Hillicon Valley: Google bans Zoom from its work computers | Dem cautions White House against using surveillance to fight virus | Lawmakers push House leaders on remote voting

Hillicon Valley: Google bans Zoom from its work computers | Dem cautions White House against using surveillance to fight virus | Lawmakers push House leaders on remote voting
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ZOOM AWAY: Google on Wednesday banned the use of video conferencing service Zoom on employee computers, citing concerns around security vulnerabilities. 

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda told The Hill, after first telling BuzzFeed News, that the policy was limited to corporate computers, and was part of Google's long-standing policy of not allowing the use of "unapproved apps for work."

"Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees," Castaneda said. "Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile."

Google is the latest in a line of companies and government agencies to ban use of Zoom following two weeks of security and privacy concerns coming to light about the company. 

Reuters reported last week that both SpaceX and NASA had banned the use of Zoom due to privacy concerns. 

The move by Google came the same day that the German Federal Foreign Office restricted employees from using Zoom on government devices. 

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"According to media reports and according to our own knowledge, the software from Zoom has critical weaknesses and continues to have significant security and data protection problems," the Foreign Office wrote in a memo to employees which was made available to German publication Handelsblatt.

Taiwan's Cabinet ordered government agencies on Tuesday to stop using the Zoom conferencing app, also pointing to concerns over security risks. 

Read more here.

 

And Zoom gets hit with a lawsuit...: The video conferencing company Zoom is facing a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday with accusations that the app overstated its privacy policies and has failed to meet security standards.

Shareholder Michael Drieu filed the suit after multiple news reports highlighted privacy issues within Zoom's application, according to Reuters.

The company's stock, which had risen tremendously at the beginning of the year, has fallen and lost nearly a third of its market value since late March when reports of flawed security became more prevalent in the media.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan apologized last week to users and said the company would take steps to fix privacy and security issues, saying the company had fallen short on its duty.

Read more here.

 

3D-PRINTED MEDICAL SUPPLIES: Shortages of medical devices and protective equipment driven by the coronavirus pandemic have led medical workers and manufacturers to turn to 3D printing to fill the void.

However, the new technology still faces technical and legal hurdles before it can be fully deployed to address the shortfall.

Supplies of medical equipment and devices have been depleted in recent weeks by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Hospitals have faced shortages of potentially life-saving ventilators as well as personal protective equipment, such as masks, to keep their doctors safe. And the rollout of coronavirus testing, crucial to identifying those with the virus and containing its spread, has also been slow, with the government scrambling to acquire more kits.

But the 3D printing industry and those with the technology are eager to help fill that void. The technology has been used to produce face masks, test kit swabs and some of the key components of ventilators.

Joseph Hanna, an acute care surgeon at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, told The Hill that he has managed to produce face masks in less than three hours using a printer he already owned.

Working with Rutgers University and other 3D printing hobbyists in the area, Hanna has produced crucial protective equipment for dozens of doctors working on the front lines of the pandemic in New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states.

Hanna is not the only one to use 3D printing for masks -- examples of similar efforts can be found across the country, and the world. Italian volunteers in Lombardy, a coronavirus hot spot, used 3D printing to make 100 valves after some breathing machines keeping people alive started to fail.

3D printing has been particularly critical in helping to boost the production of test swabs, many of which were originally made in China and Italy, two of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

Read more here.

  

BIG BROTHER... CORONAVIRUS EDITION: Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBipartisan senators call for investigation of TikTok's child privacy policies OVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 MORE (D-Mass.) pressed the White House on Wednesday on reports that it is in talks to create a national coronavirus surveillance system.

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"The Trump administration has not given me or the American people any confidence that it is capable of creating or maintaining a massive health data network in a manner that doesn't undermine our fundamental right to privacy," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement.

Politico reported Tuesday night that White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump's strategy to stay in office Trump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Press: King Donald's goal - no checks, no balances MORE has reached out to several health technology companies about creating a system to give the government real-time data on where patients are seeking treatment and for what, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

The national system would be used to determine what regions should relax or tighten social distancing guidelines. It would also represent an unprecedented government intervention into the handling of patient health data.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill on the reported surveillance system or Markey's statement.

"As a nation, we are facing an historic public health emergency that is devastating individuals, families, and communities across this country," Markey said Wednesday.

Read more here.

 

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CYBER THREATS: The top cybersecurity agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom on Wednesday issued an alert warning that cyber criminals are stepping up attacks on health care groups and those working from home during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the United Kingdom's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) noted in the alert that the attacks often involved malicious phishing emails or ransomware attacks, in which an attacker locks up a system and demands payment to give the user access again.

"As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, bad actors are using these difficult times to exploit and take advantage of the public and business," CISA Assistant Director Bryan Ware said in a statement.  

The cyber criminals were often using coronavirus language to lure people into clicking on links in malicious emails or texts, or sending emails that appeared to be from agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) to trick people into thinking they are disclosing sensitive information to a trusted source. 

NCSC Director of Operations Paul Chichester warned in a statement that "malicious cyber actors are adjusting their tactics to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, and the NCSC is working round the clock with its partners to respond."

Chichester strongly advised the public to only turn to "trusted sources of information" for details on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, such as the U.K. government or National Health Service websites. 

Read more here.

 

VIRTUAL VOTING?: A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday called on House leaders to consider allowing votes on legislation by phone or video conferencing so they can conduct congressional business while still abiding by health guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Problem Solvers Caucus, a nearly 50-member group of Democrats and Republicans, outlined multiple ideas for how the House could allow lawmakers to cast roll-call votes remotely on legislation during emergencies, like the coronavirus crisis, that make travel and congregating in large groups difficult.

"Unlike the flu pandemic of 1918, modern technology offers us a host of options to govern from afar, safely and securely, during these exigent circumstances," the caucus members, led by Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerGun control group rolls out House endorsements A quiet, overlooked revolution in congressional power Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments MORE (D-N.J.) and Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedA quiet, overlooked revolution in congressional power Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-N.Y.), wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death 5 things to know about US-China tensions over Hong Kong Pelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman MORE (R-Calif.).

The caucus members pointed to other legislatures around the world that have implemented systems allowing lawmakers to vote remotely on measures to address the pandemic.

"Similarly, we believe Congress must be responsive to the changing operational requirements created by the pandemic crisis," they wrote.

Read more here.

 

LABOR GROUPS PUSH BACK AGAINST UBER: More than 50 labor groups on Wednesday urged congressional leaders to reject Uber's proposal for a new worker classification that would allow the ride sharing company to continue treating its drivers as contractors instead of employees.

The groups said in their letter that Uber is "exploiting the moment to further strip protections from those on the front lines of the [coronavirus] crisis," arguing that gig workers like Uber drivers should be reclassified as full employees.

The letter comes after CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent his own letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE last month asking for a classification that could let Uber maintain the flexibility of having independent contractors while adding some basic worker protections.

"Rather than stand up for his employees, Mr. Khosrowshahi is seizing an unprecedented public health crisis to push forward a radical annihilation of our labor laws," said groups like the AFL-CIO, National Employment Law Project (NELP) and Gig Workers Rising.

"He is expanding a business model that has undermined the quality of life for Uber drivers and other workers," they added.

The Hill has reached out to Uber for comment on the letter.

The company has defended its labor classification for workers, saying it allows flexibility.

Read more here.

 

ANTI-PRICE GOUGING BILL: A group of four powerful House Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation aimed at curbing price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Price Gouging Prevention Act would prohibit the sale of goods and services during the current public health emergency at "grossly" higher levels than before it.

"It's outrageous that some companies and individuals are taking advantage of American consumers by price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic," Democratic Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality House Democrats call on DOJ to investigate recent killings of unarmed black people  Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (N.Y.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers Democrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns MORE (Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting House Democrat to introduce bill cracking down on ad targeting MORE (R.I.) said in a statement.

"Goods and services such as hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, and many other items would be covered by this bill because every American deserves access to these essential goods at a reasonable price."

Nadler and Pallone chair the House Judiciary and the House Energy and Commerce committees, respectively, while Schakowsky and Cicilline both lead subpanels on antitrust laws and consumer protection.

Read more here.

 

TESLA MAKES CUTS: Electric car company Tesla has announced it will slash pay for salaried employees and furlough all hourly workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Tesla suspended operations at its San Francisco-area factory last month after local officials said the company wouldn't be labeled an essential business during the pandemic.

In an email to employees Tuesday obtained by CNBC, Valerie Workman, head of HR for the company's North America branch, said the company expects "to resume normal production at our U.S. facilities on May 4, barring any significant changes."

"Until that time, it is important we take action to ensure we remain on track to achieve our long-term plans," Workman wrote.

Starting April 13, salaried employees in the U.S. will see their pay cut anywhere from 10 to 30 percent depending on the level of their position, CNBC reported.

Employees who are unable to "work at home and have not been assigned to critical work onsite will be furloughed," the email added.

Read more here.

 

DELIVERY WOES: Amazon will suspend its third-party delivery service starting in June to focus on its main shipping service for customers, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.

The online retail giant told customers it will pause its Amazon Shipping program, a service that competes directly with FedEx and UPS. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news Wednesday. 

"We understand this is a change to your business, and we did not take this decision lightly," Amazon said in a note to shippers, according to the Journal. "We will work with you over the next several weeks so there is as little disruption to your business as possible."

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed in a statement to The Hill that the company is pausing the service. 

"We regularly look at a variety of factors across Amazon to make sure we're set up in the right way to best serve our customers," the spokesperson said.

The Amazon Shipping service consists of drivers picking packages up from businesses and delivering them to consumers, rather than shipping orders from Amazon's warehouses. 

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Devastating for academia

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Why being connected really matters for students

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Twitter notifies users that it's now sharing more data with advertisers (The Verge / Jacob Kastrenakes)

Diamond and Silk's Twitter account locked for breaking coronavirus misinformation rules (Politico / Cristiano Lima)

5G Conspiracy Theorists Are Using Fears About The Coronavirus To Make Money (BuzzFeed News / Ryan Broderick)

On Twitter, almost 60 percent of false claims about coronavirus remain online -- without a warning label (Washington Post / Craig Timberg)