Tech Brief: FDIC Audit Finds Data Breaches at Regulator Compromised Personal Information

Government Brief

  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s inspector general reported that the regulator may have suffered more than 50 data breaches in 2015 and 2016 that compromised personal information on hundreds of thousands of Americans. The report, released this week, detailed the FDIC’s responses to 54 “suspected or confirmed” hacks in those two years, finding that in five breaches alone, more than 113,000 individuals’ personally identifiable information was compromised. (FedScoop)
  • The Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with plans to eliminate the main studio rule, which requires AM, FM and TV broadcasters to maintain a central studio in or near their communities of license. The FCC issued a proposed update this week that would eliminate the rule and its requirements, although it would still require broadcasters to maintain a local or toll-free telephone number for community members to contact the stations. (FierceCable)
  • Two Democratic senators are preparing legislation that would require disclosures for online political advertisements, a move that comes as lawmakers investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have championed the effort to increase the transparency of advertisements on platforms like Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. (Broadcasting and Cable)

Business Brief

  • Facebook cut references to Russia from a public report published in April about influence campaigns on the social media platform during the 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the matter said. The drafting of the 13-page report sparked an internal debate over how much information Facebook should disclose about Russian efforts to sway public opinion, with some people advocating not mentioning Russia because the company’s understanding of Russian activity was too speculative. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Luxembourg will ask Inc. to set aside the 250 million euros ($293 million) that the European Commission ordered the company to repay in back taxes while both parties consider whether or not to appeal the decision. The commission had ruled that Luxembourg violated E.U. rules by allowing the bulk of Amazon’s European profits to go untaxed. (Reuters)
  • Mattel Inc. said it has canceled plans to sell a child-friendly “smart hub,” a device that children’s health and privacy advocates argued would give the toy company unprecedented access to the private lives of children. (The Washington Post)

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Online Political Ad Bill Nears Introduction
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are expected soon to introduce a bill requiring disclosures on online political ads. That comes in the long and extending wake of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including buying ads on Facebook in an effort to affect the outcome.

Mattel has canceled plans for a kid-focused AI device that drew privacy concerns
Hayley Tsukayama, The Washington Post

Mattel said Wednesday that it will not move forward with plans to sell a kid-focused smart hub after new executives decided it did not “fully align with Mattel’s new technology strategy,” according to a company statement. Children’s health and privacy advocates this week petitioned the toy giant not to release the device, which they argued gave the firm an unprecedented look into the personal lives of children.

SpaceX Seeks Ambitious Launch Tempo Surpassing Current Rivals
Andy Pasztor, The Wall Street Journal

Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims for one rocket launch roughly every two weeks on average through the end of 2018, exceeding the schedule of any other space company or government around the globe. The heady tempo underscores Mr. Musk’s strategy of relying on reusability and other efficiencies to dominate the space-transportation market.

How Europe’s Last Dictatorship Became a Tech Hub
Ivan Nechepurenko, The New York Times

On Friday nights, Zybitskaya street — or simply Zyba, as locals call it — turns into a vast party scene, filled with hipsters in bright shirts, tight dark jeans and black-rimmed glasses, showing how they can be carefree in a country that has been labeled the last dictatorship of Europe. Over the past few years, Zyba has turned into an island in the middle of Minsk, the Belarusian capital — still mostly a sterile, utterly unfashionable city with long lines of dominating Soviet buildings and people hurrying past, seemingly terrified of making any form of contact.

Dollar Gains Before Payrolls; Europe Stocks Drop: Markets Wrap
Cormac Mullen, Bloomberg

The dollar extended gains to an almost three-month high and Treasury yields rose as confidence in the world’s largest economy grows in the buildup to the latest jobs data. European shares edged lower, bond yields rose and the euro pared losses as the Catalonia crisis continued to unfold.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Luxembourg asks Amazon to set aside EU-imposed tax repayment
Michele Sinner, Reuters

Luxembourg will ask online retailer Amazon to set aside the 250 million euros ($293 million) the European Commission has ordered the company to repay in taxes while the parties consider whether or not to appeal.On Wednesday, the Commission took Ireland to court over its failure to recover up to 13 billion euros of tax due from Apple Inc.

Why Apple could be slapped with a massive $15 billion Irish tax bill
Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica

The European Commission on Wednesday stepped up its campaign to force big American technology companies to pay more taxes on Wednesday. It ruled that Luxembourg had violated EU rules by allowing the bulk of Amazon’s European profits to go untaxed, and it announced it was taking Ireland to court for failing to collect higher taxes from Apple, after Ireland ignored a similar ruling from the EC last year.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

FCC looks to quash main studio rule for broadcasters
Ben Munson, FierceCable

The FCC is moving ahead with plans to eliminate the main studio rule that requires AM, FM and television broadcasters to maintain a central studio in or near their communities of license. The FCC issued a report and order this week that would eliminate the rule and requirements including full-time staff and program origination capability associated with the rule.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Facebook Cut Russia Out of April Report on Election Influence
Robert McMillan and Shane Harris, The Wall Street Journal

Facebook Inc. cut references to Russia from a public report in April about manipulation of its platform around the presidential election because of concerns among the company’s lawyers and members of its policy team, according to people familiar with the matter.The drafting of the report sparked internal debate over how much information to disclose about Russian mischief on Facebook and its efforts to affect U.S. public opinion during the 2016 presidential contest, according to these people.

YouTube Tweaks Search Results as Las Vegas Conspiracy Theories Rise to Top
The Wall Street Journal

YouTube this week surfaced videos peddling misinformation, hateful messages and conspiracy theories to users searching about mainstream news events—problems that caused the site to change its search results to promote more authoritative sources.For example, the fifth result when searching “Las Vegas shooting” on YouTube late Tuesday yielded a video titled “Proof Las Vegas Shooting Was a FALSE FLAG attack—Shooter on 4th Floor.”

Netflix is raising its prices and Wall Street is raising Netflix’s stock price
Peter Kafka, Recode

Netflix is raising its prices for many of its U.S. subscribers. Great idea, says Wall Street, which is rewarding the streaming company by pushing its stock up some 4 percent this morning.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

FDIC breached more than 50 times between 2015 and 2016
Billy Mitchell, FedScoop

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. may have suffered more than 50 breaches that compromised the personal information of hundreds of thousands of Americans in recent years. And in most cases, the agency did a poor job of responding to the incidents, a new watchdog report shows.

House Bill Starts Internet Surveillance Debate, Round 2
Joseph Marks, Nextgov

House lawmakers took a first stab, Thursday, at updating the most controversial U.S. government spying program that’s gone un-renewed since leaker Edward Snowden’s bombshell revelations about the scope of U.S. digital snooping in 2013. The plan from bipartisan leaders of the House Judiciary Committee to update Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act prohibits law enforcement, in most cases, from using the collected information to support a criminal investigation without a probable cause warrant.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

America Will Return to the Moon—and Go Beyond
Mike Pence, The Wall Street Journal 

Sixty years ago this week, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite into orbit, changing the course of history. The race for space was on, and the Soviets had taken an early lead. But the sight of Sputnik blinking across the October sky spurred Americans to action.

Explaining the new cryptocurrency bubble—and why it might not be all bad
Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica

You’re going to hear a lot about initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the coming months. As investors have poured more and more money into newly created virtual currencies, they have created a gold-rush mentality.

Research Reports

The FDIC’s Processes for Responding to Breaches of Personally Identifiable Information
Office of Inspector General

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. may have suffered more than 50 breaches that compromised the personal information of hundreds of thousands of Americans in recent years. And in most cases, the agency did a poor job of responding to the incidents, a new watchdog report shows.

Space Exploration: Improved Planning and Communication Needed for Plutonium-238 and Radioisotope Power Systems Production
Shelby S. Oakley, Government Accountability Office

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has long used radioisotope power systems (RPS) to generate reliable electrical power and heat energy for long-duration space missions. RPS can operate where solar panels or batteries would be ineffective or impossible to use, such as in deep space or in shadowed craters, by converting heat from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium-238 (Pu-238) into electricity. The Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor agencies have been providing Pu-238 and fabricating RPS for NASA and other federal agencies for more than 5 decades.