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

CASE Act’s Copyright Enforcement Draws Mixed Response

In July, a bipartisan group from the Senate Judiciary Committee reintroduced the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, by which the U.S. Copyright Office will create a three-person Copyright Claims Board that will supervise a ‘small claims-style’ system for damages. The Copyright Alliance and the Graphic Artists Guild approved the move, which allows a copyright owner whose content was used without permission to claim for damages up to $15,000 for each work and $30,000 in total. However, some groups are opposing the Act and question the cost of such an approach. Continue reading CASE Act’s Copyright Enforcement Draws Mixed Response

Study: Google Earned $4.7 Billion From U.S. News in 2018

According to a study by the News Media Alliance, Google earned $4.7 billion last year from the work of news publishers via the company’s search and Google News services (and the estimate is considered conservative since it does not include the value of personal data that Google collects on readers when they click on an article). The estimate is close to the $5.1 billion from digital advertising the entire U.S. news industry generated in 2018. The News Media Alliance is a trade association that represents more than 2,000 newspapers in North America. Its president and CEO David Chavern says journalists deserve a share of the $4.7 billion. Continue reading Study: Google Earned $4.7 Billion From U.S. News in 2018

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

Music Modernization Act Passed in Senate, Returns to House

Following the House of Representatives passage of the Music Modernization Act in April, the U.S. Senate also gave its unanimous consent on September 18. The bill was renamed after Republican Utah senator Orrin Hatch, also a songwriter, scheduled to retire at the end of his term this year. With the Senate passage, the bill will return to the House to get approval for all the changes made to achieve Senate approval. If and when the House approves, the bill will go to President Donald Trump to become law. Continue reading Music Modernization Act Passed in Senate, Returns to House

Facebook Removes Fake Accounts Linked to Iran and Russia

Facebook identified and removed 652 fake accounts, pages and groups from Iran and Russia that were attempting to sow misinformation in several countries. Such campaigns in the past — most notably leading up to the 2016 presidential election — targeted the U.S., but these accounts targeted the U.K., Latin America and the Middle East as well. This discovery is dramatically larger than the 32 pages and accounts that Facebook removed last month. The Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency was indicted for the 2016 campaign. Continue reading Facebook Removes Fake Accounts Linked to Iran and Russia

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

Senators Request Investigation of Smart TV Privacy Practices

Senators Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) have written a letter to Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons requesting that his agency investigate the business practices of smart TV manufacturers. The two senators are concerned about “consumer privacy issues raised by the proliferation of smart TV technology,” since some companies are able to identify what people are watching and use that data to feed ads to other device’s in the consumer’s home. Continue reading Senators Request Investigation of Smart TV Privacy Practices

Music Modernization Act Could Impact Copyright, Licensing

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the Music Modernization Act, which updates music copyright law for the digital age. Tech companies, music publishers, songwriters, musicians and radio broadcasters cooperated to put together the bill, after years of proposing unsuccessful legislation. With this bill closing some of the flaws of past laws, music publishers and streaming services will likely end the constant wrangling and expensive lawsuits that have bedeviled the digital music industry. Continue reading Music Modernization Act Could Impact Copyright, Licensing

Senators Query Amazon on Echo, Data Privacy Parameters

Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons asked Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos to explain how the Echo smart speaker listens to and stores users’ voices — and what his company does to protect users’ data. Their concern is sparked by such incidents as an Echo device that mistook background conversation for voice commands of a Portland, Oregon woman, and then sent the private conversation to one of her contacts. Flake and Coons are, respectively, chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Continue reading Senators Query Amazon on Echo, Data Privacy Parameters

Apple Bans Developers From Sharing Data Without Consent

For years, developers for Apple’s App Store have been able to ask users for access to their phone contacts and then share or sell the data of everyone listed in those digital address books, without their consent. That practice has recently been getting a lot of negative attention, and now Apple plans to ban developers from using that information. The updated Guidelines nixes the creation of databases of address book information collected from iPhone users as well as selling or sharing it with third parties. Continue reading Apple Bans Developers From Sharing Data Without Consent

Government Wants Hearing with Tech Firms Over China Ties

Senate Intelligence Committee vice chair Mark Warner wrote to Alphabet and Twitter to raise questions about their relationships with Chinese vendors. Now, he and other top Committee members want to call in Facebook, Google and Twitter chief executives to a public hearing about their platforms’ security, especially with regard to their relationships with Chinese telecommunication companies. Warner also asked Google for information about its partnership with Tencent for patent sharing and future technology development. Continue reading Government Wants Hearing with Tech Firms Over China Ties

Senate Votes to Block the Repeal of FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

The Senate voted 52-47 yesterday to block the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality rules. Three Republicans and all members of the Democratic caucus voted in favor of the resolution; however, a tougher battle is expected in the House, where Republicans have a 236-193 majority. The effort to repeal Obama-era rules last year was led by FCC chair Ajit Pai. The net neutrality rules are designed to guarantee unobstructed access to the Internet by preventing broadband providers from blocking access or throttling speeds based on fees. Opponents claim the rules stifle competition and innovation.  Continue reading Senate Votes to Block the Repeal of FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

Facebook’s Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress Next Week

In light of Facebook’s latest revelation that data from as many as 87 million users — not the 50 million figure originally reported — was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted he made a “huge mistake” by not paying more attention to the potential for abuse. Facebook further revealed that marketers, using a now-disabled feature that distributed profile data connected to email addresses and phone numbers, could have harvested data from “most people on Facebook.” Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear before federal committees next week. Continue reading Facebook’s Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress Next Week

States Take Action Opposing Federal Repeal of Net Neutrality

The FCC’s recently passed order to end Obama-era net neutrality — dubbed “Restoring Internet Freedom” — has been entered into the Federal Register. But many who oppose the move are just getting started on a variety of efforts intended to curtail or even block the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality. A group of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia re-filed legal challenges that contend the FCC cannot make “arbitrary and capricious changes” to existing policies. Continue reading States Take Action Opposing Federal Repeal of Net Neutrality

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