October 30 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

MeriTalk COVID-19 Driving Technology Innovation, Fed Experts Say
Speaking today at the ACT-IAC ReImagine Nation ELC Conference, Jose Arrieta, former CIO of HHS, and Scott DuVall, director of VA Informatics and Computing Infrastructure discussed how their agencies were able to quickly organize to address COVID-19 challenges, as well as the innovative technologies they’ve leveraged.

Deseret News Innovative Utah women honored for use of technology to mitigate COVID-19 impact
The Women Tech Council — a Utah-based organization that works to amplify the impact of women in the technology sector — issued its annual Women Tech Awards Wednesday recognizing the innovations of women statewide who have had a profound effect on their industries in the fight to mitigate COVID-19. … Because the high school was closed due to the pandemic, the district was able to repurpose 300 wireless access points and installed the access points around the affected apartment buildings, thereby providing those underserved students the internet capability needed to effectively stream their online educational instruction. … Another innovator who was recognized was Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis, whose company organized the largest ever genetic study with living participants to mine data on COVID-19 susceptibility and other genetic influencers.

The Wall Street Journal Palantir to Help U.S. Track Covid-19 Vaccines
Data-mining company Palantir Technologies Inc. is helping the federal government set up a system that will track the manufacture, distribution and administration of Covid-19 vaccines, state and local health officials briefed on the effort said.


Politico A look at the two parties’ cyber platforms
Trump and Vice President Joe Biden have said very little about cybersecurity during the campaign, but the Democratic and Republican Party platforms offer a few hints about the parties’ priorities. With a week to go before Election Day, the National Security Archive released a report on Monday comparing the discussions of cybersecurity in the 2020 Democratic platform and the current Republican platform. Democrats want to enact strong consumer privacy and security standards, an increasingly important issue as more people entrust more of their data to tech companies. In their platform, Democrats promise to update the Obama administration’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights proposal with “strong national standards to protect consumers, employees, patients, and students from data breaches.”

The Washington Post The Technology 202: Biden’s pledge to ‘Dreamers’ highlights stark contrast with Trump over immigration
Joe Biden pledged on the debate stage last night to “immediately certify” and create a pathway to citizenship for thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children. In doing so, the former vice president highlighted the stark difference between his immigration policies and those of President Trump. The tech industry has aggressively fought Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — an Obama-era initiative that grants work permits and shields from deportation more than 660,000 qualified young immigrants know as “Dreamers” who are in the U.S. illegally.

Bloomberg Most U.S. Voters See Misinformation Online and Many Believe It
With the U.S. presidential election just over a week away, Americans are still encountering disinformation and misinformation online, especially on Facebook Inc., and many believe what they read, according to a survey released on Monday. The SurveyUSA poll of more than 3,000 registered voters found that 65% reported seeing political disinformation in their Facebook feeds. A quarter of them reported believing the claims. Conducted between Oct. 14-19, the survey revealed that 85% of registered voters read that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud, with 35% believing it.

New York Times Trump Campaign Website Is Defaced by Hackers
President Trump’s campaign website was briefly taken over by hackers who defaced the site on Tuesday. The defacement lasted less than 30 minutes, but the incident came as Mr. Trump’s campaign and that of his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., as well as law enforcement and intelligence agencies, have been on high alert for digital interference ahead of next week’s election. In a statement, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, confirmed the website’s defacement and said it was “working with law enforcement authorities to investigate the source of the attack.” He added, “There was no exposure to sensitive data because none of it is actually stored on the site. The website has been restored.”

CNN Privacy ballot measure could give you more control over personal data — again
California enacted the country’s toughest privacy law in 2018, but the Golden State isn’t done considering new privacy regulations. Voters are now weighing a proposition that supporters say will give you more control over how tech giants use your data. Like 2018’s California Consumer Privacy Act, the new ballot proposition could prompt companies to change privacy policies across the board. Called the California Privacy Rights Act, the proposition could also revive efforts to pass similar bills in statehouses across the country.


Forbes Trump Will End H-1B Visa Lottery
The Trump administration has proposed a new rule that would end the H-1B visa lottery, used when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives more petitions than allowed under the annual limit. In its place, USCIS would grant petitions based on the registrations received starting with the highest salary level and working down. The proposed regulation to eliminate the lottery may violate the statute, say attorneys, and also raises questions as to its impact on international students, information technology professionals, physicians and others with less experience who could be shut out of obtaining H-1B petitions.

Politico Khanna’s Plan to Boost Tech Beyond the Bay
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) today is unveiling his long-awaited legislative package aimed at generating more high-paying tech jobs beyond the borders of Silicon Valley. Khanna, whose district includes parts of the Valley, is proposing to boost R&D funding for emerging technologies by $900 billion and to create a network of federal institutes scattered around the U.S. to boost local tech initiatives. The 21st Century Jobs Act “would create as many as three million good new jobs per year,” with many in “places that have fallen behind,” according to a white paper on the bill.

New York Times At Hearing, Republicans Accuse Zuckerberg and Dorsey of Censorship
On Wednesday, the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter testified before a Senate committee about their moderation practices. The hearing, held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, was a repeat performance before Congress for Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter. But with the Nov. 3 election less than a week away, the executives faced additional pressure to manage misinformation without exerting unfair influence on the voting process.


TV Technology FCC Expands TV White Space Use for Wireless Operations
The FCC has officially amended its rules regarding TV white spaces, expanding the use of spectrum for unlicensed wireless services. The FCC believes that the new rules will allow for the delivery of broadband services in rural and underserved communities while also protecting broadcast TV stations and other licensed services from harmful interference. The expansion comes as a result of a Report and Order approved by the FCC today, Oct. 27, during its Open Commission Meeting. With the new rules, the FCC says it will now allow for more flexibility in how wireless services are provided within white spaces, better reflecting technological and geographical realities.

Politico FCC Kicks Off $16-Billion Rural Broadband Auction
It’s finally here: the FCC today is launching phase 1 of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, which will allow broadband providers to bid for $16 billion in subsidies doled out over 10 years to help build out internet service in unserved parts of the country. The FCC qualified 386 applicants to participate, including companies new to the broadband space like Elon Musk’s satellite company SpaceX. “We are prepared to launch,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai told reporters Tuesday. “It’s the biggest step we’ve taken yet to address the digital divide.” He said the auction could help connect more than 10 million Americans.

The Wall Street Journal Americans Working From Home Face Internet Usage Limits [Paywall]
The coronavirus pandemic led millions of Americans to turn their homes into offices and classrooms. It also forced many to change their habits to keep their internet bills in check. Shea Dunn, a data-process analyst for Target Corp. who has been working from his Minneapolis home since March, said he never had to think about his household’s internet consumption. That changed in early July, when he got a notice from his broadband provider, Comcast Corp, informing him he was using too much data and was liable for a $50 fee if he kept exceeding his cap.The amount of time consumers spend streaming TV, gaming and using Zoom or other videoconference platforms substantially increased since the start of the pandemic, activities that often eat up large amounts of data.

Venture Beat Microsoft and MITRE release framework to help fend off adversarial AI attacks
Microsoft, the nonprofit MITRE Corporation, and 11 organizations including IBM, Nvidia, Airbus, and Bosch today released the Adversarial ML Threat Matrix, an industry-focused open framework designed to help security analysts to detect, respond to, and remediate threats against machine learning systems. Microsoft says it worked with MITRE to build a schema that organizes the approaches employed by malicious actors in subverting machine learning models, bolstering monitoring strategies around organizations’ mission-critical systems.

Bloomberg Law AI Patent Applications Soar for ‘Ingrained’ Tech, Office Says [Paywall]
Applications for artificial intelligence technology patents more than doubled in the last 16 years, spurred by “rapid integration” into products, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office director said in a statement Tuesday. Applications rose to more than 60,000 in 2018, up from 30,000 in 2002, the office said in a report. IBM Corp. received the most AI patents among companies listed in the report, with over 46,000 from 1976 to 2018. Microsoft Corp. came in second with about 22,000, followed by Alphabet Inc.‘s Google with nearly 11,000.

The Wall Street Journal The U.S. vs. China: The High Cost of the Technology Cold War [Paywall]
The world is paying a high price for the technological Cold War between its two greatest powers. The U.S.-China conflict has already upended the tech industry in both countries, disrupting giant hardware manufacturers, computer-chip designers and even social-media services.

The Hill Federal agencies warn hackers targeting U.S. hospitals with ransomware attacks
The FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned Wednesday that cybercriminals were stepping up ransomware attacks on health sector groups as the organizations grappled with a new wave of COVID-19 cases. “CISA, FBI, and HHS have credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers,” the agencies wrote in a joint alert. The agencies warned that the cybercriminals behind the attacks were deploying Ryuk malware, a ransomware virus that was recently linked to an attack on a German hospital that crashed servers and led to the death of woman who was unable to receive life-saving care.


Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on antitrust
    Rarely has a week in U.S. antitrust been as historical as the one we have just been through. In choreographed moves, the House Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have initiated forceful attacks on big tech companies. The Judiciary Committee published a 450-page report on big tech in which it has recommended breaking up of companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. A few days later, Attorney General William Barr initiated a lawsuit against Google, the alleged “gatekeeper of the Internet,” in what resembles the historical lawsuit against Microsoft 20 years ago. Inspired by Europe’s first moves against big tech, where reports, legislative proposals, and fines have already been issued, American antitrust appears to be undergoing a massive transformation with momentum for “platform busting” in the digital economy. (Innovation Files – A Search for Sanity in Antitrust: Move (Too) Fast, Break (Innovative) Things?, October 28, 2020)

The Heritage Foundation

  • Report and commentary on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
    Section 230’s original intent of incentivizing and protecting the removal of obscene materials online continues to be good policy and a noble objective—thus, the statute should be maintained. But, the evolution of the Internet, and growing concerns about political bias online, require that the statute be clarified and refined. Specific proposed changes are provided in “Policy Recommendations” below; first, it is helpful to briefly explain why these changes are necessary now. (Section 230—Mend It, Don’t End It, October 27, 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.