SEC approves crowdfunding of startups
On October 30, in a 3-1 decision, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules allowing the crowdfunding of start-up companies over the internet. Prior to the new rules, companies could only seek funds from accredited investors with a net worth of at least $1 million, excluding the value of their homes, or annual income of more than $200,000. The approved rules allow investors with annual income or net worth of less than $100,000 to contribute $2,000 or five percent of their net worth, whichever is greater. Those with higher incomes can invest up to ten percent of their net worth, but they are limited to $100,000 in all crowdfunding offerings during a 12-month period. While the new rules were implemented to spur job growth, some critics warn investors of unsound investments and fraud.
Bill introduced to criminalize warrantless use of “stingrays”
On November 2, Representative Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah introduced the Cell-Site Simulator Act seeking to limit the warrantless use of stingrays. Stingrays are cellular phone surveillance devices that mimic wireless carrier cell towers to connect to all nearby phones and capture location data and in some cases calls and text messages. The controversial device came into spotlight after the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted last week that his agency uses stingrays in some investigations. The bill requires agents to acquire warrants before using stingrays, and provides for fines and up to ten years in prison for violations of its prescriptions. Exceptions exist for emergencies that involve “immediate danger of death,” national security, and those that fall under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The full text of the bill is available here.
Newly introduced bill forces UK ISPs to keep a record of Web browsing history for a year
On November 4, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, introduced a draft piece of legislation known as the Investigatory Powers Bill. The proposed bill, which is the successor to a statute that the British High Court struck down last year, requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hold a record of Web browsing history for a year. However, it will only record the Internet services a device has connected to, not the details of the individual webpages visited. To balance the heightened surveillance power it grants, the bill implements a “double lock” warrant authorization process whereby a request for emergency authorization by the Home Secretary is subject to judicial review. In addition to its browsing history provisions, the bill creates a new criminal offense with a two-year prison sentence for abuse of communications data by public authorities.