Hillicon Valley: House lawmakers reach deal on robocall bill | Laid-off journalists launch ads targeting tech giants | Apple seeks tariff exemptions | Facebook's Libra invites scrutiny

Hillicon Valley: House lawmakers reach deal on robocall bill | Laid-off journalists launch ads targeting tech giants | Apple seeks tariff exemptions | Facebook's Libra invites scrutiny

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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).

 

NEW NUMBER, WHO THIS: A pair of bipartisan House lawmakers on Thursday unveiled a compromise bill aimed at thwarting the scourge of robocalls dialing up U.S. consumers, about one month after the Senate adopted its own anti-robocall bill.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse panel investigating private equity firms' role in surprise medical billing Hotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback MORE (R-Ore.) on Thursday announced the legislation, which differs from the Senate's version on some points but seems to have significant overlap.

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What the House bill does: Pallone and Walden's Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would require phone carriers to implement technology to authenticate whether calls are real or spam. It would also allow carriers to offer call-blocking services. The legislation specifies the carriers should make sure that legal calls, such as those from doctors' offices or creditors, are not blocked, while opening the door for the government to broaden its definition of what constitutes a "robocall."

The bill would also give regulators more time to find scammers and push them to ensure companies are not abusing their ability to dial up consumers when they're allowed to.

It would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to submit reports to Congress on its progress blocking unwanted calls.

"The bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act offers consumers a way out by ensuring that every call they get is verified," Pallone and Walden said in a joint statement. "Americans should be able to block robocalls in a consistent and transparent way without being charged extra for it."

Read more here.

 

YOU'RE FIRED: The Save Journalism Project, a group started by recently laid-off reporters aimed at highlighting tech giants' effect on the news industry, is launching its first ad campaign this week. The campaign urges lawmakers to take on Facebook and Google.

John Stanton, a former D.C. bureau chief at Buzzfeed News, and Laura Bassett, who was laid off from her job as a Huffington Post reporter this year, launched the group earlier this month to bring attention to how tech platforms' stranglehold on digital advertising revenue harms local and online news publishers.

"Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook have consumed approximately 60 percent of all digital ad revenue, making it difficult for even online news outlets with national reach to survive, let alone local ones," Stanton, a longtime political reporter who was laid off in a round of cuts at Buzzfeed this year, said in a statement.

The digital video ad highlighted how the newspaper industry's revenue plummeted in the past decade as Facebook and Google have achieved explosive growth by taking in the majority of online ad revenue.

The ad campaign will run on Twitter ahead of next week's Congressional Baseball Game, which the group is helping to sponsor. The group declined to disclose how much money would be spent on the campaign.

Read more here.

 

LIBRA RAISES CONSUMER CONCERNS: Facebook is facing fresh scrutiny from lawmakers and consumer advocates over its plans to launch a new cryptocurrency, a project that could fundamentally alter the way millions of people exchange currency online.

The company's digital currency project, Libra, is backed by dozens of powerful businesses, including MasterCard and Uber, and is slated to launch next year. Libra has branded itself as an effort to aid the "unbanked," the estimated 1.7 billion people who do not have access to traditional banking.

Facebook's toughest critics are seizing on the project with the company already facing a slew of other concerns over its market powers and privacy protections.

"We look forward to responding to lawmakers' questions as this process moves forward," a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill.

The proposal: Facebook's cryptocurrency plans are an ambitious move for the company. Facebook on Tuesday said it hopes Libra makes transferring money as easy as sending a text message. The company is launching a new subsidiary, Calibra, tasked with rolling out the alternative financial system.

The cryptocurrency will be operated by a nonprofit called the Libra Association, headquartered in Switzerland, which will give Facebook one vote among many companies overseeing the project.

Facebook emphasized that the cryptocurrency will be governed by the Libra Association, a likely attempt to assuage concerns about the tech giant gaining too large of a foothold in the nascent digital currency industry. And the company has pledged that none of the financial customer data collected by Calibra will be shared with any other Facebook service.

The concerns: But consumer advocates insist that Facebook's ownership of the project raises unavoidable red flags, considering the privacy and antitrust concerns that have swirled around the company for years.

"Facebook is about the last company in the world that should be given authority to develop crypto currency," Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told The Hill in an email. "Facebook does not protect consumer privacy. There is no reason to believe it will protect consumer financial transactions."

David Marcus, who is heading Facebook's cryptocurrency effort, on Twitter wrote, "we understand we will have to earn your trust."

The white paper on Libra says Facebook created Calibra, the subsidiary, "to ensure separation between social and financial data."

But there are lingering questions about whether Facebook will follow through on those plans and how it intends to achieve a total separation when Libra will be available in Facebook's messaging services, Messenger and WhatsApp.

Some critics have said Libra is antithetical to one of the original goals of blockchain, which was to create an alternative payments option outside of traditional institutions. Libra is backed by some of the most powerful financial companies in the world.

"Technologies like blockchain were touted as helping to break the hold of large platforms," Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCalifornia Law to rebuild middle class shows need for congressional action Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Top Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. "Instead, we see Facebook using its scale to blunt the promise of decentralizing technologies."

Read more on the criticism here.

 

APPLE SEEKS TARIFF EXEMPTIONS: Apple is asking the U.S. government to exclude its products -- including the mega-popular iPhone -- from President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE's next round of proposed tariffs on Chinese imports.

In a letter made public on Thursday, the tech giant wrote that the tariffs could give an advantage to Apple's Chinese competitors as well as reduce Apple's contributions to the U.S. economy. 

"U.S. tariffs would also weigh on Apple's global competitiveness," Apple wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

What Apple wants: The company is asking Lighthizer to strike Apple products from Trump's proposed tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, which, if implemented, would affect the iPhone, iPad, Mac, AirPods, AppleTV and more.

Trump and Apple: Apple has an advantage over other companies in some ways, considering the company's CEO Tim Cook has a close relationship with Trump. In February, Cook joined the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, a White House body tasked with helping to develop a "21st century workforce" plan.

Trump has previously indicated a fondness for Apple's Cook, and in March made headlines when he referred to him as "Tim Apple."

More on Apple here.

 

MADE IN CHINA BUT FOR HOW LONG: Apple is considering moving some of its production outside of China amid rising trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The company is looking into the feasibility of shifting up to one-third of the production for some devices out of China, sources told the Journal.

Destinations under consideration reportedly include Southeast Asia.

Any major shift would take years to implement, given the company relies on hundreds of thousands of workers available in China to manufacture the iPhone, the Journal noted.

Foxconn Technology Group, Apple's biggest assembler, is starting preparations to ramp up production for the new iPhones coming out this fall, sources told the newspaper.

"There is some flexibility to move Mac and other products, but it won't be easy," Mehdi Hosseini, an analyst with Susquehanna International Group who focuses on the technology supply chain, told the Journal.

"You have to have relatively skilled labor. You have to create an inventory hub. It would take time."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Read more here.

 

GOLDEN STATE WINS GOLD: California has suffered more data breaches and personal records exposed than any other state in the U.S. over the past decade, with almost 1,500 data breach incidents, a new report has found.

The report, published Thursday by consumer group Comparitech, found that data breach incidents in California led to 5.6 billion personal records being exposed. Oregon came second on the number of records exposed at around 1.3 billion, while New York ranked second on the number of data breaches, at 729.

Comparitech used information on data breaches collected by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Identity Theft Resource Center to examine the number of breaches in each state between 2008 and 2019.

The number of breaches and personal information exposed were assigned to the states where the breach occurred, though for some breaches that were more widespread, the numbers were assigned to the state where the headquarters of the company breached was located at the time.  

Comparitech estimated that in total since 2008, there have been almost 10,000 data breaches in the U.S., exposing around 10.7 billion personal records. The group said IT amounts to around $1.6 trillion lost in the past decade.

Read more here.

  

YIKES: Research suggests young people shifting their posture to use cellphones is causing them to develop hornlike spurs at the base of their skulls, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

A pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, published their study in academic papers arguing that modern technology is to blame.

Younger generations are reportedly tilting their chins down to look at smartphones and other handheld devices, shifting weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head.

This motion, researchers argued, causes bone growth in the connecting tendons on the back of the neck.

The Post noted that while the study was released last year, it has received renewed attention this month following a BBC report titled, "How modern life is transforming the human skeleton."

Some media outlets have since described the growth as "head horns" or "phone bones."

David Shahar, the paper's first author, told the Post that the nicknames are "up to anyone's imagination"

"You may say it looks like a bird's beak, a horn, a hook," Shahar, a chiropractor with a Ph.D. in biomechanics at Sunshine Coast, told the newspaper.

The pair's research, published in Scientific Reports in 2018, considered a sample of 1,200 X-rays of subjects in Queensland, ages 18 to 86.

The growth was present in 33 percent of the population, but researchers found it decreased with age.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEWON: Congress should end massive phone records spying.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Libra's newest competitor.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Facebook's new rapid response team has a crucial task: Avoid fueling another genocide. (NBC News)

To take down Big Tech, they first need to reinvent the law. (The New York Times)

DHS to move biometric data of millions of people to the Amazon Cloud. (NextGov)

Facebook, Big Tech hedge privacy risks in online support groups. (Bloomberg Law)