Hillicon Valley: Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added protections | ACLU calls on House to block warrantless web browsing surveillance | Dems introduce COVID-19 privacy bill

Hillicon Valley: Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added protections | ACLU calls on House to block warrantless web browsing surveillance | Dems introduce COVID-19 privacy bill
© Greg Nash

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Wednesday, May 20: The Vir[tech]ual World Ahead

On Wednesday, May 20 The Hill Virtually Live will explore the lessons we are learning in our new digital reality. Accommodating the new normal means an increased reliance on telecommunication networks and an accelerated digitalization of industries. Yet, digital literacy is uneven, as is basic access to the internet. How should policymakers approach the goals of coverage, access, affordability and capacity? Editor-at-large Steve Clemons will be joined by Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneOcasio-Cortez, Tlaib propose amendment to defund administration of 'opportunity zone' program Overnight Health Care: Pfizer lands nearly b from Trump administration for COVID vaccine | FEMA head: 'We have a ways to go' on having enough PPE | Fauci on coronavirus: 'I don't really see us eradicating it' Democratic lawmakers launch 'Mean Girls'-inspired initiative to promote face masks MORE (D-WA), FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly and more. RSVP today

FISA REAUTHORIZATION: The Senate on Thursday passed legislation reauthorizing three intelligence programs that lapsed earlier this year amid a GOP stalemate.

Senators voted 80-16 on the bill, which pairs the reauthorization of provisions of the USA Freedom Act with some changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court.

The Senate changed the bill, which originally passed the House in March, during a two-day floor debate, adding more legal protections for some individuals targeted by the court.

The proposal, which was spearheaded by Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Overnight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (D-Vt.), would increase the role of outside legal experts in FISA court hearings, including allowing them to weigh in on some FBI surveillance requests.

Because the Senate changed the bill, it will now have to be sent back to the House, which is expected to return on Friday. House Democratic leadership has not said if or when they will take up the amended bill. 


It also remains unclear if President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE would sign the bill should it reach his desk. The president has railed about his campaign being “spied” upon as result of the FISA court and has sent mixed signals to lawmakers about if he supports the legislation.

Read more about the legislation here.

ACLU WEIGHS IN: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling on the House to revive an amendment to the measure that would block law enforcement from being able to access web browsing data without a warrant after the measure fell short by one vote in the Senate.

The amendment was introduced by Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Lincoln Project expands GOP target list, winning Trump ire MORE (R-Mont.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter MORE (D-Ore.) but narrowly missed a 60-vote threshold, failing 59-37 on Wednsday.

Several senators who were expected to vote in favor of it, including Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden wins Connecticut in final presidential primary of year Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris MORE (I-Vt.), were not present for the session.

"It is now time for the House to do what the Senate has done and further improve this legislation," Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU senior legislative counsel, said in a statement to The Hill on Thursday.

"Yesterday's vote demonstrated there is overwhelming support for protecting our internet search and browsing histories from warrantless searches. This important reform shouldn’t be left out of the final legislation merely because not all members were present to vote. We urge House leadership to add protections for Americans' online search and browsing histories to the Senate bill."

Read more here.

REMOTE VOTING MOVES FORWARD: The House Rules Committee on Thursday advanced a measure to enact a set of changes that will allow lawmakers to vote and hold meetings remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

The full House is slated to adopt the rules changes on Friday, when lawmakers are also planning to vote on Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Enacting the changes will allow House Democrats to revive legislative and oversight work that has largely been on hold for the last two months due to safety concerns about gathering all 430 members and their staffs together in the Capitol during the pandemic.

The Rules Committee approved the resolution along party lines, 8-4, after six hours of debate with dozens of failed GOP amendments to limit the changes, foreshadowing what’s expected to also be a partisan vote when it hits the House floor given the widespread opposition from Republicans to voting remotely.

The changes would enable proxy voting, in which absent lawmakers could authorize colleagues physically present in the House chamber to cast votes on their behalf. But a single member would be limited to serving as a designated proxy for a maximum of 10 members, meaning that dozens of lawmakers would still have to be physically present in the Capitol. And any lawmakers who still want to cast their own votes in person could still do so.

Committees would also be permitted to conduct hearings, depositions and markups of legislation virtually. There would be some flexibility for committees to conduct business meetings either in a “hybrid” setting with some lawmakers in a room and others participating remotely — which the Senate has done in recent days — or with everyone dialing in from afar.

Read more about the voting change here.

PRIVACY PROTECTIONS: Democrats in both chambers introduced legislation Thursday aimed at protecting the privacy and security of health data during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act would place strict limits on what and by whom data collected for public health purposes can be used, implement data minimization procedures for that info and require opt-in consent for any efforts.

The legislation comes as health agencies and tech companies are developing contact tracing and monitoring tools to contain the pandemic.

It would bar conditioning the right to vote based on use of such services of a medical condition.

The bill would also formally mandate data collected to fight the pandemic be deleted after the public health emergency.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick Republicans set sights on FBI chief as Russia probe investigations ramp up The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election MORE (D-Va.) introduced the legislation in the Senate.


“Legal safeguards protecting consumer privacy failed to keep pace with technology, and that lapse is costing us in the fight against COVID-19," Blumenthal said in a statement.

"Americans are rightly skeptical that their sensitive health data will be kept safe and secure, and as a result, they’re reluctant to participate in contact tracing programs essential to halt the spread of this disease," he added.

Reps. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation House Democrat calls on Facebook to take down doctored Pelosi video The Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks MORE (D-Calif), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick House Democrats pressure Facebook oversight board to address racist, voter suppression content It's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms MORE (D-Ill.) and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) introduced the House version.

Read more about the new legislation here.

TIKTOK IN HOT WATER: A group of children's and consumer advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Thursday alleging that TikTok broke privacy commitments it had made to resolve a prior complaint. 

The short-form video-sharing platform last year agreed to settle charges that one of its predecessors, Musical.ly, violated the federal law governing privacy safeguards for children online.

Under the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), developers of apps geared toward children cannot collect personally identifiable information on users under the age of 13 without consent from parents or legal guardians.


The complaint, which also resulted in a $5.7 million fine, alleged the company collected without consent the names, emails and videos of users under the age of 13.

TikTok agreed as part of the settlement to obtain parental permission before collecting personal information and to delete any information about users identified as under 13.

The 20 groups said in their complaint Thursday that TikTok has failed to meet those commitments.

The complaint identifies videos posted by children under the age of 13 still on the app.

It also raises concerns over a specific service the company developed for users under 13, TikTok for Younger Users.

Read more about the complaint here.

RUSSIA’S BACK, BACK AGAIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers on Wednesday that she has seen "hard evidence" pointing to Russia being responsible for hacking attempts targeting her emails and those of the nation's lawmakers.

In a speech to Germany's parliament, Merkel vowed to continue seeking improved diplomatic relations with Russia but asserted that "outrageous" spying attempts, such as attacks targeting emails from 2015, made such progress difficult, Euronews reported.

"I can say honestly that this pains me. On the one hand, I work every day for a better relationship with Russia, and when you see on the other hand that there is such hard evidence that Russian forces are involved in acting this way, this is an area of tension," she said.

"Of course we always reserve the right to take measures, including against Russia," Merkel continued.

Russia has reportedly denied any involvement in the hacking of Merkel's emails, which was first reported in German magazine Der Spiegel last week.

Read more here.

AMAZON FACE SHIELDS: Amazon announced Thursday that engineers from its drone delivery unit are developing face shields that will soon be sold to medical professionals on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus. 

Brad Porter, the vice president of Amazon Robotics, said in a blog post that members of Prime Air’s mechanical design and hardware teams are taking the lead in crafting the shields. The company has already delivered 10,000 to medical workers and is hoping to give 20,000 more in the near future.

"Developing a safe and more comfortable design that had never been seen before was one area we used our talents of invention and bias for action to make things better during this crisis," Porter said. "Because of the design innovations and capabilities of our supply chain, we are confident we will be able to list them at a significantly lower price than all other reusable face shields currently available to frontline workers."

Amazon will initially limit sales of the shields to front-line workers but intends to ultimately provide the products for public consumption.

A spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that the face shields could cost one-third the price of reusable face shields currently on the market, which range from $15 to $35 on Amazon’s website.

Read more about the face shields here.

Lighter click: This seems secure

An op-ed to chew on: America’s digital Sputnik moment


Amazon’s been under fire for price gouging. Here’s why it wants a federal ban (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum) 

Trump extends U.S. telecom supply chain order aimed at Huawei and ZTE (Reuters / David Shepardson and Karen Freifeld) 

Amazon’s showdown in France tests its ability to sidestep labor (The New York Times / Liz Alderman and Adam Satariano)

More pajamas, please: Online comfort shopping sales spike (The Washington Post / Rachel Lerman)