With help from Tony Romm, Kate Tummarello, Alex Byers, Nancy Scola and Margaret Harding McGill
SPEAKER MAKES TECH HOUSE CALLS — Speaker Paul Ryan made a quiet swing through California this week, venturing to the country’s tech capital to preserve relationships with the industry, as Congressional Republicans face increasing pressures caused by Donald Trump’s rhetoric, Tony reports.
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— “To help polish Republicans’ image, Ryan this week paid a visit to cloud-storage giant Dropbox, where he held a private question-and-answer session with company employees on Monday, according to two industry sources familiar with his plans,” Tony wrote. “The speaker that same day appeared at a high-dollar fundraiser at the San Francisco home of Russ Johnson, a former HP executive, and his wife, Colene. … And the speaker on Tuesday joined a private breakfast in Menlo Park, Calif., hosted by Apple CEO Tim Cook. POLITICO first reported Cook’s plans for a Ryan fundraiser last week.”
— Ryan camp responds: Zack Roday, a spokesman for Ryan’s campaign, wouldn’t provide details about the speaker’s itinerary during his California sojourn. Instead, he framed the trip in the context of the high-stakes fight for House supremacy. “It shouldn’t be a surprise Paul Ryan is raising funds to defend and strengthen the House Republican majority,” Roday said in a statement. Pros can read Tony’s full story here.
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WYDEN BLASTS PROPOSED GOV’T HACKING EXPANSION — New America’s “Hacking America” event Thursday morning is slated to open with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) railing against the proposed amendment to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which would expand the jurisdiction of remote hacking now permitted to law enforcement agencies via search warrant. Such warrants only allow remote hacking within the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge’s district, but the proposed change would extend the practice beyond those boundaries, so law enforcement could potentially hack people remotely in other states, and even overseas. Wyden, who was vocal in his opposition to the amendment earlier this year, has also introduced the Stopping Mass Hacking Act to counter it. He’s expected to argue that the proposed expansion of government hacking can both threaten civil liberties and make Americans more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
— “There’s no telling what kind of impact secretive government malware could have on our devices or the networks that run our hospitals, electrical grids, and transportation systems,” Wyden notes in an opening statement obtained by MT. “There’s a danger these Rule 41 changes leave Americans even more exposed to threats, not less.”
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WHO WILL BE THE NEXT U.S. CIO? — Asked Wednesday if he expected to keep his post after Election Day, U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott said no one who could eventually be in a position to determine that (read: someone in the Clinton or Trump campaigns) has asked him to stay on. Scott, a former executive at Microsoft and VMware who became President Barack Obama’s third permanent CIO in the winter of 2015, said at an event on federal IT that he plans to stay engaged in government-sector tech, either way. “Sometimes you find that you can do more as an outside influence than sometimes you can on the inside,” Scott said. Does that mean his days of public service are numbered? “It’s a question that we’ll sort through when the time is right,” Scott added. “But right now, it’s not a question that’s ripe for answering. I don’t want to handicap it.”
PALLONE WEIGHS IN ON SET-TOP-BOX FIGHT — House Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), perhaps the only lawmaker who hasn’t written to the FCC about Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to open the cable box market to companies like Google, broke his silence in a statement to MT Wednesday. The top House Dem on telecom called attention to the plan backed by cable companies that would give streaming devices access to cable content through apps — but noted user privacy must be a central aspect of the final arrangement.
— “The recent proposal from industry and the reaction from the FCC has brought us closer to a positive resolution. Ultimately, I will view the FCC decision as a success so long as consumers continue to enjoy the content they love whenever and wherever they want — and their privacy is not compromised,” Pallone said. “Consumers will not care how their TVs work if they can’t get the same quality programming, and no one will feel comfortable watching if they do not think their personal information is protected.”
HILLARY WANTS A FEW GOOD DEVELOPERS — In a sign Hillary Clinton is looking to amp up her campaign’s digital product offerings as well as tech policy, campaign CTO Steph Hannon will headline a recruiting event for tech talent in San Francisco on Thursday. The event’s title is a campaign zinger — “Build Apps, Not Walls” — and its objective is to land “talented engineers, product managers, and designers.” If you got the stuff, bring that CV down to Code for America, where the event is being held.
$86 BILLION — That’s how much broadcasters expect in exchange for giving up the highest amount of spectrum the FCC deemed possible through the incentive auction, the agency said Wednesday. But auction watchers say broadcasters are unlikely to get that much from wireless companies that have already spent big in acquisitions, not to mention in a prior auction.
— Spectrum finds its level, but not too quickly: An FCC spokesman said the auction is designed to accommodate back and forth between the two sides until they find an equilibrium between what broadcasters want to sell and what wireless companies and others want to buy. And a multi-stage process seems likely at this point. As one analyst told Margaret: “We better settle in; this could be a long one.” Prospective bidders have to make upfront payments by Friday, with bidding expected to start in August. For more: http://politico.pro/29dwmFI.
WARREN DELIGHTS MID-SIZE TECH — Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s high-profile antitrust keynote Wednesday, which saw the Massachusetts Democrats criticize U.S. tech giants for using their platforms to “snuff out competition,” got huzzahs from smaller industry players. “Apple aggressively uses its control of its iOS system to stymie competition,” Spotify’s global head of communications and public policy Jonathan Price told MT. He pointed to restrictions on in-app discounts for iPhone users, for example. “We very much appreciate the senator bringing attention to what we think is a critical issue for the health of the music industry.” Apple didn’t respond to MT when we checked to see if they wanted to fire back.
COMBATING MACHINE-LEARNING BIAS — Artificial intelligence systems have taken serious heat lately for demonstrating and exacerbating the same kinds of unconscious biases exhibited by the humans who create them. An example is Google Photo, which uses machine learning to categorize images, getting called out for wrongly classifying black people as gorillas in one of its early iterations.
— ‘Democratized access’: At a talk Wednesday, Google Research Scientist Greg Corrado highlighted short- and long-term strategies for combating such biases. He noted the systems are dependent on the quality of data they’re given and that more “representative data” would help ensure a less biased algorithm in the immediate future. He added that increasingly “democratized access” to machine learning will ultimately put the tech in the hands of a larger group of people who will contribute their breadth of perspectives.
ITIF: GOVERNMENT BACKING KEY FOR 5G — A new report from the Information Technology Innovation Foundation extols the benefits of 5G, while warning they won’t be quite so accessible without specific infrastructural support from federal and local governments. “5G means wildly increased capacity for broadband, enabling ultra-high-definition streaming and augmented reality, but also far more numerous and less costly connections to support the growth of the Internet of Things,” the think tank wrote.
— Action, reaction: ITIF argues that those extra connections will need their own infrastructure adaptations, in the form of denser pockets of cell sites and more wired backhaul connections, which in turn will help support the corresponding increase in device usage and expand 5G coverage across larger distances.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER GOOGLE ANTITRUST UPDATE — One of the tech behemoth’s competitors could prove to be Google’s unlikely savior in a European Commission antitrust case that is probing Google’s bundling of apps with Android phones. Amazon announced Wednesday it’s going to do a version of what Google’s been doing — selling Android phones pre-installed with Amazon apps, a move that could suggest the market is open enough for competitors to fairly leverage the mobile operating system. (Google declined comment to MT.)
— That said, Amazon won’t be installing any of its own browser or search services on the phone — two of Google’s core products that happen to be the basis of the antitrust charge. “In terms of Amazon, itself, as a new entrant, being able to offer competition to Google in search or browsers, that doesn’t seem like that’s the case,” NYU law professor and antitrust specialist Harry First told MT. “You’d be skeptical because it’s not even in Google’s main business. I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference to the commission.”
MORE FRIENDS, LESS NEWS — A Facebook manifesto, released Wednesday, highlighted what information the social network prioritizes most — namely, its users’ relationships with friends and family, whose posts will now be shown higher on the news feed than those of pages and publications. Facebook said the decision was based on research, meaning users’ opinions weighed heavily. Additionally, the company sought to reestablish its political neutrality, writing: “We don’t favor specific kinds of sources — or ideas. … Our aim is to deliver the types of stories we’ve gotten feedback that an individual person most wants to see.” More from POLITICO’s Kelsey Sutton: http://politi.co/296Flrg.
CHINA’S INTERNET CZAR RELINQUISHES ROLE: Lu Wei is giving up his role as gatekeeper of the internet in China, per The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/293QZ27
BLOOMBERG HITS TECH COS ON TERRORISM: Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is out with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal criticizing tech companies like Apple and Twitter for making it harder for government agencies to get data. Read it here: http://on.wsj.com/293Ro4Q
AMAZON’S COPYRIGHT HICCUP: Following the rollout of its new educational resource platform, Amazon Inspire, Amazon has had to remove copyright-infringing content taken from a competing site, according to The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/295RcV7
A SELF-DRIVING TRIFECTA: BMW is teaming up with Intel and Mobileye on autonomous vehicles, per Bloomberg: http://bloom.bg/29elkjy
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Alex Byers ([email protected], @byersalex), Eric Engleman ([email protected], @ericengleman), Tony Romm ([email protected], @tonyromm), Kate Tummarello ([email protected], @ktummarello), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Margaret Harding McGill ( [email protected], @margarethmcgill) and Li Zhou ([email protected], @liszhou)
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