Executive Briefing August 9, 2019

Dear Executive Briefing subscribers,

This week, we’re sharing our latest blog post focused on the first-annual #ShiftHappens conference hosted by Microsoft partner AvePoint. AvePoint’s CMO Dux Raymond Sy is a member of the VFI Advisory Task Force – follow him on Twitter at @MeetDux.

Below, please find our weekly roundup of technology policy news.


Tech Crunch Warren makes $85B federally funded broadband promise
As part of her bid for the presidency, Senator Elizabeth Warren  (D-MA) has made some bold proposals to improve access to broadband in underserved areas and has made it clear that restoring net neutrality is also among her priorities. She proposes $85 billion to cover the enormous costs of making sure “every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford.” The proposal is part of a greater plan to “invest in rural America” that Sen. Warren detailed in a blog post. As well as promises relating to healthcare, housing, and labor, the presidential hopeful dedicated a section to “A Public Option for Broadband.”

Broadcasting + Cable Microsoft to FCC: Don’t Let Broadcasters Retain Adjacent Channel
In a July 29 meeting between Microsoft execs and aids to commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly, in response to a question from Carr policy adviser Even Schwartzrauber, Microsoft attorney Paul Margie “reiterated” the company’s “opposition to allowing television broadcasters to use a second channel for ATSC 3.0 operations.

AP News Panels overturns settlement approval in Google privacy suit
A federal appeals court has rejected a settlement in a class-action lawsuit alleging that Google spied on users’ online activity using tracking “cookies,” even when privacy settings were set to prevent the snooping. A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that a Delaware judge erred in approving the settlement in 2017.

Bloomberg Tech Giants Risk Privacy Probes Over Alexa, Siri Reviewers
Regulators and lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe are examining whether Google, Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are violating privacy by employing human reviewers to listen to voice commands recorded by digital assistants. Apple and Google, which is currently being investigated by Hamburg’s data protection authority, have both suspended their programs; Amazon late Friday announced changes to its terms that let users opt-out of human review of their recordings. Regulators from Ireland and the U.K. are now also looking into whether the tech giants have infringed European privacy regulations.

The Hill Lawmakers jump start talks on privacy bill
Lawmakers are working through the August recess to cobble together legislation on data privacy after missing a deadline they set to unveil a bill before the summer break. Advocates for a federal data privacy standard are feeling a time crunch as they fret over the limited number of days left in this session and the upcoming 2020 elections.

Politico White House drafting executive order to tackle Silicon Valley’s alleged anti-conservative bias
The White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address allegations of anti-conservative bias by social media companies, according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter — a month after President Donald Trump pledged to explore “all regulatory and legislative solutions” on the issue.

Next Gov DARPA Is Taking On the Deepfake Problem
The Defense Department is looking to build tools that can quickly detect deepfakes and other manipulated media amid the growing threat of “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks.” The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on Tuesday announced it would host a proposers day for an upcoming initiative focused on curbing the spread of malicious deepfakes, shockingly realistic but forged images, audio and videos generated by artificial intelligence. Under the Semantic Forensics program, or SemaFor, researchers aim to help computers use common sense and logical reasoning to detect manipulated media.


Reuters Facebook Loses Facial Recognition Appeal, Must Face Privacy Class Action
A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Facebook Inc’s effort to undo a class-action lawsuit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent. The 3-0 decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco over Facebook’s facial recognition technology exposes the company to billions of dollars in potential damages to the Illinois users who brought the case.

Wired Facial Recognition Is Suddenly Everywhere. Should You Worry?
A brief round-up of recent facial recognition news, with an accompanying video.

Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Hackers are going after medical devices — and manufacturers are helping them
Ten of the nation’s top medical device companies will give hundreds of ethical hackers free rein this weekend to poke and prod their pacemakers, drug infusion pumps, and other devices — and look for bugs that could hurt people or even end their lives if they’re exploited by criminals.  And the hacks will take place out in the open — in a realistic hospital replica here at the Planet Hollywood Casino that includes hospital rooms, a lab for bloodwork, and neonatal and intensive care units.

Financial Times Facebook leaves flaw in WhatsApp unresolved for a year
Cybersecurity experts who found a way to hack WhatsApp and manipulate chat messages said on Wednesday that Facebook has failed to address the flaws, a year after the social media network was alerted. Researchers at security software company Check Point said in August last year that they had discovered ways in which a malicious actor could alter messages in WhatsApp, “essentially putting words in [someone’s] mouth”, and also change the identity of the sender of content in a group chat.

Wall Street Journal How the Accused Capital One Hacker Stole Reams of Data From the Cloud
The woman who allegedly pulled off one of the largest-ever bank-data heists appeared to have exploited a vulnerability in the cloud that security experts have warned about for years. Paige A. Thompson, a former employee at Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud-computing unit who was arrested July 29, is accused of carrying out the massive theft of 106 million Capital One Financial Corp. records.

Business Insider Private contact information for over 2,000 journalists and popular YouTube creators was leaked on a popular gaming conference’s website
Private contact information for over 2,000 game industry journalists, analysts, and YouTube creators had been accessible online in plain text on the website of the popular gaming conference, E3. Notice of the leaked data was first made public on Friday by YouTube creator Sophia Narwitz. The information — which had mistakenly been accessible on the E3 website via a downloadable link — included names, home addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers of 2,025 press members who attended the annual conference this June.


Microsoft on the Issues

  •       Blog about the urgent need to close the national gap in broadband: It’s been clear to us for some time that the digital divide in this country is an urgent national crisis that must be solved. Since 2017, we’ve been working with internet service providers to do just that, through our Airband Initiative, and we’re on track to cover 3 million Americans in unserved rural areas by 2022. (Microsoft on the Issues Closing the rural broadband gap is an urgent national crisis, August 8, 2019)

 Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  •       Blog about AI’s transformation of manufacturing: For manufacturing enterprises, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) will reshape the source of value creation, the formation of new business models, and the delivery of value-added services such as mass customization, predictive maintenance, and “product servitization” (i.e., the process of building revenue streams for manufacturers from services related to your products). As AI becomes more prevalent in various aspects of business management and operations, investing in people will become even more important. AI and automation will not displace people but rather combine their capabilities in new ways to create new forms of value and new opportunities (Information Technology & Innovation Foundation – The Manufacturing Evolution: How AI Will Transform Manufacturing and the Workforce of the Future, August 8, 2019)
  •       Blog about the various perspectives on property rights for data: Congress is rightly considering substantial reforms to federal data privacy law. In particular, there is a pressing need to preempt states from subjecting organizations to multiple, conflicting privacy rules. The debate now is not over whether to pass new legislation, but how to design such a law to both protect consumers and encourage continued innovation. (Information Technology & Innovation Foundation- The Costs of an Unnecessarily Stringent Federal Data Privacy Law, August 5, 2019)

 American Enterprise Institute

  •       Blog warning against harsh federal regulation on data privacy law: It’s part of economic orthodoxy — and almost certainly correct — that property rights solve market failures. Sometimes the failure of functioning markets to emerge causes goods to be spoiled and depleted. Sometimes adverse effects from market activity fall on nonparticipants. And sometimes markets simply do not produce the most efficient outcomes in the estimation of observers. Better property rights can help improve results. (AEIdeas- Perspectives on Property Rights in Data, August 8, 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.