Privacy News

First, especially for those who think that they have “nothing to hide,” I recommend this excellent article which reviews a number of ways that Internet companies regularly invade users’ privacy. I learned a few things from it that I didn’t know before:

Next, Google got caught installing sneaky “bugging device” code in the open-source Chromium browser which it maintains, as well as in its own closed-source Chrome brand. The binary code supports a feature called “OK Google,” a voice search option that critics say can activate a user’s microphone through the browser and theoretically record — and send to Google — all conversations in the room. (Since the article was published, Google says that it will be deleting the offending code from newer versions of Chromium.)

Net Neutrality Fight Has Just Begun

American Internet providers and their allies in Congress have made it clear that they won’t accept even the minimal consumer protections in the FCC’s recent Net Neutrality order as they continue to fight against consumers on multiple fronts.

First, according to DSL Reports, Comcast’s top lobbyist is now courting likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in hopes that if she becomes president, she would appoint anti-consumer FCC commissioners:

The company’s best chance at getting the current net neutrality rules scrapped lies in a 2016 President willing to appoint a new FCC boss who’ll gut the rules.

Second, according to a press release from Fight for the Future:

Bad news: The House Appropriations Committee just voted for 3 provisions that gut Net Neutrality less than a week after the rules finally went into effect.

All of the provisions are poison for Net Neutrality, killing or delaying net neutrality for up to a decade. Big Cable is exploiting the courts and Congress to win one net-neutrality killer lawsuit or bill. To make it so there’s simply no more appetite whatsoever to keep attacking the open Internet, we need to intervene big time.

So we’ve filed to formally intervene in the DC Circuit’s US Telecom Association v. FCC, on the side of the FCC, and will fight Comcast tooth and nail until we win, alongside some of the smartest lawyers and groups out there.

Big Wins for Internet but More Obstacles Ahead

This week saw two major wins for the free and open Internet, though troubles still loom on the horizon.

First, the FCC’s hotly debated Title II-based Net Neutrality rules went into effect Friday after courts declined to issue a stay. The rules, which bar companies from intentionally blocking or degrading Internet traffic, are much the same as the Open Internet rules which the FCC already had in place for most of the last decade. Critics have called the weak consumer-protection rules a “government takeover of the Internet.”

That having been said, according to

The House is trying to sneak language into a budget bill that would take away the FCC’s ability to enforce the net neutrality rules we worked hard to pass, undermining everything we did to protect the open Internet.

Second, the US House of Representatives defeated the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact which, among other things, could have forced ISP’s to monitor and block various types of online content on the pretense of protecting intellectual property.



Apple’s Tim Cook Wins Privacy Award

Last week, Apple chief Tim Cook received a privacy award from EPIC. During his acceptance speech, he indirectly criticized weak privacy policies at Facebook and blasted Google’s new photo storage feature, which performs facial recognition on everything uploaded to its service.

Regarding the renewed controversy in the US over the legality of strong encryption, Cook said that encryption is protected by the First Amendment and added that “Removing encryption tools from our products altogether, as some in Washington would like us to do, would only hurt law-abiding citizens who rely on us to protect their data … The bad guys will still encrypt; it’s easy to do and readily available.”

You can read more about his speech here:


International Groups Support Internet Freedom

Last week, two international organizations have indicated their support for a free and open Internet.

First, a report by a United Nations panel “concludes that encryption and anonymity enable individuals to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age and, as such, deserve strong protection.” The timing is notable in view of the recently renewed debate in the US about whether strong encryption should be outlawed.

Second, Xbiz reports that the European Union privately opposes the mandatory ISP-level porn filtering in the UK as a violation of net neutrality:

Leaked EU Statement Challenges U.K.’s Online Porn Block

The U.K. government’s mandate to establish a national online opt-in porn filtering system is getting serious pushback from the Council of the European Union (EU). Read More>>