Tech Brief: Facebook to Make Changes to ‘Trending News’ Section

Today’s Washington Brief

  • The House failed to pass a bill that would require cell phone carriers to provide police with call location data for individuals who dial 911 or are believed to be in an emergency situation. The measure did not meet the two-thirds threshold needed for passage under suspension of the rules after privacy advocates launched a last-minute push against the bill, saying it could create a warrant loophole for law enforcement. (Reuters)
  • The Romanian hacker known as Guccifer, who was charged with breaching the computer accounts of the Bush family, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, is expected to plead guilty to federal charges on Wednesday. (The Associated Press)
  • The algorithm used in a Florida county to assess the likelihood that a criminal defendant will commit a crime incorrectly predicted future crimes for black defendants at almost twice the rate of their white counterparts, according to an analysis of over 7,000 risk scores. A pending sentencing reform bill would require federal prisons to use the same risk assessment tool. (ProPublica)

Today’s Business Brief

  • Facebook said it’s going to make changes to its “trending news” section following allegations of bias earlier this month, despite failing to find evidence of systemic bias in the selection of stories. (Politico)
  • French regulators will examine the online advertising industry, with the aim of publishing their findings in the second half of 2017. The results are likely to affect Facebook, Google and Twitter — all leaders in the U.S. digital display-advertising market. (Bloomberg News)
  • The financial services industry is ramping up support for a bill that would set national data security standards and require businesses to let customers know when breaches occur. (The Hill)

Today’s Chart Review

Annual Wireless Industry Survey
CTIA the Wireless Association

Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern)

Sen. Kaine speaks about cybersecurity at CSIS event 8:30 a.m.
Center for Data Innovation event on impact of big data on public, private sectors 9 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee hearing on transition of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on 17 FTC bills 10 a.m.
House Homeland Security Committee hearing on enhancing cybersecurity 10 a.m.
Brookings Institution event on implementing Europe’s digital single market strategy 10 a.m.
FCC workshop on reverse spectrum auction 10 a.m.
House Small Business Committee hearing on the sharing economy 11 a.m.
House Homeland Security Committee hearing on using technology for border security 2 p.m.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum hosts discussion on intellectual property and software companies 6:30 p.m.
House Oversight Committee hearing on federal agencies 9 a.m.
Senate Homeland Security Committee marks up OPEN Government Data Act 10 a.m.
FCC open commission meeting 10:30 a.m.
Atlantic Council event on government’s role in the Internet of Things 4 p.m.
Senate Judiciary Committee votes on Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act 10 a.m.
House Small Business Committee hearing on the sharing economy 10 a.m.
No events scheduled.


Machine Bias
Julia Angwin et al., ProPublica

We obtained the risk scores assigned to more than 7,000 people arrested in Broward County, Florida, in 2013 and 2014 and checked to see how many were charged with new crimes over the next two years, the same benchmark used by the creators of the algorithm. The score proved remarkably unreliable in forecasting violent crime: Only 20 percent of the people predicted to commit violent crimes actually went on to do so.

Long-timer Joe Barton seeks to regain powerful chairmanship in Congress
Maria Recio, The Star-Telegram

Rep. Joe Barton has been in Congress for nearly half his life. But at 66, the Ennis Republican is still not ready to simply sit back in his position as chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

U.S. consumers buck investors’ rush to self-driving cars : study
Paul Lienert, Reuters

U.S. consumers still resist the notion of self-driving cars, according to a University of Michigan study released on Monday, the latest sign that investors and automakers may be rushing into a business where demand is limited at best. General Motors Co’s recent acquisition of Silicon Valley startup Cruise Automation for a reported $1 billion has accelerated a stampede by other automakers, suppliers and venture capital firms looking to invest in or acquire new companies developing self-driving technology.

S&P 500 Futures Signal Stocks to Open Higher Before Housing Data
Roxana Zega, Bloomberg News

U.S. stock-index futures rose, indicating the S&P will rebound, before new-home sales data that may show an improving economy as investors gauge the prospects for a Federal Reserve rate increase next month. Contracts on the S&P 500 expiring in June gained 0.3 percent to 2,051.25 at 11:03 a.m. in London.

Intellectual Property

Revealed: How copyright law is being misused to remove material from the internet
Alex Hern, The Guardian

Writing a bad review online has always run a small risk of opening yourself up to a defamation claim. But few would expect to be told that they had to delete their review or face a lawsuit over another part of the law: copyright infringement.

Google’s closing argument: Android was built from scratch, the fair way
Joe Mullin, Ars Technica

Google attorney Robert Van Nest made his closing argument to a panel of jurors here today, asking them to clear Android of copyright infringement allegations as a matter of “fairness and fair use.” “This is a very important case, not only for Google but for innovation and technology in general,” Van Nest told the jury.

Telecommunications, Broadcast & Cable

Sprint now zero-rating some video, joining AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

Sprint is now allowing some online video to be streamed without counting against customers’ data caps, making it the fourth major wireless carrier in the US to implement data cap exemptions (or “zero-rating”). Sprint’s first foray into zero-rating, announced last week, is for the Copa America Centenario soccer tournament being held in the US beginning June 3.

AT&T Calls Set-Top Box Proposal ‘Indefensible’ and ‘Nonsensical’
Amir Nasr, Morning Consult

AT&T Inc. on Monday called the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to open up the set-top box market for third-party manufacturers “indefensible as a matter of law and nonsensical as a matter of public policy.” The comments, filed with the FCC today, say the agency and supporters of the plan hadn’t explained why the proposal is needed in an app marketplace, where companies like Roku have already injected the competition the agency said it aims to foster with the proposal.

Congress Questions FCC Cybersecurity Requirements in Set-Top Box Proposal
Giuseppe Macri, Inside Sources

The chief lawmakers on the Senate and House Homeland Security Committees asked the Federal Communications Commission Monday if the agency is taking cybersecurity into account with its proposal compelling cable providers to open up their content to third-party set-top boxes. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul and the committee’s ranking Democrats sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Monday asking what cybersecurity measures, if any, the agency is considering in its draft proposal.

State IG: Broadcasters need tighter controls over user accounts
Chase Gunter, FCW

The Broadcasting Board of Governors needs to do a better job tallying and disabling inactive user accounts to protect sensitive agency data, according to a recent oversight report. An audit by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General found that some accounts on the BBG’s Microsoft Windows directory database are misidentified, and others lack an appropriately defined policy for when they become inactive and should be disabled.

Mobile & Social

Facebook tweaks ‘Trending Topics’ in wake of political bias allegations
Alex Weprin, Politico

Facebook said it would tweak its “Trending Topics” module after numerous reports earlier this month outlined claims of political bias. In a letter responding to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Facebook said its internal review “revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature,” adding, however, that “our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies.”

Uber deal shows divide in labor’s drive for role in ‘gig economy’
Daniel Wiessner and Dan Levine, Reuters

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers trumpeted an agreement reached earlier this month to represent New York Uber drivers, saying it “gives organized labor an opportunity to shape the new economy in a way that supports and values workers and their families.” But not everyone in the U.S. labor movement is cheering.

Study: China’s Government Fabricates About 488 Million Social Media Posts Every Year
Merrit Kennedy, NPR News

For years, the Chinese government has been widely suspected of hiring thousands of paid commenters using fabricated accounts to argue in favor of the government on social media sites. This presumed army of trolls is dubbed the “50 Cent Party,” because of the rumored rate of pay per post – 50 cents in Chinese Yuan, or about $0.08.

Data & Privacy

House rejects bill requiring carriers to share phone location
Dustin Volz, Reuters

The U.S. House of Representatives voted down on Monday a measure that would have compelled cell phone carriers to disclose a phone’s location with law enforcement in the event of an emergency, amid a last-minute lobbying effort from privacy advocates opposed to it. Lawmakers voted 229-158 to pass the Kelsey Smith Act, falling short of the two-thirds threshold necessary due to rules invoked to expedite the bill’s vote.

Facebook, Google Scrutinized Amid French Online Ad Sector Probe
Gaspard Sebag, Bloomberg News

The digital display-advertising sector — led in the U.S. by Facebook Inc., Google and Twitter Inc. — faces a potential antitrust crackdown as French regulators start an inquiry with a view to publishing final findings in the second half of next year. Months after Germany’s antitrust agency began investigating Facebook’s control over the private data of millions of users, the French Competition Authority will examine the importance of collecting and exploiting data to compete in the online display advertising sector, according to a statement released Monday.


Guccifer, Accused of Hacking Bush Accounts, To Plead Guilty
Matthew Barakat, The Associated Press

The Romanian hacker known as Guccifer, who is charged with breaking into computer accounts of the Bush family, Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, is scheduled to plead guilty to federal charges. A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled Wednesday at U.S. District Court in Alexandria for Marcel Lazar, 44, of Arad, Romania, according to court records.

Financial industry spars with retailers over data breach bill
Katie Bo Williams, The Hill

The financial services industry is ratcheting up its support of legislation that would set nationwide data security standards and require businesses to notify customers following a breach. The push coincides with an annual advocacy gathering of retailers, who oppose the bill.

Lieu, Hurd alert members on cyber hygiene
Adam Mazmanian, FCW

The two members of Congress with degrees in computer science are urging their fellow legislators to be a little more conscientious about their personal and professional cybersecurity. In a “dear colleagues” letter, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) credited the House CIO with working “to protect our offices from millions of cyberattacks every year” but also noted that members could make the CIO’s job easier with a little good cyber housekeeping.

NY lawmaker warns on U.S. financial security after SWIFT attacks
Lisa Lambert, Reuters

Recent hacks of international banks through the SWIFT messaging system raise serious questions about cyber-related risks to U.S. firms, Representative Carolyn Maloney wrote on Monday in a letter to the country’s top banking regulators that asked about measures to strengthen systems’ security. Maloney, a Democrat who represents part of Manhattan – home to many people employed in finance and banking – wrote to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, U.S. Comptroller Thomas Curry and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Martin Gruenberg that she remains “deeply concerned about U.S. banks’ exposure to these new, sophisticated cyber attacks.”

LinkedIn Finally Finished Resetting All the Passwords Leaked in 2012
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Vice News

Days after a hacker put up for sale a database of LinkedIn usernames and passwords that were stolen in a data breach back in 2012, the company says it has now finally finished resetting the passwords of all the victims. “We have invalidated the passwords of all accounts that were created prior to the 2012 breach that hadn’t updated their password since then, and that is, as we reported, more than 100 million people,” a LinkedIn spokesperson told Motherboard on Monday.

Beware of keystroke loggers disguised as USB phone chargers, FBI warns
Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

FBI officials are warning private industry partners to be on the lookout for highly stealthy keystroke loggers that surreptitiously sniff passwords and other input typed into wireless keyboards. The FBI’s Private Industry Notification is dated April 29, more than 15 months after whitehat hacker Samy Kamkar released a KeySweeper, a proof-of-concept attack platform that covertly logged and decrypted keystrokes from many Microsoft-branded wireless keyboards and transmitted the data over cellular networks.

NYPD Commissioner Bratton says city gangs are turning to cyber crime
Erin Durkin, The New York Daily News

City gangs are going high tech — moving beyond their traditional criminal territory into cyber crime, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “We’re seeing many of our gangs here in New York…turning away from dealing with drugs and other types of crime, and focusing on getting very adept at cyber-related crime — the false identification cards, credit cards,” Bratton said Sunday on the John Catsimatidis AM 970 radio show.

Opinions, Editorials & Perspectives

What about Investment, Investment, Investment?
Diane Holland, The USTelecom Blog

By now, we all have heard Chairman Wheeler’s oft-repeated mantra of “competition, competition, competition” when talking about the commission’s charge. We all agree that real competition is good, especially for consumers. The good news is that the Business Data Services (BDS) Further Notice moves the special access ball forward.

FCC Set-Top Pilot Should Not Be Greenlighted
Neil Fried, The Motion Picture Association of America Blog

The MPAA appreciates Chairman Wheeler’s commitment to honor copyright law, distribution agreements, and content security in his effort to promote set-top box competition. Unfortunately, the proposal itself falls short of that commitment, abrogating the rights of copyright holders and jeopardizing the creation of high-value programming, as we explain in reply comments we are filing today jointly with SAG-AFTRA.

Research Reports, Issue Briefs & Case Studies

Annual Wireless Industry Survey
CTIA the Wireless Association

CTIA’s annual wireless industry survey develops industry-wide information drawn from operational member and non-member wireless service providers. It has been conducted since January 1985, originally as a cellular-only survey instrument, and now including PCS, ESMR, AWS and 700 MHz license holders.

Wither U.S. Net Neutrality Regulation?
Michael L. Katz, Haas School of Business

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission imposed its most recent round of regulations governing the behavior of firms that provide broadband Internet access services… These regulations are ostensibly intended protect and promote “openness” because– according to the Commission– “the Internet’s openness promotes innovation, investment, competition, free expression, and other national broadband goals.

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