AT&T and Verizon Track Customer Web Browsing, Sell The Data

Two of the largest Internet providers are making money by tracking customers’ Web browsing with supercookies and in-house traffic scanning. This allows AT&T and Verizon to sell a highly personalized ad-targeting program that will place ads in websites, email, and even snail mail. Verizon customers can now opt out and disable the supercookies for free, but AT&T customers seeking privacy will have to pay several fees that could tack on an additional $60 to their monthly bill. Continue reading AT&T and Verizon Track Customer Web Browsing, Sell The Data

Verizon Could Face Investigation Over Mobile Supercookies

Last week, we reported that Verizon would offer users the ability to opt out of the company’s mobile ad-targeting program, which tags customers with unique codes to track online activity. The move followed complaints from privacy advocates regarding the use of the alphanumerical customer codes known as “supercookies.” Now, three Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation are calling for a formal investigation into Verizon’s tracking practices of its wireless subscribers. Continue reading Verizon Could Face Investigation Over Mobile Supercookies

Senators Propose to Unbundle Local Broadcast TV Channels

Senators Jay Rockefeller and John Thune have introduced a proposal to let cable and satellite subscribers choose which broadcast TV channels they receive. The proposal intends to limit the blackouts when cable and satellite companies must negotiate retransmission fees with broadcasters. Broadcast advocacy groups have expressed opposition to the proposal. They believe cable and satellite companies need to cut hidden fees, not the broadcast channels, to lower cable bills. Continue reading Senators Propose to Unbundle Local Broadcast TV Channels

Senate Majority Leader Offers Support for Open Internet Rules

Senate Majority Leader and Nevada Democrat Harry Reid explained in a letter Monday that he would support “any Open Internet rules” passed by federal regulators. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed rules that would allow companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to charge more for faster Internet access. Meanwhile, opponents view such arrangements as a direct threat to net neutrality. Reid’s letter could help provide cover for the FCC in regulating Web services similar to a utility. Continue reading Senate Majority Leader Offers Support for Open Internet Rules

Congress Passes Bill That Makes it Legal to Unlock Cellphones

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that would allow consumers to open the digital locks on their cellphones, legislation that was already passed by the Senate. Unlocking mobile phones makes it easier to switch wireless carriers. Under current copyright law, however, consumers risk jail time and fines up to $500,000 for unlocking their phones without carrier permission. Such restrictions have proven unpopular with the public and last year a petition called for government action. Continue reading Congress Passes Bill That Makes it Legal to Unlock Cellphones

California Senate Passes Amended Smartphone Kill-Switch Bill

Weeks after the California Senate voted down legislation that would require anti-theft tech in all new smartphones, it has now passed a revised version of the bill after Apple and Microsoft withdrew their opposition. While the legislation is applauded by law enforcement groups, it is still opposed by some wireless carriers, and could face an uphill battle in the state Assembly. If passed, kill-switch technology would be required for phones sold in California that are manufactured after July 1, 2015. Continue reading California Senate Passes Amended Smartphone Kill-Switch Bill

Senate Intelligence Committee Drafts Cyber Threat Legislation

The U.S. government has had little success in passing bills to establish security standards and facilitate data sharing between the private and public sectors, but the Senate Intelligence Committee is currently drafting a new bill that would serve that purpose. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Saxby Chambliss co-authored a bill which states that a company cannot be sued for sharing threat data to any entity or the federal government to prevent or investigate a cyberattack. Continue reading Senate Intelligence Committee Drafts Cyber Threat Legislation

House Passes Innovation Act: Enough to Save Patent System?

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Innovation Act yesterday, a bill that intends to help reform the troubled American patent system. The bill, which passed by a vote of 325-91 with bipartisan support, will now go to the Senate (where it expects to pass), and then to the White House. Supporters hope the bill will save the current patent system plagued by low-quality patents and trolls, while others suggest it is merely a small solution for a much bigger problem. Continue reading House Passes Innovation Act: Enough to Save Patent System?

Settlement: Hotfile to Pay $80 Million and Cease Operations

Prominent file-sharing cyberlocker Hotfile has agreed to shut down and pay $80 million in a settlement with the Motion Picture Association of America. The move follows an August decision by a federal judge in Florida who agreed with the MPAA that Hotfile did not qualify for safe harbor protection under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The settlement was initiated in order to avoid a jury trial that was scheduled to begin this week. Continue reading Settlement: Hotfile to Pay $80 Million and Cease Operations

Senate Commerce Chair Announces Bill to Bolster Online Video

Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) introduced the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act yesterday — legislation that intends to safeguard competition in the online video market, by preventing cable and satellite companies from stifling growth of services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. The proposal could be good news for consumers who complain about subscriptions that include channels they don’t watch, although industry pushback is likely. Continue reading Senate Commerce Chair Announces Bill to Bolster Online Video

Senate Confirms Lobbyist Tom Wheeler as New FCC Chairman

Tom Wheeler, a former cable and wireless phone lobbyist, was unanimously confirmed as the new chairman of the FCC late yesterday. Senate aide Mike O’Rielly was also confirmed for the vacant Republican seat on the commission. The confirmations came after Senator Ted Cruz released his hold on Wheeler’s confirmation vote. Wheeler will succeed fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn, who has been serving as acting chair since earlier this year when Julius Genachowski stepped down. Continue reading Senate Confirms Lobbyist Tom Wheeler as New FCC Chairman

New Internet Tax Bill Passes in Senate, Moves to House

The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Monday that would subject online shoppers to state sales taxes. The 69 to 27 vote drew support from both sides of the aisle, but it is expected to face a greater challenge in the House from conservatives who view it as a tax increase. President Obama has expressed his support for the bill, which does not include businesses with less than $1 million in online sales. Current law stipulates that states can only require online retailers to collect sales tax on goods sold if the store has a physical presence in the state requiring the tax. Continue reading New Internet Tax Bill Passes in Senate, Moves to House

E-Commerce: Internet Sales Tax Proposal Moves Forward

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act — legislation designed to help states force online retailers to collect sales taxes — made it past its first procedural obstacle Monday evening when the Senate voted 74-20 to consider the proposal for debate and amendment. Some anti-tax activists have described the bill as a tax grab, potential bureaucratic nightmare and infringement on states’ rights, while others view it as a necessary step to save brick-and-mortar retailers. Continue reading E-Commerce: Internet Sales Tax Proposal Moves Forward

CISPA: House of Representatives Passes Controversial Bill

In a 288 to 127 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act (CISPA), which encourages businesses to share cyberthreat information with the government. Privacy advocates have been fighting passage of the act, concerned that it allows agencies to conduct warrantless searches of data collected from e-mail and Internet providers. The bill overrides current privacy and wiretap laws. Continue reading CISPA: House of Representatives Passes Controversial Bill

U.S. Senate Votes in Favor of Levying Internet Sales Taxes

Some senators argued that implementing an Internet sales tax would be harmful to taxpayers, would be anti-business and would create a “bureaucratic nightmare.” Nonetheless, endorsement of Internet sales taxes onto a Democratic budget bill passed easily in the Senate last week by a 75 to 24 margin. The adopted amendment allows states to “collect taxes on remote sales,” ushering in the first national Internet sales tax. Continue reading U.S. Senate Votes in Favor of Levying Internet Sales Taxes

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