Senate Passes $250 Billion Bill to Foster Manufacturing, Tech

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill in a 63-32 vote this week that allocates $250 billion for technology R&D to counter foreign competition, primarily from China. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) intends to boost research investment, build semiconductor manufacturing capacity and focus on AI development. The National Science Foundation (NSF) will also play a more significant role. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) stated the bill is “about investing in that innovation economy of the future.” It still needs to pass the House. Continue reading Senate Passes $250 Billion Bill to Foster Manufacturing, Tech

FTC Interviews Mark Zuckerberg as Part of Its Antitrust Probe

The Federal Trade Commission often interviews witnesses under oath as part of investigations that lead to lawsuits. It’s telling, then, that, according to sources, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified remotely and under oath over a two-day FTC “investigative hearing.” Those sources also pointed out that Zuckerberg’s testimony doesn’t guarantee the case is headed toward an antitrust lawsuit but could be used by the FTC and state attorneys to build their case. State officials also participated in the hearing. Continue reading FTC Interviews Mark Zuckerberg as Part of Its Antitrust Probe

House Bill Aims to Speed Expansion of Gigabit Internet in U.S.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) and former House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Fred Upton (R-Michigan) introduced a bill to speed up distribution of the $16 billion the FCC earmarked to expand broadband infrastructure to rural areas. The FCC currently plans to disburse the money in an October auction, but rural areas today cannot access remote schooling or healthcare resources. Thirty-nine state attorneys general are also pressing Congress to increase broadband funding for these areas. Continue reading House Bill Aims to Speed Expansion of Gigabit Internet in U.S.

Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

The House of Representatives, after closed-door negotiations, came to an agreement to bring an amendment to vote that would protect Americans from FBI and CIA surveillance of their web browsing history without a warrant. The amendment, introduced by Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), would be a “significant reform to Section 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] that protects Americans’ civil liberties,” said Lofgren. However, after full details of the proposal were released, debate over who would specifically be protected led to the amendment’s downfall. Continue reading Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

French Competition Authority Fines Apple & Two Wholesalers

The French Competition Authority fined Apple 1.1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) after determining that the company unfairly divided products and customers between two wholesalers, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, and forced them to charge the same prices as those offered in its own retail stores. The Authority president Isabelle de Silva stated that doing so had the effect of “sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products.” Tech Data and Ingram Micro were fined 76.1 million euros and 62.9 million euros, respectively. Continue reading French Competition Authority Fines Apple & Two Wholesalers

House of Representatives Okays Extension of Surveillance Act

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 278 to 136 for the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020, to extend provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This legislation established rules for surveillance and information collection “between foreign powers or agents of foreign powers suspected of espionage or terrorism.” Although the House is led by Democrats, the vote was bipartisan, with 152 Democrats and 226 Republicans approving the act. The measure will now go to the Senate, on recess next week. Continue reading House of Representatives Okays Extension of Surveillance Act

House of Representatives Sends Copyright Act to Senate

In a 410-6 vote, the House of Representatives approved the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act that will allow online content creators to more efficiently pursue infringers. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) introduced the measure last year. If it becomes law, it will create a new small claims court with a tribunal of copyright claims officers who would work with both parties to resolve the issue. Potential damages would no more than $15,000 per claim or $30,000 in total. Continue reading House of Representatives Sends Copyright Act to Senate

Tension Over Algorithm Roils Amazon Retail, Search Teams

Amazon’s search algorithm can make or break a product. Sources are now saying that the tech behemoth adjusted its system late in 2018 so that products that bring it bigger profits get the most visibility. That could include Amazon’s own brands over products that might be more relevant and popular. The tweak in the algorithm took place against the backdrop of ongoing tensions between the executives running Amazon’s retail businesses, who wanted the switch, and those at A9, the company’s search team, who did not. Continue reading Tension Over Algorithm Roils Amazon Retail, Search Teams

Government Makes Bipartisan Push to Investigate Big Tech

Democrats and Republicans have come together to examine big tech companies. Last Friday, a bipartisan group of attorneys general in eight states and the District of Columbia began an antitrust probe of Facebook, and, on Monday, another such group announced its intention to investigate Google. Sources said attorney general Ken Paxton (R-Texas) is leading the Google investigation. The Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, and House and Senate committees are also scrutinizing the tech companies. Continue reading Government Makes Bipartisan Push to Investigate Big Tech

Lawmakers Aim to Control Malicious Content Enabled by AI

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee began a series of hearings to look into “emerging technological breakthroughs” to control malicious content posted on digital platforms by AI-enabled software including bots. Facebook head of global policy management Monika Bickert testified that the company has prioritized the development of such tools. Chief information officers at numerous tech companies are paying attention, worried that lawmakers are considering regulating the use of AI. Continue reading Lawmakers Aim to Control Malicious Content Enabled by AI

Congress Introduces IoT Bill to Protect Connected Devices

Congress introduced the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act yesterday, in an effort to position legislative power behind securing connected devices. Defense Intelligence Agency director Lieutenant General Robert Ashley told lawmakers last year that IoT devices are considered one of the “most important emerging cyberthreats” to national security. Without a national standard for IoT security, we need to rely on steps taken by individual companies. The legislation, which was first introduced in 2017, would require security standards for IoT devices used by the federal government. Continue reading Congress Introduces IoT Bill to Protect Connected Devices

Congress Passes Bill Intended to Boost Quantum Computing

Congress passed a bill that aims to speed up the development of quantum computing in the United States. The technology is anticipated to revolutionize cybersecurity among other areas. The House approved the bill in a 348-11 vote. President Trump is expected to sign it into law, since quantum computing has been a priority of his administration. China has been focused on the technology and plans to open a laboratory in 2020. With the new bill, U.S. legislators hope to push efforts to keep up with or surpass rivals. Continue reading Congress Passes Bill Intended to Boost Quantum Computing

President Bans Government Use of Huawei, ZTE Components

As part of the Defense Authorization Act, President Trump banned the use of Huawei and ZTE technology by the U.S. government and its contractors. Many Republicans regard the two Chinese companies as national security threats, which led to the passage of a Senate amendment in June to reinstate a trade ban on ZTE, which would have had the impact of shutting that company down. Trump worked to lift the ZTE ban, and the House did not sign off, setting off questions as to whether the two chambers would find a compromise. Continue reading President Bans Government Use of Huawei, ZTE Components

U.S. Commerce Department Lifts Trade Ban on China’s ZTE

Following a deal made by President Trump, the U.S. Commerce Department has given the go-ahead to Chinese telecom company ZTE to resume its commercial relations with U.S. suppliers. ZTE was told the ban would be lifted once the company placed $400 million into an escrow account and paid a $1 billion fine, part of the penalty the Department had imposed on ZTE for breaking an earlier agreement to not sell to Iran and North Korea. ZTE’s failure to make good on this agreement led the Commerce Department to ban U.S. companies from selling to the Chinese company. Continue reading U.S. Commerce Department Lifts Trade Ban on China’s ZTE

Tech Giants Face More Questions Regarding Privacy Issues

Six years after Facebook deactivated facial recognition from its platform in Europe in response to regulators’ concerns about its consent system, the social media company has again introduced such tools in the European Union, as part of an update of its user permission process. Privacy groups and consumer organizations, along with a few officials, have responded, saying it violates people’s privacy. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the House Energy and Commerce Committee has asked Amazon and Apple to provide information on how they handle personal data. Continue reading Tech Giants Face More Questions Regarding Privacy Issues