January 15 2021

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Security Magazine Companies need to enhance cybersecurity amid the continuation of COVID-19 in 2021
Cybercriminals love a good crisis. So it’s no surprise that they jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit tens of millions of home-based workers who have provided new access points to malware, cyber viruses and phishing attacks. The attack surface for attackers has never been wider.

Engadget Google commits $3 million to fight COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
In its latest effort to promote verified, true information, Google is supporting attempts to fight falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines. Its Google News Initiative will provide up to $3 million in grants to journalists and fact-checkers who are tackling false information about the vaccine.  The goal of the open fund is to “reach audiences that are typically underserved or targeted by misinformation,” Alexios Mantzarlis, news and information credibility lead at Google News Lab, wrote in a blog post.


The Hill State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday approved the creation of a new office at the State Department to address cybersecurity and emerging technologies. The new Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET) will help lead diplomatic efforts around these topics, including working to prevent cyber conflicts with potentially adversarial nations.

Bloomberg FCC Chair Says He’s Dropping Social Media Order Trump Demanded
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said he won’t move forward with an order trimming a liability shield for social media companies, effectively killing the request from President Donald Trump. Pai said there isn’t enough time to complete a rulemaking before he leaves office Jan. 20, according to Anne Veigle, a spokeswoman for the FCC.

Washington Post House Democrats ask AT&T, Comcast to share data about home Internet shutoffs as lawmakers eye new stimulus aid
Democratic lawmakers are asking the country’s top telecom carriers to share more information about Americans who are falling behind on their Internet bills, setting the stage for Congress to consider billions of dollars in new broadband stimulus aid as part of the next coronavirus relief package.

The Verge Social media and telco companies urged to preserve evidence from Capitol attack
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is asking mobile carriers and social media platforms to preserve “content and associated metadata” that may be connected to the attack on the US Capitol. Warner said in a statement Saturday that he contacted the CEOs of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Apple, Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Signal, Telegram, and Twitter.

Cyberscoop Biden transition fills some top cybersecurity personnel spots
The incoming Biden administration has spent the week heralding some of its cybersecurity-related personnel decisions, even as a couple key jobs remain a question mark. The Biden transition on Friday announced a slew of National Security Council picks. Among them is Caitlin Durkovich to serve as senior director for resilience and response, reflecting a similar role she once held at a Department of Homeland Security division that Congress later renamed and reorganized as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The Verge FTC settles with photo storage app that pivoted to facial recognition
The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with photo storage app Ever that it says used customers’ photos to develop facial recognition technology without telling them, the agency announced Monday. Under the terms of the agreement, Everalbum Inc. is required to delete photos and videos of its users who deactivated their accounts, as well as any facial recognition algorithms developed with users’ photos or videos.

Washington Post Facebook, Twitter could face punishing regulation for their role in U.S. Capitol riot, Democrats say
Facebook, Google and Twitter are staring down the prospect of harsh new regulations in Washington, as politically ascendant Democrats in Congress pledge to take fresh aim at Silicon Valley for its role in stoking the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol this week. The violent mob that stormed the House and Senate, leaving the two chambers in lockdown, has emboldened party lawmakers who say that social media sites failed to heed their repeated warnings.


Los Angeles Sentinel Microsoft Launches Nonprofit Tech Acceleration Program for Black Communities
Microsoft is not new to the conversation when it comes to discussing solutions to systemic racism and serving under-represented communities. In the past, the company has partnered with organizations across the United States to work on criminal justice improvements and build technology solutions to help judges improve fairness in legal, financial obligations.

CNBC Microsoft’s cloud will now help power a project co-created by Google sister company Verily
Microsoft announced Monday it will contribute cloud-based data storage and computing power to Terra, a software project enabling industry and academic researchers to collaborate on large-scale analysis of health information. Verily, the life sciences company operating under Google parent company Alphabet, co-developed Terra and has been using it for the past three years.

The 74 Million Nearly a Year Into Remote Learning ‘Digital Divide’ Persists as Key Educational Threat, as Census Data Show 1 in 3 Households Still Struggling With Limited Tech Access
Mariah Hawkins wants to become a nurse. At 15, she is a 9th-grade student at iLEAD Academy in northern Kentucky, a selective regional high school where students take college-level courses in preparation for fast-growing STEM careers. In December, the school received a $100,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Rural Tech Challenge. Yet just halfway through her freshman year, Hawkins is afraid of failing out, not because the work is too hard, but because she does not have reliable internet access.

ABC News Trump Twitter ban raises concerns over ‘unchecked’ power of big tech
Donald Trump is arguably the Twitter president — having relied on his digital megaphone as a candidate and while in office to communicate unfettered (or fact-checked) with millions of supporters, unlike any past commander-in-chief. His frequent communications on the channels, sometimes dozens a day on his personal Twitter feed “@realdonaldtrump,” were considered official communications of the presidency.

Wall Street Journal Parler Sues Amazon After Tech Giant Kicks Site Off Its Servers
Social-media platform Parler has sued Amazon.com Inc. after the tech giant abruptly ended web-hosting services to the company, effectively halting its operation. In a complaint filed Monday in Seattle federal court, Parler alleged that Amazon Web Services kicked the company off its cloud servers for political and anti-competitive reasons. The conservative social network founded in 2018 exploded in popularity among supporters of President Trump after the November U.S. election.

SpaceNews FCC grants permission for polar launch of Starlink satellites
The Federal Communications Commission will allow SpaceX to launch 10 Starlink satellites into polar orbit on an upcoming mission, but deferred a decision on a much broader modification of SpaceX’s license. In an order published Jan. 8, the FCC granted SpaceX permission to launch 10 Starlink satellites into a 560-kilometer orbit with an inclination of 97.6 degrees.

BBC News Wikipedia at 20: The encyclopedia in five articles
On 15 January 2001, two American entrepreneurs – Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger – launched an online encyclopedia. It was called Wikipedia. Despite much criticism early on about inaccuracies, it has gone on to be hugely successful. It is the 15th most popular destination on the web, is available in more than 300 languages and is maintained by a community of volunteer editors. At least, I think that is accurate – I found all those facts in the online encyclopedia’s own entry on Wikipedia.


Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on Interoperability Requirements
    Ignoring the fact that almost every media outlet in the United States gave significant coverage to President Trump and his surrogates to share misinformation about election fraud, a number of the tech industry’s perennial critics, including prominent Democrats, have accused social media companies of direct responsibility for the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol last week. For example, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) argued that social media companies “bear major responsibility for ignoring repeated red flags and demands for fixes.” The problem, as explained in the immediate aftermath by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), is that “Congress was attacked yesterday by a mob that was radicalized in an echo chamber that Facebook and other big platforms created.” (ITIF Blog – If Congress Moves Forward with Social Media “Interoperability Requirements,” Deplatforming Users Will Be A Thing of the PastJanuary 11, 2021)

The Brookings Institute

  • Blog on the Need for a “Tech New Deal”
    President-elect Joe Biden has vowed an agenda to build back better. And he can do this provided high-speed broadband access is part of his broader economic recovery plan. President-elect Biden will face an overwhelming list of priorities in his first 100 days, including a national vaccination strategy, school re-openings, policing reform, and possibly a second impeachment trial precipitated by the historic insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. More than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed during the pandemic, and the nation’s unemployment rate remains unchanged at 6.7% in December 2020 with 10.7 million people unemployed. (TechTank – Why America needs a “Tech New Deal” to build back betterJanuary 12, 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.