Overnight Tech: FTC nominees promise focus on data breaches | FCC chair backs SpaceX broadband project | AT&T wants antitrust chief to testify in merger trial

Overnight Tech: FTC nominees promise focus on data breaches | FCC chair backs SpaceX broadband project | AT&T wants antitrust chief to testify in merger trial
© Greg Nash

FTC NOMINEES PROMISE FOCUS ON DATA BREACHES: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE's nominees for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are vowing to make data breaches a top priority for the agency if they are confirmed.

"They're becoming much more significant, much more frequent, and I think that's a real serious concern for us and I think we need to pay much more attention to it," Joseph Simons, a Republican antitrust lawyer nominated to chair the agency, told lawmakers at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday.

The issue has been getting renewed attention following a year in which companies including Equifax and Uber revealed massive data breaches that exposed millions of consumers.

The Equifax breach gave hackers sensitive personal information on more than 145 million people. Last year, Yahoo also revealed that all of its 3 billion accounts were affected in a 2013 hack.

The FTC, which is tasked with enforcing consumer protection and antitrust laws, has been operating with just two of its five commission seats filled since Trump took office over a year ago. The two current commissioners are holdovers from the Obama administration.

Wednesday's hearing was a small step toward returning the agency to full strength.

Trump nominated Simons and three others -- two Republicans and one Democrat -- to the FTC last month. He still needs to nominate one more Democrat.

Along with Simons, Trump nominated Noah Phillips, an aide to Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Blumenthal: Kavanaugh nomination should be withdrawn Cornyn takes on O'Rourke over AR-15s MORE (R-Texas); Christine Wilson, a Delta Airlines executive; and Rohit Chopra, the sole Democrat in the group and a recent fellow at the Consumer Federation of America.

The tech world has been watching the agency closely. The FTC will soon be the top watchdog for an open internet following the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) repeal of the net neutrality rules. That move ceded jurisdiction over competition for internet service providers to the FTC.

Read more here.


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


FCC CHAIR BACKS SPACEX BROADBAND PROJECT: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is backing a proposal from Elon Musk's SpaceX to provide broadband using satellites.

"To bridge America's digital divide, we'll have to use innovative technologies," Pai said in a statement Wednesday. "Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach."

Pai also said the proposal would increase competition among internet service providers, and he encouraged the agency's commissioners to approve an application from SpaceX to begin the project.

According to the FCC, if the proposal is approved, it would be the first time an American company has been given permission to use low-Earth orbit satellites for providing broadband.

Read more here.


AT&T SAID TO WANT DOJ ANTITRUST CHIEF TO TESTIFY IN MERGER TRIAL: AT&T wants to call the Justice Department's top antitrust official as a witness in the trial over its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner, according to The New York Times.

AT&T is asking for Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim to testify and is also seeking phone, email and other communications between Delrahim and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: DOJ concerned about suppression of free speech on college campuses Faith communities are mobilizing against Trump’s family separation policy Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lands book deal MORE.

AT&T declined to comment to The Hill about the report.

In November, the Justice Department sued to block the proposed merger, claiming it would lessen competition and harm consumers.

But the merger's supporters and others have questioned if the decision was political, citing President Trump's criticism of the merger on the campaign trail and repeated attacks on CNN, which is owned by Time Warner.

Read more here.


HOUSE PANEL APPROVES FCC REAUTHORIZATION: The House Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved a bill reauthorizing funding for the Federal Communications Commission.

The bill would also allocate funds to television and radio broadcasters affected by the FCC's incentive auction, which repurposes broadcast airwaves for wireless providers. It also would implement a number of process reforms aimed at making the agency run more efficiently.

"By making sure we properly relocate broadcasters displaced in the incentive auction, we add further legitimacy to future spectrum actions and other improvements in communications policy," Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill GOP turns its fire on Google Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon MORE (R-Ore.), who chairs the committee, said in a markup hearing Wednesday.

Read more here.


INTEL OFFICIALS WARN AGAINST CHINESE DEVICES: Intelligence agency officials are warning Americans against buying phones from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE due to concerns they could be used to spy on people.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday there is a risk in letting companies with strong ties to the Chinese government operate within the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, CNN reported.

None of the top officials from the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on global terror threats this week said that they would recommend the Chinese-made phones to Americans.

Read more here.


EXPERTS WORRY ABOUT US LAGGING BEHIND CHINA IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE RACE: China's public intention to become the world leader in the development of artificial intelligence has many in the United States questioning what the U.S. government is doing to protect the country's dominant position in the AI race.

U.S. technology companies, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, still lead foreign rivals in AI technology. But some observers say the U.S. government has sat on the sidelines. In November, recently retired Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt said the federal government needs to "get its act together" on AI.

Schmidt isn't alone. In Washington, lawmakers say the White House needs to step up its AI policy.

"We don't have a national strategy. The people who should be leading the national strategy are the White House," said Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyMcAuliffe won't rule out 2020 run in Iowa campaign swing Did Congress just settle for less than best plan to reform housing finance? 2020 Dems jockey for position before midterm elections MORE (D-Md.), co-chairman of the Congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus. "China has a national strategy."

Read more here.



The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and cryptocurrency regulations at 9:30 a.m.

The American Enterprise Institute will hold an event on Internet of Things security with Sen. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu, (D-Calif.) at noon.

The Center for Democracy & Technology and American Constitution Society are holding an event on the Supreme Court case, United States v. Microsoft at 2:00 p.m.

Next Century Cities will hold an event on broadband with Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooJudiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Graham: Who paid for Kavanaugh accuser's polygraph test? Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms MORE (D-Calif.) at 3:00 p.m.

The Federal Communications Bar Association will hold a Privacy and Data Security Committee event on robocalling at 6:00 p.m.



Axios: Big money eyes the Big Tech debate

The Guardian: Residents and city councils losing out because of Airbnb

Reuters: Walmart goes to the cloud to close gap with Amazon

Bloomberg: Amazon's Jeff Bezos can't beat Washington, so he's joining it: The influence game

The Intercept: Wikileak's internal chat

SBS News: Revenge porn bill passes in Australian Senate with deepfake provisions