A Quick Guide to the FDA’s Deeming Regulations for Vaping, Cigars, and All Other Tobacco Products

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration completed a ruling that expands their authority to all tobacco related products including e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookah. These regulations were formulated to help improve the public’s overall health and well being as these products were already being sold but without any initial review regarding what they were made out of. Restricting sales to minors as well as controlling modifications and communicating health warnings are all part of these new rules.

Since the summer of 2009, the FDA has been allowed to regulate how tobacco products are manufactured and distributed. This new ruling was necessary because it took on e-cigarettes which are somewhat new to the market. Any of these products including accessories such as the best box mod options out there are all subject to approval and regulation. None of these items can be sold to a person under the age of 18 (photo identification must be provided during the purchase). Also, free samples cannot be handed out and none of these products can ever be provided through a vending machine.

The FDA believes that tobacco is harmful to the human body but they do acknowledge that newer products like e-cigarettes may be less harmful. They do still require monitoring and regulations though. Moving forward there will be an appeal process that will take place for electronic products and other tobacco products but the outcome is not known at this point. Hopefully, young adults will be prevented from starting the use of these products and the added control the FDA has will help keep people safer by educating them on the use of tobacco products. It is unlikely these products will ever be banned thanks to their current success as well as their higher safety standards than traditional cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

{ Comments are closed }

Microsoft and the Government’s Open Standards

Microsoft and the Government’s Open Standards

In 2010, the United Kingdom began the arduous process of reforming its digital strategy. The UK Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills launched an extensive investigation into which IT standards would become official policy. The goal of this inquiry and overhaul was to attain standard protocols that would foster more efficient communication between departmental systems. Francis Maude, the former Minister of State for Trade and Investment, emphatically asserted “The kind of standards we should be militant about are standards of interoperability, so you have proper connectivity.”

Especially important was the debate over which file format would be used for all public documents.

Behind the scenes of the government’s plan to push forward with standardization of file formats was high-pressure lobbying by Microsoft and other makers of proprietary software. Despite blog posts touting their support and integration of the ODF, Microsoft was completely against the adoption of open document formats. While the UK government investigated which file format would best suit their needs, Microsoft lobbied for its own file format, Office Open XML (OOXML), to become the common document type.

On the surface, the debate about how governmental documents are saved seems inane. However, OOXML losing out to ODF means a considerable loss of revenue for Microsoft and its business partners. ODF files can be opened, edited and saved in a myriad of programs, while OOXML files can only be accessed using Microsoft Office. The significance of these standards is that citizens and government agencies can access, save and distribute all of their files without having to purchase Microsoft Office. For example, Apache Open Office offers a full line of productivity software that works with ODF and is entirely free. Additionally, the UK IT mandate means that users can circumvent using Microsoft products altogether; open source operating systems like Linux can now access and share documents as well.

By codifying the new IT standards, the British government will be able to effect better communication within and between departments, leading to fewer errors at a lower cost. While this seems to be a major loss for Microsoft, it is a significant win for the cause of streamlining interoperability in the public sector.

{ Comments are closed }

The Hague Declaration in the Digital Age

The Hague Declaration in the Digital Age

The Hague Declaration is about the discovery of knowledge during the digital age. The declaration is capable of shaping the practice of ethical research, developing an open access infrastructure and policies and shaping legislative reform. The availability of ideas, data, facts, computing power, and the internet are all possible with a commitment from the government. The legal legislative framework may not be able to support specific research including content mining. Instead, is the process of extracting material by copying materials, extracting data, and classifying trends and patterns. 

The intellectual property laws came before data and text mining, and have created inequalities regarding knowledge discovery. Databases, patents, and copyright laws restrict detailed content analysis. Researchers require the freedom to analyze without fear of repercussions despite the digital environment. Content mining provides public knowledge and insights regarding cultural, social and economic life. This enables the understanding of demographic changes and political uprisings. There are numerous benefits to content mining including addressing climate change, improving the development and health of the population, and creating new jobs. 

Researchers have used content mining for a decade, despite being limited because of restrictions and legalities. New principles are necessary to access ideas, data and facts. Intellectual property was not created to regulate ideas, facts and data, but to promote research. Ideas and information are a human right, and necessary for knowledge, prosperity, and welfare. The modern view has become an obstacle to knowledge. Many countries interpret copyright law as a restriction to analysis and computer reading. These legislations were not the originally meant to cover intellectual property in this way. 

People should be entitled to satisfy their curiosity with analysis without repercussions. The use of data and facts should be a legitimate right of the individual. Contract terms and licenses should not prevent people from using ideas, data, and facts. This idea is unacceptable and inhibits knowledge and innovation. Digital technology is also hindering the right to content mine. Ethics regarding content mining must evolve in accordance with the changes in technology for the benefit of society. 

Commercial research and innovation using ideas data and facts must not allow restrictions on the laws of intellectual property. Since it is not possible to copyright ideas, data and facts, restricting their ethical commercial use does not seem to make any sense. These ideas are available for extraction from legally obtained content. Patent laws are designed to protect inventions, not data and facts. When ideas, facts, and data are restricted, it has a severe impact on economic development and innovation.

{ Comments are closed }

Is Net Neutrality Really a Threat to the Internet?

Is Net Neutrality Really a Threat to the Internet?

On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules put into place two years earlier. The rollback gives internet service providers (ISPs) the ability to act as gatekeepers for web content; essentially, they can promote their own services while slowing down access to competing platforms. This goes against the central principle of net neutrality where all traffic is treated equally. 

Ajit Pai, current head of the FCC and a former Verizon attorney, said the 2015 net neutrality rules, which reclassified ISPs as public utilities, were too “heavy-handed.” He claimed that a “lighter touch” approach is better for investment and continued innovation. Pai also claimed that ISPs had been held back from updating their infrastructure because of the reclassification, although this point was proven wrong by both tech companies and activists. 

Before the vote, activists, most notably Fight for the Future, went into action, setting up protests, shaming lawmakers on billboards and encouraging consumers to comment on the FCC website. They warned that a repeal of the 2015 rules would allow ISPs to create fast lanes for preferred content, charge customers more to access common sites and slow down the rest of the web for those who cannot pay. In the end, ISPs would create tiered service, similar to television packages. A repeal would also ensure continued service monopolies in many cities and virtually no price controls. 

A common argument against the new 2015 rules is that the internet operated well enough under the old 1996 Title I classification, so there was no need to change anything. The reality is, the web has changed and grown substantially in 21 years, and a rule change was needed to protect its freedoms. 

Under the 2015 Title II reclassification, all ISPs had to treat web traffic equally and were subject to government oversight. Contrary to Pai’s claims, several ISPs had updated their infrastructure and invested in faster gigabit service for their communities since the new rules were passed. Over the long term, the rules would likely have brought consumer costs under control and made internet service more affordable and accessible to everyone. 

Net neutrality is not a threat. It is the foundation on which the web was built and should be defended to keep the internet free and open for generations to come.

{ Comments are closed }

Understanding Open Standards

Understanding Open Standards

A Brief Look At Open Standards and More

What is an open source?

Open source is defined as any open material on the web which is publicly accessible by anyone.

What is an open standard?

Open standards are defined as guidelines to keep the technologies open, particularly to developers.

The definitions are simple, but dealing with the complexities, that is another matter. Debates are still ongoing as to what is considered an “open source” and who gets to regulate these “standards”.

How are they developed?

This is where it becomes a bit more complicated. There are literally thousands of documents moving on the web every day. Every standard is part of something bigger. There is no way to possible govern everything that comes down the pike with web development and ISO.

Standards fall into one of four categories: industry, vendor, closed, or open. Developers have their own opinions on what information should stay open or closed.

Are standards voluntary?

Yes, they are. Some standards are considered “classified” or “restricted”. There might be a valid reason for placing these restrictions on some of the standards.

An example

Back in September 2016, Apple announced it was going to ship the new iPhone 7 and 7 plus was going to ship without the headphone port. That headphone port has always been a staple on most devices.

A lot of journalists did opinion pieces on this, citing that the company was looking to put profit over the customer. Customers will not have to put out money for the headphones, something they did not have to do before. Journalists had a feeding frenzy with this.

Apple cited industry standard specifications and kept some of the information classified. Others cited “vendor standards”, citing the need to please the vendor and not the consumer.

This example illustrates perfectly how people can be divided on the subject of standards, especially when you choose one party over another.

The timing of standards

Placing standards on the certain information requires a certain window of opportunity. Some argue that if you place standards on something too early, you will stunt the growth.

Standards evolve. Data that is classified as “closed” in the beginning end up being classified as “open” later. You also need to sort out what standards benefit the consumer and which ones do not.

To read more about open standards and what it means for you, visit  https://opensource.com/resources/what-are-open-standards or http://www.digistan.org/

{ Comments are closed }

EU holds firm on “open standard”, US firms go ballistic

The EU Commission announced on June 25 that EIF/2.0 (The European Interoperability Framework which defines the rules for software used in e-Government) will hold the line as regards patents on standards.

The announcement is expected to annoy those who wanted a “broad” definition of open standards that would include patented standards. As expected, the Business Software Alliance and the Association for Competitive Technology, both vocal in their defense of software patents and patented standards, have denounced the move as “imposing one business model over another”.

The move has also been described as “hurting small tech start-ups that rely on patent protection to survive”. “Even programs like BlueTooth are excluded”, says ManagingIP.

The BSA and ACT are notorious spokesmen for large US corporate interests, and claims that small, innovative European technology firms need patents to survive do not match the data. A recent EU-sponsored study on the use of patents, copyrights, and trademarks in European software SMEs had to go to Israel to find SMEs that held and licensed software patents. Apparently European IT SMEs just don’t use patents.

The Commission’s robust defense of the term “open standard” and its support for open source software reflect the reality of the European technology sector, which is overwhelmingly made up of SMEs that use, produce, and depend on an increasingly sophisticated ecology of open source and open standards.

The principle that e-Government should not be captured by vendors is a good one, though it goes against the corporatist trends we see in many parts of the world, and infuriates large US technology interests, who covet the growing EU government budgets. The deregulation and outsourcing of the state, by and for private interests, has become so accepted in the US that one can understand the shock and horror with which US corporate interests view the EU’s insistence on large government and regulation. The term “free market” has almost opposite meanings on the two sides of the Atlantic.

We therefore expect to see concerted lobbying against the EIF/2.0 definition by the patent industry, by Microsoft, BSA, ACT, and the many dependent organizations that represent Microsoft business partners (ironically called “the European software industry” by some). Specifically, we expect to see accusations that the no-patents definition of open standards discriminates against specific providers, that it damages innovation, that it ignores the value of patents, that it will result in innovative firms leaving Europe, that it is illegal under trade agreements, and so on. We expect to see pressure applied on the Commission from the highest levels of US power.

Digistan applauds the EU Commission, and holds that patents have no place in open standards except as a mechanism to exclude competition and to raise costs to the State and EU citizens. Furthermore, EIF/2.0 does not exclude patented standards from e-Government, it simply does not allow these to claim the label “open”.

{ Comments are closed }

Definition of a Free and Open Standard

The Digital Standards Organization defines free and open standard as follows:

  • A free and open standard is immune to vendor capture at all stages in its life-cycle. Immunity from vendor capture makes it possible to freely use, improve upon, trust, and extend a standard over time.
  • The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties.
  • The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available freely. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute, and use it freely.
  • The patents possibly present on (parts of) the standard are made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
  • There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.

The economic outcome of a free and open standard, which can be measured, is that it enables perfect competition between suppliers of products based on the standard.

{ Comments are closed }

The Hague Declaration

Adopted and proclaimed
by the founders of the Digital Standards Organization
in The Hague on 21 May 2008.

Whereas almost 60 years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, established in international law these rights and freedoms:

  1. Freedom from discrimination by government or law (Article 2, Article 7).
  2. Freedom of movement within the borders of each state (Article 13.1).
  3. The right to participate in government (Article 21.1).
  4. The right of equal access to public services (Article 21.2).

Whereas these rights and freedoms are today accepted by every democratic government and backed by the constitutions of most states;

Considering that all countries are moving, at different rates and from different starting points, towards a society in which full and effective participation in government and society, and access to public services, education and opportunity, are increasingly dependent upon access to electronic communications;

Considering more specifically that:

  • Government information, services and resources are increasingly provided virtually rather than physically;
  • Freedom of speech and association are increasingly exercised on line rather than in person;
  • The Internet and the Web provide an unprecedented avenue to equality of education and opportunity for all peoples throughout the world;

Considering that the benefits of the Internet may only be guaranteed, and our hard-won human rights may only be preserved as we make the transition to a digital society, by ensuring affordable, equal access to the Internet, and if the openness of the Internet is also preserved;

Considering the unique role that free and open digital standards can play in ensuring this result by fostering competition and innovation, lowering costs and increasing choice;

Considering that governments, through example and procurement, are uniquely able to ensure that all people achieve the benefits that free and open digital standards can provide;

Considering that these benefits are of particular importance to the economically, socially, and geographically disadvantaged peoples of the world;

Considering that there is increasing consensus on the attributes of a free and open digital standard;

We call on all governments to:

  1. Procure only information technology that implements free and open standards;
  2. Deliver e-government services based exclusively on free and open standards;
  3. Use only free and open digital standards in their own activities.

{ Comments are closed }