Ctrl + N

Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is still the new guy on Capitol Hill. But the freshman senator is swiftly emerging as one of the Republican Party’s toughest critics of Big Tech. 

Hawley’s rigorous grilling of Google executive Will DeVries was the most heated exchange during yesterday’s privacy hearing:

He slammed Google for collecting people's location data on Android phones — even after they try to disable the tracking function. He compared the practice to an Eagles song — saying, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” 

“To see the Google witness push back on me and attempt to say consumers should anticipate this would be the case, are you kidding me?” Hawley told me in an interview after the hearing. “That’s just insane. It’s not just insane, it’s insulting.”

As Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) come out swinging against Big Tech, Hawley could prove to be an ally across the aisle. While Republicans have historically been wary of government intervention in private industry, Hawley has made it clear it's time for the government to do more to rein in Silicon Valley. 

As he uses his new position in Congress to press the Federal Trade Commission to step up its investigations of competition and privacy issues, he is welcoming the stepped-up attention from Democrats campaigning for 2020. 

Warren’s proposal to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook will lend a spotlight to these issues, he says. “It’s going to help make sure there’s a conversation on the national level." 

Hawley isn't the only Republican complimenting Warren. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), another strong critic of the technology industry in the Republican party, said yesterday:

At 39, Hawley brings a fresh perspective to the technology debate in Congress as the country’s youngest senator. While many of his more senior peers have been criticized for their gaffes during technology hearings, Hawley's line of questioning showed that he has a deep understanding of how Google’s products work.

Hawley wants Google to give consumers a clear way to opt out of invasive location tracking. He says many members of the committee — including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Caif.) — told him they were not aware that Google tracks people at this level. 

Hawley's questions even drew praise from the the Judiciary Committee's top Democrat. 

“Senator Hawley, I thought your questions were very well placed and really very good," Feinstein said during the hearing. “For someone — and I'm not all that computer sophisticated — it was revolutionary because I really see the breadth and depth of what we're dealing with, and the unknowns of what the future brings." 

Hawley has already shown he’s able to work with the Democrats. His top tech priority right now is passing an amended version of the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act that he introduced with Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) yesterday.

“As someone who has two young children at home, this is not a theoretical issue for me,” he said.

The legislation would update a more than 20-year-old children’s privacy law and would require companies to provide parents with an eraser button to delete data that companies collected about their children.

“In order to enact the strong privacy protections that Americans deserve, it is going to take dedication and collaboration from members of Congress from both sides of the aisle,” Markey told me in an email. “Senator Hawley has proven himself to be a tenacious privacy advocate, and it has been a pleasure working with him to update the rules for children’s privacy online.”

Markey has been trying for years to update the children’s privacy law, but his efforts have not gained traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Hawley said the urgency on privacy issues is accelerating, and he can say for certain that there is broad bipartisan interest. He’s calling on his Republican colleagues to ensure that children’s privacy restructuring passes quickly.

“We know that COPPA worked in the past, and we know it needs to be updated,” Hawley told me. “Let’s proceed with deliberate speed.”


BITS: One of the most prominent proponents of ethical investing in Silicon Valley was charged in yesterday's bombshell college admissions scandal, according to Recode's Teddy Schleifer. 

Bill McGlashan, a founder and managing partner at Uber and Airbnb investor TPG growth, was charged on fraud charges after he allegedly bribed intermediaries to “facilitate” his child's entry to University of Southern California. McGlashan allegedly agreed to make a $50,000 payment to fudge his son's ACT results. 

“What is particularly damaging for TPG is that McGlashan has positioned himself as a leading voice in Silicon Valley for social responsibility,” Schleifer wrote. “In addition to overseeing TPG’s late-stage growth investing arm, McGlashan has partnered with other conscious leaders like Bono and Laurene Powell Jobs at The Rise Fund, a TPG investing arm that tries to make the world a better place through investments in things like dairy farms in India.”

TPG said Tuesday that it placed McGlashan on “indefinite administrative leave effective immediately.” 

NIBBLES: Democratic lawmakers grilled a “visibly uncomfortable” T-Mobile chief executive John Legere over his decision to stay at President Trump's Washington hotel as his company awaits approval for a merger with Sprint, The Washington Post's Brian Fung reported. 

“T-Mobile spent nearly $200,000 at the Trump hotel in the months following the announcement of the deal, Legere acknowledged at a hearing before a House Judiciary subcommittee,” my colleague wrote. “But he defended the practice by pointing out that T-Mobile had spent roughly $1.7 million on hotel stays across the nation’s capital during that entire period.”

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) challenged the chief executive on the hotel stay, saying it appeared the company was currying favor with the White House. Legere responded he's "100 percent sure” the merger will be judged on its merits. 

 “It doesn’t pass the smell test with the American public,” Johnson said. “It looks like you’re trying to purchase influence.”

BYTES: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) will announce the launch of a bipartisan artificial intelligence caucus this morning. The caucus aims to connect members and staff with artificial intelligence experts in the private sector and academia, and it will complement the Trump administration's work on prioritizing artificial intelligence in federal agency spending.

Caucus members will include Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

“Together, we will work with our colleagues to develop smart policy in a responsible way to ensure the United States remains at the forefront of innovation while maintaining important ethical, safety, and privacy standards,” Heinrich said in a statement. “In the years ahead, it will be critical for policymakers to strike the right balance in developing the technology so that academia, private industry, federal agencies, and our national labs can harness the enormous potential of AI to the benefit of society and the American people.”

There has been an artificial intelligence caucus in the House since 2017.


Happy birthday to the World Wide Web, which celebrated the big 3-0 yesterday. 

Tim Berners-Lee wants all users to work together on privacy, hacking, hate speech concerns.
Associated press

The Web's founder, Tim Berners-Lee, marked the occassion with a 30-hour journey:

Others shared their favorite early websites:

Or paid homage to dial-up:

Microsoft founder Bill Gates felt nostalgia for 1995: 

From Snkat chief executive Tristan Snell: 


— Technology news from the private sector:

Verizon will charge an additional $10 a month for subscribers who want to add 5G speeds to their phones, the first major U.S. carrier to disclose pricing for the faster service. It will first offer 5G in Chicago and Minneapolis in April.
Wall Street Journal
Uber Technologies Inc. will pay $20 million to settle California lawsuits challenging the company’s classification of drivers as independent contractors, and not employees owed the benefits of traditional employment.
Before the curtain goes up, Apple needs to complete deals. The company is racing to secure movies and TV shows to offer alongside its own original videos and is offering concessions to get deals done by a Friday deadline, according to people familiar with the matter.
Dozens of Google employees working on the company's "Create" team - an internal hardware division responsible for developing and manufacturing Google's laptop and tablet products - have been told to find new projects within Google or its parent company Alphabet, amid what sources describe as "roadmap cutbacks."
Business Insider
@innovations Blog
Scooters are crowding sidewalks and injuring pedestrians in cities around the country. A startup called Swiftmile says it has created new charging stations that could help bring order to the chaos.
Peter Holley

— Technology news from the public sector:

Music-streaming service Spotify Technology has filed an antitrust complaint in Europe against Apple, a new salvo in the broader battle over how and whether to rein in alleged wrongdoing by tech giants.
Wall Street Journal
News Corp Australia, run by Rupert Murdoch, is calling for the breakup of Google, saying the US tech company has too much power when it comes to online advertising.
GOP lawmakers pushed back on Democrats' proposed net neutrality bill at a testy hearing on Tuesday, calling the legislation "extreme" and overly partisan, while saying it would be dead on arrival in the Senate. 
The Hill
Prominent Democratic 2020 presidential candidates will meet in rural Iowa later this month to debate monopolies and approaches to antitrust enforcement, The Hill has confirmed.
The Hill

— Tech news generating buzz around the Web:

It started with a Twitter meltdown and ended with a fake mass shooter. A former security manager says the company also spied and spread misinformation.
Matt Robinson and Zeke Faux
A guide to sharing your children’s photos safely on Instagram and Facebook while respecting their privacy.
Wall Street Journal
Fifty people, including Loughlin, were charged by the Justice Department for participating in a bribery scheme to get their children admitted to prestigious colleges and universities.
Sonia Rao and Emily Yahr
At the first Bernie Sanders rally of the new campaign, we search for the accidental mascot of the last one.
Ellen McCarthy