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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 01:12 PM ET, 03/19/2013

The Circuit: DOJ weighs in on reforming electronic privacy law

Electronics privacy hea ring: The House Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to discuss how changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act should apply to content stored in the cloud. Under the current law, written in 1986, the government can access e-mail older than 180 days with a subpoena rather than with a search warrant, because it is considered to be “abandoned.”

The Department of Justice said Tuesday that it no longer makes sense for law enforcement officials to make that distinction. In testimony before the committee, Acting Assistant Attorney General Elana Tyrangiel said current law makes a distinction that “may have made sense in the past have failed to keep up with the development of technology.

Google updated its public policy blog Tuesday to talk about the proposed changes to the ECPA, and also posted testimony prepared for the hearing affirming its support for revising the law.

Privacy groups write to new FTC head: Several privacy and consumer advocacy groups wrote to the new Federal Trade Commission chairman Edith Ramirez to urge her to appoint someone with a strong background of consumer advocacy who is “independent of industry” to lead the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“Given the Bureau’s role in protecting consumers from the many challenges they face today, we believe that the new director should be an individual independent of industry, with a record of success protecting the interests of consumers,” the groups wrote.

Over 30 groups, including the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union and the Public Health Institute signed the letter.

Medical apps: Representatives from companies that make medical applications spoke Tuesday before the House subpanel on communications and technology, asking lawmakers to make it clear that those who make medical apps would not be hit with a medical device tax under the Affordable Care Act on revenue that some worry could stifle innovation. Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Harry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) said they do not believe that the tax would affect app stores, tablet makers, or smartphone makers because it does not cover devices available to general consumers.

The medical apps industry is waiting on a final ruling from the Food and Drug Administration that would define what kinds of programs in the mobile health space could fall under the tax.

Bradley Merrill Thompson, of the Health Regulatory Coalition, said that until the FDA releases some form of final guidance on the issue, business is “frozen” on the sidelines.

Despite a push from those in the industry for final standards — ones that could be adapted down the road as the business changes — few question that the government should have some hand in vetting the quality and claims of medical apps.

FTC approves final settlement with Epic Marketplace: The Federal Trade Commission approved a final order settling charges with Epic Marketplace, which has been accused of snooping into users’ Web histories in order to determine if visitors to its sites had been to other Web sites that it owned.

The final order comes after a public comment period on the settlement, announced late last year, which required the group to delete data collected using the allegedly fraudulent practices and to disclose how it is collecting and using consumer information.

By  |  01:12 PM ET, 03/19/2013

 
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