Executive Briefing November 30, 2018

Hour of Code 2018 is next week, starting December 3rd! We strongly encourage VFI members to volunteer to host an Hour of Code session in their community—at a school, a community center, or even a Microsoft Store. Every year, Voices for Innovation members have stepped up to lead or support Hour of Code sessions. To learn more, check out the VFI blog on the event

Hour of Code provides tutorials designed for all ages. There is still time to sign up and share this event with your networks. Let us know if you’re participating by emailing us at outreach@voicesforinnovation.org.


Broadcasting & Cable Senators Press FCC for Action on White Spaces

Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have asked the FCC to resolve interference issues with TV white spaces (TVWS) use by unlicensed devices, come up with final guidance, and allow for the expansion of TVWS use. They say the technology is key to closing the rural broadband divide because it is an affordable connectivity answer for rural and tribal communities.

Reuters U.S. Senator says privacy bill could come early next year
A much-anticipated bill that may give the U.S. government the ability to collect civil penalties if a company misuses consumer data on the internet or allows it to be stolen could be drafted early next year, a lawmaker said on Tuesday. A subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee discussed elements of the bill on Tuesday, including the possibility that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could be given the authority as enforcer to oversee telecommunications companies and non-profits, exact civil penalties and create regulations.


The Guardian Amazon hit with a data breach days before Black Friday
Amazon has suffered a major data breach that caused customer names and email addresses to be disclosed on its website, just two days ahead of Black Friday. The e-commerce giant said it has emailed affected customers but refused to give any more details on how many people were affected or where they are based. The firm said the issue was not a breach of its website or any of its systems, but a technical issue that inadvertently posted customer names and email addresses to its website.

The News Minute Facebook invests $1 million to boost computer education among minorities

A day after Facebook was criticized by a former employee for its “black people problem”, the social networking giant announced an investment of $1 million in CodePath.org to boost computer science education among underrepresented minorities and women. CodePath.org is a US-based nonprofit that provides computer science education to female and minority students at universities around the country.

Apple Apple brings coding education to more students for Computer Science Education Week

Customers can register for thousands of free Hour of Code sessions, available at all Apple Store locations around the world from December 1 through 14. The company also introduced Swift Coding Club materials to help teach coding outside of the classroom with Swift, Apple’s easy-to-learn programming language used by professional developers to create world-class apps. And to help prepare and develop students for the workforce, the company unveiled new Advanced Placement curriculum and App Development with Swift certification.

Smithsonian Facial recognition software is helping identify unknown figures in Civil War photographs
A new facial recognition application pioneered by computer scientist and historian Kurt Luther peers into the past—specifically the American Civil War—to identify anonymous portrait sitters captured in thousands of photographs taken over the course of the bloody four-year conflict.  Users can contribute their own images from personal collections or upload snapshots spotted in books, museums, cultural institutions, shops and miscellaneous sites across the world.

Government Technology Facial recognition tested at Dallas Fort Worth Airport
On a recent weekday morning, hundreds of passengers lined up at DFW International Airport to board Japan Airlines Flight 11 to Tokyo. After a standard check of boarding passes and passports, passengers were asked to do one more thing before walking down the jet bridge — pose for a picture. The facial recognition captures — using tablet-sized monitors with cameras — take a few seconds each and are used to keep record of people exiting the country.

The Verge Apple reportedly buys AI startup with privacy-conscious approach
Apple has reportedly acquired Silk Labs, a little-known startup which focused on building on-device machine learning software. The purchase, which took place earlier this year according to The Information, would be a natural fit for Apple’s privacy-centric approach to AI. After an unsuccessful foray into the smart home, Silk Labs developed on-device machine learning services. This means processing data without sending it to the cloud — a method that Apple has also preferred. 

Reuters European consumer groups want regulators to act against Google tracking
Consumer agencies in the Netherlands, Poland and five other European Union countries asked privacy regulators on Tuesday to take action against Google for allegedly tracking the movements of millions of users in breach of the bloc’s new privacy law. Google is already facing a lawsuit in the United States for allegedly tracking phone users regardless of privacy settings. Google is already facing a lawsuit in the United States for allegedly tracking phone users regardless of privacy settings.



  • Blog on FTC and data privacy: If the American people and Congress are looking to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for leadership in the protection of personal privacy, they should prepare for disappointment. In a recent filing with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the FTC walked away from giving consumers meaningful control of their private information. (TechTank blog – The Federal Trade Commission will safeguard privacy in name only, Nov. 28, 2018)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on China and the trade war: When President Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 gathering in Argentina, what should be the president’s bottom-line condition for ending tariffs? In an op-ed for the Washington Post, ITIF President Rob Atkinson outlines the real measures necessary to roll back China’s innovation-stifling, mercantilist agenda. (ITIF blog – China Might Be Looking to End the Trade War. Don’t Let It Off Easy, Nov. 29, 2018)

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.