Hillicon Valley: New questions about Facebook data practices | Dem wants FTC to probe Google | Perry cites cyber threat in defense of coal rescue plan | Florida gets election security funds | Trump taps FCC official for Dem seat

Hillicon Valley: New questions about Facebook data practices | Dem wants FTC to probe Google | Perry cites cyber threat in defense of coal rescue plan | Florida gets election security funds | Trump taps FCC official for Dem seat
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The Cyber and Tech Overnights are joining forces to give you Hillicon Valley, The Hill's new comprehensive newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) and Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers), and the tech team, Ali Breland (@alibreland) and Harper Neidig (@hneidig), on Twitter. Send us your scoops, tips and compliments.

 

FACEBOOK UNDER FIRE: Facebook is facing a new controversy over its data handling practices.

In a story published late Sunday night, The New York Times detailed broad data-sharing partnerships Facebook has with dozens of device makers. Device makers could obtain user data such as political leanings, religion and even relationship status, and data on users' friends.

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Facebook's critics quickly pounced on the story, raising concerns about the practices, which they say could violate a 2011 consent agreement the company reached with the FTC to settle alleged privacy violations.

 

Facebook's response: Facebook responded dismissively to the new Times report on Sunday, by waving away any comparisons to the earlier Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences," Ime Archibong, Facebook's vice president of product partnerships, wrote in a blog post.

"Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends' information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends," Archibong added. "We are not aware of any abuse by these companies."

 

Hard sell: A number of House Democrats don't appear to be convinced by that explanation.

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineSenate Dems introduce bill to block release of 3D printed gun blueprints States sue Trump administration to block 3D printed guns House GOP refuses to boost funding for election security MORE (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said that the new report casts doubt on Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress in April.

"Sure looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have 'complete control' over who sees our data on Facebook," Cicilline wrote on Twitter. "This needs to be investigated and the people responsible need to be held accountable."

Zuckerberg was dragged to Capitol Hill in the wake of an earlier bombshell story about how Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that's worked for President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Pawlenty loses comeback bid in Minnesota Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary MORE and other Republicans, improperly obtained data on 87 million Facebook users without their consent.

"It's deeply concerning that Facebook continues to withhold critical details about the information it has and shares with others," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Dems press FCC chairman for answers on false cyberattack claim House Dems call for new FCC probe into Sinclair Bipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis MORE (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

"Facebook and other data collectors, including these device manufacturers, should be prepared to come before Congress so that we can get a better grasp of the entire data collection ecosystem, and how people's personal information is being shared and used," Pallone added.

 

Senate weighs in: Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneEx-Trump adviser: Shutdown 'not worst idea in the world' 74 protesters charged at Capitol in protest of Kavanaugh Senate clears 4B ‘minibus’ spending measure MORE (R-S.D.) said on Wednesday that he's planning on pressing Facebook for more answers

--Two Commerce Committee Democrats, Sens. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMake the moon a refueling station — then head to Mars Dems push FEMA on housing help for displaced Puerto Ricans Overnight Energy: Trump moves to roll back Obama auto emissions standards | California vows to sue | Senate Dem looks to block plan in Congress MORE (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), are already seeking answers from Facebook with their own letter.

"We write seeking more information regarding Facebook's data sharing policies and practices, Facebook's security monitoring of device companies with user data access, and your previous statements on these topics before Congress," they wrote.

 

GOOGLE IS ALSO IN THE CROSSHAIRS FOR DEMOCRATS: Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Somali-American Ilhan Omar wins Minnesota Dem primary Ellison wins Minnesota AG primary amid late domestic violence allegations MORE (D-Minn.), the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is urging the Federal Trade Commission to take another look at Google's online market dominance to determine if the search giant is stifling competition.

Ellison sent a letter to the FTC pointing to the EU's record $2.7 billion antitrust fine against Google last year for favoring its own services in search results at the expense of competitors. The FTC closed a similar investigation into Google in 2012 with no monetary penalty.

"The FTC should determine whether Alphabet has engaged in similar conduct in the United States and whether such conduct violates the FTC Act," Ellison wrote, referring to Google's parent company.

"Google's full-year revenue was $50,175,000,000. In 2017, the company posted full-year revenue of $110,855,000,000," he added. "Given that the company has more than doubled in size since the last time the FTC opened an investigation, Google's persistent and increasing dominance since 2013 further justifies opening a new investigation."

To read more, click here.

 

LATE BREAKING ON FRIDAY: TRUMP TAPS A NEW HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: President Trump has tapped Rear Adm. Douglas Fears as his new homeland security adviser, the White House announced Friday.

Fears will replace former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who abruptly resigned in April after Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, took office.

Fears has served for more than 30 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, and has been working as the National Security Council's (NSC) acting homeland security adviser in recent weeks.

In a statement issued by the White House, Bolton said that Fears would be his "point person on an array of vital tasks ranging from overseeing the NSC Cybersecurity Directorate to coordinating the interagency efforts during disaster response."

Fears will hold the title of deputy assistant to the president, as opposed to the title of assistant to the president held by Bossert. That title puts him one rung lower than Bolton, whose official title is assistant to the president for national security affairs.

Bossert was a key voice on cybersecurity during his time in Trump's White House. He is widely credited for his work on the president's May 2017 cyber executive order. Bossert also publicly blamed North Korea for the global "Wanna Cry" malware attack in a speech from the White House podium last December.

 

TODAY IN ACQUISITIONS: MICROSOFT ANNOUNCES $7.5 BILLION DEAL FOR GITHUB: Microsoft on Monday announced that it will acquire popular software development platform GitHub in a $7.5 billion deal.

GitHub was founded a decade ago as a platform for developers to share code. The platform is now the largest code repository on the internet, used by 28 million programmers worldwide. The firm has been a major player in the open-source software movement.

Why it matters: Microsoft's decision to purchase the firm is the latest sign of the tech giant's embrace of open-source software under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella.

"Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation," Nadella said in a statement.

"We recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world's most pressing challenges."

The deets: GitHub will still operate independently from Microsoft, with Nat Friedman, currently Microsoft Corporate's vice president, assuming the role of GitHub CEO. The company's current CEO, Chris Wanstrath, will become a Microsoft technical fellow.

Microsoft will pay $7.5 billion in company stock for Github, which was valued at approximately $2 billion back in 2015. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

More on the deal here.

 

PERRY TALKS CYBER: Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate Perry: US to become net energy exporter within 18 months New Homeland Security unit will battle threats to critical U.S. assets MORE said Monday that President Trump is right to take steps to prevent coal and nuclear plants from shuttering, suggesting their closure could hurt the government's efforts to recover from physical or cyber attacks.

"Fuel secure units are retiring at an alarming rate that if unchecked will threaten our ability to recover from intentional attacks or from natural disasters," Perry said at a cybersecurity conference on Monday in Austin, according to the Houston Chronicle. "The president is right to view grid resilience as a serious national security issue."

The White House said Friday that Trump had directed Perry to take "immediate steps" to prevent further closures of coal and nuclear power plants in the United States in the interest of national security to secure the resilience of the power grid.

Perry's comment also come after the Energy Department released a report, in accordance with Trump's cyber executive order, that acknowledged "gaps" preventing the energy sector from improving its ability to rapidly respond to massive cyberattacks that could disrupt power.

 

ATTENTION, STATES: Verified Voting, along with the Brennan Center, Common Cause, and the National Election Defense Coalition, have released a toolkit to show state and local election officials how they can use funds allocated by Congress to improve election security in their respective states. The toolkit comes ahead of primaries in several states, such as California, New Jersey, Iowa and Montana on Tuesday.

 

FLORIDA AWARDED ELECTION FUNDS: A top executive at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in a letter on Monday told Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary Florida questions Senate chairman over claim that Russians have ‘penetrated’ election systems MORE (R-Fla.) the agency would be granting his request to give the state a hefty $380 million to help secure their elections ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Rubio, who sent the request letter last week, said his state was a target during the 2016 presidential election and likely would be again.

"I am pleased to report that the United States Election Assistance Commission has reviewed Florida's disbursement request and approved the request in one working day. We expect funds will be in Florida's account this week," Brian Newby, EAC's executive director, wrote to Rubio.

"As of today, 23 states have requested more than 52% of the total funding allocated by Congress and additional requests are coming in at a steady pace," An EAC spokesperson also noted in an email to The Hill.

 

TRUMP TO NOMINATE FCC OFFICIAL FOR DEM SEAT: President Trump will nominate Geoffrey Starks, a current Federal Communications Commission official (FCC), as a Democratic commissioner for the agency, the White House announced late Friday.

Starks, currently an assistant bureau chief with the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, will be replacing Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who recently stepped down after nearly a decade on the commission.

 

A TWITTER CLICK: Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty officially assumes command of U.S. Army Cyber Command. We've got more on Fogerty here.

 

ON TAP FOR THE WEEK:

Congress is back in session this week, and immigration, tariffs and pardons appear poised to dominate lawmakers' attention.

Here are some things we're looking out for on the tech and cyber fronts:

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerEurope a cautionary tale for privacy, not a guiding light Dustbin 2020: The best Dems who surely won’t get the nomination WikiLeaks says Senate panel requested Assange testimony for Russia probe MORE (D-Va.) will speak at an IBM/Axios event over tech's responsibility on Tuesday morning.

The House Homeland Security Committee will mark up a series of bills Wednesday, including one from Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) designed to help DHS protect industrial control systems (ICS) from cyber threats, as well as a resolution offered by ranking member Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonTSA needs to answer important questions on 'Quiet Skies' program Dems demand Trump admin officials testify on election security Hillicon Valley: Trump denies Russian meddling at presser with Putin | Republicans join in criticism of Trump | FCC chief rejects Sinclair-Tribune merger | Uber faces probe over gender discrimination | Social media execs headed to Capitol MORE (D-Miss.) directing DHS to submit documents to Congress on cyber threats posed by Chinese telecom firm ZTE.

The Senate Homeland Security will hold a hearing on countering drone threats on Wednesday.

The House Science Committee is holding a hearing Thursday on the electric grid of the future.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Google's complicated relationship with Wikipedia. (Motherboard)

How the alt-right organizes in Disqus comment threads. (BuzzFeed)

High rents in San Francisco are now hitting the National Park Service (The Hill.)

The Pentagon is taking over the federal government's security clearance process. (Associated Press)

A summit between Trump and Putin? It might happen. (The Wall Street Journal)

Five years after his leaks, Snowden has no regrets. (The Guardian)

The FBI is investigating the hack of former RNC official Elliott Broidy's emails. (The Daily Beast)