Hillicon Valley: Google takes heat at privacy hearing | 2020 Dems to debate 'monopoly power' | GOP rips net neutrality bill | Warren throws down gauntlet over big tech | New scrutiny for Trump over AT&T merger

Hillicon Valley: Google takes heat at privacy hearing | 2020 Dems to debate 'monopoly power' | GOP rips net neutrality bill | Warren throws down gauntlet over big tech | New scrutiny for Trump over AT&T merger
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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).

 

WARREN SETS 2020 TONE ON BIG TECH: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay: AP Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk MORE's (D-Mass.) proposal to break up the country's largest tech companies has set the tone for the Democrats vying for their party's 2020 presidential nomination.

The progressive senator staked her claim as a trustbuster with an ambitious plan to break up companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon. She argued that Big Tech's market power has stifled competition and even democracy.

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"As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people," Warren wrote in a blog post last week, unveiling her plan.

Warren's plan is the most aggressive proposal yet from any candidate in a party that has increasingly pushed a tougher stance on Silicon Valley. Going after tech companies has quickly become a go-to issue for Democrats, whether they're centrists or firebrand progressives.

Warren's proposals against big tech companies are the latest reminder that the party has moved on from the Obama-era days when it actively courted the tech industry and celebrated its ties with entrepreneurs and innovators.

"You go down the list [of candidates] and most of them have staked something out on this issue," said Stacy Mitchell, the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for a tougher crackdown on Amazon and other internet platforms.

A handful of other candidates declined to echo Warren's proposal when asked about it over the weekend. But Democrats have almost universally taken up the idea that Big Tech needs to be dealt with either through regulations on the collection and sale of personal data or by antitrust enforcement.

Read more here.

 

SPARKS FLY OVER NET NEUTRALITY: GOP lawmakers pushed back on Democrats' proposed net neutrality bill at a testy hearing on Tuesday, calling the legislation "extreme" and saying that it would be dead on arrival in the Senate.

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, called the bill a "nonstarter," pointing out that it opens up the broadband industry to regulations that Republicans have long opposed.

"Instead of engaging with us to try to solve the problem, my colleagues have retrenched back to the most extreme position in this debate," Latta said. "[The bill] has no chance of even passing the Senate or being signed into law."

The Save The Internet Act, introduced by Democrats last week, would restore Obama-era regulations on the broadband industry.

Under the Democrats' bill, the broadband industry would be classified as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act -- a designation which opens up the industry to more stringent regulations enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The "Title II" designation has long been a sticking point for Republicans.

The hearing was marked by sharp digs on both sides, with Democrats flexing their powers in the majority while some Republicans directed their criticism toward witnesses on the panel.

Rep. Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoImmigration bills move forward amid political upheaval McCain and Dingell: Inspiring a stronger Congress Hispanic grass-roots groups warn 2020 Dems not to overlook them MORE (D-Fla.) called the bill an "opening offer," indicating that he and other Democrats are open to "amendments" from Republicans on the committee.

Doyle told reporters after the hearing he anticipates a subcommittee markup before the end of the month.

We've got more from the contentious hearing here.

 

THINK OF THE CHILDREN: A bipartisan pair of senators on Tuesday introduced legislation that would prevent tech companies from amassing personal information about teenagers without their consent.

The bill, introduced by outspoken tech critics Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senate passes anti-robocall bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump MORE (D-Mass.) and freshman Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 'time out' on facial recognition tech | DHS asks cybersecurity staff to volunteer for border help | Judge rules Qualcomm broke antitrust law | Bill calls for 5G national security strategy The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE (R-Mo.), would prevent internet companies from targeting ads toward children and require the companies to provide more insight into how they collect and use children's data.

It would also provide parents with an "eraser button" to remove their children's data from particular services.

"Big tech companies know too much about our kids, and even as parents, we know too little about what they are doing with our kids' personal data. It's time to hold them accountable," Hawley said in a statement. "Congress needs to get serious about keeping our children's information safe, and it begins with safeguarding their digital footprint online."

Markey has reintroduced versions of the bill since 2011, but some have speculated it could have legs this session amid heightened concerns about tech companies sucking up vast amounts of data on all users, including children.

What the bill would do: The legislation would update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law authored by Markey that requires tech companies to obtain parental consent in order to collect data on children under 13. The updated bill would add new provisions requiring user permission to collect information on those aged 13 through 15.

The Markey-Hawley bill would also call for any internet-connected devices targeted toward children to meet "robust cyber security standards," addressing emerging concerns about how much tech companies can learn from devices in peoples' homes.

Advocates cheer bill: "Today's kids are the most tracked generation," Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, said in a statement. "Without strong protections, lines drawn on what companies can and cannot do, and focused efforts by federal regulators, these businesses will continue to collect and monetize kids' data."

Read more on the bill here.

 

TRUMP FACES SCRUTINY OVER AT&T-TIME WARNER: Congressional Democrats are intensifying their investigation into whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE sought to block the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger due to his longtime feud with CNN.

Democrats in the House and Senate are demanding administration documents related to the deal while pressing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open its own investigation into how the White House handled the merger process.

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillinePelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Facebook says it will not remove doctored Pelosi video Justice to recommend blocking T-Mobile-Sprint merger: report MORE (R.I.), a top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that Congress has "a responsibility to call in witnesses" about the issue, hinting at a possible hearing in the future.

Why Dems are revisiting the issue: The increased scrutiny comes after The New Yorker reported last week that Trump encouraged Gary CohnGary David CohnTrump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report John Kelly had to break up argument between US trade officials: report The Hill's Morning Report — Dem ire at Barr intensifies MORE, his former top economic adviser, to push DOJ lawyers to sue to block the merger.

Though Cohn reportedly said he would not allow Trump to influence the merger, the DOJ did sue to block it in 2017, a case the government lost in court and on appeal last month.

Trump has feuded with CNN, owned by Time Warner, arguing that its coverage of his administration is unfair.

The response: The DOJ has repeatedly denied that Trump's dislike of CNN influenced its handling of the case.

The DOJ this week confirmed that it had received the letters from Democrats revisiting how the agency handled the merger. It pointed The Hill to previous statements Delrahim has made denying political interference.

On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she was "not aware" of any conversation in which Trump directed Cohn to try to block the merger.

Democrats, though, intend to revisit the allegations of potential interference by the White House.

What's next: A spokesman for Cicilline, chairman of the House Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee, told The Hill that scrutiny of the AT&T-Time Warner merger will be "on the agenda" but that there are no further actions planned as of now.

Cicilline and Nadler, in letters to the White House and DOJ last week, requested documents and communications between 2016 and 2019 about the proposed merger.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Samantha Bee slams 2020 Democrats who go on Fox News Poll: Harris, Warren climb as Biden maintains lead MORE (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also weighed in on Friday, pressing the head of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, for answers to a series of questions about potential interference in the merger by the White House.

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenPhoto showing 3-year-old girl high-five new Harriet Tubman mural goes viral The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Democrats grill Trump Interior chief for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change MORE (D-Md.) asked the DOJ to open an investigation into the White House's potential involvement and make its findings public.

Read more here.

 

SENATORS BEAT UP ON GOOGLE: A top Google executive faced tough questions from a Senate committee on Tuesday about the company's data collection practices as lawmakers vow to impose tougher privacy regulations on tech giants.

The Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Will DeVries, senior policy counsel at Google, over the company's user location tracking and data practices.

"Do you think the average consumer would be surprised to learn that her location is recorded and sent to Google hundreds of times every day, even when she is not using her phone?" Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked the executive.

DeVries argued that it was necessary for Google's Android operating system to take in some location information, even when users have toggled off location tracking, in order to provide certain services.

But Hawley and others on the panel were not satisfied.

"Here's my basic concern: Americans did not sign up for this," he said. "They think that the products that you offer are free -- they're not free. They think that they can opt out of the tracking that you're performing -- they can't meaningfully opt out."

Read more here.

 

CAN'T TOUCH THIS: A House GOP lawmaker on Tuesday introduced a bill that aims to clamp down on intellectual property theft at U.S. universities by limiting the involvement of certain foreign students in sensitive research projects.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, comes amid concern that China and other countries are seeking to steal technology and information tied to U.S. national security.

The measure calls for establishing a task force at the Department of Education to oversee sensitive research projects being conducted at American colleges and universities. The projects would also be monitored with the help of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

"The Task Force will monitor foreign student participation in sensitive research projects," the bill says. "Students that have past or current citizenship in China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea will not be allowed access to sensitive research projects, unless granted a waiver by the Director of National Intelligence."

The legislation does not specify any enforcement mechanisms beyond broadly stating that the "federal funding agency for the project will determine the appropriate course of action."

Under the bill, ODNI would be required to track entities that pose a threat to sensitive projects. Chinese telecom firms Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE, as well as Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, were cited by Banks as examples of companies that pose threats.

"Countries like China may use subversive tactics to gain footholds in major STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] programs in U.S. universities to create a pipeline of data and information back to the mainland," Banks said in a statement Tuesday. "China is also using telecommunications giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE as entry points into the United States' data networks, both on and off university campuses."

Read more here.

 

DEMS TO DEBATE MONOPOLY POWER: Democratic 2020 presidential candidates will meet in rural Iowa later this month to debate monopolies and approaches to antitrust enforcement, The Hill has confirmed.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyOvernight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan CNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC MORE (Md.) and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro will participate in the presidential forum in Storm Lake, Iowa on March 30, according to a spokeswoman for the event. Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC GOP faces new challenge in 2020 abortion fight 2020 Democratic presidential candidates rally in support of abortion rights MORE (D-Ohio) will also attend.

The event is being hosted by the Huffington Post, the Storm Lake Times, the Open Markets Institute and the Iowa Farm Bureau.

"The overall frame will be about how monopoly power has led to economic disparities and decline in rural America," Sarah Miller, the deputy director of Open Markets, told The Hill.

Read more here.

 

NEW COUPLE PET NAME: HUL-SPOT: Spotify has teamed up with Hulu to offer current customers both services under one existing monthly fee, the companies announced Tuesday.

In a press release, Spotify's developers announced that Hulu's library of TV shows and movies would be included starting Tuesday with Spotify's existing $9.99 monthly membership fee.

"Devour Hulu's library of hit TV series and films, current shows from every major U.S. broadcast network, and acclaimed Hulu Originals to your heart's desire at no extra charge. That's right, you are getting Hulu on us," the company wrote.

The companies previously offered a bundle in 2018 that allowed users to include Hulu membership with their Spotify account for a monthly fee of $12.99. Spotify wrote in Tuesday's press release that those users would see their monthly bill reduced under the new pay scale.

The offer will exist through June 10, according to the press release, which did not indicate whether the price for dual membership will increase in the future.

Read more here.

 

PAYDAY FOR SOME: The ride-hailing company Uber will pay $20 million to settle lawsuits filed in the state of California contesting the company's classification of its drivers as independent contractors and not full employees.

Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that attorneys are also seeking $5 million in legal fees from the company.

The settlement comes after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Uber's arbitration agreements, which force drivers who have pay disputes with Uber to settle in neutral arbitration rather than in court, were mostly enforceable.

"Uber has an arbitration clause which it very rigorously enforces," Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney for the drivers, told Bloomberg. "It's a myth that these opt-out provisions in arbitration clauses really make these agreements voluntary."

A spokesman for the company told Bloomberg that Uber would "continue working hard to improve the quality, security and dignity of independent work."

Spokesman Matt Kallman said Uber is also working to make "the driver experience even better through improvements like in-app tipping, a redesigned driver app, and new rewards programs."

Tuesday's settlement comes months after the company settled for $148 million over claims that it improperly handled a 2016 data breach.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Getting real about Huawei.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Humble brag, Sesame Street?

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Researchers discover backdoor into Swiss online voting system in which votes can be altered. (Motherboard)

Chinese hackers are sieging Navy, industry partners with cyber attacks, review says. (The Wall Street Journal)

Zuckerberg says he's going all in on private messaging. Facebook's declining user numbers tell us why. (The Washington Post)