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charlesarthur : california   18

California passes landmark bill requiring contract workers to be labeled as employees • WSJ
Alejandro Lazo:
<p>Uber and Lyft have said the proposed law could upend their businesses and lobbied to change the bill. Gov. Newsom, in an interview Tuesday, said he remains personally involved in talks with Uber, Lyft and other gig-economy companies that have sought exemptions from the measure, known as Assembly Bill 5, as well as some of the unions supporting it.

“As it relates to Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, others, some of the gig platforms, these remain ongoing negotiations, and regardless of what happens with AB5, I am committed, at least, to continuing those negotiations,” Mr. Newsom said.

The governor said it was in the best interest of the state to “stay at the bargaining table, to continue to negotiate” and that talks will continue even though a deal wasn’t reached with the companies during this year’s legislative session.

“By no means this delay is a denial, and I’m fully committed—and expressed that to all sides—fully committed to continuing,” he said. “Not jump-starting, not-reconvening.”

In a statement following the vote in the state Senate, Lyft said it was ready to begin a ballot-measure fight next year to win provisions to exclude it from the law.</p>

Uber similarly said that it would not call its drivers "employees" because their work is outside the usual course of Uber's business." That's going to be a fun one for the lawyers. The gig economy sure is resistant to the idea that it might have to fit with the rest of the economy.
california  uber  gigeconomy 
7 days ago by charlesarthur
Why California may go nuclear • Forbes
Michael Shellenberger:
<p>Last week, a California state legislator introduced an amendment to the state’s constitution that would classify nuclear energy as “renewable.” 

If the amendment passes, it would likely result in the continued operation of the state’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, well past 2025, its current closure date.

Diablo generates 9% of California’s electricity and 20% of its clean, carbon-free electricity. 

It is also the most spectacular nuclear plant in the world, made famous by an employee's photo of a humpback whale breaching in front of the plant.

“I’m not going to argue it’s not a long shot,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham. “But we can’t make a serious dent in slowing the warming trend in the world without investment in nuclear power.”

If Governor Gavin Newsom decides to support the legislation it would likely become law and Diablo Canyon could continue operating to 2045 or even 2065. 

That’s because Newsom, who was elected last year with an astonishing 62% of the vote, exercises extraordinary power over the legislature, particularly on energy.</p>

California's electricity utility, PG+E, effectively went bust earlier this year. They need nuclear.
california  electricity  nuclear 
14 days ago by charlesarthur
The man behind San Francisco’s facial recognition ban is working on more. Way more • The New York Times
Kate Conger:
<p>[Brian] Hofer is little known outside California, but his anti-surveillance measures have been making waves in the state.

He successfully pressed the Northern California cities of Richmond and Berkeley, which have sanctuary policies, to end their contracts with tech companies like Amazon and Vigilant Solutions that do business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In Santa Clara County, in Oakland and elsewhere, he has secured transparency laws around surveillance technology.

His campaigns are just beginning. In Berkeley and Oakland, Mr. Hofer is pushing for more facial recognition bans. He has two additional privacy proposals winding their way through the state’s legislative process, focused on reining in surveillance technology. And he is establishing a nonprofit, Secure Justice, that will grapple with technology issues.

“My primary concern is when the state abuses its power, and because of the age we live in, it’s probably going to occur through technology and data mining,” Mr. Hofer said. “That’s where I see the most potential harm occurring. So I just wanted to jump right in.”</p>

(Thanks Jason H for the link.)
facialrecognition  california 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Peak California • Medium
Byrne Hobart:
<p> When Airbnb was just starting out, the founders spent years being nearly broke. It’s hard to imagine someone living in the Bay Area spending a long time “nearly broke” today; they’d spend too much on rent and have to move back home or get a BigCo job. Y Combinator has implicitly acknowledged this. When the program started in 2005, they’d offer founders a maximum of $20,000 to spend the summer running a startup. Now it’s $120,000. That’s a 14% compounded growth rate in the minimum amount of cash on hand needed to start a company. YC has also grown, but it’s hard to count on one organization to hold back the tide here. As long as higher rents raise the cost of starting a pre-revenue company, fewer people will join them, so more people will join established companies, where they’ll earn market salaries and continue to push up rents.

And one of the things they’ll do there is optimize ad loads, which places another tax on startups. More dangerously, this is an incremental tax on growth rather than a fixed tax on headcount, so it puts pressure on out-year valuations, not just upfront cash flow.

According to Social Capital’s 2018 letter, almost 40% of VC money goes to advertising on the largest search, social, and e-commerce channels. Those channels have adapted to a world where they’re the best place to scale because they have the biggest audience, which means there’s more money for them in optimizing their revenue capture. Thus, ads get better-targeted, ad loads rise over time, more content moves into the walled garden, and it becomes progressively harder not to pay an economically efficient (read: very high) ad price.</p>

Hobart reckons that California (particularly San Francisco) has reached the point where you just can't start up there any more. But haven't people felt that way for years?
economics  business  california 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
California fires released emissions equal to a year of power use • Quartz
Zoe Schlanger:
<p>California’s 2018 fire season, including the largest fire in state history, released nearly as much climate-warming and air-polluting emissions as a year’s worth of electricity use there.

The wildfires released 68 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, according to the US Geological Survey, or 15% of the state’s total emissions. For comparison, all electricity use in California in 2016 produced roughly 76 million tons in emissions.

Those figures were the highlights of a <a href="">Nov. 30 statement from the Interior Department</a> that blamed the wildfires largely on forest-management practices.</p>

This is a bad take (and to be clear, the source of the badness is the DOI): the "emissions" from burning short-lived plants are completely unlike those from burning gas (a fossil fuel), which is <a href="">half of California's generation</a>) or coal (a fossil fuel). Short-lived plants weren't buried underground for millions of years; they're carbon-neutral, viewed over the lifespan of most people.

It's clueless of the DOI to put out this statement, but clueless too of publications to repeat it without pointing out how wrong it is.
environment  california 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
The unlikely activists who took on Silicon Valley — and won • The New York Times
Nicholas Confessore:
<p>The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out…

…He learned that there was no real limit on the information companies could collect or buy about him — and that just about everything they could collect or buy, they did. They knew things like his shoe size, of course, and where he lived, but also roughly how much money he made, and whether he was in the market for a new car. With the spread of smartphones and health apps, they could also track his movements or whether he had gotten a good night’s sleep. Once facial-recognition technology was widely adopted, they would be able to track him even if he never turned on a smartphone.</p>

Thus begins a terrific long read on the man who got California legislators to <a href="">pass some worthwhile privacy legislation</a> back in June - because they were terrified that Mactaggart would win a poll to introduce more rigorous privacy legislation. (Thank Jim C for the link.)
google  facebook  privacy  california 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Google weeps as its home state of California passes its own GDPR • The Register
Kieren McCarthy:
<p>California has become the first state in the US to pass a data privacy law – with governor Jerry Brown signing the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 into law on Thursday.

The legislation will give new rights to the state's 40 million inhabitants, including the ability to view the data that companies hold on them and, critically, request that it be deleted and not sold to third parties. It's not too far off Europe's GDPR.

Any company that holds data on more than 50,000 people is subject to the law, and each violation carries a hefty $7,500 fine. Needless to say, the corporations that make a big chunk of their profits from selling their users' information are not overly excited about the new law.

"We think there's a set of ramifications that's really difficult to understand," said a Google spokesperson, adding: "User privacy needs to be thoughtfully balanced against legitimate business needs."

Likewise tech industry association the Internet Association complained that "policymakers work to correct the inevitable, negative policy and compliance ramifications this last-minute deal will create."

So far no word from Facebook, which put 1.5 billion users on a boat to California back in April in order to avoid Europe's similar data privacy regulations.</p>

The result came too late for Friday's edition (sorry) but it means that California avoids the ballot measure that would have been worse, had it passed (and it looked likely to pass).
privacy  gdpr  california 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
California has 48 hours to pass this privacy bill or else • Gizmodo
Kashmir Hill:
<p>Recent headlines have suggested that California lawmakers are considering a bill that would give Californians “unprecedented control over their data.” This is true but that is not the whole story.

What’s really happening is that California lawmakers have 48 hours to pass such a bill or the policy shit is going to hit the direct democracy fan. Because if lawmakers in the California Senate and House don’t pass this bill Thursday morning, and if California governor Jerry Brown doesn’t sign this bill into law Thursday afternoon, a stronger version of it will be on the state ballot in November. Then the 17 million or so people who actually vote in California would decide for themselves whether they should have the right to force companies to stop selling their data out the back door. Polls predict they would vote yes, despite the claims of tech companies that passage of the law would lead to businesses fleeing California. And laws passed via the ballot initiative process, rather than the legislative process, are almost impossible to change, so California would likely have this one on its books for a very long time.

This, more than, say, an urgent need to address the data scandals that have dominated the tech industry so far this year, is why lawmakers are scrambling to get a bill passed.</p>
california  data  privacy 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Tech giants are starting to line up for a David-versus-Goliath privacy fight in California • AdWeek
Marty Swant:
<p>The initiative is being headed up by a core group of three people, none of whom come from the engineering or venture-capital circles of Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the very area that would be most affected by the passage of the proposal.

Rick Arney, a financial executive and one of the organizers, said the idea started two years ago after he and fellow organizers Alastair Mactaggart and Mary Ross couldn’t get traction in the state’s legislature. (Mactaggart comes from the real estate industry, while Ross spent her career in the CIA.)  

“It is not hard to find someone on a subway train that has been a victim of identity theft,” Arney said. “And when you tell people this will help stop that, they say, ‘Where do I sign up?’”  

The act targets larger businesses, those with annual gross revenue of $50m selling personal information of more than 100,000 consumers or devices, or having at least half of its annual revenue from selling personal information.

“We’ve tried to craft something that’s really common sense. This bill is something that moves the ball forward,” Arney said. “But I’m a businessperson. We’re not here to tear down companies.”

Some of the largest tech companies in the US—and the advertising trade groups that represent them—say the proposal goes much further than existing laws in the US or Europe. 

For example, while the EU allows people to opt out of exchanging data for offers, the California proposal would ban companies from giving preferential economic treatment—discounts or other promotions—to people who willingly provide their data. Some experts say the sweeping measure would also prevent companies like Facebook from having a paid model for those who don’t want their data collected if there’s still a free version for those who don’t mind targeted ads.</p>

As you can imagine, there's a ton of lobbying against this from the big companies.
California  privacy  ballot 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Do not sell my personal information: California eyes data privacy measure • All Tech Considered (NPR)
Laura Sydell:
<p>If voters approve the measure, businesses will be required to have a "clear and conspicuous link" on their website's homepage titled "Do Not Sell My Personal Information." The link would take users to a page where they can opt out of having their data sold or shared.

[San Francisco real estate developer Alastair] Mactaggart says the proposed law would not prevent Facebook, Google or a local newspaper from collecting users' data and using it to target ads to them. But users will have a right to stop companies from sharing or selling their data. And businesses would be required to disclose the categories of information they have on users — including home addresses, employment information and characteristics such as race and gender.

The measure has the backing of consumer advocacy groups, such as Consumers Union. Justin Brookman, Consumers Union's director of privacy and technology policy, says Europe's new law is stricter. "This ballot initiative is actually pretty modest," he says. "In some ways, I wish it would go further."

Still, if the California act passes, it will be one of the broadest privacy laws in the U.S. because it will affect anyone who goes on the Internet in California. And because California is the fifth-largest economy in the world, Brookman predicts many companies will implement the same standards nationally.</p>

Quite the pincer movement, between the West Coast and Europe. Given how clueless many American sites have been about GDPR - acting as though it appeared from nowhere last Friday - this might have a better chance of getting obeyed in a useful way.

Though of course the problem is always proving who sold your data.
data  california  privacy 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
California bill could introduce a constitutionally questionable 'right to be forgotten' in the US • Techdirt
Mike Masnick:
<p>here in California, Assemblymember Mark Levine has introduced a local version of the [EU's data protection regulation] GDPR, called the California Data Protection Authority, which includes two key components: a form of a right to be forgotten and a plan for regulations "to prohibit edge provider Internet Web sites from conducting potentially harmful experiments on nonconsenting users." If you're just looking from the outside, both of these might sound good as a first pass. Giving end users more control over their data? Sounds good. Preventing evil websites from conducting "potentially harmful experiments"? Uh, yeah, sounds good.

But, the reality is that both of these ideas, as written, seem incredibly broad and could create all sorts of new problems. First, on the right to be forgotten aspect, the language is painfully vague:
<p>It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that personal information can be removed from the database of an edge provider, defined as any individual or entity in California that provides any content, application, or service over the Internet, and any individual or entity in California that provides a device used for accessing any content, application, or service over the Internet, when a user chooses not to continue to be a customer of that edge provider.</p>

Any content? Any application? At least the bill does limit "personal information" to a limited category of topics, so we're not just talking about "embarrassing" information, a la the EU's interpretation of the right to be forgotten. But "personal information" is still somewhat vague. It does include "medical information" which is further defined as "any individually identifiable information, in electronic or physical form, regarding the individual’s medical history or medical treatment or diagnosis by a health care professional." So, would that mean that if we wrote about SF Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, and the fact that his broken pinky required pins and he won't be able to pitch for a few weeks... we'd be required to take that information down if he requested it? That seems like a pretty serious First Amendment problem.</p>

The "right to be forgotten" clashes fundamentally with the US's First Amendment. But the GDPR doesn't have to, if it's about the initial control of data. The clash comes once the data has become "public".
california  gdpr  rtbf 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
It looks like the state of California is bailing out Tesla • Business Insider
Wolf Richter:
<p>The California state Assembly passed a $3bn subsidy program for electric vehicles, dwarfing the existing program. The bill is now in the state Senate. If passed, it will head to Governor Jerry Brown, who has not yet indicated if he’d sign what is ostensibly an effort to put EV sales into high gear, but below the surface appears to be a Tesla bailout.

Tesla will soon hit the limit of the federal tax rebates, which are good for the first 200,000 EVs sold in the US per manufacturer beginning in December 2009 (IRS explanation). In the second quarter after the manufacturer hits the limit, the subsidy gets cut in half, from $7,500 to $3,750; two quarters later, it gets cut to $1,875. Two quarters later, it goes to zero.

Given Tesla’s ambitious US sales forecast for its Model 3, it will hit the 200,000 vehicle limit in 2018, after which the phase-out begins. A year later, the subsidies are gone. Losing a $7,500 subsidy on a $35,000 car is a huge deal. No other EV manufacturer is anywhere near their 200,000 limit. Their customers are going to benefit from the subsidy; Tesla buyers won’t.

This could crush Tesla sales.</p>

You can argue it both ways - it's a bailout, but it's also making California's air less polluted by proxy. So taxpayers are paying, in a roundabout way, for cleaner air. If they buy an electric car, they get a refund - and more - on that taxation. Subsidies are odd things.
california  tesla  electric 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
California invested heavily in solar power. Now there’s so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it • Los Angeles Times
Ivan Penn:
<p>No single entity is in charge of energy policy in California. This has led to a two-track approach that has created an ever-increasing glut of power and is proving costly for electricity users. Rates have risen faster here than in the rest of the U.S., and Californians now pay about 50% more than the national average.

Perhaps the most glaring example: The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.

At the same time, however, state regulators — who act independently of the Legislature — until recently have continued to greenlight utility company proposals to build more natural gas power plants.

…“California and others have just been getting it wrong,” said Leia Guccione, an expert in renewable energy at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, a clean power advocate. “The way [utilities] earn revenue is building stuff. When they see a need, they are perversely [incentivized] to come up with a solution like a gas plant.”</p>

Kinda messy. But they don't need *more* gas power plants.
energy  california 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Solar breaks 50% of California electricity for first time – driving wholesale rates negative • Electrek
John Fitzgerald Weaver:
<p>Recently we saw California solar + wind hit a record high at 49.2%, with all renewable energy above 56%.
<p>In March, during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., system average hourly prices were frequently at or below $0 per megawatthour (MWh). In contrast, average hourly prices in March 2013–15 during this time of day ranged from $14/MWh to $45/MWh.</p>

This type of event has happened in other places – Germany gets the headlines often. It is expected that there will be so much solar power this spring and summer (plus large amounts of hydroelectric power) that curtailment will need to occur on solar assets.

On March 11th, the California power grid broke 50% solar power for the first time – when considering ALL sources of solar power in the state:
<p>Additional generation from customer-sited solar generators installed in California (such as those on residential and commercial rooftops) further adds to the total solar share of mid-day electricity generation. As of December 2016, utilities in CAISO reported 5.4 gigawatts (GW) of net-metered distributed solar capacity. EIA estimates that this capacity would have generated approximately 4 million kilowatthours (kWh) during the peak solar hours on March 11. This level of electricity reduced the metered demand on the grid by about the same amount, suggesting that the total solar share of gross demand probably exceeded 50% during the mid-day hours.</p>

Per the EIA, there are multiple reasons why March is the season most probable for negative wholesale rates, including one unique to this year – heavy amounts of hydroelectric power due to flooding this winter. The other major reason is that spring and fall are low demand seasons due to the temperate climate not needing as much heating or cooling.</p>

Well this isn't going to go down well with all the coal miners.
solar  energy  california 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Uber stops San Francisco self-driving pilot as DMV revoked registrations • TechCrunch
Darrell Etherington:
<p>Uber has confirmed that it will stop its self-driving pilot in San Francisco, following a meeting today with the California DMV and Attorney General’s office. The DMV revoked the registration on 16 self-driving test vehicles Uber was using in its pilot.

The DMV tells TechCrunch that it invited Uber to complete its permitting process at the same time it revoked it the vehicle registrations. Uber told TechCrunch that it will instead be looking to deploy the vehicles elsewhere for the time being. Here’s Uber’s statement on the matter in full:
<p>We have stopped our self-driving pilot in California as the DMV has revoked the registrations for our self-driving cars. We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules.</p>

Amazing arrogance from Uber: it's saying it's the laws that are wrong, rather than its lawbreaking cars. So it has <a href="">moved them to Arizona</a>. Good luck, folks!
uber  selfdrivingcar  california 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
Why LaCroix sparkling water is suddenly everywhere - Vox
Libby Nelson and Javier Zarracina:
<p>Over the past decade, Americans have done something that would have once seemed downright un-American: <a href="">They've given up soda</a> [sugared carbonated drinks such as Coke]. And when you’re craving a can of pop, LaCroix is a decent substitute. Unlike tap water, it has carbonation and a little flavor. Unlike a countertop SodaStream, it's cheap, readily available, and portable. Close your eyes, wrap your hand around the perspiring aluminum can, and you could be holding a Coca-Cola. LaCroix is succeeding as methadone for the soda addict.

LaCroix isn’t the only brand to benefit from the sparkling water boom. But it’s the one that’s risen to the coveted status of lifestyle brand, not just generating loyalty but becoming part of how we define ourselves. The secret behind LaCroix’s rise is a mix of old-fashioned business strategy and cutting-edge social marketing. When Americans wanted carbonated water, LaCroix was positioned to give them them fizzy water. Then, sometimes by accident, LaCroix developed fans among mommy bloggers, Paleo eaters, and Los Angeles writers who together pushed LaCroix into the zeitgeist.</p>

This article is suddenly everywhere, so I'm just helping out. If Americans are drinking less Coke/Pepsi/7Up/etc, then that's good. Finally.
california  soda  drink 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
University of California at Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from internet » The Sacramento Bee
Sam Stanton and Diana Lambert:
<p>UC Davis contracted with consultants for at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and to improve the reputations of both the university and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, newly released documents show.

The payments were made as the university was trying to boost its image online and were among several contracts issued following the pepper-spray incident.

Some payments were made in hopes of improving the results computer users obtained when searching for information about the university or Katehi, results that one consultant labeled “venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor.”

Others sought to improve the school’s use of social media and to devise a new plan for the UC Davis strategic communications office, which has seen its budget rise substantially since Katehi took the chancellor’s post in 2009. Figures released by UC Davis show the strategic communications budget increased from $2.93m in 2009 to $5.47m in 2015.</p>

The "right to be forgotten for enough money". (It's done by stuffing the web with "favourable" content about the organisation, and/or seeking to get the other content removed.)
california  education  search  rtbf 
april 2016 by charlesarthur
California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now? » LA Times
Jay Famigliette:
As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis.

I wonder what this means for all the technology companies in that region.
california  water 
march 2015 by charlesarthur

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