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Senators Pledge Stronger Privacy Safeguards After House Passes NSA Bill—Brought to You by SoftBank

Welcome to National Journal's Tech Edge, a morning tip sheet with the news you need in technology policy, featuring a roundup of the best coverage and exclusive tips for the day ahead. Got this by forward? Sign up at

By Alex Brown (@AlexBrownNJ), Laura Ryan (@NJLJRyan), Brendan Sasso (@BrendanSasso), and Dustin Volz (@dnvolz)


TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The House overwhelmingly passed the Freedom Act, earning bipartisan support despite outrage from tech companies and privacy groups that recent changes have opened up loopholes in the language. Several senators are already promising to push for stronger privacy and transparency provisions, and the Judiciary Committee said it will begin its consideration next month. Business groups are again pushing for a national data-breach law in the wake of the eBay hack, and Sen. John Thune wants a permanent ban on taxing Internet access.


HOUSE EASILY PASSES 'WATERED-DOWN' FREEDOM ACT: Beating back an insurrection from privacy hardliners, the House on Thursday passed the Freedom Act, 313-121. The bill, which its champions say will end the bulk collection of Americans' phone records, underwent two rounds of language-narrowing compromises this month, first at the committee level and then under pressure from House leadership and the White House. (Volz, NJ)

WHO VOTED AGAINST IT? Opposition fell across party lines, with 51 Republicans and 70 Democrats. That included 76 of the 152 cosponsors of the original Freedom Act and several members of the Judiciary Committee, which unanimously passed an earlier draft just weeks ago. Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Rush Holt led the opposition during morning debate. Republicans Justin Amash and Darrell Issa also voted no, as did Anna Eshoo and Doris Matsui, both California Democrats with ties to Silicon Valley. Click here for the full roll call.


SENATORS ALREADY HAVE SOME CONCERNS ... Several key senators swiftly indicated the House's Freedom Act was not about to earn a rubber stamp in the upper chamber. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said he was "disappointed" in the measure for lacking "meaningful reforms contained in the original" version of the bill. His committee plans to take up NSA reform in June.

Other senators were more forceful. Ron Wyden, in noting his opposition, said lower chamber "watered it down so far that it fails to protect Americans from suspicionless mass surveillance." Added Rand Paul: "We need to have some reforms but I'm not sure they've gone far enough." Mark Udall and Richard Blumenthal also blasted the House compromise.

But on the reverse end of the pendulum, Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein didn't warmly embrace the House package, either. In an evening statement, the national-security hawk merely said she was "open to considering the legislation when the Senate returns to Washington."

... BUT HARRY REID WANTS TO HEAR FROM HIS DEPUTIES FIRST: "Here's what I want. I want Chairman Feinstein and Chairman Leahy to take a very close look at that and report to the Senate as to what they think should be done. I believe that we must do something. And I have no problem with the House having acted."


THUNE CALLS FOR PERMANENT BAN ON TAXING INTERNET ACCESS: With the moratorium on Internet access taxes set to expire in November, Sen. John Thune is proposing permanent legislation that would prevent state and local governments from taxing Internet access. He said the provision is essential to ensure all can enjoy the benefits of the Internet.

BUSINESS GROUPS PUSH FOR DATA BREACH LAW: The massive data breach at eBay is stoking the urgency big corporations feel for Congress to create a uniform data-breach standard. The Direct Marketing Association, along with 16 other trade groups, sent members of Congress a letter Thursday asking for a national law that would require companies to notify customers in the event of a cyberattack.


HOUSE VOTES TO HALT INTERNET TRANSFER: The House attached the Dotcom Act to the defense authorization bill. (Sasso, NJ)

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FACEBOOK RETHINKS ITS PRIVACY SETTINGS: Facebook is finally listening to users' complaints about its default privacy setting, changing the default setting to only allow "friends" to see profiles. It will also prompt users to do a privacy "check-up." Sen. Jay Rockefeller took to his Facebook page to praise the move.

THREE STATES BEGIN TO INVESTIGATE EBAY BREACH: Connecticut, Florida, and Illinois are the first states to launch a joint investigation into the massive cyberattack that compromised the personal data of potentially millions of eBay's customers. (Jim Finkle, Reuters)

CHINA TO VET TECH COMPANIES FOR SECURITY BREACHES: After promising to retaliate over U.S. cyberspying allegations, China announced it will check tech companies operating within its borders to look for national security breaches. (Bloomberg)

AGENCIES RELEASE CYBERSECURITY REPORTS: As part of the president's executive order, three executive-branch organizations (HHS, DHS, and EPA) released reports on how they regulate cybersecurity. (White House)

SCHUMER CALLS FOR WTO TO TAKE UP CHINESE CYBERSPYING: The New York Democrat wants U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to file a case against China, since China won't extradite the military members accused of spying by the Justice Department. (Vicki Needham, The Hill)

SENATORS SEEK SANCTIONS AGAINST FUTURE CYBERSPIES: The Deter Cyber Theft Act would let the Treasury Department levy sanctions and freeze assets of those who steal secrets from American companies, as well as forcing the government to better monitor such attacks. (Julian Hattem, The Hill)

TWO BIG AD TRADE ASSOCIATIONS JOIN FORCES: Two of the oldest marketing trade associations—the Association of National Advertisers and the Brand Activation Association—are merging. (Stuart Elliott, NYT)

BRIAN WILLIAMS LANDS SNOWDEN INTERVIEW: The host of NBC's Nightly News scored an interview in Moscow with the fugitive. It will air Wednesday at 10 p.m.

H-P CUTS UP TO 16,000 JOBS: The struggling company eliminated 11,000 to 16,000 jobs as part of its ongoing restructuring process. (Spencer Ante, WSJ)


  • The Council on Foreign Relations will host a discussion on tech policy-making at 12:30.

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