Hillicon Valley: Feds looking into Bezos claims about National Enquirer | Amazon reconsidering New York City HQ2 move | Sprint sues AT&T over 5G marketing claims

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

 

UH OH, MR. PECKER: Federal prosecutors are reviewing the National Enquirer's conduct after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused the tabloid's parent company of "extortion and blackmail," Bloomberg News reports.

Two sources told Bloomberg News that prosecutors with the Southern District of New York are investigating how the National Enquirer handled its stories about Bezos's extramarital affair.

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The office is probing whether American Media Inc. (AMI), the National Enquirer's parent company, violated the terms of its cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors.

The Southern District declined to comment on the report. A spokesman for AMI did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

AMI entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan attorney's office in September in return for its cooperation in an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE's campaign. Read more here.

 

IN OTHER BEZOS NEWS: Amazon is reportedly reconsidering its plan to build part of its new headquarters in New York City following pushback from area lawmakers and activists.

Two sources familiar with Amazon's plans told The Washington Post that the retail giant is weighing whether it is "worth it" to bring its headquarters to Queens as local politicians and critics, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOmar responds to 'send her back' chant with Maya Angelou quote Trump blasts minority Democrats, rally crowd chants 'send her back' Trump refers to Ocasio-Cortez as just 'Cortez' because it 'takes too much time' to say full name MORE (D-NY.), drum up anti-Amazon fervor.

"The question is whether it's worth it if the politicians in New York don't want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming," one person familiar with Amazon's plans told the Post.

Activists mounted the campaign against Amazon's Queens headquarters last year after the company announced it had chosen New York City to host half of its highly-anticipated "HQ2," which it says will bring 25,000 new jobs to the area. Amazon announced it had chosen to split the headquarters between New York and Virginia after a months-long search in which it asked cities to offer up incentives packages. More on Amazon's thinking here.

 

IT'S THE OG 5G: Sprint is accusing AT&T of misleading customers by marketing its 4G LTE service as 5G, the next generation of wireless technology that is considered years away from being fully realized.

Sprint filed a lawsuit in federal court on Thursday night, arguing that AT&T's new marketing of its "5GE" offerings are false and offer an "unfair advantage" to the company.

"AT&T has employed numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing that it currently offers a coveted and highly anticipated fifth generation wireless network, known as 5G," the lawsuit reads. "What AT&T touts as 5G, however, is nothing more than an enhanced fourth generation Long Term Evolution wireless service, known as 4G LTE Advanced, which is offered by all other major wireless carriers."

"The significance of AT&T's deception cannot be overstated," Sprint added in its filing.

AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said in a statement that the company plans to fight the lawsuit.

"We understand why our competitors don't like what we are doing, but our customers love it," Balmoris said. "We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G. 5G Evolution and the 5GE indicator simply let customers know when their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available." More on the lawsuit here.

 

NOT EVERYONE'S A FAN OF SMART WALLS: Lawmakers in border districts are raising privacy concerns over building a "smart wall" on the southern border, warning that new surveillance technologies could violate the rights of both U.S. residents and migrants.

Democrats and some Republicans have touted using technology to secure the border as an alternative to President Trump's proposed physical wall. But border lawmakers are raising red flags about the consequences of deploying new technologies such as drones, motion sensors, biometric or DNA checks, and facial recognition technology without adequate protections for civil liberties.

"Technology for technology's sake as an alternative to the wall ... [has] got other consequences that are equally as invasive on peoples' rights," Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who represents a district on the border, told The Hill.

Grijalva and others are calling for privacy controls in any deal to build a smart wall.

"I think that has to be walked very, very carefully," he said. "And I think there have to be safeguards on there." More on the smart wall debate here.

 

START YOUR ENGINES: The Senate will hold a hearing later this month on establishing federal internet privacy regulations, an early step towards the nation's first comprehensive consumer privacy law.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand FAA nominee advances to full Senate vote Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, announced on Friday that the panel would hold a hearing titled "Policy Principles for a Federal Data Privacy Framework in the United States" on February 27.

In a statement, Wicker said the hearing would be the first step towards bipartisan legislation.

"In an age of rapid innovation in technology, consumers need transparency in how their data is collected and used," he said. "It is this committee's responsibility and obligation to develop a federal privacy standard to protect consumers without stifling innovation, investment, or competition." More on the committee's plans here.

 

NEW ANTI-THROTTLING BILL IN TEXAS: Lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill that would stop internet service providers (ISPs) from throttling mobile internet service in areas where a disaster declaration has been issued.

KUT 90.5 in Texas reports that state Rep. Bobby Guerra (D) introduced the bill Friday, which would make it a crime for telecommunications companies to impair mobile service to any customers in disaster areas.

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The bill comes amid a dispute in California where the state's attorney general sued Verizon. The telecom giant throttled firefighters' internet service during major wildfires last year and suggested that the state buy a better internet connection when first responders complained. Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Happy hunting.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

UK doctors call for caution in children's use of screens and social media. (The New York Times)

Apple to reward teen as it patches FaceTime bug. (The Wall Street Journal)

Silicon Valley, get ready for your closeup. (Axios)

Instagram bans graphic images of self harm. (Financial Times)