Executive Briefing June 21, 2019


River Bender Illinois Congressional Delegation to FCC: Improve Rural Broadband Maps
The entire Illinois Congressional Delegation sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and the four FCC Commissioners urging the FCC to improve the nation’s broadband maps by reforming the mapping process for broadband services. The members noted that, currently, the mapping process lacks detail, accuracy, and granularity, meaning many underserved areas, including many rural communities in Illinois, could go without critical funding to improve broadband services.

Engadget FCC task force will help connect farms and ranches
Today, the FCC announced a task force meant to support the deployment of broadband across unserved farms and ranches. The Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force will work with the US Department of Agriculture and public and private sector stakeholders. It will be responsible for developing policy recommendations for rural, agriculture-focused broadband. “As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve seen the amazing efficiencies, innovations, and improvements that high-speed Internet brings to today’s farms and ranches,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This is the present and the future of American agriculture, and we must do whatever we can to support these producers and enhance precision agriculture.”

B+C Wicker Introduces Broadband Data Act
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has introduced the Broadband DATA (Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability) Act, as the chairman signaled at an FCC oversight hearing. Virtually everyone on both sides of the aisle and at the FCC concede the government’s form 477 carrier-reported deployment data collection has not provided accurate maps on where broadband (fixed and mobile) is or isn’t. Wicker said at the hearing Wednesday (June 12) that the FCC should stop making broadband deployment funding decisions until it can get a better handle on where the money should go.

VICE AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile Hit With FCC Complaint Over Sale of Phone Location Data
On Friday, multiple activist groups and telecommunications experts filed a complaint with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) centering on how AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon sold their customers’ real-time location data to third parties without those customers’ informed consent. The move comes after multiple investigations into how telecom companies either sold their customers’ data, or allowed it to fall into the wrong hands.

B+C FTC Cracks Down on Alleged Privacy Shield Pretenders
The Federal Trade Commission has warned more than a dozen companies it says have falsely claimed to be participating in international privacy agreements, and reached a settlement with one company over allegations it falsely claimed to be part of the EU/U.S. Privacy Shield program. The settlement came with background screening firm SecurTest, which applied to be part of the Privacy Shield but did not finish the process for certification.

The Hill Klobuchar, Murkowski introduce legislation to protect consumer health data
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Friday introduced legislation aimed at safeguarding the privacy of consumer health data, specifically the data involved in DNA testing kits and health tracking apps. The Protecting Personal Health Data Act would require the secretary of Health and Human Services to create regulations for health data tracking apps, wearable devices such as FitBits and genetic testing kits. The regulations would include a clause to enable consumers to review, change and delete any health data collected by companies.

The Hill House votes against curtailing warrantless collection of Americans’ data
The House on Tuesday rejected an amendment that would have limited the government’s ability to collect Americans’ personal communications without a warrant. The House voted 175-253 against the amendment introduced by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) amid opposition from national security hawks.


American Farm Bureau Unleashing Broadband on Rural America Leads to Nearly $65 Billion in Economic Benefits Annually
According to USDA’s “A Case for Rural Broadband,” if access to broadband and adoption of digital agricultural technologies matched producer demand, U.S. agriculture would realize benefits amounting to nearly 18% of total U.S. market production, or $64.5 billion annually, based on 2017 levels. The report, published by the American Broadband Initiative, analyzes the possible economic benefits of bringing e-connectivity to the heartland and, more importantly, what needs to be done to make it happen.

Morning Consult Voter Support for Facial Recognition Technology Slips Amid Debates Over Its Use
As lawmakers in Congress and city governments explore the best ways to legislate facial recognition technology, fewer registered U.S. voters are throwing their support behind the technology, a new survey shows. According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted June 14-16 among 1,992 registered voters, 42 percent said they generally support the use of facial recognition — a drop of 7 percentage points from the 49 percent who supported it in an August 2018 Morning Consult survey. The August survey came after the American Civil Liberties Union found that widely used facial recognition software misidentified more than two dozen Washington lawmakers, especially racial minorities.

Cheddar Microsoft and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Team Together to Fund A.I. Research
Solving environmental challenges with artificial intelligence is the goal of Microsoft’s A.I. For Earth program. To spur innovation, Microsoft and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation are teaming up to offer $500,000 in grants to aid researchers and innovators who are using A.I. to help solve climate, agriculture, biodiversity, and water issues around the world. Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft, discusses the idea behind the partnership in this video.

CNET Your car’s data privacy comes into question in Georgia Supreme Court case
Your car knows a lot more about you than you think. It gathers all sorts of information, from where you’ve been to whom you’ve talked to and what music you like, and police are able to get all of that information without a warrant. A Georgia Supreme Court case could change that. The American Civil Liberties Union is set to argue on Wednesday that police must obtain a warrant to access data collected by cars. Police have been able to conduct digital searches in cars without a warrant because of a US Supreme Court decision in 1925, which established that police need only probable cause to search vehicles. As technology’s reach has expanded and changed the scope of how much personal information gets collected about a person, laws have lagged behind, leaving privacy rights in limbo for years.

New York Times Stanford Team Aims at Alexa and Siri With a Privacy-Minded Alternative
It has been almost two decades since Google started to dominate internet search the way Microsoft dominated software for personal computers a generation earlier. Now computer scientists at Stanford University are warning about the consequences of a race to control what they believe will be the next key consumer technology market — virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. The researchers’ biggest concern is that virtual assistants, as they are designed today, could have a far greater impact on consumer information than today’s websites and apps. Putting that information in the hands of one big company or a tiny clique, they say, could erase what is left of online privacy.

Wall Street Journal GDPR Has Been a Boon for Google and Facebook
Europe’s new privacy law appears to be helping tech giants—for now. The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which went into effect across the European Union last year, has pushed marketers to spend more of their ad dollars with the biggest players, in particular Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., ad-tech companies and media buyers say.



  • Blog on police use of facial recognition: In formulating a coherent policy to govern facial recognition, policymakers should consider the “how,” “when,” and “why” of using such a powerful tool: using appropriate thresholds of confidence for photographs, only utilizing facial recognition after the fact rather than in real time, and limiting its use to the most serious crimes. Finally, governments must consider securing data to avoid breaches of sensitive personal information. (TechTank blog – What are the proper limits on police use of facial recognition?, June 20, 2019)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on GDPR’s impact: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the new privacy law for the European Union (EU), went into effect on May 25, 2018. One year later, there is mounting evidence that the law has not produced its intended outcomes; moreover, the unintended consequences are severe and widespread. This article documents the challenges associated with the GDPR, including the various ways in which the law has impacted businesses, digital innovation, the labor market, and consumers.  (ITIF Publications – What the Evidence Shows About the Impact of the GDPR After One Year, June 17, 2019)

Internet Association

  • Statement on the Information Transparency and Personal Data Control Act: Internet Association Senior Vice President, Global Government Affairs Michael Bloom issued the following statement on the Information Transparency And Personal Data Control Act: “The internet industry appreciates Congresswoman DelBene for addressing the critical issue of data privacy and furthering the discussion around an economy-wide, risk-based approach that balances consumer protections and industry innovation…” (Internet Association Statements – Statement On The Information Transparency And Personal Data Control Act, June 18, 2019).

Microsoft on the Issues

  • Blog on Microsoft 365 for Campaigns: This week, Microsoft announced the availability of Microsoft 365 for Campaigns, a powerful new tool from our Defending Democracy Program designed to bring the advanced security capabilities of our Microsoft 365 Business offering to all federal political campaigns and national party committees in the United States. (Microsoft on the Issues – Microsoft 365 for Campaigns now available, June 19, 2019).

New America

  • Press release on the FCC holding wireless carriers accountable: New America’s Open Technology Institute filed a complaint at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the sale and disclosure of customer location information by all four major U.S. wireless carriers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. As the complaint explains, the carriers’ practice of divulging private personal data—without customers’ consent or court orders permitting such disclosures—violates several duties these carriers have under the Communications Act and the FCC’s rules. (OTI Press Releases – Privacy Advocates Call on FCC to Hold Wireless Carriers Accountable for Selling Customer Location Information to Third Parties Without Consent, June 20, 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.