Executive Briefing October 25, 2019


The Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Andrew Yang defends comparing U.S., Russian election interference
Businessman and 2020 candidate Andrew Yang defended his controversial assertion that the U.S. and Russia were equal in terms of election interference against other countries — and says that doesn’t mean he won’t be tough on Russian hacking if he’s elected president. “Calling attention to the fact that America has also interfered in elections of the past is just acknowledging a historical fact,” Yang said of his answer during last week’s primary debate. “[I] was not making any claims of right or wrong.”

Bloomberg Facebook and Amazon Set Lobbying Records Amid Washington ScrutinyFacebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. set federal lobbying records in the third quarter as Washington ramps up oversight of the tech giants’ business practices. Facebook spent $4.8 million, an increase of almost 70% from the same period the year before. The world’s largest social media company is grappling with a mushrooming list of challenges, including federal and state antitrust investigations, criticism of its handling of users’ personal information, and dissatisfaction with its treatment of political content.

The Hill GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure
A group of House Republicans introduced legislation Friday to reduce foreign interference in U.S. elections, including by making online political ads more transparent. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee and the primary sponsor of the bill, told The Hill in a statement that he was putting forward the legislation due to the “unacceptable” nature of Russian misinformation efforts in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.

The Washington Post Facebook’s Zuckerberg pushes back against Bernie Sanders’s call to abolish billionaires
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared to defend the existence of billionaires on Friday, pushing back against Sen. Bernie Sanders’s assertion that nobody in America deserves to be a billionaire. Zuckerberg, who is worth more than $70 billion, seemed to express concern in an interview on Fox News that eliminating billionaires in America would stifle competition between private and public actors in funding scientific research and philanthropy.


The Verge House overwhelmingly approves contentious new copyright bill
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to approve a measure that would shake up the Copyright Office if it were made into law, creating a small claims court where online content creators can go after their infringers. The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act, or the CASE Act for short, was approved by 410-6 vote.

Reuters Exclusive: U.S. states plan Google antitrust meeting next month in Colorado – sources
U.S. state attorneys general probing Alphabet’s Google plan to meet next month in Colorado to discuss a probe into whether the search giant’s business practices break antitrust law, according to three sources knowledgeable about the meeting. The meeting, which is being planned for Nov. 11, would be similar to a gathering this week in New York where state and federal enforcers from the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission discussed their probe of Facebook, according to one of the sources.

The Hill Democrats offer cybersecurity bill for ‘internet of things’
Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate on Tuesday introduced legislation to increase the security of internet-connected devices. The Cyber Shield Act, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), would establish an “advisory committee” comprised of cyber experts from government, industry and academia to create “cyber benchmarks” for internet-connected devices, also known as Internet of Things (IOT) devices.

Axios FTC takes action against “stalker” app manufacturer
The FTC took its first-ever action Tuesday against a maker of “stalkerware,” software used by spouses, parents and others to surveil purported loved ones’ cell phones. What’s happening: The company, Retina-X, and its owner James N. Johns, will be required to delete all data hoarded by the apps and cease the sale of products, requiring a user to circumvent phone security until it can reasonably guarantee “legitimate” use.


The Wall Street Journal FCC Head Says Big Tech Should Be Regulated
In a landmark decision, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before they can access navigation, engine, and other data stored in your car’s computer systems. The court’s ruling is the first time a state Supreme Court has recognized the potential danger to privacy and constitutional rights created by allowing access to car data without judicial oversight.

Vice Cops Need a Warrant to Access Your Car’s Data, Court Rules
In a landmark decision, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before they can access navigation, engine, and other data stored in your car’s computer systems. The court’s ruling is the first time a state Supreme Court has recognized the potential danger to privacy and constitutional rights created by allowing access to car data without judicial oversight. In the modern era, data collected by your car now provides a treasure trove of information about your daily habits.

Bloomberg Hong Kong Police Already Have AI Tech That Can Recognize Faces
Hong Kong law enforcement authorities have access to artificial intelligence software that can match faces from any video footage to police databases, but it’s unclear if it’s being used to quell months-long pro-democracy protests, according to people familiar with the matter. Police have been able to use the technology from Sydney-based iOmniscient for at least three years, and engineers from the company have trained dozens of officers on how to use it, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Axios Senators target social media giants with data portability bill
Three prominent tech critics in the Senate will introduce new legislation Tuesday requiring social media giants to give consumers ways to move their personal data to another platform at any time. Why it matters: The bill’s goal is to loosen the grip social media platforms have on their consumers through the long-term collection and storage of their data. Allowing users to export their data — like friends lists and profile information — could give rival platforms a chance at competing with Facebook or Google’s YouTube.

The Associated Press US: Russian hackers use Iranians to mask their identities
The United States and the U.K. say they have exposed how a group of Russian hackers hijacked the tools of their Iranian counterparts to attack dozens of countries around the world. The so-called Turla group, also known as Waterbug or Venomous Bear, is widely reported to be associated with Russian actors. The U.S. National Security Agency and Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said Monday that Turla acquired control of the tools and infrastructure of Iranian hacking groups for their attacks in an attempt to mask their identity.

Wired Technology Will Keep Us From Running Out of Stuffed
Thirty years from now, we’ll need to feed, clothe, shelter, and otherwise provide for 2 billion more people. Human-caused global warming is going to make these tasks challenging as it produces more deserts, droughts, heatwaves, and other stresses. Even so, I believe we’ll easily meet our challenges and take better care of the people who inhabit the world of the future.

Business Insider US Border Patrol is considering using body cameras with facial-recognition technology
US customs officials are eyeing facial-recognition technology that could be used with border patrol agents’ body cameras, according to a request for information filed by US Customs and Border Protection Wednesday. The agency is exploring technology “for body-worn cameras, software for video management and redaction, and cloud storage supporting an Incident Driven Video Recording System at CBP.” A full copy of the agency’s request for information was first published by The Register’s Katyanna Quach on Thursday.

Roll Call New York City eyes regulation of facial recognition technology
Legislation that would begin to regulate the use of facial recognition technology in the country’s most populous city could soon be made into law. While cities around the country move to ban facial recognition and other types of biometric surveillance outright, the City Council here is taking a piecemeal approach, considering bills that would require businesses and landlords to disclose their use of the technology.

The Verge Banks and landlords want to overturn federal rules on housing algorithms
Landlords and lenders are pushing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to make it easier for businesses to discriminate against possible tenants using automated tools. Under a new proposal that just finished its public comment period, HUD suggested raising the bar for some legal challenges, making discrimination cases less likely to succeed. Fair housing advocates have cried foul, arguing that the change will open the door for companies to discriminate with algorithms and get away with it.

Reuters Intel files antitrust case against SoftBank-backed firm over patent practices
Chipmaker Intel Corp has filed an antitrust lawsuit against a SoftBank Group Corp-owned investment company alleging the firm stockpiled patents to hold up technology companies with numerous lawsuits. The complaint filed late Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose alleged that Fortress Investment Group, which SoftBank bought in 2017 for $3.3 billion, acquired control of more than 1,000 U.S. technology patents.

Quartz Shanghai apartment buildings are secretly installing facial-recognition devices
Shanghai appears to be quietly—and secretly—installing facial-recognition devices in apartment buildings since last year. While the technology is widely used in China, this represents a worrying trend: the expansion of digital surveillance from public space to private ones. Residents of the city’s Luoma Garden apartment complex told Chinese business publication Caixin that they had raised queries after noticing display equipment for advertisements being installed in elevators (link in Chinese) last month, according to a report from the outlet this week.

Vice Inside the Phone Company Secretly Run By Drug Traffickers
Martin Kok had already dodged death once that day. As the 49-year-old Dutch convict turned successful crime blogger left a late lunch at an Amsterdam hotel in December 2016, a hooded man ran up to him, aimed a handgun at point blank range at the back of his head, and prepared to pull the trigger. But either the assassin lost his nerve or the weapon jammed. CCTV footage later revealed the man ran off across the street, nearly getting hit by two cyclists, and disappeared into the city. Kok continued walking, oblivious.

The New York Post Technology may make umpires a job of the past
It was the sixth game of the American League Championship Series. Brett Gardner, the spunky Yankees outfielder, was batting in the second inning with runners on first and second base. Even though it was still early, this was a crucial part of last week’s game since the Houston Astros were already up by three runs to one. Gardner could have narrowed the gap with a single or tied the score with an extra base hit, as he has often done. A homer would have put the Yankees ahead.

Marketplace Rural broadband is a problem, and Georgia is mapping it
A lot of rural America is a desert when it comes to high-speed internet access. And that’s a drag on economic growth: Communities without broadband have a hard time attracting new residents and businesses, and the only way the ones that are already there can get online is by using their phones — if they have cell coverage. The Federal government and states spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to address the problem. But it’s not always clear where the money should go.


The American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on Big Tech

Amid the bipartisan rush to judgment on Big Tech, there was a glimmer of hope in the recent debate among the Democratic presidential contenders: Some pushed back on prejudging tech antitrust cases. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the most aggressive Democratic presidential candidate on antitrust. In March 2019, she laid out a plan for breaking up Amazon, Google, and Facebook. No need for bothersome due process, fact gathering, and expert analysis.

Fortunately, some candidates believe it’s a good idea to think long and hard before potentially destroying companies that billions of people enjoy using every day. Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang were skeptical that breaking up the companies would resolve issues raised by tech critics. (AEI Ideas – 3 reasons Democratic presidential candidates are right to be skeptical about breaking up Big Tech, October 24, 2019)

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Automation

During last Tuesday’s Democratic debate, moderator Erin Burnett referenced our recent automation report (albeit misrepresenting one of our key findings) as she asked candidates how the U.S. should respond to automation’s impact on the workforce. In the wake of the debate, discussions broke out on Twitter, among fact-checkers, and in policy-focused publications about the significance of automation. First the discussion focused on whether trade or automation “mattered” more, then it pivoted to the idea that concerns about automation are overblown.

Then on Thursday, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman posted a column warning Democratic candidates that automation in the U.S. is nothing new. Krugman first helpfully noted that our report did not assert that one-quarter of jobs would disappear in 10 years, as Burnett asserted at the debate (rather, our report says that one-quarter of jobs will face high exposure to automation—but not all those workers will ultimately be displaced). (The Avenue – Automation isn’t the only trend affecting workers, but that’s no reason to ignore the threat, October 21, 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.