Hillicon Valley: House panel probing Jan. 6 requests records from tech giants
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Happy Friday! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.
Wrapping up the last full week of August, major tech companies are being further pulled into the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, with the House committee investigating the day requesting records from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and several other major companies.
Apple also made headlines Friday, agreeing to a settlement deal with app developers that will allow them to avoid paying Apple’s commission, while the CEO of T-Mobile issued an apology and an update on last week’s breach that exposed records of 50 million individuals.
JAN. 6 RECORDS REQUEST: The select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol sent letters to 15 websites and tech companies Friday demanding records related to the deadly insurrection.
The committee is giving the social media platforms — including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and right-leaning social network Parler — two weeks to respond to the request.
The panel “is examining the facts, circumstances, and causes of the attack and relating to the peaceful transfer of power, in order to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend corrective laws, policies, procedures, rules, or regulations,” Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: Agencies on alert for ransomware attacks ahead of Labor Day weekend Democrats’ Jan. 6 subpoena-palooza sets dangerous precedent Jan. 6 panel seeks records of those involved in ‘Stop the Steal’ rally MORE (D-Miss.) said in a statement.
The companies are being asked to turn over a large trove of information, including internal and external reviews of 2020 election misinformation or violent extremism, all content given to law enforcement related to those subjects and all relevant internal communications.
Other major companies being asked to turn over info include Google, Reddit, Snapchat and TikTok, while some more fringe websites such as 4chan and Gab are also being asked to supply information. Telegram, 8kun, theDonald.win and Zello round out the companies probed Friday.
Read more about the investigation here.
BITE OUT OF THE APPLE: Apple will make several key changes to its App Store as part of a settlement deal with app developers that garnered scrutiny over the tech giant’s policies and market power.
Notably, Apple will allow developers to communicate with customers to share information about payment methods outside of Apple’s payment system. The communication will let developers circumvent paying Apple’s commission, Apple said in the late Thursday announcement.
As part of the deal, subject to approval by a federal judge, the tech giant will also establish a fund to assist small developers.
Eligible developers must have earned $1 million or less “for all of their apps in every calendar year in which the developers had an account between June 4, 2015, and April 26, 2021,” which Apple said makes up 99 percent of developers in the U.S. The fund is reportedly $100 million.
The tech giant will also create an annual transparency report based on app store data, according to the announcement.
Apple is agreeing to some crucial concessions in the proposed deal, but the App Store’s structure will largely remain the same, including Apple’s commission charges. Larger developers will still be subject to Apple’s standard commission fees, and developers that earn less than $1 million annually will still pay the reduced commission, according to the announcement.
TESLA POWER: Tesla has reportedly filed an application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas to provide electricity directly to customers, according to agency records.
The application, which was first reported Thursday by Texas Monthly, was submitted by a Tesla subsidiary called Tesla Energy Ventures and has a filing date of Aug. 16, based on information provided on the Public Utility Commission’s website.
While Tesla currently uses big batteries to help other companies transmit, store and consume energy, the application marks an effort by the technology giant to provide electricity directly to customers in Texas.
The filing follows reports earlier this year that Tesla subsidiary Gambit Energy Storage was secretly building a more than 100-megawatt energy storage project in Angleton, Texas.
Bloomberg noted at the time that a battery that large could have the capacity to power roughly 20,000 homes during the summer.
The Hill has reached out to Tesla for comment.
T-MOBILE IS SORRY: T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert on Friday announced that the hacker behind the recent breach of the company that compromised the information of around 50 million individuals had used “brute force” in the attack and apologized for the impact of the breach.
The apology, made in a statement published Friday, came a week after the company announced that the data of current, former and prospective customers had been compromised, including customer names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and driver’s license information.
“To say we are disappointed and frustrated that this happened is an understatement,” Sievert wrote. “Keeping our customers’ data safe is a responsibility we take incredibly seriously and preventing this type of event from happening has always been a top priority of ours. Unfortunately, this time we were not successful.”
“Knowing that we failed to prevent this exposure is one of the hardest parts of this event. On behalf of everyone at Team Magenta, I want to say we are truly sorry,” he added.
Read more here.
FELLOWSHIP ALERT: Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco on Friday announced the establishment of a fellowship program at the Justice Department to help train future prosecutors and attorneys in how to handle cases involving cybersecurity concerns.
The Cyber Fellowship Program will be a three-year course run through the Justice Department’s Criminal Division that is aimed at training attorneys to handle and prosecute a variety of cybersecurity-related cases.
These include cases involving state-sponsored cybersecurity threats, ransomware attacks, the use of cryptocurrency in relation to cyberattacks, and other related issues.
“As we have witnessed this past year, cyber threats pose a significant and increasing risk to our national security, our economic security, and our personal security,” Monaco said in a statement Friday. “We need to develop the next generation of prosecutors with the training and experience necessary to combat the next generation of cyber threats.
Read more about the program here.
WISH THIS WAS A DREAM: The online video game Fortnite is creating a new virtual experience showcasing civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Set in D.C. 63, “a reimagined Washington, DC,” according to video game company Epic Games, players can visit the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial where King made his famous speech on Aug. 28, 1963 calling for racial justice in the U.S. and imagining what racial equality would look like in the U.S. in the future.
The video game, called March Through Time, was created by Fortnite community members and presented by TIME Studies, Epic Games community manager, Ryan Broseker, said in a PlayStation blog.
A PlayStation trailer of the video game appears to show players being able to go to the Lincoln Memorial to listen to the speech, holding picket signs and cheering. The trailer also appears to show players at a museum exhibit showcasing the civil rights movement in the U.S.
COME TO BRAZIL: Fourteen YouTube channels have had their payments suspended by the company amid allegations that they spread misinformation about the country’s 2022 election.
“In compliance with the decision of the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court (TSE) of August 16, YouTube informs that it has suspended access to the revenue attributed to those responsible for the 14 channels indicated by the TSE,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.
“We reinforce our commitment to continue to collaborate with the work of authorities in Brazil and to continue to invest in policies, resources and products to protect the youtube community from harmful content,” the person added.
The news comes after several social and multimedia platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, were directed last week by Brazil’s inspector general of electoral justice Luis Felipe Salomão, to temporarily halt payments to creators and other entities allegedly mired in election misinformation.
CUBA COIN: The Cuban government said Thursday that it will begin to allow citizens to use cryptocurrencies, while imposing regulations for the currency.
The country’s central bank will set rules for license providers and regulate the use of cryptocurrencies, the Official Gazette wrote, according to The Associated Press.
The resolution published in the Official Gazette states cryptocurrencies are not allowed to be used for illegal activities and the Central Bank will only allow the cryptocurrencies “for reasons of socioeconomic interest.”
An op-ed to chew on: Online educational resources provide much-needed support
Lighter click: TATERS anyone?
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Inside the Paranoid, Highly Excitable Ecosystem of the Vaccine Card Black Market (The New Republic / Molly Osberg)
FBI Screwup Lets Agents Access Information They Weren’t Supposed to See (Daily Beat / Jose Pagliery and Shannon Vavra)
Calls Grow to Discipline Doctors Spreading Virus Misinformation (New York Times / Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel)
Microsoft Azure vulnerability exposed thousands of cloud databases (CyberScoop / Tonya Riley)
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