TF's Latest

The Net neutrality debate rages on, Comcast announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable, and Congress gets closer to finally protecting Americans’ privacy from warrantless snooping.

IP Transition Video

Watch the full video from Public Knowledge's event, “The Next Steps in Promoting the Values of the IP Transition," featuring TF's Berin Szoka and other top experts.

Vanishing Rights

Outdated privacy laws are letting your rights slowly vanish — protect your privacy in the digital age by supporting ECPA reform!

If you hate your cable television company — to simplify a half-century of history — blame it on the government. In the founding days of the industry, local municipalities mistakenly insisted that cable TV was a “natural monopoly” that must be regulated like telephone service. In nearly every case, the selection of a cable operator was a political one, with the most flattering supplicant winning the right from city councils to string wire on utility poles and cross right-of-ways to sell cable service. The municipalities collected franchise fees from the cable companies, shook them down for sweeteners like municipal channels and public access studios, regulated their rates, and required the operators to wire all if not most of their jurisdiction.

Jack Shafer in Reuters: “Who’s afraid of Comcast?”, making many of the points we made in Wired last year.

Just think: What if even a small fraction of the time and energy that went into complaining about cable were directed at enabling competitive deployment? How much easier a time would Google Fiber have had? How much earlier might they — or some other company — have started investing in deployment? 

Frankly, I think the number of lobbyists we have, and the number of issues that we have to confront on a day-to-day basis, raises more questions about the intrusiveness of government and government regulation than it does about our having to have a government advocacy organization.
Comcast VP David Cohen in Politico Pro (paywall), when asked about his company’s lobbying presence on Capitol Hill. 

FTC’s Data Security Case Against Wyndham Worldwide Moves Forward: TF in Adweek

Yesterday, a federal court denied Wyndham’s motion to dismiss the FTC’s charges, meaning the agency’s case alleging the hotel chain failed to provide “reasonable” security for customer data will move forward. TF’s Berin Szoka talked to Adweek about what this means for Wyndham’s challenge to the FTC’s authority:


Wyndham is sticking to its position that the FTC overstepped its authority. “It is important to note that the court made no decision on liability today. We continue to believe the FTC lacks the authority to pursue this type of case against American businesses, and has failed to publish any regulations that would give such businesses fair notice of any proposed standards for data security,” the company said in a statement. 

TechFreedom, a technology think tank that filed an amicus brief in the case, said that the court missed the point in the Wyndham case. “The court dodged the hard question: does the FTC’s body of roughly 50 unadjudicated settlements and a skimpy ‘guidance brochure’ provide adequate notice? Given that so few companies will challenge the FTC in court, does the FTC have too much discretion?” said Berin Szoka, TechFreedom’s president. “We believe the FTC must do more to explain its analysis of both unfairness and deception, that, in most cases, it could do so without great difficulty, but that in hard cases, the future direction of the law must ultimately be up to the courts, not the three unelected FTC bureaucrats.”

Read the full article, and see our statement on yesterday’s decision.

Wyndham Decision Unsurprising but Misses the Point

Today, a federal court denied Wyndham’s Motion to Dismiss the FTC’s charges that the hotel chain failed to provide “reasonable” security for customer data. The District Court’s decision allows the FTC to continue collecting information under court-ordered discovery, but reserves until a motion for summary judgment or trial the underlying questions in the first-ever challenge to the FTC’s decade-long enforcement of data security (and privacy) issues through its Section 5 “unfairness and deception” authority.

“Today’s decision is not remotely surprising, but it also misses the point,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom, which filed an amicus brief in the case along with the International Center for Law & Economics and leading consumer protection scholars. “The court’s analysis explains at length what we never questioned: that the FTC’s sweeping authority over unfair and deceptive trade practices includes data security and that the FTC need not issue formal regulations before enforcing that authority. The court dodged the hard question: does the FTC’s body of roughly fifty unadjudicated settlements and a skimpy ‘guidance brochure’ provide adequate notice? Given that so few companies will challenge the FTC in court, does the FTC have too much discretion?”

Read More

“Big Data” Inquiry Should Study Economics & Free Speech: TF urges reform of blanket surveillance and FTC processes

Yesterday, TechFreedom submitted comments urging the White House to apply economic thinking to its inquiry into “Big Data,” also pointing out that the worst abuses of data come not from the private sector, but government. The comments were in response to a request by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“On the benefits of Big Data, we urge OSTP to keep in mind two cautions. First, Big Data is merely another trend in an ongoing process of disruptive innovation that has characterized the Digital Revolution. Second, cost-benefit analyses generally, and especially in advance of evolving technologies, tend to operate in aggregates which can be useful for providing directional indications of future trade-offs, but should not be mistaken for anything more than that,” writes TF President Berin Szoka.

Read More

TechFreedom’s New Book Goes on Sale Today!

We’ve decided that technology actually isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Order your copy today and join us as we demolish our computerized overlords and get back to the good old days of subsistence farming and rampant disease!

image

Of course, we’re just kidding — we’ll never stop fighting to promote the progress of technology that improves people’s lives. If you want to join the team, apply to be a Google Policy Fellow with us this summer (applications due 4/14)!

TF, CDT, and 40 others tell Congress what real NSA reform should look like

The White House has expressed support for reining in the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, but with multiple bills in Congress it’s uncertain which specific reforms will be included in the debate moving forward. To ensure whichever NSA reform bill advances is as strong as possible, TechFreedom and 41 other nonprofits and businesses have sent a joint letter to key policymakers outlining what any bill aiming to reform bulk surveillance should include.

Read the text below, and see the full letter for the list of signatories and recipients:

We the undersigned are writing to express support for ending the government’s bulk collection of data about individuals. We strongly urge swift markup and passage of the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R.3361), which would enact appropriate surveillance reforms without sacrificing national
security. This letter focuses on bulk collection, but overbroad NSA surveillance raises many more privacy and security issues that Congress and the Administration should address.

Read More

TF’s Berin Szoka to speak on Net Neutrality at NAB Show

Public policy surrounding the issue of net neutrality has sparked fierce debate about the future of the Internet. NAB Show will address this topic in a highly-anticipated Super Session titled “World Without Rules: Is This the End of the Open Internet?,” Tuesday, April 8 at 4:00 p.m. in Las Vegas. Featuring top opinion leaders and experts on the issue of net neutrality, the panel will address how proposed regulations governing access to the Internet will affect content providers, ISPs and content creators.

NAB Show is the world’s largest annual event for professionals who create, manage and distribute entertainment across all platforms.

Opinion leaders on both sides of the issue will debate the merits and drawbacks of the FCC’s proposed rules, which would prohibit ISPs from blocking websites, force them to disclose how they manage traffic and prevent them from favoring some kinds of traffic over others. If the FCC’s pending rules do not move forward, ISPs may move into the same legal category as phone companies, which are treated more like utilities and face stricter regulations.

Panelists:

  • Amy Schatz, Tech Policy Senior Editor, Re/code (moderator)
  • Jessica J. Gonzalez, Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Media Coalition
  • Robert McDowell, Former Commissioner, FCC
  • Pantelis Michalopoulos, head of Telecom Internet & Media, Steptoe & Johnson LLP
  • Berin Szoka, President, TechFreedom

Read NAB’s full announcement, including speaker bios, and hope to see you there!

Last call for proposals for the Computers, Freedom, & Privacy Conference!

Session proposals for the 2014 Computers, Freedom, & Privacy Conference are due Tuesday, April 1! Submit your idea here.

CFP2014 is the latest in a series of annual conferences that bring together academics, activists, technologists, policy advocates, practitioners, and lawmakers to focus on providing solutions to important and emerging questions in law, privacy, and technology. It will be held June 8-10 in Washington, DC.

From CFP’s call for submissions:

Proposals must provide a concrete description of what the session hopes to accomplish. CFP proposals may cover a variety of topics. However, the conference will try to address the following questions:

  • What are the challenges to individual rights and liberties posed by new technologies?
  • What technologies, policies, practices, and laws can best protect human rights in the modern world?
  • What is the proper role for civil society and the proper venue or legal strategy to advance this dialogue?
  • What does it mean to have a “free” Internet, from both a commercial and government perspective?

Proposal formats:

  • Solo Speakers
  • Debates
  • Roundtable Discussions
  • Workshop
  • Birds of a Feather
  • Plenary Panels
  • Miscellaneous Contributions 

Interested? Submit your proposal today!

Latest Tweets

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

Original Design by Peter Van Valkenburgh for TechFreedom. Built on top of Flat theme by Passion Themes