Executive Briefing March 15, 2019


Tech Crunch FCC ‘looking into’ reported error throwing broadband deployment numbers off by millions
It’s the FCC’s official duty to promote connectivity throughout the U.S., and, as part of that, it issues a yearly report on improvements to broadband deployment. The latest report, however, seems to contain an error large enough to throw its numbers completely off what Chairman Ajit Pai has already claimed. His office says that they are “looking into the matter.”

Axios A new bill would require tech platforms to disclose the value of users’ data
Consumer data has long been the core asset of the internet economy, but consumers have never been able to put a tangible price on the data they share. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is drafting a bill that would require web platforms of a certain size, including Facebook and Google, to regularly tell users the value of their data, according to a person with direct knowledge of the proposal.

The Verge New privacy bill would give parents an ‘Eraser Button’ and ban ads targeting children
This week, two senators proposed a major update to one of the only federal privacy laws in the United States. If approved, the changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) would codify a set of parental controls and ban targeted advertising to young minors. Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) plan to introduce the bipartisan measure that would amend COPPA in order to extend privacy protections to children up to age 15.

The Hill Google takes heat over location tracking in privacy debate
A top Google executive faced tough questions from a Senate committee on Tuesday about the company’s data collection practices as lawmakers vow to impose tougher privacy regulations on tech giants. The Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Will DeVries, senior policy counsel at Google, over the company’s user location tracking and data practices.

Fed Scoop Senate’s new AI caucus will work toward ‘responsible policy’
A bipartisan group of senators announced the launch of the Senate Artificial Intelligence (AI) Caucus this week. The caucus, comprised of Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will help members of Congress and their staff connect with outside artificial intelligence experts.  “Congress is home to the substantive conversations necessary to make responsible policy about emerging technology and ensure AI works for, and not against, American citizens and U.S. competitiveness,” Portman said in a statement.

Buzzfeed The US Government Will Be Scanning Your Face At 20 Top Airports, Documents Show
In March 2017, President Trump issued an executive order expediting the deployment of biometric verification of the identities of all travelers crossing US borders. That mandate stipulates facial recognition identification for “100 percent of all international passengers,” including American citizens, in the top 20 US airports by 2021. Now, the United States Department of Homeland Security is rushing to get those systems up and running at airports across the country. But it’s doing so in the absence of proper vetting, regulatory safeguards, and what some privacy advocates argue is in defiance of the law.

Buzzfeed These Senators Want Homeland Security To “Pause” Its Airport Facial Recognition Program
US Customs and Border Protection is rushing to implement its “biometric entry-exit system,” with the goal of using facial recognition technology on “100 percent of all international passengers” in the top 20 US airports by 2021. This week, Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Republican Sen. Mike Lee released a joint statement calling on DHS to “pause” the program. “DHS should pause their efforts until American travelers fully understand exactly who has access to their facial recognition data, how long their data will be held, how their information will be safeguarded, and how they can opt out of the program altogether,” the senators said in a statement.


The National Law Review Somebody’s Watching EU: Washington State Senate Passes Privacy Legislation Similar to European Union’s Data Privacy Regulations
Washington could be the next U.S. state to enact consumer privacy legislation similar to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Last week, the Washington state Senate overwhelmingly approved the Washington Privacy Act, SB 5376 (the “WPA”) which takes its cues from the GDPR playbook to address consumer privacy concerns. Under the WPA, companies must be transparent and accountable for how they process consumer data, which includes providing a clear and meaningful privacy notice that describes the types of data collected, the purposes for collecting such data, and how the data is used, including whether the data is shared with or sold to third parties. 

AgriPulse Opinion: Celebrate Ag Day by closing the broadband gap
In recent years, the agricultural industry has been revolutionized by precision agriculture technologies like remote soil sensors and self-driving tractors that help farmers save time and money while increasing yields. Unfortunately, most of these tools are unavailable for farmers on the wrong side of the rural broadband gap – and those who aren’t using them will continue falling behind. By using TV white spaces technology alongside existing solutions such as fiber and satellite, we can reduce the cost of bridging the rural broadband gap by 80 percent relative to fiber-only solutions, according to a Boston Consulting Group study.

Illinois News Network Acting state ag director seeks funding for broadband in rural areas
Rural Illinois residents could be a step closer to getting access to high-speed internet access, but state leaders still need to come up with the money and a plan to make it happen. Illinois Department of Agriculture Acting Director John Sullivan sees a need for broadband in the rural parts of Illinois and is working to get funding for it. There is a need to implement rural broadband in the state, said to Rick Holzmacher, director of governmental affairs at the Illinois Rural Broadband Association. He said broadband access could drive the economy.

GovTech Why Minnesota’s Broadband Push is Crucial to Rural Residents
City and county leaders are looking at setting up a business center where people lacking broadband — whether Optum employees or not — could get their work done. Such predicaments have Minnesota politicians taking a new look at rural broadband. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has made the issue a major talking point as she begins her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Fortune Facial Recognition Software Could Turn You Into a Ticket to Ride
The Futian subway station in Shenzen, China, which is located in a bustling city of 12.53 million residents, is testing facial recognition payments, according to the South China Morning Post. Every time a commuter looks at a small tablet, it recognizes their face, and deducts their fare from a previously-linked payment method. 

CNN Elizabeth Warren’s new plan: Break up Amazon, Google and Facebook
Sen. Elizabeth Warren released an aggressive plan on Friday to break up tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook, targeting the power of Silicon Valley with her populist message as sprawling Internet giants face mounting political backlash ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The far-reaching proposal would impose new rules on certain kinds of tech companies with $25 billion or more in annual revenue, forcing Amazon and Google to spin off parts of their companies and relinquish their overwhelming control over online commerce.

Politico Facebook backtracks after removing Warren ads calling for Facebook breakup
Facebook removed several ads placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign that called for the breakup of Facebook and other tech giants. But the social network later reversed course after POLITICO reported on the takedown, with the company saying it wanted to allow for “robust debate.” The ads, which had identical images and text, touted Warren’s recently announced plan to unwind “anti-competitive” tech mergers, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram.


American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on the FTC’s tech task force: The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recently announced tech task force could be bad news for consumers, or it could be good news. In my previous blog I examined what the task force should do to stay on the good news path. In this blog I will identify three things that the task force should avoid so as to stay off the bad news path. (AEIdeas – 3 things the Federal Trade Commission’s new tech task force should avoid, Mar. 13, 2019)


  • Blog on governors investing in innovation: Governors are proposing three broad approaches to support digital innovation in their states. These are: building stronger innovation ecosystems, using digital technologies to modernize government operations, expanding access to broadband (The Avenue – Three ways governors are investing in innovation, Mar. 12, 2019)

New America

  • Op-ed on national AI strategy: Artificial intelligence carries enormous promise, both economically and militarily. For already developed economies, including America’s, artificial intelligence could lead to the likes of automated supply chains and increased worker productivity through automating routine business tasks. (Cybersecurity Initiative – Why the U.S. Needs a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, Mar. 14, 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.