Daily Digest 3/28/2018 (Net Neutrality Rollback Takes Next Step)

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Net Neutrality Rollback Takes Next Step to Implementation

The Federal Communications Commission has taken the next step toward instituting its network neutrality rollback. On March 27, the FCC signaled it has submitted the enhanced information-collection portion of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to the Federal Register, which plans to publish that OMB submission March 28 -- starting a 30-day comment period to the OMB.  The rollback of the internet regulations -- which was approved by a divided FCC on Dec 14, 2017 -- can't take effect until the OMB gets comment on that information collection, approves it, and the FCC then sets a date for the rules to go into effect. OMB has to review any new information-collection obligations in regulations per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), to ensure they do not overly burden those regulated entities. While rules can go into effect before the PRA review is completed, that is not the case with the FCC's elimination of the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. That is because enforcement of network neutrality without those ex ante (before the fact) prohibitions depends on Internet service providers disclosing exactly how they are operating per enhanced transparency provisions, so that the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department can decide whether that is unfair or deceptive or anticompetitive. 

AT&T/Verizon lobbyists to “aggressively” sue states that enact net neutrality

USTelecom, a lobby group that represents AT&T, Verizon, and other large telecommunication companies, plans to sue states and cities that try to enforce network neutrality rules. "Broadband providers have worked hard over the past 20 years to deploy ever more sophisticated, faster and higher-capacity networks, and uphold net neutrality protections for all," USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter wrote. "To continue this important work, there is no question we will aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure that made all this progress possible." Spalter also wrote that the US should have one net neutrality standard instead of different rules in each state and city, Spalter reiterated the broadband industry's argument that websites should be as heavily regulated as Internet providers. USTelecom hasn't announced specific lawsuits yet, but any state that passes a net neutrality law is likely to be sued by USTelecom or other broadband lobby groups and ISPs. Broadband industry lawsuits will argue that the FCC has authority to preempt the local laws. The FCC's preemption authority is limited, but legal experts disagree on whether states can impose strict net neutrality laws.


Peter Thiel Employee Helped Cambridge Analytica Before It Harvested Data

As a start-up called Cambridge Analytica sought to harvest the Facebook data of tens of millions of Americans in summer 2014, the company received help from at least one employee at Palantir Technologies, a top Silicon Valley contractor to American spy agencies and the Pentagon. It was a Palantir employee in London, working closely with the data scientists building Cambridge’s psychological profiling technology, who suggested the scientists create their own app — a mobile-phone-based personality quiz — to gain access to Facebook users’ friend networks. Cambridge ultimately took a similar approach. By early summer, the company found a university researcher to harvest data using a personality questionnaire and Facebook app. The researcher scraped private data from over 50 million Facebook users — and Cambridge Analytica went into business selling so-called psychometric profiles of American voters, setting itself on a collision course with regulators and lawmakers in the United States and Britain. The revelations pulled Palantir — co-founded by the wealthy libertarian Peter Thiel — into the furor surrounding Cambridge, which improperly obtained Facebook data to build analytical tools it deployed on behalf of Donald Trump and other Republican candidates in 2016. Thiel, a supporter of President Trump, serves on the board at Facebook.

How Amazon Helped Cambridge Analytica Harvest Americans’ Facebook Data

Facebook has been rocked by reports of a massive data scrape carried out by Cambridge Analytica and one of its then-contractors, a Cambridge University academic named Aleksandr Kogan. Kogan claims that the data he collected from thousands of Facebook users and their friends—amounting to data on over 50 million users—abided by Facebook’s terms; Cambridge Analytica promises it deleted the data; and Facebook is auditing everyone it can for signs of the data. But while Facebook provided the original data, it wasn’t the only vehicle for Kogan’s app. Kogan acquired what he wanted from individual people—over 240,000 over a six-month period—recruiting them and paying them for their quiz answers and data using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk micro-work platform and Qualtrics, a survey platform. The two platforms are often used by companies to conduct experiments and surveys and by academic researchers to, for instance, recruit psychology subjects. Research ethics require that scientists only gather people’s data for specified uses with their explicit consent, and Amazon’s polices prohibit tasks from harvesting people’s Facebook data. At the time, multiple survey-takers took to a message board, Turkopticon, to report the quiz for violating of Amazon’s Terms of Service. The company eventually booted Kogan from its platform in 2015–over a year later–after learning from a Guardian article that he had passed the data to Cambridge Analytica. But Kogan’s new company, Philometrics, continues to post questionnaires to Mechanical Turk, according to Turkopticon. Kogan’s collaborator on the Cambridge Analytica project, Joe Chancellor, also still uses the platform; according to one review website, he posted a task on Mechanical Turk in February.

Don’t regulate Facebook

[Commentary] The problems at Facebook and others, real and perceived, at Google, Amazon and Apple have led to an easy consensus: The large technology companies should be regulated. Such an outcome would be a bad mistake — bad for the companies, of course, but also bad for us, their users, and bad for the country. I do not pretend to be unbiased in writing this. While I am about as tech-savvy as your average 72-year-old , I met Mark Zuckerberg when he was 20, and spent six years on Facebook’s board. As publisher and later chairman of The Post, I watched the rise of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, sometimes with hope, sometimes with awe and sometimes with horror for what it meant to The Post’s business. The most important control over Facebook — greater than anything governments could come up with — is the ability of its users to quit.

[Donald E. Graham, chairman of Graham Holdings Company, was publisher of The Washington Post from 1979 to 2001.]

Americans’ complicated feelings about social media in an era of privacy concerns

Amid public concerns over Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data and a subsequent movement to encourage users to abandon Facebook, there is a renewed focus on how social media companies collect personal information and make it available to marketers.  While there is evidence that social media works in some important ways for people, Pew Research Center studies have shown that people are anxious about all the personal information that is collected and shared and the security of their data. Overall, a 2014 survey found that 91 percent of Americans “agree” or “strongly agree” that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by all kinds of entities. Some 80 [ercent of social media users said they were concerned about advertisers and businesses accessing the data they share on social media platforms, and 64 percent said the government should do more to regulate advertisers. In addition to the concerns about privacy and social media platforms uncovered in our surveys, related research shows that just 5 percent of social media users trust the information that comes to them via the platforms “a lot.”


President Trump Extends National Cybersecurity Emergency

President Donald Trump has extended the cyber attack national emergency, which was declared by President Barack Obama in April 2015 but would have terminated April 1, 2018, while elsewhere on the broadband front, the White House was promoting efforts by Republicans in Congress to further broadband infrastructure buildouts, which the Administration has said are a priority inrural areas. In December 2018, President Trump issued an executive order with added steps to address that cybersecurity emergency. "[S]ignificant malicious cyber-enabled activities continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," said the President--there was no mention of election security--who March 27 extended the state of emergency for another year.

US inspector general: FBI sought iPhone order before exhausting options

The Federal Bureau of Investigation did not exhaust possible solutions to unlock an iPhone connected to a gunman involved in a late-2015 shooting spree before seeking a court order to compel Apple to help access the device, a US Justice Department internal watchdog said. The conclusion may pose challenges for the Trump Administration in possible future litigation to force companies to help crack into encrypted devices. The DOJ watchdog also said top FBI officials did not make inaccurate statements before Congress and in court filings about the bureau’s ability to unlock an iPhone belonging to an alleged shooter in the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack. However, the internal probe into the case did turn up evidence that miscommunication within the bureau resulted in a delayed solution to accessing data stored on the device, which the FBI needed as part of its investigation into the December 2015 attack.

Emergency Communications

Behind Dueling AT&T, Verizon Public Safety Core Network Announcements

In separate announcements, AT&T and Verizon provided launch details for core networks to support mobile broadband service for public safety users. A key capability of both the AT&T and Verizon public safety offerings is to prioritize public safety network traffic and, where necessary, to pre-empt regular commercial traffic – a capability that could be important in the case of a major emergency.  Both the AT&T and Verizon public safety core networks are designed to separate public safety traffic from other types of traffic. In AT&T’s case, the core network uses physically separate hardware from the network that supports other types of customers.Verizon apparently doesn’t use separate hardware. Verizon said its public safety core network will be operational beginning on Thursday. AT&T said it would start with a “controlled introduction” with a limited number of customers while the First Responder Network Authority completes “extensive” testing of the network core. Additional FirstNet customers likely will be moved in the April/May timeframe, AT&T said.

Public Safety’s Exclusive Communications Platform Comes to Life With Nationwide Launch of the FirstNet Dedicated Network Core

via AT&T

Remarks of FCC Commissioner O'Rielly Before the Second Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Entertainment

[Speech] The main reason I am here and why I was pleased to accept the committee’s invitation to say a few words is to reinforce the importance of the Commission’s proceeding to create a small entity broadcaster incubator program.  Let me be abundantly clear: the lead proponent of this idea is the Chairman and I’ve been happy to support his work on the topic. We should all remember that the intent of an incubator program is to address the lackluster ownership of broadcaster station licenses by smaller entities, which includes women and minority groups. I would like to highlight a few of my concerns with your draft proposal. First, let’s search for new ideas. As I stated earlier: our old policies have not worked. That includes the reestablishment of a tax certificate program. Such a program will be a heavy lift to get passed into law, especially in the near future. Second, I have concerns with the proposed three categories eligible for the incubator program. At this time, they seem too arbitrary and ripe for abuse. Third, I believe the Committee’s time would be best served focusing on ideas based on regulatory relief for existing stations willing to participate and capital and training assistance for those interested in obtaining stations.

It’ll be harder to ditch your ‘bloated’ cable package if AT&T merges with Time Warner, Dish says

Amid sky-high cable bills, many TV viewers have sought to cut costs by firing their TV providers and switching to a relatively new crop of online alternatives offering fewer channels at a lower price. These “skinny bundles” are often streamed live over the Internet and on mobile devices, creating new experiences for TV fans. But that video revolution could be threatened if the government allows AT&T to buy Time Warner, according to one of America's first providers of live-streaming skinny bundles. Under AT&T's ownership, Time Warner could force those new TV providers to take on more channels than customers want or need, Warren Schlichting, the head of Dish Network's Sling TV, told a federal judge March 26 in AT&T's landmark antitrust trial at the US District Court for the District of Columbia.  “They will jam as many networks as possible into the base package, and you'll have that bloated bundle again,” Schlichting said. “We fight like crazy to keep the network numbers low.” Schlichting also predicted higher prices and more TV blackouts stemming from contract disputes between AT&T-Time Warner and its rivals and business customers.

“Google’s use of the Java API packages was not fair,” appeals court rules

On March 27, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of Oracle, finding that Google may owe billions in damages. Nearly 7.5 years after the original lawsuit was filed, the case will now be sent back down to federal court in San Francisco to figure out how much Google should pay. "Google’s use of the Java API packages was not fair," the court ruled. In October 2016 when the case was appealed, after Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems and acquired the rights to Java, it sued Google in 2010. Oracle claimed that Google had infringed copyrights and patents related to Java. Eventually, this lawsuit went to trial in 2012. Oracle initially lost but had part of its case revived on appeal. The sole issue in the second trial was whether Google infringed the APIs in Java, which the appeals court held are copyrighted. In May 2016, a jury found in Google's favor after a second trial, stating that Google’s use of the APIs was protected by "fair use." Oracle has claimed that even though its APIs are free to use, they cannot be used in competing products—the company argues that Google owes nearly $9 billion in damages as a result of using these APIs in Android.


President Trump Announces Nomination for FTC

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key position in his Administration: Rebecca Kelly Slaughter of Maryland, to be a Member of the Federal Trade Commission for the remainder of a seven-year term expiring September 25, 2022. Slaughter is currently chief counsel to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY).  A native New Yorker, she has worked for Minority Leader Schumer since 2009, advising him on legal, competition, telecom, privacy, consumer protection, and intellectual property matters, among other issues.  Prior to joining Sen Schumer’s office, Slaughter was an associate in the DC office of Sidley Austin LLP. Slaughter received her BA in Anthropology magna cum laude from Yale University.  She received her JD from Yale Law School, where she served as an editor on the Yale Law Journal.  She is the second Democrat President Trump nominated to the commission. If the president’s full slate is confirmed, the FTC would have a 3-2 Republican majority.

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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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