Morning Consult Tech: House Committee Investigating Capitol Attack Subpoenas Alphabet, Meta, Reddit, Twitter
 

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Essential tech industry news & intel to start your day.
January 14, 2022
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Morning Consult Tech will be off Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The weekday newsletter will resume Tuesday.

 

Top Stories

  • Alphabet Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Advance Publications Inc.’s Reddit and Twitter Inc. all received subpoenas demanding documents and information for the House investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, as lawmakers on the investigating committee said the companies have failed to cooperate with the inquiry and allowed extremism to spread on their platforms. The committee said it is investigating how the companies “contributed to the violent attack on our democracy” and whether they made efforts to prevent the spread of extremism and disinformation. (The New York Times)
  • Microsoft Corp.’s sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies will be reviewed by its board of directors, and a summary of past investigations will be made public, including how it handled allegations against co-founder Bill Gates, the board announced. Microsoft said the board is taking this action after shareholders won approval of a proposal at its annual investor meeting for more transparency around sexual harassment at the company. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability (TLDR) Act, which would aim to simplify the terms of service agreements found on many websites and apps. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) in the House and Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) in the Senate, would require companies to post a “summary statement” of their terms in plain language and force them to disclose what personal data they collect. (The Hill)
  • Meta faces a class-action lawsuit in the United Kingdom worth more than £2.3 billion ($3.2 billion) over allegations that it used 44 million users’ personal data to abuse its market dominance. The Competition Appeal Tribunal will hear the lawsuit, which alleges Facebook imposed unfair terms on its users and forced them to hand over personal data so it could make billions of pounds. (Reuters)
 

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

 

What Else You Need to Know

General
 

CES unable to confirm COVID-19 cases after 70 S.Korean nationals test positive

Chavi Mehta and Gilles Guillaume, Reuters

The organizer of CES, the world’s largest technology show, said on Thursday it was unable to confirm the number of COVID-19 cases from its in-person event in Las Vegas last week after South Korean authorities said about 70 attendees from the country tested positive for the virus.

 

Infrastructure Tech Spending Goes to Broadband, Clean Energy

Mark Bergen and Minh-Anh Nguyen, Bloomberg Businessweek

Money from the enormous U.S. infrastructure spending law passed last year will really begin rolling out in 2022, and will continue coming for years.

 

N.Y. business leaders push for federal chip funding

Ina Fried, Axios

A coalition of New York businesses, along with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), is making its case that the Empire State should be a prime beneficiary of federal funding for the domestic semiconductor industry.

 

Virgin Orbit launches first satellite mission after SPAC merger

Loren Grush, The Verge

This afternoon, small satellite launcher Virgin Orbit successfully lofted seven tiny satellites into orbit around Earth, marking the third successful mission for the Virgin Galactic spinoff company. The payloads consisted of various research satellites for the Department of Defense, along with three small satellites from companies SatRevolution and Spire Global.

 

Second Life Founder Returns to Take On the Metaverse

Meghan Bobrowsky, The Wall Street Journal

The founder of Second Life, one of the earliest digital-reality worlds, is returning for a second stint to take on big tech.

 

Google calls for new government action to protect open-source software projects

Corin Faife, The Verge

Following a summit on open-source security hosted at the White House Thursday, Google has called for increasing government involvement in identifying and securing critical open-source software projects.

 

Jack Dorsey creates a fund to address Bitcoin developers’ ‘legal headaches.’

Ephrat Livni, The New York Times

Jack Dorsey has announced the creation of a nonprofit group, the Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund, to help developers of the original cryptocurrency facing “legal headaches.”

 
Antitrust and Competition
 

John Deere Hit With Class Action Lawsuit for Alleged Tractor Repair Monopoly

Matthew Gault and Jason Koebler, Motherboard

A class action lawsuit filed in Chicago has accused John Deere of running an illegal repair monopoly. The lawsuit alleged that John Deere has used software locks and restricted access to repair documentation and tools, making it very difficult for farmers to fix their own agricultural equipment, a problem that Motherboard has documented for years and that lawmakers, the FTC, and even the Biden administration have acknowledged.

 
Artificial Intelligence/Automation
 

The year of living autonomously

Brian Heater, TechCrunch

Actuator: Another look at the robotic trends that will define 2022.

 
Telecom, Wireless and Internet Access
 

Medevac Helicopter Flights Could Be Grounded by New 5G Rollout

Alan Levin, Bloomberg

The critically ill newborn baby was whisked by helicopter Saturday from rural Silverton, Oregon, to a children’s hospital in Portland, the kind of life-saving transport Life Flight Network makes thousands of times a year.  But starting Jan. 19, when new 5G wireless service kicks off across the country, such routine air-ambulance missions may no longer be permitted.

 

Native American Advocates Discuss Barriers To Broadband Before Senate

Alexandra Kelley, Nextgov

A bevy of witnesses elucidated the longstanding challenges Native American communities face in overcoming the digital divide before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday, calling attention to the inadequate basic telecommunications infrastructure.

 
Mobile Technology
 

Quietly and over some objections, a national digital vaccine card has emerged

David Ingram, NBC News

Whether they realize it or not, about 200 million people in the United States now likely have access to a Covid-19 digital vaccine card.

 

Instacart’s Prepared-Food Delivery Takes on DoorDash

Jackie Davalos, Bloomberg

Instacart Inc. is launching a service offering prepared foods from supermarkets in a bid to capture more customers and better compete in the hot market for meal-delivery.

 

Commerce seeks nominations for Internet of Things advisory board

John Hewitt Jones, FedScoop

The Department of Commerce is seeking nominations for a new advisory panel on the Internet of Things.

 

Facebook has designed a humanlike mechanical eyeball, along with a body and head that would be covered in a mold ‘resembling human skin.’

Kali Hays, Insider Premium

Facebook has been working in robotics for a few years now, but a newly issued patent for an “authentic” animatronic eyeball shows where its ambitions may be headed.

 
Cybersecurity and Privacy
 

College Prep Software Naviance Is Selling Advertising Access to Millions of Students

Todd Feathers, The Markup

The software, often required by schools, enables colleges and universities to choose from an array of demographics, including race, to target prospective students.

 

Maryland lawmaker: Officials misled on ransomware attack

Brian White, The Associated Press

A leading Maryland lawmaker said Thursday that top legislators were misled about the seriousness of a cyberattack on the state health department.

 

FBI Officials Clarify What the Bureau Wants in Cyber Incident Reporting Bill

Mariam Baksh, Nextgov

The need for legislation requiring companies to report cybersecurity incidents to the government is obvious, but it should be tweaked to explicitly include the FBI, according to officials from the law enforcement agency.

 

Cyber attack in Albuquerque latest to target public schools

Cedar Attansio, The Associated Press

When the superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools announced earlier this week a cyber attack would lead to the cancellation of classes for around 75,000 students, he noted that the district’s technology department had been fending off attacks “for the last few weeks.”

 

FBI shifting cybercrime focus from arrests, indictments to payment seizures, incident response

Tim Starks, CyberScoop

In 2022, the FBI is looking to approach cybercrime differently. During separate public appearances on Thursday, two FBI officials said the bureau was going to change up how it deals with computer intrusions.

 

Log4J flaw causing Army to take second look at open source software

Jackson Barnett, FedScoop

The Army has been watching the Log4J vulnerability closely as it looks to open source software as a way to cut licensing costs, Army CIO Raj Iyer said Thursday.

 

‘THANK YOU FACEBOOK!’ Internal presentation on facial recognition shows Chicago police applauding the social-media giant and ‘selfie culture’ for all the photos people share online

Caroline Haskins, Insider Premium

Images posted on social media have become so valuable to police investigations that the Chicago Police Department thanked Facebook, “selfie culture,” and “high-definition cameras” on cellphones during a presentation on how to use facial-recognition technology.

 
Social Media and Content Moderation
 

Facebook owner to ‘assess feasibility’ of human rights review on Ethiopia practices

Elizabeth Culliford, Reuters

Facebook owner Meta Platforms said on Thursday it would “assess the feasibility” of commissioning an independent human rights assessment into its work in Ethiopia, after its oversight board recommended a review of how Facebook and Instagram have been used to spread content that heightens the risk of violence there.

 

Meta shuts down its experimental video speed-dating service, Sparked

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

Meta is shutting down a video speed-dating service it had tested over a good part of last year, the company informed the service’s users via a recent email.

 
Tech Workforce
 

Amazon Paying U.S. Workers $40 to Get Vaccine Booster

Mark Di Stefano, The Information

Faced with the Omicron wave of infections, Amazon will pay its U.S. warehouse workers $40 to get the vaccine booster shot. One of the country’s biggest employers, Amazon is continuing to use financial incentives to ensure that low-paid hourly workers are fully vaccinated.

 

Google shows faith in office with $1 billion London deal

Keith Weir, Reuters

Tech giant Google has spent $1 billion to buy a central London building where it is currently a tenant, showing its confidence in the future of the office as a place to work, the company said on Friday.

 
Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives
 

The ransomware unicorn

Alex Iftimie and Brandon Van Grack, The Hill

When the final numbers are tallied for 2021, ransomware will pass a grim milestone: Reported payments to ransomware groups last year will top $1 billion, making ransomware the most unwelcome unicorn enterprise.

 

Tech giants play the blame game

Ina Fried, Axios

With regulators around the world looking at reining in Big Tech, the companies in the crosshairs are increasingly eager to point out their rivals’ sins.

 

Creepy, Cool and Coherent: Potential Government Tech Shines at CES 2022

John Breeden II, Nextgov

From humanoid robots to zero-emissions drones, CES was filled with lots of tech that may be relevant to government soon.

 

Tech’s shaky start to the year need not signify deeper issues

Richard Waters, Financial Times

It may only be two weeks into the new year, but Wall Street’s decision to kick the tyres on the long tech rally has set a new tone.

 
Morning Consult