Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Internet kiosk legal implications

KioskMarketplace has an interesting article about the legal caveats that could arise by offering unfettered, kiosk-based internet access to the masses, especially in public places like libraries. From the article:

"'If such kiosks become the preferred method of criminals to access the Internet, you can bet the police will use the broad powers they already have to get the kiosk operator involved in their investigations,' [Andrew Konstantaras, executive director of the Internet Law & Policy Forum] said. 'Such involvement can cost operators substantial time and money, so finding ways to minimize your expenses in complying with subpoena requests will be time well spent.'

Given the multifaceted nature of the Internet itself, it is not surprising that public Internet access offers up a similarly complex array of potential hazards to the operator. According to Konstantaras, Internet kiosk businesses need to be wary of three chief issues: laws aimed at protecting children, relationships with law enforcement, and 'intermediary liabilities.'

When it comes to dealing with children, the Child Online Privacy Protection Act comes into play. 'The Federal Trade Commission has shown it is committed to prosecuting companies that violate the COPPA," he said, "so to the extent the kiosk application solicits any type of personal data from a user, it should make sure that it either has a way of complying with regulations like COPPA or proving that such laws do not apply to their products or services.'

For the second issue, he advises operators to plan ahead for issues that might be down the road. For instance, if someone commits a crime using an Internet kiosk, it is not hard to imagine law enforcement wanting to involve the company that provided the service.

'Intermediary liabilities' also calls into question the access that was provided, and if it allowed someone to do something inflammatory or illegal.

'Such liability might arise in the context of copyright violations, libel, hate speech or even criminal activities," he said. "The question usually comes down to what did you allow people to do, was it reasonable to let them do that and was the ultimate wrong that was committed predictable enough so that you should have planned for it.'

It’s not hard to imagine any number of legal repercussions that might stem from this. In much the same way that file-sharing companies like Napster were sued for facilitating copyright violation — even though the network in question wasn’t doing anything wrong — companies that offer Internet access in a public space might question their ultimate role in any unsavory activity that is committed via those connections."

Read the whole thing here.

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