Overnight Tech: Official resigns, employee fired over Hawaii fake missile alert | Employee thought drill was real attack | Amazon teams up to cut health costs | Feds subpoena major bitcoin exchange

Overnight Tech: Official resigns, employee fired over Hawaii fake missile alert | Employee thought drill was real attack | Amazon teams up to cut health costs | Feds subpoena major bitcoin exchange
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EMPLOYEE FIRED OVER FALSE HAWAII MISSILE ALERT: The head of Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency has resigned and the employee who issued a false missile alert to the state earlier this month has been fired, officials announced Tuesday.

Vern Miyagi, the agency's administrator, resigned effective Tuesday, State Adjutant General Joe Logan said at a news conference alongside Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D).

Bruce Oliveira, the state's lead investigator on the incident, said the employee responsible for issuing the false alert had confused exercises for actual events in the past. According to Oliveira, the employee became confused after realizing that he had issued the false alert and a colleague had to take over his responsibilities.

Read more here.


MORE... FALSE MISSILE ALERT SENT BY EMPLOYEE WHO THOUGHT DRILL WAS REAL: The employee who sent a false emergency alert of an incoming missile on Hawaii earlier this month did not realize it was a drill and thought the attack was real, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigators announced on Tuesday.


The Jan. 13 cellphone message sent to residents on the island led to a state-wide panic, with many people believing they had moments to spare before a ballistic missile hit Hawaii. The message told them to "SHELTER IN PLACE" and that "THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

The alert was not corrected for nearly 40 minutes.

FCC investigators on Tuesday blamed the mistake on a miscommunication between the employee who issued it and supervisors who were announcing a drill.  

According to their preliminary report, a supervisor's recorded message included the phrase "exercise, exercise, exercise" but also mistakenly included the phrase "this is not a drill."

A day-shift warning officer, the FCC said, heard the message but not the words "exercise, exercise, exercise" and, believing that it was an actual emergency, issued the false missile alert to the entire state.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at a commission hearing said the findings show that Hawaii's emergency agency did not have adequate safeguards in place to prevent false warnings, nor did it have a proper procedure for quickly correcting mistakes.

"Every state and local government that originates alerts needs to learn from these mistakes," Pai said at an FCC meeting. "Each should ensure that it has adequate safeguards in place to prevent the transmission of false alerts, and each should have a plan in place for how to immediately correct a false alert."

Read more here.


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FCC VOTES TO IMPROVE DELIVERY OF EMERGENCY ALERTS: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday voted to require wireless providers to deliver more geographically precise emergency alerts after a string of natural disasters.

Wireless services will now be required to deliver alerts to an entire geographic area designated by government officials that overlaps with their coverage networks. They will also be restricted from sending alerts more than 0.1 miles outside that area.

Officials say delivering more precise alerts will make them more effective because cell phone users will likely only see warnings that apply to them and take them more seriously. Supporters of the change say it will also encourage local authorities to use the alert system.

The changes that passed Tuesday were proposed before the false missile alarm in Hawaii.

Read more here.


REGULATORS SUBPOENA MAJOR BITCOIN EXCHANGE: U.S. regulators are probing one of the world's largest cryptocurrency trading platforms with ties to a controversial digital currency.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sent subpoena letters last month to Bitfinex, a cryptocurrency exchange, and Tether, a company that offers digital currency that it says is tied to the value of the U.S. dollar, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. 

Tether has long been a target of skepticism in the cryptocurrency community, with critics speculating that Tether doesn't actually hold enough dollar reserves to back up the claim that the cryptocurrency's value is tied to the dollar. 

Cryptocurrency markets sunk significantly on Tuesday in reaction to the news.

Bitfinex and Tether are closely linked and share the same CEO, Jan Ludovicus van der Velde.

"We routinely receive legal process from law enforcement agents and regulators conducting investigations," Bitfinex and Tether told Bloomberg in a statement. "It is our policy not to comment on any such requests."

Tether's coins have become a popular substitute for U.S. dollars within cryptocurrency exchanges. Instead of selling cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin or Ethereum, and potentially incurring higher fees and longer transaction times, investors can easily swap their holdings for Tether within an exchange.

Read more here.


AMAZON, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY, JPMORGAN CHASE PARTNER FOR HEALTHCARE COMPANY: Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced on Tuesday that they're working together to create a new health-care venture for their own staff aimed at "improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs."

The three say that they will create a new, independent company "free from profit-making incentives and constraints" to reduce health-care costs for their employees, according to a statement they released on Tuesday.

"The health care system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty," said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

"Hard as it might be, reducing health care's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation."

Read more here.


HOUSE MEMBERS CLASH OVER BROADBAND: Lawmakers expressed support across party lines for efforts to bolster broadband infrastructure during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Tuesday; however, Democrats and Republicans clashed on how to best approach this goal.

"Despite this rare consensus, Republicans on this committee have decided to unveil a series of partisan bills that don't address the real problems," said the committee's top-ranking Democrat, Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (N.J.).

"They turn bipartisan agreements on their head, unnecessarily pitting urban versus rural, industry versus local governments, and broadband access versus our environment," he continued.

Communications and technology subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE (R-Tenn.) explained the undergirding principle of the 25 bills up for consideration at the hearing as preventing the government from "picking winners and losers in the [broadband] marketplace."

The subcommittee's top Democrat, Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Hillicon Valley: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference Reddit, Google to testify before House panel on tech's legal protections MORE (Pa.), criticized the scope of the hearing and said Republicans are moving too quickly.

"We are considering twenty-five bills at this hearing. I don't remember a time when this committee held a hearing on so many bills with a single panel of witnesses," Doyle said.

Read more on the contentious hearing here.


FACEBOOK BANS CRYPTOCURRENCY ADS: Facebook is banning ads on its platform that promote cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, as well as initial coin offerings (ICOs).

The company says that it wants to keep ads off the site that "promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices."

Ads that violate its new standards will be banned across the company's platforms, including Facebook itself, Instagram and Audience Network, which places ads on many third-party sites.

Read more here.


DOJ, SEC REPORTEDLY INVESTIGATING APPLE OVER PHONE SLOWDOWNS: The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are investigating tech giant Apple over its admission that it released an update designed to slow down older iPhones to improve performance, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.

The investigation reportedly centers around whether the company violated securities laws concerning disclosures on the software update to consumers and investors.

A request for comment from Apple was not immediately answered.

Apple apologized in late December for the update, which slows older iPhones to compensate for decaying batteries, and announced that it would slash the fee for replacing a phone's battery.

Read more here.



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