FirstNet’s Schrier on New Public-Safety Meetings, App Interoperability and Privacy
Tuesday, January 16, 2018 | Comments

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) representatives plan to continue meeting with the public-safety community to discuss operational issues around mobile data. The meetings will likely be regional versus state specific, said Bill Schrier, FirstNet senior advisor, from the CES show last week in Las Vegas.

“We want to talk to public safety about what they’re using today and how we can improve those capabilities with the apps store or bring new capabilities to them to solve operational problems,” said Schrier, who was on several panels during CES, an annual consumer electronics show. “We’re pretty excited to be working with public safety in a set of meetings nationwide that are more focused on capabilities and apps, but also the operational things they need, the pain points that might need to be addressed with mobile data and apps.”

AT&T executives will also participate in the meetings. “They are not presenting or selling but determining what public safety’s needs are,” he said. “We’re going to listen to what their apps are today and what they need. AT&T will be at the table to ask questions.”

Schrier said most applications will be interoperable on any carrier, although “there will be some apps that won’t work as well on other carriers. AT&T will make available APIs (application programming interfaces) to interact with the network.”

He used an example of a body worn video camera that connects to AT&T’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. If an officer is in trouble and sends a distress signal, the AT&T network could send a peril call to other officers that would involve the LTE core functionality only available on the FirstNet and AT&T network. However, he said most applications will work across carriers.

He said if an app uses a cloud service, users on both Verizon and AT&T should be able to use the application and be interoperable as long as the application company engineers the app to work across carriers. “It depends on the application vendor, but I suspect in almost every case they would be interoperable,” Schrier said.

Individual agencies will be responsible for collecting and storing data. He said the FirstNet network will have end-to-end security for the data in transit, but agencies must work out how to handle the data once it’s downloaded from the network.

“Our main work on privacy is not owning the data,” Schrier said. “It will be up to individual jurisdictions and cloud providers to collect, store and own that data. AT&T and FirstNet will be a pass-through pipe for that data. It will be up to the agencies and governments to keep it safe and secure.”

Schrier said AT&T will eventually launch a mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) solution as part of its contractual obligations, but FirstNet hopes to work with current LMR providers that have applications and devices for the public-safety market. “We would hope to work with them to improve those capabilities and apps based on the needs of operational responders,” he said.

Yet, the application store will likely see a host of new companies enter the public-safety market as well. Executives from RapidSOS, MobilePD, HAAS Alert and capital venture firm Responder Ventures joined Schrier on the CES panels.

“We’re entering a new phase where FirstNet’s engaging not just public safety but app developers, potential companies that want to do apps for public safety, and companies like Responder Ventures that work primarily with public-safety entities,” Schrier said. “There’s no exclusivity in this; we’re not targeting any particular company or venture capital firm, just those that have been actively engaged in the public-safety realm so far.”

FirstNet officials presented the entire track on “Transforming the Future of Public Safety Communications.” The public-safety-focused track debuted this year at CES with more than 150 attendees for each panel. Panels covered connected emergency vehicles, FirstNet’s applications program and the internet of live-saving things (IoLST). FirstNet CEO Mike Poth gave a keynote on FirstNet for CES Government, held in conjunction with CES.

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Comments
On 1/16/18, stephen whitaker said:
AT&T currently transmits and stores texts, photos, video, etc. from all AT&T subscribers now including those who are eligible to be FirstNet-coded QPP subscribers.

Those AT&T subscribers are now doing so under the auspices of FirstNet, which is legally obliged to have completed at least one if not many Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) addressing the Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which is clearly included in those texts, photos and videos. Those local and state government agencies subscribing to FirstNet services from AT&T under group contracts are also culpable.

FirstNet has not done any PIAs other one for the office computer network.

It is the obligation of the press to learn how to ask the pointed questions to force the negligent and unaccountable FirstNet officials to admit that they have not done so.

Playing privacy catch-up later or asking forgiveness rather than permission is not at all safe or sound policy when handling the vast quantities of PII with such extreme potential for abuse and secondary use as FirstNet implicates.

Bill Schrier definitely knows better. Dodging the issue at CES by stating that it will only be the app developers and services whose products are distributed through FirstNet's certified app store who will be storing PII and are thus responsible for the PIAs is farcical.

In fact, FirstNet should be obligated to not only verify but retain an independent auditor to continually monitor and enforce compliance with all privacy protections as a condition of app approval and maintenance in the certified app store ecosystem. Non-compliant apps, after an update for example, should have a kill switch embedded possibly to prevent disclosure, interception or abuse. Reports of the independent auditor should be made public to assure transparency and accountability. (Google "AT&T" and "Hemisphere" for context.)

Congress or the courts will have to decide to make FirstNet accountable under FOIA.

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