January 2012 Archives

Pre-computer age privacy

"In the pre-computer age, the greatest protections of privacy were neither constitutional nor statutory, but practical. ... The surveillance at issue in the case -- constant monitoring of the location of a vehicle for four weeks -- would have required a large team of agents, multiple vehicles, and perhaps aerial assistance. Only an investigation of unusual importance could have justified such an expenditure of law enforcement resources." ~ Justice Alito, paraphrased from the GPS v. Jones (PDF) of decision by Rebecca J. Rosen for The Atlantic,

SOPA Progress Slowed

It appears the anti-SOPA/PROTECTIP grassroots movement and lobbyists have struck a blow to the forward progress of the two bills. Over the weekend many Senators, Congressman, and the White House publicly announced their opposition to the bills or the DNS provisions.

Ars has a great write up by Timothy Lee: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/under-voter-pressure-members-of-congress-backpedal-on-sopa.ars

MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes" hosted a debate about SOPA with NBCUniversal Executive Vice President and General Counsel Richard Cotton and Reddit.com co-founder Alexis Ohanian, as well as former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Rick Cotton and Alexis Ohanian dominated most of debate.

I found Richard Cotton's tactic in this debate to be hysterical and typical of the debate thus far: state your position loudly, frequently, and do not yield any ground to other arguments. Cotton spent the entire debate vehemently insisting that SOPA will not effect any U.S. websites/companies and frequently trying to talk over Alexis and Chris. He said some variation of "wholesale devoted to theft/illegal activity/thievery" 10 times, "devoted to foreign sites only" 6 times, and told someone their interpretation of the bill was flat out wrong twice within the roughly 18-minute long debate. Alexis and Chris made some good points.

Interesting debate -- especially seeing an NBC show host challenge and spar with an NBC VP over the stance the company has taken. Kudos to NBC for their openness...now just stop supporting this bill.

SOPA Hearing Transcript

The transcript (PDF) from the December 15, 2011 House Judiciary Committee markup of H.R. 3261, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This was one of the most infuriating sessions to watch live and reviewing the testimony and comments, in writing, a month later still boils my blood. There is a PrivacyWonk hosted copy available (PDF) in case the House moves the copy that is hosted there.

The markup session produced 495 pages of text, including the following gems:

Mr. Watt.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I just want to make a couple of points.  First of all, I want to go back to what my friend, Ms. Lofgren's comments she made and discourage any of us from talking about who has been bought off or even experts.  There has been a lot of money floating around in a lot of different places on this issue, and I just don't think it is worthy of us to be talking about who got bought off and who got hired by whom, especially when we start identifying the people.

Mr. Chaffetz.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I have the greatest respect for you and for Ranking Member Conyers.  I do appreciate the manager's amendment.  I do think it is certainly better.   There is clearly a problem.  I understand that there is a problem, but I worry that this is the wrong remedy.  I was trying to think of a way to try to describe my concerns with this bill, but basically we are going to do surgery on the Internet, and we haven't had a doctor in the room tell us how we going to change these organs.  We are basically going to reconfigure the Internet and how it is going to work without bringing in the nerds, without bringing in the doctors.

Ms. Jackson Lee. ... And then, Mr. Chairman, if I might have a moment of personal privilege and just cite for my colleagues, because I do think that we should be respectful of each other, I am reading a tweet that has gone out from "GOP Rep King, Bored by the dialogue of Representative Jackson Lee."  I have no reason to think that anybody cares about my words, but I would offer to say that Mr. King owes the committee an apology, said that we are debating the Stop Online Piracy Act and that he is killing time by surfing the Internet.  I have never known Mr. King to have a multi-task capacity, but if that is his ability, I do think it is inappropriate while we are talking about serious issues, to have a member of the Judiciary Committee be so offensive.  So I am putting on the record, he is not here -- I -- 
Mr. Sensenbrenner.  Chairman, I demand the gentlewoman's words be taken down.  
Ms. Jackson Lee.  Well, I am not taking them down, so you can break this hearing because I am not.  I would ask Mr. --  ...

There is much more contained within the transcript. It is an almost 500 page demonstration of special interest lobbying, willful ignorance of the outside-the-beltway world and the internet.

For more on SOPA, please see the opposition letter. Please use this letter and send to your representatives to add your voice to the debate.