Email Privacy Act Reintroduced in Congress
On Monday, January 9th, 2017 Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) reintroduced the Email Privacy Act. This bipartisan bill will plug a loophole that allows civil and criminal investigative agencies the ability to bypass Fourth Amendment protections of our online content.
The Email Privacy Act would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 to underline that all a warrant is required in order to search Americans’ online communications, regardless of when the email was crafted. ECPA contains an unintended loophole that allows the government to search any email older than 180 days stored on a third-party server, such as Google Mail, Yahoo Mail or Apple’s iCloud, without a warrant.
Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform strongly argued in favor of the Email Privacy Act legislation. "American privacy was the big winner when the House passed the Email Privacy Act! They send the bill to the Senate after a 419 -0 vote. If the Senate concurs the government will need a warrant to read your e-mails—just as they have always needed a warrant to read your snail mail.”
Katie McAuliffe, ATR’s Federal Affairs Manager and Executive Director of Digital Liberty said,
“Passage of the Email Privacy Act was a large bipartisan effort and a major victory in securing American’s digital privacy. Updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is absolutely necessary in order to secure the privacy of emails and other items stored in the Cloud.”
In the 114th Congress (2015-2016) the House voted 419-0 to pass the legislation, but the bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee after amendments were offered that privacy advocates said would give the civil and criminal investigative agencies even more "unwarranted" surveillance power than the status quo.
Both House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) are original cosponsors of the bill. Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA), Will Hurd, (R-TX), Ted Poe (R-TX), Susan DelBene (D-WA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Judy Chu (D-CA) have also joined as original cosponsors of the bill.
Meddling FCC Doesn’t Want You to Have Free Mobile Data
In an op-ed from December 6th, 2016 Katie McAuliffe, Executive Director of Digital Liberty & Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform, states that a meddling FCC doesn’t want you to have free mobile data.
“The FCC is more concerned with protecting its own limited worldview than with what is good for consumers.
Competition means that if a new idea rises to the surface and is better than the previous thought, minds can change, business models can adjust, and products can adapt – that is innovation. But protecting specific competitors and a specific view of the future locks us into where we are now – that is stagnation.
If the FCC were really concerned with consumers, then they would allow the market to test ideas and business models. Not attack plans to give consumers free data. Free data plans are also called zero-rated plans because customers don’t have to pay out of their data bucket for the month. Therefore customers pay zero dollars and zero data, hence zero rates.”
Large Conservative Groups to Congress: No Lame Duck Internet Sales Tax
In a letter from December 6th to all Members of Congress large conservative groups including Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action for America and FreedomWorks ask members of Congress to not address the issue of collecting internet sales taxes during this current lame duck session. “The issue is contentious, and previous attempts to do so have raised important questions that have yet to be resolved. Pushing through a bill in the lame duck would allow little time for debate or discussion of these complicated issues and we respectfully request that you refrain from doing so.”
Currently, the Supreme Court’s 1992 Quill decision establishes the framework for collecting such taxes. Fundamentally, it requires nexus, or the seller’s physical presence within a state, before that state may collect a sales tax from the seller. Yet, as e-commerce and internet sales have expanded, brick and mortar stores have been pressuring Congress to establish a new framework for collecting sales taxes from online out-of-state sellers. Unfortunately, previous attempts to do so generated serious Constitutional questions about the scope and reach of state tax authorities, as well as concerns about the administrative burdens created by the new tax collection schemes.
Read the letter here
This proposal, plus the MFA, and others are terrible for small business:
1) In 2004, 82% of all ecommerce was Big Box + Amazon. Now it is **88%** and growing. Amazon is collecting sales tax in 32 states due to its distribution centers. So this tax — the compliance of which will be overwhelming — is focused on the remaining and dwindling 12% of ecommerce, which are small businesses who have innovated hybrid (ecommerce plus physical) business models to survive. Big Box + Amazon would love to squeeze a few more % points out of small business.
2) The National Retail Federation, its lobbyists, and sales tax states like our state (who cannot manage their finances) have convinced a GOP Congress that an even higher tax burden put on the middle and working class will somehow benefit them. Again, just 12% of ecommerce is left to tax. Thus the states’ estimates of how this will be a financial boon to states' finances are vastly overestimated.
3) As with other taxes and more government regulation, this will put innovative small businesses out of business, and create a new vast governmental compliance infrastructure (accountants, lawyers, and the snake-oil tax software lobby) that is currently salivating at the prospect. Only the largest companies -- the 88% -- will be able to comply to it.
4) Further, and something Congress has ***completely missed***, it is a *gift* to **Canadian and Mexican companies** who will not have to comply and collect sales taxes for 9,600 juridictions.. They can just ship to the US under NAFTA. No sales tax collection, no compliance, no problem. So why not create a subsidiary in Canada?
ATR urges the House to oppose any new cross-border sales tax beyond Quill
FCC Witholds Info About New TV Plan
The Obama administration has refused to be transparent in all things. The FCC is no exception.
The following can be attributed to a StandUnited petition put forth by Digital Liberty Executive Director, Katie McAuliffe:
It doesn’t take a genius to see what the FCC is doing. It is piling up obstacles to private investment in private networks, putting us on a glidepath to a taxpayer-funded and government-owned telecommunications and Internet structure that looks like a cross between a Yugoslavian car factory and a Soviet-era milk distribution scheme.
Concerns about what the new proposal might entail present a harrowing picture for the future of television in American. Larry Downes, of Forbes, postulated that this could be the end of the “Second Golden Age” of TV.
It is widely suspected that the plan, if it goes beyond the failed first proposal, would erode copyright protections for content providers, and would harm then integrity of contracts in the industry. This violation of contracts between content providers and device manufacturers would have a ripple effect throughout the economy, and end up harming consumers as well.
Another frightening thought is that this plan will result in the FCC itself becoming the sole TV programmer in the nation, severely limiting consumer choice.
The reasoning for all of the speculation, is that the FCC has refused to release the plan to the public for comment and honest deliberation. Now that the vote on the proposal has been delayed, the time has come to demand the FCC be transparent on its proposal and get out of our TV.