Improving the ACCESS Act

Six ways to make the most important tech law of the legislative season even better.

Cory Doctorow

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EFF’s interoperability banner graphic, a kind of Rube Goldberg machine integrating pulleys, belts, megaphones, emoticons, lightbulbs, HTML tags, a Creative Commons icon, a radio tower, a padlock, etc.

Last week, Congress introduced the ACCESS Act, one of the most significant, pro-competitive, pro-user tech laws in American legislative history.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/06/access-act-takes-step-towards-more-interoperable-future

It will require large tech platforms to open up to interoperability, so you can leave the platform for a rival without losing contact with your friends, communities, audiences and customers.

By lowering the switching cost of walking away from Big Tech, Congress could create space for co-ops, tinkerers, nonprofits, startups and public services to create small, user-centered communities built on giving people technological self-determination.

This week, the ACCESS Act will likely go before the House Judiciary Committee for markup, and there’s going to be a fierce battle for the future of this bill (predictably, Big Tech hates it and wants it dead).

We (EFF) just published our list of things that should be fixed ACCESS during markup, a collection of six areas where the law could be improved:

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/06/new-access-act-good-start-heres-how-make-sure-it-delivers

I. Strong Consent and Purpose Limitation Requirements

The ACCESS Act is already pretty good on ensuring that when you take your data from a platform, but the language is a little fuzzy at the edges.

We’d like crisply defined limits on data requires consent — for example, do your friends have to consent to you exporting their replies to your messages? Does it matter if they’re private messages or public? We’ve published some deep dives on this:

https://www.eff.org/wp/interoperability-and-privacy

II. Define “Interoperability”

This is the second version of the ACCESS Act (the first was introduced in the Senate during the 2019/2020 session). The Senate version actually defined “interop” (too narrowly!), while the current version fails to do so.

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