OVERNIGHT TECH: Lawmakers eye Facebook’s new ad practices

THE LEDE: Privacy-minded lawmakers are pledging to monitor Facebook’s new advertising system, which will involve tracking users across other websites and apps to better target advertising.

Facebook announced Thursday that it would begin targeting advertisements to users based on the websites they visit and apps that they use. In a blog post, the company explained that users can opt out of the web browser-based tracking through an online ad industry program and can also opt out of the app-based tracking through their smartphones’ privacy controls.

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“Facebook’s announcement today to track users as young as 13 outside its website in order to gather information for targeted advertising raises a major privacy red flag,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement, touting his own bill to prevent online tracking of teenagers.

“It doesn’t matter where teen users are online, Facebook will create detailed digital dossiers without their permission based on what they click,” he said. “Now more than ever, we need to put rules on the books to ensure teens are protected from being tracked.”

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said there is a “need to closely review Facebook’s announced plan to expand advertising use of consumers’ online browsing activities,” which “may raise privacy issues.”

While he said he “would have preferred that Facebook allowed consumers to opt out altogether from this type of collection,” Rockefeller praised Facebook for “allowing consumers to review and edit their individual advertising profiles” and encouraged other companies to do the same.

Senate STELA bill up for consideration: Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) bill to reauthorize the law governing the satellite television market will be considered during a markup on June 19, the committee announced Thursday. The bill from Leahy and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) would reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which is set to expire at the end of the year, for five years without making any changes to the video marketplace.

When he introduced the bill earlier this week, Leahy acknowledged that his “clean” reauthorization bill would fall short of some lawmakers’ requests to use the opportunity to make sweeping reforms to the way cable and satellite companies negotiate for programming. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has already passed its own bill to reauthorize STELA, which includes some tweaks to the video marketplace.

Tesla releases all of its patents: Electric car company Tesla is effectively abandoning exclusive use to its patent rights. CEO Elon Musk announced in a blog post on Thursday that the firm would not file lawsuits against “anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” Musk said that instead of promoting innovation, patents have actually held the market back and prevented companies from keeping up with the global demand for electric cars.

“Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day,” he wrote. “We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”

The announcement is a major move from the California inventor and could lead to a new surge in the production of electric cars. That’s likely to help the company out as well, since it could make Tesla the standard bearer for electric car models in the future.

Credit unions point to P.F. Chang’s data breach: The National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU) is pointing to a recent data breach at national restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s as it calls for a federal data security law. “Customer data previously used at P.F. Chang’s is allegedly up for sale on the same underground network that sold data from the tens of millions of cards stolen in the Target breach,” the group said in a letter to House and Senate leadership on Thursday. “This should cause serious pause for lawmakers as the number of data breaches are only becoming broader and more frequent.”

In the letter, NAFCU repeated its calls for a federal data security standard for retailers that handle the financial information belonging to customers of credit unions. While credit unions follow the finance industry’s data security standards, “retailers and many other entities that handle sensitive personal financial data are not subject to these same standards, and they become victims of data breaches and data theft all too often,” the group said. “While these entities still get paid, financial institutions bear a significant burden as the issuers of payment cards used by millions of consumers.”

ODNI shakes up press office: Brian Hale is the new top spokesman at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Hale, who previously worked in the communications shop at Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, takes over for Shawn Turner, the White House’s new deputy press secretary.

Amazon launches music service for Prime users: On Thursday, Amazon launched its “Prime Music” service, promising “unlimited, ad-free access to over a million songs” for Amazon Prime’s tens of millions of users. The service offers Prime subscribers online and offline access to specific songs as well as songs identified by Amazon’s personal recommendation feature and Amazon-curated playlists, the company said in a release announcing the service.

 

ON TAP:

Thursday at 10:30 a.m., the FCC will hold its June monthly open meeting. The Commission will hear two staff reports: one on AT&T's proposal to begin trials in the transition from traditional telephone technology to Internet-based phone services and another on the Commission’s work around low-powered FM radio stations.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

A group of Senate Democrats is asking the Federal Communications Commission to show leniency to broadcasters that have resource sharing agreements, which are now banned.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler wants companies to up their game and take the lead on warding off hackers. 

The head of the House Intelligence Committee thinks the odds are good that the Senate will pass a long-delayed cybersecurity bill this year.  

Online security company CloudFlare and free speech organizations are teaming up to protect “politically and artistically important” websites from attacks. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the proposed $49 billion merger of AT&T and DirecTV later this month, the panel announced on Thursday. 

 

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