OVERNIGHT TECH: Under pressure from lawmakers, AT&T bans 'cramming'

An investigation by Rockefeller's Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee last year found that phone companies had placed $10 billion in third-party charges on customers' landline phone bills over the last five years — and that a large percentage of those charges were unauthorized.

Some people unwittingly enrolled in services by submitting their phone number to companies online or by agreeing to services over the phone. Others never did anything to participate in the programs but were charged anyway.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Consumers shouldn't have to open their phone bills every month to find an endless array of ghost charges they never authorized," Klobuchar said in a statement. "I am pleased that AT&T has joined Verizon and agreed to ban these cramming practices, and now the rest of America's phone companies need to step up to the plate and do the same."

In a statement, Rockefeller said AT&T made the "right decision." 

"Something had to be done," Rockefeller said. "And while the decisions of AT&T and Verizon are a step in the right direction, I still believe we need to pass a bill that bans this abusive practice once and for all.”

NSA chief backs cybersecurity regulation: Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and chief of U.S. Cyber Command, said during a Senate hearing Tuesday that the government should have the power to require that critical computer systems meet basic security standards. 

“I do think we have to have some set of standards,” Alexander said. “I think the lead for working with critical infrastructure and helping them defend and prepare their networks should lie with [the Department of Homeland Security].”

James Barnett, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said during a hearing on Wednesday that he also supports the new regulatory powers.

The officials' testimony mirrors a cybersecurity bill backed by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other Republicans argue the bill would create burdensome new regulations for businesses.

They have introduced their own measure, the Secure It Act, which focuses on encouraging information sharing about cyber-threats.

House panel to review 'Privacy Bill of Rights': Members of the House and Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will examine the White House's "Privacy Bill of Rights" on Thursday. The lawmakers will hear from representatives from the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department before testimony from a panel of witnesses who mostly hold solid free-market credentials.

The first panel will feature FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communication and Information Lawrence Strickling. They will be followed by a panel consisting of free-market advocates Berin Szoka, president of the techno-libertarian think tank TechFreedom, Association for Competitive Technology President Jonathan Zuck and Mike Zaneis, a senior vice president and general counsel at the Interactive Advertising Bureau. They'll be joined by Online Publishers Association President Pam Horan. Representing the opposing view will be Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy for the Center for Democracy and Technology.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is drafting legislation that would ban employers from asking for their workers' Facebook passwords.

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps joined the board of directors for consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.

The telecom industry applauded the House for passing a bill that would limit the powers of the FCC.

The FTC settled charges with a telemarketing firm that allegedly made more than two billion illegal phone calls.

The FCC hired economists to help it conduct spectrum auctions 

A school district settled charges with the ACLU that it illegally blocked access to gay advocacy websites. 

Andrew Feinberg contributed.