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On Monday, April 1st, President Trump signed a repeal of an Obama-era bill known as Section 222. Section 222 of the Communications Act was initially intended to create an affirmative right to privacy in our communications and was due to be in effect through 2017. In March of this year Congress enacted a rarely used procedural move known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to initiate a repeal. How does this affect you? Well, let’s start with the basics:

What is Internet Privacy?

Internet Privacy is your right or mandate to personal privacy of your information via the internet. This can involve browsing history, personal data, demographics, purchasing history and more. Today, Internet privacy has a different connotation than standard privacy concerns and typically pertains to user information. The 1997 Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) defined information privacy as "an individual's claim to control the terms under which personal information--information identifiable to the individual--is acquired, disclosed, and used." At present, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not required to obtain an individual’s consent before accessing and selling a user’s information.

What was the bill going to do?  What are the consequences of the repeal?

The new regulations under Section 222 would have required Internet Service Providers to receive consent from users before selling their information, protecting the individual’s privacy from telecommunications carriers with unique access to our communications and our personal information. These new regulations would have adapted Section 222 to apply to broadband companies in a way that, since the founding of the bill in 1996, they had not. The CRA repeal of these new regulations removes some restrictions on ISP’s access to information, and was clearly a priority for ISP companies, given that they spent nearly $8 million dollars lobbying Congress to pass the repeal. “Historically, regulations have treated data as the property of the consumer,” GeekWire wrote. Under the new bill, “it will be viewed more like the property of internet providers.” In theory, anyone from insurance companies, airlines, banks, and retailers to political parties or governments could buy data profiles of consumers. The CRA repeal also essentially hamstrung the previous regulations by including caveats to make it more difficult for the FCC to pursue similar regulations in the future.

But there are benefits to the repeal of Section 222. The proliferation of public information about users could make it easier for companies to more effectively reach their target audiences, cutting through bothersome, irrelevant ads and saving businesses millions in lost advertising dollars.  In theory, if advertisers can more effectively find their customers and spend less money doing so, prices could drop in a variety of industries, especially those with heavy eCommerce presences.  Also, the ability for ISPs to use consumer data could allow them to more evenly balance advertising and usage, allowing you more time surfing without being barraged with ads. 

However, in could be quite a while before we know the true effect of the repeal of Section 222.  In the two months since the repeal was signed, roughly a dozen state senators have taken up measures in enhance their state’s internet privacy laws and protect constituent’s privacy. Many Members of Congress have vocally protested the repeal and the issue is unlikely to die down anytime soon.  Stay tuned!

De-Mystifying FedRAMP

April 11, 2017

If you work in—or anywhere near—government IT, chances are you’ve heard the term FedRAMP a few times in the last year or two.  Or more likely, you’ve heard the term a few dozen times…this month.  FedRAMP is quickly becoming a buzzword among public sector professionals, particularly those in highly technical or security-centric roles.  In this post, we’re going to try to pull back the curtain and explain, in layman’s terms, what FedRAMP means and why it’s so important.

What is FedRAMP?

FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is a government-wide program that acts as a standardized model for security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud-based IT products and services.  In other words, FedRAMP is a government-sanctioned stamp of approval indicating that a cloud service provider has met a specific set of stringent cybersecurity and performance benchmarks.  When a government agency selects a FedRAMP certified (or FedRAMPed) partner, they benefit from the highest possible levels of data protection but also from significant cost savings across the entire enterprise.  Working with a FedRAMPed cloud solution can cut costs by 30-40% and save staff time and energy by eliminating redundant security assessments.  When you see that a potential service provider is FedRAMPed, you can rest assured that they’re serious about keeping your data safe. 
 

Why Does it Matter?

Considering the nature of the work and the sensitive information so often involved, it goes without saying that cybersecurity is vital to every day government operations.  It’s also true that faster processing speeds, increased computing elasticity and on-demand cloud-based solutions are becoming more and more attractive to government agencies.  Cybersecurity experts at the NSA, DoD, GSA and in the private sector agree that this migration toward the cloud will continue to grow expontentially in the coming years.  With that in mind, these experts have concluded that a standardized replacement for inconsistent, costly cloud assessment techniques is vital to maintaining a secure government IT infrastructure across the country.  That replacement is FedRAMP.  And for the last several years, government agencies are legally required to select FedRAMPed solutions if they wish to migrate core systems to the cloud.

 

How Does it Work?

Every cloud service provider that seeks FedRAMPed status for its products and services is required to undergo a comprehensive, three-step evaluation process, sometimes spanning a year or more. 

1.       Security Assessment.  The FedRAMP security assessment uses a standardized set of requirements in accordance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) using a baseline set of NIST 800-53 controls to grant security authorizations to cloud service providers.
 

2.       Leveraging and Authorization.  Government agencies view security authorization packages in the FedRAMP repository and leverage the security authorization packages to grant a security authorization at their own agency for an individual cloud service provider.  This step is known as the Authority to Operate (ATO).
 

3.       Ongoing Assessment & Authorization.  Once an authorization is granted, cloud service providers are subject to a series of stringent, ongoing assessments and authorizations in order to retain FedRAMPed status.

 

How Does Leidos Digital Fit In?

As of April 2017, Leidos Digital Solutions is pleased to offer a new way for government agencies to purchase IQ, our industry leading CRM solution.  IQ FedCloud and IQ GovCloud are now available on a secure, stable and scalable FedRAMP certified cloud platform and can be acquired quickly and easily on our GSA Schedule 70, Contract GS-35F-0636K.  To learn more about IQ, browse our website or contact us with any questions you may have. 

Visit our YouTube channel for a preview of how IQ really works!

In recent days and weeks, the term "town hall" has taken on a new meaning in American politics.  Elected officials from all over the country are facing increasingly vocal constituents during town hall meetings, and in some cases, the crowds' passion and energy has gotten in the way of productive dialog.  Of course, personal engagement with constituents is critical to a productive relationship between the Member and his/her community and traditional town hall meetings are an excellent way to connect.  However, there are many other ways elected officials can forge strong relationships in their states and districts while maintaining control of their message.  Telephone town halls are one of the most affordable, efficient and effective ways to connect personally with constituents.  From the comfort of the office, the Member can conduct live streaming, moderated Q&A sessions broadcast over the phone, his/her website, Facebook, YouTube or all of the above.  Click here to read about other ways to promote engagement during your event. 

Making oneself visible, accessible and accountable is a big part of why personal connection with constituents is important, but what happens after the event is over?  A non-partisan study done by the Congressional Management Foundation found that telephone town halls yield significant increases in constituents' perception of the Member's trustworthiness, accessibility, fairness and approval rating on specific issues:

TRUST

  • Prior to the telephone town hall meeting 38% of constituents trusted the Member to do the right thing "all or most of the time".  
  • After the meeting, 52% of attendees agreed with this statement.

ACCESSIBILITY

  • 82% of constituents who attended a telephone town hall meeting described the Member as "accessible".
  • Only 48% of the control group, who did not attend a meeting, described the Member in this way.

FAIRNESS

  • 82% of participants in the telephone town hall meeting said the Member was "fair".
  • Just 52% of the control group agreed with the statement on fairness.

APPROVAL RATINGS

  • Prior to the telephone town hall meeting only 20% of participants approved of the Member's handling of a specific issue.
  • At the conclusion of the one-hour meeting, the same group reported 58% approval on the exact same issue.

What's a 38-point increase in approval ratings worth to you?  Contact us today to get a quote for your next telephone town hall event!