Startup News Digest 9/4/15

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

Growing Support for CalECPA.  Right now it's still legal for law enforcement to access your emails and other digital data without a warrant. SB 178, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“CalECPA”), would change that on the state level by modernizing outdated digital privacy laws. The bill passed the California Senate back in June, but still faces a couple of hurdles, including a vote in the Assembly that should take place in the next couple of weeks.  The LA Times just endorsed SB 178, noting that “Californians need the protections offered by SB 178, and the bill deserves the Legislature's support.”  A poll published this week found similar support among California voters, with 82% of participants agreeing that law enforcement should get a warrant before accessing an individual’s digital data.  Engine echoes this endorsement of SB 178 and hopes to see California take the lead on updating its privacy laws to keep pace with the changing digital landscape.

The Future of Higher Education. Daniel Pianko of University Ventures writing in TechCrunch argues that the lack of innovation in higher education is due to a lack of commitment from Silicon Valley billionaires. “Today’s current generation of entrepreneurs are spending their energy and resources lobbying for band-aid solutions like H-1B visas, when they could be reimagining the current pipeline to address the lack of female and minority engineers in their companies.” Pianko points out that it was investment from 20th century titans of industry like Johns Hopkins and Andrew Carnegie that created the modern research university, and forced schools like Harvard and Yale to evolve in order to compete. He also points to non-traditional education models being pioneered at places like Galvanize. Here’s a look back at a deep dive we did on education policy and its impact on innovation.

New White House Hire. The White House announced that they are hiring their first Director of Product this week. Josh Miller, a startup founder who sold his company to Facebook last year will lead efforts to improve their existing digital products and look to develop new ones. Miller has a history of bringing a tech perspective to civic engagement. This marks yet another move from an administration that seems determined to engage with startups to improve the way government functions.  

Diversity in Tech. Troubling new data from the Pew Research Center shows that “businesses owned by women and minorities bring in far less revenue than firms with male or non-minority owners.” The research finds that even when you look at sectors where women tend to fare better, the problem persists. This Fortune article hypothesizes that one big factor may be a lack of investors--a problem that has been documented before. Engine will continue to work on access to capital issues, particularly as it affects founders from underrepresented groups. Stay tuned for more on that in September….  

Drones. The National Journal reports that in the absence of federal regulations, 26 states have now passed local legislation to limit the operation of drones. This patchworks of regulation is causing concerns for operators and commercial users. Hopefully the months ahead will see a thoughtful approach to protecting safety and privacy that doesn’t needlessly throttle innovation in this growing industry.

Car Hacking. The debate over how to make Internet-connected vehicles more resistant to cyber attacks is heating up in Washington. Much of the discussion will center around whether these are problems that can be solved within the industry, or if government action will be necessary to spur automakers to act.