Daily Digest 1/17/2019 (Privacy, Privacy)

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Table of Contents


INCOMPAS: Net Neutrality Court Delay Will Slow Down Streaming Revolution  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Incompas
Why even the most ambitious broadband bill at the Minnesota Legislature still won’t bring speedy internet to all Minnesotans  |  Read below  |  Walker Orenstein  |  MinnPost


House Commerce GOP Leaders Probe Wireless Carriers and Third Parties Over Location Sharing Practices  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives Commerce Committee
Public Knowledge Demands FTC, FCC Get Off Privacy Sidelines and Enforce Existing Law  |  Read below  |  Harold Feld  |  Press Release  |  Public Knowledge
Sprint To Stop Selling Location Data to Third Parties After Motherboard Investigation  |  Vice
Privacy Groups Propose New Government Data Protection Agency  |  Read below  |  John Eggerton  |  Multichannel News
Rep Eshoo Introduces Legislation to Restore Local Control in Deployment of 5G  |  House of Representatives
T-Mobile-Sprint deal faces mounting opposition  |  Axios

More on Privacy/Security

Sen Rubio (R-FL) debuts alternative privacy bill  |  Axios
Tim Cook Op-ed: You Deserve Privacy Online. Here’s How You Could Actually Get It  |  Time
Analysis: Government cyber workers increasingly concerned hackers will strike during shutdown  |  Washington Post
New America Op-ed: How US surveillance technology is propping up authoritarian regimes  |  Washington Post
A bipartisan, bicameral bill would ban US Tech to ZTE, Huawei  |  Multichannel News
Federal Prosecutors Pursuing Criminal Case Against Huawei for Alleged Theft of Trade Secrets  |  Wall Street Journal
Fortnite bug gave hackers access to millions of player accounts, researchers say  |  Washington Post


Facebook Algorithms and Personal Data  |  Read below  |  Paul Hitlin, Lee Rainie  |  Research  |  Pew Research Center
Is the tech backlash going askew?  |  Read below  |  Larry Downes, Blair Levin  |  Op-Ed  |  Washington Post


Activists Circulate Counterfeit Editions Of 'The Washington Post'  |  National Public Radio

Emergency Communications

Data sharing, cost savings incentivize local emergency medical service professionals to adopt FirstNet  |  First Responder Network Authority

Government Performance

Meet Rep Derek Kilmer, Pelosi's Modernization Point Person  |  Read below  |  Nancy Scola  |  Politico
Analysis: In the Trump era, the most contrarian venture capitalists are investing in government tech  |  Washington Post

Government Communications

The shutdown is steadily devouring US government websites  |  Washington Post
Shutdown Takes Numerous Government Digital Services Offline  |  nextgov
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star, to school House Democrats on Twitter use  |  USA Today
House Democratic leaders try to avert censure vote on Rep. Steve King, fearing implications for free speech  |  Washington Post


Letters to the editor: How the Media Covers Donald Trump  |  New York Times
Iran State Television Says US Is Holding One of Its Journalists  |  New York Times
American anchor for Iranian TV is arrested on visit to US  |  Associated Press


Witness at AG Nominee Barr Confirmation Hearing: Independent FCC, FTC Would be Unconstitutional Under Barr Theory  |  Read below  |  John Eggerton  |  Broadcasting&Cable
On Pai Alert  |  Read below  |  Cristiano Lima  |  Politico

Company News

Sinclair Launches Ad-Supported Streaming Service STIRR With National, Local Programming  |  Broadcasting&Cable
‘They Own the System’: Amazon Rewrites Book Industry by Marching Into Publishing  |  Wall Street Journal
Microsoft Pledges $500 Million for Affordable Housing in Seattle Area  |  New York Times
Diffusion Group: Netflix Loses 8% of Consumers with $1 Price Increase  |  Multichannel News

Stories From Abroad

Facebook brings stricter ads rules to India, Nigeria, Ukraine, and EU with big 2019 votes  |  Reuters
After GDPR, The New York Times started directly selling EU ads -- and kept growing ad revenue  |  Digiday
Facebook removes hundred of pages 'linked to Russian site'  |  Guardian, The

More Online

Op-Ed: It’s time for think tanks and universities to take the democracy pledge  |  Washington Post
Today's Top Stories

Sample Category

INCOMPAS: Net Neutrality Court Delay Will Slow Down Streaming Revolution

Press Release  |  Incompas

The Internet and Competitive Networks Association (INCOMPAS) opposes the Federal Communications Commission’s motion seeking a delay in the Open Internet court case. INCOMPAS, a leading petitioner in the legal case to save network neutrality, filed an opposition to the motion so that oral arguments will continue on Feb 1 as planned. INCOMPAS represents leading streaming companies, edge providers, and competitive broadband network builders. INCOMPAS points to legal precedent during previous government shutdowns, and highlighted the risks to consumers and the streaming revolution. 

Why even the most ambitious broadband bill at the Minnesota Legislature still won’t bring speedy internet to all Minnesotans

Walker Orenstein  |  MinnPost

A group of Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) and Republican lawmakers are pushing to narrow MN's broadband gap by injecting $70 million over the next two years into a grant program for internet projects. But while the new money from the bill (House File 7) would keep MN on track to meet one of its broadband access goals by 2022, the state has a long and expensive road ahead to reach a more ambitious pledge — to bring must faster (100 Mbps/20Mbps) universal internet to the state by 2026. But the state’s approach to broadband hasn’t been without controversy. Some in the GOP have complained about the state’s preference for fiber-optic cable, which is reliable but pricey. Telecom businesses have also bristled at some new broadband projects in areas where private companies already offer some form of internet, saying focus should be on unserved communities.

House Commerce GOP Leaders Probe Wireless Carriers and Third Parties Over Location Sharing Practices

Republican leaders of the House Commerce Committee and Subcommittees sent letters requesting information from six companies about the sale and misuse of cell phone geolocation data. The letters were sent to Zumingo, Microbilt, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. The letters seek to increase transparency surrounding how US wireless carriers and third parties are accessing, transferring, storing, and securing customer location information. The letters come as recent media reports have indicated that Zumingo, a location aggregation firm, purchased geolocation data from T-Mobile and subsequently sold the data to Microbilt, which further sold the data to a bail bond company. The letters also build off letters the committee sent in 2018 to location aggregation companies LocationSmart, Securus Technologies, and 3C Interactive. The representatives asked for a briefing on January 30.

House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Latta (R-OH), Consumer Protection Subcommittee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY) signed the letters.

Public Knowledge Demands FTC, FCC Get Off Privacy Sidelines and Enforce Existing Law

Harold Feld  |  Press Release  |  Public Knowledge

Jan 15, reports surfaced that Voipo, a California voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) provider, exposed millions of consumer call logs and text messages stored on an “improperly secured” ElasticSearch database for several months before security researcher Justin Paine located them. Public Knowledge demands that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai enforce existing Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) rules that protect the privacy of information related to telephone calls.

Harold Feld wrote, “Chairman Pai should cooperate with [House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)] and explain to the new House Commerce Committee what is it that the FCC is doing to protect the privacy of phone subscribers, as required by law. We call on the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC to work together to protect subscriber privacy, rather than standing on the sideline passing responsibility from one to the other.”

Privacy Groups Propose New Government Data Protection Agency

John Eggerton  |  Multichannel News

Privacy groups are calling for the creation of a new Data Protection Agency to focus on privacy protection and replace the Federal Trade Commission in that role, which lacks rulemaking authority and which, they argue, has failed to exercise the enforcement authority it has in that space. A new Framework for Comprehensive Privacy Protection and Digital Rights in the United States was proposed by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Center for Digital Democracy, Color of Change, Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Public Citizen, and Stop Online Violence Against Women U.S. PIRG. The plan's keys are:

  1. Enact baseline federal legislation
  2. Enforce fair information practices (FIPS) 
  3. Establish a data protection agency
  4. Ensure robust enforcement, including private rights of action and statutory damages
  5. Establish algorithmic governance to advance fair data practices—"independent accountability for automated decisionmaking"
  6. Prohibit "take it or leave it" terms that require users to waive privacy rights or pay more for service
  7. Promote private innovation
  8. Limit government access to personal data

Facebook Algorithms and Personal Data

Paul Hitlin, Lee Rainie  |  Research  |  Pew Research Center

How well do Americans understand algorithm-driven classification systems, and how much do they think their lives line up with what gets reported about them? As a window into this hard-to-study phenomenon, a new Pew Research Center survey asked a representative sample of users of the nation’s most popular social media platform, Facebook, to reflect on the data that had been collected about them. Facebook makes it relatively easy for users to find out how the site’s algorithm has categorized their interests via a “Your ad preferences” page, but 74% of Facebook users say they did not know that this list of their traits and interests existed until they were directed to their page as part of this study. 

When directed to the “ad preferences” page, the large majority of Facebook users (88%) found that the site had generated some material for them. A majority of users (59%) say these categories reflect their real-life interests, while 27% say they are not very or not at all accurate in describing them. And once shown how the platform classifies their interests, roughly half of Facebook users (51%) say they are not comfortable that the company created such a list.

Is the tech backlash going askew?

Larry Downes, Blair Levin  |  Op-Ed  |  Washington Post

We sympathize with the increased anxiety over the poor data hygiene practices of leading tech platforms. And we agree that legislation clarifying the duties of those who collect and use personal information is important, as is delineating enforcement responsibilities among agencies and jurisdictions. We’re concerned, however, by the passionate but incomplete argument that it’s time to jettison decades of antitrust policy that limits the government to intervening only when market concentration has, or could, cause higher prices for consumers. The vague alternative, proposed by critics on the left and right, is a return to a failed framework that boils down to, at best, a general belief that “big is bad” and, at worst, to politically-based payback for companies on the wrong side of an election. Do antitrust jihads really help consumers more than it hurts them? Probably not. The more effective regulator of digital markets has always been the happy confluence of engineering and business innovations in hardware, software and communications driving exponential improvements in speed, quality, size, energy usage and, of course, cost.

[Blair Levin is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Larry Downes is project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy.]

Meet Rep Derek Kilmer, Pelosi's Modernization Point Person

Nancy Scola  |  Politico

Many have tried and few have succeeded when it comes to dragging Congress into the modern age, said Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA). Indeed, Hill staffers have bemoaned being unable to use cutting-edge software or even Apple computers since the early aughts. But as chairman of the new Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, Rep. Kilmer says this effort has the buy-in of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders: "They want to see this place function better, too — more collaborative, more transparent, more open, more productive." Chairman Kilmer recalls that when he joined the House in 2013, he was "particularly struck that people still used beepers. 'This is a message from the Democratic cloakroom...' It was, wow, this is amazing." The dozen-member modernization committee, with six Democrats and six Republicans, is still in the process of filling out its roster, he said.

Witness at AG Nominee Barr Confirmation Hearing: Independent FCC, FTC Would be Unconstitutional Under Barr Theory

John Eggerton  |  Broadcasting&Cable

In day two of Attorney General Nominee William Barr's confrimation hearing, Georgia State law professor Nail Kinkopf told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the independence of federal agencies including the Federal Communications Commission are at risk under Barr's theory of executive power. Kinkopf did not sugar coat his criticism of a lengthy 2018 memo on that legal issue that Barr penned, a memo Democratic lawmakers have pointed to as troubling since it argued the President's "interactions" with FBI director James Comey did not constitute obstruction of Justice. Kinkopf said the independence of dozens of agencies including the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission would be unconstitutional under Barr's "unitary executive" theory that the President is essentially a one-person, all-powerful, executive branch. Kinkopf said that theory is "fundamentally inconsistent with our Constitution and deeply dangerous for our nation."

On Pai Alert

Cristiano Lima  |  Politico

Federal Communications Commission  Chairman Ajit Pai has long attracted rumors that he may run for political office one day. And despite committing to serving out his remaining two years as chair, recent retirement news from Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) has set off another round of whispers about whether the Kansas-bred Pai might be eyeing a run. Kansas’ two senators said they have not heard word of any interest on Pai’s part but immediately endorsed his talents. “He would be a solid, good candidate of great capabilities of being a United States senator, but I have no indication that he’s pursuing it or that he has an interest,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). Sen. Roberts, too, said that while Chairman Pai is “a very talented young man” and “a special guy,” Pai’s name was not among the 20 or so potential candidates he’s heard so far.

One reminder: Chairman Pai is politically polarizing despite his GOP support. Although he prides himself on an agenda of closing the digital divide, 41 Senate Democrats voted against re-confirming him to another FCC term in fall 2017.

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Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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