This Week In Tech: Surveillance battle rages on

Lawmakers this week will battle over what reforms should be made to the government’s surveillance programs. 

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) will start things off Monday by laying out the conservative case for privacy protections at Heritage Action’s Conservative Policy Summit. He will focus primarily on the National Security Agency (NSA), with special attention on a bill Salmon introduced to protect the privacy of personal emails, according to a spokeswoman. 

Republicans have been increasingly skeptical of the NSA’s surveillance activities. Last month, the Republican National Committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for Congress to end the agency’s “dragnet” collection of  phone records.

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On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will likely face fresh questions about the NSA during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clapper will appear alongside Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. 

Tech companies and civil liberties organizations will push for changes to the NSA at a public protest Tuesday. Thousands of websites have already agreed to participate in the event, called The Day We Fight Back, and are urging users to contact Congress in support the USA Freedom Act.

That bill has garnered strong support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and would end many of the NSA’s most controversial practices.

The full Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committeeon Wednesday, in the commission’s first appearance before lawmakers since outlining a number of complaints about government spying last month.

The board’s five members will discuss their conclusion that the NSA program that collects data on phone calls is illegal and should end. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has been a vocal critic of the surveillance and is one of the authors of the USA Freedom Act.

The oversight board was not unanimous in its January denunciation of the NSA phone records program. Two of the panel’s member, both of whom served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, said the program helps protect the nation and is legal.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and head of the Intelligence panel, is likely to support that position. Feinstein has opposed significant reforms to the NSA’s data-collection practices, though she has introduced a bill to make some changes.

Next week, the National Association of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners is holding its winter meeting in D.C. The conference will feature discussions with telecom officials, companies and advocates on topics ranging from net neutrality to IP transition trials to the Lifeline phone subsidy program, sometimes called “Obama phones.” 

Lawmakers will address the gathering of state regulators on Tuesday morning. The lineup of speakers, beginning at 8:30, includes Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), chairman of the Commerce subcommittee on communications; as well as Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will speak at an event about making the Internet safer for young people, hosted by ConnectSafely. The event will also include a video conference with European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes and discussions with executives from Instagram, Google, Twitter, Tumblr and Xbox.

USTelecom will host an event on Friday about cybersecurity. The event will begin with a keynote from Michael Daniel, the White House cybersecurity coordinator. Panels at the event will include representatives from the White House national security office, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as Microsoft, AT&T, and CenturyLink.

The House Small Business Committee will look at the “opportunities and barriers for small firms” amid the “wireless revolution” in a hearing on Tuesday afternoon.

According to a committee aide, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s previously scheduled hearing Tuesday on "lessons learned from the broadband stimulus" has been postponed.