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News Roundup, August 17: Video Privacy, Rural Broadband, and Convention Platforms

Published:  August 16, 2012
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Photo licensed CC by big graham: http://goo.gl/E70aL

Welcome to our weekly series, highlighting the most newsworthy events under the Open Technology Institute's three key areas: Privacy and Security, Freedom of Expression, and Telecom Policy. Contact us with story ideas at  blog@opentechinstitute.org

Privacy and Security: Hulu Faces Privacy Test in Court

The online video platform Hulu will face a lawsuit in California federal court over whether it violated its users’ privacy by sharing individuals' viewing history with advertisers, the New York Times reported this week. The case rests on the Video Privacy Protection Act, a 1988 statute that was enacted to protect consumer rental records, and will test whether laws regarding videotape rentals can be applied to Internet streaming as well.

The lawsuit claims that Hulu violated the statute, which prohibits rental companies from sharing information about the videos individuals rent with third parties, by allowing KISSmetrics, an analytics company, to place cookies on videos that recorded the names of users, their locations, and other videos viewed. This data was then allegedly shared with advertisers to enable targeted advertising. Last Friday, in response to Hulu’s motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds that it is not a video rental company, the judge ruled that the 1988 law may be applicable to new technologies and will allow the case to go forward.

Read more about Hulu’s legal impending battle.

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Telecom Policy: Verizon Launches New LTE Broadband Service for Rural Residents

On Tuesday, Verizon Wireless announced that it will now offer HomeFusion Broadband, a residential LTE-based broadband service designed to offer high-speed internet access to rural U.S. homes that have traditionally been left behind. Addressing the rural broadband gap has increasingly come into focus in the past few years, especially as data from the 2010 National Broadband Plan and other studies have shown that even as capacity and connectivity increases overall, residents in hard-to-reach-places are often unable to access the majority of the services that ISPs provide in urban and suburban areas.

Verizon will offer consumers downloads speeds between 5 and 12 Mbps (with uploads of 2 to 5 Mbps), which is comparable to most DSL offerings.The most basic plan costs $60 a month and comes with a 10 GB data cap, while users will have the option to upgrade to packages with higher data limits.

Read more about Verizon’s new rural LTE broadband service.

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Freedom of Expression: Democrats and Republicans Consider Supporting Internet Freedom

As both parties gear up for the 2012 national conventions, representatives from both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee have indicated that issues such as Internet freedom and net neutrality are being discussed and may be included in the party platforms for the upcoming election.

Early drafts of the DNC platform have had language about fighting for Internet freedom globally, although it has not yet been confirmed that it will be included in the final platform, which will be revealed at the convention in Charlotte, NC, from September 3-6. Such language would certainly be consistent with the Obama administration’s prior advocacy around this issue, part of a key initiative under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At the same time, sources involved in preparations for the RNC, which will be held in Tampa, FL, from August 27 to 30, have indicated that both Internet freedom and net neutrality are being discussed as well.

Read more about what may end up in the Democratic and Republican platforms.

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