Tech Brief: Over 150 Tech Companies File Brief Against Travel Ban

Washington Brief

  • The Federal Communications Commission is holding its monthly open meeting today, where the agency will vote on an order that would deregulate the business data services market and one that would weaken rules governing how many stations a broadcast TV company is allowed to own. (The New York Times)
  • President Donald Trump pledged in January to appoint a team to present him with a cybersecurity plan within 90 days of office. Today Trump hits the 90-day landmark with no plan or team. (Politico)
  • AT&T Inc. gave more than $2 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, making it one of the largest contributors. Verizon Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. gave a combined $600,000 to the committee. (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and more than 150 other tech companies filed a brief in a federal court arguing Trump’s second order suspending travel from several majority-Muslim countries would bring “substantial harm on U.S. companies, their employees, and the entire economy” and should be thrown out. (Recode)
  • Uber Technologies Inc. has been granted the right to appeal against a major 2016 ruling that the ride-sharing service’s U.K. drivers should be treated as employees, with rights like minimum wage and sick pay. (The Guardian)
  • Chinese authorities are planning to interview Apple Inc. about video streaming services available through its app store within the country, in the most recent effort to increase pressure on the company over its content. (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

FCC hosts monthly open meeting 10:30 a.m.
New America Foundation event on internet companies’ monopolies 6 p.m.
FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee hosts meeting 10 a.m.



Trump’s missing 90-day cyber plan
Edward Isaac-Dovere et al., Politico

President-elect Donald Trump was very clear: “I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office,” he said in January, after getting a U.S. intelligence assessment of Russian interference in last year’s elections and promising to address cybersecurity. Thursday, Trump hits his 90-day mark. There is no team, there is no plan, and there is no clear answer from the White House on who would even be working on what.

Apple Faces Inquiry in China Over App Store Content
Carlos Tejada, The New York Times

Chinese authorities plan to question Apple about video streaming services available over its app store within the country, in their latest move to intensify pressure on the American technology giant over the content it provides in the vast and crucial market. A report on China’s official Xinhua News Agency late Wednesday said that the authorities would summon Apple to urge it to “tighten up checks on software applications available in the Apple Store.”

More than 160 tech companies asked a court to reject Trump’s second travel ban
Tony Romm, Recode

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snap and more than 150 other tech giants told a federal court in Virginia today that it should toss President Donald Trump’s second attempt to ban refugees and travelers from many majority-Muslim countries. In a brief filed in the U.S. District Court for Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, a host of Silicon Valley heavyweights lambasted Trump’s new order — his second attempt, after a judge blocked his first one — and stressed it would inflict “substantial harm on U.S. companies, their employees, and the entire economy.”

Larry Ellison and friends are hosting a fundraiser for Republican lawmakers
Tony Romm, Recode

Republicans have friends in Silicon Valley, too. Undeterred by the region’s overwhelming opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump, a group of the Senate’s most powerful GOP lawmakers — led by Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — are slated to head to the Bay Area on Thursday for a high-dollar fundraiser at the home of Larry Ellison, the co-founder and former chief executive of Oracle.

These Are the Science and Technology Policy Jobs Trump Still Hasn’t Filled
Sarah Emerson, Vice News

From the beginning, Trump has pitted agency heads against their departments—Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Ryan Zinke at the Interior Department, and Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. But subtly, Trump is also diminishing the role of science and technology, simply by not hiring anyone at all.

House Oversight Chair—and IT Reform Ally—Won’t Run For Reelection
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

One of Congress’ key oversight officials won’t be seeking reelection in 2018. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced on Facebook he would “return to the private sector” in 2018, though he didn’t rule out he’d come back to politics down the line.

Baidu to open-source its autonomous driving technology
Charles Clover and Sherry Fei Ju, Financial Times

China’s largest search engine group, has launched an attempt to become the Android of the automotive world by opening up its self-driving technology secrets to rivals. At the Shanghai Auto Show on Wednesday, Baidu revealed its imposingly named “Apollo” project, which it described as an “open, complete and reliable software platform for its partners in the automotive and autonomous driving industry to develop their own autonomous driving systems”.

Malaysia Airlines First to Track Fleet With Satellites
Alan Levin, Bloomberg News

Malaysia Airlines, which lost a wide-body jet with 239 people aboard three years ago in one of history’s most enduring aviation mysteries, has become the first airline to sign an agreement for space-based flight tracking of its aircraft. Malaysia Airlines Bhd. reached a deal with Aireon LLC, SITAONAIR and FlightAware LLC to enable it to monitor the flight paths of its aircraft anywhere in the world including over the polar regions and the most remote oceans, according to an emailed press release from Aireon.

The Life of an Apple Supplier Is Getting Even Tougher
Alex Webb and Ian King, Bloomberg News

Imagination Technologies Group Plc discovered how fickle life can be as an Apple Inc. supplier when it was ditched this month by the iPhone maker. More suppliers may suffer the same fate as the world’s largest technology company faces a shrinking number of semiconductor makers and expands into areas that need special chips designed in-house.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Tesla settles lawsuit with former head of its Autopilot system
Alexandria Sage, Reuters

Tesla Inc and the former head of its Autopilot program have settled a lawsuit brought by the electric vehicle maker in January, the parties said on Wednesday, in a deal that prevents the former executive from recruiting Tesla employees for a year. Neither side admitted to any wrongdoing under the terms of the agreement, which was seen by Reuters.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Ajit Pai, F.C.C. Chairman, Moves to Roll Back Telecom Rules
Cecilia Kang, The New York Times

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is taking the next steps to unwind Obama-era rules and other regulatory efforts that had restricted the abilities of telecommunication companies and broadcasters. With two items up for vote on Thursday that are expected to pass, Mr. Pai is carrying forward a swift Republican attack on telecom rules.

AT&T gave $2M to Trump’s inaugural committee
Harper Neidig, The Hill

AT&T was among the largest contributors to President Trump’s inaugural committee, accounting for more than $2 million of the record-breaking $106.7 million haul. The telecom behemoth gave $2 million in cash contributions, as well as an $82,483 in-kind donation for “mobile equipment/software.”

Verizon’s CEO Is Open to Deal Talks, From Comcast to Disney
Scott Moritz, Bloomberg News

Verizon Communications Inc. is considering merger possibilities to reset the course of the company given the fast-changing structure of the industry, and would be open to talks with Comcast Corp., Walt Disney Co. or CBS Corp., said Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam. Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, is seeking new sources of growth as the mobile-phone business matures and its new media ventures take time to gain traction.

Facebook built a helicopter-drone to provide wireless internet to disaster areas
Kurt Wagner and April Glaser, Recode

Facebook thinks it can do more to help in times of crisis. The social giant already offers a feature called Safety Check, which lets users mark themselves safe during a crisis or connect with other users who might have food, clothing or shelter on hand during a natural disaster.

Former FCC commissioner joins telecom group as top adviser
Harper Neidig, The Hill

Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Robert McDowell is joining the tech and telecommunications lobbying group Mobile Future as its chief public policy adviser. The group, which counts among its members AT&T and Verizon, has been lobbying against Obama-era regulations such as net neutrality and the recently repealed internet privacy rules.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Uber granted right to appeal against ruling on UK drivers’ rights
Robert Booth, The Guardian

Uber has been granted the right to appeal against last year’s landmark ruling that its UK minicab drivers should be treated as employed workers with rights to the minimum wage and sick pay. The employment appeals tribunal in London has set a date for a two-day hearing starting on 27 September.

Instagram celebrities keep sneaking in sponsored posts, FTC says
Colin Lecher, The Verge

The Federal Trade Commission recently sent letters to more than 90 “influencers and marketers” warning them about disclosing when social media posts are paid for by advertisers, the agency said today in a statement.The FTC did not name any recipients of the letters, but said the action was taken in part because of petitions by advocacy organization Public Citizen about Instagram posts.

Airbnb fires back at hotel industry
Ali Breland, The Hill

Airbnb is hitting back after the hotel industry touted its lobbying efforts against the online room-sharing service. The company’s head of policy, Christopher Lehane, accused hoteliers of price-gouging customers and called their fight against Airbnb a “campaign to punish the middle-class” in a letter Wednesday.

Facebook Aims to Connect Directly to Your Brain
Deepa Seetharaman, The Wall Street Journal

“What if you could type directly from your brain?” asked Regina Dugan, who runs Facebook’s secretive hardware division, Building 8, during a keynote address at the company’s F8 developer conference Wednesday. Building 8, which was created at last year’s F8, has been working on a “brain-computer interface” for several months, Ms. Dugan said.

Facebook’s new Surround 360 video cameras let you move around inside live-action scenes
Nick Statt, The Verge

Facebook today announced the second generation of its Surround 360 video camera design, and this time the company is serious about helping potential customers purchase it as an actual product. The Surround 360, which Facebook unveiled last year as an open-source spec guide for others to build off of, has been upgraded as both a larger, more capable unit and a smaller, more portable version.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Holiday Inn hotels hit by card payment system hack
BBC News

The owner of the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotel brands has disclosed that payment card-stealing malware has struck about 1,200 of its franchisees’ properties. UK-based Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) said all but one of the locations affected were in the US, with the other being in Puerto Rico.

Schiff advocates for NSA, Cyber Command split
Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is calling for the National Security Agency (NSA) to be split from U.S. Cyber Command. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Wednesday said it would be “wise” to have separate leaders for the two organizations, pushing for a civilian head of the NSA during remarks at Columbia Law School in New York.

Cybersecurity Startup Tanium Exposed California Hospital’s Network in Demos Without Permission
Rolfe Winkler, The Wall Street Journal

For years, cybersecurity startup Tanium Inc. pitched its software by showing it working in the network of a hospital it said was a client, according to people familiar with the matter and videos of the demonstrations. That and other efforts helped the company grow quickly, notching a valuation of $3.5 billion and a big investment from Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture firms.

Bose headphones spy on listeners: lawsuit
Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

Bose Corp spies on its wireless headphone customers by using an app that tracks the music, podcasts and other audio they listen to, and violates their privacy rights by selling the information without permission, a lawsuit charged. The complaint filed on Tuesday by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago seeks an injunction to stop Bose’s “wholesale disregard” for the privacy of customers who download its free Bose Connect app from Apple Inc or Google Play stores to their smartphones.

Hong Kong regulators move to tighten cybersecurity rules after hacks cost stockbrokers over $14M
Patrick Howell O’Neill, CyberScoop

A string of 20 cyberattacks against Hong Kong stockbrokers led to $14.2 million (HK$110 million) in losses over the last 18 months, according to Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission. In response, the regulator is tightening cybersecurity requirements.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The relentless fighting over net neutrality rules needs to end, but how can it?
The Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

Under its last chairman, Democrat Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communications Commission dramatically ramped up its regulation of telecommunications companies, especially those that provide broadband Internet access to the home. The commission adopted rules to preserve net neutrality, limit the collection and use of data about where people go online and subsidize broadband access services, while also slapping conditions on or flat-out opposing mergers between major broadband companies.

According to the Government, People Under Arrest Have More Rights Than Travelers at the Border
Ron Wyden, ACLU Blog

When Americans are standing on U.S. soil, we have constitutional rights. The government can’t go into your house and see what’s in your drawers or poke around in the attic. Police officers can’t take your phone and thumb through your photos without a good reason.

Getting agencies access to insider threat solutions
Mark Amtower, FCW

Stories about insider threats pop up with alarming frequency. When I searched for that term on, there were literally 1,000+ results, several within the last couple weeks. The problem is so prevalent that the General Services Administration issued a Schedule 70 special item number for Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation products and services after having jointly set up a CDM contract with the Department of Homeland Security.

Research Reports

Cyber security breaches survey 2017
Dr. Rebecca Klahr et al., University of Portsmouth

This report details the findings from a quantitative and qualitative survey with UK businesses on cyber security. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) commissioned the survey as part of the National Cyber Security Programme, following a previous comparable study by the Department published in 2016.

Autonomous Vehicles: A Policy Preparation Guide
The National League of Cities

Autonomous vehicles are rolling out on city streets across the country at a rapid pace – much faster than anticipated just a few years ago. While state and federal entities have always played a role in regulating transportation, cities are where this new technology is being deployed now.