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

Morning Consult Tech Top Reads


Tech Brief: SEC Reveals It Was Hacked Last Year

The Securities and Exchange Commission said a computer system used for storing documents filed by publicly traded companies had been hacked last year. The cyberattack was first detected by the regulator last year, but the SEC said it had learned only last month that the compromised information may have been used in illegal stock trades.

Tech Brief: 3 House Democrats Call for FCC Investigation of Sputnik

Three Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether Sputnik, a news organization established by a Russian state-owned news agency, violated the public interest standard of its broadcast license with its radio show. Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to follow up on a New York Times Magazine report that suggested the organization used U.S. airwaves to broadcast programming aimed at influencing the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Tech Brief: FCC Requests More Information on Sinclair-Tribune Merger

The Federal Communications Commission asked Sinclair Broadcast Group to provide more information on its proposal to acquire Tribune Media Co., a merger currently pending FCC approval. The FCC’s Media Bureau chief wrote a letter to Sinclair asking the telecommunications company to present further information about the size of its current audience, as well as the steps the company plans to take to stay below the ownership cap.

Tech Brief: Kaspersky Agrees to Testify Before House Committee

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee invited Kaspersky Lab Inc. co-founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky to testify, along with other private and U.S. government cybersecurity experts, before the panel on Sept. 27, and he accepted the invitation — pending the acquisition of an expedited visa. The Moscow-based company, which makes antivirus software, is on the defensive from allegations it aids Russian espionage efforts.

Tech Brief: Judges Rule Uber-Waymo Case Will Go to Trial, Not Arbitration

A panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied Uber Technologies Inc.’s appeal request for its legal dispute with Waymo LLC to move to private arbitration and ruled a public trial will proceed as scheduled in October. The court also ruled that Uber must hand over a crucial report for Waymo’s case that could hold evidence Uber stole trade secrets related to the development of self-driving cars.

Tech Brief: House Democrats Request Answers From Equifax on Data Breach

Led by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), all 24 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Equifax Inc. CEO Richard Smith expressing concerns that it took more than a month for the company to reveal the massive data breach it said took place from mid-May through July, and about the scale and extent of the breach. The signers asked Smith to address these concerns prior to a planned hearing on the issue.

Tech Brief: Apple Expected to Unveil Premium Model ‘iPhone X’ Today

Apple Inc. plans to premiere the so-called iPhone X with a starting price of $999.00 at a 10th anniversary iPhone event on Tuesday, joining Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd in the market for luxury smartphones. In addition to the iPhone X, which uses infrared facial recognition to unlock the device, Apple is also expected to release cheaper models of the iPhone and an updated Apple Watch, with self-contained connect

Tech Brief: Two House Committees Call Hearings on Equifax Data Breach

Equifax Ltd. could be examined by up to three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives after a breach at the company exposed the data of roughly 143 million people. Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) of the Financial Services Committee and Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) of the Energy and Commerce Committee announced hearings, and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called for an investigation by the Judiciary Committee.

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