Policy Highlights from Communications of the ACM – June 2010 (Vol. 53, No. 6)

Below is a list of items with policy relevance from the June issue of Communications of the ACM. As always, much of the material in CACM is premium content, and free content one month may slip behind a pay wall the next. You need to be a member of ACM or a subscriber to CACM to access premium content online.

Beyond the Smart Grid by Tom Geller
While most references to the smart grid cover the potential impact on energy savings, the networking and monitoring of household devices have the potential to provide more benefits than a smaller utility bill.

Privacy and Security
Myths and Fallacies of ‘Personally Identifiable Information’ by Arvind Narayanan and Vitaly Shmatikov
The exponential growth in the collection of data and the ability to sift through it quickly has weakened the ability to effectively disconnect data from the person it describes. This has significant consequences for policies that come from a time when de-identifying data was considered effective privacy protection on its own.

Viewpoints: Law and Technology
Intel’s Rebates: Above Board or Below the Belt? by François Lévêque
A review of the antitrust case involving Intel and its use of rebate payments.

USACM Releases Issue Brief on Military and Overseas Internet Voting

The U.S. Public Policy Council of the Association for Computing Machinery (USACM) has developed an issue brief on internet voting as it relates to military and overseas voters. This issue brief is part of a series, which includes briefs on REAL ID and Electronic Employment Verification Systems.

The brief focuses on the challenges of voting faced by military and overseas voters (UOCAVA voters). In the past there have been many problems with making sure that states can get registration and ballot materials to and from UOCAVA voters in a timely fashion. The recently passed MOVE (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment) Act goes a long way in addressing those challenges, making it much easier for UOCAVA voters to register and vote. Some states allow for the transmission of registration information and blank ballots via the internet, and there is interest in transmitting cast ballots over the internet.
Continue reading “USACM Releases Issue Brief on Military and Overseas Internet Voting”

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 21

June 22


The Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on American innovation.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

June 24


The Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
10 a.m., 2237 Rayburn Building


The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committeehsgac. will hold a markup of several bills and nominations. Scheduled as part of this markup is the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Access Act.
2:30 p.m., 342 Dirksen Building

PCAST Seeks Advice on Critical Infrastructures for Technology Innovation

The President’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) is seeking public input on infrastructures that are critical to innovation in information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. PITAC, part of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST), is currently seeking input on that issue through OpenPCAST, an online portal. The official question:

What are the critical infrastructures that only government can help provide that are needed to enable creation of new biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology products and innovations — a technological congruence that we have been calling the “Golden Triangle” — that will lead to new jobs and greater GDP?

Besides the online forum, there will be a webcast on June 22, running from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. Comments can be submitted during the webcast via email (pcast@ostp.gov), or PCAST’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

The input gathered through these activities is intended to support the implementation of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. The announcement also mentions a forthcoming PCAST/PITAC initiative on creating jobs through science, technology and innovation, but gives no details.

Visit the PCAST website on the morning of June 22 to get the link for the webcast.

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 14

June 15


The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on cyberspace as a national asset, with an emphasis on legislation.
3 p.m., 342 Dirksen Building

June 16


The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity and the role of the Department of Homeland Security
10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

June 17


The Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on federal electronic records management.
2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

Senator Lieberman and Colleagues Introduce Another Cybersecurity Bill

Cybersecurity legislation is sort of popular in this Congress. Several bills have been introduced, but there are enough cybersecurity bills working through the process that it’s unclear whether or not anything will be passed by the time this Congress ends in the fall. The latest cybersecurity legislation was introduced yesterday by Senators Lieberman, Collins and Carper. All three are members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. You can watch the press conference announcing the bill online.

This legislation, called the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, covers (among other things) the establishment of a National Office of Cyberspace Policy (in the Executive Office of the President, the creation of a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications within the Department of Homeland Security, and revisions to the Federal Information Security Management Act. It also reintroduces the concerns about broad executive power over the Internet expressed by many when Senator Rockefeller introduced his cybersecurity bill last year. My read of the bill suggests that the language is not as clear cut on the extent of this power as it was in early drafts of the Rockefeller bill. In other words, the possibility of this power is in the bill, just not as explicitly as it was in other legislation.

This bill would place government-wide strategic and budgetary planning in the National Office, with operational responsibilities located in the National Center. This separation may resolve the debate between some members of Congress on where cybersecurity responsibility should be placed within the federal government – the White House or the Department of Homeland Security. But the more significant bottleneck to achieving passage of cybersecurity legislation will be negotiating which bills get consideration on the Senate and House floors.

USACM Comments on Internet Privacy Bill Discussion Draft

Representatives Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) and Cliff Stearns (R-Florida), who are the chair and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and Internet, introduced a discussion draft of an internet privacy bill in early May. This was done to solicit comments from the public and interested stakeholders prior to officially introducing the bill. You can read the discussion draft online.

The bill focuses on collection of information online and how companies would have to conspicuously display their privacy policy to consumers providing information. If the information is considered sensitive, consumers would have to opt-in – state they agree – in order for the company to collect the information. Otherwise the bill allows for consumers to opt out of the collection – state that they do not want their information collection.

USACM submitted comments on the bill in a letter sent to the subcommittee. The Council expressed its appreciation for developing the draft, which could go a long way toward ensuring Fair Information Practices are used in a more uniform fashion by any entities that collect personal information. USACM did provide some constructive comments on the bill, which include:
Continue reading “USACM Comments on Internet Privacy Bill Discussion Draft”