Hill, The

FTC commissioner ‘somewhat optimistic’ about data breach bill

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen thinks Congress can get together and pass legislation to protect consumers when hackers steal their data online, she said.

She also said she was “somewhat optimistic” about the prospect of a bill, after a series of headline-grabbing data breaches in recent months.

“I think there has been continuing interest in Congress and I think some of these big data breaches have kept the energy up behind it,” she said. “It’s very difficult,” she added. “Congress, obviously, has a lot on its plate...[but] I have found on a bipartisan basis there has been an interest in better data security guidance and having legislation in that regard.”

Opposing tech groups settle lawsuit

Two competing technology industry trade groups have resolved a lawsuit over lobbyists who moved from one organization to another.

Details about the deal were not disclosed, but executives expressed hope that the resolution between TechAmerica and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) would settle a fracture that had erupted in the tech lobbying world. Both trade groups pledged to put the matter behind them and refocus on the needs of their members.

"ITI is committed to focusing on the vibrancy of the technology sector and the dynamic future that [information and communications technology] innovation brings to consumers around the world,” CEO Dean Garfield said in a statement.

His firm represents tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft. “To ensure continued success in achieving this vision, ITI and TechAmerica have agreed to the resolution of pending litigation between them and have entered into a confidential agreement to resolve all claims, without any admission of wrongdoing,” Garfield added. TechAmerica head Shawn Osborne added that the deal “is in the best interests of our members.”

New campaign calls out President Obama for network neutrality campaign pledge

As the Federal Communications Commission considers allowing Internet “fast lanes,” the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is looking to hold President Barack Obama accountable to the commitment he made to an online “level playing field” during his 2008 campaign.

The campaign’s site hosts a video from a 2007 campaign event where then-Sen Obama described himself as “a strong supporter of net neutrality.” Internet providers should not “charge different rates to different websites,” because that “destroys one of the best things about the Internet, which is there’s this incredible equality there” he said.

Companies like Google and Facebook “might not have been started if you had not had a level playing field for whoever’s got the best idea, and I want to maintain that basic principle in how the Internet functions,” he said. As President, he said, he would “make sure that that’s the principle that my FCC commissioners are applying as we move forward.”

oe Niederberger, who posed the net neutrality question to Obama in 2007 and is now behind NoSlowLane.com, criticized the Obama Administration for the current plan to allow Internet “fast lanes.” “The new FCC chair should carry out the president’s promise and support net neutrality,” he said in a video on the site.

Spy court hears first anti-NSA argument

For the first time, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court heard a formal argument that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of people’s phone records is illegal.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed early in April and just declassified, the Center for National Security Studies said that the surveillance program is not authorized under current law.

“Congress has never authorized the telephone metadata program,” the think tank told court. “When the government acts in an area of questionable constitutionality, Congress cannot be deemed to have authorized that action by mere implication or acquiescence,” it added, “Rather, Congress must explicitly indicate that it intends to alter the rights and limitations normally afforded by the law.”

Yet with regards to the controversial NSA operation, Congress never “made such an explicit statement.” According to Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, the brief is the first formal argument the FISA Court has heard outlining how the bulk data collection does not comply with the law. “The court hasn’t heard the opposing view on that before issuing these orders, on that question,” she said.

Broadcasters victorious as radio bill gains 219 sponsors

A broadcaster-backed effort to keep local radio stations from paying musicians for songs has gained the support of more than half of the House of Representatives.

As some members push measures that would require AM/FM radio stations to pay for the songs they play, 219 members of the House have signed onto the Local Radio Freedom Act. That resolution -- introduced by Reps Michael Conway (R-TX) and Gene Green (D-TX) in early 2013 -- prohibits "any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” on local AM/FM radio stations.

The Senate companion resolution was introduced in 2013 by Sens John Barrasso (R-WY) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND); 12 other senators back it. Though AM/FM radio stations do not currently have to pay artists for songs the stations broadcast, some members of Congress are pushing bills that would require radio stations to pay these “royalty fees.”

According to the National Association of Broadcasters, the large number of supporters backing the Local Radio Freedom Act indicates that many in Congress agree that radio royalty fees aren’t needed.

Sen Franken: FCC chief's plan for ‘fast lanes’ will ‘destroy’ Internet

Sen Al Franken (D-MN) called a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow Internet “fast lanes” an “affront to net neutrality" that will "destroy" the open Internet.

In a letter, Sen Franken asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reconsider his current plans to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules in a way that allows some content companies to pay for better access to Internet providers’ subscribers.

“This proposal would create an online ‘fast lane’ for the highest bidder -- shutting out small business and increasing costs for consumers,” Sen Franken wrote. “I strongly urge you to reconsider this misguided approach and recommit to protecting the Open Internet for all Americans.”

Advocates press Obama on warrantless searches

President Barack Obama needs to take a stand on whether or not the government should be able to get someone’s emails without a warrant, a coalition of business and privacy advocates said.

In a letter sent to the White House, dozens of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, FreedomWorks, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce blamed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the Administration’s reticence on the issue.

“You have a rare opportunity to work with Congress to pass legislation that would advance the rights of almost every American,” the groups wrote. “Please act now to support meaningful privacy reform.”

Under terms of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), emails, texts, photos and other data stored online can be searched by law enforcement without a warrant as long as they have been in the cloud for at least 180 days. The law was written in 1986, when dial-up Internet was still cutting-edge technology, and is deeply in need of an update, advocates say.

A reform bill in the House from Reps Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Jared Polis (D-CO) has 205 co-sponsors, but the White House has yet to respond to a November petition to take sides on the issue.

What Congress will and won’t get done

Lawmakers are back in Washington with a sharper eye on the midterms and an ever-mounting pessimism about the legislative possibilities ahead of November.

What’s on Congress's plate?

Aside from proposed laws on government funding and immigration, possibly patent reform. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has scheduled a markup on legislation aimed to rein in "patent trolls," after working for months behind the scenes to address concerns with members of both parties. But it remains uncertain if he has the votes to get it out of the committee, let alone pass the bill on the chamber floor.

Sec Kerry calls to ‘tear down’ Internet censorship

Different countries’ control of the Internet is increasingly dividing the world into “two different visions” reminiscent of the Cold War, Secretary of State John Kerry warned.

In remarks to a global Internet governance conference, Sec Kerry said that barriers to Internet access and online freedom needed to be torn down, just like the Berlin Wall in 1989.

"Today, we’ve all learned that walls can be made of ones and zeros and the deprivation of access even to those ones and zeros, and that wall can be just as powerful in keeping us apart in a world that is so incredibly interconnected,” he said at the fourth annual Freedom Online Coalition conference. “So it's very much our ... common responsibility to try to tear down those walls just as it was our responsibility to try to do that during the Cold War.”

He specifically mentioned Russia and Venezuela as countries with an “an absolutely unmistakable pattern” of Internet crackdown. “The places where we face some of the greatest security challenges today are also the places where governments set up firewalls against some of the basic freedoms online,” he said.

US takes Philippines off intellectual property watch list

The Obama Administration says that the Philippines has fixed its problems protecting intellectual property enough to take it off of a special watch list on the issue.

“Although significant challenges remain, the commitment of Philippine authorities and the results achieved merit this change in status,” said the Office of the US Trade Representative. “The United States will continue to engage with the Philippines to address unresolved and future challenges.”

The Philippines had appeared on the watch list or the priority watch list continually since 1994, and was first added in 1989. Countries on the list, which include nations from India to Russia to Canada, are considered to have a weak record of defending or enforcing intellectual property rights, or close off market access to people relying on intellectual property.

The Obama Administration said that the Philippines had enacted “a series of significant legislative and regulatory reform” to protect intellectual property rights in the country.