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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

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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

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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

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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

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Congress Should Reject EU Attacks on Internet Freedom

European lawmakers and regulators will tell you that their recent adventures into Internet regulation are aimed at upholding a “fundamental human right” to privacy. They’ll claim the right to be forgotten is not a “super right” trumping other fundamental rights. But in their headlong rush to protect Internet users from themselves, they’ve done just that and downgraded other fundamental human rights like the right to free expression.

We’ve all heard about the European Court of Justice’s conjuring the “right to be forgotten” into case law. But European policymakers aren’t content with just a disastrous court ruling. If the European Parliament gets its way the right to be forgotten will be enshrined in law across the continent. Legislators say the changes are intended for the good of their citizens, but they have a selective view of which citizens — and which rights — deserve protecting.

READ MORE

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Innovation in the Crosshairs as California Again Targets Ride-Sharing

Imagine if the Florida legislature spent the past 18 months cracking down on orange growers, or if Vermont imposed tough restrictions on maple syrup makers. If those scenarios seem strangely self-destructive, then you have a good sense of how ridiculous California’s growing hostility towards the Internet innovation economy seems to us.

If we didn’t know better, we’d have to assume that California lawmakers want to extinguish the innovative industry that makes the state the envy of the world in the Internet era. Read more