Overnight Tech: Lawmakers clash over privacy repeal | FCC gets new office on economic data | Facebook cracks down on revenge porn

Overnight Tech: Lawmakers clash over privacy repeal | FCC gets new office on economic data | Facebook cracks down on revenge porn
© Greg Nash

NEW FCC OFFICE: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday announced the creation of a new office at the agency focused on economics and data.

"Economists are not systematically incorporated into policy work at the FCC," Pai said in a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. "Instead, their expertise is typically applied in an ad hoc fashion, often late in the process. There is no consistent approach to their use."

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

The OED will focus on three areas: giving early input on FCC decisions; improving management of data, reports and analysis; and taking a long-term approach to the FCC's policy on emerging issues, 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 when the economics are right.

"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.

Since taking the agency's help, Pai has rolled back a number of Obama-era actions and rules and called for a lighter regulatory touch. Read more here.


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PRIVACY CLASH AT 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 CRACKDOWN ON REVENGE PORN: Facebook is rolling out new tools to combat the dissemination of "revenge porn" on its platform, the company announced Wednesday. The social media giant will use new photo-matching technology to beef up its efforts to keep intimate images that are 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 and removed if found in violation of Facebook's community standards. The account sharing the image will be reviewed for removal as well. Facebook will also employ a photo-matching tool it 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 ON 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 lawmakers, led by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThere's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trump administration drops plan to face scan all travelers leaving or entering US Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide 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 letters, the senators demand answers from the companies on their policies for using 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.

Chao said the plan could come out by late May.

The legislation could include money for building up broadband infrastructure.

Read more here.


AGENGY CHIEFS 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 the 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 (D-N.C.), a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, introduced the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act on Wednesday. The bill aims to boost diversity among broadcast company owners. Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn offered support for the bill in a statement.

"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."



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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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'

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