SIIA Urges Congressional Support for Critical MLAT Funding

In a letter sent to congressional leaders this morning, the Software & Information Industry Association– the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries – joined with several other business and technology organizations in calling for increased funding to allow the Department of Justice to adequately handle its responsibilities under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs).

Improving the MLAT is a highly cost-effective way both to enhance law enforcement and to ensure the smooth flow of international trade, which is why it has been established as a top priority by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).  Indeed, this is an investment worth making.

Why are MLATs important to begin with?  They matter because they are the primary mechanism through which law enforcement agencies in different countries can collect evidence from each other.  It is imperative that high standards are maintained in order to ensure due process.  So, for example, the Department of Justice insists that foreign law enforcement agencies provide a probable cause justification for obtaining, say, an American citizen’s e-mail records.  Foreign law enforcement authorities are also obliged to ensure that the procedural safeguards they have established to protect their citizens are respected when U.S. prosecutors seek evidence overseas.  MLATs are a mechanism for vital international law enforcement cooperation, as well as for ensuring due process.

The increased funding makes possible quicker processing of MLAT requests while at the same time protecting individuals’ rights.  Currently, it takes on average about a year to process an MLAT request.  This is simply not acceptable.  As the letter to the Congress notes: “With additional prosecutors, support personnel, and technology, the Department of Justice estimates it would narrow MLAT response times to a matter of weeks by the end of 2015.”  The establishment of a more streamlined MLAT process also helps to address the European Commission’s call for action on rebuilding trust in EU-US data flows.  The Commission’s Communication on rebuilding trust mentions the MLAT as an element in this effort.

The MLAT reform initiative is one more example of the Software & Information Industry Association’s (and other U.S. trade associations and companies) strong support for law enforcement and intelligence reform that protects the world from terrorist and law enforcement threats, as well as upholds fundamental values.  Besides MLAT reform, SIIA once again urges Congress to approve Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) modernization reform, as well as for the international community to integrate the seven principles for surveillance that SIIA and the Information Technology Industry Council released on January 16, 2014.

Carl Schonander is Director of International Public Policy at SIIA.

SIIA Event to Examine How Data is Transforming Healthcare and Policy Implications

Join SIIA for a discussion on how data analytics is transforming healthcare at this lunchtime event — Improving Our Nation’s Health Through Data Analytics. The briefing, at 12p.m. on November 13th, will feature lawmakers, industry leaders, patients and providers who will discuss innovations in data analytics that are improving our health care system. Participants will also discuss the challenges posed by the current regulatory framework, and the need to develop an appropriate risk-based framework that provides the clarity and certainty necessary to advance an innovative healthcare ecosystem.

It is clear that our nation’s health is dependent on information. Applying digestible data analytics to healthcare delivered when and where it is needed, can help health professionals make informed treatment decisions at the point of care, accelerate the search for cures, and reduce preventable hospitalization and associated costs. Data innovations are also speeding treatments and cures to market.

To RSVP for the event, please click here!

Speakers will include:

  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Rep. Gene Green (D-TX)
  • Nancy L. Staisey – Managing Director of Life Sciences, IBM
  • Kathy Reynolds – Vice President, Integrated Health and Wellness, The National Council for Behavioral Health
  • Dave Dworaczyk – Director of Life and Health Sciences Strategic Development, Oracle
  • Rick Ingraham – Principal Industry Consultant, Health, SAS

WHOThe Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)

WHAT: Improving Our Nation’s Health through Data Analytics Event

WHENThursday, November 13, 2014 from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. EST

WHERE2322 Rayburn House Office Building

Sabrina Eyob is the Public Policy Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the Policy team on Twitter @SIIAPolicy.

SIIA Calls on Congress to Make MLAT Funding a Priority in Current Budget Cycle

In a letter sent to congressional leaders this morning, SIIA joined with several other business and technology organizations in calling for increased funding to allow the Department of Justice to adequately handle its responsibilities under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs).

For decades MLATs, which provide a process for law enforcement to resolve criminal investigations across borders, have ensured that foreign government requests conform to U.S. law and have helped counter foreign efforts to enact restrictive laws governing the Internet.  In the last decade, however, foreign evidence requests have jumped 60 percent, with electronic record requests increasing 1,000 percent. At the same time, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, which handles these requests, has seen reductions in staff.

With dramatically more evidence requests and reduced Justice Department staffing to handle these requests, American businesses are in a very difficult situation. DOJ’s inability to keep up has caused foreign governments to go around the MLAT process altogether, taking their demands directly to U.S. businesses. Companies are now in the nearly impossible position of trying to comply with foreign law enforcement requests while adhering to U.S. law. The breakdown in the MLAT process also leads to countries around the world pursuing data localization requirements, which threaten to fragment the internet.

SIIA, along with seven other organizations, calls on Congress to approve the Department of Justice’s request for $24.1 million in dedicated FY 2015 funding.  In the letter the organizations state that this level of funding will provide additional prosecutors, personnel and technology and is “…critical to rebuilding trust in the effectiveness of the U.S. MLAT process, while maintaining the rule of law around the world.”  The letter urges leaders “to assign the highest priority to funding the urgently needed improvements in the MLAT process on the basis that it represents an investment that can pay dividends across a range of economic and geopolitical fronts.”

The organizations signing the letter are: Application Developers Alliance, Business Software Alliance, Computer & Communications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, The Internet Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Council for International Business.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.

SIIA Comments on the Use of Data Analytics to Promote Social and Economic Opportunity

Today SIIA filed comments in the Federal Trade Commission’s Workshop on “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” The workshop was held on September 15 and usefully framed important developments in the use of data analytics for providing services to low income and underserved consumers and provided a forum for discussion of the possibility of unfair or discriminatory use of data analytics.

I participated on the workshop’s second panel relating to new developments in data analytics.  SIIA’s comments summarize the discussion in that panel and contain additional reflections on the issues raised by the workshop. The main points of the comments are:

  • SIIA members are industry leaders using analytics to promote social and economic opportunity through, for example, alternative credit scoring models, cognitive computing in health care, predictive analytics in education, and detecting discrimination.
  • Adequate and appropriate due diligence and transparency requirements already apply in regulated eligibility contexts such as lending, insurance, housing and employment.
  • Due diligence and transparency mandates should not be applied to new contexts absent a showing that they are needed to prevent tangible harms.
  • Trade secrets and business confidentiality should continue to protect algorithms from disclosures.  Such disclosures do not accomplish any meaningful public policy objective.
  • The focus of policy concern should be on the uses of algorithms, not on the algorithms themselves.
  • The FTC should continue the dialogue and discussion with other expert agencies and stakeholders to promote the positive use of data rather than seek additional laws or regulations.

Stakeholders should continue their discussions on these important issues.  The objective should be for government, industry, academics, and advocates from all sides to gain a shared understanding of how business and other organizations should use the powerful new analytics tools at their disposal to promote inclusion and economic opportunity.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.

Electronic Signatures Get a Shot-in-the-arm

After more than a decade, could electronic signatures be poised to take off within the Federal Government?  Yes, and it’s about time!

Last week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a procedural notice to encourage greater use of electronic signatures.  This comes only weeks after legislation was introduced to accomplish this purpose, and policymakers in Congress began pressing the Obama Administration for answers.

As the SBA notice acknowledges, streamlining the lengthy and complicated loan application process is crucial for small businesses to secure the capital they need to get their products or services to market; and electronic signatures are critical to that process.

For many years now, within the Federal Government, electronic signatures have served the same purpose as handwritten signatures.  This policy was established back in 1998, when Congress passed the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA, Pub. L. 105-277) requiring that, when practicable, Federal agencies use electronic forms, electronic filing, and electronic signatures to conduct official business with the public by 2003.

This was followed by adoption of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (the ESIGN Act), which removed a myriad of anachronistic and inconsistent state and federal requirements for paper and ink documents and signatures in the private sector. In so doing, the ESIGN Act eliminated many of the legal uncertainties that have surrounded the use of electronic signatures and records in commerce and enabled businesses and consumers to more fully realize the cost savings possible through all-electronic transactions.

Suffice it to say, for over a decade the policy and technical frameworks have been in place for electronic signatures to be the “wave of the future” for Federal and state governments as well as the private sector.  For those ready to realize the benefits of electronic signatures, the guidance was updated just last year.

Here’s hoping that the future has finally arrived!

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. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.

Intellectual Property Roundup

UK High Court Orders ISPs to Block Trademark-Infringing Sites (Securing Industry)
A landmark ruling has been handed down in the UK that establishes the right of trademark owners to secure court orders blocking websites that sell counterfeit products.

German Publishers Capitulate and Let Google Post News Snippets (PC World)
German publishers said they are bowing to Google’s market power, and will allow the search engine to show news snippets in search results free of charge, at least for the time being.

Embedding is Not Copyright Infringement, EU Court Rules (Torrent Freak)
The Court of Justice of the European Union handed down a landmark verdict, ruling that embedding copyrighted videos is not copyright infringement, even if the source video was uploaded without permission.

News Data SHows More Signs that Patent Troll Suits are in Decline (Ars Technica)
A new report published by Unified Patents notes a drop-off in recent patent lawsuits, the second recent indication that there may be a decline in suits following this summer’s US Supreme Court decisions.

Apple Defeats GPNE’s $94M Patent-Infringement Claim (CNET)
Apple last week defeated GPNE in a patent-infringement trial, with a jury determining the electronic giant’s devices didn’t infringe mobile technology owned by the nonpracticing entity.

Judge Refuses to Block Aereo’s DVR Functions (GigaOM)
A federal judge in New York slapped Aereo with an expected injunction, but also hinted how the service might survive in the future, a ruling that could open the door to Aereo operating as a cloud-DVR service.

Google Algorithm Change Hits Streaming, Torrent Sites Hard (Ars Technica)
Video streaming and torrent sites have dropped precipitously in Google rankings after the company altered its algorithm.

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

A Way Forward on Data Flow Trade Discussions in TTIP

“I fully agree with that,” was the response by Antonio de Lecea, Minister of the EU Delegation to the United States.  IBM’s Steve Stewart had just expressed the view that an EU –US trade agreement resulting from the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would be an effective place to create a good template for binding rules on cross border data flows.

Stewart added that it would be possible to use the GATs framework in understanding how to have data flow principles in a trade agreement like TTIP while still respecting the right of sovereign countries to set their own privacy rules. He noted that this framework allowed countries to set their own privacy regimes, but contained a restriction that the implementation of privacy laws should not amount to a disguised restriction on trade and that enforcement had to be the least restrictive of trade possible.

At this point de Lecea expressed his agreement, and noted that it was important that trade agreements incorporate the ideas of proportionality and necessity. He added that for Europe privacy amounts to protection not protectionism.

The occasion was a public discussion on October 22 hosted by the Brookings Institution on the release of their report on transatlantic data flows.  Steve Stewart and Antonio de Lecea joined International Trade Commission Commissioner Meredith Broadbent and Brookings study author Joshua Meltzer in a spirited discussion of the extent of the electronic relationship between the world’s two largest economic communities.

This shared understanding between business representatives and the EU on how to incorporate data flow principles and privacy in a trade agreement is significant.  Several years ago the US and the EU signed an agreement on non-binding principles governing trade in information and communications technology.  Incorporating something like these principles seems like an achievable goal for the TTIP. They would have to be made binding and extended to sectors of the economy outside ICT, but they embody the right policy.

Another limitation on the ICT principles is that they exempted data protection from their scope.  But the GATs framework shows us how to integrate privacy and data flow provisions in a trade agreement.

These principles might not be absolutely essential to permit the continued flow of data between the US and Europe.  But they have the virtue of clarity.  And they send a good message to the rest of the world, where countries including China, India, Russia, Vietnam, and Malaysia have either proposed or adopted data localization rules, despite WTO commitments that indirectly forbid this.  Making data flow principles explicit in TTIP would send the message that the US and the EU intend to keep their markets open for data flows and the rest of the world should too.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.

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