Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Justices rule states can force online retailers to collect sales tax | Google's new privacy features | White House plan aims to tackle cyber workforce gap

The Cyber and Tech overnights have joined forces to give you Hillicon Valley, The Hill's comprehensive newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.


Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland), on Twitter. Send us your tips.


LANDMARK SUPREME COURT RULING ON ONLINE SALES TAX: A new Supreme Court ruling today could upend a major advantage e-commerce companies like Amazon have had over brick-and-mortar retail stores.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court overturned a 1992 court precedent barring states from requiring businesses that have no physical presence in the state to collect their sales taxes.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who delivered the decision Thursday, said that the exemption didn't make sense in light of the rise of digital firms.

"Between targeted advertising and instant access to most consumers via any internet-enabled device, 'a business may be present in a state in a meaningful way without' that presence 'being physical in the traditional sense of the term," Kennedy said.

"A virtual showroom can show far more inventory, in far more detail, and with greater opportunities for consumer and seller interaction than might be possible for local stores."

The court's decision upholds a 2016 South Dakota law that requires online retailers to collect sales tax if they make at least $100,000 annually in sales in the state or conduct at least 200 transactions a year with its residents.

Companies like Wayfair, Overstock and Newegg challenged the law, arguing that eliminating the 1992 precedent could create chaos for online retailers who would have to navigate a myriad of tax codes across the country.

Trump's reaction: President Trump who has repeatedly lashed out at the biggest online retailer of them all, Amazon, hailed the decision.

"Big Supreme Court win on internet sales tax - about time! Big victory for fairness and for our country. Great victory for consumers and retailers," Trump wrote on Twitter.

More here.


WHITE HOUSE UNVEILS PLAN TO REORGANIZE GOVERNMENT: The White House on Thursday unveiled a sweeping plan to reorganize how the federal government is structured.

The reform plan rolled out Thursday by the Office of Management and Budget makes addressing the federal government's cybersecurity workforce shortage among its priorities. It sets forth actions for OPM, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon to take to address the issue.

From the report: "The Federal Government struggles to recruit and retain cybersecurity professionals due to a shortage of talent along with growing demand for these employees across the public and private sectors," the report outlining the reform plan states.

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), working in coordination with all Federal departments and agencies, will establish a unified cyber workforce capability across the civilian enterprise," it continues. "This Administration will work towards a standardized approach to Federal cybersecurity personnel, ensuring Government-wide visibility into talent gaps, as well as unified solutions to fill those gaps in a timely and prioritized manner."

We've got more on the plan here.


GOOGLE ROLLS OUT NEW PRIVACY, SECURITY FEATURES: Google on Thursday rolled out new Google Account features for Android users designed to bolster security and make it easier for users to manage their privacy settings.

The new settings build on the "Security Checkup" introduced last fall by offering personalized recommendations designed to help users improve the security of their accounts; for example, users could be reminded to remove unverified applications allowed to access their account data.

Google is also introducing a new search function that lets users more easily find account information and change settings, such as changing one's password, in addition to a dedicated support section to help users make changes to their settings.  

The technology giant is also rolling out new privacy options "to help you better understand and take control of your Google Account."

The company, for instance, says it is making it easier for users to find activity control settings under the "Data & Personalization" tab, where they can identify what data on their activity is saved on their account.

Why this is notable: Tech companies like Facebook and Google have faced heightened scrutiny over data privacy following revelations about Cambridge Analytica improperly accessing data on some 87 million Facebook users.

Details on Google's changes here.


COURT ALERT: Reality Winner, the 26-year-old federal contractor accused of leaking classified documents to a news outlet, has entered into a plea agreement with the government, court filings show. A plea hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday morning in federal court in Georgia, where Winner has been charged. The former NSA contractor is alleged to have leaked a classified report on Russian interference in the election to the news outlet The Intercept. She was charged with one count of violating the Espionage Act last June.


FORMER CYBER CZAR VISITS CAPITOL HILL: Rob Joyce, the former White House cybersecurity coordinator, made a rare appearance on Capitol Hill Thursday to participate in the Capitol Hill National Security Forum.

Joyce, who now serves as a senior adviser on cybersecurity to NSA Director Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, participated in a panel discussion alongside other U.S. national security officials and Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) on technology and innovation in the intelligence community. They discussed the challenges facing the federal government in implementing new technologies, among other topics.

Joyce abruptly announced in April that he would vacate his position at the White House to return to the NSA. Joyce had served as cybersecurity coordinator for about a year and was on detail from the NSA. Shortly after he left the White House, the administration eliminated the cybersecurity coordinator position.


INTEL CEO RESIGNS OVER RELATIONSHIP WITH EMPLOYEE: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned after the company learned that he had engaged in a consensual relationship with another employee, the tech giant announced Thursday.

The company said that it had been told of a past relationship between Krzanich and another employee and that an investigation revealed that the CEO violated the company's "non-fraternization policy" for its executives.

"Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel's values and adhere to the company's code of conduct, the board has accepted Mr. Krzanich's resignation," Intel said in a statement.


GOOGLE EMPLOYEES BOYCOTTED SECURITY PROJECT: A group of Google engineers earlier this year boycotted a project that would have helped the company secure valuable government contracts, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

The group was concerned about the prospect of getting involved in building military technology, former and current employees told Bloomberg.

The project was building "air gap" technology, a security feature that physically isolates computers so that they can't be touched by outside networks.


TWITTER NABS ANTI-ABUSE STARTUP: Twitter announced Thursday that it will acquire a startup focused on reducing digital abuse, a longtime problem for the micro-blogging platform.

The company, Smyte, focuses on building technology to prevent fraud and abuse on digital platforms.

"From ensuring safety and security at some of the world's largest companies to specialized domain expertise, Smyte's years of experience with these issues brings valuable insight to our team," Twitter said in a post.


LONG(ISH) READ OF THE DAY: Silicon Valley employees are up in arms about how their companies are handling some controversial issues and their work with the government. In particular, Microsoft's contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Google's work with the Pentagon (which the company said it will drop) have received pushback from the companies' employees.

Wired writes about the growing outrage over some of these issues in Silicon Valley and asks if the anger is selective.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Just when you think your kids are growing up #toofast.



Some who sued Equifax over last year's data breach are finding success. (The New York Times)

The Secretary of Homeland Security cast the Trump administration as tougher on hackers than Obama. (CyberScoop)

"State election officials didn't know about Russian hacking threat until they read it in the news, emails show." (The Intercept)

News outlets are still embedding tweets from Russian trolls. (CNN)

Twitter locks accounts of users posting Splinter News story featuring Stephen Miller's number. (BuzzFeed)

Alleged Tesla saboteur defends himself as a whistleblower.

IBM urged Senate Health Committee leadership to pass the Perkins Act, which is set for a markup next Tuesday.

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