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In this issue

Take Back Your Privacy with CDT

CDT in Action

March 2, San Francisco, CA - David Sohn will be speaking at the Practicing Law Institute's "Broadband and Cable Industry Law 2010" seminar. His panel is entitled the "Latest in Privacy Issues" and will focus on matters such as behavioral advertising, consumer consent, and privacy concerns that new technologies may raise.

March 5, Williamsburg, VA - Ari Schwartz will be a panelist on the "Court Public Access Policy Implementation: Recent Developments" panel at the 7th Conference on Privacy and Public Access to Court Records.


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One of CDT’s overarching goals is to defend and extend constitutional values in the digital environment. In this issue of Tech Policy Download, highlights our recent work advancing the First Amendment’s free speech principle and the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable government searches.

The Success of the User Control Theory

When the Internet was still in its infancy, CDT co-founders Jerry Berman and Danny Weitzner laid out a new legal theory for applying the First Amendment to the then-new form of mass communication. In a 1995 article in the Yale Law Journal, they argued that the Internet’s technical characteristics, including abundance of capacity and a high level of individual user control, meant that online speech should receive the highest protection under the Constitution. Because filtering software and other features give users (including parents) the ability to control what they (and their children) access online, Berman and Weitzner said, government regulation of content would be unconstitutional.

In 1997, in Reno v. ACLU, the Supreme Court agreed. Now CDT’s John Morris and Cynthia Wong have published a law review article looking back at the user control theory, its application by the courts, its implementation by industry, and its continued relevance to the Web 2.0 context. They conclude that the "user control" concept is just as vital today for protecting free speech online as it was when Berman and Weitzner first advanced it 15 years ago.

Keeping Your Location Private

Last week, the federal court of appeals in Philadelphia heard oral argument on an issue affecting the 277 million Americans who carry a cell phone with them: When can the government turn your mobile phone into a tracking device, monitoring your daily movements? Most people probably don’t know it, but every few seconds their cell phones and other mobile devices generate location data, which government officials frequently access both in real time and after-the-fact from logs stored by phone companies. CDT, along with EFF and ACLU, argues that such tracking information is so revealing that government officials should obtain a search warrant, issued by a judge based on the Fourth Amendment’s "probable cause" standard. While a number of federal magistrate have agreed with us, the case argued last week is the first at the appellate level.

Google Books and Reader Privacy

On February 18, CDT’s John Morris appeared in federal court in Manhattan as one of two dozen lawyers arguing for and against the sweeping settlement of copyright claims arising from Google’s digital copying of millions of books for online display. Taking a nuanced approach typical of CDT’s posture on many issues, Morris supported approval of the settlement but argued that the court must add safeguards to protect the privacy of those accessing and reading the books. As CDT described in an amicus brief, the long tradition of protecting the privacy of library users needs to be extended online. We offered a list of privacy safeguards for inclusion in any order approving the settlement.

More from CDT's PolicyBeta Blog

A Good Day for Health Privacy – Deven McGraw summarizes recent progress on adopting privacy rules for federal funding to support adoption of health IT.

America’s Top Consumer Protection Cop Needs Better Weapons in its Arsenal – Jonathan Dunn explains why the FTC needs more effective rulemaking authority if it is to fulfill its consumer protection duties in the online world.

The Buzz over at Google – Both Leslie Harris and Adam Rosenberg write about the privacy concerns with Google Buzz.

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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