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

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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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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

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

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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

BearkingInternet

Spain cuts the fabric of the Internet with its new tax

The Internet is a collection of different sites interwoven together through “links.”  Now imagine an Internet without links.  Can’t do it, can you?  That’s because the web depends on interconnectivity of content – it is the thread that makes up the fabric of the internet.  But some aggressive European countries seeking to wangle in and wrangle money from the online world want to limit online links. 

We all know about the new European requirement for search engines to remove links – but now Spain wants search engines to pay for just displaying links.

READ MORE at The Hill

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Death and Social Media: Don’t Strip Delaware Citizens of their Privacy

bill awaiting Governor Markell’s signature would override your privacy choices about what happens to your online accounts when you die.

Lawmakers across the country are increasingly confronting the question of what happens to Americans’ digital lives when they die. It’s a question worth careful consideration. Unfortunately for Delaware internet users, lawmakers in Dover have reached the wrong answer.

The Delaware legislation forces your email providers and online services to expose our personal communications when we die.  For many of us this is no big deal.  But consider the personal, sensitive, and confidential communications of spouses, doctors, psychiatrists, or addiction counselors. Read more