Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches

Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).

 

SOLDIERING ON (TIKTOK): Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday raised concerns over U.S. Army personnel using the massively popular Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok to recruit young people into their ranks. 

TikTok has faced intensifying scrutiny from Capitol Hill and the intelligence community over its close ties to the Chinese government, which critics say could allow China to collect reams of data on U.S. users and censor the content on the short-form video-sharing app. 

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Schumer, in a letter to the U.S. Army chief, said he thinks it is risky for the Army to use TikTok -- the most-downloaded app in the U.S. -- to appeal to potential new recruits. Over the summer, the Army launched a social media blitz across a range of social media platforms, including TikTok, in an effort to recruit new soldiers. 

"While I recognize that the Army must adapt its recruiting techniques in order to attract young Americans to serve, I urge you to assess the potential national security risks posed by China-owned technology companies before choosing to utilize certain platforms," Schumer wrote.

In the letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Schumer asked whether the Army has consulted with the intelligence community to learn whether TikTok and other China-owned platforms "pose security risks as platforms for recruitment." 

He also asked whether the Army has conducted an "analysis" of social media platforms to determine whether TikTok is the ideal recruitment forum.

Read more here. 

 

A REPUBLICAN CHIMES IN: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) is cautioning people against using social media platform TikTok, warning it could be used as a tool for the Chinese government to obtain access to users' personal information.  

The Indiana Republican said the popular app, which allows its users to create short videos

could pose a national security risk and increase the chances of intellectual property theft.  

"Well, TikTok is widely used across the United States, roughly, 100 million times it's been downloaded in the United States alone and a billion times worldwide," he said in a video recently posted on Fox News's website. 

"But this like so many other instances is a tool of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese government to infiltrate the United States for purposes that are in the best interest of China."

Banks said while the app is intended to appear harmless it has been used by the Chinese government to track data on the Uyghur Muslim people.

Banks called for an investigation to be launched into TikTok and advocated for current users to delete from their devices. 

Read more on the anti-TikTok fervor here.

 

FEWER PHONE SEARCHES: A federal court on Tuesday ruled that random searches of international travelers' phones and computers by the government violates the Fourth Amendment.

The Massachusetts District Court ruled that Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement must have a specific suspicion to be able to search a person's phone or computer as they enter the country. 

It also ruled that both of the current random searches by the government, where were described as basic and advanced, violate the Fourth Amendment. 

"[T]he CBP and ICE policies for "basic" and "advanced" searches, as presently defined, violate the Fourth Amendment to the extent that the policies do not require reasonable suspicion that the devices contain contraband for both such classes of non-cursory searches and/or seizure of electronic devices; and that the non-cursory searches and/or seizures of Plaintiffs' electronic devices, without such reasonable suspicion, violated the Fourth Amendment," the ruling reads.

Read more here.

 

A NEW KIND OF CYBER WORRY: Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingJohn Kerry: GOP lawmaker against coronavirus package 'tested positive for being an ---hole' Lawmakers highlight flights back to DC for huge coronavirus vote Trump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies MORE's (R-N.Y.) planned retirement after the 2020 elections is the latest in a string of House departures that look likely to deal a blow to Republican cybersecurity expertise on Capitol Hill.

King said on Monday he would not seek reelection after 14 terms in the House, including serving previously as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and as a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Those two panels have a focus on cyber issues, such as election security and other cyber threats from foreign countries, and the departure of a longtime member such as King could make it more difficult for Congress to address growing cyber threats in the future.  

His resignation comes on the heels of announcements by almost two dozen other House Republicans that they will not run for reelection, with several of these members having become key players in the cybersecurity debate on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 MORE (R-Texas). 

The retirements of Republican Reps. Hurd, Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryPentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Top Armed Services Republican unveils proposals on military families, acquisition reform House panel delays consideration of annual defense policy bill MORE (Texas), and Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns MORE (Ore.) previously underlined the threat to cyber leadership in the House. 

Kiersten Todt, the former executive director of the Obama administration's Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, told The Hill that while she saw the impending retirements of "smart, thoughtful people" as "disappointing," the larger issue of an unfocused cyber agenda was a bigger problem.

"Everyone has their buffet item, their flavor of the day, and what we need is leadership and an agenda that prioritizes issues and focuses on them," Todt, who currently serves as the managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute, said. 

Read more on the retirements here.

 

ELECTION SECURITY IN CR: A group of advocacy organizations including the Sierra Club and Indivisible are pushing the Senate to include election security funds in the upcoming continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government.

The groups are pressing for $600 million in spending and argue that the nation will run out of time to protect its elections if the funding isn't won.

The groups, led by Stand Up America, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBiden calls on Trump to appoint coronavirus 'supply commander' Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday arguing for the money. They say it should be given to states to shore up election security ahead of next year.

"Time has almost run out to provide states with the resources they need to protect the 2020 election," the groups wrote. "The best opportunity for lawmakers to effectively secure our elections before 2020 is by including $600 million in directed appropriations for election security in the continuing resolution that will extend government funding past November 21, 2019--when current government funding runs out."

Lawmakers are working on a stopgap measure that could last just into the first weeks of December. They would then have to pass a larger appropriations measure, or another stopgap or CR to prevent a shutdown.

Other groups who signed the letter included Greenpeace USA, Democracy 21, Franciscan Action Network, New American Leaders Action Fund, Secure Elections Network, CREDO, Clean Elections Texas, Business for America, and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

The House included $600 million for election security purposes in its 2020 financial services and general government bill, while the Senate included $250 million for election security in its version of the bill, which the Senate has not yet voted on. 

Read more here.

 

PAY UP: Facebook on Tuesday announced a new feature that will allow users to make payments across the social media giant's platforms.

Facebook Pay will support most debit and credit cards as well as PayPal. Payments will be processed through companies including Stripe and PayPal.

The service will let users send money to friends, shop from Facebook Marketplace or donate to fundraisers.

Facebook plans to roll it out on Facebook and Messenger this week in the U.S., according to a press release.

"Over time, we plan to bring Facebook Pay to more people and places, including for use across Instagram and WhatsApp," a release said.

With Facebook Pay, the social media giant is now a direct competitor to Venmo and Apple Pay.

Read more on Facebook Pay here. 

 

STREAMING WARS ESCALATE: Disney+, Disney's much-anticipated streaming service, suffered from a glitchy rollout on Tuesday as the new platform aims to take on streaming heavyweights like AppleTV and Netflix.

Reportedly, many users that tried to stream the new service on smart TVs and game consoles were met with an error page that featured Mickey Mouse and Pluto in space suits with the caption "We are having a problem. Please exit the app and try again."

The company responded to the complaints via Twitter, saying, "The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our high expectations."

"We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience."

Read more here.

 

PROGRESSIVES TEAM UP AGAINST FACEBOOK: A broad array of progressive groups are stepping up their battle against Facebook, creating a loose coalition to hit back at the largest social network in the world over allegations that it has harmed their ability to organize.

The groups, representing a large swath of the progressive left, say they have been unfairly caught up in Facebook's efforts to crack down on fake accounts and election manipulation, leaving them scrambling to maintain their Facebook pages and millions of followers.      

Members of the Campaign to Regulate and Break Up Big Tech, a new coalition in the nascent stages of organizing, have been meeting with regulators and lawmakers after direct talks with top Facebook officials broke down, according to the groups.

"It became increasingly clear that dialogue was not going to get us very far," a progressive strategist involved with organizing the coalition told The Hill. 

"That's why an increasing number of groups have come together to jointly strategize, to coordinate planning to achieve those two goals: regulation of the platform on the one hand, and breaking up Big Tech," the strategist added.

Conservatives have been more public about their criticism as they claim Facebook routinely censors right-wing voices, allegations that the company has vociferously denied. But some on the left have been leveling that accusation behind closed doors.

Representatives from groups including March for Our Lives, MoveOn, Fight for 15, Social Security Works, Daily Kos and other left-wing heavyweights met multiple times with top Facebook officials starting after the midterm elections in 2018.

Progressives who spoke to The Hill said they asked for the meetings after Facebook removed or restricted many of their pages amid the company's October 2018 purge of "spam-like" political content.

The meetings with progressives, which have not been previously reported, spanned months and involved high-level Facebook officials, including the company's top lobbyist, Kevin Martin; head of global policy Monika Bickert; head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher; director of external affairs Lindsay Elin; and others, according to sources involved in the talks.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company held multiple meetings with the groups, which were organized in part by political consulting firm Democracy Partners.

"We appreciate the feedback we've received in meetings with these organizations, along with the chance to describe our efforts to be fully transparent in how we operate," the spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

"Our policies are outlined in great detail -- publicly -- as are our enforcement practices and the process people can use to appeal our decisions," the spokesperson added.

Read more here.

 

HOLD UP: Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate  Overnight Defense: Pentagon confirms Iran behind recent rocket attack | Esper says 'all options on the table' | Military restricts service member travel over coronavirus Graham warns of 'aggressive' response to Iran-backed rocket attack that killed US troops MORE (R-Idaho) on is pointing to worries about Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property (IP) as the major issue holding up a U.S.-China trade deal, while also highlighting concerns around U.S. and European use of technology from Chinese telecommunications group Huawei.  

"What's holding up trade right now in my judgement is not so much the numbers and the tariffs that are put on, but China has got to develop a rule of law when it comes to handling intellectual property," Risch, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Tuesday. 

Risch noted that in order to move forward on a trade deal between the two countries, China must "embrace international norms" in regards to IP and not be a "rogue nation that just takes what it wants." 

"If they went and tried to take the Mona Lisa out of France, people would be up in arms, but when they come here and take microchip technology, it doesn't have the same appeal, but it needs to have the same appeal, because modern business, modern industry, modern going forward really relies on technology, so IP is extremely important," Risch said. 

Chinese theft of IP has been an ongoing issue, and one that bipartisan members of Congress and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have zeroed in on in recent months. According to the findings of a 2018 investigation by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Chinese intellectual property theft costs the U.S. between $225 billion and $600 billion annually. 

Risch's comments were made the same day that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE announced that the U.S. and China are "close" to sealing a "phase one trade deal." 

Read more here. 

 

GET TO WORK: A senior cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday described challenges with recruiting cybersecurity workers to government as a "national security issue."

"From my perspective, this is going to be a national security issue, if it isn't already," Richard Driggers, the deputy assistant director for Cybersecurity at DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said during Fifth Domain's CyberCon event.

Driggers added that "we have a major deficit across the nation with regards to our cybersecurity workforce, and we need to figure out how we can build and sustain a cybersecurity workforce as a national asset for America." 

According to a report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in January, the U.S. faced a shortfall of around 314,000 unfilled cybersecurity professionals as of the beginning of this year. It is projected that the global cybersecurity workforce shortage will reach 1.8 million unfilled positions by 2022. 

Read more here.

 

MEANWHILE IN THE BAY AREA: Major tech firms are pouring money into addressing California's housing crunch, but some lawmakers and advocates are skeptical the contributions will be enough to solve the growing crisis in the country's most populous state.

Apple announced last week it would commit $2.5 billion toward helping solve the housing crisis, not long after Facebook and Google both pledged to invest $1 billion. The contributions from some of the region's largest employers come as the homeless rate and the demand for housing have skyrocketed in the Golden State.

Between 2010 and 2018, a period that has coincided with massive growth for tech companies, the Bay Area added roughly 882,000 jobs, according to the state's Employment Development Department. In that same period only 177,000 new residential units were created.

That uneven growth has pushed thousands out of their homes: An estimated 28,200 people in the region are currently experiencing homelessness, according to the Bay Area Economic Institute, and that figure is expected to increase further.

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomTesting struggles emerge as key hurdle to reopening country Social distancing works, but resistance prompts worries of growing crisis Newsom announces partnership with FEMA to find shelter for most vulnerable homeless populations MORE (D) lauded the effort last week, calling Apple's pledge an "unparalleled financial commitment to affordable housing."

Other lawmakers, however, are warning that the contributions, while welcome, won't be enough.

California state Rep. David Chiu (D), who represents parts of San Francisco and has been active on housing issues, told The Hill that he appreciates "the recent decisions by major employers in the Bay Area to step up and lean into addressing the worst housing crisis in Bay Area history."

But he added that "while some of these contributions sound significant, a billion dollars will go quickly."

Read more on the view from the ground here. 

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Pls don't cry

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: There are poor ideas, bad ones and Facebook's Libra

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

One Google staffer fired, two others put on leave amid tensions (Bloomberg News) 

Game developers driven to unions by workplace conditions (One Zero)

U.S. government is tripping over itself in race to dominate 5G technology (The Wall Street Journal)

Inside look at an Amazon package bandit (The Atlantic)