DoubleDownPrivacy

Pulling Back the Shroud of Secrecy on Government Surveillance

We all get that when it comes to government surveillance there has to be secrecy. At the same time there must be some degree of accountability. To achieve this balance we need reasonable transparency – transparency the government is trying to block.

For years online service providers sought reveal more information about government snooping on their users. Providers like Yahoo, Aol, and Google created transparency reports to show the quantity of surveillance requests they were getting. But one component service providers weren’t allowed to share was the number of National Security Letters (NSL) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests they received from the government. Read more

HollyWoodEnding

ICANN in Hollywood: Foreshadowing a Happy Ending?

As we arrived in Hollywood — the land of happy endings — ICANN had just given us cause to hope that the ICANN accountability process might get its own Hollywood ending, despite a fitful start.

As one who’s been critical of ICANN management’s heavy-handed attempts to control the accountability process, it’s only appropriate to give credit where credit is due. In accepting the community’s strenuous — and nearly unanimous — calls for a cross-community working group to lead the process of improving ICANN’s accountability mechanisms, ICANN management says it’s now prepared to follow the community’s lead, rather than dictating and constraining it.

READ MORE AT CIRCLE ID

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QuestionMark

No Easy Answer For Enforcing The European “Right To Be Forgotten”

The European Court of Justice’s “Right to be Forgotten” ruling upsets a foundational principle regarding openness of the Internet – it has always been viewed as a platform to express one’s opinion and access information.  This ruling converts websites from intermediaries into censors, forcing them to balance Europeans’ right to information against individuals’ demands to suppress lawfully published information about them.

The European court gave little practical guidance on how search services should strike this balance.  So Google, the first Internet business to be targeted by the ruling, created a panel of legal, policy, and technological experts to address the challenge.

READ MORE at Forbes

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Overstock Calls Out Problems with Senate Internet Tax Bill

Today, NetChoice member Overstock penned an op-ed in Roll Call laying out the fundamental flaws with the Senate’s Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA).  In his Roll Call post, Overstock Chairman Jonathan Johnson reiterated his call that any federal bill must include a complete preemption of state law — the federal solution is the only way to allow state tax collectors to reach beyond their borders.  Of course the Senate’s bill does nothing to preempt states.

But lack of state preemption isn’t the only problem Johnson cited with MFA. Read more

payingprice

Paying the Price to Protect User Privacy

Internet companies know they need to invest in privacy, but they couldn’t have predicted that they’d go broke protecting it.

Earlier this week Yahoo pushed back hard against a recently passed Delaware law that requires Internet companies to turn over users’ emails to estate attorneys – even when those users wanted their emails deleted when they died.

Yahoo appears resigned to eat sizable fines rather than go against users’ wishes regarding the privacy of their mail and other accounts. It’s a noble stand, but one only necessitated by a truly bad law that unfortunately appears poised to go viral in several states next year. Read more

MissedOp

A Missed Opportunity For a Real Conversation About Big Data

If you only build one leg of a three-legged stool, it’s going to fall.  Yesterday’s FTC Big Data conference confirmed this by focusing mostly on the potential for future harms of big data and missing an important opportunity to deep-dive on whether big data is causing real harms, and whether any of those harms — to the extent they exist — fall outside of the scope of existing laws.

It certainly had the chance to build a stable platform for discussion. Chairwoman Ramirez opened the workshop by setting out three goals:

  1. Identify where data practices violate existing law and identify gaps in current law
  2. Build awareness of possible discriminatory practices.
  3. Encourage businesses to guard against bias

Unfortunately most panels focused only on the second – “possible” discriminatory practices, contrived Orwellian futures, and then ignored the rest of the conversation. Read more

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Coalition Letter in Favor of a Permanent Internet Tax Moratorium

Dear Senators,

On behalf of the undersigned, we encourage you to pass a clean permanent extension of the Internet Tax Moratorium, and commend the House of Representatives on passage of H.R. 3086, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA).

Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have introduced S. 1432, the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act (ITFFA), which mirrors the House language.  Both ITFFA and PITFA reauthorize and make permanent legislation that has been U.S. national policy since 1998. The clean Internet access tax moratorium overwhelmingly passed the House, and similarly a clean ITFFA will easily pass the Senate, and again protect unfettered access to Internet connections. Read more

Fall-2014_iAWFUL

Internet Sales Tax Scheme the Easy Choice For Worst Internet Legislation

When we meet twice a year to put together the Internet Advocates’ Watchlist for Ugly Laws (iAWFUL), we’re looking at two key factors: the relative awfulness of the bill or law and it’s likelihood of taking effect.  It’s rare that one measure tops both categories, but for the August 2014 list, the choosing the worst of the worst was morbidly simple.

The ironically titled Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) has been a fixture on the iAWFUL since we first introduced the list – thanks to the unique burdens it seeks to impose on Internet sellers and customers.  But as bad as MFA is, the awfulness of the bill has always been tempered by our confidence that right-thinking lawmakers wouldn’t allow it to pass in its current, fatally flawed form.  Read more