Morning Consult Tech: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Coronavirus and the Trump administration

  • Oracle Corp. Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison said in an interview that he is working with President Donald Trump and his administration to build a database for the country’s coronavirus cases in partnership with Sensei co-founder David Agus, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies. Expected to launch imminently, the database would include information from doctors about every COVID-19 case being treated with medication and would send daily emails to the doctor and patient requesting progress updates.
  • In an op-ed, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates called for a nationwide lockdown in the United States as the coronavirus continues to spread, saying that a “shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere” until the case numbers start to go down. Gates also said the country must step up testing for the virus and establish a data-based approach to find treatments and create a vaccine.

Zoom’s privacy concerns

  • A group of state attorneys general are starting to look into Zoom Video Communications Inc.’s privacy and security practices, according to Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who said the group is “alarmed by the Zoom-bombing incidents” and are “seeking more information from the company about its privacy and security measures.” Although it’s unclear which offices the Connecticut regulator is working with, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) confirmed that he had been in touch with several state attorneys general about their concerns about Zoom.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a public bulletin that Zoom and other teleconferencing systems aren’t as private or secure as users assume after several reported incidents of “Zoom-booming,” where hackers, trolls and other bad actors barge into a random digital meeting.
  • A former National Security Agency hacker revealed two previous undisclosed flaws in Zoom’s software that could enable an attacker to gain access to a user’s entire computer and install malware or spyware. One flaw appears to piggyback off of a previously discovered issue where bad actors could gain access to someone’s computer through Zoom’s Mac app, and the second exploits how Zoom handles webcam and microphone access.
  • Zoom and Microsoft Corp.’s LinkedIn said they have disabled a service that matches those in a Zoom video call with their LinkedIn information without asking for the users’ permission or notifying them that their profile information would be shared with others. The data-mining tool was made available through LinkedIn Sales Navigator, a service for sales prospecting, and it could identify people’s profile even when they signed into a meeting under a pseudonym.

Worker protections and protests

  • Inc. said in a blog post that it will divert sales of all N95 masks and other medical supplies to hospitals and government entities and block the public from purchasing the products amid a shortage in protective gear during the pandemic. Dave Clark, Amazon’s logistics chief, also said in the post that the company is now checking the temperature of more than 100,000 of its nearly 800,000 employees daily to screen for the coronavirus.
  • Amazon fired an employee at its Staten Island warehouse who participated in Monday’s walkout, saying that the employee, Christian Smalls, was supposed to be under quarantine after being in “close contact” with another employee who tested positive for COVID-19. But Smalls said he was being singled out for partly organizing the protest, which called on the company to shut down the facility for deep cleaning after multiple employees were confirmed to have coronavirus.
  • During a daily meeting among Amazon’s leadership team attended by CEO Jeff Bezos, executives discussed a plan to paint Smalls as the “face of the entire union/organizing movement,” according to leaked notes written by Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky, who said that Smalls is “not smart, or articulate” so focusing on him as the leader would put the company in a “much stronger PR position.” Zapolsky said in a statement that “I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me” because he was “frustrated and upset” about Smalls’ choice to return to the warehouse after being asked to self-quarantine.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent letters to four major food delivery services — DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Instacart — urging them to classify their workers as full-time employees so that the companies can grant them more labor protections, such as paid sick leave, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Telecommunications and wireless

  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a plan to open up the 6GHz airwaves currently used by utilities companies to Wi-Fi devices, which will be put to a vote during next month’s open commission meeting.
  • Google is offering 100,00 free Wi-Fi hotspots for at least three months and donating 4,000 Chromebooks to students across California who have limited at-home access to the internet after the state extended school closures for the remainder of the academic year due to the pandemic.
  • Comcast Corp. said voice and video calls have more than tripled since Americans started transitioning to remote work and learning during the pandemic, while overall network traffic has increased 32 percent. While cities like San Francisco and Seattle have experienced an overall network traffic jump closer to 60 percent, Comcast tech leader Tony Werner said the additional traffic is “well within the capabilities of the network.”

What’s Ahead

  • The Senate and House are in recess. 
  • The FCC’s next open commission meeting is April 23. Tentative agenda items include a vote on a proposal to open the 6 GHz band to unlicensed use and a proposal to establish the 5G Fund for Rural America.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

New America’s online event “Easing the Home Connectivity Crunch” feat. FCC Chair Ajit Pai 1:00 pm
Silicon Flatiron’s virtual conference on the 21st Century Cures Act 2:00 pm
The Voice of the Car virtual summit
The Voice of the Car virtual summit
Fiber Broadband Association’s webinar: “2020 COVID-19 Pandemic Response: Will We Break the Internet?” 10:00 am
Brookings Institution’s webinar on “What’s being done to address the growing US digital divide” feat. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel 2:00 pm
View full calendar

Watch On-Demand: What New Data Tells Us About the Labor Market, Unemployment and a Recession

For a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact on unemployment and the broader economy, Morning Consult gathered a team of experts to discuss new data examining how prepared consumers are for the economic downturn and what consumer confidence tells us about a potential recession.

A copy of the presentation, a recording of the full webinar, and a copy of our recent white paper on using consumer confidence to track a recession can be accessed here.

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