Executive Briefing October 4, 2019


Puget Sound Business Journal Microsoft’s Brad Smith hopes regional focus expands beyond homelessness [Paywall]

Microsoft President Brad Smith said companies in the tech sector must step up and address issues the tech boom has caused in the region, including the affordable housing crisis.

Geekwire Why Microsoft won’t unplug government agencies despite opposition to Trump policies
A new wave of employee activism is forcing tech companies to rethink — and in several cases cancel — contracts with the federal government because of some of President Donald Trump’s controversial policies. While a number of tech companies are responding to employee concerns by pulling out of agreements with federal agencies, Microsoft is charting a different course.


Wired Some Voting Machines Still Have Decade-Old Vulnerabilities
In three short years, the Defcon Voting Village has gone from a radical hacking project to a stalwart that surfaces voting machine security issues. This afternoon, its organizers released findings from this year’s event—including urgent vulnerabilities from a decade ago that still plague voting machines currently in use. Voting Village participants have confirmed the persistence of these flaws in previous years as well, along with a raft of new ones. But that makes their continued presence this year all the more alarming, underscoring how slow progress on replacing or repairing vulnerable machines remains.

The New York Times Ahead of 2020, Facebook Falls Short on Plan to Share Data on Disinformation

In April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, told Congress about an ambitious plan to share huge amounts of posts, links and other user data with researchers around the world so that they could study and flag disinformation on the site. “Our goal is to focus on both providing ideas for preventing interference in 2018 and beyond, and also for holding us accountable,” Mr. Zuckerberg told lawmakers questioning him about Russian interference on the site in the 2016 presidential election. He said he hoped “the first results” would come by the end of that year.

The Hill Democrats seize on whistleblower report to push for election security

Democrats renewed their push for election security legislation after a stark warning from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the release of a whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader. Maguire on Thursday warned that the “greatest challenge” the U.S. is facing is “maintaining the integrity of our election system” and said “there are foreign powers that are trying to get us to question the validity of whether or not our elections are valid.”

FedScoop Tech accelerator Dcode evolves to meet government need for training

Large federal agencies like the Department of Defense face a bureaucratic crisis. They require dynamic, innovative technologies abundantly found in the commercial sector, but things like acquisition, policy and budget stifle their ability to procure them in a timely manner. It’s not a new problem. In fact, there are entire organizations like the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Defense Innovation Board (DIB) created to help solve it. But so often, the attention is focused only on what can be done to break down barriers for small, innovative companies to provide their products to government — yet, that’s only half the battle.

The Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Trump’s embrace of conspiracy theories could endanger 2020

President Trump’s dogged refusal to acknowledge Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and his embrace of bizarre conspiracy theories threatens to imperil the security of the 2020 contest. That’s the warning from election security advocates and former officials who see the president’s failure to firmly acknowledge or condemn Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other election interference as a signal that similar interference next year would be tolerated. “It sends a message to foreign adversaries that the environment in the United States is very conducive to interference because you have the president muddying the waters at the top,” Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Fox News Warren continues attack on Facebook after Zuckerberg reveals it would sue government if she becomes president
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren continued her attack on Facebook after audio comments from CEO Mark Zuckerberg were leaked, with Warren stating the company “won’t even do the bare minimum to improve transparency.” The tweet followed several others from Warren earlier on Tuesday. The Massachusetts senator reiterated her plan that Facebook, along with other Big Tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple, should be broken up.

Fast Company Andrew Yang proposes that your digital data be considered personal property

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang may not be at the top of the race when it comes to polling (Politico currently has him ranked as the 7th most-popular Democratic contender), but his policies, including support for universal basic income, have made him popular among a subset of young, liberal-leaning, tech-savvy voters. Yang’s latest proposal, too, is sure to strike a chord with them. The presidential candidate published his latest policy proposal today: to treat data as a property right.


Axios Where the net neutrality fight goes next

Court rulings often bring clarity to thorny policy issues — but a mixed decision yesterday on the FCC’s handling of net neutrality rules only deepens a bitter internet policy debate that’s been raging in Washington for over a decade. Why it matters: While the ruling allowed both sides to claim some level of victory, it also opens up 50 potential new fights over state rules. Details: The decision upheld many parts of the FCC’s move to wipe net neutrality rules from the books, but overturned the commission’s attempt to prevent states from implementing their own rules.

The New York Times Congress and Trump Agreed They Want a National Privacy Law. It Is Nowhere in Sight.

A rare thing emerged in Washington early this year: agreement. Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as the Trump White House, all said they wanted a new federal law to protect people’s online privacy. Numerous tech companies urged them on. And they had a deadline. With a broad California privacy law set to go into effect early next year, many federal lawmakers and the tech companies wanted to get ahead of it and avoid having state-by-state rules. But after months of talks, a national privacy law is nowhere in sight.

Reuters U.S. online privacy rules unlikely this year, hurting big tech

A U.S. online privacy bill is not likely to come before Congress this year, three sources said, as lawmakers disagree over issues like whether the bill should preempt state rules, forcing companies to deal with much stricter legislation in California that goes into effect on Jan. 1. Without a federal law, technology companies, retailers, advertising firms and others dependent on collecting consumer data to track users and increase sales must adapt to the California law, potentially harming corporate profits over the long term.

CNN FBI investigating alleged hacking attempt into mobile voting app during 2018 midterms

The FBI is investigating after someone allegedly tried to hack into West Virginia’s mobile voting app during the 2018 midterm elections. One or more people allegedly attempted to hack into Voatz, an experimental app that lets voters who are active military or registered to vote abroad cast their votes from their phones, Mike Stuart, the US attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, announced Tuesday. Stuart said in a statement that “there was no intrusion and the integrity of votes and the election system was not compromised,” but that an investigation had begun, was “ongoing and no legal conclusions whatsoever have been made regarding the conduct of the activity or whether any federal laws were violated.”

Bloomberg U.S. Warns Cybersecurity Flaws Could Impact Medical Devices [Paywall]

U.S. government officials on Tuesday issued a warning about cybersecurity vulnerabilities in operating systems that power a variety of medical devices. Computer security researchers discovered 11 vulnerabilities that could allow a hacker to take control of medical devices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned in an “urgent” advisory along with the Department of Homeland Security. “These vulnerabilities may allow anyone to remotely take control of the medical device and change its function, cause denial of service, or cause information leaks or logical flaws, which may prevent device function,” the FDA’s advisory states.

Bloomberg Facebook in Talks for Sandberg to Testify to House Next Month

Facebook Inc. is negotiating with a key congressional committee for Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg to testify as soon as next month, people familiar with the talks said, amid questions about the social media giant’s market power and its plans for a digital cryptocurrency called Libra. Sandberg is expected to appear at a hearing as soon as late October, but officials are still negotiating the details with the House Financial Services Committee, the people said. It’s possible the hearing could slip to later in the year, one of the people said.

NextGov Bill to Combat Deepfakes Passes House Committee
Legislation aimed at dedicating new research and technology to thwart increasingly prevalent manipulated media—now commonly known as deepfakes—passed the House Science, Space and Technology Committee with bipartisan support Wednesday. Introduced last week by Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, Jim Baird, R-Ind., Haley Stevens, D-Mich. and Katie Hill, D-Calif., the Identifying Outputs of Generative Adversarial Networks, or IOGAN Act, directs the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to study and accelerate the creation of technology that can detect the disruptive content.

Politico Washington idle as ransomware ravages cities big and small

Ransomware attacks paralyzed Baltimore’s computer networks for much of the spring, shutting down the systems that collect parking ticket fines and water bills. Hackers took out City Hall’s help line in Akron, Ohio, during a major snowstorm. In Lincoln County, N.C., sheriff’s deputies had to take crime reports with pen and paper as their computers went dark. Yet Washington has remained largely on the sidelines. Lawmakers have offered few ideas on how to respond to the wave of ransom-seeking cyberattacks that have struck at least 80 state and local government agencies.


The Hill Microsoft, Mastercard, Hewlett Foundation launch institute to investigate cyberattacks

Microsoft, Mastercard, the Hewlett Foundation and other groups this week announced the launch of an independent institute aimed at investigating cyberattacks and assisting victims. The CyberPeace Institute will work to coordinate recovery efforts for victims after a cyberattack and promote adherence to international rules and norms in cyberspace.

Harvard Buisness Review Why Companies Are Forming Cybersecurity Alliances

In the physical world, governments are responsible for keeping citizens and corporations safe from enemies. The digital world, so far, has been a little different. When it comes to cybersecurity and cyber attacks, most governments have spent much more time increasing their offensive capabilities than protecting companies and individuals. The reason for this is, until recently, national security officials viewed digital networks as fairly benign and cyber attackers as unlikely threats to safety — or to a country’s sovereignty. However, the advent of cyber-physical systems and the internet of things, along with the increasing sophistication of bad actors, has made cyber attacks issues of human safety. But companies have largely been left to fend for themselves.

Silicon Republic In a world of cyberthreats, the push for cyber peace is growing

Digital conflict and military action are increasingly intertwined. And civilian targets – private businesses and everyday internet users alike – are vulnerable in the digital crossfire. But there are forces at work trying to promote peace online. A growing coalition, including the governments of France and New Zealand, is coming together to promote international standards of online behaviour, aimed at reducing cyber insecurity. Non-profits such as the Online Trust Alliance, Cyber Peace Alliance, Cybersecurity Tech Accord and ICT4Peace are joining, as are major funders such as the Hewlett Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The Verge In two hours of leaked audio, Mark Zuckerberg rallies Facebook employees against critics, competitors, and the US government
The Verge obtained two hours of audio from two open meetings at Facebook in July, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s candid statements on the company’s critics and competitors, and the views of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among other topics.

Des Moines Register Broadband critical to the competitiveness and prosperity of rural communities

The start of fall means the beginning of harvest season for thousands of farmers and agricultural communities, but too many remain at a disadvantage stuck behind the digital divide. Without access to broadband internet, agricultural producers and the communities that support them are unable to take advantage of the same tools, resources and advancements in precision agriculture and technology that are available in better connected areas. The National Grange has its roots in agriculture and advocates to protect the way of life and prosperity of rural communities.

Government Technology The Dos and Don’ts of Community Broadband Network Planning

The essential point at the Nevada Broadband Workshop in Reno last Friday was this: Communities that want broadband should produce a plan that’s as comprehensive as possible. Hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) BroadbandUSA program, the workshop guided attendees through various aspects of broadband planning for smaller communities. Even if the cost for a project seems exorbitant, a plan can still be made. “If you don’t have a million dollars, don’t let that mean you don’t get started on the issue for your rural communities,” said Laura Spining Dodson, acting associate administrator at NTIA.

Las Vegas Review-Journal Nevada’s online privacy law takes effect, offers more control of info

Nevada residents will have more control over how their personal information is used, starting this month. Senate Bill 220 goes into effect Tuesday, giving consumers more ability to keep websites from selling their information to third-party firms. The amendment passed in May and made Nevada the first state after California to pass privacy legislation. California’s law, however, doesn’t take effect until January. “These new laws are going to have the effect of at least putting some control back in the hands of consumers and allowing consumers to say, ‘You know what, I don’t want you to do anything with my data and I prefer that you not sell it,’” said John Krieger, an attorney in the Las Vegas office of law firm Dickinson Wright.

Los Angeles Times Proposed 2020 ballot measure would tighten California data privacy law

Californians would have more control over the collection of their health and financial data and there would be stiff penalties for companies that wrongly share and sell data about children under a November 2020 statewide ballot measure that will be submitted on Wednesday. The proposal was drafted by San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, who last year used the threat of a ballot measure to pressure the California Legislature to enact sweeping new privacy protections. Although that law doesn’t take effect until January, Mactaggart said that it’s important to press ahead and do more.

Fortune Musicians and Fans Unite to Keep Facial Recognition Tech Out of Concerts

Last year, Ticketmaster announced it invested in new technology that could allow fans to enter concerts and other events without waiting in line to show their tickets. The only catch? It would mean digitally scanning your face and uploading it to a third-party company, Blink Identity, whose cameras would recognize your unique facial measurements and match them to your tickets as you walked into a venue. Ticketmaster hasn’t put that system into place, but the specter of it was enough to alarm the digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, which recently launched its Ban Facial Recognition campaign to fight the use of this technology it sees as “unreliable, biased, and a threat to basic rights and safety.”

AdWeek As Privacy Concerns Make the Internet More Opaque, Can Ad Tech Keep Its Promise?

As Europe’s strict stance on internet privacy continues to gain traction across the globe, advertisers are struggling to balance their need for audience targeting data with increasing demands for privacy. Regulations like GDPR hit at the heart of the programmatic advertising industry, which relies on personal information to make good on its main value proposition: “the right ad to the right person at the right time.” In response to the growing public unease with how consumers’ data is being collected and used, the tools long used by the ad-tech industry are becoming less useful. The major platforms by which ads are served—browsers and social networks—are becoming more opaque with their users’ data.

The Wall Street Journal Visa, Mastercard, Others Reconsider Involvement in Facebook’s Libra Network

Cracks are forming in the coalition Facebook Inc. assembled to build a global cryptocurrency-based payments network. Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc. and other financial partners that signed on to help build and maintain the Libra payments network are reconsidering their involvement following a backlash from U.S. and European government officials, according to people familiar with the matter. Wary of attracting regulatory scrutiny, executives of some of Libra’s backers have declined Facebook’s requests to publicly support the project.

Scientific American Creativity and AI: The Next Step

In 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue famously defeated chess Grand Master Garry Kasparov after a titanic battle. It had actually lost to him the previous year, though he conceded that it seemed to possess “a weird kind of intelligence.” To play Kasparov, Deep Blue had been pre-programmed with intricate software, including an extensive playbook with moves for openings, middle game and endgame. Twenty years later, in 2017, Google unleashed AlphaGo Zero which, unlike Deep Blue, was entirely self-taught.

CNET Zynga data breach exposed 200 million Words with Friends players

A hacker is reportedly claiming responsibility for a September data breach of popular mobile game Words with Friends that may have resulted in the theft of information from more than 200 million players accounts, including names, email addresses, login IDs and more. A hacker that goes by the name Gnosticplayers said they stole data from over 218 million Words with Friends player accounts, according to a report from Hacker News on Sunday. The hacker accessed a database that included data from Android and iOS players who installed the game before Sept. 2, according to the report.

TechCrunch DoorDash confirms data breach affected 4.9 million customers, workers and merchants

The food delivery company said in a blog post Thursday that 4.9 million customers, delivery workers and merchants had their information stolen by hackers. The breach happened on May 4, the company said, but added that customers who joined after April 5, 2018 are not affected by the breach. It’s not clear why it took almost five months for DoorDash to detect the breach. DoorDash spokesperson Mattie Magdovitz blamed the breach on “a third-party service provider,” but the third-party was not named. “We immediately launched an investigation and outside security experts were engaged to assess what occurred,” she said.

The Daily Beast Smart Cities Are Creating a Mass Surveillance Nightmare

More than a million New Yorkers could soon willingly agree to carry a government-issued tracking device, whether they realize it or not. That’s the proposal from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who having recently returned from the cornfield-dotted campaign trail in Iowa, is setting his sights on transforming New York City into something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel. But some critics are urging caution about the move. The fuss is about a tiny RFID chip that the mayor wants to embed into each and every municipal ID card for New York residents as part of the “IDNYC” program.


Council on Foreign Relations

  • Blog on Global Cyber Relations

Earlier this month, the United Nations (UN) held the first ever global meeting on peace and stability in cyberspace. The Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) is the latest iteration of the decades-long process to deliberate on the issue of security in information and communication technologies (ICTs). Since 2004, a UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE)—limited to between fifteen and twenty-five states—has convened five times in this context. The OEWG is a new process, emerging from a November 2018 Russian resolution to establish, alongside the GGE, a “more democratic, inclusive, and transparent” body for studying responsible state behaviour and cooperative measures in cyberspace. Russia pushed this knowing that a larger group makes consensus more difficult, and also so as to include more countries who would support its own interests in cyberspace. (Net Politics Blog – The First Ever Global Meeting on Cyber Norms Holds Promise, But Broader Challenges Remain, September 30, 2019)

The Belfer Center

  • Blog on Congress and Technology

We live in an age of transformational technological innovation that many refer to as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Like other revolutions, if we do not take care to direct it thoughtfully, this one runs the risk of overwhelming us. Technologies like artificial intelligence and synthetic biology hold great promise to make humanity more prosperous and healthier, but they also can potentially be used to cause great harm. The public good must be the moral center of this revolution. As the epicenter of emerging technology research, the United States must lead the way, shaping new technologies in accordance with our values. This is a responsibility made more important by the rise of China as an economic competitor with a different set of values. Unfortunately, Congress, as well as some companies, have not shown that they are ready to reckon with the promise or peril of emerging technologies. In the infamous Facebook hearings, members of Congress were unfamiliar with even the most basic facets of social media—by now, no one’s idea of an emerging technology. (Analysis & Opinions – How Congress Can Step Up on Innovative Technology Issues, September 26, 2019)

The American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on Net Neutrality

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit finally issued its long-awaited net neutrality decision. The result was a significant victory for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which saw the court mostly uphold its landmark Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Unfortunately, the decision does not mark the end of the net neutrality story — just the close of this particular chapter. This blog will summarize the court’s decision and discuss what’s ahead, including for state net neutrality efforts. (AEI Ideas – The FCC wins big on net neutrality: What it means, and what’s next, October 2, 2019)

  • Blog on Google’s “right to be forgotten” in EU

Last week, Google and other US platform companies won a landmark decision when Europe’s top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), ruled that the continent’s right to be forgotten doctrine did not apply worldwide. Sensibly, the court stated that the right to be forgotten was “not an absolute right,” but must be balanced against other rights such as free speech. While this was a win for Google and the US view of free speech, it is by no means certain that the decision will have widespread, long-term impact. (AEI Ideas – Google’s legal victory on the right to be forgotten: Significant or false dawn?, October 1, 2019)

  • Blog on Tech regulation and politics

I’ve read that when a headline is in the form of a yes or no question, the answer is, “no.” That doesn’t hold true this time. America’s leading technology companies are under attack from the US Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, the European Union (EU), and 48 US state attorneys general (AGs), and AGs from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. China’s competition regulator is even investigating Tencent. Why is there a surge in antitrust cases against Big Tech? Did the companies suddenly lose their moral compasses? A closer look reveals that bad economics and politics are among the reasons. (AEI Ideas – Are regulatory attacks on Big Tech politically motivated?, September 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.