Innovation Legislation Moves Forward

Last week the Senate Commerce Committee passed its approach to bolstering U.S. competitiveness by authorizing more funding for research programs at the National Science Foundation, among other things. This is one of the many bills floating around to address this issue.

Peter Harsha at the Computing Research Association has good coverage of the markup including an analysis of a fight over two amendments. The first would have given certain disciplines priority when NSF granted funding for proposals. The second was over authorizing the High-Performance Computing initiative, which USACM commented on when it passed the Science Committee last year.

Commerce Department Shelves “Deemed Export” Proposal

Update:: The Department of Commerce has released the formal Federal Register notice of its proposal to form an advisory committee.

Original Post 5/22/06: Last year, the Department of Commerce (followed by the Department of Defense) proposed broad new restrictions on foreign students access to potentially sensitive technology. USACM filed comments on both the proposals (Commerce, Defense) arguing that the new restrictions were overly burdensome, unclear and further exacerbated an already hostile atmosphere for foreign researchers working the United States. Bloomberg.com Canada is reporting that the Department is backing off their proposal in favor of a 12-member commission to review the issue.

Here is a quote from U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, David MacCormick:

“I came to the conclusion it was a much sounder approach to actually think about the overarching policy and revisit basic assumptions and revisit objectives,” said McCormick.

Considering the Department’s proposal muddied the waters so badly that it could be interpreted that labs would have to restrict foreign researchers access to widely-published information (such as publicly available technical manuals), this is a wise course to take. However, commissions, if not properly balanced can do more harm than good by giving outside appropoval to an otherwise controversial idea. Given that there were over 300 comments (from industry, academia, and associations) filed against these proposed rules, I have some hope that the commission will, in fact, be balanced.

Commerce Department Shelves "Deemed Export" Proposal

Update:: The Department of Commerce has released the formal Federal Register notice of its proposal to form an advisory committee.

Original Post 5/22/06: Last year, the Department of Commerce (followed by the Department of Defense) proposed broad new restrictions on foreign students access to potentially sensitive technology. USACM filed comments on both the proposals (Commerce, Defense) arguing that the new restrictions were overly burdensome, unclear and further exacerbated an already hostile atmosphere for foreign researchers working the United States. Bloomberg.com Canada is reporting that the Department is backing off their proposal in favor of a 12-member commission to review the issue.

Here is a quote from U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, David MacCormick:

“I came to the conclusion it was a much sounder approach to actually think about the overarching policy and revisit basic assumptions and revisit objectives,” said McCormick.

Considering the Department’s proposal muddied the waters so badly that it could be interpreted that labs would have to restrict foreign researchers access to widely-published information (such as publicly available technical manuals), this is a wise course to take. However, commissions, if not properly balanced can do more harm than good by giving outside appropoval to an otherwise controversial idea. Given that there were over 300 comments (from industry, academia, and associations) filed against these proposed rules, I have some hope that the commission will, in fact, be balanced.

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 22

Sorry about the delay in posting this week’s “happenings.” This is one of those busy weeks where I didn’t get to this until Tuesday morning.

May 23

Hearing:

The Liabilities Driving Better Data Protection Practices
House Small Business Committee, Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform and Oversight
10 a.m., 2360 Rayburn Bldg.

May 25

Hearing:

Second hearing on Senate’s Telecommunications Act of 1996 reform proposal (The Communications, Consumer’s Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006, S. 2686)
10:00 AM, Senate Dirksen 106

Markups:

House Judiciary Committee markup of six technology-related measures:

10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

House Science Committee markup of three innovation-related measures (among others):

10:00 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg. This was moved to June 7.

For an “about” these posts please see my original post.

VA Department Loses Personal Information On 26.5 Million Vets

Many privacy advocates dubbed 2005, “The Year of Data Breach.” Perhaps the term should be amended to “the years” or even “decade” with yet another announcement of a massive loss of data. This time a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employee took a laptop home, which was then stolen, that had personal information (including social security numbers) on 26.5 million veterans. It doesn’t look like the data was encrypted.

From the VA website:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently learned that an employee, a data analyst, took home electronic data from the VA, which he was not authorized to do. This behavior was in violation of our policies. This data contained identifying information including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. Importantly, the affected data did not include any of VA’s electronic health records nor any financial information. The employee’s home was burglarized and this data was stolen. The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

I’m not sure why the Department takes comfort in noting that the data didn’t include any financial information or health records, considering it appears that the thieves have all the information they need to steal someone’s identity and wreak havoc with his or her finances.

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 15

May 16

Hearings:

Markup of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 (S. 2802)
Senate Commerce Committee
2:30 PM, Senate Dirksen 562
This was moved to Thursday.

Proposed Legislation on Music Licensing Reform in the Digital Age
House Judiciary — Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property
4 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Events:

Tracking Wireless Location Privacy: Who Knows Where You Are?
Panel Luncheon by the Internet Caucus Advisory Committee
12 p.m., 2168 Rayburn Bldg.

May 18

Proposed Legislation on Communications Reform
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
10 a.m., Senate Dirksen 106

Markup of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 (S. 2802)
Senate Commerce Committee
2:30 PM, Senate Dirksen 562

For an “about” these posts please see my original post.

Computer Scientists Warn Significant Security Vulnerability Exists In E-Voting Machines

With so much happening in the technology and technology policy fields, it is a rare day that computer experts focus on one particular issue. So it seems pretty significant that several blogs and news reports with quotes from well-respected computer scientists are focusing on a new report by Harri Hursti for blackboxvoting.org outlining several new serious security flaws. While many of the details of the report have been redacted, apparently the most significant flaw is a well-known exploit that can be used to completely compromise the machine including vote counting, using widely available tools. The ease with which this security hole can be used and the relatively trivial knowledge it requires has shocked computer scientists.

I’ve just started reading the short report, but let me put up pointers to the stories and blog posts which outline the issue very well:

  • Inside Bay Area.com report
  • New York Times’report
  • Post by Ed Felten and Avi Rubin on Freedom-to-tinker
  • Post by Bruce Schneier on Schneier on Security Blog

ACM issued a statement in 2004 calling for voting systems to have a physical (e.g., paper) record to verify that individual’s vote has been accurately cast. That statement also called for all voting systems to “embody careful engineering, strong safeguards, and rigorous testing in both their design and operation.”

NSA Building Massive Database Of Domestic Calls, Senate Judiciary To Hold Hearings

In the wake of today’s USA Today story shedding new light on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Terrorist Surveillance Program, CQ.com (sub. required) is reporting that the Senate Judiciary Committee will call representatives of three major telephone companies to testify before the panel.

Continue reading “NSA Building Massive Database Of Domestic Calls, Senate Judiciary To Hold Hearings”

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 8

Last week, I started an experimental service on the blog by posting some of the upcoming hearings on Capitol Hill and events in the D.C. area. Below are this week’s happenings and here is last week’s post outlining the caveats to these posts.

May 10

Social Security Numbers in Commerce: Reconciling Beneficial Uses with Threats to Privacy
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection
2 p.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Update: Building the Information Sharing Environment: Addressing the Challenges of Implementation
Homeland Security Committee — Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk
2:00 p.m., 311 Cannon House Office Building

May 11

Legislative Hearing on H.R. ___, the “Cyber-Security Enhancement and Consumer Data Protection Act of 2006”
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
9 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

ACM Washington Update, Vol. 10.4 (May 5, 2006)

CONTENTS

[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] Computing Community Express Concern Over Budget
[3] USACM Calls on Congress to Protect Patients Privacy Rights
[4] “Net Neutrality” Amendment Defeated
[5] Key Lawmaker Floats DMCA Expansion
[6] Conference Highlights DMCA Divisions
[7] California Voter Registration Database Rejecting Voters
[8] Upcoming Events
[9] About USACM
Continue reading “ACM Washington Update, Vol. 10.4 (May 5, 2006)”