security

Is Kamala Harris a win for Silicon Valley? – Politico


With help from Eric Geller, Doug Palmer and Leah Nylen

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— Veep digest: As a 2020 hopeful, Sen. Kamala Harris was said to be Silicon Valley’s choice candidate until Pete Buttigieg won their hearts. Joe Biden’s now-second-in-command counts CEOs, founders, presidents and executives of the world’s leading tech companies as donors.

— Congress queries Dorsey: All eyes are on social media firms to prove they can protect their platforms in the lead-up to Election Day — yet Twitter’s briefing to Congress on the massive hack in July stoked even more fears, and fresh questions, about the company’s preparedness.

— Tell me more, tell me more: The head of the U.S.-China Business Council is calling on the Trump administration to show proof that Chinese apps like TikTok and WeChat actually pose risks to U.S. national security, taking issue with evidence being presented only “in very vague terms.”

GREETINGS, TECHLINGS: IT’S WEDNESDAY. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.

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TAKING SILICON VALLEY’S TEMPERATURE ON KAMALA HARRIS — “With Kamala Harris’ elevation to the second spot on Joe Biden’s presidential ticket, Silicon Valley gets both a tough critic of the internet’s worst abuses and a home-state senator with which it thinks it can work,” POLITICO’s Nancy Scola reports.”Harris’ selection as Biden’s running mate is all the more consequential for tech given that the Biden campaign has yet to carve out a distinct portfolio on technology matters. The campaign’s sprawling network of some 700 experts meant to serve as its ‘innovation’ council ranges from tech industry figures to tech critics. That leaves tech as an area within the Biden operation that’s at once high-profile and unsettled, giving Harris an opportunity to make her mark.”

— What say you, tech industry? Washington’s leading tech trade groups stayed mostly mum following the announcement (TechNet was one exception). But we know Harris counts quite a few Silicon Valley CEOs, founders and executives among her supporters. The Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which has been tracking tech’s ties to the election, identified a handful of donors: Microsoft president Brad Smith, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs, Oracle NetSuite founder Evan Goldberg, Oracle executive vice president Dorian Daley, Cisco executive vice president and CFO Kelly Kramer, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky, Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos, and other high profile executives from Apple, Google, IBM, eBay, Intel and Square. (Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was happy, too.)

More here on Harris’ views on tech and telecomand beyond.

— Plus: Today’s eyeballs watching emoji goes to… Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the Silicon Valley congressman whose name is being floated as a contender to take Harris’ Senate seat if she and Biden make it to the White House.

TWITTER BRIEFED CONGRESS ON THE HISTORIC HACK. IT WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH — Twitter’s briefing last week for the House Oversight Committee on the platform’s massive July hack didn’t satisfy the panel’s top Republican, who wrote to CEO Jack Dorsey on Tuesday pressing for more detailed information. “Twitter was unable to answer even basic questions about employee access to user accounts and Twitter’s arrangement with its contractors,” wrote Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.).

— The thing about working from home: Twitter told the Oversight Committee that the breach resulted from hackers exploiting employees who were working from home, according to Comer’s letter. The lawmaker requested Twitter’s guidance on telework, saying the company had failed to explain to the committee how it would protect powerful administrator tools in a remote work environment (and remember: Twitter employees may be working from home forever). He also asked Dorsey to describe Twitter’s cybersecurity training procedures, share the company’s incident response plan and list all employees who can modify user accounts.

What’s next: Comer asked for responses by August 18. And with less than 90 days to go before Election Day, all eyes are on Twitter and other social media platforms to prove they’ve built the muscle to prevent the sorts of meddling that rocked the 2016 election cycle. “The damage a malicious nation-state could do if they were to devote resources towards compromising Twitter’s security could be grave,” Comer wrote.

U.S.-CHINA BUSINESS COUNCIL URGES TRUMP TO PROVE CHINA APPS’ RISK — President Donald Trump’s executive orders banning American companies from doing business with two Chinese-owned apps, TikTok and WeChat, raise concerns about the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, Craig Allen, head of the U.S.-China Business Council, a business group, said on Tuesday. He called on the Trump administration to share whatever evidence it has that the companies pose a national security threat to the U.S.

— “Right now, the evidence has been presented in very vague terms, without any level of granularity that would give one comfort that rule of law and due process has been fully given to foreign companies operating in the U.S. market,” Allen said during a briefing. Any company that has violated U.S. law “should be prosecuted through the courts and punishments should fit the crime,” Allen said. The executive orders would bar companies and people within U.S. jurisdictions from carrying out “transactions” with the two apps after Sept. 20.

— WeChat: Depending on how the executive orders are implemented, that could have major consequences for U.S. companies that rely on WeChat to communicate with Chinese customers and collect payments. (WeChat is owned by Tencent, a huge Chinese company which operates a video streaming service.) Allen noted that limiting commercial engagement would hurt trade.

— TikTok: The wildly popular video-sharing app owned by ByteDance is a “very different company,” Allen said. “But again, we encourage the administration to appropriately calibrate the scope of this executive order…. If we single out individual companies, we should anticipate that other governments will do the same for American companies.” It’s been a bumpy few weeks for TikTok — with Trump administration threats of a ban in the U.S. and talks of an acquisition by Microsoft capped by news of the executive order late last week.

MEANWHILE, ON TIKTOK: LALALA, CORONAVIRUS! — As Americans skirt social distancing guidelines and Covid-19 keeps spreading across the country, TikTokkers have taken to the app to document, and even shame, the crowds and the maskless, I write in today’s edition of Future Pulse.

— The hook: Viral videos set to a Hot Chelle Rae tune and remixed with a catchy pandemic-themed chant (“Lalala, coronavirus!”) show hordes of people gathering without masks at bars and restaurants and on beaches and boardwalks from the Jersey Shore to Chicago, Tennessee, Georgia, California and beyond. “You’re the reason I’ll have to close my business,” one video says. “Thank you so much!!! Hope you’re happy now.” Prompts at the bottom of the videos direct viewers to “learn the facts about Covid-19.”

— More on the role of tech during the pandemic in POLITICO’s new Future Pulse newsletter.

BY THE NUMBERS: CONSERVATIVES FOR BREAK-UPS? Republican voters are more likely than Democrats to support breaking up big tech companies like Facebook and Instagram, according to a study released Tuesday by progressive advocacy groups. Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative, a progressive non-profit focused on reforming the U.S. criminal justice system, polled more than 1,200 likely voters in July and found that a majority — 54 percent — support or strongly support breaking up Big Tech. Among Republicans, that support jumped to 60 percent. Some 26 percent of respondents said they are opposed or strongly opposed to it.

— Telecom and cable: Support for break-ups in the telecom and cable markets is even higher at 62 percent for all likely voters (with 21 percent opposed). Some 68 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of respondents said they support splitting up telecom and cable companies.

— Merger ban: A majority of those surveyed — 57 percent — said they are in favor of a ban on mergers by companies or hedge funds worth more than $100 million — which is at the center of the legislation backed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Another supporter, Rep. Jesus Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.), said a Democratic Joe Biden administration would have a chance to change how the Justice Department and FTC operate, but Congress should still act. “It’s time to pass laws that take on corporate power,” Garcia said on Tuesday’s episode of The Briefing, co-produced by progressive news outfits The Appeal and Now This.

Lina Khan, counsel for House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee who has helped lead the panel’s probe into tech market power, is joining the Columbia Law School faculty in September as an associate professor teaching a seminar on the antimonopoly legal tradition. … Carl Holshouser, a former strategic policy adviser to Fortune 500 companies at PwC and co-leader of the firm’s trade policy platform, is joining TechNet as senior vice president for operations and strategic initiatives, focused on the group’s advocacy efforts. … Former Apple executive Darren Goode is joining the online rental marketplace Zumper as its first chief marketing officer. … 27 CEOs, including from Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft, on Tuesday launched the New York Jobs CEO Council with the “aim to hire 100,000 traditionally underserved New Yorkers by 2030.”

The Department of Labor “is moving to reassign its top West Coast litigator, Janet Herold, who spearheaded a series of employment discrimination lawsuits against Silicon Valley tech giants, including a pending case against Oracle,” Bloomberg Law reports.

Pinterest problems: Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, who was then its top female executive, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the company of gender discrimination, NYT reports.

More trouble for TikTok?: A WSJ analysis found that “TikTok skirted a privacy safeguard in Google’s Android operating system to collect unique identifiers from millions of mobile devices, data that allows the app to track users online without allowing them to opt out.”

In profile: Floyd Abrams, “one of the most prominent First Amendment lawyers in the country,” who has been hired by the controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI, NYT reports.

ICYMI: “Facebook penalized millions more posts containing hate speech during the second quarter of the year amid increased criticism from civil rights organizations that the social network has not done enough to protect its users,” Steven reports.

Welcome to the club: “After nine years as CEO of Apple, Tim Cook is now a billionaire,” CNN reports.

Comin’ for ya, Zoom bombers: A New Jersey Assemblyman introduced a bill aimed at outlawing Zoom bombing under the state’s computer crime law, POLITICO reports.

Podcast OTD: The latest episode of Gigi Sohn’s “G&T: Tech on the Rocks” podcast features a conversation on content moderation and Section 230 with Reddit’s director of policy, Jessica Ashooh, and Wikimedia’s senior public policy manager, Sherwin Siy. Listen on Apple, Google and Spotify.

Qualcomm win: An appeals court ruled Tuesday that “Qualcomm’s refusal to sell its technology to other companies unless they agreed to a patent license doesn’t violate U.S. antitrust law,” Leah reports — “in a major blow to both the FTC and rival tech giants like Intel.”

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Heidi Vogt ([email protected], @HeidiVogt), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).

TTYL.





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