Your legislative update on important Internet policy issues for the period from mid-December 2019 to mid-January 2020.
In 2020, Congress is taking aim at perceived problems in the tech sphere, and the i2Coalition stands at the ready to ensure that they approach this problem solving in sensible, constructive ways, and that does not place undue or unwarranted burden on our industry.
Starting off the year in Internet policy was the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce hearing on January 8 entitled, “Americans at Risk: Manipulation and Deception in the Digital Age”. The hearing provided Members of the Subcommittee with an opportunity to examine a series of issues related to the widespread availability of fake or misleading content online. Chief among the most pressing questions facing policymakers was the issue of whether Congress should create a common set of standards or definitions regarding what constitutes a deep fake or dark pattern technology. Members also focused on the merits of relying on private industry regulation as opposed to government intervention. Though much of Washington’s attention is squarely focused on either impeachment or Iran, this hearing gives us a lens by which we expect Congress to engage with tech in the coming months.
We have heard forecasts of coming hearings on both Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA230) and section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. We have been told to expect discussions on Capitol Hill around both encryption and digital privacy.
It is important to note that legislators want to hear from private industry on what solutions they can proactively bring to the table. The i2Coalition seeks to educate legislators from enacting poorly thought out legislation. As i2Coalition works to be the central voice for the Internet’s infrastructure on these important issues, we will do so in collaboration with our members towards a common goal of a safe and open Internet.
- Justice Department Review – Attorney General Barr met with state Attorneys General on Tuesday, December 10th 2019, announcing a broad review of Section 230. The Department of Justice plans to not only speak with Attorney Generals across the country, but also experts from academia, industry and government. AG Barr noted that a public workshop on Section 230 is forthcoming. Details have not yet been made available.
- USMCA – Provisions similar to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act were kept as a part of the larger trade deal, despite recent calls from Speaker Pelosi and others to remove the language from the deal. The same language was also included in the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement that lawmakers in Tokyo approved in late November 2019.
DHS Cyber Order – The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, November 27th 2019 issued a draft order that would require federal agencies to increase protections against cyber vulnerabilities. CISA asked for public comment on a draft directive requiring government agencies to develop and publish cyber vulnerability disclosure policies.
Supply Chain/China Threats – On Friday, January 10th, the comment period closed on the proposed Department of Commerce supply chain security regulation, meant to let the government block U.S. companies from buying technology that could pose a national security risk. In the comments, taxpayers and business groups called on the administration to withdraw or significantly scale back from the proposed rule.
China – President Trump signed the Phase One deal on trade with China on Wednesday, January 15th. U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue noted that the deal provides certainty for U.S. businesses and forms an important foundation for future global trade, but also mentioned that both sides must quickly negotiate phase two to address important matters such as subsidies, digital trade and data discrimination, as well as non-tariff barriers to U.S. manufacturers and service providers.
USMCA – The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed a vote in the U.S. Senate this week, bringing it closer to being signed into law, which the i2Coalition has strongly supported, particularly the Digital Trade chapter.
- E&C Bill – The House Energy and Commerce Committee released an initial draft of a bipartisan privacy bill on Dec. 18 2019, designed to establish more transparent privacy practices across all sectors of the U.S. economy, and would empower the Federal Trade Commission to enforce violations.
- Walberg/Rush Bill – Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced the “Preventing Real Online Threats Endangering Children Today Act,” which seeks to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) to require companies to obtain parental consent before collecting personal data about users under the age of 16, and adds biometric and geolocation information to the types of data defined as personal information. COPPA only applies to those younger than 13 and does not cover biometric and geolocation data.
- Nothing new to report.
- Washington Privacy Act – On January 13th, a bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers in Washington State unveiled the Washington Privacy Act. The bill aims to give consumers “the right to access, correction, and deletion of personal data, as well as the right to opt out of the collection and use of personal data for certain purposes.” It would also impose “affirmative obligations upon companies to safeguard personal data and provide clear, understandable, and transparent information to consumers about how their personal data are used,” empowering the state attorney general to evaluate those efforts and impose penalties as needed. The proposal also sets boundaries for commercial use of facial recognition technology.