Other Developments, Further Reading, and Coming Events (14 July 2021)

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Other Developments

  • The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) summarized the results of its most recent plenary session even though not all of the documents have yet been made available:
    • During its plenary session, the EDPB adopted Guidelines on Codes of Conduct (CoCs) as a tool for transfers. The main purpose of the guidelines is to clarify the application of articles 40 (3) and 46 (2) (e) of the GDPR. These provisions stipulate that once approved by a competent SA and after having been granted general validity within the EEA by the Commission, a CoC may also be adhered to and used by controllers and processors not subject to the GDPR to provide appropriate safeguards to transfers of data outside of the EU. The guidelines complement the EDPB Guidelines 1/2019 on codes of conduct which establish the general framework for the adoption of codes of conduct.
    • The EDPB adopted a final version of the Guidelines on Virtual Voice Assistants (VVA). The Guidelines aim to provide recommendations to relevant stakeholders on how to address some of the most relevant compliance challenges for VVAs. Following public consultation, the Guidelines were updated to reflect comments received.
    • Also following public consultation, the EDPB adopted a final version of the Guidelines on the concepts of Controller and Processor. These Guidelines aim to provide clarifications concerning fundamental concepts such as (joint) controller and processor. The final version integrates updated wording and further clarifications in order to address comments and feedback received during the public consultation.
    • Following the establishment of TikTok in the EU and the identification of its main establishment in Ireland for the ongoing cases related to the TikTok app, the EDPB decided to disband its TikTok Taskforce. This Taskforce was created to coordinate potential actions from the EEA supervisory authorities (SAs) and to acquire a more comprehensive  overview of TikTok’s processing and practices across the EU. At the time the Taskforce was created, there was no main establishment for TikTok in the EU and the Taskforce aimed to facilitate the exchange of information between SAs. Now, the One-Stop-Shop procedure applies and the Irish SA (DPC) was designated as the lead authority in charge of the files.
    • Consequently, the SAs involved in the Taskforce will use the designated tools under the cooperation mechanism, while also taking into account article 64(2) GDPR and EDPB opinion 8/2019 on the competence of a supervisory authority in case of a change in circumstances relating to the main or single establishment. Several SAs have already transferred their investigations to the DPC.
    • The SAs will have the opportunity to hold discussions on the matter, within the EDPB, and in particular within its Enforcement Expert Subgroup.
    • It is important to note that the EDPB can only take action in case the consistency mechanism in article 63 GDPR is triggered. After having issued provisional measures pursuant to article 66(1) GDPR, and having received assurances from TikTok on their application, including commitments that the latter undertook regarding its processing activities, the Italian SA decided that it no longer requires an urgent decision from the EDPB.
    • Finally, the EDPB discussed possible topics for its first coordinated enforcement action, following the EDPB’s decision to set up a Coordinated Enforcement Framework on 20 October 2020. The EDPB decided that the first action will concern the use of cloud-based services by public sector bodies and further work will now be carried out to specify the details and the scope in the upcoming months.
  • A “senior administration official” provided a background briefing to media “On President Biden’s Call With President Putin of Russia.” This official claimed:
    • President Biden also spoke with President Putin, obviously, about the ongoing ransomware attacks by criminals based in Russia that have impacted the United States and other countries around the world.  President Biden underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating on Russian territory, and emphasized that he’s committed to continued engagements on the broader threat posed by ransomware. 
    • President Biden reiterated that the United States will take necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge.  And the President has also called on governments and agencies to modernize their defenses to meet this threat, building on the President’s executive order on cybersecurity that was released in May.
    • I want to say a few other things about this: The President really meant what he said just after concluding the summit meeting in Geneva, when he said that our assessment of this process and our evaluation of Russia’s actions would take time and play out over time.  The President said six months or more. 
    • It’s about addressing the challenges posed by cryptocurrency, which provides fuel for these sorts of transactions. 
    • It’s about ensuring that our allies and our partners are working with us, collaboratively, and upping their own game when it comes to resilience and these broader issues. 
    • So, this is a broad campaign and won’t have an immediate on-off effect like a light switch, but we’re going to have to stay on top of this over a period of time and remain focused on it.
  • The Senate confirmed Jen Easterly by voice vote to be the second Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Last month, the Senate confirmed former National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis to be the United States’ (U.S.) first National Cyber Director. Now the Biden Administration has filled two of the most critical cybersecurity roles in the government. It remains to be seen how Inglis and Easterly will coordinate with Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger who was thus far been the Biden Administration’s point person on cyber and many technology issues. When she was nominated, one of the entities with whom Easterly was affiliated posted a bio:
    • Jen Easterly is a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley and Global Head of the Firm’s Cybersecurity Fusion Center. She joined the firm in February 2017 after nearly three decades in U.S. Government service. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Jen served on the National Security Council as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Counterterrorism, where she led the development and coordination of U.S. counterterrorism and hostage policy.  Prior to that, she was the Deputy for Counterterrorism at the National Security Agency.  A two-time recipient of the Bronze Star, Jen retired from the U.S. Army after more than twenty years of service in intelligence and cyber operations, including tours of duty in Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  Responsible for standing up the Army’s first cyber battalion, Jen was also instrumental in the creation of United States Cyber Command.  A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a French-American Foundation Young Leader, Jen is a Fellow of the 2018 class of the Aspen Finance Leaders Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. She is also a Senior International Security Fellow at the New America Foundation, as well as the past recipient of the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship and the Director, National Security Agency Fellowship. A distinguished graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Jen holds a master’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar.  A Trustee of the Morgan Stanley Foundation, Jen serves on the Board of Nuru International, a non-profit dedicated to the eradication of extreme poverty, and on the Advisory Council for Hostage US, which supports the families of Americans taken hostage abroad and hostages when they return home.  She is the 2018 recipient of the James W. Foley American Hostage Freedom Award.
  • Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee published their agenda for “Taking on Big Tech.” In their press release, they argued:
    • Big Tech is out to get conservatives. Last week, Leader McCarthy put forth a Republican framework to stop Big Tech. Today, House Judiciary Republicans released their agenda to hold Big Tech accountable. This agenda presents specific proposals that will speed up and strengthen antitrust enforcement, hold Big Tech accountable for its censorship, and increase transparency around Big Tech’s decisions.
    • Republicans offered the following:
      • -Speed-
      • Our plan accelerates overdue antitrust scrutiny. The laws currently on the books can and should be used to break up Big Tech. The problem has been, however, that these actions take too long and they allow companies years of legal maneuvering. An important step is to speed up this process and incentivize robust challenges to the dominance of the tech platforms. The conservative response should include the following:
        • Expedited trial court consideration. In the early Twentieth Century, Congress required courts to aggressively apply antitrust laws. Consistent with the Expediting Act of 1903, this proposal would require faster treatment of antitrust cases against Big Tech companies at the trial court, create an adequate record for any appeal, and ultimately ensure speedy justice in the fight against Big Tech.
        • Direct appeal to the Supreme Court. Antitrust cases take so long to litigate in part because of the length of the appellate process. Borrowing again from aspects of the Expediting Act of 1903, this proposal would speed up consideration of these cases by providing for a direct appeal to the Supreme Court and requiring the Supreme Court to act quickly when these cases get there.
        • Empower state attorneys general. State attorneys general are crucial partners in enforcing our nation’s antitrust laws. Several states have started or joined cases targeting Big Tech. This proposal would allow state attorneys general to utilize the same fast- track procedures available to the Federal government so that they will be on equal footing in their cases.
      • -Accountability-
        • Our plan subjects Big Tech to legal accountability for its censorship. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are functionally the public square of the digital age. It is wrong that these platforms control and censor speech with impunity. But it is nearly impossible for Americans to seek a remedy against Big Tech’s censorship decisions in court. In addition, the current regulatory regime divides enforcement between two unrelated agencies, creating an inefficient and unaccountable process. The conservative response to holding Big Tech accountable should include:
        • A cause of action to empower Americans. For far too long, Big Tech has been able to censor the views of conservatives with effectively no recourse available to those affected. This proposal would create a statutory basis for Americans to directly challenge Big Tech in court for its censorship and silencing of conservatives.
        • Overhauling Big Tech’s liability shield. Congress passed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to allow internet platforms to moderate unlawful or offensive content on their platforms. Big Tech has exploited this protection to make subjective content moderation decisions, often in a manner harmful to conservative voices. This proposal will ensure that any content moderation decisions are done in good faith, based on objectively reasonable criteria, and in accord with particularized rules.
        • Consolidated antitrust enforcement authority. The current system of splitting antitrust enforcement between the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission is inefficient and counterproductive. The arbitrary division of labor empowers radical Biden bureaucrats at the expense of Americans. This proposal will consolidate antitrust enforcement within the Department of Justice so that it is more effective and accountable.
      • -Transparency-
        • Our plan brings transparency to Big Tech’s content moderation decisions. Not only are the platforms currently immunized from lawsuits regarding their censorship, but all of their decisions about who to censor are made in secret. Recognizing that these platforms function as the main vessels for speech in the modern era, this plan for bringing transparency to Big Tech should include:
        • Content moderation transparency. Big Tech’s content moderation decisions can be imposed summarily and with little justification. This proposal will require that for large platforms, content moderation decisions and censorship must be listed, with specificity and particularity, on a publicly available website. A platform’s failure to do so would result in a massive fine.
  • The United States (U.S.) Department of Defense (DOD) “canceled the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud solicitation and initiated contract termination procedures” per its press release. The DOD has faced protracted litigation from Amazon Web Services (AWS) regarding the legality of the JEDI award to Microsoft and its partners and subcontractors worth as much as $10 billion. The DOD continued:
    • The Department has determined that, due to evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances, the JEDI Cloud contract no longer meets its needs. The Department continues to have unmet cloud capability gaps for enterprise-wide, commercial cloud services at all three classification levels that work at the tactical edge, at scale — these needs have only advanced in recent years with efforts such as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Acceleration (ADA) initiative. 
    • Concurrent with the cancellation of the JEDI Request for Proposals (RFP), the DOD announced its intent for new cloud efforts. The Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC) will be a multi-cloud/multi-vendor Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract. The Department intends to seek proposals from a limited number of sources, namely the Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) and Amazon Web Services (AWS), as available market research indicates that these two vendors are the only Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) capable of meeting the Department’s requirements. However, as noted in its Pre-Solicitation Notice, the Department will immediately engage with industry and continue its market research to determine whether any other U.S.-based hyperscale CSPs can also meet the DOD’s requirements. If so, those Department will also negotiate with those companies. 
  • United States (U.S.) Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) Member Travis LeBlanc released his reasons for opposing a report earlier this year on a key executive order the United States (U.S.) government has used for nearly 40 years to conduct surveillance. Earlier this year, PCLOB issued its long awaited report on Executive Order (EO) 12333, its “capstone to its more than six-year examination of the government’s use” of the EO, a “foundational document for the United States’ (U.S.) foreign intelligence efforts.” However, as pointed out by one expert, this PCLOB report is much shorter than its reports on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provisions in Sections 215 and 702 and the USA Freedom Act Telephone Call Records Program. Moreover, the EO 12333 report lacks recommendations. This likely displeased more than privacy and civil liberties advocates because the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), among other European Union (EU), were awaiting the PCLOB to provide more insight into the use of EO 12333 for collecting the data of EU residents. LeBlanc stated:
    • It is with deep regret that I must write in opposition to the release of a report that the former majority of the Board in 2020 (“former Board” or “former Board majority”) rushed last year to approve without adequate investigations analysis, review, or process. While I remain grateful to our Board staff for the many years of effort they have devoted to XKEYSCORE’s oversights I had hoped that the former majority of the Board would have conducted a more thorough investigation of this highly-classified surveillance program that is unlikely to be scrutinized by another independent oversight authority in the near future.
    • First, I voted against the XKEYSCORE report because the former Board majority failed to use its investigation into Executive Order (EO) 12333 activitiesto delve into important technological and modern electronic surveillance issues dominating the public discourse, like the use of algorithmic decision-making.
    • Second, the former Board majority failed to adequately investigate or evaluate the National Security Agency’s (“NSA”) EO 12333 collection activities. Obviously, NSA can process and query communications through XKEYSCORE only once it has access to those communications. While collection and querying are separate activities, they are intertwined and both are worthy of review for separate legal analysis, training, compliance, and audit processes. This is true whether the collection and querying activities are performed by humans or machines. What may be a reasonable amount of “incidental” collection in one program or activity may well be unreasonable in other Similarly, protections that are designed to mitigate incidental collection may be reasonable in one program or activity and unreasonable in other contexts. On these points and Others, the former Board’s report unfortunately reads more like a book report summary of the XKEYSCORE program than an independent oversight analysis grappling with key concerns in this evolving technological and legal landscape.  
    • Third, the firmer Board majority had the opportunity to engage in evidence-based policy making; however, it concluded a report lacking analysis Of the efficacy, Costs, and benefits Of XKEYSCORE.
    • Fourth, the former Board majority failed to adequately investigate the compliance program in place for XKEYSCORE Unfortunately, when the former Board requested any legal analysis by the NSA or the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regarding the use Of XKEYSCORE’s functions in 2015, the NSA provided a 13-page memo prepared by the NSA Office of General Counsel (“OGC”) in 2016. The response made it appear as if NSA had not prepared a written analysis Of the legality of XKEYSCORE until prompted by PCLOB.
  • The United Kingdom’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced that “[a] new plan to boost economic growth and help the country seize the potential of digital technology will be launched.” DCMS claimed:
    • The government’s Plan for Digital Regulation aims to reduce red tape and cut down on cumbersome and confusing policy so businesses are freed to come up with new ideas, grow their firms and create new jobs and prosperity.
    • The vision is to drive prosperity through pro-innovation regulation of digital technologies while minimising serious harms to the country’s economy, security and society. 
    • The digital sector is one of the UK’s most dynamic and important industries. It contributed £151 billion to the economy in 2019, attracted more venture capital funding (£11.2 billion) than Germany and France combined in 2020, and employs more than two million people.
    • The new plan sets out three guiding principles policymakers must follow and states that the  government should only regulate when absolutely necessary and do so in a proportionate way. They should:
      • Actively promote innovation. Policymakers must back innovation wherever they can by removing unnecessary regulation and burdens and considering non-regulatory measures such as technical standards first.
      • Achieve ‘forward-looking and coherent outcomes’. Digital technologies are evolving fast and transforming traditional sectors across the economy, so policymakers must make sure new regulation complements, rather than contradicts, existing and planned legislation.
      • Exploit opportunities and address challenges in the international arena. Digital technologies are borderless and policymakers must take a global view. They must always consider the international dynamics of proposed regulation – from our existing international obligations including trade deals, expected future agreements, and the impact of regulations developed by other nations.
  • The United States (U.S.) Department of Defense (DOD) issued its customary overview of its annual budget request for information technology and cyberspace activities. For FY 2022, the DOD explained:
    • The Department of Defense (DoD) Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Information Technology/Cyberspace Activities (IT/CA) Budget Request is $50.6B, including $12B in cyber/ classified IT/CA investments and $38.6B in unclassified IT investments. The FY 2022 request reflects an overall 4% increase from the DoD FY 2021 enacted IT/CA Budget.
    • The DOD included this chart:
  • Australia’s Treasury “has released exposure draft amendments to the Consumer Data Right (CDR) rules and explanatory materials for consultation.” The agency added:
    • The exposure draft amendments include changes to the CDR Rules to accelerate the benefits of the CDR for consumers by reducing barriers to participate in open banking and by allowing more Australians to leverage their data in common banking scenarios. They will support growth of the CDR ecosystem and increase participation in the CDR by data recipients and consumers by:
      • Introducing a sponsored tier of accreditation and a CDR representative model
      • Allowing consumers to share their data with trusted professional advisers
      • Allowing participants to share CDR insights with consumer consent for specific purposes
      • Creating a single consent data sharing model for joint accounts.
  • The Norwegian Consumer Authority has issued a report titled “Time To Ban Surveillance-Based Advertising: The case against commercial surveillance online” and asserted:
    • A ban on surveillance-based practices should be complemented by stronger enforcement of existing legislation, including the General Data Protection Regulation, competition regulation, and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. However, enforcement currently consumes significant time and resources, and usually happens after the damage has already been done. Banning surveillance-based advertising in general will force structural changes to the advertising industry and alleviate a number of significant harms to consumers and to society at large.
    • A ban on surveillance-based advertising does not mean that one can no longer finance digital content using advertising. To illustrate this, we describe some possible ways forward for advertising-funded digital content, and point to alternative advertising technologies that may contribute to a safer and healthier digital economy for both consumers and businesses.
    • As pervasive commercial surveillance seeps into all aspects of our daily lives, it becomes clear that there is a need for a systemic reform of the online advertising industry. Discussions are currently under way in the European Union about how to handle surveillance-based advertising as a part of the Digital Services Act. At the same time, discussions are going on about enacting federal privacy legislation and legislative initiatives to curb surveillance-based advertising in the United States, where many of the companies engaged in surveillance-based advertising are headquartered. We therefore stand before a unique legislative opportunity to solve many pressing issues.
    • The result of these discussions could have significant consequences for the business model of the majority of online content, and consumers could stand to benefit from a new preventive approach. This document provides an overview of the challenges of surveillance-based advertising, and can thus be considered a part of these ongoing policy discussions.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released another in a string of reports on the VA’s troubled acquisition of technology for electronic health records (EHR). In “Unreliable Information Technology Infrastructure Cost Estimates for the Electronic Health Record Modernization Program,” the OIG found:
    • This report identified weaknesses in how the Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (OEHRM) developed and reported the cost estimates for IT infrastructure upgrades needed to support the new electronic health record system. The OIG found that the estimate of about $4.3 billion was not reliable, and a lack of complete documentation made it difficult to determine the accuracy of estimates, in itself a problem. Furthermore, the OIG determined that VA did not report to Congress other, critical program-related IT infrastructure upgrade costs totalingabout$2.5billion, thus underreporting the program life-cycle costs by a significant amount. This lapse in reliable reporting occurred because certain IT infrastructure upgrade costs are assumed by VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and there were inadequate procedures for determining if a cost-estimate update is needed in the office’s congressionally mandated reports and, if so, when this update should occur.

Further Reading

  • How Washington got back into trustbusting” By Ron Knox — The Washington Post. Most folks who follow the ebb and flow of federal regulation expected the Senate to easily confirm Columbia University law professor Lina Khan to join the Federal Trade Commission. And, on June 15, it did, by a 69-to-28 vote. Few expected what happened next. Just hours after that vote, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) leaked the news during another Senate hearing: President Biden had chosen Khan, a 32-year-old tech critic and anti-monopoly crusader, to lead the FTC as its chair. The startling decision put one of the most prominent critics of corporate power in charge of the agency best able to combat big businesses on behalf of workers, small businesses and consumers. “Congress created the FTC to safeguard fair competition and protect consumers, workers, and honest businesses from unfair & deceptive practices,” Khan tweeted. “I look forward to upholding this mission with vigor and serving the American public.”
  • The Apple-Microsoft Tech War Reignites for a New Era” By Tim Higgins and Aaron Tilley — The Wall Street Journal. A new clash of tech titans is taking shape as Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. reignite a feud that dates back to the formative days of the personal computer era. The companies’ co-founders, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at Microsoft, battled early in their history before largely burying the hatchet. In recent months, both companies have taken up arms again in a skirmish that is roiling other tech companies and their customers.
  • Fast, reliable broadband … it’s now a key selling point for house hunters” By Shane Hickey — The Guardian. It used to be that demand for homes centred on the proximity to good schools, or how close they were to a nice restaurant or pub. Now, before they sign on the dotted line, homebuyers want to ensure they can download a film quickly, or check their work emails without interruption. Access to reliable and fast broadband is one of the key priorities as working from home looks set to become a more permanent arrangement for many. And a surge of interest in people wanting to move to the country has been coupled with demand for good internet in areas that might otherwise have weak connections.
  • Jack Cable, Stanford student and cyber whiz, aims to crowdsource ransomware details” By Tim Starks — cyberscoop. Ransomware has never been more of a national security concern after a string of hacks against the fuel supplier Colonial Pipeline, meat giant JBS and perhaps thousands of others compromised after a breach at a large IT firm. Few people, if any, seem to grasp the breadth and cost of the scourge, as there are no legal requirements for victims to disclose when they pay hackers to unlock their network.  That, combined with the suspicion that most victims don’t report their digital extortion payments, makes it harder for law enforcement and security firms to combat attacks, or even understand how to fight them.
  • Software Firm at Center of Ransomware Attack Was Warned of Cyber Flaw in April” By Dustin Volz and Robert McMillan — The Wall Street Journal. The software company linked to a massive ransomware spree that began last week and has impacted hundreds of organizations across the globe was notified in early April of a cybersecurity vulnerability used in the attack, according to the Dutch security researcher group that discovered the issue. Kaseya Ltd., a Miami-based software supplier that helps technology-service providers manage computer networks, was told of a serious cybersecurity hole in its Kaseya VSA software on April 6, Victor Gevers, chairman of the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure, said Wednesday. Mr. Gevers’s organization, which is a volunteer-run security group, discovered the flaw.
  • CISA Starts Cataloging Bad Practices in Cybersecurity” By Mariam Baksh — Nextgov.The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a list of two bad practices Tuesday in an effort to help critical infrastructure providers prioritize their cybersecurity responsibilities. The bad practices are using unsupported or “end-of-life” software, and using known/fixed/default passwords and credentials, according to a blog post published by CISA Executive Assistant Director Eric Goldstein. He said the list is deliberately focused and that the dangerous practices listed are exceptionally egregious in internet-accessible technologies.
  • It’s 2021, why are dating app algorithms still so bad?” By Emma Hughes — WIRED. It is a truth universally acknowledged that lockdown was a boom time for dating apps. And now that the world is finally opening up again, single people are stampeding towards them in even greater numbers – Hinge has reported a 63 per cent spike in downloads since 2019 and a tripling of revenue in 2020, while May 2021 alone saw more than 6.5 million people downloading Tinder. But while this level of interest might be new, actually being on a dating app seems, anecdotally, to be the same old story: a largely fruitless cycle of swiping, matching, initial interest and near-inevitable disappointment. Nobody who’s spent any amount of time on them would be surprised to hear that Tinder and Grindr rank in the top 10 of apps most likely to leave users feeling sad (meanwhile, not a single dating or hook-up app made a parallel list of the 15 apps most conducive to happiness).
  • Debit Card Apps for Kids Are Collecting a Shocking Amount of Personal Data” By Todd Feathers — Vice. The fintech company Greenlight says that its app and debit card for kids is a financial literacy tool that gives parents “superpowers” to set strict controls on their children’s spending. Parents can use the app to pay allowances, choose which stores the connected debit cards work at, set spending limits, and receive instant notifications whenever their child makes a purchase. But there’s one thing Greenlight makes it very hard for parents to control: What the company does with the mountains of sensitive data it collects about children. 
  • How to Shop Online and Not Get Ripped Off” By Nicole Nguyen — The Wall Street Journal. Shopping online can feel like magic. A couple of clicks and a few days later, a box is on your doorstep. But it can also feel like playing a game of digital dodgeball. Shoppers must tread carefully to avoid the fake reviews, unsafe or mislabeled products, or counterfeit goods hiding behind legitimate-seeming listings. That’s because we are living in the Marketplace Era. Third-party sellers peddle their wares via the digital bazaars of Amazon, Walmart, Target—and now even Urban Outfitters and J.Crew. The deal could be seen as a win-win: Customers get a larger selection of products and retailers get a cut of more sales. The problem? It adds a layer of mystery for shoppers. Instead of buying from that site you know, you’re buying from a seller you don’t know, and often it’s a product whose brand you’ve never heard of.
  • Republicans’ new plan to tax Big Tech” By Margaret Harding McGill — Axios. Key Republicans are warming to an idea that was once anathema to the party — leveling taxes on big American companies to pay for internet subsidy programs.
  • The broadband gap’s dirty secret: Redlining still exists in digital form” By Shara Tibken — c/net. When Christina Wilson moved into Los Angeles public housing with her husband and teenage daughter four years ago, she tried to transfer her internet service plan to her new home. But, as is the case with many low-income communities in the US, the ISP didn’t serve the Housing Authority of Los Angeles’ Imperial Courts. In fact, no internet service providers offered speedy plans for any of LA’s public housing facilities. Instead, they only offered pricey, slow plans insufficient for today’s needs. So the 45-year-old relied on her smartphone’s T-Mobile connection for anything she wanted to do online, while her daughter used her phone as a hotspot to attend her virtual film school classes. The mobile devices had unlimited data but came with caveats. 
  • Deputy Defense Secretary Says US Needs to Defend Its Artificial Intelligence Better” By Patrick Tucker — Nextgov. As the Pentagon rapidly builds and adopts artificial intelligence tools, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said military leaders increasingly are worried about a second-hand problem: AI safety. AI safety broadly refers to making sure that artificial intelligence programs don’t wind up causing problems, no matter whether they were based on corrupted or incomplete data, were poorly designed, or were hacked by attackers. 
  • Rep. Ken Buck is trying to convince the GOP to hold tech companies accountable” By Cat Zakrzewski — The Washington Post. Rep. Ken Buck wants to dismantle the giants of Silicon Valley’s power. But first he’ll have to win over members of his own party. In interviews and on Twitter, the top Republican on the House antitrust panel has been trying to convince fellow conservatives to back a sweeping package of bills that would strengthen regulators, make it harder for tech companies to buy up rivals, and in the most severe instances, even break them up. The bills cleared their first major hurdle in Congress last week, but a marathon 29-hour markup session highlighted the rifts with Republicans over the legislation.
  • Lawmakers urge DOJ review of T-Mobile-Dish spat” By Margaret Harding McGill — Axios. A bipartisan pair of Colorado lawmakers want the Justice Department to investigate T-Mobile’s plans to shut down a network used by Dish customers — and take quick action if necessary.
  • Schools and libraries can apply for FCC broadband relief funds starting Tuesday” By Marguerite Reardon — c/net. The Emergency Connectivity Fund, the program run through the Federal Communications Commission to subsidize broadband connectivity and devices for schools and libraries in response to the coronavirus pandemic, will begin accepting applications for funding starting Tuesday. This program is designed to help narrow the digital divide and homework gap that has left out millions of Americans, including school-age children and other vulnerable populations, who have traditionally relied on public libraries for internet access. The $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, created through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, will provide funding for schools and libraries across the country to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connections to help students and teachers access the internet for distance learning. Unlike traditional federal E-rate dollars, which are provided to schools and libraries through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, to help get those physical locations connected to the internet, the Emergency Connectivity Fund money can be used to serve students, school staff or library patrons who are off-campus. 

Coming Events

  • The House Appropriations Committee will hold a 13 July markup of its FY 2022 Department of Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations Acts:
  • On 13 July, the House Judiciary Committee’s Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Facial Recognition Technology: Examining Its Use by Law Enforcement.”
  • On 13 July, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold its monthly meeting with this tentative agenda:
    • Securing Communications Networks. The Commission will consider a Third Report and Order that would amend the rules for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program consistent with modifications adopted by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The item would also clarify certain aspects of the Reimbursement Program. (WC Docket No. 18-89)
    • Enabling State-of-the-Art Radar Sensing Technologies in the 60 GHz Band. The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing revisions to Section 15.255 of the rules governing short range radar operations in the 64-71 GHz frequency band. (ET Docket No. 21-264)
    • Updating Technical Rules for Radio Broadcasters. The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to eliminate or amend outmoded or unnecessary broadcast technical rules. (MB Docket No. 21-263)
    • Updating International Filing Requirements for the Digital Age. The Commission will consider an Order that would amend rules to require the remaining applications and reports to be filed electronically in the International Bureau Filing System (IBFS) and eliminate duplicative paper filing requirements. (IB Docket No. 21-265)
    • Enforcement Bureau Action. The Commission will consider an enforcement action.
  • On 14 July, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will “consider an original bill to invest in the energy and outdoor infrastructure of the United States to deploy new and innovative technologies, update existing infrastructure to be reliable and resilient, and secure energy infrastructure against physical and cyber threats, and for other purposes.”
  • The Senate Finance Committee’s Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Defending and Investing in U.S. Competitiveness” on 14 July.
  • The Joint Economic Committee will hold a 14 July hearing titled “A Second Gilded Age: How Concentrated Corporate Power Undermines Shared Prosperity.”
  • On 14 July, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “VA Electronic Health Records: Modernization and the Path Ahead.”
  • On 15 July, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will convene a hearing titled “Implementing Supply Chain Resiliency.”
  • The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a 15 July hearing titled “Securing the Homeland: Reforming DHS to Meet Today’s Threats.”
  • On 21 July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will open its monthly open meeting with this agenda:
    • Proposed Policy Statement on Repair Restrictions Imposed by Manufacturers and Sellers: The FTC Act authorizes the Commission to adopt policy statements. The Commission will vote on whether to issue a new policy statement, following the Commission’s “Nixing the Fix” report which was unanimously agreed to and announced on May 6, 2021.
  • On 27 July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will hold PrivacyCon 2021.

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