By Brendan Sasso and Jennifer Martinez - 09/17/12 01:51 PM EDT
In other tech news, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to mark up a House bill on Thursday that would loosen video privacy regulations.
The bill, which passed the House last year on a vote of 303 to 116, would update the Video Privacy Protection Act to allow Facebook users to opt in to automatically share which videos they have watched on Netflix.
Currently, users of Facebook and other social media sites can choose to automatically reveal which songs they listen to and which articles they read. But the Video Privacy Protection Act bans the sharing of any video history information without written consent by the consumer or a warrant from the police.
The change in the privacy law is currently Netflix’s top lobbying priority in Washington.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, supports the change, but he is also looking to add language to the bill that would require police to obtain a warrant before seizing emails or other forms of electronic communication.
The move is Leahy’s latest attempt to enhance the protections of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
Congress granted only limited privacy protections to electronic communications when it passed the ECPA in 1986. But since then, Internet access and email usage have become much more widespread, and civil-liberties advocates argue that emails and Facebook messages should receive the same protection as physical letters.
But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel’s top Republican, expressed skepticism about creating new barriers for police investigations.
At its Thursday markup, the Senate Judiciary Committee will also vote on the nomination of William Baer to be an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. The committee is also scheduled to mark up the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act sponsored by Leahy, Grassley and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will markup a resolution urging the Obama administration to fight efforts to give a United Nations agency more control over the Internet. The House passed its own counterpart resolution earlier this year.
On Wednesday morning, the Senate Commerce Committee will take a look at the implementation of the America Competes Act that was signed into law last year and how to maintain the United States’s leadership in innovation and technology.
The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Thursday morning that will assess the Department of Homeland Security and its roadmap for the future. Slated to testify are Richard Skinner, formerly the inspector general for DHS, Frank Cilluffo, the director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at The George Washington University, and Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe Johnson and former assistant secretary for policy at DHS. Committee Chairman Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said in a statement that the committee hopes to “receive testimony on potential future reforms to ensure that DHS is effective at securing the homeland from another terrorist attack.”
The House Science, Space and Technology’s Oversight subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday afternoon titled “The impact of international technology transfer on American research and development.” So far Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Dennis Shea, the chairman of the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, and Business Software Alliance CEO Robert Holleyman are scheduled to testify, and other witnesses could be announced.
The House Judiciary Committee’s Intellectual Property subpanel is holding a hearing Thursday afternoon titled “International IP enforcement: Opening markets abroad and protecting innovation.” Witnesses have yet to be announced.
Rounding out the week, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) will host a brown-bag lunch that will discuss the proposals the United States is advocating for in free-trade agreements, namely the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and how they would affect the future of the open Internet. The panelists will include eBay Policy Counsel Usman Ahmed, Jonathan McHale, deputy assistant at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on telecommunications and commerce policy, and Jayme White, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)’s staff director on trade.