Politics

Congress asks FCC for emergency briefing on ending location data sales

By on November 10, 2021

 

 

Despite the government shutdown, Congress is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to explain why mobile carriers are still selling customer location data.

 

On Friday, Rep. Frank Pallone, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce committee, asked FCC Chair Ajit Pai for an ’emergency briefing’ on why the agency hasn’t stopped wireless carriers from selling customer’s real-time location information. He made the request in a letter (PDF).

 

The request for an emergency briefing comes three days after Motherboard reported T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint and other carriers were allowing third-party data aggregators to sell the sensitive information. On Thursday, AT&T and T-Mobile said they would end sales of location data by March, and Verizon said it was phasing out its last four partnerships.

 

Pallone is asking for a meeting on Jan. 14, even if the government shutdown isn’t over by then. The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, has disrupted services at all federal agencies, including the FCC. Pai canceled his CES appearance because of the shutdown.

 

Despite the disruption, Pallone said the issue was a public safety and national security concern. The committee couldn’t wait for the government to reopen to get answers, he said.

 

‘The FCC once again appears to have dragged its feet in protecting consumers,’ Pallone said in the letter. ‘While some carriers have now recommitted to stopping such unauthorized disclosure, the public can no longer rely on their voluntary promises to protect this extremely sensitive information.’

 

Several lawmakers, including Sens. Mark Warner, Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden, have also called for the FCC to investigate this practice.

 

The FCC didn’t respond to a request for comment.

 

Mobile carriers collect your phone location data and often use it for legitimate services, like roadside assistance and finding lost devices. They also provide this data to advertisers and sometimes lose control of it to third parties.

 

Phones can often show your location with pinpoint accuracy, as well as your travel history, allowing anyone with access to find your home, your workplace and other areas you frequent.

 

Some mobile carriers have promised to end this practice by March, but lawmakers are skeptical. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon made a similar promise last June, but recent developments showed that people could still obtain anyone’s location data.

 

After AT&T made its announcement on Thursday, Wyden said in a statement, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’

 

Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, also expressed his skepticism. He’s calling on the FCC to make sure these companies make good on their promise.

 

‘The FCC must take immediate action to ensure no wireless carrier is allowing the rampant disclosure of real-time location data, and take enforcement action against carriers that violated the Commission’s rules and the trust of their customers,’ Pallone said.

 

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Ajit Pai showed no ‘favoritism towards Sinclair,’ FCC watchdog finds

By on October 15, 2021

 

 

An investigation by the internal watchdog for the Federal Communications Commission has found no evidence that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai improperly dealt with Sinclair Broadcast Group before its proposed merger with Tribune Media.

 

Last year, the FCC’s Office of Inspector General opened an investigation into Pai’s dealings with Sinclair before he pushed the agency to loosen rules allowing TV broadcasters to increase the number of stations they own. A few weeks after the FCC adopted those rules in April 2017, Sinclair announced plans for a $3.9 billion buyout of Tribune, which would’ve made it the largest owner of broadcast stations in the US. (The merger ultimately didn’t happen.)

 

The Inspector General report released Monday found ‘no evidence of impropriety, unscrupulous behavior, favoritism towards Sinclair, or lack of impartiality related to the proposed Sinclair-Tribune Merger.’

 

As part of the investigation, the Inspector General’s office reviewed conversations between Pai and executives from Sinclair and the Executive Office of the President, as well as written communications between the chairman and FCC staff concerning the merger.

 

‘Our review did not reveal any improper actions,’ the report reads. ‘When we followed up with both Chairman Pai and [FCC Chief of Staff] Matthew Berry, asking for further details regarding these meetings and calls, we confirmed that belief.’

 

In a statement, Pai said he’s ‘pleased’ with the conclusion of the Inspector General report.

 

‘I have called on the FCC for many years to update its outdated media ownership regulations to match the realities of the modern marketplace,’ Pai said in the statement. ‘As I said when this investigation was first announced, the suggestion that I favored any one company was absurd, and today’s report proves that Capitol Hill Democrats’ politically-motivated accusation were entirely baseless.’

 

You can read the full report below:

 

Office of Inspector General report: Sinclair-Tribune merger by jonathan_skillings on Scribd

 

 

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Huawei cheap solar panel launch dimmed by Trump’s China tariffs

By on October 8, 2021
Trump Tariffs on Chinese Solar and Battery Products to Have Minimal Impact  | Greentech Media

Huawei’s US launch of a budget-friendly home solar panels could feel the impact of new US tariffs on China introduced under President Donald Trump.

The Chinese company’s FusionHome solar panels were due to launch in the US by the end of summer, Reuters reports. They were expected to cost $100 to $200 less than other panels, which generally cost between $1,000 and $1,500.

However, the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariffs on Chinese goods, which may go into effect on Thursday, will affect the Huawei product, analysts told Reuters. This would give rivals SolarEdge and Enphase Energy an advantage as they’ve increased production outside China.

Neither Huawei nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment.

In February, US intelligence officials advised Americans not to purchase Huawei products, for fear they could be being used to spy for the Chinese government.

US and Chinese officials are trying to rekindle trade talks in Washington this week, CBS reports, but economists aren’t expecting major breakthroughs.

Executives from American companies told trade officials about their concerns during the first of six days of hearings on the administration’s China tariffs plan, saying the US isn’t equipped to produce many materials that they need in their products, according to the New York Times.

Trump Tariffs on Chinese Solar and Battery Products to Have Minimal Impact  | Greentech Media

White House officials previously tried to reassure representatives from the tech industry that the president’s tariffs will ultimately help their businesses.

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George H.W. Bush, 41st US president, dies at 94

By on October 3, 2021
George H.W. Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94 - HISTORY

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, whose long life in the public sphere was defined by service to his country, has died He was 94. 

His wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, died in April and Bush was hospitalized the day after the funeral for an infection in his bloodstream. He suffered a number of health issues in his later years, including vascular parkinsonism, a condition similar to Parkinson’s disease, and used a wheelchair to get around.

His son, former President George W. Bush, issued a statement calling his father ‘a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.’

On June 12, 2018, Bush celebrated his 94th birthday with family members in Kennebunkport, Maine, becoming the first US president in history to reach that age. ‘I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning,’ he said in his 1989 inauguration speech.

Born into privilege, then a life of service

Bush was born in Milton, Mass., on June 12, 1924. On his 18th birthday, he enlisted in the Navy, becoming the youngest fighter pilot in World War II. He flew 58 combat missions, including one that nearly ended his life.

‘He was on a bombing mission about 600 miles south of Japan,’ said historian Douglas Brinkley, ‘when he was shot down and it went into the sea. And it’s a great moment for his life of heroism, September 3, 1944.’

He returned from war with a Distinguished Flying Cross. A year later, he was at Yale University and courting the young woman he met at a Christmas dance.

In January 1945, he married Barbara Pierce. They said it was love at first sight. ‘I think he’s the wisest, smartest, most decent, caring person I know, and I think he’s the handsomest thing I ever laid my eyes on,’ Barbara Bush once said.

George H.W. Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94 - HISTORY

Together they left the East Coast and headed south to Texas. George and Barbara had six children. Robin, their first daughter, died in 1953 of leukemia. She was not yet 4 years old.

‘It had a profound effect on me,’ Bush recalled. ‘And I think that horrible incident drew us even closer together.’

Six years later, another daughter, Dorothy, was born, joining sons George W., John Ellis (known as Jeb), Neil, and Marvin. It also marked a rebirth for Bush as well, as he embarked on a career in politics.

The East Coast moderate would have mixed success with Texas conservatives. He won two terms in Congress and lost two Senate races. But his journey would ultimately bring him to Washington.

He served Presidents Nixon and Ford in a host of high-level positions: UN ambassador, head of the Republican Party, envoy to China and director of the CIA.

After a contentious 1980 primary season and a failed bid for the presidential nomination, Bush’s opponent, Ronald Reagan, surprised the party by choosing Bush as his running mate.

‘When you read Ronald Reagan’s diaries,’ Brinkley said, ‘you’ll get to see how much he relied on George Bush. And when Reagan left after two terms, he was very much for George Herbert Walker Bush becoming his successor.’

In a speech accepting the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, Bush described America as a nation of communities, ‘a brilliant diversity, spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.’

The former fighter pilot waged a fierce battle against Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis and won.

As the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush was inheriting a rapidly changing world. The Berlin Wall had fallen; the communist empire was disintegrating; and in Panama, American troops rooted out a corrupt regime, overthrowing Manuel Noriega’s government.

But the battle with Saddam Hussein had just begun. When Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, President Bush assembled a global coalition, waging an air and ground campaign known as Operation Desert Storm. Kuwait was liberated in just six weeks. President Bush didn’t order US troops to press on to Baghdad, fearing a long war.

‘George Herbert Walker Bush was the finest foreign policy president the United States had after Harry Truman. And I don’t say that lightly,’ said historian Brinkley.

Yet concerns closer to home preoccupied many Americans, and the economy would pose a daunting challenge to his leadership.

On the campaign trail for reelection in 1992, Bush would face not one but two opponents: Democrat Bill Clinton and Independent Ross Perot, who would hammer home the notion that Bush was out of touch with the problems of everyday Americans.

‘Read my lips … no new taxes,’ Bush famously promised as he accepted the presidential nomination in 1988.

Four years later, that promise would come back to haunt him. He did, in fact, raise taxes, infuriating the base of the Republican party — the Reagan conservatives who never quite trusted the East Coast Ivy Leaguer.

‘I couldn’t do what Ronald Reagan, my friend and predecessor, had done so well — communicate effectively with the people,’ Bush said in an interview. ‘And that was my biggest shortcoming.’

Life beyond the White House

After leaving the White House, Bush forged a friendship with former president Bill Clinton. The two raised millions for victims of Hurricane Katrina and a devastating tsunami in southeast Asia. 

‘People say now that they can’t tell the difference between me and President Bush anymore and, oh yes you can. I’m the one who has more gray hair,’ Clinton joked.

Bush’s son George would serve as the governor of Texas and two terms as president, while another son, Jeb, became the first Republican governor of Florida to serve two full terms.

George Herbert Walker Bush was the patriarch of a political dynasty. But his legacy is not of power, but of service.

‘He easily could have chosen a life of comfort and privilege, and instead, time and again, when offered a chance to serve, he seized it,’ President Barack Obama said of him in 2009, marking the 20th anniversary of Bush’s Points of Light initiative. ‘Think for a minute about the impact that he’s had. … That’s the extraordinary ripple effect that one life, lived humbly, with love for one’s country, and in service to one’s fellow citizens, can have. May we each strive to make that kind of difference with our own lives.’

 

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Facebook to release early findings from civil rights audit, activist group says

By on September 30, 2021
Five takeaways from Facebook's civil rights audit

We may know more about Facebook‘s civil rights audit soon.

Civil rights group Color of Change on Friday said Facebook has agreed to release an update on the status of its civil rights audit and early findings by the end of the year. The group on Thursday met with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and other executives at the social network’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook has been working on the audit since last year, according to Color of Change. It will cover how Facebook deals with issues including hate speech, doxxing, voter suppression and the safety and security of users of color.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last week, Color of Change demanded the social network release its civil rights audit as well as any opposition research done on them by Definers Public Affairs. Facebook is facing scrutiny for allegedly hiring the public relations firm to ‘deflect’ from the Russian interference crisis and spread information to the media about Facebook’s critics, including Color of Change. Five takeaways from Facebook's civil rights audit

Facebook ended its contract with Definers after The New York Times published an investigation on how the social network’s executives dealt with crisis. Facebook has denied using the firm to push fake news, and Definers has said it wasn’t hired by the social network for opposition research.

During Sandberg’s meeting with Color of Change, she said Facebook will devote the resources needed to execute the civil rights audit and address the findings of it, according to Color of Change. The group also said Sandberg promised to evaluate the company’s policies that subject people of color to discrimination and harm.

‘We communicated to Ms. Sandberg that Facebook has a lot of work to do to gain public’s trust, and failure to follow through and act will lead to a continued escalation in demands for accountability from Americans of all backgrounds, lawmakers and shareholders,’ said Rashad Robinson, the president at Color of Change, in a release. ‘Time will tell how committed Facebook’s leadership is to real change but make no mistake, Color Of Change and our 1.4 million members aren’t going anywhere.’

 

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Google Doodle celebrates Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate

By on September 4, 2021
Celebrating Sojourner Truth

Friday’s Google Doodle offered a glimpse at the life of Sojourner Truth, who fought for women’s rights and against slavery.

Born Isabella (Belle) Baumfree in 1797, she lived her early years as a slave in Swartekill, New York, and escaped to freedom in 1826 after the state started to abolish slavery.

She later became one of the first black women to win a court case against a white man after suing for her 5-year-old son Peter’s freedom from an Alabama plantation owner — the courthouse where the case was heard is seen in the Doodle.

After changing her name to Sojourner Truth, she opened a new chapter in her life and became a preacher, abolitionist and suffragist.

Her memoirs were published as The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave in 1850, which kicked off a lecture tour that saw her deliver the iconic ‘Ain’t I Woman?’ speech at an 1851 women’s rights conference in Akron, Ohio.

She met President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and later encountered President Ulysses S. Grant.

Celebrating Sojourner Truth

Truth died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, on Nov. 26, 1883.

In 2016, the Treasury Department said she’ll appear on the back of the new $10 bill along with Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession. We’ll see that in 2020 — the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

 

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Amazon and Bernie Sanders at it again: Sanders introduces ‘Stop BEZOS Act’

By on August 30, 2021
Bernie Sanders introduces 'Stop BEZOS Act' to require employers to cover  federal aid for workers - GeekWire

Bernie Sanders and Amazon are at it again.

On Wednesday, the Independent senator from Vermont introduced a bill in the Senate called the ‘Stop BEZOS Act,’ which would require big corporations like Amazon and Walmart to pay the government for food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other assistant programs that their workers use, according to The Washington Post.

The bill reportedly uses Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos‘ name to stand for ‘Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act.’ It would ‘establish a 100 percent tax on corporations with 500 or more employees equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers,’ Sanders said.

Amazon just hit the $1 trillion mark in market cap on Tuesday, the second US company to reach that benchmark after Apple. Earlier in July, Bezos became the richest person in modern history with a net worth of $150 billion.

In May, Sanders made comments regarding Bezos’ wealth and Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers, calling the scenario a sign of ‘a rigged economy.’ Sanders also criticized Amazon for not paying enough in taxes.

The e-commerce giant and the former presidential candidate exchanged blows again last week. Sanders criticized the company for treating its workers poorly. Amazon defended its record and claimed the Sanders presented ‘misleading and inaccurate’ allegations regarding the company’s working conditions and wages.

Bernie Sanders introduces 'Stop BEZOS Act' to require employers to cover  federal aid for workers - GeekWire

Sanders’ statements came after he asked Amazon employees to share their experience working for Amazon, whose warehouses, he noted, are on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s list of most dangerous places to work in the US.

‘The wealthiest person in the world is advertising jobs that pay workers wages that are so low that they have to go on public assistance and be subsidized by the middle class of this country,’ said Sanders in a statement. ‘That’s wrong. That has got to change.’

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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