ACM Washington Update, Vol. 13.6 (July 14, 2009)

By David Bruggeman
July 14, 2009


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] USACM Completes Reorganization
[3] USACM Members Testify on Cybersecurity
[4] USACM Co-Chair Outlines Mechanics of Behavioral Advertising
[5] USACM Highlights Challenges and Opportunities in Internet Voting
[6] IT Dashboard Lets You Monitor Government IT Spending Online
[7] Senate Introduces Bill Resembling Real ID
[8] House Appropriations Bill Shows Research Increases for NIST, NSF, and DOE Office of Science
[9] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at]


There are more details on each item below, as well as on our weblog at

* USACM officially voted for the At-Large positions on its Council, completing its reorganization.

* Two USACM members provided testimony on Cybersecurity issues before the House Science and Technology Committee.

* USACM Co-Chair Ed Felten testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the mechanics of behavioral advertising.

* A USACM panel on Internet voting issues at the Computer, Freedom and Privacy Conference explored current technologies, practices, and legal issues surrounding the delivery and receiving voting information via the internet.

* Part of the ongoing embrace of Web 2.0 by the Federal government, the IT Dashboard is a newly released government tool to track federal IT investments.

* While many states have rejected the REAL ID law, legislation very similar to it has been introduced in the Senate.

* House legislation setting funding amounts for Fiscal Year 2010 would provide increases for research funding at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.


As part of the elevation of USACM from committee to council, the Council recently filled all of its at-large seats, putting its membership at full strength. Members of the Council with voting rights include: USACM Chair, any Co-Chairs, the ACM President or President’s Designee, Chairs of all subcommittees, and six at-large members. A full listing of the council membership can be found at:

Our congratulations to the new USACM Council!


During the month of June, the House Science and Technology Committee held multiple hearings on cybersecurity in connection with the Obama Administration’s cybersecurity review. Two USACM members, Fred Schneider and Seymour Goodman, provided testimony at the June 10 hearing of the Research and Education Subcommittee. The hearing dealt a lot with social components of cybersecurity, including the need for new and different kinds of education for practioners and consumers. Other issues were the need for incentive structures to encourage better sharing of information with the public, as well as the transfer of knowledge and technology from the bench to the field. At least two of the witnesses explicitly mentioned using social science knowledge to better understand online behaviors and vulnerabilities.

Dr. Goodman addressed a technology-specific concern that with the increasing in use of telephony there is a new target for those who would exploit cybersecurity weaknesses. In addition to the hearings, there is pending legislation in the Senate that will likely influence further cybersecurity policies. The provisions of that bill provide the government with a significant amount of authority to intervene in operations of the Internet.

Further information on the hearings can be found at: – June 10 hearing – June 16 hearing – June 25 hearing

You can read the Senate bill at:|/bss/|

The other hearings in this series focused on how various federal agencies are dealing with cybersecurity in general.


USACM Co-Chair Edward Felten testified on behavioral advertising before two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet are working together on developing a consumer privacy bill and this hearing was part of the process. You can find out more information, including webcast and testimony, from the hearing here:

Dr. Felten’s testimony focused on the mechanics of behavioral advertising, how profiles can be collected through the web surfing actions of consumers. The dilemmas for policymakers stem in part from the fact that some of this monitoring and profile generation is fine, even wanted, to enhance the value of information and services we receive online. As a result, there’s no easy technical solution for the problem, but the need for determining what kinds of consent, notice, and restrictions on the use of consumer data remains. Something the Committee will need to decide is what standards to set, and how to apply them to the various entities that collect and/or use information collected for behavioral advertising purposes.


On June 4th, USACM helped organize a panel on Internet Voting at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference. Experts on voting issues discussed remote voting using the Internet or military networks and provided valuable insight into the issues that are important to the future of voting. The panel was chaired by USACM Vice-Chair, Ed Felten of Princeton. The panelists were: Amy Bjelland and Craig Stender from the State of Arizona, Susan Dzieduszucka-Suinat of the Overseas Vote Foundation, Avi Rubin from Johns Hopkins University, and Alec Yasinsac from the University of South Alabama. Through their discussions, a viewer could understand the dilemma. Overseas voters deserve the opportunity to vote in elections, but it is difficult for them to participate in a timely fashion. While computer technology can help make it easier to vote, there are serious concerns about how to make that process secure and reliable.

Voting kiosks and Internet transmission of absentee ballots were the major technologies discussed. A voting kiosk is a secure and remotely located computer-based system that uses carefully configured software. All of the panelists agreed that voting kiosks were worth trying. The second system concerned distribution and collection of ordinary absentee ballots online. This system is less secure, but is getting more traction than voting kiosks since it allows for voting from anywhere with an Internet connection. It seems the next steps are to figure out how far remote voting can be done safely and securely while still making it convenient for overseas voters.

For more information on this discussion panel see:


A recently released website, IT Dashboard, is another effort by the Obama Administration to promote transparency of government. The IT Dashboard site provides details on all information technology investments made by various federal agencies. The site is visually appealing, with the use of charts and graphs to help users explore and compare numerous projects and agencies. As noted by the FAQ, the site:

“displays data received from agency reports to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), including general information on over 7,000 Federal IT investments and detailed data for nearly 800 of those investments that agencies classify as ‘major’.”

Worthy to note is the sites clear focus on IT spending versus the spending on the research underlying IT. This site’s emphasis on the former is consistent with the Obama Administration’s interest in using IT to help facilitate agency services and functions.

The IT Dashboard can be explored at:


After several states passed legislation preventing them from implementing the REAL ID Act, it appeared that REAL ID would not be fully implemented. It was even considered possible in some quarters that the law might be repealed and replaced with the rulemaking process that was in progress when REAL ID was passed in 2005. However, a bill was recently introduced in the Senate that would repeal REAL ID and replace it with an ID system that has many of the same problems as REAL ID. S.1261 was introduced by Senator Akaka, who has tried to repeal REAL ID in the past.
You can read the bill here

There have been changes in the cost structure of the bill, and there will no longer be a national electronic system linking the various state databases. However, there will be a pilot project for just such a system, allowing the possiblity of a national data exchange once the pilot has been successfully demonstrated. There is some language in the bill that acknowledges the importance of privacy protections, which should be applauded, as such language rarely makes it into legislation. However, very few of the good changes that came about after the 2007 public comment period on REAL ID regulations remain in the bill. For instance, it is possible under the current legislation for RFID chips to be used in a PASS ID. These chips can be scanned remotely without the knowledge of the ID holder. Here’s a link to our comments from that time.

A review of the bill suggests that most of USACM’s comments could be applied to the new legislation, and that the new program – called PASS ID – will not provide the increased security proponents claim it does.  Additionally, PASS ID falls into that same trap of  a so-called ‘gold standard’ identity document that REAL ID does. Such a ‘gold standard’ identity document looks nice, until it gets cracked.  At that point, the kinds of mischief that can happen make the whole system not worth the trouble. Something that tough to crack is unfortunately really hard to restore. Identity theft under cover of a REAL ID will be harder to recover from than it currently is today.


After a marathon voting session, the House recently approved the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010 (FY2010). While the Senate has yet to weigh in, it seems likely that the agencies targeted by the America COMPETES Act will continue the budget increases necessary to see a doubling of research support in those agencies. The National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology are covered in the Commerce, Justice and Science bill. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science is handled in a separate bill that has not yet reached the House floor.

National Science Foundation – The House approved $6.937 billion, almost seven percent higher than FY 09.

National Institute of Standards and Technology – The House approved $781.1 million, which is a cut of 4.6 percent from FY 09. The overall cut results from sharp decreases in the construction accounts; research funding will be up 8.1 percent from FY 09.

Department of Energy Office of Science – The current bill recommends $4.944 billion, a 3.6 percent increase over FY 09.


USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). With over 88,000 members, ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

USACM acts as the focal point for ACM’s interaction with the U.S. Congress and government organizations. It seeks to educate and assist policy-makers on legislative and regulatory matters of concern to the computing community.

For more information about USACM and ACM, see:


For earlier editions of the ACM Washington Update, see:


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