Executive Briefing August 2, 2019


CNET FCC greenlights $20 billion rural broadband subsidy auction
At the agency’s August meeting, the FCC voted on two related items that commissioners say will help close the digital divide. First, the five-member commission unanimously voted to distribute more than $20 billion of Universal Service Fund subsidies over the next decade as part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. It also adopted a long-awaited proposal to get more detailed information from broadband providers about where they currently offer service in order to improve the agency’s coverage maps.

Engadget FCC hopes to fix its broadband maps with more precise data
[The FCC] is ordering the creation of a Digital Opportunity Data Collection that would obtain “more granular” geospatial coverage data from fixed broadband providers. The knowledge would inform higher-accuracy maps and help the FCC determine where it can improve internet access through the Universal Service Fund.

Axios A shaky first pass at criminalizing deepfakes
Since Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) introduced the first short-lived bill to outlaw malicious deepfakes, a handful of members of Congress and several statehouses, have stabbed at the growing threat. So far, legal and deepfake experts haven’t found much to like in these initial attempts, which they say are too broad, too vague or too weak — meaning that, despite all the hoopla over the technology, we’re not much closer to protecting against it.

Reuters ‘Five Eyes’ security alliance calls for access to encrypted material
The U.S.-led “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance said on Tuesday that tech firms must allow law enforcement agencies access to encrypted material, warning that failing to do so put people at risk. After a two-day summit in London, senior ministers from the group comprising the United States and allies Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, said encryption should not come at the expense of the public’s safety.

Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Senate Intelligence Committee still can’t agree on best way to secure the 2020 election
Senators on the Intelligence Committee who spent two years probing every facet of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election still can’t agree on a path forward to secure the next one. The long-awaited 67-page report released yesterday contains dozens of recommendations for securing elections. But most artfully sidestep a boiling policy battle between Republicans and Democrats over whether the federal government should ensure they actually happen.

Politico States talk tech antitrust concerns with AG Barr
A group of state attorneys general met with U.S. Attorney General William Barr today to discuss antitrust concerns related to major tech companies, as the Justice Department launches a review of whether online platforms are reducing competition. States, including New York, Texas, Arizona and Louisiana, sent representatives to the Justice Department for the meeting with senior officials.


Marketplace To get broadband to every American, you need to know the rules in all 50 states
The Pew Charitable Trusts Broadband Research Initiative is launching a new tool that lets anyone browse through broadband policies and funding in any state in the U.S. It sorts the information into categories like funding, competition and regulation, infrastructure access and broadband definitions. For example, broadband speed in Alabama is defined as 10 Mbps, which means that if your network is busy, it’ll barely be fast enough to stream Netflix on high definition.

DailyDot Bernie Sanders pledges to nominate FCC commissioners who will reinstate net neutrality
“Bernie Sanders believes net neutrality is fundamental to communication, commerce and competition,” a spokesperson for senator’s campaign told the Daily Dot. “When Bernie Sanders is president, he will appoint FCC commissioners who will reinstate net neutrality protections and make sure that giant corporations treat all content and traffic equally.”

The Hill Hickenlooper outlines plan to expand broadband, strengthen rural communities
Hickenlooper’s proposal would expand broadband access, raise the federal loan guarantee to 90 percent of loan values and increase funding for the USDA Rural Development Program.

Wall Street Journal Capital One Reports Data Breach Affecting 100 Million Customers, Applicants
Capital One Financial Corp., the fifth-largest U.S. credit-card issuer, said Monday that a hacker accessed the personal information of approximately 106 million card customers and applicants, one of the largest-ever data breaches of a big bank. Paige A. Thompson, 33 years old, was arrested in connection with the hack Monday by federal agents in Seattle, officials said. Ms. Thompson is accused of breaking through a Capital One firewall to access customer data that the bank had stored on Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud service, according to a federal criminal complaint and people familiar with the matter.

CNBC Star Alliance partners with tech giant NEC on facial recognition at airports
Technology giant NEC has signed an agreement with the Star Alliance airline network to “develop a biometric data-based identification platform.” In an announcement at the end of last week, Tokyo headquartered NEC said that, once implemented, the “opt-in” system would enable Star Alliance customers at participating airports to pass through areas such as check-in kiosks and boarding gates using facial recognition technology.

Gizmodo Another U.S. City Moves to Ban Face Recognition, Citing Threats to Free Speech and Civil Rights
On Tuesday, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts moved one step closer to prohibiting local government from using facial recognition. Three other cities in the country have already instituted such bans over concerns that the technology is biased and violates basic human rights. In December of last year, the Cambridge City Council passed the Surveillance Technology Ordinance which requires the council’s approval prior to the acquisition or deployment of certain surveillance tech, which included facial recognition software.

AP News Privacy group challenges $5B Facebook settlement
A consumer privacy group has filed a challenge to Facebook’s $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, saying it is not “adequate, reasonable or appropriate” and lets the social media giant off the hook for years of violations. The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center asked a federal district court in Washington D.C. on Friday to intervene in finalizing the settlement, which was approved 3-to-2 by the FTC.

CNBC Microsoft buys a start-up whose software limits access to sensitive data
Microsoft said Monday that it has acquired BlueTalon, a start-up whose software can prevent people from accessing certain high-value data that companies keep. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Over time, the acquisition could help Microsoft’s campaign to get companies feeling more comfortable with the idea of keeping sensitive data in its Azure public cloud, which competes with Amazon and other companies.

Financial Times 2,000 Chinese-made surveillance cameras across US government (Paywall)
More than 2,000 Chinese-made cameras deemed a threat to national security remain in place in US government buildings, amid eleventh-hour confusion about a looming ban on the devices. IT security company Forescout, whose clients include the Department of Defense, found 1,740 surveillance cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua connected to government networks, as of July 23. An additional 659 were identified on a single federal agency’s network, after it asked Forescout to scan its systems.


American Enterprise Institute

  •       Blog about misconceptions of online data property: One of the more curious proposals addressing online privacy concerns is for the government to award internet users ownership of information about their online activities. This online data property (ODP) idea has shown up in academic research and in Congress (for example here and here). The gist of ODP is that when someone does something online, knowledge of that act becomes private property, and the person gains exclusive rights and control over it. So if I shop online for a new tie, I have exclusive rights and control over what others know about it. (AEIdeas – 3 myths about online data property, July 25, 2019)


  •       Blog about Artificial Intelligence in America’s digital city: Cities are an engine for human prosperity. By putting people and businesses in close proximity, cities serve as the vital hubs to exchange goods, services, and even ideas. Each year, more and more people move to cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas to take advantage of the opportunities available in these denser spaces. (Blueprint for the Future of AI-Artificial Intelligence in America’s digital city– July 30, 2019)

 Microsoft on the Issues

  •       Blog about the early success of broadband mapping: As the FCC is poised to deliver more than $20 billion in federal subsidies to internet service providers in the coming years aimed at expanding broadband access to unserved parts of the country, it’s critical the data that informs the national broadband map is accurate. It’s been clear for some time that it is not, and improvements are needed to ensure people in America were receiving the access they deserve. We’re pleased to see the FCC take a step forward on acquiring more accurate data with an order slated for adoption on Aug. 1. (Microsoft on the Issues – Signs of progress on broadband mapping, but more work still to do, July 31, 2019)

 American Enterprise Institute

  •       Blog about privacy and security in cryptocurrency: Last week was Libra week in Congress. Both the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the House Financial Services Committee held hearings on Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency. Congress wants both privacy for Libra users and compliance with global financial surveillance law. But that’s not going to happen. Indeed, Libra risks exposing the financial transactions of all users not just to good governments investigating bad guys, but to anyone investigating anyone.(AEIdeas- Privacy and security swamped by Congress’ conflicting cryptocurrency concerns, July 17, 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.