February 11, Washington, DC - Greg Nojeim will testify at the House Armed Services Committee Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee hearing on "What Should the Department of Defense's Role in Cyber Be?"
February 14, Boulder, CO - Leslie Harris will be a panelist at the Silicon Flatirons Conference: "The Digital Broadband Migration: The Dynamics of Disruptive Innovation" on a panel entitled "Institutional Coordination: Towards Order from Chaos."
February 16, San Francisco, CA - Jim Dempsey will speak about updating the government surveillance laws at the RSA Conference 2011 in San Francisco, CA.
The protests in Egypt have highlighted both the power of the Internet and its vulnerability, starkly posing issues of global signifiance. At home, Congress is considering a data retention mandate. Meanwhile, there's good news on the "privacy by design" front, as leading browser makers promise to offer their users "Do Not Track" controls.
Corporate Responsibility and the Egyptian Internet Shutdown
Late last month, eager to block use of online organizing tools, access to independent media, and links to the outside world, the Egyptian government ordered Internet access and mobile providers to shut down. The protests continued nevertheless, but Egypt's actions raised once again hard questions about the responsibility of Internet and communications companies facing pressure from governments to take actions that will interfere with human rights.
Many forms of governmental censorship and surveillance depend on the cooperation of service providers, often multinational corporations. On some level, what happened in Egypt should not have been a surprise in a region where rule of law is weak and governments have poor records on human rights. Companies operating in such risky environments cannot simply ignore the possibility that they will be asked to take actions of questionable legality intended to suppress human rights. Companies must have a proactive strategy in place to mitigate the harm to human rights if they are asked to cooperate in acts of censorship and surveillance. For help developing such a strategy, we encourage companies to look to the principles and guidelines developed by the Global Network Initative.
CDT Commences Process to Define "Do Not Track"
Three years after CDT and other public interest groups first introduced the idea of "Do Not Track," major companies have recently announced plans to integrate "Do Not Track" features in their browsers. The moves come as the Federal Trade Commission featured Do Not Track prominently in its December report on privacy and as Members of Congress expressed support for the idea. The message is clear: Do Not Track is here to stay. It's time to give consumers truly effective means to prevent the collection and correlation of data about their Internet activities across websites. Translating this principle into practice, however, is not simple: making Do Not Track work requires first a definition of "tracking." To guide both companies and consumers, CDT is convening stakeholders to develop a workable definition. To jumpstart the discussion, we issued a paper last week proposing the following definition:
"Tracking is the collection and correlation of data about the Internet activities of a particular user, computer, or device, over time and across non-commonly branded websites, for any purpose other than fraud prevention or compliance with law enforcement requests."
Our paper fleshed this out by suggesting specific activities that should fit under, and others that should be excluded from, this definition.
In the coming months, CDT will be consulting with major browser makers, privacy and consumer advocates, advertising networks, online publishers, and others stakeholders to improve this definition and and work toward an implementable consensus. We will also be exploring how to translate the "Do Not Track" idea to other platforms, such as the mobile space.
Verizon launched the next stage in the battle over Internet openness, challenging in court the "net neutrality" rule issued lat last year by the Federal Communications Commission. As CDT's David Sohn explains, two other big carriers, AT&T and Comcast, have publicly made their peace with the FCC's framework, but Verizon has chosen all-out opposition to any FCC authority with respect to broadband Internet access services.
CDT testified recently before the House Judiciary Committee, opposing a possible data rentention law that would require ISPs, and possibly even online service providers such as Facebook and Hotmail, to record and retain information about users' communications online, so that law enforcement could later access the information. Check out CDT's policy post for more information.
In order to realize the benefits of information technology, the health care industry faces many challenges; key among them is protecting patient privacy. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently made technical recommendations to the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to promote electronic exchange of health information. While welcoming the PCAST report, CDT urged HHS to continue developing a comprehensive policy and legal framework to protect patient privacy, and not to rely on technology alone to achieve policy goals.
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