November 5 2021

This Week in Washington

Reuters U.S. lawmakers vote to tighten restrictions on Huawei, ZTE
The U.S. Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to approve legislation to prevent companies such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd or ZTE Corp that are deemed security threats from receiving new equipment licenses from U.S. regulators. The Secure Equipment Act, the latest effort by the U.S. government to crack down on Chinese telecom and tech companies, was approved last week by the U.S. House on a 420-4 vote, and now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The New York Times A Big Tech critic moves closer to leading the Justice Department’s antitrust division
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Jonathan Kanter’s nomination to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division to the full Senate, with only one member, John Cornyn (R-Texas), registering disapproval. Kanter said during his confirmation hearing that he supports “vigorous antitrust enforcement” on technology companies and has represented critics of tech firms as a lawyer in private practice.

Associated Press The AP Interview: Justice Dept. conducting cyber crackdown
The Justice Department is stepping up actions to combat ransomware and cybercrime through arrests and other actions, its No. 2 official told The Associated Press, as the Biden administration escalates its response to what it regards as an urgent economic and national security threat. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said that “in the days and weeks to come, you’re going to see more arrests,” more seizures of ransom payments to hackers and additional law enforcement operations.

FedScoop Biden’s $1.75T social spending plan sets aside $500M to support CISA initiatives
The latest, slimmed-down version of President Joe Biden’s social spending framework would give the federal government’s lead cybersecurity agency $500 million to support a number of ongoing cross-government cyber initiatives. Biden introduced a new draft framework of the Build Better Act on Thursday, with a prioritized focus on boosting spending for the nation’s social safety net and combating climate change.

FedScoop Machine learning and AI may help 5G cloud providers detect sophisticated attacks — NSA
Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems may help 5G cloud providers detect the presence of sophisticated attackers and other security incidents, according to new guidance from the National Security Agency. In a report published on Thursday, the intelligence agency said that while technology providers would have to balance data confidentiality requirements with the ability to inspect network traffic, sophisticated real-time continuous monitoring may be crucial in detecting the malicious use of cloud resources.

The Hill Democratic senator introduces data privacy legislation
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) is introducing legislation aimed at strengthening data privacy protections for American consumers. The Digital Accountability and Transparency to Advance Privacy Act would apply standards to all data collection, processing, storage and disclosure — including that it only be done for legitimate business or operational purposes.

The Verge The free laptop program built into the Biden reconciliation plan
After months of negotiations, President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda advanced into its last phase of debate this week. The bipartisan infrastructure bill contains billions to expand high-speed broadband across the country, aiming to close the digital divide over the next 10 years. But the administration’s $65 billion down payment on broadband can only help connect families who can afford a computer. So Biden’s latest version of the Build Back Better program goes further, allocating new funds to bring federally funded desktops, laptops, and tablets to poor Americans.

CyberScoop Election officials don’t need to report cyber incidents to the feds. That could soon change.
Security personnel charged with the challenging and high-stakes work of protecting election systems from digital threats might soon have another task on their to-do list: reporting any cyber incidents to the federal government. That’s if election technology, designated critical infrastructure in 2017, falls under proposed rules requiring critical infrastructure owners and operators to notify federal officials about cyber incidents, such as attempted hacks and ransomware attacks.

Article Summary

Multichannel News Survey: Voters Back Broadband Subsidy Programs
A majority of U.S. voters said broadband, devices and computer skills are essential to success in the 21st century and agree that investment in ubiquitous affordable broadband in Biden administration-backed legislation can help close the digital divide for good. That is according to a survey conducted by Moore Information Group and David Binder Research for Connect Americans Now. That survey found that 84% of respondents said the internet was either essential (54%) or important.

CNBC Microsoft president says race to build new climate tech is like JFK’s plan to go to the moon
The race to develop new technologies to solve the climate crisis is similar in scale to America putting the first man on the moon, Microsoft President Brad Smith said Wednesday. “We will need to invent new technologies,” Smith told CNBC’s Karen Tso at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

CNN Facebook is shutting down its facial recognition software
Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook said it will shut down its facial recognition system in the next few weeks, meaning people who opted into the service will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos. Facebook will also delete data related to the faces of more than 1 billion people, in a move that comes as companies and governments weigh facial recognition’s benefits with “growing societal concerns,” the company’s vice president of artificial intelligence, Jerome Pesenti, said in a blog post.

The New York Times Clearview AI finally takes part in a federal accuracy test
Clearview AI scraped more than 10 billion photos from the public internet to build a facial-recognition tool that it marketed to law enforcement agencies for identifying unknown people. Critics have said the company’s product is illegal, unethical and untested. Now, more than two years after law enforcement officers first started using the company’s app, Clearview’s algorithm — what allows it to match faces to photos — has been put to a third-party test for the first time. It performed surprisingly well.

Motherboard Ransomware Has Disrupted Almost 1,000 Schools in the US This Year
So far this year, almost 1,000 schools across the country have suffered from a ransomware attack, and in some cases had classes disrupted because of it, according to tallies by Emsisoft, a cybersecurity company that specializes in tracking and investigating ransomware attacks, and another cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. Brett Callow, a researcher at Emsisoft shared the list with Motherboard. It includes 73 school districts, comprising 985 schools. Callow said that it’s very likely there’s some schools that are missing from the list, meaning the total number of victims is likely higher than 1,000.

Financial Times Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube lose nearly $10bn after iPhone privacy changes
Apple’s decision to change the privacy settings of iPhones caused an estimated $9.85bn of revenues to evaporate in the second half of this year at Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as their advertising businesses were shaken by the new rules. Apple introduced its App Tracking Transparency policy in April, which forced apps to ask for permission before they tracked the behaviour of users to serve them personalized ads.

Tech Podcast of the Week

The Journal Podcast

  • Interview with Sen. Klobuchar on Tech Companies
    After a whistleblower shared internal Facebook documents, lawmakers renewed calls to regulate social media companies. But concerns over the influence tech giants exert on society extend far beyond Facebook. We spoke with Sen. Amy Klobuchar about how she hopes to rein in tech companies. (Sen. Klobuchar Says Congress Is Losing Patience With Tech Giants – October 20, 2021)