Category Archives: Information, Technologies and Telecom

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

California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) Amendments One Step Closer to Passage

By Angelica A. Zabanal

When the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) was passed last year, it was generally acknowledged that the CCPA would need to be clarified prior to its January 1, 2020, implementation. A variety of CCPA amendments are now one step closer to full passage.

Last month, the California Senate Judiciary Committee passed seven amendment bills to the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”).  The bills are now headed to the Committee on Appropriations for a vote. Any bills amended by the Senate will need to return to the Assembly for a vote and a possible reconciliation.  Lawmakers have until September 13, 2019 to vote on these CCPA amendments, which are summarized in their current form below:

  • B. 25 (regarding Employee Exception):  Amends the CCPA so that it excludes the collection of personal information (“PI”) from job applicants, employees, business owners, directors, officers, medical staff, or contractors, who would not be considered as “consumers” under the CCPA.  Now amended to weaken the employee exception with a sunset exemption on January 1, 2021 and negating the exemption as it pertains to the CCPA’s notice and data breach liability provisions;
  • B. 846 (regarding Customer Loyalty Programs):  Excludes application of certain prohibitions in the CCPA to loyalty or rewards programs.  Now amended to prohibit a business from selling consumer PI that was collected as part of a loyalty, reward, discount, premium features, or club card program;
  • B. 1202 (regarding Data Brokers):  Requires data brokers to register with the California Attorney General.  Now amended to exclude language that would have provided consumers the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information by data brokers;
  • B. 1564 (regarding Disclosure Methods):  Requires businesses to provide consumers with two methods for the submission of privacy requests, including a toll-free telephone number at a minimum.  Excludes smaller online companies from the toll-free number and allows these companies to provide an email address for submitting privacy requests;
  • B. 1146 (regarding Warranty and Vehicle Repairs):  Exempts vehicle information retained or shared for purposes of a warranty or recall-related vehicle repair.  Now amended to provide a clearer description of vehicle recalls;
  • B. 874 (regarding “Publicly Available” Information):  Expands definition of “publicly available” to include information that is lawfully made available from federal, state, or local government records.  Amends definition of “personal information” to exclude de-identified or aggregate consumer information.  (Approved by the Judiciary Committee without amendments);
  • B. 1355 (regarding Opt-In Clarification):  Exempts de-identified or aggregate consumer information from the definition of PI.  Also clarifies that consumers over 13 years of age but younger than 16 years of age are required to opt in. Furthermore, parents need to authorize consent only for consumers under 13 years of age. (Approved by the Judiciary Committee without amendments.)

Stay tuned for more updates from Duane Morris LLP regarding the advancement of these CCPA amendments and join us for our CCPA webinar series.