Week ahead: Encryption fight resumes before Congress

The dispute between Apple and the FBI will be back in the spotlight, with both sides sending representatives to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But lawmakers will keep the two sides apart at the Tuesday hearing, titled "Deciphering the Encryption Debate." There will be two separate panels: one made up of law enforcement voices and a second dominated by tech industry members.

ADVERTISEMENT

Amy Hess, executive assistant director for science and technology at the FBI, will speak on the first panel, which also includes the intelligence bureau chief of the New York Police Department and a member of the National Sheriff's Association.

Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell will speak on the second panel, which also features several computer science academics and cybersecurity professionals.

The hearing comes as lawmakers weigh a contentious discussion draft of an encryption bill released this week by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy' Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam MORE (R-N.C.) and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFederal watchdog calls on Congress, Energy Dept. to overhaul nuclear waste storage process Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (D-Calif.).

The bill would give law enforcement greater access to locked data -- a response to concerns that criminals are increasingly using encrypted technology to hide from authorities.

Lawmakers will hear testimony during a period of uncertainty, as both sides grapple with the FBI's decision to back away from its high-profile court challenge against Apple.

Apple rebuffed a court order directing the firm to create software that would allow FBI investigators to access data on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters last year. The government recently dropped its demand after finding a way to hack the phone without Apple's help.

Cyber professionals and privacy advocates have largely condemned both the FBI and the Burr-Feinstein efforts, arguing that introducing any guaranteed access for law enforcement would undermine security and privacy for everyday users.

Hinting at the high tensions surrounding the issue, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (D-Ore.) has already vowed to filibuster the Intelligence Committee bill.

"This legislation would effectively prohibit Americans from protecting themselves as much as possible," Wyden said Wednesday. "It would outlaw the strongest types of encryption and undermine the foundation of cybersecurity for millions of Americans."

Also in the coming week, on both sides of the Atlantic, business groups and privacy advocates will be wrangling over a pending data transfer deal that was dealt a blow by European regulators.

Europe's privacy regulators on Wednesday urged the European Commission to resolve concerns that the scope of U.S. surveillance allowed under the so-called Privacy Shield is too broad.

The agreement is intended to replace a 2000 agreement that allowed U.S. firms to legally handle European citizens' data. It was struck down in October over privacy concerns, leaving negotiators racing to craft the new arrangement.

Wednesday's nonbinding opinion from a group of Europe's data privacy authorities was tensely awaited as a barometer for the deal's ultimate viability. The opinion drew praise from privacy advocates who believe the Shield to be flawed and criticism from businesses and tech groups who fear a chilling of transatlantic trade if the deal is not finalized.

Back on Capitol Hill, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hear testimony on Tuesday on the 2017 budget for U.S. Cyber Command.

On Wednesday, the House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on how cyberattacks threaten both small businesses and the federal government, at 10 a.m.

 

OTHER STORIES

A new kind of malicious software has been used to steal roughly $4 million this month from customers at dozens of banks in the U.S. and Canada, according to IBM researchers: http://bit.ly/1Vq1AJO

Lawmakers pressed Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen on the agency's cybersecurity practices in his third straight day of testifying on Capitol Hill: http://bit.ly/1SbHhtO

The White House has named the CEO of MasterCard and the former director of the National Security Agency to a special commission dedicated to bolstering the nation's cybersecurity defenses: http://bit.ly/1SfjYS8

The FBI paid professional hackers "a one-time flat fee" for discovering a previously unknown software flaw and tipping off the agency, allowing investigators to crack into one of the San Bernardino shooter's iPhones without Apple's help: http://bit.ly/1qLSw5k

The White House on Tuesday cast doubt on lawmakers' ability to develop and pass "constructive" legislation addressing encryption technology: http://bit.ly/1TVY88L