OVERNIGHT TECH: Tech cheers passage of Senate immigration bill

THE LEDE: The tech community celebrated the Senate's passage of a comprehensive immigration bill on Thursday.

The bill's passage puts tech companies one step closer to securing one of their top policy goals. It's also the closest the tech industry has come to increasing the H-1B visa cap in years.

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The Senate bill frees up more green cards for highly skilled foreign workers and establishes a so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fund that would put money toward improving technical education programs in the United States. Companies would have to pay higher visa fees under the bill, and that additional money would go toward the STEM fund.

"This is a big step forward for jobs, innovation, and the American economy. We've been talking with members for months about what the technology industry needs to remain competitive and this bill shows that they listened and they get it" said Joel Kaplan, vice president for U.S. policy at Facebook, in a statement.

Tech companies acknowledged that the legislative fight for immigration reform is far from over, and it's now up to the House to finish the battle.   

“The Senate vote is a major achievement, but it is also just another step in the process of shaping a new immigration system," a coalition of technology trade associations said in a statement. "We welcome efforts in the House of Representatives to move forward with immigration reform, and we look forward to progress that will lead to a truly modern immigration system."

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The coalition included Compete America, TechNet, TechAmerica, the Information Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association, among others.

As the Senate passed its immigration bill, the House Judiciary Committee marked up a high-skilled immigration bill by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Earlier in the day, the House Judiciary panel approved a manager's amendment by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would give U.S. tech companies more flexibility in setting the wages for H-1B workers.

During the markup, Democrats on the panel criticized the bill because it would eliminate the diversity visa program and siblings of the U.S. citizens green card program.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said the bill takes a "zero sum approach" to high-skilled immigration reform and "gives to some by only taking away from others."

"There is a better way," she said.

As of press time, the House Judiciary panel had yet to vote on Issa's bill.

Obama nominates DHS deputy secretary: President Obama on Thursday nominated Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to be the deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Jane Holl Lute stepped down from the position this spring. Prior to his work at USCIS, Mayorkas was a partner at O'Melveny & Myers LLP. 

FCC approves privacy rules: The Federal Communications Commission approved a declaratory ruling on Thursday to require cellular carriers to better protect their customers' privacy.

The regulations require carriers to take "reasonable precautions" to protect personal information, such as the numbers customers dial, the length of calls and their location. The carriers are barred, with certain exceptions, from sharing the information with third parties without the customers' permission.

"While there can be benefits to carrier data collection using customers’ devices, the fact that such sensitive information is stored on each subscriber’s mobile device emphasizes the need to ensure such information is protected," Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a statement.

It was Clyburn's first open meeting at the helm of the agency.

Also at the meeting, the FCC approved changes to its broadband data collection, including taking over the National Broadband Map from NTIA. The FCC, however, will not collect broadband pricing information.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

FCC moves to approve SoftBank: The Federal Communications Commission is poised to approve SoftBank's proposed purchase of Sprint.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn circulated an order with the other two commissioners on Thursday that would give the Japanese company permission to acquire the third-largest U.S. cellular carrier.

NSA collected email records in bulk under Obama administration: The Obama administration permitted the National Security Agency to collect vast amounts of email records for at least two years, according to the latest report from The Guardian.

Leaked documents show that the NSA was able to identify the email accounts that sent and received messages, as well as IP addresses, which can reveal the computer's location. The data collection did not include the contents of the emails.

FCC's Rosenworcel: Use 'carrots' to free up government spectrum: Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission, argues that federal agencies should be given incentives to use the airwaves more efficiently.

In an op-ed in The Hill, Rosenworcel argues that providing financial incentives to agencies will free up more spectrum for the private sector. 

Microsoft claims right to publish surveillance data: Microsoft has filed a court motion demanding permission to publish statistics on the number of national security requests it receives for its users' information.

The motion, filed before a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, follows a similar request by Google last week.


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