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Austin on verge of dealing a big blow to sharing economy, and this has nothing to do with Uber

For the past three years, Austinites have enjoyed all the inherent freedoms of home ownership. But some of those freedoms could vanish if the Austin City Council passes City Code 25 on Thursday.
In 2013, Austin led the state, and the nation, in adopting sensible short-term rental regulations. This allowed homeowners across the city to offer short-term rentals to visitors and Austinites.

Read More at Austin Business Journal

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Your Home is Still Your Castle

The citizens of San Francisco spoke loud and clear on Election Night.  They want control over how they share their homes – including the right to use short-term rentals to help cover the cost of home ownership in one of the nation’s most expensive cities.

Proposition F (Prop F) would have made home ownership in San Francisco even more unaffordable than it already is, by restricting homeowners’ ability to host short-term rentals enabled by online services like Airbnb and HomeAway.  These hosting platforms have provided homeowners across the nation with help to fund their American dream.  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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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

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Spring 2014 iAWFUL List – Consumers in the Crosshairs

Twice a year, the team releases an updated iAWFUL list. The list provides a concise collection of both active and proposed legislation that would present a significant non-market barrier to Internet commerce.

This year’s list is full of legislative efforts run amok. As legislators and regulators fall over themselves in a race to regulate Internet services, many are doing more harm than good. In many cases unfamiliarity with technology or misinformation is driving action.

Data breaches and privacy concerns have whipped elected officials into action, but as the 2014 iAWFUL list finds, elected officials are making things worse. Read more

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States Tilting at LPR Privacy Windmills – at a cost to citizens safety

Like Don Quixote charging dragons that don’t exist, states like Maryland are tilting at license plate recognition (LPR) technology.

This week Maryland legislators, listening to over-the-top rhetoric, introduced a bill to restrict law enforcement’s use of LPR technology – significantly diminishing law enforcement’s ability to stop crimes and save lives.

These concerns take the shape of potential abuses of LPR.  Fortunately, existing police policies, federal laws, and the LPR providers already address the privacy concerns regarding the use of LPR.  Read more

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Reminder: The Constitution Protects Innovators, Too

This week, some businesses filed a constitutional challenge against Utah’s new law restricting license plate recognition technologies. The lawsuit, filed by NetChoice members DRN and Vigilant, seeks a critical precedent that would remind state legislatures that the Constitution protects innovators– just as it protects other citizens.

The businesses filing this suit offer license plate recognition (LPR) technology and services.  We first wrote about this last July, describing the LPR witch-hunt being run by privacy advocates. Read more

Target Breach Notice

The Cost of Collateral Damage from Data Breaches

Consumers come first.  The theft of data affecting thousands of shoppers from the servers of Target and Nieman Marcus could harm individuals. And the threat of identity theft has exploded, rising by more than 50 percent from 2005 through 2010.

Media and policymakers are right to focus on customer plight.  But we shouldn’t forget that data theft also costs retailers too and we shouldn’t resort to new legislation that penalizes the victim.

With any data breach, businesses face the obvious damage to trust and consumer confidence.  Consumers start shopping at competitors and become skeptical of loyalty cards.  But there’s also the monetary cost of a data breach cutting a business’s ability to meet investor expectations, grow and create jobs. Read more

California Constution

Walking Over the US Constitution – California’s New Privacy Law

You’ve probably been hearing about a bunch of new privacy laws coming out of California.  We’ve been warning you about the bills all year and now they’ve become law.

Aside from being bad ideas and costing consumers more than protecting them, one of these new laws, SB 568, is patently unconstitutional.

We’ve talked before about the importance of Section 230 and how it shields a website from content posted by a third-party.  Section 230 made possible the user-generated content side of the internet by removing liability from sites for the content posted by their users.

Read more

Dodgeball

Internet Dodges a Bullet in California

California’s Legislative Affairs Office (LAO) did innovators and their customers a huge service earlier this month, when it released a report that warned of the unforeseen costs of imposing a sweeping new privacy standard.

But while the LAO may have warded off one serious threat, in one state, it’s good work won’t be enough to hold back a rising tide of economically disastrous “privacy” measures nationwide.

The time is ripe to build on what the California LAO accomplished, by conducting a nationwide study that examines the economic impacts of all proposed privacy measures – not just to governments – but to the innovative industries that they target.

The focus of the LAO study was a draft ballot initiative – backed by former State Senator Steve Peace – that would have required all Internet companies to obtain affirmative, opt-in consent before sharing virtually any customer data — even for necessary functioning of services. Read more