August 20 2021

This Week in Washington

The Hill FTC expected to reveal new strategy in Facebook antitrust fight
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week is expected to lay out its new legal strategy in an ongoing antitrust battle with Facebook that will also reveal how FTC chief Lina Khan plans to take on the market power of U.S. tech giants. The FTC has until Thursday to disclose whether it plans to proceed with the case after a major courtroom setback earlier this year. The agency is largely expected to move forward and is likely to do so by filing an amended complaint.

Bloomberg Law White House, States Get Say Over Broadband Funds in Senate Bill
A Senate push as part of its infrastructure bill to provide $42.5 billion in new broadband subsidies envisions handing control over the funds to the Commerce Department and the states, rather than the independent Federal Communications Commission. Under the measure, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration would distribute the funds through grants to eligible states.

The Associated Press Cyber leader calls for nonpartisan path to securing the vote
Those entrusted with securing the nation’s voting systems must remain nonpartisan as a myriad of complex and growing risks continue to threaten U.S. elections, one of the nation’s top cybersecurity officials said Saturday. Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said in an interview with The Associated Press that she was focused on ensuring the federal agency stays out of politics, builds trust among state and local election officials, and continues to provide critical support and guidance on how to increase cyber defenses.

The Wall Street Journal Homeland Security Considers Outside Firms to Analyze Social Media After Jan. 6 Failure
The Department of Homeland Security is considering hiring private companies to analyze public social media for warning signs of extremist violence, spurring debate within the agency over how to monitor for such threats while protecting Americans’ civil liberties. The effort, which remains under discussion and hasn’t received approval or funding, would involve sifting through large flows of internet traffic to help identify online narratives that might provide leads on developing attacks, whether from home or abroad. The initiative comes after the nation’s intelligence community failed to sufficiently identify and share signs of the threats that led to the assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6.

The Hill Senators call for FTC investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot feature
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Tesla’s marketing of a partially assisted driving feature known as Autopilot. “Tesla’s marketing has repeatedly overstated the capabilities of its vehicles, and these statements increasingly pose a threat to motorists and other users of the road,” the senators wrote in a letter Wednesday to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan.

Article Summary

The Wall Street Journal China Set to Pass One of the World’s Strictest Data-Privacy Laws
The world’s leading practitioner of state surveillance is set to usher in a far-reaching new privacy regime. China’s top legislative body is expected this week to pass a privacy law that resembles the world’s most robust framework for online privacy protections, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. But unlike European governments, which themselves face more public pressure over data collection, Beijing is expected to maintain broad access to data under the new Personal Information Protection Law. The national privacy law, China’s first, is being reviewed as frustration grows within the government, and in Chinese society at large, over online fraud, data theft, and data collection by Chinese technology giants.

Fortune Microsoft and Rubrik team up to protect customers from ransomware attacks
Microsoft Corp. is investing in software startup Rubrik Inc. and the two companies will combine on products that will help customers hit by ransomware recover their critical data without paying hackers. The companies declined to specify the size of the investment. The funding totaled in the low tens of millions and valued Rubrik at about $4 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private terms.

NextGov What a Top Secret Cloud Means for Microsoft
The Azure Government Top Secret platform, which was first unveiled among a suite of new products in December, is generally available to agency customers as of this week. It underpins more than 60 initial services now, with others in the pipeline.

Fierce Telecom States play a key role as federal broadband funding pours in
The Covid-19 pandemic sparked somewhat of a broadband revival, highlighting the importance of connectivity as citizens across the U.S. and the globe were forced to work, learn and play from home. It’s no surprise, then, that broadband funding has been pouring in from the federal government. The catch, of course, is that much of it is being allocated on the state level. This is the case for two of the biggest federal funding pots on the table right now, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which became law in March, and the yet-to-be-passed INVEST in America Act, which is perhaps better known as the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Politico Global ‘whack-a-mole’: Why it’s so hard for the U.S. to go after hackers’ digital wallets
President Joe Biden has said he’ll take on hackers’ payment method of choice — cryptocurrency — in the fight against ransomware gangs. But any such effort faces a massive challenge: getting the rest of the world on board. Congress and administration officials are increasingly pushing for oversight of cryptocurrency after a spate of cyberattacks in which criminal hackers hobbled the operations of a major East Coast gas pipeline, halted production at one of the nation’s largest meatpackers and breached an IT software vendor that supplied hundreds of companies.

The Seattle Times New local newspaper emerges in Bellingham
Congress must step up and help save local newspapers. But that’s only part of what’s needed to end a journalism crisis that’s left hundreds of communities with no local news, increased polarization and enabled a misinformation epidemic. Committed owners, willing and able to support a news organization despite industry turmoil, are also essential. Such benefactors have stepped up and acquired daily papers in some of America’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. But the greatest need is in smaller and rural communities.

The Wall Street Journal Facebook Backs Underwater Cable Projects to Boost Internet Connectivity
Facebook Inc. said it would back two new underwater cable projects—one in Africa and another in Asia in collaboration with Alphabet Inc.’s Google—that aim to give the Silicon Valley giants greater control of the global internet infrastructure that their businesses rely on. The 2Africa project, a partnership between Facebook and several international telecom operators, said Monday that it would add four new branches: the Seychelles, Comoro Islands, Angola, and Nigeria. The project’s overall plan calls for 35 landings in 26 countries, with the goal of building an underwater ring of fiber-optic cables around Africa. It aims to begin operating in 2023.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Federal Privacy Law
    As the invalidation of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield still casts uncertainty over international data flows more than a year later, the need for federal privacy legislation looms larger than ever. Although congressional interest in revamping U.S. federal privacy laws persists, there has been only marginal action so far this year. On July 28, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a new version of the Setting an American Framework to Ensure Data Access, Transparency, and Accountability Act (SAFE DATA Act). The bill comes not long after Wicker and Blackburn joined their House counterparts, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), in urging the White House to work with Congress on a federal consumer privacy law. (TechTank – One year after Schrems II, the world is still waiting for U.S. privacy legislationAugust 16, 2021)