CEOs demand North Carolina Gov. repeal anti-LGBT law

Signatures from over 80 CEOs adorn a high profile letter that has been addressed to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. This letter, released by The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality NC, urges the Governor to repeal a recent law that will eliminate non-discrimination ordinances that protect the rights of LGBT people in the state of North Carolina. House Bill 2. H.B. 2 will force trans-gender students to use bathroom facilities that are inconsistent with their gender identity, which ultimately puts the school’s Title IX funding at risk. The legislation was hastily passed last Wednesday.

Several CEOs and high ranking executives are demanding that the Governor repeal this discriminatory bill. “Put simply, HB 2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians”, the letter states.

The letter goes on to deploy the actions of North Carolina’s lawmakers, and cites how destructive these far reaching actions can be. “Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.”

This comes just one day after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that was designed to allow businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. The veto came after Salesforce, along with other companies, threatened to stop doing business in the state.

The letter includes signatures from CEOs of high profile companies, many residing in Silicon Valley. The list of CEOs includes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Chad Griffin, president of the HRC and Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, will deliver the letter to McCrory’s office on Thursday morning and follow up with a request for the CEOs to meet with the Governor to discuss this matter further.

 

Article via TechCrunch, 29 March 2016

Photo: Pat McCrory by Hal Goodtree [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Nation divided over Apple decision

Apple’s decision to refuse the FBI order requiring the company to unlock a phone used by Syed Farook, one of the terrorists in the San Bernardino shooting, has divided the nation into two camps. Those who support the company believe that the FBI order jeopardizes individual privacy. Others argue that Apple’s challenge threatens national security.

In order to unlock Syed Farook’s iPhone, Apple would have to design a new software that would provide a backdoor through the phone’s security features. That software does not yet exist, and Apple argues it should stay that way.

“The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices,” states Tim Cook’s response posted on the Apple website.

The non-profit advocacy group Fight for the Future organized demonstrations across the nation following the Apple decision in order to show solidarity with the company. Evan Greer, the organization’s campaign director, spoke about the importance of encryption in protecting public facilities like hospitals and airports, as well as in assuring the safety of individuals.

“For myself as a member of the LGBT community, I know there are a lot of people that have heightened needs for security. A breach is not just inconvenient or embarrassing, but can put people in threat of physical violence,” Greer said.

Henry Nickel, a San Bernardino city councilman, has the opposing opinion that Apple’s decision is an obstruction of justice. He likens Apple’s refusal to access the contents of Farook’s phone to a landlord’s refusal to unlock a suspect’s door in the face of a search warrant.

“I do not feel that digital data is in any way subject to additional protection from search or seizure than any other aspects of our lives,” Nickel said. “Apple is simply wrong if it believes digital information is somehow more sacred than any other type of information.”

San Bernardino Mayor R. Carey Davis felt similarly. “The attacks on December 2nd was the deadliest terrorist attack in the US since 9/11, and law enforcement officials continue to follow up on leads related to the case… It is my hope that Apple cooperates given the circumstances of this investigation,” he said.

Article via: The Washington Post, 19 February, 2016

Photo: Laughing Squid iPhone Webclip Icon by Scott Beale [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


China to pass new decryption law

Tech companies await the final version of a new Chinese law that targets terrorism by providing the government more powers to use decryption. According to experts, the current wording of the law is vague, and thus the actual implications of the legislation are unclear.

Owen D. Nee, a Greenberg Traurig attorney and lecturer at Columbia and NYU law schools, said that the law “creates a duty” but doesn’t specify how it will be “exercised.” He added, “When China writes a law like this, vagueness is an intended consequence.”

Nee said that the law could possibly require Internet service providers to aid the government in decryption. Pam Dixon, the executive director of the World Privacy Forum, said that it’s possible tech companies will pull out of China in order to protect user data, or the law could have virtually no effect on the tech industry in the country.

The law “gives even broader rights [to the government] which is troubling,” Dixon said. “There’s already a lot of censorship.”

Currently, telecommunication companies and Internet service providers are likely providing opinions on drafts as tech companies lobby to Chinese authorities. A report from the Xinhua news agency stated that Li Shouwei of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee legislative affairs commission “admitted that a number of countries and enterprises had voice concerns about certain provisions of the law” at a recent press conference.

Chinese officials responded to criticisms by exposing the hypocrisy of the United States in regards to anti-terrorism initiatives. A commentary published by Xinhua said, “In short, the U.S. criticism against China’s anti-terrorism legislation is but yet another case of Washington’s application of double standards in dealing with issues of terrorism.”

Article via: LegalTech News, 29 December 2015

Photo: Chinese Warships Visit Portsmouth by Defence Images

[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Safe Harbor 2.0 in the making

The United States and the European Union have reached a new agreement in replacement of Safe Harbor, as announced on February 2. Safe Harbor originally outlined the rules for electronic data transfers between the U.S. and the EU, until it was nullified by a European court for jeopardizing the privacy of European citizens. According to negotiators, the new deal will create a “Privacy Shield” in order to protect European data. Whatever the new agreement might entail, it will affect e-discovery—electronic evidence used in litigation or government investigations—as well as social media and business-related data transfers between the U.S. and the EU.

The European court decision on Safe Harbor’s validity is a result of fundamental differences in the way that Americans and Europeans view privacy. The 1995 EU Data Protection Directive established data protection requirements in the European Union that are far more comprehensive than current laws in the U.S. One of the stipulations of the 1995 law is that citizens’ personal data cannot be transferred to countries lacking sufficient data protection, such as the United States. When the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, the divergence between European and American privacy laws widened even further.

The Safe Harbor framework was considered to be a loophole to the European law. It allowed any individual company with EU privacy certification to transfer data between the U.S. and EU, even though the U.S. as a nation did not comply with the 1995 EU data Protection Directive. Moreover, American companies were only required to self-certify—essentially, a company had only to state that they were abiding by European privacy standards in order to transfer any amount of data.

Max Schrems, an Austrian law student, created an organization called “Europe versus Facebook” (EvF) in order to fight Safe Harbor in court. Although he lost his case before the Irish Data Protection Authority, the European Court of Justice held on October 6, 2015 that “There is no general privacy law or other measures enacted in the U.S. that shows the U.S offers ‘an adequate level of protection’ for personal data relating to European data subjects.”

Some call the new agreement “Safe-Harbor 2.0.” Until more information is provided, it’s impossible to know whether the deal includes real improvements, or just more loopholes.

Article via: Legaltech News, 11 February 2016

Photo: European Union Colours by Tristam Sparks  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

 


Voter ID law suppresses votes

Voter ID requirements are having an effect on suppressing voters, especially those of color, a recent research paper claims.

UCSD’s political science department has conducted research on the recent voter ID law changes, and have found that they are changing the makeup of voters. In the past few years there has been a wave to restrict voting to those that cannot show a proper ID. The motivation has come from the sentiment that if you need an ID to board a plan, then you should need one to vote. There is growing concern that allowing citizens to vote without showing proper ID could open up the process to fraud, via people using the names of the recently deceased to cast illegitimate votes. Other reasoning behind the updates to the law have stated that requiring an ID is a minor barrier to voting and should not have an effect on the process. This has been backed up by past research that showed that there was no difference between the voters who had to show an ID and those that were not required to in order to vote.

The problem is that these laws seem to be fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. It has been reported that most instances of voter fraud tend to be baseless. In contrast, the creation of an ID requirement has been found to be a barrier for voters.  It is estimated that 10% of Americans do not have the proper ID in order to cast a vote. As a result, the voting population gets skewed to being more white and more conservative. Some Republicans have admitted that defense of the new voter ID laws are aimed at the democratic voters.

The researchers found that these claims were turning out to be true. “We find that strict voter identification laws do, in fact, substantially alter the makeup of who votes and ultimately do skew democracy in favor of whites and those on the political right.” They even draw a broader point from this finding: “These laws significantly impact the representativeness of the vote and the fairness of democracy.”

Voting is not a privilege, it is a fundamental right of our democracy. Before 2006, not one state required that a person have a photo ID in order to cast a vote. Although past research may not have indicated that Voter ID laws would become a barrier to a civil right, this research generally pre-dates the especially strict voter ID laws that are on the books in many states today. Although the most recent study is still under peer review, it results are enough to cause alarm about the state of our voting rights in America.

Article via AboveTheLaw.com, 9 February 2016

Photo Proof Voter ID Lowers Turnout by Democracy Chronicles [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Julian Assange should be free according to UN ruling

After nearly four years of being camped out in a converted office in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange awaited the United Nations ruling about his detention with anticipation. The verdict: Assange, according to the UN, has been “arbitrarily detained” since June 2012 given that he had not been provided due legal process prior to arrest.

The UK government disagrees. “This changes nothing,” a government representative said. “An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European Arrest Warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite him in Sweden.” Assange declined to respond to any allegations of sexual assault following the UN ruling, but his lawyer stated in 2010 that the charges were part of a “honeytrap” to discredit Assange.

Assange spoke to journalists via video webcast following the ruling. “I consider the outcome in this case to be vindication,” he said. “It is now the task of the United Kingdom and Sweden to implement the verdict.” He further described his detention as “illegal, immoral, [and] unethical.”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) argued that the Wikileaks founder has suffered “deprivation of liberty” since 2010, when he was sentenced to ten days in Wandsworth Prison and then 550 days under house arrest. Edward Snowden commented on the UK’s response to the ruling, saying that it “writes a pass for every dictatorship to reject UN rulings.”

Assange agreed, saying that his arrest would be a blow to international human rights efforts. “What right does this government, or the US government, or the Swedish government have to deny my children their father for five and a half years without any charges in any country?” he asked.

Article via CNET, 5 February 2016
Photo: Julian Assange Supporters — Embassy of Ecuador, Knightsbridge, London by Marshall24  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]