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NTIA Blog

Nearly Three-Fourths of Online Households Continue to Have Digital Privacy and Security Concerns

December 13, 2021 by Michelle Cao, Policy Analyst, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

The security and privacy landscape has continued to evolve since NTIA first asked about it in our 2015 Internet Use Survey. High-profile data breaches and debates about the role of technology in people’s lives have kept concerns about privacy and security in the forefront. The spread of emerging technologies such as smart home devices and always-on voice assistants, as well as business models predicated on the collection, use, and sale of personal information, means these concerns have taken on increased urgency.

As NTIA will be exploring in our listening sessions this week, these concerns are especially acute for those in marginalized or underserved communities. These communities can sometimes face higher risks of harm from the loss of privacy or misuse of data.

In 2019, most Internet-using households in America expressed concerns regarding digital privacy, according to data from the NTIA Internet Use Survey. While fewer households had concerns about digital privacy and security and deterred online activities in 2015 vs. 2017, rates have held steady from 2017 to 2019. In 2019, 73 percent of Internet-using households in 2019 had significant concerns about online privacy and security risks, and 35 percent said such worries led them to hold back from some online activities (see Figure 1).

NTIA Virtual Listening Sessions to Explore Data Privacy, Equity and Civil Rights

December 13, 2021 by Evelyn Remaley, Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

Every day, personal information is used to make important decisions: about what advertisements we see, what types of health care is offered in our communities, and what fields of study our educational institutes believe we are best suited for.

The collection, processing, and sharing of personal information can create serious risks for everyone. For racial minorities, people living with disabilities, people living in poverty, and other marginalized and underserved communities, the risks can be especially acute.

For example, advertisers can both intentionally and inadvertently use digital tools that allow for harmful discrimination in ad targeting, potentially reproducing historical patterns of discrimination in areas such as housing or employment opportunities. Even when targeting criteria does not directly use traits such as race or gender, proxy indicators of these characteristics can nonetheless perpetuate discrimination.

The Biden Administration has made it a clear policy priority to advance racial equity and support underserved communities. As public policy discussions around privacy continue to advance, it is apparent that robust privacy protections are critical to achieving this goal.

NTIA Applauds Copyright Office’s Actions on DMCA Exemptions to Support Competition and Innovation

October 29, 2021 by Evelyn Remaley, Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

Every three years, NTIA makes recommendations to the Copyright Office in a process in which the Librarian of Congress determines exemptions to the anti-circumvention provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This provision prohibits the circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.

This provision, while designed to deter copyright infringement, can also make it more difficult for Americans to engage in a variety of non-infringing activities, such as repairing machinery, conducting security research, and making media accessible for persons with disabilities.

The Copyright Office runs a rulemaking process to provide the public with an opportunity to propose and comment on possible exemptions. NTIA works diligently to analyze the record generated during this rulemaking and offer the Copyright Office recommendations that support the digital economy and the right to engage in non-infringing activities.

The Eighth Triennial Rulemaking was conducted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants noted the barriers faced by educators using videos in virtual classrooms, researchers who require access to works undergoing preservation at libraries, archives, and museums, and everyday Americans who want to repair their own products. In these and other situations, NTIA supported exemptions that maximized relief to Americans. 

NTIA Releases Analysis of Responses to 5G Challenge NOI

October 22, 2021 by NTIA

Earlier this year, NTIA issued a 5G Challenge Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD), requesting information on how to use Prize Challenges to accelerate the development of the open 5G ecosystem and support DoD missions.

NTIA received 51 responses to the NOI, and today NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) is releasing an analysis of those responses to inform future collaborations between DoD and NTIA, including the potential of an initial 5G Challenge in 2022.

The purpose of 5G Challenges would be to support open interfaces, interoperability, and modularity – accelerating market forces that promote vendor diversity. Open and interoperable 5G networks will encourage new market participation, allowing innovative companies to develop plug-and-play 5G components and integrated systems. Organizations would be able to optimize their network’s operational efficiency by mixing and matching components from multiple vendors.

NTIA Launches C-SCRIP Information-Sharing Program

October 12, 2021 by Evelyn Remaley, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information

This month, NTIA’s Communications Supply Chain Risk Information Partnership (C-SCRIP) is beginning a broad public outreach program by sending out its first C-SCRIP Update newsletter to inform our partners about events, announcements, and funding opportunities related to supply chain security. The first Update contains information on the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Reimbursement Program and recent Open RAN Showcase, as well as NTIA resources on broadband grants and Software Bill of Materials. 

The C-SCRIP information-sharing program demonstrates NTIA’s commitment to assisting small, medium, and rural communications companies with the identification and management of supply chain risks. Congress tasked NTIA with creating C-SCRIP to facilitate the sharing of security risk information between the federal government, trusted providers of advanced telecommunications services, and suppliers of communications equipment and services. 

With the launch of the C-SCRIP Update, we are transitioning to the next phase of our C-SCRIP implementation. This phase will feature regular communications with stakeholders, including in-person briefings and conference showcases. As the program matures, C-SCRIP will work with stakeholders to refine what information will be shared in order to assist the community’s efforts in securing U.S. communications networks against supply chain threats.

NTIA’s 2021 Spectrum Policy Symposium Showcases Cooperation Among Key Decision-Makers

October 04, 2021 by Charles Cooper, Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management

NTIA’s 2021 Spectrum Policy Symposium brought together key policymakers and industry experts to explore how a “whole of government” approach to spectrum policy can address U.S. priorities for 21st century global leadership. 

The event featured as keynote speakers U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike F. Doyle Jr. (D-Pa.), and Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. Each of them highlighted the importance of spectrum to the economy, U.S. technological leadership, innovation, and federal government missions.

In addition, the event’s afternoon sessions featured a preview of the 2022 International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART), which NTIA’s Boulder, Colorado-based Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) plans to convene in the spring of next year. During the preview, ITS issued a call for papers to further the development of spectrum-sharing assessments through analyses driven by data, science and technology.

Throughout the keynotes and the accompanying panel discussions, policymakers and experts underlined the key themes of cooperation, technological innovation, and engineering-driven spectrum management solutions to spur America’s economic and infrastructure growth.     

NTIA to Host Virtual Spectrum Policy Symposium, ISART Preview on Sept. 21

August 17, 2021 by NTIA

NTIA invites all interested parties to the 2021 NTIA Spectrum Policy Symposium, NTIA’s fourth annual spectrum event, on Sept. 21. This year’s symposium, under the theme “Modernizing U.S. Spectrum Strategy and Infrastructure,” will tackle the leading policy and technical issues that will drive spectrum use for years to come.

Key leaders from the Biden Administration, Congress, federal agencies, and the private and non-public sectors have been invited to share their views on spectrum policy priorities, efforts to repurpose spectrum for 5G and other innovative uses, the modernization of spectrum management systems, and more.  Spectrum strategies will be a key component of the Biden Administration’s efforts to close the digital divide and ensure American competitiveness in a high-tech future. Frequency allocations and spectrum sharing help pave the way for next-generation wireless broadband networks, machine-to-machine communications, intelligent transportation applications and other advanced technologies.

How ITS Uses Machine Learning to Measure and Improve Speech Quality

August 13, 2021 by NTIA

When public safety professionals use telecommunications systems to communicate with one another, it’s easy for them to tell when there’s an issue with the signals—they hear distorted sound, static or interruptions, to name a few examples.

Fixing these issues is much tougher. As the amount of spectrum used to transmit speech decreases, so do speech quality and intelligibility. A reliable system for measuring speech quality and intelligibility is required to optimize the two quantities—adjusting bandwidth use to efficiently deliver acceptable quality and intelligibility.

Unfortunately, measurements using human listeners are time-consuming and expensive. Existing automated measurements are fast, but require systems to be taken offline to be tested. Improving these kinds of measurements would lead to more reliable and efficient telecommunications systems. This is especially critical for systems used by first responders, when clear voice communications can save lives.

To make maximally efficient use of radio spectrum, industry and government need a measurement method that can be deployed to in-service networks without needing access to the original signal for comparison. In other words, a machine that can learn to do what humans do effortlessly: judge the quality of a speech signal when it arrives at the end of the transmission channel without knowing anything about what it sounded like when it started. This is called a no-reference, or NR, measurement.

NTIA Releases Minimum Elements for a Software Bill of Materials

July 12, 2021 by Allan Friedman, Director of Cybersecurity Initiatives

In his Executive Order (EO) on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, President Biden identified the prevention, detection, assessment and remediation of cyber incidents as a top priority of his Administration. The Commerce Department and NTIA were directed by the EO to publish the minimum elements for a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM), a key tool to help create a more transparent and secure software supply chain. As the President notes, “the trust we place in our digital infrastructure should be proportional to how trustworthy and transparent that infrastructure is.”

An SBOM provides those who produce, purchase, and operate software with information that enhances their understanding of the supply chain. Though an SBOM won’t solve all software security problems, it offers the potential to track known newly emerged vulnerabilities and risks, and it can form a foundational data layer on which further security tools, practices, and assurances can be built.

NTIA Releases Comprehensive Review of U.S. Space-based Operations and Spectrum Use

July 09, 2021 by Charles Cooper, Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management

Every day, Americans depend on space-based technologies, which power navigation services, accurate weather forecasts, rural Internet access, public safety communications, national security objectives, and more. All of these technologies depend on a key public resource – radiofrequency spectrum – both for controlling space operations and for relaying communications and data to and from Earth.

Today, NTIA released a first-of-its-kind report documenting the wide array of current and projected spectrum uses by space-based systems. The report, titled “The Spectrum Needs of U.S.-Based Space Operations,” will help inform policymakers and others regarding the key roles these systems perform.

The report highlights the economic, social and life-saving benefits of the communications, remote sensing, radio astronomy, and position, navigation, and timing services that these systems provide. A recent review by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis found the U.S. space economy added $108.9 billion in value to the current-dollar GDP.

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