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Paul Merrell

India begins to embrace digital privacy. - 0 views

  • India is the world’s largest democracy and is home to 13.5 percent of the world’s internet users. So the Indian Supreme Court’s August ruling that privacy is a fundamental, constitutional right for all of the country’s 1.32 billion citizens was momentous. But now, close to three months later, it’s still unclear exactly how the decision will be implemented. Will it change everything for internet users? Or will the status quo remain? The most immediate consequence of the ruling is that tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Alibaba will be required to rein in their collection, utilization, and sharing of Indian user data. But the changes could go well beyond technology. If implemented properly, the decision could affect national politics, business, free speech, and society. It could encourage the country to continue to make large strides toward increased corporate and governmental transparency, stronger consumer confidence, and the establishment and growth of the Indian “individual” as opposed to the Indian collective identity. But that’s a pretty big if. Advertisement The privacy debate in India was in many ways sparked by a controversy that has shaken up the landscape of national politics for several months. It began in 2016 as a debate around a social security program that requires participating citizens to obtain biometric, or Aadhaar, cards. Each card has a unique 12-digit number and records an individual’s fingerprints and irises in order to confirm his or her identity. The program was devised to increase the ease with which citizens could receive social benefits and avoid instances of fraud. Over time, Aadhaar cards have become mandatory for integral tasks such as opening bank accounts, buying and selling property, and filing tax returns, much to the chagrin of citizens who are uncomfortable about handing over their personal data. Before the ruling, India had weak privacy protections in place, enabling unchecked data collection on citizens by private companies and the government. Over the past year, a number of large-scale data leaks and breaches that have impacted major Indian corporations, as well as the Aadhaar program itself, have prompted users to start asking questions about the security and uses of their personal data.
  • n order to bolster the ruling the government will also be introducing a set of data protection laws that are to be developed by a committee led by retired Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna. The committee will study the data protection landscape, develop a draft Data Protection Bill, and identify how, and whether, the Aadhaar Act should be amended based on the privacy ruling.
  • Should the data protection laws be implemented in an enforceable manner, the ruling will significantly impact the business landscape in India. Since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014, the government has made fostering and expanding the technology and startup sector a top priority. The startup scene has grown, giving rise to several promising e-commerce companies, but in 2014, only 12 percent of India’s internet users were online consumers. If the new data protection laws are truly impactful, companies will have to accept responsibility for collecting, utilizing, and protecting user data safely and fairly. Users would also have a stronger form of redress when their newly recognized rights are violated, which could transform how they engage with technology. This has the potential to not only increase consumer confidence but revitalize the Indian business sector, as it makes it more amenable and friendly to outside investors, users, and collaborators.
Paul Merrell

Section 215 and "Fruitless" (?!?) Constitutional Adjudication | Just Security - 0 views

  • This morning, the Second Circuit issued a follow-on ruling to its May decision in ACLU v. Clapper (which had held that the NSA’s bulk telephone records program was unlawful insofar as it had not properly been authorized by Congress). In a nutshell, today’s ruling rejects the ACLU’s request for an injunction against the continued operation of the program for the duration of the 180-day transitional period (which ends on November 29) from the old program to the quite different collection regime authorized by the USA Freedom Act. As the Second Circuit (in my view, quite correctly) concluded, “Regardless of whether the bulk telephone metadata program was illegal prior to May, as we have held, and whether it would be illegal after November 29, as Congress has now explicitly provided, it is clear that Congress intended to authorize it during the transitionary period.” So far, so good. But remember that the ACLU’s challenge to bulk collection was mounted on both statutory and constitutional grounds, the latter of which the Second Circuit was able to avoid in its earlier ruling because of its conclusion that, prior to the enactment of the USA Freedom Act, bulk collection was unauthorized by Congress. Now that it has held that it is authorized during the transitional period, that therefore tees up, quite unavoidably, whether bulk collection violates the Fourth Amendment. But rather than decide that (momentous) question, the Second Circuit ducked:
  • We agree with the government that we ought not meddle with Congress’s considered decision regarding the transition away from bulk telephone metadata collection, and also find that addressing these issues at this time would not be a prudent use of judicial authority. We need not, and should not, decide such momentous constitutional issues based on a request for such narrow and temporary relief. To do so would take more time than the brief transition period remaining for the telephone metadata program, at which point, any ruling on the constitutionality of the demised program would be fruitless. In other words, because any constitutional violation is short-lived, and because it results from the “considered decision” of Congress, it would be fruitless to actually resolve the constitutionality of bulk collection during the transitional period.
  • Hopefully, it won’t take a lot of convincing for folks to understand just how wrong-headed this is. For starters, if the plaintiffs are correct, they are currently being subjected to unconstitutional government surveillance for which they are entitled to a remedy. The fact that this surveillance has a limited shelf-life (and/or that Congress was complicit in it) doesn’t in any way ameliorate the constitutional violation — which is exactly why the Supreme Court has, for generations, recognized an exception to mootness doctrine for constitutional violations that, owing to their short duration, are “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” Indeed, in this very same opinion, the Second Circuit first held that the ACLU’s challenge isn’t moot, only to then invokes mootness-like principles to justify not resolving the constitutional claim. It can’t be both; either the constitutional challenge is moot, or it isn’t. But more generally, the notion that constitutional adjudication of a claim with a short shelf-life is “fruitless” utterly misses the significance of the establishment of forward-looking judicial precedent, especially in a day and age in which courts are allowed to (and routinely do) avoid resolving the merits of constitutional claims in cases in which the relevant precedent is not “clearly established.” Maybe, if this were the kind of constitutional question that was unlikely to recur, there’d be more to the Second Circuit’s avoidance of the issue in this case. But whether and to what extent the Fourth Amendment applies to information we voluntarily provide to third parties is hardly that kind of question, and the Second Circuit’s unconvincing refusal to answer that question in a context in which it is quite squarely presented is nothing short of feckless.
Paul Merrell

The Ninth Circuit Holds-Correctly-That a Blogger Has the Same Defamation Protection as ... - 0 views

  • On January 17, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, as a matter of first impression, that First Amendment defamation rules apply equally to both the institutional press and individual speakers and writers, such as bloggers.
  • In reaching this conclusion, the Ninth Circuit analyzed two key prior Supreme Court precedents: New York Times v. Sullivan (public official seeking damages for defamation must show “actual malice” as defined as a showing thatthe defendant published the defamatory statement with knowledge that it was false, or with reckless disregard as to whether it was false or not) and Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (First Amendment requires only a negligence standard for private defamation actions). Notably, Gertz involved an institutional media defendant, and the Gertz Court invoked the need to shield “the press and broadcast media from the rigors of strict liability for defamation.” Yet neither New York Times nor Gertz, as the Ninth Circuit noted, were expressly limited to the institutional press. Moreover,a number of other Supreme Court cases have rejected such a limitation: Bartnicki v. Vopper; Cohen v. Cowles Media Co.; First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti; and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Paul Merrell

» Obama Signs Global Internet Treaty Worse Than SOPA Alex Jones' Infowars: Th... - 2 views

  • Months before the debate about Internet censorship raged as SOPA and PIPA dominated the concerns of web users, President Obama signed an international treaty that would allow companies in China or any other country in the world to demand ISPs remove web content in the US with no legal oversight whatsoever.
  • The White House has circumvented the necessity to have the treaty confirmed by lawmakers by presenting it an as “executive agreement,” although legal scholars have highlighted the dubious nature of this characterization.
  • In presenting ACTA as an “international agreement” rather than a treaty, the Obama administration managed to circumvent the legislative process and avoid having to get Senate approval, a method questioned by Senator Wyden. “That said, even if Obama has declared ACTA an executive agreement (while those in Europe insist that it’s a binding treaty), there is a very real Constitutional question here: can it actually be an executive agreement?” asks TechDirt. “The law is clear that the only things that can be covered by executive agreements are things that involve items that are solely under the President’s mandate. That is, you can’t sign an executive agreement that impacts the things Congress has control over. But here’s the thing: intellectual property, in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, is an issue given to Congress, not the President. Thus, there’s a pretty strong argument that the president legally cannot sign any intellectual property agreements as an executive agreement and, instead, must submit them to the Senate.”
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