Hillicon Valley: More problems for Manafort, Mueller | Employees push Google to drop China project | UK lawmakers lay into Facebook | Uber fined for breach | WH hopes for China trade 'breakthrough'

Hillicon Valley: More problems for Manafort, Mueller | Employees push Google to drop China project | UK lawmakers lay into Facebook | Uber fined for breach | WH hopes for China trade 'breakthrough'
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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 CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

MANAFORT, MANAFORT, MANAFORT: It's been a busy 24 hours on the Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNew normal: A president can freely interfere with investigations without going to jail Kremlin: No evidence of election interference in Mueller report Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE beat.

 

BACK IN TROUBLE WITH MUELLER: Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE said in a new filing Monday that Manafort, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE's one-time campaign chairman, violated his plea agreement by lying to federal prosecutors.

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"After signing the plea agreement, Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel's Office on a variety of subject matters, which constitute breaches of the agreement," Mueller's team said in a joint status report with Paul Manafort's defense attorneys filed late Monday.

Mueller's prosecutors asked the judge to schedule a date for sentencing. 

Read more here.

 

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL... Manafort reportedly held private conversations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London around the time he joined then-candidate Trump's campaign team, according to The Guardian.

The paper reported Tuesday that Manafort met with Assange multiple times before the presidential election, as early as 2013 and as late as spring of 2016.

Months after Manafort met with Assange, WikiLeaks released a trove of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee by Russian intelligence officers.

 

MANAFORT HITS BACK: Manafort fired back at the report later Tuesday,

"This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him," Manafort said in a statement through his attorney.

"I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly," he continued. "I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false."

 

WikiLeaks also ripped the Guardian report, saying the organization would bet $1 million there was no meeting between the two men.

"Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation," the WikiLeaks Twitter account posted. "@WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange."

 

How did the White House respond? Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House remains "confident" in its claim that Trump did not do anything wrong regarding Russia during the 2016 campaign, despite the new report of Manafort's meeting with Assange.

 

The big picture: The Hill's Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers look at why the breakdown of Manafort's plea deal could be a setback to Mueller's probe.

 

PUBLIC PROTEST FROM GOOGLE EMPLOYEES OVER CHINA: Dozens of Google employees signed onto an open letter released Tuesday calling for the company to halt the creation of a censored search engine for China.

The project, dubbed "Dragonfly," has been the subject of considerable internal debate at Google, though the letter marks the first time the tech giant's employees have gone public with their opposition.

The letter raises concerns that the search engine will aid China in its state surveillance efforts, including the targeting of minorities, human rights advocates and students.

"Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China," the letter, signed by more than 100 employees so far, states. "We object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be."

"Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions," it adds. 

Read more here.

 

GLOBAL GRILLING FOR FACEBOOK: Lawmakers from around the world tore into Facebook on Tuesday over its handling of a string of recent crises, grilling an executive at the company over CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook says it may have 'unintentionally uploaded' up to 1.5M users' email contacts Tech companies must act to stop horrific exploitation of their platforms The Hill's Morning Report — Combative Trump aims at Pelosi before Russia report MORE's refusal to answer summons.

In a special joint hearing before a United Kingdom House of Commons panel on digital media, Richard Allan, Facebook's vice president of policy solutions, took the full brunt of lawmakers' frustrations with the company as he sat next to an empty chair reserved for Zuckerberg.

When asked how it looked for Facebook's CEO to reject multiple requests for his testimony, Allan, a member of the U.K.'s House of Lords, responded, "Not great." Still, he said it was his decision to testify instead of Zuckerberg.

The hearing, which included representatives from eight other countries, came at a time of mounting pressure for Facebook and showed the level of anger the company is facing from political leaders around the world.

"We don't have Mr. Zuckerberg here today, which is incredibly unfortunate -- I think speaks to a failure to account for the loss of trust certainly across the globe with respect to Facebook and Facebook's users," said Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a member of the Canadian Parliament.

Over the weekend, the British Parliament took the extraordinary and aggressive step of seizing a trove of documents from a U.S. app developer locked in a legal battle with Facebook. The documents reportedly contain correspondence from within Facebook, including between Zuckerberg and other executives.

Read more here.

 

MORE CRITICISM OF FACEBOOK CULTURE: Former Facebook employee Mark Luckie says the company "has a black people problem," which he says exists both at the company's Silicon Valley campus and across its platform.

In a Facebook post made public Tuesday, Luckie outlines his issues with the company that has recently dealt with a number of controversies and explains why he left.

"You can see this reflected in everything from the guest lists of Facebook's external programs, the industry events the company has historically sponsored, the creators and influencers who appear in Explore tabs on Instagram, the power users who are verified on the platforms, and more," Luckie wrote.

Luckie shared the post with all employees at Facebook earlier this month before his departure. Luckie wrote that black employees such as himself are often met with surprise by co-workers who say things like "I didn't know black people worked at Facebook."

Read more here.

 

IT'S A SENSITIVE TOPIC, BUT WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT: A Russian consulting firm indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller is set to ask a U.S. court for permission to internally share information the federal government deems "sensitive."

Concord Management and Consulting LLC said in a motion filed Tuesday that it will argue for releasing the info to Concord officers and employees.

The court document did not say what information Concord wants to share but noted that the judge's decision will "significantly affect the defense position to how it can proceed."

The company and Mueller's office have agreed to file motions and countermotions regarding the disclosure issue through February.

The special counsel's office declined to comment, and Concord's attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Concord is accused of funding a Russian troll farm and has ties to Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a Russian businessman known as "Putin's chef" because of his close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Read more here.

 

FINED: British and Dutch regulators on Tuesday slapped Uber with more than $1 million in fines for failing to adequately protect its customers' information during a 2016 data breach that affected 57 million Uber users worldwide, Reuters reported.

Britain's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) fined Uber $490,760 while the Dutch Data Protection Authority fined the ride-hailing service $678,780. The names, email addresses and phone numbers of millions of Uber users were exposed during the breach, according to Reuters.

The breach affected the majority of Uber riders in the U.K. and 174,000 people in the Netherlands.

"This was not only a serious failure of data security on Uber's part, but a complete disregard for the customers and drivers whose personal information was stolen," ICO Director of Investigations Steve Eckersley said in a statement.

"At the time, no steps were taken to inform anyone affected by the breach, or to offer help and support. That left them vulnerable."

Uber told The Hill it has worked to improve its security mechanisms since the hack two years ago and noted changes in leadership to help with "proper transparency."

"We're pleased to close this chapter on the data incident from 2016," Uber said in a statement. "As we shared with European authorities during their investigations, we've made a number of technical improvements to the security of our systems both in the immediate wake of the incident as well as in the years since.

"We've also made significant changes in leadership to ensure proper transparency with regulators and customers moving forward. Earlier this year we hired our first chief privacy officer, data protection officer, and a new chief trust and security officer. We learn from our mistakes and continue our commitment to earn the trust of our users every day."

Uber last November said that it paid the hackers $100,000 to destroy the stolen information instead of notifying regulators or the customers affected, Financial Times reported.

More on the fines here.

 

WHITE HOUSE HOPING FOR TRADE 'BREAKTHROUGH' WITH CHINA: Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Tuesday expressed hope President Trump could achieve a "breakthrough" with Chinese President Xi Jinping on trade at an upcoming summit meeting, even as the U.S. president threatened Beijing with additional tariffs.

"President Xi has an opportunity to change the tone and the substance of these talks. It's a big opportunity. President Trump has indicated he is open. Now we need to know if President Xi is open," Kudlow told a group of reporters at the White House.

Trump and Xi plan to have dinner together on Saturday in Argentina at the Group of 20 (G-20) economic summit amid escalating trade tensions between the world's two largest economies. Read more here.

 

SHOP TILL YA DROP: Cyber Monday on track to set U.S. online shopping record.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: What NASA's InSight probe could tell us about life on Mars.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Memeafort.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

More small companies avoid IPOs, sapping U.S. economy's vitality. (The New York Times)

All the winners and losers from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (Bloomberg)

It's official: China's e-commerce king is a Communist. (The Wall Street Journal)

The socialist memelords radicalizing Instagram. (Vice)

Mobile broadband is faster than Wi-Fi in 33 countries. (The Verge)