This week in tech: On the lookout for Patriot Act reforms

Lawmakers this week are expected to unveil new legislation to rein in some government snooping while extending some expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.

The expected introduction of a new version of the USA Freedom Act will be the best shot for critics of the National Security Agency (NSA) to blunt some of its most controversial operations, after a humbling stall last year. On June 1, the section of the Patriot Act that authorizes the NSA’s bulk collection of American’s phone records is set to expire along with two other portions, forcing lawmakers to confront the issue or let it expire.

ADVERTISEMENT

The new version of the bill is expected to be somewhat more limiting to the NSA than a bill that passed the House last summer. Sources told The Hill in recent days that it would instead hew closer to Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyVermont Lt. Gov. launches bid for US House Lawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' Biden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans MORE’s (D-Vt.) version, which came two votes shy of overcoming a filibuster in the Senate.

The bill would end the NSA’s collection of people’s records and force it to go to private phone companies’ own records after obtaining a court order. It’s also expected to add a new consultative panel to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and give technology companies additional ways to disclose what information they are forced to hand over to the government.

With just over a month to go until the June 1 deadline, introduction of the bill would give lawmakers weeks to amass the support necessary to get it through Congress. Surveillance has split both parties in the past and could easily become a lightning rod.

On a separate front, the Senate Commerce subcommittee on the Internet will hold a hearing on "advancing tele-health through connectivity," helping patients receive real-time consultations or monitoring from a doctor over the Internet. The issue is important for lawmakers representing rural areas.

A couple of conferences are also coming to town. On Monday, the State of the Net Wireless conference will feature appearances from Federal Communications Commission enforcement head Travis LeBlanc and noted industry analyst Craig Moffett.

On Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will join Reps. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersDemocrats to target Section 230 in Haugen hearing Washington redistricting panel reaches late agreement on new lines McMorris Rodgers worried broadband funding will miss mark without new maps MORE (R-Wash.), Karen BassKaren Ruth BassFor Democrats it should be about votes, not megaphones Proposed California maps put incumbents in jeopardy Bass calls 'Black pastors' comment during Arbery trial 'despicable' MORE (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) at the 2015 Creativity Conference. The event is being put on by the Motion Picture Association of America along with Microsoft and NBC News.

 

RECENT STORIES:

DOJ lawyers reportedly leaning against Comcast merger - http://goo.gl/L4xKpB

Tech pressures Congress ahead of Patriot Act fight - http://goo.gl/TZE78V

Europe accuses Google of playing favorites - http://goo.gl/DecQBo

Flurry of lawsuits filed against Internet rules - http://goo.gl/2KCMQ1

Rubio’s website crashes after announcement - http://goo.gl/9F3c8Q