TECH & CYBER BRIEFING: CES Kicks Off With Lawmakers Absent

The largest tech conference of the year kicks off in Las Vegas today, bringing together more than 4,400 tech companies from around the world to showcase the latest products and gadgets. But absent from the gathering this year are members of Congress—many of whom have attended in the past—due to the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate.

No lawmakers are currently planning to attend CES, a conference spokeswoman told Bloomberg Government, as the impasse over sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate continues with lawmakers returning this week from a two-week recess

However, a number of administration and cabinet officials will be attending. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, will be one of the keynote speakers tomorrow at the event which is anticipated to draw more than 170,000 attendees. She is expected to talk about the White House’s “Pledge to America’s Workers” that gets commitments from large tech companies like Google to retrain hundreds of thousands of workers in high tech skill sets over the coming years. She’ll be speaking with Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which sponsors CES.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios will be keynote speakers on a Wednesday panel about the future of transportation. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons will be participating in fireside chat tomorrow with Shapiro.

A panel called “Insights with the FCC and FTC” tomorrow afternoon will feature FCC Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Michael O’Reilly, as well as FTC Commissioners Rebecca Slaughter and Christine Wilson discussing regulations on privacy, 5G and the Internet of things.

While no lawmakers have formally committed to attending, a number of congressional staffers and a former congressman will be speaking on tech policy panels.

A panel on artificial intelligence on Wednesday will feature former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is now running for the 50th congressional district seat in southern California. Lynne Parker, U.S. deputy chief technology officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Svetlana Matt, a legislative assistant to Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), will also be speaking on the artificial intelligence panel, along with Michael Beckerman, CEO and president of the Internet Association, which represents large tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Christi Barnhardt, senior counsel to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), will be speaking on a panel about privacy policy on Wednesday along with Khaliah Barnes, the privacy and public policy manager at Facebook.

Bloomberg Government will be at CES tracking these tech policy panels all week.

Amazon and Google to Hit CES With Digital Assistants in Tow: The world’s biggest technology companies also head to Las Vegas this week, with even Apple making a rare official appearance. But don’t expect any breakthrough new hardware.

Amazon and Google will promote existing digital-assistant technology through their own internet-connected gadgets and similar products made by other firms. There should also be cars at the conference with Amazon’s Alexa built in. Both tech giants are likely to roll out new software capabilities and share statistics showing the size and reach of their voice-based platforms.

Apple’s HomeKit, a system for controlling devices in the home, will also be on display. Some companies will show off new gadgets for the home that work with Siri, Apple’s digital assistant.

Samsung is expected to discuss smart-home initiatives during a keynote address on Monday, along with new TVs, health technology, robotics and a new artificial intelligence project. Mark Gurman has more on what to expect from the big tech companies this week.

Read more: Tech’s Flagship CES Show Counts on Meat, Cars to Draw Crowds

Happening on the Hill

Lawmakers return to Washington from a two-week holiday recess with the House set to consider four measures on Wednesday related to 5G and wireless technology:

  • 5G Security Recommendations: Through H. Res. 575, the House would urge stakeholders in the development of fifth-generation (5G) wireless technologies and infrastructure to carefully consider and adhere to “The Prague Proposals,” a set of recommendations developed at a conference in the Czech capital by security officials from several governments. They include designing networks and services with resilience and security in mind, setting law enforcement and national security policies with respect for privacy, and guiding development of laws and policies with “transparency and equitability.”
  • U.S. 5G Security Strategy: The president would have to develop a strategy to protect U.S. fifth and future generations of wireless technologies under a modified version of H.R. 2881. For more, see the BGOV Bill Summary by Naoreen Chowdhury.
  • Wireless Standards Setting: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) would promote private-sector involvement with international organizations that set standards for wireless networking technologies under H.R. 4500. For more, see the BGOV Bill Summary by Adam M. Taylor.
  • 5G Technology Working Group: The president would have to establish an interagency working group to enhance U.S. leadership at international standards-setting bodies for the fifth and future generations of wireless technologies under a modified version of H.R. 3763. For more, see the BGOV Bill Summary by Naoreen Chowdhury.

Hearings This Week:

  • Election Security: The House Administration Committee meets for a hearing Thursday on 2020 election security to hear testimony from voting system vendors and experts. | Read more: America Won’t Give Up Its Hackable Wireless Voting Machines
  • Online Manipulation: The House Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee plans a hearing Wednesday titled, “Americans at Risk: Manipulation and Deception in the Digital Age,” Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) announced last Monday. “As the Internet has matured from a blogging platform to the engine that powers our economy, bad actors who seek to manipulate consumers have become more sophisticated. They are creating deepfakes and spreading disinformation and misinformation to deceive Americans for their own profit and gain,” Pallone and Schakowsky said. “We look forward to exploring these issues at the hearing and engaging with experts to discuss how we can combat harmful deception and manipulation online.”

What to Expect in 2020

U.S., EU Enforcers Target Big Tech, Children’s Privacy in 2020: European and U.S. regulators are likely to ramp up enforcement of privacy laws this year, especially children’s privacy, and wrap up probes of big technology companies. The Federal Trade Commission is looking to update Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act rules. State attorneys general offices have said they’ll focus on protecting kids’ data. Irish data privacy enforcers said children’s privacy protections will be a major focus.

There’s “no indication” of a pull back on privacy enforcement, said Joseph Facciponti of Murphy & McGonigle in New York, who counsels companies on privacy and data security issues. “Regulators continue to respond to pressure to address the public’s profound unease — whether justified or not — with how personal data is being used by businesses,” Facciponti said. The scrutiny creates a risk for tech companies, including Facebook and Google, that regulators will seek fines or force changes in how they process data as children flock to their platforms. Read more from Daniel Stoller.

Big Tech to Spur Global Antitrust Rewrite in 2020: If 2019 was the year of the techlash, 2020 is poised to be the year of the global antitrust rewrite, as countries worldwide retool their laws to confront Big Tech. Facebook, Google and other tech giants are facing increased criticism from antitrust regulators over their expanding power, particularly their control over troves of data.

Heading into 2020, some countries have signaled that their displeasure with the tech industry isn’t just talk. Regulators from the U.S. to the U.K. to Australia have warned that they plan to take action to rein in the power of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, by tweaking the policies that govern competition. The Eastern Hemisphere is already dotted with a handful of tech policy proposals, many of which could become a reality in 2020. Read more from Victoria Graham.

5G Infrastructure Fight to Continue in 2020: A fight between the FCC and dozens of cities over the placement of 5G infrastructure will continue to play out in federal court in 2020, with oral arguments scheduled for early in the year.

At issue is whether the FCC can restrict how much municipalities can charge wireless carriers like AT&T to attach pizza box-sized wireless antennas, or small cells, to light poles and other city-owned infrastructure. The FCC’s ruling, adopted in September 2018, also imposes shot clocks for local and state governments to approve or deny carriers’ small cell applications. The ruling—aimed at speeding carriers’ 5G deployment—will go before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Feb. 10. Jon Reid has more on the outlook.

From Huawei to ByteDance, China Tech Starts 2020 on Shaky Ground: China’s tech industry enters a new year after weathering unprecedented turbulence in 2019, when giants emerged in social media and artificial intelligence only to bear the brunt of Washington’s campaign to contain the world’s No. 2 economy. There’s little reason to think 2020 will be much different given U.S. efforts to hobble Chinese champions from Huawei to SenseTime Group deemed a threat to national security.

American lawmakers went after some of the country’s biggest names last year. Foremost among them were smartphone and networking titan Huawei and ByteDance, the Chinese wunderkind that in the span of a few years overturned social media entertainment and drew a billion-plus mostly younger U.S. users to its online video app TikTok. The heightened scrutiny came just as pressure back home intensified. Read more from Colum Murphy, Gao Yuan, Debby Wu and Zheping Huang.

What Else to Know

U.S. Braces for Cyber-Attack Retaliation From Iran: Iranian officials are likely considering a cyber-attack against the U.S. after an airstrike last week killed one of its top military officials. Former U.S. officials and security experts said there is precedent for such concerns amid years of tit-for-tat cyber-attacks between the two countries. As recently as June, after the U.S. sent additional troops to the Middle East and announced further sanctions on Iran, cyber-attacks targeting U.S. industries and government agencies increased, the Department of Homeland Security said at the time.

In a tweet after the airstrike on Thursday, Christopher Krebs, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, repeated a warning from the summer about Iranian malicious cyber-attacks, and urged the public to brush up on Iranian tactics and to pay attention to critical systems, particularly industrial control infrastructure. Read more from Alyza Sebenius and William Turton.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington at rkern@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com

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