The Circuit: Google under federal investigation, Commerce digital literacy, cybersecurity and IP

LEADING THE DAY: Google is being investigated by government officials over its ad practices regarding online pharmacies, The Washington Post reported. It appears Google, which requires pharmacies to display accreditation on their ads, may still be liable for running ads from “rogue pharmacies” that sell prescription drugs. The Food and Drug Administration confirmed its ongoing investigation into Google’s ad policies.

Earlier this week, Google said in filings that it has set aside $500 million for a ad-related settlement with the Justice Department.

Commerce launches digital literacy program: On Friday, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will announce a new digital literacy initiative on the Web that aims to help Americans build the computer and Internet skills necessary for today’s workforce. These skills include word processing, resume building tips and job search techniques.

The site has content from several organizations that have provided tutorials on subjects such as how to write business e-mails and preparing for the GED.

Cybersecurity plan: The White House introduced its long-awaited cybersecurity plan Thursday. The plan asks critical industries to set up security plans that will be vetted by the government. The plan would also create a federal data breach notification law, clarify penalties for computer crimes and set minimum penalties for intrusions into critical systems, The Washington Post reported. Several members of Congress have expressed early support for the plan.

PROTECT IP: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced a revamped bill to combat online infringement, called the PROTECT IP Act. The bill addresses some of the criticism of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA, by narrowing the definition of what constitutes a “rogue” Web site. But many electronic freedom advocacy groups have said the bill still goes too far by allowing the government to blacklist Web sites believed to be hosting counterfeited material.

"The bill as written can still allow actions against sites that aren't infringing on copyright if the site is seen to ‘enable or facilitate’ infringement -- a definition that is far too broad,” said Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge.

The bill does, however, have support from a wide range of industries. In a conference call Thursday, representatives from the music, film, sporting goods and publishing sectors all hailed the bill as the first, overdue step in fighting online piracy.

Cisco layoffs expected: Cisco is expected to lay off thousands of employees in the coming months, Reuters reported Friday. The company, which has been undergoing a major reorganization, may cut 3,000 jobs in what would be the largest round of layoffs in the company’s history, analysts say. On Wednesday, Cisco said that it will cut back its workforce as part of a plan to slash $1 billion from its annual budget.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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