By Brendan Sasso - 02/13/12 02:15 PM EST
Cybersecurity legislation in the House has focused mostly on providing incentives for industry to share information on threats and attacks.
Some civil liberties advocates have raised concerns about giving the government too much authority over computer networks, and after a wave of Web protests sank anti-piracy legislation earlier this year, lawmakers are wary about any bill that might upset Internet activists.
On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission will hold its monthly meeting and consider regulations to protect consumers from unwanted robo-calls. The proposed rules would require consumers to have given prior consent before receiving robo-calls, and would allow them to easily opt out of receiving further robo-calls. The commission will also discuss streamlining the licensing rules for cellular service and expanding outage reporting to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers.
On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing to examine the FCC's budget and spending. A committee aide said lawmakers have a "duty to ensure independent agencies are using taxpayer dollars wisely."
Republicans on the committee have clashed with the FCC in recent weeks over the agency's authority to structure proposed auctions of broadcast spectrum licenses. Republicans have also criticized the FCC for its net-neutrality rules and its role in killing the AT&T/T-Mobile merger.
The full committee is expected to take up legislation that would overhaul how the FCC operates in the coming weeks. Republicans said the legislation would increase transparency and openness, but Democrats said it is a thinly veiled attempt to hamstring the agency.
The House Homeland Security subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence will hold a Thursday morning hearing to examine the Homeland Security Department's policy of monitoring social media sites. The committee invited Mary Ellen Callahan, DHS's chief privacy officer, and Richard Chavez, director of the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning, to testify.
The Homeland Security Department has acknowledged that agents monitor popular social media sites including Facebook and Twitter to collect information about possible terror threats.
"Social networking and media have increasingly been a crucial source of intelligence collection for the counterterrorism and intelligence community, but there are also privacy and civil liberties concerns implicit in this activity which this hearing will address," said subcommittee Chairman Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).