TLJ News from February 21-25, 2012

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2/23. The Executive Office of the President's (EOP) released a document [62 pages in PDF] titled "Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy".

Obama Signs Spectrum Bill into Law

2/22. President Obama signed into law HR 3630, [LOC | WW], the "Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011". See, White House news office release.

This bill gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authority to conduct incentive auctions. It also reallocates the D Block for an interoperable public safety broadband network, and provides for the creation, governance, and funding of such a public safety network. It also includes the "Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act" and other provisions.

Also on February 22, the Executive Office of the President's (EOP) Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) released a paper [25 pages in PDF] titled "The Economic Benefits of New Spectrum for Wireless Broadband".

It restates points that have been made repeatedly in discussions leading up to the passage of HR 3630, and upon which there is consensus.

It states that "the projected growth in data traffic can be achieved only by making more spectrum available for wireless use", that "Wireless broadband has the potential to transform many different areas of the American economy by providing a platform for new innovation".

It also states that "Wireless broadband has a vital role to play in improving the ability of emergency personnel to communicate efficiently and to obtain necessary information quickly, including real-time videos, images, and other data".

It also states that "the spread of wireless broadband is likely to increase the rate of growth in per capita income; spur economic activity through new business investment; and support many new high quality jobs".

For more on this bill, see stories titled "House and Senate Negotiators Reach Agreement on Spectrum Legislation", "Summary of Spectrum Bill", and "Reaction to Spectrum Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,339, February 17, 2012, and story titled "House and Senate Pass Spectrum Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,340, February 18, 2012.

Sen. Baucus Discusses Trade and WTO Issues with Russian Officials

2/22. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (SFC), which has jurisdiction over trade issues, traveled to the Russian Federation on February 17-22, 2012, to discuss trade disputes and Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who handles economic and trade issues, and Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina.

See, full story.

State Attorneys General Say Google's Plan to Combine User Data Violates User Privacy

2/22. The Attorneys General of a majority of the states signed a letter to Google expressing opposition to its plan to combine information about users collected from its many platforms. They state that it violates user privacy, fails to provide a real opt out option, and will lead to more severe problems arising out of data breaches, hacking and identity theft.

The letter is signed by the Attorneys General (AGs) of the largest states, including California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

The AGs wrote that "Until now, users of Google's many products could use different products in different ways, expecting that information they provide for one product, such as YouTube, would not be synthesized with information they provide for another product, such as Gmail and Maps. The new policy forces these consumers to allow information across all of these products to be shared, without giving them the proper ability to opt out."

It notes for example, that state governments that are using Google productivity applications would face great expense switching to other applications, and Android phone users cannot easily switch either.

They explained that "Google's new privacy policy is troubling for a number of reasons. On a fundamental level, the policy appears to invade consumer privacy by automatically sharing personal information consumers input into one Google product with all Google products. Consumers have diverse interests and concerns, and may want the information in their Web History to be kept separate from the information they exchange via Gmail."

"Likewise, consumers may be comfortable with Google knowing their Search queries but not with it knowing their whereabouts, yet the new privacy policy appears to give them no choice in the matter, further invading their privacy."

The AGs also warned that "Those consumers who remain in the Google ecosystem may be making more of their personal information vulnerable to attack from hackers and identity thieves. Our offices litigate cases of identity fraud with regularity and it seems plain to us that Google’s privacy policy changes, which suggest your company’s intent to create richer personal data profiles, pose the risk of much more damaging cases of identity theft and fraud when that data is compromised, a risk that will grow as instances of computer hacking grow. With this newly consolidated bank of personal data, we foresee potentially more severe problems arising from any data breach."

Google's plans to consolidate data are scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2012.

Microsoft Complains to EC Regarding Google's Abuse of Standard Essential Patents

2/22. Microsoft announced that it filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) asking it to investigate Motorola Mobility and Google for anticompetitive conduct in connection with its abuse of standard essential patents (SEPs) for video on smartphones and tablets. Apple previously complained.

Google announced its plans to acquire Motorola Mobility in August of 2011. See, story titled "Google to Acquire Motorola Mobility" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,290, August 15, 2011.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and EC cleared the transaction on February 13, 2012. See, stories titled "DOJ Closes Investigations of Transactions Involving Communications Patents" and "EC Approves Google Acquisition of Motorola Mobility" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,335, February 13, 2012.

Microsoft's Dave Heiner stated in a short piece that "We have taken this step because Motorola is attempting to block sales of Windows PCs, our Xbox game console and other products."

See, full story.

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2/22. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) announced in a release that the US Korea Free Trade Agreement will go into effect on March 15, 2012. The OUSTR stated that this FTA lowers tariffs, and "includes a number of significant commitments related to non-tariff measures", including "obligations related to ... enhanced regulatory transparency, standard-setting, technology neutrality, and customs administration" and "Strengthened protections for intellectual property rights". See also, the final text of this FTA, and its sections regarding telecommunications [17 pages in PDF], electronic commerce [4 pages in PDF], and intellectual property rights [35 pages in PDF].

2/22. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech on cyber security.

EPIC Argues FTC's Failure to Take Action Against Google Is Subject to Judicial Review

2/21. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed with the U.S. District Court (DC) its reply to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) opposition to its Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [30 pages in PDF].

The EPIC argues in this latest filing that the FTC's failure to enforce a final order under the FTC Act is subject to judicial review.

This action pertains to whether Google's new privacy policy, scheduled to take effect on March 1, violates the FTC's Decision and Order [7 pages in PDF] dated October 13, 2011. The FTC issued that order as a result of Google privacy related misconduct in the launch of its Buzz service.

The EPIC argues in the present action that Google's pending changes to its privacy policies violate the October 13 order, that the FTC has failed to take action to prevent such violation, and that the District Court should compel the FTC to take action against Google, before March 1.

The EPIC stated in its complaint that "Rather than keeping personal information about a user of a given Google service separate from information gathered from other Google services, Google will consolidate user data from across its services and create a single merged profile for each user."

The EPIC argues that this will harm users, that this violates the order, and that if the FTC does not take enforcement action before March 1, irreparable injury will result, because the covered information of Google users will have been combined.

The EPIC filed its complaint the present action on February 8. See, story titled "EPIC Sues FTC to Compel Enforcement of Google Privacy Order" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,338, February 16, 2012.

The FTC argued in its motion to dismiss and opposition [12 pages in PDF] that the FTC Act gives the FTC enforcement authority, but does not creates a private right of action for the EPIC or any other third parties. It also argues that third parties to government consent decrees generally cannot enforce those decrees via judicial review. See, story titled "FTC Files Opposition to EPIC's Motion to Compel FTC to Enforce Google Order" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,342, February 20, 2012.

Go to News from February 16-20, 2012.