Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Net Neutrality, Privacy, and Rural Broadband on today's Busy Agenda
Elections and Media
Government & Communications
President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request seeks $150 million in new funding for the Technology Modernization Fund, which provides seed money to governmentwide IT projects that agencies are ultimately expected to pay back. So far, TMF has funded seven projects totaling close to $90 million of the total $125 million Congress authorized for the program. The president’s request for more TMF funding is far from a certainty. Appropriations for TMF were only authorized through the 2018 and 2019 budgets through the Modernizing Government Technology Act. Additional funding in future appropriations bills would require a fresh authorization from Congress. The administration’s top line budget dropped March 11, but most agencies would not release their full budget requests until the week of March 18. However, there were other notable IT requests:
- The Veterans Affairs Department would get $4.3 billion for “essential investments in IT,” including $200 million for cloud computing and an additional $1.6 billion for its electronic health records modernization.
- The General Services Administration would get $25.9 million to “support the governmentwide management of IT reporting, including management of the Federal IT Dashboard, and to establish a new project management office for the governmentwide implementation of Technology Business Management principles.” The agency also would get $58.4 million for the Federal Citizen Services Fund “to support programs and activities that enhance cybersecurity and citizens’ ability to securely interact with federal agencies.”
- The National Archives and Records Administration would receive $22 million to modernize the agency’s work processes and transition its paper records to electronic formats, “with the stated goal of ending NARA’s acceptance of paper records” by Dec. 31, 2022.
Today, 30 years on from my original proposal for an information management system, half the world is online. It’s a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go.To tackle any problem, we must clearly outline and understand it. I broadly see three sources of dysfunction affecting today’s web:
- Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behaviour, and online harassment.
- System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.
- Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarised tone and quality of online discourse.
Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age. They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people’s rights and freedoms online. We need open web champions within government — civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open web.
[Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the founder of the World Wide Web and Web Foundation]
In its continued effort to gain approval for its merger with Sprint, T-Mobile has pledged to keep supporting Sprint's low-income Assurance Wireless brand "indefinitely." Assurance along with Sprint's other prepaid brands, Boost Mobile and Virgin Wireless, and T-Mobile's Metro are popular with lower-income and cost-conscious Americans for their cheaper alternatives to traditional plans than the main four wireless networks. "The digital divide is real and we want to help eliminate it," T-Mobile president Mike Sievert said. "We have pledged that the New T-Mobile will maintain the existing T-Mobile and Sprint Lifeline program throughout the country indefinitely, barring fundamental changes to today’s program."
The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, a bipartisan, bicameral bill introduced March 11, would require the government to make sure that any devices it purchases meet minimum security requirements. It is being introduced by Sens Mark Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), and in the House by Reps Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX). The bill would try to prevent security vulnerabilities, which it defines as "any attribute of hardware, firmware, software, or combination of or more of these factors that could enable the compromise of the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of an information system or its information or physical devices to which it is connected." Specifically, the bill would:
- Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency that are consistent with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommendations, and charge OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years
- Require any Internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government to comply with those recommendations. And, direct NIST to work with cybersecurity researchers and industry experts to publish guidance on coordinated vulnerability disclosure to ensure that vulnerabilities related to agency devices are addressed.
- Require contractors and vendors providing IoT devices to the US government to adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that information is disseminated.
People in China use WeChat for everything from sending messages to family to reading news and opinion to ordering food to paying at vending machines to paying for a taxi. For Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, WeChat is both his greatest challenge and the model for the future of his company. WeChat is what Facebook has yet to become. WeChat, should it move beyond China and its diaspora, is also the greatest threat to Facebook’s global domination. This, better than any empty and distracting pledge of “pivoting to privacy”, explains Zuckerberg’s announcement on March 6. The ultimate unification of Facebook's platforms [Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram] under the mothership, Facebook, could effectively block any governmental attempts to sever Instagram and WhatsApp from the company. This move is not about protecting you. It’s about defeating other companies and consolidating global power.
[Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia]
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