Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Russian hacking and propaganda

  • A report released by the U.S. intelligence community on Friday concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the hacking of Democratic Party networks and other actions as part of a campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.
  • Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Russian government engaged in a “multifaceted campaign” against Democratic Party targets that included hacking as well as the deliberate spread of fake news and propaganda on social media.
  • Republican and Democratic senators expressed discontent that there is no comprehensive strategy for responding to cyberattacks or a concrete definition of an act of cyberwar. Answering those questions will be the goal of a new Senate Armed Services subcommittee on cybersecurity.
  • Clapper wants to create an “information agency on steroids” to fight foreign propaganda campaigns. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who will chair the cybersecurity subcommittee, wants to create a new “counter-Russia account” as part of the foreign operations appropriations measure to counter Russia’s propaganda and fake news.

Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies

  • President-elect Donald Trump tweeted statements by WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange signaling skepticism of U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian hacking, leading to criticism from some GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Clapper he believes Assange put intelligence officials’ “lives in danger.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump is planning to shrink and restructure the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there is “no truth” to the report.

Telecom

  • Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said he plans to make changes to key portions of the Communications Act this year. He said his committee will likely go through a step-by-step approach instead of a full-scale rewrite.
  • Trump is still against AT&T Inc.’s proposed $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner Inc. because he believes it would concentrate too much power in the media industry, according to unnamed sources close to the president-elect. The merger looks like it will avoid Federal Communications Commission review, according to an AT&T filing.
  • T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere said a merger with SoftBank Group/Sprint Corp. is a “potential future outcome” of the incoming Trump administration and a friendlier regulatory environment.
  • Verizon Communications Inc. is unsure about its planned acquisition of Yahoo Inc.’s internet business after Yahoo disclosed the largest known data breach in history last month.

Rosenworcel renominated

  • President Barack Obama renominated former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for a second term, but Thune said Trump should “be able to nominate the commissioners he wants to serve.” Rosenworcel would have to receive a confirmation vote from Thune’s committee before receiving a confirmation vote from the full Senate.

What’s Ahead

  • Discussion of Russian intelligence hacking continues on Capitol Hill. Clapper, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, CIA Director John Brennan and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey are scheduled to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday.
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a nomination hearing on Wednesday for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Trump’s pick to lead the CIA.
  • The Senate has a spate of confirmation hearings scheduled that will affect tech policy. The Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday for Elaine Chao, Trump’s intended nominee for secretary of transportation, a position that will hold sway over the regulation of self-driving cars. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick to lead the Commerce Department, will testify before the same panel on Thursday.
  • Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters Thursday that the formation of a new cybersecurity subcommittee within his panel will be complete in the coming week. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will chair the subcommittee.

Correction: A previous version provided the wrong date for the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian hacking. It’s scheduled for Tuesday.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Monday
No events scheduled
Tuesday
FCC hosts Informal Working Group Four on regulatory issues 10 a.m.
Clapper, Rogers, Brennan, Comey testify at Senate Intelligence Committee hearing 1 p.m.
Wednesday
Open Technology Institute event on internet freedom 9:30 a.m.
Rep. Pompeo testifies at Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for CIA post 10 a.m.
Reps. Hultgren, Luján speak at event on tech R&D 10 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing for Elaine Chao to lead Transportation Dept. 10:15 a.m.
Atlantic Council event on a nonstate strategy for cybersecurity 3:30 p.m.
Thursday
FTC hosts PrivacyCon 9 a.m.
Commerce Committee nomination hearing for Wilbur Ross to lead Commerce Dept. 10 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

 

Morning Consult Tech Top Reads

1) ‘A Grave Mistake’ — Rep. McCaul pushes back on Trump cyber-defense plan
Chris Bing, FedScoop

2) Trump Promises a Revelation on Hacking
Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

3) Constitutional Concerns Raised by House Rule Penalizing Live-Streaming
Brendan Bordelon, Morning Consult

4) Mark Zuckerberg shares Facebook’s secrets with all his employees, and almost none of it leaks
Kurt Wagner, Recode

5) T-Mobile CEO says Sprint merger is ‘potential outcome’ under Trump
Chris Welch, The Verge

6) Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility, say people close to investigation
Ellen Nakashima and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

7) Freshmen legislators to watch
Samantha Ehlinger, FedScoop

8) Five regulatory fights facing tech in 2017
Ali Breland, The Hill

9) Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top U.S. Spy Agency
Damian Paletta and Julian E. Barnes, The Wall Street Journal

10) The FBI Never Asked For Access To Hacked Computer Servers
Ali Watkins, BuzzFeed News

Briefings

Tech Brief: Lobbying Tech Groups Target NAFTA Renegotiations

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the number of tech companies and trade associations registered to lobby U.S., Canadian and Mexican government officials has more than doubled in the last few months. Companies like Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are looking to zero out tariffs for tech goods and remove restrictions on cloud storage as officials prepare to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tech Brief: Intel CEO Leaves Trump’s Manufacturing Council

Brian Krzanich, Intel Corp.’s chief executive, joined the chief executives of Merck and Under Armour in announcing that he would leave Trump’s council on American manufacturing following the president’s response to violence during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Krzanich said he resigned “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues.” 

Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit will not block the Federal Communications Commission’s April decision to eliminate price caps for much of the business broadband market. The FCC’s business data services ruling deems certain local markets as competitive, even when there is only one broadband service provider.

Tech Brief: Benchmark Capital Sues Former Uber CEO Kalanick

Benchmark Capital is suing Uber Technologies Inc.’s co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick for not honoring the terms of his resignation and allegedly trying to stack the company’s board with allies to prepare for a return as CEO. The Silicon Valley venture firm, one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, alleges that Kalanick is attempting to “entrench himself for his own selfish ends” — an accusation a Kalanick spokesman called “without merit.”

Tech Brief: Kaspersky Lab, Microsoft Reach Antitrust Resolution

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab plans to withdraw antitrust complaints it made in Europe against Microsoft Corp. after the U.S. tech company agreed to work with outside antivirus vendors on delivery of its security updates for Windows users. The Moscow-based security company in June accused Microsoft of abusing its dominance in the computer market by favoring its own antivirus software over those of independent security companies.

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