In recent developments, the FTC released its long-awaited report on children's privacy, CDT and other groups asked the FCC to rule that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) agency acted illegally when it shut down cell phone service in its stations to thwart protests, and a federal court ruled that the government needs a warrant to compel a cell phone company to disclose stored location data on a customer.
FTC Holds Firm on COPPA Age Limits
The federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites or online services directed to children to obtain verified parental consent before collecting personal information from children under 13. Some advocates, focused on issues of marketing and privacy, have been calling for the age threshold to be raised, to as high as 18. CDT has opposed raising the COPPA age, arguing that it would limit the First Amendment rights of older teens to access lawful and useful content. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission issued its long-awaited report on COPPA, concluding that the Act's stated age limits should remain unchanged. While the report stops short of asking Congress to open COPPA for amendment, it proposes updating the FTC regulations implementing the Act. Overall, the recommendations are appropriately aimed at keeping COPPA current with developing technology and advertising practices. However, in a worrisome proposal, the FTC suggested a new method of obtaining verified parental consent that would require website operators to collect a parent's driver's license or social security number and cross-check it against other databases. This proposal raises serious privacy and free speech issues.
FCC Asked to Declare BART Cellular Shutdown Illegal
CDT joined Public Knowledge and a coalition of technology and media policy groups in filing an emergency petition with the Federal Communications Commission protesting the shutdown of cell phone service within the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system earlier this month. As we previously wrote, BART's decision to terminate cell phone service in portions of the transit system, in a failed attempt to thwart protesters, raised significant First Amendment concerns. The FCC petition focuses not on the Constitutional issues, but rather on federal law protecting communications systems from interference or disruption except under specified procedures.
Come Back With a Warrant
Citing the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, a federal judge in New York ruled on August 22 that government investigators need a warrant to require a cell phone service provider to produce retrospective location information about the movements of a customer. A number of judges have held that a warrant is needed to track a cell phone in realtime. This latest case is especially noteworthy because it concerned stored data. Nationwide, the courts remain split on the appropriate standards for both retrospective and realtime tracking. The ruling adds weight to the recommendations of a diverse coalition of companies and groups calling on Congress to update the federal statute protecting electronic communications privacy. In particular, the case could give a boost to the GPS Act, S.1212/H.R. 2168, which would require warrants for government access to location tracking information, both stored and realtime.
Under a new rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services, patients will no longer have to wait anxiously for a doctor to call with the results from a lab test. The HHS regulation would give patients the ability to access or receive their results directly from the lab. Currently, most laboratories are restricted from disclosing test results to patients directly.
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved language making it clear that the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could not be used to criminally prosecute violations of website terms of service.
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