STLR Link Roundup – December 6, 2019

Democrats Unveil New Federal Online Privacy Pill, Promising Tough Penalties for Data Abuse

Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unveiled the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA), proposed a new piece of aggressive Federal privacy legislation. Fellow senior members Senators Brian Schatz, Amy Klobuchar, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have also backed the bill. The legislation penalizes companies that fail to meet data protection standards and establishes strict standards for the collection, use, sharing, and protection of consumer data. Key features also include a provision preserving the rights of states to pass stronger privacy laws, provisions that would prohibit the use of data to discriminate in housing, employment, credit, education, or public accommodations, and provisions that provide for a private right of action. While the bill likely won’t pass in current form, it’s likely to set the tone for the final legislation safeguarding privacy rights. COPRA’s full text can be found here.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Police can’t Force you Tell them your Password

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held in Common Wealth v. Davis that the narrow “foregone conclusion exception” to the Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination does not apply to disclosing passcodes. The foregone conclusion exception suggests that the 5th Amendment does not apply if it is inevitable that law enforcement will be able to gain access to the information. The case focuses on the scope of application of the forgone conclusion exception. The Court ultimately agreed with the EFF’s amicus brief that the foregone conclusion doesn’t apply. The majority opinion states “Requiring the Commonwealth to do the heavy lifting, indeed, to shoulder the entire load, in building and bringing a criminal case without a defendant’s assistance may be inconvenient and even difficult; yet, to apply the foregone conclusion rationale in these  circumstances would allow the exception to swallow the constitutional privilege. Nevertheless, this constitutional right is firmly grounded in the ‘realization that the privilege, while sometimes ‘a shelter to the guilty,’ is often ‘a protection to the innocent.’” The court rationale acknowledges that while it may be harder for law enforcement to obtain evidence, they are willing to protect individuals freedom and privacy in their devices, or in other words the contents of their mind.” Similar cases are pending in State and Federal courts across the country and it’s possible that this case could wind up before the US Supreme Court.

ADL international leadership award presented to Sacha Baron Cohen at Never Is Now 2019

“I’m just a comedian and an actor; I’m not a scholar…but one thing is pretty clear to me: all this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of Internet Companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history” said Sacha Baron Cohen in his most earnest portrayal yet. In a speech at the Anti-Defamation League’s Never Is Now summit, Cohen attacked social media companies calling them “a sewer of of bigotry and vile conspiracy theories,” specifically criticizing leaders of Google, YouTube and Twitter for refusing to actively police hate speech on their platforms. He criticized Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as “unaccountable” and compared him to Julius Caesar during the Roman Empire.

Huawei Sues U.S. Government Over What It Calls an Unfair Ban

Huawei is raising the stakes in its battle against the US government by filing another legal challenge against the FCC for further restricting Huawei’s business in the US. The suit is part of the company’s strategy to fight for its place in the US market and improve its public image around the world. The FCC is concerned that the Chinese company could present a national security threat because its equipment could be used by Chinese authorities to spy on communications and disrupt telecommunications networks. Huawei now argues that it has been unfairly and incorrectly banned, and that the FCC’s ruling violates their right to due process. By opening itself up to greater scrutiny, Huawei intends to reveal that it does not engage in such practices.

Trump Administration Sued Over Social Media Screening for Visa Applicants

A pair of documentary film organizations sued the Trump administration over a regulation that requires foreigners applying for a US visa to list their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts, including pseudonymous ones. The State Department has already begun to enforce this new policy, which would apply to accounts created within the last 5 years. The suit argues that the regulation violates constitutional rights of free speech and association.

The Supreme Court ruled that cops need a warrant to attach a GPS device to your car. But if you find one, can you remove it?

In addition to charges related to drug dealing, the state of Indiana charged a suspected drug dealer with theft for removing a government-owned GPS tracking device from his SUV. An appellate court ruled against the defendant in July, which led to the case’s current status now pending before the Indiana Supreme Court.The government argued that removing a device planted by a private party wouldn’t amount to theft, but that the legal ramifications are different when the government has a warrant to use a tracking device. The state Supreme Court is still considering the case after those oral arguments on November 7.

Hoverboards: How Amazon Doges Responsibility for Unsafe Products

Internet platforms have long argued that it’s the seller’s obligation to make sure that goods sold on their sites are safe. A series of new lawsuits about hoverboards that caught fire in people’s living rooms in 2015 is testing the strength of that argument. While many of these hoverboards were purchased on Amazon, it was apparently difficult to determine the identity of sellers and manufacturers. As a result, the Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted an investigation of Amazon’s conduct, which has now led to several lawsuits. The suits argue that Amazon is acting as a seller, and that individuals in the company knew there were dangers associated with the products, but continued to sell them on the platform. Amazon has argued in response that they are not the seller and further did not have enough information about the danger of products to take action. These lawsuits could have a huge impact on the future of internet marketplaces.

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