George H. Pike, NewsBreaks’ legal expert, covered more federal government news, including issues related to Net Neutrality, security, and privacy. In February, “New U.S. Laws Impact Information Gathering and Security” provided an overview of the latest legislation from the 113th Congress.
For example, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 became law and immediately began to generate controversy. “The primary purpose of the act is to provide appropriations for various intelligence agencies and activities. However, one section buried within the act is being claimed to expand government spying by authorizing the ‘acquisition, retention, and dissemination’ of ‘any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired without the consent of a person who is a party to the communication,’” Pike wrote.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to uphold Net Neutrality in February (“FCC Approves Net Neutrality”). “The rules would allow the FCC to regulate ISPs in a similar manner to telecommunication companies, including by restricting their ability to prioritize or give favorable treatment to certain categories of content,” Pike noted. “Opponents of Net Neutrality, however, have vowed to block the FCC action in either the courts or in Congress.” He highlighted the mixed reactions to the vote and speculated about the FCC’s next steps. Herther penned a Net Neutrality update in June (“The FCC’s New Open Internet Order Faces the Realities of Implementation”).
In May’s “Supreme Court to Address Standing to Sue for Data Breaches and Privacy Violations,” Pike looked at the Supreme Court’s decision to consider whether a person can sue for the posting of incorrect information (which would violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act), even if there is no proof that he or she was harmed by this information.
“USA FREEDOM Act: Protector of Civil Liberties or Window Dressing?” detailed reactions to the scaled-back provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act signed into law in June. The USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 “renewed several of the USA PATRIOT Act’s provisions but added restraints to government surveillance activities, particularly the controversial bulk collection of telephone metadata,” Pike explained. “[S]ince Congress’ action, however, debate has continued,” with some commentators saying it doesn’t do enough to curtail government surveillance.
Google made global headlines when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that people can ask to have links to information about them removed from search results. “In the past few months, both Russia and China have initiated similar legislation. Recently, legal scholars have asserted that the decision is bound to be applied to internet hosting services as well, a possibility that has many wondering about the implications for free speech and the integrity of the historical record,” Herther noted in “The Right to Be Forgotten Becomes a Critical Issue for the Internet’s Future” in August. Asking for the removal of information does not guarantee that a search engine must comply. Herther delved into the implications of the ruling and explored legislation from other countries on the same issue.
In other internet news, Barbie E. Keiser covered sites that are helping to keep the journalism profession afloat in July’s “Winning Resources for Global Journalism.” She outlined the complaints about traditional journalism (budget cuts and less attention to local sources by Western journalists covering world events, etc.) and provided information about startups and companies that are innovating in the journalism space, such as 100Reporters, Google’s News Lab, and Stringr.
In September’s “‘Let’s Encrypt’ the Internet: From HTTP to HTTPS,” Abby Clobridge looked at the Let’s Encrypt initiative to transition the internet to an encrypted HTTPS environment. It helps companies obtain and install a Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate to encrypt their web traffic. She explained the importance of using the HTTPS setting on websites: “Although the internet has made progress over the past 2 decades in moving to environments in which HTTPS has become the norm for logins and payment transactions, many websites still encrypt only particular pages. Increasingly, information security best practices encourage encryption for all traffic—not just for pages through which sensitive information, such as login credentials or credit card numbers, is being transmitted—in order to eliminate session hijacking attacks and enhance overall privacy.”