Hillicon Valley: State officials share tech privacy concerns with Sessions | Senator says election security bill won't pass before midterms | Instagram co-founders leave Facebook | Google chief to meet GOP lawmakers over bias claims

Hillicon Valley: State officials share tech privacy concerns with Sessions | Senator says election security bill won't pass before midterms | Instagram co-founders leave Facebook | Google chief to meet GOP lawmakers over bias claims
© Getty Images

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.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland). And CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

STATE OFFICIALS PRESS SESSIONS OVER DATA PRIVACY, TECH GIANTS' MARKET POWER: Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' Trump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy MORE met with a group of state attorneys general on Tuesday to discuss concerns about the tech industry's practices, following allegations from Republicans of anti-conservative bias.

According to attendees, Sessions raised the issue of how Silicon Valley handles political speech, the intended focus of the meeting. But many of the attorneys general instead put the spotlight on data privacy and concerns about market power.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I've got to say that the AGs were much more focused on privacy and the use of personal information, the extent of full disclosures and the commercialization of that personal information," said Karl Racine (D), the attorney general for Washington, D.C., in a phone interview.

That sentiment appeared to cross party lines.

"It was mentioned very briefly, but we intentionally tried to move towards the issues of consumer protections and antitrust," added Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R). "It was not our intent from any of the attorneys general to have that kind of discussion."

Who was there? Nine state attorneys general attended the meeting on Tuesday morning and five other states were represented by top officials. Some of the most senior officials at the Justice Department were also present, including Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Mueller rejoins DC law firm Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it MORE and Makan Delrahim, the assistant U.S. attorney general for antitrust.

The meeting had raised alarm in Silicon Valley.

Read more here.

Things don't get better tomorrow: Staff from Silicon Valley companies including Amazon, Twitter and Apple are set to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee over data privacy concerns. The committee likely won't come in with the same edge the DOJ has against tech companies, but given the climate on Capitol Hill regarding tech firms, it's probably not a meeting tech wants to have right now.  

 

SECURE ELECTIONS ACT A NO-GO BEFORE MIDTERMS: Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordMcConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Election security funds passed by Senate seen as welcome first step Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts MORE (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that a bipartisan election security bill won't be passed by Congress ahead of November's midterm elections.

Lankford told The Hill that the text of the bill, known as the Secure Elections Act, is still being worked out. And with the House only being in session for a limited number of days before the elections, the chances of an election security bill being passed by then are next to none.

"The House won't be here after this week so it's going to be impossible to get passed," Lankford said of the bill.

The legislation, which aims to protect elections from cyber attacks, was initially set to be addressed by a Senate committee last month. But the mark-up was abruptly postponed by Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy Senators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security MORE (R-Mo.) over a lack of Republican support and after some state election officials shared concerns about the bill, a GOP Senate aide told The Hill at the time.

The White House was also critical of the legislation, saying that it "cannot support legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections."

The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Warren leads in speaking time during debate MORE (D-Minn.), who has urged lawmakers to take steps to secure U.S. elections. The Hill has reached out to her office for comment.

Read more here.

 

GOOGLE CEO TO MEET WITH GOP LAWMAKERS: Google CEO Sundar Pichai is set to meet privately with Republican lawmakers this week amid GOP accusations that the search engine is biased against conservatives.

"I look forward to meeting with members on both sides of the aisle, answering a wide range of questions, and explaining our approach," Pichai said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

News of the meeting comes after Google recently snubbed the Senate Intelligence Committee, which had requested that the company send a top executive to provide congressional testimony. Google offered up its vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, but committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrJuan Williams: Trump, the conspiracy theory president Blood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security MORE (R-N.C.) said Walker was not senior enough for the purposes of the hearing.

Hearing incoming: According to The Wall Street Journal, Pichai will testify before House Judiciary Committee hearing later this year. The choice of committee is notable given its membership includes Reps. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertConservative lawmakers demand Schiff's recusal from Trump impeachment inquiry Louie Gohmert's exchange with Robert Mueller revealed an uneasy relationship Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (R-Texas) and Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingIowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats Ocasio-Cortez rips Steve King after he shares video drinking from toilet-fountain hybrid at border Steve King says he drank from toilet at detention center MORE (R-Iowa). The two have defended Gateway Pundit, a far-right website known for having pushed hoaxes and false stories, something most Republicans haven't touched. The committee is seen as less favorable to tech companies than the Energy and Commerce Committee, which Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before earlier this month.

Read more here.

 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SEEKS INPUT ON PRIVACY FRAMEWORK: The Trump administration wants the public's perspective on its approach to consumer data privacy protection.

On Tuesday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration agency said that it is seeking input in its privacy plan to address the growing challenges that comes "as technology becomes more complex, interconnected, and integrated into our daily lives."

"The Trump Administration is beginning this conversation to solicit ideas on a path for adapting privacy to today's data-driven world," said NTIA head David Redl.

The administration's proposed approach currently includes transparency in data collection policies, strong control for users over their own data and accountability for user data that companies hold.

Warm industry welcome: "This is a positive step toward modernizing our laws, so they better align with user expectations and enable the technology driving our future," said Dean Garfield, President of the Information Technology Industry Council, a lobbying group that represents the interest of companies such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook.

The Software & Information Industry Association, another tech lobbying group, said that it was "pleased" with the NTIA's call for public comment.

The industry might still be happy because no legislation or regulations, which they usually don't like, are on the table just yet. If that happens, the warm welcome might wane.

Read more here.

 

STEALING BITCOIN BIT BY BIT: Cyber criminals are ratcheting up efforts to target devices with cryptocurrency malware, according to a new report.

Cybersecurity firm McAfee found that the use of cryptocurrency mining malware increased by 86 percent during the second quarter of 2018. The increase continues a trend that has already escalated over the past few months.

Christiaan Beek, the lead scientist and senior principal engineer with McAfee Advanced Threat Research, said that in the past few years devices like internet routers have emerged as possible targets for cryptomining.

Bitcoin has a $232 billion market, and approximately $1.5 billion worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen in the past two years, according to McAfee.

"Today, the tremendous volume of such devices online and their propensity for weak passwords present a very attractive platform for this activity," Beek said in a statement. "If I were a cybercriminal who owns a botnet of 100,000 such [internet of things] IoT devices, it would cost me next to nothing financially to produce enough cryptocurrency to create a new, profitable revenue stream."

Read more here.

 

REMINDER! DON'T BRING YOUR WORK HOME WITH YOU: A former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who pleaded guilty last year to removing classified materials from the agency's offices has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Sixty-seven-year-old Nghia Pho of Ellicott City, Md., originally pleaded guilty in December, with The New York Times reporting that he was the NSA employee working in the agency's hacking division who was targeted by Russian spies in their theft of the NSA's hacking toolkit.

"Pho's intentional, reckless and illegal retention of highly classified information over the course of almost five years placed at risk our intelligence community's capabilities and methods, rendering some of them unusable," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement from the Justice Department.

"Today's sentence reaffirms the expectations that the government places on those who have sworn to safeguard our nation's secrets. I would like to thank the agents, analysts and prosecutors whose hard work brought this result," he added.

According to the Times, Pho took home classified documents in both digital and print form, and accessed some of them on a computer containing antivirus software from Kaspersky Labs, a Russian company thought to have been used by state-sponsored hackers to access computer systems.

Kaspersky has denied that it intentionally aided espionage efforts, but the company's software was banned from all federal government computers by the Trump administration following the incident.

Read more here.

 

INSTAGRAM COFOUNDERS STEP DOWN OVER DIFFERENCES WITH FACEBOOK: Two of Instagram's co-founders reportedly left Facebook on Tuesday as the result of a falling out with Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHouse investigators receive initial documents from top tech companies Hillicon Valley: Warren turns up heat in battle with Facebook | Instagram unveils new data privacy feature | Advocacy group seeks funding to write about Big Tech Warren turns up heat over Facebook's ad rules MORE, reports NBC.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom and Chief Technical Officer Mike Krieger left their posts at the image-sharing app on Tuesday. The two sold Instagram to Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion.

The split reportedly came amid Systrom's growing frustration with Zuckerberg's treatment of Instagram.

"Kevin [Systrom] has been super-pissed-off at Mark," a top Facebook source reportedly told NBC News.

Read more here.

 

TWITTER WANTS TO KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU HUMAN: Twitter is calling on its users to help shape its rules on what it considers "dehumanizing language."

The move comes as a part of Twitter's new push to change its user policy by broadening its restrictions and enforcement against hate speech on its platform.

"Language that makes someone less than human can have repercussions off the service, including normalizing serious violence," said Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's legal, policy and trust and safety chief, and Del Harvey, the company's vice president of trust and safety.

They acknowledged that while their hate speech rules already cover some of this type of content, "there are still Tweets many people consider to be abusive, even when they do not break our rules."

Read more here.

 

HOUSE NEWS: Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Democratic debate starts with immediate question on Trump impeachment White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.) appointed Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation Hillicon Valley: Senate passes bill to boost cyber help for agencies, businesses | Watchdog warns Energy Department failing to protect grid | FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector MORE (D-R.I.), co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission created under the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2019

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: If the NSA is handing out folders, we want one.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will have a hearing at 10 a.m. on "Countering China: Ensuring America Remains The World Leader in Advanced Technologies and Innovation."

The Senate Commerce, Energy, and Science Committee will also have a hearing at 10 a.m. on "Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy."

The Senate Armed Services Committee will have a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on "Cyber Operational Readiness of the Department of Defense."

And the Wilson Center is hosting "Hack The Capitol," a two-day long event that will feature cyber experts that will discuss a range of topics like protecting America's Industrial Control Systems.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Now Walmart is doing blockchain too. (The New York Times)

Candidates hit snooze button on hacker threat, saying defending cyberattacks is hard. (McClatchey)

Fight for the Future's new net neutrality voter guide.

NY comedian says Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneMeet Trump's most trusted pollsters 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Judge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges MORE offered to help pay legal fees after ID'ing him as WikiLeaks source. (The Hill)

Solicitor general could take over Mueller probe if Rosenstein exits. (The Hill)

How Charlottesville forced Reddit to clean up. (The Guardian)

Facebook blew off U.N. over calls to murder human rights worker.  (The Intercept)

Spotify, Deezer and others call for stronger EU action against U.S. rivals. (Reuters)