Hillicon Valley: House to vote on anti-robocall bill | DHS issues draft order to boost agency cybersecurity | Apple updates maps to show Crimea as Russian territory | TikTok blocks teen after clip critical of China

Hillicon Valley: House to vote on anti-robocall bill | DHS issues draft order to boost agency cybersecurity | Apple updates maps to show Crimea as Russian territory | TikTok blocks teen after clip critical of China
© Aaron Schwartz

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Note: Hillicon Valley will take a brief hiatus for the holidays. We'll be back on Monday, Dec. 2. Happy Thanksgiving! 



CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW: The House is likely to vote an anti-robocall bill with backing in both chambers as soon as next week, increasing the likelihood that legislation cracking down on the scourge of spam calls will reach President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE's desk before the end of the year. 

House and Senate lawmakers released the text of the compromise bill on Wednesday, showcasing the result of months of negotiations to smooth out different versions of the legislation in both chambers. The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, named after its sponsors in the House and Senate, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneIntercept bureau chief: Democrats dropping support of Medicare for All could threaten bill's momentum House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 House Democrats criticize Texas's 'shortcomings in preparations' on winter storms MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-S.D.), is likely to pass easily next week. 

"I am proud to have worked with my House and Senate colleagues on a strong, bipartisan anti-robocall bill that I believe can be signed into law," said Pallone, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement. "This legislation is the product of months of good-faith negotiations between the House and Senate, and will go a long way towards combatting both scam and spam calls."

"I look forward to the House voting on this bill very soon," he added.

What's in the bill: The bill would require phone companies to block robocalls without charging customers any extra money and require most carriers in the U.S. to ensure that calls are coming from real numbers. It would give government regulators more time to find scammers and penalize them more aggressively. 

It would also require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deliver reports to Congress about how much action they are taking against illegal robocalling operations and oversee a group of companies tasked with investigating where robocalls are coming from in the first place.  


And the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act would push the Department of Justice to take action against illegal robocallers more often. 

Now vs. then: The House version had sought to expand the definition of what a "robocall" is, which could have helped the FCC crack down on a wider range of unwanted calls, but that provision did not make it into the compromise bill.

Other House amendments did make it in, however, including a provision that would initiate a proceeding to protect customers from "one-ring" scams, which occur when fraudulent calls only ring once, encouraging the recipient to call back the number and potentially rack up fees. 

Read more on the compromise here.


RAISING THE CYBERSECURITY: The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) cybersecurity agency on Wednesday issued a draft order that would require federal agencies to increase protections against cyber vulnerabilities.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) asked for public comment on a draft directive requiring government agencies to develop and publish cyber vulnerability disclosure policies.

"A vulnerability disclosure policy facilitates an agency's awareness of otherwise unknown vulnerabilities," CISA wrote in the draft order. "It commits the agency to authorize good faith security research and respond to vulnerability reports, and sets expectations for reporters."

CISA noted that many federal agencies do not have established procedures to receive and address information about vulnerabilities from third-party companies or individuals. The absence of such standards could "create an environment that delays or discourages the public from reporting potential information security problems to the government," CISA said.

The cyber agency emphasized that the order would "enhance the resiliency of the government's online services by encouraging meaningful collaboration between federal agencies and the public."

Read more here.


MAPPING A WAY OUT OF TROUBLE: Apple has updated its Apple Maps and Weather apps to display the annexed territory of Crimea as Russian territory when viewed from Russia, in response to pressure from Moscow, according to the BBC.

Russia provoked international condemnation after annexing the region from Ukraine in 2014. The region will not appear as Russian territory in the apps in any other country.


"Crimea and Sevastopol now appear on Apple devices as Russian territory," the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, said in a statement when referencing the disputed territory as well as the naval port city that Moscow considers a separate region, according to the BBC.

Russia and Apple executives had been negotiating over what the State Duma called "inaccurate" labeling for months, with the company offering initially to display the region as part of neither country.

Vasily Piskaryov, chairman of the Duma security and anti-corruption committee, told the country's Interfax news agency that Russian officials told Apple it was a crime to label Crimea as Ukrainian territory under Russian law, according to the BBC.

"There is no going back," Piskaryov said. "Today, with Apple, the situation is closed -- we have received everything we wanted."

Read more here.


ABOUT THAT CENSORSHIP THING: TikTok, the short-video social media platform, blocked the account of a 17-year-old Muslim American woman following her post earlier this week in which she criticizes the Chinese government's treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Northwest China.


At first, Feroza Aziz's video seems a like a makeup tutorial. But several seconds in, Aziz's switches gears, saying, "Use your phone that you're using right now to search up what's happening in China, how they're getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there."

The 40-second video has racked up more than 1.5 million views.

Aziz has since claimed that her account has been suspended by TikTok.

TikTok is owned by Chinese social media giant ByteDance, causing many lawmakers to voice concerns over whether the platform censors data at the request of the Chinese government or shares user data.

Josh Gartner, a spokesman at ByteDance, told the New York Times that Aziz was banned from her account because a previous post featured a photo of Osama Bin Laden, which violated the company's policy against terrorist content.

Aziz, however, asserts that post refers to a slur that was regularly directed at her growing up in the U.S.: that she would marry Bin Laden.   

"I think that TikTok should not ban content that doesn't harm anyone or shows anyone being harmed," Aziz, who lives in New Jersey, told the Times.


Read more on the controversy here.


More on TikTok...


CFIUS WIN: The China-based tech company that owns TikTok has taken steps to separate the social media app from its Chinese operations amid a U.S. probe into how the firm handles personal data, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) approached the company ByteDance to investigate its data management in October, but people familiar with the matter told Reuters that the firm made efforts to separate TikTok from Chinese operations before that to ensure designated staffers were focused on the app.

TikTok's product and business development, marketing, and legal teams broke from the Chinese social media app Douyin in the third quarter this year, sources told Reuters. 

The company also hired a consultant over the summer to audit the security of personal data storage, Reuters reported. Data from U.S. users is stored domestically with a backup in Singapore, and ByteDance has said Chinese officials do not have access to it.

TikTok is moving to hire more U.S. workers and develop a team to monitor data management in California and see if Chinese-based engineers should have access to the data, according to the newswire. 

Read more here.


More on China...


CHINESE SURVEILLANCE MADE IN AMERICA: Several U.S. technology companies have been involved with China's surveillance industry, which has recently faced scrutiny for its tracking of minorities and political dissidents, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. 

Companies such as Seagate Technology PLC, Western Digital Corp., Intel Corp. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. have been involved in the industry, according to the Journal. 

The newspaper reported that Hewlett Packard Enterprise owns 49 percent of New H3C Technologies Co. Ltd., which produces tools used by Chinese law enforcement. Aksu, a city in Xinjiang region that appears to have several internment camps based on satellite images, is one customer, according to the Journal. 

Xinjiang reportedly uses facial recognition cameras, ID card scanners phone readers and other methods to keep track of Muslims, including Uighurs. 

A Hewlett Packard Enterprise spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that it is a 49 percent, non-controlling owner of the H3C Corp., which has confirmed that "multi-purpose enterprise IT equipment commonly used by businesses and government has been sold to authorities in Xinjiang."

"H3C is not involved in the deployment of this technology in the province by the authorities. HPE was not aware of these sales and is looking into them," the spokesperson said.

Xinjiang has denied the presence of internment camps, although The New York Times recently obtained leaked Chinese documents regarding a crackdown on minorities in the region.  

The Journal reported that Seagate and Western Digital have sold hard disk drives to Chinese company Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd., which sells surveillance products. 

Hikvision has been placed on a U.S. blacklist and a spokesperson for the firm told The Journal that it has done work in Xinjiang, including one "education and training center." 

Intel gave seed money, chips and technical solutions to Chinese firm NetPosa Technologies Ltd., the Journal reported, noting that NetPosa has served police departments in dozens of cities and China's Ministry of Public Security. 

An Intel spokesperson told The Hill in a statement Wednesday that the company opposes human rights abuses, but that its products can be resold through various distributors.

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Happy holidays, guys  


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Is political affiliation the new discrimination? Our research suggests 'yes'



The great tech rivalries of 2019 (The Information) 

Twitter pauses plan to delete inactive accounts (Axios) 

Ring doesn't have facial recognition, some police want to add their own (Buzzfeed News)

Inside Amazon's delivery push: Employees and drivers say an overworked system is lax on safety as packages pile up (NBC News)