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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: March, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Faiza Patel (@FaizaPatelBCJ) serves as co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. She has testified before Congress opposing the dragnet surveillance of Muslims, organized advocacy efforts against state laws designed to incite fear of Islam, and developed legislation creating an independent Inspector General for the NYPD.

Ms. Patel is the author of five reports: Rethinking Radicalization (2011); A Proposal for an NYPD Inspector General (2012); Foreign Law Bans (2013); What Went Wrong with the FISA Court (2015); and Overseas Surveillance in an Interconnected World (2016). She is a frequent commentator on national security and counterterrorism issues for media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Guardian, MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, NPR, the New York Daily News, and the National Law Journal and has published widely in academic outlets as well.

Before joining the Brennan Center, Ms. Patel worked as a senior policy officer at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, and clerked for Judge Sidhwa at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Born and raised in Pakistan, Ms. Patel is a graduate of Harvard College and the NYU School of Law.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • a comparison of candidate Donald Trump's proposals to surveil Muslims to President Trump's policies.
  • a description of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program and its prospects under the Trump administration.
  • the Fourth Amendment implications of police surveillance issues on the local level that potentially impact innocent civilians within the United States.

Resources:

Brennan Center for Justice

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

NEWS ROUNDUP

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution last week by a vote of 50-48 to overturn the FCC's ISP privacy rules. The rules were designed to prevent ISPs from using sensitive data about their subscribers for the companies' own commercial purposes. Ali Breland and Harper Neidig have the story in The Hill.

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Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law who is also a senior advisor to the president, will lead a new White House Office of American Innovation which, the President says, is indented as a sort of SWAT team that will seek to apply solutions from the world of business to the world of government. The new office will focus in things like Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes a broadband buildout component, as well as modernizing the federal government's technology and improving government operations. Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report in the Washington Post.

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The Trump administration issued a ban of electronic devices on flights coming from 8 countries including Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The UK followed up with a similar ban. Authorities suspect a plot to bring down a plane with explosives hidden in an iPad, according sources cited by Ewen Macaskill in The Guardian.

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Google has been battling over the past week to prevent ads from showing up adjacent to hateful and offensive content. The glitch led major advertisers to withdraw spots from YouTube. AT&T and Verizon were among the companies that pulled their advetising from the platform. Google responded by giving advertisers greater control over where their ads appear. Google's Chief Business Officer Phillipp Schindler also apologized. But reports of ads placed next to offensive content were still coming in as of Monday. Mark Scott reports in The New York Times.

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Apple has succeeded in persuading a Chinese Court that its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus don't infringe the patents of Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, a now-defunct Chinese smartphone manufacturer. If the patent infringement decision against Apple had been upheld, it was seen as threatening to Apple which is under intense competition in China. But Baili is expected to appeal. Eva Dou and Yang Jie report in the Wall Street Journal.

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Mark Bergen and Eric Newcomer reported in Bloomberg that an accident in Tempe has prompted Uber to suspend its autonomous vehicle tests in Arizona. According to police, Uber was not at fault and no injuries resulted from the accident.

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A New York attorney named David Thompson has discovered via a Freedom of Information Act request that on over 400 occasions between 2011 and 2013, the New York City Police Department deployed officers to videotape or surveil activities of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter protesters. Importantly, the NYPD was unable to produce documentation showing the surveillance was authorized by a judge or higher ups within the NYPD. George Joseph has the story in the Verge.

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Aida Chavez of the Hill covered a House Oversight hearing last week in which lawmakers grilled witnesses from the FBI about how they use facial recognition technology. Lawmakers were highly concerned about the impact the FBI's facial recognition database would have on communities of color as well as the public in general

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The FCC voted unanimously Thursday to clamp down on robocalls. The National Do Not Call list has failed to prevent robocalls. Phone companies will now themselves be permitted to identify numbers associated with robocalls and block the calls from ever reaching their customers.

Mar 21, 2017

The man who viciously attacked long-time New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald back in December has finally been arrested, according to Cecilia Kang at The New York Times. The FBI picked up twenty-nine year old John Rivello of Salisbury, Md. on Friday for sending Eichenwald, who suffers from seizures, an electronic file containing strobe lights and bearing the words "you deserve a seizure for your posts". Eichenwald did in fact suffer a seizure. Rivello now faces a possible 10 year sentence if he is convicted of criminal cyberstalking with the intent to kill or cause bodily harm.

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President Trump is sticking to his guns, but no one in Congress has been able to find any evidence that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. The Republican Senator Richard Burr who Chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and Democratic Vice Chair Mark Warner issued the following statement last week: “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016."  House Intelligence Chair David Nunes issued a similar statement, saying that President Trump's tweet shouldn't be taken literally.On Monday, FBI Director James Comey testified before a House panel that the FBI has found no evidence that former President Obama wiretapped Trump tower.

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A county judge in Minnesota has issued a warrant requiring Google to reveal who searched the name of a victim of financial fraud. The victim's image was used to obtain a fake passport to trick a credit union to transfer $28,500 out of an account. Minneapolis police say the victim's image was clicked on in the search. David Kravets has the story in Ars.

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Greg Besinger at the Wall Street Journal reports that Uber is trying to prevent their drivers from unionizing in Seattle. The effort to unionize is supported by the Teamsters and the Seattle City Council. Uber has allegedly been trying to get drivers not to unionize via company podcasts, text messages and phone surveys. It's a complex case that the Communications Workers of America is also involved in. Uber has threatened to leave Seattle if the unionization effort succeeds. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also trying to prevent the drivers from organizing, and the chamber has sued the Seattle City Council for an ordinance it passed in 2015 that gave drivers the right to vote on whether to form a union.

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FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is urging Congress and the White House to include broadband buildout within the infrastructure bill. He says infrastructure spending should prioritize rural areas and be paid for via the Universal Service Fund. Maggie Reardon has the story in CNET.

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The City of New York is suing Verizon because it says the company failed to deliver on a 2008 agreement to provide broadband to every single home in the city. But the company, though its GC Craig Silliman, said the company has already spent $3.7 billion to place fiber throughout the city and that the fiber passes every home in the city. Patrick McGeehan has the story int he New York Times.

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CA Technologies, the technology firm and government contractor, will pay a $45 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by a former whistleblower employee alleging that the company failed to inform the the General Services Administration that certain discounts were available. The former employee, who filed the lawsuit under the False Claims Act, will receive $10.92 million of the settlement. Evan Fallor has the story in FedScoop.

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Ride-hailing company Lyft, Inc.  is now on the hook to pay $27 million to drivers who filed a class-action lawsuit on federal court to change their classification from independent contractors to employees. The settlement will be paid to the  drivers, however they will remain classified as independent contractors.

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The European Commission--which is the executive arm of the European Union--has given the greenlight to the $85 billion AT&T/Time Warner merger. The merger is still working its way through the regulatory approval process in the U.S.

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Finally, President Trump has released  draft budget which includes $61 million to fight cybercrime and encryption plus $1.5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. Joseph Marks has the story in Nextgov. Stay with us.

Mar 14, 2017

Dr. Christopher Hooton (@Hooton_Chris) is the Chief Economist at the Internet Association, which represents the interests of the world's leading Internet companies in the advancement of public policy solutions to strengthen and protect Internet freedom, foster innovation and economic growth, and empower users.  He is an economist and policy expert specializing in economic development, urban economics, spatial analysis, and evaluation. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank as well as other leading international organizations and was formerly a Lecturer at the Social Science Research Methods Centre University of Cambridge. His work has been featured in several international news organizations including the Financial Times, Reuters, the Financial Post, the Huffington Post, and more. 

Chris is a graduate of University of Miami, earned a Masters degree from the London School of Economics, and received a PhD in economic development from the University of Cambridge.

 

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the size of the internet economy in the U.S. and abroad. 
  • how various sub-sectors, industries and activities might be more accurately classified under the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) to more accurately reflect the influence of the internet.

Resources

Refreshing Our Understanding of the Internet Economy by Christopher Hooton (Internet Association, 2017)

Observance by Christopher Hooton (2017)

ChrisHooton.com

News Roundup

Wikileaks last weak released a trove of CIA documents in what the New York Times said appears to be the largest C.I.A. document leak in the agency's history. The hack revealed information regarding the C.I.A.'s ability to hack into things like Smart TVs, and even Apple iPhones, which are widely considered the gold standard of device encryption. The leak also revealed that the agency has the ability to read messages sent via encrypted messaging apps, such as Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp, simply by intercepting them before they are encrypted.

The leaks did not reveal information on what the C.I.A. is doing to conduct surveillance of other nations. Check out full coverage in The New York Times.

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Facebook has announced that it will no longer allow anyone to access its data, including the police, for the purpose of surveillance. However, the company will continue to allow the police to use the platform and assisting law enforcement on a case-by-case basis. But some advocates say the changes don't go far enough.  Elizabeth Dwoskin has the story in the Washington Post.

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Trump revised his ban on immigrants from majority-Muslim countries last week. The revised version exempts permanent U.S. residents, dual nationals and those already living in the U.S. as refugees or who have been granted asylum. The revised measure was met with condemnation from the tech sector, by Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. Nick Statt has the story in The Verge.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has denied an application for what would have been an exchange for the digital currency Bitcoin. The Commission found that the coin is not sufficiently regulated around the world to justify setting up the exchange, which was to be called Bitcoin Trust. Dave Michaels and Paul Vigna have the story in the Wall Street Journal.

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The FCC is also investigating a 911 outage that prevented AT&T customers from dialing 911. AT&T did not indicate how widespread the outage was. Harper Neidig has the story in the Hill.

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A new report written by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Connect Your Community accuses AT&T of deliberately failing to build out broadband to low-income communities in Cleveland. The report analyzes data AT&T submitted to the FCC which shows robust high speed internet service in suburban areas and sparse build out in low-income areas.

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A Morning Consult/Politico poll found a growing number of Americans now believe Russia did in fact interfere with the 2016 election. Forty-one percent now believe Russia influenced the results, up 9 percentage points from December.

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President Trump has nominated FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for another term. It's a five-year term that requires Senate approval. If confirmed, Pai's Chairmanship would be retroactive to July 1st, 2016, which was when Pai's term as Commissioner expired. Pai has remained on board though because FCC rules allow Commissioners to keep their jobs for 18 months past the expiration of their term. Trump appointed Pai Chairman after Pai officially endorsed Trump's nomination of Jeff Session for Attorney General. Prior to announcing the nomination, Trump and Pai had a closed door meeting. The Electronic Privacy and Information Center swiftly responded with a FOIA request to obtain details about that meeting.

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Neither Ajit Pai nor the Republican-controlled Congress are fans of the FCC's internet sevice provider privacy rules passed under previous FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But Ajit Pai stated last week at a Senate hearing, in a departure from the Republican line, that the FCC would still be obligated to protect consumers' privacy even if Congress eliminates the privacy rules. A measure to eliminate the privacy rules using the Congressional Review Act has the support of 23 Republican co-sponsors.

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The National Science Foundation has pledged $100 million for tech hubs focused on 5G wireless. The initiative is called the Platform for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) and will be led by NSF and Northeastern University.

 

Mar 7, 2017

Sander van der Linden, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor (University Lecturer) in Social Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, where he is also a Fellow in Psychological and Behavioral Sciences at Churchill College. Other academic affiliations include the Yale Center for Environmental Communication at Yale University. At Cambridge, Dr. van der Linden lectures mainly in statistics and social psychology.

 Dr. van der Linden's research has received awards from institutions such as the American Psychological Association (APA), the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) and the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP). He was nominated by Pacific Standard Magazine as one of the "top thinkers under 30" and his work has been widely publicized in the media, including outlets such as Time Magazine, the Washington Post, NPR, the BBC, and the New York Times.

Prior to Cambridge, van der Linden directed the Social and Environmental Decision-Making (SED) Lab in the Department of Psychology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University and was a visiting scholar (2012-2014) at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

In this episode, we discussed:

  • How users can be scientifically inoculated to reject fake fews.

Resources:

The Cambridge Social Decision Making Lab

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

NEWS ROUND UP

You've heard by now that Trump claimed, with no evidence, on Twitter over the weekend that Obama wiretapped his office in Trump Tower. Not only did Obama deny it through a spokesperson, former Director of National Security Director James Clapper said he too can deny the wiretaps. Current FBI Director James Comey was also said to have rejected the assertions in Trump's tweets, which President Trump was said to have not accepted, putting the two men at odds. The White House has asked Congress to investigate whether his office was indeed wiretapped. So what gave Trump the idea that his office had been wiretapped? No one knows.

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The Senate confirmed Rick Perry as Energy Secretary. The former Texas governor once vowed to abolish the department he will now lead.

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Google has announced that it will be launching a $35/month broadcast tv streaming service that will carry ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as several cable networks including ESPN, FX, Fox News and MSNBC.

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Several tech companies filed a joint amicus brief before the Supreme Court in support of a transgender student in Virginia who is challenging the Glouchester County School board for for not letting him use the boy's restroom. IBM, Slack, Lyft, Yahoo, Tumblr and Salesforce all signed the brief. Google, Facebook and Uber, though, sat this one out.  But the Supreme Court ended up sending the case back down to the lower court because the Trump White House rescinded an Obama-era progressive interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits discrimination against students on the basis of sex.

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Snapchat surged 44% after its IPO last week. The stock was introduced at $17 a share on Thursday and closed that day at $24.48.

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The Senate confirmed Wilber Ross as Commerce Secretary with a vote of  72-27. The 79-year old billionaire earned his wealth rehabilitating steel companies. Democrat Bill Nelson supported Ross' nomination, but other Democratic Senators including New Jersey's Corey Booker and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren question Ross' ties with Russia.

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The FCC put a halt on data security regulations that would have required ISPs to protect their customers from hackers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said privacy is more properly handled by the Federal Trade Commission.

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Vice President Mike Pence caught some heat last week for using a private, consumer email account to conduct official state business when he served as Governor of Indiana. Pence had criticized Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign for using a private email server. Pence's email was via AOL. But Indiana law still requires state business communications to be preserved. In fact, Pence's emails were indeed hacked last summer, according sources cited in IndyStar.
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The Trump administration has decided it is going to slow processing of H1B visas for specialized workers. Many companies in the technology sector rely on H1B visas to recruit highly-skilled labor from abroad. Currently, companies can opt for premium processing of H1B visa applications which cuts the processing time down from several months, to as few as 15 days. But beginning on April 3rd, U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization services will suspend premium processing for up to 6 months.

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Sprint has won $139.8 million in damages in its patent lawsuit against Time Warner Cable. The jury in the U.S. District Court of the District of Kansas found Time Warner Cable to have violated Sprint's Voice over IP patents. The jury also found Time Warner Cable's infringement of Sprint's patents was willful, which means the judge could triple the damage award.

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The European Union Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has warned the United States that if it doesn't comply with the terms of the Privacy Shield, the European Union may pull out of it, which would be catastrophic for the tech sector. The long-fought over Privacy Shield is designed to ensure data flows seemlessly between the U.S. and Europe, while at the same time protecting European Citizens' privacy. Jourova is expected to come to the U.S. to meet with the Trump administration at the end of March. She indicated that she would not hesitate to suspend the Privacy Shield if Eurpeans' privacy is put too much at risk by the unpredictable Trump administration.

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The FCC issued an emergency order last week to help law enforcement identify individuals calling in bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers around the country.  The emergency order waives rules that ordinarily prevent carriers from disclosing the identity of callers who have requested anonymity. The waiver only applies to calls to Jewish Community Centers.

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Finally, Trump has withdrawn the re-nomination of former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. The previous Senate had let her confirmation lapse, prompting Obama to re-nominate her. Now it looks like Rosenworcel has no chance of returning to the FCC, which is missing 2 commissioners. Rosenworcel had bipartisan support, including  a lukewarm endorsement from Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune who said he supported Rosenworcel, but said the decision should be left to the president.

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