Hillicon Valley: House panel subpoenas 8chan owner | FCC takes step forward on T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Warren wants probe into FTC over Equifax settlement | Groups make new push to end surveillance program

Hillicon Valley: House panel subpoenas 8chan owner | FCC takes step forward on T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Warren wants probe into FTC over Equifax settlement | Groups make new push to end surveillance program
© Greg Nash

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HOUSE SUBPOENAS 8CHAN: The House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday subpoenaed the owner of 8chan, the internet messaging board linked to three mass shootings this year, to testify before Congress.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response MORE (D-Miss.) and ranking member Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersFreshman Dem finds voice in fight against online extremism Lawmakers criticize Trump's slashed budget for key federal cyber agency GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs MORE (R-Ala.) issued the subpoena of Jim Watkins as part of their ongoing probe into extremist content online.

"Today the Committee on Homeland Security issued a subpoena to Jim Watkins, the owner of the website 8chan,” the leaders of the committee, which has partial jurisdiction over the issue of domestic terrorism, said in a statement.

“At least three acts of deadly white supremacist extremist violence have been linked to 8chan in the last six months,” they said. “We have questions on what is being done to counter this trend so we can be sure it is being properly addressed. Receiving testimony from Mr. Watkins is critical to our oversight on this matter."

Read more here.

T-MOBILE, SPRINT EDGE CLOSER TO GREEN LIGHT: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a step toward approving the $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint on Wednesday, circulating a proposal that would allow the companies to combine and sell off assets to Dish so that it can enter the wireless industry.

Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced Wednesday that he was formally recommending that the deal be approved by his fellow commissioners.


“After one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that this transaction will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas," Pai said in a statement.

"Moreover, with the conditions included in this draft Order, the merger will promote robust competition in mobile broadband, put critical mid-band spectrum to use, and bring new competition to the fixed broadband market.”

The Department of Justice also approved the deal last month on the condition that it sell off Boost Mobile -- Sprint's prepaid wireless brand -- and other assets so that Dish could join the industry as a fourth competitor. Makan Delrahim, the head of the DOJ's antitrust division, applauded the FCC's move on Wednesday.

“We are now one step closer to strengthening competition for high-quality 5G networks that will benefit American consumers nationwide,” Delrahim said in a statement.

Still, the deal faces a court challenge from more than a dozen state attorneys general concerned about the effect it will have on competition.

Read more here.


MORE QUESTIONS OVER EQUIFAX SETTLEMENT: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds Overnight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air Ex-CFPB director urges agency to 'act immediately' to help consumers during pandemic MORE (D-Mass.) is asking the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) internal watchdog for an investigation after the agency warned consumers that it would not be able to accommodate everyone seeking a cash payout from a fund for victims of the massive data breach at Equifax in 2017.

“The FTC has the authority to investigate and protect the public from unfair or deceptive acts or practices, including deceptive advertising,” the senator wrote in a letter to the FTC's inspector general on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, it appears as though the agency itself may have misled the American public about the terms of the Equifax settlement and their ability to obtain the full reimbursement to which they are entitled.”

When the FTC announced the settlement last month, it told consumers that they could opt to claim free credit monitoring or up to $125 in cash from the fund.

After being inundated with claims from consumers requesting cash, the FTC urged them to opt instead for the credit monitoring, saying that only $31 million had been set aside for consumer claims and that the payouts would have to be less than $125 in order to accommodate the flood of requests.

Warren said in her letter Wednesday that “the agency appeared to misinform consumers by failing to tell them about these potential reductions until after they had signed up for the payments.”

Read more here.


GROUPS PUSH TO END SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM: A coalition of 37 activist groups is pushing the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee to end the government's mass phone data collection program, arguing it poses insurmountable threats to the privacy and civil liberties of millions of people.

The letter comes as Congress braces for a battle over the reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act, which is set to expire later this year and gives the government a broad range of surveillance authorities.

The prominent privacy and civil rights organizations made clear they will not support any bill that reauthorizes the call records program and that does not offer "meaningful surveillance reforms."

Sean Vitka, policy counsel with civil liberties group Demand Progress, told The Hill he hopes the letter will "embolden people who are rightfully concerned about the possible restart of a program that spies on ... millions of innocent people."

He said the groups hope to "make sure people on the Hill know civil society is there and we can't accept any reauthorization" of the call records program.

So far, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-N.Y.) has not weighed in publicly about where he stands on the USA Freedom Act or the call records program, referred to as Section 215.

"Given the CDR program's extraordinary breadth, its lack of demonstrated efficacy, and the government's failure to lawfully implement it, repealing the CDR program is a necessary first step, although not sufficient without other major reforms," the groups wrote, referring to call detail records (CDR).


Privacy activists have long argued that elements of the USA Freedom Act -- which enables the CDR program -- should not be reauthorized, including the Section 215 authorities. They say the program has not effectively stopped any terrorist attacks and encroaches on the personal lives of Americans.

Read more here.


PHILLY SCRUTINIZING VOTING MACHINE CONTRACT: The Philadelphia Board of Elections will meet Thursday to consider voiding a contract for new election machines after it was learned that the company, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), did not disclose their use of lobbyists to get the contract.

In a letter sent to the board this week, City Solicitor Marcel Pratt asked that the board consider whether the $29 million contract with ES&S to provide new voting machines with voter-verifiable paper records should be voided.

The letter followed an investigation by the Philadelphia city controller that found ES&S failed to make certain mandatory disclosures when applying for the contract.

Those included not disclosing the use of lobbyists and consultants, the identities of these lobbying groups, and the amount paid to them by ES&S.


Read more here.

WARREN BACKS CALIFORNIA GIG ECONOMY BILL: Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) endorsed a California bill that would classify “gig economy” workers as employees.

Companies such as Uber, Postmates and DoorDash typically classify workers as “independent contractors,” Warren writes, in an editorial for The Sacramento Bee, "allowing employers to deny workers basic protections like the right to organize, wage and hour laws, health care coverage and protections against sexual harassment."

Although the trucking and construction industries have long engaged in the same practice, Warren writes, ride-hailing and delivery apps and other fixtures in the “gig economy” have significantly expanded its use.

The state legislation, AB 5, would make “employee” the default status for workers, similar to existing law in Massachusetts that has been in effect for years.

“The test is flexible enough that there is no need for an extensive array of exclusions. Working within the framework of the test, doctors or hair stylists or lawyers can set up their businesses to preserve the use of independent contractor status,” Warren writes.

“Carving up the statute with scores of exclusions only serves to weaken protections for millions of workers who need it,” she adds.

Read more here.

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Maine's new privacy law means well, but goes wrong.


A LIGHTER CLICK: It's the end of the world 



Huawei technicians helped African governments spy on political opponents. (The Wall Street Journal)

Dutch spy agency investigating alleged Huawei 'backdoor.' (Reuters)

The rise of the virtual restaurant. (The New York Times)

Major breach found in biometrics system used by banks, UK police and defense firms. (The Guardian)