Week ahead: Apple, FBI to face off before House panel

The fight over encryption is going to heat up on Capitol Hill in the coming week.

A House panel will hear from a number of law enforcement and tech representatives on how best to balance security and privacy concerns raised by encryption technology.

{mosads}Much of the attention at Tuesday’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing will be on witnesses from Apple and the FBI. Bruce Sewell, general counsel of Apple, and Amy Hess, the FBI’s executive assistant director for Science and Technology, will testify.

Apple and the FBI engaged in a highly publicized battle over whether the tech firm should be forced to help the agency access encrypted data on an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers. The FBI eventually dropped a court case that sought to compel Apple’s help after finding another way to hack the phone.

The fight over encryption though shows no signs of fading.

“The encryption debate is an important one and it is imperative for the public to be engaged. There’s a delicate balance between the need for strong, secure, and effective encryption and solutions that permit law enforcement to protect the American people,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce subcommittee, in a statement.

Academics and law enforcement representatives from around the country will also testify at the hearing.

Not on the witness list: Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp, which this month started implementing end-to-end encryption for all of its users. The company declined to participate in the hearing.

“We respect the important role the Committee plays in examining these issues and their impact on privacy and security,” said a spokesperson for the companies in an email. “While we are unable to participate in this hearing, we will continue to be engaged on this important issue.”

Over in the Senate, lawmakers will also have encryption on their minds, following the release of a bill from Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Their legislation would force companies to give law enforcement help in accessing data.

The controversial legislation has already sparked pushback from tech groups and privacy advocates.

Also in the coming week, on Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing to evaluate President Obama’s new nominee to head the Library of Congress, Carla Haden. She is the first black or female executive nominated to be Librarian of Congress.

On Tuesday, the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will vote to advance seven communications bills. One of the measures would set a hard $1.5 billion per year cap on the FCC’s Lifeline budget, which provides internet and phone subsidies to the poor.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz will host a summit — closed to the media — featuring partner Marc Andreessen interviewing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Chief Michelle Lee and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) will also appear.



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Tags Dianne Feinstein Paul Ryan Penny Pritzker Richard Burr

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