Providence Journal: R.I.’s U.S. reps, senators call on Trump to work with Congress in wake of missile strike on Syria

Providence Journal: R.I.’s U.S. reps, senators call on Trump to work with Congress in wake of missile strike on Syria

By Paul Edward Parker

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s U.S. representatives and senators have weighed in on President Donald Trump’s decision to launch a missile strike on a Syrian air base Thursday in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack the administration was carried out by the Syrian government, cautioning the president to work with Congress in dealing with Syria.

In separate statements issued Friday, Rep. Jim Langevin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse explicitly supported the decision, while Rep. David N. Cicilline and Sen. Jack Reed were more circumspect. They are all Democrats; Trump is a Republican.

“I believe the response taken tonight by the United States in launching an air strike in Syria following the morally reprehensible war crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad when he deployed chemical weapons, killing innocent children and civilians, is justifiable, and I support this decision,” Langevin said in his statement.

“Moving forward, the President must consult with Congress to determine how the United States will deal with Assad’s regime and determine what our strategic objectives will be,” Langevin said. “No nation has the right to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians and the world must speak with one voice condemning the actions of President Assad.”

Whitehouse said: “We have witnessed yet another atrocious act by the Assad regime against its own people, and we are called to conscience. Last night’s military action in Syria met my standards for responding to atrocity: a limited action; with a clear objective; that is not the beginning of American ‘boots on the ground’ military operations.”

The Hill: Facebook case demonstrates gaps in data ownership laws

The Hill: Facebook case demonstrates gaps in data ownership laws

Op-Ed Written By Congressman Jim Langevin

A recent survey indicated that users have little trust in Facebook to follow privacy laws. Trust is the operative word. Privacy policies, account settings, and terms of use play a larger role than any federal law in limiting the use of personal data beyond health or financial information. We extend a great deal of trust to a company when we give them our personal information – trust that they will take care of our data and abide by the contracts that govern our relationship. But after three decades of explosive growth in data harvesting, recent events make it clear that trust may be misplaced.

Facebook’s conduct with the underhanded campaign consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica, has laid bare the limits of data protection law. Facebook users are the victims in this case – yet the company may only be liable under federal law if it also violated one of its written contracts with users. The innovations of the Information Age have outstripped the U.S. legal system’s protections for individual control over how our personal information is shared and used. It is time for that to change.

As the complexity of data sharing increases, so does the possibility that our information will be used in ways we never intended or authorized. Take the Facebook case. I challenge anyone to find a single one of the millions of affected users who provided information to Facebook with the expectation that Cambridge Analytica would use it to develop “psychographic” voting profiles for targeted political ads.I fully expect the players in the Cambridge Analytica case to come before Congress to testify, which CEO Mark Zurckerberg is scheduled to do next week, and which I called for following news reports in The New York Times and The Sunday Observer. More transparency is essential for policymakers to fully grasp the implications of this incident, and Facebook owes its users and shareholders – both of which I am – a full accounting of its actions. However, the available reporting is enough to provide a framework to explore policy options for strengthening controls on data usage.

Facebook reportedly learned that Cambridge Analytica had acquired millions of users’ profiles two years ago. At the time, Facebook sent letters to Cambridge Analytica and an associated researcher insisting that they delete the information. However, two important things did not happen: Facebook did not positively verify disposal of the data through an audit, and no individuals were notified that their private information had been used in a way they had not authorized. There were no federal requirements that either happen, just trust in the parties involved. Having seen that trust doubly betrayed, we may need new law to impose rigorous notification and disposal requirements when users’ data is shared improperly.

Facebook has stated that it was a violation of their agreements with Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University researcher who initially collected the data, for him to sell or license it to Cambridge Analytica. This defense misses the point that granting unfettered access to raw data makes it technically and legally difficult to enforce limitations on data usage and sharing. Facebook extended trust to the researcher, on behalf of its users and without their knowledge, that the data would be used and protected in accordance with its terms. Those terms also allowed apps like the researcher used to collect data not only about users who explicitly authorized the app to do so, but also about their friends. While Facebook revoked that policy in 2014, there remains no legal requirement that users directly consent to sharing.

Finally, central to this case is the data that the affected users gave to Facebook in the first place. As a condition of joining the social network, users were required to agree to a privacy policy – whether or not they read and understood it – and could only modify the privacy settings Facebook chose to make available. As remarkable as it may sound, this is standard practice. The companies we do business with decide what they can do with our data and what control over those uses they offer to us; we don’t get to choose. Our only alternative is not to use a service at all, and that is less and less of an option in our Internet-enabled economy. Congress could change the law to require that companies give users granular control of their data and codify the right to know how, when and with whom that data is shared.

As long as data sharing adheres to published terms of use, the law does not prohibit most companies from selling or licensing access to your data, for virtually any purpose or duration, without notice to you. They have no obligation to verify that recipients of your data are not abusing it. Without laws to the contrary, we are left to trust service providers that our data will not be misused, misplaced, or misappropriated. Facebook violated that trust, and Congress must take action to update the law to put control of digital identities in more trusted hands – our own.

Langevin represents Rhode Island’s 2nd District. He is co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.


Portsmouth Daily Times: Joint letter urges forgiveness of loans

Portsmouth Daily Times: Joint letter urges forgiveness of loans

By Staff Writers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – If Congressional lawmakers are able to persuade U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see things their way, parents of students who borrow money and then become totally and permanently disabled may have their loan debt erased.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos requesting the discharge of Parent PLUS Loans taken out on behalf of students who become totally and permanently disabled. They were joined by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Congressmen Peter Roskam (R-IL), Ron Kind (D-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL).

“Federal law already recognizes that the difficulties that befall someone who sustains a total and permanent disability necessitate a pathway to student loan forgiveness. Parents also deserve access to this debt relief,” the lawmakers wrote. “When a child becomes totally and permanently disabled, parents should not be forced to continue bearing the burden of student loan debt.”

When a student borrower becomes totally and permanently disabled, they are discharged from having to repay most federal loans. Parents who borrow funds on their child’s behalf, however, remain liable for the debt even when their child sustains a total and permanent disability. The average Parent PLUS loan in 2016-2017 was $15,880, an immense cost for parents to bear while also caring for their disabled child.

Last December, Portman introduced Domenic’s Law (S. 2258), legislation to allow a parent whose child develops a total and permanent disability to qualify for student loan discharge. In May 2017, Langevin introduced the bipartisan PLUS Loan Disability Forgiveness Act (H.R. 2270), a similar bill in the House.

Homeland Preparedness News: Congressional Task Force on Election Security releases 10 recommendations to secure elections

Homeland Preparedness News: Congressional Task Force on Election Security releases 10 recommendations to secure elections

By Aaron Martin

The Congressional Task Force on Election Security released a report on Wednesday that outlines 10 recommendations to protect state election systems for cyberattacks, including allocating funds, more training, minimum requirements for voting machines, and threat assessments.

The task force was established in June 2017 in response to Russian hackers targeting 21 states’ voting systems and voter databases during the 2016 election. Members of the task force also introduced legislation that incorporates the recommendations of the report.

Wednesday’s report recommends that Congress appropriate $400 million in remain funds under the Help America Vote Act to help states update and secure voting machines, provide ongoing funding to secure state IT systems and voter databases, adequately fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Election Assistance Commission, and require manufacturers of voting machines to adhere to minimum cybersecurity standards and require notification in the event of breaches.

U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chairman of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, said he was pleased with the task force’s work and recommendations.

“With the 2018 elections just months away, Congress must act now to bolster our election cyber security especially as intelligence leaders are confident that Russian interference will not stop,” Langevin said. “The report recommendations and corresponding legislation are important first steps in restoring the American people’s trust in our democratic system and securing our elections for years to come.”

The task force also called for the development of a National Strategy to Counter Efforts to Undermine Democratic Institutions, for the intelligence community to conduct election security assessments six months before elections, for DHS to maintain the “critical infrastructure” designation for election infrastructure and to expedite security clearance for the top election official in each state.

The report also called for states to conduct risk-limiting assessments, to prioritize training for state election officials and IT staff.

The Hill: Progress made by ADA is under attack by Congress

The Hill: Progress made by ADA is under attack by Congress

Op-Ed Written By Congressman Jim Langevin

As the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, I’ve spent the last 17 years navigating the hallways of our nation’s Capitol Building in a wheelchair. My ability to enter the House chamber, cast my vote, and carry out my responsibilities as a member of Congress was made possible by extraordinary leaders who fought for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights law that protects Americans from discrimination due to a disability and promotes inclusion within our society.

However, the more than quarter century legacy of the ADA is being threatened. Today, the House of Representatives will vote on the cynically named ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620), harmful legislation that fundamentally weakens the protections of the ADA.

The ADA Education and Reform Act is marketed as a bill to aid ADA compliance and promote greater inclusion for people with disabilities. Make no mistake, though, this bill undermines years of progress for the disability community by preventing disabled individuals from asserting their rights under the ADA. Ironically, H.R. 620 adds legal barriers, including long court wait times, to a law that is all about bringing down barriers — and we have had more than 27 years to comply. The excessive requirements and extensive waiting periods decimate the right to public accommodations for an entire vulnerable population and set a dangerous precedent for the future. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.

The sponsors of the legislation point to some unscrupulous lawyers who have taken advantage of certain laws that allow monetary awards for violations of accessibility standards. However, these are state laws – suing for damages is not permitted under the federal law. Instead of addressing this problem at its source, proponents of the bill are opting to reduce accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in schools, restaurants, public transportation, commercial facilities, recreational sites, sales or rental establishments and more.

I remember what it was like before the ADA became law. We did not have access to public buildings, employment opportunities were scarce, and there were no legal protections against discrimination. I remember wanting to attend certain schools, family functions, or even professional events, but my participation was always dictated by the barriers I encountered. Each lost opportunity was a reminder that I am not like everyone else. Even if our country was founded by a belief that we can celebrate our differences while finding strength in our commonalities, I – like so many people with a disability – should not be limited because I cannot have a seat at the proverbial table of life – no matter the occasion.

Despite the sea of change brought by the ADA, people with disabilities continue to face significant obstacles to meaningful inclusion. I do not wish to go back to a time where discrimination was commonplace and accepted under our laws.

We must not undermine the fundamental rights of people with disabilities by passing this misguided bill that encourages businesses to ignore the ADA. Every vote of support will be a message to people with disabilities that we are not equal or worthy of the same civil rights protections as other individuals. The stakes could not be higher for people with disabilities and everyone who looks to our elected officials to fight for what’s right and reject all forms of discrimination. After nearly three decades of amazing progress, let’s not turn back the clock.

Langevin represents Rhode Island’s 2nd District and is co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus.