Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Cryptocurrency amendment blocked in Senate | Dems press Facebook over suspension of researchers’ accounts | Thousands push back against Apple plan to scan US iPhones for child sexual abuse images

The U.S. Capitol on a cloudy day
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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. 

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

MORE CRYPTO COMPLICATIONS: A bipartisan amendment to redefine who would be subject to new cryptocurrency regulation requirements under the Senate infrastructure bill was blocked Monday after Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) tried to attach his untreated proposal to boost military spending by $50 billion.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) put forward the amendment, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and is supported by the Treasury Department, and tried to get it added to the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

But after Shelby requested to add on his amendment to boost military spending to the bill, it was blocked by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Toomey expressed disgust that the amendment was stuck.

“Because there’s a difference of opinion on whether or not the senator from Alabama should get a vote on his amendment, because that is not agreed to, the body is refusing to take up an amendment that has broad bipartisan support, that we all know fixes something that badly needs to be fixed,” Toomey said on the Senate floor. 

“This isn’t like a whim of the senator from Pennsylvania, there’s like nobody who disputes that there’s a problem here,” he added. 

Read more here

The compromise: Toomey’s amendment would redefine “broker” in the underlying infrastructure bill in a way that seeks to keep software developers and transaction validators from being subject to the new reporting requirements. 

Notably, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who was a leading force in the charge to amend the definition, is not sponsoring the amendment. Wyden signaled he would not oppose the amendment, tweeting that it is “certainly better than the underlying bill.”

Read more about the amendment

QUESTIONS, CONCERNS: Democratic senators are pressing Facebook over its decision to suspend the accounts of New York University (NYU) researchers who created a tool to analyze political ads and the spread of misinformation on the platform. 

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Chris Coons (Del.) wrote a letter to Facebook Monday asking for details regarding the platform’s decision to suspend the accounts and effectively cut off the researchers’ work looking into the spread of misinformation on Facebook. 

They underscored their message by noting a letter the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent to Facebook calling the platform’s explanation for suspending the accounts due to its agreement to the agency “inaccurate.” 

“We were surprised to learn that Facebook has terminated access to its platform for researchers connected with the NYU Ad Observatory project. The opaque and unregulated online advertising platforms that social media companies maintain have allowed a hotbed of disinformation and consumer scams to proliferate, and we need to find solutions to those problems,” the senators wrote, according to a copy of the letter shared with The Hill. 

Read more about their concerns here. 

MORE QUESTIONS, CONCERNS: A group of security and privacy tech advocates are pushing back against Apple’s recently announced plan to scan iPhones and iPads for images of child sexual abuse stored in the cloud, citing concerns around privacy and surveillance.

An open letter, made public online late last week, had as of Monday afternoon been signed by a coalition of almost three dozen organizations and over 6,600 individuals made up of cryptographers, researchers and security, privacy and legal experts. 

The groups and individuals raised concerns around Apple’s new policy, unveiled last week, which would allow it to scan photos stored on some Apple devices for child abuse imagery and report them to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, along with disabling user accounts if the content is found.

The open letter and its signatories, however, emphasized that the policy could open a “backdoor” for wider surveillance. 

“While child exploitation is a serious problem, and while efforts to combat it are almost unquestionably well-intentioned, Apple’s proposal introduces a backdoor that threatens to undermine fundamental privacy protections for all users of Apple products,” the letter reads.

Read more about the letter here. 

An op-ed to chew on: Using market incentives to improve cybersecurity 

Lighter click: Happy Monday 🙂

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

YouTube yanked public meeting videos over covid misinformation. Now it’s backtracking. (Washington Post / Caroline Anders) 

Big Tech call center workers face pressure to accept home surveillance (NBC News / Olivia Solon) 

Apple Keeps Shutting Down Employee-run Surveys On Pay Equity — And Labor Lawyers Say It’s Illegal (The Verge / Zoe Schiffer)

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Chris Coons Cynthia Lummis Hillicon Valley Kyrsten Sinema Mark Warner Pat Toomey Richard Shelby Rob Portman Ron Wyden Tom Carper
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