Executive Briefing April 19, 2019


AP News With billions to spend, feds unsure who lacks broadband
A $4.5 billion federal grant program earmarked to expand wireless internet in rural areas was supposed to address the problem, but it’s on hold while the Federal Communications Commission investigates whether carriers submitted incorrect data for the maps used to allocate grants. The broadband maps deemed Weston, a city of about 4,000 people, too well connected to qualify for a grant — even though the problems there are obvious to anyone who’s tried to send emails from their phones or gotten lost because Google Maps wouldn’t work.

The Hill Dems introduce bill to tackle ‘digital divide’
A group of Democratic senators, including 2020 contender Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), on Wednesday introduced a bill that would fund state and local projects aimed at tackling the “digital divide.” Klobuchar in a statement said the bill would help “bring high-speed internet to communities across the county.”  The Digital Equity Act of 2019 would create two new grant programs for efforts promoting access to information and telecommunications technologies.

Next Gov FCC Rural Broadband Fund Would Move Funds From Existing Program
The rural broadband fund that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed last week would rely on funding from an existing broadband program slated to expire next year, while also setting higher standards for internet speeds, according to the FCC. Around $2 billion has been available annually in recent years through the Connect America Fund and that same amount would be shifted to the new fund, dubbed the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, said Mark Wigfield, a spokesman for the commission, in an email on Tuesday. The new program, as envisioned, would differ from the Connect America Fund in some key ways, Wigfield said.

The Hill Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI
Lawmakers in recent months have offered a slew of bills to oversee the use of artificial intelligence (AI) amid worries about the potential discriminatory effects of the technology. Those efforts have been hailed by civil rights groups who say the government should provide more oversight of AI technology. But any legislation faces an uphill battle with tech companies eager to avoid more government regulation.

The Hill Dems introduce bill targeting bias in algorithms
Congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation that would require companies to correct algorithms that result in biased or discriminatory actions that harm Americans. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), would authorize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enact regulations requiring companies under its jurisdiction to assess the impacts of sensitive automated decisions for their effects on bias, discrimination, privacy and accuracy, according to Wyden’s office.

B+C FTC’s Simons: We Are Cop on Privacy Beat
Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons said his agency has been a cop on the privacy beat for decades, including “vigorous enforcement with every tool we have.” He was making that point this week at the FTC’s two-day forum on privacy. The issue is top of mind given the rise of the Internet of Things and the FTC’s added privacy oversight of ISPs after the FCC reclassified them as information services out from under the Title II common carrier regs–common carriers are exempt from FTC oversight.


Reuters Microsoft turned down facial-recognition sales on human rights concerns
Microsoft Corp recently rejected a California law enforcement agency’s request to install facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras due to human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said on Tuesday. Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white and male pictures. AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

The Verge US facial recognition will cover 97 percent of departing airline passengers within four years
The Department of Homeland Security says it expects to use facial recognition technology on 97 percent of departing passengers within the next four years. The system, which involves photographing passengers before they board their flight, first started rolling out in 2017, and was operational in 15 US airports as of the end of 2018. The facial recognition system works by photographing passengers at their departure gate. It then cross-references this photograph against a library populated with face images from visa and passport applications, as well as those taken by border agents when foreigners enter the country.

New York Times One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority
The Chinese government has drawn wide international condemnation for its harsh crackdown on ethnic Muslims in its western region, including holding as many as a million of them in detention camps. Now, documents and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said.

Fast Company Microsoft wants to unleash its AI expertise on climate change
Through a new set of sustainability commitments, Microsoft wants to turn its sustainability efforts outward, through making its artificial intelligence and tech tools more widely available for use in environmental research, and through new research and advocacy efforts in the environmental field. “The reason we’re doing this is almost perfectly correlated with impatience,” Joppa says. “The reality shows that no matter how successful we are, sustainability actions inside of our own four walls are entirely insufficient for moving the world toward an environmentally sustainable future.”

Business Insider Facebook says it ‘unintentionally uploaded’ 1.5 million people’s email contacts without their consent
Facebook harvested the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts. Since May 2016, the social-networking company has collected the contact lists of 1.5 million users new to the social network, Business Insider can reveal. The Silicon Valley company said the contact data was “unintentionally uploaded to Facebook,” and it is now deleting them.

Wall Street Journal Google Quietly Disbanded Another AI Review Board Following Disagreements
Google is disbanding a panel here to review its artificial-intelligence work in health care, people familiar with the matter say, as disagreements about its effectiveness dogged one of the tech industry’s highest-profile efforts to govern itself. The Alphabet Inc. unit is struggling with how best to set guidelines for its sometimes-sensitive work in AI—the ability for computers to replicate tasks that only humans could do in the past.

Wall Street Journal Google Sued Over Abuse of Search Power, Opening Path for More Claims
A German price-comparison portal has become the first major company to sue Alphabet Inc.’s Google while invoking a 2017 European antitrust decision to fine the U.S. technology giant for abusing its dominant position in the search-engine market. If it succeeds, the litigation could spark similar actions in Europe by other tech firms that have hesitated to take on the Silicon Valley company.



  • Report on AI and credit denial: This report reviews the history of credit and the risks of discriminatory practices. Additionally, it discusses how AI alters the dynamics of credit denials and what policymakers and banking officials can do to safeguard consumer lending. AI has the potential to alter credit practices in transformative ways and it is important to ensure that this happens in a safe and prudent manner. (Brookings Research – Credit denial in the age of AI, Apr. 11, 2019)
  • Blog on privacy legislation: Baseline federal privacy legislation proposals that would have been poison pills not long ago, such as individual rights to see, correct and delete data as well as new authority for the Federal Trade Commission, are drawing wide support now. But some crucial and difficult issues remain wide open. (TechTank Blog – Proposed language for data collection standards in privacy legislation, Apr. 16, 2019)

Information Technology Industry Council

  • News release on broadband deployment: “The rapid deployment of cutting-edge technologies like spectrum and 5G networks is essential to advancing innovations that will revolutionize our lives, work, and communities,” said Jason Oxman, ITI’s President and CEO. “Connecting new airwaves with private sector ingenuity will create more opportunities to propel technologies that rely on high-speed, wireless networks.” (ITI News Releases – Expediting Deployment of Broadband, 5G Critical to U.S. Tech Advancement, Apr. 12, 2019)

Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.