May kicked off late last week, and there was lots of excitement over the weekend between the controversial finish at the Kentucky Derby and the celebrations of Cinco De Mayo. Tech policy also stayed excited, with lots of news about Facebook, Hauwei, Russia’s new internet and the brokering of consumer data, all in this week’s Protego Press Round Up.
In Case You Missed It: Baroness Beeban Kidron, the founder and chair of the 5Rights Foundation, writes in “Kids Are The Bottom Line” about why the Age Appropriate Design Code, aka the Kids Code, is important, and why the proposal for specific protection for children online, and how corporations should use big data in relation to small people is important. As Baroness Kidron writes: “The choice we face as a society, is whether to uphold our commitment to children and childhood, or to uphold the sector’s bottom line – while children continue to toil the fields of Silicon Valley.”
Facebook Under Siege: Facebook has acknowledged that it is under siege from billions of fake accounts trying to game its systems to win elections, make money or influence people in other ways, and battling a tsunami of fake news, disinformation and hate speech. However, the scale of the challenge facing Facebook, as it tries to clear “bad actors” from the system, is staggering. Richard Allan, the company’s vice-president for public policy, said the company took down 2.8bn fake accounts between October 2017 and November 2018. The scrutiny comes as Facebook sets up a European headquarters in Dublin to act as a command centre to combat against election-meddling during the 23-26 May EU elections.
Hauwei Developments: The U.S. is having a “Huawei moment,” as security concerns prompt the Trump administration to try to block allies from using 5G equipment produced by the Chinese company. But policymakers and experts also fear the U.S. is ill-prepared to challenge Chinese dominance in the next waves of technology — opening the U.S. to another round of national security worries. Huawei Technologies, however, said it is committed to the importance of cybersecurity as it pertains to technical network standards after security officials from more than 30 western countries agreed to a set of proposals in Prague for future 5G networks, without the participation of Chinese delegation “Huawei shares government commitments to cybersecurity. We believe the collaborative approach shown at the conference will be critical to ensuring the security of global 5G networks,” said the world’s largest telecommunications equipment.
Facebook Bans “Dangerous Individuals”: Last week, Facebook announced that it had removed pages affiliated with Minister Louis Farrakhan, as well as right-wing figures Alex Jones, Paul Nehlen, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopolous, from both Facebook and Instagram for violation. While Facebook did not say what led to the crackdown Thursday, it says the newly banned accounts violated its existing policies. The company says it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology. And “Dangerous” is the word Facebook used in its latest enforcement action, which wipes the presence of the individuals and organizations it has designated from the platform entirely.
Looming Facebook Fines: The Federal Trade Commission is negotiating a settlement with Facebook that would create new positions at the company focused on strengthening its privacy practices. The F.T.C.’s five commissioners agreed months ago that they wanted to pursue a historic penalty that would show the agency’s teeth. But now, the members are split on the size and scope of the tech company’s punishment, specifically trying to determine whether or not CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be held personally responsible.
Russia’s New Internet: ArsTechnica has a great summary of the recent “Internet sovereignty” bill Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed that strengthens the government’s control over the Russian Internet. “Officially, the bill is designed to protect the Russian Internet against foreign threats, including the risk that Russia could be cut off from the rest of the Internet. The Russian government is aiming to get the vast majority of Russian Internet traffic routed domestically in the next few years. That would make it harder for foreign governments, including the United States, to spy on or interfere with Russians’ use of the Internet.” However, “centralizing control over Internet routing in Russia also gives the Russian government stronger powers to monitor, control, and censor its own population’s Internet use. In an extreme case, it could allow the government to cut Russian Internet users from external sources. The changes to routing and DNS would make it easier for a domestic Russian Internet to continue functioning while it’s cut off from the rest of the world.”
China and High Tech Repression: The Washington Post’s Editorial Board has a chilling op-ed “China’s high tech repression threatens human freedom everywhere” and highlights a report by Human Rights Watch which “expands on what is known about the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), the system for conducting mass surveillance in Xinjiang. By reverse engineering a mobile app connected to the system, the group was able to learn more about what data authorities are collecting about every Xinjiang resident, and what information triggers the system to order an investigation — or transport to a camp. The results are chilling. “The system is tracking the movement of people by monitoring the ‘trajectory’ and location data of their phones, ID cards and vehicles; it is also monitoring the use of electricity and gas stations by everybody in the region,” the report says”
Carriers Selling Data? Four major US wireless carriers are facing proposed class-action lawsuits accusing them of violating federal law by selling their customers’ real-time location data to third parties. The proposed classes would include all of the four carriers’ customers in the US between 2015 and 2019. In all, that would be 300 million or more customers, as the lawsuits say the proposed classes consist of at least 100 million customers each for AT&T a
Additional Quick Hits:
Justin Sherman at Foreign Policy writes in “U.S. Tech Needs Hard Lines on China” how “Companies incorporated in democratic countries will soon find themselves forced to draw lines on whether AI collaborations with entities in China and elsewhere are acceptable—especially for those firms that balk at working with the U.S. military.”
Technology companies are running a campaign to bend research and regulation for their benefit; society must fight back, says Yochai Benkler in Don’t let industry write the rules for AI
Nicole Perlroth, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane reported that Chinese intelligence agents acquired National Security Agency hacking tools and repurposed them in 2016 to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia, a leading cybersecurity firm has discovered.