Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Senate moving to kill FCC’s internet privacy rules | Bill Gates pushes for foreign aid | Verizon, AT&T pull Google ads | Q&A with IBM’s VP for cyber threat intel

Greg Nash

SENATE STARTS WORK ON BLOCKING FCC BROADBAND PRIVACY RULES: The Senate on Wednesday began debating a measure that would allow it to eliminate the Federal Communications Commission’s rules barring internet service providers from using consumer information without their consent.

The rules passed by the FCC in October prevent broadband companies from selling “sensitive” consumer information like app usage data and web browsing history to third parties like advertisers.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who offered the Congressional Review Act resolution (CRA), called the FCC’s passage of the rules “unsettling,” and a “bureaucratic power-grab.”

Flake also argued that consumers are already protected by section 222 of the Communications Act, which provides some rules on what data telecommunications companies can collect from consumers.

{mosads}”Passing this CRA will send a powerful message that federal agencies can’t unilaterally restrict constitutional rights and expect to get away with it,” Flake said.

Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) delivered a lengthy rebuttal on the Senate floor.

“Passing [the CRA] will take consumers out of this driver’s seat and place the collection and use of their information behind a veil of secrecy, despite rhetoric surrounding our debate today suggesting that eliminating these common-sense rules will better protect consumers’ privacy online or will eliminate consumer confusion,” Nelson contended.

“It will create a “privacy free” zone for broadband companies – with no federal regulator having effective tools to set rules of the road for collection, use, and sale of uniquely personal information,” Nelson continued.

The Senate’s vote tonight will be the first step in killing the rules. Flake’s resolution will likely receive a vote on final passage tomorrow. The CRA will then need to be passed in the House next and subsequently signed by President Trump.

Please send your tips, comments and your most regrettable bracket picks to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and Harper Neidig (hneidig@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland@hneidig  and @HilliconValley. We’re also on Signal. Email or DM us for our numbers.

GATES LOBBIED LAWMAKERS ON FOREIGN AID: Bill Gates met with several Congressional leaders on Tuesday to discuss foreign aid and global health issues. Gates’s representatives did not specify which lawmakers Gates was meeting with, but reporters from The Hill saw Microsoft’s founder entering the offices of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

In his Capitol Hill meetings, Gates stressed the potential impact that budget cuts could have on programs backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to a Gates Foundation spokesperson. These programs include efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to contain malaria and to deliver vaccines.

“Cuts to these high-value, high-impact programs could put millions of lives at risk,” said a Gates Foundation spokesperson. Gates also “raised the importance of expanding access to economic opportunity and education here at home,” the spokesperson said.

Read more here.

UBER STICKING BY KALANICK: Uber executives signaled Tuesday that they are standing by the company’s embattled CEO, Travis Kalanick, following recent controversy surrounding the ride-hailing service, including accusations that it has a workplace culture of sexism.

“It’s clear that both Uber and the whole ride-sharing industry would not be where we are today without Travis,” Arianna Huffington, a member of Uber’s board of directors, said during a call with reporters. “And I’m personally a big believer in leaders, people, companies, being allowed to evolve,” she added.

Uber hired former Attorney General Eric Holder last month to lead an investigation into the company’s workplace after a former female engineer revealed in a widely read blog post that she had witnessed rampant sexism during her time at Uber.

Read more here.

AT&T, VERIZON PULL GOOGLE ADS: AT&T and Verizon are pulling out of certain Google advertising services over concerns that their ads would appear alongside content promoting hate speech and extremism. Google was forced to announce changes to its ad policies this week after a Financial Times report showed that major companies’ ads were appearing alongside YouTube videos from hate groups, anti-Semites and other extremist sources.

“We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” an AT&T spokesman said in a statement Wednesday. “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”

“Verizon is one of the largest advertisers in the world, and one of the most respected brands,” added a Verizon spokesman. “We take careful measure to ensure our brand is not impacted negatively. Once we were notified that our ads were appearing on non-sanctioned websites, we took immediate action to suspend this type of ad placement and launched an investigation.”

Read more here.

CYBERSECURITY Q&A: Caleb Barlow, Vice President of Threat Intelligence at IBM spoke at today’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on cybersecurity. We caught up with him for a quick Q&A on the topic after the hearing.

Augmenting cybersecurity progress with AI:

With a lot of these new technologies — with any new technologies, there is the kind of spin on the positive and negative. We’re talking about how do you find the needle in the stack of needles. You need to augment the people with tools who can dig through all these events and correlate them with the 60,000 security blogs that are coming out every month, the 10,000 security papers and actually read them all, because people can’t read them all. We’re finally at the point with Watson where we can augment with some of the best people we have, and Watson can find things they can’t find just because how hard it is to sort through that much information.

On stopping the biggest threats with data sharing:

“It’s really easy in the security industry to get enamored by threats, particularly when we get involved with nation-state actors that gets quickly sensationalized. The reality is what we’re dealing with is highly organized and sophisticated cyber-criminal gangs. We’re all getting robbed here, regardless of what country we come from. We can mitigate that by better threat sharing. If we all inform each other of what criminal gangs are doing at speed, then we change our economics. And if we change our economics they’re not incentivized to hack us in the first place. If we can get that noise out of the system, we can solve 80 percent of the problem. What’s required is continuing to step forward and sharing that intelligence data.”

On getting people to share data on cyberthreats:

“The first thing is that we need to appeal to people’s philanthropic nature. If you’re not sharing, not only what happens to you, but how it happens to you, then you are absolutely apart of the problem. I think it on all of us to start to use terminology like that and appeal to the greater good. In addition to that, I think there are incentives that governments can create to get people to share data. Whether it’s discounts on products that people care about or other governmental incentives to get people to share threat data. A lot of times it’s just getting people over the hump of realizing how important this is.”

On mitigating the skills gap in cybersecurity:

“I think one thing we have to rationalize is that there’s 1.5 million cybersecurity jobs that will be unfilled by 2020. If you look at this industry, there’s very few minorities. There’s only 10 percent women. It’s completely unacceptable. There’s opportunities to fix it. Clearly, universities can do more in having degree programs and entire departments. We also have to go down to community colleges. Even deeper than that I think there’s an opportunity here for new collar jobs, jobs where people don’t have a traditional four year degree in computer science, but maybe they’re coming in with a linguist background. We can work with them to adapt their capabilities and adapt it with cognitive computing to help us fight this battle.” 


The Open Technology Institute will hold an event on ranking digital rights at 9:30 a.m.

The FCC will hold its monthly open meeting at 10 a.m.


House Oversight grills law enforcement on facial recognition tech

Elon Musk isn’t pleased with the new NASA funding bill

Smaller firms wait for WikiLeaks to fulfill info-sharing promise

Axios: Linkedin’s new trending news section

Facebook announces that users will be able to broadcast live from their computer

Tags Bill Nelson Charles Schumer Eric Holder Jeff Flake

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video