TPP Trade Agreement Sparks Response from Tech Community

With the publication of the Trans Pacific-Partnership (TPP) international trade treaty, numerous technology and privacy rights groups are speaking up over a range of issues. Non-profit consumer rights organization Public Citizen decries what it says is “serious implications for online privacy.” Others note that the TPP would prevent member countries from requiring that companies from other member states hand over the source code of their products. And some activists believe TPP could help further net neutrality.

TechCrunch notes that, under the TPP, “governments seeking to protect consumer privacy via conditioning international data transfers on compliance with data protection regulations could find their policies exposed to challenges by other governments under the TPP.”

news_02_smallPublic Citizen’s Peter Maybarduk simplifies it: “In some cases, our data may be vulnerable in another country — to surveillance or marketing abuses — in ways that it is not at home. The TPP could limit governments’ ability to protect us against such threats.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also criticized TPP’s stance on copyright, including the extension of copyright terms and prohibition on circumvention of DRM, saying, “if you look for provisions in the TPP that actually afford new benefits to users, rather than to large, rights-holding corporations, you will look in vain.”

Whereas the EFF also slams the TPP for weak provisions on net neutrality, Wired reports that some experts believe it could actually bolster net neutrality.

Digital rights advocacy group Public Knowledge attorney John Bergmayer says that although the TPP doesn’t require member states to adopt net neutrality laws, “the telecommunications chapter may give regulators authority to impose more strict rules on Internet service providers.” Wired points out that, although TPP doesn’t force countries to impose new laws, “it does require that member states give its regulators the authority to create regulations to ensure access if necessary.”

Finally, some experts are concerned that the TPP will prohibit governments from auditing source code, limiting U.S. regulator access to, for example, Japanese and Korean cars. There’s an exception for “critical infrastructure” but no definition of what that means. Publishing source code isn’t a cure-all; plenty of open source projects have security problems or persistent bugs. But, notes Wired, “the TPP, as written, would remove one powerful option in the fight to open the Internet of Things.”