Lawmakers Try to Roll Back Online Privacy Rollback and Offer Vets Coding Boot Camps

Orhan Cam/

This week, legislators introduced plenty of bills to claw back privacy rights, require mobile government websites and support high-tech training for veterans and law enforcement officials. 

After a filibustering, nuclear-option taking fight over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorusch, Congress heads into a recess next week. But this week, lawmakers introduced plenty of bills to claw back privacy rights, require mobile government websites and support high-tech training for veterans and law enforcement officials. 

Online Privacy, Take Two

President Donald Trump on April 3 signed the rollback of Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules and on April 6, a group of Senate Democrats introduced legislation that basically would require the same things the repealed FCC rules did. The bill would require internet service providers get customers’ consent to share information and that the providers have “reasonable” data security.

Protecting Digital Privacy at the Border

Legislation introduced Tuesday by a quartet of congressional privacy hawks would bar border guards from searching Americans’ electronics at the border without a warrant and prohibit them from denying or delaying the entry of anyone who refuses to hand over passwords, PINs or social media information. The Protecting Data at the Border Act was introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., in the Senate and by and Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, in the House. The bill includes some emergency exceptions to the rule based on existing statutes.

About That Incidental Surveillance

The chairman and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee gave Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats until April 24 to produce a public estimate of Americans swept up incidentally in surveillance authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Friday. Committee members have been requesting that estimate since last year. The controversial surveillance authority, which will expire at the end of this year if it’s not renewed, was at the center of a scuffle over incidental collection about Trump campaign staffers that resulted in House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., stepping back from his role leading the House investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election earlier this week.

Mobile Sites Could Shift From Nice-to-Have to Must-Have

Mobile service delivery isn’t exactly a government strength but a new bill—the Connected Government Act—would require federal agencies to offer mobile-accessible websites. Along with that bill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats introduced a bunch of communications bills focused on broadcasters. The Protecting Dissenting Viewpoints and Voices Act would prevent government agencies from punishing broadcasters based on their views; the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest, or KOCH, Act would require disclosures of anonymous ad campaign contributors; and the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act would create a pilot incubator program to encourage women- and minority-owned broadcasters and other diversity in ownership initiatives.

Coding Boot Camps for Vets

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy introduced a bill to cover the costs of nontraditional tech courses for veterans. Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses, or VET TEC, Act would allow the Veterans Affairs Department to contract with “reputable educational programs” that offer massive open online courses and programming boot camps. Participating vets would receive a housing stipend.

From Cop to Cyber Cop

Senate Judiciary Committee leaders Friday introduced a bipartisan bill to formally authorize the National Computer Forensics Institute, which helps train state and local law enforcement to investigate digital crimes.

Turns Out, Posting Data Could Cost Big Bucks

The Congressional Budget Office posted estimated costs—big costs—on a couple of transparency bills. The Taxpayers Right to Know Act, which requires an online database of detailed financial records and performance data of federal programs that spend more than $1 million, could cost $18 million to implement between 2018-2020, the office said.

The HONEST Act, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency to post all scientific data used to develop regulations online, got a wide-ranging cost estimate from “a few million dollars per year to more than one hundred million dollars per year over the 2018-2022 period.” The uncertainty comes from how many studies the agency may release, the format of the data and the infrastructure required. CBO noted agency officials said they “generally would not disseminate information for the scientific studies” it uses to support regulations, assessments and other guidance covered by the act, which would likely drop the cost to $5 million over the same period.

Heather Kuldell and Joseph Marks contributed to this report.