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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Brian Fung

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on electronic privacy, national security, digital politics and the Internet that binds it all together. He was previously the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic. His writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, Talking Points Memo, the American Prospect and Nonprofit Quarterly. Follow Brian on Google+ .

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 09:05 AM ET, 01/31/2012

The Circuit: Video Privacy Protection Act, Facebook IPO, Megaupload users get two-week extension

LEADING THE DAY: The Senate Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on the Video Privacy Protection Act on Tuesday, which prohibits video rental stores from sharing customer rental records without customer permission.

Netflix general counsel David Hyman has been tapped to testify at the hearing. The movie rental company has been lobbying hard to have the law modified, throwing its support behind a House amendment that would let video service providers obtain “informed, written consent”to share those records. The amendment passed the House last month, opening the way for Netflix to be able to share its data with Facebook.

The panel has also invited Electronic Privacy Information Center executive director Marc Rotenberg, who has said that changing the law diminishes the control Netflix users have over their private information, and data privacy law expert William McGeveran to testify.

Facebook: Amid rumors that Facebook will file for its initial public offering this week, experts say that the company is in a good position after settling some privacy grievances with the Federal Trade Commission, The Washington Post reported. The company was largely able to develop in a time of relatively lax enforcement of privacy laws, experts told The Post, but with a renewed push on privacy regulation it will be hard for others to follow suit.

“It’ll be hard for any rival to out-Facebook Facebook at this point,” Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel at the ACLU, told The Post. “Facebook had much more latitude.”

Megaupload: Megaupload users are in luck. The company has worked with hosting companies to preserve the data for at least two weeks. Ira Rothken, an attorney for Megaupload, said that the company is now working with the U.S. government to unfreeze some of its assets so that it can pay to recover that information.

He added that the hosting companies — Cogent and Carpathia — had been “very open to negotiating” to preserve the data.

Federal officials said late last week that they were finished looking at the data from the file-sharing site Megaupload, relinquishing access to the data, leaving its fate in limbo.

“It is our understanding that the hosting companies may begin deleting the contents of the servers beginning as early as February 2, 2012,” U.S. District Attorney Neil MacBride wrote in the letter to Megaupload’s lawyers on Friday.

EU Samsung: The European Union is investigating Samsung to determine whether or not the firm used its patent rights to “distort competition in European mobile device markets,” the BBC reported. Investigators are interested in whether the electronics giant has violated its Frand commitments — promises that companies will license certain important industry innovations, the report said.

Samsung has been locked in a bitter battle with Apple over smartphone patents, which appear to have drawn the attention of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

The BBC reports that the regulator has said, “In 2011, Samsung sought injunctive relief in various member states against competing mobile device makers based on alleged infringements of certain of its patent rights which it has declared essential to implement European telephony standards.”

Apple hires new retail head: Apple has hired a new head of retail operations, following former Apple executive Ron Johnson’s departure to become the CEO of JC Penney. John Browett, who comes to Apple from the european electronics retailer Dixon, will take over the role, the company announced Monday.

“Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive. “We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple.”

Mobile campaign donations: Online payments are so 2008; in 2012, mobile payments are expected to be the disruptive fundraising force.

Politico reported Monday that the Obama campaign will be using the Square credit card reader; so is the Romney campaign, according to The New York Times. The Times reported that the Obama campaign has already developed a donation app that is compliant with the Federal Election Commission.

By  |  09:05 AM ET, 01/31/2012

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