Tech Brief: Airbnb Bolsters Washington Lobbying

Today’s Washington Brief

  • Airbnb Inc. bolstered its lobbying presence in Washington by hiring former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) and Mercury, a public affairs firm. The company has faced criticism from the hospitality industry and some cities in recent months. (The Hill)
  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is making final tweaks to the Email Privacy Act, pursuing changes that appear to achieve a compromise that will allow the measure to advance at tomorrow’s markup. The legislation would require law enforcement to obtain warrants before compelling companies to turn over electronic communications older than 180 days. (Morning Consult)
  • Microsoft Corp. said it supports Privacy Shield, the proposed U.S.-EU data transfer agreement, but added that countries should take additional steps to protect privacy. European authorities are scheduled to adopt their draft opinion of the deal this week. (Morning Consult)

Today’s Business Brief

  • Unions representing about 40,000 Verizon Communications Inc. workers along the East Coast say they will go on strike Wednesday if a new contract is not reached by then. The unions want better pension benefits and to prevent the outsourcing of jobs to contractors, while Verizon wants reduced retirement benefits and for workers to shoulder more health-care costs. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • International tech firms like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. will be taxed in Israel under a new provision released by the country’s tax authority. (Bloomberg News)
  • SecureWorks Corp., of Dell Inc., said it could be valued as much as $1.42 billion in its initial public offering. The IPO would be the first major U.S. listing of a tech company this year. (Reuters)

Today’s Chart Review

Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern)

Tuesday
Cato Institute event on cryptocurrency 9 a.m.
IRS’ Koskinen testifies before Senate Finance Committee about cybersecurity 10 a.m.
INCOMPAS Show event on encryption vs. security 10:30 a.m.
Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference 1 p.m.
INCOMPAS Show event on privacy and cybersecurity with FCC’s Tatel 2 p.m.
Rep. Mulvaney speaks at Cato cryptocurrency event 4:20 p.m.
CDT event on old regulatory models and new technologies 9 p.m.
Wednesday
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on seven communications bills 10:15 a.m.
House Judiciary Committee marks up Email Privacy Act 10:30 a.m.
CCA Mobile Carriers Show 7 p.m.
Thursday
ITIF event on OPEN Government Data Act with Sen. Schatz and Reps. Farenthold, Kilmer 9 a.m.
House Judiciary Committee hearing on international patent litigation 10 a.m.
House Transportation Committee hearing on failure of electric grid and cyber attacks 10 a.m.
Public Knowledge event on 3D printing 10 a.m.
Hoover Institute, CDT event on privacy and security 12 p.m.
Rep. Farenthold speaks at ITIF event about public speech online 3:30 p.m.
Atlantic Council event on cyberwar in Ukraine 4 p.m.
Friday
IRS’ Koskinen testifies before House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee 10 a.m.

 

General

Airbnb bolsters its DC lobbying force
Megan R. Wilson, The Hill

Airbnb is beefing up its federal advocacy presence, bringing on former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) and the public affairs firm Mercury. “The good news is, they are smart enough to get involved in this town before they really need anything,” Weber told The Hill on Monday.

Israel to Levy New Taxes on Google, Facebook in Policy Shift
David Wainer, Bloomberg News

Israel has expanded its definition of who must pay taxes on commerce, targeting digital multinationals such as Facebook Inc. and Google that critics say get a free ride. Because much of today’s trade is carried out on the Internet, a foreign firm may now be considered a “permanent establishment” and subject to tax even if most of its presence is virtual, the Israel Tax Authority said in an e-mailed statement.

Dell’s SecureWorks valued at $1.42 billion in year’s first tech IPO
Sruthi Shankar, Reuters

Dell Inc’s [DI.Ul] cyber security unit, SecureWorks Corp, could be valued at up to $1.42 billion in its initial public offering, the first major U.S. listing of a technology company this year. Atlanta, Georgia-based SecureWorks said on Monday its offering was expected to be priced at $15.50-$17.50 per Class A share, raising as much as $157.5 million.

Missouri lawmakers advance rules, taxes on daily fantasy sports
Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press

Missouri House members this week took action to be among the first states to pass laws protecting daily fantasy sports, a business that has fallen under national scrutiny by state lawmakers and attorneys general. Daily fantasy sports sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel could continue to operate in Missouri under the proposal passed by the House 104-38 on Thursday.

The taxman’s tech troubles
Zach Noble, FCW

Calling the IRS “arguably the most important federal bureaucracy in American life,” author David Foster Wallace spun a fictional tale of technological modernization, tedium and existential terror in “The Pale King.” The unfinished novel was edited and published after Wallace committed suicide in 2008. And the IRS’ own story of modernization remains a sometimes painful work in progress.

Chinese Didi Users Can Now Hail a Lyft Car in U.S.
Douglas MacMillan, The Wall Street Journal

Customers of Chinese car-hailing service Didi can now order Lyft cars through the Didi app when they are visiting the U.S. The app integration between Lyft Inc. and Didi Kuaidi Joint Co. is the first step in a broader coalition between some of the world’s largest ride-sharing companies to fight Uber Technologies Inc.

How the Tech Industry’s Women Problem Is Advancing Paid Family Leave
Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg News

Last week, Twitter became the latest tech company to announce an expanded parental leave policy, offering all new parents 20 weeks of paid time off. The tech industry seems to be leading the way among industries offering robust family leave—something most Americans don’t have access to—and it may be thanks to a counterintuitive factor: The industry’s notable lack of women.

Stocks Rise Around World as Commodities Advance; Bonds, Yen Drop
Eddie Van Der Walt and Maria Levitov, Bloomberg News

Stocks rose with commodities, while the yen slipped and government bonds fell as crude oil’s advance above $40 a barrel boosted economic optimism.

Intellectual Property

Why Hollywood studios are taking a stand against an anti-revenge-porn bill
Karen Turner, The Washington Post

The Motion Picture Association of America has come out in opposition to a “revenge porn” bill proposed in Minnesota. The motion picture lobbying organization, which represents six of the biggest Hollywood studios, released a statement last Tuesday citing concerns that the bill violates freedom of speech.

Telecommunications, Broadcast & Cable

Unions Representing About 40,000 Verizon Workers Call for Strike
Ryan Knutson, The Wall Street Journal

Unions representing about 40,000 employees of Verizon Communications Inc. said they will go on strike on Wednesday if a new contract isn’t reached. The employees, who work mostly on the company’s landline phone and Internet operations along the East Coast, have been working without a contract since August.

Wheeler: No Timetable for Zero Rating Review
John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday that he is trying to create regulatory certainty though an ex-post examination of zero rating plans and data caps, but he also said he has not timetable for completing that review. Wheeler, speaking to the INCOMPAS (formerly COMPTEL) show in Washington April 11, said access to the internet is arguably the most important commodity in the current economy, which is one of the reasons there is a general conduct standard in the FCC’s Open Internet order so the FCC can look at potential threats to broadband openness on a case-by-case basis.

Wheeler in ‘Significant Accord’ With Incompas-Verizon Broadband Proposal
Kevin Carty, Morning Consult

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said he is “in significant accord” with proposed regulations for the business data services market put forth last week by Incompas and Verizon Communications Inc.

Wheeler: Video Competition Threatened By Pay TV Providers
John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler once again took aim at pay-TV providers as the snake in the potentially virtuous circle, this one between video content providers and consumers. In a speech at an INCOMPAS conference in Washington April 11, Wheeler told his audience of competitive carriers that video watching was in a golden age given the abundance of content and of outlets, which he called the third era of video (the first two characterized by a scarcity of outlets).

Mobile & Social

OPM Seeking Social Media Tracking for Background Checks
Jack Moore, Nextgov

The Office of Personnel Management is preparing for a pilot program to automatically track public social media postings of people applying for security clearances. OPM is conducting market research to find companies that can perform automated social media tracking and other types of Web crawling as part of the background investigation process, according to an April 8 request for information posted online.

Rep. Katherine Clark’s crusade against the Internet’s tormentors
Joshua Eaton, The Christian Science Monitor

Swatting is a dangerous stunt that involves calling local law enforcement with a false emergency designed to provoke a heavily armed police – possibly the SWAT team – response at a target’s home. It has been on the rise since 2008, when the FBI first issued a warning about it.

Data & Privacy

Email Privacy Act Is on Apparent Glide Path in House Panel
Amir Nasr, Morning Consult

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is making final tweaks to an email privacy bill with 314 House co-sponsors. That amendment appears to achieve a compromise that allows the long-stalled measure to move forward, with a key endorsement from a senior Republican privacy advocate.

Microsoft Backs U.S.-EU Privacy Shield Agreement
Kevin Carty, Morning Consult

Microsoft Corp. supports the proposed U.S.-EU data transfer agreement known as Privacy Shield, a company representative said Monday. “By providing a clear framework that ensures key protections of EU citizens continue when data is transferred to the United States, the Privacy Shield framework is an important step in enhancing trust in the global digital economy,” John Frank, Microsoft’s vice president of EU government affairs, wrote in a blog post.

Activists up pressure on White House to reject encryption bill
Cory Bennett, The Hill

The Obama administration is under increasing pressure from privacy activists to disavow legislation that would force companies to help investigators decrypt data upon request. More than three dozen activists, academics and advocacy groups sent the White House a letter on Monday urging it to oppose the bill, which they say “would threaten the safety of billions of internet users.”

Cybersecurity

Sen. Boxer asks FBI to explain its response to ransomware as hospitals fall victim to cybercriminals
Andrew Blake, The Washington Times

Ransomware campaigns being waged at hospitals across the country have prompted Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, to ask the FBI to explain how its handling a rash of cyberattacks that are affecting health providers from coast to coast. Ms. Boxer on Friday sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey to express what she said were “grave concerns” regarding ransomware infections befallen by hospitals as of late, including an attack last month that forced computer systems at more than 250 facilities in the Washington region to go offline.

FDIC mitigating risks of ‘inadvertent’ insider breach
Billy Mitchell, FedScoop

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. detected and quickly moved to mitigate a breach of 44,000 banking customers’ information after an employee leaving the agency inadvertently downloaded the data to a personal device.

Feds push stronger cyber protections at nuclear sites
Tim Devaney, The Hill

The federal government is moving to impose new cybersecurity requirements on nuclear facilities. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking steps to strengthen the existing physical protections at the sites to guard against hacking threats.

Former Energy Department worker sentenced in email ‘spear-phishing’ attempt
Spencher S. Hsu, The Washington Post

A former Energy Department employee was sentenced to 18 months in prison after offering to help a foreign government infiltrate the agency’s computer system to steal nuclear secrets and then attempting an email “spear-phishing” attack in an FBI sting operation.

Universities aren’t doing enough to train the cyberdefenders America desperately needs
Andrea Peterson, The Washington Post

The threat of hacking seems to lurk around every corner, but American universities may not be doing enough to prepare the next generation of cyberdefenders. None of America’s top 10 computer science programs — as ranked by U.S. News & World Report in 2015 — requires graduates to take even one cybersecurity course, according to a new analysis from security firm CloudPassage.

Opinions, Editorials & Perspectives

A Phishy Plan to Protect Privacy
Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The Federal Communications Commission promised that managing the Internet like an 1890s railroad wouldn’t result in a crush of new “net neutrality” regulations, but this claim keeps hitting the firewall of reality: Now the commission is proposing privacy rules that dump decades of successful policy and don’t apply to the tech companies that profit off Web habits.

Encryption and the path forward
Daniel Horowitz, The Hill

While the president clearly stated his policy position on encryption last October, somehow the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) missed the memo. In the wake of the San Bernadino, Calif., and Brussels terror attacks and other recent events, it is necessary for Congress to step forward with a similar directive for the FBI and law enforcement entities around the globe.

White House misses big opportunity with open source push
Ben Balter, FCW

September 2014, President Barack Obama committed to creating a federal open source policy to improve citizen access to software developed by the federal government. On April 11, public comments are set to close on a federal source code policy proposal that initiates a three-year pilot program to make as little as 20 percent of new government software available to the taxpayers who fund it and for whom the software’s intended to benefit.

Research Reports, Issue Briefs & Case Studies

Local Media Advertising: FCC Should Take Action to Ensure Television Stations Publicly File Advertising Agreements
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Agreements among station owners allowing stations to jointly sell advertising— known as “joint sales agreements”—are mostly in smaller markets and include provisions such as the amount of advertising time sold and how stations share revenue. Some of these agreements also included provisions typical of other types of sharing agreements.