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Tech News Roundup - 01/12/2018

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Senate report challenges quality of Facebook, Twitter investigations on Russia's Brexit influence. A report commissioned by Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee challenges the adequacy of Twitter's and Facebook's investigations into Russian manipulation of their platforms to influence British politics. (The Hill)

Controversial Anti-Sex Trafficking Bill Could Get Vote This Month. A controversial anti-sex trafficking bill that's pitted the tech industry against human rights advocates for months may finally get a Senate vote in the coming weeks. (Next Gov)

GOP leaders feel squeeze as shutdown threat nears. Concerns are mounting over whether GOP leaders can wrangle the votes to avoid a government shutdown next week - with Republicans feeling pinched on the right and left. (Politico Pro)

In October, Twitter Promised An Ad Transparency Center In 'Coming Weeks.' Where Is It?. Responding to Russian election meddling on its platform last October, Twitter promised to introduce an ad transparency center "in the coming weeks." There's still no sign of it. (Buzzfeed)

France to vet takeovers of firms in data and artificial intelligence. The French government aims to broaden its powers to block foreign takeovers of French companies deemed as strategic, to also include firms involved in data protection and artificial intelligence ('AI'), the finance minister said on Friday. (Reuters)

Corporations may dodge billions in U.S. taxes through new loophole: experts. A loophole in the new U.S. tax law could allow multinational corporations like Apple Inc to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes on profits stashed overseas, according to experts. (Reuters)

Tax Overhaul's New Withholding Calculations for Paychecks Are Released. The Treasury Department on Thursday updated its rules for tax withholding from paychecks, changing calculations so most workers will start getting more take-home pay in February as a result of the recently passed tax law. (Wall Street Journal)

New tax guidelines rely on workers to double-check their paychecks. Millions of Americans will need to use a new Internal Revenue Service online calculator to ensure their new paychecks are accurate, Trump administration officials said Thursday as they issued guidelines for implementing the recently passed tax law. (Washington Post)

Tax payouts deliver a wave of hope and hype. Republicans are basking in a wave of good publicity for their giant tax cut. (Politico Pro)

To Lift Paychecks, Treasury Urges Companies to Act Quickly on New Tax Law. The Treasury Department took the first step toward carrying out the $1.5 trillion Republican tax overhaul on Thursday, releasing new tax withholding tables and encouraging companies to incorporate them as soon as possible so workers can begin seeing bigger paychecks. (New York Times)

Trump attacks protections for immigrants from 'shithole' countries. President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting. (Washington Post)

Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa. President Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and African countries, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from "shithole countries" rather than people from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation. (New York Times)

Immigration Talks Muddled Amid Trump's Vulgar Comments. President Donald Trump questioned why the U.S. would admit people from "shithole countries" Thursday, roiling discussions over a bipartisan Senate deal to protect young undocumented immigrants. (Wall Street Journal)

White House: No deal yet on immigration. A bipartisan group of senators working to resolve the status of young undocumented immigrants, border security and restrictions on legal migration has offered an opening bid on an agreement and is seeking support from fellow senators and President Trump. (Washington Post)
Trump rebuffs Dreamers deal reached by senators. A bipartisan group of six senators has reached a deal that would shield Dreamers from deportation and make other changes to immigration laws and border security - but the framework has yet to win over the White House and other key players on Capitol Hill. (Politico)

House Extends Surveillance Law, Rejecting New Privacy Safeguards. The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program for six years with minimal changes, rejecting a push by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to impose significant privacy limits when it sweeps up Americans' emails and other personal communications. (New York Times)

House Passes Bill Reupping Foreign Electronic Surveillance. The House on Thursday approved an extension of an expiring surveillance law while also rejecting a last-ditch effort by civil libertarians to add significant privacy and legal protections for Americans caught up in U.S. overseas spying. (Wall Street Journal)

Congress renews warrantless surveillance - and makes it even worse. In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was legally collecting millions of Americans' phone calls and electronic communications-including emails, Facebook messages, and browsing histories-without a warrant. (Wired)

Filibuster threat means Trump needs Senate Democrats to pass spying bill. The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that would extend a controversial government spying power known as "Section 702" for another six years-without new privacy safeguards that had been sought by civil liberties groups. (Ars Technica)

Surveillance bill clears key hurdle amid confusion over Trump tweets. The House on Thursday passed a long-term extension of controversial online spying tools just hours after President Donald Trump sparked confusion with successive tweets that condemned, then supported the measure. (Politico Pro)

Global Trade

Canadian companies struggle to plan for post-NAFTA world. Canadian industries that would be most acutely impacted by the death of the North American Free Trade Agreement are unable to meaningfully plan for a possible post-NAFTA world given the uncertainty of what could replace it, analysts and executives said. (Reuters)

Canada talks tough on trade as endgame on NAFTA talks nears. Canada is talking tough with the United States, stressing its determination to push back against what it says are unfair trade practices ahead of crucial talks to revamp the tri-nation North American Free Trade Agreement. (Reuters)

NAFTA supporters use stock market to try to dissuade Trump from withdrawing from trade deal. When President Trump met with six Republican senators last week to talk about trade, the lawmakers issued a stark warning: Implementing an unrestrained "America first" agenda - such as withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement - would endanger stock prices that have soared since his election. (Washington Post)

Trump: No decision on NAFTA pullout before Mexican election in July. President Donald Trump on Thursday indicated he would wait at least until after the Mexican presidential election July 1 before deciding whether to withdraw from NAFTA. (Politico Pro)

Commerce Department turns results of steel import investigation over to Trump. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced Thursday night that Sec. Wilbur Ross submitted to President Trump the results of the department's investigation into how steel imports affect national security. (Axios)

Artificial Intelligence

This Army of AI Robots Will Feed the World. And it could do it while eliminating herbicides, replenishing topsoil, and reducing carbon consumption. If all goes to plan. (Bloomberg)

CES 2018: What the Gadget Fest Looks Like in 'the Year of A.I.'. The clear darling of this year's show was not a gadget but the growing amount of artificial intelligence software helping these products run. (New York Times)

Three Things Robots Need to Be Your Ideal Home Companion. As robots evolve, homes will need fewer R2-D2s and more C-3POs. Which one would you rather have cooking your dinner-a bleeping trash can or a tall shiny-metal figure with arms and legs? (Wall Street Journal)


Qualcomm Set to Win European Backing for $39 Billion NXP Buy. European Union conditional antitrust approval of the deal could come as soon as next week. (Wall Street Journal)


FCC pauses review of Sinclair's plan to buy Tribune Media Co. The Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday that it was pausing its review of Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc's plan to buy Tribune Media Company. (Reuters)

Public Sector

Despite FITARA, CIOs still don't have an overview of agency IT investments. Federal agencies still don't have clear insight into where and how they're spending IT dollars, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. (Fed Scoop)

GSA Plans to Formalize Cyber Rules for Contractors. The General Services Administration plans to submit cybersecurity requirements that it already imposes on contractors through a federal regulatory process this year, the agency said Thursday. (Next Gov)


Signal partners with Microsoft to encrypt Skype messages. Encrypted messaging app Signal said it had partnered with Microsoft Corp to encrypt messages on the technology giant's online communications service, Skype. (Reuters)

FBI security expert: Apple are 'jerks' about unlocking encrypted phones. Federal Bureau of Investigation officials are continuing to voice their displeasure with Apple's approach to iPhone security, with one FBI official reportedly calling the company "jerks" and an "evil genius" this week. (Ars Technica)

Internet of Things

GM plans car without a steering wheel or pedals for 2019. Cruise, General Motors' autonomous vehicle unit, plans to mass produce a self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals by 2019, the company said on Thursday. It says it has submitted a safety report as well as an application to regulators to approve the design, its fourth-generation model. (Axios)

Intel says chips take 6% hit from Spectre, Meltdown fixes. Patches that fix the security flaws also make the processors run slower in some circumstances, according to Intel. (CNET)

Intel Warns Its Patches for Chip Flaws Are Buggy. Intel is quietly advising some customers to hold off installing patches that address new security flaws affecting virtually all of its processors. It turns out the patches had bugs of their own. (Wall Street Journal)

Intel, Microsoft offer differing views on impact of chip flaw. As much of the tech industry tries to assess how a massive chip vulnerability will affect them, Microsoft and Intel differ significantly on how the fixes for the issue impacts performance, especially on older PCs. (Axios)

Pentagon Thwarts 36 Million Email Breach Attempts Daily. Every day, the Defense Department thwarts 36 million emails full of malware, viruses and phishing schemes from hackers, terrorists and foreign adversaries trying to gain unauthorized access to military systems. (Next Gov)

AMD chips exposed to both variants of Spectre security flaw. Advanced Micro Devices Inc said on Thursday its microprocessors are susceptible to both variants of the Spectre security flaw, days after saying its risk for one of them was "near zero". (Reuters)

Google says its security patches not slowing down systems. Alphabet Inc's Google said on Thursday it had already deployed software patches against the Spectre and Meltdown chipset security flaws last year, without slowing down its cloud services. (Reuters)

Equifax subject of most consumer bureau complaints in all but one state: analysis. Equifax was the subject of more consumer bureau complaints than any other financial services company in all but one state in 2017, according to an analysis of agency data published Thursday. (The Hill)

Intel Fumbles Its Patch for Chip Flaw. Intel is quietly advising some customers to hold off installing patches that address new security flaws affecting virtually all of its processors. It turns out the patches had bugs of their own. (Wall Street Journal)

Intel says fix for massive flaw may itself be causing problems. Intel said Thursday night that a firmware update it issued for a massive chip vulnerability may be causing some computers to reboot themselves more often. (Axios)


Robots Can't Vote, but They Helped Elect Trump. When you look across America to see where jobs and wages have been lost to robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, it is the middle of the country that stands apart from the rest. (New York Times, OpEd)

Silicon Valley "sex party" was at Steve Jurvetson's home. Silicon Valley was rocked earlier this month by revelations of sex and drug parties attended by the tech elite, as detailed in a Vanity Fair excerpt of journalist Emily Chang's upcoming book Brotopia. (Axios)

Google executives stopped employees discussing diversity and hiring, claims former engineer. A memo written by a former Google engineer claims that senior executives at the company intervened to stop employees discussing matters involving diversity and hiring policies. (The Verge)

Oil prices rise to hit four-year high of $70 a barrel. The price of oil has hit $70 a barrel for the first time since December 2014. (BBC)


Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Survives, but G.M. and Tesla Aren't Cheering. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan called electric vehicle tax credits "money wasted on losers." The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, said he'd "do away" with renewable energy subsidies. (New York Times)

Climate of Unaccountability. Are foundations running state energy policy without transparency? (Wall Street Journal, Editorial)

Plastics Pile Up as China Refuses to Take the West's Recycling. Ever since China announced last year that it no longer wanted to be the "world's garbage dump," recycling about half of the globe's plastics and paper products, Western nations have been puzzling over what to do when the ban went into effect, which it did on Jan. 1. (New York Times)

Tech Business
Facebook, Alphabet shifted in sector classification system. S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI said on Thursday they would rename their Telecommunication Services Sector and add Comcast Corp, Netflix, Facebook and Alphabet to the newly broadened category. (Reuters)

Inside Amazon's Quest for Global Domination. Amazon has invested aggressively to expand overseas but the results have been a mixed bag. (Wall Street Journal)

Dropbox Is Said to Be Planning to Go Public This Year. Silicon Valley has birthed many highly valued and hugely hyped start-ups in recent years, including Uber, Airbnb and Pinterest. Few of those companies have made it out onto the stock market successfully. (New York Times)

ITI Member News

Shareholders Urge Facebook, Twitter to Tackle Online Harassment. Boutique investment firm Arjuna Capita and New York State Common Retirement Fund in resolutions say the companies played 'unfortunate role' in 'escalating sexual harassment, hate speech and fake news online'. (Wall Street Journal)
Facebook Considers Prioritizing Trustworthy News Sources in Feed. Facebook is considering changing how it prioritizes news stories in users' feeds to give better placement to media outlets deemed more trustworthy, as the company continues efforts to limit the exposure of false news, people familiar with the matter said. (Wall Street Journal)
Zuckerberg on the Facebook changes. Facebook is "making a major change" on what users see on their news feeds, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday night, by focusing more heavily on helping users "have more meaningful social interactions." (Axios)
Facebook moves to prioritize posts from friends over publishers. Facebook will begin to prioritize posts from friends and family over public content and content from publishers, the company announced Thursday. (Axios)
Facebook Overhauls News Feed to Focus on What Friends and Family Share. Facebook has introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than two billion members will see most often, saying on Thursday that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. (New York Times)
How YouTube hunts the most offensive needles in its haystack. Last year was hard for YouTube, with headlines about shocking content on the site. And the company's head of product says there's much work to do in 2018. (CNET)
Netflix, Amazon and studios sue Dragon Box streaming device seller, alleging copyright theft. Major Hollywood studios as well as Netflix and Amazon are escalating their crackdown on streaming device sellers that they say facilitate piracy on a massive scale. (Los Angeles Times)
IBM names James Kavanaugh as CFO, replacing Schroeter. International Business Machines Corp said on Thursday Chief Financial Officer Martin Schroeter will move to a new role and will be replaced by company veteran James Kavanaugh, effective Jan. 11. (Reuters)
ECJ to rule on whether Facebook needs to hunt for hate speech. Austria's Supreme Court is referring a legal challenge over the extent of Facebook's responsibility to remove hate speech postings to Europe's top court for an opinion. The case has clear implications for freedom of speech online. (Tech Crunch)
Local governments won't say what they're offering Amazon. State and local governments have been more than happy to play up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice for Amazon's second headquarters. But many of them will not disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they are offering the online giant. (Associated Press)
Media Organizations Grapple With the New Facebook. Over the next few months, with the implementation of a revised strategy, Facebook's two billion users will see less content produced by news organizations and more from their friends, if all goes according to the company's plan. (New York Times)

Today on the Hill

The House is not in session today.
The Senate will convene at 1:00 p.m. for a pro forma session.
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