File income taxes for free using the IRS Free File Program

U.S. taxpayers have the option to file their income taxes for free using the Free File Program from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $69,000 or less (2019 tax year requirement).   The tax preparer must start the filing process at www.irs.gov/freefile instead of a commercial tax software website in order to avoid being prompted for payment.

The Free File program is part of an agreement between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a coalition of tax software companies.

California now has the first IoT security law in the U.S.

California now has the first IoT (Internet of Things) security law in the U.S., as reported by CNET.com.  California Senate Bill No. 327 (SB-327) was signed into law on September 28, 2018, and this law will become effective on January 1, 2020.  The law requires IoT device makers to use appropriate security measures by design, and to protect device data from unauthorized access.

These new requirements are in addition to what is required by the new California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA).

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Act of 2018 was signed into law as of November 16, 2018.  This legislation reorganizes the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a standalone federal agency in charge of cyber and physical infrastructure security.

More information is available at the Department of Homeland Security’s CISA website.

New DMCA government rules allow third party repairs of some technology products

The U.S. Copyright Office issued a new ruling effective October 28th 2018 that allows exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA).  Section 1201 of the DMCA was used by some companies to restrict consumer and third party use of products containing software, including smartphones, computers, motor vehicles, and home appliances. This ruling allows greater legal protection for consumers and third party companies to repair and diagnose rightfully owned technology products.

Answers to some frequently asked questions on this ruling can be found at www.copyright.gov/1201/2018/faqs.html.  General information on U.S. copyright laws is available at www.copyright.gov/help/faq/index.html.

Digital rights groups such as the Repair Association and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have issued their own responses regarding this ruling.

New federal law allows you to freeze your credit reports for free

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Americans nationwide can now freeze their credit reports for free.  This was made possible because of a new federal law made effective on September 21st 2018.

More information about credit freezes is at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqsThe FTC also requires that credit reporting agencies give consumers a free credit report once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com

 

California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA)

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) (Assembly Bill AB-375) was passed on June 28th 2018 and is designed to protect the personal data of California state residents.  Companies worldwide must comply with CCPA by January 1, 2020.

The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) has published an in-depth analysis of what is required to comply with this new legislation.

Update: Microsoft agreed to honor the CCPA’s new privacy rights throughout the United States in a November 2019 blog post.