February 12 2021

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Forbes Big Tech Provides A Shot In The Arm To Vaccine Rollout
The pandemic has challenged most of us on a personal level, however, business wise, it hasn’t been bad for everyone. Big tech leaders Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, for instance, have all seen their market values increase this past year. Furthermore, all of these companies have found themselves poised to play a significant role in helping the world recover from coronavirus, using their technological prowess to do everything from track coronavirus spread, to manage tests and vaccines, and improve overall distribution workflows. The most important right now, obviously, is vaccine distribution.

Politico The Cybersecurity 202: Coronavirus pandemic renews debate for hacker-proof IDs
A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers will soon revive a bill that would revamp the government’s approach to personal digital identification for U.S. citizens, my colleague Martin Matishak reports. The legislation — dubbed the “Improving Digital Identity Act” — was introduced last year but expired at the end of the 116th Congress without being acted on. Now, the measure’s main boosters, Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.), intend to reintroduce it in the next four to eight weeks.


Engadget Democrats call on the FCC to expand internet access for students
In an open letter, US Democrats have called on the FCC to expand internet access to students for online learning. Over 30 Senate democrats, including Ed Markey and Amy Klobuchar, asked acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel to use E-Rate funds to connect students who are unable to access online classes required because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hill House Armed Services panel establishes new cybersecurity subcommittee
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) on Wednesday announced the establishment of a new cybersecurity-focused subcommittee on the panel. Langevin will chair the new subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems, which will branch off from the current subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, a panel Langevin previously chaired.

The Hill Democrats introduce bill to fix unemployment systems technology
Four Democratic Senators introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at revamping the technology powering the country’s unemployment insurance system. The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act would seek to create standardized unemployment websites and features that states could choose to adopt.

Protocol This is the Democrats’ plan to limit Section 230
Three top Democratic senators added to the stack of proposed Section 230 reforms Friday, introducing their own bill that creates narrow carve-outs for a range of online harms, dramatically limits the scope of behaviors that Section 230 covers and takes aim at illicit activity that online platforms directly profit from. The so-called SAFE TECH Act was introduced Friday by Sens. Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono and Amy Klobuchar.

FedScoop OMB nominee Tanden on technology: ‘We have a lot of work to do’
The recent SolarWinds breach at several federal agencies has made it clear: “We have a lot of work to do” to improve the government’s use of technology, President Biden’s pick to run the Office of Management and Budget said Tuesday during her confirmation hearing. Neera Tanden pledged Tuesday to make IT modernization and cybersecurity top priorities if confirmed as director of OMB, which houses the roles of Federal CIO and CISO; the U.S. Digital Service; and the Information Technology, Oversight and Reform fund that supports those offices.

CyberScoop Congress is starting to move on more cyber bills, even if few become law
Congress dramatically ratcheted up the number of cybersecurity bills introduced in the last two years compared to the prior session of Congress, but that didn’t equate to much more of it becoming law, according to a think tank study out today. And while cybersecurity legislation remained a relative oasis of bipartisanship, that tendency sharply dropped off when it came to election security, found the tally from Third Way — which CyberScoop is first reporting.


The Verge Microsoft suspends donations for politicians who attempted to overturn the 2020 election
Microsoft has announced that it will suspend all donations for the upcoming 2022 election cycle for any members of Congress, state officials, and organizations that voted to object to the certification of electors in the 2020 election or supported attempting to overturn the election. The company temporarily suspended all political contributions after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, with Microsoft taking the time to decide “whether to suspend further donations to individuals who voted against certification of the Electoral College.”

CNET Microsoft says big tech antitrust issues can be solved with laws, not lawsuits
Microsoft built a monopoly on the back of its Windows software to power computers and the Internet Explorer web browser. A judge even pronounced that finding in 2001, after a three-year government investigation into the company. But after that, Microsoft effectively got a multimillion-dollar slap on the wrist, and continued being Microsoft. Two decades later, the US government is ramping up an antitrust debate focused on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Though Microsoft isn’t a target this time around, the company says there are key lessons governments should take from its 2001 case.

Vice Google Kicks Location Data Broker That Sold Muslim Prayer App User Data
Last week, Google sent a seven-day warning to app developers on its Android platform telling them to remove code from location data broker Predicio or face having their apps removed from the Play Store, Google told Motherboard on Monday. Predicio is a France-based firm that pays app developers for access to their users’ granular location data, which then sells that data to its own clients.

The Hill New state privacy initiatives turn up heat on Congress
Congress is coming under increasing pressure to create a federal framework for data privacy laws as states forge ahead with their own plans. Virginia is poised to become the second state to pass a data privacy bill this week, with several other states considering proposals that vary in regulation standards and enforcement practices, potentially creating the kind of privacy patchwork that the tech industry has been warning about for years.

Bloomberg To Bridge the Digital Divide, Cities Tap Their Own Infrastructure
When the pandemic shut down schools in March, it created a new urgency to narrow the digital gap in the U.S. as millions of students struggled to participate in remote learning because they didn’t have internet access at home. It also reinforced the reality that the divide doesn’t just exist between rural and urban communities, but also within America’s largest cities.

Microsoft On The Issues Microsoft’s Endorsement of Australia’s Proposal on Technology and the News
Last week, Microsoft endorsed an Australian proposal that would require tech gatekeepers like Facebook and Google to share revenue with local independent news organizations. Microsoft’s endorsement followed a statement by Google that it would pull its search service out of the country if the Australian Parliament approves the proposal. Facebook similarly said that if the proposal is adopted, it would stop Australian users from sharing news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Ars Technica SpaceX plans Starlink phone service, emergency backup, and low-income access
A new SpaceX filing outlines plans for Starlink to offer phone service, emergency backup for voice calls, and cheaper plans for people with low incomes through the government’s Lifeline program. The details are in Starlink’s petition to the Federal Communications Commission for designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) under the Communications Act. SpaceX said it needs that legal designation in some of the states where it won government funding to deploy broadband in unserved areas.


The Brookings Institute

  • Blog on Biden’s FCC and Broadband Access
    The COVID-19 pandemic has affirmed how important broadband internet access is to the American economy, both today and in the decades to come. Now, with a new administration taking office in Washington, what broadband policies should the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prioritize? As it stands, the Biden administration’s FCC is inheriting a large set of problems that the Trump administration failed to address, or in some cases, made worse. (The Avenue – Trump’s FCC failed on broadband access. Now, Biden’s FCC has to clean up the messFebruary 2, 2021)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on Improving Education with AR/VR
    The shift to mass distance learning due to COVID-19 has revealed critical deficits and disparities across the U.S. education system. This has underscored the need for schools to adopt educational technology that allows students to learn independently, whether at home or in the classroom, as well as to stay engaged. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR)—immersive technologies that enable users to experience digitally rendered content in both physical and virtual space—have the potential to meet these needs, but only if federal and state governments make targeted investments in these technologies. (ITIF Blog – With the Right Investments, AR and VR Can Reduce Education GapsFebruary 10, 2021)

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.