Hillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records

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).

 

THE BIG STORY: Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE has delivered his confidential report to Attorney General William Barr, signaling the end of a two-year investigation that has dominated President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE's term in office.

Barr told the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that he is reviewing the report and "may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend," according to a letter circulated by the Justice Department. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Barr said he intends to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinDemocrats ask judge to force McGahn to comply with subpoena Democrats ask court to force DOJ's hand on Mueller grand jury materials Washington celebrates diplomacy — and baseball — at Meridian Ball MORE and Mueller "to determine what information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law."  

The White House said Trump has not been briefed on the report. 

"The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel's report."

Trump's personal attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, also said they were awaiting Barr's decision.

Mueller has not recommended any future indictments, according to multiple reports.

A long two years: The Mueller probe began shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThere are poor ideas, bad ones and Facebook's Libra Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report Broadcast, cable news networks to preempt regular programming for Trump impeachment coverage MORE, who was in charge of the bureau's original probe. Mueller's investigation explored the possibility of collusion in the 2016 presidential election between Moscow and Trump's campaign, and whether Trump obstructed justice.

More on today's biggest story here. And check back at TheHill.com for more on this late breaking story.

 

FACEBOOK ASKS JUDGE TO TOSS PRIVACY LAWSUIT: A judge on Friday heard arguments from Facebook and the District of Columbia regarding the D.C. government's lawsuit arguing the social media giant harmed city residents by failing to protect their data.

Facebook asked the court to dismiss the case, and D.C. Superior Court Judge Fern Saddler said she will decide whether to do so by the end of April.

The lawsuit stems from revelations last year that Cambridge Analytica obtained data on hundreds of millions of Facebook users from a researcher who collected the information through a third-party app on the platform.

D.C. says about 340,000 residents who use the platform were harmed by the company's failing to inform them about sharing info with third parties. Facebook failed to enforce its own privacy policies, and that its privacy settings in general are "ambiguous and confusing," D.C. argues.

Facebook on Friday laid out its argument for dismissing the lawsuit, saying D.C. does not have proper jurisdiction over Facebook. Attorneys for D.C. disputed that argument.

More on the case here.

 

FEMA BREACH: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Friday it failed to protect 2.3 million disaster survivors' sensitive personal information, potentially putting them at risk for identity theft and fraud.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General found that the breach happened as the agency was transferring information to a contractor to secure temporary housing for those impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires.

The agency said it is taking steps to mitigate the situation by working with the contractor to remove unnecessary material from its databases.

"Since discovery of this issue, FEMA has taken aggressive measures to correct this error. FEMA is no longer sharing unnecessary data with the contractor and has conducted a detailed review of the contractor's information system," FEMA press secretary Lizzie Litzow said in a statement.

More on the disclosure here.

 

TRUMP NAMES CTO PICK: President Trump announced Thursday that he would nominate Michael Kratsios to serve as the country's chief technology officer, a role that has remained vacant since the beginning of the Trump administration.

Kratsios has served as deputy U.S. chief technology officer and as deputy assistant to the president for technology policy since January 2017.

Kratsios, 32, is well-connected in the field after having worked as chief of staff at Thiel Capital, an investment management firm, before joining Trump's transition team, Bloomberg reported.

He has played a key role in the administration's policies on 5G, national broadband, drones and artificial intelligence, according to a White House announcement.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty praised Kratsios's nomination as "great news," adding that the nominee is "strengthening America's leadership in technologies like quantum computing and artificial intelligence."

Read more here.

 

FCC SETTLES WITH JOURNALIST IN RECORDS LAWSUIT: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week agreed to pay a journalist $43,000 to settle a lawsuit over the agency's decision to withhold records about fake comments posted to its website.

The FCC on Wednesday settled the lawsuit with freelance reporter Jason Prechtel, who sued two years ago after the FCC did not fulfill his documents request.

Prechtel in 2017 submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking details about suspicious comments on the FCC's website. The comments, which have been the subject of significant scrutiny, appeared when the agency was seeking to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules.

When the FCC did not respond to his FOIA request, Prechtel sued.

The FCC in the settlement this week did not admit wrongdoing but agreed to pay Prechtel's legal fees.

"After a year and a half of litigation and a court order requiring production of requested records, FCC agreed to pay $43,077.80 to wrap up the case," Prechtel's attorney, Joshua Burday, told Gizmodo. "This is a good reminder that you don't need to be able to afford a lawyer to exercise your FOIA rights."

Prechtel obtained the information he was seeking through the lawsuit, and the FCC data formed the basis of his Gizmodo article last month that said investigators were looking, among other places, at the owner of a Washington, D.C., publication with an advocacy arm as part of the probe into who posted the fake comments.

New York investigators and the Justice Department are both looking into the 23 million public comments posted when the FCC proposed rolling back the Obama-era net neutrality rules in 2017. About 800,000 of the comments were unique, and 99.7 percent of those were in favor of maintaining net neutrality, according to subsequent studies of the data.

Read more here.

 

EUROPE SNUBS US ON HUAWEI: The European Union (EU) will not require its member countries to ban Huawei from their wireless networks, spurning U.S. warnings that the Chinese telecom poses an intelligence threat, according to Reuters.

Citing four unnamed sources familiar with the decision, the outlet reported that Andrus Ansip, the European Commission's digital chief, will present his recommendation next week.

The proposal will reportedly advise member states to adopt the EU's cybersecurity guidelines to coordinate and share information on their wireless networks.

According to Reuters, the plan would be to allow countries to decide for themselves whether to ban Huawei.

The U.S. has pushed its allies to reject Huawei, arguing that it has close ties to the Chinese government that could give Beijing the ability to use the company's hardware to spy on other countries.

Read more here.

 

STOP FOLLOWING ME: A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr this week, asking how a Supreme Court decision on location information is impacting government surveillance programs.

Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenAlcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline GOP senator blasts Dem bills on 'opportunity zones' Pelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism MORE (D-Ore.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges McConnell discounts quick dismissal of Trump impeachment articles: 'We'll have to have a trial' GOP motions to subpoena whistleblower MORE (R-Ky.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress hunts for path out of spending stalemate This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program MORE (D-Vt.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesFallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal MORE (R-Mt.) wrote in the letter to Barr on Thursday about the ruling in Carpenter v. United States, which requires that a warrant be obtained in order to gain location information about Americans in most scenarios.

"In light of the Carpenter decision and the recognition of Americans' legitimate interest in privacy around [cellular location information], the American public deserves to know how the intelligence community treats these records and other sensitive metadata in national security cases," the letter reads.

The senators asked for information on whether the intelligence community was collecting cell phone location data on Americans and if the Justice Department has issued any guidance on the decision.

Read the letter here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: NASA engineer suggests settling Saturn's moon Titan.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: We've all been there.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Warnings of a dark side to AI in health care. (The New York Times)

AT&T's '5G E' is actually slower than Verizon and T-Mobile 4G, study finds. (Ars Technica)

Microsoft resurrects Clippy and then brutally kills him off again. (The Verge)

Utah just became a leader in digital privacy. (Wired)