Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC prepares for privacy rules

LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission is preparing Internet service providers for new privacy rules included in the net neutrality order slated to take effect next month. 

In a memo Wednesday, the commission said it would initially judge providers — like AT&T or Comcast — on whether they are “taking reasonable, good-faith steps” to comply with the privacy provision, until tailored rules can be developed. 

“Although no broadband provider is in any way required to consult with the Enforcement Bureau, the existence of such a request for guidance will tend to show that the broadband provider is acting in good faith,” according to the advisory.

{mosads}Section 222 of the Communications Act, the privacy provision, has traditionally applied to telephone companies, which have their own specific set of rules to protect customers’ private information. For example, the commission fined two telecom companies $10 million last year for storing the Social Security numbers of customers on an unencrypted server. 

The privacy enforcement of Internet providers, however, previously resided with the Federal Trade Commission. But when the FCC took the controversial step of reclassifying Internet access, it also snatched up that role. Privacy is only a sliver of the new rule, which is meant to give the FCC broader authority to ensure providers treat all Internet traffic equally.  

FCC MEETING TO FOCUS ON DEAF, BLIND: The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday will consider a pair of orders to increase access to technology for deaf and blind people. The commission will vote on a proposed order that would permanently extend a program that offers $10 million a year to help hand out communications equipment to deaf or blind people with low incomes. Another proposal would take steps to make emergency video information accessible to deaf and blind people on their smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices. 

GOP MAKES LITTLE PROGRESS ON NET NEUTRALITY BILL: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House subcommittee on Communications and Technology, indicated that Republicans have made little headway in convincing Democrats to join a push to replace the FCC’s net neutrality rules with legislation, which would also curtail other agency authority. During an interview with Katy Bachman, he said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and likely President Obama as well are “pushing back very hard on them not to work with us.” As the legal challenges against the rules proceed, however, Walden said “people may realize” the commission went too far. 

BIN LADEN KEPT MANY SOFTWARE MANUALS: In addition to books, news articles and extremist material, Osama bin Laden’s compound also held dozens of software manuals, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released a list of items taken in the 2011 U.S. raid. Those manuals included instructions on a host of Adobe, Intel, Dreamweaver, Mac and McAfee software, among others. There were instructions on things like printers, video and photo editing software and virus protection. Two video game guides were also found, but the government said they were probably used by other residents at the compound. 

TAKE ME OUT TO THE MARKUP: Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) interrupted a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee markup of seven FCC transparency bills for a little bit of baseball history. Well, congressional baseball history. He showed a black and white photo of full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) as a child in a baseball uniform, offering to pass it around. “Was he a ball boy then?” asked subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to laughter. When the markup continued, members and staffers were seen huddling around the photo and another that appeared to picture an aide. The reason for the interruption? The annual Congressional Baseball Game, which benefits charity, is coming up.

GROUPS PUSH AGAINST TRADE BILL: A group of 250 advocacy organizations and smaller technology companies signed onto a letter organized by Fight for the Future calling on members of Congress to oppose a trade promotion authority bill being debated. The groups took issue with the secrecy surrounding the underlying trade deals and said the bill would “do nothing to ensure that these agreements would enable lawmakers to work towards striking the right balance between the interests of copyright holders and other of users and innovators.” Larger technology giants, which are more supportive of the underlying trade deals, did not sign on. 

E-WARRANTY LEGISLATION MOVES THROUGH COMMITTEE: The Senate Commerce Committee sent a bill allowing companies to fulfill their obligations to consumers by posting their warranties online. “The world is changing, and our technology is getting smaller, faster, and more efficient. Our laws must follow suit,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a sponsor of the bill. 

THE LONE STAR STATE HANDS TESLA A LOSS: The deadline has passed for a bill in the Texas House that would have given car companies the ability to sell directly to consumers, rather than through dealerships. The law was backed by electric car company Tesla. “I can appreciate Tesla wanting to sell cars, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. Tesla had sat down with the car dealers first,” a legislator said. Of course, the Mr. Tesla for whom the company is named is inventor Nikola Tesla — who died in 1943. The CEO of Tesla is Elon Musk. The proposal could still get a chance at passage as an amendment.


At 10:30 a.m., the FCC will hold its May open meeting.

At 11 a.m., Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will hold a pen and pad about his support for police body cameras. 

At 11:30 a.m., the Chamber of Commerce will host FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright in a discussion about the Internet of things.

At 7 p.m., a number of advocacy groups in Washington and around the country “will gather at sunset” to oppose the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.


Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor Wednesday, in what the Kentucky Republican’s staff is calling a filibuster over extending the Patriot Act.

The FTC said it would view a company that had reported a breach on its own and cooperated with law enforcement “more favorably” during investigations. 

Google has apologized and pledged to fix its Google Maps service to prevent racial slurs from being directed at President Obama and the White House

Sixty-five percent of people in the United States say there are not adequate limits on what kind of data the government can collect, according to a Pew Research poll.

Key parts of the Patriot Act are not set to expire until the end of the month, but the National Security Agency (NSA) will begin winding down a controversial program run under that law this week, according to the Justice Department.


Please send tips and comments to David McCabe, dmccabe@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo,mtrujillo@thehill.com


Follow us on Twitter:@HilliconValley, @dmccabe

Tags Deb Fischer Federal Communications Commission Net neutrality Privacy Rand Paul Tim Scott

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