In this issue
CDT in Action
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Technology races ahead of policy; it always has. But today it feels like technology is running even faster… or maybe it's just that there are so many more "runners" in the race. In this issue of Tech Policy Download we explore more of that middle ground where technology and policy collide and what CDT is doing to help make sense of it all.
Policymakers are beginning to pay attention to the privacy risks raised by the increasingly ubiquitous availability of accurate, individualized location information generated by cell phones and other mobile devices. Last week, CDT’s John Morris testified at a Congressional hearing on “The Collection and Use of Location Information for Commercial Purposes.” Jointly convened by two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the hearing featured testimony from the corporate, consumer, and academic perspectives.
As the hearing revealed, both the number of possible uses for location information and the number of companies handling such data are rapidly expanding. Web sites, application developers, location providers such as Google and Skyhook Wireless, handset vendors, operating system developers, advertisers, advertising networks, and analytics companies all may have access to precise, sensitive information about where users are located. However, the privacy laws have failed to keep pace. One key provision, for example, only applies to “telecommunications carriers,” a regulatory category that does not include many of the entities now handling location information. To avoid platform- or technology-dependent rules, Morris called on Congress to address the issue in the context of comprehensive consumer privacy legislation.
Over the past several years, the US has been secretly negotiating a multilateral trade agreement that includes a controversial section on Internet copyright enforcement. Last week, that section of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was leaked, prompting a new round of debate. CDT’s Andrew McDiarmid authored a response, pointing out that the language of the leaked draft would export an unbalanced picture of US copyright law that could lead to overbroad and excessive enforcement, to the detriment of online innovation and legitimate speech.
In the US, the doctrine of secondary liability for copyright infringement carries important limitations, most notably exempting makers of technology capable of significant non-infringing uses. However, ACTA includes no such limitations and therefore could open the floodgates for much stricter constructions of secondary liability. Illustrating this risk, there have been several recent examples where countries have made Internet intermediaries responsible for the actions of their users, including Italy’s conviction of Google executives over the contents of a YouTube video.
David Sohn warned about the risks of FCC mission creep.
Google Execs’ Conviction Bodes Ill for Internet Freedom – Brock Meeks commented on the dangerous precedent set by Italy’s conviction of three Google executives.
Protecting Privacy in Online Identity – Jonathan Dunn examined whether the Fair Credit Reporting Act applies to providers of identity services.