March 20, 2020


In disappointing news, the Washington State legislative session ended on March 12 without passage of the Washington Privacy Act. But progress was made. A bipartisan group of lawmakers developed a positive, well-thought bill that would have provided strong digital privacy protections to consumers and served as a model for other states and Congress. We are hopeful that next session, a similarly strong bill will be passed and signed into law.

Washington State lawmakers did pass a strong, first-in-the-nation bill regulating facial recognition technology. The legislation places welcome guardrails on the use of this technology, while still allowing its responsible use. We welcome this legislation as a template for future legislation in other states and on Capitol Hill.

GeekWire Washington state passes landmark facial recognition bill, reining in government use of AI
The Washington state legislature passed a bill establishing new guardrails on government use of facial recognition software.

COVID-19: Microsoft Resources

Our commitment to customers during COVID-19
At Microsoft, our top priority is the health and safety of employees, customers, partners, and communities. By making Teams available to as many people as possible, we aim to support public health and safety by keeping teams connected while they work apart.

2 weeks in: what we’ve learned about remote work
In the two weeks since our team here in the Puget Sound moved to remote work, the fight against COVID-19 has intensified. Many people in countries across the world are simply staying home. And with schools, churches, businesses, and offices closed, we are discovering what it’s really like to be home with our families at all times, while also trying to stay productive and connected to our work teams.

Delivering online meetings and events
At a moment when organizations across the world are adjusting to remote work, we’re all learning new ways to keep our employees, customers, and business partners connected and informed. Without being able to get together in person, we need new approaches to everything from customer meetings and employee training calls to large events like CEO town halls and global sales conferences.

Staying productive while working remotely with Microsoft Teams
How do you move tens of thousands of employees to remote work overnight? With the COVID-19 outbreak spreading around the world, that was the big question on our minds at Microsoft last week. Then, last Wednesday, we just did it—sending out an email that asked approximately 50,000 Microsoft employees in the Seattle area to work from home if they could.

4 Tips for working from home with Microsoft Teams
There are many reasons to work remotely and Microsoft Teams is here to help you stay connected with your teammates wherever they are. IT admins, don’t miss Support remote workers using Teams which as recently been updated.

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

The New York Times Ahead of the Pack, How Microsoft Told Workers to Stay Home
Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, was at home, relaxing after a trip to India and Indonesia, when he started seeing news alerts on his phone. About 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, local officials said a man in Kirkland, Wash., less than 10 miles from Microsoft’s headquarters, had become the first known person in the United States to die from the coronavirus.

TechCrunch Facebook, Reddit, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube issue joint statement on misinformation
In an unprecedented move to reassure customers and flag the potential for misinformation about COVID-19 on their platforms, all of the major social media companies and their parent corporations issued a joint statement on their efforts.

Business Insider Microsoft’s new coronavirus map lets you track the number of COVID-19 cases in countries around the world and every US state
A map created by Microsoft’s Bing team gives people an easy way to observe the spread of COVID-19, The Verge reported on Monday. The interactive map gives up-to-date information about confirmed cases worldwide and breaks down the number of active, recovered, and fatal cases by country and by US state.

GeekWire Microsoft Teams hits 44M daily active users, spiking 37% in one week amid remote work surge
Microsoft Teams is seeing massive user growth as remote work becomes the norm amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The chat, collaboration and video conferencing app saw its daily active user count rise more than 37 percent over the past week, from 32 million to 44 million users around the world. During that time, Microsoft also signed up six additional large business customers with more than 100,000 users each.

HealthITAnalytics White House Urges AI Experts to Develop Tools for COVID-19 Dataset
The White House is calling for the development of new artificial intelligence techniques that can help researchers answer key questions about COVID-19. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has issued a call to action for experts to build artificial intelligence tools that can be applied to a new COVID-19 dataset.

The Verge Verily’s coronavirus screening pilot website is already at capacity
After less than 24 hours, the website Google’s sister company Verily launched to help people find coronavirus tests isn’t able to schedule more appointments. It was positioned as a small pilot for California’s Bay Area to begin with, instead of the expansive site the White House characterized it as, and that positioning has turned out to be very true.

The Washington Post U.S. government, tech industry discussing ways to use smartphone location data to combat coronavirus
The U.S. government is in active talks with Facebook, Google and a wide array of tech companies and health experts about how they can use location data gleaned from Americans’ phones to combat the novel coronavirus, including tracking whether people are keeping one another at safe distances to stem the outbreak.

Forbes How Technological Innovation In Education Is Taking On COVID-19
Every challenge is an opportunity, they say. I’ve been thinking about the impact of the coronavirus, and the kinds of tools and services that could be focused on ensuring that students don’t miss a beat in their learning.

Yahoo Finance Coronavirus school cancellations lead to education tech surge
Online learning tools like Zoom (ZM), Instructure’s (INST) Canvas, Cisco System’s (CSCO) Webex and a host of other ed tech companies are coming to the aid of schools across the U.S. as they suspend or shift classes online due to the coronavirus outbreak.


StateScoop Election commission hires cyber-savvy adviser to support 2020 efforts
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is hiring a senior policy adviser to bolster its cybersecurity work with election officials and voting equipment vendors ahead of the 2020 presidential vote.


T&D World Congress Passes DATA Act for Rural Broadband Internet
The U.S. Senate has passed the Broadband Deployment and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation intended to make funding available for utilities to bring high-speed internet service to their communities.

Roll Call Senate passes 77-day FISA surveillance stopgap
Senators passed Monday a 77-day extension of surveillance authorities that lapsed over the weekend. The passage of a bill by voice vote that would revive and extend surveillance powers — including those under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — until the end of May gives lawmakers breathing room to debate surveillance and privacy issues after the immediate threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.

Axios White House seeks AI help in answering coronavirus questions
Researchers and companies created a dataset of academic literature of more than 29,000 articles about the COVID-19 illness, the virus behind it and related pathogens. Now the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy wants experts to mine that data to quickly answer questions about the pandemic.

Multichannel News FCC Tweaks Broadband Subsidy Process
The FCC has adjusted its Lifeline low-income broadband/phone subsidy program to help those potentially affected by the coronavirus and help slow its spread. It is the latest in FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s Keep Americans Connected initiative.


Bloomberg Facebook Says Bug Mistook Legitimate News Stories for Spam
Facebook Inc. said a filter for combating spam on the social network was beset by a bug that mistakenly eliminated legitimate news stories and other posts, miscategorizing them as content that violates its rules.

Wired Microsoft and GitHub Strengthen Their Hold on Open Source
Microsoft will soon control more of the open source software development ecosystem. GitHub, which Microsoft bought in 2018, said Monday that it will acquire NPM, which offers a crucial service for JavaScript developers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Refinery29 Black Women In Tech On How They Got Their Start In The Industry
The tech industry is largely a man’s world, and a white man’s world at that. According to this National Center For Women & Information Technology study, women of color made up only about 11% of the computing and mathematical workforce in 2019, with Black women only comprising 3% of the total.

Herald-Mail Media Lawmakers green-light rural broadband bill
In beat-the-buzzer fashion during the final hours of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session, lawmakers in both chambers unanimously passed a bill to allow Choptank Electric Cooperative to roll out high-speed internet to residents across the Eastern Shore.

Yellowhammer Alabama’s rural broadband expansion meets resistance
Alabama’s broadband expansion efforts may have hit a roadblock at a time when it is needed the most. Several challenges have recently been filed against grants aimed at helping deliver high-speed internet to rural areas.


The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on “Innovation Districts” and COVID-19
    As health organizations, governments, companies, and others continue to work toward solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded that this type of global, real-time coordination doesn’t happen in isolation. It’s through networks of small geographies of innovation—areas of advanced research, rapid prototyping, and commercialization—that progress is made.
    Since the outbreak began, these “innovation districts” have been leveraging their assets to better understand and mitigate COVID-19’s impacts. These assets include pools of highly trained academic researchers, essential innovation infrastructure such as laboratories with specific biosafety standards, the advanced technologies and Big Data needed for modeling, and a network of local and global peers that help illuminate the complexities of the virus. (Blog –The crucial role ‘innovation districts’ will play in the fight against COVID-19, March 18, 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.