Digital Policy Roundup: Privacy Debate Returns to Hill, Senate Cyber Bill Still in Flux, and ICANN announces Windfall of Applications and Fees

Privacy Debates Returns to Capitol Hill this Week
After a bit of a hiatus from the privacy debate, the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to revisit the issue this week with a high profile hearing on the need for privacy legislation to provide additional consumer protections, featuring witnesses from the Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission to talk about their recent privacy reports. With the clock ticking fast in an election year, and a Republican-led House that doesn’t share the White House and Senate leadership’s desire to pass a “Privacy Bill of Rights,” it doesn’t appear that the hearing will lead to legislation this year. However, the discussion should prove insightful as a comparison of the two similar, but not identical, perspectives on privacy within the Administration.

Senate Cyber Legislation Still Undergoing Changes, Possible Impasse Ahead
Keeping with the goal for the Senate to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation this month, Senate Leaders are still exploring tweaks to the Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Act (S. 2105) to gain more support. Two of the key issues preventing sufficient Republican support include the proposal’s tougher privacy protections and authorization for DHS to set mandatory security standards for critical infrastructure.

Should the Senate be able to pass this legislation, signs continue to point to a possible impasse: The White House and Senate Democratic leaders have reiterated that the House-passed legislation (CISPA) lacks adequate privacy protections and would fail to protect critical infrastructure, and House Republican leadership has vowed to block consideration of any legislation that creates new cybersecurity mandates. Of course, there is also strong support in the Senate for data breach legislation to be part of the package, and a host of other issues not central to the debate. Stay tuned.

ICANN Announces Windfall of Applications and Fees
ICANN announced last week that 2,091 new gTLD applications had been submitted or were “in process” when ICANN shut down the application system April 12 (the last day for submissions) due to security concerns. It stated it had received approximately $350 million in corresponding application fees. Given that ICANN has stated it will process only 500 applications at a time, it is now a certainty, rather than speculation, that many applications will NOT be evaluated in this first application round (and thus likely would not be evaluated for several years).

SIIA is working with other intellectual property stakeholders in urging ICANN to reconsider its technically complex “digital archery” method for prioritizing applications, and instead to batch them based upon self-election and, if necessary, category (such as community or non-Latin character applications first). ICANN’s TAS application system is still shut down due to the security glitch, and it appears that the new gTLD applications will not be published until well into the summer.

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David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy.