Executive Briefing June 7, 2019

Launched in 2018, the Cybersecurity Tech Accord recently reached out to Voices for Innovation to bring new companies aboard. We’re proud to say that numerous VFI leaders enlisted their companies to join this initiative. The Cybersecurity Tech Accord promotes a safer online world by fostering collaboration among global technology companies committed to protecting their customers and users and helping them defend against malicious threats. You can read more about this collaboration on VFI’s blog.


The Hill GOP senator asks Apple to offer ‘Do Not Track’ option for customers
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Monday morning sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to institute a “Do Not Track” option for Apple customers, which would allow users to opt out of any online tracking on the App Store beyond what is “indispensable” for the programs to run.  Hawley’s letter comes the day after Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, in which the tech giant introduced a parade of new products and features, including some aimed at increasing Apple customers’ privacy.

The Wall Street Journal Lawmakers Set Their Sights on Facial Recognition (Paywall)
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency uses facial-recognition software at airports to identify impostors. Stadiums and arenas use it to enhance security. Law-enforcement agencies deploy it to spot suspects. But as the technology has become more widespread—from catching shoplifters at malls to presenting consumers with targeted ads—critics are questioning whether it threatens privacy and whether it is accurate enough to be reliable.

The Hill FBI database stokes worries over facial recognition tech
Lawmakers are intensifying their calls for a temporary ban on the federal government’s use of facial recognition technology after the disclosure that the FBI has amassed a database of more than 640 million photographs. The revelation, made by a representative of the government’s top watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Tuesday, stunned lawmakers.

Politico Software vendor may have opened a gap for hackers in 2016 swing state
A Florida election software company targeted by Russians in 2016 inadvertently opened a potential pathway for hackers to tamper with voter records in North Carolina on the eve of the presidential election, according to a document reviewed by POLITICO and a person with knowledge of the episode. VR Systems, based in Tallahassee but with customers in eight states, used what’s known as remote-access software to connect for several hours to a central computer in Durham County, N.C., to troubleshoot problems with the company’s voter list management tool, the person said. But election security experts widely condemn remote connections to election-related computer systems — not only because they can open a door for intruders but because they can also give attackers access to an entire network, depending on how they’re configured.


City & State New York What we know about rural broadband access
Broadband access across the country is improving, the digital divide between urban and rural America has narrowed substantially and the number of residents lacking high-speed internet access is falling. That’s according to a new report from the Federal Communications Commission, but some officials and lawmakers – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer – are skeptical of the FCC’s claims. At a press conference on Sunday, Schumer criticized the agency after the release of its 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, calling for more scrutiny of the data. He and other critics think the rosy picture it paints doesn’t accurately reflect the situation on the ground.

The Meadville Tribune Center Rural broadband access worse than believed in Pennsylvania
Poor broadband coverage in rural Pennsylvania, long a recognized problem, is worse than previously believed. A report released Monday by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania says there wasn’t a single county in the state where more than half of the people had fast-enough internet to meet federal standards for broadband. The research, which included speed tests completed by computer-users across the state, found that speeds were slower in rural areas.

WIRED New York’s Privacy Bill Is Even Bolder Than California’s
As tech giants and lobbying groups race to defang California’s landmark consumer privacy law before it takes effect next year, lawmakers on the other side of the country are considering a bill that’s even more drastic. The New York Privacy Act, introduced last month by state senator Kevin Thomas, would give residents there more control over their data than in any other state. It would also require businesses to put their customers’ privacy before their own profits. The bill is still seeking a cosponsor in the state assembly, but Thomas says he is confident that he has majority support in the senate and hopes to pass the bill this summer. The Committee on Consumer Protection, which Thomas chairs, is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday.

TechCrunch Maine lawmakers pass bill to prevent ISPs from selling browsing data without consent
Maine lawmakers have passed a bill that will prevent internet providers from selling consumers’ private internet data to advertisers. The state’s senate unanimously passed the bill 35-0 on Thursday following an earlier vote by state representatives 96-45 in favor of the bill. The bill, if signed into law by state governor Janet Mills, will force the national and smaller regional internet providers operating in the state to first obtain permission from residents before their data can be sold or passed on to advertisers or other third parties.

Bloomberg Facebook Must Proceed With Privacy Breach Suit, Judge Rules
Facebook Inc. must defend itself in a District of Columbia lawsuit accusing the social network of failing to safeguard users’ personal data and allowing a U.K. political consulting firm to mine the information for the benefit of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The decision on Friday by D.C. Superior Court Judge Fern Saddler adds to the pressure on the company to change how it handles subscribers’ personal information. Facebook has said it may cost as much as $5 billion to resolve a Federal Trade Commission probe of its privacy practices. The Menlo Park, California-based company also faces a consumer class action over those practices and investigations in several states.

Reuters Google faces privacy complaints in European countries
Google’s privacy woes are set to increase after campaigners on Tuesday filed complaints to data protection regulators in France, Germany and seven other EU countries over the way it deals with data in online advertising. The criticism mirrored a complaint filed by privacy-focused web browser Brave in Ireland and Britain which triggered an investigation by the Irish watchdog last month. At issue is real-time bidding, a server-to-server buying process which uses automated software to match millions of ad requests each second from online publishers with real-time bids from advertisers.

The Guardian New tool helps travelers avoid airlines that use facial recognition technology
A new tool launched by privacy activists offers to help travelers avoid increasingly invasive facial recognition technologies in airports. Activist groups Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and Credo on Wednesday unveiled a new website called AirlinePrivacy.com, which shows users what airlines use facial recognition to verify the identity of passengers before boarding. The site also helps customers to directly book flights with airlines that don’t use facial recognition technologies.

CBS Facial recognition technology ramps up, but lacks “checks and balances”
For the first time in the United States, some schools could start using facial recognition for security. It’s one of the many areas of society now relying on the technology — and that’s raising new privacy and civil rights concerns. Some computer science experts are concerned about how companies might use the technology. “In the U.S., it’s largely unregulated,” said Steven Bellovin, a professor at Columbia University.



  • Blog on big tech regulation: While Europe has become the de facto regulator of American tech companies, U.S. enforcers may be ready to join their peers across the Atlantic. Following negotiations between the federal agencies charged with antitrust enforcement, reports this week reveal the Department of Justice may soon investigate Apple and Google while the Federal Trade Commission may open a probe into Amazon and Facebook. (TechTank – After years of lagging behind the international community, will the US begin to rein in ‘big tech’?, June 6, 2019)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on GDPR and trust: According to recently released survey data, European trust in the Internet is at its lowest in a decade. As Daniel Castro and Eline Chivot write for European Views, these results show that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—which the EU has touted as the gold standard for data protection rules—has had no impact on consumer trust in the digital economy since it came into force last May. (ITIF Publications – The GDPR Was Supposed to Boost Consumer Trust. Has It Succeeded?, June 6, 2019)

Microsoft Partner Network

  • Blog on AI Resources for Microsoft Partners: In our continued effort to provide relevant resources that help bring AI services into your practice portfolios, we want to highlight “The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing,” a book focused on AI in the manufacturing sector. The AI Opportunity is too big to not stay abreast of the innovation and debate (or better yet, add your voice). Doing so can only help position you as a thought leader in your market. (Microsoft Partner Network – A Resource to Help Foster Responsible Innovation with AI in Manufacturing, May 23, 2019)

New America

  • Press release on broadband and privacy: In two comments filed on Friday, May 31, 2019, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) urged the Federal Trade Commission to improve the federal government’s broadband data and consumer privacy protections. (OTI Press Release – OTI Urges FTC to Strengthen Broadband Data, Consumer Privacy, June 3, 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.