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SOPA Mark-up Likely Even as Opposition Grows

Cybersecurity Bills Address Information Sharing, but Lack Adequate Controls

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December 8, Washington, DC - Leslie Harris will participate in a panel discussion on Internet Freedom at the Newseum.

December 8, Washington, DC - Harley Geiger will speak on a panel at the Federal Trade Commission's Forum on Facial Recognition

December 14, Online - Deven McGraw will participate in an HIMSS Virtual Briefing, "Privacy and Security: Practical Solutions for a Changing Landscape"


CDT has been urging lawmakers to pursue balanced solutions to two of the biggest challenges facing the Internet: copyright infringement and cybersecurity. So far, on both issues, that balance is lacking as legislation moves forward.

SOPA Mark-up Likely Even as Opposition Grows

SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act, a House bill intended to address the serious problem of large scale copyright infringement, particularly by foreign sites. Unfortunately, the bill's approach, which targets Internet intermediaries, poses a major threat to online innovation, free expression, and security. CDT's David Sohn had a piece in The Daily Beast explaining why SOPA would eviscerate the current structure of digital copyright law, effectively giving every copyright and trademark owner a big club with which to threaten any new technology or feature that the rights holder thinks doesn't do enough to police possible infringing uses.

Even as the chorus of opposition to SOPA grows, the House Judiciary Committee could consider the bill as early as next week. (We're hearing that a mark-up could be held on December 14 or 15.) We are urging the Committee to heed the technical experts warning that SOPA's proposal to enlist the domain name system in copyright enforcement would undermine efforts to improve Internet security. CDT has recommended an alternative approach, focused on cutting off the flow of money to copyright infringing sites.

One positive development, likely as soon as today, will be the unveiling of an alternative bill by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). That bill would seek to use trade law mechanisms to identify foreign infringing sites and is expected to more carefully focus on true "bad actors." It should offer an approach that could make a real dent in the piracy problem without all the collateral damage of SOPA.

Cybersecurity Bills Address Information Sharing, but Lack Adequate Controls

Congress is beginning to move cybersecurity legislation, with a growing likelihood that something will be enacted next year. Key issues remain unresolved, however, included defining the proper role of the government and, within government, defining the balance of power between the civilian Department of Homeland Security and the military cybersecurity agencies. Information sharing is on everyone's must-do list. CDT supports efforts to improve sharing, but the issue raises privacy concerns that we believe must be dealt with.

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee reported a bill that would authorize the intelligence agencies (particularly the National Security Agency) to share their "secret sauce" (including cyberattack signatures) with private sector companies so they can better protect their networks. CDT supports that flow of data to the private sector. However, the Intell Committee bill also authorizes Internet service providers and other companies to share customer communications and other personally identifiable information with governmental agencies, without effective limits. CDT fears that the Intell bill is likely to lead to expansion of the government's role in the monitoring of private communications and would shift control of government cybersecurity efforts from civilian agencies to the military, who will be able to use the information for any purpose not specifically prohibited.

Earlier this week, CDT testified on a different bill, drafted by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). In contrast to the Intelligence Committee bill, the Lungren bill would re-affirm that DHS has the lead role in protecting the computer systems of civilian agencies and in helping the private sector enhance security. We testified that we liked that provision, as well as the light regulatory touch of the bill overall. However, we noted that the provisions in the Lungren bill on information sharing lack safeguards. We are working to develop appropriate limiting language.

CDT Files FTC Complaint Against Medical Justice

Last week, CDT filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that the company Medical Justice had engaged in deceptive and unfair business practices by attempting to prohibit patients from posting online reviews about their doctors. Within 24 hours, the company announced that it was abandoning the contracts it had used in an effort to limit online speech.

"Going Dark" Versus a "Golden Age for Surveillance"

CDT Fellow Peter Swire explains why law enforcement and national security claims about "going dark" due to new technology are misleading. Actually, this is the "golden age of surveillance," as government agencies have far greater access than ever before to communications, location data, and information from an array of new databases. Rather than expanding government powers yet further, lawmakers need to re-establish traditional judicial controls, as recommended by the Digital Due Process Coalition.

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