Startup News Digest: 2/5/2016

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. 

EU and U.S. Policymakers Agree on Safe Harbor 2.0. Nearly three months after the U.S.-EU safe harbor agreement was invalidated, the European Commission announced on Tuesday that negotiators had reached a framework agreement on Safe Harbor 2.0 (rebranded as “Privacy Shield”). The agreement restores stability and some certainty to the international data flows that make the Internet work. But does this tentative framework provide the future-proof, legal certainty that is essential for startups operating in the EU? And what lessons have we learned from the drama that surrounded Safe Harbor 2.0? As Evan writes, “this difficult experience should serve as a reminder of how the heavy burden of regulatory uncertainty often falls hardest on the smallest players. Startups that made user security and privacy a central part of their companies were nevertheless caught in an international dispute between national governments and multinational companies with few feasible options to stay square with laws that quickly became unclear.” Read the whole post here.

Obama Commits $4B to CS. The White House announced its Computer Science for All initiative earlier this week, pledging an impressive $4 billion in funding for computer science education in K-12 schools across the country. “Our economy is rapidly shifting, and educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that CS is a ‘new basic’ skill necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility,” notes the White House press release. Today, only 28 states allow CS courses to count towards high school graduation requirements. The funding, part of the president’s forthcoming budget, focuses largely on teacher training and also calls on local leaders, educators, and the tech industry to get involved in expanding CS education.

Gig Economy Workers Take a Stand. For readers in San Francisco, here’s one more reason to stay home on Sunday: thousands of Uber drivers are planning to protest recent fare cuts by disrupting traffic around the Super Bowl. This is just the latest in a growing list of campaigns by gig economy workers to collectively push back against the platforms that facilitate their work. Debate is still raging around how apps like Uber, Postmates, and Handy should treat their workers. Since most of these workers are classified as independent contractors, they are not permitted to organize through traditional unions. But that hasn’t stopped them from banding together to leverage for what they view as appropriate treatment. In recent weeks, there have been similar protests everywhere from New York to Dallas to Tampa, with no doubt more to come.

The Geography of Venture Capital. Want to know where to build your startup, or at least get it funded? A new report reveals the current geography of venture capital. Good news for the U.S.—it remains the leader in VC investments, accounting for almost 70 percent of global venture capital. The bad news? Much of that capital is still concentrated on the coasts. In fact, 40 percent of global venture investment comes from just two broad regions—the Bay Area and the Boston-New York-Washington Corridor.

ECPA Reform Progress. The startup community got some good news on Wednesday: the House Judiciary Committee will take up the broadly supported Email Privacy Act in March. The bill, which has over 300 cosponsors and support from a range of tech companies and privacy advocates, would make much needed reforms to the outdated Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (ECPA) by explicitly requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing digital communications. The bill has languished for years due to opposition from some civil agencies (namely the SEC and FTC) who have asked for carve-outs from the warrant requirement. It remains to be seen whether changes will be made at next month’s markup to accommodate those agencies’ requests.

Hacking Patents. On Tuesday night, Engine and the Electronic Frontier Foundation hosted a discussion with patent experts on hacking the patent system. The conversation centered around the release of an updated white paper detailing things that startups can do to navigate a broken patent system without hiring an expensive patent lawyer or even filing for a patent itself. Read the full paper here.