Hillicon Valley: House chair seeks emergency briefing on wireless industry's data sharing | AG nominee to recuse himself from AT&T-Time Warner merger | Dem questions Treasury, IRS on shutdown cyber risks

Hillicon Valley: House chair seeks emergency briefing on wireless industry's data sharing | AG nominee to recuse himself from AT&T-Time Warner merger | Dem questions Treasury, IRS on shutdown cyber risks

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. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig).

 

SO MUCH FOR USING THE SHUTDOWN AS AN EXCUSE: The new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is requesting an emergency briefing from the Federal Communications Commission regarding its oversight of the mobile wireless industry following a report on how mobile providers share their users' location data.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Dem chairwoman plans hearing on Medicare for all proposals House Republicans question mobile carriers on data practices MORE (D-N.J.) wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying a briefing was necessary as soon as possible even though the agency is not in operation due to the government shutdown.

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"This briefing should explain why the Federal Communications Commission has yet to end wireless carriers' unauthorized disclosure of consumers' real-time location data and what actions the FCC has taken to address this issue to date," Pallone wrote in his letter.

"An emergency briefing is necessary in the interest of public safety and national security, and therefore cannot wait until President TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE decides to reopen the government."

The request comes after tech news outlet Motherboard published this week a report detailing how easy it is for precise location data from certain carriers to be bought and sold.

The site gave $300 and a phone number to a bounty hunter, who was then able to track down the location of a T-Mobile user within a few hundred feet.

The bounty hunter did it by buying the location data from a company called Microbilt that had obtained it from a third-party location aggregator, which in turn had received it from T-Mobile. Read more here.

 

STEPPING BACK TO MOVE FORWARD: William Barr, President Trump's nominee for attorney general, promised to recuse himself from the Department of Justice's lawsuit to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, according to a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Klobuchar dismisses mock campaign logo as something from 'very enthusiastic supporter' Grandson's note to Barr during confirmation hearing goes viral MORE (D-Minn.) announced on Friday that Barr, who served on Time Warner's board until recently, made the assurance to her in a private meeting this week.

"As Ranking Member of the Antitrust Subcommittee and as someone deeply concerned about maintaining a marketplace that benefits consumers, it is critically important that the Justice Department is able to complete an unbiased review of the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger," Klobuchar, a critic of the $85 billion deal, said in a statement. "Given Mr. Barr's ties to Time Warner, this commitment from Mr. Barr to recuse himself from the Department's review is necessary."

Last year, a federal judge approved the merger after a six-week long court battle. The Trump administration appealed the decision but not before the two companies closed the deal. More on the recusal here.

 

A TAX-ING SHUTDOWN: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenIRS waiving penalty for some in first filing season under Trump's tax law Mobile providers at center of privacy storm Hillicon Valley: House chair seeks emergency briefing on wireless industry's data sharing | AG nominee to recuse himself from AT&T-Time Warner merger | Dem questions Treasury, IRS on shutdown cyber risks MORE (D-Ore.) on Friday pressed the Treasury Department and IRS about possible cyber risks facing taxpayers, questioning whether the threat of identity theft is increasing amid the partial government shutdown.

Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinIRS waiving penalty for some in first filing season under Trump's tax law Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MIT removed Russian oligarch from board following sanctions from Treasury Department MORE and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking them about what impact the shutdown is having on their operations and if there are any cyber implications.

"Is there increased risk of taxpayer ID theft if lRS tries to maintain normal operations during a shutdown?" Wyden, who's also the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, asked in the letter. "For example, if IRS is working with a skeleton staff as a result of the shutdown, is there an elevated risk that cyber criminals filing fraudulent returns with stolen taxpayer identities will be able to steal taxpayers' refunds? Will IRS be able to detect, let alone thwart, these fraudulent attempts?"

The letter comes amid a shutdown that is now in its 21st day, tying it for the longest in U.S. history. More on Wyden's concerns here.

 

WARNER'S WARNINGS: Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLeaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Mobile providers at center of privacy storm Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks MORE (D-Va.) is asking the Trump administration to not let the ongoing government shutdown impact the approval process for security clearances for federal employees.

In a letter Friday to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Former PepsiCo CEO being considered for World Bank chief post: report Ivanka Trump to help pick new World Bank president, but will not be one of the candidates MORE and Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Margaret Weichert, Warner noted that the background investigations include a review of individuals' personal finances.

"Today, federal employees at agencies that lack an appropriation have missed their first paycheck due to the government shutdown, and may be unable to make payments on rent, mortgage, credit cards, or other debts," Warner wrote. "This could impact their credit scores and thus jeopardize their ability to secure or maintain a clearance or hold a position of trust."

He urged the officials to consider the lapse in government funding when examining clearance applicants' finances.

"While I understand that departments and agencies have discretion to consider broader factors that may affect credit (like a government shutdown), I ask you to issue clear and public guidance that departments and agencies may in no way penalize employees' clearances or determinations of trustworthiness if their credit is effected by the shutdown," Warner wrote.  

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Will 2019 be the year we finally stand up to China?

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Look closely. +1 shot.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

More new iPhones to come in 2019. (The Wall Street Journal)

More than 80 TLS certificates for government sites have expired during the shutdown. (ZDNet)

More than 202 million resumes of Chinese users were exposed online. (ZDNet)