With help from Cristiano Lima and John Hendel
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— Yang, unplugged: In an interview with POLITICO, former 2020 hopeful Andrew Yang dished on what tech roles he’s eyeing in a Joe Biden administration, his data privacy campaign in California, his take on Section 230 and more.
— Broadband, MIA: American voters consider broadband access a major priority during a pandemic that has forced employees to work from home and students to learn online — yet it’s notably missing from the coronavirus relief legislation slated for a vote in the Senate today.
— Hearing on both sides of the AI coin: A House committee is today taking up debates around artificial intelligence, including how the technology can simultaneously automate away jobs while also helping to fight the pandemic.
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POLITICO Q&A: FORMER 2020 CONTENDER ANDREW YANG — The former-entrepreneur-turned politician caught up with Cristiano and Katy Murphy this week to talk about his new push to expand privacy protections in California and beyond, the battle over tech’s legal shield and his political future. Here are some of the highlights:
— Yang expressed interest in serving as U.S. Chief Technology Officer. He said the position is “probably the closest thing” to many of the issues he campaigned on. “But,” he added, “I think that we need something more dedicated and robust if we’re going to truly address some of these technological issues.” He said a role helping to revamp the U.S. Digital Service Agency is also appealing. USDS “is just scratching the surface of its potential,” he said. “So I’d be excited about trying to help modernize our approach to some of these problems.”
— What he wants to see in federal privacy legislation: Yang said “in an ideal world” federal legislation on online privacy would mirror Prop. 24, the California ballot initiative seeking to expand protections under the state’s landmark data protection law. And while he’s advocated in the past for preempting state regulations more broadly, he said “the thing you don’t want to do is to have Congress set a national standard that doesn’t meaningfully impact the treatment of our data in ways that help consumers.”
— He’s against Trump and Biden’s calls to repeal Section 230. “You don’t want to eliminate it altogether,” he said. But he said Section 230 reform is an issue he wants to help a Biden administration address. “Hopefully under a Biden-Harris administration we can start to do the hard work of figuring out what Section 230 should actually look like in 2020 or 2021,” he said.
ALSO ON 230: A BIG BOOST FOR THE EARN IT ACT — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)’s bipartisan bill to roll back liability protections for internet companies that host child porn landed a prominent endorsement Wednesday from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who helped spearhead the last major carve-out to the tech industry’s legal shield. Portman announced plans to co-sponsor the EARN IT Act, S. 3398 (116), on Twitter, saying the bill will “push tech companies to step up & combat child sexual exploitation on their platforms.” Portman’s backing boosts the prospect of the bill, unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July, clearing the Senate.
2020 WATCH: VOTERS ON THE DIGITAL DIVIDE — Amid the pandemic and ahead of the election, broadband access has become even more of a priority for Americans casting their ballots. A new Morning Consult and Internet Innovation Alliance poll of nearly 2,000 registered U.S. voters in September found that almost 80 percent consider broadband access “very important” for employees forced to work from home and students thrust into remote online learning; roughly 70 percent say it’s “very important” for small businesses relying on internet sales to keep their lights on and people in need of telehealth services. About nine in 10 responders said it’s problematic that rural parts of the country lack connectivity. Most also said they support Congress using federal funding to expand broadband infrastructure to reach those communities.
— So what is Congress doing about it in the next Covid stimulus bill? See below.
NO BROADBAND RELIEF IN SIGHT AS SENATE VOTES — Broadband is MIA from the new targeted coronavirus relief legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is bringing to a floor vote today. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) specifically lamented the lack of broadband when slamming the GOP messaging bill, which isn’t expected to clear the chamber. Despite dimming prospects for a major rescue package, the call for digital divide help remains loud, including from the business community. The Chamber of Commerce this week wrote lawmakers asking that Congress slate money for FCC broadband efforts.
CABLE INDUSTRY LAUNCHES ‘HOMEWORK GAP’ FIX — In the midst of these broadband woes, NCTA, a trade group representing cable operators including Comcast and Charter, is today announcing a partnership with nonprofit Education Superhighway. Under their so-called K-12 Bridge to Broadband partnership, school districts can confidentially let the cable industry know which students lack at-home broadband and help pay (at a discount) to remedy that.
— Some communities, as Washington, D.C. recently showcased, are already embracing these partnerships, and this initiative hopes to scale such efforts by creating principles under which NCTA’s members will operate, like setting eligibility standards and making it easy to sign up families.
— Education Superhighway estimates 9.7 million students lack high-speed broadband connections, vital for virtual learning and completing at-home coursework.
AIRWAVES ON NTIA’S BRAIN — The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which represents executive branch views on telecom policy, is telling the FCC to issue a further notice of proposed rulemaking to set up the administration’s recently proposed auction of 5G-friendly airwaves in the 3450-3550 MHz band (FCC commissioners will vote Sept. 30 to get the ball rolling). That sale could happen as soon as Dec. 13, 2021, per NTIA, adding that the administration wants affected agencies to present spectrum transition plans by April 16.
— And in a separate filing, NTIA told the FCC that if it wants to free up the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi, so-called “exclusion zones” may be necessary in some instances to safeguard federal operations in the airwaves. The Department of Transportation and certain auto industry representatives have previously urged the FCC against opening the band to Wi-Fi at all. They want the spectrum to stay dedicated to auto safety technology.
— “We value NTIA’s input and look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners on these important spectrum projects,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s office told MT.
— NTIA’s uptick in activity comes two weeks before its annual spectrum symposium on Sept. 22. Sidenote: President Donald Trump still hasn’t issued that national spectrum strategy that he once pledged to deliver by last summer.
HOUSE DIGS INTO AI’S UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES — The House Budget Committee is holding a hearing today drilling into both the potential benefits and pitfalls of artificial intelligence technology for the economy, from its impact on the workforce to the Covid-19 response.
— A memo prepared by the majority staff breaks down some key trade-offs: “AI is helping us fight the coronavirus but also accelerating job losses to automation,” reads one section. “Widespread increases in unemployment are unlikely, but most jobs will require new skills and some occupations will be hit hard,” reads another. The session will feature testimony from several top researchers, including from Stanford, MIT, Georgetown and Brookings.
DO YOU MIX WORK AND PLAY ON YOUR PHONE? THAT COULD BE A PROBLEM — A month after both the Senate and House voted to ban TikTok on federal devices (now likely to be signed into law), scrutiny is rising more broadly on the prevalence of personal social media apps on Americans’ work phones. More than half of small and medium-sized companies fear that mixing work and personal activity on devices poses security risks, according to the Cyber Readiness Institute — yet more than half of them allow employees to use social media on their work devices, and a majority allow employees to use their personal devices for work.
— The nonprofit, which last month surveyed about 1,000 U.S. workers and 400 small businesses, found that almost a quarter of employees ignore or circumvent their companies’ cybersecurity rules, and the firms themselves appear to be lagging on creating or enforcing those policies. Half of those surveyed use Facebook on their work devices, followed by Instagram (39 percent) and Twitter (26 percent), but almost half of employers “say they are not sure or have no clue what social media apps their employees are using on work devices.”
Emily Stubbs, a former senior vice president of litigation and intellectual property at ViacomCBS, joined TikTok as global head of litigation, per Bloomberg. … David Cohen, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, will next week become the trade group’s CEO, succeeding Randall Rothenberg, who will remain at the organization as executive chair through 2022. … Jamie Boone, former vice president of government affairs for the Consumer Technology Association, is joining Toyota’s government affairs department as director of technology innovation policy. … Former NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander was named to Amazon’s board.
John Mercurio, who was most recently global chief communications officer for the blockchain and AI software company Bitfury Group, is joining the Motion Picture Association’s comms team as senior vice president of corporate communications. … The MIC Coalition — which represents radio and TV broadcasters, digital music services and venues that provide music for consumers and has focused on music licensing issues — announced three new members: the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Meeting Professionals International, and Society of Independent Show Organizers.
FCC Chair Pai and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks announce the agency’s Early Career Diversity Staff Initiative, aimed at increasing the diversity of interns and participants in the FCC’s attorney and engineering honors programs.
A landmark facial recognition ban: Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday passed the broadest facial recognition ban in the U.S., CNN reports; more context here from Fight for the Future deputy director, Evan Greer.
Across the pond: “Ireland’s privacy watchdog has told Facebook that it will soon have to stop transferring its European users’ data to the United States because the social media giant’s current procedures fall foul of EU law,” POLITICO reports.
Pressure for Facebook India: A coalition of civil and human rights groups sent a letter to Facebook’s top brass calling for a thorough audit of the company’s India office, accusing employees there of failing to police genocidal hate speech and other dangerous content online that they say has spurred real-life violence like Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide.
Tech cribs: Check out former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s almost $31 million new mansion in Montecito, via WSJ.
Slacktivism…ever heard of it?: 76 percent of Americans believe that “social media make people think they are making a difference when they really aren’t,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
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