The Washington Post

The Circuit:

FTC releases children’s privacy FAQ: The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday provided further industry guidance on its amended children’s privacy rules, covering questions about how companies should modify their apps and Web services to comply with the amended Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The FAQ, posted on the agency’s Web site, covers topics such as multimedia content, geolocation data, methods of obtaining parental consent for data collection and rules about disclosing information to third parties.

The FTC had released its updated guidelines in December; they are scheduled to go into effect in July. App developers and advertisers had asked the agency to delay implementation, saying that they still had questions about the policies — a request opposed by privacy advocates.

ECPA reform: The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The bill will now move to the full Senate for a vote.

Under the proposed legislation, government and law enforcement officials would have to obtain a warrant to see electronic communications regardless of how old they are.

Under the current law, no warrant is required if messages are older than 180 days as the government used to consider these messages “abandoned.”

Lifeline fund hearing: The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing Thursday to examine the Lifeline Program — nicknamed by critics as the “Obama phone” program — which provides phone service subsidies to low-income subscribers.

Critics have targeted the $2.2 billion fund as an example of government waste. The Federal Communications Commission has taken steps to crack down on fraud within the program, saying that it saved $214 million in spending from the program in 2012 and is predicting that it will save $400 million this year.

Ahead of the hearing, 31 organizations including the NAACP, Consumer Action, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the World Institute on Disability sent letters to the House subcommittee asking that the program be continued.

Google, EU: The European Commission on Thursday said that it is seeking comment on commitements Google has offered to address competition concerns related to its online search business.

Google’s proposals include the commitments to change its search layout, protocols for specialized search products and advertising practices.

The proposals should remain in effect for a period of five years.

Google updates transparency report: In a company blog post Thursday, Google said that it continues to see increases in requests for user information from governments around the world.

Google updated its transparency report, saying that it received 2,285 government requests between July and December 2012 to take down 24,179 pieces of content across its services.

That, the company noted, is an increase from the 1,811 requests it received for 18, 070 pieces of content in the first half of the year.

The firm noted that it had seen a “sharp increase” in requests from Brazil, largely related to the municipal elections that took place in that country this past fall. Brazil made the most requests, followed by the United States.

The company also saw a rise in requests from Russia, which recently passed a law that allows the government to blacklist sites that are deemed harmful to children; 104 of the 117 requests from Russia cited this law, the company said.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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