Overnight Tech: Lawmakers to preview key encryption bill

LEDE: Two lawmakers are expected to provide more details Wednesday on a bill that would establish a national commission to examine how to help law enforcement deal with encryption without compromising user privacy.

House Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China MORE (D-Va.) are behind the as-yet-unseen legislation. They're hoping the commission could help improve the dialogue between privacy advocates and law enforcement over whether tech companies should help police access encrypted data. The two will discuss their effort at noon on Wednesday at the Bipartisan Policy Center.


Warner has described law enforcement and tech as being at "loggerheads," and that's been especially clear this week -- with Apple and the FBI battling it out over whether the tech giant should help the agency access a locked iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers.

Apple has backed the idea of a commission on the debate and said it "would gladly participate in such an effort." Our colleague Cory Bennett reports that as envisioned by McCaul and Warner, the commission would issue recommendations for Congress on "what can be done to solve this urgent, and ... very challenging threat to our national security."

SUPREME COURT ON SOFTWARE PATENTS: During oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice Stephen Breyer said it is "unfortunate" that Congress hasn't created special rules to deal with software patents, which are pervasive in the technology industry.

"Today's patent world is not a steam ­engine world," he said. "We have decided to patent tens of thousands of software products and similar things where hardly anyone knows what the patent's really about."

FTC CRACKS DOWN ON ROUTER COMPANY: The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday settled consumer security charges with a company that manufactures Internet routers. The FTC had accused the company ASUS of having "critical security flaws" in its routers despite marketing the products as protecting against hackers and viruses. Among other things, researchers found a flaw that could allow hackers to control a user's web traffic. The FTC also found that its default login credentials were the same for every router. 

ITIF ROLLS OUT 'INNOVATOR' SURVEY: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation rolls out a report tomorrow based on a survey of 900 people "who qualify as innovators because they have made meaningful, marketable contributions in technology-intensive industries." Expect some sort of focus on Silicon Valley's diversity failures. The survey found that that women and minorities were under-represented among the respondents. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is scheduled to speak at the event to unveil the survey.

THE GOVERNMENT'S OTHER APPLE REQUESTS: The government since last October has made about a dozen requests for Apple to help retrieve customer information from locked iPhones, according to reports. The orders, coming under the All Writs Act, deal with phones ranging from the iPhone 3 to the iPhone 6, running various operating systems, according to The Intercept. 

HOVERBROADS REMOVED FROM AMAZON: Mashable on Tuesday reported that Amazon had scrubbed listings of hover boards from its website after the government issued a safety notice about the products last week. Amazon reportedly offered customer refunds for the items in January, but it did not issue any public statement.


At 9 a.m., the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will hold an event exploring ways to help innovators.

At 10 a.m., the House Science Committee will examine the "groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves."

At noon, lawmakers will discuss their plan for a national security and technology commission at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 


The technology industry is closely watching a Supreme Court case argued Tuesday that could have broad implications for how patent infringement damages are awarded. 

State Department staffers are not allowed to use private servers for official classified business, Secretary John KerryJohn KerryEconomic growth in Africa will not be achieved by a blanket ban on fossil fuels Biden can build on Pope Francis's visit to Iraq OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE told the Senate on Tuesday.

The International Civil Aviation Organization is banning cargo shipments of lithium ion batteries by air, over the objection of battery makers and other technology groups in Washington. 

A House committee will consider a bill this week that makes permanent small-business exemptions to some requirements of last year's landmark net neutrality rules.

Bill Gates on Tuesday split from other tech industry leaders in not directly supporting Apple's refusal to help the government unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.


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