Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

Subscribe to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation feed
Updated: 2 hours 5 min ago

Protecting Kids Online: Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube” at 10:00 am on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Children and teens face immense peer pressure to be on apps such as Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube. While social media can provide entertainment and educational opportunities, these apps have also been misused to harm kids and promote destructive acts, such as vandalism in schools, deadly viral challenges, bullying, eating disorders, manipulative influencer marketing, and grooming. This hearing will examine how tech companies treat young audiences, including how algorithms and product design choices can amplify harms, addiction, and intrusions into privacy. The hearing will also explore needed improvements to our laws to protect children and teenagers online. 

 

WITNESSES: 

  • Jennifer Stout, Vice President of Global Public Policy, Snap Inc.
  • Michael Beckerman, Vice President and Head of Public Policy, Americas, TikTok
  • Leslie Miller, Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google

  

DETAILS:

 

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security

10:00 a.m.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

  

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

###

 

 

Cantwell Underscores Urgency to Pass NASA Authorization Bill

Fri, 10/22/2021 - 12:00am

VIDEO

“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a hearing in the Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Science yesterday, Sen. Maria Cantwell underscored the urgent need for Congress to pass long-lasting, bipartisan NASA authorization legislation. NASA was last authorized by Congress in 2017. The Senate passed an updated authorization as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in June 2021. 

“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill,” Sen. Cantwell stated. “I believe in NASA's innovation and technology. I want them to apply the same spirit they had in fixing the problems on the Apollo project to fixing and getting this authorization done. We're not going to continue to have this game where you just get appropriations. It is not going to serve the Artemis program or NASA well. [I]t's frustrating to me to see the spirit of NASA turned into you know, the cheering of billionaires or competition with each other. Because I'm pretty sure that that's not what our mission of Artemis is about.”

“Look, we've seen where the same mistake was made by the FAA and deferring too much to aviation manufacturers when it came to the oversight,” she continued. “I want a very strong NASA oversight of these companies. Very strong. I'm not supportive of NASA stepping away and turning it over to the commercial side. …I think it's just imperative that we get an authorization bill…”

The subcommittee heard from former NASA leaders and experts who echoed the senator’s urgency for Congress to speak with one voice and set clear objectives.

“Because without that, it's very difficult to even be able to begin to do oversight, because you [don’t] know what objectives you're trying to meet,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs at Axiom Space.

Mike Gold, the former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships argued that an “authorization bill is vital to send messages to our partners and rival nations for the unity purpose of Congress.”

“But for NASA to have continuity of purpose over time, requires an apolitical bipartisan consensus on how we're moving forward,” added former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And if we can put that in an authorization bill, it sends a signal to everybody globally that we have resolved to accomplish these objectives.”

Click here for full transcript.

 

###

International Collaboration and Competition in Space: Oversight of NASA’s Role and Programs

Thu, 10/21/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, will convene a subcommittee hearing titled “International Collaboration and Competition in Space:  Oversight of NASA’s Role and Programs” at 10:00 a.m. EDT on Thursday, October 21, 2021. The United States has long been the global leader in space exploration and has benefitted from robust, peaceful international collaboration. This hearing will examine required actions, particularly at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to promote U.S. civil and commercial space sector competitiveness, attract and maintain strong global partnerships, and preserve U.S. space leadership in the wake of rising international competition. Topics such as International Space Station extension, commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) development, and requirements to execute NASA’s Artemis program, to include needed updates to authorizing legislation, will be considered.

 

Witnesses:

  • Hon. Jim Bridenstine, Former NASA Administrator
  • Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, Axiom Space
  • Mike Gold, Executive Vice President for Civil Space and External Affairs, Redwire Space
  • Dr. Patricia Sanders, Chair, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel

 

 

DETAILS:

 

Subcommittee on Space and Science

10:00 a.m.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

  

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

###

Executive Session and Nominations Hearing

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 to consider the presidential nominations of Victoria Marie Wassmer, to be the Chief Financial Officer, DOT; Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs, DOT; Amitabha Bose, to be the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, DOT; Meera Joshi to be the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Mary Boyle, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission; and Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, to be Director, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

Immediately following the executive session, the Committee will hold a hearing to consider the presidential nominations of Max Vekich to be a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission; Christopher Coes to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, DOT; and Laurie E. Locascio, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, DOC.

 

DETAILS

Commerce Committee Executive Session

10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

Executive Session Agenda: 

  • Victoria Marie Wassmer,?to be the Chief Financial Officer, DOT
  • Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs, DOT
  • Amitabha Bose, to be the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration
  • Meera Joshi, to be the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, DOT
  • Mary Boyle, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, to be Director, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
  • Coast Guard Promotions (PN1144)
  • Coast Guard Promotion (PN1073)

 

 

At the conclusion of the markup, the Committee will go directly into the nomination hearing.

Nominees: 

  • Max Vekich, to be a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission 
  • Christopher Coes, to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, DOT
  • Laurie E. Locascio, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, DOC

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

###

Commerce Committee Approves Biden Transportation Nominations

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved five Biden Administration nominations and 70 Coast Guard officer promotions during today’s Executive Session.  All are subject to approval by the full Senate.

 

The Committee approved the following nominations:

 

  • Amit Bose to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (PN435)
  • Meera Joshi to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (PN362)
  • Victoria Wassmer to be Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Transportation (PN264)
  • Mohsin Syed to be Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs at the Department of Transportation (PN263)
  • Rear Admiral Nancy Hann to be Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, and Director of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (PN896)

 

The Committee approved the following Coast Guard officer promotions:

 

  • Rear Admiral James Kelly to be Director of the Coast Guard Reserve (PN1073)
  • Coast Guard Officers to earn the rank of Captain (PN1144): 
  1. Aleksak, Jason C.
  2. Aries, Melissa J.
  3. Behera, Jessica B.
  4. Behnke, Andrew J.
  5. Bender, Andrew R.
  6. Berry II, Robert J.
  7. Bertsch IV, Fred S.
  8. Breguet, Brian P.
  9. Brick, Chad R.
  10. Butwid, Jerry D.
  11. Casey, Paul R.
  12. Casper, Eric M.
  13. Chien, Michael P.C.
  14. Chong, Randall T.
  15. Dietrich, Joyce M.
  16. Dooris, Matthew D.
  17. Douglas, Christopher
  18. Ford, Zachary R.
  19. Garrity, Elisa M.
  20. Glass, Zachary N.
  21. Gomez, Robert H.
  22. Hall, Jeremy M.
  23. Helgen, Eric A.
  24. Hernaez, Dorothy J.
  25. Ingram, Jason D.
  26. Johnson, Eric D.
  27. Keene, Christopher M.
  28. Kirksey, Aja L.
  29. Lay, Mark L.
  30. Lewis, Rachel L.
  31. Lugo, Scott E.
  32. Matson, Ryan P.
  33. Matthies, Eric J.
  34. McCarter, Harold L.
  35. McNally, Brad M.
  36. McTamney IV, John M.P.
  37. Moon, Youngmee
  38. Neeland, Mark R.
  39. Noggle, Justin W.
  40. Obrien, Loan T.
  41. Oconnell, Anne E.
  42. O'Mara IV, James M.
  43. Omenhiser Jr., Roger E.
  44. Ortenzio, Aaron J.
  45. Parker, Joseph B.
  46. Payne, Jeffrey L.
  47. Pershing, James H.
  48. Pirone, Robert M.
  49. Pototschnik, Mark B.
  50. Rice, Lisa M.
  51. Rodriguez, Nicole D.
  52. Saunders, Kevin B.
  53. Schallip, Michele L.
  54. Sharp, Michael D.
  55. Smith, Jason S.
  56. Snaith, Joan
  57. Styron, Jessica R.
  58. Suffern, James B.
  59. Terkanian Jr., Donald M.
  60. Tharp, Emily L.
  61. Thorkilson, Kelly A.
  62. Townsend, Devin L.
  63. Trusz, Jared S.
  64. Tucker, Robert C.
  65. Vaughan, Nicolette A.
  66. Walker, William R.
  67. Winburn, William B.
  68. Wirth, Tracy L.
  69. Wright, Christopher L.

Committee Leaders Call on State Department to Reinstate Hand Carry Program

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sens. Jacky Rosen, D- Nev., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting that the operational capacity of the Department of State’s (DOS) passport Hand Carry Program be brought back to pre-pandemic levels.

“A demand surge of at least ten million additional passport applications is anticipated this year,” the Senators wrote.

“The United States has faced many challenges throughout the pandemic, and now is the time for DOS to employ best practices and policies aimed at resuming safe and efficient international travel.” 

The Hand Carry Program allows for private companies to expedite the application process for new and/or renewed passports. The DOS has slowly begun to resume operations for the program after it was forced to stop services during the pandemic, however these levels of operation are significantly lower than they were before. The Hand Carry Program is currently operating at 24% of its pre-pandemic levels of service.  

During the recent Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion subcommittee hearing, Wicker asked Global Business Travel Association CEO Suzanne Neufang about the impacts of delayed passport applications on the travel and tourism industry. In her testimony, it was noted that the reduction in service for the Hand Carry Program has exacerbated the pandemic related disruptions.

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Blinken,

COVID-19 has devastated the travel industry more than any other sector of the economy; 40% of all jobs lost nationwide are attributable to declines in leisure and hospitality employment. The $500 billion loss in travel spending has cost the U.S. $1.1 trillion in economic output. International travel and business travel suffered the sharpest declines. International travel spending fell 76% (compared to 34% for domestic travel) while business travel spending fell 70% (compared to 27% for leisure travel). If nothing is done to lift international travel bans and bring back demand, a coalition of travel and tourism stakeholders estimates that a total of 1.1 million American jobs will not be restored and $262 billion in export spending will be lost by the end of 2021.

The pandemic has proven the fragility of the tourism industry, Americans are once again traveling and   re-energizing the economy. Although travel restrictions have begun to loosen in some destinations, airlines are operating over 80% below of their 2019 international schedules. Since the shutdown of passport services by the DOS in March 2020, the traveling public has experienced a tripling in wait times for a U.S. passport. A process that took between 4-6 weeks in 2018 is now taking up to 18 weeks in many cases. Due to the unprecedented delays, our constituents are losing thousands of dollars as they are forced to cancel international vacations for lack of passports.  

Prior to the pandemic DOS recognized that some urgently departing citizens may want to further expedite their application process by using a courier service in conjunction with paying the department’s expedite fee. This recognition was manifested via DOS’ Hand Carry Program. The Hand Carry Program allows for the transportation of executed passport applications that are submitted to a passport agency for expedited processing, and the retrieval of newly-issued, expedited passports for delivery directly or indirectly to the passport holder, based on a privilege extended by a regional passport agency to a company to conduct business. The Hand Carry Program served as an equalizer of access for all Americans citizens in need of urgent passports by allowing couriers to deliver applications in person instead of that individual having to make an extra costly trip. 

Despite the value and flexibility the Hand Carry Program offers the traveling public, it has been shuttered for eighteen months. Only recently has DOS begun to accept applications via the Hand Carry Program. Unfortunately, the resumption is below pre-pandemic levels. This is even after DOS passport services were resumed last summer and the department’s recent announcement of 100% staffing at passport offices.  

A demand surge of at least ten million additional passport applications is anticipated this year. This is based on historical application data and the shortfall of applications received in 2020 due to the global COVID shutdown and travel restrictions. The Hand Carry Program is an efficient and COVID safe option for receipt and processing of these passport applications. Without the Hand Carry Program for urgent expediting of passports, options for receiving an emergency passport are limited to face-to-face applications at one of the DOS Passport Processing Offices located across the country. This option greatly favors citizens in proximity the larger cities where these offices are located. The remainder of our constituents are burdened with the unnecessary and excessive cost/time of traveling to one of these cities to apply in person.

The United States has faced many challenges throughout the pandemic, and now is the time for DOS to employ best practices and policies aimed at resuming safe and efficient international travel. As such, we call on you to quickly reinstate the Hand Carry Program to pre-pandemic levels of service. It might take years to restore travel and tourism to pre-pandemic levels. However, we are hopeful that resumption of programs like Hand Carry to pre-pandemic operation levels will help this sector heal and prosper once again.

 

Committee Members Raise Concerns About TSA’s Rushed Cybersecurity Rules

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, John Thune, R-S.D., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) raising concerns about the agency’s plans to issue additional cybersecurity mandates using its emergency authority for Security Directives, which will obviate important feedback from experts on the impacts of such mandates.

These directives will apply to the rail, rail transit, and aviation industries. The new requirements may undercut existing cybersecurity arrangements that are functioning well. The required reporting of cybersecurity incidents to the government may also prove unworkable. Rail and aviation stakeholders have expressed concerns that the definition of cybersecurity incident is so broad that the transportation sector may waste time and limited resources, reporting insignificant incidents without sufficient time to assess severity.

Click here or read the full letter below.

Dear Administrator Pekoske:

We write to express concern about the recent announcement that the TSA intends to impose new prescriptive cybersecurity requirements on the rail, rail transit, and aviation industries through Security Directives. We encourage you to reconsider whether using emergency authority is appropriate absent an immediate threat. With the benefit of public notice and comment through the rulemaking process, TSA may avoid any unintended consequences that disrupt existing effective cybersecurity practices or transportation operations.

We recognize that circumstances sometimes demand that TSA act quickly using emergency authority. Nevertheless, the very importance of effective cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, such as the rail, rail transit, and aviation systems, counsels against acting rashly in the absence of a genuine emergency. Prescriptive requirements may be out of step with current practices and limit the affected industries’ ability to respond to evolving threats, thereby lessening security. Further, prescriptive requirements may have unintended consequences, such as imposing unnecessary operational delays at a time of unprecedented congestion in the nation’s supply chain. Additionally, allowing outside experts to comment will lead to more effective and sustainable cybersecurity actions and measures. A more deliberate approach will reduce the risks and increase the benefits.

The timeline of cybersecurity actions undertaken by the Biden Administration since May belies the notion that emergency action is necessary for the rail and aviation industries. The White House released the “National Security Memorandum on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems” at the end of July, envisioning and urging a collaborative process between industry and government. Rather than engaging the experts in rail, rail transit, and aviation sectors, however, TSA is now embarking on a unilateral approach that excludes input under the confusing guise of an emergency threat to disparate modes of transportation, even though five months have elapsed since the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.

TSA should adopt a more collaborative approach that can reliably enhance cybersecurity in the rail, rail transit, and aviation industries. Rather than prescriptive requirements that may not enhance capabilities to address future threats, TSA should consider performance standards that set goals for cybersecurity while enabling businesses to meet those goals. If a determination is made to proceed with specific mandates, the notice and comment process would at least allow for thoughtful consideration of industry practices and concerns. Whatever the path forward, TSA must be responsive to inquiries and mindful of potential harms and adverse effects on practices that are working well.

We look forward to your response and to continuing to work with you to enhance the security of transportation.

Commerce Committee Announces Subcommittee Hearing on Coast Guard Oversight on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 11:30am

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change, and Manufacturing , will convene a hearing titled  “Coast Guard Oversight” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. This hearing will examine the Coast Guard’s role to safeguard our nation’s maritime interests to include budget oversight, oil spill response, marine safety, handling of sexual assault and harassment in the service, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

 Witnesses:

  • Admiral Karl Schultz Commandant United States Coast Guard
  • Master Chief Jason Vanderhaden, Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Coast Guard

 Details: 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

2:30 p.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change, and Manufacturing 

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

###

 

Cantwell Demands Accountability From USMMA, Coast Guard, DOT Leaders Following Sexual Assault Allegations

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 12:00am

 

Cantwell Demands Accountability From USMMA, Coast Guard, DOT Leaders Following Sexual Assault Allegations

Cantwell: “How many reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years?”

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation which oversees federal maritime agencies sent a letter to Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) Lucinda Lessley demanding answers regarding allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment made by midshipmen at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) as well as the response from leaders at MARAD. Senator Cantwell sent a copy of the letter to the Coast Guard, which has primary jurisdiction for investigating these incidents on the high seas.

 

Many of the alleged incidents occurred during the midshipmen’s “Sea Year.” Sea Year is a required part of the USMMA’s undergraduate training, where sophomore and junior midshipmen spend part of their academic year at sea working on primarily private merchant marine vessels learning firsthand the skills of a merchant mariner.

 

“Through the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy (MLAA), a legal advocacy group formed on behalf of mariners, victims of shipboard sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape have bravely shared their personal stories in blog posts on the group’s website,” Senator Cantwell wrote to Lessley.

 

“The despicable accounts put forth by brave young women and men just starting promising careers in the maritime industry are frightening and unacceptable,” Cantwell continued. “Many of these allegations involve a repeated pattern of crimes and intimidations committed by people in positions of power and responsibility on merchant ships, and include alleged poor oversight or policy failures of USMMA officials and Coast Guard investigators.”

 

In the letter, Senator Cantwell demanded that Acting Administrator Lessley provide a detailed account of the steps taken to investigate and respond to the allegations, and called on the Acting Administrator to provide a full report on the number of reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years.

 

More information about Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy is available HERE.

 

The blog post by Acting Administrator Lessley and DOT Deputy Secretary Trottenburg is available HERE.

 

The full text of Senator Cantwell’s letter is available HERE and below.

 

October 12, 2021

 

Lucinda Lessley

Acting Administrator, Maritime Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Acting Administrator Lessley:

I write to express my grave concern over the allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment made by midshipmen at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (“USMMA”) and the response by you and others at the Department of Transportation (“DOT”). Through the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy (“MLAA”), a legal advocacy group formed on behalf of mariners, victims of shipboard sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape have bravely shared their personal stories in blog posts on the group’s website. You and Deputy Secretary Trottenberg sent an open letter to the King’s Point community and posted it on the USMMA website on Saturday, October 2, 2021 acknowledging these allegations and expressing your unwavering support for the individual who shared her story on September 27. The despicable accounts put forth by brave young women and men just starting promising careers in the maritime industry are frightening and unacceptable. Many of these allegations involve a repeated pattern of crimes and intimidations committed by people in positions of power and responsibility on merchant ships, and include alleged poor oversight or policy failures of USMMA officials and Coast Guard investigators.

In light of the seriousness of these allegations, I ask that you provide the committee with a description of the steps that have been taken by Maritime Administration (“MARAD”), the DOT, and the USMMA to investigate the allegations made on the MLAA’s website, and actions taken in response to findings in those investigations. Additionally, I request the following information:

1. How many reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years? Please provide a breakdown of these reports that includes whether the incidents occurred on campus, off campus, or at sea during Sea Year, the party that conducted the investigation(s), and the outcome of that investigation.

2. In the event that a midshipman is removed from a vessel following a sexual assault or harassment report(s), does USMMA remove all midshipmen onboard the vessel for their Sea Year? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

3. If a vessel or its parent company is the subject of a sexual assault or sexual harassment complaint, does the USMMA assign midshipmen to those vessels in the future? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

4. In the event that a midshipman makes an informal or formal complaint of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination, may they request to be assigned to a different vessel for the duration of their Sea Year? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

5. What actions can be and have been taken by the Coast Guard to withdraw or suspend credentials of mariners with a history of allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Sea Year midshipmen?

The maritime industry and United States Merchant Marine are a vital part of our national security and our nation’s economy. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other offenses are unacceptable, and the USMMA must immediately take action to stop this behavior and protect the men and women of the USMMA both at the Academy, and at sea. To that end, I request responses to these questions no later than October 26, 2021. For any questions, you may contact majority staff lead on maritime policy, Nicole Teutschel at 202-224-0510 and majority chief investigative counsel, Caitlin Warner at 202-224-0290.

 

Sincerely,

 

MARIA CANTWELL

Chair

 

CC: Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant, United States Coast Guard

###

Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 12:00am

For Immediate Release    
Tuesday, October 12, 2021


Contact:

[email protected]

 

Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

 

Senator vows to strengthen federal oversight and enforcement to protect consumers from digital harms

 

SEATTLE, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to preserve all documents, data, and electronic information related to testimony that the company misled the public about the harmful impact of its platforms on teenagers and children, and in spreading hate and divisive content.

 

“Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely,” Sen. Cantwell wrote in a letter to the CEO. “Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously.  This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.”

 

During a hearing before a Commerce subcommittee, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified that the company’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, “eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts,” noted Sen. Cantwell. “The testimony… raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.”

 

The Senator underscored the dangerous consequences of unchecked spreading of divisive, violent content on Facebook’s platforms, pointing to its role in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya in 2018.  She described many attempts made by a constituent and her own staff to warn the company to take action.  

 

“She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts,” Sen. Cantwell wrote regarding efforts by the constituent who asked the Senator’s office for help. “[M]y staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division… and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action. Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue.”

 

She added: “Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.” 

 

Sen. Cantwell requested that Facebook Inc. preserve and retain the following documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

 

A copy of the letter is below and here (link)

October 12, 2021

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Facebook, Inc.

1601 Willow Road

Menlo Park, CA  94025

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard testimony last week from Ms. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower, who testified about concerning practices at Facebook.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony followed Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis’ testimony at our September 30 hearing regarding the impact of Instagram and Facebook’s other platforms on users’ privacy interests and safety.  Ms. Haugen provided information regarding internal Facebook research, documents, and deliberations, and testified that Facebook’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts.  Ms. Haugen asserted that Facebook has misled the public about the impact of its platforms, and the degree to which Facebook’s decisions encourage and exploit divisive content to drive higher profits.  The testimony at these two hearings raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.

The potential danger that social media platforms pose for spreading divisive content was demonstrated, with horrifying consequences, by the role the Facebook platform played in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya.  See Reuters, Hatebook:  Inside Facebook’s Myanmar Operation (2018).  Thousands of Burmese refugees currently live in Washington state.  In April 2018, one of my constituents contacted me about her ongoing efforts over several years to alert Facebook to the widespread use of its platform to post hate speech and grisly images that were instigating violence, destabilizing the political environment in Myanmar, and driving ethnic violence on a broad scale.  She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts. Over the course of her efforts, Facebook remained unresponsive to her and failed to take action in response to her communications.

Working with that same constituent, my staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division on June 11, 2018 and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action.  I raised these concerns when I met with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, on May 17, 2019, and she assured me that Facebook had subsequently instituted a number of safeguards to limit the proliferation of divisive content on its platforms. 

Despite these assurances, my constituent continues to alert Facebook that individuals who had been posting divisive content during the worst of the violence against the Rohingya, such as a Myanmar military lieutenant, are still posting such content on Facebook.  Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue. 

The role of Facebook’s platform in the Rohingya tragedy illustrates the horrible consequences that failing to effectively limit the spread of divisive content on social media platforms can have in inflicting public harm.  Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.  More specifically, Ms. Haugen testified that Facebook made algorithmic changes in 2018 to maximize “meaningful social interactions” on its platforms, and its research showed that those changes actually accelerate and expand the spread of angry and divisive content on its platforms.  Ms. Haugen further testified that, in the face of that research, Facebook declined to make the necessary adjustments, which would have reduced profitability, to fix this problem.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony, if true, raises serious concerns about the motivations that drive Facebook’s decisions, policies and use of its internal research, and their widespread impacts on Facebook users worldwide.

Ms. Haugen also shared information regarding internal Facebook practices, including a practice of silencing employees who ask the “wrong” questions by deleting data and dismissing employees. This is deeply troubling and, if true, raises serious concerns that further erode the public’s trust in Facebook.

Ms. Davis testified that Facebook wants to be more transparent and is considering how it can allow external researchers to have more access to Facebook’s data.  To that end, I request that Facebook, Inc. preserve and retain documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information relating to the issues raised at the September 30 and October 5 hearings, including: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely.  Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously. This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.

 

###

State of Telehealth: Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes

Thu, 10/07/2021 - 10:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), the Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, will convene a hearing titled “State of Telehealth: Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 7, 2021. The hearing will examine the importance of access to telehealth services, the utilization and changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical role of access to broadband in the public health response, and how to structure future deployment and policy to address the needs of underserved communities. 

 

 Witnesses:

  • Sterling N. Ransone, Jr., MD, FAAFP, President, American Academy of Family Physicians
  • Sanjeev Arora, MD, MACP, FACG, Founder, Project ECHO; Distinguished Professor of Medicine, University of New Mexico
  • Deanna Larson, President, Avel eCARE
  • The Honorable Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

 

 Details: 

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

###

Enhancing Data Security

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a full committee hearing titled “Enhancing Data Security” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.  This hearing is the second in a series examining the growing urgency to protect consumer privacy and safeguard our data, as well as the need to ensure the Federal Trade Commission is equipped with the authorities and resources to fight digital harms and hold bad actors accountable for increasing privacy violations, data breaches, internet scams, ransomware assaults and other harmful data abuses.

 

Details: 

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Full Committee (hybrid)

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

###

Cantwell Says Action Needed to Stem Tide of ID Theft, Ransomware, and Security Breaches

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 12:00am

US on track for record number of data breaches in 2021

 

Cantwell: “We know that a stronger FTC will help, but we need to give the FTC the resources that they need to do their job.”

 

Former FTC leaders, experts in ID theft, cybersecurity say it’s key for the FTC to have first time civil penalty authority

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  In the second in a series of hearings on the urgent need to protect consumer privacy and data security, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, reiterated her call to create a data security and privacy enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). She has also called on Congress to ensure it is equipped with the resources, first time civil penalty authority, and clear digital security standards needed to stem the tide of data breaches, identity theft and ransomware assaults that are harming millions of Americans. 

 

“Earlier this year, a hacker took Colonial Pipeline offline, causing fuel shortages across the East Coast,” said Senator Cantwell. “Ransomware attacks on hospitals have put patients’ lives at risk. We heard yesterday about Facebook going offline globally due to faulty configuration. There's word out this morning that Amazon may be facing its own situation today. So part of the problem is that we live in a more connected world. And what we know now is that when there is a data breach that consumers are the ones that pay the heavy price.”

 

Cantwell spoke about the devastating impact of data breaches in Washington state, pointing out that the Washington State Auditor’s Office, which had obtained claim forms in a review of the incident, “had been receiving unemployment fraud claims had its data compromised due to that vulnerability in the legacy system that was provided by a third party. Accellion systems were breached throughout the country, and we still don't know the extent of that breach. But in Washington, the personal information of 1.6 million residents was stolen.”

 

“…We know that the identity theft can have a devastating impact on individuals who can't obtain unemployment benefits because a criminal has already applied for them,” Senator Cantwell said.  “40% of these victims were not able to pay their bills. 14% were evicted for not paying rent, 33% did not have enough money for food and utilities, 13% were not able to get a job. So while most identity theft victims lose less than $500, 21% of these victims report losing more than $20,000.”

 

During questioning of experts, Sen. Cantwell asked each witness if they “support an FTC Privacy and Data Security Bureau.” All four expert witnesses agreed, including James E. Lee, Chief Operating Officer, Identity Theft Resource Center; Jessica Rich, of Counsel at Kelley Drye and Former Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); Edward W. Felten, Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University and Former Chief Technologist at the FTC; and Kate Tummarello, Executive Director of Engine.

 

“Do you support first time penalties?” Cantwell followed.  Again, all four witnesses agreed. 

 

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE, the first round of Q&A with the witnesses is HERE, the second round HERE, and the final round and closing remarks HERE.

 

The full transcript can be found HERE.

 

###

Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower

Tue, 10/05/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.  Recent Wall Street Journal investigations have revealed troubling insights regarding how Instagram affects teenagers, how it handles children onto the platform, and other consumer protection matters related to Facebook. The hearing will provide an opportunity for a Facebook whistleblower to discuss their perspective and experience with the Subcommittee, including how to update children’s privacy regulations and other laws to protect consumers online.

 

Details: 

 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Hearing

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

###

Wicker Expresses Concern About TikTok’s Involvement in U.S. Cyber Games

Mon, 10/04/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing concern about the role TikTok will play in the first ever U.S. Cyber Games, an initiative receiving funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The U.S. Cyber Games represent an important initiative led by the private sector to promote cybersecurity careers, build a diverse and skilled cybersecurity workforce, and help to drive research on effective practices for cybersecurity workforce development.  

“Allowing TikTok to play any role in the first U.S. Cyber Games, including joining its board alongside U.S. federal officials, is unacceptable. TikTok should be given no opportunity to interfere in any of the nation’s cyber initiatives, let alone those carried out with financial support from American taxpayers,” Wicker wrote.

TikTok is a founding sponsor of the Games and will serve on its Advisory Board alongside personnel from U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken an ownership stake in a key subsidiary of the parent company of TikTok. Given China’s relentless efforts to undermine America’s cybersecurity, it raises grave concerns that a company with ties to the CCP would play any role in helping to build the next generation of U.S. cyber professionals. In addition to its CCP ties, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation raised serious questions about how TikTok’s technology can expose minors to harmful content.     

Click here to read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

I am concerned to learn about the involvement of TikTok in the inaugural U.S. Cyber Games, an initiative led by a private company in cooperation with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) program at NIST. The U.S. Cyber Games represent an important initiative led by the private sector to promote cybersecurity careers, build a diverse and skilled cybersecurity workforce, and help to drive research on effective practices for cybersecurity workforce development.  

This August, TikTok announced that it would be the founding sponsor of the games and that its Chief Security Officer would be joining the U.S. Cyber Games Advisory Board alongside members from NIST, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and other U.S. leaders in cybersecurity.

In April of this year, the CCP took an ownership stake and one of three board seats in Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok. We should not underestimate the dangerous influence or potential involvement the CCP has in the company. The CCP has repeatedly demonstrated its desire to exploit vulnerabilities in cyberspace and compromise America’s economic and national security. As one example, the Department of Justice recently indicted four Chinese nationals and residents who conspired with Chinese state security to hack into and steal data from U.S. companies, universities, and government entities.  

Allowing TikTok to play any role in the first U.S. Cyber Games, including joining its board alongside U.S. federal officials, is unacceptable. TikTok should be given no opportunity to interfere in any of the nation’s cyber initiatives, let alone those carried out with financial support from American taxpayers. Even though NIST is named as a “Founding Partner” of the games, it is my understanding that the private company leading the games is the entity responsible for involving TikTok. However, I would have expected NIST to exercise greater judgment and oversight over its awardees concerning which entities they pursue and with whom they form direct relationships.

I urge you to take action toward ensuring that NIST and its partners are fully aligned and held accountable in keeping our nation secure. 

I appreciate your attention to this critical matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 10:30am

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms” at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 30, 2021.  Children and teens face immense peer pressure and social expectations to broadcast their lives online. Recent Wall Street Journal investigations have revealed troubling insights regarding what Facebook knows about how Instagram affects young users, including their mental health. This hearing will cover Facebook’s research into the impact of its apps on young audiences, its actions to address threats to these users, and policy considerations to safeguard kids online.

 

Witnesses: 

 

  • Antigone Davis, Director, Global Head of Safety, Facebook

 

Details: 

 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

10:30 a.m.  EDT

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Hearing

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

###

 

 

 

TODAY: At Hearing With Facebook Safety Head, Cantwell Says Children Need Stronger Protection from Digital Abuse, Harm

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am

 

YESTERDAY: Cantwell Push to Create Stronger, Sharper, Tougher Consumer Protection Watchdog Gets Backing From Former Federal Enforcement Officials

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senator Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today underscored the urgent need to strengthen federal digital protections for children during a subcommittee hearing in response to revelations that Facebook and Instagram were aware of the harmful impact its products have on children and teenagers. Today’s comments follow a hearing Sen. Cantwell chaired yesterday regarding her push to create a privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and invest significant federal resources to ensure it is equipped with the authorities and resources to fight digital harms and hold bad actors accountable for privacy violations, deception, data breaches, internet scams, ransomware assaults and other data abuses.

 

“Data collection of children… should have more aggressive attention… and we need to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act,” Sen. Cantwell said at today’s subcommittee hearing.  “I think it's very important to understand that our committee would like to move forward on stronger privacy legislation.”

 

At Sen. Cantwell’s full committee hearing yesterday, senators heard directly from former FTC officials who recounted how the severe lack of resources, technology and staffing expertise has left the agency unable to keep pace with the growing wave of privacy and data abuses. Sen. Cantwell pushed to for $1 billion in federal funding as part of the Build Back Better bill to create a robust privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the FTC and called for a bureau in her 2019 privacy legislation.

 

“Our precise locations, fitness regimens, computer strokes, and even our friends and family networks have basically been turned into commodities,” Sen. Cantwell said, explaining that while a digital economy has created new services and products, “it also exposed and threatened consumer privacy by unnecessarily collecting, storing, selling, and exposing consumers’ most personal data to theft and harm.”

 

“[F]rom July 2019 through July 2020, more than 650,000 residents of my state, Washington, were victims of data breaches, including the release of their healthcare information, banking records, social security numbers, and credit card information,” Cantwell continued. “The truth is that our economy has changed significantly and the Federal Trade Commission has neither the adequate resources, nor the technological expertise at the FTC to adequately protect consumers from harm.”

 

“Even where the FTC has taken enforcement actions against companies, the companies continue to violate those FTC orders, which is beyond frustrating,” Sen. Cantwell added. “Even though the FTC has been able to use their current authority of unfair and deceptive practices, companies like Facebook or others may gladly pay a $5 billion fine, when actually, they can still make over $70 billion a year from some of these same practices.”

 

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. CANTWELL OPENING REMARKS AND HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Asked by Cantwell if they “support more resources at the FTC, “similar to what we've been talking about as it relates to this reconciliation item on the FTC having more of a privacy enforcement authority,” all four witnesses agreed, including David Vladeck, former Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection and current Faculty Director at the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law; Maureen Ohlhausen, former Acting Chair of the Federal Trade Commission and current Partner and Section Chair, Baker Botts; Ashkan Soltani, former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission and current Independent Researcher and Technologist; and Trade Morgan Reed, President of the App Association.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH CANTWELL EXCHANGE WITH WITNESSES

 

Vladeck described the impact Cantwell’s proposal to boost resources by $1 billion would have on the FTC’s enforcement capacity:  “One area in which [the FTC needs] resources is being able to hire more technologists and engineers. I don't think the FTC has ever had a cohort as many as 10 technologists on staff.   When it comes to enforcement, oversight of existing consent decrees, there is a division within the Bureau of Consumer Protection that has about 45 staff members, and oversees more than 1,000 ongoing consent orders, or litigated orders imposed by a court. The volume of orders that need to be sorted, reviewed and subject to reporting requirements overwhelms the ability of staff to do the kind of surveillance of a company under orders is required,” he said.

 

“Take a look at Facebook, it was the one of the first real major privacy orders we engaged in. We did not have technologists and staff who could spend time reviewing closely what the company was doing,” Vladeck continued. “And that's an endemic problem. And it's going to be an enduring problem unless Congress devotes more resources to the FTC.”

“[T]he FTC is critically under-resourced to oversee the nation's myriad of privacy and cybersecurity issues,” Soltani testified.  “With a bare bones staff of about 40 attorneys and a handful of technologists, their resources pale in contrast to their counterparts in other countries. The resource problem is exasperated when businesses choose to litigate a case rather than accept a settlement The proposal to create a fund and new bureau at the FTC is a strong step forward at providing the commission with new resources it needs desperately to effectively protect consumers in the digital economy. A new bureau focused on technology and data protection would help the FTC support its mission of placing unfair and deceptive trade practices related to privacy, data security, identity theft, and data abuses.”

Video of the all witness testimonies is available HERE, audio is available HERE.

 

###

Wicker in Washington Examiner: FTC must leave privacy legislating to Congress

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am

Consumer data powers today’s digital economy. Data is the coveted resource that is fueling explosive growth across multiple sectors, yielding exciting new innovations in areas as diverse as artificial intelligence, medical diagnostics, and automated vehicles. People have also experienced the practical benefits of data during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more individuals are relying on internet-based technologies to connect to work, school, healthcare, and their loved ones.

Despite these tremendous benefits, the ubiquity of data has also raised privacy concerns. Consumers want to know what personal information is being collected about them, and they want some say in how it is aggregated, used, and shared. On the industry side, businesses need a clear set of rules that will not slow the development of promising technologies. Congress has been working hard to develop a long-term legislative framework that addresses the needs of both consumers and innovators.

Some European countries have already begun adopting new privacy laws, as have certain U.S. states. Although the desire for these laws is understandable, a patchwork of state privacy laws is unworkable, as data moving over the internet does not recognize state boundaries. These laws have also come at a cost to industry. Expanded consumer protections have had clear impacts on investment, competition, and innovation. These trade-offs highlight the need for policymakers to balance the various interests at stake in crafting privacy policy.

In recent months, some have proposed that the Federal Trade Commission take up privacy reforms unilaterally through executive rulemaking. This would be a step in the wrong direction. America needs a national consumer privacy law, but such a law must be the product of Congress.

This lone ranger approach would also be a recipe for bad policy. It is simply impossible for five commissioners at the FTC to take into account the complex privacy interests of 330 million consumers and thousands of private enterprises. Inevitably, the commissioners would favor certain business models over others, triggering massive penalties against practices they personally disfavor. These top-down dictates would also face the constant specter of reversal under a new administration, thereby failing to provide the certainty that innovators need. Only Congress can provide the durable, fine-tuned legislation that will serve America for decades to come.

Every person and business in the United States has an interest in the outcome of these deliberations. It is precisely because the stakes are so high that rules cannot be the result of an agency edict. A national law must be the product of debate and compromise among the people’s representatives, and we are committed to seeing this process through.

Once Congress determines the path forward on privacy, the FTC will be the right agency to carry out the law. The FTC’s smart and dedicated staff have been tackling these thorny questions for decades, and today the commission is the most effective privacy enforcer in the world.

All of us support legislation that would give consumers baseline protections by increasing transparency, choice, and consumer control over personal data. We want guardrails for responsible data use that will give consumers confidence for the future while securing a level playing field for innovators operating all across the country. Americans expect us to meet this defining challenge at the dawn of the digital age. We intend to work with our colleagues in Congress to get the policy right and get the job done this Congress.

This op-ed was orginally ran in Washington Examiner

Wicker Raises Concerns Over CPSC Acting Chairman’s Nullification of FY2022 Operating Plan

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter urging Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Robert Adler to adopt the Commission’s Operating Plan for Fiscal Year 2022 as amended by majority vote. This follows Acting Chairman Adler’s recent instruction to the Acting General Counsel to nullify a 2-1 vote to approve the Operating Plan.

“There is no way to interpret this action except as a brazen act of sabotage by an acting Chairman who found himself on the losing side of a vote. During my tenure as ranking member and formerly as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over the CPSC, I have never seen a vote by the Senate-confirmed commissioners of an independent agency nullified by an Acting General Counsel,” Wicker wrote.

“This action would be gravely troubling no matter the subject of the vote, but I am especially disappointed that it will now impact the CPSC’s ability to implement needed improvements to its operations.”

The amended Operating Plan approved on September 24 includes directives to implement recommendations made by the CPSC Inspector General in response to the 2019 data breach that was the subject of an investigation by Commerce Committee staff last Congress. The plan would add 27 new port inspectors to make up for last year’s lapses in screening for potentially dangerous products coming through U.S. ports of entry. In addition, the plan requires CPSC to turn away from a misguided effort to increase its presence on the Chinese-owned social media platform, TikTok. 

In October 2019, the Commerce Committee released a report on the CPSC’s violation of section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) and subsequent data breaches. This year Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, joined Wicker in a letter to Acting Chairman Adler regarding port inspection shortfalls. 

Click here to read the full letter.

Click here for a joint statement from CPSC Commissioners Dana Baiocco and Peter Feldman on the passage of the Operating Plan.

Protecting Consumer Privacy

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. This hearing will examine how to better safeguard consumer privacy rights, including by equipping the Federal Trade Commission with the resources it needs to protect consumer privacy through the creation of a privacy bureau; and the need for a comprehensive federal privacy law.

 

Witnesses: 

 

  • David Vladeck, Professor and Faculty Director the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law; former Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection
  • Morgan Reed, President, The App Association
  • Maureen Ohlhausen, Partner and Section Chair (Antitrust & Competition Law), Baker Botts; former Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission
  • Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher and Technologist; former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission

  

Details: 

 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

10:00 am EDT

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

###

Copyright

© 2018 Women Construction Owners & Executives USA
WCOE grows your contacts, contracts & bottom line