March 18 2022

This Week in Washington 

Wall Street Journal Fearing More Cyberattacks, Congress Requires Key Businesses to Report Digital Breaches
Amid a rush to thwart cyberattacks from foreign spies and criminal hacking groups, President Biden on Tuesday signed into law a requirement for key businesses to report to the government when they have been hacked. The idea, which languished for a decade on Capitol Hill amid industry pushback, could correct a fundamental problem the U.S. government faces as it fights cybercriminals: No one knows how many companies get hit. Yet the language of the law leaves unclear what it will require from security teams at businesses and federal civilian agencies, as well as which companies will be affected. That means a lot of the impact will depend on how U.S. officials interpret the legislation.

The Hill Democrats introduce bill to give FTC, DOJ power to block, break up mergers
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) introduced the Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act to give antitrust investigators at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice the ability to stop large mergers without a court order, and retroactively quash a merger that gives a company more than 50 percent of market share or hurts competition, consumers, workers or small or minority-owned businesses. The bill received support from advocacy groups calling for antitrust reform, but is not co-sponsored by antitrust subcommittee chairs Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), or any Republicans.

Reuters FCC revokes U.S. authorization of Chinese telecom firm Pacific Networks
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday voted to revoke authorization for Chinese telecom Pacific Networks and its wholly owned subsidiary ComNet to provide U.S. telecommunications services. The 4-0 vote to revoke the authorization first granted in 2001 is the latest move by the telecom regulator to bar Chinese telecommunications carriers from the United States citing national security concerns. The FCC said Pacific Networks and ComNet are indirectly and ultimately owned and controlled by the Chinese government.

Protocol The FTC’s ‘profoundly vague’ plan to force companies to destroy algorithms could get very messy
The FTC’s March 3 settlement order against WW, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, marked the most recent time the agency has demanded a company destroy algorithmic systems. As part of its settlement, the company also must delete data gathered deceptively, provide a written statement confirming deletion sworn under penalty of perjury and keep records for 10 years demonstrating compliance. But the order provides little detail about how the company must comply or how the FTC will know for sure it did.

The Hill Bipartisan group of senators press Mayorkas on US readiness for Russian cyberthreat
A bipartisan group of senators is pressing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the U.S.’s readiness for Russian cyberattacks amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The group of 22 senators, led by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), penned a letter to Mayorkas on Sunday asking for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) briefing on “efforts to protect the United States homeland from Russian government cyber and disinformation threats in the wake of Russia’s violent and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

Wall Street Journal Amazon’s Washington Strategy Wins Few New Friends in the Biden Era
Mr. Carney, meanwhile, hasn’t appeared to hold much sway at the White House. Since Mr. Biden’s inauguration, he has visited the White House only once, according to White House visitor logs. By comparison, Brad Smith, Microsoft Corp.’s president and leader on government relations, has held four meetings there in the period, the log shows. The Amazon spokeswoman said Mr. Carney was recently at the White House once more—the visit isn’t yet reflected in the visitor logs.

Protocol To protect democracy globally, challenge monopoly power
Laleh Ispahani, co-director of the U.S. Open Society Foundations, penned this week’s edition of Protocol’s Policy newsletter. Ispahani believes that while Big Tech’s efforts to combat Russian disinformation is laudable, more must be done to rein in Big Tech’s power. Ispahani writes that “unchecked platform power is a fundamental threat to democracy, both around the world and in the United States. As Washington debates how best to reform technology policy, governments must consider not just the economic but also the democratic costs of this consolidation.”

POLITICO Pro Schumer’s message to antitrust advocates: Bring me 60 votes
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s staff told advocates on two calls this month that he is willing to put tech antitrust bills on the Senate floor as soon as possible — as long as they can prove the legislation will receive 60 votes. Schumer’s top tech and telecom staffer Didier Barjon held calls with groups of antitrust advocates and representatives of small tech companies on March 4 and 7, according to three people familiar with the call who were granted anonymity to talk about private discussions.

Article Summary

Axios Tech’s state privacy play
The tech industry is lobbying statehouses across the country to pass privacy bills that critics call weak. Why it matters: Most tech firms would prefer a nationwide law, but since Congress hasn’t budged on the issue, the industry now seeks to preempt states from approving tougher privacy rules like California’s.

New York Times ‘No-Code’ Brings the Power of A.I. to the Masses
Sean Cusack, a software engineer at Microsoft and beekeeper on the side, wanted to know if anything besides bees was going into his hives. So he built a tiny photo booth (a sort of bee vestibule) that took pictures whenever something appeared around it. But sorting through thousands of insect portraits proved tedious. Colleagues told him about a new product that the company was working on called, which allows anybody to train a computer-vision system to recognize objects. Mr. Cusack used it to identify his honeybees — but also to keep an eye out for the dreaded Asian murder hornet.

StateScoop K-12 cyber awareness still lagging among leadership, say IT staff
Few technology leaders in K-12 school districts believe their organizations’ top officials have a “high awareness” of cybersecurity issues, according to a poll published Monday by the cloud-security firm iBoss and the edtech nonprofit Project Tomorrow. The survey, which interviewed 599 IT officials and other administrators, found that just 12% of school technology leaders believe their districts’ board members are fully aware of the digital threats they face. Superintendents fared slightly better, with 39% of tech leaders giving a vote of confidence, but only 19% said the same for principals, and just 6% gave credit to parental leaders.

Wall Street Journal California Bill Aims to Make Tech Firms Liable for Social-Media Addiction in Children
A pair of California lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to hold technology companies liable for social-media addictions that may affect children. The bill would let parents and guardians sue platforms that they believe addicted children in their care through advertising, push notifications and design features that promote compulsive use, particularly the continual consumption of harmful content on issues such as eating disorders and suicide. It would hold companies accountable regardless of whether they deliberately designed their products to be addictive.

TechCrunch Microsoft’s PeopleLens project helps blind kids learn social cues in conversation
Among the challenges of growing up with a visual impairment is learning and participating in the social and conversational body language used by sighted people. PeopleLens is a research project at Microsoft that helps the user stay aware of the locations and identities of the people around them, promoting richer and more spontaneous interactions. A sighted person looking around a room can quickly tell who is where, who’s talking to whom and other basic information useful for lots of social cues and behaviors. A blind person, however, may not know who has just entered a room, or whether someone has just looked at them to prompt them to speak. This can lead to isolation and antisocial behaviors, like avoiding groups.

Fierce Telecom Price, speed all that’s needed on FCC broadband labels, industry groups say
A number of broadband providers and industry groups urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stick to price and speed on its proposed broadband “nutrition” labels, arguing the inclusion of other metrics like packet loss could end up confusing consumers. Back in January, the FCC kicked off a rulemaking process to implement labels for broadband service which mimic the nutrition information displayed on grocery items, reviving an initiative first begun in 2016. As part of its procedure, the FCC asked stakeholders to weigh in on what data should be included.

StateScoop Montana agencies are racing to be 100% digital
Agencies in Montana’s state government are currently engaged in an internal competition to go digital. Late last year, Gov. Greg Gianforte quietly challenged executive-branch agencies to digitize 100% of their business processes. It’s not exactly a cutthroat challenge, as the only reward for winning is bragging rights — and the agencies appear to be cooperating with each other — but according to the state’s chief information officer, the stakes are still high.

Washington Post Amid industry pressure, tech companies are starting to rally behind kids’ safety bills
Digital gaming platform Roblox is backing a California bill that could usher in the strongest children’s online safety protections in the nation, becoming the first tech company to publicly support the measure, company executives exclusively told The Technology 202. It’s a small data point with big implications: It’s the latest sign that leaders in Silicon Valley are rallying around efforts to boost digital safeguards for kids as policymakers around the world increasingly push for tighter restraints on industry practices.

Tech Podcast of the Week 

Behind The Tech with Kevin Scott

  • Podcast Interview with Irma Olguin, CEO & Co-Founder of Bitwise Industries
    This inspirational entrepreneur is building economies in underserved communities around the U.S by democratizing opportunities that technology can provide. Olguin raised one of the largest Series A rounds ever for a female, Latinx-led company, and as CEO and co-founder, she oversees Bitwise’s operations teams, tech-focused training programs, and software development. Kevin talks with Irma about resilience, what it takes to overcome adversity, and giving back to your community. (Irma Olguin: CEO & Co-Founder of Bitwise Industries – March 15, 2022)