Hillicon Valley: Tech grapples with California 'gig economy' law | FCC to investigate Sprint over millions in subsidies | House bill aims to protect telecom networks | Google wins EU fight over 'right to be forgotten' | 27 nations sign cyber rules pact

Hillicon Valley: Tech grapples with California 'gig economy' law | FCC to investigate Sprint over millions in subsidies | House bill aims to protect telecom networks | Google wins EU fight over 'right to be forgotten' | 27 nations sign cyber rules pact
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).



GIG ECONOMY SHAKEUP IN CALIFORNIA: Tech companies, drivers and regulators are scrambling to grapple with a new law in California that will require "gig economy" companies to offer their workers a full range of employee benefits.

There are a number of lingering questions about the controversial legislation, which California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomCalifornia Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat California lawmakers ask governor to posthumously pardon gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin Anti-vaccine protester charged after allegedly throwing menstrual blood at California lawmakers MORE (D) signed into law last week -- including what it will look like by the time it's implemented.

Newsom has already vowed to seek changes that carve out a middle ground between the labor organizers behind the push and companies like Uber and Lyft, which are planning to funnel millions of dollars into a ballot measure intended to overturn the law.

But no matter where the state-level debate winds up, labor advocates and industry watchers say the law -- dubbed Assembly Bill 5, or A.B. 5 -- is a game-changer when it comes to regulating how gig economy companies are allowed to treat their workers. And if other states adopt California's approach, companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash will find it harder to move forward with the same business model.

"California is setting an example for the nation on the future of the gig economy," Alex Rosenblat, a researcher focused on the future of work with the Data and Society Research Institute, told The Hill.

What it means for the country: The widely watched battle over A.B. 5 will likely spark a sea change in how various states, and potentially even the federal government, take on the gig economy's fast-and-loose relationship with labor laws.

"As a society, we've agreed there's a minimum set of labor standards that we need to meet," Ken Jacobs, chairman of the University of California, Berkley Labor Center, told The Hill. "I think where we are right now, the gig companies are going to learn how to operate in that world."


A coalition of labor groups in New York is campaigning to pass similar legislation at the state level, calling on the legislature and governor to protect New York's gig economy workers.

"There's a really strong coalition that's forming," Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told The Hill. Her group represents yellow cabs as well as ride-hailing drivers, totaling around 22,000 members, she said.

She said they plan to ramp up their work lobbying lawmakers when the New York State Legislature is back in session in January.

"A.B. 5 has been so energizing and has given a lot of us tremendous hope," Desai said. "Particularly companies like Uber and Lyft ... lobbied hard to have themselves be exempt from [taxi] industry regulation. What we're saying is they should not be similarly carved out of labor law."

There are similar efforts underway in Washington state. And in New Jersey, where there is already a broad independent contractor law on the books, activists are anticipating gig workers and labor unions will bring more lawsuits to test whether the law is being properly enforced.

How tech companies are responding: Uber and Lyft have made it clear they believe the California law is an existential threat to their business. Analysts have estimated the legislation could raise expenses for the companies by as much as 15 to 20 percent, and Uber has said outright that it will not classify its drivers as employees, flouting the law explicitly written for them.

Lyft has not come out as strongly in public, but it has threatened to "take the issue to the voters of California" through a ballot initiative that would overturn the law.

DoorDash, Uber and Lyft have committed to spending $30 million each to promote the ballot initiative.

Read more here on what's next. 



FCC INVESTIGATES SPRINT: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that it would investigate Sprint for pocketing tens of millions of dollars in subsidies meant to help low-income households get cellular and broadband service.

The commission said on Tuesday that it had learned Sprint was receiving subsidies under its Lifeline program for 885,000 subscribers who were not using the service.

"It's outrageous that a company would claim millions of taxpayer dollars for doing nothing," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "This shows a careless disregard for program rules and American taxpayers. I have asked our Enforcement Bureau to investigate this matter to determine the full extent of the problem and to propose an appropriate remedy."


The Lifeline program gives participating service providers $9.25 a month to use towards providing cheap or even free offerings to low-income households. That means Sprint could have been taking in nearly $8.2 million a month for the 885,000 inactive subscribers that the FCC knows of. It's unclear how long Sprint was receiving the subsidy for the inactive subscribers.

Sprint's side: Lisa Belot, a spokeswoman for Sprint, said that the discrepancy was the result of an error stemming from the company's efforts to comply with changes to the Lifeline program that the FCC passed in 2016.

"When the error was discovered, we immediately investigated and proactively raised this issue with the FCC and appropriate state regulators. We also engaged an independent third party to review the results of our review and the effectiveness of our operational changes," Belot said in an email.

Read more here.


PROTECT THE NETWORKS: The bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday introduced legislation that would ban the use of federal funds to purchase telecommunications equipment from companies deemed national security threats.

The Secure and Trusted Communications Network Act would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to compile a list of companies deemed by federal authorities outside the agency as posing national security risks to telecom networks.


The bill is sponsored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenConservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 Republicans offer details on environmental proposals after Democrats roll out plan MORE (R-Ore.), along with Reps. Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiLobbying World Bipartisan food allergy legislation gains ground in Congress, but the fight has only just begun Democrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data MORE (D-Calif.) and Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieOvernight Health Care: Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat | House panel to examine federal marijuana policies | House GOP reopens investigation into opioid manufacturers Lawmakers express alarm over rise in cocaine overdose deaths House GOP reopens investigation into opioid manufacturers over role in crisis MORE (R-Ky.).

"America's wireless future depends on our networks being secure from malicious foreign interference," the sponsors said in a joint statement. "Our telecommunications companies rely heavily on equipment manufactured and provided by foreign companies that, in some cases, as with companies such as Huawei and its affiliates, can pose a significant threat to America's commercial and security interests."

The bill is the latest attempt to address threats posed by Chinese telecommunications group Huawei, and comes after President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE issued an executive order in May aimed at securing the supply chain of telecommunications networks. The Commerce Department also added Huawei to its "entity list" in May, citing national security concerns. U.S. companies are banned from doing business with groups on this list.

Read more on the legislation here.


DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME: The European Union's top court on Tuesday ruled that Google doesn't have to extend the region's "right to be forgotten" rule to countries that are not under the union's rule.

The case started with a 2014 ruling that decided people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched and can ask the search engine to take down a link, according to The Associated Press.


But the court ruled in favor of the search engine after a French regulator's request that the rule apply to all Google domains, even beyond the EU.

The court ruled there "is no obligation under EU law for a search engine operator" to extend the rule beyond EU states, according to the AP. 

The court reportedly said, however, that Google must put measures in place to discourage users from going outside the EU for the information removed within the region. 

Users can easily switch to an outside of EU version of the search engine by going to google.com rather than google.fr, or another EU-based version of the website. 

Google had argued that the rule, if applied outside the EU, could be abused by authoritarian governments to cover up human rights abuse, BBC reports.

Read more about Google's court win here. 



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TIME FOR RESPONSIBILITY: The United States joined 26 other countries in signing a joint resolution on Monday aimed at advancing responsible state behavior in cyberspace as part of the United National General Assembly.

The countries, which mostly included European states, affirmed their commitment to the "international rules-based order" in cyberspace, including the protection of human rights both online and offline.

"As responsible states that uphold the international rules-based order, we recognize our role in safeguarding the benefits of a free, open, and secure cyberspace for future generations," the countries wrote in the resolution. "When necessary, we will work together on a voluntary basis to hold states accountable when they act contrary to this framework, including by taking measures that are transparent and consistent with international law. There must be consequences for bad behavior in cyberspace."

Who's on board? The other signatories were Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. 

Who's not on board?: Countries traditionally cited as those carrying out "bad behavior" in cyberspace, such as Russia and China, did not sign on to the agreement. 

Read more here. 


EDITING FAIL: An editing software program used by some film and TV editors was crashing users' Apple Mac Pro computers Monday. 

The program, Avid, said Tuesday it is aware of the issue and the company is working to get it fixed. 

"Avid is aware of the reboot issue affecting Apple Mac Pro devices running some Avid products. This issue is top priority for our engineering & support teams, and we're working diligently to determine & resolve the root cause. We'll publish additional information as we learn more," Avid tweeted Tuesday.

Read more here.


READ ALL ABOUT IT: Facebook announced Tuesday it intends to keep up all posts from politicians, even if they violate the social media giant's community rules, arguing that such statements from political figures are "newsworthy."

During a speech in Washington, D.C., Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg announced that the company is taking an official stance on how to handle controversial speech from politicians on its platform.

"From now on we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard," Clegg said in a post.

Clegg noted that Facebook also does not submit posts by politicians to its third-party fact-checking program, which allows outside companies to flag certain posts as misleading or false.

"We do not submit speech by politicians to our independent fact-checkers, and we generally allow it on the platform even when it would otherwise breach our normal content rules," Clegg said during the speech.

"Of course, there are exceptions," he added. "Broadly speaking they are two-fold: where speech endangers people; and where we take money, which is why we have more stringent rules on advertising than we do for ordinary speech and rhetoric."

Facebook still requires all advertisers – even political campaigns – to adhere to its community guidelines, which include prohibitions on hate speech and extremism.

Only a few months ago, Twitter announced it will soon start tagging, but not removing, tweets from world leaders that violate the platform's rules.

Read more here.


GROUP OF GOOGLE CONTRACTORS UNIONIZE: A group of Google contract workers voted to unionize on Tuesday, showcasing the growing tensions between tech workers and Silicon Valley giants.

Employees with the contractor HCL Technologies, who work at a Google office in Pittsburgh, Pa., decided in a 49-24 vote to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

"I'm honored that HCL workers chose to join our union and our fight on behalf of all working people," Thomas Conway, USW's president, said in a statement. "They deserve to have their voices heard. Together, we'll make sure that they are."

The big picture: The move could embolden other Google workers, who have grown more outspoken with their criticisms of the company and have even helped to torpedo the internet giant's effort on a Pentagon artificial intelligence project.

More on the move here.

More: From The Guardian... Google upended Pittsburgh – but will the city's working-class roots transform the tech industry?


DEAF ACTIVISTS QUESTION FCC PHONE-CAPTIONING PLANS: Activists are expressing concerns about the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) push to adopt a new phone system for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, saying the services may not meet their needs and are potentially biased.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), qualifying deaf or hard of hearing people have access to the Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS), which provides transcription for phone calls, similar to television closed captions, through a combination of technology and human interpreters.

However, the FCC has pushed to authorize allowing Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology, which translates speech into text by computers, as a replacement for the IP CTS service. The FCC proposed a rule on the issue last year, which was adopted in February.

Advocates say the technology removes the human element from the service and is not yet ready to replace the existing service wholesale, according to Emily Ladau, a consultant for Clear2Connect, a coalition that works to preserve captioning technology for disabled people.

"Imagine relying on Siri for your most important telephone calls or even a 911 call. Without additional testing and protections, ASR-only service risks unleashing services that are not ready for prime time onto a population of vulnerable users," Ladau told The Hill.

What's next: The agency is now seeking comment on applications from ASR-only providers.

More on the controversy here from The Hill's Zack Budryk.



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