Ed Felten Selected as FTC CTO

The appointment of an academic so well versed in both technology and policy somewhat eases the sting of the loss of several technology friendly Senators in this week’s elections. I interviewed Felten back in 2008 where I barely scratched the surface of his public policy work. I really cannot think of a better person to fill the role of Chief Technology Officer to the Federal Trade Commission.

From Princeton’s announcement:

Felten will advise the agency on evolving technology-related issues of consumer protection, such as online privacy and cybersecurity, and antitrust matters, including tech-industry mergers and anticompetitive behavior.

“The trade commission is heavily involved with issues that touch on technology,” Felten said. “Much of my research and the work of CITP focuses on issues of consumer protection and competitiveness. This is a chance for me to apply what I’ve been studying and see the policy-making process from the inside.”

Felten helped found Princeton’s Center for Information Technology and Policy. During his time at the FTC, he’ll be on leave from the university. Professor Margaret Martonosi will be acting director of the Center during his absence.

From Felten’s own announcement:

CITP is all about clarifying complex technology policy issues and helping policymakers better understand the choices they are making. I’m looking forward to putting this into practice in government–and then coming back to Princeton with a deeper knowledge of how policy is really made.

This is definitely exciting news for the space of technology policy. As privacy online has been drawing focus among policy makers, this could not have been better timed. I expect to follow Felten’s work at the FTC with great interest.

Dr. Felten Goes to Washington, Freedom to Tinker

TCLP 2010-05-23 News

This is news cast 214, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, thanks to new monthly donor, John Taylor Williams and his wife, Mia. Thank you to fellow Flattr beta testers who have been flattring my posts. I should have an update on how this service compares to donations and ads at the end of the month. My Balticon schedule is up, if you are going to be there, come and say high. Better yet, join me for the unofficial FLOSS and Tech Geek BoF. There will be no news show that Sunday but should be feature casts before and after the weekend.

This week’s security alerts are Chrome’s private mode leaks info and FTC looks into privacy concerns with digital copiers.

In this week’s news opening of VP-8 video codec becomes so much more including news event Microsoft will support it (kind of) and YouTube will switch to it for larger videos going forward, a technical analysis of VP-8 now that it is open, Facebook’s urge towards social utility will invite regulation, and an early, official history of NSA computers.

Following up this week The Pirate Party steps in to host The Pirate Bay and EFF issues a strong criticism of Google’s latest privacy mistake.

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Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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feeds | grep links > Pirate Bay Acts Against DEAct, FTC Working on Privacy and Net Authority, and Gizmodo Story as Example of Big Content’s Future Plans

I thought I would try a label in the title to use for all link dumps to make them stand out from more fleshed out posts and the podcast episodes. Let me know what you think. I definitely want something like this experiment that is sort of a pseudo command like incantation but may try to find something shorter.

  • The Pirate Bay calls for action against Digital Economy Act
    According to Ernesto at TorrentFreak, that amounts to an info bulletin placed prominently on the web site. It explains what users can do to help get the act repealed. The guide is also a collaboration with ORG, another group working hard on DEAct reform or outright repeal.
  • FTC starts work on privacy framework
    Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post explains how the commission is moving in response to Senator Schumer’s urging which was later joined by three other senators. I’ve already seen some criticism over the idea of expanding the FTC’s jurisdiction but in their defense they had already been working on some self regulation with industry to no avail.
  • FTC could gain enforcement power over the net
    As Slashdot notes, these new powers would be granted through a financial overhaul bill that has passed the House. The timing coincides with the push to have the FTC step in on concerns over privacy on the internet. It is not a lock that the commission will receive regulatory authority as the Senate version of the bill lacks that particular clause.
  • Gizmodo raid as a glimpse of Hollywood’s dystopian plan for the net
    I really could care less about the next iPhone. The Gizmodo story has some other interesting but not new angles about bloggers’ rights and journalistic ethics. EFF has a post that finally caught my interest, comparing the heavy handed action by law enforcers and the problematic warrant with the entertainment industry’s recent wishlist they sent to the IP enforcement czar in response to her call for comments.

The Open Web and Facebook, So Long 3.5″ Floppies, Jobs Skewers Mac App Store Rumor and Schumer Sicks FTC on Social Networks

  • Why new APIs from Facebook may be good for the open web
    I am deeply skeptical but respect David Recordon’s work, the port of it with which I am familiar that also predates his move to Facebook. I appreciate the further details on the Open Graph protocol that Recordon shares at O’Reilly Radar but will reserve judgment. It remains to be seen how this spec is going to play out in the real world, just like an new open spec.
  • Last gasp of the 3.5″ floppy disk
    Chris Foreman at Ars Technica explains that Sony, one of the last companies to manufacture the ancient disks and drives will be spinning down their production of them. I honestly didn’t even know anyone was still making them although I know from first hand experience how such technologies abide in embedded and machine control systems.
  • Jobs debunks Mac app store rumor
    The Register has the authoritative response from Apple’s chief to this troubling rumor. By the time I saw this over the weekend, it had already been pretty strongly discredited. It feeds into many of the worst fears of Apple critics so easy to understand how it spread.
  • Senator Schumer to task FTC with police privacy disclosures from social networks
    Xeni at Boing Boing has the details and links to further analysis and the press release from the Senator’s office. This seems pretty well targeted to disclosures, I think a sane response. That is as opposed to the new Cyber Privacy Act which I have tagged to discuss in this week’s news cast.

More Info on FTC Guidelines for Bloggers and Endorsements

Copycense shared this link via Twitter. The Citizen Media Law Project does a pretty good job of digging further into the FTC’s new rules. Reading through the post, it looks like it is actually fairly hard to trigger the rules around product or service endorsements accidentally. The fact that the rules are fuzzy shouldn’t affect that threshold.

The FTC will look at the following factors to determine whether a message conveying positive statements about a product or service is an “endorsement”:

  • whether the speaker is compensated by the advertiser or its agent;
  • whether the product or service in question was provided by free by the advertiser;
  • the terms of any agreement;
  • the length of the relationship;
  • the previous receipt of products or services from the same or similar advertisers, or the likelihood of future receipt of such products or services; and
  • the value of the items or services received.

This is backed up both by one of the videos the FTC produced to educate those affected by the rules as well as a quote in the CMLP post from a panel on the subject.

I don’t doubt that the rules could be abused given that they depend an a framework of several principles. Hopefully any blogger or podcaster caught by a false accusation of conflict of interest would be able to clear their name, if needs be. All the better if the person or organization bringing that complaint would be penalized, but that still remains unclear to me.

FTC Rules for Endorsements by Bloggers Go into Effect Today

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post notes the new rules start today. She has plenty of links to the educational resources that the FTC has been producing to help make the update to their existing rules around advertising and endorsement more clear.

I looked through one of the documents. It definitely had plenty of helpful examples about what is and is not an endorsement. Few of them directly involved blogs though, let alone social messaging or podcasts. The question for which I couldn’t find a simple, clear answer remains: does this apply to every last blogger on the planet no matter how small or only ones doing so in some sort of commercial context?