Executive Briefing November 2, 2019


Axios Kamala Harris says Big Tech shouldn’t profit from hate
Kamala Harris told “Axios on HBO” about the need to ensure that tech companies don’t profit from hate and aren’t being used to manipulate elections. Why it matters: Many in D.C. have come to support greater regulation of tech companies, but there’s a wide disparity on what the remedies should be, even among the 2020 Democratic candidates. Details: In particular, Harris took the tech companies to task for allowing extreme forms of online bullying like revenge porn, which she said should more properly be termed cyber exploitation.

Reuters Where U.S. presidential candidates stand on breaking up Big Tech
In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, America’s big tech companies are being challenged on many fronts from across the political spectrum, from antitrust concerns to their policies on political ads and ensuring election security. Many of the Democratic presidential candidates have argued in favor of either breaking up or tightening regulation of firms such as Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).


The Washington Post Feds to experiment with allowing police officers to wear body cameras on task forces
The dispute between local police departments and federal law enforcement agencies over body-worn cameras — local police officers wear such cameras, federal agents don’t — moved slightly in the direction of transparency Monday. The Justice Department announced a pilot program to allow police officers serving on federal task forces to wear their body cameras in select cities, though specifics over who would do the testing and who would control the camera footage were not immediately available.

GeekWire Microsoft: ‘We are proud that we are an integral partner’ of DoD after winning $10B JEDI contract
Microsoft finally issued a statement after the Department of Defense announced late Friday that it awarded a $10 billion cloud contract to the Redmond, Wash.-based company. The decision ended a dramatic selection process that involved multiple tech giants including Microsoft rival Amazon, which had been seen as the frontrunner for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract that will migrate the Pentagon’s computing infrastructure and data to the cloud.

Wired Congress Still Doesn’t Have an Answer for Ransomware
Ransomware has steadily become one of the most pervasive cyberattacks in the world. And while high-profile global meltdowns like 2017’s NotPetya strain garner the most attention, localized attacks have devastating consequences as well. Look no further than the cities of Atlanta and Baltimore, whose online operations ground to a halt after ransomware takeovers. Or more recently, Alabama’s DCH Health Systems, which had to turn away all but the most critical patients from its three hospitals after hackers seized control of their networks.

The Hill Ohio governor signs into law measure to increase cybersecurity of elections
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Friday signed into law legislation that will increase cyber protections for election systems and enhance the overall cybersecurity posture of the state. The legislation, which had bipartisan support, requires post-election audits by county boards of elections to ensure the accuracy of the vote count, while also creating a “civilian cyber security reserve” that can be called into duty to protect state and local government entities against cyberattacks, including those involving elections and those against critical infrastructure.

Politico ‘Filter Bubble’ bill would let users browse platforms free of algorithms [Paywall]
A bipartisan Senate bill unveiled today would require large internet companies to allow users to experience their platforms free of “secret algorithms” that shape what content they view online. The Filter Bubble Transparency Act would make companies notify consumers if they use algorithms to decide how information is delivered and to offer an alternative, unsorted version of their platforms. Social networks like Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, sort posts by what their algorithms conclude users may want to see based on their interests and viewing history. (Twitter lets users switch between that option and an unfiltered timeline.)


The Hill Advocates warn kids’ privacy at risk in GOP gun violence bill
A long-awaited GOP proposal to combat mass shootings has been receiving pushback from education groups and children’s privacy advocates over language they say could result in the “over-surveillance” of minors. After months of deliberations, including meetings with victims and law enforcement officials in communities wracked by deadly shootings, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a Republican-backed “bill to help prevent mass shootings” on Wednesday.

The Verge Facebook trained AI to fool facial recognition systems, and it works on live video
Facebook remains embroiled in a multibillion-dollar judgement lawsuit over its facial recognition practices, but that hasn’t stopped its artificial intelligence research division from developing technology to combat the very misdeeds of which the company is accused. According to VentureBeat, Facebook AI Research (FAIR) has developed a state-of-the-art “de-identification” system that works on video, including even live video. It works by altering key facial features of a video subject in real time using machine learning, to trick a facial recognition system into improperly identifying the subject.

The New York Times: WhatsApp Says Israeli Firm Used Its App in Spy Program
WhatsApp sued the Israeli cybersurveillance firm NSO Group in federal court on Tuesday, claiming the company’s spy technology was used on the popular messaging service in a wide-ranging campaign targeting journalists and human-rights activists. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, claimed in the lawsuit that an NSO Group program that was intended to piggyback on WhatsApp was used to spy on more than 1,400 people in 20 countries.

WAMC Public Radio Rep. Delgado Urges More Action On Rural Broadband
One of New York Congressman Antonio Delgado’s major areas of focus is improving rural broadband. He recently hosted a field hearing on the subject with the FCC commissioner, and has introduced various pieces of legislation. Congressman Delgado, a Democrat from the 19th House district, convened a Congressional Field Hearing with Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks early in October called “Closing the Digital Divide: Connecting Rural Americans to Reliable Internet Service.” It was not lost on him that there was no service in the auditorium at Columbia-Greene Community College.

The Associated Press Apple resumes human reviews of Siri audio with iPhone update
Apple is resuming the use of humans to review Siri commands and dictation with the latest iPhone software update. In August, Apple suspended the practice and apologized for the way it used people, rather than just machines, to review the audio. While common in the tech industry, the practice undermined Apple’s attempts to position itself as a trusted steward of privacy. CEO Tim Cook repeatedly has declared the company’s belief that “privacy is a fundamental human right,” a phrase that cropped up again in Apple’s apology.

The Washington Post School apps track students from the classroom to bathroom, and parents are struggling to keep up [Paywall]
When Christian Chase wants to take a bathroom break at his high school, he can’t just raise his hand. Instead, the 17-year-old senior makes a special request on his school-issued Chromebook computer. A teacher approves it pending any red flags in the system, such as another student he should avoid out in the hall at the same time, then logs him back in on his return. If he were out of class for more than a set amount of time, the application would summon an administrator to check on him.

Bloomberg Facebook to Pay Symbolic Fine in Cambridge Analytica Settlement [Paywall]
Facebook Inc. agreed to pay a fine of 500,000 pounds ($644,000) to end a U.K. privacy probe in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The social network giant has withdrawn its appeal of the fine levied last year, settling the case without any admission of guilt, the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are pleased to hear that Facebook has taken, and will continue to take, significant steps to comply with the fundamental principles of data protection,” James Dipple-Johnstone, deputy commissioner at the ICO said.

Telecompetitor FCC Adopts New Testing Procedures for Rural Broadband USF Recipients
The FCC today adopted new testing procedures for rural broadband providers that receive high-cost Universal Service Fund (USF)/ Connect America Fund (CAF) support. The goal of the new USF recipient broadband testing is to ensure that providers are deploying service at required speeds and that services meet minimum quality standards for latency and other service parameters. The new testing procedures came in an order on reconsideration adopted by the commission at today’s monthly meeting.

The Hill Microsoft finds evidence of Russian cyberattacks on sporting, anti-doping groups
Microsoft announced Monday that it had found evidence of a Russian hacking group targeting more than a dozen national and international sporting and anti-doping groups with “significant cyberattacks.” The company found that around 16 organizations on three continents were targeted by a group called Strontium, also known as Fancy Bear or APT28, beginning in September and that some attacks had been successful.

CNET Uber in talks with Los Angeles as scooter location data lawsuit looms
Los Angeles wants a peek at the location data collected by the Uber scooters in its city. The company, better known for its ride-hailing service, doesn’t want to give up the information and may take legal action to keep the data private. Uber said Monday that it would file a lawsuit against Los Angeles after months of refusing to give the Department of Transportation access to its scooter location data. In September 2018, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation instituted a requirement for all scooter companies to provide location data on the vehicles.

Roll Call Curbing disinformation: How much should social media companies do?
Facebook’s efforts to limit online disinformation while simultaneously allowing politicians to lie in paid advertisements ahead of the 2020 election is forcing a debate over the responsibility of technology companies to crack down on domestic and foreign disinformation, and the consequences if they don’t.

Business Insider Scientists and researchers reveal 13 dark technology scenarios that keep them up at night
Back in 1970, author Alvin Toffler coined the term “future shock.” He envisioned a dystopian future in which technological and sociological change would be too rapid to cope with, and people would be utterly overwhelmed by daily life. In the last decade or two, the pace of technological change has accelerated rapidly compared to the era in which Toffler was writing. Artificial intelligence, social media, self-driving cars, genetic modification you can perform in a garage — even the most optimistic futurists may acknowledge that some technologies are heading toward a tipping point, in which it becomes difficult to predict how they’ll be used or what unintended consequences may occur.


The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Facial Recognition Software

Facial recognition (FR) software inspires intense reactions from many people. On the one hand, a number of individuals worry that FR will usher in an Orwellian nightmare of mass surveillance and privacy intrusions. They see FR combined with ubiquitous video cameras, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics as a formula for harming humanity and restricting individual freedom. Yet at the same time, FR has been used to locate missing people, improve the security of schools and airports, help those who are visually impaired, and counter terrorism. (Research – 10 actions that will protect people from facial recognition softwareOctober 31, 2019)


American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on Big Tech Regulation

Sometimes we in the US import bad ideas from Europe. This has been the case with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which California is importing even though the GDPR is stifling tech development in Europe. Perhaps this is only fair since the idea of net neutrality regulation originated in the US, but the EU has largely adopted it, probably to the harm of its citizens. (AEIdeas – The US should NOT have a digital regulator, October 29, 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.