Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Tech firms celebrate ‘milestone’ privacy bill

THE LEDE: Three senators reached a “milestone” with their bill on Thursday to give new protections to people’s emails and other data stored in the “cloud,” tech companies said.

The bill from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) “proposes a more principled legal blueprint for balancing law enforcement needs with consumer privacy rights,” Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post. “It also creates an important model that will help advance the international conversation that is so critically needed.” “Today marks a key milestone, as Senators Hatch, Coons and Heller have introduced important legislation to strengthen the protection of Constitutional due process rights and limit the extraterritorial reach of search warrants,” he added.

{mosads}The bill, called the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (LEADS) Act, would require police to obtain a warrant before collecting emails and other data stored online. It would also limit officials with a warrant from being able to collect information stored on a foreign server if it violates the host country’s laws or is not in an American’s account.

The legislation is a major boost for Microsoft, which is currently in a pitched battle with the Justice Department over data about a user stored on a server in Ireland. According to the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, the Justice Department’s moves could cost American companies more than $180 billion per year. 

Other kind words came from BSA | The Software Alliance, IBM, AT&T and other tech and telecommunications firms.

The Center for Democracy and Technology, however, was somewhat more measured. While the bill marks progress by requiring a warrant to obtain emails and reforms the process for shuttling data across the border, it would also empower the government to get information about American people or companies, it feared. The group is not supporting the LEADS Act “because we are concerned about how the provision authorizing long-arm warrants for the accounts of U.S. persons would be administered, and whether we could reasonably expect reciprocity from other nations on such an approach,” senior counsel Greg Nojeim said in a statement. “Also, the bill may propel some countries to consider mandating local data storage.”

Eshoo says customers getting ‘screwed’ on TV deals: The top Democrat on the House Commerce subcommittee on Technology had some harsh words for the current television market on Thursday. Deals allowing cable and satellite companies to retransmit broadcasters’ programming are leaving consumers with stiff fees, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said at a Hudson Institute event, which only makes it worse when disputes lead to channel blackouts.

“On retrans and the fees and the blackouts, people are really being — excuse me for putting it this way, but it’s the raw truth — they’re being screwed,” she said.  “Our video laws need to be reformed,” Eshoo added. “I think what’s going on with retrans and the money going along with this has gotten to be a racket, in plain English.”

Reformers like Eshoo were not successful in attaching major reforms to an expiring satellite TV bill this year, but Eshoo said she was committed to doing something about it in the future. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has also said that the issue will be a focus next year.

FOIA Improvement Act held over: The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding over a bill to update the Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA Improvement Act was originally scheduled to be marked up on Thursday but will be pushed back to later in the year.

Microsoft backs AT&T-DirecTV merger: Microsoft is lending its support to AT&T’s plans to merge with DirecTV. In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission this week, the company said that the deal would lead to more broadband access, which would be better for “the nation’s economic growth and our continued leadership in innovation.”

AT&T has said that the merger would allow it to invest more heavily in its broadband infrastructure. “This commitment clearly advances a critical national broadband objective with respect to investment in and deployment of high-speed broadband access services across the U.S.,” Microsoft said in its filing.

Former software lobbyist approved for trade post: Robert Holleyman, the former head of BSA | The Software Alliance, was approved by the Senate on voice vote Thursday to be deputy U.S. trade representative.

Comcast extends free Internet program: Comcast is extending its program to give low-income families six free months of Internet access for another week and a half, it announced in a blog post. The program — which is part of the company’s “Internet Essentials” effort — offers six free months of basic service to families applying for the program for the first time. It was originally scheduled to end on Sept. 20 but will now apply to anyone who signs up by Sept. 30. 



The second day of the Intelligence and National Security Summit gets going at 7:45 a.m. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) are scheduled to speak.

The New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute has an event on “digital borders and technological sovereignty” starting at 9 a.m.

The Federal Communications Commission has a roundtable on new net neutrality rules at 10:00.

Georgetown Law School’s Center on Privacy and Technology has a panel on privacy and the Internet starting at 1:15.



Lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate to give new protections to people’s emails, documents and other information stored online.

Apple says that pictures, contacts and messages on new iPhones won’t be turned over to the government, even with a warrant. 

Wireless companies are pushing back against an effort to ban them from slowing or blocking people’s access to the Internet. 

Edward Snowden’s national security leaks have created a “perfect storm” degrading the intelligence community’s capabilities, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday. 

Lawmakers are sharpening their knives for a fight over new regulations on Internet service companies. 


Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem: jhattem@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem

Tags Anna Eshoo Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act Microsoft
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