Privacy: Expect some lawmakers to push for legislation that would require mobile carriers and app makers to disclose whether they are tracking users or get permission to do so. Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, and Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, both introduced mobile privacy legislation during the past two years, but neither bill passed.
Obama has also called for Congress to pass a privacy bill of rights, although there's been no progress so far. Some Republicans have raised concerns about online privacy, however, so there may be room for Congress to move forward next year.
With or without legislation, the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will continue to work with privacy groups and companies to develop privacy codes of conduct. The NTIA has focused its efforts so far on mobile privacy, where there seems to be the most concern.
Government surveillance of electronic communications: In a related topic, a coalition of digital rights groups and tech companies will continue to push for changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which now allows law enforcement agencies to gain access to unopened emails and files stored in the cloud for longer than 180 days through a subpoena, typically issued by a prosecutor, instead of a judge-issued warrant. Under ECPA, data stored in the cloud has weaker protections than data stored on a suspect's computer.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has a markup hearing on ECPA reform this month, noted CDT's Nojeim. "This is very, very important for cloud providers," he said.
Spectrum: The FCC is moving forward on efforts to auction wireless spectrum given up by television stations. There's bipartisan support for auctioning more spectrum in an effort to lessen the impact of a predicted spectrum shortage. Look for other spectrum arguments, however, with some Republicans questioning how much new spectrum should go toward unlicensed uses like super Wi-Fi.
There's also a looming debate at the FCC over whether spectrum holding limits for large mobile carriers should be changed. Small carriers and digital rights groups are pushing for spectrum caps.
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