My Open Letter To Congressman Poe On The Houston Business And Technology Roundtable

by Gray Reed & McGraw
Contact

Yesterday, I had the privilege of taking part in a “Business and Technology Roundtable” with Congressman Ted Poe.  The event was put on by SEMPO, HiMA and Google and was attended by marketing firms, well-known Houston brands and small business owners.  The focus of the conversation centered on online marketing.

As the only lawyer in the room, I had to play devil’s advocate and take the position of the pro-privacy crowd and asked why do we need behavioral online tracking.  My goal was to arm the Congressmen with some information to fight Do Not Track legislation if that was the position the marketers in the group wanted to him to take.  Most everyone said they did the first line analytics only and did not engage in continuous tracking, so the dominant response was that consumers could turn off the cookies and opt out.  I did not have time to ask if anyone in the room could tell me exactly how to do this, let alone how I would explain this to my retired mother who just started emailing five years ago.

To the participants’ credit, I don’t think passage of Do Not Track legislation would impact any of their marketing strategies.  In case the Congressman reads this or if you are curious, you can read my five-part series on Do Not Track beginning here, here, here, here and here.

There are alarmists on both sides of the issue.  I have been advocating for the industry to self regulate for some time to no avail.  Telling people they won’t get their Facebook for free anymore (not reality) or they will see irrelevant banner ads (not a disincentive for consumers) isn’t going to cut it when more and more people are getting the creepy feeling from banner ads that follow them.

This was all a prologue to my main point.  We only had an hour and with two minutes to go there was an open question about what we would like him to do for us as our Congressmen.   With the limited time, I hit patent reform because it stifles innovation and a start-up community that could be the spark plug for employment and our economy.  He invited us to send him any further comments and so I took him up on the offer with this letter.  Congressman Poe Letter

February 8, 2013

The Honorable Ted Poe
1801 Kingwood Drive, Suite 240
Kingwood, TX 77339

Re: Business and Technology Roundtable Follow-Up

 To The Honorable Ted Poe:

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the Houston technology and internet marketing scene at the roundtable lunch yesterday. At the end of the discussion, you asked about federal legislative issues important to us. I briefly mentioned patent reform in my limited time and therefore won’t rehash those comments again. You also invited us to provide you with any additional concerns we wished to share with you in writing. I am taking you up on this offer and offer a few additional matters. Although written on firm letterhead, the viewpoints are my own and not reflective of the law firm’s or any of its clients.

 Communications Decency Act Reform

 The Communications Decency Act, and specifically Section 230 (47 U.S.C. §230(c)) which provides immunity for website operators for defamation-based claims, has fostered innovation and prevented questionable litigation from killing web-based forums. Like many good laws, however, it has spawned business of questionable utility not worthy of Congressionally-created protections. I am speaking of websites that have a sole purpose to solicit gossip, defamation and shaming. I’ve had one too many conversations with fathers whose daughters have been slandered on sites riddled with deplorable commentary. I’ve had to explain to them how filing a suit against the website is an uphill battle because of Section 230. The only option is often to engage in multi-layered litigation to try and unmask the anonymous cowards who provide the content on these sites who usually have no money to pay for their misdeeds. Meanwhile, the purveyors of these sites try to attract eyeballs by pushing salacious details about private individuals that translate into advertising dollars. Many of these same sites offer “reputation restoration” services that masks as extortion to have the insulting materials removed.

 The CDA works for sites like Google, Facebook and even has a place for reputable consumer review sites despite the gripes of many businesses. Section 230’s immunity could be curtailed for any sites that exist primarily to solicit defamatory, offensive or personal information about private citizens. This would not create additional regulations or burdens for new businesses. It would simply take away Congressionally-created protections for the undeserving. Obviously, the carve out would have to be carefully drafted and narrowly tailored to only address the truly bad actors. The courts appear to want carve out such an extension, but are facing difficulty with the current language in Sections 230. See, e.g., Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, LLC, 2:09-cv-00219-WOB (E.D. Ky.) and Hare v. Richie, Case No. 11-CV-3488 (D.C. Md.).

Open Data

As you know, “Big Data” is big business. The Federal Government controls as much data as anyone. There is an enterprising start-up community that can make use of that data to help address inefficiencies in the Government and address societal ills. The website www.data.gov is a step in the right direction. Invite the start-up community to hackathons and other events that will encourage them to make use of the treasure trove of government data that will benefit the government and spur economic growth with new business ideas. You will find the young start-up community hungry for opportunities to make use of the available government data for good that could also create private enterprise. Imagine if you gave the tech world’s brightest an incentive to make the most of the government’s data like the private sector has done with search.

 Regional Competition

Texas Governor Perry may be focused on competing with California for entrepreneurs. When it comes to educated and creative talent, Harris County is more likely competing with Austin than Silicon Valley. Houston does have a budding technology start-up community. While we may not have the natural amenities Austin or San Francisco can offer, we have a business community ripe for innovation. Two of the biggest issues facing the country are energy independence and a sustainable health care system. So, why isn’t Houston a city that attracts a more robust start-up community to work with these well-developed industries?

 Although not well-known, there is an organic start-up community tackling these and other issues. Houston, however, has an image problem – both as it relates to talent and venture capital. While the onus to attract talent and venture capital is more on local and state government, there are certain projects worthy of whatever federal support may be available. Initiatives that make Houston a more livable and attractive city such as light rail, mass transit, space research and technology and other related projects will attract the creative class. While “spending” is toxic these days, targeted investments in Houston’ infrastructure will attract the private enterprise that will make Houston even a greater place to live.

 Make no mistake, Houston has a vibrant community with the likes of Start-Up Houston, the Rice Technical Alliance, the Houston Technology Center’s venture with NASA, Surge and too many individuals and organic co-working spaces and groups promoting and encouraging growth to name. The concern is that once companies reach a certain level of success, they have to go to Austin or California to attract the necessary talent or capital. Certain investments in the City of Houston can keep and attract the necessary talent and capital to stay right here. I would encourage you consider another roundtable discussion with some of the start-up ambassadors for the region to learn more.

 Bridging the Digital Divide

Enhancing Houston’s position in the region includes efforts to bridge the digital divide. Is our current education system producing a technologically-savvy workforce? HISD is considering providing lap tops to every student. There are civic-minded people in Houston willing to provide training and mentoring for young students so they are ready for today’s economy. Programs like these could use federal support. Having a workforce ready for today’s jobs will attract and keep new companies in Houston.

For the most part, when it comes to technology and the internet, the federal government has done the right thing – primarily stayed out of the way which has kept the cost of entry very low and allowed for innovation. Your position on SOPA, for example, is spot on – any new “regulations” need to be carefully considered. Before any new regulation gets added, let’s be sure the cure is not worse than the ill any legislation aims to address. With that said, there are some things the Federal Government can do to help the start-up community, further foster innovation lifting employment and the economy. Thank you for your time yesterday and for inviting further comments such as these.

Sincerely,

 Travis Crabtree

http://www.emedialaw.com/

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Gray Reed & McGraw | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Gray Reed & McGraw
Contact
more
less

Gray Reed & McGraw on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.