Hillicon Valley: Cohen stuns Washington with testimony | Claims Trump knew Stone spoke to WikiLeaks | Stone, WikiLeaks deny | TikTok gets record fine | Senators take on tech over privacy

Hillicon Valley: Cohen stuns Washington with testimony | Claims Trump knew Stone spoke to WikiLeaks | Stone, WikiLeaks deny | TikTok gets record fine | Senators take on tech over privacy
© Greg Nash

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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).


COHENPALOOZA ON THE HILL: Michael Cohen on Wednesday directly alleged that the president knew ahead of time that Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDOJ backs ex-Trump campaign aide Richard Gates's probation request Schiff says investigators seeking to identify who Giuliani spoke to on unlisted '-1' number What if impeachment fails? MORE, the Republican operative who worked as an informal adviser to Trump's presidential campaign, coordinated with WikiLeaks to dump a tranche of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the 2016 presidential race.  

"I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of DNC emails," Cohen said in the prepared remarks.


"A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes," he continued.

Cohen claims that Trump spoke to Stone on speakerphone, and he overheard Stone saying that Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was planning to dump emails in a couple days that "would damage [Democratic nominee] Hillary Clinton's campaign."


STONE SAYS NO: Roger Stone in a text to The Hill on Wednesday denied Michael Cohen's allegation that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE knew that Stone was in contact with WikiLeaks about the release of damaging Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

"Mr. Cohen's statement is not true," Stone told The Hill.

Stone, who is under a gag order imposed by a federal judge, did not answer further questions about the claims.


DENY, DENY, DENY: WikiLeaks also contradicted Michael Cohen's congressional testimony in a tweet Wednesday, saying that founder Julian Assange never spoke on the phone with Trump adviser Roger Stone.

"WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has never had a telephone call with Roger Stone," WikiLeaks tweeted. "WikiLeaks publicly teased its pending publications on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMore than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls Trump is threatening to boycott the debates — here's how to make sure he shows up Trey Gowdy returns to Fox News as contributor MORE and published > 30k of her emails on 16 March 2016."


DON'T STOP, MAKE IT POP: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday levied a $5.7 million fine against media app TikTok over allegations that it illegally collected personal information about children under 13.

The multimillion-dollar settlement is the largest civil penalty the FTC has obtained in a children's privacy case, commissioners said. It comes as part of a settlement agreement between the agency and TikTok.

The FTC alleged that TikTok violated the federal child privacy law by collecting the "names, email addresses, and other personal information from users under the age of 13" without their parents' permission. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites and apps to obtain parental consent when collecting and sharing data on young users.

"The operators of Musical.ly--now known as TikTok--knew many children were using the app but they still failed to seek parental consent before collecting names, email addresses, and other personal information from users under the age of 13," Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. "This record penalty should be a reminder to all online services and websites that target children: We take enforcement of COPPA very seriously, and we will not tolerate companies that flagrantly ignore the law."

The alleged child privacy violations occurred before Musical.ly merged with TikTok last year. The popular app allows users to create and share lip-syncing videos.

The FTC said the app received "thousands of complaints from parents" about accounts that were created without parental permission. All user profiles on Musical.ly were automatically public, meaning their "profile bio, picture and videos" were available for viewing by other users.

Under the settlement, TikTok must take down all videos from children under 13.

TikTok in a statement on Wednesday said it will now require new users to verify their age and will work to verify the ages of users currently on the profile. The app said it will work to ensure that users under 13 access a "limited, separate app experience" replete with "safety and privacy protections."

Read more on the record fine here.


SENATE TAKES ON TECH OVER PRIVACY: Lawmakers slammed tech industry representatives at a hearing Wednesday as Congress begins work on drafting a federal privacy law.

The Senate Commerce Committee held its first data privacy hearing this year, with lawmakers questioning the industry's support for sweeping federal privacy standards.

Senators from both sides of the aisle noted that the country's largest tech companies previously resisted federal legislation, but in recent years have come out in support of a federal bill. Critics say the industry backs federal standards to preempt tougher state-level rules.

"You have to convince us that your clients really want change in this area," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said, addressing the panel of witnesses. "Because the overwhelming evidence so far is that they're willing to look the other way."

The witnesses included Michael Beckerman, the president of the Internet Association, a trade group that represents almost 50 web companies including Amazon, Google and Facebook; and Victoria Espinel, the president of The Software Alliance, a trade group that includes software makers such as Microsoft and Apple.

The other witnesses included Northeastern University Professor Woodrow Hartzog, a privacy activist; the Retail Industry Leaders Association's Chief Operating Officer Brian Dodge; and Jon Leibowitz, the co-chairman of the 21st Century Privacy Coalition.

"We now realize this data-sharing is not a bug," Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE (R-Tenn.) said. "It is a business, it is a business model, and big tech has made a whole lot of money by exploiting the use of this data.

"You've spent a lot of money fighting this," she added.

More on the hearing here.


PRIVACY DEBATE RAGES ON: Much of the Senate privacy hearing revolved around the debate over "pre-emption" – whether a federal privacy law would override state privacy laws, including California's recent landmark law requiring websites to offer more transparency and control to users. The California law is seen as the toughest data privacy law in the country and many in the industry have pushed against the rules.

Nearly every Republican at the hearing expressed support for a preemption clause, saying it would ensure consumers and companies aren't forced to navigate a "patchwork" of laws that differ state to state.

But Democrats asked whether the preemption push was aimed at disarming California's tough privacy law, which is set to take effect in 2020.

"Are we here just because we don't like the California law and we just want a federal preemption law to shut it down?" asked Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellLet's enact a privacy law that advances economic justice There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Commerce committee. "I find this effort somewhat disturbing ... This is the first thing that people want to organize here in D.C., is a preemption effort."

More here.


THE CYBER COLD WAR: The Kremlin said Wednesday that cyberattacks against Russia are being launched from U.S. territory, but could not confirm reports that the U.S. blocked internet access for a major Russian troll farm on Election Day, Reuters reports.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he did not know the veracity of those reports.


"But in general I can say that U.S. territory is constantly being used to organize a huge number of cyberattacks against various Russian organizations," he said. "That's the reality with which we live."

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the U.S.'s main military cyber operation blocked internet access to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, on the day of the 2018 midterm elections.

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Cybersecurity threats to US infrastructure warrant 'moonshot' response


A LIGHTER CLICK: A midday snack.



Moderating content doesn't have to be so traumatic. (The Verge)

What to expect from 5G phones -- and when. (The Wall Street Journal)

Huawei trolls U.S. by bringing up Edward Snowden. (Gizmodo)

Police in Canada are tracking people's 'negative' behavior in a 'risk' database. (Motherboard)