Internet Sales Tax Scheme the Easy Choice For Worst Internet Legislation

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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

Congress Should Reject EU Attacks on Internet Freedom

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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.

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Spain cuts the fabric of the Internet with its new tax

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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

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

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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

Using the Internet to erase history

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Using the Internet to erase history

The day Google opened its online submission process to comply with the European “right to be forgotten” ruling, the company received 12,000 requests – one every seven seconds – from users demanding that information be pulled from search results.

The cost of ignoring those requests, or getting them “wrong” in the eyes of the EU courts? Google could face fines of a billion dollars per incident. In the European Union, the process of whitewashing history is underway.

With the ruling, the court is forcing Google to perform the impossible balancing act between the newly invented “right” be forgotten and the Internet’s unique power to preserve, contextualize, and disseminate information.

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As You Were Saying . . . Mass. driving to extremes

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As You Were Saying…Mass. driving to extremes

As the national debate over license plate readers reaches consensus on an approach that protects privacy and safety concerns alike, Massachusetts has veered down a radical path by considering a new bill that would sidetrack cops and severely weaken technology that saves lives and protects communities.

This bill does nothing to strengthen or safeguard Registry of Motor Vehicle databases or in any way ensure that they are being used effectively for purposes allowed under existing federal privacy protections.

Instead, the bill borrows heavily from an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) draft in banning private collection of license plate data and drastically limiting how long police can store license plate images.

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Privacy advocates say “No” to tagging, even on your own computer

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Privacy advocates say “No” to tagging, even on your own computer

The debate over commercial and personal use of facial recognition technology was bound to be contentious once you put technology companies in the same room with hard-line privacy advocates.  But recent developments call into question whether compromise is even possible.

In February, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) kicked-off a process to develop a voluntary code of conduct for how companies and their customers use facial recognition tools. This week, participants in the process – including privacy advocates, companies, and technologists – will meet again to try finding areas of consensus.

If recent history is any indication, consensus will be very hard to find.

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Californians Overwhelmingly Support Use of License Plate Readers and Their Ability to Solve Crimes, New Survey Finds

California Constution

The majority of Californians agree that license plate reader (LPR) technology helps law enforcement solve crimes and any restrictions on who can photograph license plates would be unacceptable, according to a new poll conducted by Zogby Analytics and commissioned by Vigilant Solutions. 

The poll of 800 California residents (with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%), conducted during the first week in April, showed overwhelming support for the benefits of LPR technology and disdain for government limits on personal and corporate photography.

By more than a 6:1 margin, California residents said that they believe that license plate recognition technology helps to solve crimes.  Read more

Catch the Criminals – Don’t Pass the Buck

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When a crime is committed it’s the criminal that is responsible.  But some in Congress think that since capturing cyber-criminals is challenging we should hold online services accountable.  That’s like holding Ford accountable for making the car a bank-robber uses.

But that didn’t stop the attempts by Sen. McCain to assign false blame at today’s Senate hearing on a threat to consumers called “malvertisements” — when a cyber-criminal injects malware into an online ad and then misleads an ad network into displaying the contaminated ad.

I appreciated the shift in focus from privacy to security as threats to consumers’ security pose real harms.  Unfortunately, the hearing was more about trying to assign liability rather than talking about catching the criminal perpetrators of this new form of malware. Read more

White House Delivers a Mixed Bag with Big Data Report

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Like many in the technology space, I was pleasantly surprised last week when the White House delivered a balanced report on Big Data addressing the challenges posed by ubiquitous information sharing with the real value that sharing provides us. It’s just unfortunate that the report didn’t address the greatest public concern post-Snowden — government surveillance.

The report could have analyzed government access to our online accounts but instead chose a less self-critical route by raising bombastic specters of corporate misuse. Read more