November 20 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Microsoft Official Blog Cyberattacks targeting health care must stop
Two global issues will help shape people’s memories of this time in history – Covid-19 and the increased use of the internet by malign actors to disrupt society. It’s disturbing that these challenges have now merged as cyberattacks are being used to disrupt health care organizations fighting the pandemic. We think these attacks are unconscionable and should be condemned by all civilized society. Today, we’re sharing more about the attacks we’ve seen most recently and are urging governments to act.

New York Times The Hot New Covid Tech Is Wearable and Constantly Tracks You
In Rochester, Mich., Oakland University is preparing to hand out wearable devices to students that log skin temperature once a minute — or more than 1,400 times per day — in the hopes of pinpointing early signs of the coronavirus. In Plano, Texas, employees at the headquarters of Rent-A-Center recently started wearing proximity detectors that log their close contacts with one another and can be used to alert them to possible virus exposure.

Politico Russia, North Korea trying to hack coronavirus researchers, Microsoft says
Russian and North Korean government operatives have attempted to breach seven high-profile companies developing coronavirus vaccines and treatments and have succeeded on several occasions, Microsoft said Friday. “The targets include leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in Canada, France, India, South Korea, and the United States,” Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of customer security and trust, wrote in a blog post.


The Washington Post: Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion dollar push to boost U.S. broadband
President-elect Joe Biden and top congressional Democrats are laying the groundwork to seek a massive increase in federal broadband spending next year, hoping they can secure billions of dollars in new government aid to improve Internet access and affordability — and help people stay online during the pandemic. Party leaders are mulling a wide array of proposals that would extend the availability of broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas, raise Internet speeds for American households, assist families who are struggling to pay their Internet bills and provide more funding to schools for computers and other equipment. Many Democrats say they are bullish about their prospects, believing they can shepherd a series of record-breaking investments at a time when the resurgent coronavirus is forcing Americans to work and learn from home again.

The Verge ‘No evidence’ voting in the US ‘was in any way compromised,’ says Department of Homeland Security
The November 3rd election was the “most secure in American history” and “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The statement follows numerous claims of supposed election fraud by President Donald Trump and his allies.

Politico Facebook ad ban scrambles Georgia Senate campaigns
Facebook’s post-election ban on political ads has forced the candidates and groups competing in Georgia’s Senate runoffs to rethink a big chunk of their campaign playbooks. Facebook and Google — which have made more than $3 billion on political ads in the last two and a half years — banned them after Election Day in an effort to limit the spread of misinformation about the results. But neither company gave an end date, and in a Wednesday email to clients Facebook confirmed that it would be extending its ban at least through mid-December. Google has not indicated when it will be lifting its ban.

Washington Post Tech companies brace for the long haul with Trump’s unrelenting attacks on election outcome
Technology companies are bracing for a prolonged period of uncertainty as long as President Trump and his allies dispute the outcome of the election, testing whether the firms can sustain the pace of enforcement they put in place during the past week. Social media firms insist the dramatic changes to their policies and practices instated ahead of the election are not permanent, but they have amended them in the past week.


The Hill Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump
President Trump ousted Christopher Krebs, the top U.S. cybersecurity official, on Tuesday evening, disagreeing with Krebs’s statement affirming the security of the 2020 election. Trump, who has refused to accept his loss to Joe Biden in the presidential election earlier this month, said on Twitter that Krebs had been terminated “effective immediately.” Trump said a recent statement by the cyber chief about the security of the election was “highly inaccurate” and claimed, without evidence, that “there were massive improprieties and fraud – including dead people voting.”

The Hill House approves legislation providing $750 million to boost US 5G efforts
The House on Tuesday unanimously passed bipartisan legislation appropriating $750 million towards building out U.S. fifth generation, or 5G, network technology as a way to combat potential threats from foreign-made equipment. The USA Telecommunications Act, introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year, would set aside the funds as part of a grant program overseen by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The funds would be used to support the deployment and use of 5G networks in the United States.

The Verge FCC votes to open up more Wi-Fi spectrum
There’s going to be a little more room for Wi-Fi. The Federal Communications Commission voted today to open up a small amount of additional wireless spectrum for unlicensed indoor use, which should help to improve speeds and reduce congestion on 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. The new swath of spectrum (which falls around 5.9GHz) was previously reserved for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications — but since being set aside two decades ago, the auto industry hasn’t done much with it.

Protocol Zuckerberg calls on Congress to impose content moderation transparency standards
During Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called on Congress to pass regulations that would require tech platforms to issue regular transparency reports, laying out the actions they’ve taken on violative content. “That way, the people who are responsible for holding all of us accountable, whether it’s journalists, Congress, academics, could have an apples-to-apples comparison about how all the different companies are doing,” Zuckerberg said.

Politico Blackburn Urges FTC to Throw the Book at Facebook
The FTC should “consider the entire spectrum of options for penalizing Facebook” for allegedly stifling competition, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) says in a letter slated to be sent today as the commission builds an antitrust case against the tech giant. She also says the agency should interview former Facebook leaders-and-backers-turned-critics to get the full picture of how the company has harmed smaller rivals.


Wall Street Journal Microsoft President Calls for Global Crackdown on Cyberattacks
Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith Friday called for more aggressive policing of cyberattacks against governments and businesses around the world, warning that hackers would increasingly weaponize personal data over the coming decade. Speaking at the Paris Peace Forum, a gathering of government officials and civil-society leaders, Mr. Smith cited an explosion of ransomware attacks on health-care facilities this year intended to extort cash, steal confidential data or glean information related to the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.

VICE Voters Overwhelmingly Back Community Broadband in Chicago and Denver
Voters in both Denver and Chicago have overwhelmingly thrown their support behind local community broadband projects, joining the hundreds of U.S. communities that have embraced home-grown alternatives to entrenched telecom monopolies. In Chicago, roughly 90 percent of voters approved a non-binding referendum question that asked: “should the city of Chicago act to ensure that all the city’s community areas have access to broadband Internet?”

Vox How Biden’s FCC could fix America’s internet
When Joe Biden is inaugurated as president on January 20, he stands to oversee a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that could do remarkable things. Among other things, the new FCC could bridge the digital divide, ensuring all Americans have access to the internet. But even though Biden’s victory is assured, the future of the FCC hangs in the balance.

Business Insider SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet service provides rapid speeds of 175 Mbps in freezing temperatures, high winds and deep snow, users report
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet service gives users rapid speeds reaching 175 Mbps even in high-speed winds, deep snow, and freezing temperatures. Users of SpaceX’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” test have posted pictures and videos on the Reddit Starlink community proving that the Starlink terminal still works in extreme weather conditions – and in some cases, it’s even faster.

Tech Crunch Investors including Microsoft’s climate fund back hyperlocal environmental monitoring tech developer Aclima
Mitigating the effects of climate change and pollution is a global problem, but it’s one that requires local solutions. While that seems like common sense, most communities around the world don’t have tools that can monitor emissions and pollutants at the granular levels they need to develop plans that can address these pollutants. Aclima, a decade-old startup founded by Davida Herzl, is looking to solve that problem and has raised $40 million in new funding from strategic and institutional venture capital investors to accelerate its growth. “We established our Climate Innovation Fund earlier this year to accelerate the development of environmental sustainability solutions based on the best available science,” said Brandon Middaugh, director, Climate Innovation Fund, Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re encouraged by Aclima’s pioneering approach to mapping air pollution sources and exposures at a hyperlocal level and the implications this technology can have for making data-driven environmental decisions with consideration for climate equity.”


The Brookings Institute

  • Blog on California’s Privacy Legislation
    Two years ago, the recently adopted California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) helped spark industry support for federal privacy legislation. After the passage of the CCPA, numerous companies and industry groups came out, for the first time, in favor of passing a federal privacy law—in part to preempt the CCPA before it became effective on January 1, 2020. But their efforts bumped up against reality. The 116th Congress has a very large California delegation, led by a Speaker of the House who defended the role of states as “policy innovators.” It quickly became evident that any preemptive federal privacy law would need to exceed CCPA rights to stand a chance at passing. (TechTank – By passing Proposition 24, California voters up the ante on federal privacy lawNovember 17, 2020)

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

  • Blog on Capitol Hill Tech Hearings
    It’s another week in Washington. That means, naturally, that a couple of tech CEOs are once again being called to testify on Capitol Hill and to be berated by a panel of U.S. Senators. This time, it is Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter respectively. The topic is ostensibly going to be each platform’s moderation of certain content, more specifically the New York Post’s Hunter Biden exposé. Though Section 230 is not explicitly mentioned in the hearing itinerary, expect it to loom very large amidst the proceedings. (Taxpayers Protection Alliance Blog – Big Tech Hearings are Wasteful Political Theater, November 16, 2020)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on New Broadband Myth Series
    When it comes to policymaking, ideological differences are no surprise. Issues like abortion, taxes, health care, and many others are often characterized by deeply held ideological views that make it difficult to achieve policy consensus. But some areas of policy, such as national defense, have historically been less ideologically tinged, which has allowed for more rational analysis and fact-based decision making. For many years, the United States was fortunate that telecommunications policy fell into that category. For example, the U.S. Senate passed the Telecom Act of 1996 by a vote of 91 to 5. Conservatives might have preferred a lighter touch for government and liberals would have been happier with a bit stronger touch, but they both agreed the private sector should provide broadband service to consumers. Moreover, they agreed it should be lightly regulated, with government playing an enabling role to support rollout in rural areas and to help close the digital divide. (ITIF Blog – Introducing ITIF’s Broadband Myth Series, November 16, 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.