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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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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

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Illusions of Safety

Some US Senators this week lurched towards yet another false oasis in the Great Internet Safety Desert. Once again, their misguided search for the kids privacy oasis has the potential to cause far more harm than good.

Under the proposed law, kids will have to get their parent’s permission to participate in major websites until they are 16 years old. Yes, that’s right, the same year most young adults can operate a 2,000 pound vehicle on their own will be the same year they can also freely use websites like Google Maps or services like FourSquare. Read more

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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

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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

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Protecting the Law that Protects the Internet

State Attorneys General are asking Congress to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which some have called the “Constitution of the Internet” for how it cleared the way for social media and user-generated content.

In simplest terms, Section 230 protects website operators from liability for content or commerce posted by users.

That liability protection unleashed the development of sites like Facebook, Reddit, WordPress and many others that enable user-generated content (UGC). The whole Web 2.0 revolution was premised on innovators being allowed to provide technical platforms without fear that they would be held legally responsible for all of the words and actions of anyone using their platforms. Read more

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Bad Solution Seeks Nonexistent Problem: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Not wanting to let California steal all the headlines as the most aggressively anti-technology legislature in the nation, Massachusetts is now pushing hard to shut down the effective use of a technology that solves crimes, helps victims and protects communities.

If a handful of lawmakers in Massachusetts get their way, the Bay State will soon pass the nation’s strictest law governing the use of license plate recognition (LPR) technology. As written, the legislation would dramatically limit the collection and retention of LPR data, significantly lowering its value as a law enforcement tool.

Earlier today, we published a white paper explaining, in detail, why the legislation is not only unnecessary, but also poses a serious challenge to Massachusetts law enforcement. Read more

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Debunking the Phantom Threat of License Plate Recognition

Legislation that limits technology takes lots of different forms, but most often it arises when lawmakers want quick fixes to behavioral problems by knee-capping technology.   Sometimes just the fear of possible future bad behavior is enough to trigger knee-jerk legislative intervention.

That’s the case with the new crusade against Automated License Plate Technology (LPR). Driving the crusade is a slick campaign conceived by the American Civil Liberties Union. In it, the ACLU warns of a host of potential misuses with LPR tools, while conveniently neglecting to mention that none of them has actually occurred. Read more