Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Trump seeks tech’s help for ‘sweeping’ IT overhaul | FTC looks to block sports fantasy merger | Firm exposes nearly 200M voters’ data


TRUMP MEETS TECH: President Donald Trump met with the CEOs of major technology companies on Monday, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook, asking them to help carry out a “sweeping transformation” of the federal government’s information technology and cybersecurity. 

The meeting was the first of the American Technology Council, a group of tech CEOs whose goal is modernizing the government’s “technology infrastructure.” The meeting marked the beginning of the White House’s “technology week,” aimed at pushing Trump’s policies in that area.

“Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens, stronger protection from cyber attacks, which we were just discussing in the Oval Office with a little bit smaller group,” Trump said at the start of the meeting.

Among the other attendees at the event were Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Palantir CEO Alex Karp. They joined Bezos and Cook and other leaders earlier in the day for a series of working groups led by the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Kushner is personally leading the effort to bring the government’s IT into the 21st century.

“Together we will unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before,” said Kushner, earlier Monday. “We will foster a new set of start ups focused on gov-tech and be a global leader in the field making government more transparent and responsive to citizens’ needs.”

Read more here.


TWITTER ABSENT: After being snubbed from then President-elect Trump’s tech summit at Trump Tower in December, Twitter was not present at today’s meeting. Representatives from the company did not return requests for comment on the matter. In December, Twitter was not invited for apparently slighting the administration by dropping an emoji deal, a source said at the time. The White House disputed this, saying that it was actually because of Twitter’s comparatively small market value. Spicer said in an interview at the time that he would be open to having the social media company potentially attend follow up meetings.


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FTC LOOKS TO BLOCK SPORTS FANTASY MERGER: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said on Monday that it will seek to block an attempted merger between two fantasy sports betting websites, DraftKings and FanDuel.

The FTC said that it has authorized legal action to prevent the merger between the two companies, which are the two biggest platforms in the online sports betting market.

“This merger would deprive customers of the substantial benefits of direct competition between DraftKings and FanDuel,” said Tad Lipsky, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, arguing that each is the other’s most significant competitor.

Read more here.


GOP FIRM EXPOSES NEARLY 200M VOTERS’ DATA: A data analytics contractor employed by the Republican National Committee (RNC) left databases containing information on nearly 200 million potential voters exposed to the internet without security, allowing anyone who knew where to look to download it without a password.

“We take full responsibility for this situation,” said the contractor, Deep Root Analytics, in a statement.

The databases were part of 25 terabytes of files contained in an Amazon cloud account that could be browsed without logging in. The account was discovered by researcher Chris Vickery of the security firm UpGuard. The files have since been secured.

Read more here.


PELOSI WANTS NET NEUTRALITY HEARING IN SF: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai not to repeal the agency’s net neutrality regulations, and calling on him to hold a public hearing on the regulations in her tech-heavy district.

“San Francisco is home to many people building apps, web services and internet-connected devices used locally and around the world,” Pelosi wrote in letter last week that was released by her office on Monday.

“It’s also home to many internet users who would be impacted by the Commission’s proposal. It would be my pleasure to invite you and your colleagues to hold a Public Hearing in San Francisco to hear from my constituents on this important matter.”

Read more here.


JUSTICES STRIKE DOWN LAW BANNING SEX OFFENDERS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA: The Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law Monday that bans registered sex offenders from accessing Facebook and other social media.

The court ruled 8-0 that the law impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment.

In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said a fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, respond.

“While in the past there may have been difficulty in identifying the most important places (in a spatial sense) for the exchange of views, today the answer is clear,” he said. “It is cyberspace — the ‘vast democratic forums of the Internet’ in general and social media in particular.”

Read more here.


GOOGLE BOOSTING COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS: Google’s top lawyer said Sunday that the company is taking new steps to curb terrorist-related content on the internet.

“While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now,” Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, wrote in an op-ed for the Financial Times.

Among the steps being taken, Walker said, will be an increase in the use of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program, which allows users to flag inappropriate content.

Read more here.


AIRBNB AND WORLD REFUGEE DAY: The homesharing service is offering its help to World Refugee Day. Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia will speak in Paris on the matter and is encouraging people to post their homes on the portion of Airbnb’s platform that connects refugees with volunteers willing to house them.



The Senate Commerce technology subcommittee will hold a hearing on rural broadband investment at 10 a.m.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) will host a discussion on autonomous vehicles at 10:00 a.m.

The three FCC commissioners will testify before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government at 2:30 p.m.



Facebook feels the heat

The Mexican government has been using spyware on activists and journalists, the New York Times found

Amazon to purchase Whole Foods for $13.7B

Netflix to join net neutrality ‘day of action’

Gizmodo investigates how an obscure company uses the internet to find out about your medical conditions

Why a former Obama staffer is attending Trump’s tech meeting


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