Friday, May 23, 2008

FTC Proposes Online Behavioral Advertising Privacy Principles

In the US the FTC has proposed some online advertising behavioral principles.

"To address the need for greater transparency and consumer control regarding privacy issues raised by behavioral advertising, the FTC staff proposes:
  • Every Web site where data is collected for behavioral advertising should provide a clear, consumer-friendly, and prominent statement that data is being collected to provide ads targeted to the consumer and give consumers the ability to choose whether or not to have their information collected for such purpose.

To address the concern that data collected for behavioral advertising may find its way into the hands of criminals or other wrongdoers, and concerns about the length of time companies are retaining consumer data, the FTC staff proposes:

  • Any company that collects or stores consumer data for behavioral advertising should provide reasonable security for that data and should retain data only as long as is necessary to fulfill a legitimate business or law enforcement need.
To address the concern that companies may not keep their privacy promises when they change their privacy policies, FTC staff proposes:
  • Companies should obtain affirmative express consent from affected consumers before using data in a manner materially different from promises the company made when it collected the data.

To address the concern that sensitive data – medical information or children’s activities online, for example – may be used in behavioral advertising, FTC staff proposes:

  • Companies should only collect sensitive data for behavioral advertising if they obtain affirmative express consent from the consumer to receive such advertising.
  • FTC staff also seeks comment on what constitutes “sensitive data” and whether the use of sensitive data should be prohibited, rather than subject to consumer choice.

The staff is seeking additional information about whether tracking data is being used for purposes other than behavioral advertising and whether such secondary uses, if they occur, merit some form of heightened protection."

Defence giant could give UK secrets to US spies

Also in this morning's times: MPs warn that defence giant could give census secrets to US spy chiefs

"Personal details from the next census could be disclosed to US authorities if an American defence company wins the contract to run it, the Treasury Select Committee says today. MPs on the committee are demanding that the Government seeks firm assurances that detailed information about the UK population will not be at risk of being handed to US intelligence agencies...

Two companies, Lockheed Martin, the US defence group, and the German telecommunications company TSystems, are bidding for the £450 million contract to run the 2011 Census.

The US Patriot Act allows personal data held by companies in the US to be made available to the intelligence agencies.

Angela Eagle, a Treasury minister, said that if Lockheed won the contract, provisions preventing the removal from the UK of census information would be put in the contract"

Someone should inform the minister that in the US, the PATRIOT Act trumps contract law and any such provisions in the contract wouldn't be worth the paper they were written on.

Police forces spending £40 million on PR

According to the Times, police forces in the UK are spending £40 million per year on public relations and news management.

Given that their political masters at the Home Office now measure police performance partly against public perception of crime, the only real surprise should be that the figure is not significantly bigger.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Commissioner McCreevy on Copyright

Charlie McCreevy has been speaking to the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) about company law, accounting & auditing and intellectual property rights. One the latter he had this to say:

"The second key area in my portfolio of issues under the responsibility of this Committee is Intellectual Property Rights. IP is a central competitive asset in Europe's ability to compete in the global economy. There are perhaps many reasons for this, the main one though is that through innovation, high quality design, effective branding and top quality production, EU companies have the ability to remain at the top of the value chain. We are progressing well on the initiatives announced before.

Let me start by looking at copyright protection for performers. European performers do not enjoy sufficient term protection. 95% of them do not earn enough from their profession and have to take up parallel jobs. I want all performers, whether featured artists or session musicians, to be able to earn more from their work. This allows them to spend more time doing what they do best – namely performing.

Authors enjoy copyright protection that lasts for 70 years after their death. Performers on the other hand enjoy protection for 50 years from the time of their performance. This means that an increasing number of them are seeing their performances fall into the public domain during their lifetimes. Not only do they no longer have a say in how their performances are used, but also their royalty payments and their airplay remuneration dry up.

And it usually happens at a time in their lives when they are getting older and not working as much. The music business is not the type that comes with a pension scheme. The principal beneficiaries of our proposal are the thousands of anonymous session musicians who contributed to sound recordings at that time.

That is why I propose is to extend protection for performers and sound recordings from the current 50 to 95 years. I aim to present a proposal for an amendment to the Directive on term protection by this summer.

By doing this we will go some way towards solving a number of problems. Firstly, performers will be able to control how their performances are used. This will allow them to object to their work being abused or used in a way they do not agree with. Secondly, they will continue to receive royalties and airplay remuneration for their entire lifetime, and as for authors, their heirs will benefit a little after their death.

Extending the term is not enough in itself. I also propose that each record company set up a special fund specifically devoted to session musicians. The company will have to pay a percentage of its increased revenues in the extended period into this fund. This will mean that the thousands of session musicians will increase their earnings.

Another area of work at present in the Intellectual Property field is private copying levies. You will be aware I re-launched work some months back on this issue. Some have suggested that I want to trade off term extension with private copying levies. I want to clearly dispel this rumour. Both initiatives have their own independent merit.

I perceive a clear need for the societies that administer the levies, and the industry that have to pay them, to get together and find a way out of their current disagreements. The latest round of consultation took place between February and April of this year. This consultation yielded some 120 replies, primarily from collecting societies that administer levies and from the industry that has to pay them. This response rate shows that the issue is still very much alive.

I have decided to organise a public hearing on 27 May to discuss the results of this public consultation. I would like to see this public hearing leading to the setting up of a structured dialogue between the stakeholders in the search for common ground in addressing this complex issue.

My ultimate wish would be that everyone that is concerned with levies could be able to agree on some basic principles to apply to the calculation of the different levies.

A third area of work in the IP field is Community trade mark fees. The Commission is currently preparing a proposal for a further substantial reduction of these fees. The Community Trademark Office in Alicante is an agency financing itself, independently from the Community budget. The Office is financially very well off and is generating considerable cash every year. This is partly due to its attractiveness, as companies continue to submit more and more trade mark and design applications. However, the Agency has to balance its revenues and expenditure. I intend to present this proposal in the next months. We have also started working on the evaluation of the trademark systems in the EU with a view to identify potential needs for improvement and future developments.

Work continues on the patent litigation system and on the Community patent. Since the Commission adopted the Communication "Enhancing a patent system in Europe" in April 2007, we have been actively working towards a consensus on the key elements among Member States in the Council under the German, Portuguese and now the Slovenian Presidency. I hope the encouraging progress made over the past year continues and it is something we can come back to a little further down the line.

Work is also continuing on the Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The purpose of this Green Paper is to encourage debate on how copyright legislation can continue to serve the objective of the dissemination of knowledge for research, science and education – particularly in the online environment. The Green Paper aims to set out a number of issues connected with the role of copyright in the "knowledge economy", relying as it does not on natural resources such as land or minerals, but on intellectual resources such as know-how and expertise. It could be adopted just before or just after the summer break and it is intended to launch a public consultation.

A last point on intellectual property rights is the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. This is a key priority for the Commission. Last week's high-level conference marked the starting point for our efforts in order to find practical solutions to combat counterfeiting and piracy. We need all stakeholders to engage in working on practical and concrete ways to fight off fakes rather than camping on positions of principle. More regulation is certainly not the answer. I am grateful to the Parliament's support on this issue and for your active participation at the conference.

Finally, I wish to say a few words on the Annual Policy Strategy for 2009.

The time has come to assess how the existing copyright legislation works. It has been in place for more than 10 years now. The issue is whether and how we need to adapt thee rules to new technological and market developments. We will launch a consultation process next year on these questions to arm my successor with the necessary elements for deciding on concrete initiatives.

All of our actions are part of our single market policy. A key element of last year's Single Market Review is to make the Internal Market rules function on the ground. Member States' actions are crucial in achieving this objective. In this context we will prepare an initiative in early 2009 to give guidance to Member States on how to improve the practical functioning of the Internal Market.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude. It is crucial that the European regulatory framework responds to market needs. Where there is no proven need for EU intervention, I will not make proposals or add further layers of EU requirements. We are updating existing legislation in the area of company law and intellectual property rights to make it simpler, flexible and more dynamic. Your support and active engagement are essential if we are to deliver what EU business needs."

There is nothing new in the statement but his final paragraph statement to the effect that "Where there is no proven need for EU intervention, I will not make proposals or add further layers of EU requirements" bears serious scrutiny. There is simply a massive black hole where empirical evidence informing intellectual property policy making should be. Solid evidence on whether IP regulations should be strengthened or weakened is sparse to non-existent. So, in other words, there is no proven need for EU intervention.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Supreme Court uphold anti-child porn PROTECT Act and other stories

Busy times at the moment with a lot going on in my day job and a lot going on in cyberlaw as ever. Yesterday the US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, upheld Congress's latest effort to tackle child abuse facilitated by the Net, the 2003 PROTECT Act. Kevin Russell has a full analysis over at Scotusblog.

Today the Times has a front page story on the communications bill which contains the seeds of the government's latest big database surveillance plans. This one's been doing the rounds of the cyber rights communities for a while now but it's interesting that the mainstream media does occasionally notice and provide prominence to such matters, however ephemerally.

Declan McCullagh tells us that a couple of congress men have cottoned onto the probable technical illegality of the widespread clandestine commercial monitoring and profiling of online behaviour. They probably wouldn't like shopping centers secretly tracking people's movements via their mobile phones either. Politicians, like their mainstream media cousins can also be a bit slow on the uptake.

William Patry is indignant at the US labeling Canada a pirate nation just because it has not yet implemented a version of the DMCA into domestic law.

The NYT, of all auspicious bodies, is supporting net neutrality.

"Users of the Internet take for granted their ability to access all Web sites on an equal basis. That could change, however, if Internet service providers started discriminating among content, to make more money or to suppress ideas they do not like. A new “net neutrality” bill has been introduced in the House, which would prohibit this sort of content discrimination. Congress has delayed on this important issue too long and should pass net neutrality legislation now...

Cable and telecommunications companies are fighting net neutrality with lobbyists and campaign contributions, but these special interests should not be allowed to set Internet policy. It is the job of Congress to protect the Internet’s democratic form."

Larry Lessig is worried about little orphan works and proposed changes to US copyright law.

The Sunday Telegraph has been speculating that the government's huge and dangerously insecure NHS Care Records System could be scuppered.

The Dutch have banned electronic voting.

"On May 16, 2008 the Dutch government decided that elections in the Netherlands will be held using paper ballots and red pencil only. A proposal to develop a new generation of voting computers was rejected.

The paperless voting computers had been creeping into our election systems since the mid-1980s, creating a deeply rooted everything-is-just-fine-with-them feeling. This made the task we had set ourselves that much more difficult. We examined the Dutch voting computer, the Nedap/Groenendaal ES3B previously in use in about 8 out of 9 poling stations, and proved it insecure. For political reasons, with general elections in the near future, the responsible Minister did not want to make the decision at that time. Although frustrating for us, he basically did the next best thing: two commissions were formed the first was to see who, if anyone, was to blame for the current debacle. The other would, effectively, determine if we were right and election systems in the Netherlands as flawed were as we had made them out to be. The first committee determined that, basically, no one in particular was to blame and everything concerning voting computers was wrong. The second, the Election Process Advisory Commission, issued its report which basically states that we were right all along and the system needed to be changed.

We are proud to have made this impact. Democratic Elections are Really Really Really important. Paperless voting computers enable election fraud on a frightening scale, a tiny group of people can throw elections in which ever way they want. Our initiative, which is one of many similar movements around the world, has removed that risk from our country."

Google has done a Yahoo!-China in India by handing over the personal details of a man to the authorities after he posted a comment to the effect that he hated Sonja Ghandi on Google's Orkut social networking site. The man has since been arrested.

The UK Home Office website has been struggling to stay online.

Cory has yet another nice explanation why he releases his books under a creative commons licence in the context of his teen novel, Little Brother.

Lots going on on the ID card and identity front; likewise on the US constitutional scene.

Yet another inadvertent indication from government quarters of how you can't make better kids by measuring them, or pretending to measure them. The chief inspector says standards have "stalled" and it is "unacceptable that 20% of pupils go from primary to secondary not fully functional in literacy and numeracy". For goodness sake the idea that you can measure a child... how insane is that and yet the whole education system is built on the notion... says yours truly, a university teacher in exam season.

Teachers should be storytellers, curiosity stimulators (remember curiosity is the cure for boredom), observers, listeners, challengers (in the sense of posing challenges for their charges), confidence builders, and practitioners prepared to get their hands dirty in any area they or their pupils/students decide to explore. Not bloody administrators with the incentive to fill in forms which say the child was useless when they arrived in this administrative miracle worker's class and have progressed the requisite number of points on the SATS scale by the time they leave the class. And if the form says that's what happened, then the reality of a child struggling to learn, getting bullied and in fact regressing in all areas is completely irrelevant to the system. Scott Adams has it pegged:

Ho hum. Yes blogging is displacement activity. Now I'd better get back to assessing scripts and filling in forms.