Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns

Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns
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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).

 

KNOW YOUR WORTH: A bipartisan pair of senators on Monday introduced a bill that would force social media companies to disclose the value of the data they collect from users, an attempt to shed light on how much the companies gain from monetizing their customers.

Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump asserts his power over Republicans Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (D-Va.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyRepublicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks GOP senators dodge on treatment of White House protesters Rosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs MORE (R-Mo.), two of the upper chamber's most vocal tech critics, unveiled the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data Act on Sunday night.

"For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user," Warner said in a statement. "But that's not true -- you are paying with your data instead of your wallet."

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"But the overall lack of transparency and disclosure in this market have made it impossible for users to know what they're giving up, who else their data is being shared with, or what it's worth to the platform," he added.

What companies would need to do: The bill, reported first by Axios, would force top companies like Facebook and Google to regularly tell their users how much their data is worth, compile annual reports on the "aggregate value" of user data they collect, and tell users what they're doing with the data they collect. The bill would also require companies to offer users the option to delete all or some of their data.

It would only apply to online services with 100 million monthly active users, targeting the top tech outlets rather than smaller services. 

It would also empower the Securities and Exchange Commission to figure out the best ways to calculate the value of data.

Most top social media companies -- such as Facebook -- make the majority of their money through the collection of user data, which they use to target advertisements. The bill would force the companies to offer more information on how much that data is worth and what they gain from collecting it.

"Tech companies can sell our information to the highest bidder and use it to target us with creepy ads," Hawley said in a statement. "Even worse, tech companies do their best to hide how much consumer data is worth and to whom it is sold."

Read more here.

 

GOP DIVIDED OVER ELECTION SECURITY: A renewed push to pass election security legislation ahead of the 2020 vote is putting a spotlight on divisions among key Republicans.

GOP senators say they want to protect U.S. election infrastructure from a repeat of Russia's 2016 meddling, but they are deeply split over how far the federal government should go to try to secure the ballot box and what, if any, new legislation that requires from Congress.

Battle lines drawn: On one side of the divide are Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe risks of staying in Afghanistan far outweigh the risk of withdrawal Republicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress MORE (R-S.C.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump asserts his power over Republicans FISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Rubio: Coronavirus conspiracy theories could be used in foreign election misinformation campaigns MORE (R-N.C.), who have backed passing additional legislation. On the other side are powerful figures including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump congratulates Steve King challenger on GOP primary win The Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen Republicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks MORE (R-Ky.) and Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Washington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Mo.), who have signaled election security bills are going nowhere anytime soon in the Senate.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks Susan Collins criticizes Trump's treatment of protesters as 'painful to watch' Trump's vow to deploy military faces GOP pushback MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 GOP senator, argued that while Republicans support secure elections, most of the caucus believes the issue has been handled by previous bills and state action.

"I think it would depend entirely on the bills and what they purport to do but I think most of our members think that that issue is being adequately addressed," he said, when asked about members of the caucus who support additional legislation.

But the divisions have spilled over into the Senate committees with jurisdiction over the issue, where the Rules Committee and Judiciary Committee chairmen have taken different tracks on election-related legislation.

Blunt, who is also a member of GOP leadership, told The Hill that he did not "have anything new" on this topic. He previously told members of his committee that he would not hold votes on election security bills because McConnell "is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion."

Graham, by comparison, co-sponsored legislation approved by the Senate earlier this year that would block individuals who meddled in elections from entering the United States, and he supports passing additional legislation.

"I think there's some other things that we can do. The two that we did are good starts, but there are other things," Graham told The Hill.

Senate at odds with Trump officialss: The inaction in the Senate is at odds with warnings from some Trump administration officials including FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said earlier this year that Russia was "upping their game" when it comes to meddling and that the FBI is "very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020."

Secure Elections Act: GOP proponents of passing new election security legislation are preparing another push on the Secure Elections Act, which was yanked in the last Congress amid pushback from the White House and members of the Senate Republican caucus.

This bill garnered bipartisan support during the last Congress and would require all jurisdictions to perform post-election audits to verify results. This would involve checking paper ballots or paper records of votes against what the voting machines recorded to ensure the vote count is accurate.

Graham and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump pushes back against GOP senators' criticism of dispersal of protesters in Lafayette Square: 'You got it wrong' Trump, Biden battle to shape opinion on scenes of unrest GOP senators dodge on treatment of White House protesters MORE (R-Maine), two of the bill's cosponsors last year, signaled they are open to backing the forthcoming version. Meanwhile, Burr told reporters in the wake of Mueller's report that the Secure Elections Act would be a good starting point.

"We identified and came up with what we thought was an appropriate response, with the Elections Security Act," he said. "I think we need to get that in place."

Read more on the split here. 

 

WE'VE GOT THIS: Officials are currently tracking efforts by nations including Russia and Iran to influence Americans through social media platforms on issues including the 2020 election, a senior intelligence official told reporters on Monday.

The official said during a press conference that agencies are tracking efforts by Russia to "pit Americans against each other" through posting on social media, while China is using social media platforms to "influence the U.S. political environment."

Iran is taking a similar approach to China and is utilizing these sites to "promote pro-Iranian interests," added the official, who talked to the media under the condition they not be identified.

The senior intelligence official spoke during an election security briefing for reporters, which took place on the heels of a week during which the U.S. Senate hotly debated this topic.

The official emphasized that these efforts are would "not necessarily affect a tally of a vote, but they might influence a voting population."

The official also noted that while there is activity on social media, there has been no evidence of recent attempts by foreign governments to infiltrate or interfere in voting machines.

The comments come months after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE wrote in his report on the 2016 election that the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) "conducted social media operations targeted at large U.S. audiences with the goal of sowing discord in the U.S. political system."

Mueller reported that as early as 2014, Russia's IRA employees began operating accounts on social media sites that claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists, posting about "divisive U.S. political and social activities."

Read more here.

 

HEARING ALERT: The chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee announced Monday that the panel will hold a hearing next month on Facebook's plan to develop a cryptocurrency-based payments platform.

The Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on Facebook's Project Libra on July 17, Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMcCarthy yanks endorsement of California candidate over social media posts Top bank regulator announces abrupt resignation GOP pulls support from California House candidate over 'unacceptable' social media posts MORE (D-Calif.) announced Monday afternoon. The Senate Banking Committee will hold its own hearing on the social media giant's crypto project the previous day.

Facebook triggered bipartisan alarm last week when it announced a plan to develop its own payments system based on a cryptocurrency supported by more than two dozen major corporations, including Uber, Mastercard, Spotify and Coinbase.

The cryptocurrency project would be operated by the non-profit Libra Association and separate from the social media platform, according to Facebook. But Facebook's recent string of privacy breaches, federal penalties and immense power has spurred concern across the political spectrum.

Waters called on Facebook to suspend Project Libra until lawmakers and regulators had a chance to weigh in and grill company executives. Rep. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryTop bank regulator announces abrupt resignation Trump campaign launches new fundraising program with House Republicans The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump turns to lawmakers to advise on reopening MORE (R-N.C.), the Financial Services panel's top Republican, echoed those concerns in a request for a hearing on Project Libra's "potential unprecedented impact on the global financial system."

Read more here.

 

ASKING NICELY: A top Facebook executive said in a new interview that the social media giant is open to more regulation from governments around the world to address problems ranging from violent content to user privacy.

Former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Facebook's current head of global policy and communications, told the BBC there is a "pressing need" for new "rules of the road" for tech firms, and denied that Facebook has shunned government intervention.

"It's not for private companies, however big or small, to come up with those rules. It is for democratic politicians in the democratic world to do so," Clegg said.

When asked whether Facebook should be tasked with fixing its problems alone, Clegg called for the platform to play a "mature role" in the regulation process.

Clegg also detailed Facebook's investigations into outside interference in the 2016 Brexit vote, denying that Russian forces or the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which acquired user data on millions of Facebook users without their consent, influenced the "Leave" vote.

Read more here.

 

ICYMI... SEE YOU IN COURT: Chinese tech giant Huawei filed a civil lawsuit against the U.S. on Friday, saying the Commerce Department mishandled equipment from the company it had seized in 2017.

The complaint alleges the U.S. government took several pieces of equipment that were being shipped from an independent testing facility in the United States to China in an effort to figure out if the products were subject to export controls.

Huawei claims it gave authorities the necessary documents to resolve the issue and that such disputes are typically solved in 45 days. The company said it believes its technology is still being held in Alaska nearly two years later.

The tech behemoth is asking the court to order the Commerce Department to determine whether the products fall under the purview of export controls and to release the equipment if not. It is not seeking any financial damages.

The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Take a scalpel, not an axe, to 'Big Tech'

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: We'll get there one day.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Facebook is building an oversight board. Can that fix its problems? (Bloomberg News)

5 lessons from Microsoft's antitrust woes, by people who lived it. (The New York Times)

Bill Gates says his 'greatest mistake ever' was Microsoft losing to Android. (The Verge)

AT&T sued over hidden fee that raises mobile prices above advertised rate. (Ars Technica)