All posts by Eric J. Sinrod

Will California Consumers Share in Wealth From Their Online Data?

Technology companies collect all sorts of data on their users. The terms of service located on their web sites spell out for users the types of data collected and how that data will be used. The data collected from users is extremely useful for tech companies in terms of how to market to them further, and accordingly, that data has tremendous economic value.

Along comes the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, who according to APNews.com, has announced that California consumers should share in the billions of dollars that tech companies make on personal data they collect. Indeed, Governor Newsom reportedly has asked his aides to come up with a proposal for what has been referred to as a “data dividend” for California residents. However, it is not clear whether he envisions a tax on tech companies, refunds to users, or some other idea.

In his first State of the State speech, Governor Newsom said that “companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating, and monetizing our personal data have a duty to protect it.” And, he went on to state that “California consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data.”

James Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that contributed to the passage of California’s recent digital privacy law, reportedly has said that his organization plans to come up with proposed legislation soon that would flesh out Governor Newsom’s recent proposal relating to consumers financially benefiting from the collection of their personal data. There have been reports that somehow there would be a return of 25% to consumers regarding the collection of their data.

A spokesperson for Governor Newsom is reported to have said that the governor is open to constructive input from experts and lawmakers from around the country.

Undoubtedly, we will be hearing more about this in the coming weeks and months.

On the one hand, there likely will be arguments that data collected by tech companies is properly owned by them under their terms of service and that potentially offering small amounts of money to users could entice them to give up their privacy for very little in return.

On the other hand, we probably will see arguments that data is personal to users as it relates to them specifically, and accordingly, they should be entitled to a least a portion of the economic value related to that data.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.

Internet Companies Must Take Down Anti-Government Content in Vietnam

Question: How free is the internet? Answer: Less than free in certain countries. Further answer: And becoming even less free in other countries — witness Vietnam, discussed briefly below.

At the start of this month, a law went into effect in Vietnam that mandates removal of online content considered offensive to the Vietnamese government. According to SoyaCincau.com, the law was put on the books “under the pretenses” of Cybersecurity, but what it actually does is require the takedown of content deemed “toxic” by the government.

Continue reading Internet Companies Must Take Down Anti-Government Content in Vietnam

Online Gambling Potentially Impacted by New Justice Department Opinion

The Wire Act was enacted in 1961. That statute makes it a criminal offense to transmit information that seeks to promote interstate or foreign wagering.

Fast-forward to September, 2011: the Obama-era Justice Department rendered an opinion that only sports betting came with the ambit of the Wire Act. Prior to that, the Justice Department applied the statute to non-sports gambling.

Continue reading Online Gambling Potentially Impacted by New Justice Department Opinion

Amazon Sales Through The Roof This Holiday Season

Once upon a time less than 20 years ago, there was concern that people would not trust providing their credit card information to make online purchases. Indeed, there was a question as to whether people would take the plunge and order holiday presents online. My, how times have changed!  Continue reading Amazon Sales Through The Roof This Holiday Season

Emailgate — Here We Go Again!

Long before votes were cast for the 2016 Presidential election, this blogger discussed how Hillary Clinton’s government-related emails that were sent and received on private servers could become a thorn in her political side.

Why?

Because government records must be maintained as government records so, among other reasons, they can be open and available to public review. Indeed, laws like the Freedom of Information Act maintain that to have a vital and truly functioning democracy, those who govern must be accountable to the governed; the workings of government must be transparent pursuant to “sunshine” laws. Sunshine is the best disinfectant when it comes to government affairs. Continue reading Emailgate — Here We Go Again!

California Net Neutrality Law Put On Hold Pending Federal Litigation

California recently passed what some argue to be the most robust net neutrality state law in the United States. That law has not yet gone into effect.

The very same day that California Governor Jerry Brown signed the net neutrality bill into law, the US Department of Justice was quick to filed a federal lawsuit, among other goals, to block implementation of the law. And last week, the Department of Justice and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra entered into an agreement to further postpone implementation of the California net neutrality law until the federal lawsuit is concluded.

So, what is at stake here? Continue reading California Net Neutrality Law Put On Hold Pending Federal Litigation

Politicians Seek Greater Online Consumer Privacy Protections

The Congressional mid-term elections are coming up. There is ample current discussion about whether the Republicans can hold onto majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Many Democrats believe that they have a strong chance of taking over as the majority party in the House, and some think that they may even take the Senate majority, but that latter potential achievement will be far more difficult, as many more Democrat Senators are up for reelection than Republican Senators.

If the Democrats take over as the majority party in the House, CNET reports that they plan to urge broad internet privacy protections. Representative Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley has drafted an “Internet Bill of Rights.” At this point, this document is not a bill, but instead puts forward ten principles that Khanna reportedly wants to become part of a comprehensive legislative package that could be considered by Congress in 2019.  Continue reading Politicians Seek Greater Online Consumer Privacy Protections

U.S. Seeks to Thwart Foreign Cyber Adversaries

Concerns about foreign hackers have been heightened since the 2016 presidential election, given that various U.S. intelligence agencies reported foreign Internet efforts to influence that election. And with mid-term Congressional elections coming up, those concerns have not abated.  Continue reading U.S. Seeks to Thwart Foreign Cyber Adversaries

Computer Analytics May Substantially Reduce Risk of Surgical Infections

Infections caused by surgical procedures are not uncommon and can be life-threatening. If only there were a way to cut (pardon the pun) the incidence of such infections … But wait, Computerworld has just reported that the application of predictive analytics and machine learning techniques to real-time data from operating rooms at the University of Iowa Hospital had lowered the risk of surgical infections by a stunning 74 percent over a three-year period.  Continue reading Computer Analytics May Substantially Reduce Risk of Surgical Infections