Pressure on Facebook ramps up as Senate Judiciary Committee demands answers

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Pressure is growing on Facebook to explain its failure to protect customers against misuse of their data by a firm of political consultants.

Both US and UK governments have demanded that CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally appear before them to give testimony. But in the case of the UK, Zuckerberg has already refused …



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Senate committee asks Facebook, Google and Twitter to testify on privacy

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The list of people that want to hear from social media giants in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal keeps getting longer. Senator Ron Wyden wants to know how the data collection happened in the first place, and Facebook talked to Congression…
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Senate set to approve bill that would make credit freezes free

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In the aftermath of last year's Equifax data breach, a handful of Senators led by Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill that would allow consumers to freeze their credit at any time for free. Now the Senate appears to be set to approve a broader banking…
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The Senate has its own insincere net neutrality bill

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Now that the House of Representatives has floated a superficial net neutrality bill, it's the Senate's turn. Louisiana Senator John Kennedy has introduced a companion version of the Open Internet Preservation Act that effectively replicates the House…
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FCC officially publishes net neutrality repeal, opening the door for challenges in the courts and Senate

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published its final rules gutting net neutrality today. But like most phone announcements these days, there were no real surprises. We all knew what was coming.

Why the actual publication of the repeal matters is because it is only now that states and internet freedom organizations can start taking legal action. Plus, now the Senate has 60 legislative days to block the FCC if it is so inclined, which would require help from Republican senators.

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FCC officially publishes net neutrality repeal, opening the door for challenges in the courts and Senate was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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A bill to put more self-driving cars on U.S. roads is stuck in the Senate

California’s own senator isn’t convinced the technology is ready.

An ambitious attempt by U.S. lawmakers to put more self-driving cars on the country’s roads has stalled out in the Senate, where some Democrats are raising new doubts about the technology.

For a few senior party lawmakers, the fear is that these computer-driven vehicles aren’t yet ready for major roadways or might be susceptible to cyber attacks. So they’re standing in the way of a Senate vote on the bill, demanding changes that they say are essential to protect riders’ safety.

Chief among the critics is Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose state of California is a home base and critical testing ground for companies like Uber, Tesla and Google.

In December, Feinstein sounded off in early opposition to lawmakers’ self-driving car bill. And in an interview Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, the Democratic lawmaker doubled down — stressing that she is “apprehensive as to whether we’re ready” for a world in which highly autonomous sedans share the road with humans.

“It seems to me that you have to have a period of time where these cars are put on roads, but not necessarily heavily impacted California freeways that are going 65 to 75 miles an hour,” she said. “That’s my view, and I’m a driver, and I know I wouldn’t feel very comfortable.”

In California, though, Google search giant’s self-driving car division, Waymo, racked up roughly 636,000 miles’ worth of rides on local roads just last year. In a sign of the stakes, the company even paid Feinstein a visit in Washington, D.C., this week to try to pitch her on the technology.

“People need to be assured, and they need to be assured over time,” Feinstein told Recode. “And you can’t just dump something on a freeway and have people looking over saying, ‘My God, there’s no driver.’”

Members of Congress first set their sights on autonomous vehicles this spring, beginning in the House. Lawmakers there specifically sought to help tech giants and automakers obtain special exemptions so that they could test droves of new experimental vehicles around the country — without adhering to the same safety standards that apply to older cars. Their bill, called the Self-Drive Act, won swift, broad approval from House Democrats and Republicans alike.

But the Senate has squabbled a bit more over its own proposal, the AV START Act. Since last fall, chamber pols have raised a litany of objections, from the protections afforded to driver data collected by cars to the effects they might have on the trucking industry.

And when architects like Republican Sen. John Thune sought to bring the bill up for a speedy, final vote, some skeptical Democrats and Republicans intervened to hit the brakes, placing official holds on the measure that prevented it from being considered and approved.

Among those expressing skepticism at the time was Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who told Recode in a statement that autonomous-driving technology is still “an emerging and unproven technology.”

“As it stands, this bill does not include enough protections to keep drivers, passengers and pedestrians safe,” he said in December, “but I’m hopeful we can strengthen these safeguards while allowing for limited testing and continued innovation.” His office did not comment this week as to whether the senator remains opposed.

Last month, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey similarly raised a formal objection with the bill. And on Thursday, an aide to the Democratic lawmaker said he still has his doubts — and aims to “strengthen provisions in the bill related to automotive defects, cyberattacks, and consumer privacy, especially on the privacy provisions.”

Despite those setbacks, the authors of self-driving car legislation said this week that they’re hopeful. “We’re willing to work with people who have objections, and address their concerns, if it can be done in a way that doesn’t undermine the purpose and the basic framework of the legislation,” Thune told Recode in an interview.

But even he acknowledged that the toughest roadblock of all might be Feinstein.

“I don’t know if she’s asked for anything in particular; she just doesn’t like the bill,” he said of his Democratic colleague on Wednesday.

Recode – All

Senate Democrats and 22 Attorneys General Deliver a One-Two Punch to the Net Neutrality Ban

Marching On

The United States Senate is just a single vote shy of passing a resolution that would override the Federal Communications Commission’s December vote to rescind net neutrality rules. All 49 of the upper congressional chambers’ Democrats are being joined by a single Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, in support of the resolution.

However, 50 votes are not enough to pass the bill as the tied vote will trigger a breaking vote from the President of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence. Even more, if Democrats were able to flip another Republican vote the legislation would face two more daunting obstacles in the form of a much larger Republican majority in the House, as well the veto power of the President, who voice significant support for the decision.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “With full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the Internet from becoming the Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options.” The bill was introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and attracted more than 30 cosponsors. According to Senate rules established in the Congressional Review Act, this guarantees the bill must be brought up for a vote.

Senate Democrats are taking an opportunity to force Republicans to be on the record with a position on this divisive topic. This could put some senators in vulnerable seats in a tough place as more than 80 percent of voters oppose the FCC’s ruling on net neutrality, according to a poll from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation.

Flanking with the Courts

At the same time, the Attorneys General of 22 states have now officially filed a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s controversial ruling. In a statement announcing the move, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “An open internet — and the free exchange of ideas it allows – is critical to our democratic process. The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers – allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online.”

Several other lawsuits are expected to be incoming from public interest groups which argue that the order was done too quickly and without adequate public input.

Saving net neutrality through the courts is a much more arduous process than congress coming together to pass meaningful legislation that a great majority of the country is in favor of, if not adamantly calling for. A definitive decision could remain elusive for years as the case winds its way through courts and appeals, leaving consumers in limbo throughout the process.

Internet activists stress the importance to stay vocal in defending the momentarily defeated rules governing a free and open internet. The Senate vote will make it clear where each senator stands on this issue, and the November elections will be a chance for the electorate to weigh in at the ballot box.

The post Senate Democrats and 22 Attorneys General Deliver a One-Two Punch to the Net Neutrality Ban appeared first on Futurism.


States take net neutrality fight to court as Senate resolution reaches 50 votes

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The attorneys general of 22 states on Tuesday asked a federal court to intervene in the FCC’s plan to roll back net neutrality protections, while a resolution of disapproval in the U.S. Senate crept closer to passage.
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Senate Democrats say they’re a vote shy of reviving net neutrality. They’re doomed to fail anyway.

Republicans control Congress, after all, and Trump could veto — but Democrats have other plans in mind

Senate Democrats announced on Monday that they’re just one vote short of reviving the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules.

That might sound like a major victory for staunch supporters of the open internet. Not exactly.

The U.S. Congress isn’t actually that much closer to bringing back regulations that require telecom giants like AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon to treat all web traffic equally. That’s because net neutrality crusaders on Capitol Hill don’t have a solid base of support yet in the House — and certainly aren’t going to win the backing of President Donald Trump.

Recall that the Federal Communications Commission under its Republican leader, Chairman Ajit Pai, spearheaded a vote in December that scrapped the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules. Those safeguards had treated internet service providers like old-school telephone utilities, aiming to stop them from blocking, slowing down or otherwise interfering with web traffic.

Pai’s move left supporters of the open web apoplectic. Companies like Etsy, consumer groups like Free Press and state attorneys general around the country soon threatened to sue. Tech giants like Facebook and Google promised to offer their legal aid, too. And Democratic members of Congress said they would try to undo the FCC’s vote with a vote of their own.

Lawmakers have the power to review, and potentially replace, actions by the FCC and other agencies using a little-known law called the Congressional Review Act. In the Senate, it takes a meager 30 votes to force the chamber to debate an issue like net neutrality, then 51 votes to kill the FCC’s decision.

Democrats crossed the 30-vote threshold last week. And they announced Monday night they had 50 votes in favor of restoring the net neutrality rules that Pai eliminated, just one short of what they need. The leaders of that movement saw that as cause for celebration.

“There is a tsunami of Congressional and grassroots support to overturn the FCC’s partisan and misguided decision on net neutrality,” said Sen. Ed Markey, who is leading the charge.

But that milestone never really was in doubt. Democrats boast 49 votes in the chamber, after all, a tally that includes independents like Sen. Bernie Sanders. As expected, they’re sticking together and backing an effort to revive net neutrality protections. Helping them reach 50 votes is one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Susan Collins, who’s previously criticized the FCC for ignoring Americans’ strong views about the open internet.

Things will be different in the House. There, Democrats have 193 votes; they typically need 216 to prevail. Even if they do somehow succeed, though, their proposal would then require the sign off of the president, who has publicly called net neutrality rules an “attack on the internet.” Of course, Congress could try again, aiming to override Trump’s veto. But that would require even more, harder-to-find votes.

Put more succinctly, the news Monday means everything and nothing. Democrats are one small step closer to net neutrality in the Senate, and many large, potentially insurmountable steps away from actually restoring those rules.

For party leaders, though, a loss might still be its own sort of win. Democrats believe net neutrality is a debate that might drive votes — especially millennials — to show up at the ballot box come November. So even if lawmakers fail to restore the U.S. government’s open internet rules in the coming weeks, they hope can leverage it to win something bigger: more seats in Congress.

Or, more votes for the next net neutrality debate.

“When we force a vote on this bill,” stressed Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, “Republicans in Congress will – for the first time — have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: big ISPs and major corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.

Recode – All

U.S. Senate Questions Apple About Slowing Down Older iPhones

There’s no denying the fact that many people have criticized Apple’s sneaky procedures to slow down older iPhones, and the U.S. Senate has upped the pressure.

According to the Guardian, the Senate has begun quizzing the tech giant about its practice for slowing down aging iPhones. The firm is thought to do this to convince users to upgrade to newer handsets.

Senator John Thune, who is the chair of the Senate’s commerce committee, has penned a letter to CEO Tim cook. He wants to learn more about the situation and how it affects consumers.

“Apple’s proposed solutions have prompted additional criticism from some customers, particularly its decision not to provide free replacement batteries,” said Thune.

His quote was included in a report from the Wall Street Journal, and allegedly, the Senate wants to hear back from Apple by January 23rd.

In December, the company confirmed that it slows down older iPhones. And as a result, the company has been faced with class-action lawsuits as well as grueling criticism.

Apple apologized for the situation, saying: “We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.”

“We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down.”

The company added: “First and foremost, we have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

Meanwhile, the French Government has just opened a legal case against the company for apparently committing “planned obsolescence” – following moves by the U.S.

Consumer support group Stop Planned Obsolescence has been a staunch critic of  the tech company’s actions. It told the BBC: “The slowing down of older devices seems to have the deliberate aim of pushing Apple customers towards purchasing the new model.

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