Executive Briefing February 22, 2019


The Washington Post The U.S. government and Facebook are negotiating a record, multibillion-dollar fine for the company’s privacy lapses
The Federal Trade Commission and Facebook are negotiating over a multi-billion dollar fine that would settle the agency’s investigation into the social media giant’s privacy practices, according to two people familiar with the probe. The fine would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a technology company, but the two sides have not yet agreed on an exact amount. Facebook has expressed initial concern with the FTC’s demands, one of the people said. If talks break down, the FTC could take the matter to court in what would likely be a bruising legal fight.

The Wall Street Journal Partisan Rift Threatens Federal Data-Privacy Efforts
Congress set the stage last year to pass a sweeping consumer data-privacy law in 2019, but prospects for legislation are dimming amid sharpening divides among lawmakers over how far the federal government should go in reining in Big Tech. Silicon Valley and its Republican allies are pushing for a national standard that would override state regulations—including California’s landmark 2018 law, which broadens the definition of personal information and gives consumers the right to prevent their data from being sold. (paywall)

Broadcasting & Cable House Schedules Privacy Hearing
The House Energy & Commerce Committee Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold a hearing on data privacy and security, a hot-button issue in Washington these days, and its Democratic chair signaled it will include looking at the “problem after problem” involving Facebook. The hearing, which was announced by subcommittee chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and parent committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), will be Feb. 26 and it is clear where Democrats are on the issue by the majority’s announcement email, calling it a hearing on “the need for comprehensive data privacy and security legislation.”

BuzzFeed News As Concerns Over Facial Recognition Grow, Members Of Congress Are Considering Their Next Move
BuzzFeed News has learned that the US House Oversight and Reform Committee is considering holding a hearing on facial recognition, which has been widely implemented across the country despite growing concerns about the technology’s potential privacy and civil rights implications. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s chairman, told BuzzFeed News that the committee is “of course” considering investigating facial recognition technology. But whether the committee will hold a hearing about it or not depends on how much bandwidth the subject has.

Vox Trump wants better AI. He also wants less immigration. He can’t have both.
President Donald Trump released a splashy new plan for American artificial intelligence last week. High on enthusiasm, low on details, its goal is to ramp up the rate of progress in AI research so the United States won’t get outpaced by countries like China. Experts had been warning for months that under Trump, the US hasn’t been doing enough to maintain its competitive edge. Now, it seems, Trump has finally got the memo. His executive order, signed February 11, promises to “drive technological breakthroughs … in order to promote scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and national security.”


Broadcasting & Cable FCC: Digital Divide Has ‘Substantially’ Narrowed
The FCC’s draft of its 2019 Broadband Deployment report (the so-called Sec. 706 report) says that the digital divide between the broadband haves and have-nots has narrowed “substantially” and that, as the FCC’s broadband deployment report previously concluded under chairman Ajit Pai, “advanced telecommunications services – broadband – is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis.” The report has been circulated to the other commissioners for a vote, where if past is prologue the Republicans will approve and the Democrats will take issue with the conclusion.

KPIC Oregon lawmakers consider taxing cellphone users to fund rural broadband services
Oregon lawmakers are considering adding a surcharge on interstate cellphone calls to fund broadband internet services in rural areas. The tax would generate $10 million and help connect nearly 400,000 people to the internet, according to state lawmakers.

Marketplace Before facial recognition tech can be fair, it needs to be diverse
As facial recognition software spreads, it brings the challenge of diversity along with it. So far, programs identify male, white faces far more accurately than they do black women, for example. A new IBM project aims to change that. Diversity in Faces is a data set of a million faces pulled from public domain pictures on Flickr. It gives computers a lot more to look at and process, and it introduces a way to better measure diversity in faces.

Reuters Google’s cloud business lags far behind Microsoft and Amazon, and the stock is falling
Alphabet Inc’s cloud computing division remains a distant third behind Amazon and Microsoft in terms of global revenue, according to analysts’ estimates. A few major companies manage their data on Google’s servers. But Google has nowhere near the vast customer base of Amazon, according to a new Reuters analysis of company regulatory filings.

Financial Times Data privacy bill unites Charles Koch and Big Tech
Organizations run by Charles Koch have begun to lobby US politicians on data privacy, as the American billionaire and conservative donor deepens his unlikely alliance with Silicon Valley, and Google in particular.

Fortune Russia-Linked Hackers Responsible for Vast European Cyber Attacks, Says Microsoft
Russia-linked hackers have attacked over 100 accounts linked to European think tanks and civil society NGOs, Microsoft said Wednesday. The victims include the German Council on Foreign Relations, European branches of the Aspen Institute, and the German Marshall Fund. Elections for the Parliament of the European Union are scheduled for May 23-26 and Microsoft security vice president, Tom Burt, wrote that the attacks, “validate the warnings from European leaders about the threat level we should expect to see in Europe this year.”

Rapid City Journal North Dakota looks to teach students about cybersecurity
North Dakota is looking to make computer science and cybersecurity courses accessible to all students across the state. A group of educators this month completed a final draft of K-12 computer science and cybersecurity standards, which, pending State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler’s approval, will go into effect this fall.

Deseret News Guest opinion: Robust computer science education will drive our economy forward
No matter the industry, no matter the job, technology is — and will continue to be — the driving force of our economy. That is why computer science education is rightfully at the forefront of educators’ and business leaders’ minds as they grapple with how to best prepare our future workforce. In order to compete in an ever-evolving technological world, Utah’s students must be equipped with the computing skills and digital knowledge to be successful in their chosen profession.



  • Blog on the digital divide: One of the few bipartisan agreements in Washington, D.C. these days is that our country needs to bridge the digital divide and guarantee that no area is bereft of the broadband infrastructure necessary to thrive in the 21st-century information economy. Despite that consensus, the digital divide is about to get worse, and current policies will exacerbate it. (The Avenue – The coming digital divide: What to do, and not do, about it, Feb. 15, 2019)

New America

  • Report on the cybersecurity of cities: At this juncture, however, efforts to build similar partnerships to respond to cyberattacks are still early stage in most jurisdictions, leaving cities around the country significantly less than well protected. This paper highlights ways in which cities are currently working with their federal and state partners, private sector companies, and nonprofit agencies and foundations to improve their cybersecurity and resiliency efforts. (Cybersecurity Initiative – Cyber Incident Response and Resiliency in Cities, Feb. 21, 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.