Hillicon Valley: Senate panel subpoenas Roger Stone associate | Streaming giants hit with privacy complaints in Europe | FTC reportedly discussing record fine for Facebook | PayPal offering cash advances to unpaid federal workers

Hillicon Valley: Senate panel subpoenas Roger Stone associate | Streaming giants hit with privacy complaints in Europe | FTC reportedly discussing record fine for Facebook | PayPal offering cash advances to unpaid federal workers

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).

 

SUBPOENA SIREN: The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed conservative conspiracy theorist and special counsel witness Jerome Corsi, his attorney told The Hill on Friday.

The committee is seeking both an interview and documents from Corsi, an associate of longtime GOP operative and Trump ally Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? Roger Stone invokes gag order in new fundraiser MORE, Corsi's lawyer Larry Klayman said.

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Klayman declined to provide details on the subpoena, which he said was received Thursday, but described it as "overly broad." He also called the subpoena "part of continued harassment from this committee."

The Hill has reached out to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears MORE (R-N.C.) for comment. A spokeswoman for the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTalk grows that Trump will fire Dan Coats Harris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' MORE (Va.), declined to comment.

The panel last year requested documents from Corsi as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Corsi and Klayman publicly rejected the request at the time.

Corsi has been a person of interest in the special counsel's investigation for the past few months. He first publicly revealed last year that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's team had offered him a plea deal for making a false statement to investigators.

He said at the time that he was rejecting the offer, as he didn't believe had purposely lied to the special counsel's office.

Why Corsi is in the spotlight: Corsi has been eyed by the special counsel's office over his ties to Stone, a longtime Trump ally. Both men have faced scrutiny over comments they have made suggesting they had prior knowledge that WikiLeaks would release hacked Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election.

Both have denied having inside knowledge of WikiLeaks actions; Corsi has said that he figured out on his own that they would release the emails, while Stone said he had a source that told him the organization had damaging information that would "roil" the 2016 election. Read more here.

 

MORE PRIVACY COMPLAINTS IN EUROPE: A European privacy activist has filed complaints against a group of streaming services, including Apple, Netflix and YouTube, alleging that they have withheld data collected on their users in violation of the European Union's sweeping new privacy law.

Max Schrems, a noted privacy advocate who leads the group None of Your Business (NOYB), filed 10 complaints on Friday with the Austrian Data Protection Authority against eight companies for allegedly not following the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Under the law, which was implemented in May of last year, users have the right to obtain data collected on them from websites, as well as information on what the data was used for and which third parties it was shared with.

"Many services set up automated systems to respond to access requests, but they often don't even remotely provide the data that every user has a right to," Schrems said in a statement. "In most cases, users only got the raw data, but, for example, no information about who this data was shared with. This leads to structural violations of users' rights, as these systems are built to withhold the relevant information."

Also among those hit with complaints were Amazon Prime and Spotify.

The GDPR requires companies to be more transparent about their data collection practices and give users more control over their own data. It gives users the right to learn about how they're being tracked and to opt out of having their information collected. Read more here.

 

THINGS ARE GOING GREAT: Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced Friday in a company-wide memo that his company will lay off about 7 percent of its total workforce as a result of economic challenges.

In a letter shared with all employees and posted on Tesla's website, Musk pointed to the high cost of his vehicles as a barrier to reaching a larger segment of American consumers and a chief reason for the company's troubles.

"While we have made great progress, our products are still too expensive for most people," Musk told Tesla employees. "We will need to deliver at least the mid-range Model 3 variant in all markets, as we need to reach more customers who can afford our vehicles."

"As a result of the above, we unfortunately have no choice but to reduce full-time employee headcount by approximately 7% (we grew by 30% last year, which is more than we can support) and retain only the most critical temps and contractors," he continued in the memo.

Further design and manufacturing improvements, he added, were necessary if the Tesla was to become a profitable sales model for the company. Read more here.

 

MORE BAD NEWS FOR FACEBOOK: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly considering levying a major fine against Facebook for violating a settlement with the agency over its handling of user privacy.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the five FTC commissioners have met in recent weeks to discuss the potentially record-setting fine and its findings on whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent agreement requiring it to be transparent about its handling of user data.

The largest fine the agency has ever issued was $22.5 million against Google for violating a similar agreement. The Post reported that the fine under consideration for Facebook is expected to be "much larger."

The FTC launched its investigation into Facebook after news broke of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the right-wing consulting firm obtained data on millions of users without their permission. Read more here.

 

OXFORD CUTS TIES WITH HUAWEI: Oxford University has suspended donations and sponsorships from Chinese tech giant Huawei over "public concerns raised in recent months."

The decision comes after Huawei has faced accusations that its equipment could be used for spying. Huawei also faced accusations this week from federal prosecutors in the U.S. that the company was involved in the theft of U.S. trade secrets.

"Huawei has been notified of the decision, which the university will keep under review. The decision applies both to the funding of research contracts and of philanthropic donations," the university said in a statement obtained by the BBC. Read more here.

 

PAYPAL PAYDAY: PayPal will provide up to $25 million in interest-free cash advances to help federal workers going without pay during the partial government shutdown make ends meet.

"Starting immediately, PayPal is offering an interest-free cash advance up to $500, the equivalent of one week's take home, for any existing or new PayPal Credit customers who are federal employees and are struggling to make ends meet," PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said in a USA Today op-ed announcing the effort on Friday.

"We are committing to fund up to $25 million of interest-free cash advances to help federal government employees pay for food, gas and other everyday necessities," he continued. "We hope that this program can provide some relief and certainty in uncertain times."

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Nearly 800,000 federal workers have either been furloughed or are working without pay as a result of the record-long shutdown, which is now in its 28th day. The workers missed their first full paycheck last Friday after previously receiving a slightly reduced check in late December. Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Big art fans here.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Why Jeff Bezos' divorce should worry Amazon investors. (The New York Times)

Driverless cars tap the brakes after years of hype. (The Wall Street Journal)

'Zucked' book takes aim at Facebook. (Axios)

Netflix: Fortnite is a bigger rival than HBO. (The Washington Post)