Overnight Tech: New office at the FCC | Lawmakers get feisty over privacy at hearing | Facebook cracks down on revenge porn

Overnight Tech: New office at the FCC | Lawmakers get feisty over privacy at hearing | Facebook cracks down on revenge porn
© Greg Nash

PAI ANNOUNCES NEW FCC OFFICE: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday announced the creation of a new office focused on economics and data, saying he wants to retool the agency to be more economics-driven.

Pai lamented the prior path of the FCC during a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., arguing that economists should be better utilized.

“Economists are not systematically incorporated into policy work at the FCC,” he said. “Instead, their expertise is typically applied in an ad hoc fashion, often late in the process. There is no consistent approach to their use.”

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Pai said that the new Office of Economics and Data (OED) would provide economic analysis on many of the functions and policy decisions that the FCC considers.

The OED will have three primary focuses: giving early input on FCC decisions; improving management of data, reports and analysis; and taking a long-term approach to the FCC’s policy in areas on the horizon, like the internet of things and increasingly dense wireless networks.

The chairman stressed a market-based approach, saying that the FCC should only create rules and intervene in enterprise in situations in which the economics suggest it’s worth it.

“The FCC should have the economic experts it needs to identify market failures and study whether the benefits of Commission action would be warranted given the costs," Pai said.

The chairman's advocacy is in line with his general push to roll back regulations approved by the FCC under former Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler, opting for policies in favor of less government intervention.

Read more here.

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PRIVACY CLASH AT SPECTRUM HEARING: House members clashed during a hearing on Wednesday over the recent repeal of Obama-era internet privacy regulations. A House Energy and Commerce technology subcommittee hearing focusing on the wireless spectrum economy took a detour when the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), used his opening statement to lash out at the repeal, passed by Republicans and signed by President Trump on Monday.

“Congress didn’t act with much deliberation,” Doyle said. “We didn’t hold hearings or mark up any bills. We ran through legislation under the Congressional Review Act [CRA] — a blunt, draconian instrument — to smash these rules, the only real legal protections that prevented internet service providers from using and abusing our data.”

The bill eliminated a set of Obama-era Federal Communications Commission regulations that required internet service providers to get their customers’ permission before using their data for advertising. It used the CRA, which allows lawmakers to repeal regulations and prohibit agencies from replacing them with similar ones.

Read more here.


FACEBOOK ROLLS OUT ANTI-REVENGE PORN TOOLS: Facebook is rolling out new tools designed to combat the dissemination of “revenge porn” on its platform, it announced Wednesday. The social media giant will use new photo-matching technology to beef up its efforts in keeping intimate images shared without consent off its network.

Facebook will allow users to flag intimate images that appear to be shared without permission on the site. Flagged images will be reviewed by members of its content operations team to be removed if they find it to be in violation of Facebook’s community standards, and the account sharing the image will be reviewed for removal as well. Facebook will also employ a photo-matching tool it’s developed to detect if users try to share that same image that’s been removed, and block them from doing so.

Read more here.


SENATE DEMS GRILL TELECOMS OVER PRIVACY: A group of Senate Democrats is asking top telecom companies to provide details of their privacy policies in the wake of Republicans’ repeal of broadband privacy rules this week. The senators, led by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyUS must act as journalists continue to be jailed in record numbers Warren proposes 'Blue New Deal' to protect oceans There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Mass.), sent letters containing a list of questions about privacy to AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and CenturyLink.

President Trump on Monday signed a bill repealing Federal Communications Commission rules that would have prevented internet service providers from using certain categories of their customers’ data for advertising without their permission. In their list of questions, the senators grill the companies on what their policies are regarding the use of sensitive information for advertising.

Read more here.


LAWMAKERS BRIEFED ON INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: The Trump administration on Wednesday briefed dozens of lawmakers on President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure package, which appears to be quickly moving up as a legislative priority for the administration. About 45 lawmakers heard from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on the infrastructure plan, according to the head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“I spent an hour with Secretary Chao. She came and briefed about 45 members,” Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said during a committee hearing. “She talked about the infrastructure bill and how important it is to the president. Forty-five members were there asking lots of great questions." The meeting only included House Republicans because it appears to have been apart of the House GOP conference's effort to introduce its members to Trump's Cabinet.

Read more here.

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PAI AND OHLHAUSEN DEFEND PRIVACY REPEAL: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen penned a joint op-ed in the Washington Post on Tuesday, defending the GOP’s move to eliminate Obama-era privacy protections imposed on internet service providers. The two Republican agency heads said that he rules unfairly targeted ISPs when web companies, which weren’t covered by the regulations, account for the majority of data-driven advertising on the internet.

“The FCC’s regulations weren’t about protecting consumers’ privacy,” they wrote. “They were about government picking winners and losers in the marketplace. If two online companies have access to the same data about your Internet usage, why should the federal government give one company greater leeway to use it than the other?”


DIVERSITY IN BROADCAST: Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldDemocrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps Black leaders say African American support in presidential primary is fluid MORE introduced the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act in Congress today, which aims to enhance diversity among broadcast owners. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted her support for the bill in statement today.

“Transforming the dismal reality of the present ownership landscape, into a future that offers abundant opportunities for women and minorities will not be an easy task,” said Commissioner Clyburn. “Congressman Butterfield’s legislation is an important step towards greater broadcast ownership diversity and I look forward to working with him and all interested Members of Congress in pursuit of this shared goal.”


ON TAP:

Former Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews will speak on digital trade at CSIS at 10:00 a.m.

The Aspen Institute will hold an event on spectrum at 10:00 a.m.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Net neutrality advocates see hope in privacy loss

Qualcomm wants antitrust case dismissed

The Verge has the details on the new YouTube TV

The founder of the web told the Guardian that the privacy repeal bill was ‘disgusting’

ITI shares its recommendations on conflict minerals

The Verge reports on Verizon’s new ad-tracking plans