Tech Brief: Trump-Backed Immigration Bill Draws Criticism From Silicon Valley

Government Brief

  • The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents major Silicon Valley firms in Washington, criticized recently introduced immigration legislation, backed by President Donald Trump, that the trade group says would limit access to STEM-skilled workers. GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Purdue (Ga.) introduced the legislation at the White House with Trump. (Recode)
  • A new rule will exempt the Federal Bureau of Investigation from privacy laws that would otherwise require the agency to acknowledge whether it is storing individuals’ biometric information. The rule applies to the FBI’s Next Generation identification system, which collects fingerprints for criminal records and for background checks of job seekers. (Nextgov)
  • A bipartisan bill that would unlock government-controlled spectrum received support from two groups that are often at odds with each other — the wireless industry and public interest advocates. But the two sides still disagree on how the spectrum should be shared between licensed and unlicensed users. (Morning Consult)

Business Brief

  • Plaintiffs can proceed with a class-action lawsuit that accuses Comcast Corp. of charging fees that were poorly disclosed or not included in advertised service rates, a U.S. district court judge ruled. Comcast appealed to have the case dismissed, arguing that customers agreed to pay the fees in their subscriber and minimum-term agreements. (Ars Technica)
  • Facebook Inc.’s News Feed will soon start prioritizing links to web pages that load faster, the company announced. The change is expected to lead to greater adoption of Facebook’s Instant Article Format which reduces the amount of code associated with the content and could mean reduced ad sales for publishers. (Tech Crunch)
  • Antenna sales are projected to increase by 7 percent this year, to almost 8 million units, according to the Consumer Technology Association. This is in conjunction with millennials realizing they can use what some may know as rabbit ears, which usually cost about $25, to watch about a half a dozen major TV channels for free. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

FCC monthly meeting 10:30 a.m.
D.C. Startup Week stakeholders meeting 4 p.m.
Tech in Motion, BMC tech panel on big data 6 p.m.
No events scheduled

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Tech takes aim at Trump (again) after he signs onto a new GOP bill to cut legal immigration
Tony Romm, Recode

With the blessings of President Donald Trump, two Senate Republicans embarked on a new effort Wednesday to slash the number of green cards that the U.S. government awards to foreigners — a move that’s drawing another round of criticism from the tech industry. Under the so-called RAISE Act, unveiled by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton and David Purdue earlier today, the U.S. government would reduce legal immigration by half within 10 years of its enactment.

Apple Defends Complying with China over VPNs
Dave Lee, BBC News

Apple boss Tim Cook has defended his company’s decision to comply with the Chinese government’s demand it remove VPN software from the App Store. Virtual Private Networks are often used to skirt censorship and surveillance in countries with tight restrictions on internet use.

Amazon’s Jobs Fair Sends Clear Message: Now Hiring Thousands
Noam Scheiber and Nick Wingfield, The New York Times

Brandon Williams arrived at an Amazon fulfillment center here, about an hour outside of Chicago, around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, one of thousands across the country who turned up for the company’s first Jobs Day. While he appeared to wilt slightly during the five hours he waited before an M.C. summoned him for a tour, his enthusiasm did not wane.

Toshiba to invest in chip line without JV partner Western Digital
Makiko Yamazaki and Taiga Uranaka, Reuters

Toshiba Corp said on Thursday it would invest in a new memory chip production line without joint venture partner Western Digital Corp, in a counter-punch against the U.S. firm which has opposed a planned auction of the business. The Japanese conglomerate has been trying to sell the unit to plug a balance sheet hole left by its failed U.S. nuclear business.

Stocks Retreat From Record; Euro Cools, Gold Falls: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter, Bloomberg

Global stocks retreated from their recent unprecedented high amid declines across Asia and as energy shares pulled down the European index. The euro edged lower after its jump on Wednesday, and the dollar rose as traders await U.S. labor-market data.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Antitrust Nominee Assured Senator He Wasn’t Lobbied by White House on AT&T Deal
Brent Kendall, The Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead antitrust enforcement at the Justice Department recently agreed to tell lawmakers if the White House tries to improperly influence any decision he makes on whether to allow AT&T Inc.’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. The commitment came in a meeting between the nominee, Makan Delrahim, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), who wrote a July 24 letter memorializing the discussion.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Comcast fails to get hidden fee class-action suit thrown out of court
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

A class-action complaint against Comcast can move forward after a federal judge rejected a Comcast motion to dismiss it. The lawsuit, filed in October 2016 in US District Court in Northern California, accuses Comcast of falsely advertising low prices and then using poorly disclosed fees to increase the amount paid by cable TV customers.

Key Stakeholders Support AIRWAVES Bill — for Different Reasons
Mariam Baksh, Morning Consult

Often sparring partners, the wireless industry and public interest advocates both came out in support of the AIRWAVES Act — but with very different hopes for where the legislation would lead. The bill instructs the Federal Communications Commission to auction off the government-controlled spectrum of radio frequencies used for wireless communication, with the first auction to be held by next December.

Millennials Unearth an Amazing Hack to Get Free TV: the Antenna
Ryan Knutson, The Wall Street Journal

Dan Sisco has discovered a technology that allows him to access half a dozen major TV channels, completely free. “I was just kind of surprised that this is technology that exists,” says Mr. Sisco, 28 years old. “It’s been awesome. It doesn’t log out and it doesn’t skip.”

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Facebook will soon start ranking faster loading webpages higher in News Feed
Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch

Facebook today announced it will soon be rolling out a change to its News Feed that will increase the distribution of links to faster loading web pages – including those that use its own Instant Article format, it seems.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

If the FBI has your biometrics, it doesn’t have to tell you
Mohana Ravindranath, Nextgov

A new rule will prevent millions of people from finding out if their fingerprints, iris scans and other biometric information is stored in a massive federal database. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification system stores the biometric records of people who have undergone background checks for jobs, volunteer positions and military service, as well as of those who have criminal records.

Man used DDoS attacks on media to extort them to remove stories, FBI says
David Kravets, Ars Technica

A 32-year-old Seattle man is behind bars while awaiting a federal hacking trial for launching a DDoS attack. He is being held without bail on allegations that he attacked a US-based legal services website to force it to remove a link to a case citation about his past criminal conduct.

Verizon’s new rewards program lets it track your browsing history
Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge

Verizon has a new rewards program out this week, called Verizon Up, which awards users a credit for every $300 they spend on their Verizon bill that can be redeemed toward various rewards. Customers will be able to get rewards such as “Device Dollars toward your next device purchase, discounts on an accessory, or partner rewards,” along with other surprise offerings and first-come, first-serve ticket opportunities, which all seems like a nice occasional thing to get for regularly paying your cellphone bill.

WannaCry ransomware bitcoins move from online wallets
BBC News

More than $140,000 (£105,000) worth of bitcoins paid by victims of the WannaCry ransomware outbreak have been removed from their online wallets. It has been nearly three months since infections struck organisations worldwide, including the NHS, which faced days of disruption as a result.

Karma’s new hotspot device comes with an integrated VPN and Tor browsing
Thuy Ong, The Verge

Karma, the company that sells a small hotspot device called Go, has announced a new specialized security product called Karma Black that will provide its users with anonymous browsing through Tor, an integrated VPN, black listing, and ad blocking in an effort to guard against behavior tracking. The new Karma Black hotspot will be available in September.

Privacy warnings spell trouble for millions of low-cost Android phone owners
Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

Amazon said it’s suspending sales of Android phones made by Blu following a presentation last week that said that three of the manufacturer’s models sent sensitive personal information to third parties in China. Last week’s presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas by security firm Kryptowire came eight months after the same company first warned about Android devices sold by Blu.

Senate Panels Advance Bills to Improve Cybersecurity Skills
Edward Graham, Morning Consult

Two Senate committees on Wednesday advanced bipartisan bills designed to incentivize students and encourage small businesses to boost their cyber skills, part of an effort to combat the growing threat from cyberattacks. The Small Business Committee unanimously approved S. 1428, a measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) that would direct the Small Business Administration to develop new cybersecurity counseling and training programs and require that a certain number of employees at small business development centers be certified in cyber training.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

To Protect Voting, Use Open-Source Software
R. James Woolsey and Brian J. Fox, The New York Times

Although Russian hackers are reported to have tried to disrupt the November election with attacks on the voting systems of 39 states, the consensus of the intelligence community is that they were probably unsuccessful in their efforts to delete and alter voter data. But another national election is just 15 months away, and the risk that those working on behalf of President Vladimir Putin of Russia could do real damage — and even manage to mark your ballot for you or altering your vote — remains.

Research Reports

The Best States for Data Innovation
Daniel Castro et al., Center for Data Innovation

Across the United States, data scientists, civic leaders, educators, and business leaders are laying the groundwork for using data to grow the economy and address a range of societal challenges. This report reviews a series of indicators that rank states on the degree to which they have achieved the key enablers of success in the data economy, including the availability of high-value datasets, the creation of important technologies, and the development of human and business capital.