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Tech News Roundup - 08/01/2017

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Key Issues

Key Issues

Tech Politics

Sam Altman will spend big on a new political movement to fix U.S. housing, health care and more. After months of speculation, the leader of one of Silicon Valley’s most well-known startup incubators, Y Combinator, has launched The United Slate to advocate for fixing U.S. infrastructure and tackling other policy matters — and to find candidates for state and federal office who will carry that banner. (Recode)

Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama’s longest-serving aides, is joining Lyft’s board. Valerie Jarrett, one of President Barack Obama’s longest-serving staffers, is joining Lyft’s board of directors, the company announced on Monday. (Recode)

National study names top states for data innovation. New state rankings serve as a guidepost for leaders aspiring to be data-driven as they pursue solutions in policy areas ranging from opioids to education. (StateScoop)


White House Pushes Aggressive Tax-Overhaul Schedule. Background work on the legislation will happen during August in preparation for committee action in September, a House floor vote in October and a Senate vote in November, Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said at an event in Washington. (Wall Street Journal)

White House sees tax reform zipping through Congress in October, November. Markups will begin in September, Short said at an event hosted by a pair of conservative political groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers — Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity. (Politico)

The U.K. Won’t Become a Tax Haven After Brexit, Minister Promises. Britain won't become a corporate tax haven in order to stay competitive after leaving the EU, its Treasury chief promised at the weekend. (Fortune)


Op-ED: Free-Trade is a Two-Way Street. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross writes China, the EU and other trading partners put up formidable barriers to imports from America. For these governments, President Trump and his administration have a clear message: It is time to rebalance your trade policies so that they are fair, free and reciprocal. (Wall Street Journal)

Trump plan on China may come as soon as this week. President Donald Trump’s top advisers are huddling behind the scenes in a bid to craft a set of economic measures meant to punish China, two administration officials told POLITICO. (Politico)

U.S. Says It Will Fight ‘Distortions’ Caused by China's Economy. The tough message on China follows a tense meeting this month in Washington between senior economic officials from the world’s two biggest economies who failed to agree on trade issues. (Bloomberg)

China June Services Trade Deficit Widens as Chinese Spend Abroad. China's June services trade deficit rose to the highest since at least the end of 2013 as Chinese spent more abroad, data from the foreign exchange regulator showed on Monday. (Reuters)

As Washington Churns, the World Grows More Dangerous. North Korea, China and Russia pose growing tests for a beleaguered administration. (Wall Street Journal)

Guajardo names head of NAFTA office Mexico’s chief negotiator for modernization talks. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal has named Ken Smith Ramos the country’s chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement modernization talks, which are slated to begin in Washington next month. (Inside Trade)

U.S. role in WTO talks unclear as others prep for ministerial outcomes. The United States' continued “period of reflection” at the World Trade Organization has kept members unsure of what role the U.S. will play as members seek outcomes in various areas for the body's 11th ministerial conference, according to Geneva sources. (Inside Trade)

Net Neutrality

House GOP asks companies for input on net neutrality legislation. Republican lawmakers are pressing a group of tech and telecom companies to provide input on a possible net neutrality bill after the firms missed a deadline to agree to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the issue. (The Hill)

The chiefs of Facebook, Google and other tech giants aren’t committing to testify to the U.S. Congress on net neutrality. Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix — along with their telecom industry foes —have not committed to sending their chief executives to testify before the U.S. Congress in September on the future of net neutrality. (Recode)

House E&C sets Aug. 7 meeting to determine viability of net neutrality legislation and extends invitation deadline. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is extending Monday's self-imposed deadline it set for the four tech companies and four ISPs to respond to invitations for their CEOs to testify at its Sept. 7 net neutrality legislation hearing, committee communications director Zach Hunter said, citing "productive conversations." (Politico Pro)

The Next Front In Net Neutrality And Internet Privacy Wars Might Be Your Hometown. A court decision just strengthened local governments’ leverage over cable companies. (The Atlantic)


Game of Thrones script 'stolen in HBO hack'. A group of hackers claims to have stolen the script for a forthcoming Game of Thrones episode and other data in a breach at entertainment firm HBO, saying it has 1.5 terabytes of the company's data and added that more material would be released "soon". HBO confirmed it had experienced a "cyber incident" in a statement. (BBC)

FCC says its cybersecurity measures to prevent DDoS attacks must remain secret. The FCC has provided a few — very few — details of the steps it has taken to prevent attacks like the one that briefly took down its comment system in May. (TechCrunch)

DOD risks 'rogue' apps under current IoT policy. The Department of Defense must address some key security risks in its policies and guidance for Internet of Things devices, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. (FCW)

Global Cyber Alliance to launch security tool with privacy rules, smaller entities in mind. The nonprofit Global Cyber Alliance is preparing to introduce a new tool that blocks access to malicious sites delivered by email -- and is crafted for smaller entities with tight budgets and with tough new European Union privacy rules in mind. (Inside Cybersecurity)

House push before August recess produced progress on several cybersecurity fronts. House lawmakers raced to make progress on various legislative fronts in advance of a five-week recess that began at the end of last week, including passage of cybersecurity legislation addressing self-driving cars and a major reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security through two committees. (Inside Cybersecurity)

Fighting Cyberattacks With Volunteers. Michigan’s volunteer cybersecurity team can be deployed only in massive cyber emergencies. A bill in the Legislature would broaden its reach to smaller-scale security breaches. (RouteFifty)


Why OMB needs to lead on reducing federal SSN use. While the numbers serve as a unique identifier for Americans, they were never intended to serve as a proxy ID, and their widespread use potentially exposes citizens to risks of identity theft. (FCW)

Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent. A year ago, the FBI made an extraordinary demand of Apple to get inside a dead terrorist’s iPhone by creating a hackable version of the software that runs all iPhones. But facing great legal and political opposition, Apple took a stand. Yet in China over the weekend, when faced with a broad demand by the Chinese internet authority, it was Apple that blinked. (New York Times)

Privacy watchdog asks FTC to investigate Google's offline shopping tracker. A privacy watchdog group has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate how Google analyzes credit card data to track consumers’ offline shopping habits. (The Hill)


Sheryl Sandberg: WhatsApp encryption actually helps governments combat terrorism. Sheryl Sandberg defended Facebook's use of encryption in its popular messaging service WhatsApp, telling a BBC radio show that what limited data remains accessible can be useful to law enforcement as it seeks to thwart terrorist activity. (Washington Post)

Online Speech & Free Expression

For Facebook, erasing hate speech proves a daunting challenge. After years of saying the social network had minimal responsibilities for policing content, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wants to rebrand it as a safe space for community. But critics argue decisions about what posts are appropriate often fail the racial, religious and sexual minorities Zuckerberg says he aims to protect. (Washington Post)

Senators prep anti-human trafficking bill that alarms tech industry. Senators including Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill are expected to introduce a bill as soon as Tuesday to combat human trafficking — amid concerns in the tech sector about the measure's impact on the free flow of information online, according to industry sources. (PoliticoPro)

Tech companies policing the web will do more harm than good. The pressure that governments, media, and civil society are placing on technology companies to take meaningful action to stem the flow of this content is at an all-time high. But legislation or regulations requiring companies to remove content pose a range of risks, including potentially legitimizing repressive measures from authoritarian regimes. (Wired)

Public Sector

Lawmakers Rethink Federal Use of Kaspersky Lab Products. Congressional lawmakers and federal agencies are reevaluating the federal government’s relationship with Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab over concerns about the company’s ties with Russian intelligence services. (Morning Consult)

Pentagon to unveil new acquisition structure on Aug. 1. The Pentagon is scheduled to deliver its new acquisition structure to Congress on Tuesday, a major step toward redesigning how the building researches and procures equipment. (Defense News)

This agency can help fast track your tech acquisitions. The National Technical Information Service. Through the Joint Venture Partnership program authority, NTIS is able to pair federal agencies with vetted private-sector companies and organizations that best meet their technology needs—and fast. (NextGov)

Pentagon fixing problems that let fake federal agency get $1.2 million in military hardware. Officials from the Defense Logistics Agency told Congress that they have taken several steps to shore up the integrity of a program that distributes surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies after the Government Accountability Office demonstrated that it was highly susceptible to fraud. (Federal News Radio)

New border wall bill draws on Palmer Luckey’s new defense company. After being ousted from the VR empire he built, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is wasting no time on his next project: building the wall. As CNN reports, Luckey’s newfound interest in defense is evident in the Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology (SMART) Act, proposed by Texas Representative Will Hurd. (TechCrunch)

NASA program makes buying legit IT easier. NASA has launched a new program to help buyers using its governmentwide IT contract verify that the products they're buying are from legitimate sources. (NextGov)

The Wizards of Armageddon set up shop in Silicon Valley. The U.S. Government is slow when it comes to recognizing and regulating emerging technologies, but ready and waiting at an arms reach from the government, the Research and Development Corporation (RAND) has helped the U.S. think through some of the toughest scientific and regulatory challenges since the 1940s. This year, the think tank is opening its first office in the San Francisco Bay Area. (TechCrunch)

Arkansas appoints deputy technology director, chief data officer. The state technology office moves forward with a full roster for the first time since the appointment of its new director earlier this year. (StateScoop)

Environment and Energy

Tesla Batteries May Back Up Massachusetts Offshore Wind Farm. Deepwater Wind LLC is proposing to pair Tesla Inc. batteries with massive offshore wind turbines as part of a bid to supply the state of Massachusetts with clean energy generated at sea. The 144-megawatt development would stockpile electricity produced late at night, then deliver it when the grid needs it most. (Bloomberg)

Amazon and Wal-Mart Finally Found a Use for Hydrogen Power. Thanks to the thriving warehouse networks of online and big-box retailers, hydrogen has found a place inside growing fleets of forklifts. The numbers work out: they can be charged in minutes instead of hours, eliminating the labor cost of charging batteries, freeing up warehouse space and keeping goods flowing around the clock.(Bloomberg)

Nuclear Power’s Growth in U.S. Takes a Hit. Hopes for a U.S. nuclear renaissance dimmed Monday when the owner of a partially built power plant in South Carolina pulled the plug after its costs ballooned by billions of dollars. (Wall Street Journal)


What Silicon Valley doesn’t understand about men harassing women. To paraphrase Uber SVP Frances Frei: As more and more people speak out about harassment in tech, the industry has a chance to capitalize on that openness. Whether it has the willpower to follow through remains an open question. (Recode)

GM Hires Jeep Hackers as Detroit Battles Silicon Valley for Tech Talent. Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller made names for themselves a couple of years ago when they remotely hacked into a Jeep. Now they are going to work for General Motors. (Wall Street Journal)

How to Prepare Preschoolers for an Automated Economy. Technological advances have rendered an increasing number of jobs obsolete in the last decade, and researchers say parts of most jobs will eventually be automated. What the labor market will look like when today’s young children are old enough to work is perhaps harder to predict than at any time in recent history. (New York Times)


Virtual Reality Offers a New Tool to Tackle Trauma. Limbix, a start-up using Google headsets, helps psychologists expose patients to their anxieties in the safety of an office. (New York Times)

Tech Business

Business Loves Government Hand-Holding. Everyone from high-tech manufacturers to sports-team owners wring subsidies out of local politicians. Last week, was a case in point: Wisconsin, a state controlled by that patron of free markets known as the Republican Party, announced a deal with Foxconn Technology Co. to give $3 billion in incentives for the Taiwanese manufacturer of iPhones to build a flat-panel TV factory within its borders. In exchange, Wisconsin got...well, some nice words. (Bloomberg)

Reddit raised $200 million in funding and is now valued at $1.8 billion. The new funding round, the company’s largest ever, should expedite a number of internal product and business efforts, including a redesign of its homepage and its first foray into user-uploaded video. (Recode)

Tesla drops after Musk warns of 'manufacturing hell'. Shares of Tesla dropped 3.5 percent on Monday after Chief Executive Elon Musk warned that the electric carmaker would face "manufacturing hell" as it ramps up production of its new mass-market Model 3 sedan. (Reuters)

Fidelity’s valuation of Uber’s stock is the same without Travis Kalanick as it was with him. The firing of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has not revitalized investors’ perceptions of the $70 billion company, one of those financial backers disclosed this weekend. (Recode)

Bitcoin technology faces split, may create clone virtual currency. Bitcoin's underlying software code could be split on Tuesday to create a clone called "Bitcoin Cash," potentially providing a windfall for holders of the digital currency. The initiative is being led by a small group of mostly China-based bitcoin miners. (Reuters)

Spotify preps to go public with 60M subscribers, outpacing Apple. Spotify’s singular focus on music sees it adding subscribers faster than the iPhone company with a streaming app on the side. Spotify has added 20 million paid subscribers in less than a year, while it’s taken Apple Music more than a year and a half to make that progress (as of June). (TechCrunch)

Snap stock didn’t tank on Monday, the day its employee lockup expired. Many thought that Snap’s stock would tank as people rushed to cash out some of their shares. It didn’t. Despite a higher trade volume than any day since May, the stock fell just 1 percent and was up ever so slightly in after-hours trading. (Recode)

ITI Member News

Alphabet Sees Power in Molten Salt, a New Moonshot. Google parent Alphabet Inc. is pitching an idea to store power from renewable energy in tanks of molten salt and cold liquid, an example of the tech giant trying to marry its far-reaching ambitions with business demand. (Wall Street Journal)

As Amazon Grows, Sellers Look for Tailored Ad Services. Amazon’s rapidly expanding influence on the public is giving rise to a new side of the advertising industry. “Increasingly, if you win on Amazon, you win, period,” a beverage executive says. (New York Times)

Apple fails to end lawsuit claiming it 'broke' FaceTime. Apple Inc has failed in its bid to dismiss a lawsuit claiming it disabled the popular FaceTime video conferencing feature on older iPhones to force users to upgrade. (Reuters)

Facebook acquired an AI startup to help Messenger build out its personal assistant. Facebook has acquired Ozlo, a Palo Alto-based artificial intelligence startup, to help Messenger build out a more elaborate virtual assistant for users. (Recode)

Today on the Hill

The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00am on Tuesday, August 1. Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of Executive Calendar #172, Kevin Christopher Newsom, of Alabama, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit, post-cloture. The Senate will recess from 12:30pm until 2:15pm to allow for the weekly caucus meetings.

The House is not in session today and not expected to return from August recess until votes are called after 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 5.

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