Emerging Technologies Washington Update

March 21, 2019

Pardon Our Dust

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This Week: McGuireWoods Consulting senior vice president Greg Guice comments on Internet of Things legislation, Senators raise privacy concerns related to airline in-flight entertainment systems, NHTSA seeks comments on requests for FMVSS exemptions for automated vehicle technology, Energy and Commerce leadership weighs additional funding for FTC privacy and data security enforcement, FCC makes major block of spectrum available for experimental use

Week in Review

The House and Senate were both in recess this week. On Tuesday, the President hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the White House for bilateral meetings. He also announced he will nominate Steve Dickson to be administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. Dickson is a former airline pilot and would replace FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell. Elsewhere, the White House launched a website dedicated to artificial intelligence built around the President’s recent executive order on the American AI Initiative. 

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, House Democratic leaders plan to hold a floor vote on the Save the Internet Act (H.R. 1644) during the second week of April. The bill has yet to clear the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but Technology and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Doyle (D-PA) has noted a Subcommittee markup could take place as early as next week. The House Financial Services Committee will also consider legislation on Tuesday to create a safe harbor for financial institutions working with cannabis businesses in accordance with state laws.

The Senate is expected to vote next week on a $13.6 billion disaster aid package. Leader McConnell (R-KY) also plans to hold a messaging vote a the New Green Deal resolution. On Thursday, David Bernhardt will testify in support of his nomination to be the next Secretary of the Interior before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

House and Senate appropriations and authorizing committees will hold hearings in the coming weeks to discuss the FY20 budget and the Administration’s policy priorities with Cabinet secretaries and agency heads. A number of hearings are already scheduled for next week, with more to follow.

Tomorrow, the President will host the leaders of the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia at Mar-a-Lago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Washington March 25-26 for meetings with the President.

McGuireWoods Consulting Senior Vice President Greg Guice Comments on Internet of Things Legislation

McGuireWoods Consulting Senior Vice President Greg Guice offered insight into the newly introduced House and Senate Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act (H.R. 1668 / S.734) in a March 19 Law360 article exploring the impact of the legislation. Drawing on years of experience at both the Federal Communications Commission and on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Guice predicted that, if passed and signed into law, the bill could have a powerful effect on what IoT technologies are available to commercial consumers. “I think the spillover effect is likely to be very high because if there is a standard developed by NIST, industry participants will want to pay attention to it at a minimum,” Guice stated.

The legislation, led by Senate Cybersecurity Caucus co-chairs Warner (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO) alongside Senators Hassan (D-NH) and Daines (R-MT), would direct the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop security standards for IoT devices procured by the federal government, among other provisions. Representatives Kelly (D-IL) and Hurd (R-TX) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“While I’m excited about their life-changing potential, I’m also concerned that many IoT devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place, with the device market prioritizing convenience and price over security,” Senator Warner stated in a press release. Representative Hurd echoed these sentiments in a separate press release, adding, “Internet of Things devices will improve and enhance nearly every aspect of our society, economy and our day-to-day lives. This is groundbreaking work and IoT devices must be built with security in mind, not as an afterthought.” Senators Warner and Gardner first introduced the legislation last Congress.

Senators Raise Privacy Concerns Related to Airline In-Flight Entertainment Systems

On Monday, Senators Merkley (D-OR) and Kennedy (R-LA) sent a letter to the CEOs of eight major airlines to express concerns with recent reports alleging airlines may use in-flight entertainment systems to monitor passengers. Earlier this month, several news outlets reported that in-flight entertainment systems are now equipped with cameras that could be used to record passenger activity during flights. “We are alarmed by reports that airlines may be using cameras on in-flight entertainment systems to monitor passengers,” Merkley and Kennedy wrote. “Should these reports of the use of undisclosed cameras on in-flight entertainment systems be true, it would be a serious breach of privacy. American passengers deserve to know that their privacy is protected while flying.” The Senators requested the airlines explain whether they use cameras or sensors to monitor passengers and detail the purpose.

NHTSA Seeks Comments on Requests for FMVSS Exemptions for Automated Vehicle Technology

On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published in the Federal Register two petitions for exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). General Motors (GM) is seeking an exemption from part of all 16 FMVSS for its all-electric vehicle. NHTSA regards this petition as a “case of first impression” in that the crash avoidance technologies would be made by the Automated Driving System (ADS) technology.  Nuro is seeking an exemption from three requirements of the FMVSS for low speed vehicles for is R2X highly automated SAE Level 4 vehicle, which will carry only cargo. Comments on both petitions are due by May 20. As reported in last week’s newsletter, NHTSA will be publishing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comment on how to adapt the FMVSS to ADS technology. The ANPRM is currently under review at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

Energy and Commerce Leadership Weighs Additional Funding for FTC Privacy and Data Security Enforcement

This week, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joe Simons seeking input on how the FTC would deploy additional budgetary resources to enhance consumer privacy and data security enforcement. Pallone and Schakowsky asked Simons to detail how the agency would allocate an additional $50, $75, or $100 million. Specifically, the Committee leaders asked for the Chairman’s views on potential additional staffing, including technologists and attorneys, as well as if the FTC would require additional resources if it receives any new notice-and-comment rulemaking authorities under a new federal privacy law. His response is requested by April 3.

FCC Makes Major Block of Spectrum Available for Experimental Use

On March 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted a Report and Order establishing rules to encourage the development of new communications technologies and services in the spectrum above 95 GHz. Given rapid advancements in technology, this spectrum, once thought to be at the outer edge of useable spectrum, is now an area of intense interest for new technology developments, such as imaging and sensing operations. As part of the Spectrum Horizons First Report and Order, the FCC has created a new category of experimental licenses for use of frequencies between 95 GHz and 3 THz.  These licenses will give innovators the flexibility to conduct experiments lasting up to 10 years, and to more easily market equipment during the experimental period. In addition, the item makes available 21.2 gigahertz of spectrum for use by unlicensed devices. In his statement adopting the Order, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated “[t]hese steps are groundbreaking, but I’m confident that there will be more ground to break. We will continue to watch the development of spectrum horizons, including for potential non-experimental, licensed uses of spectrum above 95 GHz in the future. And we will continue to act boldly so that the United States continues to lead the world in wireless innovation.”