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WashingTECH Policy Podcast with Joe Miller

The WashingTECH Policy Podcast is your resource for media and tech law and policy news and interviews. Each week, the WashingTECH Policy Podcast gives you the latest developments in media and tech law & policy, as well as an interview with an influencer in the media and technology sectors, whether they be policymakers, entrepreneurs, politicians or academics. Listen to the WashingTECH Policy podcast to get a quick update in the car, at the gym, between flights, wherever and whenever you need a quick summary of the media and tech policy news and thought leadership driving the week.
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Now displaying: February, 2017
Feb 28, 2017
Taylor Moore (TayMoore_CDT) is the Center for Democracy & Technology's (CDT) Free Expression Fellow. Her work focuses on preserving the Internet as a global platform for speech and association, democratic accountability, the free exchange of information and ideas, and the freedom of thought.She previously served as the Google Policy Fellow for Public Knowledge, where she was involved in advocacy work related to net neutrality, intellectual property, and internet governance. Taylor also served as the fellow for the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, where she supported new paradigms for the creation, management, and exploitation of knowledge resources, and worked within a wide spectrum of IP stakeholders. Before graduating from Howard University School of Law, she worked as a law clerk for Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at the FCC and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the social justice and civil rights implications of fake news.
  • how algorithms affect the way social media companies moderate content.
  • how citizens can stop the spread of fake news.

Resources:

Center for Democracy & Technology

How Algorithms Can Impact Civil Rights Movements blog post by Taylor Moore (CDT, 2017)

Many Americans Believe Fake News is Sowing Confusion by Michael Barthel, Amy Mitchell, and Jesse Holcomb (Pew, 2016)

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (Ecco, 2016)

A Gentleman of Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking, 2016)

NEWS ROUNDUP

Google announced number of public interest research and initiatives last week.

The Google subsidiary Jigsaw has developed, along with the help of The New York Times, a new app that allows site operators to weed out hate speech and other harmful speech in comment sections. The app is called Perspective and is available for free for a limited time.

Google.org also announced last week that the company is investing $11.5 million in 10 organizations focused on racial justice. Five million will go to the Center for Policing Equity in New York, a think tank focused on research around how to improve interactions between the police and their communities.

Also, a Google team in collaboration with a Dutch research team, cracked the cryptographic technology known as SHA-1, which has long been central to internet security.

For full reports on these stories, check out Daisuke Wakabayashi's story in the New York Times, Sara O'Brien at CNNTech, and Robert McMillan at the Wall Street Journal.

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In November of 2015, in Bentonville, Arkansas, Victor Collins was found dead, lying face-up in a hot tub belonging to a man named James Andrew Bates. Bates has an Amazon Echo,  speaker that hooks up to a Alexa, a digital personal assistant that accepts voice commands. Now, Bates is the suspect, and the police want Amazon to release records of Bates' Echo comnunications. Amazon is challenging the warrant, saying that being forced to turn over those communications would violate Bates' First Amendment rights. Ashley Carman has the story in The Verge.

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Kara Swisher reported for Recode that Salesforce has joined Apple and Google in opposing Donald Trump's repeal of federal guidelines regarding transgender bathroom use in public schools.

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On Valentines Day, Free Press delivered 200,000 petitions from its members asking the FCC to defend net neutrality. But last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai demonstrated that their love is unrequited, begnning what he promised: taking what he termed a "weed whacker" to the net neutrality rules. In a 2-1 vote along party lines, the FCC ruled that it would go ahead and exempt net neutrality reporting requirements regarding fees and data caps for broadband providers with fewer than 250,00 subscribers. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted that smaller ISPs owned by larger carriers with billions of dollars in capital would also be exempted. Ali Breland has the story in the Hill, as well as Jon Brodkin in Ars Technica.

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Despite the Trump administration's crack down immigration from majority-Muslim countries as well as Mexico, the FCC's Media Bureau gave two Australian citizens 100% ownership in radio stations licensed in America. Just last month, foreign owners were only allowed to own 49% of Univision, up to 40% of which would be by Mexico-based Televisa. Jon Eggerton has the story in Broadcasting & Cable.

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Cox Communications and the American Library Association announced last week that they will be teaming up to provide enhanced digital literacy training for K-12 students in Cox's 18-state footprint.

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Remember back in December when the FBI figured out how to hack into the iPhone of one of the San Bernadino shooters, thus bypassing Apple's refusal to do it? Well, the Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett have now submitted a court filing asking the judge to require the FBI and Justice Department to disclose which third party they worked with or how much it cost, which the agencies have thus far refused to do. Eric Tucker has the story in the Associated Press.

Feb 21, 2017

Helen Nissenbaum (@HNissenbaum) is on the faculty if Cornell Tech, on leave from NYU where she Professor of Media, Culture and Communication and Director of the Information Law Institute. Her eight books include Obfuscation: A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest, with Finn Brunton (MIT Press, 2015), Values at Play in Digital Games, with Mary Flanagan (MIT Press, 2014), and Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life (Stanford, 2010). Her research has been published in journals of philosophy, politics, law, media studies, information studies, and computer science. Grants from the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator have supported her work on privacy, trust online, and security, as well as studies of values embodied in design, search engines, digital games, facial recognition technology, and health information systems.

Recipient of the 2014 Barwise Prize of the American Philosophical Association, Prof. Nissenbaum has contributed to privacy-enhancing software, including TrackMeNot (for protecting against profiling based on Web search) and AdNauseam (protecting against profiling based on ad clicks). Both are free and freely available.

Nissenbaum holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University and a B.A. (Hons) from the University of the Witwatersrand. Before joining the faculty at NYU, she served as Associate Director of the Center for Human Values at Princeton University.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the commercial and political contexts that animate policy discussion around privacy.
  • the means by which citizens may use technology to obfuscate their lawful online activity and activism.
  • points of alignment between consumer privacy advocates and the tech sector.
  • policy recommendations.

Resources:

Cornell Tech

NYU Steinhardt Department of Media, Culture and Communication

Obfuscation: A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest by Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum (MIT, 2016)

The Crooked Timber of Humanity by Isaiah Berlin (Princeton, 2013)

Ad Nauseum

TrackMeNot

 

NEWS ROUNDUP

Republican California Representative David Nunes, who is Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election, has said he'd like to know why the FBI recorded former national security advisor Michael Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador in the first place. He said it was an invasion of Flynn's privacy. Trump forced Flynn to resign two weeks ago, after it was revealed that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn's contacts with Russian officials days before the election. Trump himself did not inform Pence about Flynn's conversations until at least 2 weeks after Trump knew about them, according to the Washington Post. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chafetz also said his committee had no plans to conduct a further investigation. Mike Debonis has the story in the Washington Post.  Politico reports that conservatives worried about leaks from federal employees have asked federal agencies to look into employees' use of the encrypted data app Signal.

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Amidst intense competition from T-Mobile and Sprint which have long offered unlimited data plans, Verizon will now itself offer unlimited data once again. Verizon had stopped offering unlimited data in 2011.

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The Chief of Samsung Group was arrested last week in South Korea. Forty-eight year old Jay Y. Lee, a member of South Korea's richest family,  is accused bribing individuals connected with South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who was impeached in December on corruption charges. Hyunjoo Jin and Joyce Lee cover this in Reuters.

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Amid increased cyber warfare, Microsoft President Brad Smith is calling for a "digital Geneva Convention". At the RSA security conference last week, Smith noted “Let’s face it, cyberspace is the new battlefield." Smith said the convention should define rules of engagement, such as rules under which nation's would pledge not to disrupt civilian infrastructure. Elizabeth Weise covers this in USA Today.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a 5,800 word missive last week in which he took a stand in support of globalization and Facebook's role in it. The wave of nationalism that has swept the Western world has prompted a debate about the merits of globalization. Mike Isaac has the story in The New York Times.

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Snapchat set its valuation between $19.5 and $22 billion ahead of its long-anticipated IPO. In that range, it would be the largest IPO since Alibaba's in 2014.

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At the RSA conference last week, Assistant FBI Director Scott Smith said the federal law enforcement agency will be ramping up its use of predictive policing technology. Smith said, "It’s where we are moving, and hope to go when you talk about predicting as opposed to proactive and reactive. Reactive is consistently where we have been, proactive means we’re really trying to get ahead of it. But predictive is where we want to be. And that’s where I know FBI Cyber Division is strongly moving towards as we speak ..." Catch Chris Bing's full story is in FedScoop.

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Finally, Senator Orrin Hatch--Utah Republican and head of the Republican High Tech Task Force--offered up his tech agenda last week. The agenda targets H1B visa reform and improving cross-border digital trade. Hatch also supports the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which passed the House earlier this month, which would require law enforcement officials to obtain search warrants for emails. Hatch's plan was praised by tech sector leaders, including Consumer Technology Association president Gary Shapiro. Alexis Kramer has more at Bloomberg BNA.

Feb 14, 2017

Harold Feld (@haroldfeld)  is Public Knowledge's Senior Vice President. Before becoming Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge, Harold worked as Senior Vice President of Media Access Project, advocating for the public interest in media, telecommunications, and technology policy for almost 10 years. Prior to joining MAP, Harold was an associate at Covington & Burling, worked on Freedom of Information Act, Privacy Act, and accountability issues at the Department of Energy, and clerked for the D.C. Court of Appeals. He received his B.A. from Princeton University, and his J.D. from Boston University Law School. Harold also writes Tales of the Sausage Factory, a progressive blog on media and telecom policy. In 2007, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin praised him and his blog for "[doing] a lot of great work helping people understand how FCC decisions affect people and communities on the ground."

In this episode, we discussed:

  • early trends from the Ajit Pai FCC.
  • what to expect on FCC reform from the 115th Congress.
  • where consumer advocates and the Trump administration can find common ground.

Resources

Public Knowledge

Slack

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

The Federalist Papers

 

NEWS ROUNDUP

The Federal Trade Commission found last week that Vizio--the TV manufacturer--has been spying on its 11 million customers. The company had apparently been collecting and selling customers' locations, demographics and viewing habits. Vizio will now have to pay a $2.2 million settlement to the FTC and New Jersey Attorney General's office.  Hayley Tsukayama covers this in the Washington Post.

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The Department of Homeland Security is considering requiring refugees and other immigrants from the 7 Muslim Ban countries to turn over their social media usernames and passwords before entering the United States. DHS Secretary John Kelly made the announcement last week before the House Committee on Homeland Security. But of course a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling last week which blocked the President's ban on refugees entering the country. Next steps include possible appeals to the full 9th Circuit, or to the U.S. Supreme Court. David Kravets has the story in Ars Technica.

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The White House mysteriously let go its Chief Information Security Officer, Cory Louie, last week. Louie, who is Asian, had been appointed to the position by former President Obama and was one of the few minorities on Trump's staff. Check out Zack Whittaker's coverage in ZD Net.

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A federal grand jury has indicted the National Security Agency contractor accused of stealing highly sensitive materials from the United States government, which he then collected at his Maryland home. Harold Thomas Martin faces up to 200 years in prison if convicted of all 20 criminal counts he has been charged with. Dustin Volz covers this for Reuters.

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The House passed last week the Email Privacy Act, which would update existing law to require law enforcement to get a search warrant before asking technology companies for their users' emails. The bill is expected to get some resistance in the Senate. Dustin Volz has this story as well, in Reuters.

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Benjamin Herold reports for Ed Week that the Ajit Pai FCC has rescinded a report the previous administration put out illustrating the success of the E-rate program. The E-rate program is a multi-billion dollar initiative designed to help schools and libraries access high speed internet service. Democratic leaders as well as consumer and tech advocates took Pai to task accusing Pai of paying lip service to the digital divide, while pursuing contradictory policies.

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Finally, Amazon expressed serious concerns Friday about President Trump's "America First" agenda. The company said this more protectionist attitude has the potential to harm its business. Jeffrey Dastin has the story in Reuters.

Feb 7, 2017

John Breyault (@JammingEcono) is Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud at the National Consumers League (NCL). John’s focus at NCL is on advocating for stronger consumer protections before Congress and federal agencies on issues related to telecommunications, fraud, technology, and other consumer concerns. In addition, John manages NCL’s Fraud Center and coordinates the Alliance Against Fraud coalition. John is also Research Director for the Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC), a project of NCL. In his role with TRAC, John advocates on behalf of residential consumers of wireline, wireless, VoIP, and other IP-enabled communications services. John was a member of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee from 2005 to 2007 and served on the Board of the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. He is a graduate of George Mason University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • top issues facing consumer advocates in the new administration.
  • the risk of scaling back the FCC's privacy rules.

Resources:

National Consumers League (NCL)

NEWS ROUNDUP

The tech sector is hitting hard against the Trump administration's ostensibly temporary travel ban against 7 predominantly Muslim countries including Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen . Ninety-seven companies including, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and even Levi Strauss filed an amicus brief on behalf of the State of Washington in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals late Sunday. The State of Washington is appealing to a 3 judge panel of the court to uphold the District Court's decision to halt the travel ban. Oral arguments in this case will take place Tuesday at 6PM.

The brief is a culmination of a number of developments last week in the the growing resistance against the Trump administration's travel ban by the tech sector. Among them was Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's departure from Trump's economic advisory council.  The move follows major protests by tech employees, including Uber's employees, against Trump's Muslim travel ban, which the district court in San Francisco has temporarily suspended. Uber employees were wondering why Kalanick was still on Trump's advisory board. Two hundred thousand Uber users wondered the same thing, and deleted Uber's app from their phones. Kalanick sent a letter to Uber employees on Thursday announcing that he had quit Trump's advisory council.  Mike Isaac reports in The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Tony Romm reports that Silicon Valley leaders are organizing against Trump. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus are among those leading the effort. They have set up organizations like Win the Future which will seek out progressive candidates for future elections.  Sam Altman from Y Combinator also set up a new site called Track Trump -- a running dashboard of the Trump administration's policy changes.

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So on the one hand, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is claiming he's going to be all about closing the so-called digital divide. He's announced small, closed-door meetings with organizations like the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and HTTP, he's created a broadband adoption advisory board ... but on the other, his policies, thus far, can't be much more against closing the digital divide.  In fact, the moves he's been making suggest he's going in the complete opposite direction. Take for example his decision last week telling 9 companies that they can't offer broadband pricing subsidies of $9.95 per month to the poor--a program otherwise known as the Lifeline program.  The decision states that the Wheeler FCC allowed these 9 companies to provide Lifeline subsidies at the last minute and that the new FCC needs more time to consider the waste, fraud and abuse concerns the Republican commissioners have about the program.

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A U.S. magistrate judge in Philadelphia has held that Google must comply with an FBI search warrant seeking access to emails stored on Google servers abroad. This departs from a decision in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last year holding that Microsoft did not have to comply with such a warrant. A Google spokesperson says the company will appeal. Jonathan Stempel has the story in Reuters. 

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has closed the set-top box proceeding. The proceeding, introduced under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, was intended to promote competition in the set-top box market by allowing consumers to choose to receive the programming they had already subscribed to on a set-top box of their choice, rather than being stuck with the one from their cable provider. Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee had asked Pai to close the proceeding on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Pai also explicitly stated at a press conference that he "favors an open Internet but opposes Title II."  The Chairman, however, would not answer as to whether the Commission would be enforcing the FCC's net neutrality rules, which were upheld in the DC Circuit last year.

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Finally, The commission also closed the zero-rating proceeding. The Wheeler FCC had begun an inquiry into carriers' zero-rating practices towards the end of its term. Zero rating, or so-called "sponsored data", plans are ones in which carriers offer access to their own preferred content without it counting against subscribers' data caps. But net neutrality advocates argue zero-rating is a back-door to violate the FCC's net neutrality rules.  For example, Sprint has announced it will be acquiring a 33% stake in Jay-Z's streaming music service, Tidal. Net neutrality advocates are worried about what this might mean for companies like Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music if Sprint turns Tidal into a zero-rated service--offering their customers music streaming without it counting against their data caps. Chris Brantner has the story in Motherboard and David Shepardson reports on this in Reuters.

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