With help from Leah Nylen and John Hendel
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— Teaming up: State attorneys general will meet with DOJ attorneys in the coming days as they continue to collaborate on their parallel investigations into Google.
— Clearview chaos ensues: In the wake of revelations that a start-up has been scraping billions of images from social media to aid law enforcement’s facial surveillance efforts, dozens of groups are calling on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to recommend banning federal use of the technology.
— Industry on pirated products: A Department of Homeland Security report on counterfeit and pirated goods online calls for greater liability for tech platforms — putting the industry on defense.
IT’S MONDAY: WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Alexandra Levine. In world news: Today is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. You can watch a live broadcast here of the commemoration event at the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland.
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IN THE ANTITRUST ARENA: STATES AND FEDS MEET UP ON GOOGLE PROBE — The Justice Department and states investigating Google are set to meet in the coming days to discuss cooperation on the ongoing antitrust tech investigations, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to MT. DOJ and the states met last summer and again in October to talk about the probes. In December, Attorney General Bill Barr spoke to a gathering of state attorneys general about the federal probe and encouraged a continued “partnership” on the investigations. The WSJ was the first to report the meeting.
— Plus, travel booking deal on trial: DOJ’s antitrust prosecutors will face off against travel booking giant Sabre over the proposed acquisition of Farelogix in Delaware federal court today. (Leah highlighted some of the issues at stake in the case Friday.) The Justice Department plans to call both Sabre CEO Sean Menke and Farelogix President and CEO Jim Davidson, as well as senior execs from American Airlines and United Airlines during the two-week trial.
SPARRING OVER T-MO-SPRINT DEAL CONTINUES — The state attorneys general challenging T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed $26.6 billion merger want a D.C. federal judge to hold off on approving or rejecting a settlement the DOJ reached with the companies that would allow the deal to go forward. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly in D.C. is overseeing the DOJ’s proposed settlement with the telecom companies, which would require them to sell assets to DISH Network so the satellite TV company can enter the market as a fourth consumer wireless firm. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan, meanwhile, just finished up the states’ two-week bench trial and is set to issue a decision in the coming months. States say that decision should come first. “Because Judge Marrero is tasked with deciding the merits of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger as a whole and is currently in the process of doing so, this Court need make no such determination in this case,” the states said in a brief filed late Friday.
— Kelly invited third parties to offer their opinions on the DOJ’s settlement by Friday, and a number of groups did. Five economics and law professors wrote in to criticize the DOJ’s settlement, highlighting a number of statements from the states’ trial that cast doubt on DISH as a viable competitor. NTCH, a wireless radio operator that is involved in leasing and construction of cellular towers, asked Kelly to hold off on his decision until after an appeals court rules in a separate case related to DISH’s spectrum holdings. T-Mobile and Sprint weren’t without support, though. INCOMPAS, a trade group for internet and telecom companies that counts DISH as a member, said the deal would lead to better service and lower prices, particularly in rural areas.
FRESH PRESSURE TO BAN FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY — The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is facing renewed heat to push the president and his administration to prohibit the federal government from using facial surveillance on the American public. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, along with 40 consumer, privacy and civil liberties groups, sent a letter today demanding that the oversight board “recommend to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security the suspension of facial recognition systems, pending further review.”
— The letter raises alarm about both a recent federal study by NIST, which found pervasive racial bias in facial surveillance tech, and about the startup Clearview AI, which a New York Times investigation found had stockpiled more than 3 billion photos from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other places online and offered them up, through an app, to help law enforcement match photos of suspects to pictures online. (After The Times profiled the company, Twitter demanded the company stop scraping its site and New Jersey’s attorney general ordered state police departments to stop using the app. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts also expressed concerns about the technology, asking Clearview for a list of law enforcement agencies using the service.) Yet despite widespread backlash to biometric surveillance, efforts to fight it have hit a wall both in the U.S. and abroad.
WATCH OUT, CLEARVIEW — In a speech Friday evening at UCLA Law School, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter — without mentioning Clearview by name — said her agency will be “aggressive” in targeting algorithms based on artificial intelligence that intentionally, or unintentionally, harm consumers. “Secretly collecting audio or visual data — or any sensitive data — about an individual to feed an algorithm could give rise to an unfairness claim,” Slaughter said, according to her prepared remarks. The FTC can challenge “unfair” practices and has used that authority to confront companies that collect data without consent, such as smart TV maker Vizio, which paid $2.2 million in 2017 for collecting user viewing history without permission.
— Slaughter, one of the FTC’s two Democrats, also said her agency should consider a rulemaking on algorithms. “In the area of algorithmic justice, a … rule might be able to affirmatively impose requirements of transparency, accountability, and remedy,” she said. “I think it is imperative for the FTC to take all action within its authority right now to protect consumers in this space.” The agency’s other Democratic commissioner, Rohit Chopra, has spoken in favor of rulemaking, but the FTC’s Republican commissioners, Christine Wilson and Noah Phillips, are generally opposed.
A NEW LAW TO CRACK DOWN ON PIRATE RADIO BROADCASTERS — Here’s another bipartisan victory in the midst of the high-profile impeachment trial drama: President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law the PIRATE Act, H.R. 583 (116), which gives the FCC more oomph in going after pirate radio broadcasters. The law authorizes fines of up to $100,000 per violation, for instance, as well as calls for a database of licensed stations. The fight has been a longtime priority for GOP Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who quickly cheered the news.
PLUS: THE GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS FOR PIRATED GOODS ONLINE — The Department of Homeland Security issued a long-anticipated report to the White House on Friday detailing the state of counterfeit and pirated goods on U.S. e-commerce platforms and third-party online marketplaces. The deep-dive, prompted by a 2019 request from Trump, explores how online trafficking of these goods poses a threat to American national security, public safety and economic leadership. The report also calls on internet platforms to “take a more active role in monitoring, detecting, and preventing” such activity and includes recommendations on “administrative, statutory, regulatory, and other actions” the government should take to address the problem — including “[ensuring] entities with financial interests in imports bear responsibility.” POLITICO’s Megan Cassella has the details for Pros.
— “The report includes concerning assertions on expanded liability,” Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, said Friday. (The tech trade group has warned that federal overregulation on the issue could endanger tech’s protections from liability over user-posted content.) The Internet Association, which counts Amazon among its leading members, also reiterated that the industry “works to ensure consumers are protected from counterfeit goods and partners with brands to protect their intellectual property,” Jordan Haas, the group’s director of trade policy, said Friday, adding that internet companies “will continue to work with law enforcement, policymakers, and industry to protect consumers from counterfeit goods.”
— Between the lines: Although the new DHS report does not single out Amazon, it could lend fresh momentum to House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce lawmakers who have long been scrutinizing the issue of counterfeit goods and citing Amazon, in particular, as a key driver of the problem. We’re tracking.
TWITTER BANTER DU JOUR — Trump’s Sunday morning tweet calling House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (who dominated headlines over the weekend) “a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man” who “has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” prompted Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), an outspoken tech critic, to question CEO Jack Dorsey directly over Twitter’s policies on harassment. “@jack, I’m pretty sure threatening a Member of Congress is a violation of your rules, no?” the House Judiciary antitrust chairman posted Sunday. (Asked whether Twitter planned to label the tweet or take other action, a company spokesperson told MT the post was not in violation of Twitter rules, which generally exempt exchanges between public figures.)
ICYMI: SPOTTED EDITION — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hosted an Alfalfa Dinner afterparty at his palatial D.C. home Saturday night. The guest list included Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Elaine Chao, Kellyanne Conway, Jim Mattis, Bill Gates, Lauren Sanchez, Jamie Dimon, Robert Allbritton, Barbie Allbritton, Paul and Janna Ryan, and Jay Carney. (h/t POLITICO Playbook)
Lindsay Baringer, former AVP at Angerholzer Broz Consulting, is now PAC manager for Amazon’s public policy team.
In memoriam: California’s tech community remembers Kobe Bryant, via TechCrunch.
Hillary on Facebook: In an interview with The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, at Sundance, Hillary Clinton said there’s good reason to believe that Facebook is “not just going to reelect Trump, but intend[s] to reelect Trump.”
Workforce activism: “More than 330 Amazon staffers publicly called out the company for its climate policy, its work with federal agencies and its attempts to stifle dissent,” WaPo reports.
Opinion: “You Are Now Remotely Controlled,” Shoshana Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” writes in NYT.
Senate snail mail: Senate Intel Committee Republicans pressed the Defense secretary for answers on reports suggesting his department objected to Commerce Department regulations that would have made it more difficult for American companies to do business with Huawei.
Blog OTD: Microsoft supports Washington state’s recently unveiled privacy legislation, the company’s corporate vice president for global privacy and regulatory affairs and chief privacy officer, Julie Brill, wrote in a blog post.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Mike Farrell ([email protected], @mikebfarrell), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).