EU Checks Power of Big Tech with Digital Services Regulation

The European Parliament has adopted two digital acts, one focused on leveling the competitive playing field, the other on protecting consumer rights online. The Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act are both expected to take effect this fall, after the European Commission signs off. “We are finally building a single digital market, the most important one in the ‘free world,’” EU commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton said Tuesday. “The same predictable rules will apply, everywhere in the EU, for our 450 million citizens, bringing everyone a safer and fairer digital space.” Continue reading EU Checks Power of Big Tech with Digital Services Regulation

Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Online privacy protections for consumers are in focus on Capitol Hill, with the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) getting particular attention. A coalition of more than 100 organizations, including Fairplay and the American Psychological Association are calling on senators to advance KOSA this month. Co-sponsored by senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), the legislation would require social media platforms to conduct annual audits to identify risks to minors as well as more concrete steps like opting out of algorithmic recommendations and disabling “addictive” features.  Continue reading Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Twitter Accepts Musk’s $44 Billion Offer to Acquire Company

Twitter’s board has accepted billionaire Elon Musk’s offer to purchase the social media company for $44 billion, a financial value that reflects his April 14th offer of $54.20 per share. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, who earlier revealed a desire to make Twitter a private company. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” Continue reading Twitter Accepts Musk’s $44 Billion Offer to Acquire Company

SMART Copyright Act Updates DMCA in Fight Against Piracy

Senators Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) introduced the SMART Copyright Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation they say will “hold tech accountable by developing effective, widely-available measures to combat copyright theft.” While intellectual property owners see the proposal as a positive step to protect creators, critics view it as a potential threat to free speech. Essentially an update to 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, SMART allows the U.S. Copyright Office to create standard technical measures (STMs) to protect rightsholders through a filtering system implemented by online hosting platforms. Continue reading SMART Copyright Act Updates DMCA in Fight Against Piracy

Clearview AI Courts Investors While Facing Privacy Pushback

Clearview AI is positioning itself for a major expansion that is already generating major controversy. At a December financial presentation, the New York-based firm reportedly predicted it will have 100 billion facial images in its database by the end of 2022 — or about 14 photos for each of the earth’s 7 billion people. And there is said to have been talk of surveilling gig economy workers, identifying people based on how they walk and remotely scanning fingerprints. While the company’s 34-year-old founder and chief exec Hoan Ton-That is careful to present the firm as a crime-fighting tool, its broader implications are chilling. Continue reading Clearview AI Courts Investors While Facing Privacy Pushback

Major TV Broadcasters Prevail in Court Case Against Locast

Locast, a non-profit organization founded by lawyer and former FCC legal advisor David Goodfriend, streamed local TV to those who couldn’t access local signals, declaring that U.S. copyright law allows third parties to boost local signals. Major broadcasters ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX disputed that claim, believing that Locast simply wanted to avoid carriage fees, and have now won a court battle finding that Locast violated their copyrights. The court also stated that Locast cannot use its non-profit status as a defense against further action. Continue reading Major TV Broadcasters Prevail in Court Case Against Locast

Senate Measure Could Impact Developers, App Store Models

The U.S. Senate introduced the Open App Markets Act to give consumers more control over their devices; stop app stores from ‘disadvantaging’ developers and allow them to inform consumers about lower prices and offer competitive pricing; improve the ability of startup apps, third-party app stores and payment services to compete; require devices to allow ‘sideloading’ of apps; and continue to protect privacy, security and safety of consumers. If voted into law, the Act could end Apple and Google’s monopoly over the app ecosystem. Continue reading Senate Measure Could Impact Developers, App Store Models

California Opts to Build Statewide Middle-Mile Fiber Network

California passed AB126 to build a statewide, open-access fiber network, with a vote of 78-0 in the California Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate. The fiber network will operate as a “middle mile” network carrying data from Internet backbone networks to urban and rural connection points where local ISPs take it the “last mile” to residences. The network will offer “non-discriminatory access to eligible entities on a technology and competitively neutral basis, regardless of whether the entity is privately or publicly owned.” Continue reading California Opts to Build Statewide Middle-Mile Fiber Network

Google Slows Down Plan to Replace Cookies Until Late 2023

After announcing that it planned to end third-party cookies for its Chrome Internet browser in early 2022, Google advanced the date to late 2023 in response to pushback from advertisers, privacy advocates and regulators. The company said the delay of almost two years will allow more time for these groups to adapt to new technologies it’s developing that will continue to allow targeted advertising. The issue highlights the tension between the $455 billion online advertising world and Big Tech’s attempts to add more privacy. Continue reading Google Slows Down Plan to Replace Cookies Until Late 2023

Google’s Solution to Replace Cookies Under Review at W3C

By 2022, Google plans to block cookies on its Chrome browser, used by about 70 percent of global desktop computer owners, instead offering a solution that will protect privacy and still target ads. Even as privacy advocates find flaws in Google’s idea, advertising technology companies are joining forces to create tracking tools based on email addresses. Amazon has responded by blocking Chrome from collecting data on which users go to its websites. Politicians from around the world say Google’s move could hurt its rivals. Continue reading Google’s Solution to Replace Cookies Under Review at W3C

Russia Amps Up Demands, Threatens to Throttle Social Media

Russia’s Internet regulator, Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media), has increased demands that Facebook, Google and Twitter remove “illegal” content and restore blocked pro-Kremlin content or face restrictions. Since anti-Kremlin protesters used the platforms more recently, Roskomnadzor has upped the frequency of its demands. This week it told Google to block “thousands of pieces of illegal content” or risk throttling. A Russian court also fined Google six million rubles ($81,000) for not removing another piece of content. Continue reading Russia Amps Up Demands, Threatens to Throttle Social Media

Google Plans to Swap Cookies for Another Targeted Ad Tech

Google is making its first moves to adopt the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) tracking system by 2022. FLoC allows advertisers to target ads without exposing individuals’ personal data but, instead, groups people by similar interests, such as football fans, retired travelers or truck drivers. Google group product manager, user trust and privacy Chetna Bindra explained that, “this approach effectively hides individuals ‘in the crowd’ and uses on-device processing to keep a person’s web history private on the browser.” Continue reading Google Plans to Swap Cookies for Another Targeted Ad Tech

Apple Debuts App Tracking Transparency with Its iOS Update

Apple released an iPhone software update, iOS 14.5, that includes the privacy tool App Tracking Transparency, intended to give users more control over how their data is shared. Now, when an app wants to share information about a user’s activities, a window will pop up asking for permission to do so. Privacy advocates are rejoicing, but many digital advertisers are declaring the tool harmful to small businesses. Facebook is chief among them, although the privacy setting is also likely to hurt its business as well. Continue reading Apple Debuts App Tracking Transparency with Its iOS Update

Commerce Chief Nominee Scrutinizes China, 5G and Internet

Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo, President Biden’s nominee to head the Commerce Department, described some of her positions during a Senate confirmation hearing. She revealed that she will take a “very aggressive” stance against China’s “unfair” trade practices stressing the need to develop a “whole-of-government response” in concert with U.S. allies. Raimondo also called for a national 5G spectrum policy and stated she will pursue changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Continue reading Commerce Chief Nominee Scrutinizes China, 5G and Internet

Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

After recent reports revealing government use of facial recognition that fails to correctly identify people of color at a much higher rate than white people, Democratic lawmakers have proposed the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to ban government use of the technology. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have already temporarily stopped selling their facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies, and the bicameral bill would make this state of affairs permanent. Continue reading Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition