Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license

Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license

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BRIDGING THE ELECTION DIVIDE: A group of Democratic senators and bipartisan secretaries of state from across the nation on Thursday piled pressure for Congress to include funding to help states grapple with holding elections in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a phone call with the press, Democratic Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharLiberal group asks Klobuchar to remove herself from VP consideration because of prosecutorial record Klobuchar on defense as Floyd death puts spotlight on record Officer involved in George Floyd death charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter MORE (Minn.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 MORE (Ore.), and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsVoting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Warren's VP bid faces obstacle: Her state's Republican governor MORE (Del.) stressed the need to send states at least $2 billion to implement increased mail-in voting, expand early voting and hire and train younger poll workers less vulnerable to the virus.

Wisconsin primary fallout: They argued this was particularly important following the Wisconsin primary this week, during which voters were forced to vote in-person following a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court that the state would not be allowed to count absentee ballots mailed in after Election Day. The decision led to long lines and confusion at some polling places in the state. 

"Our goal today is to finally generate real, bipartisan support in the Congress for safe voting so our country does not see another grotesque spectacle like we did this week in Wisconsin," Wyden said. 

The $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE already gave states $400 million for elections, which also included a requirement for states to match the funds by 20 percent. 

But in the face of mounting concerns around elections, state officials said they needed more, and pushed for the 20 percent match to be removed due to lower state revenues. They urged Congress to includes these efforts in the next coronavirus spending bill. 

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"The $400 million appropriated for election administration in the last relief package... it's simply not enough," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) told reporters. "While the COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgent need for federal funding, it also reminds us that we should not wait for a crisis to adequately invest in our election infrastructure and systems."

Some Republicans in favor: The secretaries of state of almost ten other states, including Republicans, joined Padilla in calling for more funds, though they disagreed on whether the funds should be sent to states along with mail-in voting requirements. 

Read more here.

 

ZOOM'S BAD MONTH CONTINUES: The Senate sergeant at arms has sent a memo to senators this week warning them against using the video conferencing service Zoom for work calls, citing security concerns, the Financial Times reported. 

The memo did not specifically require senators to stop using the platform, which has been plagued by privacy and security problems over the past two weeks, but recommended using alternative video conferencing services. 

The sergeant at arms did not respond to The Hill's request for comment on the report.

A Zoom spokesperson told The Hill that the company was "in communication with US Senate offices and focused on providing the information they need, including about our tailored Zoom for Government offering, which is hosted in a separate cloud and meets the particular specifications of FedRAMP security policies, to make informed decisions about their policies."

The spokesperson emphasized that the company "is committed to ensuring the privacy, security and trust of its service for all our users."

Zoom boom: Members of Congress and individuals worldwide have flocked to Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic for work meetings, school classes or social gatherings. The platform reported a huge boost in daily users last month, with 200 million using Zoom every day as compared to 10 million in December. 

But plenty of problems, too: Zoom has also faced a backlash over a multitude of security and privacy vulnerabilities, including issues that have led to hackers or other individuals being able to access and disrupt meetings through "Zoom bombings." Multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed against the company as well amid revelations that Zoom shares user data with third parties including Facebook. 

Read more here.

 

NOT SO FAST: Concerns around the use of personal data to track and halt the spread of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic led senators and tech industry groups on Thursday to urge Congress to ramp up its efforts to put in place a national consumer privacy law. 

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"The collection of consumer location data to track the coronavirus, although well intentioned and possibly necessary at this time, further underscores the need for uniform, national privacy legislation," Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns MORE (R-Miss.) wrote in an opening statement submitted as part of a historic "paper hearing" on big data and the coronavirus. 

Several countries, including China, Singapore and Israel, have already put in place surveillance measures using cellphone data to track those with coronavirus. 

The U.S. and certain European countries have considered similar measures in recent days. Politico reported this week that White House senior advisor Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump's strategy to stay in office Trump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Press: King Donald's goal - no checks, no balances MORE has reached out to health groups to compile a system to track what patients are seeking treatment for.

Privacy advocates have increasingly sounded the alarm, particularly as the U.S. currently has no overriding federal consumer privacy law, despite years of bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to push one through.  

A new type of hearing: The concerns were spelled out in written statements submitted as part of the Senate Commerce Committee's paper hearing Thursday. The hearing did not involve any in-person contact, with written opening statements being submitted online, and members of the committee then given 96 business hours to question witnesses and receive responses. 

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Trump nominee for Consumer Product Safety Commission involved in CDC guidance shelving: AP Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the committee, urged Congress to ensure that any surveillance authorities pushed through addressed privacy, such as through having a defined end date for collecting data, and with a view to address consumer rights. 

"To gain and keep the public's trust about the use of data, a defined framework should be maintained to protect privacy rights," Cantwell wrote. "We must guard against vaguely defined and non-transparent government initiatives with our personal data. Because rights and data surrendered temporarily during an emergency can become very difficult to get back."

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Read more here.

 

MORE SURVEILLANCE ISSUES: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to block the Baltimore Police Department from launching an aerial surveillance program.

The civil rights group argues in the case, filed on behalf of local activists in Maryland District Court, that the program would threaten the rights to privacy and free association for Baltimore residents.

The ACLU is seeking an injunction to block the "Aerial Investigation Research" plan.

Baltimore officials earlier this month voted to approve the rollout of the system, which was developed by the police department and a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems.

The program would send planes flying over the city at least 40 hours a week to almost constantly collect wide-angle photos of Baltimore.

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The pilot program is set to be launched later this month and last for 180 days.

"Putting residents under continuous, aerial surveillance will impact the privacy rights of everyone, but it is especially dangerous for Black and Brown communities," David Rocah, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement.

"Baltimore is a city with a terrible history of racism and lack of accountability for abuses by police. It's the last place a novel system of mass surveillance should be tested."

Read more here.

 

SEE YA: Multiple Cabinet-level federal agencies on Thursday recommended that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revoke authorizations for China Telecom, a state-owned company, to operate services to and from the U.S.

The departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State and Commerce identified national security and enforcement risks with the company's activities that they claim make the "FCC authorizations inconsistent with the public interest."

According to the agencies, China Telecom made inaccurate statements about where it stored its U.S. records, misrepresented its cybersecurity practices and is vulnerable to control by the Chinese Communist Party.

"Today, more than ever, the life of the nation and its people runs on our telecommunications networks," John Demers, assistant attorney general for National Security, said in a statement.

"The security of our government and professional communications, as well as of our most private data, depends on our use of trusted partners from nations that share our values and our aspirations for humanity," he added.

The pressure on the FCC to revoke China Telecom's authorizations comes amid broader scrutiny of Chinese telecommunications companies operating in the U.S.

Read more here.

 

RAISE YOUR GLASS: Drizly, an alcohol delivery company, is booming during the coronavirus pandemic as orders from Americans stuck at home surge and states temporarily relax their liquor laws to help companies meet that demand.

The company saw nearly 1,600 percent growth in year-over-year new customers at the end of March, and CEO Cory Rellas told The Hill he doesn't believe that growth will slow down over the next two months. It's only the start for a company that is looking to build on its recent success to ensure that the eased restrictions on alcohol sales become a permanent fixture.

As more states allow alcohol delivery during the outbreak, Rellas predicts that could lead to long-term changes in consumer behavior as the public grows used to the convenience of home alcohol deliveries.

"Over the last few weeks specifically, consumer awareness of the alcohol e-commerce category has exploded as more and more turn to delivery services as a safer alternative," Rellas said. "We firmly believe that this will lead to a dramatic shift in consumer behavior for the long term. [Consumers] plain and simple will expect this level of service."

Rellas said more states are rethinking their laws.

"There's probably five or six states that are actively reaching out right now saying, 'how do we get up to the status quo of some of the other states who have done this,' " he said. "I actually think this is something that is going to be a much longer-term shift so we need to set this up correctly."

Read more about the new service here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Double trouble

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: New coronavirus legislation shows flaws with patent policy in America

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

New DNC data tool aims to give an edge to campaigns light on tech expertise (Emily Birnbaum and Issie Lapowsky)

Your food delivery app comes at a cost to restaurants (Vox / Daniel Markus) 

World of Warcraft experienced a pandemic in 2005. That experience may help coronavirus researchers. (Washington Post / Jhaan Elker)

General Electric Workers Expand Protests, Now Demand to Make Ventilators Nationwide (Motherboard / Edward Ongweso Jr.)