Hillicon Valley: California eyes tough net neutrality law | Trump taps chief for DHS tech research arm | Huawei hits back at US restrictions | Republican wants Google antitrust probe | Ex-cyber worker charged with trying to sell stolen tech

Hillicon Valley: California eyes tough net neutrality law | Trump taps chief for DHS tech research arm | Huawei hits back at US restrictions | Republican wants Google antitrust probe | Ex-cyber worker charged with trying to sell stolen tech
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland).


JUDGE TOSSES LAWSUIT ALLEGING TRUMP, RUSSIA CONSPIRED TO HACK: A district judge on Tuesday evening tossed out a lawsuit alleging the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians and WikiLeaks to publish hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the 2016 presidential race.

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the suit largely on the basis of jurisdiction, arguing the plaintiffs did not successfully tie the Trump campaign's actions to D.C.


"Campaign meetings, canvassing voters, and other regular business activities of a political campaign do not constitute activities related to the conspiracies alleged in the complaint," Huvelle wrote. "The same is true of the fact that the Trump Campaign's foreign policy team was based in the District. Its mere presence here, without it undertaking overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracies, does not represent a suit-related contact."

Huvelle did not take an official position on the merit of the suit's claims.

The background deets: The lawsuit, filed last year by two DNC donors, Roy Cockrum and Eric Schoenberg, and a former DNC employee, Scott Comer, alleged the campaign, along with former Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneHow would a Biden Justice Department be different? Matt Gaetz, Roger Stone back far-right activist Laura Loomer in congressional bid Barr: The left 'believes in tearing down the system' MORE, worked with Russia and WikiLeaks to publish their hacked information, violating their privacy.

Read more here.


CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS STRIKE DEAL ON NET NEUTRALITY BILL: California lawmakers have reached an agreement over net neutrality legislation that would implement some of the strongest state regulations since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed its own rules last year.

The bill, which only applies to consumers in California, would prohibit internet service providers from blocking, throttling or speeding up websites or applications. It would also require broadband companies that do business with the state to abide by net neutrality principles.

One big detail: What sets the legislation apart from other state net neutrality laws and the now-defunct FCC rules is a ban on internet service providers "zero rating" services and websites that they own. Zero rating is a practice in which providers make it so that certain applications don't count against customers' data caps.

That provision was included in a bill put forth by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) that passed the state Senate but was held up in the state Assembly.

Why is this important? Net neutrality supporters think that Wiener's bill was the gold standard for state laws and even for the next attempt at federal regulations. But it's also sure to invite a court challenge from the broadband industry for defying the FCC's preemption provision on states passing their own net neutrality laws.


-ICYMIcheck out our previous story on the nationwide effort among state Dems to fill the void left by the FCC's repeal.

The agreement announced Thursday would merge Wiener's bill with an earlier one put forth by state Sen. Kevin de León (D).

"After Donald Trump's FCC obliterated net neutrality, we stepped in to protect California residents and businesses and to ensure an open internet," Wiener said in a statement Thursday. "For months, we have worked with a broad coalition to pass strong and enforceable net neutrality protections. As internet service providers and media companies like AT&T and Time Warner consolidate, net neutrality is more important than ever."

Read more here.


TRUMP TAPS OFFICIAL FOR DHS TECH OFFICE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE on Thursday announced that he is tapping William Bryan, an Army veteran and former Department of Energy official, to lead the Department of Homeland Security's technology research and development arm.

Bryan has been serving as undersecretary of science and technology at the department in an acting capacity since May 2017. Trump's decision will allow him to formally assume the position, if confirmed by the Senate.

What does the office do? The department's Science and Technology Directorate spearheads research and development of emerging technologies, working with the private sector and academia to develop and test high-tech security solutions.

We have the story here.


EX-CYBER WORKER ACCUSED OF SELLING STOLEN TECH FOR MILLIONS: A former employee of an Israel-based cybersecurity firm that sells advanced smartphone surveillance software has been charged in Israel with stealing sensitive technology and trying to peddle It on the dark web for $50 million.

Israel's Ministry of Justice on Thursday said that the actions of the unnamed individual, who worked for Israel-based NSO Group, had the potential to harm national security, according to the Times of Israel.

The accusation: The suspect, who was arrested in June, allegedly downloaded software and information belonging to the NSO Group while still working there. The individual then unsuccessfully tried to sell the information to a would-be buyer on the internet, demanding $50 million in virtual currency in exchange for the data. That potential buyer then reported the incident to the company, which contacted police.

What is the NSO Group? The company, based in Israel, develops and sells sophisticated smartphone surveillance technology to governments. The company attracted scrutiny last year over allegations that it sold its advanced "Pegasus" spyware to the Mexican government which was then used to spy on journalists, anti-corruption activists and other citizens.

Read more here.


HUAWEI PUSHES BACK: Huawei is fighting back against some of the negative claims that U.S. government officials have been making about it in recent months.

In a Thursday filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Chinese phone company focused on recent moves by the agency to restrict rural carriers from purchasing telecommunications equipment made by Huawei and other Chinese companies.

Huawei, with the help of telecommunications economist Allan Shampine, argued that in imposing new rules the agency could hurt poor, rural communities.

"These high costs, which would particularly harm Americans in remote and low-income areas, cannot be justified by the supposed national security benefits of the proposed rule, because these are speculative," Huawei wrote.

The company argued that some rural providers would likely stop participating in the Universal Service Fund (USF), an FCC program that subsidizes broadband and telecommunications services and equipment for low-income households and communities.

Huawei said that it would make more sense for them to do this, than to "rip out and replace their core network." Many small, rural providers rely on Huawei equipment.

Read more here.


HOUSE REPUBLICAN CALLS FOR GOOGLE ANTITRUST PROBE: A House Republican is joining a growing group of lawmakers, most of them Democrats, who are calling for regulators to crack down on Google's market dominance.

Rep. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaIndiana attorney general loses reelection bid after groping allegations Bottom Line Lobbying world MORE (R-Ind.) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice asking the agencies to probe whether the internet giant is suppressing competition through its data-collection and search practices.

"These market conditions are in part what prompted European regulators to take action against Google," Rokita wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Axios. "It is time for your agencies to reopen reviews of Google to ensure that its business practices comply with the law."

Background: Last year, the European Union issued a record $2.7 billion antitrust fine against Google for elevating its own comparison shopping service over rivals' in its search results. European regulators also have two other ongoing antitrust investigations into the company.

The FTC closed a similar probe into Google in 2012 without imposing any fines. Rokita noted Thursday that the company has grown significantly since the last investigation, securing even more control over the internet search and advertising markets.

Read more here.


MORE RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE FEARS: A Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he is worried that the Russians "never left," raising the specter that Moscow is looking to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections through cyber or other means.

"I am concerned that the Russians never left," Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyHillicon Valley: Three arrested in Twitter hack | Trump pushes to break up TikTok | House approves 0M for election security House-passed funding package includes 0M for election security upgrades 2020 Global Tiger Day comes with good news, but Congress still has work to do MORE (D-Ill.) told CBS News when asked about his concerns about threats to November's midterms. Quigley also alleged that Russia-linked hackers breached "somewhere between 20 and 40 state board of elections," including the Illinois voter database in 2016. And he said that states are not prepared for future interference efforts by Russia.

Quigley made the comments in an interview with Michael Morell, host of CBS News's "Intelligence Matters" podcast and former acting director of the CIA.

More here.


CATCHING PHISH: The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that it is transitioning new mobile device phishing protection capabilities to users in the government and private sector, in an effort to better protect devices from evolving cyber threats.

The department's Science and Technology Directorate helped fund a new, enhanced platform produced by Lookout, a cybersecurity firm based in Silicon Valley that focused on mobile device security. The new platform is currently available for iOS and Android. It boasts a new phishing protection feature that blocks mobile phishing attacks aimed at stealing a user's passwords or delivering malware.

"These advancements in mobile threat defense will protect sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information, on mobile devices and enterprise networks and greatly increase the security of the federal government's mobile systems for mission-critical activities," Vincent Sritapan, who manages Homeland Security's mobile security research program, said in a statement.


EU VOTES DOWN COPYRIGHT LAW: The legislative body of the European Union on Thursday voted against a law that would have significantly reformed copyright rules on the internet.

The European Parliament rejected legislation that would have implemented harsher copyright enforcement rules online. Opponents of the measure warned it could alter the future of the web.

The bill, which passed through committee last month, would have required companies like Google and Facebook to buy licenses from news media companies before running links to their stories on their platforms.


FACEBOOK APOLOGIZES FOR LABELING PART OF DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AS HATE SPEECH: Facebook apologized to a Texas newspaper after it initially flagged a post of the text of the Declaration of Independence as hate speech.

The Liberty County Vindicator in Texas posted excerpts from the document on its Facebook page in the days leading up to the Fourth of July holiday.

The newspaper received a notice that one portion of the document was removed, likely because of a passage that refers to "merciless Indian savages."


NEW LEADERSHIP AT ZTE: Chinese telecommunications company ZTE has reportedly named a new chief executive and other leaders as it seeks to comply with U.S.-imposed requirements to get back in business in the country.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Xu Ziyang, who previously oversaw ZTE's business in Germany, will serve as CEO. The company's new leadership comes just a few days after its previous board of directors resigned.

The Journal reported that the swift change indicates ZTE is hurrying to meet requirements laid out by the U.S. Commerce Department as part of a deal to allow the Chinese phone-maker to do business in the United States again.


LONGREAD OF THE DAY: The New Yorker's Adrian Chen profiles "Ice Poseidon" one of the most famous I.R.L. (In Real Life) streamers. Ice, whose real name is Paul Denino, streams his life to hundreds of thousands of obsessive viewers everyday.


A LIGHTER CLICK: The NBA's only hope.



Trump only gave Chinese cellphone maker ZTE a stay of execution, Georgetown professor Arthur Dong writes in The Hill.

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo asks why employees at Twitter haven't organized while their peers at Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Salesforce have.



Mueller said to tap more career Justice Department prosecutors in Russia probe. (Bloomberg)

Motherboard obtains emails showing cops talking about phone hacking tools (well, sort of).

Police face backlash for using computers to predict crimes. (Associated Press)

Amazon takes a page from Toys 'R Us and will put out toy catalogs. (Bloomberg)

One of your faithful Hillicon Valley newsletter writers talks about facial recognition technology on Atlanta public radio. (GBP)

How cheap smartphones siphon user data in developing countries. (The Wall Street Journal)