Sen. Manchin demands complete US ban on Bitcoin

A US senator is asking the federal government to take this remarkable step: completely ban Bitcoin.

Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator representing West Virginia, sent a letter Wednesday to the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and other regulators characterizing the virtual currency as encouraging "illicit activity" as well as being "highly unstable and disruptive to our economy."

Manchin, who is a member of the Senate banking committee, suggested in the letter -- titled "Manchin Demands Federal Regulators Ban Bitcoin" -- that a complete prohibition was appropriate because Thailand, China, and South Korea have already … Read more

Judge cautions against some proposed reforms to NSA

President Obama is expected to announce a slew of possible reforms to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs on Friday. Within these proposed reforms are recommendations to limit spying on ally governments, stop the NSA's storage of telephone record data of US citizens, and increase controls on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Unsurprisingly, judges of the FISC have taken issue with some of the proposed controls. Former presiding judge of the FISC and current director of the Administrative Office of the United States Court Judge John D. Bates penned a letter (PDF) to several lawmakers, which was … Read more

Carriers got 1M gov't, police requests for data in 2012

Requests for customer mobile phone data from federal, state, and local authorities topped 1 million last year, according to Senator Edward Markey.

The results were revealed Monday by the senator's office, which published letters received from the major US carriers in response to questions from Markey. The senator's questions touched on such topics as:

How many total requests did your company receive from law enforcement to provide information about your customers' phone usage? How long does your company retain records for law enforcement? How many of the requests did your company fulfill, and how many did it deny? … Read more

Want to see Aereo survive? This senate bill does too

West Virginia Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller plans to introduce a bill Tuesday he said will foster online video, decrease consumer costs, and increase video content choice and quality.

It will also help Aereo to survive if the company, which streams over-the-air local broadcasts to subscribers, fends off copyright allegations in court.

Rockefeller is set to introduce his Consumer Choice in Online Video Act at 11 a.m. PT. It will clarify that antenna-rental services like Aereo, if found to be copyright legal, wouldn't be subject to the same retransmission fees broadcast networks have been extracting from pay-TV operators, according … Read more

Apple, Google, Microsoft unite against NSA spying program

The top tech companies are sharpening their blades in their battle with the National Security Agency. While they've been doggedly asking for transparency on the agency's mass surveillance program for months, they're now calling for reform.

Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and AOL penned a letter (pdf) to the lead members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday urging the lawmakers to substantially reform the NSA surveillance practices. The companies also asked for additional oversight and accountability mechanisms for the spying programs.

"Transparency is a critical first step to an informed public debate, but it is … Read more

Airbnb host creates petition to confront New York lawmakers

Airbnb just got a few thousand more supporters in its ongoing dispute with New York state.

The rent-out-your-home service has thrown its weight behind a petition authored by a New York City host named Mishelle. In the petition, she asks the state's senate to fix what she calls a "poorly written law," which could curb Airbnb's reach in the region.

"The reason this is happening is because of a poorly written law originally designed to stop slumlords from running illegal hotels with dozens of rental apartments," Mishelle writes. "As a New Yorker just … Read more

Twitter's new Alerts system spreads word of Capitol shooting

USCP investigating reports of gunshots on Capitol Hill. If in a #Senate office, shelter in place. If not go to nearest office. #alert

— SenateSergeantAtArms (@SenateSAA) October 3, 2013

The U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms Office put out word via Twitter's new alerts system that there had been gunshots Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Launched just last week, the Alerts system was designed to let public agencies and other institutions quickly alert people about disasters and other events. Today, after word began spreading about shots being fired on Capitol Hill, the Sergeant at Arms Twitter account tweeted, "USCP investigating … Read more

Post 'revenge porn' in California and you may go to jail

Tempted to post a compromising photo of an ex-lover who spurned you? Just don't do it in California.

A bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday promises up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for people "convicted of illegally distributing private images with the intent to harass or annoy." Sponsored by Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Senate Bill 255 goes into effect immediately and makes posting "revenge porn" a misdemeanor.

As described in a press release from Cannella's office, such private photos are posted online, sometimes at multiple sites, … Read more

Senate panel launches inquiry in Bitcoin, other virtual currencies

Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are getting hit from all sides by U.S. regulators. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security is the newest group to look into the practices of upstart virtual currencies.

The committee sent inquiry letters to all major financial regulators and law enforcement agencies on Monday, according to The New York Times. The letters asked the regulators and agencies about the "threats and risks related to virtual currency."

One of the people involved in the committee's investigation told The New York Times, "This is something that is clearly not going away and … Read more

Senate approves immigration bill with increased H-1B visas

In a rare bipartisan effort, the U.S. Senate approved the immigration bill with a 68-32 vote on Thursday. This means the lobbying efforts put forth by Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and other major tech companies most likely made a difference.

The 1,200-page measure, dubbed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which ultimately won the Senate's approval, calls for boosting security on the U.S.-Mexico border, helping immigrants that are currently in the U.S. illegally, and increasing H-1B visas to foreign workers.

It's the bit about H-1B visas that the tech companies were … Read more