The Circuit: Julian Assange loses extradition case, FCC reform bill, parents helping to bend Facebook rules

LEADING THE DAY: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden in a British court Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Assange, who faces sex crime allegations, and his lawyers now have 14 days to decide whether to appeal the decision to Britain’s highest court.

Assange recently announced that his organization, which publishes leaked secret information about governments and corporations, would temporarily stop publishing due to financial troubles. Assange blamed organizations such as the Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal for putting up a “financial blockade” against the organization because nature of the work that it does.

FCC process reform: Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will unveil legislation at a Tuesday press conference to overhaul the Federal Communications Commission by “improving transparency, predictability, and consistency.”  The lawmakers say the bill will help promote job creation by “providing businesses with the certainty they need to invest, develop and grow.” Heller, a member of the Senate subcommittee on commerce, science and transportation, and Walden, who chairs the House subpanel on communications and technology, are among several Republican lawmakers who have criticized the FCC’s recent actions for being broad and not transparent.

Parents helping kids around Facebook’s rules: In spite of rules blocking children under the age of 13 from joining Facebook, a study funded in part by Microsoft and universities found that more than half of all parents with 12-year-olds said they knew their children were signed up for the service, The Washington Post reported. One in five parents of 10-year-olds knew of their children’s activity on the site. The survey comes amid debate over changing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, to include mobile and other new technologies. Facebook’s rule is in place to keep the social network in line with government rules to protect children’s online privacy, but opponents of reform say that these rules do little to keep children from using age-restricted sites.

Privacy advocate Jeff Chester said he believes the survey results would be different if parents were fully aware of the data these sites collect about their children. “Few parents — let alone children and teens — understand or can control the data collection and online targeting applications deployed by Facebook’s social media surveillance system,” said Chester, the executive director of privacy group the Center for Digital Democracy.

House votes “no” on wireless taxes: The House voted to prevent state and local taxes on wireless services, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, calling it a win for prominent bill opponents such as Verizon and AT&T. The Wireless Tax Fairness Act would put a five-year freeze on taxes aimed at wireless companies, services or property, the report said.

In a statement, Steve Largent of CTIA-The Wireless Association, said “Today’s vote is a crucial step toward providing wireless subscribers with some much needed relief by putting a five-year freeze on new, discriminatory taxes and fees on their monthly bills.” Largent called on the Senate to pass its companion bill to the measure.

Wireless companies selling personal data: Changes to privacy policies at Verizon Wireless allows the company to collect and sell customer location and Web browsing data, according to a report from CNN. The new policy says that the company can combine this information with age and gender information and sell it on an anonymous basis, something that the report says all four major national carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — already do.

In fact, the report says, some privacy advocates have praised Verizon for being transparent about this practice. Brian Kennish, a former DoubleClick engineer who now runs the online privacy tool Disconnect, told CNN, “If Verizon succeeds, I'm sure others will follow. Despite all the talk about privacy lately, things are just getting worse.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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