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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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).



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 TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds 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 WydenDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill ACLU sues DHS for records on purchased cell phone data to track immigrants DHS watchdog to probe agency's tracking of Americans' phone data without a warrant 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 CoatsBiden soars as leader of the free world Lobbying world President Trump: To know him is to 'No' him 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 ZuckerbergFacebook-backed cryptocurrency Libra changes names Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democrats press Facebook, Twitter on misinformation efforts ahead of Georgia runoff 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 CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Del.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGrassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection 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 GonzalezCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members How to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably MORE (R-Ohio) and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillDemocratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Democratic House chairman trusts Pentagon won't follow 'unlawful orders' on election involvement MORE (D-N.J.), along with committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonDeLauro wins Steering Committee vote for Appropriations chair Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research MORE (D-Texas) and ranking member Frank LucasFrank Dean LucasTrump administration signs AI research and development agreement with the UK OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver House passes sweeping clean energy bill 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) MuellerBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting 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 WarrenDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill Overnight Defense: Defense bill moving forward despite Trump veto threat over tech fight | Government funding bill hits snag | Top general talks Afghanistan, Pentagon budget Katie Porter in heated exchange with Mnuchin: 'You're play-acting to be a lawyer' 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 FrancisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Barr splits with Trump on election; pardon controversy Pope warns new cardinals against 'slumber of mediocrity' Pope Francis pays visit to predecessor with elevated cardinals 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)