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In this issue

Take Back Your Privacy with CDT


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In the past two weeks, CDT oversaw the launch of a remarkably broad coalition that issued consensus principles for updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, filed comments with the White House’s new czar for intellectual property enforcement, and shed light on a Web tracking practice meriting industry and government attention.

Stealing Your History

Did you know that any Web site you visit can secretly search your browser’s history file to see what sites you had previously visited? CDT’s Justin Brookman has been digging into this practice, which is called “browser history sniffing.” While the practice has been around for some time, more companies are quietly starting to take advantage of it, in ways that pose a threat to privacy. In an eye-opening analysis, Brookman explains how browser history sniffing occurs and how it is being used by Web sites that do not provide clear notice before searching through visitors’ history files and do not ask for permission. He recommends steps that browser developers, Web site operators and law enforcement officials should take to protect consumer privacy in light of this practice.

Digital Due Process

Last week, a long-running CDT project reached an important milestone when a diverse coalition of tech and telecom companies, privacy advocates, and think tanks called for updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. ECPA, a federal law enacted in 1986, sets rules for government access to email and other digital communications. As technology has changed, the law has become outdated. The consensus principles for updating the Act focus on some of Americans’ most sensitive data, including communications and documents stored in the Internet “cloud” and location information generated by mobile devices. The goal of the effort is to simplify, clarify, and unify the ECPA standards, providing stronger privacy protections for communications and associated data in response to changes in technology and new services and usage patterns, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public. Among those signing the principles: AOL, AT&T, Microsoft, Google, Intel, eBay, Loopt, Salesforce, CCIA, NetCoalition, ACLU, EFF, American Library Association, Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Progress & Freedom Foundation.

Key members of the House and Senate issued statements welcoming the effort. The chairs of both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees said they would hold hearings on ECPA reform this year. Their statements plus other materials are online at the Digital Due Process website.

IP Czar Should Focus on Bad Actors

CDT filed comments with the office of Victoria Espinel, the White House’s new Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), urging her to consider the significant costs associated with ratcheting up certain kinds of enforcement efforts as she develops her new Joint Strategic Plan for IP enforcement. Federal enforcement resources should focus on truly bad actors and criminal activity, CDT said, while avoiding approaches that will impose costs on good-faith innovators and intermediaries or tip the scales in commercial disputes between legitimate businesses. CDT also urged the IPEC to resist calls to enlist ISPs in online copyright enforcement. CDT pointed out that Congress, in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Section 230, has expressly rejected the notion that ISPs should be responsible for policing user behavior, and that policy has well-served the Internet.

More from CDT's PolicyBeta Blog

Google's Human Rights Move Puts the Ball in China's Court – CDT applauded Google’s decision to pull services from China.

Go Daddy, Go! – Leslie Harris commended when it followed suit by deciding that it would no longer register Web names in China.

A Social Media Enthusiast's Privacy Conundrum – Adam Rosenberg examines the tension between powerful instincts of sharing information and protecting privacy.

CDT’s Tech Policy Download is a bi-weekly e-newsletter published by the Center for Democracy and Technology. To unsubscribe, click the following link. Unsubscribe

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