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FCC is Taking Net Neutrality Protections from the People

The FCC has announced a final vote on removing net neutrality rules in the next few weeks. We’ve talked about net neutrality before and, unfortunately, predicted a slightly rosier future than is before us. The rollback of net neutrality provisions is looking increasingly sure to occur on a larger scale than this blog or most anybody originally predicted.

Not only has the FCC chosen the longer route of publishing a proposed rule in order to overturn the Obama-era net neutrality provisions, it’s new rule will strip away essentially every consumer protection when it comes to net neutrality. As it stands, the protections will be repealed without replacement in any form.

Net neutrality, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the concept that internet providers should treat all data on the internet equally—regardless of source.  All information passing through broadband networks and backbone networks should be given equal priority to the extent possible without effecting function.  For instance, text on a website can have data packets arrive in any order while video and audio must arrive in a specific order and in a timely fashion to function—net neutrality doesn’t require companies to ignore the concerns of functionality.

What net neutrality does is prevent blocking of content, throttling content (intentionally slowing down some content or speeds up others), and paid prioritization where some services are stuck in a “slow lane” because they do not pay a special fee. Essentially, it keeps ISPs in the business of charging users for internet connection as opposed to charging edge providers for users while the people buying internet service from them suffer.

net neutralityThis is important for a number of reasons. It prevents ISPs from censoring content by blocking or slowing down access to a crawl. It prevents them from selling the internet in bundles, similar to how you buy packages of television channels. It prevent ISPs from limiting access to the internet, providing preferential treatment to internet services they provide or services that are willing to be strong-armed through bandwidth throttling into giving them a cut of their profits (as Netflix was forced to do not so long ago).  Finally, it stops these companies from allowing sites to buy preferential treatment, something that could seriously harm smaller businesses and startups in this internet age.

The End of the Open Internet Order

Under the Obama Administration we saw the introduction of new net neutrality consumer protections in the form of the Open Internet Order, This order changed the classification of ISPs to that of a Title II public utility similar to telephone services–often known as common carrier status.  This change allowed greater regulation of ISPs. It also sets forth five rules that ISPs must abide by:

  1. ISPs “may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices.” In other words, ISPs can’t block access of any legal user to any legal website.
  2. ISPs can’t throttle, or slow down, the delivery of any legal internet traffic.
  3. ISPs can’t make a company pay to give its data packets priority delivery or prioritize the delivery of data from their own services.
  4. ISPs can’t adopt practices which would harm consumers or people providing services on the internet.
  5. ISPs must offer transparent specifics on how they run their broadband networks.

The order also provides for an exception for reasonable management of a broadband network. ISPs are allowed to prioritize data so as to keep things running smoothly, but cannot use this for their own commercial advantage.

Getting to this point, however, was quite an uphill battle, both in the courts and within the FCC itself. The FCC initially proposed much weaker regulations.  However, the combination of a call from then-President Obama for stronger rules, 4 million comments filed with the FCC, and protesters who went so far as to sit in the FCC Chairman’s driveway and demand a stronger policy, all came together to convince the FCC to pass the final version of the Open Internet Order.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, has made his anti-net neutrality stance well known. However, his plans take the axe to net neutrality provisions such as the Open Internet Order even more than initially anticipated. Pai followed through with the long process of proposing a new rule, opening it for comment (a process that was fraught with bots repeatedly entering anti-net neutrality comments), and finally his new rule is looking set to be confirmed in an FCC vote on December 14th of this year. The rule was always anticipated to strip away the Title II classification that allowed through regulation of ISPs. However, it has turned out to be an early Christmas gift for telecommunications interests.

What Chairman Pai’s New Rule Will Do

In discussing how the rule could be changed, Comcast expressed hope that the Title II classification could be removed so long as  “clearly defined net neutrality principles—no blocking, no throttling, no anti-competitive paid prioritization, and full transparency ” remained in place. The final plan being voted on in a few weeks will not only remove Title II classification, it also includes no replacement guidance whatsoever when it comes prioritizing, blocking or throttling internet traffic. This goes beyond even what ISPs had hoped for–a full rollback of all net neutrality provisions. The only FCC oversight which will remain is a requirement that ISPs disclose in their terms of service or user agreements that they will block, prioritize, or throttle content.

This requirement, due to the change in classification, will primarily be overseen by the FTC. The FTC is barred from policing Title II common carriers, but the change places ISPs back under their domain. However, the FTC can’t create the sort of net neutrality rules the FCC could. The most they can do is prevent deceptive and unfair practices. This basically means that if an ISPs terms of service say they will follow net neutrality practices, the FTC can come down on them if they break that promise.

This being said, as the rules stand there is nothing requiring these companies to include these promises in their terms of service in the first place. Even if they do, there will no real repercussions for removing them down the line.

Internet Providers Already May Be Gearing Up To Take Advantage

The response from ISPs when it comes to these potential dangers has long been, “well we promise we won’t.” Chairman Pai himself has relied on similar arguments in promoting his plan. This seems unlikely, they’ve spent millions lobbying for the power to do this, if they’re happy to promise to follow these rules why get rid of the rules in the first place? What’s more, their own history shows that they are more than happy to violate net neutrality principles.

Beyond the squeeze put on Netflix discussed above, ultimately requiring Netflix to pay up to end slow-down of its traffic, there have been a number of incidents where broadband providers have got overly ambitions and violated net neutrality rules.  In 2005, Comcast was caught blocking and slowing peer to peer services.  In 2011, Metro PCS announced plans to block all streaming services but YouTube on its 4G network. In 2012, the FCC caught Verizon blocking people from using tethering applications on their phones in violation of a net neutrality pledge they had made to the FCC in 2008. In 2013, when Verizon was asked in court whether it would prioritize content if it could, they repeatedly responded that they would be “exploring those types of arrangements.” These are just a few examples of acts violating net neutrality rules.

Even just recently, in the wake of the recent announcement out of the FCC, Comcast has changed a pledge posted online. Originally promising to never block, throttle or prioritize content, the Comcast pledge has recently dropped the promises regarding prioritization. They now promise not to “discriminate against lawful content” or use “anti-competitive paid prioritization. This conveniently drops promises not to offer internet fast lanes to companies willing to pay that premium. This is especially true because, after the net neutrality rollback, the only person to say whether or not prioritization is anti-competitive (except in particularly extreme cases) will be Comcast itself.

Net Neutrality Is In The Hands Of Congress

At this point, the December 14th FCC vote is looking more and more like a formality. If nothing changes, it is a near certainty that these rollbacks will happen. The only real chance of changing this–and it is an outside chance at best–would be for Congress to intervene. This would require them to act fast and, if you want to avoid a future without net neutrality, now is the time to contact your representatives and make your voice heard.

This is absolutely the last chance for these rules and any replacement rules from a future administration will certainly have to overcome the same years of lawsuits that mired down the Open Internet Order taking effect. As it is, before the end of the month we will know one way or another if net neutrality provisions will be completely repealed with no replacement whatsoever.

If this happens, we’ll see whether the ISPs will stay true to their promises. It is possible, but it seems unlikely the face of the internet will remain the same based on the history here. This does not necessarily even mean you will see instantaneous changes from your ISPs. Likely, there will be an incremental ratcheting down of the norm when it comes to how you expect to receive your internet. From here, it is in Congress’ hands what will happen to the internet.

Doctor Denied Medical License Because She Doesn’t Use a Computer

Dr. Anna Konopka of New Hampshire was forced to surrender her medical license because she was unable to use a computer. The 84-year-old doctor turned over her medical license in October, but requested permission later to continue her practice. Judge John Kissinger denied her request.

Konopka built a network of loyal patients in New London, New Hampshire. Many of her patients suffer from complicated conditions, but who are tired of big hospitals and distracted doctors. She typically only charged $50 in cash.

Konopka didn’t have a computer in her office and didn’t want to use one. Instead, Konopka relies on two filing cabinets. New Hampshire medical regulators argue that Konopka’s failure to use a computer violates the state’s mandatory electronic drug monitoring program, a state program designed to combat the opioid epidemic of recent years. The state also alleges that Konopka had been leaving dosing levels to parents and failed to treat a patient with daily inhaled steroids. Konopka claims she never harmed her patient and that the boy’s mother ignored her instructions.

medical licenseKonopka has asked Judge Kissinger to reverse his ruling. Legally, there aren’t many claims that Konopka can rely on. There might be a couple of federal statutes, but neither are really an appropriate fit:

Age Discrimination

Konopka’s supporters might think this is age discrimination. Age discrimination occurs if Konopka is 84 years old and her limited understanding of technology is shared by many citizens in their eighties.

Although Konopka is an elderly woman who has limited computer skills, this alone is not evident of age discrimination. There was no mention in the complaints about Konopka’s age. Moreover, if any doctor refused or was unable to use a computer, regardless of his or her age, the state would presumably revoke their license as well. Finally, if Konopka had hired someone to handle computer use, even a relative or a friend’s child, this might be avoidable. There is nothing in these facts that indicate age was an issue.

Disability Accommodation

Medical licensing boards are bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If Konopka had a disability, New Hampshire would be required to accommodate the disability.

The problem would be that there isn’t a recognized disability. Disabilities must be mental or physical. Refusing to learn or being unable to use a computer is not a recognized mental or physical disability. However, even if a learning disability that prevents a person from using a computer were a recognized mental disability, there is still no explanation for why Konopka cannot find someone else to assist her.

Konopka’s Solution is in Politics, Not Law

However, the issue isn’t whether Konopka can learn the system that the state has mandated to combat opioids. Konopka herself has said: “Even if I knew how to use it, I would be unwilling. I cannot compromise the patient’s health or life for a system, I refuse to.” Many of her patients, as many as 30, have testified that Konopka spends significant time with them, as much as two hours per appointment. Konopka declines to follow the practice of using electronic records to diagnose patients because she is experienced enough to diagnose a patient just by examining and talking with them.

It seems Konopka’s problem is political rather than legal. New Hampshire recognized a drug problem in their state and took a step to stop it, by requiring all license doctors to use an electronic system to track what kinds of drugs and how much the doctors are prescribing. Dr. Konopka refused to follow the regulations and surrendered her medical license.

As long as New Hampshire has a valid reason to enact their electronic program – drug safety is a valid concern, then the regulation cannot be overturned. If Konopka and other doctors in her position disagree, they should speak with their state representatives to either find a new regulation that they agree with or to create an exception in the regulation.

Trump’s HIRE Veterans Act is More Show than Substance

Honoring our military veterans, the people who chose to risk their lives to fight for our country, is incredibly important. Part of that needs to include helping them find a life, and a job, once they return from their service. There are already existing programs to help veterans find employment. For instance, the Department of Labor has the Veteran’s Employment and Training Service (VETS). VETS, among other things, provides job training services, an employment placement service for veterans, job training placement, and enforces the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate in employment, promotions, etc, based on somebody’s current or past service history.

These services, combined with other efforts have demonstrably helped with veteran unemployment. The unemployment rate has been consistently trending downward since peaking at around 10% in late 2010–going down to about 4.7% by the end of the Obama administration. The unemployment rate has continued this trend, currently sitting around 4.1%. The veteran’s unemployment rate has trended slightly below the general unemployment rate, around 4.3% last year and down to 2.7% now.

Under the Obama administration Congress passed a number of laws aimed at assisting vets in finding employment which have likely contributed to this trend of keeping veteran unemployment below the national percentages. For instance, the Veteran Opportunity to Work and Hire Heroes Act (VOW Act) was passed in 2011 and provided tools and training for service members and their spouses as they entered private life. It also required the department of labor to rework and expand the implementation of employment workshops and training programs offered to veterans.

veteransThe Trump administration’s has made its first move towards helping veterans find work with the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act (better known as the HIRE Vets Act).  President Trump signed the act into law on May 5th, 2017. However, despite the name suggesting that it is a law designed to help veterans get hired, it is more of a gold star for companies who hire at least a certain number of veterans or offer some sort of charitable services to the veteran community. While this is better than nothing, the program seems more likely to motivate companies already hiring a certain number of veterans to continue doing so. Hiring veterans should be rewarded, and it’s worth looking at whether you qualify, however it seems like a middling step at best towards helping veterans. Let’s look at how the HIRE Vets Medallion works.

The HIRE Vets Medallion Program

The program, as mentioned, exclusively offers a “HIRE Vets Medallion Award” to employers hiring veterans. It does not immediately provide any benefit to the veterans themselves. Under the law, employers are broken down into different sizes and offered an award if they meet certain criteria. Small employers include companies with 50 or less employees, medium employers have 51-499 employees, large employers have 500 or more employees.

Under the Program, there will be different awards for large employers (500 or more employees), medium employers (51-499 employees) and small employers (50 or less employees). There also will be two award tiers: Gold and Platinum. The criteria for receiving the Awards will look at percentage of new hires who are veterans in the last year, percentage of veteran employees, percentage of veterans who’ve been employed for at least a year, employment resources and training programs offered to veterans by a company, whether a company pays employees while they are on active National Guard duty, and whether the company provides tuition assistance to veteran employees. It can be assumed that the companies who receive the award will be those who are best in all these categories. No companies with a labor law ruling against them are eligible for the award.

The program seeks to do a first award ceremony for 300 companies next Veterans’ Day. However, the awards will not begin in earnest until 2019. Applications for the award will start being accepted in January 2019 and have a deadline of April 2019. The Department of Labor charges for each application for the award, $90 for small companies, $190 for medium companies, and $495 for large companies. Winners receive a physical award and can post a virtual symbol of a HIRE Vets Medallion online.

But the HIRE Vets Act Doesn’t Do Much for Veterans

This doesn’t do actually nothing for veterans. It’s a good thing to support companies that support and hire veterans. However, a program which gives an award to these companies once a year but offers no other benefit to these companies beyond the right to post a medallion online is certainly not doing much. Trump has presented himself as president who will support veterans and reduce unemployment. However, this is a minute step at best and a publicity stunt at worst.

Trump also has done veterans few favors with the other steps he has taken since taking office.  His hiring freeze originally hit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs–itself a huge employer of veterans–quite hard. It took months of bipartisan work before the hiring freeze on the VA was, for the most part, lifted. Trump has supported cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and disability benefits. This hits veterans in a different way. Just last year HUD conducted a single-night census of homeless people living in shelters and found that around 60% of those people reported being veterans–these cuts will pull the rug out from under their feet and the roof from over their head.  Nearly 350,000 veterans receive rental assistance from HUD, they’ll be hit by these cuts as well. HUD even has a Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program which has provided housing vouchers to over 85,000 veterans–another program that will be hurt by Trump’s cuts.

Trump proposes cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits–benefits which benefit nearly a million veterans every year. Trump has proposed eliminating the Individual Unemployability benefits program, a program which allows the VA to give disability benefits equivalent to 100% disabled benefits where a veteran can’t get a job due to a service-related disability that wouldn’t normally qualify them as a 100% disabled.The program, as mentioned, exclusively offers a “HIRE Vets Medallion Award” to employers hiring veterans. It does not immediately provide any benefit to the veterans themselves.

The HIRE Vets Act isn’t nothing, it just pales in comparison to the steps backward we have seen in the last months. There have been some other moves forward on veteran hiring. A few months back the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act offered funds for hiring veterans as law enforcement officers. However, for a president who has consistently pushed a pro-veteran image, there has been a notable lack of follow-through from the Trump Administration. The HIRE Vets Act is not nothing, it’s just almost nothing.

What Does Tax Reform Mean for Your Divorce?

Last Friday, the House passed its version of tax reform. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or the “Cut Cut Cut Act”, as the President calls it (and grammatical nonsense, as my spell check sees it), proposes a variety of changes to the tax code. The most significant changes include the removal of the state income tax deduction, which would result in significant tax increases for Americans that live in states that have income taxes. However, the “Cut Cut Cut Act” has a small, but significant change for Americans contemplating divorce: a reversal in how alimony, also known as spousal support, is taxed.

Alimony is currently tax-deductible for the spouse who pays alimony and taxable for the spouse who receives alimony. Under the House’s tax plan, the roles would reverse. The alimony paying spouse would no longer be able to deduct the amount from his or her taxes, but the spouse receiving it would be able to keep alimony tax-free. Divorce decrees issued before the bill passes would not be affected, but divorces after the bill passes would be affected.

tax reformThe bill proposes the change as a form of divorce reform: “The provision would eliminate what is effectively a ‘divorce subsidy’ under current law, in that a divorced couple can often achieve a better tax result for payments between them than a married couple can.” Lawmakers believe that the change would generate an extra $8.3 billion in revenue over a decade, since the spouse paying alimony is typically the one earning a higher income.

At first glance, this seems like a different way of accomplishing the same goal, but with more tax revenue and an emphasis on helping the lower income spouse instead of the higher income one. With alimony payments tax deductible, we create a larger pool of money for the receiving spouse. The bill proposes to do the same in reverse, by permitting the receiving spouse to keep more money, instead of encouraging the paying spouse to make larger checks.

The reality in family courts is more complicated though. For the lower income spouse to receive alimony, a judge must either order the higher income spouse to pay spousal support, or the spouses must agree to an alimony arrangement. The former is more expensive, as it involves discovery and a trial by the family court judge. The old rules, with alimony payment tax deductible, encouraged higher income spouses to settle their divorce because paying alimony meant paying less taxes. With that incentive gone, higher income spouses will be less willing to settle their divorce.

Divorce Reform That Accomplishes Little Except Pain

Proponents of the bill might argue that discouraging divorce is a good thing. It is in the public interest that couples stay married rather than divorce. Married couples can more effectively pool their resources to raise their children than a separated couple can.

The problem with this argument is that there is a difference between discouraging divorce and discouraging divorce settlements.  This bill would only accomplish the latter. Couples breakup for a variety of reasons, including adultery, finances, and domestic abuse. Couples do not break up because they can pay less taxes as a divorced couple than as a married couple. Without addressing the underlying reasons for a divorce, couples will still get divorced. The difference is that now they have one more reason to go to the courtroom instead of the bargaining table. This bill will not reduce divorces; it will only make them more painful.

Attorney General Sessions Wants to Look at Your Phone

A backdoor from tech companies like Google and Apple allowing access to encrypted information stored on suspects devices has been something on the federal law enforcement wish list for some time. Similarly, there has been a push and pull between law and enforcement and tech companies over how much access these tech companies allow the government when it comes to the stored information of customers.

For instance, just a few years ago an email service known as Lavabit closed its entire business after refusing to comply with a court order allowing the U.S. government broad access to user emails. The exact breadth of the order was and is confidential. but it was enough that the company chose to close its doors rather than comply. The government has also turned to outside sources such as grey hat hackers to access password protected information on an iPhone. This led to an odd reversal of the usual dynamic where Apple was asking the FBI to reveal the security vulnerability in their own technology.

There is obviously a push and pull between the government’s interests in security and the public’s expectation to privacy in communications sent online and information stored through online services and on private phones, computers, or other devices. However, AG Jeff Sessions doesn’t think there’s much debate. Sessions has recently condemned tech companies for blocking access to encrypted data on mobile phones. He complains that tech companies have blocked FBI access to around 7,500 devices in the last year. He also says this is an act supporting terrorism.

Privacy vs. Security Under the Constitution

Regardless of how you feel about the balancing act between security and privacy, Sessions’ position is an immense oversimplification of an incredibly complex legal situation. Privacy rights come from many sources. These include state laws, statutes applying to specific situations and a more nebulous privacy right to privacy which the Supreme Court has ruled can be imputed from the combination First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments–this is referred to in law as the penumbral rights of privacy and includes quite a few rights. Perhaps most relevant here is the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

The strength of this right generally hinges on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. It’s agreed that this is quite strong when you’re in your home, but the strength of your expectation of privacy varies drastically depending on the situation. How the right applies to data is a complicated situation–it’s generally agreed to apply to a locked phone as you’ve taken steps to ensure the privacy of the information on that phone–the same could generally be extended to a password protected computer or other device.

attorney general sessionsThis kind of shoots in the foot AG Session’s assertions that not allowing the government to bypass these protections is a legally reprehensible action akin to supporting terrorism. At the very least, a broad assertion that every situation where tech companies decline to provide access to a phone is a bit rich when that information is often constitutionally protected from search without a warrant.

But when it comes to seeking information from a third-party such as a tech company the protections on this information become even more complex. The Fourth Amendment generally considers you to have relinquished your expectation of privacy when you knowingly reveal that information to a third party. The key words here being “knowingly reveal.”

It’s undisputed that you entrust the security of an enormous amount of information to third parties–storing information on the cloud, using an email service provided by another, sending a message through a third-party’s service, basically any situation which involves storing information on a third-party server–an incredibly common situation in today’s digital age. Where this happens, no warrant is required to access your information–instead the government only requires a subpoena and prior notice.

As you can imagine, this has the potential to undermine your rights in an enormous amount of information. It is common for the government to seek information from the third parties you have “disclosed” the information to–often email providers, telecommunications companies and ISPs. However, given how little many people know about the exact details of how their data is handled or disclosed it’s often a bit of a stretch to describe using an email server of something similar as “knowingly disclosing.” What’s more, this exact issue is something the Congress has already addressed to some extent through legislature such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Federal Wiretap Act and especially the Stored Communication’s Act (SCA).

To discuss these in full is the work of a textbook. However, the SCA is likely the most relevant to AG Sessions’ assertions and the protections on at least some of the data you “share” by using common online tools such as email or messaging services. A locked phone is almost certainly off the table in most situations–breaking a customer’s encryption is not only undermining a business’s entire brand but doing so at the behest of the government without a warrant is arguably unconstitutional. The SCA makes it similarly illegal for companies storing your online communications to disclose your data to the government in many situations, the data you store on your phone may often not even be disclosed from a source beyond the phone itself. Failure to comply with the SCA can lead to serious legal repercussions for the tech company violating the SCA’s rules.

What is the Stored Communications Act?

So obviously if a company doesn’t keep your communications private and it happens often enough the company will lose any credibility with the public and lose business. It makes sense that tech companies are careful with choosing whether to share user information and when to not just roll over.  The SCA adds another consideration for these companies–providing a statutory source of protection like the protections of the Fourth Amendment for internet communications sought by the government and–in some cases–non-government entities. The SCA commonly applies to information such as emails and, after a 2010 court case–social media messages (but not open messages on a wall or comments unless the user is restrictive of access to these communications).

The SCA specifically protects the contents of digital communications stored on the internet as well as some appealingly non-content information which can be used to identify the contents of a communication such as subject headers. “Contents” is quite a broad legal concept and includes any information regarding the substance, import, or meaning of a communication. In general, however, non-content information can be disclosed without consent. Protected data cannot be shared with the government unless the person who made the communication consents to it.

If the information is less than 6 months (or more accurately 180 days) old the SCA applies the standards of a warrant before the government can access the information. After these 6 months are over, the standard of protection drops substantially and requires only a showing that the information could be relevant to an ongoing criminal proceeding. Routine business information such as location data–obviously not a communication–only requires a court order based on articulable facts for the government to demand it from a tech company.

The SCA makes it a crime to access without authorization or exceed authorization granted in accessing electronically stored communications. Where an ISP or company that stores your communications shares those communications in violation of the SCA they’re going to face serious repercussions. It can also create a civil action against both the company and the government for the person who made the improperly shared communication. It does not allow access to data stored outside the U.S. unless the user associated with the communications is a U.S. citizen.

Just over a month ago, Sessions’ own department strengthened the SCA. As written the SCA provides the ability for the government to impose gag orders on ISPs and tech companies–preventing them from even telling their user that they have disclosed their information. This is available with a government showing that such a notification would put a person or investigation at risk. The departments new approach limits the duration of these gag orders to one year and only if necessary. It also requires them to provide a more thorough explanation of why the gag order is necessary. The change is considered a response to a case related to the SCA brought by Microsoft last year. However, it certainly is odd to have the head of a department condemn protecting online privacy after his own department strengthened it barely a month ago.

Your Privacy is More Complicated Than AG Sessions Believes

Admittedly the SCA is not a perfect law, it doesn’t age with technology as well as it could and often relies on court rulings to update how it treats more modern technology–it isn’t even really settled how the timing of SCA protections apply if you don’t open an email.  It doesn’t cover nearly as much as it could, and potentially as much as it should. Congress has not updated the law since it was originally passed over 30 years ago. However, it is an example of how the law values tech companies protecting your private data. To condemn tech companies for following the law is an unfortunate position for the government’s top lawyer.

The SCA and the Fourth Amendment are far from the only things limiting companies from disclosing user information or allowing access to an encrypted phone. Beyond the condemnation of the public if a company doesn’t keep your data safe and private, a company must follow its own privacy policies. Most privacy policies include carve outs for complying with court orders and it is far from uncommon to include provisions which state that a company will fully cooperate with any or some types of government investigation. However, this is far from a blanket truth. Where these carve outs don’t exist the release of information protected under a privacy policy would lead a company to face serious issues from the FTC.

While security and the investigations of the FBI are incredibly important, it’s far from unreasonable to expect the information you store online to have some privacy protections. In today’s world the sheer amount of information stored in this manner is mind-boggling. It is outright dangerous to the public to demand tech companies to relax their security protocols and Sessions demanding blanket access to the government is very nearly an irresponsible suggestion. Tech companies should be lauded, not condemned, for rigorously protecting the privacy rights of their customers.