OVERNIGHT TECH: Wyden wants hearing on hacking law in wake of Swartz’s death

  THE LEDE: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he’s engaged in talks with members on both sides of the aisle about how they can update an anti-hacking law that was used to press charges against Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide this month. 

Wyden said he’s talking to members of the Judiciary Committee and other relevant panels about how they can modify the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. 

{mosads}”This is going to take some time, and as with everything in this area, you try to look for what can actually get accomplished because you have people with very strong views,” Wyden said. “But to me, if you start with that basic proposition — this law as currently written just kind of defies common sense — then I think that there’s an opening.”

Federal prosecutors accused Swartz of breaking into a computer network at MIT and downloading 4.8 million documents from JSTOR, a subscription service for academic articles. He faced up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Swartz’s family said those aggressive charges contributed to the 26-year-old’s death.

Wyden said he’d like to see a hearing that discusses updating the computer hacking law, but noted that he doesn’t chair a committee that has jurisdiction over the issue. 

“I’d certainly like to see that, I’m advocating [for] it, but that’s not my call,” he said.

WSJ joins the getting-hacked-by-China club: The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that it, like The New York Times, was the target of Chinese hackers.

Both papers said they suspect the hackers were trying to monitor their coverage of China.

The Times said that hackers cracked into the newspapers’ computer systems and obtained passwords for its reporters and other employees after it published an investigative story on Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. The Journal acknowledged that the hackers were able to infiltrate its computer systems.

The Journal wrote that the attacks “indicate that Chinese spying on U.S. media has become a widespread phenomenon.”

The Times and the Journal said they plan to beef up their computer security to protect the private communications of their reporters and sources.

Recording industry tells House to lift Spotify ban: The Recording Industry of America is urging the House to stop blocking users from accessing the popular music-streaming service Spotify on its network.

The managers of Congress’s Internet networks block many sites, including illegal peer-to-peer music-sharing websites. Politico first brought attention on Thursday to the fact that the House had blocked access to Spotify. 

In a letter to the House’s chief administrative officer, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman noted that Spotify is a “licensed, secure online music streaming service.”

“[Authorized] services are safe and secure, and assuring access to them not only respects the contractual relationship users may have with these services, but also achieves an important public policy goal of promoting legal, safe digital providers,” Sherman wrote.

Christine Varney to take on former DOJ colleagues: Christine Varney, the former chief of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, will square off with her old colleagues over a merger of beer companies.

The agency has sued to block Anheuser-Busch InBev from taking over Modelo. Varney, now a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, is the top attorney for Modelo. 


FTC to crack down on mobile privacy violation: On Friday morning, the Federal Trade Commission will unveil a report on mobile privacy and announce a “related enforcement action.”

The FTC discussed best practices for cellphone and mobile app companies in a report it issued last year on online privacy. The agency has also held workshops on the issue.

The FTC has the authority to sue companies that fail to comply with their own privacy policies.

Obama to honor scientists, innovators: On Friday, President Obama will give the National Medal of Science award to 12 researchers and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to 11 inventors, including three IBM scientists. 


Carper expects cybersecurity order after State of the Union: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said the White House has signaled that it will likely introduce its cybersecurity order in the second half of February, following President Obama’s State of the Union address. 

After the White House releases the cyber order —  which it has been crafting over the last several months — Carper said he plans to hold a joint hearing with the Commerce and Intelligence committees to discuss the measures included in the order. Carper said he wants to hear from administration officials and stakeholders’ feedback as well. 

Senators push start-up tax credit: A bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) re-introduced a bill on Thursday that is designed to help burgeoning start-ups access the research and development (R&D) tax credit. 

The bill, called the Startup Innovation Credit Act, would provide small start-up companies that do not yet make a profit with a vehicle to claim the R&D tax credit. 

Klobuchar takes over Antitrust panel: The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday selected Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to chair its subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. 

Klobuchar succeeds Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who retired at the end of last term. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) will stay on as the panel’s ranking member. 

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) will stay on as chairman of the Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee, with freshman Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as the top Republican.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will remain as chairman of the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights subcommittee, and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will serve as the ranking member.

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

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

Tags Al Franken Amy Klobuchar Chris Coons Dick Durbin Jeff Flake Mike Enzi Mike Lee Ron Wyden Ted Cruz Tom Carper
See all Hill.TV See all Video