ACM Washington Update Vol. 15.1 (February 16 2011)

By Wadmin953789
February 16, 2011


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] USACM Comments on Proposed Web Accessibility Guidance
[3] USACM Responds to Department of Commerce Online Privacy Report
[4] Computers Freedom And Privacy Conference 2011
[5] NITRD Program Asked for Input on K-12 Computer Science Education
[6] President Signs COMPETES Act Reauthorization
[7] 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 submitted comments to the Department of Justice on how to help make websites compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

* USACM responds to the Internet Policy Task Force online privacy report by recommending implementation of Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs) as well as additional tools for modeling privacy risks.

* The 2011 Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference will be June 14th through 16 in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference theme is “The Future is Now.”

* The federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program sought input on some key questions about K-12 CS education.

* President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, which supports continued increases in federal support for physical sciences research.


The Department of Justice requested comments on some proposed regulations it is working on for website compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). USACM recently submitted comments which included the following recommendations on how to encourage websites covered by the ADA to be compliant.

* Promote Awareness – The public does not have a full understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it already applies to the Web or how improving accessibility can often be an inexpensive process. Educational resources aimed at improving awareness of the ADA, how it might apply to particular Web sites, and how Web site developers and operators might improve accessibility can reduce resistance and increase compliance.

* Encourage Tool and Software Development – The department should encourage tool and software development to make it easier for developers and content providers to design accessible Web page and Web services.

* Adopt the Section 508 Standards – Section 508 standards are currently required for government Web sites. It will be easier for Web developers and builders to work with a uniform standard rather than one set for federal Web sites and another for non-federal sites that must be ADA-compliant. For that reason we recommend adopting the Section 508 standards over the WCAG 2.0 standards

* Voluntary Certification – We recommend that the Department establish a voluntary certification program for Web sites to demonstrate to visitors that the site is compliant with accessibility standards. This would complement the awareness promotion we recommend.

* Lead by Example – Besides ensuring its own compliance with the ADA, federal government leadership in making its own Web sites compliant will help uncover useful tools and best practices that developers and builders can use in non-governmental Web sites.

* Seek Clarity About Compliance – While the ADA already applies to the Web, there exists no guidance about what must comply, how to comply, and who is responsible for what parts of the compliance process, including auditing.

* Encourage Compliance, Not Removal – Depending on how standards are set, implemented and supported, some Web sites may find it easier to remove content rather than comply with the law. Recognizing that the ADA already has undue burden provisions, the Department should still make sure that people understand the standards and how they can be achieved with reasonable means.

This is the first step in what is likely a long-term process for the Department to draft rules, consult with groups affected by these rules, and finalize those rules.

The full response can be read online at:


In December the Internet Policy Task Force (a Commerce Department group drawing on expertise from the Patent and Trademark Office, the International Trade Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration) released a report on commercial data privacy. This followed the release earlier that month of a Federal Trade Commission report about online privacy.

USACM submitted comments on the report. A major theme of the comments was that Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs) are good (and should be broadly implemented), but they are insufficient in themselves for ensuring data privacy in an age of rapidly shifting practices and technological capabilities. USACM strongly encourages the use of three additional items to help strengthen online privacy protection.

A dataflow-based lexicon – The lexicon would help define flows of personal information and provide meaningful references terms. This will assist in managing the variety of different purposes for which information could be used online and be adaptable to reflect changing technologies.

Enhanced privacy risk models – FIPPs do not adequate address norms and harms, which means that practices that are otherwise compliant with FIPPs could be contrary to what a reasonable person would expect or cause harms. An enhanced privacy risk model would address context and harms, as well as be able to adapt for changes in technology and how those changes affect currently held assumptions about privacy.

Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) – A practice followed by some government agencies when implementing particular policies, PIAs can help spread the use of enhanced privacy risk models and FIPPs.

With both the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission spending significant time over online privacy, it is possible that the executive branch may take significant action in this area. In turn, this could motivate Congress to go further in developing online privacy legislation than it has in the past.

The full comments can be read online at:


The Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference (CFP) will take place this year June 14 through the 16th in Washington D.C. ACM is one of the conference sponsors.

This year’s theme is “The Future is Now. The CFP, the 21st, will take place at the Georgetown University Law Center. The conference, as the name suggests, tackles issues involving the intersections of computing, privacy, and related freedoms. More information will be available soon.

The conference organizers have released their call for submissions. The early bird deadline is March 15, and the final deadline is April 1.

Find out more at the conference website:


The federal government asks for advice about education fairly regularly. But it isn’t often that it asks specifically what is needed to advance K-12 computer science education. So it was a pleasant surprise when one federal program asked some key questions about K-12 CS education. Members of our community had the opportunity to speak up about what they think is needed for a stronger K-12 CS education.

Prompted by a report from the Presidents top science advisors, The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD) asked three sets of big and open-ended questions:

* What CS concepts are important to effective elementary, secondary, and post-secondary curricula? Among these concepts, which are commonly found in curricula today? Which are missing?

* What do teachers need (including preparation and training, tools, and resources) to be able to deliver CS education effectively?

* What factors are important in promoting student interest in CS?

Comments had to be submitted by January 31.


President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. The bill continues (among other things) the increasing funding trend for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy started with the American Competitiveness Initiative introduced by President Bush. USACM and ACM’s Education Policy Committee co-authored a letter in support of the bill back in May of 2010, specifically focusing on the parts of the legislation that support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Besides extended support for STEM education and increased federal funding for physical science research, the COMPETES reauthorization applies to the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, and gives federal agencies and departments the authority to conduct prize competitions, which is part of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. The funding allowed in the bill will have to be appropriated by Congress, so the fight for the continued budget support is far from over.


For earlier editions of the ACM Washington Update, see:


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