Fintech: Overview of Innovative Financial Technology and Selected Policy Issues

Fintech: Overview of Innovative Financial Technology and Selected Policy Issues. Congressional Research Service. David W. Perkins. April 28, 2020

Advances in technology allow for innovation in the ways businesses and individuals perform financial activities. The development of financial technology—commonly referred to as fintech—is the subject of great interest for the public and policymakers. Fintech innovations could potentially improve the efficiency of the financial system and financial outcomes for businesses and consumers. However, the new technology could pose certain risks, potentially leading to unanticipated financial losses or other harmful outcomes. Policymakers designed many of the financial laws and regulations intended to foster innovation and mitigate risks before the most recent technological changes. This raises questions concerning whether the existing legal and regulatory frameworks, when applied to fintech, effectively protect against harm without unduly hindering beneficial technologies’ development.

[PDF format, 44 pages].

Data Flows, Online Privacy, and Trade Policy

Data Flows, Online Privacy, and Trade Policy. Congressional Research Service. Rachel F. Fefer. Updated March 26, 2020

“Cross-border data flows” refers to the movement or transfer of information between computer servers across national borders. Such data flows enable people to transmit information for online communication, track global supply chains, share research, provide cross-border services, and support technological innovation.
Ensuring open cross-border data flows has been an objective of Congress in recent trade agreements and in broader U.S. international trade policy. The free flow of personal data, however, has raised security and privacy concerns. U.S. trade policy has traditionally sought to balance the need for cross-border data flows, which often include personal data, with online privacy and security. Some stakeholders, including some Members of Congress, believe that U.S. policy should better protect personal data privacy and security, and have introduced legislation to set a national policy. Other policymakers and analysts are concerned about increasing foreign barriers to U.S. digital trade, including data flows.

[PDF format, 28 pages].

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview. Congressional Research Service. Kelsi Bracmort. Updated April 14, 2020

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires U.S. transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. The RFS—established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58; EPAct05) and expanded in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140; EISA)—began with 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006 and is scheduled to ascend to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has statutory authority to determine the volume amounts fter 2022.
The total renewable fuel statutory target consists of both conventional biofuel and advanced biofuel. Since 2014, the total renewable fuel statutory target has not been met, with the advanced biofuel portion falling below the statutory target by a relatively large margin since 2015. Going forward, it appears unlikely that the United States will meet the total renewable fuel target as outlined in statute.

[PDF format, 17 pages].

Electric Vehicles: A Primer on Technology and Selected Policy Issues

Electric Vehicles: A Primer on Technology and Selected Policy Issues. Congressional Research Service. Melissa N. Diaz. February 14, 2020

The market for electrified light-duty vehicles (also called passenger vehicles; including passenger cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans) has grown since the 1990s. During this decade, the first contemporary hybrid-electric vehicle debuted on the global market, followed by the introduction of other types of electric vehicles (EVs). By 2018, electric vehicles made up 4.2% of the 16.9 million new light-duty vehicles sold in the United States that year. Meanwhile, charging infrastructure grew in response to rising electric vehicle ownership, increasing from 3,394 charging stations in 2011 to 78,301 in 2019. However, many locations have sparse or no public charging infrastructure.

[PDF format, 22 pages].

Internet Regimes and WTO E-Commerce Negotiations

Internet Regimes and WTO E-Commerce Negotiations. Congressional Research Service. Rachel F. Fefer. January 28, 2020.

From retail to agriculture or healthcare, digitization has affected all sectors and allowed more industries to engage with customers and partners around the globe. Many U.S. companies thrived in the initial online environment, which lacked clear rules and guidelines, quickly expanding their offerings and entering foreign markets. As the internet has evolved, however, governments have begun to impose national laws and regulations to pursue data protection, data security, privacy, and other policy objectives. The lack of global rules and norms for data and digital trade is leading to differences in these domestic internet regimes. Competing internet regimes and conflicting data governance rules increase trade barriers and limit investment flows and international commerce, restricting the ability of U.S. businesses and consumers to enter and compete in some markets. For example, foreign internet regimes may use national security regulations to block cross-border data flows, disrupting global supply chains and limiting the potential use of and gains from emerging technologies. The creation of national technology standards can also limit market access by foreign firms.
As the digital economy expands, the diversity in digital rules is poised to grow in complexity and create new trade restrictions. The resulting patchwork of technical standards and national systems creates challenges for international trade, and may signal an impending fracturing of the global internet. Without agreement on global norms or common trade rules, some analysts foresee a splitting of the internet into distinct nation-led “dataspheres” and virtual trading blocs.

[PDF format, 29 pages].

Campaign and Election Security Policy: Overview and Recent Developments for Congress

Campaign and Election Security Policy: Overview and Recent Developments for Congress. Congressional Research Service.  R. Sam Garrett, Sarah J. Eckman,  Karen L. Shanton. January 2, 2020

In the United States, state, territorial, and local governments are responsible for most aspects of selecting and securing election systems and equipment. Foreign interference during the 2016 election cycle—and widely reported to be an ongoing threat—has renewed congressional attention to campaign and election security and raised new questions about the nature and extent of the federal government’s role in this policy area. 

This report provides congressional readers with a resource for understanding campaign and election security policy. This includes discussion of the federal government’s roles; state or territorial responsibilities for election administration and election security; an overview of potentially relevant federal statutes and agencies; and highlights of recent congressional policy debates. The report summarizes related legislation that has advanced beyond introduction during the 116th Congress. It also poses questions for consideration as the House and Senate examine whether or how to pursue legislation, oversight, or appropriations.

[PDF format, 42 pages].

Privacy Policy and Competition

Privacy Policy and Competition. Brookings Institution. Alex Marthews and Catherine Tucker. December 5, 2019

Commercial privacy protection and competition law have long been jointly regulated by a single authority – the FTC – in the US. Though managed separately, both types of law have at their heart a desire to protect consumers. Antitrust law tries to ensure that consumers’ ability to choose between products is not restricted by anti-competitive acts. In the US, commercial privacy is protected through consumer protection law, which tries to ensure that consumers’ ability to choose between products is not restricted by misleading information. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 28 pages].

The POWER Initiative: Energy Transition as Economic Development

The POWER Initiative: Energy Transition as Economic Development. Congressional Research Service. Michael H. Cecire. November 20, 2019

With the decline of the U.S. coal industry, managing the economic effects of energy transition has become a priority for the federal government. The Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, and the broader POWER Plus Plan of which it was a part, represent the U.S. government’s efforts to ease the economic effects of energy transition in coal industry-dependent communities in the United States, and especially in Appalachia. Launched in 2015 by the Obama Administration as a multi-agency effort utilizing various existing programs, the POWER Plus plan received partial backing through appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Economic Development Administration, and for abandoned mine land reclamation. 

Transforming Infrastructure: Frameworks for Bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Infrastructure

Transforming Infrastructure: Frameworks for Bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Infrastructure. World Economic Forum. November 3, 2019.

The technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have fundamentally altered society in ways both seen and unseen. This digital transformation has changed how people live and work, and everything in between. One area of daily life, however, seems to be largely missing out on this revolution: infrastructure. It remains one of the least digitally transformed sectors of the economy. While individual examples of highly advanced infrastructure systems exist, the sector at large lags behind others in innovation, a fact made all the more apparent by infrastructure’s ubiquity. When the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Infrastructure gathered for its annual meeting in Dubai in November 2018, it sought to understand why.

As it began to think through solutions, the Council found a situation full of opportunity. Infrastructure is far from being a staid industry devoid of innovation – indeed, new technologies and ideas are flourishing. Integrating these innovations, which could change the way infrastructure is designed, developed and delivered, requires aligning stakeholders, implementing effective strategies and creating fertile enabling environments. This will allow existing innovation into the space and provide opportunities for new ideas.

The Council thus decided to create a guidebook, contained here, that explores major questions about how to bring the Fourth Industrial Revolution to infrastructure. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 32 pages].

Unemployment Insurance: Programs and Benefits

Unemployment Insurance: Programs and Benefits. Congressional Research Service. Julie M. Whittaker, Katelin P. Isaacs. October 18, 2019

Certain benefits may be available to unemployed workers to provide them with income support during a spell of unemployment. The cornerstone of this income support is the joint federal-state Unemployment Compensation (UC) program, which may provide income support through the payment of UC benefits for up to a maximum of 26 weeks in most states. Other programs that may provide workers with income support are more specialized. They may target special groups of workers, be automatically triggered by certain economic conditions, be temporarily created by Congress with a set expiration date, or target typically ineligible workers through a disaster declaration.

[PDF format, 19 pages].