Today is Tuesday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.
The “right to repair” movement celebrated a big win Tuesday after President Biden made it a focus of a major speech. The president touted commitments by Apple and Microsoft to make their products easier to fix, articulating the matter as a competition issue.
In cyber news, a DHS bulletin is reportedly warning that domestic extremists are developing plans to attack the country’s fragile electric power infrastructure.
Let’s jump into the news.
President Biden touted recent commitments by companies to make it easier for consumers to repair their products during a roundtable on competition Monday evening.
The president signed an executive order last summer directing the Federal Trade Commission to craft rules enforcing the so-called right to repair.
Both Microsoft and Apple have since announced plans to make repair parts and manuals more accessible.
“What’s happened [is] a lot of these companies said, ‘You’re right. We’re going to voluntarily do it. You don’t have to order us to do it,’ ” Biden said at Monday’s meeting.
Advocates have been pushing for the right to repair to be enshrined for years, arguing electronics manufacturers have hurt consumers and diminished competition by restricting consumer choice to fix their own products. Their cause has gained steam since Biden formally took it up.
Grid at risk
Domestic extremists have been developing plans to attack U.S. electric power infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned in a bulletin obtained by several media outlets.
The department said both domestic violent extremists and extremists more specifically motivated by racial animus are among those eyeing the power system as a target for attack.
“DVEs have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020, identifying the electric grid as a particularly attractive target given its interdependency with other infrastructure sectors,” the bulletin says, according to The Daily Beast, which first reported the memo.
The notice to the electric sector comes as DHS and other national security agencies have said lone wolf actors and small bands of extremists are among the greatest threats to the homeland.
“We are very focused on the lone actor or a loose affiliation of individuals, rather than necessarily an organized structure with a set and defined hierarchy, and that’s what I think can make the threat so challenging to address. It is that lack, it is the loose affiliation of individuals and the dynamic nature that they present,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently told reporters.
A coalition of tech advocacy groups is warning members of Congress and federal antitrust enforcers against the potential dangers posed by tech giants expanding into the automobile industry.
“Make no mistake: the expansion of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook into the auto sector spells trouble for workers and consumers,” the groups wrote in a letter sent Tuesday, according to a copy shared exclusively with The Hill.
The letter was sent by nearly 30 groups, including the American Economic Liberties Project and Demand Progress, to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan and the Justice Department’s antitrust head Jonathan Kanter.
It details concerns about tech giants’ growth in the automobile industry as the auto sector transitions to focus on electric and autonomous vehicles.
FTC VS. FASHION NOVA
It is the first case brought by the FTC involving a company’s efforts to conceal negative customer reviews, and along with the settlement the commission released new guidance for online retailers regarding collecting and publishing customer reviews in a way that doesn’t mislead consumers.
The FTC alleged that the California-based retailer used a third-party online product review management interface to automatically post four and five star reviews, and to hold lower starred reviews for the company’s approval.
According to the complaint, Fashion Nova didn’t approve or post hundreds of thousands of lower starred and negative reviews between late 2015 and November 2019.
“Deceptive review practices cheat consumers, undercut honest businesses, and pollute online commerce,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. “Fashion Nova is being held accountable for these practices, and other firms should take note.”
Fashion Nova denied the FTC’s allegations, calling them “inaccurate and deceptive.”
Canada’s foreign ministry targeted in cyberattack
Cybersecurity officials in Canada were working to rectify the interruption as of Monday night, CNN reported. Officials said that “critical services for Canadians” involving the foreign ministry were not affected during the incident.
“At this time, there is no indication that any other government departments have been impacted by this incident,” read a statement from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to CNN.
The statement continued, “We are constantly reviewing measures to protect Canadians and our critical infrastructure from electronic threats, hacking, and cyber espionage.”
“Given this investigation is ongoing, we are unable to comment further on any specific details for operational reasons,” Treasury Board spokesperson Alain Belle-Isle said, per CNN.
BITS AND PIECES
An op-ed to chew on: 2022 must be the year that Big Tech’s data wars end
Lighter click: Hot questions and even hotter wings
Notable links from around the web:
Ireland’s data centers are an economic lifeline. Environmentalists say they’re wrecking the planet (CNN / Kara Fox)
The Rise of the Crypto Mayors (The New York Times / David Yaffe-Bellany)
Google proposes a new way to track people around the Web. Again. (The Washington Post / Gerrit De Vynck)
One last thing: Influencers told to save spot
President Trump’s social media company Truth Social is asking social media influencers to “reserve” their spots on the social network, reported Axios, which obtained an email to some of the online personalities.
The news outlet reported that a person named Ana, who was a representative on behalf of Truth Social’s VIP department, had reached out to influencers like Jeremy Jacobowitz and Gillie Houston, popular foodie Instagrammers, to see if they want to reserve their “preferred username for when we launch in late February/early March.”
The emails to the influencers reportedly do not mention the former president or any connection between him and the social media network. The representative’s name is only listed as “Ana” and includes an apparently dead Palm Beach County area phone number.