Tech

Klobuchar’s antitrust panel takes on big data

With help from John Hendel

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— Follow the data: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) breaks down what to expect from today’s Senate Judiciary antitrust panel hearing on big data.

— MT exclusive: More than 50 advocacy groups are launching a coalition today to urge Congress to pass the House Judiciary antitrust package.

— Also first in MT: Google and the Computer and Communications Industry Association are going after Microsoft this morning with a report on its dominance in the public sector.

IT’S TUESDAY, SEPT. 21. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. The House’s Sept. 27 deadline to pass the infrastructure package is less than a week away. What are your predictions on what will happen?

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DIGGING INTO BIG DATA — The Senate Judiciary antitrust panel will hold a hearing this afternoon on the implications of big data for consumers, examining its effects on not just privacy but also competition.

“Big data is at the core of our modern economy, powering targeted advertising, driving artificial intelligence,” Klobuchar, the panel’s chair, told MT in an interview. But because that data is concentrated in the hands of a few platforms, it’s harder for smaller companies to target ads or create algorithms as effectively. “It’s really an intense competition issue at its core,” she said.

Lawmakers will hear from public policy executives from Facebook and Google, as well as Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director at advocacy group Public Knowledge, and a representative from the data broker industry.

— Tech expectations: Klobuchar said she plans to ask the tech companies about the advantages that big data gives them. But expect the tech giants to question that underlying assertion. “Data by itself does not guarantee better or more successful products,” Google’s Markham Erickson will tell lawmakers, according to his prepared remarks. “Rather, it is the investment, innovation and method that matters, not just the amount of data a company may have.”

Adam Kovacevich, the CEO of tech industry group Chamber of Progress, echoed those comments to MT, pointing to TikTok as an example of a successful new competitor to the data giants. By one recent estimate, its users spend more time on its app each month than YouTube’s users do. (Kovacevich will not be at the hearing.)

— Looking for a fix: Klobuchar said it’s crucial to update the nation’s antitrust laws, which have largely been left alone for decades. Slaiman, in her written testimony to the panel, advocated for these changes, arguing that “dominant digital gatekeepers” with massive data troves have throttled competition.

Slaiman said Congress needs to pass a comprehensive federal privacy law, along with the various antitrust proposals now circulating on the Hill, including the House Judiciary package, Klobuchar’s own antitrust measure and a bill that targets Apple and Google’s control of their app stores. “The best time to pass them was 10 years ago. The second-best time is now,” she wrote.

If some of this sounds familiar: Klobuchar and Slaiman were among the speakers at last week’s POLITICO Tech Summit (as was Kovacevich).

FIRST IN MT: ADVOCACY GROUPS LAUNCH ANTITRUST COALITION — The Rein in Big Tech coalition will launch today, representing dozens of local, state-level and national advocacy groups as they urge Congress to pass bipartisan antitrust legislation to curb Silicon Valley’s influence.

The groups involved include Accountable Tech, Athena, the American Booksellers Association, the Center for Digital Democracy, Fairplay, the Future of Music Coalition, Gig Workers Rising and Public Knowledge.

— Escalating fight: Although congressional movement on antitrust has slowed in recent months, the tech industry and its critics have kept the fight going. Last week, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group that counts Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple as members, released a white paper contending that the House Judiciary antitrust package poses national security risks, and a letter from former national security officials echoed those claims. (Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was involved in both efforts.)

— Who’s missing: The coalition’s website takes aim at the so-called Big Four but makes no mention of Microsoft, a company that has been conspicuously missing as a target of Washington’s antitrust push — a point that arose during June’s House Judiciary markup of the antitrust package.

SPEAKING OF MICROSOFT — Google and CCIA are ramping up their attacks on Microsoft with a report out this morning and shared early with MT, as the longtime feud between two of the most valuable companies in the world escalates.

— The details: The report, conducted by research firm Omdia, found that Microsoft holds an 85 percent market share in communications and collaboration software across all levels of government. It also suggests that a “monoculture” in public-sector productivity tools has emerged because the public procurement process favors “the path of least resistance,” and government agencies lack “the adequate flexibility and freedom” to choose the best tools.

— The cyber angle: Microsoft’s dominance, the report says, also makes government systems more vulnerable to security breaches. “While no company is immune from attacks, having such a large dependence on a single source makes the attack surface critically high and a clear high value and profile target,” it says.

— The backdrop: Microsoft has largely evaded antitrust scrutiny thus far, even as it points the finger at the other tech giants — something that’s frustrated its rivals. Its president, Brad Smith, has encouraged more scrutiny on app stores like those run by Google and Apple. This year, Microsoft and Google have also sparred over Smith’s comments about Google’s ads business and the search giant’s lobbying of lawmakers to question Microsoft at a hearing about its role in the SolarWinds breach.

DOZENS OF ATTORNEYS GENERAL BACK ANTITRUST BILLS — A bipartisan coalition of 32 attorneys general is also throwing its support behind the six House bills.

“Given changes in technology, decreased competition in important sectors, and undue judicial skepticism towards robust enforcement, we applaud Congress for taking up” the antitrust package, the coalition said in a letter sent Monday to Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and the Senate, as well as their respective Judiciary committees.

The coalition also emphasized the need for Congress to strengthen consumer protections against “unlawful and irresponsible mergers and business practices” and to promote competition and innovation.

“Congress must pass this package of antitrust bills and give us the tools necessary to ensure competition remains strong across New York and the rest of the nation,” said New York Attorney General Tish James, who led the letter with her counterparts in Colorado, Nebraska and Tennessee.

— No state left behind: The attorneys general also asked Congress to codify states’ ability to enforce antitrust laws, “including with regard to the timing of challenging anticompetitive mergers and other practices.”

— Antitrust state of play: Progress on the package has slowed in recent months, as Congress has focused on other priorities, such as infrastructure and Democrats’ social spending package. House leaders have said they hope to see changes to the bills before they’re brought to the floor for a vote. Klobuchar is spearheading a parallel effort in the Senate.

RAIMONDO WANTS COLLABORATION FOR BIDEN’S AIRWAVES STRATEGY — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo plans today to redouble her call for the administration to develop a national spectrum strategy in remarks before the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s annual Spectrum Symposium. Putting together such a strategy was a priority for former President Donald Trump, but one that was never fully developed. Raimondo clamored for one as a potential solution to 5G spectrum chaos during her confirmation hearings in January.

“Because of spectrum’s strategic importance across the board, we need a national spectrum strategy that involves all major governmental stakeholders,” Raimondo will say this morning, according to prepared remarks shared with John, adding that her department “has been working closely with the FCC to ensure that the wireless industry has the spectrum it needs to fully deploy 5G across the country.”

— ‘Closely’ might be overstating it: In fact, agencies like Commerce, the FCC, the Pentagon and DOT frequently feuded during the Trump era over various slices of the airwaves, and Raimondo hopes to help smooth over some of these frictions. She also plans to hail the ongoing cooperation between Commerce, Pentagon, the FCC and the wireless industry in advance of next month’s 5G airwaves sale.

NTIA began holding these annual spectrum summits during the Trump administration, and this is the first under Democratic control. Also watch for remarks from House Energy and Commerce telecom subcommittee Chair Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), NTIA acting chief Evelyn Remaley and FCC acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, among others.

Doyle will say it’s “imperative” to reallocate 5G airwaves using proven and longstanding policies, a nod to his own ongoing efforts to encourage teamwork between agencies. “Making a single spectrum stakeholder, an incumbent user, the final arbiter of reallocation decisions will almost certainly not lead to better outcomes for the country,” according to his prepared remarks.

— Still TBD: President Joe Biden still hasn’t nominated a permanent leader for NTIA, and it may be difficult to finalize a strategy absent this Senate-confirmed position. Mozilla’s Alan Davidson is thought to be one of the top contenders under consideration.

Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, will join the Labor Department’s National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. … Jeff Murray is now a senior manager at Google, leading policy for the search ecosystem. He previously was a VP at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and is a Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint alum. … Kelli Briggs is now head of government and industry affairs at Olive AI. She most recently was a senior VP at the Washington Tax & Public Policy Group and is a Pat Tiberi alum. … Sean McLeary will join TrustLayer as head of product. He was previously at Indio and was senior director of user experience at DocuSign and Zenefits. … Ryan Naples has joined DailyPay as senior manager for public policy. He was previously deputy director at Tech:NYC.

Marc Aidinoff is joining the Office of Science and Technology Policy as a senior strategist. He most recently was a senior strategist for OpenLabs USA and Civis Analytics, and worked for Biden in the Obama White House. … Dylan Chandler is joining Rep. Lance Gooden’s (R-Texas) office as comms director. He most recently has been senior health policy adviser to Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) and the House Budget Committee, and is a Sean Duffy and David Valadao alum.

Truphone has joined the Competitive Carriers Association. … Ericsson has been chosen to replace the existing vendor equipment for regional carrier Viaero Wireless. … USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group has launched a new website to track and trace illegal robocalls. … Parler will sponsor NASCAR Xfinity Series driver J.J. Yeley’s car at a race this weekend.

Brian Murphy will join Logically as VP of strategic operations, where he will work on efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation. He was previously acting undersecretary for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security and is a 20-year FBI veteran.

Hit the brakes: “Your car knows too much about you. That could be a privacy nightmare.” More from Mashable.

A look at Thiel: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg almost fired Peter Thiel over leaked correspondence. That juicy bit and more from POLITICO Magazine’s Katelyn Fossett.

Weighing in: “To Counter China, the U.S. and EU Need to Get Back on the Same Page — Fast,” writes Evelyn N. Farkas, an Obama-era deputy assistant secretary of defense, in POLITICO.

Seeing green: The expansion of 5G will help combat climate change and support a greener economy, according to a Qualcomm report.

Philanthropy latest: “Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan donate $1.3 million to Jewish groups,” via Jewish Insider.

A hefty sum: Twitter will pay $809.5 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed it misled investors, The Hill reports.

The rankings are in: The U.S. was 13th in the world’s internet freedom rankings, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report. China was last.

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!



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