News Digest: U.S. Lobbying to Weaken European Data Protection Reform

The Information Program works to increase access to knowledge and protect civil liberties in the digital environment. The following is a roundup of news and analysis that the program team has been watching in the past week, compiled by Wendy M. Grossman, a freelance writer specializing in science and technology. This week’s top story reports on U.S. lobbying efforts to weaken protection of European Union (EU) citizens’ privacy.

You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.

EU: U.S. lobbying to weaken European data protection reform

La Quadrature du Net reports that U.S. lobbying has persuaded the consumer committee (IMCO) of the European Parliament to vote to soften protection of EU citizens' privacy in its “opinion vote” on data protection regulation. The group also maintains a collection of lobbying documents from various companies and countries.

La Quadrature du Net news story | La Quadrature du Net's overview of lobby groups on data protection | European Digital Rights Initiative

U.S.: Copyright law bars consumers from unlocking phones

EFF reports that as of January 26 it is illegal for Americans to unlock carrier–subsidized phones in order to use them on another carrier's network. The relevant law is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998), which is reviewed every three years by the Librarian of Congress and which prohibits circumventing digital locks. At the most recent review, the exemption for unlocking phones was not extended.

WHO approves a resolution on neglected tropical diseases

Intellectual Property Watch reports that the World Health Organization has approved a resolution on neglected tropical diseases. The resolution includes recommendations for government policies that will encourage initiatives for the discovery and development of new diagnostics and medicines. In a separate article, IPW analyzes WHO proposals for a treaty on research and development.

IP Watch | IP Watch Inside Views

Antigua: World Trade Organization grants Antigua the right to “pirate” US content

Wired UK reports that the World Trade Organization has suspended US copyrights in Antigua and Barbuda as a way for the Caribbean islands to make back billions in earnings they lost when the U.S. violated the GATS free–trade agreement, which allowed cross–border online gambling. Antigua was forced to shut down its online gambling industry, putting an estimated five percent of its 90,000 inhabitants out of work. If the U.S. does not renegotiate, Antigua could legally sell US–made TV shows, music, and movies to the rest of the world up to a value of $21 billion annually without compensating rights holders.

USA: Two–class travel security system under consideration

ACLU and the travel privacy project Papers Please reports that the Transport Security Agency is considering sub–contracting its planned pre–screening checks to third parties using commercial data. ACLU argues the result will be to create a two–class system that will create a “security underclass.” Papers Please argues that this would replace probable cause with private profiling as the basis for selecting the level of intrusiveness of security checks for specific travelers.

Papers Please | ACLU

The impact of public library innovation

In this pair of reports, EIFL describes the results of two of the 14 public library services funded in 2011 under its Public Library Innovation Program. Lyuben Karavelov Regional Library in Bulgaria helped 44 long–term unemployed people aged over 40 find jobs, while Zagreb City Libraries in Croatia created new opportunities for support for the homeless, and helped 22 homeless people find employment.

The prospects for open economics

In this blog posting, the Open Knowledge Foundation reports on the first Open Economics International Workshop, held in Cambridge in mid–December. The workshop examined the use of open data in economics and sought to establish whether existing examples are sustainable and can be replicated in other contexts.

U.S.: The State Department announces Arabic open book project

In this release, Creative Commons reports that the U.S. State Department has unveiled the Open Book Project, an initiative to expand access to free, high–quality educational materials in Arabic, with a particular focus on science and technology.  The project is a partnership with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO).

EU: Final CleanIT proposals agreed

In this blog posting, EDRI reports that the final version of the EU–funded CleanIT project is due for approval at a conference in Brussels on January 30. The product of collaboration by the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Belgium, and Spain, the widespread negative response to the initial proposals have seen the recommendations watered down; however, EDRI warns that the final version still favors circumventing the rule of law in order to deal with allegedly illegal material on the Internet.

Mobilizing for profit

In this article, The Economist reports on, a for–profit “B” company from Jeremy Heimans, the entrepreneur who co–founded the non–profit campaigning groups Avaaz and GetUp! Its for–profit activities include supplying consulting services to companies and organizations like Google, Audi, and ACLU to help them build mass movements; its non–profit arm incubates campaigns in support of social causes.

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