WELCOME to Connected Rights, your secret ingredient in the sauce of digital rights news and analysis.

NET NEUTRALITY MIGHT BE DOOMED AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL in the US, but states are jumping in to fill the gap left by the FCC’s December decision: http://for.tn/2HaGcUt

Washington state has become the first to pass full-blown net neutrality legislation, and Oregon looks set to be next. The governors in a bunch more states, such as Vermont and New York, have issued executive orders to mandate the rule. And the attorneys-general of around two dozen states are suing the FCC to have the decision reversed.

It does look like the net neutrality principle just won’t die thanks to states’ rights, which must trigger all sorts of cognitive dissonance in certain circles. Speaking of which, FCC chair Ajit Pai turned down a “Kentucky handmade long gun” that the NRA tried to give him for his work to scrap net neutrality: http://politi.co/2CTjiOT

Here’s what Pai wrote, according to Politico. And yes, this is all very bizarre. “Once my staff became aware of what was happening, they asked backstage that the musket not be presented to me to ensure that this could be first discussed with and vetted by career ethics attorneys in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel… Upon their counsel, I must respectfully decline the award.”

PLAYBOY HAS DROPPED ITS VERY SILLY LAWSUIT against the proprietors of digital culture site Boing Boing: http://bit.ly/2I43r44

Playboy had accused Boing Boing of infringing on its copyright by linking to a completely different site that hosted scans of old Playboy centrefolds. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took up the case and convinced a judge that linking to a site, uh, isn’t copyright infringement. The judge agreed and Playboy decided not to push ahead with an appeal.

Here’s the (non) offending Boing Boing page, complete with links to stuff that’s long since been taken down: http://bit.ly/2HaKCuG

To support my work, please consider visiting my Patreon page or buying my book, Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights. I’ve now dropped the price to 4.99 (£/$/€) for the Kindle ebook and 9.99 for the paperback. Here are the links to the book’s British, American and German Amazon pages.

But I think it’s time to also publish Control Shift on other platforms. Which should I address first? Please let me know at david@dmeyer.eu.

BRITISH PEERS FROM THE GREEN AND LIBERAL DEMOCRAT parties have expressed worries over the police’s use of automated facial recognition technology, and the lack of proper regulatory oversight: http://bit.ly/2tikqfD

“What we have at the moment is a make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach or ‘do as you want as long as you don’t get caught’,” said Paul Scriven of the Lib Dems. The Greens’ Jenny Jones said the U.K. was “moving into the kind of territory that even George Orwell could not have imagined”. From the Tory side, Gordon Wasserman argued that the technology could even prevent miscarriages of justice – although, without proper rules, it could cause them too.

Former MI5 boss Jonathan Evans, meanwhile, contributed this: “Given the pressure on police budgets, we should welcome anything that makes policing more effective and efficient, rather than viewing it with deep suspicion.”

Not so. It’s precisely when a new technology promises to provide a cheaper alternative to human decision-making, with all the genuine intelligence and discretion that involves (most of the time), that we should be viewing that technology with suspicion. That’s not to say the tech must therefore be inherently bad, but rather that its methods and outcomes deserve the strongest scrutiny.

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION NOW WANTS ONLINE PLATFORMS to take down terrorist material within an hour of it being flagged. This is a self-regulatory thing for now, but it may not stay that way: http://on.ft.com/2FX6Gte

This sort of deadline will probably lead to the takedown of material after zero human scrutiny, which is bad news for anyone publishing satirical material about terrorism, independent reportage about terrorism, or anyone who has an enemy with a grudge and the will to raise (pardon the pun) false flags.

A NEW SURVEY SHOWS A BIG SHIFT in American opinion when it comes to the idea of regulating Big Tech. Basically, people are more for it than ever before: http://bit.ly/2otLNP6

THE GUARDIAN‘S READERS’ EDITOR HAS PASSIONATELY ARGUED against “right to be forgotten” rules, because: “Information is protean. Its meaning changes with context. Its uses vary with circumstance. Retrospect illuminates facets not previously seen. New prospects may make it relevant again.” http://bit.ly/2D3KRoP

I have no doubt that Paul Chadwick’s heart is in the right place here, outraged by those who try to exercise the right to be forgotten/delisted from Google in order to cover up their inglorious pasts, even though they are people who are in the public eye and whose records deserve to be findable.

But the right isn’t absolute; it has to be balanced with the right to free expression and the public’s right to know about certain people. And in the examples that Chadwick cites, from Google’s experiences implementing the 2014 Costeja decision, it’s clear that Google tries to do just this.

When the search engine turns down a request from a “prominent business person” in Poland to delist articles about his lawsuit against a newspaper, that’s evidence of Google striking the right balance. When it grants an Italian woman freedom from people googling her name and finding a decades-old article about her husband’s murder, why on earth shouldn’t she be able to assert her rights in that way?

Of course, when Google recounts the Portuguese data protection authority ordering it to “delist a news article about the criminal investigation of a well-known businessman for alleged fraud, falsification of documents and tax evasion,” it sounds like something went seriously wrong there – unless that individual was innocent. But even if the national regulator made a bad call, it doesn’t mean the law itself is bad.

Chadwick doesn’t seem to get that the CJEU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling was an upholding of fundamental rights, rather than a decision that came out of nowhere. Should it be better implemented at times? Sure, but metaphors about babies and bathwater spring to mind. I’m not sure he’s thought through the implications of removing people’s ability to control their personal data.

JAN ALBRECHT, THE PERSON MOST RESPONSIBLE for the General Data Protection Regulation, is going to leave the European Parliament in September in order to dive into regional German politics. Albrecht will become a minister in the Schleswig-Holstein government, dealing with digital, energy and environmental issues: http://bit.ly/2D5B1mh

If you’d like me to write articles for you about digital rights issues, speak at your event or provide privacy advice for your business, drop me an email at david@dmeyer.eu.

“THANK GOD WE HAVE THE INTERNET, thanks God we have Facebook,” said Matteo Salvini after his far-right League picked up more than 17 percent of the vote in Sunday’s Italian elections: http://bit.ly/2oNUAeN

Speaking of which, here’s an interesting piece about “how the Facebook algorithm insulates fascists from reality”. In short, it appears that the algorithm shows far-right-leaning people an extremely narrow set of posts, again and again, thus naturally reinforcing their views in a way that doesn’t seem to happen with other political leanings: http://bit.ly/2oS93W4

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