers, someone had written this to me.

When that was then, I tried to contain my work schedule and be there, on the floor, with my young children. There was never a time when I thought that I wouldn’t work or that I would work significantly less. I had been raised by a working mom and I was not well-endowed in the patience department. Still, guilt and loss tugged at me. “Mama, why are you home so late?” “Mama, why do you have to go to work again?”…


Here we are, six months after the election, and the texture of my days has changed. The causes are not to be found in the streets. I’m not afraid of deportation and my healthcare isn’t threatened. As to that, let me deflect from the start the charge that a woman of privilege has no clue. I live my own subjective reality and it’s been rattled in ways I wouldn’t have expected.

For starters, there is the vertigo. Perhaps the American century ended at 9/11 and American exceptionalism around the same time, but I didn’t lay them to rest until November…


Your Revisionist History podcast episode, Generous Orthodoxy, celebrates the courage of a gentle 96 year old Mennonite pastor, Chester Wenger, to reckon with his beloved church over LGBT inclusion. Many years after his gay son had been excommunicated from the church, Pastor Wenger solemnized his son’s marriage to another man. The Lancaster Mennonite Conference then revoked Wenger’s credentials as a minister.

What so moved you, and — to judge by the Twitter reaction — your listeners, was Wenger’s response to this rebuke. For decades, he had borne the pain of his son’s ouster from a church that breathes the creed…


Yoga is a spiritual practice of encountering constraint or discomfort and breathing through it, noticing, but not reacting. These are basic principles of ahimsa or nonviolence. Those of us who practice yoga have heard many different incantations to this effect. The teacher will urge you to let go of ego in a pose and feel it from the inside out, honor your body, resist the desire to anticipate or regret or leave the now, surrender on your mat so that you can be open to grace off your mat.

It’s really hard to do when the yoga teacher is a…

Ellen P. Goodman

Professor of Law, Rutgers University. Information law, free speech, disclosure, media, green marketing

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