- The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents major Silicon Valley firms in Washington, criticized recently introduced immigration legislation backed by President Donald Trump which the trade group says would limit access to STEM-skilled workers. GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) introduced the legislation at the White House with Trump.
- Tech giants and startups asked the Trump administration not to rescind a rule proposed by former President Barack Obama that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to the United States for two years, with the potential to stay longer. The International Entrepreneur Rule was set to take effect this year, but last month the Department of Homeland Security delayed its implementation until March 2018.
- Canadian government officials and tech company executives, meanwhile, are taking advantage of tightening immigration and H-1B visa policies under the Trump administration to lure potential employees across the border. Factors include public health care and greater job security.
Companies concede to a rise in censorship
- Apple Inc. agreed to remove virtual private network applications from its app stores in China. The Chinese government has been bolstering its “great firewall,” which blocks access to many, mostly foreign, websites — a firewall that VPNs could circumvent. The company defended its actions, saying it complies with the law in every country, but is facing public backlash for giving into China’s censorship demands. With the company’s largest foreign market as well as its production line based in the country, it would have a lot to lose if it didn’t comply with China’s rules.
- Amazon.com Inc. followed suit and is also complying with the Chinese government’s censorship efforts. The company that operates Amazon Web Services in China sent emails to its customers telling them to stop using software that could circumvent the country’s “Great Firewall.”
Congress on cybersecurity
- Concerned about cybersecurity risks posed by the “internet of things,” Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill to have the federal government’s procurement of connected devices meet “thorough, yet flexible” guidelines. Internet-connected devices are vulnerable to distributed denial of service attacks and some can effectively be reconfigured to spy on users.
Senate committees advanced two bipartisan bills designed to give students and small businesses incentives to boost their cyber skills as part of an effort to combat the growing threat from cyberattacks.
Despite founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky’s denial that his Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, which makes security software, has any connection to Russian intelligence, lawmakers are seeking to stop federal government use of the firm. Kaspersky has said he’s willing to testify before Congress about his company’s alleged ties to Russian spy services.
Facebook upping its AI game
- Apple’s Siri is about to get some competition: Facebook Inc. announced its acquisition of artificial intelligence startup Ozlo Inc., which is to be layered in with the company’s Messenger app. The hope is that Ozlo can help Messenger build a better virtual assistant.
Facebook said it plans to use improved machine learning that will identify fake news and send such articles to third-party fact checkers, who will add an addendum to suspicious posts. The move is part of the company’s efforts to fight fake news following criticism that those types of articles influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election.