December 11 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

New York Times C.D.C. Call for Data on Vaccine Recipients Raises Alarm Over Privacy
The Trump administration is requiring states to submit personal information of people vaccinated against Covid-19 — including names, birth dates, ethnicities and addresses — raising alarms among state officials who fear that a federal vaccine registry could be misused. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is instructing states to sign so-called data use agreements that commit them for the first time to sharing personal information in existing registries with the federal government.

Washington Post New smartphone tool to track side effects of the coronavirus vaccine may be vulnerable to manipulation
A new smartphone technology designed to provide real-time warnings of side effects in the first Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus may be vulnerable to manipulation, raising concerns malicious actors could gain access to the system to undermine confidence in the shots, federal and state health officials say. The text-messaging system, called v-safe, is intended to provide early indications about possible adverse reactions from the vaccines.

Associated Press Despite promise, few in US adopting COVID-19 exposure apps
Six months ago, Apple and Google introduced a new smartphone tool designed to notify people who might have been exposed to the coronavirus, without disclosing any personal information. But for the most part, Americans haven’t been all that interested. Fewer than half of U.S. states and territories — 18 in total — have made such technology widely available. And according to a data analysis by The Associated Press, the vast majority of Americans in such locations haven’t activated the tool.


The Verge Senate confirms Trump FCC nominee over Democrat objections
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm the controversial nomination of Republican Nathan Simington to the Federal Communications Commission, despite pleas from Democrats and advocacy groups to hold off on a vote until next year. By confirming Simington, the Republican-led Senate will be handing the incoming Joe Biden administration a deadlocked FCC.

CNN SpaceX gets almost $900 million in federal subsidies to deliver broadband to rural America
The US government plans to give SpaceX nearly a billion dollars to beam internet from space to people across rural America, where three out of five people say access to broadband is still a pressing issue. The company will receive a total of $856 million, one of the largest subsidies handed out by the Federal Communications Commission under a new program designed to encourage companies to extend broadband access into the United States’ most underserved areas over the next 10 years.

Protocol Congress is finally backing a national AI strategy
The U.S. does not currently have a national strategy to address the future of artificial intelligence, leaving a leadership vacuum as technologies like facial recognition and machine learning platforms increasingly consume every aspect of daily life. On Monday, the House will vote to change that, Protocol has learned. The lower chamber is poised to vote in favor of a resolution to create a national AI strategy, the culmination of years of research and months of rapid-fire negotiations across six congressional committees.

CNN The antitrust case against Facebook: Here’s what you need to know
Facebook was hit with twin lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from dozens of states on Wednesday, in one of the most serious challenges ever to the Silicon Valley giant. The cases could potentially result in Facebook being broken up.

Protocol Lawmakers are cramming controversial copyright provisions into a must-pass spending bill
Lawmakers are cramming multiple controversial copyright provisions into a must-pass spending bill at the eleventh hour, stirring up pushback from tech companies and civil liberties activists who say they’re skirting proper procedure in order to create a system that’s vulnerable to abuse. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have agreed to include a package of three provisions — the controversial CASE Act, the Trademark Modernization Act and a felony streaming proposal — in the omnibus spending bill, which must pass before a Dec. 11 government shutdown deadline, according to two congressional aides.

Politico McMorris Rodgers’ top tech target for next Congress: Section 230
The newly elected GOP lead of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in an interview Thursday that the No. 1 item on House Republicans’ tech agenda for next Congress will be to take aim at the online industry’s liability shield, Section 230. “At the top of the list for the Republicans is holding big tech accountable and addressing Section 230, because it is unacceptable, it’s un-American what happened during the election, where they were censoring political speech in the name of misinformation,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) told POLITICO.

The Hill Ransomware attacks pose 2021 challenges for Congress
Ransomware cyberattacks are expected to pose a growing threat to hospitals and schools next year, putting pressure on Congress to draft a legislative response. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Biden administration will have its own set of challenges, mainly building a new cybersecurity leadership team at the federal level and taking stock of what aspects of election security from 2020 should be replicated in the future.

The Hill Senate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformation
Senate Democrats on Monday urged Google to improve its ad policies regarding election disinformation and voter suppression, accusing the company of failing even to enforce its own “inadequate” policy. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) led the group of 11 senators in a letter that called on the tech giant to strengthen the enforcement of its policies regarding election-related disinformation, including rejecting all ads spreading election disinformation and stopping ad services on websites that spread false information.


Microsoft Official Blog Enhancing mission resiliency for government
As we approach the end of one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to take stock of how the challenges faced by governments, businesses and individuals have tested us collectively, and how we have responded. While this pandemic has taught us that no one is 100 percent resilient, government agencies focused on the notion of mission resiliency, including agile infrastructure, ongoing digital transformation and topline security, have proven more capable of quickly pivoting and adapting in the face of a crisis.

New York Times FireEye, a Top Cybersecurity Firm, Says It Was Hacked by a Nation-State
For years, the cybersecurity firm FireEye has been the first call for government agencies and companies around the world who have been hacked by the most sophisticated attackers, or fear they might be. Now it looks like the hackers — in this case, evidence points to Russia’s intelligence agencies — may be exacting their revenge.

WIRED The NSA Warns That Russia Is Attacking Remote Work Platforms
Throughout 2020, an unprecedented portion of the world’s office workers have been forced to work from home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. That dispersal has created countless opportunities for hackers, who are taking full advantage. In an advisory today, the National Security Agency said that Russian state-sponsored groups have been actively attacking a vulnerability in multiple enterprise remote-work platforms developed by VMware.

Deseret News Has COVID-19 confirmed it’s time to make high-speed internet a public utility?
Early worries about whether U.S. internet infrastructure could accommodate an unprecedented surge in usage as COVID-19 restrictions pushed tens of millions of Americans to working and learning from home have, for the most part, proven unfounded. However, that new pandemic-induced dependence on robust internet connectivity has shone a light on the stark inequities of broadband access and helped spur a new focus on addressing a long-standing question — why isn’t internet service a public utility with the same support, disbursement and regulation afforded to other basic necessities like water, electricity and telephone service?

Business Insider Facebook failed to put fact-check labels on 60% of the most viral posts containing Georgia election misinformation that its own fact-checkers had debunked, a new report says
Facebook has promised repeatedly that it would crack down on election-related misinformation. But ahead of two pivotal runoff elections in Georgia that could decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the US Senate, Facebook is still falling far short of those promises, according to a report from the nonprofit research group Avaaz. Facebook correctly applied fact-check labels to just 40% of the most viral posts containing false claims about Georgia debunked by its own fact-checkers, according to Avaaz, which analyzed a sample of the top performing posts.


The Brookings Institute

  • Blog on New White House AI Guidance
    Following a February 2019 executive order, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its final guidance on the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) on November 17, 2020. This document presents the U.S. government strategy towards AI oversight, and as such it deserves careful scrutiny. The White House guidance is reasoned and reflects a nuanced understanding of AI; however, there are also real causes for concern regarding the long-term impact on the regulation of AI. (TechTank – New White House guidance downplays important AI harms, December 8, 2020)

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

  • Blog on FCC C-Band Auction
    No more than a few weeks out from the December holiday festivities, policy advocates and innovators across the country now have another reason to celebrate. Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) kicked off its auction of C-band spectrum. This particular band of spectrum is viewed as the most critical for deployment of fifth generation (5G) wireless services and ensuring consumers have 5G access from their homes. Naturally, this is a huge step for American leadership in 5G across the globe. This is critically important, as there are worries that the Chinese may corner the global market first, a development that would carry steep consequences. (Taxpayers Protection Alliance Blog – Last Minute Rent Seeking Tries to Upend FCC Spectrum Win, December 8, 2020)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Podcast on Improving Computer Science Education
    Despite the growing use of computers and software in every facet of our economy, not until recently has computer science education begun to gain traction in American school systems. The current focus on improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in U.S. schools has disregarded differences within STEM fields. Indeed, the most important STEM field for a modern economy is not only one that is not represented by its own initial in the acronym “STEM,” but also the field that the fewest high school students study and the one with the most room for improvement, by far: computer science. (Innovation Files Podcast – Podcast: The Case for Improving U.S. Computer Science Education, With Pat Yongpradit, December 7, 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.