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

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

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WE PROTEST: Amazon is taking the battle over the Pentagon's $10 billion cloud-computing contract to federal court.

Amazon's cloud-computing arm plans to challenge the Pentagon's surprising decision to award the contract to Microsoft in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) spokesperson told The Hill on Thursday.

"Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors and unmistakable bias - and it's important that these matters be examined and rectified," an AWS spokesperson said in a statement, referring to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.

Last week, Amazon filed paperwork declaring it will challenge the decision in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which hears monetary claims against the government. 

The development was first reported by The Federal Times, which obtained a video of AWS CEO Andy Jassy telling employees at an all-hands meeting that the company plans to "protest the decision and push the government to shine a light on what really happened."

"AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology to the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD's [Defense Department's] modernization effort," the AWS spokesperson said. "We also believe it's critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence."

Amazon's comments make it clear that the company's complaints will revolve around whether the Pentagon's decision to award the contract to Microsoft was swayed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' MORE, who publicly called on the Department of Defense to investigate the contract over the summer. Trump questioned if the process unfairly favored Amazon, which was widely seen as the front-runner.


Read more here. 


THE INVESTIGATION EXPANDS: The group of 50 attorneys general investigating Google's market dominance will also probe the company's search and Android businesses, expanding their investigation, according to CNBC

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) first announced the investigation -- launched alongside nearly every state attorney general in the country -- he said the focus was Google's online advertising business. But as it has progressed, according to CNBC, the attorneys general have decided some states will also look into Google search and Android, the company's mobile operating system.

The states will soon issue civil investigative demands (CIDs) -- a kind of subpoena -- to obtain documents for the expanded probe, sources familiar with the matter told CNBC. They have already requested documents about Google's ad business. 

After the investigation was first announced earlier this year, Paxton said in a statement, "At this point, the multistate investigation is focused solely on online advertising; however, as always, the facts we discover as the investigation progresses will determine where the investigation ultimately leads."

Read more here.


GRINDING TO A HALT: Intelligence agencies have not collected any GPS records or other cell-site location data (CSLI) without a warrant since a 2018 Supreme Court decision involving cellphone privacy, according to a letter sent to Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (D-Ore.).

In the letter, made public Thursday, Benjamin Fallon, the assistant director of national intelligence for legislative affairs within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, wrote that the intelligence community has "not sought CSLI records or global positioning system (GPS) records" since the Carpenter v. United States case was decided by the Supreme Court last year. 

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the government violated the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures when it accessed historical cellphone location data without a search warrant. 

Fallon wrote that the decision to stop collecting GPS and other location data was made "given the significant constitutional and statutory issues" that the Supreme Court decision raised.

Wyden originally wrote to former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsWe weren't ready for a pandemic — imagine a crippling cyberattack GOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Experts report recent increase in Chinese group's cyberattacks MORE in July to inquire whether, in light of the Supreme Court decision, the government would still be able to collect this type of data under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. 

Section 215 allows the government to order third-party companies to hand over data deemed relevant to an intelligence investigation.

Read more here.


CHANGES, PLEASE: A coalition of civil rights groups are demanding that Facebook overhaul its political speech policy, according to a letter obtained by The Hill Thursday.

The letter, dated Friday, followed up on a meeting between Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach As misinformation surges, coronavirus poses AI challenge Zuckerberg, Gates team up to contribute M for research into coronavirus treatments MORE and the leaders of the groups -- including the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Color of Change and the National Action Network -- at the Facebook CEO's home earlier this month.

The organizations, which also include Muslim Advocates, UnidosUS and the National Urban League, are asking for a response from Facebook by Nov. 25.

Among the requests made in the letter is putting "guardrails on the newsworthiness exemption," referring to Facebook's community guideline allowing content from political figures to stay up even if it breaks some of the social media platform's policies.

"As we made clear in our discussion, politicians are, and historically have been, key perpetrators of rhetoric that incites racial, religious, and anti-immigrant violence and voter suppression in our nation," the groups wrote.


Read more here. 


NEW FACIAL RECOGNITION BILL: Sens. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate includes 0M for mail-in voting in coronavirus spending deal Hillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Democrats press for more stimulus funding to boost mail-in voting MORE (D-Del.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (R-Utah) introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday requiring law enforcement to obtain court orders to use facial recognition technology for surveillance.

The Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act would limit surveillance warrants to 30 days and set rules to minimize the collection of information about individuals outside of the warrant's scope.

It would also require judges granting law enforcement requests for using the technology to notify the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which would in turn catalogue the data for Congress.

The bill comes as several cities and states are limiting law enforcement's use of facial recognition technology, which scans faces for the purposes of identifying individuals.

Unlike several of those laws, the senators' bill includes a carveout for "exigent circumstances" where a court order would not be needed to use the technology.


Critics argue facial recognition technology expands unwarranted surveillance and exacerbates racial discrimination because of a tendency to be inaccurate, especially for people of color.

Read more here. 


MORE ELECTION SECURITY LEGISLATION: The House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Thursday unanimously approved legislation intended to secure voting technology against cyberattacks.

The Election Technology Research Act would authorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation to conduct research on ways to secure voting technology. 

The legislation would also establish a Center of Excellence in Election Systems that would test the security and accessibility of voting machines and research methods to certify voting system technology. 

The bill is sponsored by Reps. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezSenators press NCAA on compensation for college athletes World Bank approves billion-plus annual China lending plan despite US objections 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 MORE (R-Ohio) and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillBiden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Elbow bumps, Spock salutes: How Congress is dealing with coronavirus Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — Trump, Congress struggle for economic deal amid coronavirus threat | Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol | Coronavirus emerges as 2020 flashpoint MORE (D-N.J.), along with committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonTexas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order Hillicon Valley: Democrats in talks to bridge surveillance divide | DHS confident in Super Tuesday election security | State pledges M cyber help to Ukraine | Facebook skipping SXSW amid coronavirus Markey presses facial recognition company over Middle Eastern marketing, potential child privacy violations MORE (D-Texas) and ranking member Frank LucasFrank Dean LucasHillicon Valley: Democrats in talks to bridge surveillance divide | DHS confident in Super Tuesday election security | State pledges M cyber help to Ukraine | Facebook skipping SXSW amid coronavirus Markey presses facial recognition company over Middle Eastern marketing, potential child privacy violations 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 MORE (R-Okla.).

All four sponsors enthusiastically praised the bill during the committee markup on Thursday, with Johnson saying that "transparent, fair, and secure elections are the bedrock of our democracy," and that attacks in 2016 on online voter registration databases "have increased Americans' concerns about the integrity of our elections."

Concerns around the security of voting infrastructure have been an increasing topic of interest on Capitol Hill since the 2016 elections, when, according to former 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, Russian intelligence officers were able to hack into an Illinois State Board of Elections database that included the voting information of millions. 

Read more here.


THREAT TO OUR VETS: Disinformation attacks and scams targeting veterans online have ramped up in recent years, leaving lawmakers and social media platforms scrambling to address the issue.

According to experts, veterans often seem an easy target due to their high level of trustworthiness, the older age of veterans, and the emotional attachment many Americans feel for the group.

A study published by the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) in September highlighted the threat to veterans. The report found that the Russian Internet Research Agency had bought over 100 advertisements targeting followers of veteran accounts on social media sites during and after the 2016 election.

Most of the ads were bought on Facebook, and at least one major fake veterans account had been used to spread messages supporting President Trump ahead of the 2020 elections.

And in addition to targeting veterans with political disinformation, many scammers also impersonate veterans in their schemes.

These worries have also attracted the attention of Congress. On Wednesday, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing on how veterans are often exploited through social media disinformation campaigns.

Kristofer Goldsmith, chief investigator and associate director for policy and government affairs at VVA, testified, urging the committee to adopt a "whole-of-government response" to address both disinformation threats against veterans and other threats in cyberspace.

Those recommendations include requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take action to protect veterans against these threats and holding social media companies responsible for not adequately combating them.

"This committee must help service members, veterans and our families resist the influence of foreign disinformation campaigns and efforts to divide us along partisan lines," Goldsmith said in her prepared remarks.

Read more here.


DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID: Rohit Chopra, a Democrat on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), on Thursday said he is concerned that U.S. regulators and lawmakers are "drinking the Kool-Aid of monopolists."

Chopra, an ally to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMomentum grows to change medical supply chain from China Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog MORE (D-Mass.), a 2020 candidate who often speaks out against concentrated corporate power, made the comments at a conference about how the left and the right can come together over their concerns about monopolies in the U.S. 

He accused regulators of failing to pull the different "levers" of government at their disposal to take on the country's largest corporations, including financial institutions and top tech firms like Facebook.

"Some of it is not about laws and regulations," he said. "Some of it is about, 'Are we drinking the Kool-Aid of monopolists?' " 

"You have to start being suspicious when government is really solving for the headline rather than the real problem," Chopra continued, discussing the FTC's recent $5 billion settlement with Facebook over privacy violations.

For months, Chopra has railed against the party-line settlement by the FTC, claiming that his Republican colleagues abdicated their responsibility to use the full force of their regulatory authority against Facebook, the largest social network in the world.

Read more here. 


A CALL FROM THE POPE: Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope celebrates Palm Sunday without crowds Pope tests negative for coronavirus, Vatican says Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — US coronavirus cases hit 100,000 | Trump signs T stimulus package | Trump employs defense powers to force GM to make ventilators | New concerns over virus testing MORE called on major tech companies Thursday to take action to protect children from viewing pornography.

The pope spoke at a Vatican conference with religious leaders and representatives of tech companies, telling the tech giants they must regulate content on their platforms more aggressively, The Associated Press reported

Francis called out Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and others to take responsibility to guard children from pornography that could affect their emotional and sexual development, according to the news wire.

"There is a need to ensure that investors and managers remain accountable, so that the good of minors and society is not sacrificed to profit," he said according to the report.

The pope told the audience at the "Promoting Digital Child Dignity" conference that these companies should implement age verification technology and artificial intelligence to remove child porn from their platforms. 

"It is now clear that they cannot consider themselves completely unaccountable vis-a-vis the services they provide for their customers," he continued. "So I make an urgent appeal to them to assume their responsibility toward minors, their integrity and their future."

Read more here. 




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



On Facebook, fears of parasites push people to post pictures of feces and pursue dangerous remedies (NBC News)

Officials warn about the dangers of using public USB charging stations (ZDNet) 

GridEx offers stiff security test for an industry that welcomes the challenge (CyberScoop)