Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity

Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity
© Getty Images

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 Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

ON-AGAIN, OFF-AGAIN: Google on Tuesday announced that it is pausing plans to sever ties with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei after the U.S. temporarily eased some trade restrictions on the company.

On Sunday, Google said it would cut ties with Huawei to comply with the Trump administration's decision to put Huawei on the so-called Entity List.

A day later, the U.S. Commerce Department granted a 90-day license for mobile phone companies to keep working with the Chinese tech company to keep existing networks online and protect users from security risks.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Keeping phones up to date and secure is in everyone's best interests and this temporary license allows us to continue to provide software updates and security patches to existing models for the next 90 days," a Google spokesperson told The Hill.

The Commerce Department last week added Huawei and 68 other entities to the trade blacklist.

Groups on the Entity List are deemed to be threats to U.S. national security.

Authorities have cautioned that Huawei's close connections to the Chinese government could result in spying in places where the company has hardware though Huawei has denied that claim.

Read more here.

 

GOP NOT SURE ABOUT BREAK-UP PLANS: GOP senators on Tuesday signaled they are divided over whether to pursue antitrust enforcement against the country's largest tech companies.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about data privacy and competition policy on Tuesday, some Republican lawmakers slammed the enormous market power of companies like Facebook and Google, while others questioned whether "breaking them up" would be useful. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBooker calls for hearings on reports of ICE using solitary confinement GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the committee, expressed concern that Google and Facebook "own 70 percent of digital advertising in the world," asking witnesses for potential "antitrust remedies" to apply to advertising practices.

But he stopped short of calling for any specific actions. "My job is to make sure we have a viable industry when all of this is over with," Graham said.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House to convene social media summit after new Trump attacks GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats O'Rourke on Senate bid backer Beyoncé: I will have to 'earn her support' for 2020 MORE (R-Texas) focused his remarks on the "size, power [and] market cap" of Google, calling the company "larger than Standard Oil was when it was broken up and larger than AT&T was when it was broken up." 

"There are many on this committee, including myself, concerned about potential anticompetitive conduct from Google," Cruz said.

Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Horse abuse for ribbons and prizes has to stop YouTube may move children's content to separate app MORE (R-Tenn.) echoed his sentiments, saying she is concerned "there are openings for market abuse and exploitation of consumer data and also for being able to use these platforms and then drive out competition."

On the other side: Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 2020 debates complicate Senate plans for vote on Trump's war authority Senate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack MORE (R-Texas) at the hearing said he thinks "the discussion of breaking up a Google or breaking up a Facebook is not what we should be doing." He called for giving users "more information" about how the companies use their data rather than imposing stringent regulations on how they operate.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE (R-Utah) engaged in a similar line of questioning, asking the witnesses why consumers remain on the platforms if their practices are harmful.

"They like the content, the convenience associated with that platform," Lee said.

Read more here.

 

'A' FOR EFFORT: The Democratic National Committee's (DNC) cybersecurity practices continue to "lag behind" those of its Republican counterpart despite investments the group has made since the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report.

"In aggregate, the DNC security scores lag behind the RNC in almost all categories," reads the report released Tuesday by the company SecurityScorecard assessing the cyber risk exposure of U.S. and European political parties.

"While SecurityScorecard believes the DNC has made significant investments in security since 2016, the organizational behavior at managing digital assets still lags behind the RNC," the report states.

The company noted that the Republican National Committee scored higher on cybersecurity in the spring of 2016 – before the DNC hacks and subsequent release of thousands of private emails by WikiLeaks in the run-up to the presidential election.

The DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill, while a spokesperson for the RNC stressed that the organization is "constantly working to stay ahead of emerging threats."

"Data security remains a priority for the RNC and we continue to proactively work with top IT vendors to stay abreast and monitor potential risks," RNC press secretary Blair Ellis said.

Read more here.

 

TOUGH CROWD: Facebook's former chief security officer said Tuesday that Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook offers to hand hate speech suspect data to French courts Take a scalpel, not an axe, to 'Big Tech' Bipartisan senators to introduce bill forcing online platforms to disclose value of user data MORE should be replaced as the company's CEO, arguing that he has too much control over the social media giant.

Alex Stamos, who left Facebook in August of last year, said that the company would benefit from a change in its management structure, which currently allows Zuckerberg complete authority over decision-making given his dual role as CEO and chairman of the board.

"There's a legitimate argument that he has too much power," Stamos said of Zuckerberg at a technology conference in Toronto. "He needs to give up some of that power. If I was him, I would go hire a new CEO for the company."

He added that the move would allow Zuckerberg to better focus on overseeing Facebook's product development, which he is most passionate about.

Stamos even offered up a potential replacement.

"My recommendation would be Brad Smith from Microsoft -- some adult who has gone through this before at another company," he said, referring to the turmoil and scrutiny that Facebook is facing, largely over privacy and oversight concerns.

The comments from Stamos, who reportedly left the company because of differences with Zuckerberg and other executives, come as other former Facebook insiders are giving the social network and its 35-year-old leader a vote of no confidence.

Read more here.

 

GOOGLE BACKPEDALS: Google is changing its health care and medicine advertising policy after it came under fire for reportedly providing $150,000 in free ads to an anti-abortion group.

Starting in June, any advertiser in the United States, United Kingdom or Ireland that wants to run ads using "keywords related to getting an abortion" will have to get certified as one that "either provides abortions or doesn't provide abortions," according to a policy update posted this week.

Advertisers will need to apply for certification, and Google will review and verify organizations' information once it's submitted, the announcement says.

It adds that in some cases, Google may automatically generate in-ad disclosures for a company's ads that says "provides abortions" or "does not provide abortions."

"This added transparency will help ensure that users have the necessary information to decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them," the policy states.

Read more here.

 

SPECIAL DELIVERY: The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday began a two-week trial of self-driving mail delivery trucks in three Southwestern states, Reuters reported.

San Diego-based startup TuSimple is reportedly providing the self-driving trucks which will begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas.

The trial program involves five round trips, each totaling more than 2,100 miles of driving.

"The work with TuSimple is our first initiative in autonomous long-haul transportation," USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum told Reuters.

"We are conducting research and testing as part of our efforts to operate a future class of vehicles which will incorporate new technology."

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: The latest Dem to jump in the race.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

New legislation would help national committees improve state candidates' cybersecurity. (Gizmodo)  

Political parties still have cybersecurity hygiene problems. (Wired)

House appropriators take aim at some of the Pentagon's most ambitious tech ideas. (Defense One)

The Internet security apocalypse you probably missed. (The New York Times)