Startup News Digest 10/27/17

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. To receive this weekly digest in your inbox, sign up at

The Big Story: 702 Moves on the Hill. Congress began the process of reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial spying authority that the U.S. government says justifies the sweeping collection of online communications. Startups are watching closely as this issue has potential ramifications on worldwide data privacy issues.

Ahead of that authority’s expiration date at the end of the year, lawmakers are debating whether and how to reauthorize the law. Lawmakers in the House have introduced a bipartisan bill that would improve privacy protections in the law.

Across the Capitol, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 on a bill that would leave the controversial programs largely unchanged. The committee also voted down an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- who has typically been a staunch defender of the intelligence community’s practices -- and Sen. Kamala Harris that would have required the government to get a warrant before accessing Americans’ communications collected under Section 702. Those searches are often called “backdoor searches” because they evade the typical warrant requirement for accessing Americans’ communications.

Also this week, lawmakers introduced an aggressive 702 reform bill. The measure -- dubbed the USA Rights Act -- from a bipartisan, bicameral group including Sens. Ron Wyden and Rand Paul and Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Ted Poe would, among other things, prohibit backdoor searches and the use of Section 702 to collect communications between U.S. persons. The bill also has a host of provisions to boost transparency and oversight of government surveillance.


What’s Happening in Policy:

House Judiciary Plans Net Neutrality Hearing. The House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust has scheduled a hearing on net neutrality for Wednesday, Nov. 1.

Defending Inter-Partes Review. Engine joined Public Knowledge, EFF, and R Street in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court defending the constitutionality of the Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board’s decisions to extinguish patent rights.

DOJ Drops Gag Order Policy. The Department of Justice has changed its long-standing practice of serving requests for users’ data with gag orders, a move that has kept tech companies from letting their users know that their data has been surrendered to the government.

White House Allows for More Drone Use. President Donald Trump signed a policy that allows state and local governments to ask the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use drones in ways that are currently restricted.

McAfee Locks Down Source Code. Cybersecurity firm McAfee will no longer let foreign governments review its source code.

Groups Rally Behind ICPA. A coalition of right-leaning groups is pushing lawmakers to move the International Communications Privacy Act, a measure aimed at clarifying how law enforcement can obtain electronic communications stored on servers overseas.


Startup Roundup:

  • #StartupsEverywhere: Coachella Valley. The latest installment of our #StartupsEverywhere series looks at Coachella Valley in California, its role as a state-specific technology hub, and what the area is doing to encourage startup growth.

  • Entrepreneurship Still Growing. The Kauffman Foundation has released its 2017 Index of Entrepreneurship, which shows continued U.S. entrepreneurial growth for the third year in a row. And TechCrunch highlights some ways that could play out in the Midwest.

  • Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs. In honor of National Women’s Small Business Month, we’re taking a look at some of the ways startup ecosystems and government entities encourage women entrepreneurs.