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A Healthy Challenge to Congress: BSA’s Congressional 2015 Data Agenda

An ever growing abundance of data, ever improving data software driven services, and the increasingly relied upon data that comes from software represent an important frontier in our lives today, and in our digital economy as a whole. The abundance of data is leading to life-saving breakthroughs in health, farmers producing crops at lower prices, and families with busy schedules staying connected—all by leveraging data.

Throughout history, any time new technologies challenge and change how we think and behave, policymakers are challenged with ensuring these technologies fully deliver on their potential. This is very much the case today, as we find ways to best embrace the promise of a burst of data services. Just think: more than 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years. We create an enormous amount of data every day – but the policy environment tied to data services is lagging. Because of this challenge, consumers, businesses and law enforcement today all lack sufficient clarity and predictability about the rules and laws that govern the gathering, storing, sharing, and positive uses of data.

As the data services sector continues its rapid growth, crucial questions have emerged related to clear laws over issues like cybersecurity, trade, government access, and cross-border data flows. These questions only seem to grow as time passes, and each has global implications. How can the beneficial potential of data be realized, and how can the best decisions be reached, if we don’t have clear rules to play by?

Some promising movement is beginning to occur: In June of this year, Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority, supported by BSA | The Software Alliance. This important legislation ensures that for the first time any new trade agreement must include strong, clear, enforceable rules to ensure the free global flow of data. And this past spring, Congress passed the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015, also supported by BSA, to restrict the bulk collection of data and help define the appropriate balance between national security and privacy. These legislative wins are significant steps forward – yet much remains to be done.

BSA’s 2015 Data Agenda is a set of achievable goals for Congress during its current session.  Our Data Agenda includes five well within our grasp legislative efforts related to software and data services, each of which will have a positive effect on a thriving digital economy.  Lawmakers should act now to build a healthy policy environment around data services – one which better fits our modern reality and actual needs in a digital economy.

These five legislative areas involve Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) reform; information-sharing; the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (LEADS) Act; Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) modernization; and the Judicial Redress Act. Do these five areas cover everything on the data services landscape? No. But collectively they represent the healthiest down payment yet when it comes to establishing clear laws and regulations which will unleash the many good things the data economy to will bring to each one of us as well our country.

BSA’s 2015 Data Agenda gives our nation and our Congress the opportunity to again show the world a version of innovative leadership that truly breaks new ground. As countries like the United Kingdom, Brazil, and China develop their data policies, the U.S. can offer a model that respects rule of law and individual rights. We can do it. This can happen.

As Congress begins its push for legislation this fall, we hope they look to BSA’s Congressional 2015 Data Agenda as one agenda that makes all the sense in the world.

Victoria Espinel

Author:

Victoria Espinel is a respected authority on the intersection of technology innovation, global markets and public policy. She leads strategic efforts that help shape the technology landscape in 60 countries through work in BSA’s 10 global offices.

Espinel also serves as the President of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. Software.org is an independent and nonpartisan international research organization created to help policymakers and the broader public better understand the impact that software has on our lives, our economy, and our society.

Espinel served for a decade in the White House, for both Republican and Democratic Administrations as President Obama’s advisor on intellectual property and, before that, as the first ever chief US trade negotiator for intellectual property and innovation at USTR. She was also a professor of international trade and intellectual property at the George Mason School of Law.

Espinel is a founding and ongoing co-sponsor of Girls Who Code’s Washington, DC, summer immersion program, which empowers young women to pursue careers in STEM fields. She speaks before audiences around the world to build visibility for the amazing things people can do with software, and encourages businesses, governments, and the public to support a policy environment that will enable even more software breakthroughs.

Espinel chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Digital Economy and Society. She was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), the principal advisory group for the US government on international trade. She holds an LLM from the London School of Economics, a JD from Georgetown University Law School, and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriaespinel.

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