September 17 2021

This Week in Washington

DigiDay Congress moves to give $1B to FTC to fund new bureau to protect privacy in tech platform era
The Federal Trade Commission is closer to establishing a new bureau dedicated to protecting privacy in today’s data economy. A proposal passed by a House committee yesterday would allocate $1 billion to the FTC to staff a new bureau addressing unfair or deceptive practices related to privacy, data security, identity theft and other data abuses. The proposal, part of a reconciliation package of amendments from Democrats to President Joe Biden’s massive jobs and economic recovery plan, came from Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who heads the House Consumer Protection Subcommittee.

The Hill US must not only lead in artificial intelligence, but also in its ethical application
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson writes an editorial in her capacity as chair of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology concerning the potential for AI to accelerate innovation and discovery across the science and engineering disciplines.

Politico Biden taps privacy advocate Alvaro Bedoya for FTC
President Joe Biden nominated privacy advocate Alvaro Bedoya on Monday for a seat on the Federal Trade Commission, an agency facing accusations of lax scrutiny of major tech platforms’ anti-competitive behavior and data practices. Key context: Bedoya would be one of three Democrats on the five-person commission, which oversees privacy, data security and some antitrust enforcement. Under Chair Lina Khan, a fellow Biden nominee, the FTC has laid out an aggressive enforcement agenda that could bring a flurry of new antitrust probes, lawsuits and rulemakings.

NextGov Big Tech Under Scrutiny as White House Looks to Align Policy Approach with Europe
U.S. and European Union leaders will try to get on the same page about data governance and a range of related issues during the first meeting this month of a Trade and Technology Council they’ve created. The meeting, announced in a White House press release Thursday, is scheduled for Sep. 29 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It will include Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and European Commission Executive Vice Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis.

The Washington Post Still no signs of Russian cooperation on ransomware
It’s been nearly three months since President Biden demanded Russian leader Vladimir Putin take action against ransomware gangs operating in Russian territory.  Yet officials say there’s no evidence the Kremlin is reining in these groups.  Those gangs are still “operating in the permissive environment that they’ve created there,” FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said during the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit. U.S. requests for Russian help extraditing ransomware hackers have produced no results, he said.

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Mint India will play a vital role in regulating technology: Microsoft’s Brad Smith
India will play an important role in regulating technology, said Microsoft president Brad Smith. “In my view, India has really been at the forefront, together with the EU, in advancing principles around digital sovereignty,” Smith said on Thursday in a media interaction.

Gizmodo Microsoft Kicks Off Its Vision for a Password-Free Future
The company is now letting you access your Microsoft account without typing in a password, though you’ll still need the Microsoft Authenticator app or a Windows Hello fingerprint or face to log in. You can also use an external security key or enable two-factor authentication through SMS or email.

Make Use Of How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Cybersecurity
When it comes to technology, artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic. As more designers and programmers integrate AI into their online platforms, it’s clear that AIs are more than just science fiction. In fact, using artificial intelligence is well on its way to becoming a standard practice. One of the many industries interested in advancing AI to enhance its tech is cybersecurity. For some, AI programs offer exciting capabilities that reinvent what users expect from security services.

Vice New Data Says More Communities Built Their Own Broadband Because of COVID
Frustrated by inferior service from powerful telecom giants, new data suggests more than a thousand U.S. communities have now built their own broadband networks. While the trend has been accelerating for years, experts say it took off during a pandemic that painfully demonstrated the country’s need for better, faster, and more affordable broadband.

Nieman Lab Some questions (and answers) about the Local Journalism Sustainability Act
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced this summer and has drawn bipartisan support in the House, along with a flurry of positive coverage from some of the news organizations that stand to benefit. Even many of its detractors in journalism (we’ll get to their well-founded criticism in a minute) would like to see it passed, with some modifications.

CNN Apple issues urgent iPhone software update to address critical spyware vulnerability
Apple has updated its software for iPhones to address a critical vulnerability that independent researchers say has been exploited by notorious surveillance software to spy on a Saudi activist. Researchers from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said the software exploit has been in use since February and has been used to deploy Pegasus, the spyware made by Israeli firm NSO Group that has allegedly been used to surveil journalists and human rights advocates in multiple countries.

The Washington Post They ‘could be our neighbors,’ and they’re going to space. SpaceX gets ready to fly the Inspiration4 crew.
None of the crew has ever been to space before. Not the spacecraft’s commander, a high school dropout. Not the pilot of the mission. The medical officer is a childhood cancer survivor who has a prosthetic in her leg. The fourth crew member lucked into the seat after a friend backed out. This unorthodox mix of would-be explorers, all strangers until just a few months ago, from different walks of life, will make history as early as Wednesday evening as the first all-civilian group of astronauts.

The Wall Street Journal [Paywall] The Facebook Files
In a series of articles this week, The Wall Street Journal reviewed internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management. They found that Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects, and the company has not fixed them. Facebook has built a system that has exempted high-profile users from some or all of its rules, found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of their young users, most notably teenage girls, and seen how tweaks to their algorithms have made users angrier.

Geekwire Microsoft remote work study: Average length of workweek has increased 10% during pandemic
A Microsoft study examining technology usage by its employees has revealed a decrease in cross-company communication, and sparked a lively discussion about the long-term impact of remote work on collaboration, productivity, and innovation. But the peer-reviewed study, published last week in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, includes another notable finding that could also resonate beyond Microsoft’s virtual walls: The length of the average workweek inside the company increased by about 10% after the shift to remote work.

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