Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: House turns to anti-hacker fight

THE LEDE: Two separate House panels are scheduled to down to work exploring ways that Congress can protect the country from hackers on Tuesday.

The Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade is starting things off with an exploration of the “elements of sound data breach legislation.”

{mosads}The panel will hear from officials from the tech, retail and marketing sectors, who will push for a national data breach notification standard to replace the “patchwork” of 47 state laws currently in place. Complying with all those laws quickly and accurately poses a “significant regulatory burden” to retail companies, says Brian Dodge, the Retail Industry Leaders Association executive vice president for communications and strategic initiatives, in his prepared testimony. Federal law that would preempt the states while providing “both a ceiling and a floor” would give certainty to businesses and extra security to consumers, added the global privacy officer for marketing technology company Acxiom, Jennifer Barrett-Glasgow.

Privacy law expert Woodrow Hartzog, however, will push back on any effort to have a federal law override state rules. “Our critical data protection infrastructure will be weakened if federal legislation scales back protection, consolidates regulatory authority, and sets specific rules in stone,” he said in written testimony.

Later in the day, the House Science subcommittee on Research and Technology will take a look at the “expanding cyber threat.” “Instances of harmful cyber-attacks are happening everyday across the country,” subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said ahead of the hearing. “We have well-trained professionals who are working around the clock implementing security techniques that will help Americans thwart cyber-attacks. We know we must aggressively enhance our capabilities and develop best practices to counter high-risk cyber security issues. This is and should be a top priority for the new Congress.”

Officials from Symantec, the National Science Foundation, Congressional Research Service, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the tech sector will all testify to talk about research efforts to combat cyber criminals. Dean Garfield, the head of the Information Technology Industry Council, will focus on industry efforts to combat the threats and what government can do, the trade group said.

Retail heads hit credit unions in hacker fight: Heads of two different retail industry trade groups got together for an op-ed in The Hill on Monday to criticize credit unions for staying away from a joint industry effort to beef up retail and financial industry cyber defenses. Credit unions “seem to prefer poisoning the process by lobbing inaccurate and misleading statements that are in no way constructive to the process of bolstering payment security,” heads of the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Retail Federation wrote.

Lee calls Internet rules ‘government takeover’: Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is calling on supporters to sign a petition urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to reclassify the Internet like a public utility. He wrote an email pitch on behalf of the group Protect Internet Freedom, warning of increased fees that could come with the change. He called the move “a government takeover of the Internet” and related it to problems with the healthcare law, the Veterans Administration and the IRS. Last Year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the move “ObamaCare for the Internet.”

“I am not accusing anyone of sinister motives here, but I am deeply concerned about the idea of any government bureaucrat having the power to tell companies what they can and cannot do,” Lee wrote. “In the long term, this could have a chilling effect on political speech, in ways that today we could not even begin to imagine.”

Football puns for net neutrality: CTIA-The Wireless Association is out with a new football-themed video, opposing a plan to subject mobile broadband to utility-style regulations. In the video, the group describes the FCC’s expected plan to reclassify broadband Internet — including mobile services — similar to traditional telephones as a “Hail Mary pass” that will “guarantee a turnover or sack,” including lawsuits, uncertainty and more taxes.

And football puns for surveillance: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released its “game plan” for ending mass government surveillance around the globe on Monday. The activist group unveiled an agenda for “a multi-year battle” that encompasses its battle against the National Security Agency, the British Government Communications Headquarters and other agencies.

First, the group wants to pressure tech companies to build stronger defenses — as many have started to do in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks about the spy agencies — and to lobby actively in support of better legal barriers. Second, EFF called for a “global movement” of people applying stronger encryption to their data and communications. The group also wants to see secure tools that are easier to use, reform of the controversial Executive Order 12333, a new global framework for balancing privacy with security, a coalition of international partners to fight back against surveillance and lawsuits against spying laws. Finally, the group called for extra transparency for the laws and practices currently on the books.

In addition to going after the existing law through the traditional legislative process, EFF suggested using “the funding hack,” whereby lawmakers use spending bills to reform policy. “We may see an amendment that tackles some form of surveillance,” it hoped.

White House ‘encouraged’ by Booker bill: The White House said it was “encouraged” by a bill pushed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) that would block state laws that restrict the build out of city-run Internet networks. The proposal, also backed by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), has little chance of advancing, however, in the GOP-controlled Senate. President Obama pushed a similar initiative from the executive branch during his State of the Union address. In a blog post Monday, the White House announced a series of regional workshops to encourage the adoption of municipal broadband. The first will be held Feb. 4 in Jackson, Miss.

Tech lobbying: The law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is representing a number of companies to lobby Congress on issues ranging from Internet taxation and net neutrality to patent reform and cybersecurity. The group, including former Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.), is lobbying for the e-commerce group NetChoice regarding Internet taxation issues. It is representing Vonage regarding net neutrality, and Google regarding patent reform.

It is also representing Neustar on concerns dealing with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and a number of other issues. It is also representing Telscape Communications regarding the Lifeline program, which offers phone service to low-income people.

New player in town on online gambling: 888 Holdings, a company that operates several online gambling websites, has hired former Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) to lobby on online gambling issues, according to a new disclosure document. Porter is also working on gambling issues for Affinity Gaming and LottoInteractive.



The 2015 State of the Net Conference begins Tuesday at 8 a.m at the Newseum. Speakers will include FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and FCC member Jessica Rosenworcel.

At 10 a.m., The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will hold a hearing on data breach legislation.

At 2 p.m., The House Science Committee subpanel on Research and Technology is holding a hearing on “the expanding cyber threat.”



Lawmakers from both chambers of Congress on Monday launched a bipartisan caucus aimed at getting more women, minorities and veterans into the tech sector.

Regulators will likely run into a host of lawsuits if they make an expected move to override state laws limiting local governments from building out their own broadband Internet services, state legislators and officials predicted on Monday.

Facebook is blocking access to some content in Turkey after a court there determined it to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

Tech companies see a potential windfall in the Obama administration’s decision to ease trade restrictions with Cuba — and they’re racing to cash in. 

Verizon agreed to pay a $5 million settlement stemming from its initial failure to investigate why some customers’ calls were not getting through to rural areas.


Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem

Tags Barbara Comstock Data breach Hacking National Retail Federation Retail Industry Leaders Association
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