September 25 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Microsoft Innovation Stories Predicting epidemics like the weather: How Microsoft Premonition can help in the global fight against disease outbreaks
“What’s the weather like outside?” It’s a simple question, that we don’t think twice about. Our smart assistants, phones or a simple internet search can answer it. But it actually takes a global sensor network of weather stations, advanced data analytics and modern supercomputers to make these predictions. Microsoft Premonition envisions doing the same for predicting the distribution and evolution of microbes, viruses and disease-carrying animals in the Earth’s biome, or the life around us. If the biome could be monitored like the weather, environmental pathogens might be detected earlier and outbreaks predicted before they cause large epidemics.

U.S. Department of Defense AI Aids DOD in Early Detection of COVID-19
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Defense Innovation Unit are applying commercial technology for early detection of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, which causes the COVID-19 coronavirus disease. That technology is known as Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure, or RATE, and it consists of non-invasive, wearable devices that provide early warning of infection up to 48 hours before a person becomes symptomatic, helping ensure military readiness, and protect against the threat of further spread of the disease, said DTRA Science and Technology Manager Ed Argenta.

The Scientist Algorithm Spots COVID-19 Cases from Eye Images
Scientists describe a potential screening method for COVID-19 based on eye images analyzed by artificial intelligence. Scanning a set of images from several hundred individuals with and without COVID-19, the tool accurately diagnosed coronavirus infections more than 90 percent of the time, the developers reported in a preprint posted to medRxiv September 10. Currently, screening for coronavirus infection involves CT imaging of the lungs or analyzing samples from the nose or throat, both of which take time and require professional effort.

Microsoft 365 Seven ways we’re empowering every person and every organization to thrive in a new world of work
We are experiencing digital transformation at epic speed. COVID-19 has accelerated secular trends in the ways we work and live, jumpstarting durable new habits that will persist well past the pandemic. Throughout 2020, as we’ve navigated the equivalent of a year of digital transformation every month, it’s IT pros who’ve led the way. When COVID-19 caused a sudden shift to remote work, IT pros brought entire organizations online—sometimes over a single weekend.


CNN Facebook takes down accounts it says were run from China and posting about 2020 election
Facebook on Tuesday said it had shut down more than 150 fake accounts it determined were run from China, including accounts posting about November’s US presidential election. Facebook said the scale of the operation was small, but it is the first time the company has made public details about an operation it found to be run from China that had been posting about the US election.

The Hill House approves legislation making hacking voting systems a federal crime
The House on Monday unanimously approved legislation that would make hacking federal voting systems a federal crime. The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act, approved by the Senate last year, would make hacking federal voting infrastructure a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which is commonly used by the Justice Department to take action against malicious hackers. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last year. It will now be sent to President Trump’s desk for signature.

Reuters U.S. warns ‘foreign actors’ aim to sow doubts over mail-in voting
U.S. federal law enforcement and cybersecurity agencies on Tuesday warned that “foreign actors” will likely try to discredit the November presidential election by taking advantage of the slow counting of mail-in ballots. Americans are expected to submit mail-in ballots in record numbers for the Nov. 3 contest between President Donald Trump, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.


Washington Post Justice Department expected to brief state attorneys general this week on imminent Google antitrust lawsuit
The Justice Department is expected to brief state attorneys general this week about its imminent plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google, setting in motion a landmark legal clash between the U.S. government and the search and advertising behemoth. The timeline puts federal competition watchdogs on track to file a case against Google potentially next week, capping off a wide-ranging inquiry into the tech giant and the extent to which its sprawling corporate footprint harms rivals and consumers.

CNBC A federal privacy law is starting to crystallize, but Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on how to do it
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers agreed they urgently need a federal privacy law as California’s new bill is set to take effect on Jan. 1. Two primary proposals are now being discussed among the members of the Senate Commerce Committee, one led by Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and one by Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Several other lawmakers have proposed bills aimed at more specific aspects of online privacy, like regulation of algorithms that create filter bubbles and requiring companies to clearly disclose their privacy policies. … Witnesses said the FTC needs more staff and resources to effectively monitor privacy claims. Julie Brill, a former FTC commissioner and current corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft said the FTC could use about 500 people working on this, rather than the roughly 40 or so she said are currently staffed.

Wall Street Journal Pentagon Opens Door to 5G Network Shared With Civilian Cellphones
U.S. officials are exploring concepts for a new 5G wireless network that would let Silicon Valley giants and other businesses tap valuable Pentagon airwaves, setting up a potential clash over how to deploy the next-generation technology. The Department of Defense issued a request for information Friday that could open the door for investors to bid on contracts to build a domestic cellular network for both the military and for commercial operators.

Axios Exclusive: U.S. and U.K. announce AI partnership
The Trump administration is set to announce that the United States and the United Kingdom have signed a new agreement to cooperate on research and development of artificial intelligence, in news shared first with Axios. The U.S. and its allies fear China is going to surpass them in AI. The partnership shows the U.S. and U.K. think they have a better chance at beating China by linking up. The partnership will include the two countries working together on research and development of AI, including on issues of explainability and fairness, an administration official told Axios.

Vox Trump is proposing to limit student visas to two years for citizens of 59 countries
The Trump administration is proposing a new rule to limit student visas to two years for citizens of 59 countries, potentially complicating the path to an American college degree for tens of thousands of foreign students. Student visas are currently valid for as long as students are enrolled in their course of study. But the proposed rule, published by the Department of Homeland Security, would limit the validity period to two years for certain immigrants under the theory that it will be easier to identify security threats and monitor compliance. The countries targeted are those that are designated as state sponsors of terrorism and those with a high rate of people who come to the US and overstay their visas.


Forbes Microsoft And Shell Announce New Partnership To Use Artificial Intelligence And Tech To Reduce Carbon Emissions
Tackling carbon emissions is one of the biggest challenges faced by the world today. For big business, this means making a strategic and managed move towards increasing the use of renewable energy sources, as well as creating efficiencies across all aspects of their operations. It’s a difficult task to manage alone, even for an enterprise on the scale of tech giant Microsoft or energy titan Shell. But working together creates new possibilities that go further than what it is likely they could accomplish individually.

GeekWire Microsoft vows to replenish more water than it consumes by 2030, in latest sustainability initiative
Microsoft says it will replenish more clean water than it uses in its cloud computing and software business within a decade. The water pledge, announced Monday morning, represents the fourth and final focus area in a package of sustainability initiatives that Microsoft has been rolling out this year. The company started in January with its plan to become climate negative within a decade, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it has emitted through its history. Microsoft also launched a global biodiversity program; an ecology-based “Planetary Computer;” and a suite of waste reduction strategies; along with a $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund.

CNET Even after #MeToo, women in tech say they’re still getting harassed
Three years after the #MeToo movement toppled prominent players in the technology, entertainment and other industries over charges of sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace, women in tech are still reporting harassment. In fact, 48% of women in tech and 44% of women founders say they’ve been harassed, according to a report out Tuesday from nonprofit Women Who Tech. What’s more, 43% of women in tech who reported harassment said what happened was sexual harassment — instances like being propositioned for sex, sometimes even in return for a promotion.

The Verge Facebook will let people claim ownership of images and issue takedown requests
Facebook is going to let people take more control over the images they own and where they end up. In an update to its rights management platform, the company is starting to work with certain partners today to give them the power to claim ownership over images and then moderate where those images show up across the Facebook platform, including on Instagram. The goal is to eventually open this feature up to everyone, as it already does with music and video rights.

Microsoft on the Issues Open Data Campaign: Exploring the power of open data
In April, we announced the launch of the Open Data Campaign to close the “data divide” and ensure that organizations of all sizes have access to the data they need to innovate with artificial intelligence (AI). To demonstrate the importance of being more open with data and the need to share data to address pressing issues, we committed to the development of 20 data collaborations by 2022. Through these collaborations, we will work with partners to address issues that are “top of mind” and require urgent action.

Government Technology Faulty Maps Complicate FCC Funding for Rural Broadband
Ever since Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, was first elected to the House in 2006, he has sought to ensure that Iowans and other rural Americans can access the Internet. But Loebsack, who is set to retire at the end of the 116th Congress, remains frustrated that the federal government still lacks accurate data showing where Americans can get a signal — and where they can’t.


The Brookings Institution 

  • Blog on international election interference.
    Microsoft recently announced that it had detected efforts by Russia, China, and Iran to influence the upcoming U.S. election. The discovery should not come as any surprise. In his 2019 testimony, former FBI Director Robert Mueller cautioned that Russia’s foreign election interference “wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here.” The reason the Russians attempted to influence the election outcome in 2016 is simple: They think that domestic politics matters for foreign policy. That calculus hasn’t changed, so it’s no surprise that Russia is again interested in influencing the U.S. electoral outcome. What’s different this time around is the chess board of the international system: the actors, their preferred outcomes, and their preferred mechanisms of influence. In the last election, although the Russians appeared to have a general preference for candidate Trump, they were primarily interested in sowing confusion, widening political divides, and exacerbating racial tensions. The benefit of a polarized U.S. domestic political landscape is straightforward: The more divided the United States is internally, the weaker it will be internationally and the less likely it will be to challenge and constrain Russian interests. Coherent foreign policy is predicated on shared reference points, fundamental agreements across the aisle about U.S. international commitments. During the Cold War, the United States fashioned a bipartisan consensus that remained largely intact until the wall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union, perhaps with a blip during the post-Vietnam period.  (TechStream – The shifting chessboard of international influence operations, September 22, 2020)

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