OVERNIGHT TECH: Showdown on spying

THE LEDE: Lawmakers pushed competing bills for reforming the National Security Agency on Tuesday, setting up a showdown over the agency's spying powers.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the USA Freedom Act to end the NSA's dragnet collection of records on all U.S. phone calls. The bill already has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate and more than 70 in the House.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also moved ahead with her own legislation that would tweak NSA rules but ratify the core of its surveillance operations. Her committee began a marathon closed-door markup of the bill, but an aide said they don't expect to finish Tuesday night.

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The question now appears not whether Congress will enact some legislation in the wake of Edward Snowden's leaks, but whether that legislation will actually curtail the NSA's power.

LATE BREAKING: The Senate unanimously confirmed Tom Wheeler to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday evening. Michael O'Reilly also received unanimous support to become an FCC commissioner.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lifted his hold on Wheeler Tuesday after the nominee assured him that enforcing tougher political disclosure rules is "not a priority.

Brill defends U.S.-EU safe harbor: Speaking at a European Institute event on Tuesday, Commissioner Julie Brill of the Federal Trade Commission defended her agency’s enforcement of the safe harbor agreement between the U.S. and EU, which allows American companies to process data belonging to European citizens. The safe harbor agreement “gives the FTC an effective and functioning tool to protect the privacy of EU citizen data transferred to America,” she said, adding that the EU should not eliminate the safe harbor for commercial use of data over recent revelations about U.S. government surveillance.

At the event, Jan Philipp Albrecht — the European Parliament member who authored the data regulation that is gaining momentum among European lawmakers — reiterated his calls for a unified privacy standard across the EU and for American companies and government agencies to respect that standard. If U.S. companies want to be able to process EU data, there has to be the legal environment that will respect the fundamental right to privacy that EU citizens claim, he said.

Online advertiser call to action: The Direct Marketing Association, which represents online advertisers, called on Congress to protect “The Data-Driven Market Economy,” or the part of the economy that relies on the collection and exchange of data. “New regulations stopping the exchange of data across the DDME would impact $110 billion in revenue to the U.S. economy and 478,000 American jobs,” the group’s CEO, Linda Woolley, said in a statement.

To protect that part of the economy, the association called on Congress to preserve industry self-regulation regarding responsible use of data, reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, create a national data security law, preempt state laws that could threaten the data-driven market economy and “prohibit privacy class action suits and fund [FTC] enforcement.”

Innovation Alliance expresses concerns: Provisions in the patent reform bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) could harm innovators, the Innovation Alliance said in a statement Tuesday. The group’s executive director, Brian Pomper, expressed concerns that Goodlatte’s certain provisions could “increase patent litigation while inviting abuse by infringers who want to limit their damages.”

Expanding a recently enacted U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review process is “too much, too soon, considering that the current program has only been in operation for slightly more than one year and there is no evidence to suggest that it is not working or needs to be changed,” Pomper said.

 

ON TAP

The Bipartisan Policy Center and Intel will host a forum Wednesday on the use of big data in homeland security, including current and former officials from the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Commerce will host an event Wednesday on its green paper about “Copyright Policy, Creativity and Innovation in the Digital Economy.”

 

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