ACM Washington Update Vol. 15.2 (March 16 2011)

By Wadmin953789
March 17, 2011


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] 2010 ACM A.M Turing Award Recognizes Les Valiant
[3] USACM Supports Defense Against FY ‘11 Cuts
[4] USACM Comments on Federal Trade Commission Online Privacy Report
[5] USACM Joins Statement of Concern Over Expansion of Intercept Law
[6] Senate Passes Patent Reform Bill
[7] About USACM

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


Contrary to press reports, there are other things going on in Washington besides the budget negotiations. There are more details on each item below, as well as on our weblog at:

* Les Valiant wins A.M Turing Award for his work in computer science theory.

* USACM joined with other numerous other organizations on a letter urging the Senate to to resist deep cuts to science agency budgets approved recently by the House of Representatives.

* USACM submitted comments in response to FTC’s preliminary staff report concerning online privacy. The report outlines a proposed privacy framework.

* USACM signed on to a statement developed by the Center for Democracy and Technology in response to possible changes to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

* The Senate passed a bill intended to reform the patent system.


Les Valiant, the T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been recognized for his work in machine learning and the theory of computation with the 2010 ACM A.M. Turing Award. The Award, which comes with a $250,000 prize, is supported in part by Intel and Google, and is considered the top prize in computing. It is named for the British mathematician Alan Turing, who was instrumental in the early development of modern computing.

Over his career, Dr. Valiant has made notable contributions to several parts of computer science theory. He helped establish the foundation of computer learning theory. Valiant also developed the concept of complexity of enumeration and a theory of algebraic computation. His work in parallel and distributed computing theory is also well regarded.

Read more about Dr. Valiant’s work:


USACM signed a letter sent to the Senate leadership early in March urging them to resist the deep cuts to science agency budgets approved by the House of Representatives. The cuts would be for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The letter was organized by the Task Force on American Innovation; over 170 organizations have signed on.

The basic argument of the letter was to encourage the continued doubling path for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. Echoing language from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the letter indicates that even in a time of cuts and savings there is still a need for investment in education, infrastructure, and research and development, especially to help support needed economic growth. The proposed cuts work counter to that need for investment.

The final resolution of this budget debate may be soon, or another temporary measure may have to be passed. The current continuing resolution that funds the government is scheduled to expire on March 18.

The full letter can be read online at:


On February 18th, USACM submitted comments in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) preliminary staff report concerning online privacy. Titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change,” the report outlines a proposed privacy framework involving the following general principles:

– Companies should integrate privacy into their regular business operations (a Privacy by Design approach)

– Consumer choice needs to be presented in a more streamlined fashion than current practice

– Companies should increase the transparency all of their data practices, including those in the parts of their business that don’t engage with consumers directly.

The FTC also sought comment on the development and use of a Do Not Track policy comparable to the Do Not Call list to reduce telemarketing calls. USACM encouraged the FTC in its comments to define Do Not Track in a way that was technology neutral. It is also important to have a Do Not Track system that allows for a variety of consumer choices. There must be some options between track everything and track nothing so that consumers can really craft a personalized Internet experience that reflects their preferences. Additionally, USACM repeated its arguments for a dataflow-based lexicon and enhanced privacy risk models to help ensure consumer privacy online.

The full report can be read online at:

ACM’s comments can be read online at:


In the middle of February the Center for Democracy and Technology released a statement it developed to respond to possible changes to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). USACM is one of the organizations that signed the statement.

The statement was developed due to press reports that there are efforts within the executive branch to expand the law, which requires companies to modify their electronic telecommunications equipment to facilitate wiretaps for law enforcement and other purposes. Originially passed in 1994, CALEA has been expanded to address changes in technology. However, as the statement indicates,

“Clearly, lawful electronic surveillance plays an important role in enabling government agencies to fulfill their obligations to stop crime and to protect national security. These goals, however, must be reconciled with other important societal values, including cybersecurity, privacy, free speech, innovation and commerce.”

The statement goes on to address significant concerns that need to be covered for future changes to laws that deal with electronic communications. It is important to preserve trust in communications systems.This can be achieved by safeguarding cybersecurity, not compromising encryption, protecting privacy and promoting accountability. If these steps (which are given more detail in the statement) are taken, the nation can support innovation and competitiveness interests while preserving lawful interests in electronic surveillance.

There is no specific proposal to change CALEA at the present time. But there is enough of a concern about making sure electronic communications remain secure and productive that a statement like the one CDT issued makes sense.

The full report can be read online at:


On March 8 the Senate passed a bill intended to reform the patent system. S. 23, the Patent Reform Act of 2011, would take steps to harmonize the U.S. patent system with those in the rest of the world. The most notable change amongst them is to make the U.S. system based on the first to file rather than the first to invent. The bill also allows for relevant third parties to file information with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This information would assist USPTO examiners with the evaluation of the patent. And perhaps most importantly, the bill makes necessary changes to the USPTO that allow it greater control over the fee money that it collects and the ability to establish satellite offices (the first one is planned for Detroit).

The entire Bill can be read online at:


USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery (, unites computing 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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