With help from Cristiano Lima
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— Cédric O on the scene: Just as U.S. trade officials wrapped an investigation into France’s controversial digital services tax, the French minister of state for digital affairs arrived in Washington to meet with stakeholders across the American tech industry.
— Privacy game-changer?: Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker expressed willingness to consider a narrow private right of action in federal data privacy legislation, a prospect that fellow Republicans have largely pushed back on.
— (More) allegations of social media bias: Republican lawmakers are unleashing fresh criticism on Google and YouTube for reportedly taking down hundreds of Trump campaign ads without disclosing why.
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AWKWARD TIMING FOR CEDRIC O — French Junior Digital Minister Cédric O touched down in Washington to meet with lawmakers, academics and other leaders focused on tech policy — just as the Office of the United States Trade Representative announced an unfavorable verdict from its months-long investigation into France’s controversial digital services tax. After the tech industry and President Donald Trump objected to France’s new tax, arguing it unfairly singled out American tech firms, U.S. trade officials came to the same conclusion, announcing Monday evening that the tax is discriminatory and they are seeking input on possible repercussions for the U.S. ally. (The Trump administration threatened to impose tariffs on up to $2.4 billion worth of French goods, including cheese and Champagne.)
— The results of the USTR probe — and the possibility of fresh tariffs on French goods — are sure to hang over Cédric O’s trip. He kicked things off Monday with meetings with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and former Chairman Tom Wheeler, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios and Democratic FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra. On tap today are conversations with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Open Markets Institute Executive Director Barry Lynn and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). He’ll then head to the Bay Area and Los Angeles to meet antitrust and disinformation experts, leaders from Snap and Salesforce, and others.
— “The emergence of digital giants poses a technological, legal and democratic challenge for public authorities that calls for an adaptation of our regulatory frameworks,” he said ahead of the visit. “The United States and France, long-standing allies, must work together to show that Western democracies are in a position to act to regulate the Internet and its dominant giants.”
LATEST ON SENATE PRIVACY TALKS — In a surprise move, Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) indicated Monday he’s open to potentially including a narrow private right of action in comprehensive data privacy legislation, as first reported by Bloomberg — a prospect Republicans have largely resisted in their bipartisan talks with Democrats. Wicker confirmed to MT he’s “open to discussing” the provision for individuals seeking injunctive relief. Commerce Democrats recently unveiled legislation that included a broader private right of action, which would allow individuals to sue companies over privacy violations.
— So where do talks stand? Wicker and Maria Cantwell both said Monday that while negotiations continue, they haven’t yet met their goal of putting out a joint discussion draft outlining areas of agreement and disagreement. “My goal is for that to have already happened and it hasn’t already happened,” Wicker told Cristiano. Cantwell added that for months they discussed rolling out a draft bill to show “where we’re thinking very much alike” and where they are not.
— On the hearing front: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Monday he doesn’t expect the bipartisan privacy legislation he’s been working on with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to be released ahead of Wednesday’s Senate Commerce hearing focused on privacy proposals. Blumenthal and Moran are two of the original members of the Senate Commerce working group on data privacy, and their bill is expected to build on those discussions.
INCOMING KHANNA BILL TO REVISIT LANDMARK SEX TRAFFICKING LAW — Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California plans to introduce legislation this month to evaluate how last year’s landmark online sex trafficking law is affecting sex workers, according to a spokeswoman. Khanna first teased the measure on social media Monday, tweeting that the bill will call for a federal study of “the way #SESTA-#FOSTA has impacted the health and safety of sex workers.” Khanna was one of the 25 House lawmakers to vote last year against the SESTA-FOSTA law, which amended Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to hold sites liable for “knowingly” enabling sex trafficking. Instead of curbing sex trafficking online, Khanna tweeted, the law has “criminalized online sex work and suppressed free speech.”
GOOGLE AD TAKEDOWNS IRK CONSERVATIVES — Republican lawmakers are expressing fresh outrage over a “60 Minutes” report finding that Google and its YouTube platform have taken down more than 300 Trump campaign ads over undisclosed policy violations. “Lack of transparency & bias against conservatives is why the American people don’t trust #BigTech,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), another conservative big tech critic, added: “@Google is censoring @realDonaldTrump. If you don’t believe it, Google it.” Representatives for Google and the Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment. But in an interview with the CBS program, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged that “there are ads of President Trump that were not approved to run on Google or YouTube.”
— As “60 Minutes” notes, Google’s ad archives detail how long ads ran, approximate values for ad buys and how many impressions they garnered, but not the company’s reasoning in taking them down. “We found very little transparency in the transparency report,” the report says.
RED TAPE FOR ADVERTISERS TRACKING YOUR LOCATION — The Network Advertising Initiative — a nonprofit that sets standards for online and mobile advertising — is out with new requirements for its members around location tracking and other sensitive data that they, and the apps they work closely with, collect. The guidelines detail how its members (which include Google, Microsoft and Oracle) must work with their app partners to ensure that users who opt in to have their data collected know it will be shared with third parties to tailor advertising. “When consumers are asked by apps to approve the collection and use of their data, they deserve to know how that data is being used and who it is being shared with,” said Leigh Freund, the group’s president and CEO.
Jonathan Pawlow, a former senior congressional aide for House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), will join the Information Technology Industry Council’s growing team as senior director of government affairs. … David Hudson, former digital director at watchdog group Accountable.US, joins the Motion Picture Association of America as senior director of digital media, based in Washington, POLITICO Influence reports.
Dating app loophole: Registered sex offenders roam freely on Match-owned online dating services including Tinder, OkCupid and PlentyofFish, ProPublica reports.
ICYMI: Amazon said Monday it had removed from its site Christmas decorations featuring images of Auschwitz, Reuters reports.
Getting into the quantum game: Amazon Web Services is jumping into the quantum computing race (joining IBM, Google and others) with a service called Braket, WIRED reports.
Facebook ad tracker: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent more than $1.1 million on Facebook in his first full week as a candidate, making him the highest political spender on the platform last week, Zach Montellaro reports.
China’s surveillance state: “Chinese citizens registering for new mobile-phone services will now have to scan their faces to verify their identities,” WSJ reports, “a move that will further increase the government’s scrutiny of its people.”
Anything you can do, I can do… with virtual reality: Patricia Marx details how she “walked with Jesus, shopped for a sofa, and flew like a bird over New York City” using VR, in The New Yorker.
About that viral app you probably took selfies on: The FBI warns that the Russian-owned FaceApp is a “potential counterintelligence threat,” POLITICO reports.
Blog OTD: “The Internet We Didn’t Expect,” by AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, Jim Cicconi.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano) and Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev).
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