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Google-Verizon Proposal Falls short

BlackBerry Fight Highlights Global Challenges

Closing Pandora's Box

Featured on Policy Beta

August 19, Seattle, WA - CDT is sponsoring, and Heather West will be speaking at, pii 2010, a conference on privacy, identity and innovation, in Seattle.

August 24, San Francisco, CA - Jim Dempsey will participate in a panel on privacy and government surveillance, sponsored by the American Constitution Society, to be held from 12-2 p.m. at the ACLU office, 39 Drumm Street, in downtown San Francisco.


Conventional wisdom says August is a slow month. Someone rewired the conventional wisdom because it's been anything but quiet around here. Two leading companies get together to decide the fate of regulation on the Internet; RIM is forced to fight a multi-front foreign battle over access to its encrypted network and Pandora revamps its privacy policy in a way that gives users an actual choice about whether their information will be public or private.

Google-Verizon Proposal Falls short

Yesterday, Google and Verizon issued a joint proposal on Internet neutrality. The companies' negotiated agreement came in the form of a two page legislative framework and a joint blog post. There are some good principles in the proposal. The companies agreed that there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices by wireline broadband providers. The non-discrimination principle, the companies said, should include a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic.

However, the proposal would exempt all wireless broadband and would permit wireline providers to offer "other additional or differentiated services" on a discriminatory or prioritized basis. Such exempted services "could make use of or access Internet content, applications or service," without any enforceable way to ensure that the "additional services" do not crowd out the open Internet.

CDT concluded that the wholesale exceptions for wireless services and for "additional" service could swallow the rule. CDT urged the Federal Communications Commission to step up and either issue rules or bring all parties - including the public interest - back to the negotiating table.

BlackBerry Fight Highlights Global Challenges

The United Arab Emirates and other countries are threatening to ban Research in Motion's BlackBerry services unless the company makes unspecified concessions to facilitate government surveillance. As CDT explained in its analysis, the current controversy highlights three global issues:

  • Companies need to be more transparent about their cooperation with governments in enabling surveillance, so that users may better assess the privacy risks.
  • Companies, Internet advocates and policymakers need to resist the imposition of broad and ill-defined technological design mandates on communications services and products.
  • Companies, advocates, and governments that care about Internet freedom should push all nations to adopt standards for surveillance that include strong checks and balances protecting civil liberties, including requiring a court order focused on a particular targets.

Achieving these goals will require joint action. One forum where Internet companies and advocates address human rights concerns is the Global Network Initiative. The GNI's principles on freedom of expression and privacy provide a systematic approach for companies, NGOs, and others to work together in resisting efforts by governments to enlist companies in censorship and surveillance practices that violate international standards.

Closing Pandora's Box

Pandora, the Internet music service, announced last week that it would take all its users through a new interface to choose privacy settings for sharing their personal profiles. We think this is a big deal for consumers, and we're glad to see Pandora taking affirmative steps to put users in control of their privacy. Pandora attracted a lot of attention a couple months ago when it started partnering with Facebook's new "Instant Personalization" program – in effect, instantly sharing the music choices of Pandora listeners' with their friends on Facebook. CDT worked closely with Pandora to come up with a solution. We think the result, which effectively forces users to choose their privacy options rather than setting defaults for them, should serve as a model for other companies. Now, returning users to will have to affirmatively click "Public" in order for their information to be shared - they won't have to hunt around for a mechanism to turn information sharing off.

Check out Leslie Harris's latest column on the Huffington Post, arguing against moves to expand the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

We have a lot of resources on the consumer privacy legislation recently introduced in the House of Representatives:

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