OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate panel to markup cyber bill

THE LEDE: The Senate Intelligence Committee will mark up a bill from Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) during a closed-door session on Tuesday.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) would encourage companies to share information about cybersecurity threats with each other and the federal government. The bill would allow the government to automatically share that information with multiple departments — including intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) that have faced backlash after revelations about government surveillance — and puts in place limited restrictions on how federal, state and local law enforcement officials can use that information.

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Because of the auto-sharing and limited restrictions on use, the bill has been harshly criticized by the privacy community. Late last month, the ACLU and others sent a letter to Senate leadership warning that the bill as written poses threats to privacy and whistleblowers. Another letter, sent by the Center for Democracy and Technology and others, warned that the bill gave companies and government agencies too much liability protection when sharing and reacting to information about cyber threats.

Some hope that NSA critics on the Senate Intelligence Committee — including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) — will attempt to change the bill during tomorrow’s closed-door markup.

“I'm not overly optimistic, but I would hope the mark-up reflects both the broad public concern over sweeping NSA surveillance programs and the serious objections raised by the civil liberties community on CISA specifically,” Gabe Rottman, policy advisor at the ACLU said. “We're particularly concerned that the bill as written would provide an end-run around existing privacy protections for the intelligence community and military and could be used to suppress whistleblowing.”

According to an aide for Wyden, the senator has concerns about the bill — echoing those expressed by privacy groups last month — but had not decided by Monday night whether he intended to introduce amendments to the bill during Tuesday’s markup.

At least one of the committee’s NSA critics is on board with the bill. Speaking off the Senate floor Monday night, Heinrich said he supports the bill and thinks it doesn’t “give anything that unique to the NSA.”

“The bill is not going to be perfect, but this is one of those issues where I think there are some very valid concerns regarding how exposed our economy is on the cyber front,” he said. “Obviously I believe in having safeguards and protections built into that, as you’ve seen with my previous criticisms of the NSA, but I don’t think sitting on our hands on the cyber front is going to serve us well in the long term.”

 

House patent markup scheduled: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Trade will hold a markup Thursday on a bill from Chairman Lee Terry (R-Neb.), according to a committee aide. That bill — introduced as a discussion draft last week — takes aim at abusive “demand letters,” which companies send threatening a patent infringement lawsuit. Patent reform advocates have said that abusive patent demand letters are a form of extortion as they allow companies to demand licensing fees without specifying what patent is allegedly being infringed.

Terry’s bill would require companies sending demand letters to include certain information in the letters and would codify the ability of the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to bring charges against companies that send deceptive demand letters. The bill comes after comprehensive patent reform stalled in the Senate earlier this year.

Broadcasters oppose venue change for JSA challenge: The National Association of Broadcasters is trying to prevent its challenge of the FCC’s new rules for broadcast ownership from being moved from the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to the Third Circuit. In a brief filed late on Thursday before the long weekend, the trade group argued that there is “simply no basis” for transferring the case. 

A coalition of groups including Free Press, Common Cause and the broadcast employees’ union have sought to move the challenge to the Third Circuit, which reviewed two previous ownership cases. But the D.C. Circuit has an “extensive history with the broadcast ownership rules,” the NAB contended.  

FTC piles on spammers and robocallers: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) added new charges against cellphone “crammers” who allegedly tricked people into paying extra fees on their phone bill. The commission added three new defendants to a prior accusation and explained that they targeted people with robocalls and charged $9.99 per month to consumers who had been told they won free $1,000 gift cards and iPads.

According to the FTC, consumers were never fairly told that entering their phone number and typing in a PIN number the company provided would lead to the monthly bill. 

Feds nab Russian hacker: The Justice Department on Monday announced that a Russian hacker who went by the alias “Track2” made his first appearance in a court in Guam. Roman Seleznev, 30, allegedly hacked into retail systems and installed malicious software designed to steal shoppers’ credit card numbers from October 2009 to February 2011. He also allegedly set up servers to host websites where criminals got together to sell their stolen credit card numbers.

Seleznev was charged with five counts of bank fraud, eight counts of intentionally damaging a protected computer and five counts of aggravated identity theft, among other charges that could put him in prison for decades.

“Cyber crooks should take heed: you cannot hide behind distant keyboards,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, who leads a subcommittee on cybercrime and intellectual property, said in a statement. “We will bring you to face justice.” 

Ayotte staffer heads to eBay: John Lawrence, a former staffer of Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), is joining eBay’s lobbying team to focus on privacy, intellectual property, sales tax and cybersecurity, the company announced on Monday. 

McCarthy nudged on ECPA in hometown paper: House Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was nudged to support a bill requiring police obtain a warrant before searching people’s emails. Katie McAuliffe, the federal affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform and head of its Digital Liberty project, penned an op-ed in the Bakersfield Californian calling for Congress to “take charge” in updating the law “for the digital age.” More than half the House has signed on as a co-sponsor to the Email Privacy Act, but the bill has not yet received a vote on the floor. 

 

ON TAP

The Senate Intelligence Committee will begin its closed-door markup of the Cyber Information Sharing Act at 2:30 p.m.

Free Press is hosting a briefing on net neutrality starting at 3:30 p.m. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) will deliver the opening remarks.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) delivers keynote remarks at a Cato Institute discussion on digital privacy that gets underway at 4:00.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

A coalition of education groups is backing a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would funnel billions of dollars into wireless Internet for schools and libraries.

Top experts say there could be a new person leaking details about the National Security Agency, in addition to former contractor Edward Snowden.

Two Kansas Republicans want to overhaul a government program to make sure more rural schools can connect to the Internet.

YouTube has begun directly citing Internet providers’ networks to explain slow-loading videos

 

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