|Texas.net Complains to FCC
about AOL Time Warner
|8/15. Texas Networking, Inc.
(Texas.net) filed a complaint
and petition with the FCC seeking a
declaratory ruling that AOL Time Warner (AOLTW) has not
complied with the FCC's Memorandum Opinion and Order released
January 22, 2001 in its AOL Time Warner merger proceeding. Specifically, Texas.net alleged
in its August 9 complaint that AOLTW has not complied with the
provisions regarding allowing access by unaffiliated ISPs to
AOLTW's cable system. On August 15 the FCC issued a
notice requesting public comments on the complaint. The
deadline to file is 20 days after the release of this notice.
Texas.net provides residential dialup Internet access, and
broadband Internet access and other services to businesses in
Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. See
|Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
service provider Covad
filed a Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy
The petition was filed by Covad Communications Group, Inc.,
the parent company of Covad Communications Company. Covad also
stated in a release
that "Covad's operating subsidiaries, which provide DSL
services to customers, are not expected to be included in the
court supervised proceeding and will continue to operate in
the ordinary course of business without any court imposed
8/15. Egghead.com filed
a Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Egghead, based in Menlo Park, California, is an Internet
retailer of computer hardware and software, consumer
electronics and office products, and other items. Egghead also
entered into a definitive agreement for the sale of assets to Fry's Electronics, a chain of
electronics stores based in San Jose, California. Egghead also
stated in a release
that "Subject to approval of the sale by the Bankruptcy
Court, it is expected that the transaction will close by the
end of September."
|RUS Announces Grants for
Providing Internet Access in Rural Areas
|8/15. The Rural
Utilities Service (RUS) published a notice
in the Federal Register announcing a grant program to finance
the acquisition, construction and installation of equipment,
facilities and systems to provide dial-up Internet access
services in rural areas. This is a $2 Million pilot program to
encourage entities to provide Internet service in areas where
it is unavailable. The deadline for submitting grant
applications is November 13, 2001. See, Federal Register,
August 15, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 158, at Pages 42836 - 42838.
re privacy and public access to electronic case files, 8/15 (PDF,
re grants for providing dial up Internet access in rural
areas, 8/15 (HTML, RUS).
to FTC re Microsoft's Passport and privacy, 8/15 (PDF, EPIC).
to FCC re AOL Time Warner and open access, 8/9 (PDF, FCC).
and request for comments re Texas.net complaint, 8/15 (PDF,
|EPIC Complains about
|8/15. The Electronic Privacy
Information Center (EPIC) and others submitted an updated
complaint (PDF) to the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) regarding Microsoft's Passport and
other software and services. EPIC filed its original complaint
(PDF] on July 26, 2001. EPIC request that the FTC conduct an
investigation of Microsoft, and enjoin a number of software
features and services which it alleges violate § 5 of
the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C.
Paragraph 1 of the original complaint, which is incorporated
by reference in the amended complaint, states that this
"concerns the privacy implications of the Microsoft XP
operating system that is expected to become the primary means
of access for consumers in the United States to the Internet.
... Microsoft has engaged, and is engaging, in unfair and
deceptive trade practices intended to profile, track, and
monitor millions of Internet users. Central to the scheme is a
system of services, known collectively as ".NET,"
which incorporate "Passport," "Wallet,"
and "HailStorm" that are designed to obtain personal
information from consumers in the United States unfairly and
deceptively. The public interest requires the Commission to
investigate these practices and to enjoin Microsoft from
violating Section 5" of the FTCA.
EPIC requests that the FTC "Initiate an investigation
into the information collection practices of Microsoft through
Passport and associated services". EPIC also wants the
FTC issue a far reaching injunction against Microsoft. EPIC
want the FTC to order Microsoft "to revise the XP
registration procedures so that purchasers of Microsoft XP are
clearly informed that they need not register for Passport to
obtain access to the Internet", "to block the
sharing of personal information among Microsoft areas provided
by a user under the Passport registration procedures absent
explicit consent", "to incorporate techniques for
anonymity and pseudo- anonymity that would allow users of
Windows XP to gain access to Microsoft web sites without
disclosing their actual identity", and "to
incorporate techniques that would enable users of Windows XP
to easily integrate services provided by non-Microsoft
companies for online payment, electronic commerce, and other
Internet-based commercial activity".
The amended complaint contains new allegations regarding
security, and non compliance with the Children's Online
Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). It also requests that the FTC
begin an investigation to determine whether Passport complies
with the requirements of the COPPA.
Rotenberg, Executive Director of EPIC, spoke at a press
conference in Washington DC on August 15. He stated that EPIC
has not filed, and does not intend to file, a civil action
against Microsoft. The complaint requests that the FTC enjoin
Microsoft; yet, Rotenberg asserted at the press conference
that "it is not our goal here to delay unnecessarily the
release of XP ..."
After EPIC submitted its original complaint, Microsoft
announced that it is reducing the amount of information
necessary to establish a Passport account. Rotenberg stated
that while he is pleased with these steps, "more needs to
be done." He sited the remaining Passport requirement of
providing an e-mail address. He stated that this is personally
identifying, and unnecessary to provide Passport services.
The FTC has consumer protection authority under the FTCA,
which states that "unfair or deceptive acts or practices
in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful."
However, it has no privacy specific statutory authority.
Moreover, while EPIC's complaint is structured like a legal
pleading, the FTCA creates no administrative cause of action
for private parties. Parties, such as EPIC, and ordinary
consumers, may submit complaints to the FTC. In fact, the FTC
encourages the submission of public complaints. However, it is
within the sole discretion of the FTC to determine whether to
conduct any investigation, or take any action.
The complainants are EPIC, Center for Digital Democracy,
Center for Media Education, Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of
America, Consumer Task Force for Automotive Issues, Electronic
Frontier Foundation, Junkbusters, Media Access Project, Net
Action, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, U.S. Public Interest
Research Group, Consumer Project on Technology.
|Courts Committee Makes
Recommendations on Electronic Case Files
|8/15. The Administrative
Office of U.S. Courts' Committee on Court Administration
and Case Management released a report
[PDF] titled "Report on Privacy and Public Access to
Electronic Case Files." The report recommends that most
civil and bankruptcy cases should be made available in
electronic format, with redactions of some personal data
identifiers, but that criminal cases should not be made
available. See also, release.
The report is dated June 26, 2001; it was publicly released on
August 15. The Judicial Conference of the U.S., which makes
policy for the federal courts, will meet on September 11 to
consider the recommendations contained in the report.
Civil Cases. The report recommends that "documents
in civil case files should be made available electronically to
the same extent that they are available at the courthouse with
one exception (Social Security cases should be excluded from
electronic access) and one change in policy (the requirement
that certain "personal data identifiers" be modified
or partially redacted by the litigants). These identifiers are
Social Security numbers, dates of birth, financial account
numbers and names of minor children."
Criminal Cases. The report recommends that "public
remote electronic access to documents in criminal cases should
not be available at this time, with the understanding that the
policy will be reexamined within two years of adoption by the
Bankruptcy Cases. The report recommends that
"documents in bankruptcy case files should be made
generally available electronically to the same extent that
they are available at the courthouse, with a similar policy
change for personal identifiers as in civil cases; that § 107(b)(2)
of the Bankruptcy Code should be amended to establish privacy
and security concerns as a basis for the sealing of a
document; and that the Bankruptcy Code and Rules should be
amended as necessary to allow the court to collect a
debtor’s full Social Security number but display only the
last four digits."
|Computer and Internet Crime
|8/14. The FBI's National
Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) announced that on
July 23, 2001, British law enforcement authorities arrested an
unnamed person for violation of the United Kingdom's Computer
Misuse Act 1990 in connection with designing and propagating
malicious code, known as the Leaves worm, into Windows based
computer systems. See, NIPC
|About Tech Law Journal
|Tech Law Journal is a free access web site and e-mail alert
that provides news, records, and analysis of legislation,
litigation, and regulation affecting the computer and Internet
industry. This e-mail service is offered free of charge to
anyone who requests it. Just provide TLJ an e-mail address.
Number of subscribers: 1,955.
Contact: 202-364-8882; E-mail.
P.O. Box 15186, Washington DC, 20003.
Copyright 1998 - 2001 David Carney, dba Tech Law Journal. All