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Internet Privacy Law Rebellion

What if someone wrote new Internet privacy requirements but no one enforced them? No need for your Internet attorney to get involved yet? Here’s what’s happened…

“New European Union rules to ensure privacy have been ignored by the vast majority of E.U. member countries, according to Jonathan Todd, European Commission spokesman for Digital Agenda.” – EU Countries Ignore New Law on Internet Privacy

Just wait until the U.S. Congress weighs in with do-not-track Internet privacy legislation (there are plenty of pending bills). Will you need express consent before using installing cookies on a visitor’s computer? If the Internet browser is set to accept cookies by default, does this mean express consent has been given.

It will be interesting to see if a private cause of action will be permitted under whatever new Internet privacy laws are enacted or if enforcement will be limited to government officials.

You’ll have, at a minimum, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implementing rules and guidelines for enforcement. State attorneys general will jump on the bandwagon too in the interest of protecting the consumer, children, puppies, Mom, apple pie, and the American flag in time for the next round of elections.

If suits by aggrieved website visitors are permitted, expect to see numerous attempts by Internet attorneys to certify class action lawsuits against deep pocket website owners.

Great Depression Law Grants President Internet Kill Switch?

With Congress debating numerous bills designed to regulate the Internet, high on the Obama administration’s agenda is new legislation designed to give the President an Internet “kill switch” in some undefined emergency.

Now administration officials are overtly threatening Congress by claiming that the failure to pass a law granting such powers would mean that the President could rely upon existing executive branch authority under the Communications Act of 1934.

Yes. It is apparently the stance of President Obama that a law passed long before Al Gore invented ARPANET authorizes the President to do whatever he please to the World Wide Web in the event of an emergency.

The President is threatening to seize control of the Internet by “rely[ing] on a pre-World War II radio emergency law to provide the president with authority to protect key computer and communication networks.”

If the administration can’t tell the different between “radio” and “Internet,” would you trust the executive branch not to abuse the definition of “emergency?” You don’t need an Internet attorney to define these terms for you…but perhaps the President does.

If the President happens to be trailing in the polls in late October 2012, would websites critical of his policies be shut down because of the “emergency” need for him to win re-election?

This isn’t picking on the current Oval Office occupant. Would you trust this power in the hands of any single politician without immediate real checks on that power?

At a minimum, shouldn’t a presidential Internet “kill switch” power require a federal district court order, be on a very temporary basis, and subject to immediate appeal to the U.S Supreme Court?

And based on the current threat to act unilaterally under a 1934 law that has absolutely nothing to do with the Internet, Congress should seriously consider tabling the notion of granting a “kill switch” and focus instead on clarifying that Great Depression-era law so that it can’t be twisted into a legal position to support the administration’s current interpretation of it.

If your website gets shut down by Executive Order, do you truly own an e-commerce business or are you simply a peasant working at the will and pleasure of the current monarch? If the latter, Internet lawyers won’t be able to help you regain the business you’ve lost by royal decree.

Internet Summit Rules Discussion Is Anti-Small Business

What’s a little crony capitalism between big friendly competitors?

Before the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit in Paris, large Internet companies  (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.) are meeting with government leaders  to discuss intellectual property rights and regulation of the Internet.

Let’s dissect what’s really going on.

“And, while acknowledging the net’s power as a force for freedom elsewhere, western countries differ on how to harness or curb it on their own doorsteps.” – Key Internet summit to discuss online rules

As an Internet attorney, to me it’s clear that governments want to regulate and tax the heck out of e-commerce. Even the United Nations has jumped on that bandwagon with proposals for a global tax to fund its pet causes.

Many of the large online companies (and their founders) are at a place in their business life cycle where it makes sense to cooperate with regulatory and taxation efforts in order to protect their turf against free market competition. They will work with the politicians in the coming years to make it difficult for new Internet startups to compete or even replace them.

This is the down side to crony capitalism. Of course, in this case, it’s the large capitalists selling rope to hang the entrepreneur as a means to preserve dominance in their respective niches. They have their billions. Why should your e-commerce company rock the boat?

There are many competing interests at stake but there is a mutual goal between the big corporations and the politicians of taming the Internet in a way that helps them to your disadvantage. And there’s going to be little you or your Internet attorney can do to turn reverse the tide because regulations and taxes often increase but rarely cease.

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