Hillicon Valley: House Judiciary opens antitrust probe of tech giants | Senate to receive election security briefing | Quest Diagnostics breach exposes data on 11.9 million patients | House sets hearing on 'deepfakes'

Hillicon Valley: House Judiciary opens antitrust probe of tech giants | Senate to receive election security briefing | Quest Diagnostics breach exposes data on 11.9 million patients | House sets hearing on 'deepfakes'
© Aaron Schwartz

HOUSE TO INVESTIGATE TECH ON ANTITRUST: The House Judiciary Committee is launching a bipartisan investigation into whether large tech companies are suppressing competition.

The panel's Democratic and Republican leaders announced the investigation on Monday, which will address the question of whether Congress should pass more stringent antitrust laws to rein in Silicon Valley.

"The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online," Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "But there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications.

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"Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition in digital markets and the health of the antitrust laws," he added.

Why it's big: The investigation will be the first Congress has ever conducted into how Silicon Valley's dominant platforms wield their vast market power. The probe will include a series of hearings and will give lawmakers an opportunity to seek information from the companies about their practices through requests and subpoenas.

The committee said that the probe would focus on three areas: documenting where competition is lacking in digital markets, exploring whether large companies are suppressing competition and determining whether Congress and regulators need to do more to address Big Tech's dominance.

Troubles mount for tech: The news comes as regulators are also reportedly setting themselves up for a broad investigation into Silicon Valley. In recent days, media outlets have reported that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission agreed to divvy up the largest tech companies into their respective jurisdictions. The reports sent tech stocks tumbling on Monday.

Read more here.

 

And more on how regulators are divvying up their probes...

 

DOJ COULD INVESTIGATE APPLE: The Department of Justice (DOJ) will take the lead in any future investigation of Apple's market power, as regulators move towards a wider review of Silicon Valley's antitrust concerns, Reuters reported on Monday.

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the two agencies tasked with antitrust enforcement, reached an agreement in recent weeks to divvy up the responsibilities for overseeing Silicon Valley, according to multiple media reports over the last several days.

The DOJ would reportedly be responsible for pursuing Apple and Google, while the FTC would take on any antitrust investigations concerning Facebook and Amazon.

It's unclear whether there are any plans to investigate any of the companies, but such a plan to allocate jurisdictions would likely precede a more formal probe.

There's also no indication of what issues that agencies would investigate, but Apple has faced recent antitrust allegations.

Read more here.

 

ROUGH DAY FOR TECH STOCKS: Amazon and Google shares fell Monday morning after news broke over the weekend that regulators had laid the groundwork for potential antitrust investigations into the two internet giants.

Shares for Google's parent company, Alphabet, closed for the day down over 6 percent. Amazon's stock closed for the day down over 4 percent.

Multiple media outlets reported over the weekend that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had agreed to divide antitrust oversight of the two companies -- a move that signals that the government is serious about looking into the competition concerns swirling around the firms.

It's unclear whether either agency is actually planning to launch an investigation or even what issues would be of concern. But both Amazon and Google have been subject to increasing scrutiny over their market power and its effect on competition.

Google has been subject to three major antitrust fines totaling about $9 billion from European Union authorities in recent years for its search, advertising and bundling practices.

Read more here.

 

SENATE TO RECEIVE ELECTION SECURITY BRIEFING: Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y.) said the Senate will get an election security briefing, after weeks of public clamoring for Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP rattled by Trump rally Third Kentucky Democrat announces challenge to McConnell MORE (R-Ky.) to agree to the demand.

Schumer, speaking from the Senate floor, indicated that the Senate GOP leader had agreed to his weeks-long call for an all senators to receive a briefing in the wake of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"I have some positive news. I have spoken to the Republican leader about that request. He has assured me, we will have a briefing," Schumer said.

He added that he and McConnell were still ironing out the timing of when the Senate briefing would take place but urged the GOP leader to hold it within weeks -- before the Senate's current work period runs out at the end of June.

Spokesmen for McConnell didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The closed-door briefing comes as senators have mounted a bipartisan push in the wake of Mueller's report to try to move election security through the Senate, but have run into high-profile opposition from McConnell and Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (R-Mo.).

Read more here.

 

2020 DEMS LOOK INTO T-MOBILE/SPRINT MERGER: A group of Senate Democrats is pressing the Department of Justice (DOJ) for answers on whether the White House has sought to influence its review of the $26 billion T-Mobile-Sprint merger.

Three presidential candidates -- Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Biden, Harris set for second Democratic debate showdown Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator MORE (Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren adds her pronouns to Twitter bio Biden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (Mass.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Biden, Harris set for second Democratic debate showdown MORE (N.J.) -- were among the six Democrats who sent a letter Monday to Makan Delrahim, head of the DOJ's antitrust division.

"In light of the potential implications of this transaction for American consumers, we write to reiterate that the Department's decisions should be based on an impartial analysis of the facts and the law, and must be entirely free of improper political influence," the group wrote.

The letter, also signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator FTC looks to update children's internet privacy rules MORE (Mass.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' | Republicans form conservation caucus | Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule MORE (N.M.), comes after several news outlets reported that the DOJ's antitrust staff had recommended blocking the merger out of concern for its potential effect on competition.

However, Fox Business reported last month that Delrahim was undecided and that many in the Trump administration support the merger.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has given his blessing to the merger, and his Republican colleagues at the agency have signaled they would back his proposal to approve the deal.

Read more here.

 

HOUSE SETS HEARING ON DEEPFAKES: The House Intelligence Committee has slated a hearing in June that will examine a series of national security matters, including the threat of videos manipulated by artificial intelligence (A.I.) that look strikingly real, a panel aide said.

The congressional hearing on June 13 will be one of the first to primarily focus on so-called "deepfakes," which experts and lawmakers say pose a major disinformation threat heading into the 2020 election.

The hearing comes amid a spotlight on a fake video of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDHS chief to Pelosi: Emergency border funding 'has already had an impact' The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Trump faces new hit on deficit MORE (D-Calif.) that made its way across Facebook and other social media platforms in late May.

This video, which was viewed millions of times, was edited in a way that made her appear to slur her words. While video was not made with advanced A.I. technology, experts say that will be the next step in the disinformation threat.

The deepfakes technology is growing more sophisticated and prevalent, and average internet users will eventually be able to create doctored videos that will be impossible for the naked eye to distinguish from real ones.

Read more here.

 

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER BREACH: Blood testing group Quest Diagnostics announced Monday that the personal information of 11.9 million patients has been breached, including Social Security numbers, financial information and medical data.

The company said in a statement that an "unauthorized user" gained access to the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) system, a billing collection service provider for Quest.

Quest noted in its official statement on the breach that it had not yet received "complete information" on the details of the breach from the AMCA, such as which customers were impacted, and that it has also not been able to verify that the breach took place. The company said that it does not believe that laboratory test results were accessed.

Quest said it is "committed to keeping our patients, health care providers, and all relevant parties informed as we learn more," adding that the company "is taking this matter very seriously and is committed to the privacy and security of our patients' personal information."

Read more here.

  

AT&T GETTING PRESIDENTIAL FIRE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE blasted CNN and urged people on Twitter early Monday to boycott the network's parent company, AT&T until it is "forced to make big changes at CNN."

Trump tweeted that his "only problem" during his first state visit to the United Kingdom was that the primary source of U.S. news in the U.K. was CNN -- a network whose coverage he described as "negative" and "so much Fake News."

"Very bad for U.S. Big ratings drop. Why doesn't owner @ATT do something?" Trump asked.

Trump also suggested in a follow-up tweet that if consumers stopped using or subscribing to AT&T.

"It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News!" Trump tweeted.

Read more here.

 

ICYMI: CHANGES AT APPLE?: Apple will unveil a series of changes to its platforms during its keynote presentation at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, including the shuttering of iTunes, according to a new report.

CEO Tim Cook and other company leaders will present sweeping changes to the organization's operating systems and hardware, Bloomberg News reported Friday.

The changes will highlight new Apple Watches that operate more independently from iPhones, iPads with advanced software that will reduce reliance on laptops, and advancements in areas such as virtual reality and personal health management.

The company is reportedly planning to replace iTunes -- the application consumers have used to download music, movies and more -- with three separate apps on the Mac: Music, TV and Podcasts.

The move comes amid speculation that iTunes has struggled to compete with the rise of platforms such as Spotify as consumers increasingly turn to streaming platforms for music rather than buying individual albums.

Apple is also reportedly planning to roll out new apps for Mac laptops and desktops in an effort to eventually allow single versions of apps to run on all of its platforms.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Protecting our elections must be bipartisan priority for lawmakers (The Hill)

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: News you can use.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

U.S. a vulnerable world leader on cybersecurity (Forbes)

On YouTube's digital playground, an open gate for pedophiles. (The New York Times)

Apple announces all-new redesigned Mac Pro, starting at $5,999. (The Verge)