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Tech News Roundup

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08/28/2015

Key Issues

Tech Business

Facebook Reached An Unbelievable Milestone This Week. 1 billion people used Facebook on Monday. With 7.125 people on earth, that means almost 1 in 7 people logged into the social media site. (Time Magazine)

Markets rebound from China slump, strong U.S. data helps. Stock markets around the world rallied on Thursday, shaking off a slump related to China growth fears, as strong U.S. economic data boosted investor sentiment and crude oil rebounded sharply. (Reuters)

Will tech manufacturing stay in China? Relocating might not make sense. But doubling down on China might not, either. China watchers have been eyeing one worrisome strain for years—labor. The low labor costs that fueled Chinese growth have more than quadrupled since 2006, and labor unrest has also been growing. That has led some manufacturers, following the same logic that brought them to China in the first place, to move towards still-lower labor cost countries, like Bangladesh and Laos.(Fortune)

GDP Numbers Reveal Underlying Momentum, Possible Headwinds for U.S. Economy. Growth at 3.7% pace is broad-based, led by business investment, inventories, government and consumer spending. (Wall Street Journal)

Amazon cuts jobs after its Fire phone fails to spark. The failure of the Amazon smartphone to set the world on fire has triggered an unprecedented round of job cuts at the company’s obscure Lab126 division. (The Times)

A battle for battery supremacy is brewing. Tesla Motors is in a growing battle for electric car supremacy—now Audi, BMW, GM, VW, Aston Martin, and perhaps Jaguar are creating new electrics. But a parallel race is under way as well—a battle among chemists for which battery will be king. (Quartz)

The New Rules of Smartphone Etiquette. A new study from the Pew Research Center reveals just how attached we all are to our phones—and how we’re writing new etiquette rules around them. (City Lab)

Ruling Clears Way for Unions. Contract workers and other temporary employees will be able to more easily unionize following a landmark ruling Thursday by a U.S. federal labor regulator. (Wall Street Journal)

Feds approve smartphone paper airplane drone flights. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the use of a paper airplane that is a drone that is described as a "smartphone-controlled paper airplane." In doing so, it waived requirements for FAA approval of drone flights that are operated outside of restricted airspace and below 200 feet. (The Hill)

UberChina Close to New Funding. The Chinese affiliate of Uber is close to securing about $1 billion in new funding from investors in the region. (Wall Street Journal)

Airbnb hires veteran of the Clinton White House. Airbnb, which connects visitors with people looking to rent out their apartment or home for a short time, hired Chris Lehane, a Democratic operative and top adviser to the Clinton White House, as its new head of global public policy. (The Hill)

POLITICO Pro Q&A: FTC consumer protection chief Jessica Rich. With actions against Apple, Google, Facebook, Snapchat and others, it's no secret that the FTC has been keeping tabs on the tech world. The agency is making the case that its existing consumer protection and privacy authorities apply to a variety of digital issues, which only becomes more important as new apps and Internet services grow. (PoliticoPro)

Global Trade

Google Rebuffs European Union on Antitrust Charges. Google Inc. on Thursday rebuffed a European Union demand that it change how its search engine functions, signaling a drawn-out legal battle in the continent’s most visible antitrust case in a decade. In a formal response to antitrust charges levied this spring, Google conceded little and unveiled a new legal argument against a European demand that it change how it ranks comparison-shopping services in its search results. (Wall Street Journal)

WTO rules against India in solar panels dispute with the US. A World Trade Organization (WTO) panel has ruled against India in a dispute raised by the US over the country’s solar power programme, requiring the government to offer a level playing field to both foreign and domestic manufacturers of solar panels. (live mint)

China’s Turbulence Exposes Risks to Europe’s Growth. With Europe’s own demand choked by high public and private debt and often inflexible business regulation, eurozone governments have widely viewed exports as the answer to the Continent’s internal problems. That approach could leave Europe vulnerable now, as volatility in emerging markets provides a sharp reminder that their stellar growth rates in recent years aren’t guaranteed. (Wall Street Journal)

How Brazil’s China-Driven Commodities Boom Went Bust. Not long ago, Brazil stood as the leading example of how a developing nation could rise toward global prominence on the force of a China-driven commodity boom. As its economy surged, Brazil stormed the world stage—hosting a World Cup, demanding more say at the United Nations and blocking a U.S. free-trade plan for the Americas. Now Brazil is looking like a symbol of something else: resource-rich nations’ habit of ending their booms with spectacular busts. (Wall Street Journal)

Cybersecurity

Business groups hope to make case that cyber bill is all about protecting privacy. Business sources say they are eager to make one simple point in an ongoing messaging campaign in support of cyber information sharing legislation: The goal of the entire exercise is to protect consumer privacy, not undermine it as bill opponents charge. (Inside Cybersecurity)

Inside the Massive IRS Data Breach. A security expert, who was a victim of the breach, gives a detailed account of the audacious hack of the IRS. (Quartz)

Advocates want FTC to punish Lenovo. Cybersecurity advocates hope an emboldened FTC will make an example out of computer manufacturer Lenovo for a run of security problems caused by bloatware embedded into consumer laptops. (PoliticoPro)

Feds urge energy companies to ramp up cyber protections. The federal government wants utilities companies to keep people from gaining unauthorized access to buildings, networks, data and control systems and potentially triggering power outages. (NextGov)

AP sues feds over fake news story. The Associated Press is bringing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice seeking information about the government’s use of a fake news story to catch a teenager suspected of calling in bomb threats. Last October, a FBI agent had pretended to be an AP reporter and fabricated a draft of an AP story and placed it on a website made to look like The Seattle Times in order to plant malicious software on the suspect’s computer. (The Hill)

Report: Iran can now hack your Gmail. Iranian hackers have found a way to circumvent Gmail’s sophisticated security system to target political dissidents, according to a report released Thursday. (The Hill)

Public Sector

Carter: Joint Chiefs Breach Shows Military Needs Better Cyber Security. On his way to Silicon Valley, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said a recent intrusion into a Joint Chiefs of Staff computer network shows the military does not have the cyber defenses it needs. Now he wants help. (DefenseOne)

Carter pushes deeper partnership between DoD, Silicon Valley. Members of Congress and other local leaders are expected to be on hand Friday when Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces what the Pentagon is describing as a major new economic initiative for Silicon Valley. Carter is scheduled to speak in Mountain View, Calif., the home of Google and the site of the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, which he established earlier this year to help the Pentagon tap into Silicon Valley’s brainpower. (PoliticoPro)

Silicon Valley Wary as Pentagon Chief to Court Innovators. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is visiting Silicon Valley Friday as part of a continuing effort to bridge the divide between the Pentagon and a tech community wary of excessive surveillance and privacy violations. (Bloomberg Business)

The government needs to work with Silicon Valley to create our military future. Faced with disruptive technologies like robotics and 3-D printing and a new strategic competitor in China. Aside from the clash of the D.C. Beltway and Silicon Valley cultures—the challenge in the post-Snowden era is that the level of distrust toward the Beltway remains high. Silicon Valley is smarting from revelations of NSA surveillance and tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue from ensuing foreign backlash, to a new government campaign calling for encryption backdoors that comes across to most techies and many defense experts as tone deaf. (Slate)

Here’s Why ‘Disrupting’ Government Is Such Hard Work. Government agencies can learn from leading commercial companies that have embraced a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to transform their industries and ignite employee passion. The government, however, cannot simply “disrupt” at will. (NextGov)

Hacker Killed by Drone Was ‘Secret Weapon’. That Islamic State’s Junaid Hussain was targeted directly by the U.S. and U.K. shows the extent to which digital warfare has upset the balance of power on the modern battlefield. (Wall Street Journal)

Federal CIO gives agencies B-plus on FITARA plans. Agencies have submitted action plans for implementing the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) and, while not perfect, the Office of Management and Budget's top IT official is generally pleased with the results. (Federal Times)

Why Federal CIO Tony Scott Hates the End-of-Year IT Spending Spree. The end-of-the-year spending spree -- in which agencies cram contract spending into the last quarter of the fiscal year -- is a time-honored tradition in government contracting. And Tony Scott, one of the Obama administration's top tech officials, hates it. (NextGov)

Rhode Island governor seeks to lure defense suppliers. Gov. Gina Raimondo wants major defense contractors in Rhode Island to press their suppliers to relocate to the state in return for tax credits. (PoliticoPro)

Army tries to speed cyber acquisition process. The Army is using an acquisition template known as the Information Technology Box to help it cope with cyberthreats. (FCW)

‘Killer apps’ introduced into GSA acquisition site. The General Services Administration unleashed what it’s calling several “killer apps” on its acquisition gateway. Agency officials now want to know just how effective they are when it comes to eliminating wasted time and money. (Federal News Radio)

DHS funds research into secure mobile tech. Seven universities and companies will develop secure mobile technology for federal agencies under agreements with the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate. (FCW)

Lawmakers question major Census IT program. Three house lawmakers are asking GAO to evaluate the CEDCaP program after the Census Bureau’s last IT Census project ran billions over budget. (Federal News Radio)

Getting smarter about IT acquisition. It’s been 15 months since Joanie Newhart, an associate administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and Tony Grayson, acquisition program executive at the Federal Acquisition Institute, announced big plans for updating the certification for federal procurement professionals. (FCW)

Federal employees and contractors face danger, even death, just doing their jobs. Serving Uncle Sam can be dangerous – even deadly. Four federal employees have died in the line of duty so far in fiscal 2015, following two in fiscal 2014, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). That doesn’t include contractors working for the federal government, like the security officer killed last Friday while protecting a federal building in New York City. The Tuesday before that, three correctional workers were assaulted in the Canaan, Pa., federal prison. (Washington Post)

Budgeteers Join Forces Online to Get More Bang for the Buck. The collaborative environment, called the MAX Federal Community, is used by many other governmental functions to coordinate cross-agency responses — from the implementation of the Recovery Act to responding to the H1N1 pandemic scare, as well as other cross-agency initiatives. It has become an invaluable interagency resource, but that wasn’t its original purpose, at least not for budgeteers. (GovExec)

Fresh off the OPM breach, federal technology officers discuss threats with cybersecurity leaders. Federal agencies send their technology officers to cybersecurity conferences so they can gauge the industry and devise strategies for their own systems. And this makes sense given the cybersecurity interests of businesses and the federal government are intersecting like never before.(Washington Business Journal)

Privacy

Paper Says German Spies Got Access to NSA Internet Surveillance Tool. Germany's domestic intelligence agency promised to work closely with U.S. colleagues to gain access to a controversial piece of NSA software that enables deep surveillance of the Internet. (National Journal)

Germany trades citizens’ metadata for NSA’s top spy software. In order to obtain a copy of the NSA's main XKeyscore software, whose existence was first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, Germany's domestic intelligence agency agreed to hand over metadata of German citizens it spies on. (Ars Technica)

Google, Apple tussle on in-app ads. Google told developers how to get around encryption in iOS apps to make sure ads aren't affected by Apple's new security protocol. (Re/code)

Tech group takes issue with student privacy bill. A major tech trade group, the Internet Association, expressed concerns Thursday with a House student privacy bill that it said would “create undue costs for our member companies" without sufficient benefit to any involved party. (The Hill)

North Dakota Becomes First State to Legalize Armed Police Drones. The sponsor of the original bill, Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, said he wasn't happy with how that part of the law turned out. Originally, the intent of the bill was to require police to obtain a search warrant before using a drone to look for evidence. It also prohibited weapons aboard drones. But to get a measure passed that would require search warrants, Becker had to compromise on the weapons issue. (NPR)

Intellectual Property

Ashley Madison abusing DMCA “to put genie back in the bottle,” EFF says. It appears that the site's Canadian owner, Avid Life Media, is misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in a bid to make people unpublish the data that lists millions of Ashley Madison members' e-mail addresses and other information. The problem with this scenario is that such data isn't subject to copyright, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says. (Ars Technica)

Facebook Wants to Crack Down on Pirated Videos. Facebook says it will give video creators and publishers a way to remove copyrighted videos that have been uploaded to its popular social network without the proper permission. (Wired)

Environment and Sustainability

Expert: We're 'locked-in' to 3 feet sea level rise. Sea levels are rising for three main reasons: The melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the melting of mountain glaciers, and the expansion of oceans as they absorb heat and become warmer. All three causes can be directly attributed to global warming. It was less than two years ago that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made projections for the future climate of our planet. According to the latest from NASA, however, the projections the panel made for a rise in global sea levels of 1 to 3 feet may already be outdated. (CNN)

Air pollution costs France €100 billion per year. The French Senate has called for new efforts to tackle air pollution, arguing it inflates healthcare costs, reduces economic productivity and agricultural yields, and has put Paris in the EU's bad books. (EurActive)

In Smog Rule Fight, Industry Groups Make their Push in Purple States. While the Obama administration spends the month promoting its much-awaited climate-change rule limiting carbon emissions from the power sector, industry groups are instead trying to put the brakes on a different environmental regulation. (National Journal)

Broadband

LTE over Wi-Fi spectrum sets up industry-wide fight over interference. A plan to use Wi-Fi airwaves for cellular service has sparked concerns about interference with existing Wi-Fi networks, causing a fight involving wireless carriers, cable companies, a Wi-Fi industry trade group, Microsoft, and network equipment makers. (Ars Technica)

CenturyLink getting $3B from feds to expand rural broadband. Internet provider CenturyLink is slated to receive more than $3 billion over the next six years from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop broadband service in rural communities. (The Hill)

Workforce

One-Third Of Schools Are Using This App You've Never Heard Of. Educators are increasingly turning to software and websites like Khan Academy, Google Apps and Code.org to help them deliver lessons, manage collaboration, do real-time assessments and more. A three-year-old San Francisco-based startup called Clever is catching on in schools by offering a digital-age solution to all these digital-age problems. (NPR)

Internet Governance

NSA spying triggers worries about Internet protocols. An international standards body that oversees the networking protocols that make the Internet possible says they need strengthening in the face of “pervasive surveillance” by the NSA and other agencies. The Internet Architecture Board warns in a new a request for comments that nearly all Internet communications are at risk of pervasive attack from actors who have penetrated core Internet infrastructure. That includes the NSA, the United Kingdom’s GCHQ and, for users cordoned off from the wider Internet by the Great Firewall, Chinese authorities. (PoliticoPro)

Global Commission on Internet Governance holds meeting. The Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG) has held a two-day meeting in Accra to discuss Internet-related opportunities and challenges in Africa, including issues of access and sustainable development. (Ghana Web)

Innovation

Google Rolls Out Personalized Storm-Tracking Information In Search Results. With the U.S. hurricane season about to kick off, Google announced today that it’s expanding the weather-related information that will appear in Google search results when web users search for information about particular storms or tornadoes. Now the search giant will also show searchers critical information like maps of your location and proximity to the storm in question, the storm’s forecasted track and severity via NOAA, as well as safety instructions. (TechCrunch)

ITI Member News

Apple Takes Washington. Steve Jobs famously disdained D.C. Tim Cook’s quietly taking it on. ITI's Dean Garfield is quoted. (Politico Magazine)

Apple Watch Shipments Nearly Outpaced Fitbit. A new report estimates that Apple shipped 3.6 million watches in the last quarter — more than some analysts estimated and enough to change the competitive landscape for fitness bands and other wearable devices. (Associated Press)

Not just for squares, Instagram adds wide, tall image formats. Instagram is finally allowing users to upload images and video in wide or tall format, ending their need to constantly crop images from their camera roll into squares. (Reuters)

Google Chrome shuts down background tab autoplay. From all of us to you, Google: thank you. Chrome will soon roll-out a feature that keeps tabs from autoplaying if they are not in the foreground. And while that means videos will still auto-play when a tab is in the foreground, the innovation saves Chrome users from a cacophony of autoplay advertisements when they open multiple tabs at once. (Fortune)

HTC’s Virtual Reality Headset Has Been Delayed. Although originally promised for a late-2015 consumer bow very soon after being unveiled in March, HTC’s software partner Valve said today that the Vive would instead see a staggered release. (Re/code)

Lenovo's folding its own smartphone division into Motorola. Since Lenovo bought Motorola, there's been a lot of speculation as to what it will do with its existing mobile division. The company has now provided more details, saying it will run all of its smartphone operations under the Motorola umbrella and eventually shutter Lenovo Mobile. (Engadget)

1600 Penn.

In the morning, the President and the Vice President will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Oval Office. In the afternoon, the President will participate in a live webcast to deliver remarks to and take questions from members of the North American Jewish community in an event co-sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and The Jewish Federations of North America. Later in the afternoon, the President will participate in a DNC roundtable at Fiola Restaurant.

Today on the Hill

The House and Senate are adjourned and not expected to return to the nation’s capital for votes until September 8.