Hillicon Valley: Biden, Putin agree to begin work on addressing cybersecurity concerns | Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees | Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border

Hillicon Valley: Biden, Putin agree to begin work on addressing cybersecurity concerns | Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees | Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border
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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 by clicking HERE.

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

President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussian court sentences Navalny ally to 18 months of supervision Russia says 24 diplomats asked by US to leave by September Is Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? MORE met face-to-face in Geneva, the first in-person interaction between the leaders since Biden took office. Cybersecurity was at the top of the agenda after a bumpy few months of escalating Russian-linked attacks on the U.S.


Back on Capitol Hill, two top cyber nominations that are expected to sail through the Senate were approved in committee Wednesday, but faced a speedbump from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who placed a hold on voting on the nominees until Biden visits the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Looking ahead, the bipartisan antitrust agenda introduced by leaders of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee will be brought to a full committee markup next week. We’ll be keeping an eye on the opposition from prominent Republicans, including from Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel Jordan58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll Kinzinger supports Jan. 6 panel subpoenas for Republicans, including McCarthy Jordan acknowledges talking to Trump on Jan. 6 MORE (Ohio). 

SHOWDOWN IN SWITZERLAND: President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said they agreed to work together to outline what cybersecurity concerns, such as ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure, would be considered red lines for the two countries.

“We spent a great deal of time on cyber and cybersecurity, I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack, period, by cyber or any other means,” Biden told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, after his meeting with the Russian leader. 

Biden noted that he had given Putin a list of 16 “specific entities,” such as the energy sector and water systems, that the U.S. views as critical infrastructure.

“Principle is one thing, it has to be backed up by practice, responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory,” Biden said. “So, we agreed to task experts of both our countries to work on specific understandings about what’s off limits and follow up on specific cases that originate in other countries, in either of our countries.”

Putin also discussed the understanding the two nations had come to on cybersecurity concerns, telling reporters during an earlier press conference that Russia would “begin consultations in this respect.”


Read more about the summit here.

APPROVED: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved two of President Biden's nominees to serve in the nation's top cybersecurity positions.

The committee approved former National Security Agency (NSA) Deputy Director Chris Inglis to serve in the newly created national cyber director role at the White House, and approved former NSA official Jen Easterly to serve as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Read more about the nominations here.

...BUT THERE’S A CATCH: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) threatened Wednesday to delay Biden’s national security nominees, saying he would place a hold on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) positions until the president visits the southern border.

Scott’s comments came as he noted his support for forwarding Biden’s nominee to lead CISA.

“I clearly support Jen Easterly to be the director of CISA — she’s got the right background to be able to do the job. It has no reflection on her nomination, but I am going to hold all nominations including hers until the president visits the border, and I think the president needs to visit the border and tell us how he is going to address the crisis,” he said in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting where the nominees were approved. 

Read more about the block here.

EVERYONE’S A CRITIC: Tech companies that publicly promote their privacy practices are coming under scrutiny for handing over metadata on lawmakers, congressional staffers, journalists and even a minor in response to subpoenas from the Trump administration’s Justice Department.

The involvement of tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft is shining a spotlight on Silicon Valley’s relationship with Washington and raising questions about whether those companies should have fought the subpoenas to protect user privacy.

“It puts [the companies] in a bad situation, because many of them are claiming they work hard to protect personal privacy, but they’re having to turn information over to government officials. So that’s not the place where they want to be,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation.

The revelations about subpoenas for lawmakers’ data has put the tech companies in a tough spot. From a legal perspective, they have few tools to challenge the government requests that clash with their brand reputations, particularly for a company like Apple.

Read more here

UNIONIZED: Workers at Catalist, a data firm that works with progressive causes, have formed a union that was voluntarily recognized by management Wednesday.

Thirty of the company’s 38 eligible employees have joined the Catalist Union and will be represented by the Communications Workers of America, which has made significant inroads into the tech industry recently.

The company’s decision to voluntarily recognize the union means there will be no formal election and that negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement will begin soon.

Read more here

INDIA ACCUSES TWITTER: India’s technology minister Wednesday accused Twitter of deliberately not complying with the country’s new IT rules.

“It is astounding that Twitter which portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, chooses the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines,” Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted. 

“If any foreign entity believes that they can portray itself as the flag bearer of free speech in India to excuse itself from complying with the law of the land, such attempts are misplaced.” 

Read more here




-A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee subcommittee will hold a hearing on state and local cybersecurity featuring officials from across the country. State and local governments have been major targets of cyber criminals during the pandemic.

-On the other side of Capitol Hill, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley: Senate report finds major cyber shortcomings in federal agencies | Gig firms seek Mass. ballot question to classify workers as contractors | Blizzard's president steps down after workplace protests Hillicon Valley: Social media giants fail to block 84 percent of antisemitic content: report | White House cyber chief backs new federal bureau to track threats Bipartisan governors press Biden administration on Canadian border restrictions MORE will testify before the House Homeland Security Committee on his agency’s annual budget proposal, which will likely feature debate on how much to funnel to cyber and tech priorities over the next year. 


Lighter click: not well

An op-ed to chew on: Biden’s cyber budget good, but still insufficient to meet the threats




Why Bo Burnham, Jenna Marbles, And Shane Dawson All Logged Off (BuzzFeed / Scaachi Koul) 

DuckDuckGo’s Quest to Prove Online Privacy Is Possible (Wired / Gilad Edelman) 

The Amazon That Customers Don’t See (The New York Times / Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise and Grace Ashford)