Time: Monday, September 15, 7pm-9pm
Location: Capital Factory, 701 Brazos Street, Suite 1601, Austin, TX.
Speaker: Ed Cavazos, Managing Partner, Bracewell & Giuliani

edcOnline video game environments, and, in particular, MMOs (massively multiplayer online games), simulate real-world interaction so well that interesting questions are arising about the application of law and social contracts in those realms. This is especially true when virtual goods and currencies take on real value and can be traded or exchanged for items of value outside of the game. How do game rules intersect with the law? Should games be governed by their own theories of justice? What does the future hold as the distinction between on-line play and off-line society begins to blur?

Relevant Links:

Live Stream Info:

An interactive live video stream of the meetup with be available here, thanks to Capital Factory’s LifeSize system. If you cannot attend in person, we invite you to watch and ask questions in the chat room for us to include in the discussion.




Austin Fire Department logoAustin Fire Department eyes the skies…

On August 7th, the Austin City Council approved a four-year study on the use of robotics by the Austin Fire Department. The draft Interlocal Agreement between the City and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) was unanimously approved along with other items on the consent docket at the beginning of the meeting.

The City of Austin is partnering with TEES for robotics expertise and machines, specifically the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue [ @CRASAR ]. CRASAR is led by Dr. Robin R. Murphy, Raytheon Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, who appears to have literally written the book on Disaster Robotics.

Austin Fire Department (AFD) Assistant Chief Richard L. Davis has advocated for the study and will lead an 8-person team at AFD throughout its term. In 2013, he published a lengthy paper on “The Practicality of Utilizing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Damage Assessments” which is available for download on FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration website.

Council Member Spelman selected the Interlocal Agreement for discussion during the City Council’s August 5th work session. That discussion begins at the 26:29 marker.

In the work session, Assistant Chief Davis and Dr. Murphy make the case for the study, including a brief video presentation. At 39:20, Council Member Morrison follows up on Council Member Spelman’s initial voicing of privacy concerns. Assistant Chief Davis emphasized that the Texas Privacy Act, enrolled during the last legislative session, governs images captured by unmanned aircraft in the state of Texas.

Additional information was formally presented in the City Council’s Q&A document for the meeting.

In part, the unattributed response to Council Member Spelman’s questions identified “public perception” as one of three main “challenges” to the use of robotics in public safety applications:

It’s imperative to establish and enforce strict policy and procedures to improve public perception and ease any community concerns. Of the utmost importance will be adhering to the Federal and State laws already in place to protect against the invasion of privacy. Participating Public Safety flight teams will only consist of highly trained individuals that have met Federal Aviation Administration standards and abide by those edicts. Educating those we serve is paramount to the success of this program.

That bolsters the Assistant Chief’s initial response during the work session at 34:05:

…it boils down to trust and reliability. I have to ask do you trust your fire department to do the right thing?

The Interlocal Agreement specifies (at IV.D) that “TEES shall retain ownership of all data collected during this Agreement but shall share that data with the City at no cost to the City, upon request.” There is recognition (at I) that “These applications could generate opportunities for enhancing multi-agency coordination,” but goes on to say “The Parties understand that the resources available from the City under this agreement are limited to the Austin Fire Department.” The Agreement is silent on the resources that CRASAR may choose to make available to other City agencies. And while the Agreement emphasizes that UAVs are the primary robotics of interest, there is no restriction on exploring use of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) or other robotic platforms. During the Council work session, Assistant Chief Davis explicitly mentioned the potential of unmanned maritime vehicles to assist during flood events.

Importantly, AFD will not be acquiring an FAA Certificate of Authorization or Waiver to legally conduct drone flights, and instead will utilize the COA already granted to CRASAR.


Last week’s EFF-Austin meetup featured informative presentations and a lively discussion on cryptocurrencies. My recording of the meetup, along with links to the speakers’ presentations and topics from the Q&A, is now available:

EFF-Austin August Meetup Audio + Links — Soundcloud

You can also listen below. Mouse over the bottom of the waveform to see where each speaker begins.


When: Monday, August 18, 2014 7pm-9pm
Where: Capital Factory, 701 Brazos Street, Suite 1601, Austin, TX
RSVP: Meetup.com

opengraphThis month’s meetup will focus on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Several speakers will introduce participants to core cryptocurrency concepts while sharing local innovations in the thriving Bitcoin economy.

Several speakers will give ten-minute talks on:

  • Core Technical Concepts (the blockchain and distributed transaction validation network)
  • Alt-Cryptocurrencies
  • Mining
  • Helpful Economic Concepts
  • Emerging legal and regulatory frameworks
  • Bitcoin 2.0 – the future being built now

We’ll wind up with a rich Q&A session with all of our local experts. Whether you’re new or an active entrepreneur, come connect with us and local cryptocurrency communities.

EFF-Austin-logo CapitalFactoryLogoBlack


21st Century Virtual Identity: a recording

July 23, 2014

EFF-Austin had a great interactive meeting July 21, with Tom Brown presenting on “21st Century Virtual Identity” and more. Stephen Torrence agreed to record the meeting and post it at Soundcloud. He’s also taken time to annotate the recording. [Link to the recording] [Link to Tom Brown's slides] And here’s the recording, if you just […]

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July Meetup: 21st Century Virtual Identity

July 7, 2014

When: Monday, July 21, 2014 7pm-9pm Where: Capital Factory, 701 Brazos Street, Suite 1601, Austin, TX RSVP: Meetup.com Speaker: Tom Brown, with an update of his June 1, 2011 talk on Internet Identity The commercialization of the web and the spread of mobile devices have increasingly changed how we identify ourselves and interact with each […]

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Wired: “What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate about Net Neutrality”

June 23, 2014

“We shouldn’t waste so much breath on the idea of keeping the network completely neutral. It isn’t neutral now. What we should really be doing is looking for ways we can increase competition among ISPs — ways we can prevent the Comcasts and the AT&Ts from gaining so much power that they can completely control the […]

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Julian Assange: Reddit IAmA

June 19, 2014

View it here. “What can ordinary people do? Support and promote projects that are acting at scale. WikiLeaks is my realisation of this tension, but there are a flood of others starting. The clash between diversity and global uniformity which has been created by wiring the world to itself is now in play. You are […]

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Encryption is for Everyone!

June 7, 2014

EFF’s Jillian C. York gave this presentation (timed for “Reset the Net”) at the Personal Democracy Forum. Encryption is for everyone! from Jillian York

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EFF-Austin Meetup: A Discussion of EFF Activism from Hackers to Spies

May 20, 2014

We know that there are many challenges that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other online activist/advocacy organizations are confronting today. We’re no longer on the Electronic Frontier – the frontier is more than settled, and now we’re getting into increasingly complex issues of infrastructure and connectivity, digital “property,” mass online surveillance, police surveillance, etc. Organizations […]

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