u.s. senate

Cops to Congress: We need logs of Americans' text messages

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to record and store information about Americans' private text messages for at least two years, according to a proposal that police have submitted to the U.S. Congress.

CNET has learned a constellation of law enforcement groups has asked the U.S. Senate to require that wireless companies retain that information, warning that the lack of a current federal requirement "can hinder law enforcement investigations."

They want an SMS retention requirement to be "considered" during congressional discussions over updating a 1986 privacy lawRead more

Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

See also the follow-up story: Leahy scuttles his warrantless e-mail surveillance bill

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law, CNET has learned.

Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns, according to three individuals who have been negotiating with Leahy's staff over the changes. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy's rewritten bill would … Read more

Al Franken gives thumbs-down to facial recognition tech

Minnesota Senator Al Franken is concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology spurred by companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google. He believes that once mainstreamed, not only is privacy curbed but also law enforcement officials could potentially abuse the technology to the detriment of U.S. residents.

In a Senate hearing on facial recognition technology today, Franken, who is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, questioned the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, and Facebook about their use of this computer science, according to The Verge.

Facebook automatically uses facial recognition software in … Read more

Republican senators push for Internet sales taxes

The days of tax-free Internet shopping may soon be coming to an abrupt end.

CNET has learned that two Republican senators are preparing to introduce new legislation that would allow states to force Amazon.com and other out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes.

Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are currently putting the final touches on their bill, which is backed by Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy, Home Depot, and other companies that are currently required to collect sales taxes. It's a bipartisan concept: a related effort was embraced by Democrats including Sen. Dick Durbin … Read more

Silicon Valley and Washington: Ships in the night?

commentary A day before Apple celebrated the life and career of its legendary co-founder, the company disclosed that its business in China is growing at a spectacular clip. The numbers: China accounted for 16 percent of Apple's fourth-quarter sales, roughly $4.5 billion; that's nearly quadruple what it sold there a year ago.

It was only coincidence but news of Apple's banner sales to the Middle Kingdom comes as the possibility of a full-scale trade war between the United States and China has moved from the realm of "no frigging way" close to becoming a … Read more

Senate panel OKs controversial antipiracy bill

As expected, the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to approve a bill that targets Internet pirates based overseas.

The Protect IP Act looks to hand the U.S. Department of Justice the ability to seek a court order against allegedly infringing Web sites. The order could be served on search engines, certain Domain Name System providers, and Internet advertising firms--which would in turn be required to "expeditiously" make the target Web sites vanish from the Internet.

The bill was backed by leaders of both major political parties and is supported by a wide range of … Read more

Buzz Out Loud 1468: Bad Facebook! No biscuit for you! (Podcast)

Facebook gets busted for actually hiring a PR agency to try to plant anti-Google stories in the press. Wow. What are you guys, like 14? Oh, wait. Kind of, yeah. In other rant bait, an FCC commissioner who blocked any conditions regulating the NBC/Comcast merger got a lobbying gig at Comcast! How ... sleazy. Plus, the sad story of the other Mark Zuckerberg, and I finally finish my Keynote presentation about my spring break to Alaska. --Molly

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Sen. Ron Wyden: Protecting mobile privacy (Q&A)

It may come as a surprise to know that police generally need a warrant to search your house, but not to track your whereabouts through your cell phone.

This is what Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has become the Senate's leading champion of electronic privacy, wants to change. Wyden recently spoke with CNET in an interview transcribed below about his forthcoming legislation.

It's hardly Wyden's first foray into technology. In 2006, he introduced a pro-Net neutrality bill, opposed a renewal of the Patriot Act, and proposed restrictions on the Bush administration's controversial Total Information … Read more

Alert sounds for EVs are one step closer to becoming a requirement

The U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 841, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to set standards for alert sounds in electric or hybrid vehicles. The bill also creates a deadline for the safety protocols to be met by 2013.

"The passage of this legislation is momentous and marks over two years of vigorous advocacy by ACB membership that has resulted in consensus by the blind community, auto industry, and Congress," said Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind, in a news release.

The National Alliance … Read more

Congress moves to outlaw 'mystery charges' for Web shoppers

Legislation that makes it illegal for Web merchants and so-called post-transaction marketers to charge credit cards without the card owners' say-so came closer to becoming law this week.

A bill known as the "Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act" passed on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate. The law will make it illegal to use "misleading post-transaction advertisements" and require marketers to clearly disclose the terms of their offers. Merchants and marketers must now "obtain billing information, including full credit or debit card numbers," directly from card holders. The legislation was the government's answer … Read more