Washington Watch


Dems Seek Info on Social-App Data Collection, Use

WASHINGTON — The ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee
sent letters to 34 vendors of social-networking apps for Apple’s mobile
iOS platform seeking information on data collection and use practices.

Reports that the social-networking app Path collects address book info
and photos without users’ knowledge or
consent prompted the letter and were
only the latest red flag for legislators concerned
about the protection of personal
data online.

The tone of the letter was not accusatory.
“We are writing to you because we
want to better understand the information
collection and use policies and practices
of apps for Apple’s mobile devices
with a social element,” the congress
members wrote.

Joining Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in the
request was G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.),
ranking member of the House Commerce
Subcommittee. The pair had already fired
off a letter to Apple last month about
Path, seeking its side of the story.

Among the companies targeted were Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook.

The letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, seeks info
on what the company considers data that requires prior consent before collecting;
how data collection, either user or device data, directly relates to the
application’s function; how many times its app has been downloaded in the
past month; and more.

DISCLOSE Act Revived in Senate

WASHINGTON — Thirty-five Senate Democrats are reintroducing the DISCLOSE
, the bill that would require enhanced disclosures of the funding of Super
PACs, including identifying those backers during on-air political ads.

The bill, introduced in the Senate in 2010, was a response to the Supreme
Court’s decision in the Citizens United case to allow direct corporate and union
funding of electioneering ads — spots that advocate for or against specific
candidates rather than issues — in federal elections.

It was killed by Senate Republicans.

A House version was reintroduced by Democrats last month.

The Sunlight Foundation, which tracks money in politics, last week praised
the bill’s reprise in the Senate. “We are pleased to see the Senate is aligning
with the House on supporting a DISCLOSE Act that goes straight to the problem:
the lack of transparency for unlimited, secret Super PAC money and the
influence it has on our elections and our elected officials,” Sunlight co-founder
Ellen Miller said in a statement.

Like the first DISCLOSE Act, the new version would require TV ads to identify
the actual funders, rather than simply the PAC name, and would require
individual funders or the CEOs of corporations to appear on-screen, as candidates
have to do at the end of campaign ads.

Lobbyists will also be required to report their spending on independent expenditures
and electioneering communications.

Broadcasters have First Amendment concerns with such legislation, and are
also concerned the law could depress political ad spending.