Executive Briefing July 12, 2019

Dear Executive Briefing subscribers,

Voices for Innovation will be at Microsoft Inspire in Las Vegas next week, from July 14 through July 18! If you’re attending, please look for our booth in the Community Zone of The Hub. We’d love to meet you and reconnect, and, you’ll have the opportunity to take immediate advocacy action on broadband access for more Americans. We hope to see you there!

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


Morning Consult Khanna to Reintroduce Bill Mandating Broadband Economic Impact Studies
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) is set to reintroduce on Wednesday his version of legislation that would require the Commerce Department to start studying the economic effects of U.S. broadband deployment and adoption. The bill mandates that the department conduct the study every two years, with the first one required to be released within two years of the bill’s enactment. So, it’s not a question of if but when freedom and privacy may be sacrificed on the road to “bigger, better and faster.”

Wall Street Journal Trump Administration Hasn’t Briefed Congress on New Rules for Cyberattacks, Lawmakers Say
The Trump administration hasn’t allowed members of Congress to read a classified directive President Trump issued almost a year ago outlining new rules for the military’s use of cyber weapons, despite repeated requests, according to lawmakers and others familiar with the matter.

Politico Congress tackles facial recognition
Homeland Security officials will face questions at a congressional hearing today about the department’s use of facial recognition software, amid a new wave of scrutiny for the technology in Washington. “Federal agencies, like DHS, must balance their critical security mission with a commitment to safeguard citizens’ civil liberties,” House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), whose committee is hosting the hearing, said in a statement. Thompson’s panel is the second to dive into the topic this Congress. A growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle back a moratorium on federal use of the software until restrictions can be implemented.

Axios Customs to Defend Face Recognition After 100,000 Photos Exposed
Digital rights group Fight For the Future is calling on Congress to ban government use of facial recognition. The announcement, to be made Tuesday, comes in the wake of weekend reports that federal authorities used facial recognition on millions of driver’s license photos.

The Hill Cities lead crackdown on facial recognition tech
Cities and states are leading the crackdown on using facial recognition as lawmakers in Congress struggle to find a path to address concerns over the emerging technology. Privacy and civil rights advocates have castigated facial recognition as overly invasive and potentially discriminatory. But with Washington appearing slow to act, critics are now targeting their efforts at the state and local level, where they believe legislation to restrict the technology can move faster and tougher action is likelier.


Fierce Wireless Microsoft, Watch Communications ink pact to expand Airband Initiative in 3 states
As part of the latest agreement, Ohio-based Watch plans to deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies in Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. The deployments are expected to cover more than 4 million people in total, including 815,000 people in areas of the states that currently lack access to broadband. Watch will use a combination of fiber optic cable and wireless networks, but deployments in remote and terrain-challenged areas will focus on wireless technologies that leverage TV white spaces. Fifty counties in Indiana and 22 counties in Illinois are expected to benefit from the agreement, as will most of Ohio’s 88 counties.

KTOO Alaska Public Radio Alaska Governor’s vetoes cancel state funding for library broadband program
One of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes has canceled state funding for broadband internet in Alaska libraries. The roughly $670,000 in savings could have far-reaching consequences for Alaska’s smallest towns. … The cut jeopardizes the federal funding that pays for most of the internet bills in small communities. If local libraries can’t make up for the state’s contribution, they lose their federal funding as well.

MLive State of Michigan offering $20 million in grant funding to expand rural broadband access
Applications are now open for the Connecting Michigan Communities program, which will let providers apply for up to $5 million per grant to provide broadband internet to areas with few or no affordable options for the service.

Bloomberg Facebook Faces Activist, EU Judges in ‘Schrems II’ Privacy Case
Facebook Inc. warned the European Union’s top court that toppling a key system used by companies to transfer data out of the EU would threaten trans-Atlantic trade, in the latest twist of a six-year-old saga pitting the social media giant against privacy activist Max Schrems. Facebook lawyers told the EU Court of Justice that the lawsuit threatens contractual clauses that companies rely on to transfer commercial data overseas. The new protocol was used as the only reliable option after Schrems won an earlier case throwing out an EU-U.S. data accord.

CNBC A.I can improve health care in China, says Ping An Technology CEO
Artificial intelligence is still a relatively new technology, but one business leader said its applications are already generating real value. Ping An Technology has developed AI systems that it says can predict the likelihood of a patient suffering from a specific chronic illness even before physical symptoms are present, or identify infectious diseases in advance with high accuracy. Its programs claim to be able to spot abnormalities in medical image scans that would normally take doctors a much longer time to do manually.

New York Times Your Data Could Be at the Center of the Fight Against Big Tech
Germany is at the forefront of a deeper realization among regulators and policymakers globally that laws must evolve to keep pace with technological change. Rules that regulate industries like oil or transportation, where dominance is measured in physical goods and price gouging, don’t as easily apply to services that are digital, are often free and rely on people’s attention and data more than infrastructure. Andreas Mundt, Germany’s top antitrust enforcer, contends that Facebook and other tech giants don’t need to be broken up, as Senator Elizabeth Warren and others have suggested. Instead, he thinks governments should limit their ability to collect data. The approach can have an effect similar to a breakup by isolating a company’s different services.

Bloomberg DNA Testing Service Exposed Thousands of Customer Records Online
DNA-testing service Vitagene Inc. left thousands of client health reports exposed online for years, the kind of incident that privacy advocates have warned about as gene testing has become increasingly popular. More than 3,000 user files remained accessible to the public on Amazon Web Services cloud-computer servers until July 1, when Vitagene was notified of the issue and shut down external access to the sensitive personal information, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg. The genealogy reports included customers’ full names alongside dates of birth and gene-based health information, such as their likelihood of developing certain medical conditions, a review of the documents showed.


American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on big tech regulation: Congress is considering forcing tech platforms to reflect the value of data in their accounting records, it is pondering regulations that could destroy over $700 billion of economic value on an annual basis. So why does regulation have momentum among political leaders in both parties? Voters probably don’t realize what they will lose. (AEIdeas – 3 Reasons regulation of Big Tech could cost consumers $700 billion, July 11, 2019)


  • Blog on Microsoft Inspire: I attended my first-ever Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (now Microsoft Inspire) in Washington, DC back in 2010. That wonderful experience was instrumental in setting my career trajectory for the last 10 years. Ever since I’ve made it a point to attend every Inspire conference over the years, be it held in DC, Orlando, Las Vegas, Toronto, or Los Angeles. Even if it’s my 10th Microsoft Inspire, I still see benefits of coming back every year. Here are just a few of the reasons why I’m attending this year’s conference as if it’s my very first time. (AvePoint Blog – 3 Reasons Why I’m Still Pumped for Microsoft Inspire 10 Years Later (#MSInspire), July 10, 2019)


  • Blog on the US and GDPR: GDPR has been in effect in the EU for one year, and regulators, consumers, and businesses are facing its unintended consequences. Other countries can take those outcomes and do better with their own data protection. Given that GDPR has fallen short of expectations, policymakers in other countries have an opportunity to do better, rather than repeat Europe’s mistakes. (GovTech Policy – 5 Lessons the US can learn from EU Privacy Efforts, July 1, 2019)

Microsoft News

  • Blog on AI and the environment: IMT Atlantique was one of the winners of the AI for Earth EU Oceans award, an initiative for European research organizations focusing on ocean-related challenges. The grants equip these researchers with AI tools, and cloud computing resources to help develop their work. These are part of Microsoft’s broader AI for Earth program, a five-year $50 million commitment, which has awarded more than 236 grants in larger projects since its inception two years ago. (The AI Blog – Saving the seas: how AI is helping to protect our oceans, July 2, 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.