Executive Briefing December 14, 2018

Hello, Executive Briefing subscribers:

Over the last 17 months, Microsoft has forged partnerships with local internet providers to bring broadband connectivity to 1 million Americans in rural communities who currently lack high-speed access. On December 4, the company pledged to help bring broadband connectivity to 3 million rural Americans by 2022 — upping its previous pledge of 2 million. Read more about Airband expansion on our latest blog.

TOP STORIES: Regulating Facial Recognition Technology

Microsoft on the Issues Facial Recognition: It’s time for action
Microsoft President Brad Smith writes, “We believe it’s important for governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate facial recognition technology. In particular, we don’t believe that the world will be best served by a commercial race to the bottom, with tech companies forced to choose between social responsibility and market success. We believe that the only way to protect against this race to the bottom is to build a floor of responsibility that supports healthy market competition. And a solid floor requires that we ensure that this technology, and the organizations that develop and use it, are governed by the rule of law.”

Yahoo Finance Microsoft is asking the government to regulate the company’s facial recognition tech
Microsoft sent one of its top executives to Washington with an unusual request: To ask the government to regulate the use of the company’s automated facial-recognition software. In fact, Microsoft president Brad Smith went beyond past calls for a conversation about appropriate rules, and suggested a new law should be put in place now. “The world needs to have confidence that this technology will be used well,” Smith said in a speech at the Brookings Institution Thursday afternoon. “Then we’ll be able to innovate in ways that benefit society.”

Wall Street Journal Microsoft Pushes Urgency of Regulating Facial-Recognition Technology
Microsoft is urging governments worldwide to enact regulation of facial-recognition technology next year that requires independent assessment of accuracy and bias and prohibits ongoing surveillance of specific people without a court order. The technology giant’s push to police the emerging technology comes as rivals including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, face increasing backlash over their privacy practices from lawmakers and others.


Politico FCC Map Probe Draws Hill Praise
Lawmakers are voicing support for the FCC’s decision to investigate whether major carriers overstated their wireless coverage. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, said Monday she is “pleased” the agency is taking “additional steps necessary to address their flawed maps.” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another Commerce member, said it’s “absolutely critical that the Commission remains focused on ensuring that our limited universal service funds are effectively and accurately targeted to areas that lack unsubsidized 4G LTE service.”

The New York Times Google’s Pichai Faces Privacy and Bias Questions in Congress
Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai, in perhaps the most public display of lawmakers’ unease with his company’s influence, was grilled on Tuesday about everything from search result bias and the data Google collects about its users to plans for a censored service in China.

The Washington Post Internet ecosystem needs a complete overhaul to be cybersecure, House panel warns
It will take a very long time and a gargantuan effort before the technology Americans rely on is safe from hackers, according to a report from a congressional panel that has spent five years in the cybersecurity trenches. The strategy document released last week from the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigations panel suggests companies completely overhaul the way they find and fix vulnerabilities in everything from the power grid to smart thermostats, cameras and cars.


Valley Journal Innovations bring broadband to Native American, rural populations
According to the latest statistics from the Federal Communications Commission, only 49 percent of Montanans who live on tribal land have access to a broadband connection. Compare that to the nation where 92 percent of Americans have broadband access, and to Montana as a whole, where that figure stands at 77 percent. Clearly, more needs to be done. Many are working to address the Digital Divide. The most recent bright spot is a partnership announced between Native Network and the Microsoft Airband Initiative that will bring broadband access to more than 70,000 people in Montana and Washington. In Montana, the partnership will focus on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

AgWeb Rural Broadband to Reach Three Million People
Microsoft recently announced it is increasing its commitment to closing the rural broadband gap with a significant infrastructure boost from the company. More than 19 million people in rural America don’t have access to broadband. “Without proper broadband connection, these communities can’t start or run a modern business, access telemedicine, take an online class, digitally transform their farm, or research a school project online,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft president in a recent press release.

Marketplace How rural America is turning into a digital desert
For a time it seemed like tech might free us from the bonds of geography. In theory, fast internet meant new economic opportunity in any city. And telecommuting and video conferencing meant we could work from anywhere. But in reality, the geographic digital divide is as wide, and in fact even wider, than it ever was. In this interview, Molly Wood speaks with Mark Muro, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and lead author of the 2017 report “Digitalization and the American Workforce,” about rural broadband and the digital divide.

Harvard Business Review Using AI to Improve Electronic Health Records
Relying on either open source or internally developed systems in keeping up with those requirements creates both compliance risks and financial challenges. A third and more promising option is to use AI to make existing EHR systems more flexible and intelligent. Some delivery networks, sometimes in collaboration with their EHR platform vendor, are making strides in this direction. AI capabilities for EHRs are currently relatively narrow but we can expect them to rapidly improve.

Miami Herald Facial recognition tool aims to help reunite pets, owners
There’s a potentially powerful new tool to help reunite pet owners with their lost cats and dogs — facial recognition technology. The Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter announced Thursday that it is the first organization locally to use sophisticated computer algorithms that can let pet owners know almost instantly whether their missing Fido or Fluffy is at the organization’s shelter or in its network of foster homes. John Polimeno, the California retired construction executive who founded the free service Finding Rover, said that he spent a year working with specialists at the University of Utah to develop facial recognition software to analyze the faces of dogs and cats, which are more difficult for the technology to identify than are the faces of their human counterparts.

Mashable Facial recognition tech spreads to car rentals
At the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport this month, you can check out and drive off in your rental car with just a scan of your face (or a fingerprint reading). Instead of showing an ID, you just look up at the camera from the car window and after scanning your face it matches the images against the database where your info is already logged. The Fast Lane service will expand to 40 other airport rental locations in the next six months.



  • Blog on AI and international trade: Artificial intelligence (AI) stands to have a transformative impact on international trade. Already, specific applications in areas such as data analytics and translation services are reducing barriers to trade. At the same time, there are challenges in the development of AI that international trade rules could address, such as improving global access to data to train AI systems. (Technology & Innovation blog, The impact of artificial intelligence on international trade, Dec. 13, 2018)

American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on AI and media perception: A new AI Index report shows that positive sentiment in coverage of AI initiatives is increasing. One expert said, “while obviously there will be good and bad, the broad history of automation technologies is positive, even when it comes to jobs. There is more employment today than ever in history.” (AEI Blog, The media is becoming more positive about AI, and it probably should, Dec. 12, 2018)

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.