Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ballot Selfies, The First Amendment, Privacy, and Public Safety

I was recently contacted by a reporter about the New Hampshire ballot seflie law court case and unfortunately I was not able to get back to the reporter before the article's deadline.  I first recall speaking with the media in 2012 about ballot selfies and at that time it was an activity that seemed ready to dramatically increase.

During the past several years, ballot selfie legal issues have picked up steam because some states have enacted laws focused on banning the practice.  Laws and regulations that ban videos/photos during certain court proceedings and in polling places were enacted due to legitimate personal safety and privacy concerns.  While I am a huge proponent of the First Amendment and frown on undue burdens that limit on speech rights, I am also a believer in strong privacy protections.

Once one is inside the polling area, they should feel confident that their decision to vote will not be broadcast to the public.  In 2012, I told ABC News, "[p]eople should feel free to exercise their constitutional right to vote without fear that their votes may be captured and posted online for the entire world to see...Therefore, it is good public policy to restrict the use of cameras and/or video in a public polling area."  While many state laws limiting photos/videos in polling places were enacted well before selfies become in vogue, these laws are generally technology neutral and apply to all still photos/video recordings.

I am sure we can find a solution that would allow people to prove to others (online and in the real world) whom they voted for without encroaching on the personal privacy and safety of other voters. I don't believe it would make good public policy to allow for the widespread use of cameras in a polling place because the rise of facial recognition and other biometric technologies raises serious personal privacy and public safety concerns.  For example, if polling places started to allow for unfettered taping inside a polling station, the entire world may know whom you voted for based upon any stickers or candidate material you are holding before/after your vote.

Several years ago, a Deputy Sheriff in Hampton Virginia was fired along with several colleagues for "liking" a Facebook page of a political candidate (who was running against his boss and eventually lost).  A federal appeals court ultimately ruled that a "Facebook Like" is constitutionally protected free speech; however, this did not change the fact that the Facebook Like dramatically changed the professional careers (and personal lives) of those who were fired for exercising their free speech rights.

In general, I don't recommend posting one's personal ballot online or discussing whom one voted for regardless of the law.  Potential employers, marketers, insurers, data brokers, governments, etc... are watching and your vote/political leanings may negatively penalize your career and/or personal life. People should have the right to post whom they voted for online; however, we may need to think of a creative mechanism to allow for ballot selfies while at the same time protect the personal privacy and safety of others in the voting area.

Copyright 2015 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.   

Friday, August 28, 2015

FTC Announces PrivacyCon Symposium

Earlier today, I received notification from the FTC announcing that on January 14, 2016 it will hold an event called PrivacyCon. According the FTC's website, the conference is designed "to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including whitehat researchers, academics, industry representatives, consumer advocates, academics, and a range of government regulators, to discuss the latest research and trends related to consumer privacy and data security."

The FTC has done some great work in privacy and cybersecurity and just like previous events, this event will bring together some of the world's most knowledgeable experts in the field.  FTC Chairwoman Ramirez published an excellent op-ed earlier today about the need for this symposium. In her piece, she stated, "[p]olicymakers need to ensure that privacy is respected while innovation flourishes, and technology academics and researchers are crucial to hitting that sweet spot."  

Previous FTC symposiums I have attended were well worth my time so if you are interested in learning about some of the most cutting edge regulatory issues in privacy and cybersecurity this event is a must.  

Copyright 2015 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.   

Google Refuses To Acknowledge The Law In Response To European Antitrust Complaint

Earlier this year, the European Commission (EC) sent a Statement of Objections (formal complaint) to Google for violating European antitrust (competition) laws.   In particular, the EC alleges Google “has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.  The Commission's preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers.” 

Yesterday, Google responded to the EC's complaint with a 100 plus page defiant response and blog post.  Interestingly, Google did not request a hearing on the matter and this tactic has provided credibility to Google's opponents' claims that if Google is confident that its legal position is correct as a matter of law it would request a hearing to defend itself.  A spokesman for the EC told Bloomberg News that "[i]t's common for companies to ask for an oral hearing but it doesn't happen all the time".

In my experience, guilty parties generally hide behind written submissions and avoid direct confrontation with their accusers.  According to Bloomberg News, "[h]earings can make a difference. Thirteen of the world's biggest banks succeeded at a face-to-face confrontation last year to unsettle an EU case into the credit-default swaps market...No fines have been issued in that case."  Therefore, Google's refusal to face the EC in an oral hearing indicates to me that it believes it has violated European competition law.

Google's cavalier behavior over the years in regards to competition, privacy, and accepting illegal ads clearly demonstrates that it believes its above the law.  Since the EC opened its antitrust investigation into Google, the company has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and settlements due to illegal behavior.  In each of these situations, Google has dragged its heels when it was caught intentionally misleading regulators, and/or consumers, and/or the media.  

In 2011, Google paid a $500 million fine for knowingly accepting illegal advertisements from Canadian pharmacies.  Subsequently, it paid multiple million dollar fines in the United States and in Europe for privacy violations in connection with its Street View data collection projectits Buzz social network, its 2012 privacy policy change, and the Safari hack incident

Illegally abusing market position in Internet search (and/or other areas) is intertwined with data collection, usage, and privacy issues because in order to receive the most "relevant" search results to a search query a search engine must be able to access and process voluminous amounts of data very quickly.  For years, 90% to 96% of Google’s revenue has come from advertising which means it is dependent upon being able to obtain massive amounts of personal information at a low cost to feed its behavioral advertising machine. 

Countries have different legal criteria when determining whether a company has violated antitrust laws or if a potential merger will create an anti-competitive market.  Europe has a long history in regulating anti-competitive markets. Since Roman times, the continent has regulated commerce to ensure competition and fair play.  The EC is not targeting Google out of nationalistic fervor to boost EU based companies. Google is being targeted because it is clearly utilizing its dominant position to violate antitrust laws.

The EC has actively enforced its competition laws for years.  Last year, a $1.44 billion dollar fine against Intel was upheld for anti-competitive behavior after at least a fiver year plus fight. In 2013, Microsoft was fined $731 million dollars for not adhering to its previous antitrust agreements.  So, why does Google think they are are above the principles that have governed European markets for more than 2000 years?    

My hope is that the EC utilizes all of the legal and regulatory tools at its disposal to ensure that Google and other companies that violate EC competition and privacy laws are held accountable. Internet users around the globe are harmed when companies such as Google violate antitrust laws.

Copyright 2015 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Ashley Madison Hack, Cybersecurity, Privacy, and Legal Liability

Privacy and cyber security go hand and hand.  If the platform you are utilizing has weak and/or misleading privacy policies and/or weak cyber security your safety is at risk.  The ongoing issues related to the Ashley Madison hack (and Adult Friend Finder) should be a wake call to everyone who accesses the Internet and digital services.

While this latest hack along with previous major data breaches is very concerning, I find it very troubling that Ashely Madison intentionally misled clients about its alleged "Delete" service.  For $19, its users were intentionally misled that their personal information would be removed from Ashely Madison's records.  Obviously this was not the case.  Therefore, from a legal perspective, those who paid $19 to have their personal data deleted but didn't receive what was promised to them may be in the greatest position to win damages.

Even though Ashely Madison is based in Canada, the U.S. FTC may get involved since the company did business in the United States.  Since a U.S. federal appeals court recently affirmed that the FTC has the power to regulate cyber security it  would not surprise me if the FTC gets involved due to Ashley Madison's alleged weak cyber security and/or because it misled their clients about its so called "Delete" service.

The bottom line is that Ashely Madison faces tens of millions (or more) of dollars in potential legal liability either from class action lawsuits and/or regulators.  While this situation may take years to sort out, the lesson for all is to be careful what you post online and what digital platforms you trust.

Copyright 2015 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Will The FTC Investigate the NFL's Russell Wilson for Tweet?

Social Media may be a very productive avenue to market your brand and get the word out about an advertising campaign.  Utilizing celebrities and professional athletes who have a well developed social media presence may be a successful method to create buzz about a new product or service.

While engaging celebrity endorsers it is imperative that they (and their agents/agency/sponsors) are educated about the appropriate regulations that need to be followed to ensure legal compliance.  I have written about the FTC advertising regulations multiple times, here, and here for example, and have also provided official comments to the FTC about areas for further review.  Earlier this year, the FTC provided more guidance regarding its online advertising regulations that advertisers and their paid endorsers must follow.        

For several years, major companies such as Lord & Taylor along with celebrities such as Pharrell Williams, and Kim Kardashian have had to face regulatory scrutiny due to their social media campaigns/endorsements.  While this scrutiny has been limited, it would not surprise me if the FTC decides to make an example out of someone.  Earlier today, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tweeted, "I believe @Recovery_Water helped prevent me from getting a concussion based on a bad hit! #NanoBubbles"  

At first glance, the Tweet seems harmless.  However, Wilson didn't acknowledge in the Tweet that he is an investor in the product.  I don't know if Wilson is a paid endorser or what type of compensation if any he may receive(d) for the Tweet and other online activity regarding the alleged (de facto) endorsement.  While it is too soon to speculate on whether the FTC may become involved it demonstrates that brands and professional athletes must be careful about their online activity.

 Copyright 2015 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.   

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Facebook User To Be Fined Under Spanish Social Media Gag Law For Police Comments

Social Media in its infancy was hailed as a great equalizer for everyone's voice to be heard. Years ago, at conference after conference, I heard so called "futurists" and other "prognosticators" proclaim social media as the best invention since air conditioning or the microwave.

So many social media "evangelists" (a fancy term for some consultants who are full of s*#t) shouted from the roof tops how digital platforms would make the world a safer and freer place to exchange ideas and increase the freedom of speech.  Unfortunately, many of these "evangelists" don't understand how some governments and private companies are using social media to digitally follow and keep tabs on what people are doing.  Some of these new activities are actually a huge threat to democracy and our personal freedoms.  

Earlier this year, the government in Spain enacted its "Citizen Security Law" which appears to restrict what its citizens may say online about some government officials.  On July 22nd, the law was apparently utilized when local police in Spain accused one of its citizens of "making comments on social media that showed a lack of respect and consideration for Gumar's (a town in Spain) local police.  The accused may be fined hundreds of Euros and has hired a lawyer to fight the charges.  

Spain isn't the first country to enact and/or enforce laws specifically designed to stop its citizens from criticizing its government online and it will not be the last country to do so.  Therefore, it is imperative to be vigilant about digital freedom of speech and privacy.  You don't know how important these rights are until you lose them.  

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hulk Hogan Tries To Pre-Empt the Wrath of Social Media Via An Apology

Reacting appropriately during a crisis in the Social Media Age is extremely important.  In fact, its a must for corporate executives, small and large companies/organizations, politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, amateur athletes, etc...  Its imperative to understand the importance of properly reacting to a situation that has not just public relations implications but also major legal ramifications as well.

In the Social Media Age, the right reaction may determine whether your brand is permanently damaged like Paula Deen's or Anthony Weiner's or if you can  make a comeback like Charlie Sheen (a little contrition mixed in with talent, luck, and a "wining attitude").  Americans have always loved great comebacks.  The biggest in recent memory (the last 20 years) was Bill Clinton's come back from impeachment proceedings. 

The latest high profile person to incur a major negative personal/professional event (actually multiple matters) is former pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan.  The National Enquirer recently published a private racist rant Hogan made years ago.  The leaking of this information to the media may be connected to a $100 million dollar lawsuit Hogan commenced against the digital platform Gawker for publicizing a private sex tape that he may have unknowingly participated in.   

It appears that right before Hogan's behavior became public knowledge the WWE (Hogan's employer) scrubbed him from their website and cut ties with him. Within hours of the world learning about his racist rant, Hogan issued to People Magazine a full apology and took full responsibility for his actions.

Will Social Media, the WWE, his fans, etc... forgive Hogan for his behavior?  As long as Hogan's team doesn't follow the missteps of of others, he has an opportunity for redemption.  A good first step was a quick apology.  Will Hogan's next step on his road to redemption be an appearance on The Today Show or other media outlets?

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

NY Court: Facebook has no standing to challenge search warrants

Earlier this week, a New York state appeals court ruled that Facebook had no legal standing to challenge search warrants on behalf of its customers.  The court stated that only the defendant may challenge the search warrant and not Facebook.

The court's unanimous opinion stated that, “[f]here is no constitutional or statutory right to challenge an allegedly defective warrant before it is executed.”  This ruling was not surprising because the law usually takes years to catch up to the technology.  Will other courts around the country follow this ruling?

As more of these types of cases (and similar ones) pop up, it will be interesting to see how the law addresses new technologies.  There is no one size fits all in determining public policy and I hope there is a robust conversation on these important issues.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Google Forced to Change Its Privacy Policy in the Netherlands

According to Telecompaper, Google has changed its privacy policy in the Netherlands to comply with its data protection laws.  The Dutch privacy regulator (the "CBP") determined last year that Google combines and uses the personal data of internet users without first obtaining permission according to its laws.  Google acquires personal information about its users when they are logged into Google and from other data sources, such as Internet searches, location data, videos, and emails.

While this is a welcome development, why did the CBP have to threaten Google with a multi-million dollar fine before it agreed to change its privacy policy?  Will Google soon change its U.S. privacy policy to actually protect the personal privacy of its users?  Since Google led the charge to gut Maryland's student privacy law earlier this year, I doubt it will do so.

The bottom line is that the U.S. FTC and state attorney generals should follow the E.U.'s lead when it comes to protecting our digital privacy.  The more data that companies such as Google, Facebook, data brokers, etc... are allowed to collect and utilize the less safe we become since privacy and security are bedrocks of a democratic society.

Troubling practices and antiquated thoughts about data privacy continue to be a national security threat.  My hope is that our regulators and elected leaders will soon take the appropriate actions necessary to enforce and update our data privacy laws to better protect us and our children.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

IACP Releases Updated Guidance On Police Bodyworn Camera Video Data Storage

Privacy and cybersecurity go hand and hand.  Therefore, it is imperative that policy makers on the local, state, and federal level adopt policies and enforce practices that promote these principles.  This is especially important due to the increased amount of data that governments are collecting.

During the past decade, law enforcement agencies around the world have begun to implement police body cameras to assist in evidence gathering, transparency, and accountability.  In the United States, several incidents during the past year have prompted local police departments to test and begin utilizing body cameras.  While this technology brings great promise it also creates new privacy and cyber security challenges. 

To help alleviate these concerns, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recently published their "Guiding Principles on Cloud Computing in Law Enforcement".  These principles are much needed because as more digital video evidence is created by law enforcement, the proper safeguards must be in place to ensure that the data is stored in an appropriate manner for the legal justice system.

The IACP's principles state: 

1)  FBI CJIS Security Policy Compliance Services provided by a cloud service provider must comply with the requirements of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Security Policy (current version 5.3, dated August 4, 2014), as it may be amended.  

2)  All Data Storage Systems Should Meet the Highest Common Denominator of Security.

3)  Data Storage Technology Can Be Disaggregated From Collection.

4)  Data Ownership-Law enforcement agencies should ensure that they retain ownership of all data.

5)   Impermissibility of data mining-Law enforcement agencies should ensure that the cloud service provider does not mine or otherwise process or analyze data for any purpose not explicitly authorized by the law enforcement agency.

6)   Auditing - Upon request, or at regularly scheduled intervals mutually agreed, the cloud service provider should conduct, or allow the law enforcement agency to conduct audits of the cloud service provider's performance, use, access, and compliance with the terms of any agreement.

7)  Portability and interoperability - The cloud service provider should ensure that that CJI maintained by the providers is portable to other systems and interoperable with other operating systems to an extent that does not compromise the security and integrity of the data.

8)  Integrity - The cloud service provider must maintain the physical or logical integrity of CJI.

9)  Survivability - The terms of any agreement with cloud service providers should recognize potential changes in business structure, operations, and/or organization of the cloud service provider, and ensure continuity of operations and the security, confidentiality, integrity, access and utility of the data.

10)  Confidentiality - The cloud service provider should ensure the confidentiality of CJI it maintains on behalf of a law enforcement agency.

11)  Availability, Reliability, and Performance - The cloud service provider must ensure that CJI will be available to the law enforcement agency when it is required within agreed performance metrics.

12)  Cost - Law enforcement agencies should focus cloud acquisition decisions on the Total Cost of Ownership model.

The recent multiple hacks into the federal government's networks have demonstrated the importance of updating and implementing the proper digital policies and technologies.  With access comes responsibility.  It is imperative that law enforcement agencies that utilize bodyworn cameras and other digital data collection technologies follow these principles to protect law enforcement agencies, the general public, and the criminal justice system.  The IACP's cloud computing principles will help ensure that justice stays blind in the age of police body cameras.

 Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

FBI Investigating St. Louis Cardinals For Allegedly Hacking Houston Astros

According to The New York Times, the FBI is investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for allegedly hacking into the Houston Astros' internal network.  The Cardinals are the most successful National League franchise and 2nd most successful organization in Major League Baseball after the New York Yankees.  While this investigation is ongoing, it would not surprise me if in addition to serious state and federal charges, Major League Baseball imposes a harsh penalty on the Cardinals and those employees responsible if it is found that they hacked into the Astros computer networks.

This is a breaking story so more updates may be provided later. 

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Facial Recognition Privacy Talks Collapse Due to Inadequate Consumer Safeguards

According to The New York Times, nine civil rights and other advocacy organizations announced today that they are withdrawing from "talks with trade associations over how to write guidelines for the fair commercial use of face recognition technology for consumers."

Why are these talks so important?  Because every time you walk into a fast food restaurant instead of a health food store you will be tracked and this information will be sent to data brokers who will insert it into your digital dossier.  You will be penalized for who you talk to in public (whether its a friend, business associate, or a stranger on the street) and this data will be tied to you forever.  What stores you visit and when you visit them will be collected and available to interested parties.

Should private companies have the right to know if you attend weekly religious functions and what faith you practice based upon your comings and goings?  What about whether you are seen visiting a bar or other gathering known for particular social or political characteristics?  Do you want others to know whether you frequent casinos, liquor stores, cigar shops, or certain specialty retailers?  Visiting these places and making purchases are perfectly legal.  However, when each of these individual activities are taken together it can paint a picture of our lives.  This is why John Hancock has created a new life insurance product that tracks your every move.  These are just a few examples of why stronger privacy protections are needed for biometrics.

Privacy is a civil right.  The potential for discrimination is high.  The more data that is being collected about us the greater the risk of the information falling into the wrong hands.  For example, the recent cyber attack on federal databases by Chinese hackers is a serious threat to national security and personal safety.  The systems compromised housed information on federal workers, their families, and those who interact with them.  The type of data contained in these files may be utilized for strategic national and economic security, blackmail, and who knows what else.

Absent participation by civil rights groups and privacy advocates, the facial recognition talks are worthless.  Its time for more technology companies to take a public stand for greater privacy protections.  The 4th amendment has protected us against unreasonable government searches and seizures for more than 200 years.  Its time for us to demand that our government extend this principle to protect us against unreasonable data collection and usage by private companies.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Belgium Sues Facebook Over Its Troubling Privacy Practices

According to The Wall Street Journal, Belgium's Privacy Commission is taking Facebook to court over its very troubling privacy practices.  Last month, the Commission publicly chastised Facebook for the way it handles the personal data of Internet users.  The Commission has focused on "how Facebook tracks Internet users on external websites through the use of “like” and “share” buttons".

In general, I avoid using Facebook's "like" or "share" button because for years the company has demonstrated via its privacy policy and agreements with data brokers that it has does not care about the privacy of its users.  The New York Times recently shed some light on how Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is a privacy hypocrite.  Mr. Zuckerberg's business practices demonstrate that he doesn't believe his users deserve to have their personal data kept private but he wants those who are working with him personally to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) to protect his personal information.  This behavior appears to demonstrates that Mr. Zuckerberg believes privacy is only for the super-rich and not the Average Joe or Facebook user.

My hope is that U.S. lawmakers, regulators, and state attorney generals closely watch how the European Union (EU) deals with digital privacy issues.  While I don't agree with every public policy decision that the EU makes regarding the digital ecosystem, when it comes to holding companies such as Facebook and Google accountable for the way they handle and utilize the personal information of Internet users', the U.S. should closely explore emulating the EU's thought process on these matters. 

Privacy is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society and we must protect it before some members of the technology community permanently destroy it to maximize their corporate profits.  While Facebook and Google talk the talk regarding privacy they have failed to walk the walk and refrain from abusing their access to the data they are collecting about all of us.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.        

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Warrants Must Be Required for Digital Data Access

Growing up, I enjoyed watching L.A. Law and Law & Order.  So it was at a relatively young age that I learned that a warrant was required for the police to search your home and personal belongings. In law school, my criminal law classes focused on the need for the police to follow proper legal procedures to obtain a search warrant. Case after case demonstrated that the Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures—a basic tenet of American jurisprudence.

When I began practicing law at the dawn of the Internet Age, I soon realized that in the digital space, this long-held, common-sense approach to law enforcement searches is not always applicable. Surprisingly, searches in the physical world almost always require a warrant while searches in the “digital world” generally do not.  Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), enacted with 1980s technology in mind, the legal need for a warrant to access one’s personal digital content depends on the type of technology utilized to store the data and how old the correspondence is.   

According to an Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC) analysis of ECPA, the backbone of U.S. digital privacy law, law enforcement does not need a warrant to access both opened and unopened emails stored in the cloud for more than 180 days.  In contrast, emails located on a home hard drive and opened emails that are less than 180 days old require a warrant.

The deficiencies in this approach are becoming more apparent every day.  For example, law enforcement agencies across the country are using mobile devices called Stingrays  to collect information that is stored on our cell phones and other digital devices without warrants. Law enforcement has refused to discuss, even in court, the technology utilized in Stingray devices. And this is just one example of overreach.    

Our current legal framework worked best in 1986. ECPA made sense then because lawmakers didn’t envision people storing thousands of personal files for years on remote or cloud-based servers.  In 1986, these technologies did not exist.  Over the past 30 years, technological innovation has changed how we create, access, process, and archive digital content.  Today, many people store personal emails and data in the cloud or apps.  Due to the growing interconnectedness of our society, many of these platforms have servers located around the globe.  At any given time, our data may be processed, archived, or stored in servers anywhere in the world.        

Whether a warrant is required to access one’s digital data should not depend on the age of the content, the technology utilized to store the information, or the location of the data.  In the face of ECPA’s limitations, some states, such as Virginia and California, have enacted laws requiring a warrant before Stingray technology may be deployed.  A forward-thinking national law that requires a warrant to access digital content regardless of data’s age or the type of storage technology utilized is needed. 

Fortunately, Congress has recently proposed a bipartisan fix to this problem with the introduction of the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS).  This bill offers a well-balanced approach that requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant when it wants access to personal digital content.  If data is located on an app or a server that is located overseas, it requires law enforcement to follow the legal process required to obtain the information in the jurisdiction where the content is located.  This common-sense approach ensures that personal information is treated equally whether located in the physical or the digital world.   

It’s time for the United States to demonstrate leadership on digital privacy issues. A step in the right direction would be to enact the bipartisan LEADS Act.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.         

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Apple CEO Blasts Facebook and Google For Privacy and Security Practices

Earlier this week, I attended the Electronic Privacy Information Center's (EPIC) annual Champions of Freedom Awards Dinner.  According to its website, "EPIC is an independent non-profit research center in Washington, DC. EPIC works to protect privacy, freedom of expression, democratic values, and to promote the Public Voice in decisions concerning the future of the Internet."  The event honored those who have made a significant contribution to protecting our personal digital privacy and cyber security.

This year, Richard Clarke, Tim Cook, Kamala Harris, and Susan Linn were honored.  Each of these honorees have performed excellent work in furtherance of protecting our personal privacy and safety from online and offline threats.  Richard Clarke and Susan Linn were in attendance while Tim Cook and Kamala Harris who both live in California spoke to the audience remotely.

The most passionate remarks of the evening came from Apple CEO Tim Cook. He discussed the importance of strong privacy protections in digital products and services and blasted those companies (i.e. Facebook and Google) that provide free services in exchange for selling their customers' personal information to data brokers.     

I do not utilize Facebook or Google products/services for any private communications and I do not recommend anyone who values their digital privacy and safety to do so either because the practices of these companies enable very troubling data mining that may lead to discrimination when applying to college, applying for credit, and when applying for a new job.  For several years, it has been known that Facebook sells its users' personal information to data brokers; however, Google's troubling data broker agreements were not as well known until The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Google is combining users' offline purchases with their digital activity.

Privacy is a civil rights issue and in order to stay a free society we must ensure that no private or public entity is allowed to destroy it.  The bottom line is that digital privacy and cyber safety go hand and hand and organizations such as EPIC work to better protect us from companies such as Facebook and Google that have troubling privacy policies and practices.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.