Last week, thanks to investigative reporting, we learned that Facebook discovered in January that it was storing millions of users’ passwords in plain text format, making them fully readable for thousands of its employees. Facebook has acknowledged that this was a serious security error and privacy breach on its side, as its systems, ideally, “are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable”, and promised that it “will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.” There is no evidence that any of the thousand employees with access to these unencrypted passwords actually accessed them, but Facebook’s decision to remain mum reveals an important lesson for the overarching privacy and security policy debate. Importantly, data security incidents are a widespread problem that goes well beyond Facebook.
Today, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) introduced the Save the Internet Act to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order establishing net neutrality rules. Chairman Pai’s FCC repealed these rules in 2017, ignoring the millions of Americans who support net neutrality. Public Knowledge welcomes the bill and applauds Sen. Markey and Rep. Doyle for heeding the wishes of the American people.
This week featured back-to-back privacy hearings on Capitol Hill to discuss principles for federal privacy legislation. With the one-year anniversary of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation implementation coming in May and the California Consumer Privacy Act taking effect in 2020, industry players that have fiercely lobbied against federal privacy legislation in years past are now suddenly calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive privacy bill this year. Here’s a quick look at what happened in each hearing and a few key takeaways.
Ever since the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story broke, privacy has been the talk of the town in Washington, DC, and conventional wisdom is that Congress will begin debating comprehensive privacy legislation in earnest in 2019. In preparation, members of Congress are starting to drop their message bills and discussion drafts. Public Knowledge has evaluated each of the proposals so far, and we offer our initial take here.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a new and improved version of the Music Modernization Act, following the Senate’s lead from last week. We had expressed strong reservations about the earlier iterations of this bill, and its impact on the public domain for sound recordings. We’re happy to say that after extensive negotiations spearheaded by Senator Ron Wyden, the new version of the bill brings these works more fully into line with with the existing copyright system for legacy works and finally allows these recordings to enter the public domain. The bill now heads to the President’s desk.