Morning Consult

House Oversight Chairman Previews New Report on Federal ‘Stingrays’

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said that his panel will soon issue a report on the federal government’s use of simulated cell phone towers, also known as “stingrays.” “You’d be shocked — shocked — at what your federal government is doing to gather your personal information,” Chairman Chaffetz told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute. Chairman Chaffetz was at AEI to discuss his committee’s latest report on a series of wide-ranging cyberattacks against the Office of Personnel Management from 2012 to 2015, which saw the personal information of 22.1 million Americans with ties to the federal government stolen by hackers. The probe found that the hacks occurred because of OPM leaders’ repeated failures to heed inspector general warnings that its cybersecurity infrastructure was lacking. The committee report also found that OPM leaders failed to implement basic, required security controls and deploy high tech anti-hacking tools once it became evident that hackers had penetrated their databases.

Chairman Chaffetz said that his committee’s upcoming report on the federal collection of personal information through “stingrays” has even more outrageous findings. “They can’t keep it secure. That’s the point,” he said. “I don’t trust them, they’re not doing the basics, and they want to collect more data.”

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn Makes the Most of Her ‘Outsider’ Status

Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn really wants you to know she’s not one of those “inside the Beltway” types. That may seem hard to believe coming from the daughter of Rep Jim Clyburn (D-SC), a congressman since 1993 and the No.3 Democrat in the House. But until she took the FCC job in 2009, Commissioner Clyburn never left her home state for more than a few weeks at a time. “I did not come up to DC to be like a lot of others (respectfully, this sounds a little tough) that I see in DC, who always want to be picture perfect, wrapped up in a bow, and ready for presentation,” Commissioner Clyburn says. “I am very different if you to compare me to my colleagues,” she said. Referring several times to her “Southern accent,” she said, “I am very much outside of the Beltway.” Commissioner Clyburn’s quiet and poised demeanor strikes a sharp contrast to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the physically imposing FCC Chairman who exudes a larger-than-life political presence. Yet for nearly six months in 2013, Commissioenr Clyburn sat in Chairman Wheeler’s chair. She was acting FCC Chairwoman while Congress deliberated over Wheeler’s confirmation. There was a historic nature to her chairmanship.

Tech, Telecom Giants to Fight Robocalls as Wheeler Threatens FCC Action

A group of 32 telecommunications companies, phone manufacturers and tech firms will join AT&T in developing standards and procedures to fight robocalls, the automated calls and texts made to individuals to either sell products or commit scams.

AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson is heading the so-called Robocall Strike Force, which will include Apple, Google and Verizon. The task force will report back to the Federal Communications Commission by Oct. 19 with “concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions” to combat the prevalence of robocalls, as well as suggestions for what the role of government should be in addressing the issue. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that while he was happy to see the industry tackle the problem of robocalls, the agency could step in if they don’t see the task force making significant progress. “This is an industry group,” Chairman Wheeler said at the opening of the task force’s first meeting at the FCC. “We believe in multistakeholder solutions. And when the whole ecosystem can come together, it can produce good results. But without results, we will be forced to look for other solutions, because this scourge must stop.”

Voters Agree With Trump, Say Media Is Biased Toward Clinton

A plurality of Americans share the sentiment that media coverage is biased toward Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a view pushed for decades by Republicans, and most recently by the party’s current nominee, Donald Trump. Days after Trump proclaimed to be running against two opponents – Clinton and the “disgusting and corrupt media” – a survey found almost four in 10 voters (38 percent) believe the media is biased in trying to help elect the Democratic nominee.

It was the mainstream media, the leading television stations and newspapers such as the ones Trump now critiques, who were blamed, in part, for egging on Trump’s candidacy during the Republican primary. In the view of Thomas E. Patterson, a professor of government and the press at Harvard University, “neither of the two basic indicators of news coverage would have predicted Trump’s heavy coverage,” coverage that he used to his advantage to propel his campaign without spending much on television commercials. But if that was the case during the primary, voters do not believe it to be the case anymore.

These days, only 12 percent of voters said the media is biased in trying to elect Trump. A sliver of Trump’s supporters (9 percent) believe the media is biased toward their candidate, while 66 percent of them said the media is trying to elect Clinton president. Just a little more than one in 10 Trump supporters (13 percent) said the media is fair and unbiased, compared with about a quarter of the overall population. The sentiment among Trump’s supporters was almost identical to that of all the Republican voters surveyed. Among Clinton’s supporters, four in 10 Americans said they viewed the media as unbiased, while 16 percent said it was biased toward helping elect Trump and only 19 percent said it was biased toward trying help elect Clinton.

Groups Say Transitioning Internet-Naming Agency Would Break Law

Twenty-five advocacy groups want the Commerce Department to hold off on plans to cede its control over the body that governs internet domain names. But the United States shows no signs of halting plans to end its leadership of the body by the end of next month. The groups argue that riders on spending bills in Congress prohibit the internet naming transition from moving forward. If the Obama Administration moves forward with its plan to relinquish control, the groups say Congress should sue.

“We agree that internet governance should work from the bottom up, driven by the global community of private sector, civil society, and technical stakeholders,” said a letter, with signatures coming from groups like TechFreedom, Heritage Action for America and Taxpayers Protection Alliance. “Without robust safeguards, internet governance could fall under the sway of governments hostile to freedoms protected by the First Amendment.”

President Obama: US Could Punish Russia for Hacks, With Enough Proof

Russia could face punishment for hacks on Democratic Party organizations if proof emerges that the state is the culprit, President Barack Obama said. But he added that the hacking situation is unlikely to significantly impact the already difficult relations between Russia and the United States. Following speculation over the involvement of Russian intelligence agencies in hacks on the computer servers at the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, President Obama said the US could punish Russian for its role in the cyberattacks. But he said it requires a strong amount of proof to reach that point.

“We have provisions in place where if we see evidence of a malicious attack by a state actor, we can impose potentially certain proportional penalties,” President Obama said at a press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “But that requires us to really be able to pin down and know what we’re talking about. I don’t want to get ahead of the legal evidence and facts that we may have in order to make those kinds of decisions.” President Obama’s comments come accusations that the Russian government orchestrated a series of hacks on Democratic Party entities, potentially to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Arab Americans Join With Tech, Privacy Groups to Fight Surveillance

Privacy advocates in the technology space have a new ally in Arab American groups to help with their fight to keep US surveillance at bay. They are spurred on by anti-Muslim rhetoric from Republicans. Privacy and civil rights groups are joined by Arab American advocacy groups that call to be more publicly opposed to government surveillance.

In June, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee signed on to two letters to members of Congress, urging lawmakers to fight government surveillance. The letter was co-signed by some of the most notable tech and privacy groups. The first letter, dated June 6, urged members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject an amendment that would allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain personal information — an individual’s name, postal address, e-mail address, phone number, device serial number, login history and length of service with a provider — through a subpoena instead of a warrant. The supporters of that bill eventually pulled the measure from consideration because of a disagreement over the amendment. The ADC signed on to another letter the following week, pressing House leadership to adopt an amendment to a defense spending bill that would prohibit intelligence officials from conducting warrantless searches of data gathered through Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act. House lawmakers rejected the amendment.

Tech Is Prominent in GOP Platform, but Trump’s Silence Speaks Volumes

The Republican Party’s policy platform has a lot in it to energize the tech community. It calls for expanding broadband deployment nationwide, providing more spectrum for wireless development, strengthening digital privacy, and modernizing aging government information technology. But the Republicans’ calls for harsher immigration policies, combined with a lack of engagement from Donald Trump, are overshadowing what appeared to be an extension of a GOP olive branch to the United States tech sector.

“I do think the tech industry would say the platform is nice, but the proof is in the pudding of what the candidate wants to do. That’s who’s running the country, not the party, per se,” said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “What we’ve seen really in the last six months is that Trump and the party are not the same.” That discord was echoed by Ed Black, president and chief executive of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents companies such as Amazon and Google. “For good or ill, the reality seems to be that there is little reason to believe that the Republican presidential candidate and the platform of the Republican party are mutually trustworthy as guides to what might actually unfold in a Republican controlled federal government,” Black said. “The contradictions expressed during the course of the campaign leave folks unsure as to what might really evolve as policy priorities and initiatives.”

Internet Association Policy Platform Has Some Overlap, Conflicts with GOP’s

A lobbying group representing companies like Facebook, Spotify and Uber released its 2016 policy platform, with a focus on copyright, consumer privacy and the sharing economy. “Our policy platform is drafted as a go-to blueprint for candidates and their campaigns, regardless of party affiliation,” said Michael Beckerman, president and chief executive of the Internet Association. “While candidates may disagree on any number of issues, support for the continued growth of the internet is good for America and cuts across party lines.”

The group’s policy preferences overlap with some tech components in the GOP’s platform, as well as the tech agenda released by presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But the Internet Association’s platform is misaligned with the Republican Party’s when it comes to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 network neutrality rule and the upcoming transition of the Internet domain naming system away from US control. The GOP criticized the two issues, both of which are supported by the trade group. The Internet Association also called on candidates to keep existing safe harbors in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that provide legal protections to Internet companies when copyrighted content is posted by third-party users.

Lawmakers Say Privacy, Security Needed in Health Apps Market

Health apps and wearable smart technology are a popular commodity in the United States. These apps can help individuals take care of their health by analyzing the amount they exercise, walk, and eat, as well as diagnosing illnesses. Apps can also facilitate face-to-face consultations between doctors and patients and help compare prices for treatments. These apps also take in a lot of consumer data. Lawmakers in the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade want to ensure there are safeguards in place for these apps as smart health technology grows in prevalence.

“We need the right regulatory framework in place,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the full committee, said at a hearing. “A framework that encourages innovation, removes barriers to investment, and advances new opportunities for patients and providers to engage in the health care system.” Chairman Upton added that privacy and security of data are “absolute musts,” and said it’s “one of the most important policies that industry must show leadership on.”