OVERNIGHT TECH: Privacy groups want more from FTC

THE LEDE: Privacy advocates are glad that the Federal Trade Commission outlined some potential problems with companies that collect and sell people’s data, but say it’s only a first step.

After the FTC released its call for new legislation on “data brokers” on Tuesday, Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeffrey Chester called the effort “insufficient.”

“The real problem is that data brokers—including Google and Facebook—have embraced a business model designed to collect and use everything about us and our friends—24/7,” he said in a statement. “Legislation is required to help stem the tide of business practices... designed to make a mockery out of the idea of privacy for Americans.”

American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese said that the FTC itself needed to be doing more with its current powers “to root out bad practices now.” That could include action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, he said, which bans various forms of discrimination that the FTC alleged are made possible through data merchants’ repackaging of consumers' information.

“Strongly enforcing those laws is a first step toward curbing the harms that come from the buying and selling of detailed personal profiles of every nearly every American,” Calabrese said.

The FTC’s much-awaited report on the companies, which collect consumers’ information and repackage it for advertisers, background checks and anti-fraud efforts, called for Congress to require more transparency. The commission also urged the creation of a new centralized Web portal where consumers could learn about how their data was being used and opt out of the collection.

House panel to talk copyright in New York: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a field hearing in New York City on copyright issues next week. The panel’s subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet will take a look at the “first-sale doctrine,” which allows the owners of copyrighted products to distribute their copies to the public.

The panel will hear from officials from the New York Public Library, Public Knowledge, BSA-The Software Alliance, and publishing house John Wiley and Sons, among others. The session is part of the committee’s months-long review of current copyright law, which has previously focused on fair use and online platforms that may host infringing content. 

“Copyright protections are vital to ensuring U.S. competitiveness. As the Judiciary Committee continues its comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law to ensure that it is working in our digital age, this hearing will examine the rights of copyright owners and users when it comes to distribution of copyrighted materials,” said committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.), subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, in a joint statement.

Porn company dealt copyright blow in court: A federal appeals court blocked a company from subpoenaing the Internet addresses of a thousand users, in a ruling that supporters said dealt a big blow to copyright “trolls.” AF Holdings, which owns copyrights to pornographic movies, was blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from making Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon hand over information about users who illegally downloaded one of its films.

Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the ruling was a “crucial victory” in the fight against the trolls, which bring cases for copyright violations. “We are thrilled that a higher court has recognized that it is unfair to sue thousands of people at once, in a court far from home, based on nothing more than an allegation that they joined a BitTorrent swarm."

Songwriters push for licensing overhaul: Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) joined pop singer Ne-Yo and a handful of other songwriters in Atlanta on Tuesday to make the case for changing the way people behind the music get paid. “Outdated laws are making it harder for songwriters to make a living today, even as our music is more in demand than ever,” Ne-Yo said.

Collins is the lead House sponsor of the Songwriter Equity Act, which would require the Copyright Royalty Board consider fair market rates to determine how much songwriters should get paid when songs are sold or downloaded and let “rate courts” consider negotiated rates for digital performances.

“The current federal regulatory system is standing in the way of American songwriters receiving fair market royalty rates for their work,” Collins said on Tuesday. “I believe songwriters, especially those just starting out, deserve a compensation system that recognizes the realities of the digital age.”

Consumer groups weigh in on online tunes: Public Knowledge and the Consumer Federation of America recently filed comments to the Copyright Office advocating for more competition in the online music market. Jodie Griffin, Public Knowledge senior staff attorney, blamed “bottlenecks” in the current system for making it harder for good tunes to make their way to fans. 

“Public Knowledge urges the Copyright Office to consider tools likes sustainable statutory licenses and reasonable collective licensing to encourage new market entrants while ensuring artists are compensated for their work,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.



Starting at 9:30 a.m., the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute is holding an event on options for public broadband.

The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), are speaking at a George Washington University forum starting at 11 a.m.

At noon, the head of the National Security Agency and the military’s Cyber Command, Adm. Mike Rogers, will deliver a keynote speech at a cybersecurity summit in Washington.



The Federal Trade Commission is urging Congress to enact new laws to protect consumers from secretive companies that track their purchases and buying habits. 

Beijing is hitting back against the United States’ spying operations, days after the Obama administration escalated bubbling cyber tensions with charges against a team of Chinese hackers. 

Advocates are scrambling for new ways to crack down on “patent trolls,” the companies that profit by threatening meritless patent-infringement lawsuits, after hopes for a comprehensive reform bill expired in the Senate. 

Civil libertarians who say the House didn’t go far enough to reform the National Security Agency are mounting a renewed effort in the Senate to shift momentum in their direction.

The New York Times editorial board wants regulators to block the proposed $45 billion merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. 


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