What the Republican [screw your] online privacy bill will do

Republicans always celebrate screwing over your privacy

❝ The new Republican Congress hasn’t gotten much done in its first three months, but one thing it has accomplished is rolling back internet privacy regulations passed in the waning days of the Obama administration.

The regulations, if they had gone into effect, would have prohibited internet service providers from selling information about your online activities to advertisers. But…the House of Representatives blocked the move. Companion legislation has already passed the Senate, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill.

❝ That has sparked a backlash from Democrats and many privacy advocates. Michael Copps, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, called the bill a “perversion of what the internet was supposed to be.” And many ordinary internet users wondered what they should do to protect their online privacy.

❝ The good news is that nothing is going to change right away. The Obama regulations weren’t scheduled to take effect until later this year, so the Republican bill simply preserves the status quo, which allows ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers. And while the law currently allows ISPs to do this, most aren’t currently doing it.

What the bill does do, however, is open the door for ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers in the future. Which means that customers who don’t want their ISPs sharing this kind of information with advertising networks are going to have to do some extra work to opt out of any programs their ISPs eventually put into place.

The bill has all the things wrong that are basic to opt-out regulations. The default setting = you are screwed unless you notice you are being screwed and hollering sets you free. The Republicans thought of that and opting-out will only be an option if your service provider feels like it. They won’t have to respect your privacy – which would have been required by Obama’s regs.

They will have the right to sell your metadata without your permission. So, if you think you can trust your ISP, cross your fingers and keep voting Republican. BTW, I have a bridge in Brooklyn going up for sale, next month. I’ll give you first bid.

Access to the morning-after pill in high schools makes sense

New York City parents who are raising questions about the city’s plan to expand its pilot program of dispensing contraception, including the morning-after pill, to high school students are doing what parents should do. They’re asking questions.

If they seek information from credible sources, they will learn that when taken within five days of intercourse, the morning-after pill Plan B, which contains one of the hormones found in regular pills, is safe and effective.

They also will learn that other forms of contraception have been available in many New York City public high schools for years. This new plan, open to all, is actually designed for girls who have been hardest to reach.

These young women, from poor and working-poor families, are much more likely than others to get pregnant by accident. Then, one of two things happens: A girl gets an abortion, or she has a baby she cannot support. Neither New York City’s school authorities, nor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, finds those options desirable; both are quite rightly supporting the expansion.

According to Joanna Kuebler of the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, about 40% of school-based health centers in the United States are allowed by their school districts to dispense contraception. Sixty percent of centers are prohibited from doing so. Requirements for parental consent vary. New York’s effort to reduce teen pregnancies appears to be among the largest and most comprehensive.

Obviously, the majority of parents in the United States would rather be part of the problem – rather than part of a solution.

What hangs some people up is the school administration’s decision, during the recent pilot phase of the project, to allow parents to opt their children out of it. Parents received letters in the mail describing the program and telling them that their child would be in the program unless a parent disallowed it in writing. Only 1% to 2% of parents denied permission. It’s a good bet many parents didn’t read the letters, or if they did, thought their daughter wasn’t having sex, or weren’t sure how they felt — so they didn’t do anything.

Again, why accept parental ignorance or indecision as a decision-breaker? And use those options to walk away from offering aid to their children?

We live in one of the richest, most well-educated countries in the world, yet we have the highest teen birth rate of comparable countries. That is simply not right. Yes, parents are children’s first teachers and moral guides, but they need assistance, which is what the New York City system is attempting to provide.

No reliable scientific evidence shows that the availability of birth control encourages young people to start having sex earlier. And there is good evidence that the increased availability of birth control, as well as improved sex education, has lowered the teen pregnancy rate dramatically.

A lower teen pregnancy rate means a lower abortion rate. Among the 7,000 girls ages 15 to17 who got pregnant last year in New York City, nine out of 10 pregnancies were unplanned, and almost two out of three resulted in abortions. For that reason alone, we should embrace New York’s efforts to make all forms of contraception accessible, as well as affordable and safe.

Agreed. Overdue. Life in a nation which can afford the best educational system in the world – with healthcare to match – leads to a great deal of frustration when the ignorant and the corrupt combine to inhibit any progressive change.

I can be a bit understanding – a little bit – of parents who haven’t had the education opportunities their kids now may have. Although, my generation was aided enormously by first-generation American parents who wanted their kids to achieve more than they might have – and accepted knowledge, education as key to that.

The corrupt portion of that equation lies at the feet of churches and politicians who combine opportunism in a last-ditch defense of social and political power that should have vanished with centuries of past greed, self-serving ideology.

Jay Rockefeller introduces “Do Not Track” bill in Congress

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced a new “Do Not Track” bill to Congress that aims to hold companies accountable for collecting information on consumers after they’ve expressed a desire to opt out. Called the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011 [.pdf], the bill would create a “universal legal obligation” for companies to honor users’ opt-out requests on the Internet and mobile devices, and would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to take action against companies that don’t comply…

According to the bill, the FTC would be tasked with coming up with standards for companies to implement within a year of the bill being signed into law. After a user makes a request to stop being tracked, the companies in question would only be able to continue collecting certain information on customers if it’s absolutely necessary in order for the site or service to function. That information must still be anonymized or destroyed after its usefulness expires, and the user must still give explicit consent for the information to be used that way…

Privacy groups seem impressed with the bill, pointing out that the FTC has a good deal of flexibility in tailoring a persistent opt-out mechanism. “This legislation would give Americans the right and the right tools to browse the Internet without their every click being tracked,” Consumer Protection director Susan Grant said on a call to discuss the bill after it was introduced. Chris Calabrese from the ACLU agreed, describing the bill as “a crucial civil liberties protection for the twenty-first century…”

Of course, the final details for how companies are supposed to comply with the guidelines of Rockefeller’s bill have yet to be hammered out, but the privacy groups seemed optimistic that the FTC could handle the burden. After all, the FTC itself has been pushing for a Do Not Track mechanism online since 2010, and the Obama administration has voiced its support for some kind of “consumer privacy bill of rights.” Also, three of the four major browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari) either already support or will soon support Do Not Track opt-out headers originally developed by Mozilla, giving the FTC an easier launching point.

Geeks generally come in three flavors of concern: those perfectly happy with providing their own means of security; those who could care less; and the ever-popular paranoid look-under-your-mouse-pad-every-night for electronic listening devices. I believe the average non-geek consumer fits in the middle category.

None of which predicts the response to the bill if it passes. I would think even the unconcerned would opt for non-tracking if it was a simple process. Paranoids won’t believe it’s possible in the first place – and will probably skip opting out because it might point out their presence on the planet.

Anti-privacy vandals target Street View opt-out homes

German home-owners who have chosen to opt out of Google’s Street View service appear to have become the unsuspecting victims of anti-privacy vandals.

Local media report that homes in Essen, west Germany have been pelted with eggs and had ‘Google’s cool’ notices pinned to their doors.

The properties involved have all chosen to be blurred on Google’s Street View service.

So far, this appears to be a one-time bit of anarchy – though most dipshit student anarchists defend their privacy with gusto – figuring it may protect their boring middle-class lives after school.

Street View is rolling out across Germany this month and is proving a hit with users, according to Google.

The German government took a hard line on the service, mandating that citizens be allowed to opt out, before pictures went live. Almost 250,000 Germans requested that Google blur pictures of their homes on the service.