Hillicon Valley: NASA to allow private citizens on space station | Facebook moves away from Huawei | Dem senators press third party over medical data breach | Veteran Google worker leaves company amid alleged retaliation

Hillicon Valley: NASA to allow private citizens on space station | Facebook moves away from Huawei | Dem senators press third party over medical data breach | Veteran Google worker leaves company amid alleged retaliation

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).


PAGING ZENON: NASA will soon allow up to two private citizens per year to travel to the International Space Station (ISS), reversing longstanding policy.

The agency announced Friday that the plan could begin as soon as next year as part of a change to make the agency and the ISS in particular more friendly to commercial interests, according to The Washington Post.

The plan is reportedly part of NASA's bid to raise the funds required to send an astronaut back to the moon by 2024.


Jeff DeWit, NASA's chief financial officer, said Friday that the cost for private astronauts to stay on board the ISS would be set around $35,000 per night, with the actual cost of getting astronauts to the space station left up to private companies such as SpaceX.

“But it won’t come with any Hilton or Marriott points,” DeWit quipped at a press conference.

He added that it was unclear how much money the agency would be able to raise through partnerships with private enterprises, but he expressed optimism, according to the Post, about excitement in the commercial sector for access to the ISS.

Read more on the space mission here.


GOOGLE FALLOUT: Claire Stapleton, a longtime Google employee and one of the main organizers of last year's walkout, announced on Friday that she will be leaving the company amid what she described as "flogging, shunning, and stress" and a campaign of continued retaliation by higher-ups.

Stapleton wrote in an impassioned Medium post that she is leaving Google after 12 years because "the heads of my department branded me with a kind of scarlet letter that makes it difficult to do my job."

"These past few months have been unbearably stressful and confusing," she wrote. "But they’ve been eye-opening, too: the more I spoke up about what I was experiencing, the more I heard, and the more I understood how universal these issues are."

Stapleton, who has held multiple positions at Google throughout her tenure, was most recently a YouTube marketing manager. Her decision to leave comes amid a swirling controversy over YouTube's policies, which came to a head this week over the platform's handling of a conservative commentator whom a Vox journalist accused of defaming and harassing him.

"Google’s always had controversies and internal debates, but the 'hard things' had intensified, and the way leadership was addressing them suddenly felt different, cagier, less satisfying," Stapleton wrote, describing her experiences over the past year at the company. She did not explicitly mention this week's wave of YouTube criticism.

Both Stapleton and fellow Google employee Meredith Whittaker were instrumental in organizing the Google walkouts that took place at Google offices around the world last year, with workers railing against the company's handling of sexual harassment issues as well as general working conditions.

And both women in April circulated internal messages alleging they'd faced months of retaliation from the company over their activist efforts.

Stapleton in the message, first reported by tech news outlet Wired, alleged that she was told that she would be "demoted" and that "a project that was approved was no longer on the table" within months of the walkout.

Read more here.


GOOGLE WANTS TO WORK WITH HUAWEI: Google is reportedly pushing the Trump administration to allow the company to be exempt from a ban on working with Huawei technology, citing security risks it says the ban creates for U.S. consumers.

The Financial Times reported Friday that Google executives are hoping to secure an exemption from the Trump administration's recent ruling banning U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei in order to partner with the Chinese firm on developing software for Android phones, which Huawei sells in the U.S.

According to FT, some Google executives believe that Huawei will develop its own Android software without consultation from Google if the ban remains in place, thereby leading to the development of software with security flaws and other bugs.

“Google has been arguing that by stopping it from dealing with Huawei, the US risks creating two kinds of Android operating system: the genuine version and a hybrid one. The hybrid one is likely to have more bugs in it than the Google one, and so could put Huawei phones more at risk of being hacked, not least by China," one person involved in the negotiations told FT.

Read more here.


FACEBOOK BREAKS WITH HUAWEI: Facebook will no longer allow its app to be pre-installed on Huawei phones as the Chinese tech giant faces the ongoing fallout of a blacklist of its services in the U.S.

While people who already own Huawei phones with apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram will not be impacted, the social media company confirmed Friday that new phones from the tech company will not come with the applications.

The news, first reported by Reuters, comes as the White House leads a campaign to block Huawei from doing business in the U.S., saying information obtained by the company could be handed over to the Chinese government.

The Commerce Department announced last month that it had added Huawei to its “Entity List,” which virtually bars the company from buying components from American companies without U.S. government approval. President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE also signed an executive order declaring a “national emergency” that empowers the White House to bar foreign tech companies deemed security threats from doing business in the U.S.

“We are reviewing the Commerce Department’s final rule and the more recently issued temporary general license and taking steps to ensure compliance,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

Read more on the breakup here.


FLY TO YOUR FLIGHT, UBER SAYS: Ride-hailing giant Uber will begin offering helicopter rides in New York City in hopes of cutting the commuting time to the airport.

Beginning on July 9, Uber users in Manhattan will be able to call a helicopter to take them between the city and John F. Kennedy International Airport in an eight-minute flight, according to The New York Times.

Flights will cost approximately $200 per person one way, although costs may be higher or lower depending on demand. The option will only be available to “Platinum” and “Diamond” users, the top two categories of the app’s loyalty program Uber rewards.

The service will include picking up passengers in a car and taking them to the helicopter, as well as taking them from the helicopter to their terminal at the airport. The flights will depart from a heliport near the Staten Island Ferry and arrive at Kennedy’s terminal 8.

“This is a trip that so many travelers make a day, and we see an opportunity to save them a huge amount of time on it,” Eric Allison said, the head of Uber Elevate, the Times reported.

Read more here.


DEM SENATORS ARE COMING FOR YOU: Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (N.J.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback MORE (N.J.) are demanding answers from the third-party billing collection group at the center of a data breach that exposed information on almost 20 million patients.

The data breach involved an unauthorized user gaining access to the system of the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), the billing collection company used by Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp.

Quest announced earlier this week that the breach led to the exposure of 11.9 million patients' data, and LabCorp said 7.7 million of its patients had their information compromised. The exposed information included Social Security numbers and financial and medical data.

In a Friday letter to AMCA President Russell Fuchs, the two senators criticized the company’s approach to data security and asked for details about how the breach occurred and what steps the AMCA will take to prevent additional breaches.

“We must ensure that entities with access to patients’ personal, medical, and financial information understand their heightened duty to protect both the patient and their sensitive information, and that your company is taking both immediate and long-term steps to mitigate any harm,” the senators wrote.

The letter came a day after a third company, Opko Health, revealed that the AMCA data breach exposed the personal information of more than 400,000 of its patients.

In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Opko Health said the breach exposed patient names, dates of birth, phone numbers and account balance information.

AMCA told Opko that it is sending notices to 6,600 Opko patients whose credit card or bank account information was stored in its system.

Read more here.


An op-ed to chew on: Mobile 5G carriers need more spectrum — let the C-Band Alliance sell them some.


A lighter click: Privacy works in mysterious ways.



YouTube removes educational, anti-racist videos amid new rules. (LA Times)

Walmart expands on InHome service to have employees deliver groceries. (The Verge)

FedEx and Amazon to part ways on air-shipping contract. (Bloomberg)

Comcast broke law 445,000 times in scheme to inflate bills, judge finds. (Ars Technica)