Executive Briefing June 28, 2019

Next week, there will be no Executive Briefing as we all celebrate Independence Day on Thursday and Friday. The Executive Briefing will return the following week. We hope you all have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

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


Axios High-profile attempt to write a national privacy law snags
Concerns about how a possible bipartisan privacy bill in the Senate is being negotiated have complicated talks in recent days, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The talks between six members of the Senate Commerce Committee are seen as one of the more serious efforts to create a national privacy law that can address consumer concerns about data collection by companies like Google and Facebook.

Axios Scoop: Bipartisan senators want Big Tech to put a price on your data
Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) will introduce legislation on Monday to require Facebook, Google, Amazon and other major platforms to disclose the value of their users’ data, as first reported Sunday evening on “Axios on HBO.” Our personal data is arguably our most valuable asset in the digital age, but internet users don’t have any way of knowing how much their data is actually worth. The point of the bill is to help consumers understand what they may be giving up when they click on “I agree” and hold tech companies to a higher level of transparency.

The Hill Senate investigation finds multiple federal agencies left sensitive data vulnerable to cyberattacks for past decade
Several federal agencies failed to update system vulnerabilities over the course of the last two administrations and left Americans’ personal information open and vulnerable to theft, a report released Tuesday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found. The report, spearheaded by subcommittee Chairman Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and put together after a 10-month investigation, reviewed data compiled over the last decade by the Inspector General (IG) on federal information security standards for eight agencies.

Bloomberg Gov Customs to Defend Face Recognition After 100,000 Photos Exposed
A senior Customs and Border Patrol official will defend the agency’s use of facial recognition technology to lawmakers looking into a data breach earlier this year that left pictures of about 100,000 travelers’ faces exposed to hackers. John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said he’ll lay out next month the agency’s authority to check the biometric information of U.S. citizens and try to clear up what he called misinformation about the breach, which didn’t involve its facial recognition systems.


CNN Big Tech must be regulated now, Bill Gates says
Bill Gates says the US government must step up its regulation of big tech companies, whose influence in culture, business and all areas of life is becoming more pervasive.  “Technology has become so central that governments have to think: What does that mean about elections? What does that mean about bullying? What does it mean about wiretapping authorities that let you find out what’s going on financially or drug money laundering, things like that,” the Microsoft (MSFT) founder said at the Economic Club of Washington, DC, on Monday. “So, yes, the government needs to get involved.”

Forbes The Future Of Food Needs To Focus On Bringing Broadband To Rural Communities, Says Beth Ford
“Thirty percent of farmers don’t have access to broadband,” says Beth Ford, CEO of dairy co-op Land O’Lakes. “They are taking their children to McDonald’s to sit in the parking lot to get broadband access so they can do their homework.” With the focus on the future of agriculture, it’s critical to include farmers in the conversation, Ford said in a keynote conversation at the Forbes 2019 AgTech Summit in Salinas, California.

Politico AI experts call to curb mass surveillance
Europe needs rules to make sure artificial intelligence won’t be used to build up a China-style high-tech surveillance state, the European Union’s top AI experts warn. An expert panel is set to present to the bloc’s leaders a list of 33 recommendations on how to move forward on AI governance Wednesday, including a stark warning against the use of AI to control and monitor citizens. In a 48-page final draft of the document, obtained by POLITICO, the experts urge policymakers to define “red lines” for high-risk AI applications — such as systems to mass monitor individuals or rank them according to their behavior — and discuss outlawing some controversial technology.

CIO As AI/ML permeates our lives, is privacy a thing of the past?
Debates on privacy continue between the business tech titans and the policy/lawmakers. Some tech titans, like billionaire Elon Musk, warn against the ensuing crisis of AI/ML – but they are in the minority. Too much good can be created and above all too much money can be made. There is a belief that the country that achieves more in AI/ML will dominate the world’s economy. So, it’s not a question of if but when freedom and privacy may be sacrificed on the road to “bigger, better and faster.”

Bloomberg Facebook Must Face Lawsuit Over 29 Million-User Data Breach
Facebook Inc. failed to fend off a lawsuit over a data breach that affected nearly 30 million users, one of several privacy snafus that have put the company under siege. The company’s disclosure in September that hackers exploited several software bugs to obtain login access to accounts was tagged as Facebook’s worst security breach ever. An initial estimate that as many as 50 million accounts were affected was scaled back weeks later.

Reuters Alphabet commits to data privacy in Toronto smart city master plan
A high-tech smart city project proposed along Toronto’s waterfront by Alphabet Inc unit Sidewalk Labs has pledged not to sell advertisers the personal data collected to serve residents and visitors, as part of a 1,500-page master plan released on Monday. The proposal in Canada’s biggest city is designed to provide affordable housing, alleviate traffic and fight climate change and inequality. But privacy advocates have expressed concerns.

Fox 2 Detroit Facial recognition software on city of Detroit cameras up for vote
Detroit police is proposing more cameras to use new facial recognition software to aid with investigations for major crime like rape and murder. Traffic lights are one of the places that Detroit police hope install cameras equipped with facial recognition software. DPD says it can help solve crime – and even prevent it. But, as the program comes up for a vote this from the Board of Police Commissioners, some Detroiters are not willing to sacrifice their privacy. “There is no place that I can go in the city and there not be cameras,” said Tyrone Allen, who lives in Palmer Park.


The App Association

  • Blog on FTC’s new cybersecurity guidance for small businesses: The App Association is pleased to support the FTC’s release of a new resource, Cybersecurity for Small Business. Notably, the development of this publication was a combined effort of the FTC, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and NIST to assist small businesses to gain additional insight into cybersecurity. The materials provided help small businesses learn more and incorporate strategies into their business’s routine and is written in plain language to help those who are not familiar with cybersecurity. (Act Online – FTC Releases New Guidance Document on Cybersecurity for Small Business, June 26, 2019)


  • Blog on data privacy and data ownership: Treating our data as our property has understandable appeal. The trouble is, it’s not your data; it’s not their data either.  Treating data like it is property fails to recognize either the value that varieties of personal information serve or the abiding interest that individuals have in their personal information even if they choose to “sell” it. Data is not a commodity. It is information. (TechTank – Why data ownership is the wrong approach to protecting privacy, June 26, 2019)

Microsoft on the Issues

  • Blog on AI and greenhouse gas emissions: The application of AI technologies in four areas – agriculture, water, energy and transport – have the potential to increase global GDP by up to $5.2 trillion by 2030, according to a new report from Microsoft and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. That is an increase of 4.4% in global GDP over the next 11 years, relative to business as usual. At the same time, these technologies could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 4%. That is equivalent to the predicted 2030 annual emissions of Australia, Canada and Japan combined. (Microsoft on the Issues – How AI could boost GDP and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, June 27, 2019)
  • Blog on TV white spaces: As technology advances, it is important not to leave anyone behind. Fast, reliable internet access is now one of life’s necessities, critical to accessing telehealth solutions, pursuing an online education, using precision agriculture, or operating a small business. And while the FCC’s most recent report found that more than 21 million Americans lack broadband access, Microsoft’s data suggest that more than 162 million are not using the internet at broadband speeds. (Microsoft on the Issues – How TV white space is helping bridge the digital divide, June 26, 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.