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Internet Privacy & The Senate

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In a party-line 50-48 vote Thursday, senators approved a resolution to undo sweeping privacy rules adopted by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission. If it becomes law, it would also prevent the FCC from setting similar rules again.

The rules have not gone into effect, however ISPs must tell consumers what information is being collected and how it is being used or shared. The rules require ISPs in some cases to get users’ explicit consent, for example to sell information such as geo location or browsing history for advertising.

Republicans in Congress and at the FCC have objected to these rules, passed by the Democratic majority at the FCC in October. They have argued with major cable and telcom companies,that the rules put ISPs on unequal footing with other major data-collecting companies like Google or Facebook, which are overseen instead by the Federal Trade Commission.

Stingray Cell Trackers & Warrants

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Data Visualization On The 115th Congress After The 2016 Elections

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This data visualization views the changes to the new U.S. Congress after the 2016 elections.

Such as 

1.What happened to the Senate?

2.In the People’s House

3.How big is the victory for GOP?

4.Key races contribute to the GOP victory.

5. A GOP Congress

View Here

 

US Senate Recognizes Bitcoins-Value Sky Rockets

 

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A Senate hearing was held last night and saw an assortment of experts, including Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, giving their opinions on the currency – which were mostly guarded but positive.

The value of Bitcoin shot up to $785 after the meeting, a $200 rise from earlier that day. Bernanke said “While these types of innovations may pose risks related to law enforcement and supervisory matters, there are also areas in which they may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure and more efficient payment system,” . The hearing was called following the closure of Silk Road, an online black marketplace used largely for drugs, which was one of the earliest adopters of the Bitcoin currency and a name synonymous with its use. Many have said the closure of the “Amazon for drugs” site has helped to legitimise Bitcoin among its former nemeses.

Bitcoin was created in 2008 by an anonymous developer who goes by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency is decentralised and therefore can’t be controlled by any government – it’s created, controlled and traded by Bitcoin users rather than a central bank.

 

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State and federal officials have begun broad investigations of upstart virtual currencies like bitcoins.

The Senate’s committee on homeland security sent a letter this week to the major financial regulators and law enforcement agencies asking about the “threats and risks related to virtual currency.” These currencies, whose popularity has grown in recent years, are often used in online transactions that are not monitored by traditional financial institutions.

“This is something that is clearly not going away, and it demands a whole government response,” said a person involved in the Senate committee’s investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is continuing. 

The Senate letter went out the same day that New York’s top financial regulator, Benjamin M. Lawsky, sent subpoenas to 22 companies that have had some involvement with bitcoin, according to a person briefed on the investigation.

Previously, there have been isolated efforts to crack down on those who took advantage of virtual currencies. But the two investigations made public this week appear to be the most wide-ranging government efforts to exert more coordinated control over what has been a largely faceless and borderless phenomenon.

Bitcoin, the most well-known digital currency, was started by anonymous Japanese computer programmers in 2009 and was intended to serve as an alternative to national currencies. Only a limited number of bitcoins can be created. And an online community has bid up the price of individual bitcoins, which are stored digitally on a decentralized network of computers. On Tuesday, a bitcoin was being sold for about $108 online.

Lawmakers are concerned that bitcoin and other alternative forms of money can be used to evade taxes, defraud investors and assist trade in illegal products like drugs and pornography.

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused a Texas man of profiting from a bitcoin Ponzi scheme on the same day it issued a broader warning about the dangers of similar frauds. Earlier this year, the operators of another virtual currency, Liberty Reserve, were accused of running a $6 billion money-laundering ring.

The Senate committee began looking into virtual currency several months ago, formally interviewing several regulators and industry participants. The committee recently stepped up its efforts because staff members had heard “real concern” from law enforcement officials, and because it became clear that regulators did not have enough information about the technology, according to the person involved in the investigation.

The Senate letter said  that” the federal government must make sure that potential threats and risks are dealt with swiftly,”. Both the Senate committee and Mr. Lawsky have emphasized that the technology could have good uses, and any new regulations would help protect those. 

Mr. Lawsky, in a formal notice released on Monday, said, “If virtual currencies remain a virtual Wild West for narcotraffickers and other criminals, that would not only threaten our country’s national security, but also the very existence of the virtual currency industry as a legitimate business enterprise.”

Lawsky’s office sent subpoenas to most of the companies that have publicly discussed investing in bitcoin or creating software that would allow for the transfer and exchange of bitcoins.

 

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