Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Tech in the storm

  • A number of tech companies donated and facilitated help to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Telecom carriers were contributing, too. Verizon Communications Inc. customers in South Texas who have been impacted by the storm may not have to worry about their data usage as a result of the disaster. Through Sept. 8, the company is providing unlimited data, talk and texts to post-paid users, and 3 GB of free data to pre-paid users in the region.
  • Despite a viral post on Twitter Inc. that led to the rescue of residents of a care home and a number of successful crowdsourcing efforts, public safety officials asked stranded Harvey victims not to request help via the platform. Though phone batteries were dying while people wait for a response, officials said posts on social media were not guaranteed to be seen and are difficult to verify if they are.
  • The Department of Homeland Security cautioned against phishing scams preying on those aiming to help Harvey’s victims. The department advised the public to call organizations asking for money directly and to install antivirus software, as cybercriminals could ask for donations or attach malware to users’ computers if they click on email content.
  • IT professionals are wanted following the storm, and Office of Personnel Management acting Director Kathleen McGettigan gave agencies permission to hire some of them directly. A memo from McGettigan also allows for certain acquisition hires through Sept. 30.
  • Harvey, which could so far have resulted in up to an estimated $20 billion in damages, presents insurance companies with an opportunity to scale up their use of drones in assessing property damage. Companies such as Allstate Corp. are reportedly preparing to dispatch dozens of drones in the affected area.

Uber has a new boss

  • Dara Khosrowshahi, formerly head of Expedia Inc., will take over as CEO of Uber Technologies Inc.
  • Khosrowshahi led his first all-staff meeting and indicated his support for the company going public, suggesting an initial public offering was likely in the next 18-36 months. Khosrowshahi is tasked with rewriting Uber’s corporate values, parts of which were used to justify controversies that have plagued the company.
  • Just as Uber is expected to end to its practice of tracking users’ post-ride locations as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over the exposure of customers’ private data, the Department of Justice could launch a full-scale investigation into whether Uber managers violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans companies from bribing foreign officials in order to get or keep business. An Uber spokesperson said the company is cooperating with the DOJ on its initial probe.
  • The firm could avoid some negative publicity, as a Delaware court decided that a case brought against former CEO Travis Kalanick by Benchmark Company LLC, one of Uber’s earliest supporters, should move to arbitration. Benchmark accused Kalanick of packing the Uber board in his favor.
  • Meanwhile, Lyft Inc. is swooping in, expanding service to locations not covered by Uber, including hard-to-reach rural areas. The move also increases Lyft’s presence nationally to full coverage in 40 states.

What’s Ahead

  • The House and Senate are scheduled to return from summer recess Sept. 5.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee indefinitely postponed a much-anticipated hearing on net neutrality, in which the largest tech companies and internet service providers were invited to testify, and replaced it with a hearing on spectrum repacking. That hearing is scheduled to take place Thursday.
  • The second round of negotiations for updating the North American Free Trade Agreement has started in Mexico City and is slated to continue through Sept. 5.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Federal holiday — no events scheduled
FCC WRC-19 regulatory issues meeting 1 p.m.
Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the Lifeline program 10 a.m.
FCC WRC-19 space services meeting 1 p.m.
ITIF event on global digital technology 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce hearing on repacking 10 a.m.
Event on open internet with FCC Chairman Pai 12 p.m.
Next Century Cities hosts Tech-Powered Civic Engagement 3 p.m.
No events scheduled

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