January 29 2021

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

CNN Google Maps will soon display Covid-19 vaccination sites
Google Maps will soon display locations that offer Covid-19 vaccinations, further bolstering awareness of the virus — and how to avoid it. The feature is rolling out in the coming weeks, beginning in four states: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Google (GOOGL) announced Monday that searches for “vaccines near me” have increased five fold since the beginning of the year and it’s implementing this feature to ensure it’s “providing locally relevant answers.”

Morning Consult Reps. Kuster, Bucshon Set to Introduce Bill Pushing for $400 Million to Improve Vaccine Tracking Systems
A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers is introducing legislation Thursday that seeks $400 million to shore up states’ immunization registries, which track patients’ vaccinations and are viewed as critical to monitoring who’s had their COVID-19 shots and when — but also are in need of a serious upgrade. The bill, obtained by Morning Consult and set to be introduced by Reps. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), seeks to expand vaccination data-sharing between states, federal agencies and health care providers.


Reuters FCC’S acting chair says agency reviewing reports of U.S. East Coast internet outages
The acting Federal Communications Commission chair said the telecommunications regulator is reviewing reports of internet-related outages on the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday that made it difficult for some people to work or to go to online school. Jessica Rosenworcel said on Twitter the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau “is working to get to the bottom of what is going on.”

Politico The FCC’s Look-Ahead on Broadband
Acting FCC chief Jessica Rosenworcel’s first commission meeting on Feb. 17 will feature staff presentations on the agency’s Covid-focused efforts. That includes work setting up an Emergency Broadband Benefit for consumers, expanding the FCC’s new telehealth program and improving broadband mapping. The FCC will also consider items on 911 fee diversion and updates to its anti-Huawei rip-and-replace proceeding.

New York Times Intelligence Analysts Use U.S. Smartphone Location Data Without Warrants, Memo Says
A military arm of the intelligence community buys commercially available databases containing location data from smartphone apps and searches it for Americans’ past movements without a warrant, according to an unclassified memo obtained by The New York Times. Defense Intelligence Agency analysts have searched for the movements of Americans within a commercial database in five investigations over the past two and a half years, agency officials disclosed in a memo they wrote for Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon.

Cyberscoop Chris DeRusha, who protected Biden campaign from hackers, says he is the Federal CISO
The former top cybersecurity official on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign said late Monday that he is now in charge of helping protect the federal government’s sprawling bureaucracy from hackers. Chris DeRusha, also a former White House cybersecurity official in the Obama administration, announced his appointment as the federal government’s new chief information security officer on LinkedIn. Maria Roat, the acting Federal CIO, confirmed DeRusha’s appointment early Tuesday.

Politico Biden poised to pick Obama-era security veterans for 3 top cyber roles
President Joe Biden is expected to appoint former officials with extensive cyber policy experience to three crucial positions as his administration grapples with digital security threats including the massive SolarWinds hack. Biden is likely to appoint Jen Easterly to be his national cyber director, according to three people familiar with the matter, choosing a veteran of the National Security Council and the military and intelligence communities to lead a newly created White House office that will guide his strategy and oversee agencies’ digital security.

Morning Consult E-Rate Expansion Likely at the Top of Rosenworcel’s Agenda as FCC Acting Chair
Now that Jessica Rosenworcel is officially the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, advocates and agency experts say that one of her top priorities is likely to be an overhaul of a federal subsidy that helps schools and libraries buy laptops, hotspots and other connected devices to account for at-home virtual learning. She has made her concerns about the program abundantly clear: The same week schools started shutting down, forcing students and teachers to rely on their at-home internet capabilities, then-Commissioner Rosenworcel was sounding the alarm about the need to expand the subsidy program known as E-rate, which only allows for funds to be used for devices on campus.

New York Times Democratic Congress Prepares to Take On Big Tech
The last time Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat, sat in the majority, her party was fawning over Silicon Valley. Lawmakers praised the ingenuity of Facebook and Amazon, while President Barack Obama and regulators fought alongside Google and Twitter to protect the growth of internet businesses. “We have a major monopoly and competition problem,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “People have just finally had it.” In coming weeks, she plans to introduce a bill aimed at limiting corporate monopoly power across the economy, with a particular eye on tech.

Nextgov HHS Makes Strategic Moves to Achieve Ultimate ‘Artificial Intelligence Ambition’
A recently produced enterprise artificial intelligence strategy is now in place to guide the Health and Human Services Department’s ongoing and upcoming efforts involving the technology. The 7-page document outlines a strategic approach to broaden tech fluency and accelerate AI-centered pursuits across HHS—and it also establishes an AI Council to help facilitate the massive health agency’s overall implementation. “Ultimately, this strategy is the first step towards transforming HHS into an AI fueled enterprise,” it reads.


Microsoft Official Blog 2021 Washington state Legislative Session priorities
It’s a testament to the resiliency of our democracy that even in the midst of a global pandemic, with its restrictions on in-person meetings, our state lawmakers have found a way to conduct their business and still allow for meaningful public participation and transparency of their deliberations. In keeping with that commitment to transparency, since 2017, we have shared Microsoft’s legislative priorities for the annual session of the Washington State Legislature.

Law360 Microsoft Draws Wide Support In Bid To Ax Warrant Gag Order
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than two dozen media organizations and former federal prosecutors are among those backing Microsoft’s bid to convince the Second Circuit to strike down a “secrecy order” barring it from telling a large corporate client that the U.S. government has issued a warrant for the client’s data.

Axios 2 in 5 U.S. seniors lack sufficient broadband
Twenty million U.S. seniors lack a high-speed wired connection to the internet, according to a new study by the nonprofit Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), which works to get seniors access to the internet. Internet access has long been critical for seniors, but has become absolutely essential during the pandemic for access to healthcare, online shopping, social outlets and more.

NBC Twitter launches ‘Birdwatch,’ a forum to combat misinformation
Twitter unveiled a feature Monday meant to bolster its efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation by tapping users in a fashion similar to Wikipedia to flag potentially misleading tweets. The new system allows users to discuss and provide context to tweets they believe are misleading or false. The project, titled Birdwatch, is a standalone section of Twitter that will at first only be available to a small set of users, largely on a first-come, first-served basis.

Axios Facebook says it will give researchers access to political ad data
Facebook on Monday said it’s giving outside researchers more information about how and why political ads get shown to certain users. Researchers have long complained that Facebook has been slow to grant experts access to information about ways its platform is used. The tech giant says it will be providing new data to researchers on Feb. 1 about political, social and election ads that ran on its platform from Aug. 3 to Nov. 3 of 2020. It will be making the targeting criteria — “such as location and interests, selected by advertisers running social issue, electoral or political ads” — available for analysis and reporting.

The Intercept How Biden’s FCC Could Bring Fast Relief To Students Struggling With Remote Learning
President Joe Biden’s recent pick to chair the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, is welcome news to those who have been fighting to help students access the internet during the coronavirus pandemic. It was Rosenworcel herself, one of just two Democrats on the five-person commission, who years back coined the term “the homework gap,” referring to inequities faced by kids living in communities with poor internet infrastructure or in households that can’t afford internet service.


The Brookings Institute

  • Blog on Diversity in Technology Policy Hearings
    Congress has a problem when it comes to the lack of representation among the many roles in the legislative branch: non-white people compose approximately 11% of senior staffers in the Senate and 21% in the House, as well as approximately one-quarter of elected members in both chambers. Diversity among elected members and staffers is gradually improving, and a variety of deliberate initiatives, including the creation of a formal House Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative, seek to improve the situation further. But discussions on some of the nation’s most critical problems still often lack the perspectives of stakeholders from diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds. (TechTank – With new House rules, more diversity in technology legislation and hearings is possibleJanuary 21, 2021)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on Washington State Privacy Act
    The Washington State Legislature is trying for the third time to pass a statewide privacy bill, after failing to do so in 2019 and 2020. Washington is one of several states currently considering comprehensive privacy legislation after California passed its flawed but influential California Consumer Privacy Act in 2018. The strengthening momentum behind these state efforts demonstrates the need for Congress to pass comprehensive federal data privacy legislation to create a single national standard for data privacy that balances consumer welfare and innovation. (ITIF Blog – Washington State Privacy Act Demonstrates the Need for Federal PreemptionJanuary 22, 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.