Executive Briefing December 13, 2019


Ars Technica Bernie Sanders vows to break up huge ISPs and regulate broadband prices
Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday released a plan to overhaul the US broadband market by breaking up giant providers, outlawing data caps, regulating broadband prices, and providing $150 billion to build publicly owned networks.

The Hill The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) will shape the destiny of humanity, but first humanity has the opportunity to shape AI. At times, anxiety about the former causes us to overlook the latter. We forget that artificial intelligence is going to serve the goals with which we’re now programming it.

The Intercept The Donald Trump Campaign Is Deploying Phone Location-Tracking Technology
President Donald Trump’s reelection effort has retained the services of a technology company that specializes in the mass collection of smartphone location data, which can be used to track voters for political targeting purposes.


NextGov What Veterans Affairs Aims to Accomplish Through Its Artificial Intelligence Institute
The Veterans Affairs Department recently launched a National Artificial Intelligence Institute to coordinate and advance strategic vet-focused research and development efforts to harness the budding technology. “VA has a unique opportunity to be a leader in artificial intelligence,” Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.

The New York Times Will Congress Actually Pass a Privacy Bill? [Paywall]
The holiday season is upon us. The race for the White House is underway in anticipation of its first primaries. And, of course, there’s impeachment. So you could be forgiven for not quite paying attention to the other set of hearings in Washington that are near and dear to this newsletter’s heart: federal privacy legislation.

CPO Magazine US Senators Introduce New COPRA Digital Privacy Act
In the United States, it’s now looking more and more likely that some form of comprehensive federal privacy legislation will become law sometime in 2020. After two Silicon Valley lawmakers introduced a draft bill in the House of Representatives, a group of top Democrats in the U.S. Senate have now introduced an even more comprehensive piece of legislation known as the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA).

The New York Times Facebook and Barr Escalate Standoff Over Encrypted Messages [Paywall]
Facebook executives and Attorney General William P. Barr sparred on Monday over whether encrypted messaging products should be open to law enforcement, escalating a standoff over privacy and policing. In a letter to Mr. Barr, the executives overseeing Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, Will Cathcart and Stan Chudnovsky, wrote that creating a so-called backdoor into their services for law enforcement would make their users less safe. At an afternoon event, Mr. Barr said dealing with problems that strong encryption created for law enforcement was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”

CNET YouTube wants changes to kids’ privacy law that sparked its record fine
Three months ago, Google’s YouTube was hit by a record $170 million penalty and major new kids-privacy rules. Now YouTube wants the US government to loosen how much its massive video service is subject to that child privacy law.

Washington Post TikTok leader postpones trip to Washington to meet with members of Congress
TikTok chief Alex Zhu has canceled a scheduled trip to Washington to meet with members of Congress, lawmakers said, a move that stoked fresh criticism of the social-media app at a moment when it’s trying to repair its relationships with U.S. officials.

Ars Technica Senate Judiciary committee interrogates Apple, Facebook about crypto
In a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, while their counterparts in the House were busy with articles of impeachment, senators questioned New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, University of Texas Professor Matt Tait, and experts from Apple and Facebook over the issue of gaining legal access to data in encrypted devices and messages.


The New York Times Big Tech Is Under Attack, and Investors Couldn’t Care Less [Paywall]
Giant tech stocks have posted a remarkable year, shrugging off the trade war, bipartisan political hostility and regulatory threats.

Reuters California AG says privacy law enforcement to be guided by willingness to comply
California’s attorney general is not planning an extension of a Jan. 1 deadline to comply with the state’s new digital privacy law but said enforcement efforts by his office will be guided by companies showing a willingness to comply.

CNBC Microsoft President Brad Smith says work on JEDI continues despite Amazon protest
Amazon’s decision to protest the Pentagon’s cloud computing contract hasn’t delayed Microsoft from working on the colossal Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, deal. “We were working every day before we won that contract to make the product better,” Microsoft President Brad Smith told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan in an exclusive interview on the sidelines at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

NJBIZ Rutgers University, Microsoft launch app to fight SIDS
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School scientists and Microsoft Corp. volunteers on Tuesday announced the rollout of Baby be Well, a free mobile app to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. In a press release, Rutgers said the app will help families keep infants safe throughout the first year of life through its proven guidance of safe sleep practices as part of its AI for Good initiative and Tata Consultancy Services.

How Stuff Works ‘Hour of Code’ Demystifies Computer Programming for Kids
From banking to basic communication, computers wind their way through virtually every aspect of our modern lives. But in the United States, most schools don’t teach fundamental computer science, even at a time when demand for computer-savvy professionals far outstrips supply.

Ms. Magazine It’s Computer Science Education Week: Do You Know Where the Girls Are?
Joana Rubio was a junior in high school when she took her first computer science class. It had not occurred to her to study computer science before, but during a presentation to her class by staff members from a local community-based organization, the Digital NEST, she realized that it might be a good fit for her.

TechCrunch US VC investment in female founders hits all-time high
Venture capital investment in all-female founding teams hit $3.3 billion in 2019, representing 2.8% of capital invested across the entire U.S. startup ecosystem this year, according to the latest data collected by PitchBook. While that number may seem insubstantial, it’s a step up from last year’s total. In 2018, venture capitalists struck 580 deals worth $3 billion — up from just $2.1 billion in 2017 — for all-female teams, or only 2.2% of all U.S. deal activity.

AG Week Thune, Klobuchar urge FCC to prioritize ‘sustainable’ rural broadband in $20.4 billion initiative
South Dakota Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune and Minnesota Democrat U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar are urging the Federal Communications Commission to prioritize “sustainable” rural broadband technology that will last for years as it looks to allocate $20.4 billion in federal communications funds.

Fortune This Year’s Hottest Job Involves Artificial Intelligence
Bye bye blockchain developer, hello artificial intelligence specialist. That role, A.I. specialist, is the fastest growing U.S. job in terms of number of hires, at least according to LinkedIn, which published its annual emerging jobs report on Tuesday. Hirings for A.I. specialists on the career networking service have grown 74% annually over the past four years, LinkedIn said.

Health IT Analytics Artificial Intelligence Recognizes Cancer Cells in Pathology Slides
A software tool that leverages artificial intelligence was able to recognize cancer cells from digital pathology slides, leading to more customized treatment plans, according to a study published in EBioMedicine. The spatial distribution of different types of cells could reveal a cancer’s growth pattern and they body’s immune response, researchers noted.

Forbes Why We Need Data For Black Lives
Algorithms may be hidden from most of us but they’re shaping many aspects of our lives. Who’s creating them, and what background and biases do they bring? Entrepreneur and data scientist Yeshimabeit Milner is sparking a movement of technologists, mathematicians, and community changemakers who want to use data to create a more equitable world.


The Brookings Institution

Report on AI Legislation
An overwhelming majority of the American public believes that artificial intelligence (AI) should be carefully managed. Nevertheless, as the three case studies in this brief show, the public does not agree on the proper regulation of AI applications. Indeed, population-level support of an AI application may belie opposition by some subpopulations. Many AI applications, such as facial recognition technology, could cause disparate harm to already vulnerable subgroups, particularly ethnic minorities and low-income individuals. In addition, partisan divisions are likely to prevent government regulation of AI applications that could be used to influence electoral politics. (Report – Public opinion lessons for AI regulation, December 10, 2019)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

Report on Tech Innovation Centers in America
The future of America’s economy lies in its high-tech innovation sector, but it is now clear that same sector is widening the nation’s regional divides—a fact that became starkly apparent with the 2016 presidential election. Based on “winner-take-most” network economies, the innovation sector has generated significant technology gains and wealth but has also helped spawn a growing gap between the nation’s dynamic “superstar” metropolitan areas and most everywhere else. (Report – The case for growth centers: How to spread tech innovation across America, December 9, 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.