Public Policy Bulletin

Public Policy Bulletin

A Washington insider's view on policy and politics.

The Week in Cyber and Privacy Policy

Posted in Uncategorized
Josh Tzuker

Cyber and Privacy Public Policy Digest

Last week in Washington was very much in keeping with a Congress, and a White House, seemingly intent on limiting unforced errors before an election.  The House of Representatives was on their post-Memorial Day district work period (recess), while the Senate was in session with much of the privacy and cyber policy confined to the committees.  President Obama, was travelling overseas to attend the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and to hold consultations with skittish NATO allies.

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The Week in Cyber-security and Privacy Policy

Posted in Cybersecurity / Privacy, Politics, Technology / Telecommunications, Uncategorized, Week Ahead
Josh Tzuker

Cyber and Privacy Public Policy Digest

Even as the historically inactive 113th Congress winds down its legislating in the run up to the November elections, the pace of technological change is presenting a myriad of challenges to policy makers.  Issues ranging from the regulation of data brokers, to the continued fallout from Edward Snowden, to the worldwide implications of European judicial decisions will all shape how governments, companies, and individuals interact in increasingly interconnected world. 

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CFTC Proposes New Relief for Trades with Utility Special Entities

Posted in Commodities, Financial Services
Jenny E. Cieplak

On June 2, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) proposed changes to its swap dealer registration rules in order to provide relief to public utilities and participants in power markets.  Since the initial publication of the swap dealer regulations, public power utilities have been concerned that swap dealer registration requirements could force  all but the largest banks to discontinue serving as counterparties to the sector, thus inhibiting public power’s ability to hedge risk and ensure steady supplies of energy.  The proposed rule change would allow market-making counterparties  to exclude “utility operations-related swaps” with “utility special entities” from the determination of whether they meet the $25 million de minimis threshold for swaps with special entities, as more fully described below. 

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With Release of Data Broker Report, What’s Next for Regulation?

Posted in Cybersecurity / Privacy, Politics, Technology / Telecommunications
Josh Tzuker

On Tuesday the, Federal Trade Commission released their long awaited report on the data broker industry.  The report greatly expands on the findings of an earlier report by the Senate Commerce Committee and takes a hard look at the various policy implications of the industry and recommendations for crafting future regulations.  The FTC’s report delves into the mechanics of data collection, how the data is sorted, and the real world implications of how a company’s selective use of data might impact consumers over the course of years.  For instance, the FTC points out that a motorcycle enthusiast might have their data used as a way to get discounts and news about bike products, but the same data might be used to increase their insurance premiums.

Yet the report didn’t uncover anything necessarily illegal, instead it found an industry that is quietly, but fundamentally, impacting the lives of American consumers in profound ways.  The Commission recommended that Congress create legislative protections for consumers such as:

  • A centralized system where consumers can opt out of some forms of collection
  • Requirements that data brokers provide consumers access to the data collected on them
  • Notice from consumer-facing web sites about what data is being collected and who it might be shared with
  • Greater protections for sensitive, personal identifiable data
  • Create ways for consumers to correct their data

So what now?  With Congressional legislative days quickly winding down, the chances for legislative action this year are very slim.  Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller set out an ambitious goal last year of crafting data broker legislation before he retires at the end of this Congress.  In the House, former Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton has been a consistent advocate for regulation of the data broker industry, but outside of an ongoing bipartisan working group of the E&C Committee, there has been little energy behind any comprehensive effort.  This year seems more likely to produce messages about data brokers than legislation.  However, this year’s message bills could easily become next year’s legislation as the public becomes more aware of how the collection and dissemination of their personal data impacts their lives.

The House Agriculture Committee Passes CFTC Reauthorization Bill

Posted in Commodities, Financial Services
Erica ElliottMike GillJenny E. Cieplak

On Wednesday, April 9, the House Agriculture Committee voice voted a bill introduced by Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”).  The bill also seeks to address outstanding regulatory concerns of the commercial “end user” community. The legislation provides for the use of internal financial models for risk management by swap dealers and major swap participants that are not banks, and also provides an exemption from the margin requirements otherwise applicable to swap dealers and major swap participants when trading with counterparties that are considered “end users.” This bipartisan legislation is expected to be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives as early as May.

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Congressional Discussions on the Transition of Internet Domain Name Functions from the U.S. Department of Commerce to ICANN

Posted in Technology / Telecommunications
Josh Tzuker

Yesterday, April 2, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held what will likely be the first in a series of Congressional hearings on the transition of Internet domain name functions from the U.S. Department of Commerce to ICANN.  Even members of Congress who support the transition expressed serious concerns about ensuring that ICANN remains accountable, that the Internet remains open, and that the Internet and Internet policy remain free of government control.  Much of the discussion focused on proposed legislation that would require the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to provide a report on various aspects of the proposed transition and what they would mean for U.S. policy and global Internet governance.  Other than the proposed legislation, little else was offered in the way of concrete methods for addressing Congressional concerns. Repeated assurances from ICANN and the Department of Commerce that the transition will result in an Internet governance structure that is open, transparent, and free from government control did not seem to appease all of the members of the Committee. 

The next hearing on the proposed transition is scheduled for April 10 in the House Judiciary Committee.  As of yet, no Senate hearings have been scheduled, but it seems likely that the issues involved will continue to garner Congressional attention and could eventually factor in post-election government funding consideration.

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The Week Ahead: March 31 – April 4, 2014

Posted in Week Ahead
Erica Elliott

DC Week Ahead: House is in, Senate is in. President Barack Obama hosts Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia at the White House to discuss topics including economic and security cooperation – the U.S. has guaranteed Tunisian debt to smooth its transition to a democratic government after protests toppled the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

International Week Ahead: Secretary of State John Kerry joins NATO foreign ministers in Brussels to discuss Ukraine and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with euro-zone leaders in Brussels, foreign ministers of Russia and former Soviet Republics meet in Moscow, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Venezuelan billionaire Lorenzo Mendoza lead delegations of political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum on Latin America, U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage hold the second of two broadcast debates on Britain’s membership in the European Union.
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The Week Ahead: March 24 – 28, 2014

Posted in Week Ahead
Erica Elliott

DC Week Ahead: POTUS meets with world leaders on weeklong trip to Europe and the Middle East, House is in, Senate is in.

International Week Ahead: International leaders debate next steps regarding Russia and Ukraine, France and Turkey hold local elections.
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The Week Ahead: March 17 – 21, 2014

Posted in Week Ahead
Erica Elliott

DC Week Ahead: POTUS travels to Florida, Congress is in recess, Federal Reserve’s Open Markets Committee meets Tuesday and Wednesday, Janet Yellen gives her first press conference as Fed Chair on Wednesday afternoon following the central bank’s policy announcement and the results of the Federal Reserve’s stress tests are released on Thursday.

International Week Ahead: International leaders debate next steps regarding Russia and Ukraine: European Union foreign ministers meet Monday to discuss additional sanctions against Russia, EU leaders convene in Brussels for two days of talks on Thursday. Continue Reading

Treasury Publishes Admin Ruling: Foreign Exchange Dealers Can Use Non-Resident Aliens’ Alternative Travel Docs for Recordkeeping

Posted in Uncategorized
Edward Goetz

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued, on March 11, 2014, an Administrative Ruling for dealers in foreign exchange allowing the use in certain circumstances of a travel document other than a passport as suitable identification documentation in currency transactions in excess of $1,000.  The exceptive relief in this case is applicable only to the recordkeeping requirement in connection with verifying the identity of a non-resident alien.  Current examples of such alternatives are the Border Crossing Card bearing a B1/B2 visitor visa issued by the Department of State, and the Radio Frequency Identification Document issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol pursuant to the SENTRI program

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