Tag Archives: Brookings

Data collection brings more benefits than loss, experts say

WASHINGTON – You’re probably one of the 91 percent of American adults who think they’ve lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies (according to a Pew Research study in early 2015). But big data collection brings benefits that outweigh the potential downsides, contended Ben Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a panel discussion at the Capital Visitor Center last Thursday.

Consumers’ concern about online privacy are at all-time high due to the emerging technologies – for instance, e-commerce and mobile devices– which collects a big chunk of consumer data, the Pew Research study says.

However, people who worry about “privacy eroding into the river and being gone forever,” added Wittes, ignore how those benefits actually increase privacy.

The rise of online sales has meant you can mail-order products that might be too embarrassing to buy in person, Wittes added. “Without looking at somebody in the eye, without confessing the interest in this subject, you get what you want.”

Because all e-books look the same on an e-reader, for instance, you can read Fifty Shades of Grey on your Kindle without shame—which may explain why the e-version of this book has outsold its printed version.

The value of the privacy of those purchases, Wittes argued, outweighs the value of the data given for them—like email, credit card numbers, browsing history, personal preferences, and location-based information.

Wittes suggested changing vocabulary that consumers use to describe the benefits they get with giving up some personal information. It’s not only “convenience,” he said, “it’s also privacy benefits.”

Joshua New, policy analyst at the Information Technology Innovation Foundation, said data collection also brings economic benefits to consumers.

He cited car insurance as an example. Instead of deciding your insurance premium based on broad factors – for instance, age, gender, neighborhood, drivers could use data to prove that they are cautious and don’t brake rapidly to get lower premiums even they are in the “high-risk section” based on traditional measurements, New said.

People who strive for online privacy should be aware that there is a cost to it. Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at George Mason University, said it’s not impossible for people to protect their privacy if they don’t mind losing the benefits of giving up their data.

“Companies can offer paid options where user information won’t be collected,’ Thierer said. “But at the moment, I don’t think many people will pay for their privacy.”

A balance between consumer privacy and technology innovation is what the Federal Trade Commission is pursuing. Totally prohibiting data collection, which will create barriers for breakthrough innovations, is definitely not the solution.

“We should definitely limit the use of data,” said Federal Trade Commission member Maureen Ohlhausen, “but not limit the collection of data.”

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Will a new China-led investment bank be a responsible stakeholder environmentally? Experts weigh in

WASHINGTON — After several European allies applied to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank this week, U.S. officials have begun to soften their critical view on the China-backed initiative.

“We do not ask any country to choose ties with the U.S. to the exclusion of anyone else,” Deputy Secretary of the State Tony Blinken said Tuesday in a speech at the Brookings Institution, the centrist think tank.

Tony Blinken talks about China’s role in Central Asia development

Blinken restated the White House’s earlier concerns about the standards the China-backed will use for making decisions. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also remarked at a congressional hearing last week that anyone joining the AIIB need to ask those questions.

The AIIB’s operation plan won’t be revealed until later this year. But it is said the bank will model itself after existing development banks, giving founding members the most voting power. China will also reportedly give up veto power, which eased concerns from many countries.

Blinken worries the AIIB could “dilute the standard” of existing institutions

On one front, the environment, the AIIB is not a copy of World Bank

In the “Environmental and Social Framework” released last June, the World Bank sets specific requirements on labor and working conditions, resource efficiency and pollution protection, community health and safety, and three other categories of environmental and social standards. All are mandatory in order to reduce poverty and increase prosperity in a sustainable manner worldwide, the World Bank asserts.

Chen Bin, a commentator in the outspoken Chinese newspaper, Southern Weekly, however, said it’s “inconsiderate” to ask AIIB to stick to and carry out these criteria.

China’s Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said at a recent Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting that the bank is aimed at promoting connectivity among Asian countries, through commercial infrastructure investment instead of poverty reduction.

Largely commercial, AIIB sets itself apart from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, led by Japan, both committed to public welfare. This leaves more space as well as questions in how the bank will select the programs and infrastructures in which to invest.

“The World Bank and other existing multilateral development assistance organizations have strong rules to promote sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Scott Kennedy, director of Project on Chinese Business & Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “China’s bilateral foreign assistance to date is filled with examples where there has been insufficient attention to protecting the environment and ensuring safe and fair treatment of workers. And a substantial portion of this aid has benefitted Chinese companies. Hence, there is good reason to have some concerns about how the AIIB will operate,” he said.

AIIB currently has 30 prospective founding members, including Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Seventeen other countries and regions, including Australia and Taiwan, have yet to be approved. The final list will be confirmed on April 15.

Quit Playing Games with My Regime, Says North Korea

WASHINGTON–North Korea, one of former President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil countries, is angrier than ever. Its southern neighbor, South Korea, ­ is a conservative and staunch ally of the United States. ­ China, its biggest supporter, is also telling it to tone down its belligerent ways; and the domestic economy, or what’s left of it, continues to worsen.

The latest incident that pushed ­Dear Leader Kim Jong-il’s button is a joint military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea near the tense maritime border.

Prior to the drill, Py­ongyang vowed to meet the exercise with “strong physical retaliation.” On August 15, a day before the latest round of exercises began, a North Korean military official upped the threat further, saying the military will counter the joint exercises with the “severest punishment” ­.

Many observers of North Korea’s decades of saber-rattling were not impressed.

“The joke is that North Korea threatened R.O.K. [the South] and U.S. as usual: ‘We will not hesitate to use whatever powers we have’,” said Kongdan Oh, a senior fellow with Brookings ­ Institution, who covers Northeast Asian politics. “Let’s not overblow their usual verbal threats.”

The reclusive regime has not acted on its latest threat as of mid-August.

The military exercise comes after the Cheonan, a South Korean naval vessel on a routine exercise­ in the Yellow Sea, was sunk, killing­46 sailors. Seoul blamed it on a ­North Korean submarine’s torpedo; and displayed remains of what appears to be a North Korean weapon dredged up from the shattered vessel.

North Korea has denied the accusation, and ­China and Russia have supported it. The two members of the U.N. Security Council helped tamp down the international outrage. On July 9, the U.N. agency released a presidential statement condemning the attack on the Cheonan but didn’t identify the attacker.

South Korea’s defense ministry said it will release the full results of its investigation into who sank ­the Cheonan—an act of war in international circles– in an effort to address concerns that it is afraid to publicly point the finger at the most likely culprit—North Korea. ­

According to the South Korean military, the new document is likely to ­have the same conclusion as the preliminary report released on May 20, but will contain more insights from 74 military and civilian investigators from around the globe.

Like Oh, many believe the latest verbal threat from Pyongyang is an empty promise; one that the communist regime cannot executive amidst growing pressure from China to stop jeopardizing its own future.

“The key to the North Korean problem is Beijing,” said Guy Sorman, the global advisor for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. In an opinion column of The Korea Times, Sorman recommends South Korea’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea focus on China, because “everything will be decided in Beijing.”

According to Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Beijing claims that Washington has benefited from the escalating geopolitical tension on the Korean peninsula.

“The Chinese say that as a result of the [Cheonan] incident, the U.S.-South Korea alliance is stronger, the transfer of operational control was delayed and Japan made a decision to keep the U.S. bases,” said Glaser.

According to Pentagon, the U.S. and South Korea are planning to stage war games in the Yellow Sea, off the west coast of the Korean peninsula. Beijing also has repeatedly voiced strong opposition to any drills in that area.

Despite threats of unprecedented retaliation from North Korea and strong opposition from China, or perhaps because of them, the dynamics of U.S. alliances in Northeast Asia remains strong.

During an interview with a Hong Kong television network early July, Chinese Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan was quoted saying “If a U.S. aircraft carrier enters the Yellow Sea, it will become a moving target” for the Chinese military.

In fact, Washington’s military coordination between its two strongest allies in the region, i.e. South Korea and Japan, have strengthened, some experts say

John Feffer, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, said the important step now is not to worry about North Korea’s physical avenge but to find a way for the Hermit Kingdom to extricate itself from the situation. “Obviously, this was not something North Korea wanted to own up to, if in fact it did do it.”

At the same time, experts agree that once Pyongyang makes an exit from this particular incident, members to the six party talks should engage in a dialogue to reduce tensions on the divided peninsula.