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WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast with Joe Miller

The WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast is your resource for tech law and policy news and interviews. Each week, the WashingTECH Policy Podcast presents the latest developments across the tech policy landscape plus interviews with a diverse array of tech policy influencers.
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WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast with Joe Miller
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Nov 21, 2017

 

Bio

Danielle Keats Citron (@daniellecitron) is the Morton & Sophia Macht Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law where she teaches and writes about information privacy, free expression, and civil rights and was the recipient of the 2005 “Teacher of the Year” award.

Professor Citron is an internationally recognized information privacy expert. Her book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (Harvard University Press 2014) explored the phenomenon of cyber stalking and how law and companies can and should tackle online abuse consistent with our commitment to free speech. The editors of Cosmopolitan included her book in “20 Best Moments for Women in 2014.” Professor Citron has published more than 20 law review articles appearing in California Law ReviewMichigan Law ReviewHarvard Law Review ForumBoston University Law Review, Fordham Law Review, George Washington Law ReviewMinnesota Law ReviewNotre Dame Law ReviewTexas Law ReviewWashington University Law ReviewSouthern California Law ReviewWashington & Lee Law ReviewWake Forest Law ReviewWashington Law ReviewUC Davis Law Review, among other journals. Her opinion pieces have appeared in media outlets, such as The New York TimesThe AtlanticSlateTimeCNNThe Guardian, New Scientistars technica, and New York Daily News. In 2015, the United Kingdom’s Prospect Magazine named Professor Citron one of the “Top 50 World Thinkers;” the Daily Record named her one of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marylanders.” Professor Citron is an Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society, Affiliate Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project, and Senior Fellow at the Future of Privacy, a privacy think tank. She is a technology contributor for Forbes.

Professor Citron has advised federal and state legislators, law enforcement, and international lawmakers on privacy issues. She has testified at congressional briefings on the First Amendment implications of laws regulating cyber stalking, sexual violence, and nonconsensual pornography. From 2014 to December 2016, Professor Citron advised California Attorney General Kamala Harris (elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016) on privacy issues. She served as a member of AG Harris’s Task Force to Combat Cyber Exploitation and Violence Against Women. In 2011, Professor Citron testified about online hate speech before the Inter-Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism at the House of Commons.

Professor Citron works closely with tech companies on issues involving online safety and privacy. She serves on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council and has presented her research at Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. In addition, Professor Citron is an advisor to civil liberties and privacy organizations. She is the Chair the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Board of Directors. Professor Citron is on the Advisory Board of Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Without My Consent, Future of Privacy, Teach Privacy, SurvJustice, and the International Association of Privacy Professionals Privacy Bar. She is a member of the American Law Institute and serves as an adviser to the American Law Institute’s Restatement Third Information Privacy Principles Project.

Professor Citron has presented her research at federal agencies, meetings of the National Association of Attorneys General, the National Holocaust Museum, Wikimedia Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, major universities, and think tanks. Professor Citron has been quoted in hundreds of news stories including in The New York TimesWashington PostWall Street JournalLos Angeles TimesSan Francisco ChronicleWired,USA TodayHBO’s John Oliver ShowHBO’s Vice NewsTimeNewsweekNew YorkerNew York MagazineCosmopolitanBarron’sFinancial TimesThe GuardianVice News, and BBC. She is a frequent guest on National Public Radio shows, including All Things Considered, WHYY’s Radio Times, WNYC’s Public Radio International, Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks, WAMU’s The Diane Rehm Show, and Chicago Public Radio.

Resources

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keas Citron (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Constitutional Coup: Privatization's Threat to the American Republic by Jon D. Michaels (Harvard University Press, 2017)

University of Maryland Carey School of Law

News Roundup

DOJ sues to block AT&T/Tribune Merger

The Department of Justice has sued to block AT&T's proposed $85 billion acquisition of Times Warner. The complaint states that the merger would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act. It refers to AT&T's objection to Comcast's previous acquisition of NBC/Universal, back in 2011, which was also a so-called vertical merger. AT&T argued that a "standard bargaining model" could have been used to show the harmful effect the merger would have had on pricing.

If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it will be the first time a vertical merger case has reached the Court since 1972, in the Ford-Autolite case. The Trump administration has been vocal about opposing the AT&T/Time Warner merger and the president himself has railed repeatedly on Twitter about CNN's coverage of his administration. AT&T says it would not rule out using the judicial process in order to obtain correspondence between the White House and the DOJ which would help illustrate that the DOJ's lawsuit is politically motivated. Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post.

FCC rolls back media regulations, Lifeline, cracks down on robocalls

In its monthly meeting last week, the Federal Communications Commission killed long-standing media ownership rules, including the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership rule which, since 1975, had prevented the owner of a  tv station from owning  a newspaper in the same market. The Commission also eliminated the so-called eight-voices test, which required at least eight independently owned TV stations to remain in the market before any entity could own two stations in the market. Critics say the rules were cancelled simply to pave the way for Sinclair Broadcasting, which has proposed to acquire Tribune Media for $4 billion. Two high-ranking Democrats--Frank Pallone and Elijah Cummings--are calling for an investigation into Ajit Pai's relationship with Sinclair.

The Commission also restricted Lifeline support--that's the $9.25 per month subsidy for qualified customers who use it to help pay their internet bill. It restricted that support on tribal lands. The Commission is also seeking comment on a proposed plan to cap Lifeline expenditures.

The Commission also voted unanimously to crack down on robocallers by giving phone companies more authority to block annoying phone calls from marketers who play a pre-recorded message when you answer the phone. Also at the November meeting, the Commission voted to expand broadcasters' ability to experiment with the Next Generation Broadcast Standard, which will enable closer targeting of viewers for advertising. The Commission also adopted several other rules and proposed rules ostensibly geared toward stimulating broadband infrastructure investment and deployment.

In December, FCC Chair Ajit Pai is expected to overturn the net neutrality rules passed during the Obama administration.

Wall Street Journal: Comcast seeks to acquire 201st Century Fox

Comcast has joined a long list of companies, including Verizon, that are seeking to buy 21st Century Fox, according to the Wall Street Journal. Fox is looking to sell off everything except its news and sports assets. Verizon and Disney also also rumored to be potential suitors.

Federal Elections Commission opens rulemaking on political ads

The Federal Elections Commission put out a rulemaking for public comment on revisions to the political ad disclosure rules to apply them to internet companies. The rulemaking follows allegations of Russian efforts to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump by placing ads and sponsored content on on Facebook and Twitter.

China's supercomputers surpass the U.S.

The U.S. has dropped to second place, behind China, in its total number of super computers. The U.S. has 144 compared to China's 202. The number of China's supercomputers rose by 43 over just the last 6 months, compared to a drop in the U.S. by 25.

Nov 14, 2017

Bio

Cheryl A. Leanza (@cleanza) is the President of her consulting firm, A Learned Hand, LLC, www.alearnedhand.com.  In this capacity she serves as policy advisor to the United Church of Christ’s historic media advocacy arm and as the Co-Chair of the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights Media & Telecommunications Task Force.  Her other clients have included the Progressive States Network, Leadership Conference Education Fund, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Future of Music Coalition, Public Knowledge, and Native Public Media, among others.

Ms. Leanza helped to lead the victorious effort to pass the Local Community Radio Act, and has been a leader in public interest advocacy for more than 15 years, including advocacy for diversity in media ownership, protection for children in media, and other policies furthering First Amendment principles, including open Internet.  She has represented non-profits before the Federal Communications Commission, in the U.S. Appellate courts and before Congress, and has been widely quoted in the trade and mainstream press on these issues.

Ms. Leanza’s prior positions include a stint as Principal Legislative Counsel for telecommunications at the National League of Cities where she was lead lobbyist for local elected officials during the period when Congress was debating changes to local cable television franchising laws.  She also spent six and one-half years as Deputy Director of Media Access Project and began her career in the Federal Communications Commission’s honor attorney program.

Ms. Leanza is a cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and the Ford School of Public Policy and teaches at Georgetown University’s Department of Communications, Culture and Technology.  Ms. Leanza serves on the board of the Prometheus Radio Project and has served as Vice Chair of the Media and Democracy Coalition, as well as on the Federal Communications Bar Association’s Executive Committee and the Foundation Board.  She is admitted in the District of Columbia and New York; and in the United States Supreme Court; U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits.

Resources

A Learned Hand, LLC

United Church of Christ Office of Communication

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

News Roundup

Donald Trump Jr. communicated with Wikileaks

Juilia Ioffee reports for the Atlantic that Donald Trump, Jr. exchanged direct messages via Twitter with Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. The exchange went on at least through July of this year. This is the first connection that Congressional investigators have established between the White House and the notorious leaking site which investigators believe Russia enlisted to interfere with last year's election. Wikileaks warned Trump, Jr. ahead of time about a new website that was to be released showing ties between Trump and Putin. Wikileaks requested favors of Trump, Jr. including access to Trump's tax returns. 

House Democrats call for an investigation into FCC Pai's ties to Sinclair

Top House Democrats including House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone are seeking an investigation into FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's ties to Sinclair Broadcasting. Pai is accused of passing rules changes that clear the path for Sinclair's pending acquisition of Tribune Media, which would give the combined company access to some 70% of the U.S. TV market. Harper Neidig reports in the Hill. 

Qualcomm rejects Broadcom's acquisition bid

The Qualcomm Board of Directors has unanimously rejected Broadcom's $103 billion acquisition bid. Qualcomm said that the bid is too low. Harper Neidig reports in the Hill.

Missouri's AG opens investigation into Google

Prompted by a record, $2.8 billion fine against Google by the European Union, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has issued subpoenas to Google as part of a state investigation to determine whether the company prioritizes its own search results over that of its competitors. Harper Neidig reports on this as well in the Hill. 

Softbank to participate in $1 billion bid for Uber

Uber has accepted an investment offer from Asian telecom conglomerate Softbank that is part of a total $1 billion investment being made into the ride-sharing company by a consortium of other companies. This investment will open up the possibility of Softbank acquiring up to $9 billion in equity from the company's shareholders. Softbank also owns a majority stake in Sprint. The deal with Uber is seen, in part, as an opportunity for Uber to expand into Asia as it struggles against stiff competition from Lyft in the U.S. for which Google parent Alphabet is leading a $1 billion investment effort. Ali Breland reports in The Hill.

Senate Commerce Committee approves sex trafficking bill

The Senate Commerce Committee has approved the Stop Online Sex Trafficking Act, or SESTA, which would limit the exception created by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which grants immunity to web sites for illegal posts made by their users. The current bill would crack down specifically on websites that facilitate sex trafficking. The current version of the bill is now supported by the Internet Association, as well as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. But Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has placed a public hold on the bill, which will now require it to meet a 60-vote threshold before moving on to the full Senate. 

DC Circuit Court of Appeals narrows warrants for data from inauguration daty protests

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the Department of Justice's ability to obtain data from innocent, third party Facebook users who used a page dedicated to organizing a protest against Trump's inauguration. The court is seeking to institute what it terms as "procedural safeguards" to prevent innocent users' data from being sweept up with targeted suspects'. The Court will now be approving all of the DOJs search terms in connection with the investigation into criminal activity that occurred during inauguration protests.

Silicon Valley disapproves of GOP tax plan

Leading Silicon Valley figures are opposing the GOP tax plan to tax employee stock options once employees receive them. This is opposed to the current tax law providing that only the capital gains tax of stock options are taxable. Some five hundred Silicon Valley leaders from firms such as Facebook, Uber, Y Combinator and others criticized the plan in a letter to Orrin Hatch. Ali Breland reports in the Hill. 

 

Nov 7, 2017

Tiffany C. Li (@tiffanycli) is an attorney and Resident Fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. She is an expert on privacy, intellectual property, and law and policy at the forefront of new technological innovations.

Li leads the Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information, where she researches cutting-edge legal issues involving online speech, access to information, and Internet freedom. Additionally, Li is also an Affiliate Scholar at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

Oct 31, 2017

Online Privacy_Mary Madden_WashingTech Tech Policy Podcast

 

Bio

Mary Madden (@mary_madden) is a veteran technology researcher, writer and public speaker, having studied trends in American internet users’ behaviors and attitudes for more than a decade. With the support of a grant from the Digital Trust Foundation, she is currently leading a Data & Society initiative to understand the privacy and security experiences of low-socioeconomic status populations.

Mary is also an Affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University where she has collaborated with the Berkman Center’s Youth and Media Project to apply quantitative and qualitative research methods to study adolescents’ technology use and privacy management on social media. Prior to her role at Data & Society, Mary was a Senior Researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. She is a nationally recognized expert on privacy and technology, trends in social media use, and the impact of digital media on teens and parents. Mary is also a member of the National Cyber Security Coalition’s Data Privacy Day Advisory Committee and the Research Advisory Committee for the Future of Music Coalition’s Artist Revenue Streams Project.

Resources

Data & Society

Privacy, Security and Digital Inequality by Mary Madden (Data & Society, 2017)

Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte

News Roundup

Social media giants tidy up ahead of big day on Hill

Ahead of appearances before the House and Senate intelligence Committees this coming Wednesday, social media giants appear to be tidying up. Reddit has announced that it will now ban content from Nazi and alt-right groupsTwitter announced that it will now ban the online media outlets RT and Sputnik. Twitter says the two sites are platforms for Kremlin messaging. Both Facebook and Twitter said that they will be more transparent about who is placing political ads on their platforms. The companies said they will begin to include links and other information enabling users to know who sponsored a political ad. The companies will also vet advertisers to weed out bots. But some Senators, including Virginia's Mark Warner are noting that explicit ads may only represent a tiny percentage of ad spend. Many expenditures, they say, are coming from content that appears to be legit--organic content designed to stoke emotions in favor of a political party.

Mark Zuckerberg also upped his pr game last week. The Hill reports that Zuckerberg will be investing $45 million of his own money to address mass incarceration and the housing crisis.

Still, however, Facebook is expected to reveal at Wednesday's hearings that the number of views Russia-sponsored ads garnered is closer to 126 million. This is compared to the 10 million views it initially reported.

And Politico reports that in August and September of 2016, Twitter made a bizarre change to its privacy policy amidst research into the way in which Russian operatives may have been manipulating the platform. The company updated its privacy privacy to require all users associated with deleted accounts to clear their tracks by deleting the content on their end as well. Also revealed last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee--Twitter actually pitched RT to buy ads during the 2016 campaign season--the problem is that the company didn't disclose it.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters is also demanding that Twitter turn over information about Russia-linked accounts that targeted her. The Congresswoman said that she noticed several mysterious accounts tweeting lies about her every time she tweeted  something negative about Donald Trump.

On top of everything else, Axios and Survey Monkey released a study saying 54% of Americans think the issue of Russian meddling is a "serious issue". However, those results were along party lines with Democrats tending to think the issue is more serious than do Republicans.

Apple doesn't want shareholders to tie senior executive diversity to CEO performance 

Apple is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to step in and prevent a shareholder proposal from taking effect which would base the assessment of the CEO's performance, in part, on the diversity of the ranks of Apple's senior executive team. The shareholder cohort that is pushing for the measure is said to hold almost $10 billion in Apple shares. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

Georgia wipes out election data after being sued for voting violations

On July 3rd, election reform advocates concerned about the impact of Russian influence on the 2016 election filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia which attempted to force the state to retire its antiquated election technology. And then Kennesaw State University, which runs the state election system, wiped everything on the voting system clean. The FBI is said to have taken a back-up image of the system back in March. But advocates say the State of Georgia must have had something to hide. Frank Bajak reports for the Associated Press on widespread concerns that outdated election systems in voting districts throughout the country may already be compromised by Russian actors and others seeking to undermine the electoral system.

Facebook by lawsuit saying the company attempted to evade overtime pay rules

Former Facebook employees are suing the company for deliberately evading overtime pay laws by misclassifying them as managers.  David Kravets reports in Ars Technica.

Uber faces yet another discrimination lawsuit

Uber is facing yet another discrimination lawsuit. This time, Latina engineers accuse Uber of not promoting or paying them at a rate that is comparable to their male, white and Asian counterparts. Joel Rosenblatt reports for Bloomberg.

U.S. widened surveillance of "homegrown extremists" under Obama

U.S. Air Force training slides obtained by a surveillance researcher at Human Rights Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request show the U.S. expanded its surveillance of suspected "homegrown violent extremists" in August of last year.  The guidance states that physical or digital surveillance of such suspects is authorized whether or not they're tied to a foreign terrorist organization. Dustin Volz reports in Reuters.

FCC to roll back media ownership rules/Lifeline

The FCC announced its agenda for its November 16th Open meeting. Trump's FCC plans to eliminate the media ownership rule that prevents a company from owning a full power TV station and newspaper in the same market. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also wants to place a cap on Lifeline subsidies for low-income broadband subscribers. That subsidy now stands at $9.95/month. The cap would limit the availability of Lifeline support to new subscribers. Brian Fung reports for the Washington Post and Jon Brodkin reports for Ars Technica.

Tech industry releases AI self-regulatory framework

The Information Technology Industry Council, which boasts tech giants Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and others as members, released a set of guiding principles around the industry's development of artificial technology. ITI President Dean Garfield says the  framework is intended to eliminate harmful bias, prejudice and discrimination from AI algorithms. Will Yakoqicz reports in Inc.

SoftBank drops bid for T-Mobile

SoftBank is ending its plan to merge its Sprint unit with T-Mobile, according to a report in the Asian Review.  This is the second time Softbank has abandoned its effort to acquire T-Mobile. The first time was during the Obama administration when the deal would have been faced with much harsher scrutiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 24, 2017

Bio

Larry Miller (@larrysmiller) is a Clinical Music Associate Professor and Director of the Music Business Program at NYU. He is also a music and technology entrepreneur and advisor and host of the Musonomics podcast. He advises music creators and rights holders on public policy and litigation. Additionally, he has provided expert testimony before the Copyright Royalty Board and in arbitration. Larry supports media and technology companies and their financial sponsors on capital formation and growth strategy. Further, he advises on digital product & service development, as well as acquisitions and restructuring. Previously, Larry was a Partner at L.E.K. Consulting and a senior member of the firm’s media and entertainment practice. He later served as Executive Vice President and General Manager of MediaNet.

Larry founded and operated Or Music, a Grammy Award winning independent record label and music publisher where he signed, recorded and published multi-platinum artists Los Lonely Boys and Matisyahu; he was Vice President of Market Development at AT&T Labs Research, and began his career as a broadcaster at Tribune, NBC Radio Entertainment and WHTZ/Z100 New York, regarded as the most successful startup in U.S. radio history as the station went from “worst to first” within 72 days of signing-on in the country’s most competitive radio market.

Larry has commented on CBS, ABC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News and NPR; in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time, Business Week, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times and Billboard. His article "Metadata: How to Develop the Foundation for the Music Business of Tomorrow" was published in The Licensing Journal and is available to NYU students on BobCat.

He earned an MBA at Columbia Business School, and previously served as Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Adjunct Faculty member in the Music Business program at NYU-Steinhardt.

Resources

Paradigm Shift: Why Radio Must Adapt to the Rise of Digital by Larry S. Miller

NYU Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions - Music Business

Musonomics

The Sound Machine:Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook

News Roundup

Senators announce bipartisan bill to require online political advertising disclosures

Five Senators--3 Democrat and 2 Republican--unveiled a new bill that would require sites with more than 50 million visits per month to follow the same political ad disclosure rules that broadcasters follow. It would require disclosures for sponsored posts in addition to explicit ads. Sites would be required to include clear and conspicuous language stating which candidate sponsored the content. Further, it would require sites to keep a record of anyone who attempted to purchase a political placement worth $500 or more. The bill is supported by Senators Klobuchar, Warner, Kilmer, McCain and Coffman.

Tech companies form 'Coalition for the American Dream'

Major tech companies have lined up in support of young, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The companies will be lobbying Congress for bipartisan legislation to allow so-called "Dreamers" to continue working in the U.S. President Trump decided in September to allow the Dreamers program, which began under the Obama administration, to expire in March of next year. This would affect some 900,000 immigrants. Salvador Rodriguez and Jeffrey Dastin cover this in Reuters.

Tech giants to send General Counsels to offer Hill testimony on Nov. 1

Google, Facebook, and Twitter are planning to send their General Counsels to the Nov. 1st House and Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russia's use of the platforms to influence the 2016 election. Critics say the company should instead be sending executives with more technical expertise. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

U.S. proposes new controls to secure the electrical grid

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week proposed new controls to protect the nation's electrical grid from hacks. Experts have long worried about the effect an attack on the electrical grid might have on everything from the water supply to cars. The proposed rulemaking focuses on mitigating the impact of malicious transient devices, like laptops and mobile phones. Back in January, the Department of Energy released a report warning of an imminent danger to the electrical grid from cyberattacks. Naureen Malik reports in Bloomberg.

 

FCC review of Sinclair-Tribune merger delayed

The FCC's Media Bureau has pushed back the deadline for the public to submit comments regarding the Sinclair-Tribune merger. The public now has until November 2 to weigh in. Harper Neidig has the story in the Hill.

EU: US Privacy Shield implementation is 'adequate'

The European Union has found that the Privacy Shield framework it agreed to with the U.S. last year is working adequately. The Privacy Shield requires the U.S. to ensure the private information of European citizens is adequately protected when it reaches the U.S. However, the first annual report does make some recommendations. It notes that the U.S. could do a better job informing European citizens of their right to redress. Additionally, it says that U.S. agencies should do more to coordinate their compliance efforts. Joe Uchill reports in the Hill.

CNN awarded first FAA waiver of rules pertaining to drone flights over crowds

The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded CNN with the first unlimited waiver of rules pertaining to drone flights over crowds. The FAA generally prohibits drone flights over crowds for safety reasons. However, CNN's 1.37 pound Snap drone's rotors are internal and it is designed to break apart in the event of a crash. Alan Levin reports for Bloomberg.

 

Whole Foods breach affected 100 taprooms

Amazon's Whole Foods announced that the data breach it reported last month affected about 100 of its taprooms. Hackers stole cardholder names, account numbers and security codes. The hack did not affect purchases made in Whole Foods retail stores or purchases made on Amazon.com. Heatlher Haddon reports on the Wall Street Journal.

Oct 17, 2017

techpolicypodcast_Jason Resendez_WashingTech

Bio

Jason Resendez (@jason_r_dc) directs the LatinosAgainstAlzheimer’s Network. LatinosAgainstAlzheimer's is the nation’s first-ever coalition of Latino organizations focused on raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease within the Latino community. Previously, Jason served as senior manager of strategic partnerships at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). NCLR is the nation's largest Latino advocacy organization.  Prior to NCLR, he served as the director of corporate relations and development at LULAC National Educational Service Centers Inc. (LNESC). LULAC is the nation’s oldest Latino civil rights organization.  Jason has written about Latino issues for national and regional media outlets. Those outlets include NBC News, Huffington Post, and the El Paso Times. He graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government.

Resources

UsAgainstAlzheimer's

Slow Dancing with a Stranger:Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer's by Meryl Comer

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

News Roundup

Researchers discover vulnerability in Wi-Fi protocol

Researchers at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium have discovered a vulnerability in the WPA2 protocol that secures most modern Wi-Fi connections. The researchers call the proof-of-concept exploit KRACK, or Key Reinstallation attacks. What it does is it tells devices connecting to the network to reinstall the network key and replace the password with all zeros. This lets in criminals to steal essentially anything off of your computer. The hack is particularly effective against Android and Linux devices, although other devices aren't immune. Further, websites encrypted with https protocol are also vulnerable. Fortunately, you can still install updates even if your device has already been hacked using this method. Dan Goodin explains in Ars Technica.

Black and Hispanic lawmakers challenge tech companies on diversity, racist ads

In closed-door meetings, the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses met with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg last week. According to Politico, the CBC blasted Facebook for allowing Russian operatives to place ads designed to stoke racial resentment.

The ads were intended to sway the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump. Additionally, the CBC challenged Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg about the lack of racial and ethnic diversity at the company. CBC Chair Cedric Richmond pointed to a persistent lack of staff and board diversity.

Further, Sandberg met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In addition to the diversity CBC raised issues, CHC reportedly focused on recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the status of 700,000 Dreamers. Heather Caygle and Elana Schor report in Politico. Also, Olivia Beavers reports in the Hill that Pinterest has joined a growing list of companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google, that reported ads and content tied to Russia during last year's election cycle.

Federal Election Commission seeks comment on online ad disclosure rules

The Federal Election Commission has opened a rulemaking on disclosure rules for online political ads. Facebook and Google had both received exemptions from the existing rules during the 2012 election cycle.  Comments are due November 9th. Harper Neidig reports in the Hill.

Supreme Court will hear Microsoft privacy case

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding whether U.S. law enforcement officials can obtain a warrant to access digital evidence stored abroad. The case against Microsoft is up on appeal from the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Second Circuit had overturned a lower court decision upholding a warrant U.S. prosecutors served on Microsoft. The court issued the warrant for data stored on Microsoft's servers both in the US and in Ireland. Robert Barnes reports in the Washington Post.

Supreme Court asks DOJ to weigh in on Apple case

The Supreme Court has asked the Department of Justice to weigh in on whether the Court should hear a class-action against Apple.  The case involves the 30% commissions Apple charges app developers to be included in the App store. However, customers--people who download the apps--are the ones bringing the class-action. Apple is saying the customers don't have standing since they're not the ones being charged the commission. Andrew Chung has the story in Reuters.

Facebook has suspended rapper Lil B for race-related post

Ali Breland reports in the Hill that Facebook has removed rapper Lil B for posting race related material.

Google unveils job training initiative

Google announced a job training initiative last week called Grow with Google. Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, said Google will be investing $1 billion over the next 5 years in the effort. The program will allow anyone to access training and professional certificates to improve their businesses.

 
Oct 10, 2017

 

Bio

Karan Chopra (@karchopra) a is Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of Opportunity@Work, where he  provides leadership on strategic direction and execution of Opportunity@Work’s priorities and the TechHire initiative. He co-founded Opportunity@Work because he believes that meaningful work is not just a matter of economic wellbeing but of individual dignity.

Karan’s career has focused on building entrepreneurial ventures that increase upward mobility and provide opportunity for all. Prior to co-founding Opportunity@Work, Karan was the co-founder and director of GADCO (Global Agri-Development Company) -- a vertically-integrated agri-food business in sub-Saharan Africa. He led the company from business plan to building and operating the largest rice farm in Ghana, developing a processing center and launching a packaged food brand that contributed to domestic food security in Ghana and impacted the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Leading publications and institutions, including World Bank, UNDP, World Economic Forum, Financial Times and Guardian, have featured GADCO.

Karan is also the co-founder of WAVE (West Africa Vocational Education), a social venture tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria. WAVE is empowering West African youth with industry relevant skills and access to jobs while improving outcomes for employers. Prior to this, Karan was at McKinsey & Company where he was awarded the social sector fellowship.  Prior to this, Karan was a software developer with Siemens.

Karan holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering with highest honors from Georgia Tech and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School with high distinction graduating as a Baker Scholar. In 2014, Forbes named Karan in its 2014 list of Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs by Forbes magazine and selected as a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Resources

Opportunity@Work

Opportunity@Work Learn to Earn Application (Deadline October 15th)

Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

News Roundup

Social media still in spotlight regarding Russia

Social media companies turned over more evidence linking Russia to ads placed across their platforms. According to the Washington Post, Google reported tens of thousands of dollars worth of Russia-linked ads  across YouTube, Gmail and search results. Facebook had reported 10 million views of Russia-linked ads on its platform. And Twitter suspended 201 accounts linked to Russia. Executives from Facebook, Google parent Alphabet, Twitter are scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1st. The House Intelligence Committee has asked the executives to testify in connection with their own investigation the same day.  Harper Neidig reports in the Hill.

More federal agencies breached

A new report came to light last week that Russia hacked an NSA contractor's home computer back in 2015. We're just finding out about it now, but officials discovered it in Spring 2016. According to the Wall Street Journal, Russia stole sensitive information that lays out how the U.S. hacks into foreign governments' computer networks. The Russian hackers apparently got in via the Kaspersky antivirus software the contractor was running on his computer. A separate Fed Scoop report found that hackers breached the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corp. more than 50 times between 2015 and 2016. Hackers exposed the personal identifying information of hundreds of thousands of Americans in those breaches.

Google crackdown on fake news draws protest from diverse media voices

Google's crackdown on fake news is biased against smaller, independent content producers. That's a according to several smaller content producers that have noticed sharp declines in their web traffic. The declines have come since April. That's when Google announced its Project Owl initiative the company says it designed to boost more authoritative content. Daisuke Wakabayashi reports in the New York Times.

FCC finally responds to Puerto Rico

The FCC has finally developed a plan to help Puerto Rico's communications infrastructure get back up and running. On the advice of Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC has established a Hurricane Recovery Task Force, which will focus on all Hurricane-affected areas, including Puerto Rico.  The FCC has also approved $77 million to help repair Puerto Rico's communications networks. The agency also gave Google an experimental license to deploy its ballon-based communications system dubbed "Project Loon".

IRS under fire for signing a contract with Equifax

The IRS came under fire last week for entering into a $7  million contract with Equifax. The deal was for Equifax to help the IRS prevent tax fraud. The IRS and Equifax signed the agreement just three weeks after the Equifax data breach that exposed the personal information of 145 million customers.

The IRS's Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Tribiano told the House Ways and Means Committee that the contract was a "bridge contract." The IRS had put the contract out for rebid and awarded the new contract to Experian. But Equifax protested that decision. As a result, Tribiano said, the IRS was under pressure to sign a bridge contract with Equifax since the existing one was set to expire on September 29th.

Tribiano told members of Congress that if the IRS failed to sign the bridge contract, millions of Americans would be unable to get their credit transcripts. But the Government Accountability Office says the IRS could have moved forward with Experian. It said that the IRS could have moved forward with Experian if it considered doing so to be in the best interests of the United States.   The GAO is expected to decide the outcome of Equifax's protest against the Experian award on October 16th.

Backpage.com settles with 3 women

Backpage.com settled with 3 women who allege they were victims of sex trafficking that the now-defunct site facilitated. The women were between the ages of 13 and 15 when the alleged sex trafficking happened. The court did not disclose the amount of the settlement. The parties settled in Pierce County, Washington Superior Court, which is in the Seattle area. In the meantime, IBM has announced that it is backing Senator Rob Portman's bill to make websites amore accountable for content posted by third parties.

Can algorithms draw district maps?

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford last week. The key question in the case is whether courts can throw out voting district maps for being too partisan. This will be a landmark decision. The outcome of this case is likely to have huge implications for American democracy for generations to come. But a recent paper published by computer scientists at the University of Illinois proposes letting algorithms do the work of redistricting. Daniel Oberhaus reports in Motherboard.

EU orders Amazon to pay $295 million in back taxes

The European Union has ordered Amazon to pay $295 million in back taxes to Luxembourg. The EU's Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager says that Luxembourg did not tax almost three quarters of Amazon's profits. Robert-Jan Bartunek reports in Reuters.

Marsha Blackburn running for Senate

Marsha Blackburn announced last week in a YouTube video that she's running for Bob Corker's Senate seat in Tennessee. But Twitter took down Blackburn's campaign ad because in it, she talks about having fought against "the sale of baby body parts".

Verizon announces that hackers compromised ALL 3 billion Yahoo! accounts

Verizon announced last week that, back in 2013, hackers compromised ALL of  Yahoo's 3 billion accounts. Before the acquisition, Yahoo! had said that the hacks affected just 1 billion accounts. Verizon acquired Amazon earlier this year for $4.5 billion. Nicole Perlroth reports in the New York Times.

 

 
Oct 3, 2017

 

 

Iris Recognition Technology_Tech Policy Podcast_WashingTech_George Joseph

Iris Recognition Technology and the U.S. Border Patrol

One of Donald Trump's main campaign promises was to build a border wall on the U.S./Mexican border. But can iris recognition technology be used instead?

Bio

George Joseph (@GeorgeJoseph94) is a reporting fellow at Demos focusing on surveillance, immigration, law enforcement, and the entry of big data in criminal justice systems. His work has appeared in outlets such as The Guardian, NPR, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Verge, Slate, and CityLab.

Resources

Demos

Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol by Kelly Lytle Hernandez

 

News Roundup

Trump attacks Zuckerberg, Zuckerberg fires back

President Trump attacked Mark Zuckerberg last week. The president complained on Twitter that “Facebook was always anti-Trump ... The Networks were always anti-Trump." He continued, " hence,Fake News, @nytimes(apologized) & @WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion?” So Zuckerberg fired back "Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don't like. That's what running a platform for all ideas looks like.” Further, UNC Associate Professor Zeynep Tufekci wrote an op-ed for the New York Times. In it, she denounced Zuckerberg's rebuttal as more "both sides" false equivalency, pointing out Facebook's record ad revenues last year.

Senate digs into social media's ties to Russia

The Senate has called Twitter and Facebook to testify regarding Russian election interference. Facebook reports that 10 million users saw Russia-linked ads around the time of last year's election. One of the ads reportedly showed an image of a black woman shooting a rifle. In the meantime, Russia is threatening to ban Facebook unless the company stores Russian users' data on servers within Russia. Additionally, a new Oxford study has found that Twitter users shared more fake news, than real news, during the 2016 election.

Senate confirms FCC's Pai to 5-year term

On Monday, the Senate confirmed Republican Ajit Pai to a five-year term as FCC Chairman. The vote was 52-41 along party lines.

Conservatives are railing against YouTube

Conservatives are railing against YouTube for taking down ads appearing on content YouTube deemed to violate its terms of service. YouTube says the move was part of an effort to remove hate speech. But those on the right say YouTube is just discriminating against them. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

Senate unveiled driverless car bill

The Senate unveiled a driverless car bill. However, it doesn't address driverless trucks. The bill places safety oversight with the federal government instead of the current patchwork of state laws. Moreover, the bill includes language on cybersecurity standards. Harper Neidig reports in theHill.

Trump and tech sector team up on $500 million education plan

Vindu Goel of the New York Times reports that a third of IBM's workforce is now based in India--more than any other countryIvanka Trump last week announced a $200 million in Education Department grants to boost science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Further, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce are kicking in about $300 million. Cecilia Kang reports for the New York Times.

U.S. intrudes into social media accounts

Ron Nixon of the New York Times reports that he U.S. government will require all immigrants to turn over their social media data. Their social media data will become part of their immigration file. The order is set to take effect on October 18th. However, U.S. citizens are not immune from government scrutiny of their social media data. Zoe Tillman reports in Buzzfeed that the Department of Justice is seeking identifying information and data from three Facebook users. The users are now challenging the warrants. The Trump administration seeks to identify Facebook users who helped organize inauguration day protests.

Apple reports spike in secret national security orders

Apple reported an uptick in secret National Security orders in the first half of this year. Zack Whittaker at ZDNet reports that there was a threefold increase in secret orders issued against Apple users compared to the same period last year.

TechNet backs Trump tax plan

TechNet president Linda Moore wrote an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle in support of the the Trump administrations tax plan. Moore wrote that the current tax code is outdated and that the Trump proposal would clear the way for jobs and investment.

Securities and Exchange Commission charges two crytocurrency scammers

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is charging two scammers in connection with their sale of cryptocurrencies. ReCoin Group Foundation and DRC world allegedly told investors they could expect huge returns for their investments in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The problem is that the companies weren't actually in operation.  Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

FCC's has lackluster response to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria are stranded on the island without water, food, electricity or access to the Internet. What is Ajit Pai's only proposed solution? Telling Apple to open up iPhones to receive FM signals. FCC Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called out the FCC on its non-response in Puerto Rico. She tweeted that during hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the FCC held network recovery hearings. But the FCC hasn't held network recovery hearings in response to hurricanse Irma, Harvey, or Maria. Ali Breland reports for the Hill.

Senate confirms Makan Delrahim to DOJ Antitrust division

The Senate has confirmed Makan Delrahim to lead the DOJ's antirust division. Previously, Delrahim worked in the White House counsel's office. Harper Neidig reports for the Hill that Delrahim will head up the review of the $85.4 billion AT&T/Time Warner Merger.

EU threatens social media companies with fines for hate speech

Ivana Kottasová at CNN reports that the European Union has issued a final warning against Facebook and Twitter regarding hate speech. Mariya Gabriel, the EU's top digital economy and society official, says flagged hate speech needs to come down quickly. Gabriel says that in almost a third of cases, it's taking more than a week.   Some European countries are cracking down on hate speech with or without the EU. Germany, for example, is instituting $59 million fines for failing to remove hate speech within 24 hours.

 Dems propose $40 billion for rural broadband

Democrats are proposing $40 billion to boost rural broadband. Democrats released the recommendation as part of their "Better Deal" agenda released in July. Harper Neidig reports in The Hill.

Google separates shopping from search

Google acted last week to separate its online shopping unit from its traditional search. Some experts see the move as a concession to European officials who fined Google $2.7 billion over the summer. The European Commission had found that Google had prioritized its shopping results over rivals. The new structure will allow officials to directly regulate Google shopping. James Kanter has the story in The New York Times.

Equifax adds 2.5 million to data breach count

Ali Breland reports in the Hill that Equifax as raised its estimate of the number of people affected by its massive data breach by 2.5 million. Equifax has now brought the total estimate of affected customers up to 145.5 million.

 

 

Sep 26, 2017

Online Privacy Issues_Tech Policy Podcast_WashingTech_Jules Polonetsky

Online Privacy Issues -- An Overview

As online privacy issues mount in the U.S., regulators are pulling back. Earlier this year, Congress repealed the privacy rules the FCC passed under former Chairman Tom Wheeler. The rules would have required ISPs to obtain subscribers' permission before using their data for commercial purposes. The ISPs argued that they should be entitled to the same free reign over consumer data that large tech companies enjoy. But, of course, the FCC doesn't have jurisdiction to directly regulate tech companies. Jules Polonetsky discusses online privacy issues and where U.S. privacy law and policy now stand in light of recent data breaches. He also explains what consumers can do to protect their data from hackers.

Bio

Jules Polonetsky (@JulesPolonetsky) serves as CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF). FPF is a leading Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization focused on privacy. The chief privacy officers of more than 130 leading companies support FPF. Further, FPF is supported by several foundations. FPF has an advisory board comprised of the country’s leading academics and advocates. FPF’s current projects focus on Big Data, Mobile, Location, Apps, the Internet of Things, Wearables, De-Identification, Connected Cars and Student Privacy.

Jules' previous roles have included serving as Chief Privacy Officer at AOL and before that at DoubleClick, as Consumer Affairs Commissioner for New York City, as an elected New York State Legislator and as a congressional staffer, and as an attorney.Previously, Jules served as an elected member of the New York State Assembly from 1994 to 1997. From November 1992 through 1993, Jules was a legislative aide to Congressman Charles Schumer. Prior to that, he was also a District Representative for Congressman Steve Solarz.. Jules practiced law in the New York office of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan from 1989 to 1990.

Jules has served on the boards of a number of privacy and consumer protection organizations. These include TRUSTe, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, and the Network Advertising Initiative. From 2011-2012, Jules served on the Department of Homeland Security Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. He is also a member of The George Washington University Law School Privacy and Security Advisory Council.

Jules is a regular speaker at privacy and technology events. He has has testified or presented before Congressional committees and the Federal Trade Commission.

Jules is a graduate of New York University School of Law and Yeshiva University. He is admitted to the Bars of New York and Washington, D.C. Jules is also a Certified Information Privacy Professional.

Resources

Future of Privacy Forum

Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

Machine Learning for Absolute Beginners by Oliver Theobald

News Roundup

Puerto Rico all but destroyed following Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico absolutely devastated last week. Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S. remain unable to reach friends and family members. Maria made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm with 155 MPH winds, the likes of which the island hasn't seen in generations. The storm knocked off Puerto Rico's entire electrical grid leaving millions without power. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement saying 95% of Puerto Rico's cell sites are out of service. The island is running out of supplies. Many were thunderstruck over the weekend by President Trump's silence about Puerto Rico. Instead, Trump spent the weekend news cycle railing against NBA and NFL players taking a knee against the national anthem. Tom McKay has the story in Gizmodo.

Mother of slain sex trafficking victim testifies before Senate Commerce Committee

Yvonne Ambrose, the mother of the 16-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by a 32-year-old Backpage.com user, testified on the Hill. Ambrose appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee in support of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESA). The bi-partisan bill, introduced by Senator Rob Portman, would hold internet companies more accountable for content on their sites. Currently, the Communications Decency Act shields websites from liability for content posted by third parties. That's what enabled Backpage.com to post ads placed by criminals selling opportunities to sexually abuse children. So the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act would hold web companies more accountable. It would do so by making them liable for knowingly hosting sex trafficking content. Sabrina Eaton reports on cleveland.com.

SEC reports hackers breached EDGAR last year

So the Securities and Exchange Commission--the nation's top Wall Street regulator--was hacked. Last year. The SEC decided last week that it would finally get around to telling us.  In an eight-page statement, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton announced that hackers breached the agency's filing system--EDGAR. That breach may have enabled improper trading to take place. The statement doesn't explain either  the reason for the delay in notifying the public or the date on which the breach occurred. Renae Merle reports in the Washington Post.

Google signs $1.1 billion "cooperation agreement" with HTC

Google invested $1.1 billion in struggling device manufacturer HTC last week and is expected to announce the release of two new devices on October 4th. David Pierce, Jordan McMahon, Issie Lapowsky, Jack Stewart, Eric Niiler, Andy Greenberg, and Michelle Dean report in Wired.

Facebook to change ad targeting

In response to revelations that it was allowing advertisers to target racists, Facebook announced changes to its ad targeting system. For example, according to the New York Times, advertisers had the ability to target self-described "Jew Haters"  Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company would be adding more human review and oversight. Sapna Maheshwari reports in the New York Times.

Facebook turning over thousands of Russia-linked ads to Congress

In other Facebook news, Facebook announced last week that it would also be turning over some 3,000 advertisements placed by Russia-linked groups during the 2016 presidential campaign. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

U.S. and EU kick off first Privacy Shield review season

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova travelled to Washington last week to meet with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The EU is set to release its first report on the efficacy of the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield on October 4th. The Privacy Shield allows data transfers between the U.S. and EU, which have entirely different standards when it comes to protecting consumer privacy. Privacy Shield replaced a previous framework that the EU overturned last year because it didn't provide enough oversight over U.S. mass surveillance practices.  Under the Privacy Shield, the U.S. is supposed to appoint an Ombudsman to review the U.S.'s mass surveillance tactics. However, the U.S. has yet to appoint anyone to the ombudsman role. Jimmy Koo reports for Bloomberg.

Equifax breach happened months earlier than initially disclosed

Ali Breland and Olivia Beavers report in the Hill that the Equifax breach happened in March rather than July. The breach exposed the personal data of an estimated 143 million Americans.

 

Sep 19, 2017

The Cyberwarfare Capability of North Korea

For decades, policymakers, journalists and the media have discussed, prevented, and continued to assess North Korea's nuclear capabilities. The United States and the United Nations have repeatedly issued sanctions against the country to prevent it from developing its nuclear arsenal.  But what is the cyberwarfare capability of of North Korea? The Council of Korean Americans' Jessica Lee sheds light on the cyberwarfare capability of North Korea and the current policy landscape affecting the Korean Peninsula.

Bio

Jessica Lee is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Council of Korean Americans (CKA)(@CouncilKA). Jessica works closely with the Executive Director and CKA members to define CKA’s policy agenda and advocacy strategy. Jessica leads research and analysis on leading issues of importance to Korean Americans.

Prior to joining CKA, Jessica was a Resident Fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu, HI. At the Pacific Forum, Jessica published articles on security and economic relations in East Asia. She brings a decade of public and private sector experience in Washington. Previously, Jessica was the director of a nonprofit organization specializing in women’s leadership training and development. She was also a senior manager of The Asia Group, LLC, a strategy and capital advisory firm.

Jessica previously served as a staff member in the House of Representatives. While she worked on the Hill, Jessica handled the Asia portfolio for the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. She was also a senior legislative assistant for a member of Congress on the Ways and Means Committee.

Jessica received a B.A. in political science from Wellesley College. She also holds an A.M. in East Asian regional studies from Harvard University. Jessica is a Truman Security Fellow, a David Rockefeller Fellow of the Trilateral Commission​, and a Google Next Gen Policy Leader​. Jessica has advanced proficiency in Korean and lives in northern Virginia with her husband and daughter.

Resources

Council of Korean Americans

Backchannel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Betweeen Washington and Havana by William M. LeoGrande

News Roundup

Equifax Hacked

The credit reporting agency Equifax last week reported that its systems had been breached.  The breach potentially exposed the data of some 143 million Americans. Equifax CEO and Chairman Richard Smith made the announcement last week. However, the actual breach took place on July 29.

Hackers got into Equifax's system by exploiting a flaw in a popular open source platform called Apache Struts. Equifax uses Apache Struts for the online form customers use to dispute errors in their credit reports. Equifax's initial attempt to repair the breach failed. Both the FBI and FTC are now investigating the data breach. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey also introduced a bill called the "Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act". MarketWatch reported on Saturday that now-fired Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin doesn't have any educational background in information security. According to her LinkedIn profile, Mauldin has a bachelor's and Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition from the University of Georgia.  Equifax's stock price has fallen by more than 30% since Smith announced the breach. Experts suspect state actors played a role. AnnaMaria Andriotis, Michael Rapaport, and Robert McMillan report for the Wall Street Journal.

Kaspersky ousted from federal agencies

The Department of Homeland Security issued what's called a Binding Operational Directive that gives federal agencies 90 days to remove Kaspersky Lab technologies from federal networks. Officials suspect the Russia-based company has state ties to Russia and that they are a front for Russian spies. Agencies have 30 days to identify where they're using Kaspersky, and another 60 days to remove it. Jason Miller has the story on Federal News Radio.

Alphabet may be considering a $1 billion investment in Lyft

Greg Bensinger reports for the Wall Street Journal that Alphabet may be considering making a $1 billion investment in Lyft. This is still at speculation stage. Alphabet and primary Lyft rival Uber have been at odds over the last year or so. Tensions between Uber and Alphabet came to a head earlier this year when Alphabet sued Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets from Alphabet's self-driving car unit Waymo.

Google pay discrimination lawsuit

Three women who previously worked at Google are suing the company for pay discrimination. The former employees who worked in both tech and non-tech roles at the tech giant allege the company pays women less than men working in similar roles. The California lawsuit also alleges that Google hires women for roles less likely to lead to promotions. Daniel Weissner reports in Reuters.

Congress considers adding driverless trucks to autonomous vehicles legislation

Finally, Edward Graham reports in Morning Consult that Senators are considering adding language to its draft autonomous vehicles bill that would include driverless trucks. The House unanimously passed an autonomous vehicles bill on September 6th, which didn't include language on driverless trucks. In the meantime, a new Morning Consult poll shows consumers are still a bit wary of autonomous vehicles. Just 22% of those surveyed said they thought self-driving cars are safer than the average human driver. Thirty-five percent said they think they are less safe.

 

Sep 12, 2017

Bio

Licy Do Canto is founder and president of the Do Canto Group, a bipartisan government relations firm specializing in public health and health care legislative and regulatory policy, with a particular focus on underserved communities. An expert in health care policy with nearly 20 years of beltway experience, Licy has a track record of building bipartisan consensus, guiding federal legislation into law, and directing national issue campaigns and coalitions. Describing him as a “highly regarded healthcare lobbyist” among his peers, and Congressional officials and other decision-makers across the federal government, the prominent Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill named Licy one of Washington DC’s top lobbyists for seven consecutive years, earning the recognition in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.

Prior to founding the Do Canto Group, Licy was a principal at the Raben Group, where he lead the firm’s Health Practice Group, providing clients with a range of services, including policy development and analysis, coalition building, direct lobbying and strategic counsel and communications.

Licy also served as chief executive officer of the AIDS Alliance for Children Youth and Families, a leading national, non-profit advocacy organization focused on improving access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment for underserved communities across the United States. Mr. Do Canto is largely credited with significantly strengthening the Alliance's operational and policy structure and considerably expanding and fortifying its relations with public and private sector partners.

Prior to the Alliance, Licy served as the director of federal affairs for the National Association of Community Health Centers, the largest association of nonprofit clinics and health centers in the United States, representing over 1,000 clinics and 6,000 clinic sites that serve over 17 million people. Licy helped oversee the historic doubling of funding for the Federal Health Center program while also successfully managing the Association's legislative priorities on health center reauthorization and the Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance Programs.

While at NACHC, Licy also founded and chaired the Association's Partnership for Medicaid, a nationwide coalition of eighteen safety net providers and other key organizations, including nursing homes, community health centers, public hospitals and unions, focused on improving the Medicaid program. In addition, he co-founded and served as chair of the Association's twenty-two member Partnership for Primary Care Workforce, a nationwide coalition of national professional, provider and educational organizations dedicated to strengthening the health care workforce.

Before NACHC, Licy served as senior manager for federal affairs in the American Cancer Society's Federal Government Relations Department, directing the Society's federal legislative and executive branch advocacy efforts on health disparity issues. He also has extensive Capitol Hill experience, having served as senior legislative assistant for domestic policy to U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and held a number of positions in the office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA).

Licy is well known to key Congressional committee and non-committee staff with jurisdiction over health issues, having authored and successfully guided into law the $25 million bipartisan Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act (aimed at helping low-income patients overcome health system barriers), the first piece of health legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005.

He successfully advocated for, and authored an array of, other key bipartisan-supported health policy issues before Congress, including passage of the Native American Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Technical Amendment Act; passage of the "Rep. Deal" amendment preserving hundreds of millions in Medicaid funding for Community Health Centers; the creation of a $50 million medical home program in Medicaid; a $100 million Health Center Medicare payment system; a $85 million Health Center financing system in the State Children's Health Insurance Program; and the establishment of a $1.5 billion Federal Early Childhood Home Visitation program within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Licy also served as staff to Commissioner John Rugge on the 2005-06 US Department of Health and Human Services National Medicaid Advisory Commission, established to advise the HHS Secretary on ways to strengthen and modernize the Medicaid program.

Licy is often quoted in the media, including Politico, The Hill, Roll Call, Financial Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, Inside Health Policy, among others, on a broad range of issues relating to health and health care policy.

The DoCanto Group’s current and former clients include First Focus, AARP, the Nurse Family Partnership, the California Endowment, the New York State Health Foundation, the Direct Care Alliance and The MENTOR Network, as well as the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery and the Climate Reality Project.

A native of Boston and fluent in Spanish and Cape Verdean Portuguese, Licy is a 1995 graduate of Duke University, with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science, International Affairs and Spanish Studies. He also holds a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Certificate in Public Health Leadership from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Public Health and Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Resources

The DoCanto Group

America's Health-Inequality Problem by Olga Khazan (The Atlantic, 6/5/2017)

The Head Game: High Efficiency Analytic Decision-Making and the Art of Solving Complex Problems Quickly by Philip Mudd

News Roundup

Facebook reports $100,000 in fake Russian political ads

Facebook released new evidence last week that helps to illustrate Russia's role in impacting the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The social media company reported that a company called the Internet Research Agency spent more than $100,000 on 3,000 Facebook ads that ran between June 2015 and May 2017. While the ads did not endorse a particular political candidate, they did focus on divisive political issues such as race, LGBT rights, and gun control. They promoted views consistent with Donald Trump's platform. The New York Times' Scott Shane and Vindu Goel report on these and other suspicious ads appearing on Facebook that may have some connection to the Kremlin. Google, on the other hand, released a statement saying it has found no evidence of such advertising on its platform.

Industry backlash against Trump's DACA decision

A broad swath of major corporations and industry groups sharply rebuked President Trump for his decision to end  the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Obama-era program gave 2-year work permits to individuals who entered the United States illegally as children. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Telemundo, Univision and many others expressed disapproval. Trump says he'll re-review the program if Congress doesn't pass definitive legislation with 6 months. Megan Wilson and Ali Breland report in The Hill.

Google appeals EU's $2.7 billion antitrust fine

Google has filed its appeal of the European Union's $2.7 billion fine against it for allegedly prioritizing its own search results over its competitors. A spokeswoman for the European Court of Justice told TechCrunch that it could take anywhere between 18 months and two years for the case to reach a final judgment. Natasha Lomas reports in TechCrunch.

Tesla hooked its customers up with more battery juice to escape Irma

For an extra fee, Tesla lets its vehicle owners unlock unused battery space. But the car company temporarily removed the restriction for its car owners in Florida as they evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.  Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post.

FCC Extends s706 comment deadline

Every year the FCC is required to report on whether broadband speeds are fast enough and whether the ISPs are moving fast enough to deploy them. A big part of that debate has to do with whether wireless service is an adequate substitute for wireline broadband service. While democratic administrations have held that wireless is not a substitute, the current Republican-led FCC has indicated that it may go the other way. Before it releases the report, though, the FCC is required to allow the public to comment. The FCC extended that initial comment deadline to September 21st. So if you use the internet to run an online business or something else that requires the fastest speed possible, but you live in a remote area--you may want to weigh in. Wireless, at least from my own personal experience running this podcast, is not a replacement for wired broadband by any stretch of the imagination.

Oracle supports sex-trafficking bill

Oracle has decided to go against the grain in supporting a sex trafficking bill most other tech companies oppose.  The bill, which is entitled the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, was introduced by Republican Senator Bob Portman.  The bill has broad bipartisan support, with Senators McCain and McCaskill, among many others, on board. Precipitated by Backpage.com's advertisements of prostitutes and opportunities to sexually abuse underage victims, the bill seeks to hold websites more accountable for ads posted by third parties. Harper Neidig has the story in The Hill.

FBI probes Uber over tactics against Lyft

"Hell". That's the name of a now-defunct Uber program the New York Office of the FBI and U.S. Attorney are investigating. The program was the subject of a class-action lawsuit a Lyft driver brought earlier this year in a federal court in California. But the court threw out that case because the driver couldn't show any harm. But essentially the program allegedly created fake user accounts so Uber could see where Lyft drivers were going. This investigation adds to numerous legal matters Uber's new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi inherited when he took the helm last week. Rebecca Davis-O'Brien and Greg Bensinger report in the Wall Street Journal.

Sep 5, 2017

 

Edgar Figueroa

The Power of WiFi for Business and Communities

The potential for WiFi can't be understated. WiFi is beneficial not only for businesses, but also for communities that have traditionally lacked access. In this episode, Edgar Figueroa of the WiFi alliance helps us understand the different types of spectrum. Edgar also describes what WiFi is and how WiFi is playing an increasingly important role in telecom policy.

Bio

As president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance (@WifiAlliance), Edgar Figueroa has led an unprecedented period of growth for Wi-Fi®. Wi-Fi Alliance has grown to more than 700 member companiesUnder Edgar’s leadership. He has also maintained an aggressive development roadmap and adopted a vision of “Connecting everyone and everything, everywhere.” Edgar forged numerous strategic partnerships to facilitate penetration of Wi-Fi into established and emerging markets. Edgar also defined the Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ program development framework. He also guided the launch of several generations of interoperable Wi-Fi programs. These programs have proliferated Wi-Fi into mass markets such as mobile and consumer electronics.

Prior to Wi-Fi Alliance, Edgar was at Ridgeway Systems & Software (now Cisco). He was instrumental in delivering the industry’s first session border controller. He also helped develop the H.460.18 and H.460.19 International Telecommunications Union standards for secure network traversal. Before Ridgeway, Edgar held product management and engineering roles at 3M Company.

Edgar is a veteran of the United States Navy in which he served in a fighter pilot training squadron. Further, he received numerous awards including Sailor of the Year. Edgar has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin Community College, and various community programs in Austin Texas. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund inducted  Edgar into its Hall of Fame.

Edgar is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He holds a Masters in Technology Commercialization, and undergraduate degrees with honors in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics.

Resources

WiFi Alliance

Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley

News Roundup

SEC warns the public on internet currencies

The Securities and Exchange Commission warned the public last week about potential internet currency offering (ICO) scams. Internet currencies like Bitcoin have been on an upward trend lately, with Bitcoin trading at over $4,000. The SEC is worried about companies that prey on the public by "pumping" prices for new products related to internet currencies. China moved on Monday to outlaw internet currency trading. Eugene Kim reports for CNBC.

Uber faces bribery law investigation

Douglass McMillan reported for the Wall Street Journal last week that the Justice Department has begun a preliminary investigation into Uber's potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Uber experienced rapid foreign expansion under former CEO Travis Kalanick, and the DOJ apparently suspects that bribery may have been factor. Uber's new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, formerly the CEO of Expedia, took the helm of Uber last week.

New America Fellow ousted after criticizing Google

A New America Foundation scholar was ousted from the think tank after he criticized Google's market dominance. Barry Lynn, who ran New America's Open Market's program, praised the European Union's recent $2.7 billion fine against Google for allegedly favoring its own search results over its competitors. Last week, New America let Lynn go, along with several other staffers. Lynn says Google, which has donated some $21 million to New America in recent years, is pulling the strings. Lynn followed up by launching a separate organization that is "going to make sure Google doesn't get away with this". Kenneth Vogel reports for the New York Times.

Tillerson to close State Department cyber division

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced his plans to close the State Department's cyber division. Tillerson made the revelation in a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker . The division is responsible for protecting the United States' cyber security interests abroad.  Tillerson says he intends to roll the cyber division into a business and economic affairs bureau. Morgan Chalfant reports in the Hill.

Net Neutrality hearing delayed

The House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on net neutrality that was scheduled for September 7th has been delayed. Not a single one of the eight tech companies the Committee invited responded to the invitation to testify. Edward Graham at Morning Consult reports.

DHS warns of Harvey scams

The Department of Homeland Security warned the public last week about possible scams related to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The agency warned about phishing scams and other malicious activity designed to take advantage of good samaritans making email donations.

 

Aug 22, 2017

The FCC is currently considering whether it will overturn the long-fought net neutrality rules enacted under the Wheeler FCC. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia subsequently upheld the rules. If the Ajit Pai FCC undoes the rules, as it is likely to do, there will be, as always, winners and losers. Who will they be?

Further, ISPs are arguing that they too believe in net neutrality principles. But does their purported support of net neutrality principles align with the original definition of net neutrality that was first advanced by their opponents?

Bio

Christopher Lewis (@ChrisJ_Lewis) is Vice President at Public Knowledge. He leads the organization's advocacy on Capitol Hill and other government agencies. Prior to joining Public Knowledge in 2012, Chris served at the Federal Communications Commission as Deputy Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.

At the FCC, Chris advised the FCC Chairman on legislative and political strategy. He is a former U.S. Senate staffer for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Chris also has over 15 years' worth of advocacy experience. Previously, Chris worked as the North Carolina Field Director for Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign.

Chris serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Local Self Reliance. He also represents Public Knowledge on the Board of the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG). Chris graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelors degree in Government. He lives in Alexandria, VA where he loves working on local civic issues and is elected to the Alexandria City Public School Board.

Resources

Public Knowledge

Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle by Jeff Flake

News Roundup

Trump's manufacturing council disbands

After he made insensitive remarks following racial unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia the weekend before last, Trump was forced to shut down his manufacturing advisory council. Several CEOs had decided to resign from the council after Trump failed to denounce the KKK and White Nationalists, saying instead that there had been "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides." He then backtracked reading a prepared statement, only to go back to saying all sides were at fault for the violence.  Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was among the CEOs to resign from the council.  Steven Musil reports in CNET.  But the American Tech Council remains intact, although the CEOS of Google, Apple and Microsoft wrote internal memos distancing themselves from the administration. That's in next.gov.

Tech companies ban extremist websites and causes

Both Google and GoDaddy last week announced that they would not host sites like Daily Stormer that espouse white supremacist ideology. First Amendment advocacy groups, however, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argue that the move could backfire and set a bad precedent for civil rights groups. Andrew Morse reports for CNET. Sites like GoFundMe and Paypal are also banning white supremacists from raising funds on their platforms. Abbey White reports in Vox. But the LA Times reports that these groups are forming their own corporate ecosystem in defiance of Silicon Valley.

DOJ seeks user info from Anti-Trump website

Dreamhost wrote a blog post last week disclosing that the Justice Department has been demanding, for months, site visitor information from the anti-Trump website distruptj20.org. The warrant seeks all files from the site. Colin Lecher reports in the Verge.

Trump bolsters U.S. Cyber Command

President Trump is bolstering the U.S. Cyber Command making it a full combatant command. Now, administration officials will need to decide whether to spin out Cyber Command from the NSA. Jordan Fabian reports in The Hill.

The cozy relationship between Sinclair Broadcasting and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

The New York Times reported last week on Sinclair Broadcasting's enormous influence on current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Sinclair, known for its right-leaning content, currently owns or operates 175 television stations nationwide. But it has also proposed to merge with Tribune Media, which would bring that number up to 215 stations.

The deal would also give Sinclair a much larger presence in cities, including New York City, where it would own WPIX Channel 11.  When he was an FCC Commissioner, Pai even ripped language, almost verbatim, from Sinclair's own filings. Pai used the language to bolster his official legal arguments in support of Sinclair's opposition to the Wheeler FCC's crackdown on joint sales agreements. Then, just 10 days after he became FCC Chairman, Pai relaxed those restrictions. Since becoming Chairman, Pai has also relaxed some TV ownership limits.  Cecilia Kang, Eric Lipton and and Sydney Ember report in The New York Times.

Trump orders China IP practices investigation

President Trump has ordered an investigation into China's alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property. The administration estimates the alleged theft may have cost U.S. businesses some $600 billion. You can find the story in Fortune.

Federal Judge: LinkedIn must allow startup access to data--for now

U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco has ordered Microsoft's LinkedIn to open up its public data to a third-party startup. The startup, hiQ Labs, scrapes data LinkedIn users post publicly and uses it to predict which employees are likely to leave their jobs. Microsoft argues that hiQ's practices violate the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But Judge Chen isn't buying it. He says that law doesn't apply to publicly available data. Jacob Gershman reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Ninth Circuit says Spokeo is liable for posting wrong info

In a 3-0 decision, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a man who sued Spokeo for posting the wrong picture and saying he was a married father, affluent, employed, in his 50s and with a graduate degree. The central issue was whether publishing this wrong information carried some particular harm. The Court ruled that it did .

The case had already been up to the Supreme Court, which sent it back down to determine the degree of harm caused by the wrong information. While the damages in this case are minor, only around $1,000, it is seen as having significant implications for large tech companies like Facebook and Google that publish a variety of different types of consumer information.

Uber agrees to FTC privacy audits

Finally, Uber will now be subject to FTC privacy audits for the next 20 years. The company settled with the FTC last week after failing, in 2014, to prevent the theft of over 100,000 names and drivers license numbers. Anita Balakrishnan reports for CNBC.

Aug 15, 2017

How to Build a Lobbying Presence in Washington

Before you build a lobbying presence in Washington, consider the fact that technology now touches almost every aspect of our lives. Accordingly, our policymaking has become more complex as companies develop new technologies and consumers use technology in ways that were unanticipated.

What are the key issues that policymakers and businesses should be focused on as they seek to fine-tune their policy strategies? How are policymakers dealing with issues, like diversity, that policymakers have historically considered less "substantive" but which have begun to take on monumental importance in American business and politics? Why is Washington, D.C. relevant to start up and early stage ventures and how can they build a lobbying presence in Washington?

You'll get answers to these questions and more on Ep. 102!

Bio

Named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper, Elizabeth Frazee (@EFrazeeDC) has a 30 year career in Washington. Elizabeth has worked in high-level jobs on Capitol Hill, as an entertainment executive, and policy representative of major companies.

Elizabeth interweaves a thorough understanding of policy, communications, politics and an impressive network of contacts to manage campaigns and coalitions.

A native of North Carolina, Elizabeth began her career working for her home state Senator. She then served as press secretary for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Additionally, Elizabeth ran the legislative office of then-freshman Representative Bob Goodlatte. Goodlatte now serves as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Following her time in Congress Elizabeth was director of government relations at the Walt Disney Company. There she served as the motion picture industry’s representative in Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) negotiations. Those negotiations resulted in revisions to the Copyright Act. Additionally, Elizabeth also negotiated with Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enact the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). She joined AOL in the late 90’s as vice president of public policy and ran its Congressional team. While at AOL she served on the front lines of Internet policy debates, helped AOL merge with Time Warner, and helped secure the passage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. Then, in 2003,  Elizabeth built a private lobbying practice. That practice became TwinLogic Strategies when she and co-founder Sharon Ringley launched the firm in 2009.

Elizabeth earned her law degree from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, while working full-time for Congress. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Resources

TwinLogic Strategies

Future Crimes by Marc Goodman

News Roundup

Members Slam Google on Tech Diversity

Most of you are familiar by now with Google's firing of James Damore. Damore is the engineer who wrote the screed that reinforced stereotypes about women working at the company. Well, lawmakers are now urging Google to ensure its stated efforts to improve diversity lead to actual diversity. In a Medium post, Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna wrote that the incident highlights Google's diversity challenges. He called upon Google to do more. Further, eps. Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Jamie Raskin and Robin Kelly -- all Democrats -- also weighed in. They urged Google to address diversity more effectively. Tony Romm reports in Recode.

In Punch to Disney, Netflix Signs Shonda Rhimes

Disney announced last week that it would be ending its contract with Netflix in 2019. Disney plans to offer its content on its own standalone service. However, Netflix responded by signing hit showrunner Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes previously created such shows as Grey's Anatomy and Scandal for Disney. Rhimes has been a boon to Disney's ABC unit for more than a decade. Netflix is also negotiating with Disney the possibility of Netflix continuing to carry Marvel content after 2019. Meg JamesDavid Ng and Tracey Lien report for the LA Times and Lizzie Plaugic reports for the Verge.

Major Tech Firms Lining Up to Support "Extreme Vetting"

Several tech firms are enthusiastically lining up to support President Trump's "extreme vetting" program.  Recall that on the campaign trail Trump advocated for the creation of an extreme vetting program.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) division is now working on building the program.  The program's  goal is to determine, with pinpoint accuracy, which persons entering the country are most likely to engage in acts of terrorism. IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lexis Nexis, SAS and Deloitte are among the companies interested in building this out. Sam Biddle and Spencer Woodman report for the Intercept.

 

Benchmark Capital Sues Travis Kalanick

Benchmark Capital--a major Silicon Valley investor and Uber investor--is suing former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. In  a complaint filed in Delaware, Benchmark says Kalanick deceived the board into expanding Uber's board from 8 to 11. Now, Benchmark says, Kalanick holds one of the very seats he created and is attempting to pack the board with members who are sympathetic to him. Dan Primack reports for Axios.

More Tech Companies Oppose Anti-Sex Trafficking Bill

We reported last week that the House introduced a bill, with the support of 24 members, that seeks to curtail online sex trafficking. The bill is a response to Backpage.com, a site that hosted prostitution and sex abuse ads. Now the bipartisan bill is up to 27 sponsors. However, joining the opposition are Engine Advocacy and the Copia Institute which spearheaded a letter campaign that was signed by 30 tech companies including Kickstarter, Meetup, Medium and Reddit. They argue that the bill goes too far in restricting legal third-party content. Wendy Davis Reports in Media Post.

 

Aug 8, 2017

How will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Affect Warfare?

In today's episode we discuss the role of artificial intelligence in the future of warfare. What are the risks? How is the United States likely to fare in confrontations involving the use of AI?

In a recent paper, Center for a New American Security Fellow Greg Allen and his co-author, Taniel Chan, illustrate both the risks and opportunities for the use of AI in warfare. We discuss these findings plus lessons learned from previous revolutions in the use of military technology.

Bio

Greg Allen (@Grecory_C_Allen) is an Adjunct Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He focuses on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, and national security. Additionally, Mr. Allen's writing and analysis has appeared in WIRED, Vox, and The Hill.

In 2017, The Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs published  his report entitled “Artificial Intelligence and National Security”. Allen and his co-author, Taniel Chan conducted this  study on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

Mr. Allen currently works at Blue Origin, a space exploration and technology company. Prior to working at Blue Origin, he worked at Avascent, where he advised senior executives in government and the private sector.

Mr. Allen holds a joint MPP/MBA degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Business School. Further, his Master’s Thesis was honored with the Belfer Center Award for Excellence in International and Global Affairs.

In addition, he graduated magna cum laude from Washington University in Saint Louis, where he was awarded the Arnold J. Lien prize for outstanding graduate in Political Science.

Resources

DOWNLOAD THE WHITE PAPER:

Artificial Intelligence and National Security by Greg Allen and Taniel Chan (Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2017)- AI and the Future of Warfare

 

Center for a New American Security

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

NEWS ROUNDUP

After August 31, the feds don't have to tell you how they're storing your biometric data

If you're concerned about how federal law enforcement officials are storing your biometric data, you'd better act fast. After August 31, they will no longer have to tell you. The FBI's Next Generation Identification system stores things like iris scans and fingerprints that you gave during things like employment background checks.  Currently, you can find out how the feds are storing your biometric information. However, the FBI becomes exempt from the Privacy Act provision that allows this on August 31. You can find the story in next.gov.

Senate confirms Rosenworcel and Carr

The Federal Communications Commission is now up to 5 Commissioners. So it finally has a full panel of Commissioners. The Senate confirmed Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr last week. Rosenworcel previously served as a Commissioner during the Tom Wheeler FCC for three years from 2012 to 2015. Carr is the the FCC's current General Counsel.

In addition, President Donald Trump had also nominated Chairman Ajit Pai. However, the Senate did not take up Pai's nomination before the recess.

The three Republicans at the Commission will now be Pai, Carr and Michael O'Rielly. And the two Democrats are Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. Edward Graham has the story in Morning Consult.

Tech sector opposes legal immigration restrictions

The tech sector is opposing the GOP immigration bill President Trump endorsed last week which would cut legal immigration in half over 10 years. The so-called RAISE Act prefers highly skilled workers and English speakers and moves extended family members of immigrants to the back of the line.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC)-- the trade group that lobbies on behalf of tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and others--opposes the measure. ITIC president Dean Garfield said in a statement “This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy.” Tony Romm has the story in Recode.

Meanwhile, Canada is emerging as the "New" New Colossus, welcoming Emma Lazaraus's "huddled masses yearning to breathe free". Canadian business and government leaders are seizing on the opportunity to welcome tech talent to Canada. David George-Cosh and Jacqui McNish report in the Wall Street Journal.

Apple and Amazon bow to China, Google complies with Russia

The tech sector is coming under increased pressure to conform to multinational norms. Paul Mozur at The New York Times reports that Apple has removed Chinese censor-evading VPN apps from its Chinese app storeAmazon also warned its Chinese customers to stop using software that evades China's Great Firewall.

Further, in Russia, Google has begun implementing terms it settled on in a dispute with its Russian competitor, Yandex. The agreement stipulates that Google would give Russians a choice of which browser to use on Android phones. In accordance with the agreement, Google began suggesting other browsers to Russian Android users last week. David Meyer reports in Fortune.

Senate passes 6 bills before recess

The Senate passed 6 bipartisan technology and communications bills before they departed for recess. They include bills  to expand spectrum availability (MOBILE NOW Act S. 19), improve service in rural areas ( S. 96) , and make it easier to call 911 from hotel rooms (Kari's Law Act of 2017, S. 123). Congress wrote the latter bill in response to Brad Dunn's fatal stabbing of his wife, Kari Hunt, in a hotel room in Marshall, Texas as Hunt's 9-year-old daughter tried to call 911.  Unbeknownst to the young girl, the hotel room phone required callers to dial 9 before 911, and she was unable to reach a dispatcher.

Other bills include:

  • Spoofing Prevention Act of 2017 (S. 134): Legislation to stop misleading or inaccurate caller ID information.
  •  Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2017 (S . 174): Legislation to require the FCC to condense duplicative reports on competition in the telecommunications market into one comprehensive report released every two years.
  •  Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act (DIGIT Act)(S. 88): Legislation to bring together private sector and government entities to assess the needs of the Internet of Things (IoT) and study the readiness of government to support the IoT.

Senators introduce the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017

Several advocacy groups are opposing a new bipartisan bill entitled the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017. The bill has the support of six Senators--3 Republican and 3 Democrat--including Senators Portman, McCain, Cornyn, Blumenthal, McCaskill, and Heitkamp. The new law would allow victims of sex trafficking to sue and press charges against any website that "knowingly or recklessly" enabled sex trafficking. Additionally, it would criminalize conduct by websites that “assists, supports, or facilitates a violation of federal sex trafficking laws”. Further, it would allow the states to prosecute sites under federal sex crimes laws.

Advocates argue that this new legislation would eviscerate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 shields websites from liability stemming from content posted by their users. Without section 230, these advocates say, the internet as we know it simply would not exist. Further, the advocates argue that it would simply be too risky for sites like Facebook or Twitter to host user-generated content. Sarah Jeong covers this in The Verge.

Facebook's new diversity report shows little progress

Facebook released its fourth annual diversity report. Eighty-nine percent of its workforce self-identifies as white or Asian. However, the number of women working at Facebook has increased by 2 percentage points since last year to 35%. Nevertheless, women hold just 19% of tech positions at Facebook, although the company reports that 27% of its engineering hires are women.

Looking at the senior ranks ... 70% are white, 72% are male and of the women who have cracked the glass ceiling into the c-suite, 68% are white. However, the percentage of Facebook employees who identify as black went from 2 to 3%. Hispanics when from 4 to 5%. Clare O'Connor reports in Forbes.

Crowdfunding platforms block alt-right groups

Blake Montgomery at Buzzfeed reports that leading fundraising platforms like PayPal, GoFundMe, and Patreon have banned or limited some members of the alt-right from using their sites.

Researcher proves Amazon Echo can be a spying tool

A British researcher has demonstrated how he has been able to successfully install malware on an Amazon Echo that allowed him to eavesdrop. But the hack requires physical access to the target Echo and only works on pre-2017 Echo devices. Andy Greenberg has details in Wired.

Aug 1, 2017

Lobbying and Advocacy for Entrepreneurs: The Business Case

Lobbying and advocacy is not necessarily something that most entrepreneurs think about when they venture out on their own.

Despite the fact that my business focuses on tech policy, when I launched WashingTECH.com,  lobbying and advocacy couldn't have been further from my mind. I was more concerned with the minutiae: configuring and registering domains, setting up my workflow, designing my own site, etc. While I intended to include lobbyists on the podcast, I was more concerned with lobbying and advocacy issues as content. I did not remotely consider that a small business like mine would have any pull amidst the many "white shoe" lobbying firms up and down K St.: The big guns were for huge corporations, not businesses like mine.

But as I have progressed and interviewed 100 guests, I have learned that these issues indeed affect me. For example, I conduct most of my interviews via Skype. Buffering issues that I encounter during my guest interviews affect the quality of my work product, and thus my bottom line. That is a net neutrality issue. This is not "ivory tower" net neutrality. This is net neutrality from the perspective of how it affects my business.

How Regulations Can Affect Your Business

There are literally hundreds of laws and regulations, in addition to net neutrality, that could potentially affect your business. Changes to intellectual property frameworks like trademarks, copyright and patents are federal policy issues. If you operate an online business, you are subject to all federal regulations regarding how you collect and utilize customer data, register email subscribers, and many other consumer regulations. Differences and conflicts between U.S. regulations and those abroad could affect your business to the extent that you engage with international customers.

The number of regulations, new and old, that you could be affected by are essentially limitless. Congress and the federal agencies are continuously introducing and revising policies that could directly impact your profits.

Joining Forces: The Power of Strength in Numbers

The sheer number of entrepreneurs complicates our ability to organize and respond collectively to policy issues affecting out interests. However, just as the end of World War II brought with it the need for labor organizations to advocate on behalf of the workforce, the need for effective lobbying and advocacy on behalf of entrepreneurs will also grow. These advocates must be at least as effective at representing entrepreneurs' interests as those post-war labor advocates who preceded them.

Consider the growing number of Americans who are pursuing entrepreneurship as either a supplement to or substitute for full-time income. According to the U.S. Census's 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs released in July of this year:

  • the number of minority-owned employer firms grew by 4.9% (from 949, 318 in 2014 to 996, 248 in 2015).
  • firms owned by women increased by 3.0% since 2014 to approximately 1.1.million.
  • veteran-owned firms totaled approximately 398, 453.
  • most firms in the U.S. (78.2%) have fewer than 10 employees.

Start-up entrepreneurs also need a place to belong. Networking and developing the right relationships is a breeze for powerful corporations. Small businesses are powerful in scale, but not as powerful in scope in terms of the expansiveness of their networks. Melissa Blaustein is working to change all that by leading lobbying and advocacy efforts for startup firms around the world. I hope you'll consider joining her in her efforts.

BIO

Melissa Blaustein (@MentionMelissa) is the Founder of Allied for Startups, a global network of startup policy associations whose goal is to make the voice of startups heard in government. Allied for Startups counts more than 19 countries on four continents as members, including 13 in the EU alone. Her background in digital policy and advocacy spans the local, national, and international levels, having held roles at The White House, UN Women, the UNEP, the G20 Research Group, with Fmr. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and on the team of many San Francisco politicians.

Melissa's entrepreneurial spirit has led her to take on challenges in the startup and technology space, including advising the French government on a taxation structure for the digital economy, serving as an ambassador at an accelerator in Paris and working at the Vice President of International Outreach at France Digitale, an association dedicated to lobbying the government on behalf of startups in France. Blaustein holds a Masters Degree Cum Laude from Sciences Po in Paris and an undergraduate degree with honors from UC Berkeley. She speaks four languages and has lived in four countries.

RESOURCES

Allied for Startups--The Voice for Startups in Politics and Government

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild

 

 NEWS ROUNDUP

House Panel Green-lights Self Driving Car Legislation

The  54-member House Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously to advance legislation to speed the commercialization of self-driving cars. The legislation would clear the way for the sale of up to 100,000 self-driving cars. It would also pre-empt state laws dealing with performance standards. States would continue to regulate things like licensing, liability, safety and insurance. David Shepardson has the story in Reuters.

Lyft announced last week that it too has created a self-driving car division. Read more from Heather Somerville in Reuters.

Congress seeks more government data on Kaspersky Labs

Members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology,  have asked some 22 cabinet-level government agencies for any information they have on Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky is the Moscow-based cybersecurity firm. Several U.S. officials and members of Congress don't trust Kaspersky. They allege that Kaspersky could be a front that Russian officials use to spy on the U.S. It's an assertion that Kaspersky has vehemently denied. Dustin Voltz reports in Reuters.

Russian Citizen Indicted for Bitcoin Laundering

The Department of Justice has indicted a Russian citizen for money laundering. The DOJ alleges that Alexander Vinnick laundered $4 billion through the digital currency Bitcoin to fund drug trafficking, identity theft and hacking. Ali Breland at the Hill reports that Vinnick was arrested in Greece for allegedly using BTC-e--one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges--to carry out the crimes.

Is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC 'Full of Sh*t'???

Remember when the FCC's site went down after John Oliver urged his viewers to submit comments regarding net neutrality? Ajit Pai claimed it went down because of a DDos attack. Gizmodo said, "Yeah right" and filed a FOIA request asking the FCC to provide documentation showing it was indeed caused by a DDos attack. Well, thus far, the FCC has apparently failed to corroborate the Chairman's story. So Oregon Senator Ron Wyden took the FCC to task last week, accusing the FCC of playing "word games".

Wyden also suggested the FCC may be violating the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide the information Gizmodo seeks. If there was indeed a 3,000 percent increase in network traffic at the FCC as FCC Chair Ajit Pai claimed, why wasn't anyone at the FCC freaking out??? Surely there would have been emails. But Gizmodo hasn't found emails, or anything else for that matter, to suggest that Chairman Pai was telling the truth. The FCC's net neutrality docket has thus far received over 10 million public comments. Jon Brodkin has the story in Ars Technica.

Tech Earnings Reports Off-Target

Major tech stocks showed lower than expected results in the second quarter. Amazon took a 77% hit to profits even though its sales were up. Google's parent Alphabet's profit fell 28%. The Wall Street Journal attributes the shortfall to the $2.74 billion fine the EU levied against Google last month for allegedly pumping its own search results. And while the number of clicks per ad were up at Google, revenues per click were down. Further, Twitter's stock dropped 12%. The company also reported flat user growth, which is stuck at 328 million, and a $116 million loss.

Foxconn to build a U.S. plant in Wisconsin

President Donald Trump indicated that Foxconn -- the  iPhone component maker-- would be spending $10 billion to build a Wisconsin plant. The president claims the plant would create 3,000 jobs.  Foxconn CEO Terry Gou did join Trump, Vice President Pence, House Speaker  Paul Ryan, and Wisconsin Senators Walker and Johnson at the White House. But it's not clear exactly what was discussed. Walker claims that the average job created by the plant will pay $53,000 per year.

Google to Spend $50 million to help displaced workers

Google announced last Wednesday that it would be spending $50 million to help workers displaced by technology to find new jobs. The company's head of philanthropy, Jacqueline Fuller, made the announcement in a blog post last week. Ali Breland has more details in the Hill.

In other Google news, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has joined the board of Google's parent company Alphabet. The move comes as Alphabet seeks to accelerate many of the other initiatives it has been working on, such as Fiber X and self-driving cars. Dieter Bohn has the story in the Verge.

 

Will Amazon's Whole Foods Alleviate or Promote Food Deserts?

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and 11 members of Congress are asking the DOJ and FTC to investigate the Amazon-Whole Foods merger. The lawmakers are concerned about how the merger would affect underserved-communities' ability to access quality groceries. Many consumers live in so-called "food deserts"leaving them isolated from quality supermarkets.

Airbnb and NAACP Team Up

Airbnb and The NAACP have teamed up to open up the Airbnb platform to underserved communities. The company has come under fire for helping to facilitate an environment in which hosts routinely refuse to rent to people of color. Some cases are more explicit than others. In California in recent weeks, a host was fined $5,000 for explicitly refusing to rent to an Asian woman for no other reason other than the fact that she's Asian. The host will also have to take a college-level racial sensitivity course. The NAACP will work with Airbnb to identify underserved areas in which residents can learn more about how Airbnb can generate extra needed income. NAACP will be compensated 20% of all revenues that come from this initiative. No word yet on how much of that extra revenue will go to fund local schools and other need services. Nick Statt has the story in The Verge.

Jul 25, 2017

The Rise of Technology is a Double-Edged Sword for many African Americans

Recent reports suggest that African Americans have the most to gain, and yet the most to lose, from advances in technology.

  • The digital divide persists. Recent Pew research shows 86% of blacks reported being internet users, compared to 90% of all respondents. However, just 65% of Black survey respondents to the Pew study have access to broadband at home, compared to 73% of Internet users overall, and 78% of white users.
  • African Americans are both disproportionately impacted by climate change, and underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations. Paradoxically, the Koch brothers' lobbying efforts have tended to focus on increasing STEM skills among African Americans to prepare them to work in the fossil fuels industry.
  • African American citizens have as much to gain as anyone else from law enforcement's proper implementation of technology. However, newer law enforcement technologies, such as facial recognition technologies, have proven to be less accurate in correctly identifying African Americans than they are at identifying others.
  • A recent Global Policy Solutions report entitled Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work illustrates the ways in which African Americans, who are highly represented in driving occupations, will could be negatively affected by a poorly-regulated self-driving vehicles industry.

How can local officials, particularly mayors, address these and other concerns? Stephanie Mash Sykes shares her insights.

Bio

Stephanie Mash Sykes (@StephMashSykes) is the Executive Director and General Counsel of the African American Mayors Association. Prior to joining AAMA, she served as the Director of Governmental Affairs for African Americans working with the Office of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Stephanie has also worked as an executive compensation and employee benefits attorney in top law firms in New York City, NY and Palo Alto, CA. As an attorney, she also devoted many pro bono hours to advising non-profit organizations and small businesses. She has received the New York Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding pro bono legal service.

Prior to law school, Stephanie worked as a policy analyst at the New Jersey General Assembly where she focused on legislation related to municipal governance, consumer affairs, and economic development. Stephanie also assisted with the Black Caucus of the General Assembly. Stephanie received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Princeton University . At Princeton, she majored in Politics and received certificates in African American Studies and Latin American Studies.

Resources

African American Mayors Association

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Compton, CA Mayor Aja Brown

Stockton, CA Mayor Michael Tubbs

News Roundup

Federal Judge reports sevenfold increase in warrantless searches

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia released information last week showing a sevenfold increase in warrantless data searches by law enforcement. Judge Howell released the previously sealed information following a petition by BuzzFeed investigative journalist Jason Leopold. According to the data release, law enforcement requests for phone location and internet activity jumped from 55 in 2008, to 1,136 in 2016. Spencer Hsu has the story in the Washington Post.

WH supports overturning net neutrality

The White House has endorsed overturning the FCC's net neutrality rules. Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Congress needs to weigh in with new legislation instead of having the FCC write the regulations.

Sheriff's to implement iris scanners along U.S./Mexico Border

Demos's George Joseph reports for The Intercept that every sheriff's department along the U.S./Mexico border will now be using iris detection scanners. That's right. Trump's campaign promise to build a border wall has stalled, but the "digital wall", of sorts, is moving forward. Apparently iris scanners can detect as many as 240 unique identifying characteristics, compared to just 40 to 60 for fingerprints. And, of course, what would new law enforcement technology be without the typical disproportionate impact on communities of color? Check out the Intercept for more.

House approves self-driving car legislation

By a voice vote last week, the House Commerce consumer protection committee approved self-driving car legislation. The bill would set the annual number of autonomous cars that automobile companies can manufacture to 100,000. The legislation would also preempt state laws pertaining to autonomous vehicle manufacturing. Harper Neidig has the story in the Hill.

House passes bill to re-authorize the Department of Homeland Security

The House last week passed a new bill to re-authorize the 15-year old Department of Homeland Security. The bill includes provisions for TSA and the US Coast Guard to issue reports on cyber risks to airlines and ports. You can find the story in Next.gov.

Elon Musk claims provisional approval to build "hyperloop'

Finally, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted last week that he had obtained verbal pre-approval from regulators to build a "hyperloop" that would link New York and Washington. Musk claims this hyperloop would send commuters speeding in pods through vacuum tubes allowing them to travel from midtown Manhattan to downtown Washington in just 29 minutes. The increased speed would be achieved by having the pods travel on magnetic cushions. Of course, the first obstacle would be getting the cost to build down from $1 billion per mile. Peter Henderson has the story in Reuters.

 

Jul 18, 2017

 

 Philanthropists in Silicon Valley Want Your Ideas

The provincial Silicon Valley that was loathe to step outside of Northern California is practically ancient history. An industry that once shunned Washington, D.C.'s buttoned-up bureaucrats now leads in lobbying and campaign contributions. Increasingly, philanthropists in Silicon Valley are making investments that in many ways are changing the very structure of our institutions. The New York Times is running a series on the institutional investments Silicon Valley titans are making.  For example, Netflix's Reed Hastings and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg are making investments to enhance and experiment with innovative new educational tools and models. Other tech philanthropists have long invested billions to fight more global, humanitarian problems, such as climate change and malaria. They also offer microloans to small businesses in developing nations.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency as not caused the mass tech exodus from Washington that was initially feared. Indeed, while Big Tech and the Trump administration remain worlds apart on net neutrality, there is some common ground. Issues like cybersecurity, government efficiency, and the effect of artificial intelligence on jobs are largely bipartisan. It is now inside-the-beltway institutions that are struggling to tweak their own insular tendencies.

What should policy professionals be thinking about as they develop their outreach efforts to philanthropists in Silicon Valley? How does tech sector philanthropy work? The goal of this episodes is to help answer these questions and more as you structure your efforts.

Bio

Gina Dalma (@ginadalma) is Special Advisor to the CEO and vice president of government relations at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF). SVCF is the largest community foundation in the world, with more than $8 billion in assets under management. Gina is responsible for leading SVCF’s ongoing lobbying efforts in Sacramento and its emerging efforts in Washington, D.C.  SVCF’s California lobbying work is currently centered around education, affordable housing, immigration and economic security. In Washington, D.C., SVCF hopes to be a leading voice on topics that have the potential to advance the philanthropic sector.

Gina was pivotal in the passage of the California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015, which Gov. Brown signed into law on Oct. 5, 2015. SVCF sponsored this legislation.

She serves as a member of the California Department of Education’s STEM Taskforce Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the National Common Core Funders Steering Committee and an Advisory Board Member of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.

Prior to her promotion to special advisor in 2015, Gina was SVCF’s director of grantmaking. In that role, she led the grantmaking team in using a diverse set of tools, including strategic investments, to solve our region’s most challenging problems. She also led SVCF’s education grantmaking strategy, as well as the Silicon Valley Common Core Initiative.

Prior to joining SVCF, Gina was director of innovation at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Before moving to the United States, Gina held several positions related to urban economic development and regulatory economics in the federal and state public sector in Mexico.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from ITAM in Mexico City, a Master of Science in economics from the University of London and a Master of Arts in international policy studies from Stanford University.

Resources

Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF)

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963 by Taylor Branch

News Roundup

FCC's Net Neutrality Initial Comment Window Closes

The FCC's initial comment period regarding its proposed rules to overturn  the Obama-era net neutrality rules closed on Monday. The comments span the gamut. Some commenters favor overturning the existing rules. Other commenters advocated for new legislation that would replace the FCC's rules. Still others advocated for upholding the existing rules entirely, without new legislation.

A couple of data points this week on net neutrality -- Civis Analytics released one showing 81% of Americans are against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of some sites over others. Interestingly, Civis Analytics counts Verizon Ventures and Alphabet Chair Eric Schmidt among its investors. Another poll, this one by INCOMPAS and the GOP-polling firm IMGE, showed 72% of Republican voters oppose throttling and blocking sites like Netflix.

Further, a Morning Consult released a report showing Senators who support net neutrality enjoy high approval ratings. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has a 55% approval rating, and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has an approval rating of 61%.

America's Cybersecurity Issues Intensify

Verizon announced that "human error" that resulted in misconfigured security settings caused the personal data of some 6 million Verizon customers to be leaked online. We're talking customer phone numbers, names, and PIN codes. Apparently, an Amazon S3 storage server's settings were set to public instead of private. Selena Larson has the full story at CNN Money.

As far as Russia is concerned--President Trump keeps equivocating. One day he says he thinks maybe Russia interfered with the election. The next day, he's publicly less sure. This is all amidst an intensifying investigation that has zeroed in on Trump's son, Donald Jr. Trump senior also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany 2 weeks ago, as you know, at the G20 Summit in Hamburg.  After that meeting, Trump talked about needing to move forward with forming a cybersecurity unit with Russia. President Trump said he had questioned Putin about the hacks and that Putin had vehemently denied them. Republicans and Democrats quickly condemned the president's statements, questioning  the president's trust of Russia.

Then, 3 days later, the Trump administration moved to limit federal agencies' use of Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky Labs is the Russia-based cybersecurity firm.  Several officials believe the Kaspersky may be a Trojan Horse the Kremlin uses to hack government data. You can find coverage in the Washington Post by Phillip Rucker, as well as Politico, by Eric Geller, and Reuters' Phil Stewart.  

Meanwhile, Joe Uchill reported in the Hill on a new poll conducted by the cyberscurity firm Carbon Black which shows 1 in 4 voters do not plan on voting due to cybersecurity concerns.

Feds Uphold NSA's Gag Orders

The gag orders the National Security Agency routinely uses when it requests identifying information from tech companies don't violate the 1st Amendment. That was the holding of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week in a matter brought by Cloudflare and Credo Mobile. The companies wanted to notify customers when the National Security Agency obtained their information. The companies argued that notifying customers of such inquiries is their First Amendment right. But the Court disagreed. As long as certain civil liberties protections are in place, those gag orders that prevent companies from notifying customers that the NSA is investigating them are Constitutional. Joe Uchill has the story in the Hill.

New Documents Suggest Backpage.com Facilitated Sex Advertising/Trafficking

New evidence suggests Backpage.com did know alleged prostitution was going on on its website and that it indeed allegedly helped facilitate it,. Johnathan O'Connell and Tom Jackman report for the Washington Post. Documents show Backpage apparently did things like troll its competitors' websites for sex ads. After finding sex ad buyers, Backpage allegedly had staffers and contractors contact those buyers and offer them free advertising . 

A 16-year-old girl the FBI says was being trafficked on the site was found dead in a Chicago-area garage on Christmas eve. Again, you can find long form coverage in the Washington Post.

To report sex trafficking happening anywhere--you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. That's 1-888-373-7888. You can also text HELP or INFO to 233733. That's 233733. And those coordinates are available 24 hours a day 7 days per week.

DraftKings/Fanduel Merger a No-Go

DraftKings and FanDuel--the two leading fantasy sports sites--have dropped merger talks. The Federal Trade Commission was blocking the merger after finding the merged company would have controlled between 80 and 90% of the fantasy sports market. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

Musk: AI is "Biggest risk we face as a civilization"

At a meeting of the National Governor's Association last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Artificial Intelligence is "the biggest risk we face as a civilization". He called for more effective regulations. The Economist also published a report that shows China and the U.S. in head-to-head competition for dominance in the Artificial Intelligence market.  The article suggests China may account for up to half of the world's Artificial Intelligence-attributable GDP growth by 2030. By 2030, AI is expected to comprise some $16 trillion of total global GDP.

Racist Airbnb host to pay Asian customer $5,000

Finally, Tami Barker, the Airbnb host who denied a UCLA law student her reservation because she is Asian will have to pay $5,000 in damages to the student, Dyne Suh, and take an Asian American studies course. "It's why we have Trump", is what Barker wrote to Suh via the Airbnb app. "I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners," she said.

Jul 11, 2017

African American Women Engineers' Silent Struggle Against Indifference

I had a hard time finding a title for this post. I wanted to come up with something that would speak to what people were already searching for. So I went to Google Trends and entered "black women in engineering". The results showed zero interest over the past 5 years. I tried "African American women in engineering". Again, no one was searching for these terms, according to Google. I tried narrowing the search to just the United States. Still, there was nothing.

It takes me an average of about 4 hours to produce each podcast episode. This includes curating the news, writing the news summaries, recording the interview, editing the interview, writing the script for the show, recording the show, and a host of other tasks. Suddenly I found myself spending 45 minutes on the title alone.

I thought that perhaps I wasn't entering the correct search terms, or that something was wrong with Google's algorithm. Then, after a longer period of time than it probably should have taken, I realized that this is exactly the problem.  I concluded that the lack of search inquiries for "African American women in engineering" over half a decade is further proof of an epidemic. African American women engineers are almost completely invisible. To make matters worse, no one cares.

My Google Trends results for "African American women in engineering"

But you're going to find out today that only part of my conclusion was true. While African American women engineers are indeed working in near-anonymity, my guest today does care about them. Nicole Yates cares about the dearth of African American women engineers and she wants to do something about it, which is why she edited a recent paper entitled Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Roadmap for Increasing African American Women in Engineering. The paper pulls together insights from some of the best minds working on improving diversity, inclusion and retention in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

 

ignored potential_tech policy podcast_Washingtech_nicole yates_stem

The paper is solutions-focused, but its recommendations address two central statistics:

  • African Americans comprised just 4% of engineering degrees awarded in 2015, which is down a full percentage point, from 5%, in 2006.
  • The number of engineering bachelor's degrees awarded to African American women has declined from 1,100 in 2005, to 809 in 2011 (Slaughter, J. B., Tao, Y., & Pearson, W. (2015). Changing the face of engineering: The African American experience. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press).

I hope you'll take some time to explore this issue further and include Nicole and her colleagues in your efforts.

Bio

Nicole Yates is the National Society of Black Engineers' Senior Research Analyst and Applications Specialist. In this role, she conducts training, produces original research, and coordinates with an external network of researchers who support NSBE's mission.
 
Nicole holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from Stanford University. Her original thesis research focused on the dearth of women in STEM fields, an issue that personally concerns her. Nicole also completed her undergraduate degrees at Stanford (B.A., Psychology and B.A., Drama), where she participated in numerous activities including political advocacy, volunteer tutoring, and service-oriented trips. Prior to joining NSBE, Nicole served as an adjunct faculty member at Grand Canyon University in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.

Resources

Reports

Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Road Map for Increasing African-0American Women in Engineering edited by Nicole Yates (NSBE, 2017)

Websites

National Society of Black Engineers

10K Black Engineers Annually by 2025

Books

Working Smarter Not Just Harder by Carl Reid

Changing the Face of Engineering  edited by Dr. John Brooks Slaughter, Yu Tao and Willie Pearson, Jr.

News Roundup

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI issued a joint report warning that hackers have penetrated the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power plants. Ellen Nakashima at the Washington Post confirmed on Saturday that government officials have officially attributed the hacks to Russia. Russia has taken down entire electric grids in Ukraine, leaving hundreds of thousands without power. At this time, however, U.S. officials are not reporting an imminent threat to civilians as the hacks were executed against administrative and business systems rather than nuclear power operations. However, the hack could be part of larger scale planning operations. Further, the report came with an amber alert, which is the second highest threat level.


The U.S. is gradually lifting its laptop ban on flights into the U.S. from majority-Muslim countries. Qatar Airways announced last week that the U.S. government has lifted the laptop ban against it. Qatar Airways joins Emirates, Turkish Airlines, and Etihad Airways on the list of airlines on which the U.S. has lifted its laptop ban. The laptop ban on direct flights originating in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey is still in effect on passengers traveling with Royal Jordanian, Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc.


Amazon and Reddit have joined the list of companies that will be participating in an organized, online protest on July 12th against the FCC's proposed measure to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules. Details of what the protest will entail have been kept under wraps. However, Etsy, Mozilla and others will also be participating.


Microsoft has announced more layoffs. The company, which is in the midst of a reorganization, announced last week that it would be cutting some 18,000 sales jobs.  This is in addition to the nearly 3,000 jobs the company announced it would be cutting last July.The company is shifting its focus and strategy to cloud-based services according to a memo leaked to the press back on June 30th.


Diane Bartz at Reuters reports that President Trump is supporting Apple in the company's appeal against a European Union decision ordering it to pay 13 billion euros ($14.8 billion) in back taxes to Ireland. The Trump administration filed an application to intervene in the appeal which is likely to take place in 2018. The European Commission ruled last year that Ireland granted Apple illegal tax subsidies.


District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Northern District of California is allowing Twitter's lawsuit against the United States government to proceed. The U.S. government routinely makes data requests in the course of criminal investigations but only allows Twitter and other tech companies to report to the the public the number range of requests it has received from the feds rather than the exact number. For example, if the government made 2, 700 data requests from Twitter, Twitter might only be able to disclose to the public that the government made between 2,000 and 3,000 data requests. Twitter is arguing, among other things, that this is tantamount to a prior restraint on free speech and that it should be allowed to disclose the exact number of data requests the government has made.


The phrase "only in New York" has special meaning for Uber and Lyft. Noam Scheiber at The New York Times reported that the ride sharing companies may have been ripping off their drivers by manipulating their collection of sales tax in New York City. Actual ride receipts show Uber deducted New York State sales tax from what drivers were paid rather than passing the sales tax on to passengers, which is what is required by law. Uber argues the sales tax is built into the base fare. But taxi advocates aren't buying it because receipts from other states show Uber added sales tax to the passengers' final bill. A local investigation into Uber's taxi receipts also showed Uber used the same base rate in both New York City and Connecticut even though Connecticut has different tax laws.


The FCC has a new Chief Economist. Jerry Ellig was a Senior Fellow at the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University where he had worked since 1996.


The Department of Homeland Security is delaying a rule that would help make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs and investors to enter the United States. The rule -- the International Entrepreneur Rule-- was set to go into effect on July 17, but DHS announced today that it's pushing it back at least until March 14, 2018. DHS claims this will give it enough time to solicit comments from the public on the new rule. Harper Neidig in the Hill has the story.

 

 

Jul 5, 2017

Can Using Emojis Get You in Trouble?

You know what emojis mean. Otherwise, you wouldn't use them.

Right?

One recent University of Minnesota study found that there can be vast differences between what you and your recipient think that emoji means.Use the wrong emoji, and you may have some explaining to do.  What you think is a smile on your iPhone could look more like a grimace on the recipient's end who is using a different device.

Cases in which courts must determine what emojis mean are few and far between, but they do appear from time to time. In one case, a University of Michigan law student accused a fellow student of stalking. The fellow student had texted the victim messages calling himself a "petty bastard" and saying that he wanted to make her "feel crappy". The fellow student attempted to argue that the "wry" emoticons he used negated the threatening and harassing nature of the other texts.   The court disagreed and held that the emoticons did not change the meaning of the texts.

My guests today believe that while litigation involving emojis is sparse, uncertainty around what emojis mean could have important implications in legal proceedings down the road.

Bios

Joe Sremack (LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joesremack) is the Owner of Boxer Analytics. Joe has over a decade of information technology and consulting experience. He develops and implements solutions to advise corporate and legal clients in matters involving complex technology issues. Mr. Sremack’s expertise is in IT assessments, electronic discovery, and complex data analytics involving transactional and disparate data.

A computer scientist by training, Mr. Sremack has conducted numerous matters involving system investigations, data analysis, and the evaluation of technology solutions. He has advised clients across the United States and internationally in matters such as class-action settlement distribution, intellectual property theft, bankruptcy, financial fraud, healthcare regulatory investigations, and antitrust disputes. He has worked with clients in industries including telecommunications, finance, healthcare, energy, government, retail, and insurance. He is a frequent publisher and speaker on issues related to electronic discovery and transactional data. He attended the College of Wooster where he majored in Computer Science and Philosophy, and North Carolina State University, where he earned his Masters in Computer Science.

Gabriella Ziccarelli (@IPwithGZ) is an Associate specializing in Intellectual Property at the law firm of Blank Rome. Ms. Ziccarelli has extensive experience advising and securing successes for her clients on a wide array of intellectual property matters. She provides full service intellectual property strategic guidance to her clients in a wide range of industries, including hardware and software, broadcast television, electrical power, and government contracting. Prior to joining private practice, Ms. Ziccarelli served as a volunteer law clerk to the Honorable Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal of the Northern District of California. She has also worked in-house at a variety of high-technology companies.

During law school, she was an active member of the intellectual property community where she helped forge important relationships between intellectual property students, academics, and practitioners through symposia, speaking engagements, and hiring events. She also served as the editor-in-chief of the nationally ranked Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Law Journal.  Ms. Ziccarelli was recognized for her excellence in the field as a 2013 nominee for the prestigious American Intellectual Property Law Education Foundation Jan Jancin Award for excellence in Intellectual Property Law.

Before law school, Ms. Ziccarelli was an advocate for higher education initiatives and served as student body vice president to a more than 40,000-person constituency at the University of Arizona while working closely with the Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona Students’ Association. She co-founded the Junior Cats Youth Mentoring program for at-risk youth and was a volunteer for the Pima County Attorney’s Office Community Justice Board.

Ms. Ziccarelli is an engaged member of both the intellectual property and high-tech communities. Ms. Ziccarelli speaks on a variety of issues that pertain to women in the technology profession and women in the law. She is also a regular contributor to American Intellectual Property Law Association publications. Ms. Ziccarelli is an Inaugural Fellow of the Internet Law and Policy Foundry. She is also a graduate of the Leading Women in Technology Wilpower program for female leaders in the technology industry. Ms. Ziccarelli currently serves as an advisory board member for Seed Spot DC, a startup accelerator serving minority entrepreneurs.

Ms. Ziccarelli a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Santa Clara University School of Law. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Resources

Websites

Blank Rome LLC

Boxer Analytics

IP with GZ

Books

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis

Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation by Charna Halpern

News Roundup

Cybercriminals executed another massive, worldwide ransomware cyberattack last week which primarily hit the Ukraine, but also reached Russia, India, the United States and several other countries. The so-called Petya virus again used an exploit that was developed by the National Security Agency. Even Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko was hit. Andrew Roth and Ellen Nakashima report in the Washington Post. Many experts suspect Russia is responsible. Dustin Volz and Justin Menn report for Reuters that U.S. Senators are highly suspicious of Russia-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs and they are seeking to ban the U.S. military from using Kaspersky.


The E.U. has fined Google $2.7 billion. The E.U.'s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said Google suppressed its competitors' shopping search results in favor of its own. According to a blog post by Google SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker, the company is considering an appeal.  The implications for Google in the U.S. are unclear as, in recent weeks, President Trump has sought to engage Alphabet and Google in his effort to revamp government technology.   Michael Birnbaum reports in the Washington Post.


Wireless and cable companies are trying to figure out how to consolidate in an increasingly saturated and competitive marketplace. Cable companies are concerned about cord-cutters. Wireless companies are worried about a saturated mobile market in which most customers are already spoken for. To address these challenges, Sprint is in talks to provide wireless service to Charter and Comcast, according to the Wall Street Journal. Comcast and Charter would invest in Sprint's network, and Sprint would give Comcast and Charter access to its wireless network. Shalini Ramachandran, Ryan Knutson and Dana Mattioli report this in the Wall Street Journal.


Julia Floretti at Reuters reports that major social networks are combining efforts to take down terrorist content.  Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft have formed a working group dubbed The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. The group will share solutions for dealing with content posted by terrorist organizations and individuals. In a separate matter, German lawmakers have passed a measure which would fine social networks up to $57 million for failing to take down hate speech within a reasonable period of time. That's set to take effect on October 1st . Anton Troianovsky and Schechner report in the Wall Street Journal.


A federal court in Northern California is allowing the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust case against Qualcomm to proceed. The federal government is accusing Qualcomm of anticompetitive practices in the mobile device chip market in which Qualcomm has a near monopoly. Stephen Nellis has the story in Reuters.


Dan Primack at Axios reported last week that Uber is in the process of negotiating with the Securities and Exchange Commission a way to allow Uber to share equity with its drivers. Industry experts see such an arrangement as a way to slow down driver turnover rates.


Finally, a new GAO report has found significant fraud and abuse with the FCC's Lifeline program. The Lifeline program subsidizes broadband for low-income consumers. The GAO audit found that it couldn't verify whether some 36% of subsidy recipients were actually eligible. As much as $1.2 million went to recipients who didn't exist or who were dead. Mike Snider has the story in USA Today.

 

Jun 27, 2017

America's History of Recalcitrance

George Wallace's resistance to desegregation was similar to hate speakers' resistance to efforts to curb racism online.

De jure discrimination

Racism online is evolving in a way that is consistent with the way racism has always evolved--from explicit to subtle.

Plaintiff-side civil rights lawyers have found it easiest to win -- if civil rights cases can ever said to be "easy"--  in cases in which they can convincingly demonstrate defendants' explicit discriminatory policies.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Educationand their subsequent cases and amendments comprise the bulk of American civil rights law.  The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Brown held segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.

In interpreting a statute, judges will consider Congressional intent, which includes the circumstances under which Congress enacted the law. Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act  in an era of widespread de jure segregation in the South. Every 6th grader knows that, prior to Brown, state and local authorities in the South required "colored" and "white" students to attend segregated schools. Black students usually attended inferior schools with old books and in dilapidated buildings.  Southern authorities also required colored and white citizens to use separate facilities such as water fountains, restrooms, waiting rooms, and buses. They also enabled most private establishments, such as restaurants and hotels, to segregate as they pleased.

Following  Brown, Southern racists remained undeterred. For example, on June 11, 1963, fully 9 years after Brown, Alabama Governor George Wallace famously "stood in the schoolhouse door" to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood from entering and registering for classes at the University of Alabama. President Kennedy deployed the National Guard to remove Wallace, which they did.

Virginia's response to Brown is also illustrative of the Southern response to it. Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. and his brother-in-law, Virginia General Assembly leader James M. Thomson, together pursued a  "Massive Resistance" strategy to oppose desegregationUnder Massive Resistance, the Virginia Assembly passed laws to prevent and punish local school districts for integrating in accordance with Brown. Further, Virginia authorities continued to enforce Massive Resistance initiatives well into the 1960s, even after federal and state courts ordered them to end their recalcitrance.

The Civil Rights Act finally codified the nation's civil rights policy.

Given the context in which the Civil Rights Act was enacted, courts are most likely to strike down laws and policies that contain explicit "suspect" classifications; namely, those that refer to race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Indeed, courts subject such de jure discrimination statutes and policies to the Constitutional "strict scrutiny" standard--the highest standard of judicial review. Paradoxically, laws designed to help traditionally marginalized groups, and which mention those groups explicitly, are also subject to strict scrutiny and thus likely to be struck down. (The intricacies of the strict scrutiny standard go well beyond the scope of this post. However, if you are interested in learning more about strict scrutiny and the other levels of scrutiny courts are likely to apply in interpreting the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, click here.)

De facto discrimination

After many years of resisting civil rights laws, racists in the North and South had an a-ha moment. If they could figure out a way to maintain their supremacy using things that looked like something else, but achieved the same ends, they were golden! And so de facto discrimination--laws and policies that are not discriminatory on their face, i.e. they are facially neutral, but have discriminatory effects, have been the order of the day ever since. Stop-and-frisk? Check. Insanely long prison sentences for minor offenses? Check. School segregation based on merit? Check. Proposed cuts to Medicaid? Check.  Voter re-districting? You get the point.

Welcome to the age of stealth racism.

"I thought this post was about racism online."

It is.

The same racist ideologies that prevailed in 1964 prevail today. Since 1964, opponents of the Civil Rights Movement, many of whom are still alive today, and their descendants and allies, have persisted in their efforts to preserve their supremacy. They have taken racism online.

This is the story of some of the measures the tech sector has taken, such as Google's Conversation AI, to curtail racism online and how defiant hate speakers have evaded those measures by creating their own code language.

Hate speech is indeed protected speech and that's the problem.

Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology peeled back the top layer of the internet and found hate speech teeming underneath.

My guest today is Rijul Magu (@RijulMagu). Rijul co-authored, along with Shitij Joshi and Jiebo Luo at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a report entitled "Detecting the Hate Code on Social Media". He's the lead author. Rijul is currently a Masters Student at RIT and he earned his undergraduate degree at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology in Noida, India.

 

Resources

University of Rochester School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Department of Computer Science (homepage of Graduate Studies Faculty Advisor Jiebo Luo)

Detecting the Hate Code on Social Media by Rijul Magu, Kshitij Joshi, and Jiebo Luo

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

News Roundup

The New York State Commission on Forensic Science has adopted a new controversial policy regarding the use of suspects' DNA evidence.  The Commission voted 9-2 to allow police to collect not just suspects' own DNA evidence, but also the DNA evidence of close relatives. While the measure has the support of prosecutors, opponents of the bill pointed out procedural flaws with some describing the new policy as a kind of genetic stop and frisk. Nathan Dempsey has the story at Gothamist.


A Department of Homeland Security official --Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy undersecretary of cybersecurity and communications for the agency’s National Protection and Programs Directorate --  told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that Russia targeted election systems in 21 states during last year's presidential election. Ranking Member Mark Warner wrote Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to make public the names of the states that were targeted. However, Secretary Kelly has thus far not released that information claiming that to do so would harm national security. Edward Graham covers this in Morning Consult.


Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned following the fallout from former Attorney General Eric Holder's report on the company's frat boy culture. However, several employees have attempted to have Kalanick reinstated. Rebecca Savransky has the story in the Hill. The Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter Monday to Uber leadership urging them to improve racial and ethnic diversity in hiring and promotions at the company.


A new Politico and Morning Consult report shows 60% of Americans either strongly or somewhat support the FCC's current net neutrality rules the new Trump-era FCC under Ajit Pai appears to be in the process of overturning. Two-thousand and fifty one registered voters were surveyed.


The FCC has recommended a $122 million fine on a suspected robocaller--the highest-ever FCC fine. Officials suspect the alleged robocaller, Adrian Abromovich, a Florida man, made some 100 million robocalls over three months. Harper Neidig has the story in The Hill.


The FCC also unanimously passed a rule change last week that will allow law enforcement to bypass blocker called IDs belonging to callers making imminent threats. Harper Neidig has this one in The Hill as well.


We may soon be able to access Internet via an internet connection made from space. Doing so would significantly speed up upload and download speeds. The FCC approved a plan of Greg Wyler who plans to link up 720 satellites to deliver high speed broadband from space as soon as 2019. Brian Fung has the full story in the Washington Post.


President Trump met with tech executives, including drone developers last week. The president said he'd work to give tech companies the "competitive advantage they need" and "create lots of jobs". David Shepardson covers the story in Reuters.


In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled last week that a North Carolina law that prevents registered sex offenders from going on Facebook is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Lydia Wheeler covers this in the Hill.


FCC Chaiman Ajit Pai testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last week about the agency's budget. Pai recommended a budget cut of over 5.2% since last year, or $322 million, which Chairman Pai conceded would come from the elimination of over 100 Commission jobs.

Jun 20, 2017

What is a SLAPP Suit?

Let's say you own a small business called "Policy Town Fajitas". You think your business is second-to-none. You've invested in it--time, sweat, money and otherwise ... But then, all of a sudden, one of your customers doesn't fancy your business as much as you do. So they post a negative review about your business on a site like Yelp. They say your "chicken fajitas taste like pigeon and that's how I know it's not authentic Mexican food."

If you're like most businesses, you try to improve (such as by switching to chicken meat). But some businesses try to turn the tables by putting the reviewer on the defensive.

Let's call the reviewer Mrs. Davis. So you file a lawsuit against Mrs. Davis that is simply designed to drive her absolutely nuts. Eventually, you hope, Mrs. Johnson will decide to delete her review.

That lawsuit is called a "strategic lawsuit against public participation", but we just call them SLAPP suits. 

Batman and Robin_YELP_SLAPP_Suits

 

Now, we know you would NEVER serve up pigeon fajitas. But what are the policy implications of SLAPP suits, particularly as they relate to online freedom of speech?

Here to discuss SLAPP suits is Laurent Crenshaw (@LCrenshaw), Yelp's head of Federal Public Policy in Washington DC. At Yelp Laurent has championed the company’s federal efforts to protect consumer freedom of speech on the Internet, and worked to implement Yelp as a tool for the federal government.

Prior to joining Yelp in 2013, Laurent worked in the House of Representatives for over 11 years. During his tenure he served as the Legislative Director for Representative Darrell Issa focusing on technology policy issues, particularly in the areas of intellectual property, telecommunications and Internet law; and also worked in the offices of the House Majority Whip and House Republican Conference. Laurent successfully worked on numerous legislative efforts including the passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act in 2011 and the fight to defeat SOPA and PIPA in Congress. Additionally, Laurent also serves on the board of directors for Public Knowledge and as a member of the American Library Association’s Public Policy Advisory Council.

Laurent obtained his undergraduate degree in International Relations from Stanford University in 2002 and his Juris Doctor degree from American University’s Washington College of Law in 2010.

Resources

Yelp's Public Policy Blog

SPEAK FREE Act (Congressional Anti-SLAPP Suits legislation)

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

News Roundup

Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7 billion.  Experts see the move as a direct hit on big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, whose shares tumbled sharply on news of the announcement. Analysts see it as a significant step by Amazon to substantially expand its warehouse and local supply chain operations. Laura Stevens has more at the Wall Street Journal. One interesting thing to note is that on May 30th, Amazon filed a patent for technology that allows it to block customers from using their phones to "window shop", or check the prices of other stores, while they're on site at an Amazon property. Brian Fung reports on that in the Washington Post.


President Trump has officially nominated former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to return to the agency.  Rosenworcel has strong Democratic support. Her previous four-year term ended last year when the Senate failed to reconfirm her term before it expired. Still open at the FCC is the third Republican seat. Brendan Carr--a current advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai -- is considered the front-runner for that seat although, as of Monday evening, the White House has not yet made the official nomination.


The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint announcement saying North Korea has been executing cyberattacks against institutions  worldwide since 2009. North Korean government actors calling themselves "Hidden Cobra" are the culprits, according to the statement, and they have been attacking aerospace, financial and other institutions in the U.S. and around the world. Deb Reichmann reports for the Associated Press.


Verizon has completed its $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo. Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer resigned with a $23 million package. Alina Selyukh has the story at NPR.


The Federal Trade Commission will be opposing the proposed merger of DraftKing and FanDuel--the two largest fantasy sports  sites. In a statement released Monday, the FTC wrote that the combined company would control more than 90% of the market.


The families of prison inmates could see their phone charges for calling incarcerated loved ones shoot back up to as much as $14 per minute. The Obama-era FCC had placed caps on those calls that ranged to between 14 and 49 cents per minute. But the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate those rates. The Court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate those rates because they pertained to intrastate calls, and not interstate calls, and thus they fall outside the FCC's federal jurisdiction. Zoe Tillman covers this for BuzzFeed.


The Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the company in the U.S. for violating her privacy and for defamation of character. The plaintiff, a Texas resident, has filed as a Jane Doe. Apparently, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had said publicly that the company would do everything it could to ensure the rapist would be brought to justice. However, behind the scenes, the victim alleges that Uber obtained her medical records in India and then worked to use the information to claim the rape was all a ruse that was orchestrated by Uber's main competitor in India.  Julia Carrie Wong summarized this story in the Guardian. Uber has been embroiled in numerous controversies of late. These culminated last week  in Kalanick being placed on an indefinite leave of absence and top ranking executives being let go. These latest developments were in response to a report spearheaded by former Attorney General Eric Holder that recommended these and other changes at Uber.


Facebook has outlined a strategy for weeding out terrorist content on its platform. The company released a blog post last week saying that it has about 150 people on staff nationwide whose job it is to remove all content posted by or in support of terrorists. The company also uses artificial intelligence and other technology to take down content that promotes terrorism on Facebook and its other properties, according to the post.


Finally, remember President Trump's Twitter typo a few weeks ago, when he tweeted the word "covfefe" instead of "coverage"? Well, The Hill's Harper Neidig noticed last week that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had more than 30 trademark requests containing the word "covefefe" since the flub. 

Jun 13, 2017

Privacy, Searches, Seizures and the Law

The digital age is challenging the way our judicial system balances privacy against the needs of law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

Our devices, as well as cloud-based services like Dropbox, have revolutionized our concept of what information should be considered private. For example, in U.S. v. Graham, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland applied the so-called "third party doctrine". In that case, the court held that the Fourth Amendment does not protect historical cell site location data. Therefore, law enforcement officers do not require warrants to obtain access to that data. The court reasoned that the defendant communicated the data to a "third party", namely the cell phone provider.

These technologies also pose significant Constitutional challenges. For example, who should set the standard of what constitutes a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the first place? Should judges or the public determine such reasonableness?

My guest today is Professor Bernard Chao --a professor at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law, where he co-Directs the law school's Empirical Justice Program. Chao has written that, up until now, judges have had to guess about what constitutes reasonableness. Historically, judges have had to place themselves in the shoes of a hypothetical reasonable person. However, according to Chao, judges are now in a position to gather empirical data via public surveys.  This data has the potential to inform judges about what members of the public actually think constitutes reasonableness in a given context.

Further, the demographic characteristics of most judges in no way reflects the far more diverse demographics of the population as a whole. Judges are often white, male and wealthier than the average citizen. Thus, their notions of reasonableness exclude other diverse perspectives. Indeed, some of Chao's research has shown that members of certain minority groups had higher standards of privacy than did the control group.

Professor Chao is the lead author  of a forthcoming California Law Review article he is co-authoring along with Catherine Durso, Ian Farrell and Christopher Robertson entitled "Why Courts Fail to Protect Privacy: Race, Age, Bias, and Technology".

Resources

Denver Empirical Justice Institute

HUGO Consulting

Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age by Neil Richards

News Roundup

Uber, as you know, has a laundry list of controversies ... Susan Fowler a former Uber engineer, accused the company of fostering a hostile, sexual harassment  culture. Google is suing Uber for stealing trade secrets from its self-driving car unit, Waymo. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been caught on video berating an Uber driver.  The company has been hemorrhaging money, showing billions in losses, in quarter after quarter, despite revenue growth …

Now, Covington and Burling Partners Eric Holder-- who is former President Barack Obama’s former Attorney General-- and Tammy Albarrán are wrapping up an independent investigation they’ve been conducting on behalf of the company. It looks like Uber may be on the brink of requiring Kalanick to take at least a 3 month leave of absence. We’ll know more when Uber releases Holder’s report to employees on Tuesday. But the Board has already indicated that it would be accepting all of Holder’s recommendations. One of the recommendations is to fire Emil Michael--Kalanick’s chief deputy.  In the meantime, you can check out Ali Breland’s complete summary in the Hill.

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Tony Romm at Recode reported that current FCC General Counsel Brendan Carr and former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel are the two front-runners President Trump is considering to fill the two remaining Commissioner slots at the FCC.

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The federal government is accusing yet another NSA contractor with leaking classified information to the public. Last week, federal agents arrested twenty-five year old Reality Leigh Winner, who had a top secret security clearance. The feds have accused Winner of sending information about Russian hacking activities to the Intercept--the online newspaper. She had served in the Air Force for 6 years prior to becoming a contractor at Pluribus International Group in Augusta, Georgia. The leaked documents revealed that Russia may have hacked a U.S. voting system manufacturer just prior to last year's presidential election. Madison Park has a full summary at CNN.com.

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Finally, Jon Brodkin reported in Ars Technica on comments made by FCC Chair Ajit Pai and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson on WTMJ Radio last week in which both Pai and Johnson called net neutrality a “slogan”. Johnson seemed to advocate for fast lanes (paid prioritization). But paid prioritization is a practice the Wheeler-era net neutrality rules specifically prohibits. The DC Circuit has upheld those rules, and the current FCC is now in the midst of a proceeding to overturn them. Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post that several tech companies including Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Reddit, Y Combinator, and Amazon will change their websites on July 12th to protest the FCC’s apparent plan to reverse the net neutrality rules.

Jun 6, 2017

The London Bridge terror attacks that occurred this past weekend are causing policymakers to once again re-evaluate the efficacy of their counterterrorism efforts against ISIS.

ISIS counterterrorism expert Audrey Alexander (@aud_alexander) is a Research Fellow at The George Washington University Program on Extremism. Before joining the Program on Extremism, she worked at King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). At ICSR, Audrey used open source intelligence to identify instances of Western women relocating to enemy-held territories. Previously, Audrey worked at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), where she studied online radicalization and “lone-actor” terrorism. She contributed to the widely acclaimed “Till Martyrdom Do Us Part: Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon” report published by ISD and ICSR. Alexander holds a Masters in Terrorism, Security & Society from the War Studies Department at King's College.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how American institutions have tried and failed to contain the ISIS threat online.
  • alternatives to current technological approaches to containing the enemy's online recruitment efforts.
  • how policymakers can identify warning signs pertaining to potential activity by non-ISIS groups.

Resources:

The George Washington University Program on Extremism

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

Deep Work by Cal Newport

NEWS ROUNDUP

Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers partner Mary Meeker released her annual Internet Trends report last week. Key findings include a slow down in smartphone growth, to just a 3% growth in shipments last year, down from 10% the year before. There's also an uptick in voice searches, which have reached about a 95% accuracy rate. The report found voice searches to be well on their way toward replacing text-based search inquiries. Meeker's report also reveals that some 60% of the most highly valued tech companies in the U.S. were founded by first- or second-generation Americans. These findings only scratch the surface. Here's a link to the slides.


Elon Musk announced in a tweet last week that he has decided to leave president Trump's advisory councils following the president's announcement last week that he would be pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. The Agreement is a multinational accord that brings together 195 countries in a commitment to fight climate change. The U.S. joined Nicaragua and Syria among the nations that will not participate if Trump has his way. However, the earliest possible date the U.S. would be able to make an effective withdrawal from the agreement is November 4, 2020, or one day after the 2020 presidential election.

Tech giants Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and hundreds of other businesses have also formed an initiative dubbed "We're Still In", which was organized by Michael Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Sierra Club, and the Center for American Progress, to express their commitment to the Paris Agreement and local and state authorities whom they see as being more influential than the federal government on climate change.


The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a key case regarding law enforcement's ability to obtain cell phone data without a search warrant. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Carpenter v. U.S. upheld the district court which sentenced defendant Timothy Carpenter to some 116 years in prison for committing a string of armed robberies of TMobile and Radio Shack stores in Michigan and Ohio back in 2010 and 2011. The evidence admitted at trial against Carpenter included cell phone records showing he was in close proximity to the stores when the robberies occurred. Lydia Wheeler has the story in The Hill.


Once again, Booz Allen, the same firm that employed Edward Snowden as an NSA contractor, is the subject of a data breach. Some sixty thousand sensitive documents related to a US military project were found unsecured on on a public Amazon server.  Gizmodo reports the compromised files also contained the encrypted passwords of officials with top security clearance. Dell Cameron reports at Gizmodo.


Democratic leaders in Congress have asked Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to probe the cyberattack that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims caused the agency's commenting site to go down. The site went down shortly after John Oliver directed his viewers to go to site domain gofccyourself.com, which redirected to the FCC's actual commenting page. But Chairman Pai said the site went down due to an external cyber attack. Senators Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Al Franken (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ed Markey(Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) want answers from the FBI by June 23rd. Morgan Chalfant has the story in The Hill.


Finally, Uber fired the former Google engineer accused of stealing secrets from Alphabet self-driving car unit Waymo and bringing them with him when he started his own self-driving car company, Otto, which Uber then acquired. Anthony Levandowski apparently became too much of a liability for Uber, which is currently embroiled in litigation Google brought against it because of Levandowski's alleged actions. Daisuke Wakabayashi and  Mike Isaac report in the New York Times. Greg Bensinger at the Wall Street Journal reports that Uber also posted a $708 million loss in the first quarter. This was on top of the $991 million the company lost in the 4th quarter of 2016. Uber Head of Finance Guatam Gupta will be leaving the company in July to work for an unnamed startup.

May 23, 2017

Yosef Getachew (@getachew2) is a Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge where he works on a variety of technology and communications issues. Prior to joining Public Knowledge, Yosef worked as a law clerk for several technology and communications organizations including the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast, Facebook, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Yosef has also served as a Project Coordinator and Research Assistant for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Yosef received his J.D. from the George Washington University Law School. In law school, he was an Articles Editor for the Federal Communications Law Journal. Yosef was born and raised in Washington D.C. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching basketball, and spending time with friends.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • what 5G is and what it will mean for consumers.
  • the potential of 5G for job creation, particularly for communities with disproportionately high unemployment rates.
  • how to ensure underserved communities have access to 5G technology when it is deployed.

Resources

Public Knowledge

Federal Trade Commission Privacy Law & Policy by Chris Jay Hoofnagle

NEWS ROUNDUP

The Republican-controlled FCC -- which is, by the way, still sitting with only 3 of its 5 Commission seats filled -- moved to roll back the Obama-era net neutrality rules last week. The new NPRM released Thursday is ostensibly designed to solicit comments it will actually be considering. But policy experts see this as just an administrative formality FCC Chair Ajit Pai needs to adhere to before doing what he has already made clear he is going to do anyway: eviscerate the net neutrality rules. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, called the NPRM a "political rush job". Mariam Baksh has additional coverage in Morning Consult. 


The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that plaintiffs can no longer "forum shop" -- a practice by which plaintiffs look to pursue their case in a venue that will be most favorable to them -- which, for patent trolls, is a jurisdiction like the Eastern District of Texas which often rules in favor of patent trolls. In TC Heartland v. Kraft, the decision the Supreme Court reversed on Monday, the lower court had ruled that plaintiffs could bring a lawsuit anywhere the companies conduct business. Now, as a result of the Supreme Court's reversal of the lower court's decision, the standard will now limit plaintiffs to bringing suit where the company is incorporated. The outcome of this case has significant implications for so-called patent trolls that bring often frivolous lawsuits against companies for violating patents they hold but don't use to produce anything--they just profit from suing companies that violate them. Ali Breland covers this for the Hill.


Tennessee Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn introduced a bill Friday that would require both broadband providers as well as internet companies to obtain consent from consumers before selling their internet data. In a set of FCC privacy rules President Trump nullified last month, only broadband providers were required to obtain such consent. Ali Breland has this story as well in the Hill.


Last week, Democratic members of the House Science committee wrote a letter to president Trump urging him to appoint a Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The lawmakers weighted in after Politico published an article revealing the fact that Trump's staffers occasionally pass fake science news to the president to sway him on certain issues -- it's all part of these little games they like to play jockeying for position within the White House. "We are concerned about the process by which you receive information," the letter begins. "Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration ... Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news." Next.gov has the full story.


Congress has responded to the recent ransomware attack that affected computers around the world with a new bill that would require the federal government to report security flaws much sooner so that companies like Microsoft will have a chance to fix them before they are exploited.  Jeremy Kirk outlines the the bipartisan PATCH Act at Bankinfosecurity.com.


Finally, The European Union has slapped Facebook with a $122 million fine over the social media company's purchase of WhatsApp. Back in 2014, Facebook indicated  in its filing that it wouldn't be able to reliably link WhatsApp and Facebook accounts--and then last year it did just that. So the European Commission cried foul. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

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