Category: Consumer Issues, Privacy & Data Security

1
High Court to AT&T: Don’t Take It Personally, But You Have No “Personal Privacy”
2
States Support Additional Federal Consumer Information Privacy Protections
3
The FCC’s Net Neutrality Order: Substance and Status for Mobile Wireless Broadband
4
K&L Gates Global Government Solutions Report Includes Articles on Key TMT, Privacy and Patent Developments
5
Wittow authors new article on Cloud Computing
6
FTC Proposes Broad New Privacy Framework, and Asks “How It Might Apply in the Real World”
7
New Disability Access Requirements for Advanced Communications and Video
8
Law Seminars International presents Cloud Computing: Law, Risks and Opportunities
9
The 19th Annual Seattle Conference on Current Developments in Technology Law
10
Live Webcast: Spurring Adoption and Use of Broadband

High Court to AT&T: Don’t Take It Personally, But You Have No “Personal Privacy”

By Bruce Nielson.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that AT&T and other corporations do not have “personal privacy” for purposes of an exemption from the information disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). In its unanimous opinion in FCC v. AT&T Inc., the court rejected “the argument that because ‘person’ is defined for purposes of FOIA to include a corporation, the phrase ‘personal privacy’ in [FOIA] Exemption 7(C) reaches corporations.” The court held: “The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations.”

The AT&T case arose in connection with an FCC investigation into whether AT&T overcharged the government for services rendered in connection with an FCC-administered program designed to enhance access to information and telecommunications services by schools and libraries. During the investigation, AT&T provided documents to the FCC that included information about employees involved in the program and invoices and emails with pricing and billing information. The FCC and AT&T resolved the matter in 2004.

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States Support Additional Federal Consumer Information Privacy Protections

By Bruce Nielson and Samuel Castic

Fifteen state attorneys general recently sent a letter to the FTC supporting its recent proposal for a federal regulatory framework to protect the privacy and security of consumer information. The letter also recommends additional consumer information privacy and security protections that go beyond the FTC’s proposal. The FTC’s proposal, in the form of a preliminary FTC Staff Report entitled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers” (the “Report”) was released on December 1, 2010 and is described in more detail in a prior blog entry.

The 15 state attorneys general – from Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Washington (the “States”) – make the following points in their February 18, 2011 letter to the FTC:

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The FCC’s Net Neutrality Order: Substance and Status for Mobile Wireless Broadband

On December 21, 2010, a divided Federal Communications Commission adopted its long-awaited, but highly controversial, Preserving the Open Internet order (“Order”), which requires broadband service providers to treat all web traffic equally and protect open access to the Internet for web consumers and other stakeholders. While Congressional and industry opposition continues to ferment, a closer look at the Order reveals that mobile wireless broadband providers will retain considerable flexibility in how they manage their networks when compared to their fixed provider counterparts.

The Order focused on three primary goals underpinning the Commission’s net neutrality policy: 1) transparency 2) no blocking and 3) no unreasonable discrimination. For “transparency,” both fixed and mobile providers must publicly disclose the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of their broadband services. By contrast, the application of the “no blocking” condition differs depending on the type of provider. Fixed providers are subject to a broad obligation to not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. Mobile wireless providers are subject to a narrower obligation to not block lawful websites and applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services. Most importantly, the Order’s “no unreasonable discrimination” provision applies solely to fixed providers, leaving mobile operators free to favor or disfavor certain types of network traffic. According to the Commission, these new rules for mobile wireless providers will not harm customers because most consumers have more choices for mobile wireless service than for fixed broadband. The Commission also noted favorably the mobile industry’s recent moves towards openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android. As a result, when the rules finally go into effect, mobile wireless broadband providers will be exempt from the obligation to manage network traffic in a nondiscriminatory manner.

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K&L Gates Global Government Solutions Report Includes Articles on Key TMT, Privacy and Patent Developments

K&L Gates recently published its Global Government Solutions 2011 Annual Outlook, which contains articles from around the firm on key governmental developments expected in 2011.

The Annual Outlook includes an article addressing developments affecting the Telecom, Media and Technology sector in 2011 by DC partners Marc Martin and Marty Stern, noting that the TMT sector enters 2011 with significant regulatory uncertainty and the FCC facing an uphill battle on many signature regulatory initiatives.

The article reviews the FCC’s net neutrality order and the challenges it faces in court and on Capitol Hill, discusses the recent FCC and Department of Justice approvals of the Comcast/NBCU transaction, and a number of additional issues getting significant focus in 2011. These include retransmission consent battles between broadcasters and cable/DBS providers and the FCC’s expected rulemaking proceeding on this issue, the Commission’s implementation of new communications accessibility requirements under the new 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and continued efforts to reform the Universal Service Fund and make it broadband-centric.

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Wittow authors new article on Cloud Computing

Seattle partner Mark Wittow recently authored an article on cloud computing legal issues, specifically examining recent cases involving cloud computing issues and describing new types of claims that likely will arise as a result of the increased importance of internet-based connectivity (in contrast to desktop or local network-based resources) to provide all types of computing needs and related services. The article “Cloud Computing: Recent Cases and Anticipating New Types of Claims”  appears in the January 2011 issue of The Computer and Internet Lawyer.

Mark’s article explains how cloud computing, as a leading means of digital distribution, has created new types of business models, which in turn have led to unique legal issues. Cases relevant to cloud computing arise in a variety of areas of law, including contracts, copyrights and privacy.

FTC Proposes Broad New Privacy Framework, and Asks “How It Might Apply in the Real World”

by Henry L. Judy (Washington D.C.), Holly K. Towle (Seattle), Samuel R. Castic (Seattle), Jonathan D. Jaffe (San Francisco).

On December 1, 2010, the FTC released a preliminary staff report entitled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change” that has the potential to materially change the privacy obligations of all businesses in the United States. The staff report poses important policy choices regarding who controls data and what information will freely flow in the United States. It proposes a broad privacy framework and articulates a number of new and strengthened data privacy obligations that are almost certain to increase business compliance costs and potential litigation.

While the staff report is only a preliminary recommendation, the final privacy proposal that emerges from the FTC will likely serve as both a guide for future enforcement actions, and as a basis for future legislation. The FTC is accepting comments on its proposed framework until the end of January 2011, and it is strongly recommended that businesses do so if they want to register their concerns before the FTC issues its final privacy framework.

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New Disability Access Requirements for Advanced Communications and Video

By Marty Stern (Washington, DC), Carol Lumpkin (Miami) and Stephanie N. Moot (Miami).

The President signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 on October 8, 2010 (the “ComVid Accessibility Act” or “Act”). The ComVid Accessibility Act expands various disability access requirements to VoIP phones, browser-enabled smart phones, text messaging, Internet-enabled video devices, on-line video of TV programming, TV navigation devices, and programming guides and menus, among other things.

Karen Peltz Strauss, who has the lead at the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) on implementing the ComVid Accessibility Act, appeared on a recent live program on Internet TV channel Broadband US TV and discussed the FCC’s “enormous mandate” to implement the new Act.  Click here for a clip of Ms. Peltz Strauss’ comments on the program.  (with permission from TV Worldwide).[1]  According to Ms. Peltz Strauss, “Every segment of the industry that has anything to do with broadband, television, including cable, satellite or broadcast, Internet-based television, as well as . . . Internet-based providers, traditionally regulated [telephone] companies, wireless companies” needs to be paying attention to the new Act.   “Virtually every segment that has anything to do with communications or video programming is covered.”

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Law Seminars International presents Cloud Computing: Law, Risks and Opportunities

On December 13-14, 2010, Law Seminars International presented a seminar exploring different cloud computing service models and the challenges they pose. They explored what cloud computing is, how it works and the benefits it offers.

Leading practitioners, including Dan Royalty (K&L Gates Seattle), described the contracting and compliance challenges their clients face on a daily basis and shared their strategies for meeting them.  Among other things, the program provided pointers on identifying the legal and compliance issues around cloud computing and addressing them in cloud computing transactions.

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The 19th Annual Seattle Conference on Current Developments in Technology Law

December 9-10, 2010

Washington State Convention Center
Seattle, WA

Online brochure

Presenters: Holly K. Towle
Sponsors: Law Seminars International

As the distinctions between telephone, television and data services disappear, many of the old geographical and functional boxes that used to help us organize our thinking have become irrelevant. Super computing, almost ubiquitous broadband, advanced visualization and large-scale data gathering have created new competitive opportunities on a global scale. They also have unleashed a torrent of fragmented information and the pressing question of what is really valuable.

We now have news aggregation services to manage the torrent, but what are the limits on the aggregator’s use of copyrighted material? New social media services have created new marketing opportunities, but also new challenges for managing your online reputation. Distributed computing services are triggering a transition from point-of-sale product licensing to services access subscriptions and long term interactive relationships. New friction points, particularly those involving consumers, are leading to new regulatory requirements for technology companies.

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Live Webcast: Spurring Adoption and Use of Broadband

K&L Gates co-hosted a live webcast October 7, carried live on Internet TV channels Broadband US TV and National League of Cities TV.

You can access the free webcast by clicking here (registration is required).

Stakeholders in America’s broadband future disagree on most issues, but not on this: with 35% of Americans not using broadband today and many others not using broadband to maximum advantage, spurring increased adoption and use is critically important to America’s success in the emerging knowledge-based global economy.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn kicked off the program, joining BroadbandUS TV hosts Marty Stern and Jim Baller for a provocative discussion ofthe FCC’s goals, activities, and progress in this area.

The program also included a panel on National Policy and Support, featuring Karen Peltz Strauss, FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau; Emy Tseng, National Telecommunications and Information Administration; Dr. Kenneth Peres, Communications Workers of America and US Broadband Coalition; Nicol Turner-Lee, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; and John Windhausen, Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition. A second panel featured a look at success stories from around the country.

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