GDPR is the acronym for Europe’s “General Data Protection Regulation” which is the toughest set of personal privacy regulations in the world. You can see from the GDPR Timeline on the right that companies have had about 3 years to get their systems into compliance, and it comes into full Read more…
There is a crisis at Facebook because of the constant negative media coverage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal causing users to question staying on the product and that has caused Facebook stock drop a truly staggering $70B in value in 11 days. It’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, owns 28.2% of the company so he has lost $20B personally.
There is a also crisis being experienced by some Facebook users that have finally realized Facebook and nearly all other ‘free’ online services are harvesting personal data to allow others to micro-target advertising at them. WHO DIDN’T KNOW THIS ALREADY? Apparently millions of people thought Facebook was some benevolent do-gooder, that provided a complex service for free because they were nice people.
The saying in the industry holds as true today as it did in the 1999 when it was coined: “You are not the customer; you are the product“.
The only ethically questionable behavior by Facebook in this current crisis, was corrected way back in the spring of 2015. That issue was the ability of users to share not only their own information, but that of their friends (if those friends had not changed default privacy settings).
Facebook made USD$40B in 2017 and that was another record amount for them. They did this by monitoring you, figuring out what you might be interested in and then allowing advertisers to target you personally, just like they said they would.
The along came Cambridge Analytica who used a large set of Facebook user data and figured out patterns they could use to apply to other Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica organized the social media efforts for the Donald Trump Presidential campaign and now it is a political crisis too.
It is important to note that:
The US congress now has an Artificial Intelligence “Caucus” considering regulating how Artificial Intelligence (AI). One the items they are looking into is figuring out if citizens should have a right to know that they are talking / chatting with an Artificially Intelligent piece of software or a human.
Many people feel tricked when they find out that they have been talking or chatting with an AI when the default assumption has been that people are talking or chatting with human representatives of the company in question. Given the situation today and the obvious fact that AI conversations are going to become more and more human like, it is understandable that governments want to consider the implications.
This 8 minute video covers the FUTURE OF AI ACT that has just been introduced in the US Congress, which focuses on the military and is more broader than our narrow discussion about rights, but it does give you a sense of what is being considered.
After some careful consideration however, the only scenario we could come up with in which a human really needs to understand that they are not talking to a human representative, was emergency services like 911. The argument with emergency services is simply that during a crisis (shooting, heart attack…) there may be nuances (tone, slurred speech…) that a human can take from a conversation that AI’s cannot.
We are not suggesting that AI’s can not be very useful in emergency services communications (think about alerts, routing… that can all be done much faster, more accurately and more calmly by an AI than a human). We are suggesting that in real emergencies human callers should know if they are talking to an AI or another human.
After limited debate the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a further reduction in “Dodd-Frank” banking regulations introduced in 2010 to avoid another 2008 style bank generated economic collapse.
Dodd-Frank‘s primary mechanism for doing this was to require financial institutions that were “too big to fail” to withstand stress tests. The idea being that if your bank was going to need a government bail out in the event of failure, effectively making you and me the banks insurance company, that such banks need to prove that they can withstand large economic downturns by keeping enough cash (and near cash) on hand to cover their immediate debts.
If banks pass the stress test, and ALL did in June 2017, they can issue dividends and buy back their own stock (financial engineering to raise their own stock price). If they fail, they can’t. The results and some key details are published so both the markets and individual investors know which banks are stable and which ones are not.
The principle Dodd-Frank change passed in March 2018, was to increase the threshold needed to be included in the stress test, from $50B to $250B.
Banks and other large financial institutions are not evil corporations but they are run by greedy people just like you and me. When those people are given massive incentives to bring in large amounts of income to the banks, they are likely to take risks that are absurd in retrospect, just likely they did in the 2000’s.
When the money that is risked belongs only to shareholder, employees, and board members, there is not public issue with those risks; even ‘crazy’ ones. The problem occurs when the company (bank) in question is so large that if it fails it will bring down the countries (globe’s?) economy. This is also called “systemic risk“. Such a failure cannot be allowed to occur, so governments step and transfer your tax money to those companies.
Put simply, if you are ‘too big to fail’, the public has a right to validate your stability.
While laws must be periodically updated to keep up with the products offered for sale and global political / financial environment, the problem with the March 2018 changes is that they are all reductions:
There has been much talk in the recent decade about banning disposable plastic bags. The basic argument is that consumer grade disposable single use plastic bags are the root cause widespread environmental damage but have ready alternatives, so why are will still using them?
As is often the case with political issues, there is no simple answer to the question “Should single use plastic bags be banned?”. Below are some of the facts and you can decide for yourself if this is a crisis or not:
ARGUMENTS AGAINST SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS
- Australian scientists found that 90% of seabirds had plastic in their digestive tract
- 85% of ‘ocean garbage’ is plastic
- In March of 2018, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna claimed that there is the equivalent of one full dump truck load of plastic materials being dumped in the ocean every minute of every day
- Plastic bags are made from non-renewable material
- Single use plastic bags account cost about $.04 each to buy new and it is estimated the clean up cost is about $.15 per bag, resulting in a total cost to the consumer of more than $80 per year (more…)
At the heart of the Canadian Federal Governments announcement today about fixing the process that determines if a large scale project is in the best interest of Canada or not, is a desire to limit ability Provincial, Municipal and interest groups (like ‘First Nations’) to stall approved projects. The idea is to:
- increase consultation so everyone’s voice is heard
- set firm and visible rules for industry so that “goal posts” are not being moved after the fact
- determine what is in Canada’s best interest, when that interest is at odds with local interest
These are clearly admirable goals. To achieve those goals there are now going to be three structures that industry must pass through to get Federal Government support:
- A new ‘Impact Assessment Agency of Canada‘ will do the preliminary investigation to determine the environmental effects of a project
- The existing ‘National Energy Board’ is demoted and renamed ‘Canadian Energy Regulator‘ but still be responsible for determining the technicalities of a project
- The ‘Federal Minister of the Environment‘ will have the final say if a project is viable and in Canada’s interest
So now the questions are, will these changes allow:
- Industry to decide that spending many millions of dollars to go through an elongated approval process that will have a definitive outcome be worth while?
- Provincial, Municipal and interest groups (like ‘First Nations’) to be heard and listened to?
There has been much debate over the process and all agree something big had to change:
- When industry works on large scale projects deemed to be in the Canadian national interest after years of consultation and vetting that are still blocked by local and regional interests, there is a big problem.
- When interest groups (i.e. some ‘First Nations’, Municipal governments (i.e. Vancouver) local and Provincial governments (i.e. BC) feel empowered to block large scale projects that adversely affect the rest of the country, there is an even bigger problem.
Dennis McConaghy, a former senior executive at Trans Canada Pipelines thinks these changes will not achieve the desired goals:
One of the most contentious issues between Canada and the United States on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is chapters 11, 19 and 20 the dispute mechanisms. Chapter 19 is the one most are fired up about:
…binational panel of five arbiters, agreed upon by both parties, who will determine whether or not the duties have merit based on U.S. domestic laws.
CANADIAN ARGUMENT FOR THE NAFTA DISPUTE MECHANISM:
Canada has politely stated that the United States is a massive economy with leadership that have inflated ego’s which are tied directly to high powered, big money, special interests. The combination means that without a dispute mechanism, US politicians will frequently bring unfair claims of NAFTA breaches that Canada will not be able to defend against. Canadian media and politicians (and even some American observers) have gone so far as to call this demand a ‘poison pill‘ using the logic that they know there is no-way Canada will accept a contract without a dispute process.
On January 15 2018, the Canadian Federal Government laid out the details of it plan to implement a $50/tonne carbon tax in proposed legislation named the “Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act”. The highlights are:
- The Federal Tax will only apply in Provinces and Territories that do not have a comparable carbon tax already in place
- That means, as of today, it will apply only to 20% of the Canadian population
- Specifically those in Saskatchewan, most Atlantic provinces, NWT, Nunavut, Yukon will be subject to the Canadian Federal carbon levy
- Newfoundland & Labrador and others are expected to announce their own carbon tax systems in the spring of 2018
- The tax will start at $10/tonne in 2018 and will be at $50/tonne by the end of 2022
- There are two parts to the system, a consumer gas tax and and industrial emissions tax
Consumer Gas Tax:
- 2018 Gasoline = $0.023 / liter 2022 Gasoline = $0.115 / liter
- 2018 Diesel = $0.027 / liter 2022 Diesel = $0.135 / liter
- 2018 Propane = $0.015 / liter 2022 Diesel = $.075 / liter
Industrial Carbon Emissions Tax:
- The tax is an “output based system” which means it will be charged where the carbon is released (think burning gasoline in your car vs producing gasoline)
- Only those companies that produce more carbon than the average today will pay the carbon tax
- Before the end of 2018 the Canadian Government will evaluate each industrial sector (think Oil & Gas, Mining, Transportation…) and determine the current average energy used per unit of output in each of those sectors
- Companies that produce more carbon than industry average will have to buy carbon credits
- Companies that produce less carbon than the industry average will be able to sell the difference in carbon credits
Do you want to understand Global Warming without the political hype? Dr. David Maenz has written and important book for 2018 explaining the science of global warming, it’s impacts and viable solutions. The Price of Carbon is an easy read. You don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand his clear explanations and simple charts.
The book includes a brief history of the earth, where we are today, future climate scenarios and how to fix the problems. It also covers the Paris accord without the political furor.
There is a global crisis with municipal recycling programs that is affecting YOUR community as of January 1st 2018. China is now rejecting all used plastic, except “high grades”. High Grades are used materials that are fully sorted. This means mixed plastics, aka Low Grade, will no longer be taken. The problem for us is that we rely on China’s cheap and efficient labour force to sort low grade plastics for us.
This video explains the Chinese “National Sword” policies that bans 24 different types of products (read: mixed paper, mixed plastic and mixed clothing) and how the US is beginning to deal with this.
We talked to Dr. Christina Seidel, Executive Director of the Recycling Council of Alberta about this issue earlier today. She said that “… (consumer) education is good. We need to be more careful about what goes in…(to the recycling system).
It used to be very clear that Alberta had a spending problem and not a revenue problem. However, since the 2014 oil crash, the world and Alberta have forever changed. Historically, oil ‘busts’ were the result of a downturn in some key economy that reduced the demand for oil & gas products. Today we have the worlds first notable price downturn caused by over production of oil, with no end in site.
This over production was started intentionally by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an effort to kill shale oil fracker’s and other non-state owned small players. The idea was to have OPEC lead an over production that would drop the price of oil for a few years and force the marginal upstart players (i.e. US based frackers) out of the industry. Then Saudi lead OPEC would reduce supply and drive the price back up. Well, the Crown Prince was wrong and it didn’t work.
More importantly it won’t work in the future. Saudi Arabia and friends can reduce the global price of oil by increasing production but they can no longer raise the price because they no longer control the global output, here’s why:
- American fracking companies scale up their oil production in a matter of weeks
- Canadian oil sands in Alberta and Saskatchewan have vast reserves backed by billion dollar upgrader investments that just keep coming online
- Iran, which has had its oil embargoed for decades, now is pushing 3 billions of barrels onto the open market as of the 2017 lifting of sanctions
- OPEC nations like Venezuela and Nigeria are desperate states the need cash and they will continue to cheat their OPEC agreements and produce produce produce
- Putin and Russia so desperately want to be a world powerhouse but only has an economy the size of Spain’s, with 20% of its citizens without even running water. The Russian federal government gets nearly HALF of its revenue from oil so when the price drops, they just produce more which keeps pushing the price down.
The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Alberta to the BC coast has been stalled for the last 6 months. Today Rachel Notley received a standing ovation at a talk in BC in which she explained the economic and environmental argument for the pipeline.
A brief panel discussion about the legal (and therefore political) implications of data collection in cars.
Trump Changes to Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards Will Have Little Effect On Automobile Manufactures
Trump Changes to Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards Will Have Little Effect On Automobile Manufactures. This is because Trump is only planning to eliminate changes AFTER the year 2022 and also because nearly all manufacturers are building cars for the global market which will still have increasingly tough regulations. One Read more…