security

The last mile for TikTok-Oracle – Politico


With help from John Hendel

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— It ain’t over ‘til it’s over: The prospect of TikTok and WeChat bans drove a surge in downloads — and though the bans did not come to fruition Sunday as expected, neither app is in the clear.

— MT exclusive: A leading D.C. privacy group is planning to take legal action against TikTok and Oracle if the tech companies press ahead with their deal without adequate safeguards in place.

— National Voter Registration Day: It’s Tuesday, and Facebook announced this morning a weeklong voter registration push aimed at Facebook, Instagram and Messenger users.

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PUSH NOTIFICATION: ‘TIKTOK IS HERE TO STAY!’ — That’s the alert U.S. TikTok users received late Saturday, shortly after President Donald Trump approved a deal to allow the social media app to continue operating in the U.S. (TikTok would otherwise have been banned from U.S. app stores beginning Sunday night.) The push notification was accompanied by a happy video message from TikTok’s interim head, Vanessa Pappas. “We are here for the long run,” she told users with a big smile, speaking over upbeat instrumentals. “We are working with a U.S. tech partner to ensure that TikTok can continue to provide a home to each and every one of you, just as it does today, with no change to our users here in the U.S. or around the world.”

The news changed Monday to Friday, Friday to Saturday, and again Saturday to Sunday. Whiplash, we know. Here’s where we’re at heading into this week:

The deal: California-based Oracle will, under the agreement, become a minority shareholder in TikTok and have control over the company’s data in the U.S., Steven Overly reports on the hotly-watched deal. Walmart and several American venture capital firms will also own slices of the company, which will locate its global headquarters in the U.S. and appoint new leadership here. ByteDance, TikTok’s China-based parent company, will still own some 80 percent of the company.

— What say the Trump allies who’ve argued that this solution doesn’t go far enough to address national security concerns over the app’s alleged ties to China? Still not thrilled, and that backlash could continue to grow. Senate Intelligence Committee Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (Fla.) told Fox News on Sunday that his concerns about the Oracle deal remain, “no matter where the actual data is housed,” he said. “If there’s any opportunity whatsoever for China to continue to collect personal data on Americans, then we can’t be supportive of that deal.” The deal still needs formal U.S. government approval, due by Sept. 27.

— America carried on: As the saga played out in Washington, tributes to RBG poured in on TikTok. California teens danced against smoky backdrops using the hashtag #wildfire. On #teachersoftiktok, educators doing in-person instruction recorded shorts with their masked students. And stats show that talk of the ban early Friday prompted a rush to download the app before it was too late. TikTok was installed nearly 250,000 times in the U.S. on Friday, a 12 percent spike from Thursday, according to data analytics firm SensorTower.

— Meanwhile, in the land of WeChat: A judge on Sunday temporarily halted the Trump administration’s WeChat ban that was set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday night, citing possible First Amendment violations. (The Knight First Amendment Institute had flagged its own First Amendment concerns on Friday.) Like TikTok, the prospect of a ban by Sunday fueled an enormous spike in WeChat downloads leading into the weekend. WeChat was installed 10,000 times Friday, up 150 percent from Thursday and 233 percent week-over-week, per SensorTower. That day saw the most WeChat downloads in the U.S. in almost a year.

MT EXCLUSIVE: LEGAL ACTION LOOMING FOR TIKTOK, ORACLE — The Electronic Privacy Information Center intends to litigate against both TikTok and Oracle “if the companies move forward with the partnership and fail to adequately protect the privacy of TikTok users,” the D.C.-based privacy group wrote in letters to both firms. The correspondence, sent Friday, reiterated privacy concerns raised by the deal and outlined various demands to address those issues “in order to avoid litigation between EPIC, Oracle, and TikTok.” EPIC would do this under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which it used last year to force changes to AccuWeather’s privacy practices, senior counsel John Davisson told MT. The group copied the leaders of the FTC and the office of the D.C. attorney general on the letters, requesting responses by the end of this week.

2020 WATCH: NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION DAY — That’s happening Tuesday, and social media giants are helping to spread the word. Facebook, which estimates it has helped 2.5 million voters register this year through Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, is this morning announcing a week of action, displaying information at the top of the apps about how to register; launching a marketing campaign to drive users to its Voting Information Centers; and holding a “Vote-A-Thon” livestream with celebrities and Facebook Lives about voting with COO Sheryl Sandberg and vice president of product and social impact, Naomi Gleit. Meanwhile, Twitter last week started rolling out related PSAs for voters and Snapchat launched a similar push last month.

THIS WEEK: FLOOR VOTES ON SUICIDE HOTLINE, AIRWAVES A passel of telecom and media bills are up for House floor votes this week under suspension of the rules — meaning they’ll likely sail through. Full tally here.

— Notables: The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S. 2661 (116), which already cleared the Senate earlier this year and would designate 988 as a suicide hotline shortcode (sponsor Sen. Cory Gardner has clamored for this House vote); FCC-related disaster readiness measures like the READI Act, H.R. 6096 (116), which addresses emergency alerts, and H.R. 5918 (116), which addresses network outage reporting; and a bill from New York Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel called Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act, H.R. 451 (116), which would allow the FCC to call off a statutorily mandated spectrum auction set for next year that everyone agrees would be a waste.

WIRELESS GROUP BALKS AT PENTAGON 5G PLAY Wireless trade group CTIA, which represents big carriers like AT&T and Verizon, warns the U.S. must “stay the course and focus on private sector solutions and auctioned spectrum” in response to the Pentagon’s eyebrow-raising request Friday for feedback on ways of sharing 5G airwaves, as John reported for Pros. (MT readers will recall past outcry surrounding possible “5G nationalization” efforts.)

— President Donald Trump “last year concluded a national 5G network ‘won’t be nearly as good, nearly as fast’ as the U.S. wireless industry,” CTIA senior VP Nick Ludlum said in response. “He was right, and thanks to the Administration’s pro-market approach $29 billion was invested by the wireless industry in 2019 alone. Americans now benefit from two nationwide 5G networks and a third on the way.”

— Speaking of 5G: AT&T on Friday joined Verizon in raising questions about how many airwaves T-Mobile holds and whether the FCC needs to refine its limits and how they’re enforced. Watch these lobbying moves because they could dictate wireless carriers’ leeway in bidding for more spectrum at upcoming FCC sales like December’s C-band auction and next year’s proposed auction of 2.5 GHz airwaves.

VIEW FROM THE WEST COAST — California voters will soon decide whether to overhaul the state’s new data privacy law. POLITICO’s Katy Murphy breaks down how the Prop. 24 ballot measure came about and some of the key ways it would change the landmark California Consumer Privacy Act.

— Pro Analysis is here to help you get up-to-speed quickly on emerging issues, understand the power dynamics of who’s involved and how the process may unfold. As a DataPoint subscriber, Pro Analyses are sent directly to your inbox. You can also find them on our newly improved Pro Experience.

Tom Gara, former business editor at BuzzFeed News, was hired by Facebook as a manager in the office of the social network’s chief technology officer. … Clint Smith, a former senior vice president of corporate development and general counsel for DataStax, was hired as the first chief legal officer for the communications service Discord; Tesa Aragones, former chief marketing officer at VSCO, was named Discord’s chief marketing officer. … Tejasi Thatte, former vice president of government relations at NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, is now chief of staff for Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.).

ICYMI: “Facebook Tried to Limit QAnon. It Failed,” via NYT.

Across the pond: Facebook fears it will have to cease operations in the EU if data transfers to the U.S. are banned, POLITICO reports.

Not OK, says DOJ: “Six people have been indicted by a Grand Jury in the Western District of Washington with conspiring to pay over $100,000 in commercial bribes to Amazon employees and contractors, in exchange for an unfair competitive advantage on the Amazon Marketplace,” U.S. Attorney Brian Moran announced Friday.

Do you rem-emba… the 21st night of Sep-temba: No news here. Just had to squeeze in this Earth Wind and Fire reference to get your week started on a high note. Listen and enjoy!

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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