Hillicon Valley: Google workers join lawmakers against forced arbitration | Cohen to return before House Intel next week | Huawei pleads not guilty to theft allegations | New bill would ban ad targeting by race

Hillicon Valley: Google workers join lawmakers against forced arbitration | Cohen to return before House Intel next week | Huawei pleads not guilty to theft allegations | New bill would ban ad targeting by race
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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. 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) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).


DEMS PUSH TO END FORCED ARBITRATION: Several Google employees joined congressional Democrats on Thursday as they unveiled legislation to end forced arbitration, backing a worker-led push to eliminate a practice that critics argue disempowers employees.

The group of Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), announced the package of bills at a press conference, standing beside workers and citizens who say they have been harmed by forced arbitration clauses.


Six Google employees were among those in attendance at the press conference, including Tanuja Gupta, one of the workers who helped organize the protests last year against the company's handling of sexual harassment cases.

Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News host who sued former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016, was also in attendance, along with workers who were fired from Chipotle after they raised concerns about working overtime and others with personal connections to the issue.

"One of the systems that is truly rigged against consumers and workers and the American people is our current system of forced arbitration," Blumenthal said at the press conference, adding the practice denies people their "basic right" to turn to the court when they feel they have been wronged. Read more on the bill here.


COHEN ROUND TWO: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is planning to return to the House Intelligence Committee to continue his closed-door testimony next week.

"We talked about a lot of things," Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDemocrats call on House committees to probe Epstein's 2008 'sweetheart deal,' suicide Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' Epstein death sparks questions for federal government MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said when asked about what committee lawmakers had learned in the first six hours of Cohen's testimony Thursday. "We are just now getting into some of the more substantive issues."

"He's coming back next week," Speier said, adding Cohen had agreed to come back on Wednesday. Speier declined to go into details about what the interview focused on.

"He is tired, and we've gotten through a quarter [of the questions]," she said.

Cohen confirmed to reporters in brief remarks that he would return on March 6 to finish his testimony. Read more here.


A STORM IS BREWING EUROPE: Ireland's Data Protection Commission expects it will complete the first of its seven planned investigations into various data practices at Facebook by the end of the summer.

Reuters reports that commissioner Helen Dixon told Ireland's RTE radio on Thursday that one of seven investigations into various data breaches and complaints about Facebook's use of user data will finish by summer's end, while the other six should wrap up before the end of 2019.

"I think the first of those will possibly conclude over the summer -- that is our anticipation -- and further of the inquiries will conclude in the latter part of the year," Dixon said.

"We are looking at different aspects of the collection, the transparency and the use of data" at Facebook, she added.

Ireland holds jurisdiction over many tech companies operating in the European Union due to the country's status as a center for tech headquarters across the Atlantic. Microsoft, Yelp and Airbnb also reportedly lead their European operations from Irish facilities.

Read more here.


YEP, THAT SHOULD DO IT: YouTube on Thursday announced that it will no longer allow people to comment on videos featuring young children after an advertiser boycott over concerns that the platform had enabled a "soft-core pedophile ring."

The video-streaming giant in a blog post wrote that it suspended comments on videos featuring "young minors" and those featuring "old minors" that posed a risk of attracting "predatory behavior."

"Over the past week, we disabled comments from tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behavior," YouTube wrote. "These efforts are focused on videos featuring young minors and we will continue to identify videos at risk over the next few months."

According to the blog post, some creators will be allowed to keep comments enabled on videos of children, but they will held to higher standards.

"These channels will be required to actively moderate their comments, beyond just using our moderation tools, and demonstrate a low risk of predatory behavior," YouTube wrote. "We will work with them directly and our goal is to grow this number over time as our ability to catch violative comments continues to improve."

Read more here.


HUAWEI PLEADS NOT GUILTY: The Chinese telecommunications company Huawei pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday to attempting to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile, the Department of Justice announced.

A federal judge in Seattle set a trial date for March 2, 2020 over the charges against the two entities, Huawei Device Co., Ltd. and Huawei Device USA Inc.

The company had been indicted in January as the Justice Department was also bringing charges against Huawei for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

T-Mobile has alleged that Huawei tried to steal information about a proprietary software called "Tappy" which is used to test phones before they hit the market by imitating human fingers.

A spokesman for Huawei declined to comment citing company policy not to weigh in on active litigation.

More on Huawei here.


FTC ANSWERS CRITICS: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) responded to its critics this week by launching a new task force to examine big tech's market power as the agency faces pressure to get tougher on the nation's corporate giants.

The FTC said Tuesday that the new team would be policing for anticompetitive behavior in the tech sector as well as reviewing proposed mergers and ones that have already been approved by the agency.

But the announcement has sparked a host of questions and new criticism for the agency from both tech industry defenders and critics.

The commitment to look at "consummated" mergers suggests the task force could be looking to breakup large tech companies. But those who have called on the agency to do that are waiting for more concrete signs the FTC is serious about cracking down on Silicon Valley.

We break down the reaction to the FTC's move here.


THE LATEST PRIVACY BILL: Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Female Democratic Senate candidates in Colorado ask DSCC to rescind Hickenlooper endorsement Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines MORE (D-Nev.) introduced a data privacy bill on Thursday that would prohibit companies from using data collected on users to discriminate based on race, religion, political affiliation or gender.

Cortez Masto's Digital Accountability and Transparency to Advance (DATA) Privacy Act would expand the authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to set rules defining discriminatory data collection and ad targeting, as well as exact fines from companies found to be engaging in discriminatory practices.

It also would require companies to collect only "reasonable" amounts of data from its users and to give users a way to opt out of collection.


"My legislation takes a proactive approach to protecting consumer data by ensuring Americans have a voice in how their consumer data is used," Cortez Masto said in a statement. "This bill requires companies put data protection and transparency first, while also requiring Congress and our government agencies step up to make the private data of consumers in Nevada, and across the country, a priority for protection."

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: A woman's place in a digital world


A LIGHTER CLICK: How a tech newsletter is made.



Dow Jones' watchlist of 2.4 million high-risk individuals has leaked. (Techcrunch)

India and Pakistan were on the brink of war, but a full-blown online misinformation battle is already underway. (Buzzfeed News)

Why it still feels like Facebook is tracking you, even after all the privacy measures. (The Wall Street Journal) 

Momo is not trying to kill children. (The Atlantic)