Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Anti-competitive behavior, possible mergers face scrutiny

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) led seven of her Democratic colleagues in a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into the possible merger between T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. Though the deal is not officially on the books, the senators say reviewing it now could allow a thorough but quick investigation if the deal is formally announced.
  • Attorneys at the antitrust division of the Department of Justice are reportedly likely to assess the would-be merger as presenting a threat to competition. But Makan Delrahim, the new head of the antitrust division, would have the ability to overturn the attorneys’ review in order to let the merger, an announcement of which is expected at the end of the month, to go through.
  • Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to acting Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen asking for the results of a 2013 investigation into anti-competitive behavior by Google Inc. to be released to the public. Following the investigation, the company made voluntary changes to satisfy the commission, and the FTC ultimately ruled in Google’s favor.
  • Qualcomm Inc. says it will appeal a decision announced by Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission to fine the company $774 million for alleged antitrust violations. The body said the company was refusing to license its chips to other players in the industry, but Qualcomm said it would appeal both the amount of the fine and the methodology for arriving at it.
  • Meanwhile, Qualcomm looks to acquire Dutch company NXP Semiconductors N.V. for $38 billion, though the action could prompt concerns from the European Commission that such a merger would raise prices and stifle competition.

Equifax struggles with cybersecurity, IRS contract

  • Reacting to the Internal Revenue Service’s defense of its renewal of a contract with Equifax Inc. following the company’s exposure of personal data for 145 million Americans, the Government Accountability Office said the IRS could have cited “urgent and compelling circumstances that significantly affect interests of the U.S.” in going with another company.
  • After reports of a website breach at Equifax, the IRS temporarily suspended its contract with the company, which the agency had renewed after Equifax revealed the personal information for up to 145 million consumers had been compromised in a hack. The IRS said no data was breached under the new contract and that the suspension is a precautionary measure.

Facebook, Google ads under the microscope

  • Facebook Inc. reportedly emailed advertisers warning that campaigns may be delayed as the company plans to manually review any ads targeted to people based on “politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues.”
  • False reports following the shooting in Las Vegas point to failures in efforts by Google and Facebook to eliminate fake news in general. At play is the algorithmic prioritization of recency and popularity to engage users, over accuracy or relevance, and deliberate manipulation of the systems by pranksters like the members of the website 4chan.
  • The Federal Election Commission announced it’s giving the public 1 month to comment on whether it should impose disclosure requirements for political ads featured on online platforms like Google and Facebook. In 2012, the FEC waived the requirement for the companies, but they have both revealed that Russia-linked ad buyers tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election using their platforms.
  • Having met with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, leading members of the House Intelligence Committee plan to release some 3,000 Russia-linked ads that appeared on the platform during the 2016 election cycle. Facebook, which previously refused to release the ads, has been solicited in helping to clean them of any personal information before they can be publicly released.
  • Facebook wiped data from an analytics tool it owns called CrowdTangle after researchers used it to show Russian influence on the 2016 election might have been much greater than the company let on. Facebook says it wiped the data to protect the privacy of its users and that it never should have been accessible in the first place.

What’s Ahead

  • NAFTA negotiations, which include cross-border data issues and other tech concerns, have been extended through Tuesday.
  • Representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter Inc. are expected to testify before congressional committees Nov. 1 regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Morning Consult Tech Top Reads

1) U.S. governors, hackers, academics team up to secure elections
Jim Finkle, Reuters

2) The U.S. Postal Service is Building a Self-Driving Mail Truck
Aarian Marshall, WIRED

3) Five Ways Congress Can Grow the Internet of Things
Mohana Ravindranath, Nextgov

4) Exclusive: Symantec CEO says source code reviews pose unacceptable risk
Dustin Volz and Joel Schectman, Reuters

5) Alphabet’s Project Loon gets OK to use balloons to revive Puerto Rico cell service
Mike Snider, USA Today

6) Sprint’s Revived Push for T-Mobile Hurtles Toward Old U.S. Foes
David McLaughlin and Todd Shields, Bloomberg

7) FEC asks for public comment on online ad disclosure rules
Harper Neidig, The Hill

8) Fake news is still here, despite efforts by Google, Facebook
Barbara Ortutay and Ryan Nakashima, The Associated Press

9) Senate Dems ask regulators to investigate potential Sprint-T-Mobile merger
Haper Neidig, The Hill

10) Intel Says New Chip Shows Rapid Progress in Quantum Computing
Ian King, Bloomberg

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