Last updated: December 22, 2011 - 8:25pm
The hottest tech policy issue to start the year will continue to be online piracy legislation, which has touched off a fierce debate between supporters of the content industries and the Internet community, which is skeptical of the bill's attempts to enforce copyright laws online by demanding search engines and other Web firms delete links to foreign infringing websites.
The pressure on Congress to take some action to improve the country's network protections will also increase as every new major cyber breach has become a reminder of just how vulnerable we are to cyberattacks in this digital age.
Lawmakers will continue to debate the issue of consumer privacy legislation, but there remains strong resistance to new regulation of Web firms, particularly in the House. Instead, the Federal Trade Commission will likely continue to set the standard through its agreements with Web firms like Google and Facebook, both now bound by settlements to clearly present and abide by their privacy policies. 2012 will likely see more firms come under scrutiny for how they use consumer information, including smartphone and mobile app makers, online marketers and location-based service providers like Foursquare and Yelp. More congressional scrutiny can also be expected, with public opinion often serving as de facto regulation in the fast-changing policy area.
AT&T and T-Mobile will have to decide by Jan. 12 whether to abandon their blockbuster $39 billion merger following a series of setbacks that have left the deal on life support.