August 14 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Fierce Healthcare How Adaptive Biotechnologies and Microsoft are working to ‘decode” our immune response to COVID-19
Using immuno-sequencing, proprietary computational modeling, and machine learning, the companies began working on an atlas mapping out the interactions between the immune system and multiple diseases. This makes it possible to “read” what an immune system has fought or is currently fighting, such as certain cancers, the companies said.

CNET COVID contact tracing apps bring privacy pitfalls around the world
Public health experts rushed to create contact tracing apps in countries all over the world this spring. They serve an important purpose in determining who might’ve been exposed to the novel coronavirus so they can be tested and isolated. But the risks were clear too.

WisBusiness Rural, urban health care systems promote telehealth and broadband required to effectively use it
Before COVID-19, telehealth was used by patients primarily to see specialists often located halfway across the state. Due to insurance regulations and reimbursement rules, patients had to use the telehealth services in an approved location, such as a clinic, hospital or nursing home. When COVID struck, hospital systems such as Marshfield Clinic and UW Health knew they had the ability to continue seeing patients via telehealth.

USA Today Life with coronavirus: How businesses are turning to tech to cope with COVID-19
When Golden State Warriors execs cut the ribbon on their new Chase Center in San Francisco last September, they felt like they’d just introduced a new arena that was ready for anything. And then came COVID.


CNN Big Tech’s head-spinning rules for the 2020 election
Late Wednesday, Twitter made waves by temporarily restricting a Trump campaign account’s ability to tweet because it shared a video containing false claims President Trump had made about the coronavirus. But Twitter took no action on President Trump’s personal account, which re-shared the video.

Politico Pelosi says election threats from Russia and China are not equal
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended her claim that the threats posed by Russia, China and Iran to interfere in the presidential are not equal, following an intelligence report last week that found Russia is targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, while China and Iran are hoping President Donald Trump will lose.

TechCrunch Kamala Harris brings a view from tech’s epicenter to the presidential race
Joe Biden’s decision to name California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the quest to unseat President Trump means that the next vice president could be not only the first Black and Asian American woman on a presidential ticket in the U.S — historic milestones by any account — but also a Californian who built a career in the tech industry’s front yard.

Axios What to know about Kamala Harris’s alliances, brawls with Big Tech
Harris is unlikely to lead the charge on calling to rein in Big Tech, but if the Democratic party makes good on its threats to do so, she may well become a key figure on tech policy in a Biden White House.

TechTimes Reddit CEO Explains Why the Platform Allows Donald Trump’s Political Ads, Points Outs Some Restrictions
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman confirmed that the platform runs ads for President Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 presidential election. In Reddit’s all-hands meeting last week, Huffman addressed some of the employees’ concerns, particularly with the platform’s hosting of Trump’s political ads, according to TechCrunch. The decision follows Huffman’s statement that Reddit will not tolerate “hate, racism, and violence.”


Wall Street Journal Inside the Renewed Push for a National Cyber Director
After hackers breached Twitter Inc.’s systems on July 15, Sen. Angus King of Maine texted lawmakers scattered across the country because of the coronavirus pandemic to discuss the news. He had been warning for months about something like this happening. Just that morning, the House Oversight Committee had debated a recommendation from a March report by a commission Mr. King, an Independent, co-chaired with Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.).

Associated Press Pentagon offers military airwaves for 5G wireless networks
The Pentagon plans to free up a big chunk of its military airwaves in the U.S. for high-speed internet service, part of a broader push to get ahead of China in the deployment of 5G wireless technology. The Trump administration announced Monday that it has identified radio spectrum used for radar defense systems that can be shared with commercial telecommunications providers without compromising national security.

Forbes Court Case Against Trump Immigration And Visa Ban Moves Forward
A lawsuit has moved forward that may decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants and temporary visa holders. These are individuals blocked by two sweeping presidential proclamations issued earlier this year. The plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction to stop the Trump administration’s proclamations.

CNET Homeland Security details new tools for extracting device data at US borders
Travelers heading to the US have many reasons to be cautious about their devices when it comes to privacy. A report released Thursday from the Department of Homeland Security provides even more cause for concern about how much data border patrol agents can pull from your phones and computers.

Bloomberg U.S., EU Say Discussions Under Way on Privacy Shield Follow-up
The U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Union have started talks to evaluate the potential for “an enhanced EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework” after the EU’s top court threw out the current system for shipping data across the Atlantic.


Microsoft on the Issues Understanding accessibility through ABCs
“Us” includes all of us. Approximately 1 billion people live with a disability, according to the World Health Organization. Access to technology shouldn’t be restricted by our vision, hearing, mobility, mental health, learning disabilities or cognitive differences. At Microsoft we focus on the maxim of “nothing about us, without us” in order to create technology for people with and without disabilities. Creating and developing technologies for everybody to use involves embracing diversity and an inclusive culture in Microsoft’s own workforce.

Microsoft News Centre UK A Scottish charity urges companies to use technology to access untapped talent and support disabled employees
A disabled people’s organization is urging companies to continue using technology to access untapped talent through more inclusive employment practices and support employees as lockdown is lifted. Inclusion Scotland works to remove barriers “to disabled people’s economic, social and civic inclusion, and to promote their rights, choices and voices, as full and equal citizens”.

Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Zoom sued by consumer group for misrepresenting its encryption protections
A consumer advocacy group is suing Zoom and seeking millions of dollars in damages, accusing the company of misleading its users about the strength of its encryption protections. The nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog is also accusing the videoconferencing company of deceiving users about the extent of its links with China and the fact that some calls between people in North America were routed through servers in China.

The Hill Equal access to tech can reduce poverty and increase diversity
After decades of little to no progress addressing institutional racism, Americans are starting to have serious conversations about privilege, income inequality and educational disparities based on race that keep people of color from opportunities they need to help them break the chains of poverty. The Black Lives Matter movement may have been sparked by police brutality, but it has opened the doors to a larger examination of the great racial divide that exists in every aspect of our society.

The New York Times C.E.O.s Pledge to Hire 100,000 Low-Income and Minority New Yorkers
A coalition of 27 major companies including Mastercard, Goldman Sachs and Verizon has pledged to hire 100,000 low-income and Black, Latino and Asian workers in New York City over the next 10 years, part of a broader push by corporate America to expand economic opportunities to marginalized communities.

Wall Street Journal U.S. Government Contractor Embedded Software in Apps to Track Phones
A small U.S. company with ties to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities has embedded its software in numerous mobile apps, allowing it to track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones world-wide, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Ripon Advance Latta’s bipartisan bill would increase federal funding for rural broadband
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) recently introduced the bipartisan Rural Connectivity Advancement Program (RCAP) Act of 2020 to ramp up federal funding for rural broadband development across the country. “This bill will increase funding to further the buildout of broadband in rural communities so that Americans, including those who live in rural America, will be able to participate in our 21st-century economy,” Rep. Latta said.

Reuters Tech giants back legal challenge to Trump’s foreign worker restrictions
Top U.S. tech firms including Inc and Facebook Inc filed a legal brief on Monday backing a challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on the entry of certain foreign workers to preserve jobs for Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

Multichannel News Net Neutrality: Back to Court in California
It’s back to court for Net Neutrality. In separate filings to a U.S. District Court in California, four communications trade associations and the U.S. Department of Justice filed requests this week to block California’s net neutrality law because, they contend, current FCC rules preempt the state law.

NBC Sensitive to claims of bias, Facebook relaxed misinformation rules for conservative pages
Facebook has allowed conservative news outlets and personalities to repeatedly spread false information without facing any of the company’s stated penalties, according to leaked materials reviewed by NBC News.

Axios Facebook cracks down on political content disguised as local news
Facebook is rolling out a new policy that will prevent U.S. news publishers with “direct, meaningful ties” to political groups from claiming the news exemption within its political ads authorization process.


American Enterprise Institute 

  • Follow-up blog on recent Big Tech Congressional hearings.
    In a follow-up to his post about Republicans’ performance during recent Congressional hearings with Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google CEOs, the author similarly concludes, The Democrats’ hearing didn’t make a case that Big Tech needs more regulation. Perhaps the best strategy for Democrats would be to let antitrust agencies do real research and determine whether the companies are harming customers. (AEIdeas – Democrats don’t make a case for regulating Big Tech, August 12, 2020)

The Brookings Institution 

  • Report on the relationship between democracy and algorithms.
    In the four years since the last U.S. presidential election, pressure has continued to build on Silicon Valley’s biggest internet firms: the Cambridge Analytica revelations; a series of security and privacy missteps; a constant drip of stories about discriminatory algorithms; employee pressure, walkouts, and resignations; and legislative debates about privacy, content moderation, and competition policy. The nation — indeed, the world — is waking up to the manifold threats internet platforms pose to the public sphere and to democracy. This paper provides a framework for understanding why internet platforms matter for democracy and how they should be regulated. We describe the two most powerful internet platforms, Facebook and Google, as new public utilities — utilities for democracy. Facebook and Google use algorithms to rank and order vast quantities of content and information, shaping how we consume news and access information, communicate with and feel about one another, debate fundamental questions of the common good, and make collective decisions. (Research – Utilities for democracy: Why and how the algorithmic infrastructure of Facebook and Google must be regulated, August 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.