Tech Brief: ‘Unclear’ Whether Google Will Launch Controversial Search App in China, Pichai Says

Top Stories

  • In a companywide meeting, Google LLC CEO Sundar Pichai told the staff that development of a search engine app in China is still in the early stages and it’s “unclear” if it will happen, according to a transcript of the meeting, as employees continue to call for more transparency and oversight of the project. (Reuters)
  • Former Tesla Inc. security employee Karl Hansen filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing the company of covering up theft and spying on workers, specifically by wiretapping and hacking their cellphones and computers. A Tesla spokesperson said, “Some of his claims are outright false. Others could not be corroborated.” (CNBC)
  • Facebook Inc. has reportedly reinstated data access for analytics company Crimson Hexagon, which was suspended last month when Facebook began investigating whether it had violated any of the platform’s data use policies through its contracts with the U.S. government and a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin. Crimson Hexagon participated in “several weeks of constructive discussion and information exchange,” David Shore, the company’s CFO, said in a blog post. (TechCrunch)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

2019 World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee, Informal Working Group 2 1 p.m.

CSR & Political Activism in the Trump Era

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Elon Musk, Amid Tesla Furor, Tells of ‘Most Difficult’ Year
David Gelles et al., The New York Times

Elon Musk was at home in Los Angeles, struggling to maintain his composure. “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” he said. “It was excruciating.”

Google Clarifies Location-tracking Policy
Ryan Nakashima, The Associated Press

Google has revised an erroneous description on its website of how its “Location History” setting works, clarifying that it continues to track users even if they’ve disabled the setting. The change came three days after an Associated Press investigation revealed that several Google apps and websites store user location even if users have turned off Location History.

Dem Requests DOJ Probe on Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Technology
Jacqueline Thomsen, The Hill

A Democratic lawmaker is raising concerns about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technologies, saying it could pose issues for minority Americans and potentially be in violation of civil rights protections.

Rep. Invites Industry Leaders to Weigh ICO Regulation
Shannon Vavra and Kia Kokalitcheva, Axios

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) is inviting 32 industry leaders, lobbyists, and nonprofits this week to attend a Sept. 25 forum on Capitol Hill to discuss what he calls “light-touch” regulation on initial coin offerings (ICOs), according to the invitation and list Axios has obtained.

Stocks Drop in Turbulent Week; Turkish Lira Falls: Markets Wrap
Todd White, Bloomberg

European stocks slipped Friday alongside U.S. equity futures as Turkey’s lira resumed weakening after a three-day pause. The dollar pared a loss and Treasuries gained, with investors staying cautious before Turkish markets close for a holiday next week.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Pai Tells Senate Panel That FCC’s Inspector General Asked Him to Keep Mum During Cyberattack Investigation
Hamza Shaban, The Washington Post

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told a Senate committee Thursday that he did not update Congress or the public about the true nature of a website malfunction at the agency because he was bound by a confidentiality request by the agency’s inspector general. Pai said he initially relied on the agency’s then-chief information officer in claiming that the FCC had suffered a cyberattack after people experienced difficulties filing online comments regarding the future of net neutrality rules — even though Pai suspected that this wasn’t the case.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Streaming TV Services Now Reach 5% of U.S. Wi-fi Households, up 58% Since Last Year
Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

The number of U.S. households watching streaming TV services – those that deliver cable TV-like programming over the internet – has grown a remarkable 58% over last year, according to new data from comScore. However, these services still account for a small portion of the overall market, as only 5 percent (4.9 million) of U.S. households with Wi-Fi streamed TV over one of these services in April 2018.

Pai to Senate Dems: Hysterical Net Neutrality Predictions Were Baseless
John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

FCC chair Ajit Pai continued his net neutrality rule rollback defense on the Hill Thursday (Aug. 16), this time in a Senate Commerce Committee FCC oversight hearing, where he confronted the Democratic critics of his net neutrality deregulation.

FCC Chair: Action Against Pirate Radio Station Isn’t About Alex Jones
David McCabe, Axios

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said Thursday that his agency took action against a Texas pirate radio station simply because it operated without a license — not because it airs the content of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Amazon is Driving More Transaction-based Revenue For TV Networks And Studios
Sahil Patel, Digiday

Amazon has become a growing source of transactional revenue for TV networks, studios and other video producers selling movies and TV shows through Prime Video.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Fake Numbers? Facebook Misled Advertisers With Inflated ‘Potential Reach,’ Lawsuit Says
Seung Lee, Bay Area News Group

Facebook allegedly misled advertisers on its platform by demonstrating it had a far larger audience size in U.S. cities and states than it actually had, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday. The lawsuit, filed by a Kansas-based aromatherapy fashionwear business owner, alleged Facebook ballooned its “Potential Reach” number for how many users were targeted by an advertisement, thereby misleading advertisers to purchase more advertisements than they might otherwise have.

‘Weaponized Ad Technology’: Facebook’s Moneymaker Gets a Critical Eye
Natasha Singer, The New York Times

Some government officials, researchers and advertising executives warn that it can be exploited to polarize and manipulate voters. And they are calling for restrictions on its use in politics, even after Facebook, in response to criticism, recently limited some of the targeting categories available to advertisers.

MoviePass Adds Even More Restrictions as it Transitions to New Plan
Sara Salinas, CNBC

MoviePass is adding even more restrictions as it transitions users to its new pared-down movie subscription plan. The popular but financially ailing movie subscription service will offer users a choice of just six movies each day, the company said in an email to members Thursday, at the same time it’s slashing the service to cap users at three included movies per month.

DoorDash More Than Doubles Valuation to $4 Billion
Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal

DoorDash Inc. on Thursday said it raised $250 million in a round of funding that values the prepared food-delivery startup at $4 billion, more than doubling its valuation for the second time in five months.

Kroger Launches Autonomous Grocery Delivery Service in Arizona
Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica

Starting today, residents of Scottsdale, Arizona have the opportunity to receive autonomous grocery deliveries from Fry’s Food Stores—a brand owned by grocery giant Kroger. The technology is supplied by Nuro, a self-driving vehicle startup founded by two veterans of Google’s self-driving car project.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Chinese Hackers Targeted U.S. Firms, Government After Trade Mission: Researchers
Christopher Bing and Jack Stubbs, Reuters

Hackers operating from an elite Chinese university probed American companies and government departments for espionage opportunities following a U.S. trade delegation visit to China earlier this year, security researchers told Reuters.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Facebook Has a Plan to Protect The U.S. Midterms. Is It Enough?
Kurt Wagner, Recode

The social network would like to avoid an election disaster like the one that hit it in 2016.

Google Outgrows Its Youthful Ideals
Christopher Mims, The Wall Street Journal

In middle age, the search giant’s motto has gone from ‘Don’t be evil’ to something more like ‘Get real.’

Elon Musk is The Id of Tech
Kara Swisher, The New York Times

A lot of people have been asking me for my take on what’s going on with Elon Musk these days. But what they’re really asking is obvious: Is he crazy?

Artificial Intelligence Still Isn’t All That Smart
Noah Smith, Bloomberg

Some routine jobs might be at risk someday, but work requiring judgment seems safe.

Could a Continuing Resolution Save The Tech Modernization Fund in 2019?
Carten Cordell, FedScoop

While the House and Senate continue to hammer out the details of how much money the Technology Modernization Fund will receive in fiscal 2019, the weapon of choice for financing the government for the past dozen years could be a way to sidestep the appropriators — the continuing resolution.

Research Reports

Tripwire State of Cyber Hygiene Report
Tripwire Inc.

When a high-profile cyberattack grabs the headlines, your first instinct may be to funnel resources into purchasing a shiny new tool to defend your organization. But often, that’s not what’s really needed.

Earning and Maintaining Consent in The GDPR Era

We now live in the GDPR era – a new landscape of consumer privacy protection created by a regulation powerful enough to be felt around the world. Living with GDPR means learning about GDPR and creating new policies and procedures for consumer communications.

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