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Congress

House Subcommittee Debates Cyber Theft Measure

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2011 – Just days after Senate email accounts were hacked, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing Wednesday to discuss a draft bill that would require companies to minimize the amount of data collected from consumers and notify them within two days of a data breach.

Subcommittee members met with witnesses to clarify the ambiguous language of a discussion draft of Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s (R-CA) Secure and Fortify (SAFE) Data Act. The measure addresses the increasing threat of data theft, in the wake of high-profile cyber attacks on Sony, Epsilon, Lockheed-Martin and other U.S. companies.

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WASHINGTON, June 16, 2011 – Just days after Senate email accounts were hacked, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing Wednesday to discuss a draft bill that would require companies to minimize the amount of data collected from consumers and notify them within two days of a data breach.

Subcommittee members met with witnesses to clarify the ambiguous language of a discussion draft of Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s (R-CA) Secure and Fortify (SAFE) Data Act.  The measure addresses the increasing threat of data theft, in the wake of high-profile cyber attacks on Sony, Epsilon, Lockheed-Martin and other U.S. companies.

The SAFE Data Act, is based on the language of the Data Accountability and Trust (DATA) Act , according to an internal committee memorandum.

Members  reiterated key revisions within the SAFE Data Act throughout the hearing. In the new legislation, companies would be required to notify law enforcement authorities and consumers within 48 hours of the breach. The bill would also include a provision, also known as ‘data minimization,” for companies to reduce the amount of less sensitive information collected from consumers.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), in his opening remarks, while worried that the proposed legislation favors the protection of businesses over consumers, lauded the provision on ‘data minimization’ as ‘potentially valuable.’

“It’s time for us to declare war on identity theft and online fraud,” said Bono Mack in her opening statement, echoing a bipartisan call from members and witnesses for the drafting of a muscular national data breach notification law.

“E-commerce is a vital and growing part of our economy. We should take steps to embrace and protect it – and that starts with a robust cyber security.”

Edith Ramirez, Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, emphasized the need to notify consumers of a data breach “as soon as practicable.”

Ramirez also requested that the bill require the FTC to be notified at the same time as law enforcement agencies and that the agency should be granted the authority to sue non-profit entities for data security violations.

“The FTC promotes data security through law enforcement, consumer and business education, and policy initiatives.,” said a statement issued by the agency. “Since 2001, the agency has brought 34 cases charging business to protect consumers’ personal information.”

The proposed legislation would also preempt the data breach notification laws already in place in 47 states in order to create national legal consistency. The provision responds to a pronounced frustration by private companies over the confusing labyrinth of state data breach notification laws

Marc Rottenberg, Executive Director of Electronic Privacy Information Center, however, cautioned members to take into consideration stronger state data breach notification laws while drafting the new legislation so as not to override them with a weaker federal mandate.

Rottenberg also articulated concerns that the draft’s current definition of ‘Personal Information’ was too narrow.

“The bill seems to suggest that a social security number would not be personally identifiable if it is possessed without a associated person’s name,” said Rottenberg.

“The bill also ignores other popular identifiers, such as a user ID for Facebook, which points as readily to a unique individual as would a driver’s license or a social security number.”

House members are energized to move quickly due to growing numbers of sophisticated cyber attacks and increased consumer reliance upon cloud computing. A senior advisor, in response to an email query, said that Congresswoman is looking to incorporate into her legislation some of the ideas raised by other members at the hearing.

According to a senior advisor speaking on condition of anonymity in Bono Mack’s office, the representative expects to have a bill up before the full House within a month.

The congresswoman reiterated in comments after the hearing her intent on having a full committee markup of the bill before the August recess.

“It is my intent with [Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)] is that there is a bipartisan bill that moves through the Senate,” said Bono Mack. “Maybe [the recent Senate attacks] will give them a bit of an incentive over there.”

Josh Peterson is a DC-based journalist with a professional writing portfolio that includes work on US foreign policy and international affairs, telecom policy and cyber security, religion, arts, and music. He is currently a journalism intern at The National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C. and a former tech and social media intern at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship. Peterson received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion with a minor concentration in music from Hillsdale College in 2008. When he is not writing, Peterson lives a double life as a web designer, social media strategist, photographer, musician and mixed martial artist.

Blockchain

Facebook Lobbying Congress on Blockchain Policy

The registration comes after the company rebranded to Meta, taking it beyond its social media origins.

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Photo from PX Fuel used with permission

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – Facebook has registered this month to lobby Congress on blockchain policy, following a rebranding of the company that is intended to take the company beyond its social media roots.

The lobby registration was filed on November 4 and it comes after the infrastructure bill, signed into law this week, established tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies, which require the decentralized transaction ledger known as the blockchain to function.

The registration, which does not provide specifics on what the company hopes to discuss, also comes just days after the company rebranded as Meta, which is intended to broaden the company’s scope into new technologies that allow people to be together in the virtual space.

When the rebranding launched in late October, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter that indicated that this new metaverse would require open standards and interoperability, including supporting crypto projects.

Meta also has a number of jobs that require knowledge of crypto and blockchain.

Facebook has set its sights on initiatives involving the blockchain for years. In 2018, head of Facebook Messenger David Marcus announced on Facebook that he would set up a small group to “best leverage Blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.”

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of House representatives introduced a bill – the Keep Innovation in America Act – that would better define who are crypto brokers for tax reporting purposes.

In a separate lobby registration, Facebook also specified that it would like to discuss specific funding for computer science education in legislation.

The company has previously registered to lobby Congress on Section 230, the law that shields tech platforms from legal repercussions for what their users post.

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House of Representatives

Telecom, Online Marketplace Consumer Protection Bills Pass House Committee

Among the bills sent to the House, the committee passed two on telecom and one on consumer safety.

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Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois

WASHINGTON, November 17, 2021 – The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed several bills Wednesday, including two on telecom policy and one meant to address consumer safety when using online retailers.

H.R. 1218, the “Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act,” H.R. 2501, the “Spectrum Coordination Act,” and H.R. 5502, the “Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act” were all passed unopposed and without amendments.

H.R. 1218 is a bill intended to target broadband resources to areas where “telehealth may be useful in the monitoring and care of pregnant women,” bill co-sponsor Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, said during the hearing, adding “it is a moral imperative to address the maternal mortality crisis in the United States.” The bill’s other sponsors are Reps. Lisa Rochester, D-Delaware, and Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida.

“To effectively deploy 21st Century resources to address the shocking rates of maternal mortality, the nation must first identify which communities lack adequate Internet access and have high maternal mortality rates. That is exactly what this bill seeks to do,” said Rochester.

H.R. 2501, which is sponsored by Bilirakis, requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration – an agency of the Commerce Department – and the Federal Communications Commission to update the memorandum of understanding on spectrum coordination, to ensure that spectrum is shared efficiently, and that a process is created to better resolve frequency allocation disputes.

H.R. 5502, co-sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D- Illinois, takes aim at online retailers that do not take responsibility for the products that third-party groups sell on their marketplace. Legislators supporting this legislation asserted that this has allowed bad actors to sell unsafe, counterfeit, or otherwise fraudulent goods on common marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.

“What we’re saying now is very simply that online marketplaces will have to verify that the identity of their higher volume sellers, so they have to take some responsibility,” said Schakowsky. “It’s not just about counterfeiters, it’s not just about defrauding – we are talking about danger every year around this time.”

“This legislation is really going to help the consumers and legitimate businesses that are selling products and becoming victims themselves.”

Amazon has been on the wrong end of state court rulings recently that have made it liable for defective products. Experts on a Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event in May remarked that this could open the floodgates for these types of lawsuits, a contrast to when Section 230 liability protections for platforms have historically been used as strong defenses for these platforms.

Now that these bills have passed their committee, they will be sent to the House to be considered. Should they successfully be passed in the House, they will be sent to the Senate and undergo a similar procedure; if the bills are successfully passed in both the House and Senate, they will then be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk, where he can decide whether to sign them into law.

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FCC

Eighty Civil Society Groups Ask for Swift Confirmation of FCC, NTIA Nominees

The groups sent a letter emphasizing the need for internet access expansion ahead of Wednesday confirmation hearings.

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Photo of Alan Davidson from New America

WASHINGTON, November 16, 2021 – Eighty civil-society groups have penned a letter to Senate leadership requesting a swift confirmation process for President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Groups representing interests spanning civil rights, media justice, community media, workers’ rights and consumer advocacy highlighted to Senate leadership the need for the agencies to shepherd internet access expansion on the heels of newly signed bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Biden last month nominated Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner of the FCC, as well as Alan Davidson for director of the NTIA. Rosenworcel and Sohn’s confirmations would make a full slate of commissioners at the FCC, ending the potential for 2-2 deadlocks.

Key Senate Republicans have since expressed concern over the nomination of Sohn, citing her liberal views on communications policy.

Signees of the letter emphasized that an ongoing global pandemic and “worsening climate crisis” raise the stakes for FCC and NTIA action, and that connectivity access issues are even further exacerbated among poor families and people of color.

Organizations on the letter included the American Library Association, Color of Change, the Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace USA and the Mozilla Foundation, among others.

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Rosenworcel on Wednesday.

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