Developments in telecommunications policy being made in the legal system.
After the Trump Administration announced that it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that shields younger undocumented immigrants from deportation, Microsoft vowed to defend its workers in court. Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said that the company is committed to protecting its 39 employees who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, also known as “dreamers.” “If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees,” Smith wrote. “If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel.” Smith added that Microsoft will explore whether it can intervene directly in any such deportation case. “In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side.”
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly tore into President Trump’s voter commission for reneging on a promise to fully disclose public documents before a July 19 meeting, ordering the government to meet new transparency requirements and eliciting an apology from administration lawyers.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly of Washington said the Election Integrity Commission released only an agenda and proposed bylaws before its first meeting at the White House complex. But once gathered, commissioners sat with thick binders that included documents the public had not seen, including a specially-prepared report and a 381-page “database” purporting to show 1,100 cases of voter fraud, both from the Heritage Foundation, and also received a typed list of possible topics to address from the panel vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Judge Kollar-Kotelly said the panel’s after-the-fact argument was “incredible” when it said it did not believe documents prepared by individual commissioners for the July meeting had to have been posted in advance.
A federal judge on Aug 29 dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin against The New York Times, saying Palin’s complaint failed to show that a mistake in an editorial was made maliciously. “What we have here is an editorial, written and rewritten rapidly in order to voice an opinion on an immediate event of importance, in which are included a few factual inaccuracies somewhat pertaining to Palin that are very rapidly corrected,” Judge Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan said in his ruling. “Negligence this may be; but defamation of a public figure it plainly is not.”
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit remanded the SNR Wireless v. Federal Communications Commission case to the FCC. Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge Harold Feld said, “We’re extremely pleased that the D.C. Circuit agreed with our analysis that although the FCC had the authority to deny the small business credit, the agency should have given DISH Network, SNR Wireless and Northstar a chance to remedy the problem. As we noted in our amicus brief, the small business credit put licenses in the hands of new competitors and constituted the single largest win of FCC licenses by minority-owned businesses like SNR Wireless and Northstar."
Is the data you share publicly on social networking sites like an announcement in a public place, where speech and information gathering are protected under the First Amendment? Or is it more like something uttered on private real estate, where the owner can prohibit trespassers as they wish? That quandary recently emerged in a California courtroom, where two of the country’s most eminent constitutional lawyers squared off in a high-stakes battle between a data giant and a tiny startup.
Is the term "google" too generic and therefore unworthy of its trademark protection? That's the question before the US Supreme Court. Words like teleprompter, thermos, hoover, aspirin, and videotape were once trademarked. They lost the status after their names became too generic and fell victim to what is known as "genericide."
What's before the Supreme Court is a trademark lawsuit that Google already defeated in a lower court. The lawsuit claims that Google should no longer be trademarked because the word "google" is synonymous to the public with the term "search the Internet." "There is no single word other than google that conveys the action of searching the Internet using any search engine," according to the petition to the Supreme Court. It's perhaps one of the most consequential trademark case before the justices since they ruled in June that offensive trademarks must be allowed.
Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, sued to compel the Trump administration to release names of at least some visitors to the White House complex, as was done in the Obama era.
The lawsuit contends that the current administration had planned to be less open about visitor logs but was failing to abide by even that lower standard it had announced in April. Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group, alleged in the lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia that the Secret Service has rejected or ignored requests under the public records law for information about visitors to four agencies at the White House complex: the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality. Public Citizen harshly criticized the withholding of the visitor information, saying the failure to release them flouted a 2013 appellate court ruling and contradicted President Trump’s vows to “drain the swamp” of corrupting influences of money in politics in Washington.
Fourteen of the biggest US tech companies filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Aug 14 supporting more rigorous warrant requirements for law enforcement seeking certain cell phone data, such as location information. In the statement, the signatories—Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft among them—argue that the government leans on outdated laws from the 1970s to justify Fourth Amendment overreach. One perhaps surprising voice in the chorus of protesters? Verizon.
Verizon's support means that the largest wireless service provider in the US, and a powerful force in Silicon Valley, has bucked a longtime trend of telecom acquiescence. While carriers have generally been willing to comply with a broad range of government requests—even building out extensive infrastructure to aid surveillance—Verizon has this time joined with academics, analysts, and the company’s more privacy-focused corporate peers. Carpenter v. United States is “one of the most important Fourth Amendment cases in recent memory,” wrote Craig Silliman, Verizon’s executive vice president for public policy and general counsel. “Although the specific issue presented to the Court is about location information, the case presents a broader issue about a customer’s reasonable expectation of privacy for other types of sensitive data she shares with any third party.… Our hope is that when it decides this case, the Court will help us better apply old Fourth Amendment doctrines to an evolving digital era.”
A federal appeals court revived a California man's lawsuit accusing Spokeo of publishing an online profile about him that was filled with mistakes.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 in favor of Thomas Robins, 15 months after the US Supreme Court asked it to more closely assess whether he suffered the "concrete and particularized" injury needed to justify a lawsuit. Spokeo sells data aggregated from various databases to users including employers and people seeking romantic partners. Robins sued after learning that his profile, which carried someone's else's photo, said he was married with children, affluent, in his 50s and employed, and had a graduate degree. He said all of this was wrong, and accused Pasadena, California-based Spokeo of willfully violating the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, with potential damages of $1,000. The case was significant because Robins tried to pursue a class action, which if successful could expose Facebook, Alphabet's Google and other online data providers to mass claims in similar lawsuits.
More than a dozen high technology companies and the biggest wireless operator in the United States, Verizon, have called on the US Supreme Court to make it harder for government officials to access individuals' sensitive cellphone data. The companies filed a 44-page brief with the court Aug 14 in a high-profile dispute over whether police should have to get a warrant before obtaining data that could reveal a cellphone user's whereabouts.
Signed by some of Silicon Valley's biggest names, including Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Snap, and Alphabet's Google, the brief said that as individuals' data is increasingly collected through digital devices, greater privacy protections are needed under the law. "That users rely on technology companies to process their data for limited purposes does not mean that they expect their intimate data to be monitored by the government without a warrant," the brief said.