Hillicon Valley: States pose next hurdle for T-Mobile, Sprint | Williamson most searched-for candidate during debate | Lawmakers seek documents on border patrol Facebook group | FTC surprised by flood of Equifax claims

Hillicon Valley: States pose next hurdle for T-Mobile, Sprint | Williamson most searched-for candidate during debate | Lawmakers seek documents on border patrol Facebook group | FTC surprised by flood of Equifax claims
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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).



THE LAST BUMP IN THE ROAD?: The $26 billion T-Mobile–Sprint deal faces one last major hurdle as a group of state attorneys general look to block the telecommunications mega-merger in court.

The controversial deal -- which would combine two of the country's top national mobile carriers into one company valued at $146 billion -- has already cleared a series of pivotal regulatory hurdles this month.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) greenlighted the deal last week, and the Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) signaled they are ready to sign off on the plan.

Now, critics of the deal are turning their focus to the legal challenge from state attorneys general, saying it is the most significant hurdle the merger still has to clear.

"The state attorney general lawsuit has a lot of legal and factual merit," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former state attorney general who has been critical of the T-Mobile–Sprint deal, told The Hill.

"No one can predict what the outcome in courts is going to be, but they have a lot going for them," he added.

The group of 13 attorneys general, along with Washington, D.C., are moving forward with their litigation to block the merger, which they officially announced last month -- even before the DOJ announced its decision on the deal.


The leads in the lawsuit, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), have argued the deal would raise prices on consumers, particularly those from low-income communities of color, and harm competition by reducing the number of major mobile carriers in the U.S. from four to three.

The attorneys general have not changed their tune following the DOJ decision.

Read more on their legal challenge here.



CBP FACEBOOK PAGE UNDER SCRUTINY: The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday requested a tranche of documents related to racist and sexist Facebook posts by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCongressional investigation finds Coast Guard leadership fell short on handling bullying Trump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list Impeachment can't wait MORE (D-Md.) sent a letter to Mark Morgan, a top official at CBP, seeking information the agency has collected about the Facebook groups and their members.

The letter comes weeks after reports revealed thousands of CBP officers had participated in Facebook groups filled with derogatory posts targeting migrants and minority lawmakers.

CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating 62 current Border Patrol employees for their involvement in three groups, including "I'm 10-15," the first group that was publicly reported.

"The Committee is investigating racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments relating to immigrants and Members of Congress made by employees of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in 'secret' Facebook groups," Cummings wrote in Wednesday's letter. "The Committee is concerned that Border Patrol agents and other CBP employees who wrote posts disparaging immigrants may still be working with immigrants and children."

Cummings asked for "all postings and comments, including images, videos and text, from these Facebook groups," as well as "membership information from these Facebook groups" and all correspondence related to the groups.

Earlier this month, the committee requested similar information from Facebook, asking the company to "preserve all documents, communications and other data related to the 'I'm 10-15' group," including log files and metadata.

Read more here.



FTC CAN'T MAKE IT RAIN: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was caught off guard by the number of people seeking cash payouts from the settlement it reached with Equifax last week over the 2017 data breach that exposed sensitive information from 147 million people, the agency said on Wednesday.

The FTC said there is a limited pool of money to pay out victims of the data breach and urged consumers to instead consider opting for free credit monitoring offered to those affected as part of the settlement.

Robert Schoshinski, the assistant director of the FTC's Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, wrote in a blog post that only $31 million out of the settlement's $300 million compensation fund is available for the cash claims.

"A large number of claims for cash instead of credit monitoring means only one thing: each person who takes the money option will wind up only getting a small amount of money," Schoshinski wrote. "Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn't been such an enormous number of claims filed."

Equifax agreed to pay a total of $700 million in a multi-pronged settlement with 48 state attorneys general, the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the 2017 incident. But many lawmakers and privacy advocates decried the fine as a slap on the wrist for a credit reporting agency worth nearly $18 billion.

FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said during a press conference last week that his agency didn't ask Equifax to pay more than $300 million because its economic analysts said that a larger sum would hurt the company's ability to invest in better cybersecurity infrastructure and to remain competitive within its industry.


Read more here.


REVVING UP SELF-DRIVING CAR LEGISLATION: Two key congressional committees are restarting talks with relevant stakeholders to put together legislation for self-driving cars. The new effort comes after two bills last Congress failed to be signed into law amid pushback from consumer advocates and some Senate Democrats.

"The House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation are working on a bipartisan and bicameral basis to develop a self-driving car bill," the panels wrote in a letter sent to stakeholders on Tuesday that was obtained by The Hill. 

The committees asked for feedback on issues involved in creating legislation on self-driving cars such as the cybersecurity of the vehicles, the privacy of data collected and how to update existing standards in place for automated vehicles.

The panels gave stakeholders until Aug. 23 to respond with feedback on the creation of the bill and stressed that the objective of asking for feedback was to be "as inclusive as possible."

Putting in place standards around autonomous vehicles was a major bipartisan focus during the last Congress, with the House Energy and Commerce Committee approving the Self-Drive Act and the Senate Commerce Committee pushing forward the AV START Act.


Read more here.


EYES ON THE SUPPLY CHAIN: Sens. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Lawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank MORE (R-Idaho) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat MORE (D-Va.) introduced legislation Tuesday to secure U.S. technological supply chains from being exploited by countries such as China.

The Manufacturing, Investment, and Controls Review for Computer Hardware, Intellectual Property and Supply (Microchips) Act would establish a National Supply Chain Security Center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

This new center would be charged with collecting information on threats to supply chains for the government and the military as well as for key telecommunication infrastructure like 5G, and sharing this with relevant federal agencies.

The bill would also require the director of national intelligence to develop a plan to increase supply chain intelligence within 180 days of the bill being signed into law. This portion of the bill was included in the House-passed version of the Intelligence Authorization Act.

While the bill aims to address foreign threats generally to supply chains, it zeros in on Chinese practices to exploit supply chain, including cyber-physical attacks on U.S. electric grids, missiles and computer systems, and malicious actors gaining access to sensitive data.

Crapo, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement that "actions by the People's Republic of China have contributed to an unfair and unsafe advantage in its technological race against the United States," adding that "China aims to dominate a $1.5 trillion electronics industry, which creates serious, far-reaching threats to the supply chains that support the U.S. government and military." 

Read more here.


APPLE PLANS TO KEEP MAC PRO ROOTS IN US:  Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday said the company wants to continue manufacturing Mac Pro computers in the U.S.

According to CNBC, Cook also suggested he was in talks with the Trump administration on the matter after President Trump refused to grant the company tariff exemptions for parts made in China.

"In terms of the exclusion, we've been making the Mac Pro in the U.S. We want to continue doing that," Cook told analysts on a phone call, according to CNBC. "We're working and investing currently in capacity to do so because we want to continue to be here."

"And so that's what's on the exclusions. And so we're explaining that and hope for a positive outcome," he added.

The $5,999 Mac Pro is not yet on sale and is expected to be released in the fall.

Trump announced that Apple would not be given tariff relief after the company requested the exemption last month.

Read more here.


ARTISTS GROUP WANTS CONGRESS TO GET TOUGH ON BIG TECH: A trade group representing musicians and other content creators wants Congress to take in their perspectives as it investigates the effects of large tech companies' market power.

The Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) sent a letter on Wednesday to lawmakers leading an antitrust probe into Silicon Valley's giants, raising concerns about how large internet platforms impact the music business.

"We have seen first-hand the damage wrought by the monopoly platforms using their market power to exploit outdated or misinterpreted public policy," the group wrote in the letter. "If left unchecked, we fear they will squeeze the life out of American music and every other field of creativity and put the dream of earning a decent living out of reach for the next generation of creators. That is a matter of national concern."

The ARA, which until recently was known as the Content Creators Coalition, sent the letter to Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineLive coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Parties clash as impeachment articles move closer to House vote MORE (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, as well as the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, two agencies that are conducting their own investigations into how large tech companies wield their market power.

Cicilline's panel has held two hearings in the investigation since launching it in June.

Read more here.



EYES ON WILLIAMSON POST DEBATE: Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — GOP, Democrats square off at final impeachment hearing Marianne Williamson roasted for claim Trump pardoned Charles Manson Democrats take in lobbying industry cash despite pledges MORE was the most searched candidate during Tuesday night's Democratic debates, according to Google Trends.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSaagar Enjeti says Buttigieg's release of McKinsey client list shows he 'caved to public pressure' Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director MORE (I-Vt.) came in second, followed by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSaagar Enjeti says Buttigieg's release of McKinsey client list shows he 'caved to public pressure' On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Bill Weld: As many as six GOP senators privately support convicting Trump MORE (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSaagar Enjeti says Buttigieg's release of McKinsey client list shows he 'caved to public pressure' Biden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Wisconsin: poll MORE.

Williamson, a celebrity spiritual adviser and long-shot presidential candidate, also saw one of the most significant search spikes during last month's debates. Throughout Tuesday night, her speeches about topics including reparations, poverty and "dark psychic forces" drew rounds of applause from the audience.

Google searches for the phrase "dark psychic force" also trended during the debates after Williamson used the term to illustrate her concerns about the Trump administration.

"If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days," Williamson warned to applause from the audience.

Shortly after her remarks, there was a sharp spike in users Googling "dark psychic force," peaking in popularity around 9:40 PM, according to Google Trends.

Read more here.


ICYMI: RATCLIFFE AND ELECTION SECURITY: Senate Democrats are raising concerns about how President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE's pick to be the next director of national intelligence (DNI) plans to safeguard U.S. elections from foreign interference.

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeLive coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Trump, first lady take part in National Christmas Tree lighting Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing MORE (R-Texas), tapped by the president to succeed outgoing DNI Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter MORE, served in a key cybersecurity position during the previous Congress, but he gained notoriety more recently for questioning former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MORE's conclusions on aspects of Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections.

"At a time when every leader of our intelligence community has indicated that Russia is a threat and that they continue to be so, there has never been a time more critical that we maintain the independence of our intelligence community," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill. 

"I don't know the man, but it seems from his testimony before the Mueller hearing, he had very different views than most intelligence professionals," Warner added. 

Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing GOP set for all-out battle over Michigan Senate seat MORE (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, said national security is his top priority "and securing our elections is an essential part of that effort." 

"I have a lot of concerns and questions about Congressman Ratcliffe's record, experience and qualifications," he added.

While Coats made election security a priority as DNI, an issue he touched on in his resignation letter, Ratcliffe's focus on this issue, if confirmed, is unclear.

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON:  The Faustian bargain of WeChat: China shackles the world.





How Trump's trade war with China has shifted tech interest to Vietnam. (The New York Times)

Examining possible benefits of 5G. (CNET)

Facebook working on new TV device. (The Information)

Tech giants join open source data sharing project. (The Verge)