OVERNIGHT TECH: Markey calls on FTC to investigate tracking across devices

THE LEDE: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate technologies that allow companies to track people across multiple devices, such as smartphones, computers and tablets. 

“Such persistent and pervasive tracking raises a number of important privacy concerns for all Americans,” he said in a letter to the agency Thursday. 

This kind of cross-device tracking “envelopes users in a digital environment where marketers know their preferences and personal information no matter which device they use while consumers are kept largely in the dark,” he said.

It’s “alarming” that “companies can monitor behavioral patterns and use statistical modeling to determine that different devices and computers belong to the same” person and “create a personalized digital mosaic for marketing and other potential purposes,” Markey wrote.

The FTC should investigate these new online tracking abilities, he said. “I look forward to hearing the Commission’s views and plans to address this serious privacy matter.”

Aereo to Supreme Court?: Broadcasters plan to ask the Supreme Court to review lower court rulings in favor of Internet video service Aereo, according to Variety

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Aereo uses farms of tiny antennas to deliver local broadcast TV channels to customers over the Internet. The broadcasters claim that Aereo is stealing their copyrighted content, but an appeals court in New York sided with the Internet company. Another appeals court in California granted the broadcasters' request to shut down Film On X, a similar Internet video service. That split makes it more likely that the high court will choose to intervene in the dispute.

'Patent Troll Defense Network': A coalition of law school clinics launched the "Patent Troll Defense Network" Thursday to provide free legal services to app developers and small businesses who are threatened with patent litigation. The goal of the group, which is backed by the App Developers Alliance, is to help small companies fight back against illegitimate patent infringement claims. Many businesses settle the cases because the cost of fighting the charges in court is so high.

“Too many smash-and-grab patent trolls think startups and small companies are easy roadkill on their path to amassing a portfolio of settlement payments, revenue-share agreements, and equity stakes,” Jon Potter, president of the App Developers Alliance, said in a statement. “By providing free legal services to entrepreneurs that cannot afford quality representation, the Troll Defense Network will help innovators fight back and continue to build great products and create jobs.”

No hiding on Facebook: Facebook notified users on Thursday that they will no longer be able to hide their profiles in search results. The setting was removed last year for people who weren't using it. 

In a blog post, Michael Richter, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said the setting was created when Facebook was a "simple directory of profiles." He said the tool was making Facebook's search feature seem broken because users were sometimes unable to find people they knew through searches. Users who want to protect their privacy should limit what content is public as opposed to limiting how people can find their profiles, Richter said.  


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Yelp has hired Laurent Crenshaw, an aide to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), as its first lobbyist.

Due to the government shutdown, the Commerce Department missed its Thursday deadline to release a draft framework of voluntary cybersecurity rules.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation left the Global Network Initiative, a coalition of advocacy groups and tech companies dedicated to advancing human rights online.

Privacy advocates and online advertiser groups called for the end to a process aimed at creating a way for users to opt out of online tracking.


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