Hillicon Valley: Bloomberg unveils plan to shore up election security | Alphabet's legal chief leaves company amid scrutiny | Uber launches new rider security feature

Hillicon Valley: Bloomberg unveils plan to shore up election security | Alphabet's legal chief leaves company amid scrutiny | Uber launches new rider security feature
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BLOOMBERG ON ELECTION SECURITY: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Friday released a plan to boost voting rights and election security, becoming the latest 2020 presidential candidate to address how votes are counted.

Bloomberg promised to ensure a “regular, reliable federal funding stream” to upgrade and maintain election equipment and said he would require the use of standardized paper ballots counted either by hand or by secure devices.

He also vowed to provide funding to states to conduct audits prior to election certification and would require the Department of Homeland Security to assess cyber threats prior to an election.

Why it matters: Election security is a hot-button issue over the past few years following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and other candidates have also released plans aimed at securing elections.

Voting rights: In his plan Bloomberg also vowed to enhance voting rights through steps such as reinvigorating enforcement of the Voting Rights Act to stop discriminatory state laws and allowing convicted felons to vote after leaving jail.

He would also launch a federal campaign to educate the public about voting rights, work to prevent partisan gerrymandering, and require that every state provide online and same-day voter registration, along with automatic voter registration the first time a citizen interacts with a state agency. 

"The right to vote is the fundamental right that protects all of the others, but in states around the country, it is under attack," Bloomberg said in a statement on Friday. "That's a disgrace to our Constitution and an insult to generations of people who fought and marched to win the right to vote. We need to end voter suppression once and for all."



Read more here.


TOP ALPHABET LAWYER STEPS DOWN: The top lawyer at Alphabet, Google's parent company, is retiring amid scrutiny of his relationships with women and a larger internal reckoning at Google over alleged workplace misconduct.

David Drummond, who has played a central role in an ongoing investigation into workplace sexual misconduct at Alphabet, will leave the company by the end of this month, according to an Alphabet securities filing. A Google spokesperson confirmed that Drummond has informed the company he will be leaving effective Jan. 31. 

Last summer, Drummond acknowledged he had an affair with a former co-worker but denied many of her public allegations, chalking up her grievances to a "difficult breakup 10 years ago."

The woman, Jennifer Blakely, published an extensive account of their relationship on Medium in August, alleging she and Drummond had an affair when she worked for him at Google. In it, she claimed that Drummond's treatment of her and their son was "nothing short of abuse."  

Alphabet's board of directors last year reportedly opened up an ongoing investigation into how the company has handled sexual misconduct claims, including those against Drummond.

Alphabet and Google are still grappling with the fallout from the controversial decision to pay Andy Rubin, an Android executive accused of sexual assault, $90 million when he left the company in October 2014. 

Read more here.


NEW UBER FEATURE: Ride-hailing company Uber launched a new safety feature that uses randomized PIN numbers on Tuesday to help customers make sure they are getting into the right cars.

Once a user books a ride, they are sent a four-digit PIN number. When the driver arrives, the user has the driver enter it into their Uber app. If the numbers match, confirming the pickup, the ride will begin.

"They can see the confirmation before getting into the vehicle and they don't have to take the driver's word for it," Rebecca Payne, senior product manager at Uber, told the Chicago Tribune.


The big picture: Uber's safety protocols have been under scrutiny after a number of cases where riders say they were assaulted or threatened. The company disclosed that more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported by users in 2018.

In March 2019, Samantha Josephson, 21, was killed in South Carolina after getting into a car with a man who impersonated an Uber driver.

Read more here.


NO CELLPHONES FOR YOU: A state senator in Vermont introduced legislation this week that would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to use or possess a cellphone.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Rodgers (D), says cellphones have been linked to loss of life among teenagers, from distracted driving to cyber bullying that results in suicides, the Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported Wednesday.

The bill text says: "The Internet and social media, accessed primarily through cell phones, are used to radicalize and recruit terrorists, fascists, and other extremists. Cell phones have often been used by mass shooters of younger ages for research on previous shootings."


Violation would result in a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of a year behind bars and a $1,000 fine.

Rodgers, however, said he doesn't expect the measure to become law, adding that he introduced the bill to make a point.

Rodgers argued that the state legislature "seems bent on taking away our Second Amendment rights" and that based on the information in the bill, a cellphone is more dangerous than a gun.

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Thoughts when your brain is fried after a long week



AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Ransomware--time for the government to act



Russian hackers are back to interfere in 2020 elections (The New York Times / Matthew Rosenberg, Nicole Perlroth, and David Sanger) 

FBI says Iranian hackers have done reconnaissance since Soleimani killing (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Hackers are breaking into telecom companies in order to take over phone numbers (Vice Motherboard / Joseph Cox) 

U.S. gives free Android phones to the poor--but with permanent Chinese malware (Forbes / Thomas Brewster)