Hillicon Valley: Groups file appeal over net neutrality ruling | Lawmakers raise concerns over foreign apps | Payroll data stolen from Facebook

Hillicon Valley: Groups file appeal over net neutrality ruling | Lawmakers raise concerns over foreign apps | Payroll data stolen from Facebook

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).



THE COURT FIGHT THAT NEVER ENDS: A number of web companies and advocacy groups on Friday filed an appeal urging a federal court to rehear a decision upholding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

They are requesting that the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals review the decision from a three-judge panel in October.

Mozilla, which was the original lead in the lawsuit against the FCC, said the ruling conflicts with both a Supreme Court decision and a prior ruling from the D.C. court. Their petition says the judges misinterpreted legal precedent over the agency’s regulatory powers.

The petition was filed by Mozilla along with Etsy, Vimeo, Incompas and the Ad Hoc Telecom Users Committee.

The 2015 net neutrality rules classified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common carriers, similar to telecommunications providers, who are not allowed to discriminate against traffic.

The FCC under Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai repealed those rules and also barred states from passing their own net neutrality regulations.

Under the FCC’s current classification, there are no restrictions on ISPs against blocking or throttling web traffic, though the FCC has argued that most discriminatory behavior would be blocked by existing antitrust and consumer protection law.


Read more here.


CONCERNS ABOUT FOREIGN APP: A House Democrat pressed Google and Apple this week to provide information on whether they require mobile app developers to disclose foreign affiliations prior to the apps being offered to consumers, citing specific concerns around the apps TikTok and FaceApp.

Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchMaloney wins House Oversight gavel Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees MORE (D-Mass.), who serves as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security, sent letters to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook on Friday highlighting his concerns around foreign governments potentially having access to the personal data of Americans due to foreign-affiliated apps.

“U.S. laws permit mobile applications to collect massive amounts of personal information about their users as long as the users consent to the collection of that information as a condition of service,” Lynch wrote. “However, many smartphone owners are not aware that by consenting to an application’s service agreement, they are authorizing the application to access significant quantities of personal, and oftentimes sensitive, information.”

Lynch noted that “the extent to which this information is secured, either through encryption or alternative mechanisms, as well as the degree to which user data is shared, varies across applications.”

The lawmaker pointed to ongoing security and privacy concerns around popular video app TikTok and dating app Grindr, both of which are affiliated with Chinese ownership, as well as photo editing app FaceApp, which was developed by a St. Petersburg-based company. 

Read more here.


DATA THEFT: The payroll data of around 29,000 current and former Facebook employees was stolen last month when several hard drives were taken from an employee’s car.

According to a Bloomberg article published Friday, the hard drives that were stolen were not encrypted, and included information on Facebook employees including bank account numbers and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. The theft did not include any information on Facebook users. 

A spokesperson for Facebook told The Hill that the company “worked with law enforcement as they investigated a recent car break-in and theft of an employee’s bag containing company equipment with employee payroll information stored on it.”

The spokesperson emphasized that Facebook had seen “no evidence of abuse,” and classified the theft as a “smash and grab crime” and not as one specifically intended to steal employee information.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have notified the current and former employees whose information we believe was stored on the equipment – people who were on our U.S. payroll in 2018 – and are offering them free identity theft and credit monitoring services,” the spokesperson said. “This theft impacts current and former Facebook employees only and no Facebook user data was involved.”


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GRINDR HATE CRIMES: Two Texas men pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and other charges for using the dating app Grindr to target gay men for violent crimes.

Daryl Henry, 24, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing a hate crime and another of conspiracy to commit a hate crime. Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing a hate crime, a second for carjacking and third charge for use of a firearm related to a violent crime, the Justice Department announced Friday. 

According to court documents filed in connection with the two men’s guilty pleas, Henry and Ceniceros-Deleon admitted they used Grindr to target and lure gay men to a vacant apartment and other locations around Dallas to commit hate crimes, including robbing, carjacking or kidnapping their victims.

Henry admitted that he and others held the victims against their will in the vacant apartment, while Ceniceros-Deleon confessed that he and others used local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims’ accounts. The two men also taunted their victims about their sexual orientation. 

Ceniceros-Deleon also admitted that he was the gunman in a 2017 carjacking in which he and others used Grindr to target a gay man. They then forced the man at gunpoint to drive to local ATMs. 


Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Every Capitol Hill reporter this week


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Trump campaign exploits Bloomberg News blunder




Facebook ads can still discriminate against women and older workers, despite a civil rights settlement (ProPublica / Ava Kofman, Ariana Tobin) 

An expertly curated list of the top 100 memes of the 2010s (BuzzFeed News / Katie Notopolous, Julia Reinstein and Ryan Broderick) 

A look into what Twitter interests get right and wrong (Recode / Emily Stewart)

E-Scooter workers unionize in San Francisco (MotherBoard / Lauren Kaori Gurley)

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