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Congress Tries to Make Technology Law Better With 5 New Bills

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on February 02, 2015 2:32 PM

With a new session of Congress comes new legislation, and here at FindLaw's Technologist, we're obviously concerned with how the proposed laws will regulate technology.

Things look good so far, with a minimum of "cyber"-titled bills, which reflects the fact that maybe people who know what they're talking about are writing this new legislation. Unfortunately, many of these bills were introduced in the last Congress, but sat in committees for months or years, all dying when the new Congress took over. But maybe this new Congress can get something done? (he said naively).

1. S. 135, the Secure Data Act of 2015.

Before there were new Chinese government rules requiring all software sold to Chinese banks to have a government back door, there was Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden's bill. The Secure Data Act prohibits federal agencies from requiring a technology manufacturer to build user surveillance capabilities into its products.

2. H.R. 104, the Cyber Privacy Fortification Act of 2015.

This bill, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, would make it a crime if an entity with a duty to report security breaches (like a bank) fails to report breaches that result in the loss of sensitive personal information. The act would also allow potential civil penalties against the entity.

3. H.R. 94, the Cameras in the Courtroom Act.

Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia introduced this doozy, which would require the U.S. Supreme Court to permit TV coverage of its open proceedings, unless a majority of the justices agree that coverage would violate a party's due process rights. (We're not sure if this one will ever see the light of day, or if it does, whether it would implicate a separation of powers principle.)

4. S. 40, the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2015.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont wants to direct the FCC to implement true net neutrality regulations that would forbid broadband Internet providers from prioritizing certain traffic or from negotiating agreements with individual companies to make their traffic faster (or at least, to not slow it down).

5. H.R. 283, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015.

This bill -- which has been proposed in some form many times before -- would eliminate the now-pointless 180-day distinction when it comes to getting a warrant for stored emails. (Federal law currently requires only an administrative subpoena to get communications that have been stored longer than 180 days.)

The bill would also prohibit electronic communications services from volunteering to offer stored data to a government entity without a search warrant (you'll recall that was a bit of an issue during the George W. Bush era).

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