Hillicon Valley: Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa | Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei | Workers at Kickstarter vote to unionize | Bezos launches $10B climate initiative

Hillicon Valley: Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa | Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei | Workers at Kickstarter vote to unionize | Bezos launches $10B climate initiative
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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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BRACING FOR NEVADA: Experts and officials are raising concerns over the Nevada State Democratic Party plans to use a Google calculator uploaded to new iPads to tally results during their caucuses next week after the debacle in Iowa.

The party will use a custom Google calculator accessed through a "secure Google web form," which will be uploaded to 2,000 newly purchased iPads to help tabulate votes. Precinct leaders will also track votes via paper backup sheets. 

Alana Mounce, the Party's executive director, wrote in a memo that the Party had consulted with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and outside security experts, and vowed that "we are confident in our backup plans and redundancies."

But in the wake of the chaotic Iowa caucuses--where an app the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) used for counting malfunctioned and delayed results--officials have anxiety about Nevada's plans.

What they're saying: Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDemocrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors Tucker Carlson sparks condemnation with comments about deadly Kenosha shooting Hillicon Valley: Three arrested in Twitter hack | Trump pushes to break up TikTok | House approves 0M for election security MORE (D-Ill.), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that pushed through millions in election security funds for states last year, warned Thursday that "there can't be anymore experiments" when it comes to caucus voting. 

"The caucuses need to learn that the integrity of the election process is on everybody's mind now, and if you are going to use processes like this, you better have them vetted over and over again," Quigley added. "I get the desire to be high-tech, but if you are going to do this process, you better get it right."

Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses Underwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel MORE (N.Y.), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security cybersecurity subcommittee, told The Hill that he thought the use of an iPad was "a terrible idea that exposes them to possible hacking."

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The concerns: Early voting began on Saturday and runs through today, with the official Caucus Day to follow on Feb. 22. That means the Nevada Democratic Party has had a short amount of time to turn around a new vote counting system.

Former Iowa caucus worker Douglas W. Jones, who works as an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, said the issue of training volunteers, many of whom are often older, was one of his biggest concerns headed into the Nevada caucuses. 

"The challenge is I think that the average age of poll workers in the United States is in the 70s," Jones said. "There are generations of people still politically engaged who are not necessarily technologically proficient."

Mounce noted in the memo that 3,000 volunteers would undergo a "robust training program" to prepare for the caucuses, though according to CNN, many precinct volunteers had not yet seen the iPads they would use a day before early voting began.

David Levine, a former election official in both Idaho and Washington, D.C., told The Hill on Friday he was concerned that party officials may not be as well-versed in training volunteers on how to use new technologies. 

"It's a tough process to do in such a short period of time with volunteers," Levine, who currently serves as an Elections Integrity Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, added. "It's important to have not only trained folks on how to do this process, but also on how to use the backup process."

Read more on the Nevada concerns here. 

 

PELOSI JOINS PRESSURE CAMPAIGN ON HUAWEI: Bipartisan pressure to keep Chinese telecom firm Huawei out of the global development of 5G networks intensified Monday after House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with 0 drug coupon plan Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Calif.) joined the Trump administration in warning that the company poses a threat to the U.S. and its allies.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Pelosi told allies in stark terms not to use Huawei technology to roll out 5G networks, saying it would mean “selling the privacy of your people down the river.”

“It’s a People’s Liberation Army initiative using reversed engineering from Western technology,” Pelosi said. “So of course it’s going to be cheaper to put on the market. And if it’s cheaper, then they get the market share and then they [China] bring in their autocracy of lack of privacy.”

Why it matters: Pelosi’s comments marked the escalating pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to stop the spread of Huawei technology. The administration, including the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, have taken steps to rein in Huawei. But overseas, U.S. efforts to convince allies to abandon Huawei's technology have run into headwinds. The United Kingdom’s National Security Council in January decided to allow the use of Huawei 5G equipment in “peripheral” networks, rejecting the Trump administration’s calls to outright ban the company.

Read more here.

 

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NO ON THAT ONE: More Huawei news. A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday struck down a lawsuit from Chinese tech giant Huawei, ruling that the company didn't have any legal ground to sue the U.S. government.

The telecommunications company had filed the lawsuit last year after Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which, among other things, prohibits federal agencies and contractors from purchasing certain products from Huawei and fellow Chinese tech giant ZTE.

In the complaint, Huawei claimed that the restrictions were overly punitive and singled out certain companies.

The Trump administration and congressional lawmakers have long had concerns over whether the Chinese government could use Huawei and ZTE to spy on the U.S.

However, District Judge Amos Mazzant, an Obama appointee, concluded on Tuesday that the government wasn't prohibiting Huawei from doing business in America, but was rather exercising its legal ability to control how federal money is spent.

Read more here.

 

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KICKSTARTING TECH ACTIVISM: Employees at crowdfunding company Kickstarter voted to unionize on Tuesday, becoming the first big-name technology company to do so.

The staff members voted 47 to 36 to affiliate with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents more than 100,000 white collar workers. 

"We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here. We've worked hard over the last decade to build a different kind of company, one that measures its success by how well it achieves its mission: helping to bring creative projects to life. Our mission has been common ground for everyone here during this process, and it will continue to guide us as we enter this new phase together," Kickstarter's CEO Aziz Hasan said in a statement.

Workers at the company have been organizing as Kickstarter United (KRSU) for over a year, pushing for equal pay, transparency from management and more inclusive hiring.

"We believe unionizing provides a path toward furthering all of our goals," Oriana Leckert, a KSRU spokeswoman and senior journalism outreach leader at Kickstarter, said in a statement.

"It was truly an honor to get to have deep conversations with so many of my colleagues around these issues. Utilizing our collective power to improve our workplace and our professional lives will increase Kickstarter's ability to have a radical, positive impact on society by allowing us all to advocate for workers' rights, which is a core pillar of the fight against inequality," Leckert said.

Read more on the decision here.

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RING IT UP: Amazon's home security outfit Ring rolled out two new privacy and security features on Tuesday amid rising scrutiny on the company.

Ring will add a second layer of authentication by requiring users to enter a one-time code shared via email or SMS when they try to log in to see the feed from their cameras starting this week.

The company which sells the popular Ring doorbell is also giving users the ability to opt-out of sharing information with third-party service providers.

Ring also shared some best practices -- such as not reusing passwords and keeping email info up to date -- in its blog post announcing the new features.

The doorbell surveillance system has been under fire as its products have been installed in an increasing number of homes.

Ring was sued in December by a California man alleging the company had not taken proper steps to protect the privacy of its users and the security of its devices.

Until recently the company did not notify users when their accounts had been logged in to, meaning that hackers could have accessed camera feeds without owners being aware.

Multiple people have come forward saying their Ring cameras have been hacked in recent months.

The company is betting that new features such as login notification and required two-factor authentication will curb those incidents.

For many critics, however, the changes don't address Ring's biggest vulnerabilities.

Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights organization Fight for the Future, told The Hill in a statement that despite the changes, "Ring remains insecure and plagued with issues."

Read more on the changes here.

 

CORONAVIRUS FALLOUT FOR APPLE: Apple will miss its revenue projections for the second quarter of the fiscal year, blaming the coronavirus outbreak for the lower-than-expected profits.

The company announced Monday in a letter to investors that it expects lower sales globally based on iPhone supply and Chinese demand. Originally, Apple had forecasted it would generate $63 billion to $67 billion in the time frame, but it has not provided an updated prediction. 

"We are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated," the letter reads. "As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter due to two main factors."

Apple had to temporarily shut down production of its iPhones and other products in China, its main country for manufacturing, as the coronavirus spread throughout the country. All manufacturing facilities have been reopened but are "ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated" after the extended Lunar New Year holiday, the company said.

With the reduction in iPhone production, supply shortages are expected to affect Apple's revenue globally.

 Read more here.

 

NEW BEZOS CLIMATE FUND: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosTwitter mandates lawmakers, journalists to beef up passwords heading into election 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 Amazon planning small delivery hubs in suburbs MORE on Monday announced the launch of the Bezos Earth Fund, a new global initiative that will commit $10 billion to combating climate change.

Bezos, whose net worth is listed at $130 billion, said in an Instagram post that the fund would support scientists, activists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and "any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world."

While he did not offer details on what efforts he plans to prioritize, Bezos said he would begin issuing grants in connection to the fund this summer. 

"Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet," he said. "I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share."

Read more on the pledge here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Billie Rae Cyrus

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Government's AI principles overlook two important issues

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance and turned us into a nation of voyeurs (Washington Post / Drew Harwell)

Carnival Cruises, Delta, and 70 countries use a facial recognition company you've never heard of (OneZero / Dave Gershgorn)

This obscure foundation helped fund the alt-right (Intelligencer / Sarah Jones)

Translated: Facebook said what about content regulations? (Protocol / Andrea Peterson)