This Week in Tech: House to vote on cybersecurity bills

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CISPA’s sponsors, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), argue the measure is needed so companies and government agencies can share intelligence about malicious source code and other cyber threats in real time so that cyberattacks against businesses can be thwarted. It would offer companies liability protection from lawsuits if they share cyber threat data with the government.

Ahead of the House’s so-called cyber week, industry groups plan to ramp up their lobbying push for the bill, including sending letters to member offices and holding meetings on Capitol Hill with staff and lawmakers. CISPA enjoys support from a broad range of industry groups, including TechNet, the Information Technology Industry Council and several telecommunications trade associations.

But privacy advocates, who staunchly oppose the measure, will also continue their push to rally public opposition to CISPA on social networks. Chief among their concerns is that the bill would allow companies to share cyber threat data directly with the National Security Agency (NSA). Under the bill, companies are not mandated to remove people’s personal information, such as their IP or email addresses, from threat data before they share it with the government, including the NSA.

Privacy groups fear CISPA would increase the pool of personal information that flows to the NSA. They want a civilian agency like the Homeland Security Department to handle the threat information first, before it gets funneled to other agencies.

CISPA passed the House last year on a bipartisan vote, defying a White House veto threat against the measure. The White House lauded Rogers and Ruppersberger for adopting privacy-focused amendments into the bill during its markup, but said the changes didn’t go far enough to address some “fundamental outstanding priorities.”

In addition to CISPA, the House will also vote on a bill from Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that would boost cybersecurity research; a bill by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) that intends to aid information technology research; and on Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) bill to update the cybersecurity framework used by the federal government to secure its computer systems and networks.

In other tech news, the Consumer Electronics Association on Tuesday is holding its annual CES on the Hill event in the Rayburn House building. Attendees will get a chance to interact with tech companies and test-drive their latest products. On Wednesday, the tech trade group will hold a press briefing on the negative impacts of patent trolls with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) ahead of its Digital Patriots Dinner, which will honor DISH CEO Joseph Clayton, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) for their contributions to tech policy.

The House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property and the Internet will hold a hearing on Tuesday afternoon to examine abusive patent litigation. A panel of business representatives complained to the Judiciary Committee at a hearing last month about the problem of “patent trolls”—firms that exist solely to extort settlements through frivolous patent lawsuits. Tuesday’s hearing will focus particular attention on the role of the International Trade Commission in patent disputes.

The witnesses will be former ITC Chairwoman Deanna Okun, former Patent Office Director Jon Dudas, Avaya’s Russell Binns, attorney F. David Foster and law Professor Colleen Chien.

The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Competition will hold an oversight hearing of the antitrust agencies on Tuesday afternoon. William Baer, the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez will testify.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on comprehensive immigration reform on Wednesday afternoon. It’s one in a series of hearings the committee is holding on the issue.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will hold its monthly open meeting, which could be the last for outgoing Chairman Julius Genachowski. The commission is scheduled to consider rules to allow Internet services to use phone numbers and to streamline rules for foreign ownership of radio licenses.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday morning will hear from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at its hearing on current and future worldwide threats.


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