Congress Watch: Crowd-Funding, Apple and GOFA

Crowd-Funding Close to Winning Congressional Approval 

By a wide margin, the Senate joined the House in approving legislation that would permit companies to raise capital by crowd-funding.  The Senate CROWDFUND Act (Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure Act) and the JOBS ACT (Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act) generally permit companies to raise up to $1 million through crowd-funding. The House JOBS Act was controversial because it eliminated disclosure requirements and other investor protections leading former SEC chief accountant Lynn E. Turner took to state that the bill “won’t create jobs, but it will simplify fraud.” The Senate abandoned House provisions which required no disclosures,  imposed no liability for false disclosure or oversight of funding platforms or promoters.   Senate passage certainly had to welcome by Crowdfunder.com which reports having nearly $15MM committed for 1027 companies. More Info: Senate Passes JOBS Act, Approves Bi-Partisan Amendment Safeguarding Investors,  Senate Passes JobCrowdsourcing.org; Senate Passes Start-Ups Bill, With Amendments, New York Times.

House Members Requests Meeting with Apple, Send Info Requests to App Developers

After revelations that Apple Apps were collecting user data without disclosure to the user, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) have requested that Apple provide a briefing on the issue.  The pair had sent a letter of inquiry to Apple but was unsatisfied with its self-congratulatory response that it “has an unwavering commitment to giving our customers clear and transparent notice, choice, and control over their personal information.” The pair also sent letters to 30 popular iPhone applications developers seeking information on their data collection and privacy practices.

More InfoLawmakers ask app makers for privacy information, Reuters; Lawmakers Request Meeting with Apple, Daily Online Examiner 

Pakistani Censorship RFP Revives GOFA, Markup Set for Today

The Pakistani government kicked a cyber hornet’s nest when it put out the following RFP:

Pakistani ISPs and backbone providers have expressed their inability to block millions of undesirable websites using current manual blocking systems, [and as a result] a national URL filtering and blocking system is therefore required to be deployed at national IP backbone [sic] of the country.

The request revealed the role of US companies in assisting cyber censorship.  The Global Network Initiative, an internet freedom organization that counts Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo as members called for a boycott of the project and major vendors Sandvine, Cisco, Verizon, Websense, McAfee and BlueCoat complied and the Pakistani government abandoned the project.

This has revived Chris Smith (R-NJ)’s “Global Online Freedom Act,” which he has introduced the last several Congresses.  The bill would prohibit U.S. companies from exporting technologies to “Internet restricting countries” if the products could be used to censor the internet or spy on internet users.  A House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee will vote on the bill today.

More Info: ‘Dark trade’ in Web-censoring tools exposed by Pakistan plan CNet; Pakistan backs away from proposed censorship system, Ars Technica, House set to move ‘online freedom’ bill, The Hill