Executive Briefing March 29, 2019

THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON

Broadcasting + Cable NAB Considers Microsoft White Spaces Proposals for Rural’s Sake
The FCC last week wrapped up some changes and resolved some petitions to reconsider the framework for opening up more broadcast and broadcast-adjacent “white spaces” spectrum for unlicensed wireless devices, but some issues remain that go beyond that proceeding. In a letter to the FCC, NAB said after discussions with the computer giant, it agrees the FCC should at least seek comment on some of Microsoft’s suggestions for boosting operations in rural areas while protecting licensed operations and asked the FCC to launch a new rulemaking to do that.

Bloomberg State Pre-emption Debate May Slow Senate Privacy Bill Rollout
A split between Senate lawmakers on the question of pre-empting state privacy laws may delay the unveiling of a broad federal measure to govern companies’ data handling practices. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a raft of other companies and groups are urging Congress to pass a law shielding them from California’s tough privacy statute. A quartet of senators, including Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), are working on legislation that Moran told reporters March 26 may be ready “in the next several days or week.”

Reuters FDA says cybersecurity vulnerabilities found in some Medtronic devices
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday said cybersecurity vulnerabilities were identified in Medtronic Plc’s implantable cardiac devices, clinic programmers, and home monitors. However, the FDA recommended the usage of the devices and said the medical device maker was developing updates to further mitigate those vulnerabilities. The health regulator added it was not aware of any reports of patients being harmed.

CNBC Democrats gear up for potential 2020 cyberthreats with help from Silicon Valley and security firms
Silicon Valley insiders will likely play a bigger role than ever in ensuring the security of presidential campaigns in 2020, joining established D.C. consulting firms and other bipartisan groups trying to lock down campaign communications and neutralize misinformation. Stamos’ advice indicates presidential contenders from 2020 are largely trying to address what they knew went wrong in 2016. Inside campaigns, that includes fixing insecure email and curbing staffers who have too much access to the most sensitive information.

Morning Consult Majority of Voters Want Congress to Make Tech Regulation a Priority
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other Democratic presidential hopefuls unveil platforms that include new restrictions on big technology companies, the latest Morning Consult/Politico poll finds a majority of voters want Congress to prioritize tech regulation. In a survey conducted March 15-17 among 1,991 registered voters, 52 percent said this issue should be either a “top priority” or an “important, but lower priority” for Congress. That’s a rise of 8 points since this question was asked in a Jan. 18-22 poll.

Bloomberg Trump Finally Names a U.S. CTO
For the first time in two years—and for the first time under President Trump—the U.S. is set to have a chief technology officer. On March 21 the president will nominate Michael Kratsios, a former venture capitalist who now serves as deputy CTO, a White House official tells Bloomberg Businessweek.

The Hill Lawmakers push to increase diversity of tech inventors
House lawmakers pushed for ways to increase diversity among tech innovators during a hearing Wednesday. At the hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, lawmakers and experts highlighted the importance of ensuring equal opportunities for innovation and access to the patent system, particularly for women, minorities and other underrepresented groups.

ARTICLE SUMMARY

The Hill FCC claims on broadband access under scrutiny
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is being scrutinized over its claims that its deregulatory agenda has led to record gains in the private sector’s efforts to expand access to high-speed internet in rural and underserved communities. Internet players, watchdogs and lawmakers are calling for changes to how the agency collects data on broadband access and makes policy.

Toledo Blade Officials: Rural broadband has a way to go in northwest Ohio
While the FCC has made strides improving access to high-speed, reliable broadband in many underserved corners of the country, there’s still work to be done in northwest Ohio. “You go from downtown Toledo where there’s a lot of service, to areas of my district where there’s no service,” said Mr. Latta of Bowling Green, co-chair of the House’s Rural Broadband Caucus.

Fortune The Business of Your Face
Facial recognition software is a powerful technology that poses serious threats to civil liberties. It’s also a booming business. Today, dozens of startups and tech giants are selling face recognition services to hotels, retail stores—even schools and summer camps. The business is flourishing thanks to new algorithms that can identify people with far more precision than even five years ago.

The Information Amazon Aims to Clarify How AI Makes Decisions
Amazon announced it is teaming up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund research to clarify how artificial intelligence software processes data and makes decisions, with each organization pledging up to $10 million over the next three years. The move comes as Amazon’s cloud unit, Amazon Web Services, is facing questions over the accuracy of its facial recognition software, and for reportedly selling it to law enforcement agencies.

CNET Google looks to outside experts to guide work on controversial AI issues
Google has established an external advisory council to provide insights on its artificial intelligence technology, including facial recognition and machine learning, and the ethics behind it. The council, whose members include both researchers and entrepreneurs, will hold four meetings in 2019, resulting in a published report summarizing the conversations.

Security Today District of Columbia Introduces Legislation on Data Privacy
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine has introduced the Security Breach Protection Amendment Act of 2019, which would modernize the District’s data breach law and strengthen protections for residents’ personal information. Racine introduced the bill in response to the major data breaches that have put tens of millions of consumers, and hundreds of thousands of District residents, at risk of identity theft and other types of fraud, according to a press release.

Washington Post Microsoft says it has found Iranian hackers targeting U.S. agencies, companies and Middle East advocates
In the latest of a string of security actions, Microsoft has seized 99 websites it says were used by Iranian hackers to launch cyberattacks against government agencies, businesses and users in Washington, according to a company blog post and court records unsealed Wednesday. Read more from Microsoft on the Issues.

The Statesman Governor Cuomo announces plan to invest in computer science education hoping to close gender gap
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would invest $6 million to allow more participation in computer science education at elementary and middle schools across New York state as a part of the Smart Start Program. “To keep New York at the forefront of innovation, we must level the playing field for young women and provide them with the tools for success.”

Axios LGBT rights group suspends Google from its corporate rankings
Human Rights Campaign suspended Google from this year’s Corporate Equality Index after the company failed to pull a controversial app that the LGBT rights group says equates to conversion therapy. HRC’s annual rankings are often touted by tech companies and have served as a valuable recruiting tool.

THINK TANK/TECH TRADE ASSOCIATION HIGHLIGHTS

American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on digital identities and data privacy: Balancing the privacy of domain name holders and the ability of investigators to access crucial information becomes a serious security and legal challenge. Most of the energy of the ICANN multistakeholder process is currently focused on figuring out how to mask the right amount of data and grant access to legitimate parties while meeting current contractual obligations. This challenge brings to light the reality that it is time to change how domain names are registered. (AEIdeas – Digital identities and privacy: Time to change how domain names are registered?, Mar. 25, 2019)

Microsoft on the Issues

  • Blog on the tech sector in the aftermath of New Zealand shooting: Across Microsoft, we have reviewed how our various services were used by a relatively small number of individuals to try to spread the video from Christchurch. While our employees and technology tools worked quickly to stop this distribution, we have identified improvements we can make and are moving promptly to implement them. This includes the accelerated and broadened implementation of existing technology tools to identify and classify extremist violent content and changes for the process that enables our users to flag such content. (Microsoft on the Issues – A tragedy that calls for more than words: The need for the tech sector to learn and act after events in New Zealand, Mar. 24, 2019)

New America

  • Blog on women in the cybersecurity industry: Women make up less than one-quarter of the cybersecurity workforce, which can lead to less innovation, inferior design, seriously underutilized human potential, and needlessly unfilled jobs in a growing field. In short, this lack of gender diversity means poorer security. Existing efforts to address the issue have begun to create networks among women in the field, but other solutions, particularly those intended to create systemic change in order to help women permeate cybersecurity fields at all levels, have had limited success. (Cybersecurity Initiative – New Ways to Bring Women Into and Up Through Cybersecurity Careers, Mar. 28, 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.