With help from Leah Nylen and Brendan Bordelon
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— First in MT: The Chamber of Commerce is planning to sue the FTC if the agency rejects the chamber’s public records appeal.
— House jumps into USICA fray:House lawmakers have unveiled companion legislation to the Senate’s China competitiveness bill, but there are significant differences to work through.
— Fortifying the Fourth Amendment: Congress is facing growing calls to ensure federal agencies can’t buy Americans’ personal data, but legislation to do that faces political hurdles.
IT’S WEDNESDAY, JAN. 26. Emily Birnbaum here. Welcome to Morning Tech. Earnings calls kickoff this week — what are you watching for?
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MT EXCLUSIVE: CHAMBER PLANS FTC FOIA SUIT — The nation’s largest business lobby is planning to sue the FTC in mid-March if the agency rejects its public records appeal for documents about the agency’s inner workings, the Chamber of Commerce told Leah.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant and Congress enacted FOIA to prohibit agencies like the FTC from operating in the shadows,” the group said, in appeals filed with the FTC’s general counsel this month and provided to POLITICO. “The FTC’s refusal thus far to comply with that vital transparency statute does a disservice to the public and the rule of law.”
If the FTC’s general counsel denies its appeals, the Chamber will likely quickly file suit, Daryl Joseffer, chief counsel for the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center, told Leah.
State of play: The Chamber, which counts Google, Facebook and Amazon among its members, accused the FTC in November of “waging a war against American business” and has filed a barrage of Freedom of Information Act requests, seeking information on policy changes and potential political interference by the White House. The agency has denied most of the requests, saying they were “unduly burdensome,” as MT reported. That led the business lobby to resubmit three more tailored FOIA requests; the agency again denied those earlier this month. The Chamber then filed three administrative appeals to the FTC’s general counsel.
The FTC has 20 working days to respond to the internal appeals, though it can give itself a 10-day extension.
HOUSE DEBUTS USICA COMPANION BILL: On Tuesday evening, House Democrats unveiled the America COMPETES Act. It’s the companion legislation to the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, the sprawling package meant to strengthen America’s foreign policy and shore up its slipping R&D ecosystem in face of a rising China.
The bill includes $52 billion in subsidies for the semiconductor industry (whose representatives are likely relieved after months of foot-dragging in the House). But partisan sniping could derail expected negotiations on the broader bill.
— Revitalizing U.S. research: After the Senate passed USICA in June, leaders on the House Science Committee subsequently busied themselves with piecemeal legislation to strengthen federal research efforts. The resulting bills, including those to boost the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, passed the House in late June. Those provisions are now also present in the America COMPETES Act.
— Chip subsidies go bicameral: The billions in semiconductor subsidies included in the House bill are nearly identical to the tranche of chip funding passed by the Senate as part of USICA, and the first time House leadership has revealed its own plans to revitalize domestic chip production. The White House and lawmakers in both parties have touted semiconductor subsidies as a way to counter the global chip shortage and undercut Chinese efforts to gain ground in the crucial market. The Semiconductor Industry Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
— Contentious conference incoming: Though the two chambers appear to agree on chip subsidies, the relevant committees will still need to iron out big differences between the bills if and when America COMPETES passes the House. Senate and House lawmakers are especially divided over the size and structure of a new tech directorate at NSF and provisions cracking down on collaborations between U.S. and Chinese researchers, with the Senate in both cases favoring a more aggressive approach. Rep. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the House Science Committee, has accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of ignoring the committee’s bipartisan work and packing the legislation with “poison pills.” Major disagreements on trade policy could also undercut bipartisan support for the legislation, Gavin Bade reports for Pros.
CIVIL LIBERTIES FIGHT BREWING — In the wake of a series of reports about federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies buying Americans’ location information from data brokers, a large bipartisan group of lawmakers last year introduced the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act,S. 1265 (117) — but there’s been no action on the legislation so far. Now the bill’s backers are pushing for hearings and movement.
A group of almost 50 civil liberties and privacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, is calling for hearings on the legislation in a letter sent today to leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees. “Without a hearing to drive the news, most Americans will never know how seriously their privacy has been compromised,” the groups wrote in the letter, which was first shared with MT.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), one of the House lead co-sponsors, is “very interested in having the [Senate Judiciary] Committee move the bill,” said an aide to Lofgren.
“Every new story about how the government is buying access to vast databases of Americans’ private data provides new urgency to pass my bipartisan bill,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the lead co-sponsor, said in a statement to MT. “Private companies are operating a virtual yard sale, offering access to detailed location information, private utility records, internet traffic data, and more. Without commonsense protections against warrantless use of that information, Americans will see their Constitutional privacy rights dwindle to virtually nothing.”
— Where the bill stands: The legislation has 20 Senate co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). An aide with the House Judiciary Committee told MT that the committee is “continuing to have discussions with stakeholders on and off Capitol Hill about how best to move” the bill.
But politics might still doom it. A Democratic aide familiar with discussions in the House said that the bill was complicated by Jan. 6-related tensions when it was introduced last year. The legislation, H.R. 2738 (117), was supposed to be filed with dozens of co-sponsors, including many ultra-conservative Republicans — and then the Capitol Hill riots happened. Many of the Republicans who were going to sign on also voted against election certification. “Democrats started saying, ‘I can’t be on a bill with that guy,’” the aide said, requesting anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the record. “There’s a fair amount of support on both sides of the aisle for it, but following Jan 6., unfortunately there was zero momentum.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s dead,” the aide added.
CEOS CONVENE — A group of CEOs is meeting with President Joe Biden today to discuss the future of the Build Back Better Act. Attendees will include Microsoft President Brad Smith, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
POLITICO POLLING — A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll out this morning found that 44 percent of respondents out of a survey of 2,005 registered voters said they would “strongly support” legislation requiring online companies to “include a summary at the top of their terms of service in order to make terms of service agreements more accessible for consumers.” That bodes well for the recently-introduced Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability (TLDR) Act, S.3501, which would do just that. Only 2 percent of respondents said they would “strongly oppose” such legislation.
When it comes to the rollout of 5G service, voters for the most part sided with airlines, meaning they think 5G shouldn’t be rolled out so quickly. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they strongly support delaying the implementation of 5G around airports due to safety concerns; 30 percent said they somewhat support the delay. Twenty-one percent said they don’t know enough or don’t have an opinion.
PETITION TO WATCH — Today is the deadline to submit public comments on advocacy group Accountable Tech’s FTC petition to ban “surveillance advertising,” and progressive support is already flooding in. The Center for Digital Democracy in a comment shared with MT said the FTC has a responsibility to create new rules addressing online advertising because the agency has “enabled data-driven surveillance to thrive ubiquitously.”
“By acting as an ‘enabler’ to the forces that have shaped our online platform experiences, the commission has done more than harm consumer protection, privacy and competition,” reads the comment from CDD. More groups and lawmakers are expected to file public comments throughout the day.
Jenna Hopkins, previously a House staffer for Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) detailed to the Jan. 6 Select Committee, is joining the Anti-Defamation League as director of technology policy. … Kelsey Weekman, most recently a senior writer at Yahoo covering internet culture, will join BuzzFeed News as a social news reporter. … Internet provider Shenandoah Telecommunications is rebranding as Glo Fiber Enterprise. … The FCC has committed another $240 million in Emergency Connectivity Fund support for students, schools and libraries.
So much for that: Nvidia is preparing to abandon its $40 billion Arm bid amid regulatory scrutiny, Bloomberg reports.
YouTube eyes NFTs: YouTube is exploring adding nonfungible token features for its video creators. The Washington Post has more.
Twitter’s legal demands: Twitter received the largest number of legal demands from 55 countries for the social media platform to remove content during the first half of 2021, according to its biannual transparency report about its enforcement and removal actions. Overall Twitter removed some or all content in response to 54 percent of global legal demands.
Good to have standards: The QuEST Forum, the standards development arm of the Telecommunications Industry Association, today launched SCS-9001, which it calls the “first ever comprehensive supply chain security standard that both public and private sector entities can measure their own security processes against.”
Calling Motown: A coalition of 30 organizations sent a letter to lawmakers raising concerns about big tech companies’ moves in the automotive space, citing Leah’s fabulous POLITICO Magazine piece.
Out today: A report commissioned by wireless trade group CTIA says 5G networks could help speed along the U.S. in its carbon emission reduction targets.
FLOC away: Google is trying again to create a more privacy-protective online ads ecosystem, Reuters reports.