USPTO Invites Public Comments on Reducing Online IP Infringement

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invites public input on the effectiveness of voluntary initiatives encouraged by the Obama Administration to reduce online intellectual property infringement. The deadline for public comments is Monday, July 22, 2013.

The USPTO invites input from all interested parties on the processes, data metrics, and methodologies that could be used to assess the effectiveness of cooperative agreements and other voluntary initiatives to reduce infringement. The USPTO additionally welcomes input on the following questions:

1. How should “effectiveness” of cooperative voluntary initiatives be defined?
2. What type of data would be particularly useful for measuring effectiveness of voluntary initiatives aimed at reducing infringement and what would that data show?
3. If the data is not readily available, in what ways could it be obtained?
4. Are there particular impediments to measuring effectiveness, at this time or in general, and if so, what are they?
5. What mechanisms should be employed to assist in measuring the effectiveness of voluntary initiatives?
6. Is there existing data regarding efficacy of particular practices, processes or methodologies for voluntary initiatives, and if so, what is it and what does it show?

Request of the United States Patent and Trademark Office for Public Comments: Voluntary Best Practices Study
78 Federal Register 37210
https://federalregister.gov/a/2013-14702

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FCC’s Speaker Series Will Feature Clayton Lewis on Inclusive Design Online

The FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series will feature USACM member and accessibility expert Clayton Lewis on “The Future of Inclusive Design Online” on Tuesday, July 16, at 10 am EDT. The event is free and open to the public. A live webcast will be available.

Event Summary
The evolution of technology is creating challenges to traditional thinking about making information and services available to people with differing functional needs and preferences, and creating opportunities to provide superior access. This talk will survey some of the developments, such as the shift from focus on access to presentations of content to access to content itself; the replacement of mass production by customized, individualized creation; non visual access for traditionally “visual” activities like games, interactive simulations, and visual programming; the need for tools usably by end users to craft their own information environment; the prospect that technology can automatically create new and different presentations of information and services; and the policy changes that may be needed to address these opportunities.

Clayton Lewis is a Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he has been based since 1984. He is a pioneer in the science of usability. He was manager of the Human Factors Group at the IBM Watson Research Center in the early 1980s where he led and inspired some of the first HCI projects on iterative, user centered design. He has had a strong influence on HCI with regard to designing for people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities. He has made designers and developers of accessible technologies aware of these groups, where previously they had been left out. Major projects in which he has participated include Fluid, an international family of projects on accessible web technology, the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure initiative (GPII), and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for the Advancement of Cognitive Technologies (RERC-ACT). His work has been recognized in many ways, including invitations to contribute to deliberations on technology and policy in many national and international venues.

He has twice served as Technical Program Chair or Co-chair for the ACM CHI Conferences on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the leading international conference in that field. He was elected to the ACM CHI Academy in 2009, recognizing his contributions to the field of human-computer interaction. In 2011, he was further recognized by the ACM CHI Social Impact Award, for his work on technology for people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities as Scientist in Residence at the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.

He was named University of Colorado President’s Teaching Scholar, a life title signifying the University’s highest award for teaching, and served as Computer Science department chair from 1999 to 2003. He earned an A.B. in mathematics from Princeton University, an M.S. from MIT for interdisciplinary study in mathematics and linguistics, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in experimental psychology.

He is currently on leave from the university, working as a consultant to the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation, part of the U.S. Department of Education, helping to develop an initiative on cloud computing for people with disabilities.

Clayton Lewis: The Future of Inclusive Design Online
FCC’s Accessibility & Innovation Initiative Speaker Series

July 16, 2013, 10 a.m. – noon EDT
FCC Commission Meeting Room
445 12th Street, S.W., Room TW-C305
Washington, D.C. 20554
Live webcast: http://www.fcc.gov/live
Twitter: @USACM @FCC #Accessibility #a11y

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New AP Computer Science Principles Exam

The College Board announced this month a new Advanced Placement course and exam – Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). The course will introduce high school students to fundamental concepts of computing beyond computer programming. The course will be introduced in 2016, with the first exam to be administered in 2017.

The proposed curriculum will teach students to analyze computational artifacts, develop an abstraction, develop and express algorithms, and learn how mathematical and logical concepts can be used in programming.

The ACM SIGCSE Board endorses the new AP Computer Science Principles exam. “We agree with the goal to create a new AP exam that attracts a diverse range of students and introduces important computer science concepts, beyond the basic syntactic and semantic structures of a programming language,” said Renee McCauley, ACM SIGCSE Chair, in a letter to SIGCSE members when the College Board and NSF was piloting the proposed curriculum framework in high schools.

The National Science Foundation is providing a $5.2 million grant to fund the creation and introduction of the AP Computer Science Principles course and exam.

To learn more about the new AP Computer Science Principles course and exam, see the College Board’s press release, available at: http://press.collegeboard.org/releases/2013/national-science-foundation-provides-52-million-grant-create-new-advanced-placement-compute

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USACM Notes Technology In Letter to Voting Commission

On Friday the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, established earlier this year by Executive Order, will hold its first public meeting in Washington, D.C. As part of the public comment period prior to the meeting, USACM sent the Commission Co-Chairs, Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsburg, a letter.

In that letter USACM reminds the Commission of the importance technology has in modern election systems. We note that technology can help improve voting access for many populations that have had trouble casting their ballots. In addition, there are certain requirements for an election system that require additional scrutiny of any technology used for voting purposes. They include:

  • Reliability
  • Responsiveness
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Auditing
  • Usability

USACM has a long history of research and advice to policy makers on technology in support of voting systems. As the Commission works on its report and recommendations, we remain available to contribute as needed.

Besides the meeting on Friday in Washington, the Commission will hold another public meeting on June 28 in Coral Gables, Florida. Other meetings may be announced at the Commission website.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 17

June 18

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the nominee to head the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

June 19

Hearing:
The Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a second hearing on government approaches to biometric IDs.
9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

June 17 Edited to Add the following meeting
June 19

Meeting:
The National Institute of Standards and Technology Big Data Task Force will hold its first meeting.
1 p.m., Online only

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FCC Emergency Access Advisory Committee Meeting on June 14

The FCC Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EEAC) will meet tomorrow, Friday, June 14, from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm EDT, to discuss the technologies and protocols needed to ensure access to Next Generation 911 emergency services by individuals with disabilities. A live webcast will be available.

The Next Generation 911 (NG911) system will support communications from internet-enabled devices, allowing callers to exchange text, data, images, and video with a 911 operator. This fundamental shift in emergency communications has the potential to facilitate faster and more accurate information exchange between emergency responders and callers with hearing and speech disabilities.

As a sneak-peak into what this might mean pragmatically during an emergency situation, researchers from the University of North Texas on Tuesday gave the media a demonstration of a Next Generation 911 mobile app that allows text-to-speech, remote control of the camera on the mobile device, and the ability to monitor and transmit information about the victim’s vital signs. The app was developed with support from the National Science Foundation. It is not yet available to the public.

The June 14, 2013, EAAC meeting details are available at:
http://www.fcc.gov/document/emergency-access-advisory-committee-announcement

 

Additional Background Materials

The “FCC EAAC Report on TTY Transition,” March 11, 2013, is available at:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-319386A1.pdf

The “FCC EAAC Report and Recommendations 2011″ is available at:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-312161A1.doc

The “FCC EAAC Report on Emergency Calling for Persons with Disabilities; Survey Review and Analysis 2011″ is available at:
http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/EAAC/EAAC-REPORT.pdf

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Tomorrow’s House Hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act

Tomorrow morning, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to consider whether to repeal, reauthorize, or revise the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). The Committee previously held a hearing on possible reauthorization in February. The law allows satellite TV providers to retransmit broadcast signals. It also establishes compulsory copyright licensing. Unless Congress acts, the law will expire at the end of 2014.

The background memo for the hearing poses the following questions:

  • And with the rise of streaming, are Internet-based video companies the nascent providers of the day needing protection, or does the increased competition mean it’s time to deregulate?

  • Ultimately, the question is can Congress better ensure viewers have access to the content they want while respecting the investments of the programmers that create it and the distributors that deliver it, and does doing so require more government intervention or less?

“The Satellite Television Law: Repeal, Reauthorize, or Revise?”
House Energy and Commerce Committee
Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
June 12, 10:30 a.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2123
Live webcast will be available.

Full hearing details and list of scheduled witnesses are available at:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/satellite-television-law-repeal-reauthorize-or-revise

FAQ on STELA from the U.S. Copyright Office is available at:
http://www.copyright.gov/docs/stela/stela-faq.html

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 10

June 11

Hearing:
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on improving federal information technology practices.
10:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building

June 12

Hearing:
The Senate Appropriations Committee is holding a hearing on cybersecurity preparedness and response.
2 p.m., G-50 Dirksen Building

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Consumer Advocates and Industry Endorse Cellphone Unlocking Bill at House Judiciary Committee Hearing

A legislative proposal to allow consumers to unlock their cellphones garnered support from consumer advocates, wireless industry executives, and a coalition of copyright owners at yesterday’s House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. Michael Altschul, Senior VP and General Counsel at CTIA, stated that H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, represents a “reasonable balance that protects consumers and carriers alike.”

The bill would repeal the 2012 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemption rulemaking for unlocking cellphones, reestablish a prior exemption, and direct the Librarian of Congress and Register of Copyrights to determine whether the unlocking exemption for enabling interoperability with other networks should be expanded to include other types of mobile devices, such as tablets. The current 2012 DMCA exemption extended a cellphone unlocking exemption but with a significant modification. The current exemption only applies to cellphones purchased before January 26, 2013, not newly purchased phones.

Cellphone unlocking involves circumventing copyrighted software and other technical protection measures installed by the carrier to prevent users from accessing the firmware that connects the cellphone to a particular carrier’s service. Software locks can be found on cellphones offered to consumers at subsidized prices — sometimes at very low cost or for free — in exchange for a fixed-term service contract for the cellphone. Without an exemption, consumers who unlock their cellphones without the carrier’s consent risk civil and criminal liability under the DMCA.

CTIA, a trade association representing major cellular carriers, previously opposed the scope of the requested exemption during the 2012 rulemaking process due to its potential to enable commercial misuse, including bulk unlocking and reselling of cellphones. At yesterday’s hearing, Altschul clarified CTIA’s position on the policy distinction between the rights of individual consumers and commercial misuse. He stated, “While clearly justified by market circumstances and the requirements of the DMCA, the ruling went beyond CTIA’s request, in which we were clear that we would not oppose a continued exemption that permitted unlocking undertaken by an individual customer for non-commercial purposes.”

CTIA does not endorse an interpretation of H.R. 1123 as enabling an interoperable “universal phone” compatible with multiple carriers. Altschul emphasized the need to distinguish between “unlocked phones” and “interoperable phones.” He said the software lock, as well as carrier consent to unlock it, is a critical way to prevent people from gaming the system to get phones below marketplace costs and serves as means to deter cellphone theft and trafficking in cellphones.

Steven J. Metalitz, testifying on behalf of a coalition of Joint Creators and Copyright Owners, agreed that H.R. 1123 is an “appropriate and well-considered way” to change the current exemption. He further stated, “It restores the status quo ante, without undermining a critically important provision of Title 17 that has done so much to benefit producers, distributors, and consumers of copyrighted works.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who introduced a bill to make it permanently lawful to unlock cellphones and other mobile devices to switch carriers, expressed her support for H.R. 1123, which is sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. She stated her bill, H.R. 1892, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie, would be in addition to Goodlatte’s bill, noting that proposed changes to the DMCA will require modification of U.S. obligations under some free trade agreements.

In his remarks, Chairman Goodlatte stated that broader changes to the DMCA “is a question for another day.”

“Today we will hear from several witnesses, all of whom participated in the 2012 rulemaking, who do feel such an exemption is warranted. I also recognize that some may prefer changes to the underlying statutory language of Section 1201. Whether or not such changes would have the support of this Committee is a question for another day. I have already announced a comprehensive review of our nation’s copyright law and there will no doubt be a future opportunity for interested parties to discuss Section 1201 in more detail.”
Statement of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte

Assuming that Congresses passes legislation to authorize a new rulemaking determination, a key issue will be how broadly the exemption should applied. In deciding the current exemption, the Register of Copyrights rejected extending it to “tablets” and other mobile devices because “this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined.” Taking a broad-based approach, H.R. 1123 directs the Librarian of Congress to consider “any other category of wireless devices in addition to wireless telephone handsets.”

The archived video and written testimonies from the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet legislative hearing on H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, is available at:
http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/113th/hear_06062013.html

The full-text of H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, is available at:
http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/1123

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Senate Briefing on Accessible Information and Communication Technologies

Former U.S. Congressman Tony Coelho, who was the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, moderated a Senate briefing yesterday on “The Impact of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on Global Commerce and the International Accessibility Eco-System.”

The briefing brought together 200+ participants from government, the tech industry, academia, and the disability communities as a precursor to a formal hearing on whether the U.S. should ratify the CRPD and as a pre-conference session for the M-Enabling Global Summit on accessible mobile technologies occurring today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C. and sponsored by the FCC, the International Telecommunications Union, and G3ict.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is legally binding on 131 countries, is an international treaty that promotes and protects fundamental civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Among its provisions, Article 4 imposes a general obligation on countries to promote accessible information and assistive technologies. Article 9 requires countries to promote the “design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early state so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.” Article 21 requires countries to take appropriate measures to ensure access to information “on an equal basis with others,” including providing public information in accessible formats and technologies without additional cost. Article 21 urges private entities to provide online “information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities” in support of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion and to access to information.

The panelists identified several reasons why U.S. ratification of the CRPD would be beneficial for U.S. companies, employees, and consumers. Summarizing the various statements of the panelists, Coelho, said that U.S. participation in the treaty would further U.S. leadership in accessible technologies, foster global harmonization of accessibility standards, and create broader market opportunities for accessible technologies. For U.S. businesses, international cooperation and harmonization could help them expand their reach globally, create jobs, and provide consumers and employees with improved accessible software and devices at lower costs because the tech industry will be able to leverage accessibility standards across multiple markets.

Coehlo also observed that several panelists expressed support for ratification because it would allow the United States “to have a seat at the table” as the international community discusses approaches to accessibility.

Andrew Kirkpatrick, the Group Product Manager for Accessibility at Adobe Systems, discussed the challenges behind the policy goal of making “digital experiences that are accessible for everyone.” He noted that, although accessibility sounds like it should be easy, the reality is that “there is actual work involved.”

That work includes understanding requirements, finding developers who understand accessibility, coding the product, conducting appropriate testing to ensure effective compatibility with the diverse environment of assistive technology tools, and working with assistive technology vendors to make sure new products will work together. Then, there is the challenge of educating a range of internal and external audiences about what the accessibility features and functionality are and how to use them.

U.S. ratification of the treaty, he said, “will underscore the message that accessibility is a topic that we agree needs to be addressed in a globally and harmonized manner.” He asserted that harmonization will have benefits for users and the software industry, in that accessibility will be addressed similarly around the world.

David Dikter, the CEO of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), stressed the importance of making sure “that we can have digital experiences that are accessible for everyone” but observed that accessibility isn’t easy to achieve. U.S. ratification of the treaty, he said, will benefit the assistive technology industry, including expanding opportunities in other countries.

Frances West, the Director of the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center, said the United States needs to engage with the international community to ensure continued innovation in the marketplace. “So if you want to really provide solutions on the innovation side, we don’t have all the answers in the United States; we actually need to count on other parts of the world.” Similar to David Dikter and Andrew Kirkpatrick, she asserted that accessibility isn’t easy: “If it’s easy, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Brian Markwalter, Senior VP of Research and Standards at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), said, “One of the hard parts is the dialogue between the user community and what tends to be a very technical community of engineers driving standards around technology products.” He noted that CEA membership continues to grow and change with technological advancements, with mobile being a big growth area.

Judy Brewer, who directs the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C, highlighted the importance of CRPD Articles 9 and 21, which require countries to promote accessible technologies. She agreed with Frances West that accessibility drives innovation. She discussed how a globalized environment can help align software engineers and provide them with a broader range of implementation support tools and materials. She briefly mentioned the need to ensure that HTML 5.0 supports accessibility.

CRPD Ratification in the 113th Congress

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, a supporter of U.S. ratification of the CRPD, sponsored the briefing. Although disability advocates would like to see the Senate act to give its advice and consent to ratification of the treaty before the anniversary of the ADA on July 27, higher existing priorities and new priorities could get in the way, including yesterday’s disclosure of what Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker describes as “NSA’s sweeping collection of U.S. phone records” and today’s media reports of an alleged top-secret document describing massive and broad data collection of users internet data. Further, advocates will still need to address successfully the various concerns raised last year in order to garner the support of additional senators.

Last year, the Senate of the 112th Congress failed to grant its advice and consent to ratify the treaty by a vote of 61-38. A two-thirds vote of approval is required. During last year’s committee hearings and floor debate leading up to the vote, advocates and opponents of ratification both agreed and emphasized that information and communication technologies have the transformative power to improve the lives of people with disabilities. They disagreed over whether ratification would be beneficial overall, impose new financial burdens, pose a threat to state sovereignty, or inappropriately give the UN oversight of education and healthcare choices by U.S. citizens. For a discussion of the issues, see the Congressional Research Service report on “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Issues in the U.S. Ratification Debate,” dated March 4, 2013.

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White House Task Force on High-Tech Patent Issues: Legislative Priorities and Executive Actions

The White House today released a report on the impact of patent trolls on innovation and announced five executive actions the USPTO and the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator will take to address perceived problems with computer and software-related patents. The White House also called upon Congress to pass seven legislative reforms.

Among the executive actions, the Administration will convene “high-profile” events nationwide to develop ideas to update patent policies and laws. Further, the USPTO will develop strategies to improve the clarity of software patent claims, including possibly requiring or encouraging a glossary of specialized software terms to be submitted with the patent application and/or designating a default glossary. The USPTO also will provide “new training” of its patent examiners to help them scrutinize and identify overly broad functional claims in software patent applications.

Among the recommended legislative reforms, the White House calls for Congress to expand an existing post-grant review program by an administrative board within the USPTO to allow special reviews of the validity of computer-enabled patents as an alternative to litigation. Specifically, the recommended reform would expand the scope of the transitional program for covered business method patents to include computer-enabled patents under Section 18 of the America Invents Act.

The White House also recommends legislative reforms to foster greater transparency of patent ownership information, incentivize the public disclosure of demand letters, deter litigation, protect consumers who use an off-the-shelf product from patent infringement lawsuits, and change the legal standard to obtain an injunction at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

Congress is already considering some of these issues. Further, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy currently are refining coordinated draft patent reform bills in advance of legislative hearings. With the strong leadership support in both the House and the Senate, this coordinated bipartisan and bicameral legislation will be seriously considered. However, it likely will face opposition and perhaps further modifications once introduced. You can find a list of current patent legislation at the end of this blog.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte told attendees at today’s Congressional briefing sponsored by the Software and Information Industry Association:

“While the AIA [America Invents Act] paved the way for higher quality patents on the front end, there were several issues that were left on the cutting room floor during the last Congress that could help go more directly to the immediate issues surrounding patent trolls and abusive patent litigation. But it is important to clarify for purposes of our discussion that the term patent troll should be treated as an adjective or descriptor for a type of behavior, and not as a noun defining a specific business model or entity.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy released this comment on the White House announcement to address patent trolls:

“I share the President’s objective of reducing the drain on our economy caused by patent trolling. The United States patent system is vital for our economic growth, job creation, and technological advance. Unfortunately, misuse of low-quality patents through patent trolling has tarnished the system’s image. I hear frequently from Vermont businesses about how patent trolls have impacted their operations and hurt our state economy. I look forward to working with the President as I continue my bipartisan and bicameral work to reduce trolling and protect American innovators and retailers.”

Unclear in today’s White House announcement is how the USPTO is going to fund the implementation of these new executive actions. At a meeting of the Patent Public Advisory Committee in May, USPTO Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino advised that the USPTO faces significant fiscal challenges from budget cuts, sequestration, and lower-than-expected fee revenue. As a result, the USPTO took actions in April to reduce spending by $176 million. The cuts include the reduction or elimination of “all lower priority activities,” the elimination of nearly all training, the suspension of hiring examiners and support personnel, and the significant scaling back of IT projects, including projects to develop improved tools for examiners to find prior art and review applications electronically. The USPTO said it will consider limited hiring of additional patent examiners if fee revenue improves toward the end of Q3.

Patent reform legislation in the 113th Congress:

For additional information, see the “Fact Sheet: White House Task Force on High-Tech Patent Issues”:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/04/fact-sheet-white-house-task-force-high-tech-patent-issues

See also the report on “Patent Assertion and U.S. Innovation” by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the National Economic Council, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/patent_report.pdf

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 3

June 4

Hearing:
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will meet to hear testimony on the security of veterans’ private data.
2:30 p.m., 334 Cannon Building

June 5

Hearing:
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will meet to hear testimony on federal information technology management.
10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building

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Highlights from Congressional Briefing on Patent Litigation Reform

The Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee yesterday held a panel discussion on “If Patent Litigation Is Strangling High Tech Innovation, When Will Congress Act?” The panelists debated whether Congress should be addressing the perceived problems of abusive patent litigation and explored why the various proposed legislative solutions in Congress should matter to you.

As part of his introductory remarks, moderator Eric Hinkes, a Legal Policy Fellow with the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, briefly highlighted a few bills, including Reps. Chaffetz’s and DeFazio’s Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act, Senator Schumer’s Patent Quality Improvement Act of 2013, Senator Cornyn’s Patent Abuse and Reduction Act, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte’s Patent Discussion Draft. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy is expected to introduce legislation soon. He also highlighted the House Judiciary Committee hearings on abusive patent litigation in March and April. He thanked the four Co-Chairs of the Congressional Internet Caucus for their assistance and support of the event: Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator John Thune, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and Rep. Anna Eshoo.

George Mason University School of Law Professor Adam Mossoff cautioned against new legislation and questioned the fundamental premise of the panel’s title that “patent litigation is strangling high tech innovation.” He recommended giving more time for the implementation of the America Invents Act rather than “adding changes upon changes.” He warned that the loser pays model, such as proposed in the SHIELD Act, could have unintended consequences for small businesses and inventors wanting to bring lawsuit against a large competitor because there is always legal uncertainty.

Mossoff was skeptical of claims that patents are discouraging innovation and harming consumers. He stated, “We have amazing technological innovation in the high-tech and biotech industries [and] strong patenting in those industries to go along with that innovation.” He cited innovations such as tablets, smartphones, retinal scanners, and motion air swiping functionality. Referring loosely to the arguments made by some that the “internet is open” and “that we really don’t have property rights in the internet in a fundamental way,” he noted that “the packet switching technologies, which is the technological transfer of information on the internet, as well as the TCP/IP protocol, which is the core protocol of the entire communications on the internet — both of those technologies were patented, yet we have the development of the internet. We have the development of an open framework.”

Application Developers Alliance Vice President of Law, Policy, and Government Affairs Tim Sparapani urged Congress to act against the “scourge” of patent trolls and to pass legislation. He explicitly called for passage of Senator Schumer’s Patent Quality Improvement Act of 2013 to allow for speedy reexamination of patent quality.

His organization has heard from app developers nationwide that patent demand letters are impacting their ability to innovate. He characterized the problem as a pre-litigation problem – “an extortion problem” – whereby small businesses and individual innovators are faced with a choice between litigating or paying patent holders for patented technology that “everyone thought was foundational.” Do you “bet the company” or not?

Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Vice President of Law and Policy Matt Schruers endorsed Senator Schumer’s Patent Quality Improvement Act of 2013 and the proposal to expand the covered business program in Chairman Goodlatte’s Patent Discussion Draft.

He disagreed with the premise that the presence of both innovation and patents in today’s marketplace is a sign of a properly functioning patent system, as Mossoff asserted. Schruers noted that correlation isn’t causation. He further argued that $29 billion in litigation costs each year could be better spent on R&D for new products. He noted that lawsuits are diverting the efforts of software engineers, who find themselves spending time responding to pre-litigation and litigation questions rather than inventing and building new products. As a result, he stated, “We’ve come to the point where producing a product has become a liability.”

In later remarks, Mossoff said the $29 billion attributed to patent trolls comes from a study that has been “heavily criticized” by scholars Jay Kesan and David Schwartz who identified fundamental methodological flaws.

MOSAID Technologies Senior Vice President and Chief Intellectual Property Officer Scott Burt supported the proposal to direct a judicial conference in Chairman Goodlatte’s Patent Discussion Draft.

He observed that the cost of litigation is a cost of a system that allows for patent enforcement. He suggested one useful approach would be to allow judges to decide how to control costs, such as discovery costs and fee shifting, on a case-by-case basis because the judges best know how to handle the matter. He also discussed the beneficial role of the “technical meetings” between the parties before litigation even begins.

What’s Next?

In a recent press release, Senator Leahy stated, “Chairman Goodlatte and I are committed to working in a bicameral and bipartisan way to counter patent trolling. The Discussion Draft released today is an important starting point. I look forward to hearing constructive comments on it from all interested parties as I prepare legislation in the Senate.”

The event details and archived audio for “If Patent Litigation Is Strangling High Tech Innovation, When Will Congress Act?” are available at:
http://www.netcaucus.org/events/2013/patents_innovation/

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USACM Statement on House Ways and Means Subcommittee Hearing on U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Negotiations

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council today submitted the following statement to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade for the hearing on the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

 

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council encourages the negotiators to consider the following three principles when negotiating provisions relevant to intellectual property protection and enforcement within this important proposed trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.

Balance Intellectual Property Protection with Relevant Private and Public Interests
Adequate protection of intellectual property requires carefully balancing various interests. The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council is committed to ensuring that intellectual property rights are protected. How those rights are enforced can have unintended negative consequences, including blocking legitimate uses of intellectual property. Policymakers must ensure that fair uses of intellectual property are preserved. Fair use rights ensure that researchers, students, people with disabilities, and others can effectively exchange knowledge and information for legitimate purposes.

Promote Innovation and Competitiveness
Whether it is within computing fields and industry or across society broadly, computing technology is driving innovation. New developments in computing have created new jobs, products, and services, and have spurred the increased speed, scope, and scale of innovation. Advances in computing have facilitated the collection, organization, and analysis of information in many different fields of research and development. Public policy should foster and encourage a wide variety of technological advancements, approaches, and systems to emerge within a competitive marketplace. The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council encourages policymakers to adopt policies that narrowly address specific user behaviors, rather than broadly prohibiting technologies because of their potential for undesirable use.

Preserve Data Privacy of Individuals
As society embraces new technologies and increases interaction with the data and systems these technologies entail, the issues of security and privacy in computing become increasingly paramount. Striking a balance between individual privacy rights and valid government and commercial needs is a complex challenge facing technologists and policymakers, but one of vital importance. Computing techniques are available today that can meet many private sector and government needs, while fully embracing the data privacy principles of minimization, consent, openness, access, accuracy, security, and accountability.

Conclusion
The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council urges the U.S. government to negotiate intellectual property provisions that uphold relevant domestic laws and international law while concurrently fostering innovation of software and digital computing, preserving the rights of users of these technologies, and minimizing barriers that could impede the economic potential of digital trade, e-commerce, and internet-based services. We urge the negotiators to foster opportunities for stakeholder engagement and to make available the draft text of the agreement for public input.

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White House Open Data Executive Order Echoes USACM Recommendations

In early May the White House issued an Executive Order outlining a policy to make open and machine readable the ‘default’ for new and ‘modernized’ government information. This Open Data Policy would be implemented for federal agencies over the next few months, with quarterly progress reports following the initial rollout.

While the Administration rightly notes that the Open Data Policy is part of an ongoing Open Government Initiative (involving several other executive orders and policies dating to 2009), it also echoes recommendations made by many groups, including USACM. In 2009, as the Administration was dealing with the stimulus legislation, USACM issued recommendations on the government release of data:

  • Data published by the government should be in formats and approaches that promote analysis and reuse of that data.
  • Data republished by the government that has been received or stored in a machine-readable format (such as online regulatory filings) should preserve the machine-readability of that data.
  • Information should be posted so as to also be accessible to citizens with limitations and disabilities.
  • Citizens should be able to download complete datasets of regulatory, legislative or other information, or appropriately chosen subsets of that information, when it is published by government.
  • Citizens should be able to directly access government-published datasets using standard methods such as queries via an API (Application Programming Interface).
  • Government bodies publishing data online should always seek to publish using data formats that do not include executable content.
  • Published content should be digitally signed or include attestation of publication/creation date, authenticity, and integrity.

As the Office of Management and Budget, the Chief Technology Officer, and the Chief Information Officer help agencies implement the new default setting for government information, the additional details should demonstrate how closely this effort aligns with the USACM recommendations. Early signs are encouraging.

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Senate Hearing on Making Movies and Inflight Entertainment Accessible

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a legislative hearing last week on two bills that would address accessible entertainment in movie theaters and on airplanes. Witnesses included representatives from the FCC, the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Council for the Blind, the National Association for the Deaf, The Benetech Initiative, and the National Association of Theatre Owners. There were no witnesses from the airline industry or providers of inflight entertainment.

None of the witnesses disputed the need for improved accessible digital entertainment technologies, but they provided differing perspectives on whether the federal government should mandate new legal requirements, national standards, and implementation deadlines or defer to industry efforts.

Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), who was the original sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), introduced the two bills in March 2013. The bills would amend Title III of the ADA to require movie theaters and airlines to provide open captioning (visible to everyone), closed captioning (displayed and controlled on an individual basis), and video descriptions (narrative during pauses to describe the onscreen action for blind and visually impaired users).

The Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility (CINEMA) Act, S. 555, would require open captioning, closed captioning, and video descriptions at movie theaters with two or more screens.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, S. 556, would require open captioning, closed captioning, and video descriptions for inflight entertainment programming on airplanes. The bill would authorize the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, known as the U.S. Access Board, to establish standards for touchscreen devices.

The witnesses generally agreed that the transition to digital formats and the voluntary adoption of an industry standard has made it easier and far less costly for movie providers and theaters to provide captioning and video descriptions. Further, recent advances in digital and mobile technologies, such as those leveraging Wi-Fi and infrared, have allowed movie theaters to increase their capacity to provide these services. The President and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, John Fithian, said, “America’s cinema owners are installing captioning and description systems literally as fast as the manufacturers can produce them.” According to a May 2013 survey by the Association, 53% of movie theaters now have captioning and description systems. Fithian said the majority of those systems rely on technology that has only been available in the marketplace during the last year.

Not a topic of the hearing, major movie theater chains have been adding captioning services as the result of litigation under Title III of the ADA or the threat of litigation. For example, in 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the ADA requires movies theaters to provide closed captioning and descriptions, classified as “auxiliary aids and services” under Title III, unless these services would create a fundamental alteration or impose an undue burden. The Court also held that open captioning is not required as a matter of law, citing the DOJ’s commentary in the preamble to the federal regulations last revised in 1991. DOJ’s commentary states “[m]ovie theaters are not required by [28 C.F.R. ] § 36.303 to present open-captioned films.” The Court disagreed with the DOJ’s argument that new technologies superseded the commentary. Three months after the decision, the DOJ announced it was considering revising the regulations and sought public comment.

“If this court were to accept [the DOJ's interpretation], the DOJ’s detailed interpretive guidance could be circumvented whenever a new technology for providing open captioning becomes available. Entities such as Harkins should be able to rely on the plain import of the DOJ’s commentary until it is revised. Because the commentary to Title 28, part 36.303 states that open captions are not required by § 36.303, we conclude that open captioning is not mandated by the ADA as a matter of law.”
Arizona v. Harkins Amusement Enterprises, 603 F.3d 666 (9th Cir. 2010)

The Harkins case was significant because it was the first case by a Circuit Court of Appeals on whether movie theaters are required to provide captioning and video descriptions under the ADA. Since then, additional lawsuits in federal and state courts have further spurred industry to act either in response to a court order or in fear of one. AMC, Cinemark, Landmark, and Regal are among the major movie theater companies to announce a commitment to provide captioning at their movie theaters.

Eve Hill, the Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, told the Committee that the DOJ solicited public comments in July 2010 on potential revisions to the implementing regulations for closed captioning and video descriptions by movie theaters under Title III of the ADA. She said the DOJ currently is reviewing the 1,100+ public comments in preparation for the next stage of rulemaking.

Hill commended the movie theaters for their apparent commitment to making movies accessible. However, she expressed concern that not every theater has announced plans to provide captioning and many theaters limit captioned showings to certain days or times.

An open question is whether movie theaters should be allowed to choose between offering open captioning, closed captioning, or both. Senator Harkin’s proposed CINEMA Act would mandate “providing, or making available,” both open and closed captioning. In the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2010, the DOJ summarized feedback received in 2008 from the State Attorneys General, which supported allowing movie theaters to choose which type of captioning to provide and which type of technology to use to allow for flexibility, more choices, and advances in technologies.

The hearing details, archived video, and written testimonies from “The ADA and Entertainment Technologies: Improving Accessibility from the Movie Screen to Your Mobile Device” are available at:
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 20

May 21

Hearing:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity with witnesses from intelligence and critical infrastructure backgrounds.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

The Research and Technology Subcommittees of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on biometric technologies.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a cybersecurity hearing focused on the communications supply chain.
2 p.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

May 22

Hearing:
The Energy Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on exascale computing.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

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USACM Comments on Proposed US-EU Trade Agreement

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council submitted its public comment to the U.S. Trade Representative outlining three important intellectual property principles for the U.S. government to consider in the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade negotiations with the European Union. The United States and the EU share the largest economic relationship in the world, according to the USTR.

The public comment urges the USTR to negotiate intellectual property provisions that uphold relevant domestic laws and international law while concurrently fostering innovation of software and digital computing, preserving the rights of users of these technologies, and minimizing barriers that could impede the economic potential of digital trade, e-commerce, and internet-based services.

As background, the United States-EU High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth recommended the creation of a transatlantic trade and investment agreement in its final report in February 2013. That report states that both parties are committed to “maintaining and promoting a high level of intellectual protection, including enforcement, and to cooperating extensively.”

The parties will be guided by the 10 trade principles for information and communication technology services, including Internet and other network-based applications, adopted by the United States and the EU in 2011. The policy principles promote transparency, open networks and applications, the free flow of cross-border information, efficient use of spectrum, the independence of regulatory authorities, competitive telecom services, nondiscriminatory and transparent rates for interconnection, and international cooperation to reduce the “digital divide.”

 

Interested in participating in policy discussions about the forthcoming TTIP trade negotiations? Here are a few opportunities to hear from and interact with key policymakers and other stakeholders.

  • The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the TTIP on Thursday, May 16, at 2 p.m.

  • The Washington International Trade Association will be holding a series of events featuring the key negotiators, expert trade negotiators, and stakeholders between May 15 and June 13.

  • The USTR will hold two hearings to further explore various negotiating priorities on May 29 and May 30 in Washington, D.C.

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This Week in Federal Policy

Topics to be addressed in Congressional hearings this week include: internet video, accessibility for people with disabilities, federal computing research, big data, patent reform, copyright reform, automated vehicle technologies, cybersecurity, e-verify, and drones.

On Wednesday, FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen will speak on “FTC’s Google Investigation: Implications for the States and Other Countries.”

On Thursday, the USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee will hold its quarterly meeting.

5/15/2013 Updated hearing times and witness lists.

Special Announcement
USACM member Pam Samuelson will be testifying on copyright principles on Thursday at 2 pm before the House Judiciary Committee in her role as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley Law School.
A live webcast will be available.

Tuesday, May 14

Senate Hearing on “State of Video”
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet
May 14, 10:30 a.m.
Russell Senate Office Building – Room 253
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Senator John McCain (R-AZ); The Honorable Gordon H. Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Broadcasters; The Honorable Michael K. Powell, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Cable & Telecommunications Association; R. Stanton Dodge, Executive vice President and General Counsel, DISH Network; and John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney, Public Knowledge.

Senate Hearing on “The ADA and Entertainment Technologies: Improving Accessibility from the Movie Screen to Your Mobile Device”
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Full Committee Hearing
May 14, 2:30 p.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 430

Scheduled witnesses include: Eve Hill , Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division; Karen Peltz Strauss , Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC; John Fithian , President and CEO, National Association of Theatre Owners; Betsy Beaumon , Vice President and General Manager, Literacy Program, The Benetech Initiative; Brian Charlson , Chair, Information Access Committee, American Council of the Blind; and Andrew Phillips , Policy Counsel, Law & Advocacy Center, National Association of the Deaf.

House Field Hearing on “Data Centers and the Cloud: Is the Government Optimizing New Information Technologies to Save Taxpayers Money?”
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Subcommittee on Government Operations
May 14, 2:30 p.m.
George Mason University, Fairfax Campus

Scheduled witnesses include: David Powner, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Bernard Mazer, CIO, U.S. Department of Interior; and Teresa Carlson, Vice President, World Wide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services.

Wednesday, May 15

FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen on “FTC’s Google Investigation: Implications for the States and Other Countries”
Third Annual Conference on Competition Policy in Search and Social Media
May 15, 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
George Mason University School of Law
You must preregister for this event.

House Hearing on “Patent Reform Implementation and New Challenges for Small Businesses”
House Small Business Committee
Full Committee Hearing
May 15, 1 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2360
Live webcast will be available.

The America Invents Act (AIA) signed into law on September 16, 2011, made significant changes to the procedures by which the United States awards patents. Given the changes, the hearing will address how the procedural changes affect the ability of small businesses to obtain patents. In addition, the hearing will examine how patent assertion entities (PAEs) affect small firms and whether additional changes are needed in patent procedures to ameliorate the adverse consequences of PAEs on small firms.

Senate Hearing on “The Road Ahead: Advanced Vehicle Technology and its Implications”
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet
May 14, 2:30 p.m.
Russell Senate Office Building – Room 253
Live webcast will be available.

The hearing will explore the safety benefits, potential risks, and policy implications from the development and implementation of advanced vehicle technologies. These include advanced driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems, partially and fully self-driving vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, as well as communications and entertainment devices for drivers. Scheduled witnesses include: The Honorable David Strickland, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Mitch Bainwol, President and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Dr. Peter Sweatman, Director, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute; Dr. John D. Lee, Emerson Electric Quality & Productivity Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Jeffrey J. Owens, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Delphi Automotive.

Thursday, May 16

House Hearing on ” Facilitating Cyber Threat Information Sharing and Partnering with the Private Sector to Protect Critical Infrastructure: An Assessment of DHS Capabilities”
House Homeland Security Committee
Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies
May 16, 9 a.m.
Cannon House Office Building – Room 311
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Roberta Stempfley, Acting Assistant Secretary of Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Larry Zelvin, Director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center,
Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and Charles Edwards, Acting Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Senate Hearing on “Silo Busting and Government Reorganization”
Senate Budget Committee
Full Committee Hearing
May 16, 10 a.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 608

Scheduled witnesses include: John P. Holdren, Director, White House Office of Science and Technology

Senate Roundtable on “The Impact of Mandatory E-Verify on America’s Small Businesses”
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee
Full Committee Panel Discussion
May 16, 10:30 a.m.
Russell Senate Office Building – Room 428A

Witness list to be announced.

House Hearing on “A Case Study for Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project”
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
May 16, 2 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Jon Baumgarten, retired Proskauer Rose attorney and former General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office; Laura Gasaway, Professor, University of North Carolina Law School and co-chair of the Section 108 Study Group; Daniel Gervais, Director, Vanderbilt Law School Intellectual Property Program; Pam Samuelson, Professor, University of California at Berkeley Law School; and Jule Sigall, Assistant General Counsel for Copyright, Microsoft and former Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs of the U.S. Copyright Office.

House Hearing on “U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership Negotiations”
House Ways and Means Committee
Subcommittee on Trade
May 16, 2 p.m.
Longworth House Office Building – Room 1105
Live webcast will be available.

The focus of the hearing is on the benefits of expanding U.S.-EU trade, including through the negotiation of a trade and investment agreement. The hearing focus will include: (1) tariff barriers to trade; (2) regulatory barriers, including sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to U.S. agriculture exports; (3) opportunities for regulatory cooperation and coherence; (4) services and investment barriers; and (5) ways to strengthen cooperation between the United States and the EU with regard to third-country issues.

Note: Any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing. The deadline for written submissions is Thursday, May 30, 2013.

House Hearing on “Espionage Threats at Federal Laboratories”
House Science, Space and Technology Committee
Subcommittee on Oversight
May 16, 2 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2318
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Dr. Charles M. Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering; Dr. Larry M. Wortzel, Commissioner, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission; Hon. Michelle Van Cleave, Senior Fellow, Homeland Security Policy Institute, George Washington University; and David G. Major, Founder and President, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies.

USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting
May 16, 2013, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia
The meeting is open to the public.
The meeting will be available by WebEx.

Friday, May 17

House Hearing on “Eyes in the Sky: The Domestic Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems”
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
May 17, 9 a.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141
Live webcast will be available.

Witness list to be announced.

Have a great week!

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 6

May 8

Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on responses to cyberthreats.
9 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building

May 9

Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Government Operations of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on biometric identification.
9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

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5th Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference on May 9, 2013

The Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee brings you the 5th Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference on Thursday, May 9, 2013. Key members of Congress and their staff, Administration officials, tech executives, and mobile-savvy technologists will discuss location-based services, privacy, the mobile broadband spectrum squeeze, and other emergent legal and legislative issues facing lawmakers in Congress.

Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) will deliver framing keynotes.

ACM is a member of the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (ICAC). The Advisory Committee supports and encourages the Congressional Internet Caucus in its mission to educate policymakers about important Internet-related policy issues.

5th Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 2-5 pm, cocktail reception immediately following
Sewall-Belmont House and Museum
144 Constitution Ave N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
Near the Dirksen Senate Office Building

To register: http://www.netcaucus.org/conference/2013/sotmn/

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U.S. Election Assistance Commission Roundtable on Voting Accessibility on May 9, 2013

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission will hold a roundtable on “Transforming Election Administration, Voting System Accessibility, and the Certification Process” on Thursday, May 9 from noon to 5:30 pm EDT to explore current and future research in accessible voting technology. The roundtable will be available by live webcast.

ACM U.S. Public Policy Council member Dr. Juan E. Gilbert will be participating in the roundtable and will be presenting his research on an accessible voting system developed at Clemson University, known as the Prime III: A Universally Designed Voting Machine.

Dr. Gilbert, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science, is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Computing, an IDEaS Professor, and Chair of the Human-Centered Computing Division in the School of Computing at Clemson University where he leads the HCC Lab. His research team at Clemson University won the FCC Chairman’s 2012 Award for Advancement in Accessibility for the Prime III. Dr. Gilbert was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Mentoring by President Barack Obama in 2011.

Agenda: http://www.eac.gov/transforming_election_administration_
voting_system_accessibility_and_the_certification_process/

Live webcast: http://www.eac.gov

Twitter: @EACgov, #FOV13

Roundtable on Transforming Election Administration, Voting System Accessibility, and the Certification Process
U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 12 noon to 5:30 p.m.
1225 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 150
Washington, DC 20005

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HHS: Technology Accessibility and Inclusion Conference on May 7, 2013

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will hold its first “a11y@HHS: Technology Accessibility and Inclusion Conference,” on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at the FDA White Oak Campus. The conference is open to the public. A live webcast will be available. Advance registration is required.

The all-day conference will feature sessions on web and enterprise accessibility, procurement planning, compliance monitoring, best practices for workplace inclusion, and legal ramifications.

Invited speakers include:

  • Hon. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (via video)
  • Frank Baitman, HHS CIO
  • Craig Luigart, Chair, Federal CIO Council Accessibility Committee
  • Timothy Creagan, US Access Board
  • Helen Chamberlain, GSA Government wide 508 Program Manager
  • Deborah Kaplan, Social Security Administration
  • Dick Stapleton, Deputy Director, HHS Web Communications Division
  • Jaime Robinson and Mark Urban, HHS Section 508 Program Team Co-Chairs

Wondering about the conference name? a11y@HHS means “accessibility at HHS.” A11y is a common abbreviation for accessibility. The “11″ indicates eleven missing letters.

See you there!

a11y@HHS: Technology Accessibility and Inclusion Conference
Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 8 am – 4 pm
FDA White Oak Campus
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20903
http://a11yhhs.eventbrite.com/

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USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee Meeting – May 16, 2013

The USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday, May 16, 2013 from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting is open to the public. The meeting will also be available by WebEx.

Below are a few of the agenda topics in bold, with my notes for additional context.

  • Patent quality

    The USPTO has established the Software Partnership initiative to get input from the software community on possible ways to enhance the quality of software-related patents.

  • Patent End-to-End (PE2E) system

    The PE2E system is intended for use by both patent applicants and examiners to allow patent applications to be submitted, handled, examined, and prosecuted electronically.

  • Legislative update

    • Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced on May 2 that he intends to introduce new legislation to address patent trolls and unwarranted lawsuits. His press release states, “Specifically, this has been an enormous problem among technology start-up companies: 62% of patents asserted by trolls from 1990-2010 were software patents; 75% were in computer and communications technology. And this is a particular problem for small businesses: 82% of companies targeted by trolls of annual revenues less than $100 million.”

    • H.R. 845, Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act of 2013. This bill, sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Pete DeFazio (D-OR), would enable the winner in patent litigation to recover litigation costs from the loser, known as the “loser pays” model. Although similar to their bill from the last Congress, which never made it out of Committee, the bill includes two major changes. First, it would apply to all types of patents, not just computer hardware and software patent litigation. Second, the loser-pays model would apply if the losing party is not able to meet at least one of three criteria: (1) original inventor, (2) exploitation of the patent, such as showing substantial investment through production or sale, and (3) university or technology transfer organization. So-called patent trolls likely would not meet any of the three criteria and thus would be subject to the loser-pays model.

    • S. 712, Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act of 2013. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Committee member Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced this bill to encourage the use of patented technology to address humanitarian needs by allowing acceleration certificates awarded under the Patents for Humanity Program to be transferrable.

    • The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held two hearings on patent litigation since the PPAC’s last quarterly meeting:

      • “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Impact on American Innovation and Jobs and Potential Solutions,” March 14, 2013, written testimony and video

      • “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Issues Impacting American Competitiveness and Job Creation at the International Trade Commission and Beyond,” April 16, 2013, written testimony and video

  • Finance/Budget Update/Sequestration

    The USPTO, a user fee-funded agency, faces possible funding challenges.

The meeting details and full agenda are available at:
http://www.uspto.gov/about/advisory/ppac/20130516-ppac-quarterly-meeting.jsp

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New GAO Report on Voting Accessibility

Almost all polling places had an accessible voting system during the 2008 elections, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). That’s the good news.

The bad news: At nearly half of the polling places with an accessible voting system, voters with disabilities still faced barriers to voting independently and privately. For example, some accessible voting systems were set up at voting stations inaccessible to wheelchairs; others lacked headsets for blind and visually impaired voters to hear the audio; and some accessible voting systems were on site but not placed into use.

The voting accessibility problems identified by the GAO seem more logistical than insurmountable and could be addressed through improved physical access. The next big question for accessible voting is whether the technology being put into service to make voting accessible to all eligible voters is actually effective at allowing citizens to cast their ballots privately and independently.

A few highlights from the GAO Report on “Challenges to Voting Accessibility”:

  • Accessibility improved since 2000.
  • The majority of potential impediments at polling places in 2008 occurred outside of or at the building entrance.
  • 43 states reported setting accessibility standards for voters with disabilities; compared to 23 states in 2000.
  • 31 states reported that ensuring polling place accessibility was very or moderately challenging.

Accessible voting systems

  • All but one polling place had an accessible voting system. The researchers did not assess legal compliance with accessible voting system requirements under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
  • 46% of those accessible voting systems had potential impediments. The researchers looked at four factors:
    • 29% of accessible voting systems did not accommodate people using wheelchairs.
    • 23% did not provide the same level of privacy.
    • 6% lacked earphones for audio functions.
    • 5% were not set up or powered on.

Accommodations for voters with disabilities

  • 23 states reported requiring polling places to provide other accommodations for voters with disabilities, such as curbside voting, down from 28 in 2000.
  • Types of accommodations that states required local jurisdictions to provide [Note: This is given in figure 4, which is not accessible in the pdf version of the Report.]
    • Curbside voting (23 states)
    • Magnifying instruments (12 states)
    • Larger type ballots (11 states)
    • Ballot taken to residence / long-term care facilities (9 states)
    • Braille ballots (6 states)

The full text of the GAO Report on “Challenges to Voting Accessibility” is available at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-538SP

 

Interested in participating in policy discussions about accessible voting? Here are two opportunities:

  • National Council on Disability – Request for Written Testimony
    Deadline: May 7, 2013
    The National Council on Disability (NCD) is accepting additional written testimony, following its Congressional Policy Forum last Tuesday on “The Help America Vote Act Ten Years Later: Has the Law Accomplished Its Aim?” The feedback will be used to help inform NCD for its forthcoming policy report on voting access.
    http://www.ncd.gov/events/OtherEvents/04232013/
  • U.S. Election Assistance Commission Roundtable
    May 9, 2013, noon-5:30 pm EDT
    Next Thursday, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will hold a roundtable on “EAC Grant Funding: Accessibility Research, Election Administration and Voting Systems” to discuss the results of grant-funded work on accessible voting systems and the implications for future elections. A live webcast will be available.
    http://www.eac.gov/events/20130509.aspx
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USACM Encourages Flexibility In Proposed Cybersecurity Framework

As part of the President’s Executive Order on Cybersecurity, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is required to develop a Cybersecurity Framework (Framework). This Framework, per Section 7 of the Executive Order, would “include a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks.”

As part of its development process, NIST issued a Request for Information (RFI) related to the Cybersecurity Framework, and USACM submitted comments in response. This RFI is the first part of what will be a very public review and comment process. NIST will host a series of workshops this summer, beginning in late May at Carnegie Mellon University.

In its comments, USACM focused on two points: effective privacy controls and the fluidity of cybersecurity.

Applying the Fair Information Practice Principles through the Framework helps protect privacy, and supports the reliability and security of systems. Coupled with effective access controls and data minimization, such practices can help preserve legal limits on the access to the information that could be shared under the Executive Order. There can be adverse consequences to erring on the side of more information disclosure. Making sure only relevant cybersecurity threat information is shared, and only for cybersecurity purposes, can make data management easier and reduce the risk of unintended and/or inappropriate information disclosure.

While having a single Framework to serve as a source of guidance for cybersecurity has its benefits, there is a risk of becoming too static in preparing for threats. New challenges to cybersecurity systems can arise quickly, and different kinds of systems have different challenges to respond to. The Framework will be more effective if the standards it includes are either sector-specific, or sufficiently narrow that it will be possible to demonstrate that the standard improves security for the affected system.

These arguments, along with responses to some of the specific questions in the RFI, are detailed in USACM’s comments. Besides the workshops, there will be additional opportunities for input into the Framework, which should be released in draft form late this year.

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Congressional Forum on Voting Accessibility

National Council on Disability’s Congressional Policy Forum on Voting Access
“The Help America Vote Act Ten Years Later: Has the Law Accomplished Its Aim?”
Tuesday, April 23, 2 – 4:30 p.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 608
(Senate Budget Committee Hearing Room)

This Congressional Policy Forum will help inform the National Council on Disability (NCD) on issues related to voting access for people with disabilities in anticipation of a forthcoming NCD report. The main focus will be on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the challenges, successes, and barriers to its implementation today. The event will feature testimony from Congressional members, representatives from federal agencies and the Obama Administration, and the disability communities.

Former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), the author of the HAVA, is scheduled to testify and to receive questions. “Through his tireless leadership securing passage of HAVA, Senator Dodd fought for a simple yet profound truth: in the United States of America, every voter – including voters with disabilities — should have an equal opportunity to vote privately and independently, and that vote should be counted,” stated today’s NCD Press Release.

NCD will accept written public comments until May 7.

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Senate Hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Opportunities and Challenges
Senate Finance Committee
Full Committee Hearing
April 24, 10 a.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 215
Live webcast will be available.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed multilateral regional trade agreement currently being negotiated by 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam. If the parties agree to include Japan, the TPP countries will constitute 40% of global GDP and roughly 33% of international trade, according to a joint statement of the TPP Ministers released on Saturday, April 20. The TPP will address a broad range of goods, services, investments, and industry sectors. The U.S. Trade Representative is the chief negotiator for the United States and provides ongoing updates.

Among the scheduled witnesses, the President and CEO of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, David Hirschmann, is scheduled to testify. GIPC advocates for stronger intellectual property rights and enforcement.

Additional scheduled witnesses include: The Honorable Karan Bhatia, Vice President and Senior Counsel of Global Government Affairs and Policy at GE Company; Bob Hanson, President of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation; and Tom Suber, President of the U. S. Dairy Export Council.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of April 22

April 24 – Edited to Add Do Not Track hearing

April 24

Hearing:

The Subcommittee on Research of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on computing and ‘big data.’
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the status of voluntary efforts to establish Do Not Track standards for online activity.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

April 25

Markup:

The Senate Judiciary Committee will review legislation on updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building (held over from last Thursday, April 18

Hearing:

The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on geolocation privacy and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

The Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on critical infrastructure protection, privacy and civil liberties.
2 p.m., 311 Cannon Building

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National Council on Disability – Public Forum on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Public Forum on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Tuesday, April 23, 9:30 – 10 a.m.
Access Board Conference Room
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
78 Federal Register 20957

Tomorrow, the National Council on Disability will accept public comments in person on how the Council should engage on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). See the announcement in the Federal Register for additional opportunities for public comments on all topics in person or by phone during their quarterly meeting this afternoon and tomorrow.

Below are a few articles of the Convention relevant to the policy areas of the ACM U.S. Public Policy Council, as well as some existing U.S. federal laws that implement these articles. These highlights are not intended to be comprehensive.

• Accessibility of Information and Communication Technologies

Article 9 calls upon countries to “promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet” and to “promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early state so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.”

Article 21 requires countries to take appropriate measures to ensure access to information “on an equal basis with others.” This includes, in part, providing accessible information and technologies without additional costs.

The U.S. government complies with these requirements mainly through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

• Accessible Voting Technologies

Article 29 guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to participate in political and public life, including voting. A reservation to the treaty says that U.S. implementation of the treaty is subject to the U.S. federal system. This treaty reservation supports states and local governments within the United States retaining the right over issues covered by the treaty and conferred to states, such as voting.

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

• Intellectual Property

Article 30 requires countries to take “all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials.”

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through exceptions to the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The U.S. also would rely on international treaties, such as those adopted under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), when interpreting obligations under this article and compliance under international law.

• Privacy

Article 22 requires that countries shall not subject persons with disabilities “to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence or other types of communication.” This language is a variation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the U.S. is already a Party and thus bound by its legal obligations. ICCPR Article 17 reads, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.” CRPD Article 22 also requires countries to “protect the privacy of personal, health and rehabilitation information of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through the privacy of health records under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A reservation to the treaty related to federalism allows states to enact greater privacy protections.

Full-text of the CRPD is available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml

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Cyber Week Recap

Plenty of techies, carrying an array of digital devices and looking for power outlets, swarmed Capitol Hill last week for the so-called “cyber week” in the U.S. House of Representatives. To give you some idea of the number of tech lobbyists on scene, Wednesday’s huddle began with the announcement that one major tech company alone assembled an estimated 200 people to work the cybersecurity bill. This posting gives you a few highlights from last week.

Cyber week was a busy week with controversial floor votes in both chambers, 36 scheduled Senate committee hearings, 60+ scheduled House committee hearings, and numerous other lobbyists and advocates on the Hill, including bankers, golfers, restaurateurs, and representatives from various interest groups vying to protect or increase some part of the federal budget. Add to that a lockdown of parts of two Senate office buildings on Wednesday, various caucus events; a Congressional briefing on people with disabilities; and the addition of the newest Congressional member, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Similar to last year, cyber week focused largely on the passage of four bills by the House related to, in part, fostering cloud computing research, strengthening computer science education, promoting greater participation by women and minorities in the computing field, and improving cybersecurity practices within government and in collaboration with private industry.

The increasing pervasiveness and importance of technology and cyberspace in federal policy was evident in additional cyber themes that resonated during the week throughout Capitol Hill. Those themes included: intellectual property theft, computer and software patent litigation, accessible cloud and mobile technologies, internet governance, internet taxation, and immigration reforms to foster a high-skill tech workforce in cloud, mobile, and high-performance computing.

House Floor Votes

The week included the easy passage of three cyber bills and the contentious passage of a fourth cyber bill in the House.

• Federal Efforts to Foster Research, Education, and Workforce Diversity

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council, in a joint letter with CRA, IEEE-CS, and SIAM to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee last month, endorsed the following two cyber bills, which were overwhelmingly approved last week by the House.

The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2013, H.R. 756 (passed 402-16) would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) cybersecurity research grant program for basic research aimed at enhancing computer and network hardware and software, human-computer interactions, usability, identity management, and the detection, investigation, and prosecution of cyber-crimes, including those involving intellectual property theft, organized crime, and crimes against children. It would continue a Scholarship for Service program to provide scholarships to university and college students who pursue a degree in a cybersecurity field contingent upon the student working for the federal government after graduation. It also would require the 15 member agencies of the NITRD program to develop and update a cybersecurity strategic research and development plan.

The Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2013, H.R. 967 (passed 406-11) would require the NITRD program to provide for expanded research on cyber-physical systems, human-computer interactions, visualization, and big data. It would require the establishment of a task force to explore how to expand collaborative intra-agency research and development activities on cyber-physical systems. It also would require the 15 member agencies of the NITRD program to develop and update a 5-year strategic plan, which would include, in part, how NITRD will strengthen education and training programs “to ensure an adequate, well-trained workforce” and increased student diversity in postsecondary degree programs.

• Federal Efforts to Strengthen Information Security at Federal Agencies

The Federal Information Security Amendments Act of 2013, H.R. 1163 (passed 416-0) would require federal agencies to have agency-wide information security plans with policies, procedures, and practices approved by the Office of Management and Budget.

• Public-Private Information Sharing Efforts to Combat Intellectual Property Theft

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council released a statement earlier this month expressing concern with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 624 (passed 288-127), which would make it easier to share information between the government and companies. My colleague David has been tracking CISPA and will be providing updates.

Notably, similar to last year, the need for sharing information to combat intellectual property theft was a a dominant theme of various floor speeches leading up to the floor vote.

House Select Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) focused on the need to protect against intellectual property theft as an important reason for the bill just before the members voted against the motion to recommit and then passed the bill. He stated that cyber theft of intellectual property is a “serious issue” that America is not prepared to deal with and that it poses a major threat to American companies, middle-class jobs, and the economy. He cited a few examples and emphasized how such theft is occurring every day. National Intelligence Director James Clapper had told the Committee the previous week that intellectual property theft in cyberspace occurs daily.

Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus Co-Chair Jim Langevin’s (D-RI) floor statement also framed the bill in terms of intellectual property theft. He stated, “Obviously, the challenges we presently face in cyberspace are growing exponentially every day. It seems like there’s not a week that goes by that you don’t hear of a new major attack on our critical infrastructure or particularly our banking system or major corporations with intellectual property theft, and obviously we have got to take action and do so now.” He further stated that adversaries are “actively engaged in cyber attacks or theft of intellectual property or identity theft and the list goes on and on.”

Congressional Hearings

• Intellectual Property

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing last Tuesday on “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Issues Impacting American Competitiveness and Job Creation at the International Trade Commission and Beyond.”

The Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for 3M, Kevin Rhodes, testified that “3M understands from firsthand experience the costs involved in defending itself in an ITC investigation alleging infringement by software and components of products with hundreds of other components, like 3M’s RFID readers, tags and software used for electronic toll collection and parking management.”

Professor Colleen V. Chien of Santa Clara University School of Law in her written testimony stated that “enforcement is now the new normal.” She stated that large companies have followed the lead of patent assertion entities and “are monetizing and asserting their patents at a greater rate as well, e.g. through the smartphone wars.” She recommended that Congress should mandate the public disclosure of data on patent litigations, reexaminations, and ITC actions to third party providers who would “consolidate and make information available to the public in an accessible form at no or low cost and allow public interest groups to monitor implementation.” She stated, “Google Patents and Patent Bulk downloads would be a natural choice for a partner.”

• Internet Governance

In a show of bipartisan cooperation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 1580 on internet governance, as sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) with 32 cosponsors (26R and 6D).

The bill omitted the controversial “to promote a global Internet free from government control” phrasing from the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology that concerned some members. The concern was, in part, that the language could be interpreted to preclude the FCC’s authority to regulate internet-related issues and the ability of the government to address various policy issues, including cybersecurity and online IP infringement. Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) also expressed concern during the Subcommittee markup that the prior language could hinder diplomatic efforts because of the contract relationship between the Department of Commerce (NTIA) and ICAAN.

Compare the Subcommittee’s text for Section 2:

“It is the policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control and to preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet.”

With the final adopted text for Section 2:

“It is the policy of the United States to preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet.”

H.R. 1580 now advances to the full House. No Roll Call vote is scheduled.

• Internet Taxation

Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) introduced a bill on internet taxation last Tuesday. The purpose of the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, S.743, is “to restore States’ sovereign rights to enforce State and local sales and use tax laws, and for other purposes.” The bill has bipartisan support from 28 cosponsors. The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote to proceed with the bill later today.

• High-End Computing Research

On Tuesday, the same day that the House overwhelmingly approved the two bills to foster computing research and development (above H.R. 756 and H.R. 967), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced S.733, “A bill to amend the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 to improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy, and for other purposes.” The bill currently has 8 cosponsors (2R and 6D), twice as many as a similar bill in the 112th Congress that died in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The text of S. 733 is not available yet, but it is expected to be similar to previous bills that called for supporting high performance computing and research on “exascale” performance, which would enable significantly more powerful computers than today’s fastest supercomputers.

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USACM Comments on Ways to Improve Quality of Software-Related Patents

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council submitted comments to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office yesterday in response to its request for recommendations on how the USPTO and the software community might “enhance the quality of software-related patents.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the computing community to help the USPTO further understand topics that are particularly relevant to software patent applications and examinations under the American Invents Act,” said Paul Hyland, USACM Intellectual Property Chair.

USACM would like to see the USPTO continue to host events like the two Software Partnership roundtables in February. Those discussions provided an effective forum for stakeholders to exchange ideas, experiences, and insights into the range of issues, concerns, challenges, and opportunities.

In its comments, USACM encourages further exploration of the following topics in future discussions by the Software Partnership:

  • How to find and assess relevant prior art beyond U.S. patents and U.S. patent publications;
  • Additional approaches to improve reviews of the technical merits asserted in software patent applications;
  • Opportunities, challenges, and constraints of potential automated approaches to patent examination and validation; and
  • The supplemental training needs of examiners in software-related topics.

USACM looks forward to future discussions with the USPTO and other stakeholders on how to improve the quality of software patents. As we have seen, low quality software patents can lead to lengthy and costly litigation and pose threats to a vibrant, competitive marketplace. Improved quality of software patents is key to ensuring that the patent ecosystem provides the appropriate protections for inventors, creates incentives for technological advancements and breakthroughs, and continues to expand choices for consumers.

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Software Developers – Apply to Join the White House “Hackathon” on June 1

The White House is accepting applications from software developers and hands-on technology experts to participate in a day of national service at the White House on June 1 in support of enhancing the “We the People” petition system. The goal of the day will be to create production ready applications for integration with other systems and data visualization tools. The event will coincide with the National Day of Civic Hacking, a public-private initiative taking place June 1-2 in cities throughout the country. The deadline to apply to participate in the White House Hackathon is Friday, April 19.

The event will leverage and expand upon the projects, code improvements, and ideas developed during the first White House Hackathon in February 2013. Those projects included a petition mapper to show geographically where petitioners are located across the country, a graphical thermometer to show users how close the petition is to the threshold for a White House response, and a wordcloud package for R, the open source language and environment for statistical computing and graphics, to generate word clouds from petition text.

“By building and releasing applications that leverage the API, and by making it possible for other platforms to connect with We the People, you’ll be making it easier for others to take part in that conversation,” said Peter Walsh, Deputy Director of Online Platform for the Office of Digital Strategy, in his blog post.

Interested in joining the White House Hackathon on the National Day of Civic Hacking? Apply today using this online application form.

Source code for “We the People” on GitHub and Drupal.org

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House Intelligence Committee Tries Again With CISPA

On April 10 the House Intelligence Committee will review H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. The Committee approved an almost identical bill last year, and USACM released a statement expressing serious concerns with the bill.

While press reports indicate that several amendments will be up for consideration during tomorrow’s hearing, the text of those amendments has not been made available. As USACM’s concerns from last year have not changed, yesterday we sent a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee expressing our concerns with some of the language in the bill. We recommend that the bill provide more explicit guidance on minimizing the risk of disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) or other sensitive business and/or personal information. Our other recommendations provide specific guidance for applying USACM privacy principles to the legislation.

Specific recommendations include indicating that:

  • Shared data is to be used only for cybersecurity purposes specified in this act
  • Shared data is to be kept for at most a limited time (e.g., 6 months) and deleted by all receiving parties thereafter
  • Each receiving party must institute a process for periodic review of data received, and deleting data no longer necessary to support the purposes of this act
  • When erroneous data is discovered, it should be deleted immediately, and any parties sharing that erroneous data must be notified of the errors within a short time (e.g., 10 days)
  • All data shared under this act will include indications of its origin, the dates when it was shared with each party, and the date on which it will be deleted
  • All data shared under this act will be de-identified whenever possible
  • Use of received data for any criminal prosecution requires a supporting subpoena or warrant
  • All data shared under this act will be protected against unauthorized or accidental disclosure, modification, or other access

Following the markup, the bill is expected to go to the full House later this month. Once the text of the amendments is made public we can assess how much this year’s CISPA has changed from last year’s bill.

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President Establishes Voting Commission; Focus Will Include Voting Technology

As Renee mentioned, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The Commission was a promise made in the President’s State of the Union address this year, and responds to concerns over long waiting times for voters in the 2012 elections.

The Commission is charged with identifying best practices and making recommendations for more efficient election administration. It is tasked with examining several kinds of obstacles in casting ballots, not just long waiting times at the polling place. Such obstacles, as mentioned in the Executive Order, can include ballot access for military and overseas voters, as well as the problems faced by voters with disabilities and/or limited English proficiency. The Executive Order asks the Commission to consider several elements as appropriate in their deliberations. These include two broad categories of interest to USACM – electronic voting (whether it be vote casting, registering to vote, or otherwise administering an election), and accessible technologies.

The Commission is intended to last a brief time. It must report to the President within six months of its first public meeting, and will disband 30 days after issuing that report. There will be no more than nine members, with two of them serving as Co-Chairs. The President has indicated the two Co-Chairs will be Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg, attorneys with experience serving as counsel to recent Presidential campaigns.

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Accessible Voting Technology Research Workshop, April 1-2

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will be holding a two-day workshop on April 1-2 to explore current and future research in accessible voting technology. The two-day workshop will be available by live webcast.

The Workshop comes just days after President Obama’s Executive Order creating a new Election Administration Commission to focus on improving the management and administration of federal elections. Part of the Commission’s mission will be to identify best practices and to make recommendations on ways to improve “voting accessibility for individuals with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and other special needs.”

ACM U.S. Public Policy Council member Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science, will be participating in the panel on “Accessibility Research and Elections: Where Are We Now?” from 10:30 am-noon Eastern Time on Monday, April 1.

Dr. Gilbert is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Computing, an IDEaS Professor, and Chair of the Human-Centered Computing Division in the School of Computing at Clemson University where he leads the HCC Lab. His research team at Clemson University won the FCC Chairman’s 2012 Award for Advancement in Accessibility for their accessible voting system, known as the Prime III: A Universally Designed Voting Machine. Dr. Gilbert was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Mentoring by President Barack Obama in 2011.

Additional panels at the Accessible Voting Technology Research Workshop will include:

  • Accessibility Experiences and Challenges During Elections
  • Technology Transfer and Voting System Manufacturers’ Accessibility Experiences and Challenges
  • Designing for People with Cognitive Disabilities and Low Literacy
  • Ballot Design and the Emergence of Mobile Devices
  • Accessible Voting Interfaces and Technologies
  • Usability and Accessibility Testing

Agenda: http://www.nist.gov/itl/iad/avt-research-workshop-agenda__.cfm
Live webcast: http://www.nist.gov/itl/iad/avt-research-workshop.cfm
Twitter discussion: #AVTvote

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Nominations for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Nominations for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation are due Monday, April 1, 2013. The award is the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement for American scientists, engineers, and innovators. It is bestowed by the U.S President.

Nominations may be submitted to honor an individual, a group of up to four individuals, a company, or a division of a company for their outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental, and social wellbeing. The purpose of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation is to recognize those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness, standard of living, and quality of life through technological innovation, and to recognize those who have made substantial contributions to strengthening the nation’s technological workforce.

Past individual recipients include: Steven Sasson for his invention of the digital camera, Ralph H. Baer for his work that led to the commercialization of interactive video games, David Cutler for his design of operating systems and computer architectures, Glen Culler for his work on digital speech processing and interactive graphical mathematics, Raymond Kurzweil for his work on voice recognition, Bill Gates for his contributions to universal computing and the personal computing industry, Grace Murray Hopper for her development of computer programming languages, Steven P. Jobs and Stephen Wozniak for their work to extend the power of the personal computer, and Vint Cerf and Robert E. Kahn for their pioneering work on the TCP/IP internet protocols.

Past companies bestowed with this honor include: AT&T, IBM, Motorola, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, and Xerox.

Which innovator or company do you think has demonstrated extensive pioneering achievements in technology?

The nomination form, evaluation criteria, and guidelines are available from the United States Patent and Trademark Office website: http://www.uspto.gov/about/nmti/guidelines.jsp

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Reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act this Congress?

During last Wednesday’s hearing on “Investigating and Prosecuting 21st Century Cyber Threats,” the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations explored whether Congress should change what constitutes a cybercrime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Overall, lawmakers expressed concern about potentially weakening the CFAA’s criminal provisions but recognized that the CFAA might need amending to address emergent trends in cybercrimes.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) attended the hearing and succinctly summarized the challenge faced by lawmakers in context of the evolving cyber landscape. He stated, “Our challenge is to create a legal structure that protects the invaluable government and private information that hackers seek to exploit while allowing the freedom of thought and expression that made this country great.”

Subcommittee Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) expressed concern with weakening the criminal provisions for computer crimes because cyber theft of intellectual property, particularly by foreign governments, poses a serious threat to the American economy. He noted that the CFAA has been amended eight times since its enactment in 1986 to keep pace with the evolution of computer crimes. He stated “it may be time for Congress to augment and approve the CFAA and other criminal statutes to enable law enforcement to combat international criminal enterprises.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Robert Scott (D-VA3) referred to the CFAA as “a law whose breath of scope and sometimes questionable application has already generated concern by citizens and narrowing by the courts.” He entered into the record a letter signed by roughly twenty internet companies and advocacy groups expressing concern with the scope of the CFAA. Rep. Scott did not mention Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) not-yet-introduced bill to amend the CFAA to exclude terms of service violations. Although supportive of considering possible reforms, he stated, “While it’s the job of Congress to evaluate and update our laws in response to changing circumstances, we have to be careful that any changes we make will actually improve the law and not just ratchet up penalties in an exercise of sound-bite politics.”

CFAA legal expert and GWU law professor Orin Kerr told the Subcommittee that additional legislative reforms to the CFAA are needed to provide greater legal certainty and clarification of what conduct falls within the scope of federal criminal law. He observed that the CFAA “will only become more important over time” because of the increased use of computers by the American public. He asserted that the CFAA should apply only to hackers, as commonly understood to be individuals who circumvent technological access barriers. Kerr encouraged Congress to consider eliminating the phrase “exceeds authorized access” as a triggering threshold in the statute and to define clearly the remaining threshold of “access without authorization.”

Kerr cautioned against using the CFAA to address a broader scope of cyber conduct because the broader approach “inevitably ends up covering a great deal of innocent activity.” He stated the CFAA should not apply to those who happen to commit another crime that involved a computer or who happen to violate written terms of service. He concluded by recommending Lawrence Lessig’s lecture on “Aaron’s Laws – Law and Justice in the Digital Age,” available on YouTube.

Business Software Alliance President and CEO Robert Holleyman asked the Subcommittee to consider federal policies to improve our ability to deter criminal behavior through appropriate punishment for serious cybercrimes, to strengthen law enforcement tools and resources, and to promote the real-time sharing of cyber threat information. In pursuing improved deterrence and prosecutions, he warned against being “overzealous in prosecuting people for innocent mistakes or minor infractions.”

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan told the Subcommittee that Congress needs to clarify what constitutes “exceeds authorized access” under the CFAA yet, in doing so, needs to ensure that law enforcement will still have the necessary tools to investigate and prosecute insiders whose thefts of trade secrets, intellectual property, and sensitive data pose significant risks to national security, economic interests, and individual privacy. She noted that cyber criminals have “shifted from targeting credit cards and other personal data to the intellectual capital of large corporations,” with the threat coming from both outside hackers and insiders. She noted the role of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Properties Section, its Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Units, and its National Security Division to aggressively address these threats.

Harvard University law professor James A. Baker, in his testimony before the same Subcommittee in 2011 on the outlook for cybersecurity, also shared the concern that we shouldn’t weaken the CFAA. He spoke in support of strengthening the CFAA. He stated, “Unnecessarily restricting the scope of the CFAA on the basis of one or two cases will needlessly tie the hands of prosecutors to the advantage of those who use computers to undertake fraudulent activities and abuse their otherwise authorized access to computers to harm others.”

Overall, the stage is set for legislative proposals to reform the CFAA for the ninth time. Given Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month about wanting to ensure that prosecutors use enforcement tools in “appropriate ways” and to seek jail time only where “absolutely needed” for CFAA-related crimes, there could be less pressure for Congress to amend the CFAA to exclude explicitly terms of service violations, a reform proposed by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Al Franken (D–MN) during the last Congress. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who supported the Grassley-Franken proposal last year, asked Holder at this month’s hearing whether the Department of Justice could review its prosecution guidelines for CFAA cases and “consider revising those guidelines to prohibit prosecutions based solely upon conduct involving a violation of terms of use agreement.”

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Upcoming Event – ACM Turing Award Recipient Dr. Vint Cerf on “Reinventing the Internet”

ACM Turing Award Recipient Dr. Vint Cerf
on “Reinventing the Internet”

Monday, May 13, 2013, 6:30 pm
Google DC
1101 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Sponsored by: ACM Washington D.C. Chapter
Registration is free and open to the public.
Early registration is highly encouraged. Seating is limited.
To register: http://meetup.dcacm.org/events/106916812/

The Washington, D.C. Chapter of ACM is hosting this special event featuring ACM President Dr. Vint Cerf, widely known for his efforts as co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols, vital foundational elements of the Internet computing architecture. Dr. Cerf will speak on the Internet’s design, evolution, and future prospects.

Dr. Cerf and his colleague Robert E. Kahn have received numerous awards for their work on the Internet protocols and their efforts to foster the Internet, including the National Medal of Technology, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the ACM Alan M. Turing award. The National Medal of Technology is the highest honor for technological achievement for American scientists, engineers, and innovators and is bestowed by the U.S. President. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given by the United States to its citizens. The ACM Alan M. Turing award is ACM’s most prestigious technical award and is given for major contributions of lasting importance to computing.

In addition to being ACM President, Dr. Cerf also serves as a presidentially appointed member of the National Science Board, the governance body for the National Science Foundation; as Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google; and on the Board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The event organizers highlight these main themes as the basis for his presentation: “The Internet was designed 40 years ago and has been in operation for 30 years. It has evolved considerably, but its architecture is still pretty much as it was in its 1973 incarnation. We have learned a great deal about the applications of the Internet in the intervening decades, and it is clear that there is room for improvement and expansion in several dimensions. The Internet of Things is rapidly emerging; mobiles are everywhere; and the interplanetary internet is in nascent operation between the Earth and Mars. Security has become a major issue, as have authentication and integrity.”

Posted in ACM/USACM News, Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 18

March 19

Hearing:

The Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

The Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Homeland Security Department information technology.
2 p.m., 311 Cannon Building

Briefing:
The Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee will receive a briefing on cybersecurity threats
2:30 p.m., 222 Russell Building (followed by a closed session)

March 20

Hearing:
The Cybersecuirty, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on cyberthreats to critical infrastructure.
2 p.m., 311 Cannon Building

March 21

Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on cyberattacks.
9 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Building

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House Hearings on Litigation Abuses

Two Congressional hearings relevant to patent reforms, which were canceled last week due to “snowquester,” are scheduled for this week.

House Hearing on “Examination of Litigation Abuses”
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 10 am ET
Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice
House Judiciary Committee
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov
Witnesses:

  • Elizabeth Milito, National Federation of Independent Business
  • Theodore Frank, Center for Class Action Fairness
  • Joanne Doroshow, Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School
  • John Beisner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

House Hearing on “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Impact on American Innovation & Jobs, and Potential Solutions”
Thursday, March 14, 2013, 11:30 am ET
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
House Judiciary Committee
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov
Witnesses: The list of witnesses is not yet posted. The scheduled witnesses for last week’s canceled hearing included representatives from Adobe, Cisco Systems, and the Global IP Law Group.

The hearing is expected to focus on potential legislative reforms to enhance and strengthen the American Invents Act and to address issues related to recent patent litigation trends.

One topic will be the recently introduced “Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes Act of 2013? (SHIELD Act) (H.R. 845), sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Rep. Chaffetz serves on the Subcommittee. H.R. 845 is a revision of the proposed SHIELD Act of 2012 that died in Committee last session. The proposed SHIELD Act of 2013 contains two major changes. It would extend the “loser pays” regime to all types of patents, not just computer and software-related patents. It also changes the threshold for when the loser must pay the winner’s litigation costs from the “party alleging the infringement of the patent did not have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding” to a categorical approach targeting patent trolls. The loser-pays regime would not apply if the losing party would be able to meet at least one of three conditions: (1) original inventor, (2) an entity making a “substantial investment” in the patent through production or sale, and (3) university or technology transfer organization. Because patent trolls are businesses that mainly purchase patents and then license those patents, they likely would not be able to qualify under these three categories and thus would be subject to the loser-pays regime.

Full-text of the SHIELD Act of 2013, H.R. 845, is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:h.r.00845:

Full-text of the SHIELD Act of 2012, H.R. 6245, is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.06245:

Also on Thursday, March 14, the USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee will meet to discuss, in part, continued implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA), legislative proposals in Congress, and the two recent Software Partnership roundtables aimed at exploring how to improve the quality of software patents.

Posted in Intellectual Property | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 11

March 13

Hearing:
The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the Department of Homeland Security’s role in cybersecurity of critical infrastructure.
10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building (rescheduled from March 6)

The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on investigating and prosecuting cyber threats.
11:30 a.m., 2237 Rayburn Building

The Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on cyber operations.
2 p.m., 2212 Rayburn Building

March 12 – Edited to add new markup scheduled for March 14

March 14

Markup:
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will markup pending legislation on cybersecurity research and development.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

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ACM Washington Update Is Back!

After a long hiatus, the ACM Washington Update – a newsletter of computing policy activity published by the ACM Public Policy Office – is back. Yesterday we published a new issue, the second one in this new format.

ACM Washington Update, Volume 17, Issue 1 (February 25, 2013)

ACM Washington Update, Volume 17, Issue 2 (March 7, 2013)

In addition to posting the newsletter online, we mail copies in HTML and text formats. You can subscribe to ACM Washington Update by visiting the newsletter website.

If you have any questions about ACM Washington Update, you can contact us by email at acmpo@hq.acm.org

Posted in ACM/USACM News | Comments closed

Congress to Consider Patent Litigation Reforms This Week

Two events on Capitol Hill this week will focus on potential patent litigation reforms. Both will be available by live webcast.

Congressional Briefing on “Patent Trolls and Their Impact on the Economy”
Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 11:10 am – 12:10 pm ET
Sponsored by: The Internet Association
Webcast: http://ustream.tv/channel/internetassociation
Moderator: Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post
Speakers:
• House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
• Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
• Kevin Kramer, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of IP, Yahoo!
• Blake Lawit, Senior Director of Litigation, LinkedIn

 

House Hearing on “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Impact on American Innovation & Jobs, and Potential Solutions”
Thursday, March 7, 2013, 9 am ET
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
House Judiciary Committee
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov
Witnesses: To be announced.

The hearing is expected to focus on potential legislative reforms to enhance and strengthen the American Invents Act and to address issues related to recent patent litigation trends.

One topic will be the recently introduced “Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes Act of 2013″ (SHIELD Act) (H.R. 845), sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Rep. Chaffetz serves on the Subcommittee. H.R. 845 is a revision of the proposed SHIELD Act of 2012 that died in Committee last session. The proposed SHIELD Act of 2013 contains two major changes. It would extend the “loser pays” regime to all types of patents, not just computer and software-related patents. It also changes the threshold for when the loser must pay the winner’s litigation costs from the “party alleging the infringement of the patent did not have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding” to a categorical approach targeting patent trolls. The loser-pays regime would not apply if the losing party would be able to meet at least one of three conditions: (1) original inventor, (2) an entity making a “substantial investment” in the patent through production or sale, and (3) university or technology transfer organization. Because patent trolls are businesses that mainly purchase patents and then license those patents, they likely would not be able to qualify under these three categories and thus would be subject to the loser-pays regime.

Full-text of the SHIELD Act of 2013, H.R. 845, is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:h.r.00845:

Full-text of the SHIELD Act of 2012, H.R. 6245, is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.06245:

Posted in Intellectual Property | Comments closed

Do Not Track Legislation Reintroduced in Senate

On Thursday Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced legislation to establish an option for people to opt out of tracking their online activity. It is S.418 and can be reviewed online.

The Senator introduced a similar bill in 2011. He did not vigorously pursue the measure, in part because of efforts by several parties to try and establish so-called Do Not Track options and standards for online activity. The Senator would likely not have reintroduced the bill if he was happy with the progress made to date.

The bill would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to set standards and regulations for a mechanism where consumers could indicate their tracking preferences. Violations of those regulations could be enforced by the FTC or by state attorneys general. The regulations would be subject to periodic review and revision.

Senator Rockefeller has announced he will not seek re-election next year, and may see this issue as a way to cap his Senate tenure. That could mean he sees the bill through into law, or uses that bill as additional pressure to achieve some kind of private sector resolution.

Posted in Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 4

March 6

Hearing:
The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the Department of Homeland Security’s role in cybersecurity for critical infrastructure.
10:30 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

March 7

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on government and private sector activities in cybersecurity.
2:30 p.m., G-50 Dirksen Building

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House Creates Congressional App Challenge

The U.S. House of Representatives created a national academic competition this week for students to showcase their talents in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Consistent with the importance of computer science within STEM, the first annual Congressional Academic Competition will be the Congressional App Challenge. It will challenge students nationwide to develop innovative software programs for mobile devices, tablets, computers, or cloud-computing platforms. The competition will encourage students to go beyond being technology consumers and to innovate as technology producers.

The new Congressional Academic Competition will be modeled after the annual Congressional Art Competition, which has given more than 650,000 students the opportunity to demonstrate their talents, including computer-generated art, since 1982. Winning art entries are showcased on Capitol Hill throughout the year. Similarly, winning entries of the Congressional App Challenge will be showcased with national prominence.

Instrumental in the swift passage of House Resolution 77, which authorizes the creation of the academic competition, were the House leadership, House Administration Committee Chair Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA), and the Congressional Internet Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), who worked for the past year to build the momentum of widespread bipartisan support.

The 411-3 floor vote in favor of creating the Congressional Academic Competition shows a strong commitment by Congress to inspire American students to acquire the skills necessary for 21st century careers. A strong STEM education will open the door to high-quality employment opportunities for our students and help ensure a bright future for America’s economy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer science-related jobs now represent more than 1 in every 2 STEM jobs. Moreover, the federal government predicts that U.S. employers will need to fill 9.2 million STEM-related job openings during this decade, with more than half of those in computer-related occupations. Further, occupations requiring a strong background in computer science have low unemployment and high salaries. Computer science college graduates in the class of 2012 entered into jobs with higher average annual salaries than engineers, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Yet, current educational trends suggest that most American students will be ill-prepared and unqualified for those high-tech jobs.

Rep. Miller, the primary sponsor of the resolution, highlighted in her floor remarks that only nine states allow computer science courses to count toward high school students’ core graduation requirements, a finding of the “Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age” report jointly produced by ACM and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA).

For additional information about the gap between the educational pipeline and in-demand computing jobs, see this August 2012 blog on “Computer Science Jobs and Education” jointly authored by ACM Executive Director and CEO John White and ACM Education Policy Committee Chair Bobby Schnabel. The blog also includes a PowerPoint presentation with information, graphs, and charts that they invite you to use to summarize and make the case for the need for increased computer science education in K-12, community colleges, and universities.

The House Administration Committee still needs to develop guidelines and rules for the competition. We’ll keep you posted on when Congressional members will be accepting submissions.

Posted in Education and Workforce | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of February 25

February 26

Hearing:
The Research Subcommittee and the Technology Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a joint hearing on cybersecurity research and development.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

February 27

Hearing:
The Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on E-Verify, an electronic system of employment eligibility verification.
2:30 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

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Congressional Briefing on Software Patent Reforms

Leading high-tech executives spoke this week on the best ways to promote innovation and improve the quality of software patents at an industry-sponsored Congressional briefing. The briefing was organized by the Business Software Alliance and hosted by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Former USPTO Commissioner of Patents Bob Stoll moderated the discussion with panelists from IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Covia Labs, and Procter & Gamble.

The briefing came a week after President Obama said in a Google+ Hangout that the comprehensive patent reform under the recently enacted American Invents Act “only went halfway,” implying the need for additional legislation. It also came two weeks after an important software patent eligibility case was heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the federal court that specializes in patent law, and the same week that Microsoft filed an amicus brief in support of Oracle in its appeal against Google in an intellectual property case involving the Java programming language. IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are members of the Business Software Alliance. Google is not a member.

In looking at whether the federal government is doing enough to promote technology innovations of American corporations, small businesses, and entrepreneurs, the speakers agreed that government shouldn’t threaten the broader mechanisms of patents and intellectual property rights. They highlighted the benefits of software patents to incentivize investments in software research and development, to allow innovators and startups to attract investors in novel technologies, and to protect against competitors exploiting their technologies without permission. One common theme across the panelists was that federal action should emphasize improving the quality of software patents.

IBM’s Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Neil Abrams stated, “New innovations often require investments of unprecedented size, and patents are necessary to protect these investments.” He highlighted that IBM Watson, a supercomputer that won Jeopardy a few years ago, is comprised of many patents, including software patents issued in 2012. “Software is increasingly the way that innovation is implemented across virtually all industries, not just the software industry,” he said. He concluded his prepared remarks by stating, “Improving patent quality increases certainty and spurs investment, and, in turn, will help our economy grow.”

Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith emphasized that the patent system has “remarkable strengths,” yet we need to have “sensible reforms” to address the system’s weaknesses. He asserted that all three branches of government, as well as private industry, will need to support and participate in changes in order to “advance a high-quality patent system that, especially for information technology, encourages the responsible licensing of patents and deters abusive litigation.” He challenged industry to follow Microsoft’s lead in voluntarily disclosing patent ownership information and not to wait for the federal government to act. To help curb frivolous lawsuits, he called upon Congress to pass “loser pays” legislation, requiring the loser to pay the winner’s legal fees.

Oracle’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Dorian Daley stated that protecting software patents is critically important to innovation and that weakening software patents will only put companies, employees, and customers at risk. She recommended three potential governmental actions to strengthen the software patent system: (a) improve the quality of software patents, (b) require public transparency concerning the ownership of patents, a proposal currently being considered by the USPTO, and (c) pursue “targeted” litigation reforms.

Covia Labs’ CEO David Kahn explained his company develops command-and-control capabilities used in critical infrastructure. He stressed the importance of software patents for startups to obtain funding because it shows that the “technology is real” and that it “can be defended.” He further added, “When important innovation happens, that person needs protection from the idea being stolen.”

Procter & Gamble’s Director of Corporate R&D Tom Lange represented the manufacturing industry perspective. He stated, “Innovation is our lifeblood. Behind [every one] of those innovations, there is software in how we manufacture the product, and there is software in how we design and analyze that particular innovation.”

USPTO Commissioner of Patents Bob Stoll called for more resources to be given to the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office, such that examiners could have improved tools, increased time to adequately review applications, and additional training relevant to technology and software patent issues. He also encouraged applicants to be clearer in their claims and disclosures.

USPTO Public Roundtable on Software Patents on February 27
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is hosting the second of two public meetings this month to get input on how to better address software patent issues as part of its new Software Partnership with industry. The schedule and live webcast for the public hearing on Wednesday, February 27 are available at: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/software_partnership.jsp

Posted in Intellectual Property | Comments closed

White House Releases Strategy to Tackle Trade Secret Theft

A new White House strategy paper released on Wednesday outlines a five-pronged approach for protecting trade secrets of U.S. companies against a growing threat of theft and misappropriation. The strategy calls for (1) increased diplomatic measures to support sustained and coordinated international efforts, (2) the adoption and sharing of best practices by private industry, (3) enhanced domestic enforcement, (4) improved federal laws, and (5) continued public awareness campaigns and stakeholder outreach.

Standing alongside U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, Attorney General Eric Holder said yesterday at the White House that it is imperative to implement the strategy immediately because “the stakes have never been higher.” He observed that, although critical technologies have advanced during the past decades, criminals too have adapted. Thus, the proliferation of IP-enabled devices, cloud-computing, and other advancements in technology are making it easier for criminals to steal confidential information because these new technologies are creating “more access points and vulnerabilities” in cyberspace.

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank echoed the urgency and importance of acting now through a coordinated government-wide approach to protect trade secrets because such confidential information plays a critical role in the ability of American businesses to innovate and compete in the global marketplace. She also highlighted the importance of President Obama’s new Executive Order on cybersecurity and the role of industry efforts to identify and share best practices.

The inclusion of speakers from GE, American Superconductor, and the Information Technology Industry Council at the White House announcement suggests that we could see more voluntary information sharing and collaboration between the private sector and the government to protect against economic espionage and trade secret theft and to assist with enforcement.

Legislative action likely on the agenda for 2013

The fourth prong of the strategy, “Improve Domestic Legislation,” calls for the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator to spearhead a review of federal laws to determine if existing laws are “as effective as possible” and “reflect the seriousness of these crimes and the economic harm inflicted on victims.” The review, to be concluded by the end of May, will update and supplement the findings and recommendations of the 2011 White Paper on Intellectual Property Enforcement Legislative Recommendations.

Any federal legislation stemming from the new White House strategy would augment the two recently enacted laws praised in the strategy paper for their “immediate and positive impact” on criminal prosecutions. The Theft of Trade Secrets Clarification Act of 2012 strengthened the government’s ability to prosecute thefts of trade secret computer source code. The Foreign and Economic Espionage Penalty Enhancement Act of 2012 bolstered criminal penalties for economic espionage and called for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to consider increasing offense levels for trade secret crimes.

The focus of the review on the ability of federal laws to address the seriousness of the crimes suggests we might see continued expansion of federal criminal laws to deter and punish trade secret theft, including in the increasingly important area of cyberspace.

Full-text of the White House strategy paper is available at:
http://www.whitehouse.gov//sites/default/files/omb/IPEC/admin_strategy_on_mitigating_the_theft_of_u.s._trade_secrets.pdf

Posted in Intellectual Property | Comments closed

USACM Chair Comments on Cybersecurity Executive Order

On Tuesday, as part of the State of the Union address, President Obama issued an executive order on cybersecurity. The order focuses on the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure – defined in the order as

“systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.”

The order focuses on information sharing between the private sector and the federal government, as well as developing and implementing risk-based standards for critical infrastructure cybersecurity.

USACM issued a press statement yesterday in which our Council Chair, Dr. Eugene Spafford, outlined some suggestions for implementing the executive order. Specifically:

  • Targeted Cybersecurity Standards. Any standards established should recognize differences across systems and sectors, allowing appropriate flexibility to stay current.
  • Different Risk Management Responses. Mitigating all identified cybersecurity risks is an understandable goal. Such a goal, however, may not always produce the most effective results. We caution against any approach that unnecessarily restricts risk management options.
  • Protections for Disclosed Information. Recognizing the controls in Section 5 of the executive order, and in related U.S. law to protect privacy and civil liberties, it is still possible for information shared under this order to (inadvertently) provide too much detail. We urge that the guidance provided for compliance with Section 5 include consideration of best practices like minimization and limited retention of shared data.
  • Technological Changes. As the Cybersecurity Framework and associated incentives and standards are developed and implemented under Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the executive order, the pace of technological change needs to be addressed. Changes in technology may both eliminate and introduce new opportunities for attack in the risk environment. The Framework and any standards need to be flexible enough to accommodate technological changes.
  • Consultative Process. The consultative process in Section 6 of the executive order is very encouraging. The breadth of community that will be consulted is encouraging, and USACM looks forward to participating in the process.
Posted in Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of February 11

February 14

Hearing:
The House Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a hearing on advanced cyber threats.
10 a.m., HVC-210 Capitol Visitors Center

The Research Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing focused on applications of information technology research and development.
2 p.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

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ACM Council Endorses New Publishing Policy

ACM released this statement today on changes to its publishing policy. Considering discussions around copyright policy and open access, we thought our readers would be interested in the publishing models ACM is adopting.

ACM’s resolve to offer more free access pathways to its respected publications archive will enter a new realm in the coming months with the endorsement of a publishing policy that expands author rights and provides greater levels of flexibility in regard to open access.

The policy changes, approved by ACM Council last October, are in response to the expressed needs of authors, researchers, and ACM members for more free access to the content of ACM journals and conference proceedings in the ACM Digital Library and other online venues.

The new policy enables open access to the most current proceedings volume of each ACM Special Interest Group conference at the discretion of the sponsoring SIGs. The free access is available at the SIG or conference web site.

And SIGs will have the option to make the proceedings from their conferences freely available via the ACM DL platform for up to two weeks before the event and for a total period of one month. Not only will this option facilitate easy access to the proceedings by conference attendees, it will also enable the community at large to experience the excitement of learning about the latest developments being presented in the period surrounding the event itself.

Changes also include new options for authors to manage the publication rights to their work. Authors who prefer to retain copyright of their work may choose to sign an equivalent licensing agreement with ACM. Authors who wish to retain all rights to their work can exercise an author-pays option, which allows for perpetual open access to their work. Authors who prefer to have ACM manage the rights and permissions associated with their work may continue using the traditional ACM Copyright Transfer Agreement.
Under both ACM’s copyright transfer agreement and the new license, authors have the rights of:

  • Exclusive ownership of patents and trademarks
  • Reuse of any portion of the work without fee or need for permission in future work
  • Major revisions and creation of derivative works wholly owned by author
  • Freely posted author-prepared Accepted Versions in personal bibliographies and on their own institutions’ repositories

For more information, see the editorial by ACM Publications Board Co-Chairs Ronald F. Boisvert and Jack W. Davidson in the February 2013 Communications of the ACM.

Posted in ACM/USACM News, Intellectual Property | Comments closed

Google and the Federal Trade Commission Reach Agreements

On January 3rd, the Federal Trade Commission completed its antitrust review of Google. After 19 months of investigation, the Commission announced that Google will make changes to its search and other business practices in order to allay concerns that the company is engaged in anti-competitive behavior. Some critics consider the FTC actions soft and the agreements a slap on the wrist.

There were two separate agreements announced last week. One concerns Google’s patent behavior, and that agreement would ensure that competitors would be allowed access to patents on critical technologies. This relates primarily to the Motorola patents purchased by the company. Any dispute resolution would be sought through a neutral third party before Googles opts to take legal action.

The other agreement is a commitment to remove restrictions on advertisers’ use of AdWords that could hamper their ability to coordinate campaigns across platforms.

The Commission closed its investigation into allegations of search bias (skewing search results to favor company products – which was the subject of an advertising campaign) finding that Google’s changes could be justified as innovations that benefit consumers. Google will allow content creators to opt out of showing up in Google’s search results, to minimize the possibility that Google could be seen as representing other companies’ content as its own.

Posted in Innovation, Intellectual Property | Comments closed

The Sequester Is Delayed, But Not Forgotten

The major political debates last week focused on the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.’ The cliff included a series of tax increases and spending cuts (the cuts are sometimes referred to as ‘sequestration’) that were set to happen last Tuesday, January 2.

A last-minute deal didn’t resolve the situation entirely. Tax revenues were the main focus of this bill, and the looming spending cuts were delayed until March 1. However, as the ScienceInsider blog notes, the deal did include some spending cuts, a total of $4 billion in the current fiscal year (which ends September 30) and $8 billion in fiscal year 2014.

But the budget cut requirements remain. Unless Congress can find an alternative way to lower spending by nearly $1.2 trillion dollars over 10 years, a series of automatic across-the-board cuts will take place. According to a White House analysis, this would mean a reduction of roughly 8 percent for any and all government programs connected to computing and computing research.

While the Obama Administration has spoken before about trying to ensure that science and technology research aren’t cut, the scope of the required cuts suggest that it would be tough to keep research and development funding completely protected.

Posted in Innovation | Comments closed

White House Staff Indicates Machine-Readable Data Will Become Normal Practice; Echoes USACM Recommendations From 2009

During his appearance at a meeting of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park indicated that there would be new government data policies announced in 2013. This follows on the Digital Government Strategy announced in the summer of 2012.

One of these policies will be to “makes open and computer readable the default status of new data created by the government going forward.” This has been a longstanding recommendation of many in open data and open government circles, including USACM. Back in February 2009 USACM issued policy recommendations in this area to encourage greater use and re-use of government data. The first two recommendations speak directly to making data open and computer readable:

  • Data published by the government should be in formats and approaches that promote analysis and reuse of that data.
  • Data republished by the government that has been received or stored in a machine-readable format (such as online regulatory filings) should preserve the machine-readability of that data.

USACM looks forward to the formal announcement of these policies and the continued expansion of open government projects like the data.gov website.

Posted in Digital Government | Comments closed

Federal Trade Commission Updates Online Privacy Rules For Pre-Teens

On Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the final updated rules for implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Passed in 1998, COPPA rules had not been updated to reflect changes in technology, most notably the rise of mobile internet access and mobile applications. The final rules will take effect on July 1, 2013.

A fundamental difference between 1998 and now is that information is not just collected through active visitor input, but can also be gathered without conscious knowledge of the visitor. As the FTC describes it, the changes in the rule will help address this change in online behavior and other notable differences in how kids operate online. The Commission has conducted two separate studies on mobile apps and kids, which inform the new rules. These rules will do the following:

  • modify the list of “personal information” that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent, clarifying that this category includes geolocation information, photographs, and videos;
  • offer companies a streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for new ways of getting parental consent;
  • close a loophole that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent;
  • extend coverage in some of those cases so that the third parties doing the additional collection also have to comply with COPPA;
  • extend the COPPA Rule to cover persistent identifiers that can recognize users over time and across different websites or online services, such as IP addresses and mobile device IDs;
  • strengthen data security protections by requiring that covered website operators and online service providers take reasonable steps to release children’s personal information only to companies that are capable of keeping it secure and confidential;
  • require that covered website operators adopt reasonable procedures for data retention and deletion; and
    strengthen the FTC’s oversight of self-regulatory safe harbor programs.

Read More »

Posted in Privacy and Security | Comments closed

USACM Offers Comments on Federal Cybersecurity R&D Strategy

The National Science Foundation (NSF) sought comments on the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Plan. The plan was released in late 2011, and NSF was interested in getting feedback from the research community on the effectiveness of the plan.

Yesterday USACM submitted comments in response to this request, outlining our interests in cybersecurity research and development. We indicated that any work in cybersecurity should emphasize that the field is much more than technically-oriented research questions. Additional things to consider include:

  • Training that integrates the results of research to help the workforce adopt new technologies and practices.
  • Human subjects research to understand why the public does (or does not) adopt various cybersecurity technologies and practices.
  • Privacy research that addresses both how the public perceives privacy in the context of cybersecurity and how new cybersecurity technologies and practices can integrate privacy.

The specific questions in the Request for Comment allowed for USACM to highlight its participation in the Identity Ecosystem Steering Group, concerns over restrictions on participation in scientific conferences, and establishing a proper balance between national security and law enforcement concerns and privacy interests.

Posted in Innovation, Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of September 17

September 19

Markup:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will review pending legislation, including a concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the current Internet multistakeholder governance model should be maintained.
2:15 p.m., S-116 Capitol Building

September 20

Hearing:
The Securities, Insurance, and Investment Subcommittee of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on computerized trading of securities.
10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Building

Markup:
The Senate Judiciary Committee will review pending legislation. Scheduled for review is a bill that may include an amendment to revise the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

USACM Expresses Concerns Over Support For Scientific And Technical Conferences

Part of the response to the reported excesses in conference spending involving the General Services Administration has been to restrict conference and travel spending across the government. Several pieces of legislation are working through Congress to implement such restrictions. However, we believe that the legislation, as currently written, would have unintended consequences for scientific, technical and education meetings.

To better express these concerns to policymakers, USACM joined with colleagues at the Computing Research Association, The IEEE-USA and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics to send a letter to key Members of Congress and the Obama Administration.

In the letter we explain that the proposed restrictions on travel and conference expenses would curtail the ability of government scientists and engineers to interact with other members of their professional communities. Such interactions are an important part of the work of any scientists or engineer. The meeting are a means for researchers to stay current in their field and maintain professional contacts. Read More »

Posted in ACM/USACM News, Innovation | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of September 10

Congress has returned from its August break, and will attempt to get a little work done before it breaks for fall campaigning in early October.

September 12

Hearing:
The Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on resilient communications and cybersecurity.
2 p.m., 311 Cannon Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 30

The Senate will consider cybersecurity legislation this week. Several amendments will be introduced and debated on the floor.

July 31

Hearing:
The Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on federal data security and privacy law.
10 a.m., 628 Dirksen Building

Briefing:
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is hosting a briefing on spectrum allocation policies for mobile technology.
12 noon, B-318 Rayburn Building

Markup:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will review pending legislation, including a bill to extend a law concerning investigations of online activity across borders.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building
ETA: House markup on its similar bill takes place the same afternoon.

Added
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will meet to consider pending bills, including one to extend the law concerning investigations of online activity across borders.
4 p.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

August 1

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on legislation related to taxing sales handled over the Internet.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 23

July 24

Briefing:
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is holding a briefing on assistive voting technology for veterans.
9:30 a.m., 188 Russell Building

Hearing:
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on sales and use tax laws, including sales conducted online.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

July 25

Hearing:
The Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on cloud computing technology and challenges.
12:30 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 16

July 17

Hearing:
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the electric grid and cybersecurity.
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Building

July 18

Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on facial recognition technology, including its online applications.
2:30 p.m., 226 Dirksen Building

July 19

Meeting:
The President’s Council of Advisers for Science and Technology (PCAST) will meet.
9 a.m., 2101 C Street NW, Washington

Posted in Events | Comments closed

USACM Makes Recommendations On Continuity Of E-Government

One of the consequences of the recent East Coast storm was that several cloud computing services were knocked off line for several hours. As government services and information make greater use of the web and cloud services, interruptions to those services will have a greater impact during the next outage. To address such a situation, USACM has developed recommendations for federal agencies to better prepare for when storms or other challenges increase the stress on providing government information and services online. We submitted those recommendations to U.S. Chief Information Office Steven VanRoekel earlier this week.

While the USACM recommendations are focused on federal agencies, the nature of the suggestions could be adapted for state and local governments.

  • Agencies should prepare plans and procedures to minimize website interruption and/or disruption. Under the guidance of the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) in collaboration with agency Chief Information Officers, federal agencies should develop the capacity to have backup sites available in the event that an agency website is rendered inoperable. Such a plan would include a prioritization of services and information in the event a full backup is not possible under particular circumstances.
  • The Federal CIO should develop plans to minimize website interruption/disruption for the Executive Office of the President and the federal government. Such plans would include practices and principles that agencies can use in general, or customize to fit their specific digital public services and agency needs. Such practices and principles could include a chain of control for websites and designations of alternate personnel in case primary website personnel are unavailable.
  • Federal government plans should coordinate federal e-government tools and resources with local and state e-government services. The federal government should exchange best practices with state and local governments and develop communication protocols for information exchange among key-government agency contacts in the event of outages and/or reduced services. This communication exchange should also go from state and local governments to the federal government as appropriate.

USACM will be circulating the recommendations over the next few weeks, and exploring possible next steps in this area.

Posted in ACM/USACM News, Digital Government | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 9

July 10

Discussion:
Deputy Chief Technology Officer Daniel Weitzner will be featured in a discussion on federal Internet policy making.
12 noon, The Hudson Institute, 1015 15th St. NW, Washington. (also available online)

July 12

Meeting:
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will host a day long meeting on developing a consumer data privacy code of conduct for mobile phone services.
9:30 a.m., Department of Commerce Building, 14th and Constitution, Washington, D.C.

Webinar:
The program office for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is hosting a webinar covering the newly announced steering group and upcoming meeting. (Registration required)
1 p.m., online only (Register here)

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 25

June 27

Hearing:
The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on changes in video technology
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

The Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on international enforcement of intellectual property rights.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

The Research and Science Education Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the contributions of research universities to the economy.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

June 28

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on privacy protections online.
10 a.m., 253 Russell Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 18

June 19

Hearing:
The Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the public policy implications of new mobile and online technologies.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

The Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on best practices connected to the Bayh-Dole Act and university technology transfer.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

June 20

Hearing:
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on oversight of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will review pending legislation. The bills being considered include data breach notification and veterans’ identification cards.
10 a.m., 334 Cannon Building

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the implementation of the America Invents Act and international harmonization efforts in patents.
10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

USACM Comments on House Cybersecurity Information Sharing Bill

In late April the House considered and passed several pieces of cybersecurity legislation. At the time USACM released a statement with general recommendations for cybersecurity bills.

Of the bills that passed the House, H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), has attracted the most concern. The bill is currently in the Senate waiting review by the Intelligence Committee. It would revise the National Security Act to have the Director of National Intelligence set up information sharing procedures for cyber threat intelligence between private-sector entities and the intelligence community. Finding the proper balance between cyber security and privacy interests is one of the concerns expressed over the bill, and is a theme in the statement USACM released today. Noting that the benefits of increased information sharing need not come at the expense of increased privacy risks, USACM identified the following concerns with the legislation:

  • The use and retention of personally identifiable information (PII) should be limited to the stated purpose of the legislation.
  • The bill needs additional guidance on when PII could reasonably be cyber threat information.
  • Restrictions on the use of PII in the current bill are relatively narrow.
  • Shared information that is later determined not to be cyber threat information should be deleted.
  • There are insufficient standards in the bill for oversight and/or control of shared information.

How quickly the Senate will take up CISPA is unclear. They are currently trying to work out a compromise on its own legislation, and may bring a bill to the full Senate sometime this month. Whether or not CISPA will be incorporated into the Senate legislation at that time, or considered separately is unclear.

Posted in Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 29

May 31

Hearing:
The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on international proposals to regulate the Internet.
10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building

June 1

Hearing:
The Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity and capital markets.
9:30 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 14

May 17

Hearing:
The Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Hearing will meet on the Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act, H.R. 2168.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

USACM Comments on Electronic Health Records

USACM submitted its public comment on the proposed new and revised certification standards and implementation specifications that define the technological capabilities, functionality, and security of health information technology and electronic health records used in the Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Programs.

The proposed new and revised certification standards are part of the national effort to modernize our healthcare infrastructure under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act). The goal is to provide better managed patient care through improved health information technology and electronic health records.
Read More »

Posted in Web Accessibility | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 7

May 9

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the consumer privacy reports issued by the Federal Trade Commission and the Obama Administration.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

The House Will Engage With Cybersecurity Legislation This Week

While Congress has tried to pass major cybersecurity legislation for the last few years, this week marks what could be a major step forward in finally getting a bill to the President’s desk.

The House leadership has scheduled four cybersecurity bills for votes on Thursday and Friday of this week. The bills up for consideration concern information sharing between the government and the private sector, an overhaul of the law covering how federal government systems manage cybersecurity, and research and development in cybersecurity.

Arguably none of these bills are properly comprehensive, but House leadership opted for a strategy of handling a number of bills across the cybersecurity landscape. The Senate is focused on approving a single comprehensive bill, though some Republicans have placed their support behind another bill. The issues of contention for the Senate bills are the roles played by the Homeland Security Department and the National Security Agency, as well as the level of regulation in the bills.

Given the multiple bills at play (only some of which have been mentioned in this post), USACM has prepared this statement outlining its interests in cybersecurity legislation. It’s important that cybersecurity legislation ensures that:

  • Any information sharing must include protections for personally identifiable information;
  • Unnecessary restriction of cybersecurity risk management options;
  • There are no broad certification requirements for cybersecurity professionals;
  • Cybersecurity education should include systems analysis and design;
  • There is continued federal support for cybersecurity research and development; and
  • There are targeted sets of cybersecurity standards.

What happens later this week on the floor of the House will be the first part of a longer process. The next steps should follow in the Senate in a matter of weeks.

Posted in ACM/USACM News, Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of April 23

April 26 – Edited to note that the E-Verify hearing has been postponed.

April 24 – Edited to add E-Verify hearing for April 27.

The House is expected to consider four cybersecurity bills on Thursday and Friday, April 26 and 27.

April 24

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the migration of video viewing from broadcast and cable television to internet-enabled transmission mechanisms.
10 a.m., 253 Russell Building

The Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the need to act on cybersecurity.
2 p.m., 311 Cannon Building

April 26

Hearing:
Two subcommittees of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the cybersecurity threats posed by Iran.
10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

April 27

Hearing has been postponed.
Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on electronic employment verification.
9:15 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of April 16

April 17 – Edited to add House Homeland Security markup on April 18

April 18

Markup:
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will review a bill to update the Federal Information Security Management Act.
10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

The House Homeland Security Committee will review a bill on information sharing related to cybersecurity.
10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

Hearing:
The Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on electronic employment eligibility systems and document fraud.
11:15 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

April 19

Hearing:
The Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on how technology can help better target benefits and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
10 a.m., 1100 Longworth Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

USACM Offers Recommendations On Data Privacy Codes of Conduct

Part of the Obama Administration’s proposed online privacy initiative involves consumer data privacy codes of conduct. These codes would be developed through a multi-stakeholder process, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is responsible for convening those processes.

To that end, NTIA released a request for comment in early March (the deadline was extended to April 2), and USACM filed comments earlier today. Much like our comments on the governance of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), the request and our comments are focused on issues of process and focus.

In our comments we encourage the NTIA to focus not only on the technologies and applications identified in their request for comment, but also to consider the assessments of privacy risks associated with these technologies and applications. We also recommended that the process – both the meetings and the output of those meetings – be made available to the public in formats that are easily reusable. Much like with NSTIC, trust is going to be an important contributor to the success or failure of the consumer data privacy codes of conduct.

Posted in ACM/USACM News, Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Federal Trade Commission Pushes Forward With Online Privacy Initiative

Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released the final version of its report on consumer privacy online. It issued a draft report in December 2010 and received over 450 comments in response, including those filed by USACM.

The final report retains the same general framework outlined in the December 2010 draft, and is broadly consistent with the effort to develop a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights announced by the Obama Administration last month. In announcing the release of the report, the FTC indicated it would focus on the following areas in its online privacy work over the next several months.

Do-Not-Track – The Commission commends the progress made in this area: browser vendors have developed tools to allow consumers to limit data collection about them, the Digital Advertising Alliance has developed its own icon-based system and also committed to honor the browser tools, and the World Wide Web Consortium standards-setting body is developing standards. “The Commission will work with these groups to complete implementation of an easy-to-use, persistent, and effective Do Not Track system,” the report says.

Mobile – The FTC urges companies offering mobile services to work toward improved privacy protections, including disclosures. To that end, it will host a workshop on May 30, 2012 to address how mobile privacy disclosures can be short, effective, and accessible to consumers on small screens.
Read More »

Posted in Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 26

March 27 – edited to reflect time change for Thursday’s hearing on public access.

Original Post:

March 27

Hearing:
The Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the effect of federal policies on innovation.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

March 28

Hearing:
The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold another hearing on cybersecurity and communications networks.
10 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building

March 29

Hearing:
The Investigations and Oversight Committee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on public access to federally funded research.
9:30 10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the interaction of online privacy and innovation.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 19

March 21

Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the REAL ID Act’s standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

The Technology, Information Policy Intergovernmental Affairs and Procurement Reform Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on technology and the Freedom of Information Action (FOIA).

Posted in Events | Comments closed

Judea Pearl is the 2011 A.M. Turing Award Recipient

The Association for Computing Machinery has awarded the 2011 A.M. Turing Award, considered the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in Computing, to Judea Pearl, a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. Pearl is recognized for his work in transforming research in artificial intelligence (AI). From his Turing citation:

“Judea Pearl’s work has transformed artificial intelligence (AI) by creating a representational and computational foundation for the processing of information under uncertainty. Pearl’s work went beyond both the logic-based theoretical orientation of AI and its rule-based technology for expert systems.

“Equally significant is Pearl’s work on causal reasoning, where he developed a graph-based calculus of interventions that makes it possible to derive causal knowledge from the combined effects of actions and observations. This work has been transformative within AI and computer science, and has had major impact on allied disciplines of economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and statistics.”

The A.M. Turing Award is ACM’s most prestigious technical award. Each year the winner is invited to present a lecture at the ACM Awards Banquet, and thanks to the support of the Intel Corporation and Google, the winner receives a $250,000 prize.

2012 marks the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth, which ACM will celebrate in June. In addition to his contributions to code-breaking for the British during World War II, Turing is an important figure in modern computing, making advances in computer architecture, algorithms, formalization of computing, and artificial intelligence.

Posted in ACM/USACM News | Comments closed

USACM and SIGCHI Comment on Section 508 Refresh on Accessibility

The U.S. Access Board is revising the accessibility standards that require federal agencies to make electronic content and customer premises electronic equipment equally accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities. USACM and the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI) submitted comments to the Access Board on the proposed standards and guidelines.

This “refresh” of the Draft Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines will jointly update the accessibility requirements under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. The current standards were last updated in 2000 and went into effect in 2001.

The Section 508/255 Refresh seeks, in part, to ensure and improve accessibility in light of innovative and emergent developments within the computer and technology industries, such as webcasts, mobile applications and devices, interactive kiosks, laptop computers, onscreen keyboards, and wireless assistive devices. The Refresh also seeks to foster increased compliance through increased ease of use and understanding of the standards by federal agencies, their contractors, and equipment manufacturers.

Read More »

Posted in Web Accessibility | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 5

March 6

Hearing:
The Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on research and development investments.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

March 7

Hearing:
The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on communications networks and cybersecurity.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

March 9

Meeting:
The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) will meet.
10 a.m., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

Posted in Events | Comments closed

USACM Comments on the Menlo Report

On Monday USACM submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the Menlo Report, which was issued in September 2011. The goal of the report was to extend ethical guidelines for research involving human subjects to computer and information security research. It based its framework on the Belmont Report for 1979, which developed similar guidelines for biomedical and behavioral sciences.

While this effort is a good start, as USACM noted in its comments, “developing directly usable guidance for researchers requires both broader and deeper
consideration of these issues” than can be found in the Menlo Report. We recommend that the DHS:

  • Collect and analyze data on current practices before taking action.
  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of research ethics board models, including national and regional review bodies as well as IRBs.
  • Systematically consider related work and guidance from around the globe.
  • Include specialists in research ethics as part of the process.
  • The work DHS is doing is important, but is not on its own. As reflected in our comments from last September, the Department of Health and Human Services is working out revisions on its own human subjects research regulations, and DHS would benefit from exploring that effort and using it to inform its own work.

    We think the Menlo Report is necessary, research in computing and information technology needs to live up to its responsibilities concerning the human subjects affected by that research. USACM is willing and able to assist in furthering the work needed to do so.

    Posted in ACM/USACM News, Innovation, Privacy and Security | Comments closed

    Guest Post on Cybersecurity Legislation from Chris Bronk

    What follows is a guest post from Chris Bronk, Information Technology Policy Fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. He’s a new member of USACM, but the post reflects only his thoughts on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, and not necessarily those of USACM.

    Digesting the New Senate Cybersecurity Legislation

    by Chris Bronk

    Senators Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Jay Rockefeller, and Diane Feinstein introduced another cybersecurity bill in the U.S. Senate on February 14. “The Cybersecurity Act of 2012,” or S.2105, is yet another attempt by the Senate to bring to a vote a major piece of bipartisan legislation on information and communications security. There have been several efforts to produce new law on this front, but debate has often mired on serious sticking points. The “Internet kill switch,” where the President would have the authority to close off the Internet, standing as perhaps the most rhetorically threatening of them. There is no kill switch in S.2105.

    Within S.2105, a broad set of issues was considered of interest to the federal government, the IT industry, and the operators of critical infrastructure. The bill lays out some pragmatic planks for determining responsibilities beyond the federal government, further bulking up national cyber security capabilities, and offering a roadmap for regulation of cyber security responsibility.

    Significantly, S.2105 emphasizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the lead official on cybersecurity matters, with the usual exceptions for agencies in the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. DHS has gradually grown a capability in cybersecurity, and S.2105 would expand it, combining the functions of DHS’s National Cyber National Cyber Security Division, the Office of Emergency Communications, and the National Communications System into a single National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications. Presumably, this new center would operate in a manner similar to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s inter-agency function-specific centers, such as the National Counter Terrorism Center.

    Beyond the national center, S.2105 addresses another issue of great importance, the vulnerability of critical infrastructure – in both the public and private sectors – to cyber attack. The legislation lays out a process for designating critical infrastructure, assessing risks to it and “promulgat[ing] regulations to enhance the security of covered critical infrastructure against cyber risks.” This component will no doubt attract scrutiny as it assigns responsibilities and assesses liability – and the limitations thereof – with regard to the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure. (S.2105 also lays out standards on criticality, having to do with loss of life, service interruption, and severe economic damage among others).

    Other elements of the bill consider the expanded staffing needs and the peculiarities of clearing non-government employees to handle sensitive or classified information. It also considers cybersecurity information sharing issues, reform of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), and education and R&D initiatives.

    This bill may be able to clear previous obstacles and deliver to the President and the Department of Homeland Security the necessary authorities to move beyond piecemeal efforts in cyber security remedy and coordination. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has already held a hearing on the bill, so there is interest in getting this legislation to a Senate vote sooner rather than later.

    Posted in Privacy and Security | Comments closed

    Hill Tech Happenings, Week of February 27

    February 29

    Hearing:
    The Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
    2 p.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

    Posted in Events | Comments closed

    Hill Tech Happenings, Week of February 13

    February 16

    Hearing:
    The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2012.
    2:30 p.m., 342 Dirksen Building

    February 17

    Hearing:
    The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on science research and development funding for fiscal year 2013.
    9:30 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

    Posted in Events | Comments closed

    House Takes Another Crack at Updating NITRD

    Yesterday the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved legislation updating the High Performance Computing Act of 1991. That law, among other things, established the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program (NITRD). NITRD was established to coordinate federal research and development in computing, and as computing knowledge and technology change, the law should try to keep up.

    The House legislation aims to do just that, adding language to the existing law concerning cloud computing and cyber-physical systems, revising language concerning strategic planning for the program and its National Coordination Office and further encourages the National Science Foundation to use its programs to increase education in cybersecurity issues and to increase participation in the field by underrepresented groups.

    The bill, H.R. 3834, now moves to the full House for a vote.

    Posted in Education and Workforce, Innovation | Comments closed

    Hill Tech Happenings, Week of February 6

    February 7

    Markup:
    The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will review pending legislation, including a bill to amend the High Performance Computing Act of 1991.
    10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

    February 8

    Hearing:
    The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the cybersecurity of communications networks.
    9:30 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building

    Posted in Events | Comments closed

    Hill Tech Happenings, Week of January 30

    February 1

    Markup:
    The Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies of the House Homeland Security Committee will mark up legislation on cybersecurity and information sharing.
    10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

    Posted in Events | Comments closed