Home / Tag Archives: government

Tag Archives: government

Representatives rip FCC Chairman Pai’s ‘lack of candor’ and double down on net neutrality questions

Thirteen members of Congress have written to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai criticizing his “repeated evasive responses to our inquiries” and “outright refusal to respond to some of the members of this Committee.” Unsatisfied with the answers or evasions he has offered to date, they reiterate questions related to net neutrality and other issues that they’ve sent over the past months. “While we appreciate your continued willingness to testify before our Committee, we are concerned that you have been unable to give complete responses to verbal questions, questions for the record, or oversight letters from our members,” reads the letter from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Democrats. “We take our oversight responsibilities very seriously, and we expect witnesses before the Committee and recipients of our letters to treat their responses the same way,” they wrote. These Representatives, led by Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-CO), have sent multiple letters of inquiry to Pai over run-up to and aftermath of the net neutrality vote . In June, they questioned the nature of and response to the cyberattack on FCC systems during the net neutrality comment period. Pai responded saying that much of what they asked he could not answer because the threat was “ongoing” and revealing the measures they took would “undermine” them. 10 members of Congress rake FCC over the coals in official net neutrality comment Before the passage of the rules, they warned that the FCC’s proposal “fundamentally and profoundly runs counter to the law,” and that they spoke with the authority of people who had helped craft that particular law. Pai’s response to this may be considered the rule itself, which he clearly believes is completely lawful and justifies itself in its lengthy preamble. After the vote, they sent a letter asking about numerous problems relating to the comment system and why, for example, their own comments were not addressed. Pai responded to a number of letters taking issue with the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom order with a form letter of his own that assured his august pen pals that everything was fine. The inadequate responses to these and many other letters (on such issues as media regulation and 911 issues) clearly got the Committee to the point where they felt they had to strike back. A sternly worded letter may not do any more now than it did over the last year, but a paper trail of displeasure and responses with a distinct “lack of candor,” as Rep. Pallone put it, could be useful down the road.

Read More »

50 tech CEOs come to Paris to talk about tech for good

Ahead of VivaTech , 50 tech CEOs came to Paris to have lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron. Then, they all worked together on “tech for good”. The event was all about leveraging tech around three topics — education, labor and diversity. At the end of the day, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe invited everyone for a speech in Matignon. It wasn’t a groundbreaking speech as Macron is also speaking at VivaTech tomorrow morning. “We’re trying to pivot France,” Philippe said. With great power comes great responsibility Édouard Philippe Maurice Lévy, the former CEO of Publicis, one of the two companies behind VivaTech with Les Échos, first introduced the event, as well as Eric Hazan from McKinsey. McKinsey worked on the data that was used to start those discussions. So let’s see what they talked about. “As McKinsey showed, there’s no question that technology overall is a net creator of job and GDP. It’s a positive force,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said. “At the same time, AI and automation, while driving the economy and productivity, … will lead to large groups being disadvantaged.” He then listed a few important points to make sure that nobody is going to be left behind, such as coaching and mentorship programs. “This is not just the government’s job but it is also the job of private companies,” Khosrowshahi added. He wanted to remain hopeful and it felt a bit like a lobbying effort.

Read More »

50 tech CEOs come to Paris to talk about tech for good

Ahead of VivaTech , 50 tech CEOs came to Paris to have lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron. Then, they all worked together on “tech for good”. The event was all about leveraging tech around three topics — education, labor and diversity. At the end of the day, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe invited everyone for a speech in Matignon. It wasn’t a groundbreaking speech as Macron is also speaking at VivaTech tomorrow morning. “We’re trying to pivot France,” Philippe said. With great power comes great responsibility Édouard Philippe Maurice Lévy, the former CEO of Publicis, one of the two companies behind VivaTech with Les Échos, first introduced the event, as well as Eric Hazan from McKinsey. McKinsey worked on the data that was used to start those discussions. So let’s see what they talked about. “As McKinsey showed, there’s no question that technology overall is a net creator of job and GDP. It’s a positive force,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said. “At the same time, AI and automation, while driving the economy and productivity, … will lead to large groups being disadvantaged.” He then listed a few important points to make sure that nobody is going to be left behind, such as coaching and mentorship programs. “This is not just the government’s job but it is also the job of private companies,” Khosrowshahi added. He wanted to remain hopeful and it felt a bit like a lobbying effort. “It’s easy to see the lost of jobs because of automation

Read More »

FBI reportedly overestimated inaccessible encrypted phones by thousands

The FBI seems to have been caught fibbing again on the topic of encrypted phones. FBI director Christopher Wray estimated in December that it had almost 7,800 phones from 2017 alone that investigators were unable to access. The real number is likely less than a quarter of that, The Washington Post reports . Internal records cited by sources put the actual number of encrypted phones at perhaps 1,200 but perhaps as many as 2,000, and the FBI told the paper in a statement that “initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported.” Supposedly having three databases tracking the phones led to devices being counted multiple times. Such a mistake would be so elementary that it’s hard to conceive of how it would be possible. These aren’t court notes, memos or unimportant random pieces of evidence, they’re physical devices with serial numbers and names attached. The idea that no one thought to check for duplicates before giving a number to the director for testimony in Congress suggests either conspiracy or gross incompetence. Inquiry finds FBI sued Apple to unlock phone without considering all options The latter seems more likely after a report by the Office of the Inspector General that found the FBI had failed to utilize its own resources to access locked phones, instead suing Apple and then hastily withdrawing the case when its basis (a locked phone from a terror attack) was removed. It seems to have chosen to downplay or ignore its own capabilities in order to pursue the narrative that widespread encryption is dangerous without a backdoor for law enforcement. An audit is underway at the Bureau to figure out just how many phones it actually has that it can’t access, and hopefully how this all happened. It is unmistakably among the FBI’s goals to emphasize the problem of devices being fully encrypted and inaccessible to authorities, a trend known as “going dark.” That much it has said publicly, and it is a serious problem for law enforcement. But it seems equally unmistakable that the Bureau is happy to be sloppy, deceptive or both in its advancement of a tailored narrative.

Read More »

Zuckerberg didn’t make any friends in Europe today

Speaking in front of EU lawmakers today Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg namechecked the GDPR’s core principles of “control, transparency and accountability” — claiming his company will deliver on all that, come Friday, when a new European Union data protection framework, GDPR , starts being applied, finally with penalties worth the enforcement. However there was little transparency or accountability on show during the session, given the upfront questions format which saw Zuckerberg cherry-picking a few comfy themes to riff on after silently absorbing an hour of MEPs’ highly specific questions with barely a facial twitch in response. The questions MEPs asked of Zuckerberg were wide ranging and often drilled deep into key pressure points around the ethics of Facebook’s business — ranging from how deep the app data misuse privacy scandal rabbithole goes ; to whether the company is a monopoly that needs breaking up; to how users should be compensated for misuse of their data. Made clear to Mark Zuckerberg that digital platforms have to guarantee full protection of our citizens' privacy. We cannot accept illicit use of personal data to manipulate elections. Democracy cannot be turned into a marketing operation. pic.twitter.com/Nk0MB5IK8u — Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) May 22, 2018 Is Facebook genuinely complying with GDPR, he was asked several times (unsurprisingly, given the scepticism of data protection experts on that front). Why did it choose to shift ~1.5BN users out of reach of the GDPR ? Will it offer a version of its platform that lets people completely opt out of targeted advertising, as it has studiously avoided doing so so far. Why did it refuse a public meeting with the EU parliament? Why has it spent “millions” lobbying against EU privacy rules? Will the company commit to paying taxes in the markets where it operates? What’s it doing to prevent fake accounts? What’s it doing to prevent bullying? Does it regulate content or is it a neutral platform? Zuckerberg made like a sponge and absorbed all this fine-grained flak.

Read More »

Watchdogs ask Googlers to stop it favoring its own search results

A new coalition of activist groups led by Yelp and TripAdvisor are renewing the fight to get Google to give a fair opportunity to all sites instead of putting its Knowledge Cards atop the results for subjective search queries. The alliance that includes Fight For The Future and Consumer Watchdog.org has assembled tens of thousands of dollars to run targeted ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter “calling for Google employees to introspect and examine how Google’s One Boxes or Answer Boxes are harming the open internet,” says the project’s leader Luther Lowe, Yelp’s VP of public policy. The initiative is certainly self-serving, as Yelp and TripAdvisor have the most to lose from Google’s own local results getting to sidestep the PageRank algorithm and be shown atop search results pages before their own sites. But it’s a fair question to ask why Google’s dominance in search should let it deviate from a fair process of choosing the best result to give its content a boost. Here’s the campaign’s promotional video: Yelp initially launched its “FocusOnTheUser.eu” campaign targeting Google+ in 2014 as the European Union was determining whether Google abused its power to preference its shopping results. That eventually led to a €2.4 billion anti-trust fine. Yelp has now filed a complaint with the EU that extends those concerns to how it treats local business results, which Lowe said is now the biggest category of search. The campaign was timed to come alongside this week’s 60 Minutes report examining whether Google is a monopoly. The new Focus On The User  that launched today concentrates on swaying Google’s employees rather than regulators, and includes new partners like DemandProgress and American Family Voices. We’ve contacted Google requesting a statement in response to the campaign and will update if we hear back. The coalition’s two stated goals are to get Google to: 1. Match users with the best possible information at the top of results.

Read More »

Announcing the last judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech

VivaTech  is starting in a couple of days, which means TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Europe is also starting on Thursday. So let me introduce you to the last batch of judges that will come to Paris for the event. If you haven’t been to TechCrunch Disrupt, the Startup  Battlefield  is arguably the most interesting part of the show. Before everybody started doing a startup competition, there was the Startup Battlefield. Companies like Dropbox, Fitbit, N26 and Yammer all launched on the TechCrunch stage. And we’re bringing talented investors and founders to judge the startups. Here’s the third round of judges (see  part 1 ,  part 2 and part 3 ). Roxanne Varza, Director, Station F Roxanne Varza is the Director of Station F, which is the largest startup campus worldwide, backed by Xavier Niel. She is also involved in the European Commission's European Innovation Council (EIC) and is on the board of Agence France Presse (AFP). Prior to her current role, Roxanne was the lead for Microsoft’s start-up activities in France, running both Bizspark and Microsoft Ventures programs for 3 years. She was also Editor of TechCrunch France from 2010-2011 and has written for several publications including Business Insider and The Telegraph. In April 2013, Business Insider listed her as one of the top 30 women under 30 in tech. She has also been listed in additional rankings by Business Insider, Vanity Fair and Le Figaro, The Evening Standard and more.

Read More »

U.S. and China reportedly working on a deal to save ZTE

The United States and China are said to be working on a deal that would keep ZTE from going out of business. According to the Wall Street Journal , the two countries have agreed on a “broad outline” of a deal to settle a trade dispute sparked when the Commerce Department banned American companies from selling to ZTE for seven years after it violated sanctions against Iran and North Korea. If the deal goes through, the U.S. would lift the ban. In return, ZTE would have to make major leadership changes and also potentially face heavy fines. The deal would enable its business to survive, however, since many of its most important suppliers, including Qualcomm, are American and the ban has the potential to cause irreversible damage to its business. ZTE is also the fourth-largest vendor of mobile phones in the U.S. As part of the deal, China reportedly offered to remove tariffs that impact billions of dollars in U.S. farm products, though one of the WSJ’s sources said “the White House was meticulous in affirming that the case is a law enforcement matter and not a bargaining chip in negotiations.” Talk of the deal isn’t a complete surprise. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump tweeted that “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast.” He was met with backlash from officials and lawmakers concerned that the administration is softening its stance in trade negotiations with China. The Chinese government had reportedly demanded that the U.S. roll back sanctions against ZTE as a prerequisite for continuing trade talks, which stalled last month (though the countries agreed yesterday to continue)

Read More »

Bail reform has a complex relationship with tech

On any given day in the United States, more than 450,000 people are behind bars awaiting their constitutionally mandated fair trial. None of them have been convicted of a crime — they’ve been accused of committing a crime, but no formal ruling of guilt or innocence has been made. That means these hundreds of thousands of people are incarcerated simply because they don’t have the financial means to post bail.  Bail was originally designed to incentivize people to show up for their court dates, but it has since evolved into a system that separates the financially well-off from the poor. It requires arrested individuals to pay money in order to get out of jail while they await trial. For those who can’t afford bail, they wind up having to sit in jail, which means they may be at risk of missing rent payments, losing their jobs and failing to meet other responsibilities.  Money bail is all too often a common condition to secure release from jail while a case is in progress. Cash bail systems result in leaving many people incarcerated, even though they haven’t been convicted of a crime.  The cash bail system in the United States is one of the greatest injustices in the criminal justice system, ACLU Deputy National Political Director Udi Ofer tells TechCrunch. Bail reform, Ofer says, is a “key way to achieve” the goals of challenging racial disparities in the criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration.  As we explored in “ The other pipeline ,” the criminal justice system in the United States is deeply rooted in racism and a history of oppression. Black and Latino people comprise about 1.5 million of the total  2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S.  adult correctional system, or 67 percent of the prison population, while making up just 37 percent of the total U.S. population,  according to the Sentencing Project . With a criminal justice system that disproportionately affects people of color, it’s no wonder why the cash bail system does the same . For one, people of color are 25 percent more likely than white people to be denied the option of bail, according to a pre-trial study by Dr

Read More »

A simple solution to end the encryption debate

David Gurle Contributor Share on Twitter David Gurle is the founder and chief executive of Symphony Comunication . Bill Harrington Contributor Bill Harrington is a former federal prosecutor and a partner at the law firm Goodwin Procter . Criminals and terrorists, like millions of others, rely on smartphone encryption to protect the information on their mobile devices. But unlike most of us, the data on their phones could endanger lives and pose a great threat to national security. The challenge for law enforcement, and for us as a society, is how to reconcile the advantages of gaining access to the plans of dangerous individuals with the cost of opening a door to the lives of everyone else. It is the modern manifestation of the age-old conflict between privacy versus security, playing out in our pockets and palms. One-size-fits all technological solutions, like a manufacturer-built universal backdoor tool for smartphones , likely create more dangers than they prevent. While no solution will be perfect, the best ways to square data access with security concerns require a more nuanced approach that rely on non-technological procedures. The FBI has increasingly pressed the case that criminals and terrorists use smartphone security measures to avoid detection and investigation, arguing for a technological, cryptographic solution to stop these bad actors from “going dark.” In fact, there are recent reports that the Executive Branch is engaged in discussions to compel manufacturers to build technological tools so law enforcement can read otherwise-encrypted data on smartphones. But the FBI is also tasked with protecting our nation against cyber threats. Encryption has a critical role in protecting our digital systems against compromises by hackers and thieves.

Read More »

Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex , which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a data center for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping. Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.) Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question involves a certain amount of informed speculation. To begin with I’m going to consider all phone calls as “confidential” for the purposes of the law. What constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy is far from settled, and some will have it that you there isn’t such an expectation when making an appointment with a salon. But what about a doctor’s office, or if you need to give personal details over the phone? Though some edge cases may qualify as public, it’s simpler and safer (for us and for Google) to treat all phone conversations as confidential. What we know about Google’s Duplex demo so far As a second assumption, it seems clear that, like most Google services, Duplex’s work takes place in a data center somewhere, not locally on your device. So fundamentally there is a requirement in the system that the other party’s audio will be recorded and sent in some form to that data center for processing, at which point a response is formulated and spoken. On its face it sounds bad for Google. There’s no way the system is getting consent from whomever picks up the phone. That would spoil the whole interaction — “This call is being conducted by a Google system using speech recognition and synthesis; your voice will be analyzed at Google data centers

Read More »

EU parliament pushes for Zuckerberg hearing to be live-streamed

There’s confusion about whether a meeting between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the European Union’s parliament — which is due to take place next Tuesday — will go ahead as planned or not. The meeting was  confirmed by the EU parliament’s president this week, and is the latest stop on Zuckerberg’s contrition tour, following the Cambridge Analytics data misuse story that blew up into a major public scandal in mid March.  However, the discussion with MEPs that Facebook agreed to was due to take place behind closed doors. A private format that’s not only ripe with irony but was also unpalatable to a large number of MEPs. It even drew criticism from some in the EU’s unelected executive body, the European Commission, which further angered parliamentarians. Now, as the FT  reports, MEPs appear to have forced the parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, to agree to live-streaming the event. Guy Verhofstadt — the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats group of MEPs, who had said he would boycott the meeting if it took place in private — has also tweeted that a majority of the parliament’s groups have pushed for the event to be streamed online. EP President Tajani forced by five of the eight political groups – representing a majority of MEPs – to open the meeting with #Zuckerberg by webstreaming the hearing. — Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) May 18, 2018 And a Green Group MEP, Sven Giegold, who posted an online petition calling for the meeting not to be held in secret — has also tweeted that there is now a majority among the groups wanting to change the format. At the time of writing, Giegold’s petition has garnered more than 25,000 signatures. Das dürfen wir uns nicht bieten lassen! Die Anhörung von Mark #Zuckerberg im EU-Parlament soll im Geheimen stattfinden. #Facebook verspricht Transparenz, will sich aber der öffentlichen Verantwortung in Europa entziehen. Jetzt Petition unterschreiben: https://t.co/dU3dJixztd pic.twitter.com/hCcxgGHJGC — Sven Giegold (@sven_giegold) May 17, 2018 MEP Claude Moraes, chair of the EU parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee — and one of the handful of parliamentarians set to question Zuckerberg (assuming the meeting goes ahead as planned) — told TechCrunch this morning that there were efforts afoot among political group leaders to try to open up the format. Though any changes would clearly depend on Facebook agreeing to them. After speaking to Moraes, we asked Facebook to confirm whether it’s open to Zuckerberg’s meeting being streamed online — say, via a Facebook Live

Read More »

Our second round of judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield will be held at VivaTech in Paris on May 24th. We want to find the best early-stage startup from across continental Europe, ahead of TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin. The best way to do that is to bring some fantastic investors and founders along to judge the startups. Here’s our second round of judges to be announced, and there’s more to come! Ophelia Brown, Founder, Blossom Capital Ophelia is the founder of Blossom Capital, an early stage venture fund that brings a wholly differentiated approach to investing. Blossom makes a small number of high conviction investments each year, which allows the team to work closely with their companies, helping them achieve their ambitious goals. Fascinated by user behaviour and design, Ophelia loves worked with founders with strong product DNA and design-oriented teams. Ophelia is also the founder of ALT “Ambitious Ladies in Tech” – a mentor programme that matches junior women in technology start-ups with senior functional leaders to provide them with valuable coaching, skills development and networking. The network includes executives from some of the world’s leading tech companies like Amazon, Airbnb, Facebook, Google, Uber and many more. Previously Ophelia was a GP at LocalGlobe and a principal at Index Ventures where she led investments into a number of outstanding companies like Typeform and Robinhood. Alexis Houssou, President & Co-founder, Hardware Club Former entrepreneur and financier, Alexis started Hardware Club in 2015 with a mission to support the best hardware startups worldwide using collaboration and network effects. Through its unique $30M community-based fund, Hardware Club invests in hardware startups in Europe and in the US at seed stage. Alexis took part in launching several novel initiatives like the Hello Tomorrow Summit and the accelerator The Family. He also sits on the boards of companies including Remedee Labs, Reach Robotics, Aryballe and Keecker. Passionate about how tech can create impact on communities, Alexis regularly mentors startups in various programs including Techstars and StartupBootCamp. He is a graduate of EM Lyon Business School.

Read More »

PluralSight, which offers software development courses, prices IPO at $15/share, has raised $310.5M already and may raise up to $357M total by public…

Matthew Lynley / TechCrunch : PluralSight, which offers software development courses, prices IPO at $15/share, has raised $310.5M already and may raise up to $357M total by public debut   —  Pluralsight priced the shares in its IPO at $15 this afternoon, above its previously set target range of between $12 and $14 …

Read More »