Rob Atkinson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law regarding the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014. Atkinson argued that while a number of the provisions regarding preventing electronic stalking by individuals are important, limiting the collection and use of geo-location data by for commercial purposes would unnecessarily stifle innovation and hamper the development of the mobile economy.
Time to Forget the "Right to be Forgotten"
In ruling that individuals have the right to have information about themselves removed from a search engine if they do not think it is relevant, the European Court of Justice has rejected the compelling logic of the maxim "you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts." In doing so, the ECJ has single-handedly dismantled society's "right to know" and replaced it with an individual's "right to be forgotten." This is bad for the Internet and bad for the public at large.
ITIF Files Amicus Brief in Google v. Joffe Supreme Court Petition
ITIF has filed an amicus brief supporting Google's petition to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Google Inc. v. Joffe et al case. In that case, Google is accused of illegally intercepting transmissions from open WiFi networks during its Street View project. ITIF believes that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals needlessly treats modern digital communications different from old analog communications, creating confusion and uncertainty for innovators and IT security professionals and warranting review by the Supreme Court.
The Wiretap Act generally allows anyone to listen to radio communications that are not secured to be made private. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that WiFi transmissions are not considered "radio communications."
ITIF contends that the Ninth Circuit was incorrect in holding that only "predominantly auditory broadcasts" like AM/FM radio are considered "radio communications." The court's reading is contrary to the plain meaning of the term "radio communication" and difficult to square with the rest of the Wiretap act. The law has a difficult enough time keeping up with technology without the introduction of arbitrary distinctions based on outmoded radio technologies. We should generally favor policies and interpretations that treat similar technologies alike. When WiFi access points are not encrypted, the communications it sends are available to the public using off-the-shelf equipment similar to a CB radio or walkie-talkie. The Supreme Court should clarify that these radio technologies are treated the same under the Wiretap Act.
What “radio communication” means is an important question of federal law because the narrow definition adopted by the court of appeals calls into question the legality of standard techniques used by IT professionals across the country every day to secure and optimize wireless networks. The lack of clarity that results from the court of appeals’ decision makes it harder for IT professionals to secure wireless networks, threatening the security of our nation’s wireless infrastructure.
View ITIF's amicus brief on Google v. Joffe filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.