Executive Briefing September 27, 2019


BBC Microsoft’s Brad Smith: AI will affect generations to come
Brad Smith is President of Microsoft and a long serving tech industry insider. He believes the way in which we develop and regulate Artificial Intelligence will affect the human race for generations to come. He told Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur: “If we get it wrong, every generation that follows will likely pay a price for our mistakes.” In order to tackle the ethical questions thinking and learning machines will pose for us, Mr Smith believes that not just tech the sector but all areas of human endeavour and thought will need to come together to devise rules and laws around this area of research.


CNET Microsoft releases software for preventing election hacks
Microsoft’s open-source software aimed at protecting elections is now available. The company released ElectionGuard on Tuesday on GitHub, saying election tech companies can begin integrating the software into their voting systems. In July, Microsoft demonstrated its ElectionGuard software aimed at protecting electronic voting systems from hack attacks. The tech giant says the software makes electronic voting systems more secure as concerns about cyberattacks continue to escalate. Over the past year, Microsoft warned 10,000 customers that they’ve been targeted or compromised by attacks from foreign nations.

Microsoft On The Issues ElectionGuard available today to enable secure, verifiable voting
ElectionGuard is accessible by design and will make voting more secure, verifiable and efficient anywhere it’s used in the United States or in democratic nations around the world.

GeekWire Q&A: Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman on using tech to keep elections secure
Election security vaulted to the top of public officials’ concerns in the U.S. following the attempted intervention by Russian hackers in the 2016 presidential election. The hacking attempt captivated the country and became a political football in Washington D.C. as a major sticking point in partisan rancor between Democrats and Republicans. Washington state was among 21 states where Russian agents attempted to access voter rolls and other sensitive information. For state officials, the cyberattack served as a valuable stress test on state election systems.

The Washington Post Facebook removes pro-Trump ‘I Love America’ page that was run by Ukrainians
A Facebook page called “I Love America” that featured patriotic themes, rippling flags and pro-Trump memes was closed Monday after it turned out to be run by Ukrainians. Facebook took action against the page — which had 1.1 million followers — and several affiliated ones after a report in Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter, detailed the page’s Ukrainian management and remarkable reach. The report said “I Love America” was founded in 2017 but had moved heavily into pro-Trump content and conservative memes in recent weeks, building a huge audience in the process.


The Washington Examiner Coalition calls for Congress to reject ban on facial recognition technology
The tech community is urging Congress to steer clear of enacting a blanket ban on facial recognition technology, warning doing so could rid law enforcement of a crucial tool to keep communities safe. In a letter to lawmakers on Thursday, more than three dozen technology trade associations, companies, research organizations, and individuals said Congress should consider other alternatives to legislation outright prohibiting the use of facial recognition technology to ensure it can be used “safely, accurately, and effectively.”

Bloomberg Attorney General Barr Seeks DOJ Facebook Antitrust Probe
The Justice Department intends to investigate Facebook Inc. after prodding from U.S. Attorney General William Barr, according to a person familiar with the matter, even though the Federal Trade Commission already has an inquiry underway. The social-media giant now faces parallel probes by two federal agencies over whether it has harmed competition in violation of antitrust laws.

The Hill Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector
The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation intended to boost the federal government’s ability to respond to and assist agencies and private sector companies in the event of debilitating cyber incidents. The DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act would require that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintain permanent “teams” that could be deployed to assist in cases of cyberattacks or in order to identify vulnerabilities that could allow for a cyberattack to take place.

Recode Jeff Bezos says Amazon is writing its own facial recognition laws to pitch to lawmakers
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says his company is developing a set of laws to regulate facial recognition technology that it plans to share with federal lawmakers.

The Hill Cyber rules for self-driving cars stall in Congress
Major automakers are moving full steam ahead with their plans to put self-driving cars on the road, even as lawmakers and regulators in Washington fall behind on creating a cybersecurity framework for those vehicles. The issue of cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important as large car manufacturers ramp up their testing of the vehicles on the road and begin to float ambitious plans to eventually bring them to market. However, those strides come as lawmakers have failed to make progress on federal cybersecurity standards to protect the vehicles from hacking operations and other malicious cyber incidents.

Global Newswire CISO Leadership: Strengthening the Fight Against Cyber-crime – Cyber Warriors Launch the Public-Private Voice of the Industry Alliance
In a dedicated step toward fighting the war against cyber-crime, a group of top technology leaders has formally launched the Public-Private Voice of the Industry Alliance at HMG Strategy’s 2019 Washington, D.C. CISO Executive Leadership Summit on Sept. 19, 2019. To be a part of these and other future groundbreaking developments and to learn more about HMG Strategy’s upcoming Executive Leadership Summits, click here. Collaboration between executives in the public and private sectors on threat intelligence and the sharing of effective cybersecurity practices is vital for protecting the national infrastructure against cyber-attacks.

FedTech DOD to Lay Foundation for AI-based Cybersecurity
The Defense Department’s artificial intelligence strategy, released in February, calls for the use of standardized processes in areas such as data, testing and evaluation, and cybersecurity. Now, the DOD is starting to make that a reality. The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center plans to work with the National Security Agency, U.S. Cyber Command and numerous DOD cybersecurity vendors to standardize data collection across the department, JAIC chief Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said earlier this month, as Nextgov reports. Speaking earlier this month at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit in Washington, D.C., Shanahan discussed how the DOD wants to create a consistent way to curate, share and store cybersecurity data from across the Pentagon’s entire IT environment. Doing so will make it to easier to deploy AI-powered cybersecurity programs, he said.


KMA Land Microsoft to push Iowa’s rural broadband through partnership
Microsoft announced plans to expand Iowa’s broadband coverage through a partnership with a Texas-based internet service provider as part of its Microsoft Airband Initiative. The initiative seeks to extend broadband access to more than 3 million underserved rural Americans by July 2022, the company said Sept. 18 in announcing its agreement with Nextlink Internet of Hudson Oaks, Texas. The companies say their agreement could bring broadband access to more than 9 million residents across those states, including an approximate 1 million in unserved rural areas.

SpaceNews SES, Viasat say FCC’s rural broadband latency requirements unfair to satellites
Satellite operators want to participate in a newly proposed $20.4 billion rural broadband program, but say the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s scoring criteria for signal lag puts them at a disadvantage. The FCC is seeking to connect upwards of 4 million U.S. homes and small businesses through a new program called the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund that would subsidize broadband in underserved regions from 2020 to 2030. But companies who can’t provide service with 100 milliseconds or less latency will get a 40-point penalty, making it more difficult for them to compete for funds.

US News and World Report Silicon Valley Goes to the Vatican to Talk Tech Ethics
The Vatican brought together Silicon Valley heavyweights, Nobel laureates and cyber experts on Friday to discuss the ethical use of digital technology, in a meeting officials said could provide material for a possible papal document on artificial intelligence. The three-day conference, which officials said was the first of its kind, is being attended by executives from companies such as Facebook, Mozilla, and Western Digital, Catholic ethicists, government regulators and investment bankers. “The technology industry … has had the luxury to think that whatever product it built was the common good. That was the shared assumption for quite some time,” said Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla in Mountain View, California.

Microsoft On The Issues Ensuring secrecy orders are the exception not the rule when the government seeks data owned by our customers
When a law enforcement agency presents Microsoft with a legally valid warrant, court order or subpoena requesting data that belongs to one of our enterprise customers, we seek to redirect that request to the customer. And in the vast majority of cases, that is exactly what happens. There are times, however, when the government comes to us for data and prevents us from telling our enterprise customers that it is seeking their data. We agree that there are some limited circumstances in which law enforcement must be able to operate in secret to prevent crime and terrorism and keep people safe. And while we agree that secrecy orders that prevent us from notifying our customers may be appropriate in those limited circumstances, we also believe there are times when those orders go too far. In those cases, we will litigate to protect our customers’ rights.

MarketWatch 2020 ballot rule would tighten data privacy laws in California
A San Francisco developer who pressured California lawmakers into enacting the nation’s most sweeping data privacy act is pushing a ballot measure to expand the law. Alastair Mactaggart’s proposed November 2020 measure, to be unveiled Wednesday, aims to protect the California Consumer Privacy Act that is due to take effect on Jan. 1 by, among other things, creating a new state agency to enforce the privacy protections. Voter-enacted initiatives are much harder to alter than laws passed through the legislative process.

The Guardian ‘Right to be forgotten’ on Google only applies in EU, court rules
The “right to be forgotten” online does not extend beyond the borders of the European Union, the bloc’s highest court has ruled in a major victory for Google. The right, enshrined in a 2014 legal ruling, required search engines to delete embarrassing or out-of-date information, when requested by the individuals concerned but in a landmark ruling on Tuesday, the European court of justice said search engine operators faced no obligation to remove information outside the 28-country zone. It however said search engines must “seriously discourage” internet users from going onto non-EU versions of their pages to find that information.

CNET Facebook buys startup working on technology that lets you control computers with your mind
Facebook said Monday it’s acquiring CTRL-labs, a neurotechnology startup, as part of efforts to develop a wristband for controlling smartphones, computers and other digital devices without having to touch a screen or keyboard. The moonshot project underscores the world’s largest social network’s efforts to transform how we communicate with one another. Facebook first said in 2017 that it was working on a computer-brain interface that would let users type words and send messages using only their brains. The company envisioned building a wearable device, rather than a system that requires surgery.

The Guardian Google contract workers in Pittsburgh vote to form union
A group of Google contract workers in Pittsburgh voted to unionize on Tuesday, a historic development within the labor movement and a remarkable return to the city’s industrial roots. About 90 tech workers who are employed by the Indian outsourcing firm HCL America, but work on Google projects at Google’s offices, will form a union with the United Steel Workers (USW), a labor union born in Pittsburgh. The vote to unionize passed with 49 voting in favor of unionization and 24 voting against. The group of tech workers will organize under the name Pittsburgh Association of Tech Professionals (PATP).

Forbes Understanding The Future Of The Workforce: How To Leverage Technology In The Workplace
I have spent over 20 years in the world of commercial real estate, and it’s no secret that this industry has not traditionally been an early adopter of any sort of technology. Commercial real estate is an industry based on relationships, trust and human interactions, and to this day, networking and face-to-face engagements are still critical to success. But that does not mean that there isn’t room for technology in the workplace in this industry or other late adopters.

The New York At Tech’s Leading Edge, Worry About a Concentration of Power
Each big step of progress in computing — from mainframe to personal computer to internet to smartphone — has opened opportunities for more people to invent on the digital frontier. But there is growing concern that trend is being reversed at tech’s new leading edge, artificial intelligence. Computer scientists say A.I. research is becoming increasingly expensive, requiring complex calculations done by giant data centers, leaving fewer people with easy access to the computing firepower necessary to develop the technology behind futuristic products like self-driving cars or digital assistants that can see, talk and reason.

Engadget Alibaba unveils its own AI chip for cloud computing
Alibaba has unveiled an in-house-designed AI chip called the Hanguang 800 a month after Huawei launched the Ascend 910. The company, mostly known for its e-commerce business, said the chip could significantly cut down on the time needed to finish machine learning tasks. For example: Alibaba-owned shopping website Taobao takes an hour to categorize the one billion product images sellers upload on the platform. With the new chip, that task would apparently be done in five minutes.


The American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on 5G Technology: The possibilities for new applications and services are endless. But it’s important to understand the policy actions making this new world possible. None of these amazing new tools work without communication, and for wireless, that means radio airwaves. For a forthcoming report, I’ve compiled a list of 5G spectrum that is in the “pipeline,” meaning radio frequencies that have either recently been auctioned or approved for use, or are slated for availability in the near to medium future. The contrast between today’s relatively paltry bandwidth and the coming spectrum “big bang” shows 5G’s potential power. (AEI Ideas – Spectrum big bang points to promise of 5G wireless, September 26, 2019)

The Belfer Center

  • Blog on Data and Security: These regimes cordon off their domestic Internet space and shut off their citizens from global information flows, while undermining rival countries through disinformation campaigns and hacking. Authoritarian governments try to steal the intellectual property and databases of foreign organizations, but lock foreign firms out of their own data-rich sectors. (Publications – How to Win the Battle Over Data, September 17, 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.