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Timothy B. Lee

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Posted at 01:17 PM ET, 04/22/2013

The Circuit: German agency fines Google over WiFi data collection

Correction: A previous version of this post mistakenly attributed concerns about camera phones in the D.C. Superoir Court directly to court employees. This version has been corrected.

Google fined by German data agency: A German data protection agency has fined Google 145,000 euros ($189,000) for collecting information from unsecured WiFi networks with its Street View service.

In a statement, the Hamburg Data Protection Agency said that it believes that the fine — close to the maximum that it can charge — was “unlikely...to have a deterring effect,” The Associated Press reported. Google reported $3.3 billion in revenue for its first quarter of 2013 last week.

Google has said that it never intended to collect or use the information, and that it regrets making a mistake.

"We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue,” said Google in a statement Monday. “The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it. We cooperated fully with the Hamburg DPA throughout its investigation.”

Do Not Track: Several consumer privacy groups said Monday that they support a bill from Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that would require the Federal Trade Commission to set standards for companies to ensure they will offer consumers the ability to opt-out of online tracking.

The Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, the Consumer Federation of America, the Privacy Rights Clearing house and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have all said they support the bill.

Rockefeller last week scheduled a hearing on Do Not Track proposals, saying that he wants an explanation as to why the industry has not implemented proposals offering consumers the option to turn off online ad tracking.

Employer social media bans get regulator pushback: While state regulators have gotten praise from privacy advocates for introducing legislation that will keep employers from asking for their social media credentials, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has raised concerns that the legislation could hurt investors.

Personal social media accounts, the report said, could be used to spread financial advice. Regulators would like to be able to monitor what firm employees are saying to investors — even on their personal Twitter accounts.

Sprint forms committee to consider Dish offer: Sprint said Monday that it has formed a special committee to consider the unsolicited merger offer made by the Dish Corporation last week. Sprint, which had previously announced that Japanese carrier Softbank would acquire 70 percent of the company, said that it will review the Dish proposal to determine whether or not the proposed deal is superior to the offer from Softbank.

Dish’s chairman and chief executive Charlie Ergen last week proposed that a unified Sprint/Dish company could be a one-stop shop for consumers’ wireless and home Internet needs.

Marketplace Fairness Act: The Senate is planning to vote this week on an Internet sales tax bill that would give states the ability to collect sales tax from online purchases, even if the transaction takes place outside of state borders. The Washington Post reported.

The legislation has drawn support from retailers such as Amazon, but has also triggered a lobbying campaign from eBay against the bill. Over the weekend, eBay began a massive e-mailing campaign telling its sellers to write to Congress asking for changes to the bill.

The company’s main objection to the bill, as it has said in the past, is that businesses that make less than $1 million in out-of-state revenue are exempted from having to collect taxes. The firm has called that standard “arbitrary” and believes that this threshold should be raised to include businesses that make less than $10 million in out-of-state sales, or have fewer than 50 employees.

Camera phones cause courthouse safety concerns: The presence of camera phones in court has raised concerns about juror safety and security, The Washington Post reported.

Last month, a judge dismissed a jury set to deliberate on a 2008 killing after its members raised concerns that a cameraphone picture had captured their faces and put them in harm’s way. Employees at the D.C. Superior Court said it was the first time they could remember a judge dismissing a jury because of a perceived threat.

By  |  01:17 PM ET, 04/22/2013

 
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