All posts by Eric J. Sinrod

A Light Touch When It Comes to Federal Regulation of Self-Driving Cars

Technology tends to explode out of the box at warp speed, with laws addressing new technology trying to catch up at a comparative glacial pace. There are various reasons for the slow pace of legal regulation. Often the impacts and ultimate consequences of new technology are not immediately known. In addition, it takes time for lawmakers to truly understand new technology before they can even contemplate how to go about regulation. And in certain instances, lawmakers want certain technologies to have the opportunity to grow and flourish unfettered by legal restrictions.

With respect to the last reason, in the mid-1990s, Congress wanted the emerging commercial internet to grow exponentially to the perceived benefit of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Congress provided immunity to internet service providers with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. This enabled social media companies like Facebook to become some of the most valuable companies in the world.

Fast-forward to now. Self-driving cars are a new and advancing technology. Are self-driving cars facing imminent federal regulation? While the concept of self-driving cars is relatively easy to understand and the impacts of self-driving cars are not impossible to imagine, tremendous legal regulation, at least at the federal level, appears not to be immediately forthcoming.

Elaine Chao, the U.S. Transportation secretary, was a keynote speaker at CES 2020. At CES, Secretary Chao outlined the AV 4.0 Plan of the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The plan is quite light in terms of regulating self-driving cars.

The position of the federal government appears to be that rigorous regulation of the self-driving car industry would thwart development in an area where the U.S. wants to be a world leader. Therefore, self-driving car developers should be permitted a great degree of freedom.

But not so fast. This plan is in contravention of recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board. And, of course, the NTSB is the investigating body when it comes to self-driving test car crashes. The NTSB has condemned the Trump administration and various state governments for not investigating self-driving cars more thoroughly. Indeed, the NTSB reportedly said that the development of self-driving cars is being prioritized over human life. Yet, it is not evident yet whether there currently is a significant threat to human life.

Self-driving cars are being developed and tested in several states, including California, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania. Thus, to the extent the federal government does not act to regulate self-driving cars, it will be worth watching whether and to what extent these states and perhaps others jump in.

Patents Created by Artificial Intelligence?

Machine learning is increasing exponentially. As a result, artificial intelligence (AI) now is powering many aspects of our lives. If you ask Siri or Alexa, they will tell you that AI computers are performing surgeries, flying planes, driving cars and winning at games. What’s next?

What’s next might include inventions created by AI. Indeed, several months ago, the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) sought public comments on this topic.

Continue reading Patents Created by Artificial Intelligence?

Potential Amendments To CDA Section 230 Relating to Immunity Provided To Internet Intermediaries

In 1996, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to provide Internet service intermediaries with general immunity from liability with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. Congress wanted the commercial Internet to flourish, with great benefits to the U.S. economy, and therefore did not want Internet intermediaries to be burdened with the phenomenally costly task of having to monitor and referee third-party content.

Calls for Section 230 Reform

Of course, as we know, the commercial Internet has flourished since 1996 to the advantage of the U.S. economy, and some of the biggest and most valuable U.S. companies are Internet intermediaries that host third-party content. But there have been some complaints about the immunity provided by virtue of Section 230. For example, there have been complaints that some Internet intermediaries should have been and should be more active in monitoring and removing false information posted on their sites that is designed to influence political elections. In the wake of these complaints, there have been suggestions that Section 230 is ripe for potential amendments.

Continue reading Potential Amendments To CDA Section 230 Relating to Immunity Provided To Internet Intermediaries

Oregon Senator Proposes Robust Federal Privacy Legislation

Frustrated by privacy lapses by US companies, Democrat Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has introduced proposed federal legislation referred to as the Mind Your Own Business Act (the Act). If enacted, this law could put serious teeth into efforts to protect consumer data.

Serious Penalties for Noncompliance

Indeed, the Act could cause certain executives to find themselves in prison for as many as twenty years if their companies are found to have lied to legal authorities about improper use of consumers’ personal information. On top of that, the Act could lead to such companies incurring special tax penalties corresponding to executives’ salaries.

If this were not enough, the Act would empower the Federal Trade Commission with the ability to fine companies for violating this law up to four percent of corporate annual revenues. For some companies, this could amount to fines in the billions of dollars. Continue reading Oregon Senator Proposes Robust Federal Privacy Legislation

Your Smartphone: Friend or Foe?

Wherever we go these days, whether at work, at home, in restaurants, outside, or practically anywhere else, people reflexively go to their smartphones constantly.

Why? Because those little handheld devices can accomplish so much. We can send communications across various platforms, conduct business tasks, check on the news, shop, participate in social media, listen to music, watch videos, and the list goes on and on. Continue reading Your Smartphone: Friend or Foe?

Staying Ahead of Rampant Cyber-Attacks

Since the advent of the most rudimentary technology, criminal activity has followed. And in more recent times, the internet certainly has been no stranger to criminal enterprises. Indeed, governmental entities, companies and individuals are falling victim to all sorts of cyber-crimes on a constant basis. A look at just one criminal target drives home the rampant nature of online attacks.

Brace yourself for this – the City of London Corporation suffered almost one million cyber-attacks monthly for the first quarter of 2019, based on information obtained by Centrify as reported by info security-magazine.com. That indisputably is a phenomenal number of attacks on the local authority which oversees capital housing for a good portion of the financial center in London. Continue reading Staying Ahead of Rampant Cyber-Attacks

What To Do About CDA Section 230 And ISP Immunity?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) became law long ago when it comes to internet time, way back in the 1990s. The main thrust of the CDA was an effort by Congress to regulate indecent content posted online. Section 230 was included within the CDA to provide general immunity to Internet service providers with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. While the indecency regulatory aspect of the CDA was struck down by the United States Supreme Court as violating the First Amendment, Section 230 survives to this day and has been the critical legal backbone that has allowed a good part of the Internet to flourish, especially social media. Continue reading What To Do About CDA Section 230 And ISP Immunity?

European Union Seeks to Update and Centralize Internet Law

While issues relating to Brexit and Boris Johnson becoming the Prime Minister of England have tended to dominate the news across the pond, not to be lost in the shuffle are reports that the European Union is in the process of creating a new law that would add further regulation of online content. The new law, titled the Digital Services Act, seeks to replace an older commerce directive from two decades ago with an updated and legally binding law. The law is reported to address a wide array of digital platforms and supposedly would focus on all aspects of tech.

So, what are some of the reported features of the Digital Services Act? Continue reading European Union Seeks to Update and Centralize Internet Law

FBI Warns of Cybercrimes Targeting Seniors

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day took place last week on June 15. This Awareness Day highlights how older populations are vulnerable to various forms of fraud and seeks to promote education and strategies to prevent the elderly from being victims of deception.

At the federal level here in the United States, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act was enacted in 2017, and the Department of Justice brought forth the Elder Justice Initiative. The purpose of the Initiative is to provide a platform for the DOJ “to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s seniors,” according to an FBI press release. As a consequence, the FBI “has prioritized [its] efforts to address elder fraud.”

Regional initiatives to protect the elderly have been introduced in the United States as well. For example, the Phoenix Field Office of the FBI is seeking to create greater knowledge about “cyber scams targeting the elderly in Arizona” in recognition of World Elder Abuse Day, as stated in the FBI press release.

Top Crimes Against Seniors

As part of creating greater awareness, the press release points out that residents over the age of 60 make up most of the cybercrime victims in Arizona in 2018 and accounted for the majority of adjusted losses in that year, citing statistics from the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. Continue reading FBI Warns of Cybercrimes Targeting Seniors

Another State Passes Law to Protect Consumer Data

States are taking online consumer protection into their own hands given a perceived lack of sufficient protection at the federal level. Maine now has jumped in.

Indeed, Janet Mills, the Governor of Maine, just signed into law arguably one of the strongest privacy bills in the country. This law, called the Act to Protect the Privacy of Online Consumer Information and which goes into effect on July 1, prohibits internet service providers from using, selling, or distributing data from consumers without obtaining their consent. And, according to The Hill, this new state law bars internet service providers from refusing to serve consumers, penalizing consumers or offering them discounts to seek to gain their permission to sell their data.

Consumer Affairs and Privacy

This bold step by Maine follows in the footsteps of California, a state which passed a complicated online privacy law last year. That law has been both applauded by privacy activists and criticized in certain respects by the tech industry.

At first blush, the new Maine law may be even more robust than the California law. The Maine law is opt-in in nature, requiring explicit consent from consumers before internet service providers can sell their data. The California law is opt-out in effect, making consumers affirmatively request that their data not be sold. Continue reading Another State Passes Law to Protect Consumer Data