Executive Briefing August 16, 2019


CNN Court deals blow to FCC’s bid to speed 5G rollout
The Federal Communications Commission tried to expedite the rollout of 5G wireless technology by cutting red tape. Now a US court has found the regulators erred in trying to exempt 5G cell sites from environmental impact and historic preservation reviews. The effort by US telecom regulators to speed the deployment of 5G wireless technology through deregulation has thus far largely survived a court challenge by environmental and tribal groups.

The Washington Post White House questions tech giants on ways to predict shootings from social media
Top officials in the Trump administration expressed interest in tools that might anticipate mass shootings or predict attackers by scanning social media posts, photos and videos during a meeting Friday with tech giants including Facebook, Google and Twitter. The technology could serve as an early-warning system for potential attacks, White House officials proposed at the brainstorming session, perhaps compiling information from across social sites to identify deadly incidents before they occur.

The New York Times How Facebook Is Changing to Deal With Scrutiny of Its Power
Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the breakup of big tech companies like Facebook. Regulators have opened investigations into Facebook’s power in social networking. Even one of Facebook’s own founders has laid out a case for why the company needs to be split up. Now the world’s biggest social network has started to modify its behavior — in both pre-emptive and defensive ways — to deal with those threats.

Wired The Fight Over Section 230—and the Internet as We Know It
Section 230, as it’s commonly known, provides “interactive computer services”—that is, anything from web hosts to websites to social media companies—with broad immunity from civil cases over the content users publish on their platforms. (Companies can still be held liable under federal criminal law and for intellectual property violations.) Among other things, this protection allowed social media companies to flourish without worrying about each and every post bringing about some potential, ruinous lawsuit.

CNET US sets up new task force to fight Russian election interference
Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of the NSA and US Cyber Command, said Wednesday a special task force has been created to focus on Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 election. Called the Russia Small Group, the task force is applying lessons that US intelligence agencies learned from fighting ISIS in cyberspace.


Engadget FCC approves another $137 million to expand rural broadband access
The Federal Communications Commission has approved another $121 million in funding to bring broadband access to rural homes and businesses. It’s the fourth round of support following last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II reverse auction. The funding, which will be doled out over the next ten years, will help expand high-speed internet access to 36,579 homes and businesses across 16 states.

AEI New Pentagon report shows how restricted Chinese IT products routinely enter US military networks
A Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) report released on July 30 found that more than 9,000 commercially available information technology products purchased in fiscal year 2018 — costing at least $32.8 million — could be used to spy, surveille, or sabotage US military personnel and facilities. In contrast to traditional DoD processes for large acquisitions such as weapon systems, aircraft, and command and control systems, these purchases were made via Government Purchase Cards which are intended to simplify procurement of less than $10,000.

Financial Times Robots and AI threaten to mediate disputes better than lawyers
Robots and artificial intelligence seem worlds away from the sensitive and nuanced area of international mediation. Here, battles are largely settled behind closed doors and skilled mediators pick their way through sticky negotiations. Algorithms and big data, however, are fast entering the often mystery-shrouded world of alternative dispute resolution. This is much the result of the rapidly increasing demand for the kind of data analytics being harnessed in US litigation to predict trial outcomes.

Recode How facial recognition became the most feared technology in the US
Across the US, local politicians and national lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have started introducing rules that bar law enforcement agencies from using facial recognition technology to surveil everyday citizens. In just the past few months, three cities — San Francisco, Oakland, and Somerville, Massachusetts — have passed laws to ban government use of the controversial technology, which analyzes pictures or live video of human faces in order to identify them.

The Toledo Blade AG Yost suspends access to facial-recognition database
Attorney General Dave Yost suspended access to Ohio’s facial-recognition databases for 4,500 law enforcement officers following a national report that revealed federal agencies are mining state databases without people’s consent.

TechCrunch Robocall blocking apps caught sending your private data without permission
Robocall-blocking apps promise to rid your life of spoofed and spam phone calls. But are they as trustworthy as they claim to be? One security researcher said many of these apps can violate your privacy as soon as they are opened. Dan Hastings, a senior security consultant at cybersecurity firm NCC Group, analyzed some of the most popular robocall-blocking apps — including TrapCall, Truecaller and Hiya — and found egregious privacy violations.

Bloomberg Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Audio Chats
Facebook had paid hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe user audio, according to people with knowledge of the work, and the workers were not told where the audio was recorded, how it was obtained or why Facebook needed it transcribed.

The Wall Street Journal EU Nears Decisions in Facebook Privacy Cases
The European Union could begin to hit Facebook Inc. with decisions under the bloc’s new privacy law by the end of the year, raising the specter of billions of euros in fines and orders to change business practices.

Reuters Russia tells Google not to advertise ‘illegal’ events after election protests
Russia’s state communications watchdog has asked Google to stop advertising “illegal mass events” on its YouTube video platform, it said on Sunday. Tens of thousands of Russians staged what observers called the country’s biggest political protest for eight years on Saturday, defying a crackdown to demand free elections to Moscow’s city legislature. Multiple YouTube channels broadcast the event live.

Politico Republicans launching innovation fund to match Democrats
Republicans are launching an innovation fund that will funnel cash into digital startups, a move designed to boost the party’s online infrastructure and help combat a liberal tech resurgence. Startup Caucus, which is billing itself as a Republican venture capital effort, will announce on Tuesday that it will give $25,000 in seed funding to six early stage tech companies. It also plans to provide the startups with a 12-week training and support program.

CNET Instagram, YouTube and Facebook could be fined millions over harmful content
Instagram, Facebook and YouTube could face huge fines for failing to remove toxic online videos as part of a crackdown by the UK government on harmful social media content. The government said on Monday that under new rules due to be introduced next year, tech companies would have to pay up to 5% of their revenue or even face restriction or suspension of services if they fail to remove content.

Fortune Twitter Has Tripled the Number of Workers Policing Its Service In the Past Year
Under fire for widespread abuse and misinformation on its service, Twitter argued on Tuesday that it’s taken aggressive steps to police what users post. In the past year, the company says it has tripled the number of workers who monitor the site to 1,500. And it has added sci-fi technology to detect and remove objectionable content. But executives acknowledged that there’s a lot more work to be done before the company can declare success.

Forbes What Is Extended Reality Technology? A Simple Explanation For Anyone
By 2022, the XR market is expected to reach $209 billion, which is eight times what it is today. This tremendous growth could mean the realities of our 2030 lives are beyond our imagination’s ability to grasp. What is extended reality (XR)? XR is an emerging umbrella term for all the immersive technologies. The ones we already have today—augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) plus those that are still to be created.


Information Technology Industry Council 

  • Blog on IoT security policy: “What’s the weather like today in New York City?” Answering this question, along with other day-to-day workflows or tasks performed by smart devices, is made easier by the Internet of Things (IoT)—the term used to describe the connectivity to the Internet present in everyday devices like smart speakers, thermostats, and even vacuums. As the number of IoT devices in the marketplace grows and consumers enjoy the benefits and conveniences that these technologies bring, it is important to ensure these devices are secure and resilient to potential malicious attacks. (TechWonk blog – Ensuring Security Through Policy in IoT, August 13, 2019)

Heritage Foundation

  • Podcast on the impact of Deepfakes: What happens when seeing isn’t believing? Deepfake technology has been around for a long time. It’s used in movies and we use it through apps on our phone. But this type of technology could be devastating if abused. This week, Heritage’s leading expert in tech policy, Klon Kitchen, will explain more on what deepfake media is, examples of deepfakes that already exist, and the risks this type of technology poses to our democracy and national security. (Heritage Explains – What Are Deepfakes and Why Are They Dangerous?, August 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.