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President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRepublican lawmakers warn against more military coordination with Russia NATO expansion in Ukraine a 'red line' for Putin, Kremlin says Milley calls for expanded communication between US, Russian militaries 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 JordanAllies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee Watchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments 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.”
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).
...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.
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.
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.
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.”
ON TAP TOMORROW:
-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 MayorkasBiden administration moves to preserve DACA after court ruling Sunday shows - All eyes on spending votes DHS secretary: We are working in a 'completely broken' immigration system 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
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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)