Mark Zuckerberg will testify before U.S. lawmakers in two separate hearings next week

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He’ll testify before two Senate committees on Tuesday, and a House committee on Wednesday.

Mark Zuckerberg is officially headed to Washington.

The Facebook CEO has accepted an invitation to testify before lawmakers from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the company’s recent Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, in which personal data from some 50 million users ended up in the hands of an outside research firm that worked with the Trump campaign, all without those users’ permission.

Zuckerberg will testify on Wednesday, April 11, at 10 am ET, according to a release, “regarding the company’s use and protection of user data.”

“This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online. We appreciate Mr. Zuckerberg’s willingness to testify before the committee, and we look forward to him answering our questions on April 11th,” committee chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-NJ, said in a canned quote.

Update: Zuckerberg will also testify before two Senate committees in a joint hearing that was announced late Wednesday. The hearing, which will take place at 2:15 pm ET next Tuesday, April 10, is titled, “Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data.” Zuckerberg will answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

Zuckerberg was invited to testify before three separate congressional committees to discuss the company’s privacy policies, including the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Facebook has been working behind the scenes to schedule his appearance for almost two weeks, though would not commit to anything publicly until today.

Back in mid-March, Zuckerberg told Recode in an interview that he was open to testifying “if I’m the right [person].”

“You know, I’m open to doing that,” he said when asked if he would testify. “I think that the way that we look at testifying in front of Congress is that … We actually do this fairly regularly, right? There are high-profile ones like the Russian investigation, but there are lots of different topics that Congress needs and wants to know about. And the way that we approach it is that our responsibility is to make sure that they have access to all the information that they need to have. So I’m open to doing it.”

Zuckerberg’s appearance will be a big deal — in part because Zuckerberg has never testified before, and in part because the company’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco has become a symbol of sorts for how big tech companies like Facebook are not doing enough to protect user privacy.

The concern, if you are a Facebook investor, is that lawmakers will walk away from a Zuckerberg testimony with the belief the company needs to be regulated. Facebook’s entire business relies on collecting personal information from people and using that information to show those people targeted advertising.

When Facebook testified in front of Congress last fall about Russian groups using the service to try and influence the 2016 presidential election, Facebook sent its top lawyer, Colin Stretch, instead of Zuckerberg.

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Tim Cook mingles with lawmakers on Capitol Hill during visit to Washington D.C.

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Apple CEO Tim Cook is in Washington D.C. today, mingling with lawmakers at Capitol Hill. NBC News producer and reporter Frank Thorp shared the above image, showing Cook with Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Richard Burr…

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Bitcoin could face new regulations in the U.S. after top financial cops and lawmakers raise new fears about virtual currency

A hearing Tuesday in the Senate could be a preview of what’s to come.

Leading U.S. financial regulators expressed an uneasiness Tuesday with the rapid rise of bitcoin — and signaled that new regulation of virtual currency could be on the horizon.

For lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee, their hearing this morning elucidated a fresh sense that federal law may not be fully equipped to deal with a virtual currency that’s now valued at around $ 113 billion — not to mention the potential for theft and fraud and the arrival of so-called initial coin offerings, which are essentially fundraising rounds that rely on digital tokens.

In response, regulators at two key federal agencies — the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — sought to strike a delicate balance in their testimony to the Senate panel. They acknowledged there are gaps in consumer and investor protections but stressed their interest in sparing a new, innovative market from too much early regulation.

Still, Democrats and Republicans alike continued to return to the same question: Is a new law governing bitcoin buying, selling and enforcement necessary?

“We may be back with our friends from Treasury and the Fed to ask for additional legislation,” said Jay Clayton, the leader of the SEC, referring to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

To be sure, bitcoin isn’t totally unregulated. By definition, the SEC regulates all securities — including bitcoin in cases where the virtual currency doubles as an investment vehicle, such as a stock. At the CFTC, meanwhile, the agency determined back in 2015 that bitcoin qualifies as a “commodity” that it can monitor under federal law.

But they do face limits in their oversight, which the agencies’ leaders acknowledged Tuesday. Neither entity has oversight when it comes to so-called “spot markets,” for example, or hubs like Coinbase where consumers can buy and sell bitcoin directly. Those largely are regulated by the individual states, and in the eyes of some critics, perhaps not very effectively.

“The spot market for bitcoin is not a regulated marketplace,” said the CFTC’s leader, Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo. Federal enforcers can pursue “fraud and manipulation,” he said, “but we don’t have the ability to set the standards in those markets.”

For that to change, it would fall to Congress. While lawmakers on Tuesday didn’t offer any specific proposal to regulate bitcoin, many Democrats and Republicans came armed with a litany of concerns or criticisms about cryptocurrency — and the government’s ability to handle it.

Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown and Jack Reed, for example, expressed doubts the federal regulators have enough technologists on hand to grapple with the rise of bitcoin.

For GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, the fear is “where the bottom is” when it comes to the value of virtual currency, which has whipsawed over the last few months — and lost as much as half its value in just weeks. After trading as high as $ 20,000 last year, it was worth under $ 7,000 as the hearing came to a close.

To Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the cybersecurity of bitcoin platforms remains a challenge. His comments came on a day that South Korean officials alleged that North Korea is behind a major new theft of bitcoin.

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly pressed regulators on what they were doing to help “retail” investors — average Americans who have seized on bitcoin mania. In response, the CFTC’s Giancarlo said his agency and others had sought to arm libraries — where bitcoin is among frequent searches — with information about the industry.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised the recent trend of companies adding “blockchain” to their names to squeeze out more market value. Federal officials shared her complaints.

And many expressed their doubts with initial coin offerings, or ICOs. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren sought to point out that none of the roughly $ 4 billion so far raised through ICOs had registered properly with the SEC, potentially depriving investors of information that might affect their decision making.

In recent weeks, the SEC has taken explicit aim at these ICOs, warning some and penalizing others. “Experience tells us that while some market participants may make fortunes, the risks to all investors are high. Caution is merited,” warned SEC and CFTC leaders in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month.

On Tuesday, the agency’s leader, Clayton, stressed to the Senate: “We’ve made it clear what the law is.”

For now, though, committee leaders signaled they’d be interested in legislation that might address some of these ills. But Sen. Mike Crapo, the panel’s Republican chairman, suggested to the financial regulators who testified that they had to come to him with a proposal first.

“I would ask you to get back to me on recommendations … legislative system and whether we need to provide further clarification from Congress,” he said.


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Lawmakers call on US to extend conditions of Comcast-NBC merger

When Comcast acquired NBCUniversal back in 2011, the deal came with strings attached: among others, it had to abide by 2010-era net neutrality rules, provide affordable internet to low-income families and avoid discriminating against rivals. Well, a…
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Are Loot Boxes Gambling? Washington State Lawmakers Are Asking Just That

It’s 2018 now, and the loot boxes story isn’t going away. Now, Washington State lawmakers have joined the fray and are digging deeper in an effort to determine whether loot boxes are a form of gambling targeting children. According to a recent news story, Senator Kevin Ranker, a Democrat representing Orcas Island, introduced a bill that asks state officials and game developers to figure out whether loot boxes and other similar game mechanics are nothing more than a form of gambling that takes advantage of children. Ranker said that the industry needs to figure out how to regulate loot boxes because it’s unacceptable to have “predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something” (I’m pretty sure those bunnies feel unfairly singled out right now).

This latest move is just one in a series of US and European efforts to tackle what many see as a definite shift in the industry towards reliance on loot boxes. After the huge debacle with Star Wars Battlefront II, which was accused of going way overboard with its use of loot boxes and had to pull them from the game completely prior to launch, the legal landscape is ripe for moves such as the one by Ranker. In addition to Ranker, a lawmaker in Hawaii proposed banning the sale of games containing loot boxes to anyone under 21, and Belgium’s government is currently investigating the nature of loot box mechanics and whether they should be classified as gambling or not.

Apple itself, as we wrote a few weeks back, has quietly changed the App Store Review Guidelines to force developers to disclose the odds of “‘loot boxes’ or other mechanics that provide randomized virtual items for purchase.” We expressed doubts at the time about this change having any effect on the popularity of gacha mechanics in mobile games, and so far we haven’t seen any tangible effect on loot boxes in mobile games.

It’s hard to deny the impact of loot boxes on gaming, though, with big developers spending a ton of money and development time optimizing their use and the various mechanics that will make them more “attractive.” At the same time, the World Health Organization has recently defined what it calls “gaming disorder,” which pretty much translates to gaming addiction. I wonder if lawmakers going after loot boxes will use WHO‘s recognition of gaming disorder as a way to further their point that loot boxes are making games more addictive and fueling “gaming disorders.” After all, gaming disorder’s WHO code is 6C71, right under 6C70, gambling disorder. Both are under “addictive behaviors,” and their descriptions share very similar wording.

Whether we are seeing a wave of criticism that will end up erasing or minimizing the use of loot boxes from mobile gaming (and gaming more generally) remains to be seen. There’s a lot of money on the table, and money usually equals lobbying power. At the same time, gamers seem to be firmly against the use of loot boxes. If lawmakers go ahead and regulate loot boxes, I wonder how that will affect the various genres of games that depend on them, and whether we’ll end up with something better or not. It remains to be seen.

[via The News Tribune]

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Lawmakers Urge AT&T to Cut Ties with Huawei over Security Concerns

US lawmakers are urging AT&T to cut ties with Huawei citing national security concerns. Earlier this month the wireless carrier backed out of a deal to carry Huawei’s flagship smartphone.

Reuters confirms now that US lawmakers were involved in pressuring AT&T to scrap this plan, fearing that Huawei would allow the Chinese government to install technology on handsets to spy on Americans. The US government is also urging AT&T not to collaborate with Huawei on 5G wireless standards. For similar reasons, Reuters reports, the US government is opposed to the China Mobile Ltd.’s entry into the US market.

“The next wave of wireless communication has enormous economic and national security implications. China’s participation in setting the standards and selling the equipment raises many national security issues that demand strict and prompt attention,” said Michael Wessel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, to Reuters.

Huawei, a Chinese company founded by a former PLA officer, has grown quickly to become the third largest smartphone maker in the world after Apple and Samsung. The company is also the world’s second largest telecom equipment manufacturer after Ericsson.

However, fears that the company is involved in espionage on behalf of China have hampered its entry into the US. In 2013, US lawmakers pressured both Sprint Nextel and its corporate parent SoftBank not to use Huawei equipment. In response, Huawei’s CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei circulated an internal email insisting that his company’s secretive reputation has been exaggerated.

“With regards to the media, I have always been completely transparent,” Ren wrote. In a similar vein, he has promised that his successor will not be a family member.

“None of my family members have these skills, so none of them will ever succeed me,” Ren said in the e-mail.

These assurances have apparently done little to dispel espionage concerns. US lawmakers are now warning that American companies that do business with Huawei could hamper their ability to do business with the US government. So far, Huawei, AT&T, and China Mobile have not commented on the issue.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang did not comment on the details of the aborted deal between Huawei and AT&T, and expressed hope that Chinese companies could continue to do business with the US.

“We hope that China and the United States can work hard together to maintain the healthy and stable development of trade and business ties. This accords with the joint interests of both,” Lu said.

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Lawmakers said to be behind Huawei’s continued U.S. carrier woes

 The latest entry in Huawei’s ongoing struggles to come to the U.S. proved to be one of the more unexpected and engaging CES storylines last week. But there are still plenty of layers of this onion left to peel back. This morning, Reuters is confirming speculation that AT&T’s last-minute decision to pull out of a deal with the Chinese phone maker comes as U.S. lawmakers… Read More
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U.S. lawmakers want AT&T to stop working with Huawei

Huawei P9 logo

Earlier this month, news came out that AT&T had backed out of a deal to offer Huawei’s flagship Mate 10 Pro in the U.S., and it was said that the decision was made due to government pressure. Now it looks like the U.S. government wants AT&T even further away from Huawei.

U.S. lawmakers are advising AT&T to cut its commercial ties with Huawei and oppose plans by China Mobile to enter the U.S. market, according to Reuters. Specifically, U.S. senators and House members want AT&T to end its partnership with Huawei on its 5G network efforts, while others don’t like AT&T prepaid brand Cricket selling Huawei smartphones.

As for why U.S. lawmakers want AT&T to sever ties with Huawei, it’s said that they’ve got national security concerns. Some security experts are concerned that data from Huawei devices could be made available to Chinese government intelligence services.

Huawei has vigorously fought these types of security concerns in the past, recently saying that it sells equipment through more than 45 of the world top 50 carriers. Huawei also said that customer privacy and security it a top priority.

While Huawei is a major player in several mobile markets overseas, the company has yet to gain much traction in the U.S. A deal to sell the Mate 10 Pro in AT&T stores could’ve really helped since most U.S. consumers buy their phones from their carriers, but Huawei currently only sells phones unlocked in the U.S. This news could further dampen Huawei’s hopes of becoming a big name in the U.S.

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Report says Huawei-AT&T deal collapsed after US lawmakers raised concerns over it

We already know the Huawei-AT&T deal over selling the Mate 10 Pro didn’t materialize, and the former even confirmed it indirectly. There was, however, no information on exactly why that happened. Until now that is, as a new report says the collaboration couldn’t see the light of the day after US lawmakers raised concerned over it. Here’s what the report said: The AT&T deal died a few weeks after members of the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees wrote to the Federal Communications Commission raising concerns about reports that Huawei had struck a deal with a major…

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