August 21 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Roll Call Hospitals eye permanent telehealth expansion with FCC funds
Hundreds of hospitals and health care centers from Washington state to Louisiana are expanding telehealth infrastructure thanks to $200 million that Congress appropriated for the Federal Communications Commission in emergency legislation. In some cases, hospitals are supplementing the federal funds from the $2 trillion coronavirus relief law enacted in March with their own money to expand health care delivery through remote devices, cameras and software with patients remaining at home during the pandemic.

Reuters Three more U.S. states launching coronavirus exposure warning apps
North Dakota, Wyoming and Alabama are the latest U.S. states launching apps to warn users about potential exposure to the novel coronavirus by tracking their encounters, representatives for the states told Reuters on Thursday. Virginia last week became the first U.S. state to urge residents to download such an app using technology developed by smartphone software giants Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

MobiHealthNewsEfforts to make contact tracing technology available on wearables
Work is underway to create a specification which would enable wearable devices to utilize COVID-19 contact tracing technology. More than 130 Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) member companies have joined a working group, which aims to define a standardized method to add wearables to the existing smartphone-based Exposure Notification System (ENS), while preserving privacy and security protections.


Fortune The U.S. Postal Service is seeking a patent for voting by phone
The U.S. Postal Service has been quietly exploring a high-tech approach to voting that involve mobile devices, QR codes and the ledger technology known as blockchain. The possibilities are set out in a patent application that describes a range of scenarios, including one where voters register to vote with an app, then cast their ballot via a QR code received in the mail.

NBC Gov’t election security struggles to reach some counties
The U.S. government’s main cybersecurity watchdog has spent much of the last four years trying to stop a repeat of the 2016 election. That’s meant reaching out to the country’s more than 3,000 counties with an offer: free cybersecurity tools. It’s a tough job. Some counties are receptive and engaged. Others barely have enough people to put on their local election. One of the main services offered — a weekly scan of a county’s internet connected networks meant to make sure its voter database is safe — has signed up a little more than 200 counties.


Cyberscoop NSA, FBI publicize hacking tool linked to Russian military intelligence
The National Security Agency and the FBI are jointly exposing malware that they say Russian military hackers use in cyber-espionage operations. Hackers working for Russia’s General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate’s 85th Main Special Service Center, military unit 26165, use the malware, which the Russians themselves call “Drovorub,” to target Linux systems, the NSA and FBI said Thursday in a detailed report. The hackers, also known as APT28 or Fancy Bear, allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and frequently target defense, government, and aerospace entities. The Russian military agency is also known as the GRU.

The Hill Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities
Last week, Reps. John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation to provide election officials with enhanced cybersecurity resources, as authorities ramp up warnings of foreign interference in U.S. elections this year. The Cyber Navigators Act would provide funds for states and local authorities to hire cyber professionals to provide election-related cybersecurity support. The funds would be distributed to states by the Election Assistance Commission as part of a grant program.

Wall Street Journal Justice Department Disagreement Arises Over Possible Google Antitrust Suit
Some Justice Department staffers have expressed internal concerns over plans to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google—and what they view as an aggressive timeline favored by Attorney General William Barr, according to people familiar with the matter.

Multichannel News FCC Extends Lifeline Waivers into Fall
The FCC has extended its Lifeline-related waivers. Lifeline is the phone/broadband subsidy to low-income residents, service that has become even more important during the pandemic. The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau has, on its own motion (which means its own initiative rather than in response to a petition) agreed to extend the deadlines to Nov. 30.


Multichannel News FCC Broadband Data Map Rules Go Into Effect Sept. 17
The FCC’s rules for establishing a new broadband data collection regime go into effect Sept. 17. The comment dates have also been set for proposals on how the FCC can provide consumers, governmental entities and others the ability to verify and/or challenge the new maps. The latter are Sept. 8 for comments and Sept. 17 for replies. That came after both the rules report and order and verification Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking were published in the Federal Register, which triggers the dates. The FCC July 16 approved the broad strokes of its new Digital Opportunity Data Collection broadband data collection regime, which is intended to collect precise and granular data on broadband availability.

Wall Street Journal Microsoft, Energy Dept. to Develop Disaster-Response AI Tools
The U.S. Department of Energy and Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced a partnership to develop artificial-intelligence tools aimed at helping first-responders better react to fast-changing natural events, such as floods and wildfires. “There are just so many technologies where we can solve some of the toughest problems, in a moment where we’re having an explosion of wildfires and floods and some really major natural disasters,” said Cheryl Ingstad, director of the Energy Department’s Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office.

Nextgov The Case to Increase Workforce Training for Artificial Intelligence
The U.S. federal government will spend close to $1 billion in artificial intelligence by 2023, according to market researcher IDC. This investment has more than tripled since 2018, showing how important AI is becoming as government agencies develop plans to modernize and automate their business processes. According to new research from Accenture—The Coming Federal Productivity Boom—federal agencies are poised to transform this investment into $364 billion of added productivity by 2028. AI’s biggest impact will be in augmenting specific tasks so they can be performed more effectively by current workers.

The Guardian Google giving far-right users’ data to law enforcement, documents reveal
A little-known investigative unit inside search giant Google regularly forwarded detailed personal information on the company’s users to members of a counter-terrorist fusion center in California’s Bay Area, according to leaked documents reviewed by the Guardian. But checking the documents against Google’s platforms reveals that in some cases Google did not necessarily ban the users they reported to the authorities, and some still have accounts on YouTube, Gmail and other services.

Atlantic Council The ‘Digital Ocean’ as a model for innovation in the perfect storm
Megatrends that shape the current century point to a future in which our security and environment are inextricably linked. Population changes, exponential technological growth, climate change, and scarcity of resources, both natural and financial, set against rising global insecurity create a situation in which our international institutions must innovate or risk becoming irrelevant and financially unsustainable.

Wall Street Journal The Quiet Growth of Race-Detection Software Sparks Concerns Over Bias
When Revlon Inc. wanted to know what lipstick women of different races and in different countries were wearing, the cosmetics giant didn’t need to send out a survey. It hired Miami-based Kairos Inc., which used a facial-analysis algorithm to scan Instagram photos. Back then, in 2015, the ability to scan a person’s face and identify his or her race was still in its infancy. Today, more than a dozen companies offer some form of race or ethnicity detection, according to a review of websites, marketing literature and interviews.


American Enterprise Institute 

  • Blog on Big Tech and American innovation.
    Facebook and Google have argued that breaking them up would damage US competitiveness with China. Vanderbilt Law Professor — and former advisor to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Ganesh Sitaraman and former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler (now at the Brookings Institution) take exception. Sitaraman argues in Foreign Affairs that breaking up Big Tech companies would bolster US national security. Wheeler writes that US tech innovation would improve if Big Tech companies were required to make their data assets available to rivals.(AEIdeas – Breaking up Big Tech will not help the US innovate or compete with China, August 19, 2020)

The Brookings Institution 

  • Report on diversity in S.T.E.M.
    Since the 1960s, both women and underrepresented minorities have earned an increasing share of bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees in fields most associated with invention—the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Yet, we do not observe a similar increase in patenting activity among these groups. Economists have identified multiple sources of gender and racial disparities in allocation of talent, including disparities with respect to the process of innovation. Whatever their source, gender and racial disparities exist at each stage of the innovation process—education and training, the practice of invention, and commercialization of invention—and can be costly to both productivity and the economy. The costs of misallocating talent in the economy are increasingly being identified and estimated in the economics literature. It is estimated that GDP per capita could be 0.6 percent to 4.4 percent higher with greater participation in the innovative process among women and minorities. (Research – Policies to broaden participation in the innovation process, August 14, 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.