Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Broadcom moves closer to acquiring Qualcomm

  • Chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. urged rival Broadcom Ltd. to enter into direct negations on its bid for the company and said the two sides had made progress on issues at a meeting last month. Broadcom has been aggressively bidding to acquire Qualcomm but cut its offer by 4 percent to $117 billion as it objected to Qualcomm’s decision to raise its own bid for NXP Semiconductors NV to $44 billion.
  • Qualcomm reportedly dropped objections to being acquired by Broadcom and is willing to agree to a deal if the rival company raises its offer to $160 billion, including assumed debt. Qualcomm’s reversal marks a significant change for the company’s executives, who previously objected to any deal over antitrust concerns.
  • The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a national security panel with the ability to stop mergers harmful to U.S. security, has begun looking at Broadcom’s planned effort to acquire Qualcomm, according to sources familiar with the matter. CFIUS has reportedly been in touch with at least one of the companies in the proposed merger, and previously met last month to discuss a potential merger of the two large semiconductor companies.

Equifax discovers more data breach victims

  • Credit reporting firm Equifax Inc. said it discovered another 2.4 million U.S. consumers impacted by a data breach that occurred last year, bringing the number of consumers with personal information accessed by hackers to roughly 147.9 million, up from the 143 million initially reported in September. The new information, which was disclosed as part of the company’s continuing analysis of the data compromised in the attack, is the second revision to the number of U.S. consumers impacted by the attack since Equifax publicly disclosed the breach.

Supreme Court hears arguments in privacy rights case

  • The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a privacy rights fight between internet giant Microsoft Corp. and the Justice Department over whether a company can be compelled to turn over customers’ emails stored on overseas servers. Privacy rights advocates say a victory for the government would allow any country to seek data stored anywhere in the world, while the Justice Department argues that a win for Microsoft would potentially create inaccessible data havens for criminals.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito – members of the court’s conservative wing – expressed sympathy for the DOJ’s stance that Microsoft is a U.S.-based company and is obliged to turn over data held abroad when it is sought by prosecutors with a warrant, while more liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court needs to take any action due to Congress considering bipartisan legislation to resolve the legal issue.

Net neutrality advocates push to overturn FCC’s ruling

  • Democratic lawmakers officially introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to undo the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules at the end of last year. The effort, led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), currently has the support of 50 senators – including every Democrat and independent member, as well as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) – and needs the backing of one more Republican to ensure Senate passage.
  • Activists held a net neutrality day of action to push for one more Republican senator to support the CRA resolution. Supporters targeted the offices of Republican lawmakers they believe can be swayed to support the effort, such as Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Dean Heller (Nev.), although the bill faces difficult odds in the GOP-controlled House if it passes the Senate.
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended the agency’s net neutrality repeal at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, saying that lighter regulations will amount to “targeted enforcement.” Pai, who spearheaded the agency’s controversial net neutrality rollback push, reportedly skipped an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in January because of death threats that he received from the repeal efforts.

Russian hacking and influence campaign efforts

  • Russian military spies hacked into several hundred computers used by authorities at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea and made it appear as though the intrusion was caused by North Korea, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Olympic officials previously confirmed that the games were hit by a cyberattack during the Feb. 9 Opening Ceremonies that disrupted the internet, broadcast systems and the Olympics website, and analysts believe the attack was retaliation against the International Olympic Committee for banning the Russian team from the Winter Games due to doping violations.
  • National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers told a Senate panel that U.S. officials have not done enough to deter Russian meddling campaigns in national elections and acknowledged that President Donald Trump has not directed cybersecurity officials to take a more aggressive stance against Kremlin-sponsored efforts. Rogers, who made the comments during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, added that he lacks “the day-to-day authority” to stop Russian influence efforts where they originate.
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is assembling a case to pursue criminal charges against the Russian hackers who stole and leaked private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, according to sources familiar with the matter. The possible new charges would reportedly rely on secret intelligence gathered by U.S. agencies such as the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security, and would delve into the details and people behind the Russian intelligence operations that stole emails from both the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta.

What’s Ahead

  • The Senate and House are in session this week.
  • Democratic and Republican leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee announced a bipartisan agreement on legislation to reauthorize the FCC and spur the deployment of next-generation wireless services. The legislation is expected to be voted on in the House on March 6.
  • Trump plans to meet with leaders from the video game industry this week to discuss depictions of violence in games. Trump has repeatedly said that violent video games may be connected to young people committing acts of mass murder following the shooting at a Florida high school last month that killed 17 people.
  • The FCC is scheduled to hold its next public meeting on March 22. The agency also released its tentative meeting agenda, which includes consideration of a notice of inquiry examining location-based routing of wireless 911 calls.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on NTIA 10 a.m.
Senate Finance Committee hearing on protecting e-commerce consumers from counterfeits 10 a.m.
House Small Business subcommittee hearing on rural broadband 10 a.m.
DOT and NHTSA meeting on self-driving vehicles 10 a.m.
ITIF event on piracy and streaming media boxes 9 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on emerging tech’s impact on retail 10 a.m.
House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on legislative proposals to reform data security systems 2 p.m.
FCBA committee meeting on public safety communications systems 6 p.m.
US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on next generation connectivity 9:30 a.m.
World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee meeting 11 a.m.
Silicon Flatirons event on Section 512 Safe Harbor 1 p.m.
CICA event on EU general data protection regulation 12 p.m.

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