Hillicon Valley: Thousands of Zoom recordings exposed online | Google shares location data to counter virus | Dem senator pushes jobless benefits for gig workers | Twitter takes down 20,000 fake accounts

Hillicon Valley: Thousands of Zoom recordings exposed online | Google shares location data to counter virus | Dem senator pushes jobless benefits for gig workers | Twitter takes down 20,000 fake accounts
© Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.



MORE TROUBLE FOR ZOOM: Thousands of recordings of private meetings and calls held over video conferencing service Zoom have been exposed online, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The meetings were recorded through Zoom's software and saved to different applications without passwords, enabling anyone to download and watch them.

The Washington Post found videos of therapy sessions, elementary school classes, small business meetings and recordings involving nudity.

Zoom told the newspaper that it "provides a safe and secure way for hosts to store recordings" and provides guides for how users can enhance their call security.

"Should hosts later choose to upload their meeting recordings anywhere else, we urge them to use extreme caution and be transparent with meeting participants, giving careful consideration to whether the meeting contains sensitive information and to participants' reasonable expectations," Zoom told the Post.

People and businesses worldwide have flocked to Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic to hold events ranging from university classes to happy hours. CEO Eric Yuan announced Thursday that the company had 200 million daily users in March, up from a maximum of 10 million daily users in December.

The company's stock price has already increased. But Zoom has faced a wave of security and privacy concerns as vulnerabilities were spotlighted by the spike in users.


Read more here.


GPS DATA: Google on Friday announced that it has started releasing global location data in an effort to help public health officials track how people are moving during lockdowns and orders to stay at home around the world.  

The tech giant confirmed that it is publishing anonymized data for 131 countries and regions around the world to show how people have moved during the course of the pandemic that has now infected over 1 million people.

"These Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19. The reports chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential," Google said on their site launched to share the reports.

Google's report on the U.S. shows a 47 percent decline in the number of tracked residents going to retail and recreation spots, like restaurants, cafes, shopping centers and more, between Feb. 16 and March 29. It also shows a 22 percent decrease in people going to pharmacies and grocery stores, as well as a 19 percent decrease in those traveling to parks, beaches, marinas and other outdoor spots.

The information is gathered using user data from Google Maps and other Google services. However, no personal data for individuals, such as a person's location, contacts or movement, is listed in the new data.

Users can also turn off their location history "at any time from their Google account," and they can also delete their personal data.

Read more here.


Google's move is part of a bigger debate...

BIG BROTHER?: The U.S. and Europe are moving toward unprecedented cellphone surveillance strategies to track residents infected with the coronavirus as a way to slow the spread of the disease, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The practice, which has been put in use in China, Singapore, Israel and South Korea, has faced a tougher audience in European countries and the U.S. because of privacy concerns.

Still, more governments are looking into data surveillance as a way to keep coronavirus cases in check, as U.S. cases topped 257,000 on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

"I think that everything is gravitating towards proximity tracking," said Chris Boos, a member of Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing, a project that is working on developing a shared system that can receive uploads from phone apps in different countries. "If somebody gets sick, we know who could be infected, and instead of quarantining millions, we're quarantining 10."

The federal government is working to create a portal combining phone geolocation data to aid authorities in finding and predicting where future outbreaks of the virus will occur and what resources would be needed.

The anonymous data from the mobile-advertising industry would show officials at places like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which locations, like retail stores or parks, people are still gathering at during the pandemic. Google said on Thursday it would share portions of its data with the federal government for that purpose.

Read more here.


GIG WORKER PROTECTIONS: Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHow lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response Grenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill MORE (D-Va.) is urging the Department of Labor to issue guidance for states scrambling to give gig workers and people who are self-employed access to unemployment benefits.

"The CARES Act directs states to stand up a new program, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program, to disburse benefits to workers who would normally not be eligible for unemployment assistance, such as gig workers or freelancers," Warner wrote to Labor Secretary Eugene ScaliaEugene ScaliaAFL-CIO sues OSHA to demand standard for worker protections Trump ordering halt to pension investments in Chinese equities OSHA inspectors conducting hundreds of coronavirus-related workplace investigations: report MORE in a letter Friday.


"Unfortunately, we are already hearing reports from unemployment officials from around the country that it will likely take weeks to stand up a new program and disburse benefits to these newly eligible workers. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with unemployment claims overwhelming state systems, there is no time to waste."

The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally MORE last week, gives those workers access to unemployment benefits. But states have struggled to make those benefits available quickly, given a historic surge in workers seeking unemployment benefits as the coronavirus pandemic batters the economy.

Read more here.


TWITTER TAKEDOWN: Twitter removed 20,000 fake accounts tied to the governments of several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Serbia, for violating company policy.

Government-linked accounts of Honduras and Indonesia were also removed after Twitter determined the posts from all five governments were an "attempt to undermine the public conversation," according to The Guardian.

Yoel Roth, head of Twitter's site integrity, told The Guardian the removed accounts were demonstrative of the company's efforts to "work to detect and investigate state-backed information operations."


The removals included 8,558 accounts linked to the Serbian Progressive party of the country's president, Aleksandar Vučić. The accounts were found to be spreading positive news of Vučić's government and attacking his political opponents.

The company also deleted 5,350 accounts linking back to the Saudi monarchy that were operating in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, according to The Guardian.

These accounts were found to be spreading messages praising Saudi leadership and seeking to diminish the reputation of Qatar and Turkish presences in Yemen.

Read more here


MASKS OFF THE MARKET: Amazon has stopped the sale of N95 masks to the public, deciding to only sell the essential personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals and government agencies amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier in the week, the company rolled out a new section of its website dedicated to the sale of PPE such as surgical masks, facial shields, surgical gowns, surgical gloves and large-volume sanitizers, Vox first reported. In order to buy the supplies, hospitals and agencies are prompted to fill out a form, which reads: "We are not accepting requests from individuals or non-qualified organizations at this time."

An Amazon spokesperson also told CNBC that the website was also restricting the purchase of coronavirus diagnostic kits to ensure that hospitals and agencies are able to obtain them.

The spokesman said that a number of other products, such as lower-volume hand sanitizers and hand wipes remain available to the general public. 

Amazon is purchasing the PPE through third-party sellers and encourages these parties to do so on the new section of their website.

To further push this, the company waived its referral fee that third-party sellers usually have to pay through June 30, according to the network. Normally, sellers must pay a referral fee on each item sold, with the fee amount changing based on the type of product.

Read more here.


IRS WARNS OF SCAMS: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Thursday warned Americans that scammers and hackers were likely to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to target financial information.

The agency urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for malicious calls, texts, emails and social media posts that requested financial or other personal information, warning that these scams could lead to identity theft or tax fraud.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig emphasized that taxpayers should "take extra care" with their financial information as the coronavirus crisis continues. 

"The IRS isn't going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster," Rettig said in a statement. "That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don't open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information." 

In particular, the IRS highlighted a new "wave" of dangerous phishing emails around the coronavirus stimulus checks that the agency is preparing to either directly deposit in bank accounts or mail out over the next several weeks. 

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: The Lonely Supper


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: It is time to secure our elections



Zoom Bombings Started Off as Pranks. Now Someone Could End Up Dead (Gizmodo / Shoshana Wodinsky)

Coronavirus Is a Labor Crisis, and a General Strike Might Be Next (Motherboard / Aaron Gordon, Lauren Kaori Gurley, Edward Ongweso Jr, and Jordan Pearson)

Senators want to know all about Apple's COVID-19 app, too (Protocol, Emily Birnbaum) 

How a 79-year-old scientist became a beloved meme (Verge / Makena Kelly)