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SOPA blowback, and other tech predictions for 2013

December 26, 2012 06:02 AM ET

Neither bill made it into law, but that's hardly the end of the story.

President Obama is expected to sign, perhaps in two months, an executive order to force critical infrastructure providers to meet some basic cybersecurity requirements.

Greg Nojeim, the senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said one issue is whether government regulations would hold a business liable if it fails to sufficiently thwart an attack. One of the bills sought to limit that liability, something an executive order won't be able to do, he said.

"Some believe after the executive order is issued, it might clear the way for legislation because it might be an incentive to get liability protection," said Nojeim.

But it's unclear whether any legislation would actually improve cybersecurity.

Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, helped to draft a Senate bill on cybersecurity, and he said the Senate staff made so many compromises in the legislation that they completed gutted it.

"None of the legislation either sent forward or in draft will have any positive effect on our national security, whether passed or not," said Paller. Instead, what's needed is an effort to drive federal cybersecurity "to very high levels so that the government can lead by example," he added.

Tech immigration remains difficult

The House this year approved a Republican-backed bill called the STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6429) that provided up to 55,000 green cards for people from other countries who hold advanced degrees in science, technology engineering or math (the so-called STEM fields).

The White House opposed the bill because it eliminated the diversity lottery, which was set up to distribute green cards equally among people from countries with low rates of immigration. The White House also wants a STEM visa attached to comprehensive reform.

Will anything change in the next year?

Comprehensive reform, for its supporters, means a pathway to legal status for approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. That is the stumbling block to any action on tech-related immigration. There is a view that the lopsided Hispanic support for Democrats in November's election might spur Republicans to support an immigration remedy for undocumented immigrants.

It is also possible that the Senate could take up the undocumented issue separately, and forgo a comprehensive approach. There is some discussion among lawmakers about trying that approach, but getting any bill approved remains a long shot.

Internet sales tax collection debate renewed

There was a push in the lame duck session to attach Internet sales tax obligation measure to a defense authorization bill. The effort was blocked in the Senate, but this issue will return next year.



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