Congress has adjourned for the election, but it leaves pending, probably for next year, proposals that pose serious threats to innovation and global Internet freedom.
FBI Seeks to Extend Design Mandates to Applications
Last Monday, the New York Times reported that the FBI was planning to seek legislation requiring backdoor access to peer-to-peer communications, encryption, and Internet applications. As CDT's Greg Nojeim explained, the potentially far-reaching mandate has serious implications not only for privacy but also for the security of communications and the ability of U.S. businesses to innovate and compete globally.
This week, CDT is convening its Digital Privacy and Security Working Group (DPSWG) to consider the proposal. CDT has in-depth experience in the issues associated with government surveillance and design mandates, having worked extensively on encryption controls in the 1990s and having fought earlier this decade to limit the intrusiveness of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), the 1994 law that the FBI now seeks to extend to Internet applications.
New Copyright Protection Bill Risks Net Freedom
A new bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) tries to address the problem of intellectual property theft by going after the domain names used by websites that illegally distribute copyrighted material. CDT has expressed concern that the bill would have significant implications for global Internet freedom, setting a precedent for governments around the world.
The bill would establish a procedure whereby the U.S. government could seize the domain name of an offending website. If the domain name registrar and registry were located in a foreign country, the government could order U.S. ISPs to block DNS requests for that site. Separately, the bill as introduced would require the Attorney General to create a blacklist of suspect websites, without any court determination, and would incentivize service providers to block those websites - though the sponsors have publicly released a proposed revision to the bill that removes this provision. Even with the proposed revision, the bill poses due process and First Amendment concerns domestically. Internationally, it aggravates tensions about undue American control over the DNS and would set a troubling precedent, especially when both human rights activists and the U.S. government are criticizing the Internet control practices of countries such as China. If others were to follow our lead in this regard, U.S. websites could find their domain names seized and blocked in foreign countries based on alleged violations of the law of those countries.
Recognizing both the legitimacy of the content creators' interests and the risks to global Internet freedom, CDT is urging all stakeholders to work together to find a more balanced approach.
CDT Recommends that FCC Avoid Major Cybersecurity Role
In comments filed last week, CDT urged the Federal Communications Commission to follow three guiding principles when drawing up its Cybersecurity Roadmap as part of the National Broadband Plan. First, CDT urged the Commission to recognize that it lacks general jurisdiction over the Internet and to therefore avoid asserting a major role with regard to private-sector security. Second, CDT suggested that if the FCC took any regulatory action it should only be done after extensive consultation with other governmental and industry stakeholders, preferably via public/private forums. Third, CDT asked that any action by the FCC be taken with transparency, so that consumers and industry have a full understanding of the facts and standards underlying any decisions.
Because many federal agencies already have a cybersecurity role, we suggested the FCC could make a more substantive contribution by consulting with those agencies rather than by launching new initiatives.
Cyrus Nemati reviews the first release of the new social networking software, Diaspora.
Erica Newland explores Faceboook's quiet improvement of "Instant Personalization."
Mark Stanley reviews a project called 12pm Tutorials, which has put together a great series of instructional Web videos on how to use anti-censorship tools.
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