Trump admin continues privacy listening sessions

 In Politics

With help from Nancy Scola, Margaret Harding McGill and John Hendel

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S PRIVACY LISTENING SESSIONS — Three dozen or so tech industry reps were at the Commerce Department on Wednesday to talk online privacy in a conversation led by NTIA, per the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), whose spokesman, Jose Castaneda, described the session as one on “how to best protect personal privacy while also responding to consumer demand for innovative products and services.” International Trade Administration and NIST officials also took part.

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— The meeting is part of a rolling administration initiative to figure out how best to cope with the new world order of online privacy, which is being shaped by the EU, with its sweeping GDPR regulation, and California, with its aggressive privacy law passed last month. With growing public attention on what happens to consumer data, industry and administration officials are trying to navigate what they see as a tolerable path forward on privacy.

— The mood in the industry: When California’s privacy law came up during POLITICO’s panel on AI earlier Wednesday, ITI President Dean Garfield responded with a quick “ugh.” Though he did not elaborate on the remark, he later warned of “fragmentation” on privacy regulation at the state level. “What I would suggest is moving quicker in trying to come up with certain standards and norms that are broadly applicable so we don’t have that,” he said.

— The mood in the administration: Walter Copan, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, discussed Europe’s new privacy legislation in less-than-glowing terms at the panel. “Clearly we’re in the regime of GDPR which has been certainly foisted on not only Europe and European citizens,” he said. “So dealing with that patchwork of patchworks, if you will, it’s important for government to have an important voice, a clear voice, but also to be part of the American system and the creation of standards that truly reflect the principles of this nation, a free market economy and fairness.”

GREETINGS AND WELCOME TO MORNING TECH, where your host is begrudgingly adopting les bleus in the World Cup as a thank you for four glorious months abroad back in school. Got any tech or telecom tips? Drop me a line at [email protected] or @viaCristiano. Don’t forget to follow us @MorningTech. And catch the rest of the team’s contact info after Quick Downloads.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT — POLITICO hosted a conversation on the role of government and its implications for AI growth in national public safety, privacy and civil rights. Watch the full video here to see how artificial intelligence is accelerating rapidly — from social media bots to facial recognition technology to driverless vehicles.

TECH GIANTS HILL-BOUND — Google and Facebook plan show up to the latest congressional hearing devoted to conservative claims of ideological bias on social media, Ashley reports for Pro. And according to a congressional aide, officials for Twitter are also expected to be on hand. The companies declined to confirm who will be representing them at the July 17 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, but the congressional aide said “executives” from Google and Facebook are expected to appear. It will be the second such hearing by the committee, which in April heard testimony from pro-Trump social media personalities Diamond and Silk about their alleged mistreatment at the hands of Facebook. (For more on that chaotic spectacle, which MT won’t easily forget, read here.)

AGREE TO DISAGREE ON ZTE — The Chinese telecom giant is one step closer to ending the U.S. ban imposed by the Trump administration. The Commerce Department announced that ZTE would put $400 million into escrow — money to be seized by the U.S. should the company violate the terms of the settlement, John reports for Pro. In exchange, Commerce will sign off on lifting a ban on the company imposed earlier this year in response to its alleged illegal sales to North Korea and Iran. In recent weeks, ZTE has shaken up its leadership structure to comply with U.S. demands, even as lawmakers have threatened to upend the arrangement.

— The news did little to quiet critics in the Senate, which last month approved a measure to reimpose the penalties originally enacted against ZTE by the Trump administration. “Allowing ZTE to resume business is a direct betrayal of @realDonaldTrump’s promise to be tough on China & protect American workers,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Expressing “grave concerns” over the “sweetheart deal” struck by between the White House and ZTE, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the telecom giant — whose ties to the Chinese government have drawn scrutiny — “presents an ongoing threat to our national security.” Members of the House and Senate are hashing out differences between their must-pass defense bills, both of which included language addressing the ZTE sanctions.

BEWARE OF BEIJING ON AI? — China’s technology progress took center stage during yesterday’s POLITICO panel on the future of artificial intelligence, moderated by Nancy. Officials and tech experts sounded off on the potential threat posed by Beijing’s embrace of emerging technologies. “Our private sector is unrivaled,” said Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.). But by skirting ethical standards, he said, China has risen to challenge the U.S. economically and technologically. “We have to put them in a position where they play by the rules,” he said.

— AI’s bias problem: The panelists also discussed a hot-button topic for the field of AI — how the technology could be used in a way that fuels discrimination and bias. “One of the biggest concerns in artificial intelligence is bias,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), adding “you have to make sure there’s not bias going into the development of those algorithms.” Rashida Richardson, director of policy research at NYU’s AI Now Institute, said it’s important to incorporate different viewpoints when developing policies around AI. “When you don’t have a lot of people in the room or even people that understand these varying degrees of how we understand these terms, then you end up in situations where you can have a tool that is said to be perfect, not biased, but it isn’t,” Richardson said.

HOUSE DEMS, FCC BRAWL OVER CONSUMER COMPLAINTS — FCC officials told MT that a letter from two top House Energy and Commerce Democrats voicing concern over a proposed rule change to how the FCC handles consumer complaints was “completely inaccurate.” In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone (N.J.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) argued the move “would eliminate the agency’s traditional and important role of helping consumers in the informal complaint process.” But FCC press secretary Tina Pelkey said there was no such language in the proposal. Pelkey said the action “would simply align the text of a rule with longstanding FCC practices that have been in place for years under prior Chairmen and Commissions.”

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