Tech law update 22 April 2010

IT industry supports ban on software patents

InternetNZ, the New Zealand Computer Society and the New Zealand Open Source Society issued press releases yesterday in support of the ban on software patents:

The Labour Party also issued a press release supporting the decision and Minister Simon Power’s earlier endorsement:

Meanwhile law firm Chapman Tripp issued a press release criticising the decision:

Privacy Commissioner slams Google’s “experiment”

New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner, Marie Shroff, has criticised Google Buzz as being a “commercial experimentation on New Zealanders and other internet users, involving the release of significant personal information”:

[Google’s actions] violated the fundamental, globally accepted principle that people should be able to control the use of their personal information.

The comments follow Ms Shroff’s signing of a joint letter to Google, stating:

It is unacceptable to roll out a product that unilaterally renders personal information public, with the intention of repairing problems later as they arise. Privacy cannot be sidelined in the rush to introduce new technologies to online audiences around the world.

These comments, including constructive requests that organisaions collects and process “only the minimum amount of personal information necessary” and create “privacy-protective default settings”, are admirable. Ms Shroff does a great job in standing up for New Zealanders’ privacy rights.

The difficulty, as I have written previously, is that people happily trade privacy for functionality. Millions of people willingly pour personal information into different websites every day. To what extent can Google be criticised for finding new, creative uses of information it has been willingly given, in accordance with terms agreed to by users? And to what extent is it necessary or right for governments to intervene?

Open standards in Government procurement

Earlier this year I commented that “the Government must properly mandate open standards and multi-vendor capable solutions for future state-sector IT procurement”.

European Union ministers have now called for “the introduction of open standards and interoperability in government procurement of IT”. This comes as part of an ongoing development of procurement frameworks.

The report states that some groups claim the proposal has been “so watered down due to intense lobbying by the proprietary software makers, to such an extent that the document will have no impact on the market”. Other industry groups have praised the proposals as “well balanced”.