Tech Brief: Facebook Rolls Out New Privacy Tools to Allow Better Control Over Personal Data

Top Stories

  • Facebook Inc. announced that it is updating its privacy features by rolling out a new settings page for its mobile app and adding a dashboard called “Access Your Information” that allows users to find all of the information that Facebook has collected on them. The company is not changing the way that it collects user data, although the new tools could help Facebook appease European regulators who plan to require data companies make it easier for users to better understand the personal information that’s collected. (Recode)
  • The computer expert who alleged that data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly used a trove of Facebook data to help Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign told lawmakers in the United Kingdom that he strongly believes the pilfered data was also used by the Brexit movement that persuaded British voters to favor leaving the European Union. Chris Wylie, who helped develop the firm’s voter targeting methods, told the U.K.’s House of Commons media committee that he “absolutely” believes a Canadian political consultant company, AggregateIQ, used Cambridge Analytica’s databases for its work on the Brexit campaign. (The Associated Press)
  • An appeals court ruled that Alphabet Inc.’s Google violated copyright law when it used open-source Java software from Oracle Corp. to build its Android platform in 2009. Oracle first brought a case against Google in 2010, claiming the Android operating system infringed on two patents that it held on Java software, and the appeals court ruling means Google may have to pay billions of dollars in damages. (CNN)
  • The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the deadly March 23 crash of a Tesla Inc. Model X SUV that occurred near Mountain View, Calif., saying it remains unclear whether the vehicle’s automated control system was active at the time of the accident. The vehicle’s autopilot system, which provides driver assist features like allowing the SUV to change lanes on its own, requires driver oversight, although Tesla said in a blog post that it did not know what caused the crash to occur. (USA Today)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

CSIS event on defending intellectual property 9:30 a.m.
FCC Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council meeting 1 p.m.
WRC-19 Advisory Committee Working Group 4 10 a.m.
Brookings event on EU data protection legislation 10 a.m.
WRC-19 Advisory Committee Working Group 3: Space Services 11 a.m.
Engine and the Charles Koch Institute event on user generated content 12 p.m.
FCBA lunch event on C-band and terrestrial use 12:15 p.m.
Uniting Women in Cyber symposium 12:30 p.m.
AU Internet Governance Lab session on governing IoT 9:30 a.m.

Morning Consult Report: The Future of Retail

Get insights into how consumers are reacting to changes in the retail industry, and what they’re looking for in the future.


Google defeats lawsuit claiming YouTube censors conservatives
Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

Google has won the dismissal of a lawsuit in California accusing YouTube of censoring conservative content. In a decision late Monday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said a nonprofit run by conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager failed to show that YouTube infringed its free speech rights by placing age restrictions on its content.

Silicon Valley Execs Champion Controversial Housing Bill
Eric Newcomer, Bloomberg

California is bracing for a high-profile fight over the state’s housing crisis. It’s a clash that pits Silicon Valley technology executives, who want to cut regulations that make it hard to build multi-story apartment buildings, against existing home owners and affordable housing advocates.

Warning Sign: Tech Stocks Are Dominating Global Markets Like Never Before
Steven Russolillo, The Wall Street Journal

The clobbering tech shares have taken in recent days has magnified not only how influential these companies have become in people’s everyday lives, but how much sway they’ve gained in global stock markets. The NYSE FANG+ Index—which tracks 10 global tech heavyweights, including Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and China’s Alibaba Group Holding —slumped 5.6% on Tuesday, its worst one-day drop since its inception four years ago.

Stocks Drop on Tech Tumult; Treasuries Extend Gain: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter, Bloomberg

Stocks were on the back foot again across both Europe and Asia as the selloff in technology shares that rattled U.S. markets on Tuesday weighed on sentiment. Amid the risk-off mood Treasuries extended gains, but the yen slipped.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Google loses Android battle and could owe Oracle billions of dollars
Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN

Google just lost a major copyright case that could cost it billions of dollars and change how tech companies approach software development. An appeals court said on Tuesday that Google violated copyright laws when it used Oracle’s open-source Java software to build the Android platform in 2009.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

AT&T/Verizon lobbyists to “aggressively” sue states that enact net neutrality
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

A lobby group that represents AT&T, Verizon, and other telcos plans to sue states and cities that try to enforce net neutrality rules. USTelecom, the lobby group, made its intentions clear yesterday in a blog post titled, “All Americans Deserve Equal Rights Online.”

In U.S. Brawl With Huawei, An Unlikely Loser: Rural Cable Firms
Drew FitzGerald and Stu Woo, The Wall Street Journal

Here is a potential casualty of the U.S. government’s escalating fight against Huawei Technologies Co.: rural phone companies and internet providers that depend on the Chinese giant’s gear to connect their customers. Large wireless providers including AT&T Inc. have long steered clear of Huawei, which has been effectively barred from big U.S. business since a 2012 congressional report alleged the Chinese government could force the company to exploit knowledge of how its equipment is designed to spy or launch cyberattacks—a charge Huawei has denied.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Facebook is making it easier to see all the personal data it collects about you
Kurt Wagner, Recode

One of the issues with the way that tech companies like Facebook collect personal data from people is that they often make it hard for those people to understand what they’re collecting, and how to control it. So in the wake of the company’s recent Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle, Facebook is trying to make that experience less confusing.

Expert says Brexit campaign used data mined from Facebook
Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

The computer expert who alleges a trove of Facebook data was improperly used to help Donald Trump’s White House bid said Tuesday that he strongly believes the information was also used by the Brexit movement that persuaded Britain to quit the European Union. In a 3½-hour hearing, Chris Wylie told the House of Commons media committee that he believes the breach exceeded the 50 million Facebook users reported earlier — though he didn’t give an exact figure.

Peter Thiel Employee Helped Cambridge Analytica Before It Harvested Data
Nicholas Confessore and Matthew Rosenberg, The New York Times

As a start-up called Cambridge Analytica sought to harvest the Facebook data of tens of millions of Americans in summer 2014, the company received help from at least one employee at Palantir Technologies, a top Silicon Valley contractor to American spy agencies and the Pentagon. It was a Palantir employee in London, working closely with the data scientists building Cambridge’s psychological profiling technology, who suggested the scientists create their own app — a mobile-phone-based personality quiz — to gain access to Facebook users’ friend networks, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Facebook Vowed to End Discriminatory Housing Ads. Suit Says It Didn’t.
Charles V. Bagli, The New York Times

Fair housing groups filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday saying that Facebook continues to discriminate against certain groups, including women, disabled veterans and single mothers, in the way that it allows advertisers to target the audience for their ads. The suit comes as the social network is scrambling to deal with an international crisis over the misuse of data belonging to 50 million of its users.

Tesla stock dives as feds investigate deadly Calif. crash
Marco della Cava, USA Today

Tesla shares dropped 8% Tuesday as federal investigators announced they would be looking into a deadly California crash and concerns about the company’s production of Model 3 cars knocked its credit rating. The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that two investigators were conducting field research into the March 23 accident, in which a Model X SUV struck a highway median near Mountain View, Calif. and flipped into oncoming lanes, where it was struck by two vehicles.

Uber Will Let California Autonomous-Vehicle License Expire
Eric Newcomer, Bloomberg

Uber Technologies Inc. won’t renew a license to operate self-driving cars in California while the company evaluates how one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian in Arizona last week. The San Francisco-based company told the California Department of Motor Vehicles that it will let its license expire at the end of the month, according to a letter from the department’s deputy director.

Nvidia halts self-driving tests in wake of Uber accident
Alexandria Sage and Sonam Rai, Reuters

Chipmaker Nvidia Corp said on Tuesday it has suspended self-driving tests across the globe, a week after an Uber Technologies Inc autonomous vehicle hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona. The company’s shares reversed course in afternoon trading after the news and were down 4 percent at $234.50, wiping out nearly $6 billion in market value.

Uber to settle discrimination case for $10 million
Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle

Uber has agreed to pay $10 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 420 female and minority software engineers who alleged discrimination and a hostile work environment. The proposed settlement comes as the entire tech industry wrestles with a notable lack of diversity.

Apple Faces Multiple Lawsuits Over Throttled iPhones
Tripp Mickle and Kirsten Grind, The Wall Street Journal

Dozens of iPhone owners are taking Apple Inc. to court over the company’s disclosure that it slowed down old phones to preserve battery life, in what could become one of the biggest legal challenges to the smartphone since its 2007 debut. Some five dozen iPhone customers have filed at least 59 separate lawsuits since December accusing Apple of slowing their phones to spur people to buy new iPhones, according to court records.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

U.S. Seeks to Dismiss Kaspersky Suit Against Legislative Ban
Joseph Marks, Nextgov

The Justice Department fired back at the anti-virus company Kaspersky Lab Monday, saying Congress wasn’t illegally meting out punishment when it barred the Russian firm from government contracts, but was making a perfectly legal move to protect national security. Kaspersky claims that Congress violated the constitution by singling out a private entity for punishment—an action known as a “bill of attainder”—without sufficient evidence of actual wrongdoing and in a way designed to “inflict profound reputational injury.”

Atlanta ransomware attack still causing chaos
Kate Gibson, CBS News

Computers were turned back on Tuesday in Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean it’s back to business as usual. Five days after a “ransomware” attack crippled the city’s computer network, officials are trying to recover from the hack that blocked access to electronic records, leaving city jails and municipal courts running manually with paper and pens. Many city employees remain without access to email or the internet.

FBI didn’t make false statements about unlocking San Bernardino iPhone: watchdog
Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

Top FBI officials did not make inaccurate statements before Congress and in court filings about the bureau’s ability to unlock an iPhone belonging to an alleged shooter in the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack, the Justice Department watchdog said Tuesday. However, the internal probe into the case did turn up evidence that miscommunication within the bureau resulted in a delayed solution to accessing data stored on the device, which the FBI needed as part of its investigation into the December 2015 attack.

Airbnb to start sharing Chinese host information with government
Pei Li and Cate Cadell, Reuters

U.S. short-term rental service Airbnb Inc said it would start disclosing host information to Chinese government agencies starting on Friday, as the San Francisco-based company complies with regulations in China. China’s strict regulations on residency require citizens and tourists to register their addresses with the police when they arrive in the country or stay at a hotel, within 24 hours.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

U.S. Corporations Need Military-Caliber Cybersecurity Capabilities and Methods
Michael Marks, Morning Consult

Today’s cyberthreat landscape presents unprecedented risks to the nation’s private sector and to our economic security. Major security breaches, some of them state-sponsored, at Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Equifax have damaged market value, tarnished reputation, caused revenue losses and recovery expenses.

How is Zuckerberg feeling about his testimony? Happy/sad/wow/litigious
Debra A. Klein, The Boston Globe

n a reversal, it turns out Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying on Capitol Hill. He’s reportedly preparing his strategy now. To make it easier and less intimidating for him, Facebook’s personal information scraper bot should just use some of the information we now know they have from all personal devices to create practice materials.

Big Tech Takes Us to the Unknown
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., The Wall Street Journal

If anybody does not yet understand they are paying for their “free” Facebook , Google, etc. by handing over their private data for use in advertising, please lead such people gently out into the woods and leave them there. In truth, many of those now canceling their Facebook accounts didn’t mind when their Facebook data was used to sell them pro-Obama messages.

It’s okay to be paranoid. Someone is watching you.
Mitch Daniels, The Washington Post

Isn’t technology wonderful? At Purdue University, the same IT infrastructure that enables us to manage student assignments and grades, operate residential and dining facilities, and support a leading community of scientific researchers produces as a byproduct a massive amount of fascinating information.

A death in Tempe and the promise of self-driving cars
Editorial Board, Chicago Tribune

Maybe you’ve seen the video from an Uber self-driving SUV of that tragic moment: Elaine Herzberg, 49, is walking her bicycle across multiple lanes of roadway, moving from left to right. Cruising at about 40 mph in the far right lane, the Uber vehicle slams into Herzberg, killing her.

Research Reports

The Aggregate IQ Files, Part One: How a Political Engineering Firm Exposed Their Code Base

Coming amidst a firestorm of scrutiny about how political operations can use and harvest consumer information, including from social media networks like Facebook, the UpGuard Cyber Risk Team can now reveal that a large code repository originating from AggregateIQ, a Canadian political data firm active in the 2016 US presidential race, was left publicly downloadable online. Revealed within this repository is a set of sophisticated applications, data management programs, advertising trackers, and information databases that collectively could be used to target and influence individuals through a variety of methods, including automated phone calls, emails, political websites, volunteer canvassing, and Facebook ads.

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