OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate panel to vote on email privacy bill

THE LEDE: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a markup on Thursday of Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) bill to require police to obtain a warrant before reading emails, Facebook messages and other forms of electronic communication.

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, police only need a subpoena, issued without a judge’s approval, to read emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old.

Leahy argues that ECPA is out of date and that police should obtain warrants to read private emails, regardless of how old they are or whether they were opened.

The change is strongly backed by privacy advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s ranking Republican, has expressed skepticism about creating new barriers for police investigations. He is expected to push an amendment that would allow police to avoid the warrant requirement if they are investigating crimes involving kidnapping, child pornography or violent crimes against women, including rape.

“I have heard concerns about this amendment from state and local law enforcement officials. These officials are concerned with the impact this amendment may have on law enforcement operations,” Grassley said at a committee meeting in September. “Specifically, I have heard concerns about how this could impact cases where time is of the essence, namely kidnapping and child abduction cases.” 

Leahy is offering his legislation as an amendment to H.R. 2471, a House bill that loosens video privacy requirements.

{mosads}That bill, which cleared the House last year on a vote of 303 to 116, would update the Video Privacy Protection Act to allow users of Facebook and other social media sites to opt in to automatically share which online videos they have watched.

The change in the video law is Netflix’s top lobbying priority in Washington.

Professor to try to save Do Not Track: The World Wide Web Consortium, an international standards-setting body, chose Peter Swire on Wednesday to take over as co-chairman of its Tracking Protection Working Group.

Swire will lead negotiations between privacy advocates and advertisers to develop a “Do Not Track” button that would allow Internet users to block third-parties from monitoring the sites they visit.

The privacy feature is backed by the White House and the Federal Trade Commission, but negotiations have been at a standstill in recent months.

Swire, a law professor at Ohio State University, served as a top privacy official in the Clinton administration. He also served on President Obama’s transition team and is a fellow at the Center for American Progress.

House to examine receiver standards: The House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on Thursday to consider adopting tougher spectrum standards for receivers.

The witnesses will be Brian Markwalter, vice president of the Consumer Electronics Association; Ron Repasi, deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology; and Pierre de Vries, a fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

The FCC denied LightSquared’s application to launch a nationwide 4G service earlier this year over concerns that it would interfere with GPS devices. Tests showed LightSquared’s signal did not bleed into the GPS band. Instead, the problem was that GPS receivers were too sensitive to filter out LightSquared’s powerful cell towers operating on nearby frequencies.

Providing more spectrum for mobile broadband is a top priority of lawmakers and the Obama administration.

Obama opposes STEM immigration bill: The Obama administration on Wednesday announced its opposition to an immigration bill by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that is designed to boost the number of visas for foreign-born graduates with advanced technical degrees from U.S. universities, saying it fails to fulfill the president’s long-term goal of achieving comprehensive immigration reform. 

Lawmakers clash on Internet royalty bill: While House Judiciary Committee members did not see eye to eye on whether existing royalty rules for Internet radio services like Pandora should be reformed, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Wednesday argued that broadcasters should start paying royalty fees for playing songs on over-the-air radio stations. 

Smith, Goodlatte to head up top committees for tech: House Republicans on Wednesday selected Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) as the new chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee for the next Congress. 

Smith currently serves as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, but he had to give up his chairman’s gavel due to term limits. The Judiciary Committee’s next chairman will be Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who was widely expected to assume Smith’s role at the end of this congressional session. 

Terry gets key privacy post: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) announced on Wednesday that Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) will take the place of Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) as chairman of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) will take over the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

Software companies outline policy agenda: Executives from 17 of BSA’s member companies — including Apple, Oracle, Symatec and Adobe — are meeting with administration officials and lawmakers this week to outline the software industry’s policy agenda. The meetings are part of the software trade group’s Global Strategy Summit, which is held every two years in Washington. 

The executives and general counsel from BSA’s member companies are set to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and House Intelligence Committee leaders Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), among others.

The software trade group’s policy priorities include breaking down trade barriers abroad, protecting intellectual property and fostering a healthy environment for cloud computing to grow. For example, the executives will call for the U.S. to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and for Congress to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. 

BSA views the summit as “a crucial opportunity to get out and talk about the issues” that matter most to the software industry, said Matt Reid, senior vice president of external affairs at BSA. Reid said BSA hopes that cybersecurity legislation resurfaces on Congress’s agenda in 2013.  “We think that an executive order can help advance these issues but what is needed is legislation and we hope we see that revisited in 2013 with positive results,” he said.

Songwriter Jimmy Jam lobbies against Pandora-backed Internet royalty bill: Songwriter Jimmy Jam, whose past hits include Janet Jackson’s “Escapade” and “All for You,” said he plans to tell lawmakers on Wednesday that Pandora’s efforts to lower the music royalty fees it pays to recording artists and music labels for streaming their songs will ultimately affect “everyone across the board” in the music industry — from recording artists to the musicians and songwriters working behind scenes to produce America’s greatest hits. 

Broadcasters look to participate in FCC hearings on storm damage: The National Association of Broadcasters is hoping to use a series of hearings on communications outages to tout the importance of local television and radio during emergencies.

Please send tips and comments to Brendan Sasso,, and Jennifer Martinez,

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @BrendanSasso, @JenMartinez

Tags Bob Goodlatte Chuck Grassley Orrin Hatch Patrick Leahy
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