Executive Briefing March 1, 2019


Bloomberg Law Hill Hearings to Explore Path to Federal Privacy Law
House and Senate lawmakers are set to ramp up efforts to develop a broad federal data privacy law with a pair of hearings. Tech companies, retailers and privacy advocates are pushing Congress to enact a sweeping law following a series of high-profile data scandals involving Facebook Inc., Equifax Inc. and other companies. The main issue facing lawmakers is whether to craft a law that pre-empts state privacy laws and give more authority to the Federal Trade Commission to police companies.

Axios State rules prove sticky in privacy debate
Federal preemption of state laws will be the sticking point to watch as the debate over national privacy rules proceeds in Congress, lawmakers made clear this week. State lawmakers aren’t waiting for the feds to get their act together. There are many privacy bills floating around statehouses nationwide — and next year California will implement a sweeping law it has already passed.

Washington Post Democrats vow Congress will ‘assert itself’ against tech — starting with Silicon Valley’s privacy practices (paywall)
Congressional Democrats embarked Tuesday on a wide-ranging campaign to probe Facebook, Google and their peers in the tech industry, a new burst of oversight that could bring heightened attention to some of Silicon Valley’s controversial business practices. At the first major tech policy hearing since Democrats took control of the House, party lawmakers charged that long-standing inaction on Capitol Hill had left consumers unprotected in the digital age. They pledged to grill tech companies, shine a harsher light on their missteps and write tough federal laws, including new rules to protect web users’ online privacy.

Business Insider The Senate Commerce Committee is demanding answers from Google CEO Sundar Pichai over the company’s failure to disclose a microphone inside Nest home security devices
After last week’s privacy blunder involving Google’s Nest home security system, US lawmakers want answers. On Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker (MS) sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding information regarding the tech giant’s failure to disclose a microphone in its Nest Secure devices to consumers.


CPO Magazine Proposed Data Privacy Act for Washington State Could Be a Game-Changer
Inspired by the example of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Washington State is now considering a comprehensive data privacy act that would protect the personal information of its citizens. If the new Washington Privacy Act (SB 5376) passes the state legislature this year, it would make Washington only the second state in America to adopt a comprehensive data privacy law.

Tech Crunch California to close data breach notification loopholes under new law
California, which has some of the strongest data breach notification laws in the U.S., thinks it can do even better. The golden state’s attorney general Xavier Becerra announced a new bill Thursday that aims to close loopholes in its existing data breach notification laws by expanding the requirements for companies to notify users or customers if their passport and government ID numbers, along with biometric data, such as fingerprints, and iris and facial recognition scans, have been stolen.

The Guardian Are you being scanned? How facial recognition technology follows you, even as you shop
Retail companies are increasingly turning to facial detection and facial recognition software to attract and engage a distracted audience. But there are major concerns about how to protect the privacy of those whose data is collected. Microsoft has acknowledged the concerns about facial recognition technology and called for greater government regulation of the use of this technology. In a December 2018 Microsoft blogpost, Smith identified three main problems governments needed to address, namely the risk of bias and discrimination, new intrusions into privacy, and the potential for mass surveillance to “encroach on democratic freedoms”.

Bloomberg Microsoft Unveils Azure Sentinel Cloud Security Program
Microsoft Corp. unveiled two new cloud security services to help customers find and stop threats and manage their cyberdefenses by tapping experts from the software giant. Azure Sentinel, available for customer preview Thursday, is what’s called a Security Information and Event management tool. Microsoft said it’s the first of its type based in the cloud. The product uses artificial intelligence to comb through data to find threats and lets customers rent computing power from the company rather than buy more of their own servers to crunch information.

PC Magazine Microsoft Bolsters Cloud Security With More AI Threat Detection
The two new services, Azure Sentinel and Microsoft Threat Experts, are part of Microsoft’s broader strategy for defending enterprises from an evolving threat landscape and cyber warfare techniques. Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Communications, talked about last year’s Cybersecurity Tech Accord, and the tech giant’s work to defend organizations and governments against cyber criminals and nation-state attacks.

Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Your phone could soon recognize you based on how you move or walk
Within 18 months, your phone may be able to identify you based on the gait of your walk, the tension in your hand or the way your thumb moves across the touch screen.  That’s the Pentagon’s plan: It’s in the final phase of testing technology that will reduce smartphone users’ reliance on difficult-to-remember passwords or an endless stream of text message verification codes.

Axios Google AI is now in clinical use in India
Google — along with its health care-focused sister company, Verily — has taken an artificial intelligence tool out of the lab and into real doctors’ offices. So far, AI tools in the health care world have mostly been useful for things like quickly reading and synthesizing a lot of medical literature — a few steps removed from clinical practice. Using a system like this for actual treatment is a big jump.

The Virginian-Pilot Shelley McKinley: Rural broadband key to Virginia’s future
An estimated 660,000 Virginians still lack access to high-speed internet. Microsoft data suggests the problem is larger, with more than 3 million people not at broadband speeds in Virginia. Broadband is critical infrastructure in the 21st century, and much like a town without access to electricity or roads, communities without access to the internet are at a sharp disadvantage. The recently released Commonwealth Connect Report outlines the kind of actions needed to deliver universal broadband coverage to Virginia within the decade. The cornerstone of the plan is significantly increased funding for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, a grant program to incentivize rural broadband development.

WKMS Rural Broadband Funding Could Connect More Ohio Valley Communities To High-Speed Internet
Gilbert, a southern West Virginia town of under 500 people, has struggled for years without reliable internet. That hampers Gilbert’s tourism, businesses and schools, and funding for actually building broadband infrastructure is still hard to find. That might change with new funding for a USDA Rural Development pilot program called ReConnect. The program, started in 2018, allows companies, nonprofits, and communities in underserved regions to apply for loans and grants to fund broadband projects. The recent federal budget deal signed by President Trump on February 15 added $550 million more to the program, for a total of over $1 billion available.

KETR Report Pushes for Increased Investment in Rural Texas Broadband
A new report by Austin-based think tank Glasshouse Policy recommends a set of solutions to bring broadband access to rural and otherwise underserved areas of Texas. The report’s authors say that as internet access becomes more and more integral to everyday life, rural communities could be left behind without access to high-speed internet service. According to Glasshouse Policy, 14.6 million Texans do not have access to the internet at broadband speeds.



  • Blog on AI and the workforce: Last month, we released research that suggests the next phases of workplace automation should be manageable for most workers, with only a quarter of the American workforce facing “high” exposure to automation technologies in the coming decades. But that doesn’t mean the problem is insignificant. A quarter of the U.S. workforce consists of some 36 million people who will be highly exposed to automation and could suffer displacement as a result. (The Avenue – Automation and AI will disrupt the American labor force. Here’s how we can protect workers, Feb. 25, 2019)
  • Blog on international AI: Accelerating trends in artificial intelligence (AI) point to significant geopolitical disruption in the years ahead. Much as the Industrial Revolution enabled the rise of the United States and other advanced economies, so AI and machine learning are poised to reshape the global order. Forecasts suggest that AI will add a massive $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. (TechTank – Who will lead in the age of artificial intelligence?, Feb. 26, 2019)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on the US’s AI leadership: Many have called on Washington to develop a national strategy for artificial intelligence (AI). On Feb. 11, the Trump administration showed that it was listening. President Trump issued an executive order to establish the “American AI Initiative,” which seeks to improve AI R&D, workforce development, and international engagement. In an op-ed for The Hill, Daniel Castro and Joshua New write that, while the American AI Initiative is a welcome step towards boosting U.S. competitiveness in AI, it does not go far enough. (ITIF Publications – The US is Finally Moving Towards an AI Strategy, Feb. 25, 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.