The United States House of Representatives voted last Thursday to pass a piece of legislation called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. The controversial bill now sits in the hands of the Senate and faces further modifications if it hopes to gain approval from the White House, which has already gone on record with a veto threat. Legions of Internet users expressed outrage when the bill was passed, and numerous protests are being staged. According to President Obama’s office, the bill would allow “broad sharing of information with governmental entities without establishing requirements for both industry and the government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information,” but what exactly is CISPA? Greg Vokes of Paralegal.net sought to make the answer as easy to digest as possible, and the result is a terrific infographic titled “WTF is CISPA?” that can be viewed below in its entirety. More →
A proposed amendment to FCC legislation that would have prevented current or potential employers from seeking access to employee Facebook accounts was shot down by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The amendment was put forth by Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter, and it was defeated 236 to 184 with only one republican voting in favor of the change. “Nothing in this Act or any amendment made by this Act shall be construed to limit or restrict the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a rule or to amend an existing rule to protect online privacy, including requirements in such rule that prohibit licensees or regulated entities from mandating that job applicants or employees disclose confidential passwords to social networking web sites,” the proposed amendment read. Other legislation is currently being considered on federal and state levels that would prevent companies from demanding usernames and passwords in order to access employee social network accounts. More →
Google on Monday announced that the company would combine individual privacy policies from a variety of its products into one main policy. Critics of the change were worried that Google was now collecting more data than before, and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee demanded answers. The Mountain View-based company has now responded to Congress and defended its decision to change the policy. Read on for more. More →
In a Congressional appearance last week, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse explained just why his company objects to the proposed $39 billion AT&T and T-Mobile merger. Aside from his previously expressed grievances — that the merger would create a wireless duopoly and stifle competition — Hesse also noted another possible paradigm: the deal could lead to Sprint being bought or acquired as well. “The most likely buyer is CenturyLink, the biggest company in telecommunications without a wireless unit,” writes Bloomberg, quoting industry analysts. Other potential Sprint buyers on the publication’s post-merger hit-list include Comcast Communications — a company that might be interested in bundling home internet, phone and cable services with wireless offerings. Most analysts agree that a Sprint purchase would come at least two full-quarters after the AT&T and T-Mobile deal has been finalized, although the idea of the Now Network being procured is still very speculative. Representatives from Sprint, CenturyLink, and Comcast all declined to comment on the report. More →
In its response to a congressional inquiry over recent cyberattacks aimed at several of Sony’s online networks, the company on Wednesday claimed it possessed evidence of hacker activist group Anonymous’ involvement. Sony did state, however, that it could not be certain if Anonymous knowingly carried out Denial of Service attacks in order to facilitate the theft of customer data, or if the group was merely an unwitting pawn in a scheme carried out by more malicious attackers. Anonymous on Wednesday issued a press release denying any involvement with the theft of customer data, which included over 12.3 million credit card numbers. Anonymous does acknowledge that the breach took place while it was carrying out an attack on Sony’s servers, but says it did not not participate in any data theft. The group also claims it did not leave any files on Sony’s servers — Sony stated earlier that it discovered a file called “Anonymous” on its servers following the breaches that contained a portion of Anonymous’ slogan. Hit the break for the full press release. More →
In an effort to be “clear and transparent” with its customers and the government, Verizon Wireless has sent a letter to Congress detailing plans on how it will better inform consumers about location data collection on their smartphones. The wireless carrier will soon apply a removable stickers to its devices with the following warning:
“This device is capable of determining its (and your) physical, geographical, location adn can associate location data with other customer information. To limit access to location information by others, refer to the User Guide for Location settings and be cautious when downloading, accessing, or using applications and services.”
Verizon Wireless will also issue alerts more clearly in its V CAST applications, some of which can be used to track family members or friends voluntarily. It confirmed that it does not sell or rent out personal user information, and that user habits are only used for internal marketing purposes. Verizon says it only collects location data for “various service and operational purposes,” and that it uses the data to ensure customers have solid call and data quality. Hit the jump for a full PDF of Verizon’s letter to Congress. More →
Finally, Congress passes a piece of legislation that citizens on both the right and left side of the political spectrum can get behind. Late yesterday, Congress approved the CALM (Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation) Act, which “requires TV advertisers to ensure their ads don’t play at a volume louder than regular TV programming.” The new bill requires ad makers to use “industry technology” to prevent the volume annoyance from occurring.
“Consumers will no longer have to experience being blasted at,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California. “It’s a simple fix to a huge nuisance.”
The bill currently awaits President Obama’s signature. Once enacted, commercial makers will have one year to comply with the new law. More →
The House of Representatives defeated the digital TV delay bill with a 258-168 vote that failed to secure the two thirds needed for passage. The vote closely followed party lines with 155 Republicans voting against the bill and 22 Republicans voting for it. Amongst House Democrats, 236 voted for the bill and a mere 13 voted against it. The defeat signaled a win for House republicans who have opposed the delay, claiming the four month delay would further confuse consumers, cause an unnecessary delay for companies and public safety agencies waiting for the spectrum to be released and burden TV companies with the additional cost of broadcasting both analog and digital signals during the four month delay. The defeat is a setback for the Obama administration and congressional democrats who believe that the current resources to assist people in the digital TV transition are in a state of disarray and are concerned that the public, particularly poor, rural and low-income Americans, will not be adequately prepared when the analog air waves are turned off on February 17th. The Obama administration and congressional democrats still claim to be exploring all options to secure another vote on this issue.
Sorry, but it’s true. There is absolutely no viable reason a camera phone should be able to silently snap a picture that outweighs the privacy issues camera phones have brought about. If after reading that last sentence you find yourself scanning your mind in search of a way to refute it, you’re probably a scumbag and you should seek help. The go-to argument for silent camera phones, the ability to assist law enforcement by photographing a crime, is a bad one. If you see a crime taking place you should either dial 911 and try to help any victims if it is safe to do so, or leave the scene and dial 911. Laws already exist in several countries around the world requiring that all camera phones make a sound when they snap a photograph and the reasoning is fairly obvious – help prevent perverts like Captain Corona pictured above from taking lewd photos of unsuspecting women. Enter the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act. New York Rep Pete King introduced the bill to the House earlier this month and we hope for a swift approval for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that there are plenty of more pressing matters at hand. Approving a bill that will “require any mobile phone containing a digital camera to sound a tone whenever a photograph is taken” should be a no-brainer. We’d like to add however, that a minimum decibel level for said tone should be also specified and required – there is no sense in having a tone if it’s inaudible.
First it was the White House that voiced its opposition earlier this week to the FCC’s plan for free wireless broadband using the white space spectrum, now it is Congress’s turn to weigh in on the matter. In a letter to the FCC, the incoming chairmen for the Senate and House Commerce committees, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), urged the FCC to focus on the upcoming digital TV transition and to stay away from “complex and controversial items that the new Congress and new administration will have an interest in reviewing” during the FCC’s next and final meeting for 2008. The FCC responded by saying that it is reviewing the letter and will reach out to the other offices before making a final decision on the vote. This request for a delay is in direct opposition to the request made by M2Z networks, a potential licensee of this white space spectrum and one of the driving forces behind the free wireless broadband proposal, which claimed that “any further delay from the FCC on this matter would result in the violation of a self-imposed Congressional deadline and would constitute a violation of the Communications Act.” With increasing pressure from both sides and the December 18th meeting drawing closer, the FCC only has a few short days to render a decision. The only thing we can be sure of is that the decision, regardless of which way it falls, will surely generate yet another round of controversy.
Speaking of the FCC, it looks like the body responsible for radio, TV, cable, satellite and everything in between has been suffering from some serious internal turmoil lately. Kevin Martin, the current FCC Chairman, has allegedly been neglectful with his responsibilities and downright abusive with his handling of affairs. New reports claim that Martin has withheld information from his own commissioners and from Congress, and gave little heed to evidence that some national communications programs were being mismanaged. In fact, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report entitled, “Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission under Kevin J. Martin.” Sounds more like a movie title than a government committee report! An investigation wasn’t even held before the report was released “due to the climate of fear that pervades the FCC… we found that key witnesses were unwilling to testify or even to have their names become known.”
Apparently, Martin has changed his tune since this whole fiasco and is becoming more transparent to both his commissioners and Congress. One would have to imagine it’s because he has no other choice at this point. The only thing we can really hope for, since this affects all of us as gadget lovers and consumers, is that there is some major restructuring coming down the pipe at the FCC. Even though it looks like the current Chairman is shaping up, if these allegations are found to be true it may be too little too late. The new and incoming administration would likely do well to find someone else at this point.
Image via ItsOurNet.org
Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine have announced plans to introduce a bipartisan bill addressing the controversial topic of net neutrality. The Internet Freedom Preservation Act, expected to be introduced in January 2009, will make it illegal for ISPs to block or slow down specific types of Internet traffic. Remember Comcast and their BitTorrent blocking debacle? Under this new law, their packet hijacking would be illegal, not just subject to some lame slap on the wrist by the FCC. This whole issue of Net neutrality will be rearing its ugly head again, pitting the ISP’s like AT&T and Verizon who claim they need to control content as part of their network management procedures against the content companies like Google and Microsoft who want their content delivered equally to everyone. We won’t even get into the whole issue of the ISPs double dipping by charging subscribers a monthly fee for their Internet connection and then charging content providers to have their content provided “faster” than those who don’t pay these extortion fees. The issue also divides the tech world with some saying “we can’t trust ISPs to deliver content freely so we need to enact legislation proactively” while others argue that “existing provisions already adequately handle the issue of net neutrality. If we enact a law too early, there may be unexpected negative consequences.” We will reserve judgment on this issue for now and turn it over to our readers. So what do you think, is net neutrality legislation a necessity at this point or is it better to wait until a clear threat to Internet freedom is present?