Startup News Digest: 4/8/2016

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy.

Encryption. Encryption continued to dominate tech news this week. On Tuesday, Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced all its services are now built with end-to-end encryption, making it impossible for the company to comply with law enforcement data requests. Reactions to the news on the Hill were mixed, and the move adds flame to the already intense encryption debate. Feeding the fire even more, the National Journal reported this week that the FBI has been briefing Senators on how it cracked the iPhone 5C used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. This development has raised questions around whether the FBI should be obligated to share the same information with Apple. And finally, reports surfaced on Wednesday that the White House would withhold support for draft legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein that would require tech companies to help law enforcement access or break encrypted data. However, the White House responded on Thursday that those reports were inaccurate and that the Administration is still taking a look at the proposal. We’re tracking.

H-1B Cap Reached Within Week. Applications for the tech industry’s most popular visa, the H-1B, have already hit the cap of 65,000 after enrollment opened last week. The H-1B program—and cases of misuse—has been one of the few high-skilled immigration topics discussed in the current presidential campaigns, but it’s not the only issue that deserves airtime, explained Anna in an op-ed in the last week. “While these cases of misuse warrant examination of the program’s susceptibility to abuse, concerns over the bad behavior of a few actors should not negate the true importance of foreign talent in this country. Further, they distract from another critical necessity in our immigration system: a visa program that promotes job creation by welcoming foreign entrepreneurs to the U.S.” Read the full op-ed here.

Final Privacy Shield. Keep your eyes peeled next week for a key opinion from Europe’s privacy regulators on the recently agreed to U.S.-EU Privacy Shield. In case you need a refresher: last October, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) invalidated the European Commission’s “safe harbor” rules that permitted U.S. companies to self-certify compliance with European data protection rules in order to legally transfer EU customer data to the U.S. After months of tense negotiations, U.S. and EU negotiators finally reached an updated Safe Harbor agreement, rebranded as “Privacy Shield.” Since then, a working group of the EU nations’ 28 data protection authorities (DPAs) has been evaluating the agreement and next week is when we should find out what they think of it. Their approval is viewed as a key hurdle to finalizing the agreement, so stay tuned.

Comparing Broadband Plans. On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled a new tool for consumers to evaluate Internet service plans: broadband nutrition labels. The labels, which look a lot like the nutrition label you might find on a cereal box or a can of soup, include information on things like early termination fees, network performance, restrictions on data use, and pricing. The initiative is an effort by the FCC and the CFPB to empower consumers to more easily compare home Internet service or mobile data plans through key facts and insights. Learn more and see the an example of a label here.  

No Tech IPOs in Q1 2016. For only the fourth time since the late nineties, not a single tech company went public in the first quarter of  2016, perplexing many on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, too. The fact that private companies are staying private much longer was one topic raised in the Security and Exchange Commission Chairwoman’s remarks last week at Stanford. Chair Mary Jo White touched on several issues, including the responsibilities of new crowdfunding portals, secondary markets, and and the policy challenges presented by innovations in financial technology. Read her full address here.


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