Internet & Online Privacy - Legal Technology - Technologist
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Recently in Internet & Online Privacy Category

For the past few months, the government has been waging a PR campaign against enhanced phone encryption -- encryption of the type that might make it harder for government snoops to peak into your phones. When Apple announced that it wouldn't be able to break the default encryption in their new operating system, FBI Director James Comey went as far to say that children will die as a result.

Several commentators noted the irony behind Comey's histrionics. The FBI itself recommended that consumers encrypt their phones. Well, not anymore.

As you may have heard, pop star Taylor Swift recently bought TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult. It's not a sign of a career change, though, it's simply good business. Swift and many others are taking proactive steps to snap up embarrassing domain names before anyone else can.

With the growing proliferation of Internet domains, websites have moved far beyond the .com's of yesteryear, making it easier than ever to create a demeaning or misleading URL. Should you follow Swift's lead and head off the domain trolls, before someone lays claim to YourName.Sucks?

What made the Internet the strange, fascinating and sometimes frightening animal that it is today? It wasn't just the Silicon Valley billionaires, ARPANET visionaries or cats -- lots and lots of cats. The legal system bears its share of praise, or blame, as well.

From protecting free speech online, to prosecuting cyber pirates, these five lawsuits helped shape today's information super-highway:

Less than a month after the FCC commissioners voted to regulate Internet service providers as "common carriers" under the Communications Act, the telecoms have filed suit. Well, one industry trade group, USTelecom, representing some of the nation's largest Internet providers, has sued, as has one small Texas ISP, Alamo Broadband.

The suits, brought in the D.C. and Fifth Circuits, come much sooner than expected, as the FCC has just begun to process of regulating ISPs. Has this pair jumped the gun or are they just in time to shoot down the FCC's regulations in their infancy?

The Fourth Amendment prevents the government from engaging in unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant, but what about surveillance by private actors?

Through years of torturous interpretations of that amendment, the Supreme Court has settled on a "reasonable expectation of privacy" as the lodestar for whether the government needs a warrant to search something.

The reasonableness of privacy expectation depends both on whether the person whose privacy is invaded had a subjective expectation of privacy and whether society is prepared to recognize that expectation. A straightforward rule, perhaps, but one that's subject to being contorted out of existence. For example, if someone places a sign in a public restroom that says you're being recorded, can it be said that you had a subjective expectation of privacy? It very well might, which is sort of the problem.

The New York Police Department has been caught with its hand in the virtual cookie jar. Capital New York reported Friday that several Wikipedia entries about victims of police violence had been edited or deleted by computers with IP addresses registered to the NYPD's One Police Plaza headquarters.

In particular, the article about the death of Eric Garner was modified to make Garner seem more threatening and police actions less outrageous. The article was modified to include a sentence stating that Garner was "considerably larger than any of the officers." In addition, the phrase "push Garner's face into the sidewalk" was changed to "push Garner's head into the sidewalk."

How many websites are there on the Internet? In September 2014, the number of websites probably hit the 1 billion mark. We say "probably" because no one really knows for sure when that happened, only that there are 1 billion sites, according to Internet Live Stats, which keeps track of this sort of thing.

Those are active sites right now; there are probably even more websites that have gone dark for whatever reason. Thankfully, a nonprofit organization is there to help you recover the past.

Wikipedia's parent company, the Wikimedia Foundation, has filed a lawsuit claiming wholesale Internet data collection violates its constitutional rights. Wikimedia joins Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and others in the suit, which names the National Security Agency (NSA) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) as defendants.

The lawsuit is partly based on information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealing the NSA's use of what is known as "Upstream surveillance," intercepting Internet communications, often without a warrant. Filed on behalf of the companies by the American Civil Liberties Union, the suit also alleges that Wikipedia was specifically a target of government surveillance.

Last Friday, the FCC voted along party lines to approve Title II regulation for Internet Service Providers. This means -- absent lawsuits from Verizon and Comcast -- that the FCC would be able to enforce net neutrality regulations preventing ISPs from selectively throttling whatever traffic it wants and extorting content providers into expensive side-deals ("Nice streaming video service you've got there. It'd be a shame if it slowed down ...")

If you thought that the FCC was hurting poor, defenseless mega-corporations, then you've got a friend in Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn!

The White House on Friday debuted its proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act, which would provide additional statutory protection for sensitive consumer information like Social Security numbers and mandate that holders of such information have to provide consumers with notice about privacy and security practices.

As predicated, no one is happy. MediaPost reports that advocacy groups on both the pro-privacy and anti-privacy sides voiced their opposition.