Wednesday, April 5, 2017

NY Could Take Lead Protecting Consumer Privacy

The next big thing in Privacy Law could be a lot of little things. Congressional Republicans last week voted to Eliminate Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rules that would have required Internet Service Providers (ISP) such as Cablevision’s Optimum to get Consumer Consent before using Personal Data for Business purposes. The Bill, which President Trump is expected to sign into Law, represents a Victory for Telecom companies looking to Monetize Customer Data the way Google and Facebook do, as well as a blow to Privacy Advocates. But it could also spur Governments in New York and in other States to enact their own Privacy Laws, which would be hard for smaller Technology companies to navigate.

A Bill sponsored by Queens Assemblyman David Weprin, for example, would establish a “Right to be Forgotten”, allowing Individuals and Businesses to Request the Removal from some Internet Sites of Information that’s Inaccurate, Irrelevant, Inadequate, or Excessive. The Bill is vaguely worded, but Weprin said it’s intended to apply only to Search Engines. “What they’re trying to do in Washington,” Weprin said, “would make some form of the ‘right to be forgotten’ [legislation] even more important.”

The Bill, which would apply to Internet Sites rather than Service Providers, is unlikely to pass in its current form. It recently lost its State Senate Sponsor, and Experts believe that it Conflicts with the First Amendment. The so-called ‘Right to be Forgotten’ exists in European Union Countries and is based on Continental Legal logic that doesn’t easily translate to common Law Countries like the U.S. Surveys have shown some support for the concept in the U.S., however, and Voters frustrated by the loosening of Federal Regulations may want States to take action to protect their Privacy Online. “You’re absolutely going to see states becoming more active in debates around privacy,” said Julie Samuels, executive Director of Tech:NYC, which represents Technology companies.

The Trump Administration’s promise to lessen Federal Regulation could actually inspire a complex patchwork of Local Rules. Illinois last week moved forward with two Laws protecting Privacy, which Technology companies are lobbying against. “For small- to medium-size companies, the advantage to federal regulation is that there’s one set of rules,” said Erik Grimmelmann, President of the New York Tech Alliance, which represents smaller Local firms. Already, there are 47 State Laws on “Data Breach Notification,” requiring Companies to tell Consumers if their Personal Data may have been accessed by Hackers. “If you’re a big company, like Target, you can afford to deal with that,” Grimmelmann said. “But if you’re a small company, that’s hard.”

Weprin argues that his Bill would give recourse to Businesses: “For the plumber, the local businessman, this would help them deal with information that’s misleading or inaccurate.” Weprin said he was inspired to sponsor the Law by “a small business that was ruined by people spreading false information,” although he declined to provide further details.

But Tech companies worry that State Policymakers may not understand the Implications of their Bills. “Well-meaning state legislatures sometimes pass laws with unforeseen consequences, and privacy laws—like New York’s proposed ‘right to be forgotten’ bill—definitely fall into that category,” said Abigail Slater, General Counsel of the Internet Association, a Trade group that has an office in Albany.

If the Public feels their Privacy is no longer Protected Online, the move to loosen Regulations may backfire for Businesses. “When you think about how the internet works, it’s a system that’s based on trust, and I worry that when you see things like this happen, the trust erodes,” Samuels said of the Bill to overturn FCC Privacy Rules. “If people don’t trust that their transactions are secure, they’re not going to do business on the internet—and that would be really bad for tech firms.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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