Executive Briefing January 18, 2019

Dear Executive Briefing subscribers,

Recently, Microsoft President Brad Smith called for governments to start adopting laws that responsibly regulate facial recognition technology. Microsoft has introduced six key principles that should guide the approach to these new policies. These highlights, and more, are covered in the latest VFI blog on facial recognition.


McClatchy Legislators, some of them bewildered, may do little on tech issues this year
Weighty high-tech issues are likely to flummox Congress again this year, just as they did last year, when lengthy hearings with chief executives of Facebook and Google drew a spotlight to the deep unfamiliarity of some legislators with technology matters. Rather than tackling issues head on about privacy, data protection, and artificial intelligence, legislators may opt for lesser steps. Democrats now in control of the House say they will heed growing public clamor about the use — or misuse — of personal data by social media platforms and other digital companies. But they acknowledge that little action may emerge from the divided Congress.

The Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: A bump in Washington-area cyber startups could bring new blood to government
Venture capital investing in Washington-area digital security companies has grown nearly 50 percent since 2015 in a sign of the region’s booming cybersecurity market, according to figures provided by a local investing firm. That’s also a big opportunity for government agencies trying to overhaul their own cybersecurity, which will be able to recruit from a new crop of Washington area cyber start-ups, said Hank Thomas, CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures, the Washington-based venture capital firm that provided the data. (Strategic Cyber Ventures will share details about the data in a blog post today.)

Axios Rubio debuts alternative privacy bill
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will introduce a privacy bill Wednesday tasking the Federal Trade Commission with recommending, and Congress with finalizing, national rules for companies like Google and Facebook. Rubio’s bill seems to steer clear of giving the FTC wide new authority, instead only letting the agency write rules itself if Congress fails to do so.

Nextgov Shutdown Takes Numerous Government Digital Services Offline
Numerous federal websites, digital processes and data streams are down as a result of what has become the longest government shutdown in history. Now in its 26th day, the shutdown is limiting agencies’ ability to conduct the day-to-day operations needed to maintain their online systems. Digital services like websites and data feeds are among the most direct ways for citizens to interact with the government, but without funding, many of those connections have been cut off. And beyond sites going offline, a number of online portals are becoming less secure as their encryption certificates expire.


ELearning Inside How TV White Space internet will bridge the global digital divide: Dr. Rouzbeh Yassini in conversation
In recent years, a few stories have popped up regarding efforts to bring broadband internet to rural areas via TV broadcast frequencies. Among these, Microsoft has made the biggest splash with its Airband initiative. The technology, however, remains fairly unknown, and worse yet, misunderstood. To clarify the matter, eLearning Inside got in touch with Dr. Rouzbeh Yassini of the Broadband Center for Excellence (BCoE) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).

Fox 43 Pennsylvania provides first-ever dedicated computer science funding to 765 schools
Building on his commitment to prepare students to use computers and technology in their careers, Governor Tom Wolf today announced $8.7 million in targeted grants to expand computer science classes and teacher training at 765 schools across the commonwealth. The targeted grants represent the next phase of the governor’s new and innovative PAsmart initiative, which will provide $20 million to bring high-quality computer science and STEM education in schools, and professional development for teachers.

NBC News At CES, tech’s biggest trade show, privacy was the buzzword
In years past, privacy was an afterthought for many tech gadgets. But 2018 was the year of the great privacy awakening thanks to a number of high-profile breaches, Facebook’s privacy woes and some particularly troubling incidents with smart-home devices, such as when the voices of strangers came through Nest cameras and spoke to children. Privacy considerations come as smart home devices continue to make their way into almost every part of people’s lives.

Broadcasting and Cable Court Signals Green Light for Net Neutrality Argument
It looks as though oral argument in the Mozilla et al. challenge to the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom order rollback, Title II-based network neutrality regulations and the Title II classification itself will proceed as planned Feb. 1. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit says on its website that oral arguments scheduled for January and now February will take place, partial government shutdown or not. Various groups joined Mozilla in suing the FCC over the decision of the Republican majority to repeal rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization (as well as a general conduct rule meant to get at practices that didn’t fit under those categories), as well as to reclassify both wired and wireless broadband as Title I information services.

Axios Location data is ground zero in privacy wars
Our phones’ GPS and location capabilities are a key part of what make them magical — enabling them to speed our commutes, hail rides and find the devices when we lose them. These capabilities are also ground zero for the looming fight over defining the boundaries of privacy and acceptable uses of our personal information. The big picture: Three recent stories show just how common problems with location data can be — and how thorny they’ve become.

Mashable Jeff Bezos slammed by 85 groups for selling facial-recognition tech to the feds
On Jan. 15, a coalition of 85 different organizations including human rights groups, civil liberty organizations, and justice system reform advocates sent the Amazon CEO an open letter demanding that his company stop selling facial-recognition technology to the government. The tech, dubbed Rekognition by Amazon, has received widespread criticism for false positives and possible racial bias — facts that have so far failed to slow Amazon’s efforts to profit off the technology.


Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Report on data privacy legislation: Congress should repeal and replace existing federal privacy laws with a common set of protections. We need comprehensive data privacy legislation that preempts state laws, improves transparency requirements, strengthens enforcement, and establishes a clear set of data privacy rights for Americans based on the sensitivity of the data and the context in which it is collected. (ITIF Reports – A Grand Bargain on Data Privacy Legislation for America, Jan. 14, 2019)

Information Technology Industry Council

  • News release on privacy recommendations to NIST: As the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advances in its effort to create a privacy framework, ITI, the global voice of the tech sector, applauded its commitment to an approach that is consensus-driven, transparent, and interoperable. In comments submitted to NIST’s “Developing a Privacy Framework” Request for Information this week, ITI commended the agency’s collaborative effort to advance a framework to help organizations protect data and better identify, assess, manage, and communicate privacy risks. (ITI News Releases – ITI Provides Privacy Recommendations to NIST, Jan. 15, 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.