With help from John Hendel, Leah Nylen and Sam Sabin
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— Data report: FTC staff will present findings related to the consumer data practices of internet service providers.
— Streaming fight: Roku gave MT an update on its battle with Google over YouTube’s TV streaming service.
— Retail’s POV: Retail trade groups are hosting discussions this week with transatlantic officials on the progress for an EU-U.S. data transfer deal.
IT’S THURSDAY, OCT. 21. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. In case GETTR wasn’t to your liking, former President Donald Trump is launching his own social media platform, TRUTH Social, “to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech. We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced.”
Got a news tip? Email me at [email protected] and find me on Twitter @benjamindin. Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
TODAY: BRING ON THE BROADBAND PRIVACY FINDINGS — FTC Chair Lina Khan is convening her colleagues for a commission meeting this afternoon to finally hear what staff uncovered about the privacy practices of six internet service providers. They had requested information from several in 2019 as part of a Trump-era probe, including AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber, T-Mobile and Verizon.
— So what did they want? The FTC issued these so-called 6(b) orders seeking information about whether consumer data was shared with third parties and how much choice consumers really have about the data collection and handling.
— Why broadband privacy is tricky: Partisan controversy has previously ignited over government attempts to put regulatory safeguards in place for these ISPs and even what agency would be in charge.
Not so long ago: The Obama-era FCC had asserted regulatory authority to police ISPs as part of its 2015 net neutrality order (later repealed), and subsequently passed a set of ISP privacy rules. But in 2017, Republicans abolished these regulations using the Congressional Review Act — a move that prevents the FCC from issuing similar rules again. That could pop up as a complicating wrinkle if FCC Democrats try to reassert authority over broadband in the coming year, assuming they obtain an agency majority.
And now: Khan has made crafting data privacy rules a high priority, and broadband data safeguards could be a part of that effort. Congressional Democrats have recommended creating a vast new bureau at the agency devoted to privacy.
— Speaking of majorities: The recent departure of Commissioner Rohit Chopra has undone Democrats’ FTC majority, and they won’t have one until the confirmation of nominee Alvaro Bedoya. So today’s meeting offers a possible preview of how much she can accomplish without buy-in from the FTC’s two Republicans, who haven’t been shy about their qualms with Khan’s policies as chair.
Today’s agenda contains only one item — far fewer than at any of Khan’s other open meetings. But the public release of the staff report, while subject to a commission vote, may trigger less GOP heartburn than some of Khan’s other actions.
FIRST IN MT: ROKU-GOOGLE SPAT OVER YOUTUBE TV FESTERS — Six months after Roku went public with its dispute with Google over how Google subsidiary YouTube is displayed on its platform, the streaming service is out today with a new update for its subscribers: Nothing has changed. Roku continues to negotiate with Google but those talks have so far yielded no progress, company executives told MT.
— TL;DR: Roku — an internet-streaming service that lets users combine broadcast TV, cable and digital offerings like Netflix, HBO, Spotify and Pandora — alleges that Google is using contract negotiations related to its YouTube TV subscription product to gain advantages for its free YouTube platform. (YouTube TV offers broadcast and cable channels and is separate from YouTube, the world’s most popular video site with 2 billion users.)
Google is insisting that Roku dedicate a row for YouTube listings in all search results on the streaming platform — something it doesn’t require other services offered by Samsung, Apple or its own Chromecast product to do. The search giant also wants Roku to override a customer’s default choice on what music streaming service to use and hide from customers whether they could watch a particular movie for free through a different service they already pay for if the YouTube app on Roku is open.
In April, when the dispute first became public, Google said Roku’s claims were “baseless.” But Roku representatives shared emails with MT from top Google executives with the demands related to YouTube as evidence that Roku isn’t overstating its concerns.
— Why it matters to Washington: A bill introduced Monday by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), S. 2992, would prohibit Google from asking for these types of advantages from streaming services or inserting them in its own products, like Chromecast. Roku, meanwhile, has been expanding its footprint in D.C.
NOT QUITE THERE YET — The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on Jonathan Kanter’s nomination to be assistant attorney general for antitrust today, but don’t hold your breath. MT is expecting Republicans to hold it over until next week.
BUT HERE’S WHO IS IN THE HOT SEAT — Attorney General Merrick Garland will testify today in his first oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. There will be plenty of topics to talk about — subpoenas related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, voting rights, the Texas abortion ban, to name a few — but expect some competition-related questions from antitrust panel Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.).
What Cicilline’s interested in, per his office: the tools that the DOJ needs to address anticompetitive behavior and whether Garland supports the push to update antitrust laws.
YOU’VE GOT MAIL — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is expected to issue a letter to tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Amazon, seeking answers to more than 50 questions apiece about how they use consumer data, a source tells Morning Money.
ADDING TO THE CONVERSATION — The National Retail Federation is participating in a series of discussions this week with officials in the U.S. and EU over transatlantic data flows, as the two governments work to hammer out a data-sharing agreement by the end of the year.
The NRF and transatlantic counterpart EuroCommerce, both of which count Amazon as a member, met with the European Commission and the European Data Protection Board on Wednesday, with talks to continue today. On Friday, the NRF is scheduled to meet with officials from the Commerce Department and the U.S. Mission to the EU.
“Protecting data as it crosses international borders is critical to global retail operations,” said Paul Martino, NRF’s vice president and senior policy counsel, adding that the groups hoped to work closely with officials “to address the operational and legal challenges involved.”
— Finding a fix: U.S. and European officials are working on a deal to replace the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield after the EU’s top court invalidated the agreement last year, all while the pandemic has accelerated the growth of digital companies. EU lawmakers want a transatlantic data privacy framework to have proper safeguards against U.S. surveillance.
In addition to a Privacy Shield successor, the groups plan to address proposed regulation targeting e-commerce platforms — something that both governments are currently weighing. They’re also expected to discuss regulations in the EU related to artificial intelligence, particularly those affecting AI-powered voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa.
WYDEN THE FOCUS — A group of Democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) warned the FCC Wednesday that its efforts to rid the U.S. telecommunications system of possible Chinese surveillance is too narrowly targeted towards hardware manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE. The agency also needs to be focused on the companies that rural carriers hire to manage their networks, the group of lawmakers said in a letter to acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.
“Many of these foreign service providers are subject to [Chinese] foreign surveillance laws, and as such, could be forced to abuse their access to U.S. networks to help foreign intelligence services spy on American subscribers,” the lawmakers wrote.
— What do you want us to do about it: Because there is no federal data identifying which international firms are working with these carriers, the lawmakers suggested the agency start by requiring wireless carriers to report this information and then work with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and other agencies to determine which, if any, should be prohibited from operating in the United States.
Jennifer Bell has joined Cicilline’s office as comms director. She was previously comms director for Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). … Megan Cacace has joined Airbnb as director of anti-discrimination policy and equity programs. She most recently was a partner practicing civil rights counseling and litigation at Relman Colfax, where she spent 13 years. Her work included Facebook’s 2020 civil rights audit. … Del Harvey, Twitter’s VP of trust and safety, is leaving the company, where she also spent 13 years.
Jacqueline “Lyn” Brown has joined Wiley Rein as special counsel in both the privacy, cyber and data governance practice and the telecom, media and technology practice. She was acting chief of the FBI’s Cyber Law Unit and senior counsel at the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force. … Kimberly Lacey Morning joined Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as of counsel in the firm’s telecom, media, and technology practice. She was previously acting VP and general counsel at the Universal Service Administrative Co.
John Olsen has been promoted to SVP for state government affairs at the Internet Association. He was previously director of state government affairs for the Northeast region. … Ruthie Barko will join TechNet as executive director for Colorado and the Central U.S., a new region for the association’s 50-state advocacy program. She will be based in Denver.
The FCC announced more than $554 million in broadband funding in 19 states through its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program, bringing its total so far to more than $1 billion. … The agency also named the leaders of its Communications Equity and Diversity Council: Heather Gate, VP of digital inclusion at Connected Nation, will serve as chair. Nicol Turner Lee of the Brookings Institution and Susan Au Allen will be vice chairs. The council’s first meeting is scheduled for Nov. 3.
Micron plans to spend more than $150 billion over the next decade, as it seeks to expand chip production, WSJ reports.
Brought to you by POLITICO Influence: Qualcomm has brought on a new outside lobbying firm, hiring a team from BGR Group that includes former chiefs of staff to Senate Commerce ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and several White House legislative affairs veterans, according to a new lobbying disclosure. The team will “provide strategic counsel and advocacy” to support Qualcomm’s “international trade and U.S. semiconductor industrial base priorities,” according to the filing. The chipmaker already spends a hefty amount of money on lobbying, dropping more than $4.5 million through the first half of 2021.
A big deal: “PayPal Is Exploring a Purchase of Pinterest,” via Bloomberg.
ICYMI: Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is getting some support from a tech billionaire: Pierre Omidyar, the industry critic who founded eBay. Emily has more for Pros.
We want Zuck: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) formalized a request he made to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when Haugen testified before his consumer protection panel: participate in a hearing on Instagram and kids.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
SEE YOU TOMORROW!