Tech and policy: Lofgren’s Internet bills, Do Not Track, driverless cars

We’re once again at the corner of tech and policy, talking privacy, free speech and other rights in the age of the Internet. And yes, driverless cars (which come with privacy concerns of their own):

• Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., on Tuesday introduced two new bills that could affect the future of the Internet.

The ECPA 2.0 Act (PDF) would amend the 1980s-era Electronic Communications Privacy Act and among other things would require warrants before law enforcement engages in wireless tracking of a suspect or searches a person’s online communications. The legislation’s broad goal is to apply Fourth Amendment protection to new forms of communication.

A similar measure, an amendment to a House bill, was adopted last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Hillicon Valley.

The Global Free Internet Act of 2012 (PDF) would create a formal process, including a task force, to respond to measures like SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which Lofgren, much of the tech community and many Internet users opposed because among other things it would have threatened freedom of speech. (See Quoted: the day after SOPA protests, talking OPEN.)

“We need proactive laws designed to preserve an open and truly global Internet from SOPA-like legislation, unduly restrictive treaties and trade agreements, and overbroad government surveillance,” Lofgren, who represents San Jose, said in a statement.

• Remember Do Not Track, which the leading Web browsers have built into their (current or future) software? The system is worthless, say both an ad-industry trade group executive and a public privacy organization director who spoke with Politico, because it relies on ad networks to honor users’ requests not to be tracked online.

“It’s an option… that totally provides users with a false sense of security,” Marc Groman, executive director of the Network Advertising Initiative who was formerly with the FTC, told Politico. “There are definitely people who turn it on and don’t know that it has no effect on what’s happening,” said Justin Brookman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy.

Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have instituted or included Do Not Track on current or future versions of their browsers — moves the Federal Trade Commission has applauded. But they continue to collect the same information as before because cookies are enabled.

• And in case you missed it,  driverless cars will hit California roads by 2015 thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown at Google’s Mountain View headquarters Tuesday.

“I expect that self-driving cars are going to be far safer than human-driven cars,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said yesterday, according to the Merc’s Mike Rosenberg.

Nevada and Florida have already passed similar laws. Arizona, Hawaii and Oklahoma reportedly are also considering autonomous vehicle laws.


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  • Bruce

    Do Not Track failed at blocking of third parties but it did a pretty good job itself of tracking everything that was not tracked.