Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.
Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).
SENATE DEMS UNVEIL PRIVACY BILL: A group of key Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping online privacy bill, injecting new life into the stalled bipartisan efforts to draw up the country’s first comprehensive privacy bill on Capitol Hill.
The bill introduced by Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Senate Dems unveil privacy bill | Trump campaign, RNC rip Google political ad policy | Activists form national coalition to take on Amazon | Commerce issues rule to secure communications supply chain Key Senate Democrats unveil sweeping online privacy bill Senators grill safety regulator over self-driving cars MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, publicizes the Democrats’ wish list for any federal privacy bill. The long-awaited Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA) would enshrine online users’ right to privacy and bar companies from obfuscating what they are doing with users’ personal information.
“In the growing online world, consumers deserve two things: privacy rights and a strong law to enforce them,” Cantwell said in a statement. “They should be like your Miranda rights–clear as a bell as to what they are and what constitutes a violation.”
What’s in the bill: Under the law, users would have the right to see and delete any personal information that companies have amassed about them. And tech firms — including Google and Facebook — would have to explain in clear terms what they are doing with users’ data. If they fail to adhere to the law, they could face costly fines and lawsuits.
Cantwell’s legislation would give users more control over their data, allowing them to prevent their information from being accessed by third-party companies without their permission. It would also beef up the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) ability to go after tech companies over privacy violations.
And it would build in new civil rights protections, ensuring that companies are not using sensitive data about race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or other protected identifiers to advertise products that touch on employment, housing or credit in an effort to bring decades-old civil rights laws into the digital age.
What it means for privacy talks: For months, a group of lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee have worked to put together a bipartisan federal privacy bill. Over the summer, Cantwell and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Senate Dems unveil privacy bill | Trump campaign, RNC rip Google political ad policy | Activists form national coalition to take on Amazon | Commerce issues rule to secure communications supply chain Key Senate Democrats unveil sweeping online privacy bill Republican Senator says he’s ‘very comfortable’ with Trump making call on Navy SEAL review MORE (R-Miss.) stepped aside to engage in bilateral negotiations, but those talks have yet to bare any significant drafts of potential legislation.
The lawmakers have blown past several self-imposed deadlines to put out a bill, but the Democrats on Tuesday sought to strengthen their hand in the negotiations by putting out their ideal privacy legislation.
Wicker, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, in a statement emphasized that the Democrats’ bill does not have bipartisan support.
“The legislation released today reflects where the Democrats want to go,” Wicker said. “But any privacy bill will need bipartisan support to become law.”
“I am committed to continuing to work with the ranking member and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get a bill that can get across the finish line,” he said.
BIPARTISAN FURY: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump at rally vows to supporters no name change for ‘Thanksgiving’ Trump says he will designate Mexican drug cartels as terror organizations State Dept. official describes frantic effort to save recalled Ukraine ambassador MORE‘s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican party’s top campaign arms on Tuesday blasted Google for limiting their ability to micro-target political advertisements.
The statement from the Trump campaign, Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) comes days after Google announced that it will be placing new limitations around advertisements from politicians or campaigns on its powerful ads platform.
The Republicans’ statement marked a rare bipartisan point of agreement in a divided Washington. The Democrats’ national campaign committees issued a similar statement just last week, taking Google to task over its new political ad rules.
“Google’s latest arbitrary rule changes are a blatant attempt to suppress voter information, knowledge, and engagement in the 2020 election,” the Trump campaign, RNC, NRSC and NRCC said in the statement. “These actions will lead directly to suppressing voter turnout.”
Google, which controls about 43 percent of the online advertising market, announced earlier this month that it will no longer allow advertisers to micro-target political ads using real-world voter information, significantly paring down political advertisers’ ability to get their messages in front of the audiences they want.
The Democrats’ campaign arms last week asked Google to “reconsider” its decision to restrict political ads.
A Google spokesperson acknowledged that “political campaign strategists on both sides of the aisle have raised concerns about how our changes may alter their targeting strategies.”
“But we believe the balance we have struck — allowing political ads to remain on our platforms while limiting narrow targeting that can reduce the visibility of ads and trust in electoral processes — is the right one,” the spokesperson said.
ENTER ATHENA: Thousands of activists from across the country are forming a national coalition to take on Amazon, the tech giant with a market value around $1 trillion and a massive global footprint.
More than 40 grassroots organizations are participating in the coalition called Athena, which will push for public and corporate policy changes on nearly every issue Amazon touches – labor rights, surveillance, environmental justice, monopoly power, city infrastructure and more.
The coalition, which is hoping to raise $15 million over the next three years and has already received commitments for over $5 million, intends to harness the organizing acumen of local activists and the political prowess of D.C.-based antitrust organizations to push against Amazon’s unprecedented power and reach.
What organizers are saying: “What we’re seeing is that Amazon is monetizing our suffering,” Athena’s newly-appointed executive director Dania Rajendra, a longtime organizer and currently Athena’s only full-time employee, told The Hill in a phone interview. “And we want better than that.”
The wide-ranging group, which has members and supporters in many U.S. states, say they are coming together to create an economy where “everyone can thrive, defend our climate, safeguard our communities from surveillance, and expand our democracy,” according to Athena’s website.
Amazon’s pushback: In a statement on Tuesday, Amazon brushed off the coalition as a group of “self-interested critics” that are “conjuring misinformation.”
“Self-interested critics, particularly unions and groups funded by our competitors, have a vested interest in spreading misinformation about Amazon but the facts tell a different story,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement. She said Amazon has invested $270 billion in the U.S. since 2011 and recently pledged to reach net zero carbon by 2040.
The spokeswoman pointed out that the group announced their launch ahead of the holidays, a key period for Amazon as customers flock to its online retail platform to buy gifts for loved ones and take advantage of Black Friday deals. “It’s no coincidence to us that this group would emerge now because large shopping events have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause – in this case, increased membership dues.”
Next steps: Athena is planning to put out a set of specific corporate and public policy proscriptions by next year, Rajendra said. Its members will work to bring their concerns to policymakers across the country and on Capitol Hill.
The coalition is not yet calling for an all-out investigation into Amazon, but individual members are reaching out to state attorneys general to make their case.
BAD BUSINESS: The Commerce Department on Tuesday issued a proposed rule aimed at securing the nation’s information and communications supply chain from foreign threats.
The proposed rule lays out the procedures for the Secretary of Commerce to follow in evaluating potential security threats posed by foreign-owned or operated companies seeking to do business with U.S. companies that involve the information and communications technology and services (ICTS) supply chain.
The rule would allow the Secretary of Commerce to identify and assess “transactions” that pose national security risks to the ICTS supply chain, to the nation’s digital economy, and to those living in the U.S.
According to the Commerce Department, Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOn The Money: Dems say Ukraine aid documents from OMB show ‘pattern of abuse’ | Blue states file appeal over GOP tax law deduction cap | Dems sue Barr, Ross over census documents Hillicon Valley: Senate Dems unveil privacy bill | Trump campaign, RNC rip Google political ad policy | Activists form national coalition to take on Amazon | Commerce issues rule to secure communications supply chain Commerce Department issues proposed rule to secure communications supply chain MORE has already chosen to adopt a “case-by-case, fact-specific approach” to evaluating which transactions should be prohibited.
Under the proposed rule, if the Secretary of Commerce decides to ban transactions with a specific foreign company, that company will be notified and allowed to defend themselves before a final decision is made.
The rule resulted from an executive order signed by President Trump in May. The order, much like the proposed rule, gave the Secretary of Commerce the authority, in consultation with several other federal agencies, to ban U.S. companies from doing business with specific foreign-owned companies deemed to be national security threats to the ICTS supply chain.
Ross said in a statement on Tuesday that the rules, “demonstrate our commitment to securing the digital economy, while also delivering on President Trump’s commitment to our digital infrastructure.”
GETTING CARDED: Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders, Buttigieg surge in New Hampshire as Biden, Warren slip: poll Overnight Defense: Senators challenge Trump on military pardons | State Department to investigate if US weapons ended up in wrong hands in Yemen | Dems release final impeachment transcripts Saagar Enjeti laments use of identity politics in 2020 Democratic race MORE (D-Mass.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Senate Dems unveil privacy bill | Trump campaign, RNC rip Google political ad policy | Activists form national coalition to take on Amazon | Commerce issues rule to secure communications supply chain Warren, Brown call for greater enforcement of fair lending laws after Goldman gender discrimination allegations Hillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China MORE (D-Ohio) are asking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for information about its enforcement of fair lending laws in light of reports that women who apply for Goldman Sachs’s Apple Card receive worse terms than men.
The Democratic senators, in a letter addressed to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, asked for a clear breakdown of how the CFPB handles determining whether companies are complying with creditor discrimination laws.
The letter asks about how the bureau handles new lenders or products, specifically whether the CFPB factors in the additional risk for them.
“We’re concerned that this new structure, where many offices have varying degrees of authority, may allow new potentially discriminatory products to get to market without adequate oversight,” the letter said. “Adding to our alarm, under your leadership, the CFPB has shown little willingness to fulfill its statutory mandate to enforce fair lending laws.”
The lawmakers are requesting the bureau answer their questions by Dec. 9 on how it enforces the fair lending laws, whether bureau changes have affected that and whether the Apple Card went through the appropriate scrutiny.
MYSTERY REVEALED: Facebook has been revealed as “Party A” from a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing which bid several times in October to try and acquire health tech company Fitbit, CNBC reported on Tuesday.
Rival tech giant Google on Nov. 1 announced its plan to buy FitBit for $2.1 billion cash, which comes out to about $7.35 a share.
In contrast, according to the filing, Facebook’s best and final offer was $7.30 a share.
The SEC filing also shows that Fitbit CEO James Park had dinner with “the chief executive officer of Party A” on June 11 and then again in July. Facebook’s CEO is Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Senate Dems unveil privacy bill | Trump campaign, RNC rip Google political ad policy | Activists form national coalition to take on Amazon | Commerce issues rule to secure communications supply chain Facebook bid against Google in attempt to acquire Fitbit: report Sacha Baron Cohen rips Facebook, Twitter, Google as ‘greatest propaganda machine in history’ MORE.
Spokespeople from FitBit and Facebook both declined to comment to CNBC.
A LIGHTER CLICK: More of this energy please
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: SpaceX’s Starship provides an opportunity for NASA’s Artemis program
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Big Tech’s best defense against Elizabeth Warren is that people have more important things to worry about (Recode)
New York warns FedEx to keep their delivery robots off the city’s streets (CNN)
Zuckerberg’s quest to explore future featured mostly white men (Bloomberg)