Tech and policy: Google and French news links, Ron Conway on civic engagement, Supreme challenge to wiretap law

Again we’re at the corner of tech and policy:

• The French do not appear to be backing down from their threat to make Google pay to display news links. After a meeting with Google Chairman CEO Eric Schmidt, Monday, President Francois Hollande’s office issued the following statement, according to Reuters: “The president … said he hoped negotiations between Google and press organs could begin quickly and conclude before the end of the year.”

News publishers in France and other European countries are pushing for Google to pay to link to their content online. Google has said it would exclude French media links from its search results is the government were to pass legislation requiring the company to pay — a move that would “threaten the existence” of Google, it has said.

As GMSV mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Google continues to grapple with its complex relationship with the media, in countries such as France, Germany and Brazil. (See Tech issues: … Google vs. newspapers.) Wired points out that Google has previously had problems in France, such as over Google Maps, and over efforts to tax online ads.

• Angel investor Ron Conway writes on TechCrunch of what he says is the tech industry’s responsibility to civic engagement. “Whether it is regulations that stifle innovation or tax policies that hinder job creation, government has a major role in the success or failure of a startup. It is critically important for the tech community to engage in public policy,” he writes. He then lists the accomplishments of the San Francisco organization he started earlier this year,, which include contributions to education, public safety and transportation. If San Francisco’s tech industry heeds his call — which includes some political advocacy as well — it could help fight some people’s perception that its tech workers don’t care about where they live. (See Quoted: Tech and the city.)

• Finally, we turn to tracking. The Supreme Court on Monday began to hear a case on whether lawyers, journalists and human-rights advocates could sue the U.S. government over a 2008 amendment to FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) that allows the government to wiretap international telephone calls and intercept emails without warrants, which they say violates their Fourth Amendment rights. According to the New York Times, if the plaintiffs can’t show standing, it’s possible the Supreme Court will never rule on the law’s constitutionality. It could be hard for the plaintiffs to prove they’ve been harmed by the law, according to the Washington Post, because they would have to prove their communications have been tracked. That may or may not be happening, the government contends. But Justice Anthony Kennedy reportedly said, “it’s hard for me to think that the government isn’t using all of the powers at its command under the law.”


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