Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection | 21M affected by Timehop breach | Zuckerberg passes Buffett on rich list | Latest on Twitter's bot crackdown

Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection | 21M affected by Timehop breach | Zuckerberg passes Buffett on rich list | Latest on Twitter's bot crackdown
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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland).

 

LAWMAKERS PRESS APPLE, GOOGLE ON SMARTPHONE DATA COLLECTION: Lawmakers are pressing tech giants Apple and Google for more information on their data collection practices, wondering whether their smartphones collect location or audio data on unsuspecting consumers.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to executives at both companies on Monday for more information about the data collection capabilities of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, raising potential privacy concerns.

The lawmakers, led by committee Chair Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHammond pardons raise fears of emboldened anti-government extremists Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump fly home on Pence donor's private jet Overnight Energy: Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked standoff | EPA takes step to replace Obama climate rule | Pruitt's lead spokesman out at EPA MORE (R-Ore.), cited a November 2017 report in Quartz alleging that Android devices collect location data on users even if location services and other network capabilities are disabled -- information that is ultimately sent back to Google.

Consumers, they wrote in both letters, "have a reasonable expectation of privacy when taking active steps to prevent being tracked by their device."

"Considering that many consumers likely believe that a phone that lacks a SIM card, or one for which they have affirmatively disabled location services, WiFi, or Bluetooth – such as through turning on 'Airplane Mode' – is not actively tracking them, this alleged behavior is troubling," the lawmakers wrote.

Read more on their questions here.

The bottom line: The letters represent the latest effort by lawmakers in Washington to scrutinize how tech companies collect, use and share data on their consumers, months after the controversy surrounding Cambridge Analytica and the Facebook user data it obtained. One thing is clear: Lawmakers aren't satisfied with the answers they are getting.

 

FTC DEM HIRES TECH CRITIC: Federal Trade Commission Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra is bringing a prominent critic of the technology industry's massive and ever growing power.

Chopra announced on Monday that he is hiring Lina Khan as a legal fellow in his office. Khan previously worked at Open Markets, a Washington, D.C. think-tank known for its critical positions of the sheer size and power of companies like Amazon and Google. Khan herself authored a well-received paper arguing that Amazon is a monopoly.

Her paper, titled  "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox," makes the case that while Amazon doesn't trigger normal antitrust considerations, it instead is an example of a new type of monopoly. In the paper, she proposes potentially breaking up Amazon or regulating it like a public utility.

Read more here.

 

ANOTHER DATA BREACH: Timehop, the application that resurfaces old photos and posts on Facebook, on Sunday revealed that hackers had compromised the personal data of millions of its users.

The attackers, according to a preliminary investigation of the breach, stole roughly 21 million email addresses and names from Timehop during an attack last Wednesday, which took place on the Fourth of July.

From those affected users, the hackers also gained access to roughly 4.7 million phone numbers, the company wrote in a Sunday blog post.

The hackers' access to phone numbers adds an additional risk to those affected -- phone numbers are increasingly used in "two-factor authentication" to boost security in a number of instances, from resetting passwords to authenticating account logins.

Aggressive hackers could potentially use a phone number to get around security firewalls and continue to cause more harm.

Despite this, the company says it has no evidence that "any accounts were accessed without authorization."

"It is recommended that you take additional security precautions with your cellular provider to ensure that your number cannot be ported," the company adds.

Timehop also says while none of the "memories," or photos from social media, were taken, nor were private messages and financial data, "access tokens" could've been compromised -- meaning hackers may be able to view users' Facebook posts on their own walls. To read more, click here.

 

WHAT YOU WATCH IS CONSIDERED DATA: A new top executive at HBO says they want to encourage more hours of engagement because they aggregate more data that way, The New York Times reports.

"I want more hours of engagement. Why are more hours of engagement important? Because you get more data and information about a customer that then allows you to do things like monetize through alternate models of advertising as well as subscriptions, which I think is very important to play in tomorrow's world," John Stankey, who now oversees HBO in his new role as Warner Media's chief executive, said during a recent town hall with some of the company's employees.

 

SCOTUS PICK COMING MONDAY NIGHT: President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE is poised to announced his choice to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court Monday night. At least one of the finalists, Brett Kavanaugh, is being scrutinized for his past opinions regarding data privacy. Notably, Kavanaugh in 2015 defended the NSA's now-defunct warrantless bulk phone metadata collection program exposed by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks. At the time, Kavanaugh argued that the warrantless collection was consistent with the Fourth Amendment. As the Washington Examiner reports, the opinion has triggered criticism from civil liberties advocates. Keep up with The Hill's full coverage of Trump's announcement here.

 

ZUCK PASSES BUFFETT ON RICH LIST: Facebook co-founder Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergViolence in Myanmar poses major test for Facebook US, EU must work together in wake of Facebook data breach Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection | 21M affected by Timehop breach | Zuckerberg passes Buffett on rich list | Latest on Twitter's bot crackdown MORE has surpassed Warren Buffett to become the third-richest person in the world, according to an index of billionaires.

Zuckerberg, with $81.6 billion, jumped ahead of Buffett, $81.2 billion, as Facebook shares rose by 2.4 percent, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index on Friday.

Why it's notable: It is the first time that the three wealthiest people on the list have come from the technology sector, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates topping the list at $142 billion and $94.2 billion, respectively.

While Facebook stock hit an eight-month low of $152.22 in late March after massive scrutiny over the company's handling of user data, its shares closed Friday at $203.23, a record.

Buffett has slid in the rankings due to his charitable giving, which he kicked off in 2006, while Zuckerberg has promised to donate 99 percent of his Facebook shares to charity in his lifetime. More here.

 

TWITTER'S CRACKDOWN: Twitter has sharply increased the number of suspensions it's dolling out amid criticism over harassment and fake accounts.

Twitter suspended over 70 million accounts in May and June, and has booted profiles at a similar pace so far this month, according to data obtained by The Washington Post that was published on Friday.

The rate of suspensions has doubled since October when Twitter began to receive heightened scrutiny after reports on the extent to which its platform was manipulated by Russian trolls seeking to intervene in the 2016 election. But Twitter has long been criticized over its use by terrorists and their sympathizers, as well as for abuse and harassment against users.

Some have speculated that Twitter has been reluctant to kick users, even fake ones off, out of concern of hurting its user growth numbers, which would likely impact its bottom line and stock value. Read more.

 

… AND TRUMP WEIGHS IN: President Trump on Saturday floated the idea of Twitter dumping major national news publications including The New York Times and The Washington Post as the social media platform removes "fake" accounts.

"Twitter is getting rid of fake accounts at a record pace. Will that include the Failing New York Times and propaganda machine for Amazon, the Washington Post, who constantly quote anonymous sources that, in my opinion, don't exist," Trump tweeted. "They will both be out of business in 7 years!"

 

ON TAP THIS WEEK:  

Verified Voting and the Brennan Center for Justice are hosting a congressional briefing on election security in the U.S. Capitol Tuesday afternoon.

And speaking of election security ... the Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing on the topic Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m., which will feature two panels of federal officials and private sector representatives.

... and the House Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing on the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to secure elections at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: Duck, duck, duck… you're it!

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Surely we can find, and stop, high-tech spies. (The Hill)

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Washington's Metro subway system is vulnerable to cyberattacks. (The Washington Post)

Two individuals were convicted in New York for illegally trading on hacked corporate press releases. (Reuters)

fitness app leaked location data on military personnel. (ZDNet)

A Chinese company is handed a hefty fine for stealing trade secrets from a U.S. tech company. (Associated Press)

Macy's alerts customers to 'suspicious' cyber activity. (Detroit Free Press)

Israeli firm Cellebrite wants to crack open IoT devices. (CyberScoop)