Executive Briefing September 14, 2018


The Wall Street Journal Big Tech Companies to Appear Before Senate to Discuss Privacy

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a high-profile hearing on the privacy practices of big tech companies later this month, signaling intensifying government interest in a thorny issue for the industry, according to people familiar with the matter. The hearing, set for Sept. 26, reflects growing concerns among lawmakers over user privacy on the internet, especially in light of recent revelations of questionable practices at several big tech firms, including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit.

Axios FTC takes first steps to police Big Tech

The Federal Trade Commission this week kicks off the first broad examination of competition in the technology industry in more than two decades — a sign that the tech giants could be in for stronger public oversight. The FTC’s public hearings, which start Thursday, will provide the first structured conversation about realistic policy tools that federal regulators need to police the internet economy.


Microsoft on the Issues A call for principle-based international agreements to govern law enforcement access to data

Governments around the world have started to modernize the processes by which law enforcement accesses digital evidence across borders. In the United States, passage of the CLOUD Act created the foundation for a new generation of international agreements that allows governments to engage with each other to create lasting rules to protect privacy and facilitate legitimate law enforcement access to evidence. In Europe last week, the European Commission presented its proposed e-Evidence legislation to the European Parliament. In this blog, Microsoft President Brad Smith shares six principles that drive Microsoft’s advocacy as governments reform their laws and negotiate international agreements.

Wahpeton Daily News Expanding broadband is economic necessity

The Southern Valley Economic Development Authority is dedicated to creating and maintaining a thriving business climate for Richland and Wilkin counties. We all know basic infrastructure is key to economic development. And today, broadband is very much a part of that infrastructure. There are too many rural areas where coverage is not what it needs to be. A county-by-county assessment of broadband coverage in the U.S. finds both Richland and Wilkin behind neighboring counties in terms of total broadband coverage. This is unacceptable and needs to be remedied.

WVTF Tech Giant, Local Agencies Work to Bring Broadband to Rural Virginia

With the help of a corporate giant, local innovators in rural Virginia are trying to remake part of Southside in the image of the digital age. Microsoft first came to Southside Virginia when it picked a location in Mecklenberg County for a new data center in 2010. As that center has grown so has the company’s interest in supporting digital infrastructure growth and education in Mecklenberg and surrounding counties. That’s why the company made this one six regions nationwide to take part in TechSpark.

Quartz Melinda Gates is leading a new coalition to bring more women of color to tech

At Facebook, the share of white employees has decreased from 57% in 2014 to 49% in 2018. The share of women has grown from 31% to 36% in the same time frame. Similar trends hold true at Google, Apple, and other major tech companies. With a wide lens, Silicon Valley seems to be getting more diverse. But zoom in and you might see a different story. Of the employees of color at Facebook, nearly 85% are Asian. The percentage of black and Latinx employees in technical roles has remained flat (3% and 1% respectively) since 2014. And for tech’s least visible group—women of color in technical roles—most of the big companies still don’t report their data.

The Wall Street Journal Google Case Asks: Can Europe Export Privacy Rules World-Wide? (paywall)

This week, Google appealed an order to extend the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” to its search engines across the globe, arguing before the EU’s top court that the order encourages countries to assert sovereignty beyond their borders. National laws used to stop at the border. In cyberspace, they increasingly stretch around the world, as regulators in Europe, the U.S. and Canada have started asserting legal authority over the internet across country lines.

POLITICO Privacy Percolating (paywall)

The Internet Association, which represents top tech firms like Facebook, Google and Amazon, came out Tuesday in support of a “tailored approach to federal privacy legislation,” marking “a notable step for an industry that has long swatted away the hand of Washington regulators.” In a newly unveiled set of principles, IA laid out a privacy framework that includes “transparency; giving individuals the right to know if their information is being used; controls over how that information might be used; ‘reasonable’ access to customer information; the ability to correct information a company has if it’s wrong; the ability to delete that information unless companies have a ‘legitimate need’ for it; and the ability of consumers to take their data with them across different platforms.”

Fortune Google Could Face a Huge Fine for Collecting Location Data From Users Who Don’t Want to Be Tracked

Last month the Associated Press reported that Google tracks users’ location even if they have told the company they don’t want to be tracked. This wasn’t the first such report—last year Oracle blew the whistle on how Android phones quietly tell Google where users are located, even if they’ve turned off location services and removed the device’s SIM card—but it’s now sparked a probe in Arizona that could lead to an enormous fine for the company.

CBS News Feds use facial recognition to catch 2nd person trying to enter U.S. illegally

The 9/11 attacks ushered in a new era of security at airports. Now new facial recognition technology rolling out at checkpoints is showing early signs of success. In the last three weeks, the technology at Washington’s Dulles International Airport has been used to catch two imposters trying to illegally enter the U.S. On Monday, a woman from Ghana was caught using someone else’s U.S. passport. Last month, a 26-year-old man from the Republic of Congo with his real ID hidden in his shoe tried to enter with another person’s French passport.

Bloomberg Google, Facebook Dealt Blow by EU Lawmakers on Copyright

Tech platforms and internet activists protested the outcome of a European Parliament vote Wednesday to back copyright rules that would help video, music and other rights holders seek compensation for use of their content online. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and other tech firms may soon be forced to negotiate licenses for content that appears on their sites, creating legal headaches for the companies, after lawmakers broadly supported a legislative proposal for new copyright rules, unveiled in 2016 by the European Commission.


Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)

  • Blog: Tech Celebrates Diversity – ITI President and CEO Dean C. Garfield pens this blog post discussing the future road-map for forging partnerships to encourage more diversity and opportunity in the field of tech. Garfield says that he “[approaches] this week’s celebration and our work on diversity with my own biases. Specifically, I think the world will be enriched by technology innovations and our innovations will be enriched by greater diversity.” (ITI Blog — Tech Celebrates Diversity, September 12, 2018)

Internet Association

  • Statement on National Privacy Legislation: The Internet Association (IA) released six principles and policy considerations to modernize national privacy legislation. The internet industry supports an American approach to federal privacy legislation that is consistent nationwide, proportional, flexible, and encourages companies to act as good stewards of the personal information provided to them by individuals. (IA Statement – Internet Association Proposes Privacy Principles For A Modern National Regulatory Framework, September 12, 2018)


  • Statement on Data Center Tariffs: TechNet is urging the Trump Administration not to move forward with proposed tariffs on several technology products and components essential to the construction and operation of data centers. In its latest rulemaking, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has proposed implementing a 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports worth approximately $200 billion annually. (TechNet Statement — TechNet Warns Trump Administration About Economic Harm of Data Center Tariffs, September 7, 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 endorse specific platforms or bills.