Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 31, 2015

Posts in "Uncategorized"

January 28, 2015

FAA Warns No Drones Allowed at the Super Bowl

In case you were thinking of bringing your drone to the Super Bowl this weekend, the Federal Aviation Administration is issuing a reminder that no drones are allowed.

According to this FAA release:

The FAA bars unauthorized aircraft – including drones – from flying over or near NFL regular- and post-season football games.

A FAA fact sheet for Sunday’s game says:

All unmanned aircraft operations – also known as drones—are prohibited within the restricted areas. These include model aircraft operations, model rocketry and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Anyone who operates an unmanned aircraft in the restricted area could face civil penalties or criminal charges.

They also uploaded this YouTube video Wednesday with the following voice over: “Going to the big game? Have fun, cheer on your team and keep it a no drone zone. Don’t spoil the game. Leave your drone at home.”

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 3:34 p.m.

January 23, 2015

Weekend Reads: Internet Archive, Bitcoin Exchange and Pinterest

If you’re planning this weekend to grab some coffee, throw your feet on the table and catch up on some reads you missed during this busy, busy week, here are a few stories to get you started:

  • The New Yorker has a piece on the Internet Archive, a San Francisco nonprofit, and its Wayback Machine: “The Wayback Machine is a Web archive, a collection of old Web pages; it is, in fact, the Web archive.”
  • The New York Times has a story on Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’s bid to create the “first regulated Bitcoin exchange for American customers — what they are calling the Nasdaq of Bitcoin.”
  • The Wall Street Journal has a story about Pinterest’s efforts to attract more male users: “The male experience on Pinterest has been similar to visiting a women’s department store. Now Pinterest is trying to make it easier for them to find the men’s section.”

January 14, 2015

Upton and Thune Lay Out Net Neutrality Proposal

In an op-ed in Reuters on Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., lay out a net neutrality proposal for which they say “public discussion” will start this week:

The House of Representatives and the Senate, working together, have come up with a working proposal. We plan to begin a public discussion of it this week.

We need unambiguous rules of the road that protect Internet users and can help spur job creation and economic growth. The rules we propose would prohibit blocking and throttling (the selecting slowing of data), and also ensure that Internet service providers could not charge a premium to prioritize content delivery.

An approach using Title II of the Communications Act would “perpetuate years of litigation and even more uncertainty for consumers and job creators,” they write.

“Seeking a better way forward, we are working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to establish clear, updated and reasonable rules of the digital road to protect an open Internet,” they write.

Over at the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to circulate a proposal for a final net neutrality rule on Feb. 5 and the commission is slated to vote on a final rule Feb. 26.

But Congress has more flexibility than the FCC to “narrowly tailor rules appropriate for today’s digital ecosystem,” Thune and Upton write.

“Congress can establish clear protections for consumers that can make sure innovators are free from gatekeeper interference, without affecting incentives for robust private-sector investment,” they write. “By updating our communications laws for today’s online world, Congress can ensure the continued growth of our digital economy while preventing harmful government overreach.”

They’re planning to “pursue a public process” to write bipartisan net neutrality rules in the coming days, they write.

January 13, 2015

Facebook Launches AMBER Alerts on News Feeds

Mock-up of what the AMBER Alerts on Facebook would look like. The case referenced, though, is an active AMBER Alert. (Image from Facebook)

Mock-up of what the AMBER Alerts on Facebook would look like. The case referenced, though, is an active AMBER Alert. (Image from Facebook)

Starting today, if you’re in a search area for an AMBER Alert, you could see it on your Facebook News Feed.

The social media company launched a feature with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to automatically send AMBER alerts to its users.

Emily Vacher, the company’s security, trust and safety manager, says alerts will “only be delivered to members of the Facebook community who are actually in a position to be able to help.”

The company’s automated systems will “try and look for signals that would indicate that somebody is in that search area,” Vacher said, pointing to factors like the location information users provide when they sign up for Facebook, check-in information, and IP addresses.

“So our automated tools would look at these signals and try to deliver these alerts to people who are most likely in the search area,” she said.

Those AMBER Alerts will show up on user’s Facebook feeds. Facebook gets its information directly from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which gets its information from law enforcement, according to Vacher.

A “Learn More” button redirects users to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s poster on the child and a “Share” button lets you, obviously, share on Facebook.

If users aren’t interested, they can click the “x” at the top of the alert, which will remove it from their feeds and they won’t see it again, Vacher said.

From a release:

Law enforcement determines the range of the target area for each alert. The number of alerts people will see depends on how many alerts are issued in their area — some people may see a few each year and many people will likely get no alerts at all.

How did the idea come about?

“It actually came about because of what we’ve seen people who use Facebook are already doing,” Vacher said. They noticed in the past year or two that people have been sharing information about missing children in their communities.

They wanted to figure out a way to “amplify” that in order to potentially maximize the number of people at the right place and time who might see the information, she said.

The new system isn’t the first time Facebook users could see AMBER Alerts. They could previously sign up for alerts from state law enforcement.

January 6, 2015

Online Sales Tax Legislation in the New Congress

Employees select and dispatch items in the huge Amazon 'fulfilment centre' warehouse in Peterborough, England on November 28, 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Employees select and dispatch items in the huge Amazon ‘fulfilment centre’ warehouse in Peterborough, England on November 28, 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The 114th Congress convenes on Tuesday, and CQ Roll Call’s Katy O’Donnell reports in CQ Weekly (subscription) that legislation that would let states require online retailers to collect sales taxes could make it through this new Congress, but only if there are significant changes from the measure the Senate passed back in May 2013.

“State revenue officers and bricks-and-mortar retailers who support the idea see opportunities ahead: A ban on Internet access taxes, renewed in December, will expire again in October, yielding the possibility that an extension will be linked to sales-tax legislation,” O’Donnell reports.

She goes on to write: “Lobbyists on both sides of the issue say the Senate measure will need tweaks to get anywhere in view of GOP sensitivity to anything that smacks of a new tax.”

January 5, 2015

The Week Ahead: International CES and Trade Secrets

Technocrat is back to regularly-scheduled programming! This week, the 114th Congress convenes, and there are events in D.C. and Las Vegas.


  • The Consumer Electronics Association’s International CES begins and continues through Friday in Las Vegas.



  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hosts a symposium on issues related to protecting trade secrets.



December 19, 2014

Obama: Sony Pictures ‘Made a Mistake’ in Pulling ‘The Interview’

President Barack Obama said Friday that he thought Sony Pictures Entertainment “made a mistake” in pulling the movie “The Interview” from distribution.

Sony has been the subject of a massive cyberattack which the FBI blames on North Korea. The company reportedly recently cancelled the release of the film, after theater chains dropped plans to show it because of a threat of violence.

Obama said he was sympathetic to concerns Sony faced, saying it suffered significant damage and there were threats against employees.

But having said all that, “yes, I think they made a mistake,” he said at a news conference.

He said he wished the company had spoken to him before making the decision, saying he would have told them not to get into a “pattern in which you are intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

He also mentioned that he hoped Congress would work with the administration in the new year on “strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms as well as the public sector” so that best practices are incorporated and attacks are prevented from happening in the first place.

But even as we get better, he said, hackers would get better too.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama said. That isn’t what America is about, he later added.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 4:10 p.m.

FBI Says North Korea Responsible for Cyberattack on Sony Pictures

The FBI on Friday officially accused North Korea of conducting a recent cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the effects of which have continued to be felt weeks after the hacking.

“As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” the FBI said in a statement.

In the statement, the FBI said it’s”deeply concerned” about how destructive the attack was on a private company and people who worked there.

From the FBI’s statement:

North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States. Though the FBI has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyber intrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior. The FBI takes seriously any attempt—whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise—to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.

The FBI said it came to the determination that North Korea was responsible for the cyberattack based, in part, on three factors. From the FBI’s release:

  • Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.

  • The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack

  • Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.

During a press conference later on Friday, President Barack Obama said the U.S. would respond “proportionally.” He also said there was “no indication” that North Korea was acting together with another country.

FCC Rejects Complaint That Saying “Redskins” on the Radio Is Obscene

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday rejected a request by George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf that it deny a license renewal for radio station WWXX over its broadcast of the term “Redskins.”

WWXX is run by Red Zebra Broadcasting, of which Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder is the primary investor.

Full story

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 11:14 a.m.
Telecom, Uncategorized

December 18, 2014

Group of 36 Democrats Call for Quick FCC Action on Net Neutrality Rules

A group of 36 House and Senate Democrats wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler Thursday,  saying it’s “time for action” on net neutrality rules, and that those rules should reclassify broadband service as a common carrier with “appropriate forbearance.”

The letter was led by Sen. Edward J. Markey, of Massachusetts, and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, of California, who have been calling for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act.

It’s been nearly year since an appeals court struck down the bulk of the agency’s 2010 net neutrality rules and since then, millions of companies and constituents have articulated the “need for the Commission to use its authority to prevent broadband providers from engaging in discriminatory practices,” the lawmakers write.

“Many of us have previously written to you and urged the Commission to put the strongest possible rules on the books in order to ensure the health and vitality of the Internet for future generations,” they write, adding that the agency should reclassify broadband with “appropriate forbearance.” President Barack Obama has also urged this approach, they write.

“Everyone has spoken; now is the time for action,” they write.  “We urge you to act without delay to finalize rules that keep the Internet free and open for business.”

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