OVERNIGHT TECH: Eyes on Leahy for new NSA reform bill

THE LEDE: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is expected to unveil his bulked-up version of the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday, which would place new limits on the National Security Agency and reform the secretive federal surveillance court.

The bill, which comes after months of negotiations between fellow lawmakers and the Obama administration, has so far been greeted relatively warmly by the tech industry and privacy advocates. Critics of the spy agency felt betrayed by the compromise bill that went through the House earlier this year and all eyes are on Leahy’s measure to bring new life to the anti-surveillance fight, more than a year after Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed the extent of the NSA's activities.

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who previously called the House bill “watered down and simply insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans,” said on Monday that Leahy’s legislation had won him over. “I think it is better than other versions, like the House version,” he told The Hill, adding that he would sign on as a co-sponsor. The New York Times editorial board also praised the new legislation, which it called a “breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power” on Monday.

Still, hawkish senators look primed to revolt. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Leahy had essentially “made some changes” to the House bill “that are going to make it very difficult for that bill to go anywhere.” He told The Hill off the Senate floor on Monday that senators needed more of an opportunity to debate the bill in “the right forum.” “We need a full and complete debate on it, and not just Sen. Leahy’s side of it, so to speak,” he said. “But we’ll continue to talk with him. We’ve had conversations and we’ll keep that up.”

Like the House bill, Leahy’s legislation will end the NSA’s bulk collection of records about Americans’ phone calls, according to people who had examined draft versions circulated around town. It would also prevent federal agents from making broad searches of private companies’ records, as well as add new transparency methods and place bulked-up privacy advocates at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which approves government surveillance requests.

ACLU pushes for more release at “crucial moment”: As Congress readies the final push to get surveillance reform across the finish line, privacy advocates are calling for more transparency in past rulings out of the FISC. In a document filed last week and released Monday, the ACLU repeated its calls for the FISC to release a 2013 opinion authorizing the controversial collection of phone data.

“Because Congress is currently weighing changes to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, public access to this judicial opinion will provide critical information about the scope and meaning of Section 215 at a time when Americans and their elected representatives are considering whether and how to amend the statute,” the group said in the filing. Given “the crucial nature of this moment” in the debate over surveillance reform, “the public should have “as much access to these key legal interpretations as possible,” Patrick Toomey, staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project, said.

FCC seeking comments on local Internet petitions: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now accepting comments on petitions filed last week by local governments in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., asking for the agency’s help to overcome state laws that keep local governments from creating taxpayer-funded Internet networks. The agency will be accepting comments on the petitions until Aug. 29 and then reply comments until Sept. 29.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s pledge to work with local governments looking to preempt those state laws has drawn ire from Republicans in the House, which passed an amendment to the agency’s funding bill earlier this month that would keep the agency from preempting state laws.

FTC, FCC, CTIA to talk mobile cramming: Representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the FCC and the wireless industry will appear before the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday to talk about “mobile cramming,” or billing consumers for unauthorized charges through their cellphone bills. Wednesday’s hearing will include testimony from FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny; Travis LeBlanc, acting chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau; Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and Michael Altschul, general counsel at CTIA-The Wireless Association, the committee announced Monday.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) initiated an inquiry into mobile cramming in 2012. On Monday, the FTC released a report setting guidelines for wireless companies and others to increase transparency and consumer choice around mobile cramming in the hopes of cutting down on unauthorized charges. The report follows on high-profile charges the agency brought against T-Mobile earlier this month for allegedly making “hundreds of millions” of dollars from cramming charges.

Mozilla appoints interim CEO permanent chief: Mozilla’s interim chief executive Chris Beard has been appointed to the job for good, the company announced on Monday. Beard became temporary CEO earlier this year, after Brendan Eich resigned following revelations that he had donated $1,000 to California’s 2008 campaign to ban same-sex marriage. The promotion for Beard came after a review of “many internal and external candidates,” the company said, but “no one we met was a better fit.”

Merchants push tokenization:  Retail groups including the Food Marketing Institute, National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association are pushing their members to beef up their cyber defenses by using tokenization. The cybersecurity method involves inserting a unique, randomly generated token in the place of sensitive account or personal data, which makes the information harder to steal. “A properly designed, implemented, and enforced tokenization standard would move the U.S. payments system in the right direction toward mitigating payment card fraud and identity theft,” the trade groups said in a joint statement.

 

ON TAP:

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development will hold a hearing on broadband investments at 10 a.m.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) will unveil the preliminary findings of a government study about the impact of data caps at 10:15.

At the same time, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will take a look at nanotechnology.

The Commerce Department will hold the third in its series of meetings to improve the current copyright notice-and-takedown system. The meeting in Los Angeles, Calif., will be webcast here starting at 11:30 a.m. EST.

At 3 p.m., the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin the markup for the E-LABEL Act and the Anti-Spoofing Act of 2013, bills that deal with labeling of electronics that meet federal requirements and inaccurate caller identification information, respectively.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Online dating site OKCupid is admitting to experimenting on its users.

A group of California Democrats is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to help resolve a dispute between cable companies over showing Los Angeles Dodgers games on television.

The Federal Communications Commission is largely flying blind when it comes to its oversight of broadcast companies that share resources, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Federal regulators are cracking the whip on companies that “cram” wireless bills with unauthorized charges for things like ringtones and daily horoscopes.

The House on Monday passed a bill to direct the Department of Homeland Security to develop a strategy for protecting the nation's infrastructure from a terrorist attack.

 

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