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

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
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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).

 

FACE/OFF: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came out aggressively against the widespread deployment of facial recognition technology, signaling they plan to draft legislation that would curb, or even halt, its implementation during a hearing on Wednesday.

"It seems to me it's time for a time out," House Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanGraham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay MORE (R-Ohio) said during the hearing. "[This technology] is virtually unregulated -- but I think that frankly needs to change."

The intensifying federal scrutiny comes amid a national debate over the technology, which has attracted the criticism of privacy and civil rights activists and calls for new restrictions.

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Local governments are taking the lead: Some cities are already taking action, led by San Francisco's unprecedented decision last week to ban its government agencies, including law enforcement, from using facial recognition technology. Similar proposals are being weighed in Oakland, Calif., and Sommerville, Mass., and more are expected to emerge as activists turn up the heat on a battle they say has resonated better with average Americans more than other fights over privacy.

"People from all backgrounds understand this issue like no other surveillance issue I've worked on," Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said on a call with reporters last week. "It resonates with people and they understand it."

Broad Bipartisan agreement: At the House Oversight hearing, a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers expressed nearly identical concerns over the potential for facial recognition technology to violate Americans' constitutional rights. And they agreed across the aisle on the "urgent" need for more oversight and better regulations, with multiple lawmakers calling for an all-out moratorium on the technology until the concerns over its potential civil liberties and civil rights violations can be resolved.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsDemocrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.C.) called the issue a "sweet spot that brings progressives and conservatives together."

Read more here.

 

CYBER ON THE BORDER: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is asking its cybersecurity-focused employees to consider taking on new roles by volunteering to help with the border crisis.

Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan told House lawmakers Wednesday that employees in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have been asked to consider relocating to the U.S.-Mexico border, but he insisted he would not support sending "critical" cyber staff to the region.

"I am aware of the call for volunteers to help address the border crisis, just as we would do in a natural disaster. Our expectation, though, is that CISA would make risk-based decisions on the types of professionals they would free up for this kind of mission and balance against their day jobs and their current focus," McAleenan said in a response to a question about the volunteer drive from Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinBill introduced to give special immigrant visas to Kurds who helped US in Syria Hillicon Valley: Amazon poised to escalate Pentagon 'war cloud' fight | FCC's move to target Huawei garners early praise | Facebook sues Israeli firm over alleged WhatsApp hack | Blue Dog Dems push election security funding Amazon poised to escalate Pentagon 'war cloud' fight MORE (D-R.I.) at a Homeland Security Committee hearing on the DHS fiscal 2020 budget request.

McAleenan added that he would "not want the CISA leadership to deploy critical cybersecurity professionals in this role if they have mission support professionals, attorneys or others who could be spared to support this effort. We would welcome that, but that is for their management and leadership to handle."

Another DHS official told The Hill that each DHS volunteer at the border allows an extra Customs and Border Protection or ICE agent "to perform border security duties."

McAleenan said that regardless of which DHS agency a volunteer comes from, there will be "training for anyone who is directly engaging with migrants."

Read more here.

 

NEW LEGISLATION TO PROTECT 5G NETWORKS: Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerClub for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment NRCC campaign prank leads to suspicious package investigation Overnight Health Care: Walden won't seek reelection | Senate Dems to vote this week to overturn Trump ObamaCare moves | Largest children's migrant shelter to close | Vulnerable Republicans balk at drug pricing bill MORE (D-Va.) and five other House members on Tuesday introduced a bill meant to protect U.S. telecommunications networks from national security threats from companies such as the Chinese firm Huawei.

The bipartisan proposal calls for the creation of a national strategy to protect 5G wireless technology from security threats.

What the bill says: The Secure 5G and Beyond Act would require the administration to create an "unclassified national strategy" to protect the U.S. consumers and allies from threats to 5G systems. This strategy would include language on ways to encourage research and development by U.S. companies around maintaining access to 5G for all Americans, and on protecting the "competitiveness" of U.S. companies, along with the privacy of American consumers, against foreign political influence.

Spanberger is spearheading the bill with co-sponsors that include Reps. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksOregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden won't seek reelection Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Pelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House MORE (R-Ind.), Tom O'Halleran (D-Ariz.), Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyBipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members House Democrat: Taylor's impeachment testimony made 'very clear' there was a quid pro quo New bipartisan Senate climate caucus aims to take 'politics' out of the topic MORE (R-Fla.), Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinOvernight Health Care: Walden won't seek reelection | Senate Dems to vote this week to overturn Trump ObamaCare moves | Largest children's migrant shelter to close | Vulnerable Republicans balk at drug pricing bill House passes third bill aimed at preventing foreign election interference Avoiding the snake in the grass: Let's not allow impeachment to divide us MORE (D-Mich.), and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikMeadows slams ex-Bush aide's 'reprehensible' remark about GOP congresswoman GOP motions to subpoena whistleblower Live coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.Y.).

More on the bill here.

 

QUALCOMM LOSES ANTITRUST SUIT: A federal court ruled late Tuesday night that Qualcomm's practice of extracting licensing fees from phone companies has "strangled competition" and hurt consumers in violation of antitrust law.

Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, an Obama appointee, said that Qualcomm cannot make decisions about which companies to supply with their processing chips based on whether the customer is licensed to use Qualcomm's patented technology. She also ordered Qualcomm to negotiate reasonable rates with its customers without threatening to cut off its supply.

The decision is a major win for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which brought the suit against Qualcomm more than two years ago.

"Yesterday's decision that Qualcomm's practices violate the antitrust laws is an important win for competition in a key segment of the economy," Bruce Hoffman, the head of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, said in a statement. "FTC staff will remain vigilant in pursuing unilateral conduct by technology firms that harms the competitive process."

The FTC had accused Qualcomm of taking advantage of its patents in order to extract higher licensing fees and essentially tax phone manufacturers for using its competitors' products.

Koh agreed, saying that Qualcomm's dominance as the largest supplier of mobile phone chips allowed it to extract excessive fees and suppress competition.

The fight isn't over: Qualcomm has already vowed to seek a stay and appeal Koh's decision.

"We strongly disagree with the judge's conclusions, her interpretation of the facts and her application of the law," Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm's executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Read more on the ruling here.

 

LUCK OF THE IRISH: Ireland's data protection regulator is launching an investigation into allegations that Google's online advertising system is revealing sensitive data about users to hundreds of potential ad buyers in violation of Europe's privacy laws.

"The purpose of the inquiry is to establish whether processing of personal data carried out at each stage of an advertising transaction is in compliance with the relevant provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)," Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) said in a statement on Wednesday. "The GDPR principles of transparency and data minimisation, as well as Google's retention practices, will also be examined."

The DPC has opened more than a dozen privacy probes into U.S. tech companies, but Google had not previously been a target for the regulator.

The announcement comes in response to lobbying from Brave, a company that operates a privacy-focused internet browser that competes with Google Chrome. Brave had presented evidence to the regulator that the search giant was broadcasting personal information about users visiting any of the more than 8.4 million websites that use its advertising exchange.

Read more on the probe here.

 

DOJ SOUR ON T-MOBILE-SPRINT MERGER: The Justice Department's career staff is recommending that it files a lawsuit to block the $26 billion T-Mobile-Sprint merger, according to a Reuters report.

The final decision of whether to stop the combination of the two telecom giants lies with Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the head of the Antitrust Division.

Two unnamed sources told Reuters they expect a decision to be made within a month.

The news comes two days after the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it would approve the merger after the two companies promised to expand coverage in rural areas, not raise prices for three years and build out a competitive 5G network.

It has been reported for months that the Justice Department, which also needs to sign off on the deal, has been concerned about combining two of the nation's four national telecom providers and its potential to lead to higher prices and less competition.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Potential Trump administration split?: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said earlier this week that the companies' commitments to expand rural connectivity and to build out a large next-generation 5G wireless network satisfied any concerns he might have had about further consolidating the industry.

Read more here.

 

'DO NOT TRACK' GAINS MOMENTUM: Legislation to stop tech companies from tracking users online is finding new momentum as Congress seeks to crack down on big tech's privacy practices.

On Tuesday, Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition GOP senator wants to know whistleblower identity if there's an impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: California AG reveals Facebook investigation | McConnell criticizes Twitter's political ad ban | Lawmakers raise concerns over Google takeover of Fitbit | Dem pushes FCC to secure 5G networks MORE (R-Mo.) unveiled a "Do Not Track" bill with tough penalties for companies who break its protections, reviving a debate over whether users should be allowed to opt out of the tracking and data collection that comprise the core of many top tech companies' business models.

Efforts to create a Do Not Track registry have hit roadblocks for more than a decade, but consumer advocates and tech industry critics say Hawley's bill could find better traction amid a larger backlash against tech behemoths including Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO and founder of privacy-oriented search engine DuckDuckGo, told The Hill Americans are more concerned about privacy issues than they were a decade ago, when the first conversations about a Do Not Track registry gained prominence.

He said those efforts occurred before privacy became "mainstream," pointing to a spate of highly public surveillance- and privacy-related scandals over the past decade.

"There's a pressure to pass something this year, I think, because there's a will from people to do something," Weinberg said.

The Do Not Track registry would be modeled after the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) "Do Not Call" list, which allows people to say they no longer want to receive telemarketing calls.

Hawley's bill would put the force of law behind the list, threatening companies with fines of up to $1,000 per person for "willful or reckless" violations and $50 per day for "negligence."  

Advocates have long pushed for a Do Not Track database.

Allies aren't on board just yet: But there are still questions about the path ahead. Some expected allies to Hawley's push have not yet gotten on board.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), one of the leaders of the push to implement a registry in 2011, said they are still reviewing Hawley's bill and declined to comment on Tuesday.

Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), in an emailed statement to The Hill called the Do Not Track concept "a straightforward approach to a real problem," but noted that implementation can be "very tricky." EPIC helped pioneer the "Do Not Call" registry.

Read more here.

 

INTERMISSION: The Trump administration's decision to delay an order to blacklist products from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei by 90 days is giving American tech companies a brief reprieve from a decision that threatened to rattle the industry.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossTrump trade adviser pushes back on reports of US-China tariff deal China, US agree to reduce tariffs amid trade talks, Beijing says Income for poorest Americans fell faster than previously thought: study MORE said in a statement late Monday that the temporary license "grants operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long-term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services."

Ross also noted that the license will "allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks."

The move followed an order from 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 last week that would have banned American companies from dealing with Huawei, citing national security reasons. Huawei has long faced scrutiny from the U.S. intelligence community over its ties to the Chinese government.

But that decision posed tough challenges for U.S. companies, many of which rely on Huawei for important components. Any effort to cut out the Chinese company threatened to shake up supply chains and prices. And Huawei could be just the beginning as the administration takes a closer look at other Chinese telecom companies, such as ZTE.

Google was among the companies that began taking steps to instantly end its business with the company after last week's order. For Google and other companies, however, the administration's waiver gives them more time to deal with the potential ramifications.

The spokesperson told The Hill on Tuesday the temporary license form the Commerce Department allows for "limited engagement" for 90 days and means Google can "continue providing software updates and security patches to existing models."

The Trump administration's shifting stance on Huawei also comes as it carries out high-stakes negotiations with China on a new trade deal. That's led to worries that White House officials are using the fight with Huawei as a bargaining chip in the broader talks.

Read more on the ban here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Focusing government's C-suite on data quality makes good business sense.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: A frosty reception.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Twitter co-founder calls President Trump "master of the platform" (CNN)

AT&T has become a new kind of media giant. (Fortune)

Far-right propaganda floods Facebook ahead of EU elections. (Wired)

Huawei feels U.S. squeeze in U.K., Japan as partners curb business. (The Wall Street Journal)