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— Out overnight: A Facebook report details coordinated disinformation campaigns from Uganda and Palestine in January, but a spokesperson said the company has detected no such activity on the platform in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
— You’ve got mail, Tim Cook: Democratic House leaders are raising alarm that new privacy labels in Apple’s App Store could be “highly misleading or blatantly false” and undermine competition among developers.
— Telecom and Covid aid: House Energy and Commerce members on Thursday will mark up portions of the pandemic relief package dealing with FCC subsidies to support virtual learning — but Republicans want to pump the brakes.
GREETINGS, TECHLINGS: IT’S WEDNESDAY. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine. Did you see the lawyer who turned into a cat on a very important Zoom call? Watch this and laugh as hard as I did.
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FACEBOOK: NO COORDINATED DISINFO CAMPAIGNS TIED TO CAPITOL RIOT — One thing is notably missing from a new Facebook report detailing the “coordinated inauthentic behavior” it found on the platform last month: any mention of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. That’s in contrast to the many fingers people are pointing in Washington about social media’s role in helping incite the storming of the Capitol — including the way rioters used both fringe and mainstream sites, like Facebook, to find inspiration and rally support.
— No “coordinated inauthentic behavior” here: Facebook defines this activity as networks of people or pages that coordinate efforts to manipulate public debate or mislead users, sometimes for ideological reasons. Facebook’s report on the issue for January, released overnight, details such activity coming only from Uganda and Palestine. (All of it has since been taken down.) A company spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Facebook found no coordinated disinformation efforts on its platform last month that were tied to the riot.
APPLE’S DATA LABELS RAISE PRIVACY, COMPETITION EYEBROWS IN CONGRESS — Democratic leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are taking issue with the new privacy labels for apps in Apple’s App Store. (Tap any app in the App Store, scroll down, and under “App Privacy” you’ll see information including “Data Used to Track You” and “Data Linked to You.”) The lawmakers fear that the labels, rolled out in December, are often “highly misleading or blatantly false” and create potential competition issues, they wrote Tuesday in a letter to CEO Tim Cook.
— The grievances: Some apps tagged with “Data Not Collected” labels had been shown to be sharing data with several large tech companies, E&C Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Consumer Protection Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) wrote. They also noted that while Apple requires app developers to submit information about their privacy parameters, the iPhone-maker “does not independently verify the accuracy” of those claims. The lawmakers asked Cook to detail how Apple audits those submissions, and how it responds when app-makers are not forthright about their data collection practices.
— “False and misleading privacy labels can dupe privacy-conscious consumers into downloading data-intensive apps, ultimately eroding the credibility and integrity of the labels,” the E&C leaders wrote. “A privacy label without credibility and integrity also may dull the competitive forces encouraging app developers to improve their data practices.”
E&C ALSO HOPES FOR AN E-RATE BOOST IN COVID BILL — On Thursday, the committee will mark up portions of the pandemic relief package falling within its jurisdiction, Pallone revealed to Incompas summit attendees on Tuesday. And lawmakers may fold in provisions aimed at boosting a key FCC subsidy program to help students, a top priority for lawmakers anxious about the online learning gap.
— “We’re going to hopefully address E-Rate,” Pallone told Incompas. “The committee’s top priority, really, is to combat and crush the virus.” As MT reported Tuesday, other Democrats including Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey are angling to hitch billions of dollars to the new Covid-19 aid bill to rev up the E-Rate program, which helps connect schools and libraries. The White House had not contemplated such a boost in this Covid round, despite President Joe Biden’s support for expanding E-Rate.
— And broadband infrastructure this spring? Pallone also staked out his interest in tackling other items this Congress: ensuring “universal broadband” for all Americans (probably the topic of a forthcoming infrastructure effort, and something of interest for panel Republicans, too, as Rep. Bob Latta of Ohio also told Incompas on Tuesday) and reviving net neutrality (although he was mum about whether the FCC or Congress should reinstate those safeguards). E&C will probably mark up infrastructure legislation in April or May, Pallone added, which would likely entail reviving Democratic ambitions for investing $100 billion in broadband.
— Debates on privacy and liability protections are still percolating: Pallone said advancing data privacy legislation “on a bipartisan basis” remains a “top priority” for the committee, with Schakowsky slated to continue leading those efforts. He said the panel also plans to charge ahead with efforts to overhaul — but not repeal — Section 230, the online industry’s legal shield. “We’ll have hearings, but I don’t have a specific answer to you now about how to reform it other than to say that we want to reform it,” he said.
WHAT CAN THE U.S. TEACH EUROPE ABOUT PRIVACY? — U.S. lawmakers may castigate the FTC’s track record on privacy enforcement — one senator called the agency’s 2019 data privacy settlement with Facebook a “tap on the wrist, not even a slap.” But relative to Europe, some privacy followers say, the Americans are doing just fine. Since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation took effect in May 2018, the EU has collected about $330 million in privacy penalties; the U.S. has raked in almost $6 billion.
— “Evidence of American toughness on privacy, at least regarding enforcement, may come as a shock to those used to hearing that Washington is miles behind Brussels,” my POLITICO colleagues Vincent Manancourt and Mark Scott report from Brussels, noting that “EU officials have been eager to trumpet the bloc’s privacy regime as the world’s strictest. … But for eagle-eyed observers of privacy on both continents, that’s a false framing of the transatlantic divide.”
TELECOM QUOTE DU JOUR — “If people do want to revisit [net neutrality], which they do, let’s revisit it across the board,” Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told the Incompas summit on Tuesday. “If the concern is about a free and open internet, then I think it’s time we look holistically at all the actors in the internet ecosystem. … If you look at entities that right now are engaged in actions that are blocking access to content, it’s not your Mom-and-Pop ISP — it’s Google, it’s Apple, it’s Amazon Web Services.”
DISH hired four regional vice presidents to spearhead its buildout across the country: Satish Sharma in the West, Nichole Thomas in the Central U.S., Bill Watson in the South and Mike McGovern in the Northeast. … Colin Rhinesmith, director of the Community Informatics Lab in Simmons University’s School of Library and Information Science, was named senior faculty research fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. … Colin Andrews has been promoted to senior director of government affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association.
Racquel Russell, vice president of partner success at Zillow and a former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama, is joining the board of e-scooter company Bird. … Margo Georgiadis, former president and CEO of Ancestry.com, was appointed Handshake’s first independent board member. … Christine Heckart, CEO of Scalyr, has joined Contentful’s board of directors. … Mike Maiorana, former senior vice president at Verizon Business Group, is joining the AI platform Persado as senior vice president of federal strategy and sales.
Eyeballs watching emoji: Now hiring? Reddit.
Can’t touch this: On a Tuesday earnings call, Twitter said it had continued adding users, even after it permanently suspended one of its biggest accounts — that of former President Donald Trump, WSJ reports.
Bezos’ next gig: “Getting his space company, Blue Origin, off the ground,” WaPo reports.
See ya never: “Salesforce plans for most of its employees to work remotely part- or full-time after the pandemic and to reduce its real-estate footprint as a result,” WSJ reports.
Competition corner: “Instagram says its algorithm won’t promote Reels that have a TikTok watermark,” The Verge reports.
Spreading the love: Airbnb, which went public in December, is urging the SEC to adopt a proposed rule that would make it easier for hosts on the platform to own equity in the company.
Tech for good: Lime is offering free rides to people heading to their Covid vaccine appointments, the scooter and bike-sharing company announced on Tuesday.
Surveillance state: “Facial recognition software developed by China-based Dahua, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of video surveillance technology, purports to detect the race of individuals caught on camera and offers to alert police clients when it identifies members of the Turkic ethnic group Uighurs,” the LA Times reports.
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