Daily Digest (7/27)

Tech CEO Hearing Moved to Next Month; Rep. Adam Schiff Seeks Briefing on Reports of US Surveillance of Protesters; Facebook Close to $650M BIPA Settlement; Apple launches Security Research Device Program. Click “Continue reading” below.

Tech CEO Hearing Moved to Next Month

A last-minute scheduling conflict with a planned memorial service for the late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia has left the House Judiciary Committee likely to delay its long-planned hearing with the CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, according to news reports Friday.

The committee is tentatively looking to hold the hearing during the week of Aug. 3, Axios reports, citing sources familiar with the deliberations.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook of Apple were to appear before the panel.

The session will represent the first time the CEOs of Silicon Valley’s biggest firms have appeared together to answer lawmakers’ criticisms and charges of monopolistic behavior.

The U.S. Justice Department also is probing the four tech platforms. Facebook and Amazon also are facing inquiries by the Federal Trade Commission, while U.S. states attorneys general are looking at Facebook and Google.

Source (all sources external links):

Rep. Adam Schiff Seeks Briefing on Reports of US Surveillance of Protesters

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a briefing on reports that the agency is using domestic surveillance to protect federal monuments, statues and buildings.

Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter Thursday to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Under Secretary for Intelligence Brian Murphy.

Schiff asked the leaders to respond to reports that the department had authorized personnel to collect information on protesters who threatened to damage or destroy memorials or statues, regardless of if they are on federal property.

“Such accounts are especially disturbing as Americans are learning about the administration’s unilateral deployment of federal officers, many apparently from DHS components, in Portland over the objections of state and local officials,” according to the letter.

The congressman also asked for an explanation on a report that the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which falls under DHS, had “expanded” its intelligence-gathering activities to support a White House executive order protecting federal monuments.

The department has never so aggressively moved to counter threats of graffiti, vandalism or other damage to monuments in the same way it would treat threats to U.S. security or direct attacks on federal buildings or employees, Schiff noted.

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, Md., tweeted that he supported Schiff’s request.

“Domestic surveillance & the deployment of heavily armed, anonymous federal law enforcement are tactics used by dictators, not democracies,” Hoyer said Friday.


Facebook Close to $650M BIPA Settlement

U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in California appears inclined to approve a $650 million Facebook settlement over alleged violations of Illinois’ Biometric Privacy Information Act, a $100 million increase over an initial figure.

Donato questioned the initial settlement, MediaPost reports, but of the $650 million said, “It looks like most of my concerns were addressed.”

The earlier amount would have allowed Illinois residents whose facial templates were stored by Facebook to receive $150 to $300 each.

Donato suggested the initial figure was too low, given that the Illinois law at the center of the case called for damages of up to $5,000 per violation.

“The Illinois Legislature said this is meant to be an expensive violation,” Donato said at a Thursday hearing, according to the report.

Facebook sought to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court but was turned away in January. The company then announced it had reached a settlement.

The portal also agreed to turn its face-recognition settings to “off” for Illinois residents, and to delete existing faceprints, unless people affirmatively opt into the feature.


Apple launches Security Research Device Program

Apple launched its Security Research Device Program last week, sending special devices to hackers and security researchers to make it easier for them to find bugs and vulnerabilities.

Apple said the program “is designed to help improve security for all iOS users, bring more researchers to iPhone, and improve efficiency for those who already work on iOS security,” Vice reports, and “features an iPhone dedicated exclusively to security research, with unique code execution and containment policies.”

The program might make some hackers less likely to engage in the underground market for stolen prototype iPhones hackers currently use to research iPhone security, and encourage them to share their findings with Apple, Vice reports.

Apple wrote in a Wednesday blog post that the program “features an iPhone dedicated exclusively to security research, with unique code execution and containment policies.”

Apple said it did not have a goal in terms of how many of these devices it wanted to send out, and qualifying participants only need to show a public track record of security research, not just on iPhone but also on other popular devices and software like Android phones, Windows, or Linux.

Upon qualification, Apple will loan one of the devices, and the researcher will be legally bound to share any bugs they find with Apple so that the company can fix them.

Apple also is providing a special online forum where qualified researchers can share findings, tips, and talk to Apple engineers, Vice reports.


— By DPN Staff