Executive Briefing May 31, 2019

One year ago, the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) went into effect. In a new blog, IAMCP Advocacy Chair and ATF leader Ryan Risley writes about the need for technology professionals to be part of the discussion around state and federal data privacy regulations in the US. Getting involved with Voices for Innovation is a great way to make your voice heard on this issue. Read more here.

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


AgriPulse Rural broadband deployment report receives mixed reviews
Some 4.3 million rural residents gained access to fixed broadband in 2017, but 21.3 million Americans still lack the service according to a new Federal Communications Commission report. The number of Americans lacking access to a fixed broadband connection of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps dropped more than 18% in 2017 according to the 2019 Broadband Deployment Report released Wednesday. “We’ve been tackling this problem by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and promoting competition,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Gizmodo FCC Cuts Bogus Data From Yearly Broadband Report, Acts Like Nothing Happened
On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission released its annual Broadband Deployment Report declaring that the digital divide—the gulf between Americans who have high-speed internet access and those who don’t—has “significantly narrowed.” This is thanks, it says, to the deregulatory efforts of the agency’s leadership. And that’s precisely what a version of the report said months ago, prior to its release, when it still contained heaps of critically inaccurate data that had somehow gone unaddressed for more than a year. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel highlighted an industry report, published by Microsoft last year, which came to a remarkably different conclusion. According to the company’s figures, as many as 162 million Americans are currently accessing the internet at speeds below 25 Mbps, the commission’s current benchmark.

The Verge Republicans and Democrats are learning how to work together on tech regulation
Last spring, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat before Congress to atone for the company’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, and in the following months, momentum has built in the halls of the Capitol to regulate these giant tech companies, or even break them up. “These days are over with,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said at a House Oversight hearing yesterday where representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google testified on social media and election security. “You better come up with a plan for this chairman on how you’re going to fix it, how you’re going to stop Russians, how you’re going to make sure that we’re fair with all of this because I can tell you, it’s a real problem.”

The Hill Sen. Coons examines Amazon’s privacy and data security practices for Alexa devices
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) is looking into Amazon’s privacy and data security practices in regards to its Alexa devices, sending a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday to request information. The letter includes request for information on what type of consumer data Amazon retains and how much control customers have over it. “The increasing popularity of in-home, Internet-connected devices and voice-activated technologies raises questions about the types of data they collect, store, and share, as well as the degree to which consumers control their personal information,” Coons wrote in the letter to Bezos.

Wall Street Journal Facebook Privacy Settlement Delayed by FTC Split
A long-awaited multibillion-dollar settlement between Facebook Inc. and federal regulators over privacy missteps has been bogged down by a split between Republicans and Democrats on the Federal Trade Commission, according to people familiar with the matter. Facebook said April 24 that it was expecting to pay up to $5 billion in an accord with the FTC. At the time, people closely following the talks said a settlement was expected within days.


Reuters Microsoft, Facebook to help tame internet ahead of Canada’s election, official says
Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc have agreed to help boost the security of Canada’s October election by removing fake accounts and cracking down on bots, a top government official said on Monday. Last month the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau complained that the world’s major social media companies were not doing enough to help combat potential foreign meddling in the vote and said Ottawa might have to regulate them. Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould told legislators that the two companies had made commitments in a voluntary declaration on electoral integrity.

The Hill Data privacy: Consumers want it, businesses need it — it’s time our government delivers it
When the European Union’s Global Data Protection Regulation went into effect one year ago, it was a huge step forward for privacy rights in Europe and around the world. The GDPR provides a framework for protecting consumers and organizations from breaches of their personal data. Unfortunately, the U.S. has not yet moved to provide similar protections to citizens and consumers. Here in the U.S., consumers are even more interested than their counterparts in Europe in exercising control over their data. While a U.S. law should not copy GDPR, the consumer controls in the regulation from across the pond should inspire U.S. policymakers to provide similar empowerment tools to American consumers.

Yellow Hammer Alabama House votes to slash rural broadband funding by nearly 3/4
Improved rural broadband funding is in serious jeopardy after the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to slash a proposed rural broadband grant program appropriation by 73% — an amount that equals a whopping $22 million decrease. The House-passed education budget hacked away at the broadband funding by almost three-fourths, dragging the total down from $30 million to only $8 million. The reduction in funding for rural broadband comes at the same time the legislature is set to enact an innovative economic incentives package aimed at bringing well-paying, high-tech jobs to Alabama’s rural communities.

BuzzFeed News The First Public Schools In The US Will Start Using Facial Recognition Next Week
Next week, a school district in western New York will become the first in the United States to pilot a facial recognition system on its students and faculty. On Monday, June 3, the Lockport City School District will light up its Aegis system as part of a pilot project that will make it broadly operational by Sept. 1, 2019. The district has eight schools. Superintendent Michelle Bradley announced the move on Tuesday, as first reported by The Lockport Union-Sun and Journal. Bradley described the test as an “initial implementation phase” meant to troubleshoot the system, train district officials on its use, and discuss proper procedures with local law enforcement in the event of an alert triggered by the facial recognition tech.

BuzzFeed News Facial Recognition Technology Is Facing A Huge Backlash In The US. But Some Of The World’s Biggest Tech Companies Are Trying To Sell It In The Gulf.
As a backlash against facial recognition technology grows in the US, a host of Chinese and American firms are competing to supply Dubai’s police force with biometric surveillance and artificial intelligence products. But even as the technology comes under more scrutiny in the United States, tech giants such as IBM, and China’s Hikvision and Huawei, are marketing biometric surveillance systems in the UAE, where citizens have fewer options to push back.

Reuters Amazon facial recognition ban won just 2% of shareholder vote
Amazon.com Inc shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that the company stop selling facial recognition technology to government agencies, while a resolution to audit the service drew more support, a regulatory filing on Friday showed. Some 2.4% of votes were in favor of the ban. A second proposal that called for a study of the extent to which Amazon’s “Rekognition” service harmed civil rights and privacy garnered 27.5% support.

Fortune Eye on A.I.— Why Standards Are Critical to Improving Artificial Intelligence
Improving artificial intelligence to help prevent heart attacks doesn’t just depend on innovation. It also hinges on creating standards, the wonky underpinnings of the technology agreed to by companies and government agencies. For example, the Consumer Technology Association, which hosts the annual CES tech show in Las Vegas, recently created an A.I. working group made up of gadget makers and healthcare organizations. The goal is to establish best practices for how health-related devices collect, process, and exchange people’s personal data.

Forbes AI Could Be Better For The Workplace Than We Think, But We Still Need To Be Careful
Not so long ago, there was a widely-held view that the workplace as we know it was about to face fundamental change, with a whole range of jobs currently filled by people with varying levels of qualifications being replaced by machines. In recent months, however, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, the technologies that enable this latest form of automation, have attracted rather more positive opinions. A new report suggests that, rather than “an inevitable march of the robots” leaving poor quality jobs and mass unemployment, the new technologies could create “a positive human future and social gains through higher skilled jobs, flexible ways of working and creating environments where people’s ingenuity can flourish.”



  • Blog on international tech regulation: While Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom among others have passed new laws regulating online privacy and harmful content, commissioned reports on disinformation and journalism in the digital age, and levied steep fines against tech firms, the United States remains notably absent from this international movement. Not one of the 130 U.S. lawmakers asked to participate in today’s grand committee meeting accepted the invitation. (TechTank Blog – The US falls behind international efforts to rein in technology platforms, May 28, 2019)

International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners

  • Blog on privacy compliance: As state and federal lawmakers weigh regulatory action, it will be critical for technology professionals, enterprise customers, and consumers to be part of the discussion. Our shared goal should be sensible policies that protect consumers, treat businesses fairly, and enable ongoing data innovation. On the other hand, an unwieldy patchwork of rules could drive up costs and undermine the growing benefits of data analysis. (IAMCP Blog – GDPR Kicks Off a New Era of Privacy Compliance, May 28, 2019)


  • Blog announcing Microsoft’s new AI and manufacturing book: Microsoft is releasing The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing. This new book provides an in-depth look at how artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the manufacturing sector by optimizing digital operations and driving efficiencies, enabling new products and services, and allowing for safer work environments. The book also offers a timely look at how society can respond to some of the challenges AI creates, and the need to develop new laws and regulations to address workforce disruption and develop AI in an ethical and responsible manner. (Microsoft – The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing, May 22, 2019)

New America

  • Report on the impact of automation on jobs: Of the thousands of jobs held by Elkhart-Goshen workers today, which could be performed by existing technology? Which occupations and skills are at greatest risk of automation, and who holds those jobs today? To answer these questions, we combined and analyzed Burning Glass data on the likelihood of a computer being able to do a job using existing technology, as well as Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on occupations in Elkhart-Goshen and the nation. (Work, Workers, and Technology Reports – Automation Potential for Jobs in Elkhart-Goshen, May 30, 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.