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Hillicon Valley: Senate report on Russian interference expected next week | Facebook targets coronavirus misinformation | FCC says wireless carriers broke law by selling location data

Hillicon Valley: Senate report on Russian interference expected next week | Facebook targets coronavirus misinformation | FCC says wireless carriers broke law by selling location data
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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).

 

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COMING SOON TO CAPITOL HILL: A new bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russia's election interference is expected to be released next week, lawmakers said Friday.

The third installment of the panel's five-part investigation into Russia's election interference efforts is set to focus on how the Obama administration responded to hacking and disinformation operations directed by the Kremlin.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNorth Carolina — still purple but up for grabs North Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report MORE (R-N.C.) told reporters Friday that the third volume "should be back from final review today," and that he hoped the declassified version would be released publicly "first of the week."

Burr said the delay was a result of the intelligence community needing to review and declassify the findings, and to include majority and minority views in the report.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris shares Thanksgiving recipe: 'During difficult times I have always turned to cooking' Biden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the committee, told reporters Friday he was "anxious" to release the report to the public. He blamed the intelligence community's declassification process for slowing the release of both the third and fourth volumes of the investigation.

Read more here.

 

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BIG BROTHER: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai told lawmakers Friday that the agency's investigation into consumer location data found that one or more wireless carriers appear to have violated federal law.

Pai did not specify which carriers were implicated or what specific laws were broken, but he revealed the findings in letters to lawmakers addressing their concerns about carriers selling real-time location data.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), who had pressed the FCC to conclude its investigation into location data sharing without user consent, was one of the letter recipients.

"Following our longstanding calls to take action, the FCC finally informed the Committee today that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal privacy protections by turning a blind eye to the widespread disclosure of consumers' real-time location data," Pallone said in a statement Friday. "This is certainly a step in the right direction, but I'll be watching to make sure the FCC doesn't just let these lawbreakers off the hook with a slap on the wrist."

The FCC investigation was opened after a 2018 report in The New York Times detailing how service providers were giving data to third party aggregators.

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK PUSHBACK: Facebook on Friday pushed back against allegations made by billionaire philanthropist George Soros that the social media platform has a "special relationship" with President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE.

"While we respect Mr. Soros' right to voice his opinion, he's wrong," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

"The notion that we are aligned with any one political figure or party runs counter to our values and the facts. We continue making unprecedented investments to keep our platform safe, fight foreign interference in elections around the world, and combat misinformation."

Soros earlier Friday penned an op-ed in The New York Times claiming that Facebook has realized its interests align with Trump's.

The billionaire Democratic donor noted that Facebook gave an embed team to the Trump campaign in 2016, although he acknowledged that Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGroups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's Valadao unseats Cox in election rematch MORE's campaign declined the same offer.

Soros also pointed to reported meetings between Trump and Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democrats press Facebook, Twitter on misinformation efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Hillicon Valley: Facebook content moderators demand more workplace protections | Ousted cyber official blasts Giuliani press conference | Tech firms fall short on misinformation targeting Latino vote MORE.

Read more here.

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NEW FBI INVESTIGATION: The FBI is reportedly investigating an Israeli spyware vendor to see if it had any involvement in possible personal and governmental hacks.

Reuters reported Thursday, citing four people familiar with the inquiry, that the FBI is looking into NSO Group Technologies.

One person interviewed by the FBI told Reuters that the bureau has been looking at the company since 2017, when it was attempting to determine whether the company had received code from American hackers that can be used to infect smartphones.

NSO's software Pegasus has the ability to collect everything on a phone. The company told Reuters it sells spy software and technical support only to governments, and those tools are used to go after terrorists and other criminals. It also has maintained that its products cannot be used against U.S. phone numbers, but some experts have dismissed that claim.

The FBI had more interviews with technology experts after Facebook filed a lawsuit in October alleging NSO took advantage of its WhatsApp messaging service to hack 1,400 people, Reuters   reported, citing two people who had spoken with Justice Department officials.

Read more here.

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ROBOCALL REPERCUSSIONS: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing a nearly $13 million fine against the man who allegedly arranged thousands of racist and discriminatory robocalls targeting political figures across the U.S., including Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Calif.) and former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (D). 

The agency said the man, Scott Rhodes, was "apparently" behind the spate of disturbing automated calls dialing up people in Georgia, Florida, California and other states throughout 2018, a pivotal midterm election year. The robocalls promoted anti-Semitic tropes about Feinstein, used "a caricature of a black dialect" to imitate Gillum in Florida, and attacked Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in Georgia.

"The caller was apparently motivated by a belief that these actions would result in media notoriety and accordingly would enable him to increase publicity for his website and personal brand," the FCC wrote. "In the process, he apparently broke the law." 

Rhodes, who is known for promoting white supremacist messages, has 30 days to respond to the allegations before the FCC votes on the proposed fine. 

Racist robocalls apparently from Rhodes's operation swept across the U.S. throughout the midterm elections, garnering headlines and confusing voters as voices imitating Oprah WinfreyOprah Gail WinfreyHearst to lay off nearly 60 staffers at Oprah Magazine Obama says idea to run for president requires some 'megalomania and insanity' Park Service faces 0M suit after death in Arches National Park MORE and Gillum continued to call up their phones. 

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FACEBOOK CLAMPS DOWN ON MISINFORMATION: Facebook announced this week that it is working to limit the spread of misinformation about coronavirus on its platform, removing content with "false claims or conspiracy theories" and connecting users with accurate information about the virus. 

The social media giant said in a Thursday blog post that its third-party fact-checkers are reviewing content on Facebook and Instagram related to the virus. Facebook said that when information is rated as false, it limits its spread and shows users accurate information, in addition to sending notifications to users who have shared the content that it has been fact-checked.

"As the global public health community works to keep people safe, Facebook is supporting their work in several ways, most especially by working to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus and connecting people to helpful information," Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook's head of health, said in the post.

Facebook will also "remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them," according to the executive's post. Facebook will remove false cures or treatments for the virus, specifically citing drinking bleach.

Read more here.

 

MOVING FORWARD: A group of 137 countries and jurisdictions agreed to move ahead with negotiations to address tax challenges of the digital economy, according to a statement released Friday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The countries "affirm their commitment to reach an agreement on a consensus-based solution by the end of 2020," the statement said. The statement followed talks among the countries this week in Paris that were overseen by the OECD.

The multilateral negotiations come as several European countries have been pursuing unilateral digital taxes that would primarily affect major U.S. tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google. These countries are seeking to raise tax revenue from companies that have many users in their jurisdictions but pay little in taxes there.

However, U.S. policymakers oppose individual countries acting on their own to create digital taxes, arguing that the taxes unfairly target American tech companies, and think the best route would be an agreement on a framework at the OECD level.

After France enacted a digital tax last year, the U.S. trade representative proposed tariffs on $2.4 billion on French goods in response. The two countries earlier this month reached a truce under which France will postpone collecting its tax until the end of the year and the U.S. will postpone tariffs. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinBiden's Treasury pick will have lengthy to-do list on taxes On The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach MORE has also warned the United Kingdom and Italy that they will face tariffs if they move forward with digital taxes.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Well that's one way to use a drone 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Viewing tech giants as a geopolitical force 

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Why Google backtracked on its new search results look (The New York Times / Daisuke Wakabayashi, Tiffany Hsu) 

In an unprecedented move, Twitter gave a state university access to a student's parody account after it complained that he was mocking the school (Business Insider / Paige Leskin) 

Gig workers have nowhere to pee (Motherboard / Edward Ongweso Jr and Lauren Kaori Gurley)

Barr's call for law enforcement access to commercial encryption (Roll Call / Graham MacGillivray)