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Mortal Kombat at the Supreme Court

Europe Revisits Privacy Directive

CDT Maps Smart Grid Privacy for DOE

Featured on Policy Beta

November 17, Espoo, Finland - Alissa Cooper will keynote the Finnish Infosec Association's customer data privacy seminar.





   

The U.S. Supreme Court got a taste of "Mortal Kombat" when it heard arguments in a case challenging a California law regulating the sale of violent video games. With some Justices expressing concern over the law's vagueness, and others voicing sympathy for the cause of "protecting children," the case has implications for free expression online as well as off. Meanwhile, the EU is rethinking its privacy law, just as U.S. lawmakers are expressing increasing interest in taking up privacy legislation next year. And CDT promotes its concrete privacy proposals for the Smart Grid.

Mortal Kombat at the Supreme Court

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case with implications for free speech in the digital age. While the matter, Schwarzenegger v. EMA, focused on a California law that attempts to regulate the offline sale of violent video games, CDT is concerned that the case could have spill-over effects on online expression. In particular, because the case concerns the sale of video games to minors, we are concerned that the Court might make some far-reaching statements on age verification or on the concept of user controls, which is so central to online speech.

Given the stakes, CDT wrote a "friend of the court" brief, which leading industry associations also signed. The brief stressed that, in the online world, promotion of parental controls, not government prohibition, represents the best way to protect minors from unwanted content. CDT was one of the architects of the "user empowerment" theory that has guided courts for over a decade in assessing legislative restrictions on Internet content.

CDT's John Morris, one of the country's leading experts on the First Amendment in the digital age, wrote the CDT brief and attended the Court's argument. His report summarizes the Justices' questions: Some expressed serious concern about the vagueness of the statute, while others expressed sympathy for the cause of protecting children from violent content. More broadly, and most worryingly, a number of Justices expressed uncertainty about the effectiveness of parental controls. The Court might not rule on the case until next year; CDT will analyze the decision as soon as it is handed down.

Europe Revisits Privacy Directive

The European Union is planning to update its 15-year-old Data Protection Directive. The Directive provides the kind of baseline privacy framework absent in the US, but it has been criticized for its uneven application and erratic enforcement. There is widespread agreement that, in some regards, it is inconsistent with modern technology and business models and has made European companies slow to adapt new technologies such as cloud computing.

The EU review is matched by heightened interest in consumer privacy in the US, signaling an unprecedented opportunity to rework flawed approaches on both sides of the Atlantic. While Europe is trying to adapt its law to the modern realities of expanding data flows and dramatically advanced technologies for consumer tracking, in the US both Democrats and Republicans are likely to be interested in taking up consumer privacy legislation next year. Companies and consumer advocates need to take advantage of this moment to improve both the American and European approaches, or risk another fifteen years of conflicting and ineffective rules.

CDT Maps Smart Grid Privacy for DOE

Last week, CDT and EFF submitted detailed comments on the Smart Grid to the Department of Energy. Based on our comments to the California Public Utilities Commission, our DOE filing laid out a set of concrete rules for protecting privacy as the nation develops a more information-rich utility system. The CDT recommendations are based on the widely-accepted, "Fair Information Principles" (FIPs).

We believe our proposed rules represent the first time anyone has translated the FIPs into practical and useable rules for the Smart Grid. We urged the DOE to incorporate them into its efforts to promote Smart Grid technologies nationwide.

Congress Loses Rep. Boucher, Internet Loses Advocate

CDT founder Jerry Berman explains what the loss of Rep. Rick Boucher means for Internet policy.

Ask CDT: First Amendment Rights Online

In our third round of "Ask CDT," CDT General Counsel John Morris answers questions First Amendment rights online.

Don't Forget to Check Out PrivacyChat!

Every Tuesday at 12:00 pm Eastern on Twitter, check out the hashtag #privchat. As CDT experts address some challenging questions about online privacy, hear what the Internet community has to say.




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