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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).
ANOTHER FACEBOOK INVESTIGATION: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) is asking the San Francisco County Superior Court to require Facebook to comply with a previously unannounced investigation into the social media giant’s data practices.
In a court filing made public on Wednesday, Becerra’s office revealed that Facebook has declined to comply with multiple subpoenas and requests for documents.
“Facebook broadly refuses to answer the interrogatories or comply with the subpoena as required,” Becerra wrote in the filing.
He added that Facebook has refused to “provide a direct answer to 19 out of 27 interrogatories” and has provided a “partial response” to six. According to Becerra, Facebook has failed to search for relevant documents within communications involving Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.
“Over the past year and a half, we have lawfully issued several subpoenas and interrogatories as part of our investigation into Facebook’s practices relating to privacy, disclosures, and third-party access to user data,” Becerra told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
“Facebook, however, has not been fully responsible,” he said.
The court filing acknowledged that Becerra’s office has been investigating Facebook since 2018, in a probe that had not been publicly reported or confirmed. It noted the investigation kicked off after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but it has since expanded to probe whether Facebook violated California law by “deceiving users and ignoring its own policies in allowing third parties broad access to user data.”
MCCONNELL’S TWO CENTS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday argued that Twitter’s recent decision to ban all political ads meant the platform was “picking winners and losers.”
“Twitter’s leadership has tried to produce a rationale for banishing paid political speech, but the argument boils down to the same misunderstanding that has been used to undermine free speech for decades,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
Twitter announced late last month that it was banning all political ads, earning the social media company praise from Democrats and quick backlash from conservatives.
Twitter’s policy, which the company will officially unveil in mid-November, will ban ads that refer to an election or candidate, and those that “advocate for or against legislative issues of national importance,” according to the company.
McConnell argued the move should spark a broader debate about what qualifies as political advocacy on social media.
BIG BROTHER: Bipartisan members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday sharply questioned a top National Security Agency (NSA) official over the federal government’s shuttered phone surveillance program.
Top senators on the key committee said they’re unsure why they should reauthorize a program, as the Trump administration has requested, that the NSA abandoned earlier this year amid a spate of technical difficulties.
“Why should we reauthorize it if you shut it down?” Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked NSA official Susan Morgan.
He questioned whether it is “responsible” for Congress to reauthorize the NSA to run the call detail records program, which allowed the government to access information about millions of Americans’ communications.
The hearing comes as Congress gears up for a battle over whether to reauthorize expiring provisions in the 2015 USA dom Act, a surveillance reform bill that passed following whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the enormous amount of sensitive information the government was collecting on everyday Americans. The provisions are expiring next month.
SLOW DOWN: Privacy advocates and lawmakers are raising concerns over Google’s $2.1 billion deal to acquire fitness tracking company Fitbit. The acquisition is an ambitious step by Google to expand the company’s footprint into wearables and health apps.
However, the deal comes amid mounting scrutiny into the tech giant’s market power and growing fears about Big Tech’s collection of health data from consumers.
Google announced the deal on Friday, and in the days since a number of consumer and privacy groups, as well as lawmakers from across the aisle, have already been pressing regulators to take a closer look.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, said the deal threatens “to further entrench [Google’s] market power online.”
“This proposed transaction is a major test of antitrust enforcers’ will and ability to enforce the law and halt anti-competitive concentrations of economic power. It deserves an immediate and thorough investigation,” Cicilline said.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a fierce critic of Silicon Valley, questioned whether Google should even be allowed to go through with the deal while it is already under scrutiny.
“Why should Google be permitted to acquire even more companies while they’re under DOJ [Department of Justice] antitrust investigation,” Hawley tweeted, shortly after the deal was announced.
MISINFORMATION STATION: The number of fake political news stories on Facebook has surged as the 2020 presidential race heats up, according to Avaaz, a global advocacy group that tracks misinformation.
The group, which released its findings on the issue Wednesday, looked at the 100 most-viral fake political stories on Facebook in 2019. In total, those 100 stories were posted more than 2.3 million times and grossed an estimated 158.9 million views. For comparison, just under 140 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election.
According to Avaaz’s report, fake news stories that went against Democrats and liberals made up 62 percent of the total stories and drew 104 million views. Twenty-nine percent of the fake stories went against Republicans or conservatives and were seen 49 million times.
Over half of the views (84 million) have come in the past three months, the group says.
SECURE 5G: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to secure U.S. fifth-generation wireless networks, or 5G, against cyber threats.
Wyden warned in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that vulnerabilities in past 3G and 4G networks that left them open to hacking could occur in 5G networks if action is not taken to secure them. He also strongly advocated for wireless carriers to use encryption to secure user data.
“The FCC must stop leaving the cybersecurity of American consumers, businesses and government agencies to wireless carriers, and finally secure America’s next-generation 5G networks against interception and hacking by criminals and foreign spies,” Wyden wrote.
Wyden pressed Pai on whether the FCC supports encrypting all text messages and phone calls to help prevent security breaches and whether the FCC chair would support a third-party assessment being done to understand the security of wireless carriers’ networks, such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.
A LIGHTER CLICK: Just run
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Who will keep kids safe in an AI world?
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
8chan is a normal part of mass shootings now. (Slate)
Inside the FBI’s quiet ‘ransomware summit’ (CyberScoop)
The doctor will Skype you now: Virtual checkups reach Bangladesh’s isolated islands (NPR)
Uber in fatal crash had safety flaws, according to U.S. investigators (BBC)
This is how the U.S. military’s massive facial recognition system works (OneZero)