Face Recognition Technology Comes to Malls and Nightclubs
Over at TIME.com, I write about face detection technology and how privacy concerns around the tracking of consumers and targeted advertising online may be coming to the physical world.
As Congress and the FTC balance the public interest in privacy with the advantages of new tools, let’s hope they take Sen. Rockefeller’s insight to heart: Public policy does indeed have a tough time keeping up with technology. That should be a signal to policy-makers that they shouldn’t be too hasty, lest they strangle a nascent technology while it’s in the cradle.
Smart sign and face detection technology is very new—so new that we don’t really know how consumers will react to it. It’s tempting to want to get out in front privacy concerns, but it would be better to allow the technology to develop and mature a bit before we make any judgments.
Regardless of what you think of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger or the recently announced purchase of SpectrumCo licenses by Verizon, these deals tell us one thing: wireless carriers need access to more spectrum for mobile broadband. If they can’t have access to TV broadcast spectrum, they will get it where they can, and that’s by acquiring competitors.
In a new Mercatus Center Working Paper filed today as a comment in the FCC’s 15th Annual Report and Analysis of Competitive Market Conditions With Respect to Mobile Wireless proceeding, Tom Hazlett writes that while the market it competitive, the prospects for “new” spectrum look dim.
[S]pectrum allocation is the essential public policy that enables—or limits—growth in mobile markets. Spectrum, assigned via liberal licenses yielding competitive operators control of frequency spaces, sets “disruptive innovation” in motion. Liberalization allowed the market to do what was unanticipated and could not be specified in a traditional FCC wireless license. That success deserves to grow; the amount of spectrum allocated to liberal licenses needs to expand. Additional bandwidth raises all consumer welfare boats, promoting competitive entry, technological upgrades, and more intense rivalry between incumbent firms.
In this, the Report (correctly) follows the strong emphasis placed on pushing bandwidth into the marketplace via liberal licenses in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, issued in March 2010. That analysis underscored the looming “mobile data tsunami,” noting that the long delays associated with new spectrum allocations seriously handicap emerging wireless services. But, as if to spotlight a failure to adequately address those challenges, the FCC Report speaks approvingly of the Department of Commerce (which presides over the spectrum set-aside for federal agencies) initiative that proposes a “Fast Track Evaluation report . . . examin[ing] four spectrum bands for potential evaluation within five years … totaling 115 MHz … contingent upon the allocation of resources for necessary reallocation activities.” A five-year regulatory “fast track”—if everything goes as planned.
To paraphrase John Maynard Keynes: In the long run, we’re all in a dead spot.
Over at TIME.com, I write about the recent compromise on the D Block, which would give more spectrum to public safety, and I ponder if there may not be a better way..
Patrol cars are as indispensable to police as radio communications. Yet when we provision cars to police, we don’t give them steel, glass and rubber and expect them to build their own. So why do we do that with radio communications?