July 10, 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

GeekWire Microsoft releases preview of Text Analytics for health, battle-tested in COVID-19 partnership
Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform announced a new iteration of its Text Analytics technology for healthcare, bringing to market some of the artificial intelligence that the company previously contributed to an industry partnership to develop a COVID-19 search engine for researchers. The new Text Analytics for health “enables health care providers, researchers, and companies to extract rich insights and relationships from unstructured medical data,” said Eric Boyd, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Azure AI, in a post Wednesday announcing the news. Microsoft says the feature was trained on data including clinical notes, clinical trials and medical protocols, allowing users to gain insights from health data without creating custom machine learning models.

Politico Early Covid-19 tracking apps easy prey for hackers, and it might get worse before it gets better
The push to use smartphone apps to track the spread of coronavirus is creating a potential jackpot for hackers worldwide — and the U.S. offers a fat, loosely defended target. In the Qatar Covid-19 app, researchers found a vulnerability that would’ve let hackers obtain more than a million people’s national ID numbers and health status.

Microsoft On The Issues Microsoft takes legal action against COVID-19-related cybercrime
This week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed documents detailing Microsoft’s work to disrupt cybercriminals that were taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to defraud customers in 62 countries around the world. Our civil case has resulted in a court order allowing Microsoft to seize control of key domains in the criminals’ infrastructure so that it can no longer be used to execute cyberattacks.

CNN Google Maps releases new features to help people navigate coronavirus hot spots
Google Maps has launched new features to help users safely get around during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 11 million people worldwide have contracted the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 500,000 have died. Countries and regions have implemented varying restrictions, depending on the severity of their outbreaks, and that has complicated travel.

MarketWatch A great technology wave is cresting over America because of the pandemic — and it’s largely a good thing
If history can teach us anything, it’s that pandemics have a long-lasting and severe effect on the economy. But there’s another lesson: Human ingenuity and adaptation march on. The deadly coronavirus may have shut down a large number of American businesses and forced many people to work from home, but it’s also the driving force behind the acceleration of technological adoption.


Bloomberg Delayed Election Results Could Test Social Media Companies as Never Before
Election day 2020 is going to be like nothing the American republic has ever seen, and it’s time to set some realistic expectations about the months leading up to Nov. 3 and the chaos that may follow until inauguration day—particularly if social media platforms aren’t prepared.

The New Yorker Can Our Ballots Be Both Secret and Secure?
Near the end of last year, I met Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft, in a conference room in Building 99 on the company’s sprawling campus, in Redmond, Washington, to talk about a fundamental problem with American elections.


The Hill House Democrats include $500M for election security in annual appropriations bill
Democrats on a House Appropriations Committee panel included $500 million to boost election security as part of their version of an annual funding bill introduced Tuesday. The version of the fiscal 2021 Financial Services and General Government spending bill rolled out by the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government would appropriate half a billion dollars to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to enhance election technology and make election security improvements.

Multichannel News House Passes Dems’ Massive Broadband Funding Bill
The Democratically controlled House Wednesday passed H.R. 2, the Invest in America Act (part of the larger Moving Forward Act infrastructure bill), which would allocate billions to subsidize broadband competition–including from municipal providers–in “underserved” areas which according to the Dems could mean where service is already provided by private capital at just short of gig speeds.

Nextgov Congress Inches Closer to Creating a National Cloud for AI Research
Legislation promoting the creation of a national computing capability and cloud infrastructure specifically for artificial intelligence research garnered new praise—and possibly a new path to passage—this week.

Reuters Pompeo says U.S. looking at banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government, a charge it denied.


The Wall Street Journal U.S. Adds More Than 200,000 IT Workers in June
U.S. employers added more than 200,000 information-technology workers in June, the sharpest pace of growth since hiring was derailed by the Covid-19 outbreak, according to IT trade group CompTIA. Despite the gains, continued layoffs in the technology sector kept the unemployment rate for IT workers across the economy unchanged at 4.3%, the group said Thursday.

CNBC NAACP CEO on ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign: Facebook should be useful for targeting ads, not hate
NAACP’s Derrick Johnson, in the midst of leading a corporate boycott against the largest social media company, on Monday told CNBC that Facebook should be a place for targeting ads but not targeting hate.

VentureBeat How AI can empower communities and strengthen democracy
Each Fourth of July for the past five years I’ve written about AI with the potential to positively impact democratic societies. I return to this question in hopes of shining a light on technology that can strengthen communities, protect privacy and freedoms, and otherwise support the public good.

Forbes Cybersecurity As We Know It Is About To Change
Pundits across the world have set their sights on a post-pandemic future, arguing that a new normal is about to descend upon us. While I recognize much of what the future holds is ambiguous, I believe there is an area that will become our inevitable reality — continued cyberthreats as a result of rapid digitalization.

The Inquirer Internet speeds were awful, so these rural Pennsylvanians put up their own wireless tower
The government couldn’t help. Private suppliers have long said improved speeds were too costly to provide for such a sparsely populated area. So a group of mostly retirees banded together and took a frontier approach to a modern problem. They built their own wireless network, using radio signals instead of expensive cable.

TechCrunch Data brokers track everywhere you go, but their days may be numbered 
Everywhere you go, you are being followed. Not by some creep in a raincoat, but by the advertisers wanting to sell you things. The more advertisers know about you — where you go, which shops you visit, and what purchases you make — the more they can profile you, understand your tastes, your hobbies and interests, and use that information to target you with ads.

Vice Police Are Buying Access to Hacked Website Data
Hackers break into websites, steal information, and then publish that data all the time, with other hackers or scammers then using it for their own ends. But breached data now has another customer: law enforcement.


The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Privacy Legislation
    Because an impasse on individual rights of action makes federal privacy legislation unlikely to pass without a private right of action in some form, our report recommends a targeted remedy allowing individuals to sue for certain violations of baseline privacy legislation. We recommend focusing these cases on violations that most directly affect individual privacy by generally limiting recovery to “actual damages,” requiring a heightened “knowing or reckless” liability for most statutory provisions and a “willful or repeated” standard for more procedural provisions, and additional procedural filters. This post explains the rationale and the mechanics of our proposal. No issue in the privacy debate is as polarized as whether individuals should be able to bring lawsuits for privacy violations. Private lawsuits—especially consumer class actions—are anathema even to privacy-friendly companies, while for many consumer, privacy and civil rights groups, they amount to foundational goals. (Tech Stream – In privacy legislation, a private right of action is not an all-or-nothing proposition, July 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.