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Expansion of Government Role Threatens Cybersecurity Consensus

StubHub Un-snubbed

Don't Help Pakistan to Censor Net

Featured on Policy Beta

March 15, Washington, DC - Washington, DC, Kevin Bankston participating in an ADL panel "The Power of 140 Characters or Less: Anonymity and Privacy on the Internet and the Challenge of Cyber-Hate." Event details

March 20, Washington, DC - Leslie Harris will speak at a Georgetown University seminar on "Lawful Access to the Cloud."


The issue of cybersecurity enjoys bipartisan support, but overreaching on provisions for network monitoring and information sharing threatens to prevent consensus. Meanwhile, websites that host user generated content can breathe a bit easier thanks to a court decision reaffirming that federal law protects them from being held liable for what their users post.

Expansion of Government Role Threatens Cybersecurity Consensus

The Administration and both parties in Congress say that cybersecurity is a major priority. Until recently, there seemed to be a growing consensus that a targeted exception to privacy laws could be crafted to allow network operators to share cyberthreat information with each other and with the government. That consensus was thrown into doubt when the National Security Agency made it clear that it wanted a major role in protecting private networks and when some of the major bills were introduced with broad descriptions of the information that could be shared and with provisions inviting the NSA and other entities to use the information shared for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.

In addition to information sharing, the sensitive issues of monitoring and "countermeasures" were also thrown into the mix. CDT has long supported a targeted exception to the privacy laws to allow information sharing. We are concerned, however, that the broad language on monitoring and countermeasures is being introduced relatively late in the process, without benefit of hearings, and could result in further government monitoring.

StubHub Un-snubbed

Owners of online marketplaces can breathe a little easier: On March 6, a North Carolina appeals court issued a decision flatly rejecting a dangerous ruling by a lower court that had threatened not only online auction sites but social networks, message boards, and every other platform for online expression. In the case of Hill v. StubHub, Inc., a trial court had ignored the strong protection that federal law gives to online intermediaries and had held online ticket site StubHub responsible for a user's violation of a North Carolina law that prohibits predatory ticket reselling. CDT and its allies had filed a brief with the appeals court urging reversal. The appeals court decision is a solid win for every online platform that relies on Section 230 and the principle that, when it comes to illegal speech online, the law should punish the wrongdoer, not the messenger.

Shielding the messengers is a major theme for CDT. Look here for a summary of other important cases under Sec. 230.

Don't Help Pakistan to Censor Net

Pakistan's Telecommunication Authority is looking for technology companies to build a nationwide Internet filtering system. An official request for proposals (RFP) envisions a filtering system that can block an astounding 50 million URLs at a time to address undefined "undesirable" content. Websense, Cisco, Sandvine, and Verizon publicly said they would not bid on the project. CDT commends these companies for their choice. It is difficult to imagine how a company or institution could submit a proposal for this massive internet censorship effort while still upholding its responsibilities to respect Internet users' human rights, as articulated by the United Nations.

Technology companies must tread most carefully in countries where governments may be seeking to violate user rights by soliciting the help of ICT companies or by using ICTs themselves. Sometimes there are lines that companies cannot cross without becoming complicit in human rights violations. Given Pakistan's history of censorship, and the breadth of the proposed filtering system, we believe that companies that choose to respond to the RFP will be crossing such a line. We expect that any company that employs a "know your customer" framework or assesses the human rights impact of Pakistan's proposed project will reach the same conclusion: the company that wins this contract will be winning a lead role in facilitating government censorship.

Paving the way for massive address switch

The addressing system our computers and phones use to find each other on the Internet is undergoing its largest ever transformation. We've nearly run out of Internet addresses in their original form, known as IPv4. ISPs, website owners, and technology companies are upgrading to the new format, IPv6, but the transition will take years. To manage the process in the meantime, some ISPs are introducing equipment on their networks to perform Large Scale Network Address Translation (also known as LSN).

Best Practices: Online Subscriber Upselling

CDT released its final best practices guidance for online subscription upselling--the practice of offering add-on subscription services to consumers while they're purchasing a separate product. CDT developed the guidelines in consultation with industry and consumer advocates, after the Senate Commerce Committee held high profile hearings on the practice of upselling and state Attorneys General brought actions against a number of companies for aggressive practices.

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