New free trade treaty between Mexico, Canada and U.S. backstops digital business safeguards

12 December 2019 by Steve Blum


The text hasn’t been published yet, but statements from people involved indicate that online liability protections were included in the final version of a trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico (a draft version is here). Those protections are said to closely follow the language in a 1996 law passed by the U.S. congress that puts responsibility for online content on whoever posts it online, rather than the operator of the platform or server that hosts it.… More

California kicks bots off of social media

4 October 2018 by Steve Blum
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You won’t be able to use an anonymous bot to tweet or boost Twitter profiles, or post items on Facebook in California, beginning next year. Or use a bot that pretends to be a person to try to sell something – including a candidate for office – on high traffic websites.

California governor Jerry Brown signed senate bill 1001 into law. Authored by senator Bob Hertzberg, it’s particularly intended to stop automated social media posts that inject comments – fake or otherwise – into political debates.… More

U.S. supreme court rules on digital privacy, but the real issue is digital property

When most of the data you collect, create, buy or simply passively generate is stored on someone else’s server, what belongs to you and what belongs to the company storing it? What is your property?

That’s the question that the U.S. supreme court wrestled with in yesterday’s decision limiting police use of mobile phone tracking data. Every time a phone communicates with a cell site – which is pretty much all of the time – that contact is recorded by the mobile carrier.… More

California legislature takes on bots, false news and privacy

Some bills that would regulate websites, social media and other consumer-facing Internet services are moving ahead in the California legislature. But not all of them.

Assembly bill 3169, carried by James Gallagher (R – Chico), is dead. It would have required “social media Internet web sites” and search engines to be politically neutral. It would have failed any First Amendment test. The assembly privacy and consumer protection committee scrapped it by ignoring it – when the vote was taken, only two members, both democrats, said aye and the rest remained silent.… More

Police surveillance tech disclosure considered by California legislature

21 April 2018 by Steve Blum
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If a police department in California wants to use facial recognition software, or scrape social media platforms looking for evidence of criminal behavior, it would need to disclose the practice and, where practicable, get advance permission from its city council, if a bill working its way through the legislature makes it into law. Senate bill 1186, introduced by senator Jerry Hill (D – San Bruno), would require cities to decide on and publish policies for using “surveillance technology”, which it defines as…

Any electronic device or system with the capacity to monitor and collect audio, visual, locational, thermal, or similar information on any individual or group.


Information can't be stopped and frisked at the border, federal court rules

14 November 2015 by Steve Blum

Internet data is not a material thing. That was the ruling from a federal appeals court in Washington, as it told the International Trade Commission – a federal agency involved in policing intellectual property disputes, among other, um, things – to stay out of the business of trying to regulate international Internet traffic

The Tariff Act of 1930 provides the International Trade Commission (“Commission”) with authority to remedy only those unfair acts that involve the importation of “articles”…Here, [the ITC] concluded that “articles” “should be construed to include electronic transmission of digital data…” We disagree.


Latest Snowden revelations will push Internet infrastructure and traffic away from U.S.

Expect more lines in the future to bypass the U.S.

If there was ever any doubt that there’s no privacy on the Internet, the latest nuggets from Edward Snowden’s trove of documents detailing U.S. electronic spying efforts should remove it. Stories on the website and in the New York Times show how telecommunications companies have cooperated with the National Security Agency to trawl emails that pass through their systems, regardless of where the messages originate or where they are destined.… More

Surprisingly, UN broadband report advocates free speech and competitive markets

25 September 2013 by Steve Blum
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Best interests. Common good. Benign intentions. And all that.

The United Nations, in particular its education, science and cultural organisation (UNESCO), has often been criticised for kowtowing to authoritarian, repressive and socialist regimes when media, markets and speech are on the table. At best, it tends to offer up meaningless generalities that offend no one.

So it was a pleasant surprise to read The State Of Broadband 2013: Universalizing Broadband, a report prepared by two UN offshoots, the International Telecommunications Union and UNESCO.… More

The Internet faces the dark side of the Force

9 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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International telecommunications diplomacy isn't a pretty business.

“It was a little bit like the Star Wars bar scene,” said FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, as he described his experience as a U.S. representative at last month's World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.

He was part of a delegation that included private sector companies, like Google, as well as a boat load of diplomats and policy wonks. They were up against a solid wall of countries that wanted the International Telecommunications Union – a United Nations organization – to get into the business of regulating the Internet.… More