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Twitter Q&A on Children’s Online Privacy with Reps. Markey and Barton

in Privacy by

New press release came across the transom about the lawmakers that have introduced bipartisan, bicameral ‘Do Not Track Kids’ Act to provide new tools for parents, protections for teens in mobile environment

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2014 – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (@MarkeyMemo) and Rep. Joe Barton (@RepJoeBarton) are hosting a Twitter Q&A on children’s online privacy. Using the hashtag #AskKidsPriv, the lawmakers will be answering questions on Twitter about how parents can protect their children online, what tools are available to prevent online tracking of children, and their legislation The Do Not Track Kids Act.

The Do Not Track Kids Act, co-sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in the Senate and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) in the House, amends the historic Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), will extend, enhance and update the provisions relating to the collection, use and disclosure of children’s personal information and establishes new protections for personal information of children and teens. Currently, COPPA covers children age 12 and younger, and it requires operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children 12 and younger to abide by various privacy safeguards as they collect, use, or disclose personal information about kids. Among several provisions, the Do Not Track Kids Act would extend protection to teens ages 13 to 15 by prohibiting Internet companies from collecting personal and location information from teens without their consent and would create an “Eraser Button” so parents and children could eliminate publicly available personal information content, when technologically feasible.

WHAT: Twitter Q&A on children’s online privacy and Do Not Track Kids Act

WHO: Senator Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Barton (R-Texas)

WHEN: 2PM TODAY ET, Wednesday, April 9, 2014

HASHTAG: #AskKidsPriv

Is Apple Big Brother?

in Mobile Broadband/Privacy by

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2010 – Buried within a 40 page privacy policy Apple says that it will share location data with its partners. “Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device.”

With increased concern by consumers about the collection and use of location data and other personal data being shared with advertisers Reps. Edward Markey and Joe Barton sent Apple CEO Steve Jobs a letter requesting information on the policy and services.

Apple says that, “This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services.”

According to Apple’s response, there is an “exchange of information” when you look at a web page. Through what is called “pixel tagging,” they can figure out what parts of a web page you looked at.

However, the response document does outline sincere needs for location data. For instance, when you activate a phone, the carrier must collect some data to figure out where the phone is.

In fact, the response document says that the privacy policy’s June 21, 2010 update, “added provisions advising customers to review the privacy practices of third party application providers.”

Apple does have a third party privacy monitor, TRUSTe, but when your email address is collected for “privacy related inquiries”.

“In response to increasing customer demand, Apple began to provide location-based services in January 2008. These services enable applications that allow customers to perform a wide variety of useful tasks such as getting directions … locating their friends … or identifying nearby restaurants and stores,” read Apple’s response.

Apple also said that user location information cannot be collected unless the location is turned on, something the user must approve.

Universal Service Fund Needs Overhaul, and Most Want Broadband Included

in National Broadband Plan/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2009 – The Universal Service Fund is in need of an overhaul to equalize costs among stakeholders and modernize programs to include broadband services, a group of industry representatives and regulators told the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet during a Tuesday hearing.

The hearing examined a discussion draft of the Universal Service Reform Act of 2009, authored by subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.

The Universal Service program, which existed for decades before being codified in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, is under “tremendous pressure” and requires a comprehensive effort to reform its operations, Boucher said during opening remarks.

Reform is needed because new technologies for long distance voice communications have reduced the available revenue that can be tapped to fund current programs, leading to soaring costs for consumers – a projected 14 percent of revenues in January of 2010, he said.

Such an increase and a maintenance of the status quo is simply “not sustainable,” Boucher said. The Boucher-Terry bill would cap the high cost portion of the fund while requiring wireless carriers who participate to do so through a competitive bidding process. Such legislative changes would include reporting requirements and auditing processes that critics of the fund say are long overdue.

Intrastate communications providers would also pay into the reformed fund under the Boucher-Terry bill, relieving pressure on long-distance carriers, and making the fund “sustainable,” Boucher said.

These changes would “bridge the divide” on USF issues between large carriers, which contribute more than they receive, and smaller carriers that receive more than they contribute under the current regime, he added.

And broadband services would finally be included in the list of services eligible for universal service subsidies. This move was applauded by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Waxman, who chairs the full committee, said USF reform must focus on how subsidies can contribute to broadband adoption. While 90 percent of households have access to broadband, Waxman lamented that adoption rates that have not kept pace with availability and have lagged beyond the national average among low-income households.

But ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, expressed skepticism that broadband should be considered a “civil right.” He said any addition of broadband into USF should be delayed until questions over definitions raised by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act broadband grant programs have been settled.

State regulators strongly support the inclusion of broadband in any USF legislative effort, said Oregon Public Utility Commissioner Roy Baum. Baum, who chairs the telecommunications committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and who serves on the Federal Communication Commission’s Joint Board on Universal service, welcomed the Boucher-Terry bill.

“No one seriously disputes that reform of the existing mechanisms is long overdue,” Baum said.

Baum stressed the importance of incorporating broadband into USF. “Broadband deployment is of utmost importance to the economic productivity and quality of life of the entire country,” he said. Baum warned members that communities that lack broadband now will soon be as disadvantaged as those who lacked electricity in the first half of the 20th century. Inclusion of broadband in the discussion draft is a “major step forward,” Baum said.

Technological changes now warrant an overhaul of USF to focus around broadband where it once sought to deploy voice services, said National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Kyle McSlarrow. While McSlarrow acknowledged such a transition would entail “significant changes,” he recommended sweeping reforms to recognize the new reality, such as reducing the high cost program in areas where it is no longer required while ramping up programs to support broadband adoption in areas that lack access to such services.

Specially, McSlarrow reiterated NCTA’s support for including broadband in existing USF programs such as Lifeline and Link Up. “Expanding these programs to include access to broadband could help bring the benefits of broadband to low-income consumers,” he said.

Catherine Moyer, vice-chair of the Organization for Promotion of Small Telecommunications Companies, said OPASTCO “applauds” the inclusion of broadband in USF reform proposals, calling the draft a “forward looking move.” Such services are “rapidly becoming the mode of delivery for practically everything consumers may need or want regarding communications,” she said, including voice, data, education, health care and entertainment.

Support for broadband’s inclusion in USF reform was echoed by Joel Lubin, AT&T vice president for public policy services.

But Lubin cautioned against acting too quickly in light of the FCC’s forthcoming national broadband plan, due in just over three months. “Because the goals of the national broadband plan must include the availability of broadband services to every American within the near future, fundamental universal service reform is integrally related to the success of that plan,” he said. Legislative efforts must be “carefully calibrated” not to impede the FCC’s progress, he said.

Telecom Committees in Congress Raise Universal Broadband Issues at Cable Forum

in Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2009 – Congress is unlikely to act on major broadband issues until after the August recess, aides to House and Senate committee chairs told attendees Tuesday at the American Cable Association summit here.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V. wants to work on “a host of pressing challenges” this year, said deputy chief of staff James Reid. Rockefeller and Sen. John Kerry, D-Ma., who chairs the newly constituted Telecommunications Subcommittee, are looking at a number of communications and media-related issues for consideration.

But Reid said Senate action is unlikely to go beyond hearings, with the exception of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension Reauthorization Act, which expires at year’s end. He blamed the current pace of Senate debate for the pessimistic outlook, “You need bills that can be done [on the Senate floor] in one or two days,” he said. But Reid added that the committee’s fall schedule had not yet been mapped out, leaving the possibility for new developments open.

On the House side, Energy and Commerce Committee Senior Counsel Tim Powderly said Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was “singularly focused” on climate change legislation, and along with health care reform, would likely dominate the committee’s agenda until the memorial day recess. Except for SHVERA, there is “not a lot of room for other things,” he said.

Neil Fried, counsel to Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-Texas, agreed. “It’s going to be a while before we can really dig down into [telecommunications] issues,” he said.

Barton is particularly interested in reforming the Universal Service Fund, he said, but cautioned the $7.25 billion in broadband stimulus funds may “take some of the air out of the debate” on USF reform.

Fried said Barton worries that the stimulus program would turn into a continuously funded source, which he warned would “effectively double” the $7 billion Universal Service Fund.

But Reid said a comparison between the stimulus and USF is incorrect, and called the idea that stimulus funds are meant to improve residential access alone a “misconception…based on a very different concept of what unserved and underserved areas actually mean.”

Reid suggested a better solution for communities would be to create capacity for future development with so-called “middle mile” build-out. Powderly also concurred that stimulus funds could best be used to increase backhaul capacity for rural telecommunications providers.

Chairman Rockefeller hopes to hold confirmation hearings for FCC Chairman-designate Julius Genachowski and NTIA administrator Larry Strickling before Congress’ Memorial Day Recess, Powderly later said.

“We need to get going,” he said, adding that it was unfair for the nominations to be held up for reasons unrelated to qualifications.

But despite rumors that Genachowski would be joined by South Carolina Public Utility Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., Powderly said the White House has not given any indication it has vetted any others for the second open Democratic seat on the commission.

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