Startup News Digest: 4/15/2016

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

One Step Closer to Email Privacy Reform. The House Judiciary Committee approved the Email Privacy Act on Wednesday, a bill that makes much needed reforms to the outdated Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (ECPA) by explicitly requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing digital communications, including emails. While some states, like California, have taken steps over the years to remedy outdated laws related to warrantless government access to email, a Federal fix has been elusive. Privacy advocates and the tech community have long awaited meaningful reform to ECPA in order to better protect consumers as well as provide greater regulatory certainty for startups. Engine urges the House and Senate to pass the Email Privacy Act as expeditiously as possible. Read our full statement here.

The Anti-Encryption Bill is Bad, Really Bad. A draft of the anti-encryption bill sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) was circulated this week, giving the tech community an idea of just how terrible the legislation is. As Evan writes in an op-ed, “...this bill would force every tech company in America to break their encryption systems and announce to the world that the unsecure backdoors were available to anyone who could find them.” Engine joined a coalition of nonprofit and advocacy organizations opposing the proposed bill and calling on the White House to denounce the bill and express its support for encryption.

And an Anti-Net Neutrality Bill. In a busy week for tech policy, Engine signed yet another letter, this one opposing the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, legislation that could invariably undermine net neutrality. The bill’s sponsors claim that it is merely designed to ensure that the FCC follows through on its promise to refrain from ISP rate regulation, but in reality, it would restrict the Federal Communication Commission from enforcing crucial aspects of the 2015 Open Internet Order and policing other anti-competitive ISP practices. Today, the House passed the bill 241-173. Fortunately, the bill seems unlikely to become law, as the White House has already threatened to veto it if it passes through Congress. Read our statement and the full letter here.

Capital Access Bills Considered. On Thursday morning, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing to examine the impact of the JOBS Act (which turned four years old this month) and evaluate four bills aimed at improving the capital access landscape for startups. Engine sent a letter commending the Committee on its thoughtful approach to capital access issues and voicing our support for the four bills that were discussed. In a blog post, Emma outlines the highlights of the hearing, including two bills from Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) that would remedy the “99 Investor Problem” and make targeted improvements (that we’ve championed) to the investment crowdfunding framework.

H-1B Applications Hit New Record. A new record was set for the number of H-1B visa applications received by USCIS—236,000 for the 85,000 visas available. Countless vital workers will be turned away from contributing to tech companies across the country.

EU Data Regulators Don’t Like the New Privacy Shield. The path towards a restored data transfer pact between the U.S. and EU hit a snag this week when Europe’s privacy regulators announced that they had serious problems with the framework’s national security exemptions and review mechanisms. While not entirely unexpected, this response complicates what has already been a drawn-out, uncertain process. The opinion is not binding, but is considered highly influential and will likely need to be addressed before the European Commission’s eventual vote on the Privacy Shield agreement.