OVERNIGHT TECH: Court rulings add momentum to tech bills

THE LEDE: Lawmakers and business groups alike are claiming the Supreme Court’s twin decisions on Wednesday should motivate Congress to make sure the law keeps up with advances in technology.

At the top of the list is electronic privacy. The high court’s unanimous decision that police officers need a warrant before searching a suspect’s cellphone shows the need for lawmakers to also require a warrant before cops can search people emails, reform backers said.

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According to Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), the ruling makes it clear that the high court stands with reformers on digital privacy. Yoder is one of the authors of the Email Privacy Act, which requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access emails that have been stored for more than six months. Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, stored emails can be accessed without a warrant.

“The Supreme Court decision adds another pillar to this case we’re making that digital correspondence should receive the same protections as paper correspondence,” he said.

“If this doesn’t speak directly to our issue, it certainly is a guiding light for how courts would rule on this subject,” he added off the House floor Wednesday. “I think it’s a very welcome decision because it shows the court properly understands the role of technology and our constitutional rights.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), one of the authors of the Senate’s version of the email privacy bill, agreed. In a statement, he said that the ruling should be a “wake-up call that we need to update our laws to keep pace with technological advances.”

Yoder’s bill has 220 co-sponsors in the House but has not yet received a vote. In the Senate, Leahy’s bill passed out of his Judiciary Committee last year but has yet to come up before the full chamber. 

Wyden wants geolocation privacy to get a nod, too: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that his GPS Act, which would require a warrant before looking for people’s location information, should also be bolstered by the court’s ruling. In a statement, he said that the legislation he introduced along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is “the next step” to protecting Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. 

“Our bipartisan GPS Act provides law enforcement with a clear mandate for when to obtain a warrant for the geolocation information of an American, and I aim to use this decision as a springboard to secure greater privacy rights in the days ahead,” he said. 

Aereo decision bolsters Communication Act update: Republicans on the House Commerce Committee focused their sights on the court’s 6-3 decision that the upstart TV service Aereo violated broadcasters’ copyright licenses. Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said that the ruling “underscores the mounting need to modernize the 80-year-old Communications Act, which serves as an important, yet outdated, framework for the communications industry.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who leads the the panel’s Technology subcommittee, added that the decision “reminds us that the complex communications and technology marketplace is constantly innovating and rapidly changing, and that nuances in the law can have a profound effect on content providers and consumers.”

Earlier this year, the Commerce panel began work on a years-long effort to overhaul the law, which has not been updated since 1996 and has created regulatory silos, critics claim, that brings uncertainty to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) oversight. The committee’s action, Upton said, will “bring our laws into the innovation era so that the United States can continue leading the world in developing groundbreaking technologies that drive job creation and support consumer choice, economic growth, and social discourse.”

Video reformers undeterred by Aereo ruling: Lawmakers and advocates looking to change the way broadcasters get paid for their content said that the ruling on Aereo would not dissuade them for forging ahead. If anything, critics of the current system said they were only encouraged to continue on with their push.

“Today’s court decision does not deter in any way my desire to carry on a conversation about the future of video,” Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a statement. “Given the ever-increasing costs of pay television, we must foster innovative online video services, which I believe offer the best way to provide more consumer choice and to lower consumers’ bills. But those services should not violate our copyright laws.”

Rockefeller is currently working on slipping in a number of reforms to the current marketplace in the update to the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which expires this year. 

The American Television Alliance, which is largely made up of cable and satellite companies who want to limit broadcasters’ power, said that the Aereo decision means that reform of the fee structure, called retransmission consent, “is needed now more than ever.”

Senate Commerce to take up STELA in July: The Senate Commerce Committee is looking to schedule a markup of a critical satellite TV law for some point in July, ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) said on Wednesday. STELA is a “must-do item” for the committee this year he said at a forum sponsored by the Free State Foundation.

“Right now, our staff and Sen. Rockefeller’s staff are in discussions and negotiations about what that might look like,” he added, “of course, paying attention to what the House has already done.” Rockefeller has previously said he opposes a “clean” version of the bill, which allows some rural viewers to catch broadcast channels, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who also has authority in the area, is moving forward with a clean bill this week. The House Commerce Committee passed a version with some reforms earlier this year.

House appropriations passes funding cuts for FCC: The House Appropriations Committee passed a bill Wednesday that will cut funding for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The bill’s allocation of $323 million is $17 million less than the agency received last year and over $52 million below the requested amount. In its report on the bill, the committee criticized the agency for its plans for using the revenue of airwave auctions over the next year, recent crackdown on collusion between broadcasters, “regulatory overreach” into cybersecurity and the FCC’s organizational structure, which do “not reflect today’s telecommunications market or the Commission’s current responsibilities.” The bill would also give the Federal Trade Commission $293 million for 2015.

Bonus email privacy amendment: The committee adopted an amendment from Yoder to the appropriations bill that would prohibit agencies’ funding from going towards warrantless access of stored emails, echoing his Email Privacy Act. While the Department of Justice has been receptive to the warrant requirements outlined in Yoder’s bill, some agencies — especially the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is funded through the appropriations bill passed on Wednesday — have opposed the requirements, saying they rely on subpoenas, not warrants, to access information needed for investigations.

Senate intel delays markup of info-sharing bill: The Senate Intelligence Committee is pushing back consideration of a cybersecurity bill from Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) until after next week’s recess, according to a committee aide. Committee leadership is delaying the closed markup to ensure that members — many of whom will be headed out of town tomorrow for the July 4th recess — can attend and participate, the aide said.

GAO finds “mixed progress” at data security: Six small federal agencies aren’t doing enough to manage cybersecurity risks, the Government Accountability Office found in a new report. The office, which acts as Congress’s investigative arm, said that the agencies are not continuously monitoring security controls, are not assessing privacy impacts of their policies and don’t have an effective security training program. 

 

ON TAP:

Politico is hosting an event on the “future of mobile” with Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn starting at 8 a.m.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) gives remarks at an event on “an LGBT broadband future” at 8:30.

The Senate Judiciary Committee sits down to mark up a cellphone unlocking bill — likely to get delayed until after next week’s break — and STELA, held over from last week, at 9:30.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is working on legislation to ban misleading and unfair cable and satellite television bills, and she’s looking to consumers for the worst offenders.

The top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee is pushing for Congress to overhaul the law governing the Internet, television and phone service.

The Obama administration is working to allow European citizens to sue if their data is mishandled by U.S. authorities.

The National Security Agency says it has not been able to find a single recorded case where former contractor Edward Snowden raised complaints about the agency’s operations.

 

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