Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech

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

It was a big day for Big Tech at the Capitol, with the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee holding a hearing featuring Google and Apple executives to look at their app store market power. And a group of seven House Republicans pledged to reject donations from some of the top tech companies. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in rolling out legislation to invest more than $100 billion in emerging technologies. 


ALL EYES ON APP STORES: The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee turned into a Silicon Valley battleground Wednesday, with representatives from several app-based companies accusing Apple and Google executives at the hearing of stifling competition in their app stores and retaliating against those who speak out.

The app companies lambasted the commission fees, of up to 30 percent, that the Silicon Valley giants impose on some apps, a practice that could influence senators weighing legislative proposals aimed at curbing alleged anti-competitive behavior.

Apple’s chief compliance officer, Kyle Andeer, and Google’s senior director of public policy and government relations, Wilson White, defended the app store policies as being competitive and helping to ensure data privacy and security.

But the executives representing app-based businesses dismissed those arguments. 

Read more about the hearing.


LAWMAKERS EYE COMPETITION WITH CHINA: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) led dozens of bipartisan House and Senate members on Wednesday in rolling out legislation that would invest more than $100 billion in emerging technologies in an effort to put the U.S. on a level playing field with China. 

The Endless Frontiers Act, first introduced last year, would establish a Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation, which would use $100 billion in federal funds over five years to research emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors. 

The legislation would also appropriate $10 billion to the Department of Commerce to help support regional technology innovation throughout the nation, while a further $2.4 billion would go toward expanding and enhancing U.S. manufacturing capabilities in key technologies. 

The bill is primarily co-sponsored by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), with almost two dozen other bipartisan House and Senate members also signing on as sponsors. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday that the administration welcomed the legislation, describing it as “one more encouraging sign of the bipartisan support for investing in America’s competitiveness.”

Read more about the legislation here.


KEEP YOUR MONEY: Seven House Republicans on Wednesday pledged to reject donations from some of the top tech companies in the U.S. amid mounting scrutiny over the market power the tech giants hold. 

Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, led the pledge to reject campaign donations from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Twitter. 

Buck was joined by Reps. Chip Roy (Texas), Greg Steube (Fla.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Burgess Owens (Utah) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) in signing onto the pledge.

“These monopolies have shown that personal liberty can be threatened by corporate tyranny just as much as by government tyranny,” the Republicans wrote. 

The pledge to reject the donations may be mostly moot for now, as Facebook is suspending all PAC contributions following the insurrection at the Capitol, and Amazon and Google said they would pause donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying the election results. 

Steube, Norman, Bishop, Owens and Biggs all supported challenges to the certification of votes. 

Read more about the pledge


CYBER CRIMINALS BEWARE: The Justice Department this week convened a new task force to address the mounting ransomware cyberattacks on critical U.S. organizations that have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force, first reported on Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, will be made of officials from the agency’s National Security Division, Criminal Division, Civil Division, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and FBI.  


Acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin announced the task force in a memo, obtained by The Hill, sent to task force members on Tuesday.

Read more here.


CLOSING THE LOOPHOLE: Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at closing a loophole that has allowed government agencies to obtain Americans’ personal data without a warrant.

The Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act — which is co-sponsored by 19 other Senators including Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and was introduced in the House by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) — would require a court order for any purchases from third-party data brokers. 

Several reports recently have detailed how agencies like the military and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) purchase information including location data about American citizens from companies that harvest data from smartphone apps.

Read more about the legislation


MARKEY, CASTOR URGE INVESTIGATION: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate if Google’s app store is misleadingly marketing children’s apps as compliant with a law aimed at protecting children’s privacy. 

The Democrats on Wednesday sent a letter to the FTC calling for the commission to launch an investigation into the Silicon Valley giant’s app store, citing recent studies that suggest apps that infringe on children’s privacy, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), are “rampant on the Google Play Store.” 

The letter follows a similar push from two advocacy groups, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), for the FTC to look into the alleged COPPA violations. 

Read more here


APPLE TO (FINALLY) LAUNCH UPDATE: Apple will launch its operating system update that will include a feature that will limit the reach of targeted ads “next week,” the company said Tuesday.

Apple’s long-awaited — and delayed — App Tracking Transparency tool will require apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps and websites owned by other companies. 

Apple said in a press release about its new AirTag product launch that the iOS 14.5 operating system software updates will be available “starting next week.”

Read more here


EU TAKES ON AI: The European Union’s executive body on Wednesday proposed new regulations that would limit facial recognition and other “high-risk” applications of artificial intelligence.

The regulations proposed by the European Commission would prohibit law enforcement officials from using facial recognition with some exceptions for responding to terrorist attacks and finding missing children.

The technology has been roundly criticized by civil liberties and privacy groups that warn it is biased against women and people of color and even if it did work accurately would give the government overwhelming surveillance power.

Read more about the proposal


ICYMI: CYBER DIPLOMACY GETS A BOOST: The House on Tuesday approved bipartisan legislation aimed at elevating cybersecurity at the State Department through prioritizing and reorganizing a key department on the heels of multiple major foreign cyberattacks against the United States. 

The Cyber Diplomacy Act would require the State Department to open a Bureau of International Cyberspace Policy, which would lead the State Department’s cybersecurity efforts. This would include creating an international strategy to guide efforts by the United States to engage with other nations on cybersecurity issues and to set norms on responsible behavior in cyberspace. 

The bill, reintroduced in February, was previously passed by the House during the last Congress but failed to be considered by the Senate. It was approved Tuesday as part of a larger package of bills by the House in a vote of 355-69. 

The bill is primarily sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) with co-sponsors including committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and Bill Keating (D-Mass.). 

Read more about the legislation here.


Lighter click: Respect

An op-ed to chew on: Innovation suffers when property rights are weak or difficult to enforce 



Hackers pose as Bloomberg employees in email scam (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Meet virtual reality, your new physical therapist (The New York Times / Alina Tugend) 

Google Turmoil Exposes Cracks Long In Making for Top AI Watchdog (Bloomberg / Nico Grant, Dina Bass and Josh Eidelson)

Tags Adam Kinzinger Bill Keating Charles Schumer Chip Roy Chuck Schumer Ed Markey Greg Steube Gregory Meeks Jen Psaki Jerry Nadler Jim Langevin Kathy Castor Ken Buck Michael McCaul Mike Gallagher Ralph Norman Rand Paul Ro Khanna Ron Wyden Todd Young Zoe Lofgren

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