April 17, 2020

COVID-19: Resources

Nothing can stop a team
Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, shares how Microsoft customers are using Teams to call, meet, chat, and collaborate while working apart.

Enhancing VPN performance to enable remote work
Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO) team, the internal IT team that builds and operates the systems that run Microsoft, shares how they’re keeping tens of thousands users connected seamlessly.

Afternoon Cyber Tea: Building operational resilience in a digital world
Ann Johnson, Corporate Vice President, Cybersecurity Solutions Group, shares a podcast discussion with security expert Ian Coldwell.

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

USA Today Microsoft, UPS and health care companies create app so you can donate masks to hospitals
A shortage of personal protective equipment weakens health workers’ ability to do their jobs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. A partial solution: the gloves you have stored in your garage.

Reuters Three U.S. local governments to adopt coronavirus contact tracing app: MIT
Three U.S. local governments plan to sign deals this week to become the first to adopt a location tracking app aimed at preventing new outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-led project said Thursday.

CNET Location data brokers say they can help contain COVID-19. Here’s why that’s a problem
Location data brokers, who have long gathered the whereabouts of hundreds of millions of people for the purposes of delivering ads, are coming into the spotlight, suggesting that their data can be used to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.

CNET Microsoft’s video chat technology is changing how this hospital fights coronavirus
You can’t walk into the intensive care units at St. Luke’s University Health Network because of concerns over spreading the novel coronavirus. But if you did, you’d see something new amid the beds, medical equipment and tubes. It’s a device with Microsoft’s Teams software running.

The Guardian Tech giants struggle to stem ‘infodemic’ of false coronavirus claims
Click over to Google, type in “coronavirus”, and press enter. The results you see will bear little resemblance to any other search. There are no ads, no product recommendations, and no links to websites that have figured out how to win the search engine optimisation game.

CNBC Google creates online unemployment application with state of New York
Google has created an application portal to help the state of New York deal with a historic surge in unemployment filings. The company said it could potentially bring a similar service to other states.

CNN Microsoft is giving workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave because of school disruptions
Microsoft is giving its workers an additional three months of paid parental leave to deal with extended school closures due to the coronavirus outbreak. Parents who work for Microsoft can choose how and when to use the leave — whether it’s a three-month stretch or a few days a week — a company spokesperson told CNN Business.


Politico Democrats, GOP tussle over vote-by-mail
The debate over voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic took center stage Thursday during a press call about voting rights during the crisis, as Democratic senators and election officials from both parties pitched their solutions to the virus’ disruptive effects.

CNET Joe Biden’s views on tech
With Bernie Sanders dropping out of the Democratic race for the presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden is the party’s presumptive pick to run against President Donald Trump. Though the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout over the coming months are likely to dominate the political discussion, technology issues are also here to stay.


The Hill Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure to pass federal privacy law
Concerns around the use of personal data to track and halt the spread of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic led senators and tech industry groups on Thursday to urge Congress to ramp up its efforts to put in place a national consumer privacy law.

Bloomberg HHS Won’t Crack Down on Privacy Violations at Virus Test Sites
Health-care providers and business associates operating coronavirus testing sites in communities won’t be penalized for some privacy rule violations, HHS said Thursday. The Department of Health and Human Services loosened regulations under health privacy laws in order to expand the number of local testing sites available.

The Hill House lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to expand telehealth services
Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced legislation Friday to boost telehealth services amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act would infuse $2 billion into the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rural health care program to expand remote treatment options and ensure high quality internet connection at health care facilities.

Roll Call Democrats question Kushner about health surveillance privacy during pandemic
Lawmakers are raising new questions about the role of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner in the response to the coronavirus, particularly when it comes to the government’s work with big tech companies.


Puget Sound Business Journal Microsoft to preserve 11,000 acres, build planetary computer
Microsoft announced Wednesday new efforts to preserve biodiversity as part of its larger sustainability efforts. Microsoft President Brad Smith said during a Wednesday webcast that by 2025 the company is committing to protect more than 11,000 acres – the amount it uses globally, which he said is about three-quarters the size of Manhattan.

Reuters Facebook must face renewed privacy lawsuit over user tracking
A federal appeals court on Thursday revived nationwide litigation accusing Facebook Inc of violating users’ privacy rights by tracking their internet activity even after they logged out of the social media website. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Facebook users could pursue several claims under federal and California privacy and wiretapping laws.

The Verge Lawsuit fights new Baltimore aerial surveillance program
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to stop Baltimore police from launching a sweeping “eye in the sky” surveillance program. The initiative, operated by a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), would send planes flying over Baltimore at least 40 hours a week as they almost continuously collect wide-angle photos of the city.

Harvard Business Review A Radical Solution to Scale AI Technology
Most C-suite executives know they need to integrate AI capabilities to stay competitive, but too many of them fail to move beyond the proof of concept stage. They get stuck focusing on the wrong details or building a model to prove a point rather than solve a problem.

Farm Bureau News Rural Americans’ Health Depends on Broadband Access
While the lack of broadband access in rural America is not a new problem, the necessity for immediate action is increasingly clear as rural residents and the health care facilities and providers who serve them are more reliant on telehealth in the time of COVID-19. Telehealth provides a wide array of services, from processing payments and scheduling appointments to conducting primary care visits via video.

Multichannel News FCC Hands Out More Rural Broadband Bucks
The FCC has authorized another $2.6 million in support for rural broadband, the latest in its Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) auction outlays. The money is going to Armstrong Telecommunications to serve approximately 2,000 people in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania with gigabit-speed broadband.


Center for Strategic International Studies

  • Blog on the accuracy of facial recognition.
    Facial recognition has improved dramatically in only a few years. Since 2014, the accuracy of facial recognition algorithms has improved by a factor of 27 according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which found in its most recent evaluation that 28 algorithms achieved accuracy rates better than the leading algorithm in 2014. These improvements must be taken into account when considering the best way to regulate the technology. Government action should be calculated to address the risks that come from where the technology is going, not where it is currently. Further accuracy gains will continue to reduce risks related to misidentification, and expand the benefits that can come from proper use. However, as performance improvements create incentives for more widespread deployment, the need to assure proper governance of the technology will only become more pressing. (Blog – How Accurate are Facial Recognition Systems – and Why Does It Matter?, April 14, 2020)

Earth Institute of Columbia University

  • How will COVID-19 impact methane emissions?
    A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), published on March 31, shows that global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector increased by nearly four percent from 2018 to 2019. That trend could continue in 2020 and beyond, due, in part, to the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. While the downturn is widely expected to lead to a decline in carbon dioxide emissions, it could have the opposite effect on emissions of methane, with the IEA noting that lower oil and gas prices “could mean that producers pay less attention to efforts to tackle methane.” For example, oil producers will have less incentive to capture and sell associated natural gas, which is primarily methane, and may simply vent it to the atmosphere. Similarly, natural gas producers may put off fixing leaks because the cost of doing so now exceeds the value of the captured gas. (Blog – COVID-19 Policy Could Lead to a Spike in Methane Emissions, April 10, 2020)

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.