Talk on Why State Legislatures Shouldn’t Regulate Internet Privacy

Death by a thousand pin-pricks. Photo credit: Internet Bubble about to explode by a needle // ShutterStock

Death by a thousand pin-pricks. Photo credit: Internet Bubble about to explode by a needle // ShutterStock

As regular readers know, I view state legislatures as currently the #1 threat to the Internet’s integrity. In the name of “protecting the kids” and “helping the Internet”, state legislatures are manufacturing a slew of anti-innovation laws that cumulatively threaten to “love” the Internet to death. Just try to keep pace with California’s legislature. This morning, I did a search at the legislative portal for the keyword “Internet” and found *415* bills in the current legislative session (2013-14). I don’t have time to peruse this legislative tsunami to find and analyze the numerous stinkers; but the pending bills that people are highlighting for me are characteristically horrifying.

To me, the more interesting question is: why do state legislatures consistently suck at regulating the Internet? And is there a way to fix those systemic deficiencies?

In January, I tried to answer these questions in a talk at Whittier Law School as part of their privacy lecture series. See my talk slides, audio recording (item #44) and video recording.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we, as an Internet community, need to take back our state legislatures. We need our current legislators to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, to focus their energies on the problems that they properly understand and are best suited to solving (which almost never involve Internet regulation), and to find another job if they can’t wield their power wisely. Before you just vote for your incumbent state legislators next election, ask yourself if they have been doing right by the Internet.

Selected prior posts on Internet regulation by the California legislature:

* Is Sacramento The World’s Capital of Internet Privacy Regulation?
* My Testimony on California’s Efforts to Regulate Internet Privacy
* How California’s New ‘Do-Not-Track’ Law Will Hurt Consumers
* California’s New Law Shows It’s Not Easy To Regulate Revenge Porn
* California’s Latest Effort To ‘Protect Kids Online’ Is Misguided And Unconstitutional
* California’s New ‘Online Eraser’ Law Should Be Erased
* Big Problems in California’s New Law Restricting Employers’ Access to Employees’ Online Accounts
* Did California Unintentionally (?) Impose New Statutory Duties on Every Blogger? A Post on the Newly Enacted California Reader Privacy Act

Selected prior posts on Internet regulation by the Utah legislature:

* Utah May Repeal Its Spyware Control Act–SB 26
* An Insider’s Look at Utah’s Failed HB 450
* Utah Trying to Regulate Keyword Advertising….Again!? Utah HB 450
* Utah Amends Trademark Protection Act (But Only After Some Drama)
* Utah’s “Don’t Email the Kids” Registry a “Financial Failure”
* Utah Legislators Realizing They Screwed Up By Banning Keyword Advertising
* Utah Bans Keyword Advertising
* Another Dumb Utah Law

A few other states I’ve mocked:

* The Most Effective Anti-Terrorism Law EVER
* Alaska’s Anti-Adware Law–A One-Year Status Report
* Alaska’s Anti-Adware Law

Also see The Implications of Excluding State Crimes from 47 U.S.C. § 230’s Immunity