Opeds

NetChoice Statement on White House Privacy Announcement

“We are encouraged by President Obama’s focus to create a national data breach standard that preempts the morass of 46 different state laws. However, such legislation should not include an artificial shot-clock for notification but instead should follow the reasonable time frame in the California law.”

“We are perplexed as to why the President would abandon the NTIA multi-stakeholder privacy process — created and convened by the White House – by introducing new overriding legislation,” said Carl Szabo, privacy counsel for NetChoice. The NTIA process brings together key data security and data privacy stakeholders to create a consensus driven solution. “To create a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that is operationally feasible and has the support of industry and public sector the White House should continue its multi-stakeholder process and avoid undermining it through legislative actions.

“Increased consumer protections and privacy are of the utmost importance to all of us. But we want to make sure that a workable and reasonable solution is put into place to secure the President’s vision of privacy, security, and innovation.”

NETmundial Initiative Lacks Backing, and ICANN Should Not Lead

A fledgling attempt to create a new global Internet governance clearinghouse has run into trouble as leading business and civil organizations said they are not yet prepared to participate in the NETmundial Initiative (NMI) championed by ICANN President Fadi Chehade.

In highlighting that there remain several unanswered questions, the Internet Society (ISOC), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-BASIS) raised serious concerns about whether NMI, which sought to empanel a council to direct global Internet governance initiatives, was consistent with its core principles of openness and accountability among multiple stakeholders.

READ MORE at CircleID

The Marketplace Fairness Act: Too Close A Call

As you break out your credit cards this holiday season, you might not know how close we came to a law that would have put Internet retailers and their customers at a permanent disadvantage. Luckily, two Congressional leaders protected us from a radical new tax regime for online purchases.

Prior to the November elections, supporters of the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) declared their intent to leverage the unique pressures and chaos of the lame duck session to ram through their increasingly unpopular Internet tax bill.

READ MORE at Forbes

Cruz Takes a Brave Stand on Internet Taxes

Sometimes doing the right thing in Washington means calling your allies out when they’re in the wrong. It’s a brave move for any lawmaker, and one we don’t see often enough in the halls of the Capitol.

That’s why its important to acknowledge Senator Ted Cruz’s brave decision to speak out against shadowy backroom dealings between Democrats and Republicans.  This shadow plan would sneak into law Sen. Reid’s new internet tax burden, the Marketplace Fairness Act, before the new Republican Senate arrives in January.

“There are some voices in Washington who want a lame duck precisely so they can engage in corporate welfare and blame it on the Democrats,” Cruz told National Review Online. Read more

FTC’s Chance for a Big Study of Big Data

Detective Friday would ask for “just the facts.” His pursuit of criminals avoided speculation. When it comes to big data, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) takes the opposite approach – pursuing theoretical over factual.

In her short speech to the US Chamber of Commerce, FTC Commissioner Brill used the words “may,” “shall,” and “might” over a dozen times when talking about theoretical threats from big data’s misuse. Likewise, FTC Chairman Ramirez’s speech used charged words when describing theoretical misuses – words like, “discrimination”, “unethical” and “illegal.”

What was missing from these speeches? Data to backup the hypothetical. Read more

Should governments get a master key to your smartphone?

Would you allow government agents to hold a key to your house, your alarm code, and access every letter you’ve written?  Americans are used to controlling access to their private property, but last week the FBI called for a new law forcing device makers to give the FBI a master key that unlocks all of our devices.

To protect the online ecosystem and improve trust in transactions, the online industry has been working to secure sites and create end-to-end encryption.   Google and Apple announced new encryption mechanisms on their devices while enabling only users to unlock their phones.  This safeguard for your devices has the FBI worried they won’t get the access they want.

READ MORE at The Hill Read more

A Lame Bill for a Lame Duck: Senate Eyes Sneaky Strategy for Internet Taxes

As a general rule, the less you hear about a particular political strategy, the more you should worry about it. So it’s telling that an effort by the Senate to impose a radical new Internet sales tax regime during this year’s lame-duck session is being planned in secluded Capitol hallways, far from public scrutiny.

We wonder what good, if any, will come from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., intention to attach the ironically-named Marketplace Fairness Act — a bill that requires online retailers and catalogs to collect and remit sales taxes to nearly 10,000 U.S. tax jurisdictions — to the Internet Tax Freedom Act — a bill that would prevent new taxes on Internet access charges.

READ MORE AT ROLL CALL

Ride-sharing competition has made taxis better

If you’ve ever wondered why your experiences with taxi cabs hasn’t improved much over your lifetime, look no further than former Mayor Rocky Anderson and his perplexing argument to keep ride-sharing competition out of Salt Lake City.

In his Op-ed, Anderson fears that ride-sharing services will drive cabs out of business and leave taxi patrons out in the cold. The argument would be more compelling if it wasn’t completely contradicted by the real-world dynamics of ride sharing.

READ MORE at Salt Lake Tribune

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

ICANN in Hollywood: Foreshadowing a Happy Ending?

As we arrived in Hollywood — the land of happy endings — ICANN had just given us cause to hope that the ICANN accountability process might get its own Hollywood ending, despite a fitful start.

As one who’s been critical of ICANN management’s heavy-handed attempts to control the accountability process, it’s only appropriate to give credit where credit is due. In accepting the community’s strenuous — and nearly unanimous — calls for a cross-community working group to lead the process of improving ICANN’s accountability mechanisms, ICANN management says it’s now prepared to follow the community’s lead, rather than dictating and constraining it.

READ MORE AT CIRCLE ID

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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

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

Going Beyond Regulatory Authority – It’s in the FTC’s Nature

Outside the FTC stands a statue of a wild horse being restrained. I always thought the horse represented industry being restrained by the FTC. But now I wonder if the wild horse is really the FTC trying to constantly break free from its statutory limitations.

Why does the FTC want to break free? Because it’s in their nature. Read more

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

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

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

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

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