What’s With All The Privacy Updates?

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Is your Inbox overflowing with messages about updated privacy policies?  From the manufacturer of your computer to the publishers of all the software, apps and websites you use, you are probably receiving an undrecedented amount of privacy updates.

While you probably reflexively delete most of these messages, you may want to play closer attention to them.  Some are informing you that unless you take specific action, you will no longer receive the email messages that you have subscribed to.

So why is this happening now?  GDPR, that’s why.  The General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union goes in to effect in three short days on Friday, May 25, 2018.  This new legislation mandates more transparency when it comes to data privacy and requires that individuals be made aware of what personal data a given company has about them.

Because of this sweeping new legislation, companies are scrambling to let people know that they need to authorize them to retain the private data they hold about you.  They also need you to reconfirm that you give them permission to email you.

Now you know.  These messages are to ensure compliance with the new law.  Even tough this is a law of the EU, it applies to companies outside the EU, so give these messages a quick review before you delete them, just to be sure you want the company who sent it to you, to have personal information about you in their databases.

Here are a couple of examples I’ve received in the last 24 hours, along with links to other blog posts about GDPR:

GDPR and What it Means for U.S. Companies

GDPR Isn’t Just for Europe. What US Companies Need To Know.

It Happens One Month From Today

Yes! We did it! But there’s more to be done.

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Yes!I am thrilled to report that U.S. Senate has voted to overturn the FCC repeal of net neutrality rules.  Thank you to everyone who read my posts and took action to make your voice hear.  While this is a great victory, sadly it only gets us to first base, using a baseball analogy.  To get to second base, the measure will now go to the U.S. House, where it faces more opposition.  Three Republican Senators voted based on the desire of their constituents to protect net neutrality.  Thank you Senators Collins, Murkowski and Kennedy for representing your voters over your party.  It’s sad more Senators did not do the same, but that is the state of hostile politics in our nation today.

Now we need to flood the House, especially the Repulican Representatives, to encourage them to vote in support of the repeal.  Only then will the measure move to the President’s desk for signature.  That’s the rounding of third base we need to ensure net neutrality does not go away on June 11.  That’s the home run we need, so if you have a Republican representative, please contact them, repeatedly, and remind them 86% of American’s support overturning this repeal.  The will of the people is clear and is has nothing to do with any political party.  It has to do with what is right for this country, our citizens and our economy.

Thank you for what you’ve done to date.  Please keep the pressure on!  The voice of the people is able to be heard.  Today’s vote proves it.

Go to www.battleforthenet.com to contact your Representative about the upcoming vote in the House.

The Vote Happens Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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This is absolutely our last chance to tell the Senate to vote to overturn the repeal of net neutrality.  It is critical that this message be sent loudly and clearly as if the Senate votes to overturn, the House and President need to follow.  This has become a partisan issue when it never should have been.  Over 86% of American’s do NOT support the repeal, yet right along party lines, Democrats overwhelmingly agree and Republicans overwhelmingly support the repeal.  Clearly send them all a message to listen to their constituents over their party!

Make your voice heard by clicking here.

Take Action

This May Be Last Chance to Save Net Neutrality

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The following was published in yesterday’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

On May 3, I had the honor of testifying before a U.S. Senate field hearing about net neutrality. The hearing was held by Senator Jeanne Shaheen as a member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Facebook_profile2It was an official hearing with six witnesses, including Portsmouth City Councilor Nancy Pearson, director of the Center for Women and Enterprise in Nashua, Portsmouth City Councilor Joshua Cyr, director of Education and Acceleration at Alpha Loft in Portsmouth, Robert Zakon, co-founder and chief technology officer of the Zakon Group in North Conway, Zach Luse, founder of Paragon Digital Marketing in Keene and Lisa Drake, director of sustainability innovation at Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry.

The hearing, “Net Neutrality: Impacts on New Hampshire Small Businesses,” was held at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The hearing was kicked off by Stan Waddell, UNH’s chief information officer. He talked about the importance of net neutrality to higher education and UNH in particular. Sen. Shaheen read an opening statement and then each witness gave a statement followed by interactive questions and answers between the senator and witnesses.

Unlike the recent hearings surrounding Facebook in Washington, D.C., I was impressed with Sen. Shaheen’s understanding of the issue and its impact on New Hampshire and really, the entire global economy. She was well prepared and well versed on the matter at hand. Her questions were pointed and important, and the ensuing discussion was valuable for all in attendance. The entire hearing will be recorded on the Congressional Record as will each of the written testimonies submitted.

The main reason for the hearing was to gather more data and input on the impact of repealing net neutrality rules put in place several years ago. If you have been following this issue, you know in 2015, the FCC passed rules that prohibit Internet Service Providers from throttling, blocking or charging content companies for faster response on the ISP’s network, what’s commonly referred to as paid prioritization. The FCC repealed those rules and Congress is debating whether to overturn that repeal. The first step toward such action will be a vote in the Senate using something called a Congressional Review Act, which would be a vote to reverse the repeal and reinstate net neutrality protections.

If the Senate passes this measure, it moves to the House, where it would also have to vote to reverse the repeal. From there, it requires the President’s signature. This should not be a partisan issue, but it has become one. It’s become a fight between Democrats and Republicans without regard to the will of the people.

More than 86 percent of Americans support net neutrality and want to see the repeal overturned. People making their voices heard have built the momentum that led to a historic accomplishment earlier this week when the Senate produced enough signatories to force a vote on the Senate floor. That vote is expected to take place this coming week. There is still time to make your voice heard. It does not matter that the New Hampshire and Maine senatorial delegations are in support of this measure. Take the time to contact them and let them know you support their actions. Visit www.battleforthenet.com and follow the easy steps to register your support.

The Senate only needs one more vote to pass and it is expected that it will. From there, the pressure needs to be maintained so the House follows suit. From there, the president needs to be clear it’s the will of the people that net neutrality be forever protected and that this is not a political issue. It’s an issue at the core of freedom of speech, entrepreneurialism and economic competitiveness. Please do your part and make your voice heard. Thank you.

Your Voice Is More Important Than Ever

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Today, the U.S. Senate made history.  Senators successfully submitted a discharge petition, a picture of which is below, that will force a Senate vote next week to save #netneutrality.  This is a key outcome from the Senate field hearing that I particpated in last week.

Senate Discharge

Senate Discharge forcing vote on #netneutrality. From @JRosenworcel, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

The country is clear, with more than 86% of citizens supporting maintaining net neutrality rules enacted by the FCC in 2015.  Those rules prohibit providers of Internet access from throttling, blocking or using paid prioritization to deliver content across the Internet.

Please take action and make your voice heard.  50 Senators are in support of this action, but 51 are needed for it to pass.  All 48 Democrats are in support as is Independent Senator Angus King of Maine along with his fell Mainer, Republican Senator Susan Collins.  Most observers believe any one of a number of moderate Republican Senators will deliver the needed 51st vote to pass.  From there, the measure heads to the House, which will need significant outreach to get the needed 58 additional Representatives to support.  From there, it will require the President’s signature.

The only way to assure net neutrality is preserved is to put pressure on Congress by making your voice heard.  This is not a political issue, this is a fundamental first amendment issue.  Please make your voice heard by going to:

www.battleforthenet.com and take action!

“Congress is fast approaching one of the most consequential votes on internet policy and free expression this century,” Demand Progress Director of Communications Mark Stanley said in a statement. “Lawmakers are going to have to make a choice, and the sides are clear. They can join with big cable companies that want to control the internet for profit. Or they can stand with the millions of Americans who rely on the open internet for news, entertainment and communication, as well as small business owners who depend on it for their livelihoods.”

Red Alert for Net Neutrality

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In just a few days, sometime mid-month, the United States Senate will vote on whether to block the FCC‘s decision to roll back net neutrality protections.  As you know, I testified at a Senate Field Hearing last week about this.  You can read my posts Participating in Our Democracy, It Happened This Morning and Senate Testimony Recap right here on my blog.  I believe strongly that net neutrality needs to be protected.  While I would prefer to see Congress enact permanent legislation protecting net neutrality, the Senate is taking the first step by voting on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the FCC repeal.

Starting tomorrow, May 9th, many sites on the Internet will be going red to raise awareness and encourage consitituents to contact their lawmakers to express their support for this action.

Please take action by going to www.battleforthenet.com.  Thank you!

Senate Testimony Recap

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On Thursday morning, May 3rd, I had the honor and privelage of being a witness before a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship at the University of New Hampshire.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen listens to my testimony during the hearing. To my right are fellow witnesses Robert Zakon and Nancy Pearson.

The hearing, titled Net Neutrality: Impacts on New Hampshire Small Businesses was run by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  Additional witnesses testifying alongside me were Robert Zakon, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer at Zakon Group, LLC in North Conway, NH, Nancy Pearson, Director at the Center from Women & Enterprise in Nashua, NH, Zach Luse, Founder at Paragon Digital Marketing in Keene, NH, Lisa Drake, Director of Sustainability Innovation at Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry, NH and Joshua Cyr, Director of Education & Acceleration at Alpha Loft in Portsmouth, NH.

I was very pleased to see how engaged and informed Senator Shaheen is on the topic of net neutrality.  Each of the panelists testifying brought a unique and important perspective on the issue.  In the end, two significant and unified themes emerged.  One, that businesses need permanent predictability around net neutrality rules.  It will negatively impact the economy of this nation and viability of many businesses if these rules continue to be enacted and repealed at the whim of the political party in power.  Two, that blocking, throttling or otherwise limiting or restricting access will create a pay to play environment that will stifle innovation and harm small businesses.

Senator Shaheen asked pointed and important questions of the panel and the quality of the discussion that ensued could not have been better. The hearing was recorded and will be entered into the permanent Congressional record. Each witness submitted written testimony, which will also be entered into the permanent record. Below are links to press coverage of the hearing, including pictures. Following that is my written testimony.

Shaheen touts net neutrality at UNH forum

Net neutrality topic of field hearing at UNH

Following is my written testimony:

Net Neutrality: Impacts on New Hampshire Small Businesses

MJ Shoer

Director, Client Engagement &vCIO

Onepath

Senator Shaheen,

First, thank you for holding this field hearing, allowing local businesses the opportunity to share our

concerns with you in a very direct way. My name is MJ Shoer and I am the Director of Client

Engagement and vCIO for Onepath, a national provider of managed IT services to small and mid-sized businesses. Locally, we have three offices in New England, with our New Hampshire office being located in Bedford, NH. I hope to share a unique perspective with you on this important issue.

For just shy of twenty years, I owned my own managed IT services business in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In December of 2015, I merged into a larger firm, headquartered in Massachusetts that was also a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) and Internet Service Provider (ISP) and in May of last year, that business was acquired by Onepath. In each of these three companies, we ourselves as well as our over seven hundred clients are directly impacted by net neutrality or the lack of it. I also serve as the Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of Directors for CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the global non-profit trade association representing the information technology industry. In this capacity, I have been exposed to our members diverse, and sometimes conflicting positions on this issue. As a CompTIA member, I have also visited your DC office several times as part of

CompTIA’s annual DC Fly-In to talk about issues of importance to the tech industry.

I’d like to take a moment to quickly frame up the history of this issue and its concern for the business community here in New Hampshire and really, across the entire globe. In 1995, I was part of the first company to bring dial-up Internet access to the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Within days, not months or years, we had direct competition, with multiple ISP’s springing up and providing choice. Fast forward to today, 23 years later and our choices are more restrictive than ever. In Portsmouth, for example, there is really only one high speed ISP that can cover the entire city and that company is Comcast. So one part of this issue is about competitive access options. While there is some competition for business Internet access, there is really none for consumers.

Comcast owns NBC Universal and has a streaming app that subscribers may use to watch Comcast’s Xfinity content online or away from their home. Under the prior rules of net neutrality, Comcast was required to provide unrestricted access for any subscriber to any site on the Internet. Consider that Verizon is a major Comcast competitor, as is any other ISP. While Comcast’s television services allow

you to watch network television like ABC, CBS and NBC, consider this possible scenario we face with no net neutrality rules in place.

I decide to jump on the “cutting the cord” movement and cancel my Comcast TV services and only retain my Comcast broadband Internet access service. I want to use Yahoo.com, a free email and search service that Verizon now owns. I also want to use Hulu, which competes with Google, a company that Comcast haWithout net neutrality, Comcast is able to throttle my bandwidth to sites they would rather I not go to. Think of a 4 lane highway like Interstate 95. Comcast routes my Internet traffic across this large highway

so I can get to NBC quickly and with no delays. But say I want to watch something on ABC. Comcast routes that Internet traffic onto Route 1 and I have to travel across multiple signaled intersections, so I may have to stop or go very slowly to get to where I want to go. So slowly in fact, that I might just give up and not go there anymore. Hopefully that word pictures makes the issue crystal clear. It really is that simple.

The impact to small and start-up companies could be catastrophic. The Internet has been a great equalizer in many ways. Small businesses have sprung up and offered competitiveness and innovation the likes of which we have not seen before. A lack of net neutrality is a very real threat to our economic competitiveness as small business, entrepreneurs and a nation.

I’d also like to take moment to share a broader perspective on the issue from my perspective as a Board member of CompTIA. For several years now CompTIA has supported a legislative solution to net neutrality. Its diverse membership includes companies from across the tech industry, from ISPs to edge providers to equipment manufacturers and everything in between. These members have come together to support two core principles: 1) that the internet should be a place where all businesses, regardless of

size, can compete with one another on a level playing field; and 2) that consumers should be able to access whatever legal content they want without worrying that their ISP might block or slow down that

content.

CompTIA and its members want certainty over how the internet is regulated. As such Congress needs to act to prevent this latest round of changes from taking effect. Principles this important should not be subject to the whims of whichever party sits in the White House at any given time. Beyond that, Congress needs to pass net neutrality legislation that prohibits blocking, throttling and anticompetitive conduct by ISP’s. And the only way to achieve this goal is through true bipartisan cooperation to reach a

well-crafted and settled legislative approach to achieve our core principles of competition and access.

The FCC’s decision to repeal their net neutrality rules and reclassify broadband internet access service as an information service placed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in charge of policing net neutrality violations. But the FTC’s authority in this space is limited. Its consumer protection and antitrust enforcement powers aren’t broad enough to tackle the full slate of potential net neutrality violations. Legislation is necessary to help fill in the gaps.

In recent months we have also seen several states introduce net neutrality legislation and two even passed these bills into law. Six states have taken a different path and addressed net neutrality through executive order. Unfortunately, these state approaches vary. While some give enforcement authority to various state bodies, others attempt to create a certification process for ensuring ISPs are maintaining net neutrality, and still others identify fines. A state-by-state patchwork of laws will create a compliance

nightmare for ISPs, particularly small ones, especially since internet traffic is not bound by state boundaries. States also lack the technical expertise to properly formulate and enforce such rules. Not to mention that these laws may not even be enforceable, as the FCC’s order expressly preempts states from passing net neutrality laws.

In conclusion, the only workable long-term solution to achieving net neutrality is bipartisan federal legislation. This will benefit New Hampshire business, my clients and those of my competitors and businesses of all sizes across this nation. Thank you.

It Happened This Morning

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From Politico, May 3, 2018

TODAY: NET NEUTRALITY FIELD HEARING — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this morning will host a Senate Small Business Committee field hearing that examines the effect of the FCC’s net neutrality rollback on small businesses. The panel, which will take place at the University of New Hampshire, will include testimony from business leaders including Zach Luse, CEO of Paragon Digital Marketing, and Lisa Drake, director of sustainability innovation at Stonyfield Farm. “Today, small businesses can reach customers throughout the world at the click of a button. Net neutrality has been a linchpin of that success,” Shaheen will say, according to prepared remarks. Thousands of small businesses have signed onto a letter that calls on Congress to preserve the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules by supporting a measure that aims to undo the agency’s repeal via the Congressional Review Act. We’re tracking.

I testified at this hearing this morning.  I will recap the hearing and post my written testimony later.  Stay tuned…

GDPR and What it Means for U.S. Companies

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The following was published in today’s editions of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

Keep Calm GDPR

GDPR is the European Union’s new data protection law. It stands for the General Data Protection Regulation and it goes into effect May 25. While this is a European law, U.S. companies are still subject to it, as are any organizations that possess private data on European Union citizens. It’s a sweeping update to existing data privacy laws that could have wide reaching implications.

The United States has yet to pass a truly comprehensive data privacy standard. Individual states have passed varying data privacy laws, which make compliance confusing and very inconsistent. GDPR stands to set the standard for broad reaching regulation that standardizes compliance and enforcement across borders, within the European Union and across the globe.

This past week, the Computing Technology Industry Association, CompTIA, released a survey on “The State of GDPR Preparedness in the U.S.” Some of the findings are scary. More than half of U.S. companies say they are still trying to determine whether or not GDPR is applicable to them. Well if they have any personal information on a citizen of the European Union, it does. So, for example, if you have just one employee, who holds dual citizenship with a country in the European Union, GDPR applies. If a single citizen of the European Union has purchased something from your company, requiring them to submit payment and shipping information to your company, GDPR applies to your company. You get the idea.

In addition to not knowing if GDPR applies to their business, nearly 65 percent of companies are unaware of the substantial fine structure associated with violations of GDPR. This could lead to significant financial exposure for companies that have not familiarized themselves with GDPR and its applicability to their business.

Those that have looking into GDPR’s impact on their business may think about whether or not they want to continue doing business with the European Union. It’s too soon to tell if the regulation will turn out to hamper business between companies within and outside of the European Union. Of the organizations surveyed, one-third indicate they have no plans to change their business practices with the European Union and its citizens and one-third say it may. The remaining one-third is not sure.

Some of the unique provisions of GDPR that may be difficult for businesses to comply with are the requirements for data transparency and the right to be forgotten, among others. Data transparency requires that a person be able to review any personal information that a company stores about them. The company must also provide a way for an individual to correct any inaccuracies in that stored information. Even more daunting, perhaps, is the right to be forgotten. To be in compliance, companies must be able to prove that they have completely erased personal information on any individual who wants the company to do so.

We won’t know for sure, what real implications GDPR will have for U.S. companies until one gets caught in violation. Once that first case comes to light, we will know how successful this law will be and whether it will become a model that others will follow. Until then, ambiguity, confusion and the threat of significant fines seem to be how GDPR is being perceived in the U.S.