Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former telecommunications entrepreneur and incoming Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today urged mobile carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon and social media companies Apple, Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Signal, Telegram, and Twitter to immediately preserve content and associated meta-data connected to Wednesday’s insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol. 

In all eleven letters to the companies’ CEOs, Sen. Warner emphasized how the rioters took the time to document the event “later posting them to their social media accounts or sharing them via text or mobile messaging platforms to celebrate their disdain for our democratic process.”

“The United States Capitol is now a crime scene,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letters to AT&TT-MobileVerizonAppleFacebookGabGoogleParlerSignalTelegram, and Twitter. “The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are currently investigating the events of that day, and trying to piece together what happened and the perpetrators involved. The prospect of litigation on behalf of the victims of the mayhem also is highly likely. Messaging data to and from your subscribers that may have participated in, or assisted, those engaged in this insurrection – and associated subscriber information – are critical evidence in helping to bring these rioters to justice.”

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), incoming Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after Facebook announced an indefinite suspension of President Trump from the platform: 

“While I’m pleased to see social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube take long-belated steps to address the President’s sustained misuse of their platforms to sow discord and violence, these isolated actions are both too late and not nearly enough. Disinformation and extremism researchers have for years pointed to broader network-based exploitation of these platforms. As I have continually said, these platforms have served as core organizing infrastructure for violent, far right groups and militia movements for several years now – helping them to recruit, organize, coordinate and in many cases (particularly with respect to YouTube) generate profits from their violent, extremist content.” 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Co-Chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, issued the statement below after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) released a joint statement attributing the SolarWinds hack to Russia:

“It’s unfortunate that it has taken over three weeks after the revelation of an intrusion this significant for this Administration to finally issue a tentative attribution. I would hope that we will begin to see something more definitive, along with a more public pronouncement of U.S. policy towards indiscriminate supply chain infiltrations of this sort in the future. We need to make clear to Russia that any misuse of compromised networks to produce destructive or harmful effects is unacceptable and will prompt an appropriately strong response.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the Senate voted to override President Trump’s veto of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“Today, I voted to override the President’s veto of the NDAA. This annual defense bill is critical to U.S. national security. Failure to pass it would jeopardize our country’s military readiness and national defense, cybersecurity, the well-being of our U.S. service members and their families, and more. The stakes are just too high to risk further delay.

The FY21 NDAA, which passed through the Senate earlier this month, contains a number of Warner-led provisions, including ones to combat illicit finance, prioritize U.S. innovation and technology development in 5G and semiconductors, protect military families, create a more diverse Pentagon workforce, enable greater SCIF flexibility, fund the procurement of a second Virginia-class submarine, and expand the list of service-connected presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. 

Earlier this week, the House voted 322-87 to override President Trump’s veto of the NDAA. Following today’s Senate vote, the bill will become law. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the bipartisan, bicameral spending bill to fund federal programs crucial to Virginia and keep the federal government open through 2021. The legislation also includes comprehensive measures to help Americans amid the ongoing economic and public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following today’s Senate passage, the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 

“For nine long months, folks waited for Congress to deliver critical relief as they watched COVID-19 further devastate their communities. Today, despite that unacceptable delay, relief is officially on its way,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to help get this legislation into shape and in the hands of House and Senate leaders. And while I know that this bill is not perfect, I’m glad to know that it will help American families weather this winter and get through the holidays.”

“While this relief should have been passed much earlier, I’m pleased to see families, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and more get the assistance they need,” Kaine said. “This legislation makes critical investments in unemployment assistance, food aid, housing assistance, and other areas to directly help those struggling amid the pandemic. Though we still have more work to do to help Americans get back on their feet, I’m relieved Congress was able to come to this bipartisan compromise and fund these priorities before the holidays.” 

The following list includes some of the priorities Warner and Kaine advocated:

  • Assistance for out of work Virginians: Extends federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, preventing hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Virginians from losing benefits over the holidays. The senators were cosponsors of the legislation that provided the model for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), through which more than 9 million Americans are currently receiving benefits. More recently, the Senators called on leadership to extend and add additional weeks of federal employment benefits to both PUA and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs. Additionally, it gives states the option to offer additional weekly financial relief for Americans with a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income who are not able to claim their full benefit, modeled after Senator Warner’s legislation.
  • Stimulus checks: Includes a stimulus payment for low- and middle-income Americans; with $600 for individual filers and $1,200 for joint filers, with an additional $600 for each qualifying child in the household. Early in the crisis, Senator Kaine called for stimulus efforts to include direct payments to households. 
  • Vaccines: Includes over $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic and take a step towards a future where COVID-19 is managed.
  • Emergency housing aid and protections: Creates a new $25 billion emergency rental assistance fund to prevent evictions during the pandemic, which will be delivered through state and local governments. Earlier this year, the Senators joined their colleagues in introducing legislation to provide emergency housing assistance for those facing potential evictions. The bill will also extend the CDC eviction moratorium to allow time for implementing the emergency housing aid.
  • Relief for hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits: Provides targeted relief for small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic. This includes a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits that experienced a substantial revenue decline in 2020, as well as other funds for small business relief. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is directed to provide guidance to ensure priority access for underserved communities, such as minority-owned businesses. The bill also includes grants for small businesses and nonprofits in sectors likely to continue to see substantial drops in revenue in 2021, particularly in the live entertainment sector. This aid will ensure that Virginia’s small businesses are able to stay afloat during the pandemic, keep workers on payroll, and return to job creation as COVID-19 is controlled. The Senators have been strong supporters of providing relief to small businesses, cosponsoring the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, which included many of the provisions in the final bill, and the Save our Stages Act, on which the live entertainment grants are modeled. 
  • Targeted relief for underserved communities: Provides the largest single investment in our country's history for minority-owned and community-based lending institutions. Largely drawn from Senator Warner’s Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, the provision provides $12 billion to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) to build capital and unlock affordable access to credit for underserved and minority neighborhoods, which have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
  • Education Stabilization Fund: Provides $82 billion to provide emergency support to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The legislation includes provisions of Kaine’s Coronavirus Relief Flexibility for Students and Institutions Act that allow colleges to use emergency stabilization funds to cover lost revenue and better target funds designated for colleges hardest hit by COVID-19 by requiring an application to demonstrate need. 
  • Broadband: Includes $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on provisions Senator Warner drafted with bipartisan Senators. Additionally, the bill includes an extension of the deadline to use Coronavirus Relief Funds so that state and localities interested in using the money for broadband expansion have more time, as Senator Warner called for.
  • Support for child care providers and families: Includes $10 billion in flexible funding for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help support child care providers and ensure that working parents have access to child care during the pandemic. The bill also includes $250 million for Head Start programs.
  • Public health data modernization: Includes Senator Kaine’s Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, which will improve the nation’s public health data systems at CDC and through grants to state and local health departments to expand and modernize their systems, promoting more seamless communication, which can save lives when we’re faced with public health threats such as COVID-19. The omnibus authorizes $100 million for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
  • Telehealth: Includes Senator Kaine and Senator Schatz’s Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act of 2019, which creates a grant program to evaluate, develop, and expand the use of distance health education models such as ECHO to increase access to specialty care in rural and medically underserved populations. The omnibus authorizes $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026. The funding bill also permanently expands coverage of and payment for telehealth to treat mental health care, which is in line with Senator Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act, which Senator Kaine is a cosponsor.
  • Ends surprise billing: Includes a provision to end surprise billing, something Senators Warner and Kaine have long advocated for. 
  • U.S. Postal Service: Converts the CARES Act $10 billion loan into direct funding for USPS without requiring repayment. These funds will be used for operational costs and other expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Warner is a cosponsor of the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, which would provide USPS with significant direct funding. 
  • Veterans: Provides $104.4 billion in funding for the VA, an increase of $12.5 billion over FY20 levels. This funding increase provides $2.7 billion more than the previous fiscal year for health care delivered at VA facilities nationwide. The bill provides robust funding in several areas important for Virginia veterans, including $815 million for critical VA Medical and Prosthetic research, an increase of $1.18 billion over FY20 levels for electronic health record modernization, nearly $2 billon in support of programs to prevent veteran homelessness and $312.6 million for suicide prevention.
  • Infrastructure: Includes funding for key projects that were championed by Warner and Kaine to benefit Virginia’s infrastructure:
    • Includes a provision pushed for by Senators Warner and Kaine to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge on the Potomac River, which will double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and D.C. The current two-track Long Bridge is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., and it is at 98 percent capacity during peak hours, which means it is one of the most significant rail chokepoints along the East Coast. The new Long Bridge program will double the capacity of the Potomac River rail crossing by adding a second two-track bridge adjacent to the existing bridge and including a new bike-pedestrian shared use path spanning the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Potomac River. Senators Warner and Kaine introduced the Long Bridge Act of 2020 in August to allow for this construction.
    • Includes the full federal funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fund critical capital investment and safety projects. In addition, the bill provides $14 billion in emergency relief for public transit agencies to continue operations during the pandemic, ensuring access to transportation for frontline workers and civil servants.
    • Includes a one year extension of Community Development Block Grant funds to the City of Norfolk and other localities to build climate resilient infrastructure projects. Senators Kaine and Warner joined Senator John Hoeven in introducing S.4017 in June, which would also have provided an extension for the NDRC program.
    • Includes $87.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program—an increase of $2.5 million from FY 2020. The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts, and the majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration.
    • Authorizes federal funds to cover 65% of the costs associated with construction projects to address close to $1.5 billion of flood control needs in the City of Norfolk.
    • Grants a critical cost adjustment to allow work to continue on the Deep Creek Bridge inChesapeake to address traffic concerns.
    • Authorizes over $102.7 million in federal funds for construction of the North Landing BridgeReplacement project.
    • Provides up to $9 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its remote tower system pilot program at smaller airports, including the Remote Air Traffic Control Tower at Leesburg Executive Airport.
  • Great American Outdoors Act: With Senator Warner’s Great American Outdoors Act now law, the FY21 omnibus affirms funding for several deferred maintenance projects in Virginia:
    • George Washington Memorial Parkway – A $207 million project to restore 7.6 miles of northern section of the GW Parkway and implement critical safety measures. The Senators have long advocated for federal funding for this project for several years as seen here and here.
    • Shenandoah National Park – A $27 million project to pave and restore nearly 50 miles of Skyline Drive and various overlooks. Shenandoah will also receive nearly $3.5 million to remove unnecessary buildings and restore greenspace within the park.
    • Colonial National Historical Park – A $16.5 million project to restore nearly 5 miles of shoreline along the York River.
  • FBI Headquarters: Provides no funding for a new FBI headquarters and includes language that encourages General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a new prospectus, particularly after the Trump Administration abruptly abandoned plans to develop a new campus headquarters for the FBI. Earlier this year, Senators Warner and Kaine opposed an attempt in an earlier Republican COVID-19 relief package that would have provided $1.75 billion for construction of a new FBI HQ in its current downtown D.C. location.  
  • Miners’ Benefits: Extends the funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund until the end of 2021 by extending the tax on mining companies that helps fund the program. Both Kaine and Warner introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act calling on Congress to extend the excise tax through the end of 2030.
  • Shipbuilding & MILCON funding: Provides $23.27 billion for shipbuilding for 10 battle force ships including full funding for a second Virginia-class submarine, which Senators Warner and Kaine personally advocated for. The bill also appropriates $237 million for 6 MILCON projects in Virginia, including:
    • Humphreys Engineer Center, Training Support Facility (Army) - $51m
    • Norfolk, E-2D Training Facility (Navy) - $30.4m
    • Norfolk, Corrosion Control and Paint Facility (Navy) - $17.671m
    • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Access Control Point Main Gate with Land Acquisition (Air Force) - $19.5m
    • Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Story, Operations Facility and Command Center (Def-Wide) - $54.5m
    • JEB Little Creek-Story, NSWG Facilities (Def-Wide) - $58m
  • Federal contractors: Senators Warner and Kaine also pushed to extend a provision from CARES (3610), which allows contractual adjustments for a paid leave program, allowing contractors to keep employees on the payroll if federal facilities close due to the pandemic – an important provision for our defense industrial base and cleared national security workforce. 
  • Foster care and homeless youth: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Murray and Senator Portman, the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, to remove barriers to financial aid for students experiencing homelessness or students formerly in foster care by easing the application and determination for becoming eligible for aid. The bill also includes language allowing foster youth to remain in the system until October 1, 2021, regardless of their age—a move that Senators Warner and Kaine called for in a recent letter to the administration.
  • Funds Childhood Disease ResearchProvides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. The Senators worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Supporting working students and families: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Baldwin, the Working Students Actto reduce the “work penalty” that many students who work while attending school face. Currently, students who work while attending school often are eligible for less financial aid due to their work income. The appropriations bill enacts a 35% increase for working students and 20% increase for families to the income protection allowance (IPA), shielding more of their income from reducing their financial aid.
  • Student Loan Repayment: Extends an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt until 2025 – a provision modeled after Senator Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act to help more than 44 million Americans with student loan debt.
  • Ashanti Alert: Includes $1 million in federal funding to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. Following the abduction of 19-year old Ashanti Billie, who did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert, Senator Warner secured unanimous passage of this national alert system through the Senate on December 6, 2018, and has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide ever since.
  • Nutrition: Provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through June 30, 2021 for all SNAP participants. Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility. Provides $400 million for food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Farmers: Provides $13 billion for direct payments, purchases, and loans to producers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, including funds to support the food supply chain through food purchases, donations to food banks, and support for local food systems. Additionally, it includes $5 billion for supplemental payments to row crop producers; $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers and contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry; $225 million for producers of specialty crops; and $1.5 billion to purchase food for distribution to those in need.
  • Timber Harvesting/Hauling: Provides up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Dairy: Provides up to $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot program to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste. 
  • Textiles: Allows USDA to make payments to users of upland cotton and extra-long staple cotton.
  • Fisheries: Provides $300 million in assistance to help fisheries mitigate COVID-19 related impacts. 
  • Water Utility Bill Assistance: Provides $638 million for a new program to help low-income families cover the costs of drinking water and wastewater utility bills by making funds available to states and Tribes. These localities will provide dollars to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages and rates for low-income households.
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Includes a record $180 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an increase of $5 million from FY20.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, urging the Trump Administration to refrain from including sweeping liability protection language modeled on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.

“We are optimistic that a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom will ensure fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade. But we want to note that we have concerns with the inclusion of safe harbor language modeled on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996,” wrote the Senators. “Including a safe harbor clause in any future trade agreements will further allocate more power to companies at the expense of individuals.”

They continued, Congress can and should debate about Section 230 and how it has enabled platforms to turn a blind eye as their platforms are used to facilitate discrimination, cyber-stalking, terrorism, online frauds, and more. We urge USTR to refrain from including this provision in this and future free trade agreements until that debate has concluded.” 

A copy of the letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

We support strengthening trade relations between the United States and the United Kingdom through a potential free trade agreement. That relationship would not be improved, however, by a trade agreement that includes “safe harbor” language similar to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

As an initial matter, Congress is not requesting, let alone requiring, the Administration to include this type of liability protection in our trade agreements. Trade promotion authority, which establishes the United States’ negotiating objectives for trade agreements, calls for “recogniz[ing] the significance of the internet as a trading platform in international commerce” – not for providing blanket immunity to bad actors because the wrongful conduct took place on the internet. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that such “safe harbor” language actually facilitates U.S. trade policy interests, particularly with respect to a country like the United Kingdom that has a strong rule of law tradition. Instead, the blanket immunity provided by measures like Section 230 allows platforms to escape liability for directly enabling heinous conduct such as online frauds, cyber-stalking, terrorism, and child abuse. Not surprisingly, neither the U.S. Congress nor the UK Parliament are seeking to export this type of immunity. Instead, they are undertaking vigorous debates regarding the proper oversight, transparency, and effective management of digital communications technologies. 

Domestically, there is bipartisan consensus around the need to address illegal behavior online. Many Members of Congress, as well as the Department of Justice, have offered bills to reform Section 230. The United Kingdom unveiled its long-awaited “Online Harms” regulation, which would create a new regulatory framework to address unlawful and harmful online content. In parallel, the United Kingdom also passed a law last year that, once fully implemented, will establish a code of practice to protect children from exposure to harmful online content.

Congress passed Section 230 as part of wider legislation in 1996. The internet has changed dramatically since then and, accordingly, Section 230 has not aged well. As legislators proceed to review and examine the issues surrounding internet platform liability, it is unnecessary—and inappropriate—to tie their hands by making Section 230-style immunity an international obligation of our respective countries. 

We remain excited by the opportunities presented by a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom. We want our Special Relationship to be as strong economically as it is politically. But inclusion of a “safe harbor” clause in either negotiations or a final agreement is frankly unhelpful to achieving that goal. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its decision to conduct a study on the privacy and wider business practices of major technology platforms – a move that Sen. Warner has long advocated:

“As I have impressed upon Chairman Simons in the past, an effort by the FTC to systematically study the data collection and business practices of the largest technology platforms is long overdue. Policymakers and regulators – not to mention consumers – are totally in the dark about how their data is being collected and monetized; about the metrics used to measure their attention, engagement, and value to the platform; and about the ways in which these platforms design their products to maximize data collection, ad revenue, and user engagement. I applaud Chairman Simons and the Commission for this important step in bringing sunlight to what has far too long been an opaque market, vulnerable to abuse, digital ad fraud, and consumer harm.” 

Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur, is one of the leading voices in Congress on technology issues. He has authored and introduced a series of bipartisan bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. One of these bills, the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, would require data-harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and provide granular details about how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit as part of their quarterly financial disclosures. The bipartisan Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act would prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data or consenting to unfair terms of service. Additionally, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act would encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and would allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose. Since 2016, Sen. Warner has repeatedly encouraged the Commission to take stronger actions to address digital ad fraud, including by better understanding the opaque and concentrated digital advertising market that has turned a blind eye to such activity.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Acting Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today applauded the inclusion of the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bipartisan USA Telecommunications Act seeks to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G by providing funds to support research and development in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE.

“For too long we’ve called for our allies and trading partners to reject Huawei digital infrastructure – without providing competitively-priced, innovative alternatives that address their needs. I’m pleased to see my bipartisan, bicameral legislation included in this year’s defense funding bill,” said Sen. Warner. “I look forward to working with Senate appropriators next year to ensure that these programs – which advance major national security priorities – receive full funding in the coming year.”

“It is in our national security interests to support American competition in the 5G market and take action to counter efforts by Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies to dominate wireless technology supply chains,” Sen. Rubio said. “I was proud to secure this critical provision in the FY21 NDAA conference report that will support the development of an innovative 5G wireless network that leverages American strengths and creates American jobs in the industries of the future without relying on malign Chinese state-directed actors like Huawei and ZTE.”

The USA Telecommunications Act was introduced in January by Sens. Warner and Rubio along with Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and John Cornyn (R-TX). The legislation will reassert U.S. and Western leadership by encouraging competition with Huawei that capitalizes on U.S. software advantages, accelerating development of an open-architecture model (known as Open-RAN) that would allow for alternative vendors to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end.

The USA Telecommunications Act is one of several of Sen. Warner’s national security priorities that were included in the final defense bill, among them the Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act, which requires shell companies – often used as fronts for criminal activity – to disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, which will restore semiconductor manufacturing back to American soil by increasing federal incentives to stimulate advanced chip manufacturing.

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WASHINGTONToday, five lawmakers in leadership roles of House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over misinformation sent President-elect Biden a letter recommending that his COVID-19 response include a focus on misinformation.

The lawmakers are Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA); House Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA); House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Senate Rules Committee Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA).

“We write to recommend that you incorporate a focus on misinformation within your broader COVID-19 response, including by adding a leading misinformation studies expert to the Task Force,” wrote the lawmakers. “The COVID-19 infodemic is about to dangerously intersect with a misinformation-laden anti-vaccine movement that has led to tragic consequences in our country.”

“While we’re optimistic a vaccine will aid our country in short order, we worry that misinformation threatens the success of a national vaccine program. A decade of misinformation on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, propelled in recent years by social media platforms, has laid the foundation for skepticism and opposition towards the COVID-19 vaccines. In November, four in ten Americans said they would not agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if an FDA-approved vaccine was available at no cost,” the law makers continued.

“These concerns motivate us to urge you to add a member to the Task Force who has a deep understanding of misinformation, including its causes, exacerbating factors, and ways to combat it. Professor Joan Donovan is ideally situated for the role. She is one of the world’s leading scholars of misinformation,” the lawmakers wrote. “Professor Donovan also has a background in health and life sciences and has recently been studying COVID-19 misinformation.”

You can read the full text of the letter HERE.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Brian Schatz and their congressional colleagues in calling for the expansion of access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic to be made permanent. Provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act, legislation introduced by Warner and cosponsored by Kaine, have allowed Medicare beneficiaries in all areas of the country, and in their homes, to utilize telehealth services, as well as more types of health care providers to provide telehealth, were included in previous COVID-19 legislation but will expire following the pandemic unless congressional leaders act to make those measures permanent.

“Telehealth has been a critical tool during the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring that patients can continue to receive the health care services that they need while minimizing the spread of the virus and keeping health care providers and patients healthy and safe,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “We continue to hear from our constituents and health care providers that the uncertainty about the long-term future of Medicare telehealth coverage is a barrier to organizations investing fully in telehealth. Congress needs to act now to better serve patients and health care providers during the pandemic, and to ensure that telehealth remains an option after the pandemic is over.”

In their letter, the lawmakers highlight the growing use and benefits of telehealth during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other providers and instead receive care at home. New data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by nearly 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.

Senators Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates for increased access to health care through telehealth. In June, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to Senate leadership calling for the permanent expansion of access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Kaine also introduced bipartisan legislation in 2019 to expand health care to rural areas through telehealth. The bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.

The bipartisan and bicameral Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, was first introduced in 2016.

The full text of the letter is below and available here.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

As we near the end of the year and the 116th Congress, we urge you to include provisions in end of the year legislation to make permanent expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services. Specifically, immediate action to permanently waive geographic restrictions for originating sites, authorize health centers in rural and underserved areas to provide telehealth, and allow beneficiaries to use telehealth in their homes would be key steps to ensure much-needed certainty about Medicare telehealth coverage for health care providers and to improve access to care for patients.

Telehealth has been a critical tool during the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring that patients can continue to receive the health care services that they need while minimizing the spread of the virus and keeping health care providers and patients healthy and safe.  Telehealth is also important in increasing capacity at health care facilities and reducing health care providers’ use of scarce personal protective equipment.  For these reasons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance at the beginning of the pandemic advising individuals and health care providers to optimize the use of telehealth services.

The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act included provisions from our bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act to increase access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a result, waivers of statutory geographic and originating site restrictions have allowed Medicare beneficiaries to use telehealth services in all areas of the country, as well as in their homes.  In addition, more types of health care providers including health centers in rural and underserved areas, are authorized to provide distant site telehealth services, among other important flexibilities.  

This new authority resulted in a rapid increase in telehealth utilization.  An early analysis of the expansion of Medicare telehealth coverage during the pandemic shows that before the public health emergency, about 13,000 beneficiaries in fee-for-service Medicare received telehealth services in a week, but by the last week of April, nearly 1.7 million beneficiaries received telehealth services.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also found that beneficiaries are getting care through telehealth at similar rates across demographics.  In response to these findings, CMS stated that, “The rapid adoption of telemedicine among providers and patients has shown that telehealth is here to stay.”

However, the authority for this expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services is temporary and tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, which is renewed in three-month increments.  We continue to hear from our constituents and health care providers that the uncertainty about the long-term future of Medicare telehealth coverage is a barrier to organizations investing fully in telehealth—even now during the pandemic.  Ramping up telehealth requires significant costs—including the purchase of equipment such as tablets and webcams, telehealth platforms, additional staff, provider training, and changes to electronic health records, billing, and patient engagement processes.  Without more certainty about the future of Medicare coverage, many organizations are not investing in all of these areas to optimize the use and availability of telehealth.

Therefore, Congress needs to act now to better serve patients and health care providers during the pandemic, and to ensure that telehealth remains an option after the pandemic is over.  We understand that further data analysis is underway to assess the impact of the telehealth changes that have been available during the public health emergency.  However, to fully benefit from telehealth during the pandemic, there are steps Congress should take before the end of the year to expand access to telehealth with appropriate guardrails and beneficiary protections.

In particular, Congress should immediately provide permanent authority to waive or remove the geographic restrictions on originating sites in section 1834(m) of the Social Security Act so that a beneficiary’s ability to receive telehealth services is no longer based on where he or she lives.  Services that CMS has determined to be clinically appropriate to be delivered through telehealth should be available to all beneficiaries, not just some.  CMS concurs, stating that “The data have shown that telehealth can be an important source of care across the country, not just for those living in rural areas.”

We also urge action to permanently authorize Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to provide distant site telehealth services and to allow patients to receive clinically appropriate telehealth services in their homes.  These actions would address the restrictions on originating sites that CMS has stated are the greatest barriers to the expansion of Medicare telehealth services as well as ensure that health centers can continue their pivotal role in providing health care in rural and underserved areas.   

Telehealth is an area of strong bipartisan support, and Congress can, and should, act now to lead the way in ensuring expanded access to telehealth.  We appreciate your collaboration on this important issue.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement today following the President’s firing of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Christopher C. Krebs:

“Chris Krebs is an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person Americans want protecting the security of our elections.

“It speaks volumes that the president chose to fire him simply for telling the truth.”

Sen. Warner, co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, has previously cautioned about the dangers of destabilizing the government by ousting key officials amid a transition of Presidential power. Just last week, he reacted to reports that Director Krebs expected to be fired by the President, noting that there is “no possible justification to remove him from office.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) applauded congressional passage of their bipartisan legislation to require minimum security requirements for Internet of Things (IoT) devices purchased by the U.S. government. Leveraging the purchasing power of the federal government, the bill will ultimately help move the wider market for IoT devices towards greater cybersecurity. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act passed through the U.S. House of Representatives in September and was approved in the Senate today by unanimous consent. It now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

“While more and more products and even household appliances today have software functionality and internet connectivity, too few incorporate even basic safeguards and protections, posing a real risk to individual and national security,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud that Congress was able to come together today to pass this legislation, which will harness the purchasing power of the federal government and incentivize companies to finally secure the devices they create and sell. I urge the President to sign this bill into law without delay.” 

“I applaud the Senate for passing our bipartisan and bicameral legislation to ensure the federal government leads by example and purchases devices that meet basic requirements to prevent hackers from accessing government systems,” said Sen. Gardner. “Most experts expect tens of billions of devices operating on our networks within the next several years as the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand. We need to make sure these devices are secure from malicious cyber-attacks as they continue to transform our society and add countless new entry points into our networks, particularly when they are integrated into the federal government’s networks.” 

Sens. Warner and Gardner originally authored and introduced this legislation in the Senate back in August 2017. They reintroduced the bill in the 116th Congress and saw its passage through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June 2019. 

Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act would:

  • Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency that are consistent with the NIST recommendations, including making any necessary revisions to the Federal Acquisition Regulation to implement new security standards and guidelines.
  • Require any IoT devices  purchased by the federal government to comply with those recommendations.
  • Direct NIST to work with cybersecurity researchers, industry experts, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to publish guidelines on vulnerability disclosure and remediation for federal information systems. 
  • Require contractors and vendors providing information systems to the U.S. government to adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that can be effectively shared with a vendor for remediation.

Sens. Warner and Gardner are co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. Sen. Warner – a former technology entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – is also leader in Congress on security issues related to the Internet of Things. 

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WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today led 14 colleagues on a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on the company to fully address the problem of anti-Muslim bigotry on its platform, which has enabled offline violence against Muslims in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

Senator Coons is joined on the letter by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“Facebook is a groundbreaking company that has revolutionized the way we communicate.  Unfortunately, the connectivity that can bring people together in many positive ways also has been used to dehumanize and stoke violence against Muslims, Black people, Latinos, immigrants, the Jewish community, Sikhs, Christians, women, and other communities here and across the world,” the Senators wrote.

Of particular concern is how Facebook has addressed the targeting of mosques and Muslim community events by armed protesters through the platform. In June 2019, Facebook responded to concerns about these practices by creating a “call to arms” policy that prohibits event pages that call for individuals to bring weapons to a location. However, the Senators note that Facebook has not taken adequate steps to enforce this policy, which should have barred an event page in Kenosha, Wisconsin earlier this year, as well as a 2019 event page used to plan an armed protest at the largest Muslim community convention in the country.

“We recognize that Facebook has announced efforts to address its role in the distribution of anti-Muslim content in some of these areas,” the Senators wrote. “Nevertheless, it is not clear that the company is meaningfully better positioned to prevent further human rights abuses and violence against Muslim minorities today.”

“As members of Congress who are deeply disturbed by the proliferation of this hate speech on your platform, we urge you to do more.”

An independent civil rights audit of Facebook from July 2020 highlighted disturbing examples of anti-Muslim abuse on the platform ranging “[f]rom the organization of events designed to intimidate members of the Muslim community at gathering places, to the prevalence of content demonizing Islam and Muslims, and the use of Facebook Live during the Christchurch massacre…” These concerns have also prompted current Facebook employees to write a letter demanding action on anti-Muslim bigotry and calling for broader structural changes.

 

In their letter, the Senators urge Facebook to take a number of actions to address these issues including collecting and publishing the data needed to understand the scope of the problem, publishing readily available information to help the public evaluate its response, and implementing a plan to ensure robust enforcement of its call to arms policy.

“We thank Sen. Coons and his colleagues for holding Facebook accountable for anti-Muslim hate and violence on its platform,” said Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera. “Since 2015, Muslim Advocates has warned Facebook that the platform’s event pages were being used by violent militias and white nationalists to organize armed rallies at mosques. With their letter, these senators are raising needed attention to this critical issue. We need to know what Facebook plans to do to end the anti-Muslim hate and violence enabled by their platform—and end it now.”

Groups supporting the letter include Muslim Advocates, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for American Progress, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Campaign, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Free Press, the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, the Interfaith Alliance, the Japanese American Citizens League, MediaJustice, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Shoulder to Shoulder, The Sikh Coalition, and UltraViolet.

A copy of the letter is below.

 

November 16, 2020

Mark Zuckerberg

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Facebook, Inc.

1601 Willow Road

Menlo Park, CA 94025

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

We write to express our deep concern regarding anti-Muslim bigotry on Facebook.  An independent civil rights audit of the company from July 2020 highlighted disturbing examples of anti-Muslim abuse on the platform ranging “[f]rom the organization of events designed to intimidate members of the Muslim community at gathering places, to the prevalence of content demonizing Islam and Muslims, and the use of Facebook Live during the Christchurch massacre . . . .”   These concerns have also prompted current Facebook employees to write a letter demanding action on anti-Muslim bigotry and calling for broader structural changes.   As members of Congress who are committed to protecting the Muslim community, we urge you to take immediate action to combat this bigotry on Facebook’s platforms.

 

Facebook is a groundbreaking company that has revolutionized the way we communicate.  Unfortunately, the connectivity that can bring people together in many positive ways also has been used to dehumanize and stoke violence against Muslims, Black people, Latinos, immigrants, the Jewish community, Sikhs, Christians, women, and other communities here and across the world.  The enabling of hate speech and violence against any group is not acceptable.  We appreciate that Facebook has taken certain steps to combat these problems.  For instance, you recently reversed a prior decision that had allowed content denying the Holocaust, and you have altered your policies to ban blackface and certain anti-Jewish stereotypes.  But much more must be done to protect these vulnerable communities.  With regard to the Muslim community in particular, the civil rights audit noted advocates’ “alarm that Muslims feel under siege on Facebook” and explained how attacks on Muslims present unique considerations that require separate analysis and response compared to other kinds of attacks.   Yet, the auditors noted, “Facebook has not yet publicly studied or acknowledged the particular ways anti-Muslim bigotry manifests on its platform.”  

Of particular concern is how Facebook has addressed the targeting of mosques and Muslim community events by armed protesters through the platform.  In June 2019, Facebook responded to concerns about these practices by creating a “call to arms” policy that prohibits event pages that call for individuals to bring weapons to locations.   Yet, in August 2019, when advocates reported to Facebook that a militia group was using an event page to plan an armed protest at the largest Muslim community convention in the country for the second year in a row, it took Facebook more than a full day to remove the content, a delay that Facebook acknowledged was too long and an “enforcement misstep.”  

Other recent events have demonstrated how Facebook has not taken adequate steps to enforce this call to arms policy.  In August 2020, a group called the Kenosha Guard posted an event page titled “Armed Citizens to Protect Our Lives and Property,” calling for armed individuals to gather in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the shooting of Jacob Blake.  Notwithstanding multiple reports by users that this page violated Facebook policies, Facebook did not take the page down.  An armed 17-year-old traveled from out of state to join this gathering, fatally shot two protestors that night, and is charged with their murder.  You stated that the failure to take down the event page and the Kenosha Guard’s group page was “largely an operational mistake” because contract content moderators without specialized training failed to detect that the pages violated a new militia policy Facebook had established in August 2020.   Your statement was misleading as to the event page, however, because it did not mention that the event page also violated the call to arms policy that had been in place for over a year.  Importantly, we understand that the contractors who review user-reported content are not instructed to enforce a core component of the call to arms policy.  It is not apparent that Facebook ensures meaningful enforcement of this policy, and that is not acceptable.  As the Change the Terms Coalition has explained, that “isn’t an operational mistake – that’s a design defect.”  

We have similar concerns about Facebook’s efforts to ensure that the platform is not used to enable systematic violence and discrimination against Muslims around the world.  A United Nations report concluded that the company played a “determining”  role in violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and Facebook has similarly acknowledged that the platform was used to “foment division and incite offline violence”  against the Rohingya.  Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.  According to a New York Times report published a month after anti-Muslim violence erupted in Sri Lanka in March 2018, “Facebook’s newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing,”  despite numerous attempts by Sri Lankan activists and government officials to warn Facebook about potential outbreaks of violence.  In an especially horrific episode of anti-Muslim activity on Facebook, in March 2019, a white nationalist gunman broadcasted his 17-minute slaughter of 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, for the entire world to see using Facebook Live.  Reports indicate that the platform has also been used to support the internment of the Uyghurs in China and other human rights violations against this population, that Facebook and WhatsApp have been used to incite violence against Muslims in India, and that Facebook has been used to promote hate and violence in other areas around the world.

The civil rights audit and other reports have documented the shortcomings of Facebook that have led to these results over the years.  The United Nations explained in 2018 that Facebook launched its Myanmar-specific services without content moderators who spoke the necessary languages, without adequate technology, and without sufficient transparency and coordination with local organizations.  It also documented how speech in clear violation of Facebook’s policies remained on the platform notwithstanding multiple reports, and how even after the speech was taken down, re-posts continued to circulate months later.  Furthermore, the civil rights audit found that Facebook is not sufficiently attuned to how its algorithms “fuel extreme and polarizing content,” and thereby may “driv[e] people toward self-reinforcing echo chambers of extremism,” as seen in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.   Advocacy groups similarly detailed the extent and persistence of anti-Muslim hate content on Facebook India in multiple reports last year, concerns that have been amplified by recent allegations that some high-ranking employees at Facebook India have enabled hate speech against Muslims and others by applying the platform’s content moderation policies in a selective manner. 

We recognize that Facebook has announced efforts to address its role in the distribution of anti-Muslim content in some of these areas.  These include, for instance, adding country-specific staff and content moderators proficient in certain local languages, investing in proactive detection technologies, strengthening local fact-checking partnerships, and limiting the ability to reshare certain kinds of messages. 

Nevertheless, it is not clear that the company is meaningfully better positioned to prevent further human rights abuses and violence against Muslim minorities today.  In part, this is because Facebook still does not collect the information needed to evaluate the effectiveness of its responses.  For instance, Facebook reported that it took action on 22 million pieces of hate speech content in the second quarter of 2020, up from over 9 million in the first quarter.   It is not apparent, however, whether this is a sign of an improving or worsening problem, because this data lacks crucial context:  Facebook does not calculate or report on the overall prevalence of hate speech on the platform.  It is thus unclear how significant this increase is as a proportion of total hate speech or whether takedowns are increasing only because hate content on the platform is increasing.  Facebook recognizes that the statistic it reports “only tells part of the story,” and Facebook does estimate prevalence in other contexts.  Its failure to do so as to hate speech is concerning.  

In addition, the civil rights audit pointed out that for content that Facebook does remove, the company does not collect data about which protected groups were the target of the removed post.  This prevents Facebook and the public from understanding the volume of hate against a particular group, whether attacks against certain groups are consistently not removed, and whether there are gaps in Facebook’s policies that result in perpetuating or increasing hate speech and attacks against particular groups.  It is difficult to understand how Facebook can effectively combat hate speech without this information. 

There is also basic information that Facebook has or could readily make available, but which it has inexplicably declined to make public.  For instance, while pointing to its increases in country-specific staff and language-specific content moderators in certain areas, Facebook has declined repeated requests from advocates to provide detailed information about its country-specific staff or language-specific content moderators across the world.  Such information is necessary to evaluate Facebook’s suggestion that its additions are adequate and to determine whether there are gaps in coverage in other regions that should be addressed proactively before the next violent event.  Facebook similarly does not provide information about how the hate speech it has taken down is disaggregated by language or country of origin, information that would help identify volatile areas in need of further attention from content moderators or others at Facebook.  That is so even though Facebook has conceded that “[t]hese breakdowns are feasible for these count-based metrics” and that it “recognize[s] the value in having different subpopulations of the various metrics.”   The United Nations 2018 Myanmar report expressed “regret[]” that Facebook did not provide country-specific data about hate speech and deemed it “essential” that such information be disclosed.    

Though these concerns have been raised for years, Facebook thus far has not taken the steps required to effectively address hate and violence targeting Muslims.  In 2018, Facebook acknowledged that it “can and should do better” after its platform fueled violence in Myanmar and outlined steps it would take.   In 2020, Facebook “apologize[d] for” the human rights impacts that resulted from misuse of its platform in Sri Lanka and outlined more steps.   Despite these experiences, recent reporting suggests that today, Facebook is contributing to the spread of hate speech and violence against ethnic and religious groups in Ethiopia, where Facebook “dominates” the internet.   Meanwhile, it announced a call to arms policy to assuage concerns but has failed to adequately enforce it.  As members of Congress who are deeply disturbed by the proliferation of this hate speech on your platform, we urge you to do more.  We believe Facebook must frankly and openly detail the scope of the problem and take concerted and sustained actions to address this problem fully.  We respectfully request that you respond to the questions below by December 16, 2020.  As to each question, insofar as Facebook will commit to taking action, please provide details of its plan and expected timing. 

1.         Will Facebook commit to developing and implementing a plan to ensure robust enforcement of its call to arms policy, including through proactive review of event pages, content moderator review of user reports, and prioritization of highly reported events?  If not, why not?

2.         Will Facebook commit to collecting and publishing data about the overall amount and prevalence of hate content on the platform and whether hate content is increasing on its platform?  If so, please specify whether Facebook will break down this data by country and language.  If not, why not?

3.         Will Facebook commit to collecting and publishing data about which groups were the subject of the hate speech it removes and enforcement rates across groups?  If so, please specify the groups for which Facebook will provide this information.  If not, why not?

4.         Will Facebook commit to collecting and publishing country-specific or language-specific data on hate speech that is on or removed from the platform?  If not, why not?

5.         Will Facebook publish detailed information about the number of country-specific staff and language-specific content moderators it employs?  If not, why not?

6.         Will Facebook commit to studying regularly its civil rights and human rights impacts and making future human rights impact assessments or rights audits public in their entirety?  If not, why not?

7.         Will Facebook commit to establishing and publishing criteria that must be met for Facebook to expand or maintain usage of its services in markets at risk of hate content fueling religious and/or ethnic violence to ensure Facebook does not enable human rights violations?  If so, please specify the outside input that Facebook will solicit in developing these criteria.  If not, why not?

8.         Will Facebook conduct an analysis of how it can better design its systems and algorithms to not just identify and take down hate speech, but limit the reach of this content and its ability to cause offline violence?  If not, why not?

9.         Will Facebook commit to creating a working group led by a senior employee with expertise in anti-Muslim bigotry specifically tasked with monitoring, reviewing, and coordinating efforts to proactively remove anti-Muslim content on the platform?  If not, why not?

Thank you for your consideration of our views.  We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released a statement regarding the Senate Commerce Committee’s hearing on Section 230 with tech CEOs today:

It saddens me that some of my colleagues have joined in the Trump Administration’s cynical and concerted effort to bully platforms into allowing dark money groups, right-wing militias and even the President himself to continue to exploit social media platforms to sow disinformation, engage in targeted harassment, and suppress voter participation. We can and should have a conversation about Section 230 – and the ways in which it has enabled platforms to turn a blind eye as their platforms are used to facilitate discrimination and civil rights violations, enable domestic terrorist groups to organize violence in plain sight, assist in stalking and networked harassment campaigns, and enable online frauds targeted at vulnerable users. But that conversation should be thoughtful and not serve as a cudgel to cow the platforms into continued inaction regarding efforts to manipulate their services 6 days ahead of the election.”

Sen. Warner has written and introduced a series of bipartisan bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Among these are the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act – bipartisan legislation to require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit; the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act – bipartisan legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data; and the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act – bipartisan legislation to encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $3,910,184 in Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding for communities in Southwest and Southside Virginia. The funding, awarded through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, will go towards addressing substance-use disorders, improving broadband connectivity, strengthening rural economies and improving local infrastructure. 

“We are thrilled that these federal dollars will go help fund some of the top priorities for communities in Southwest and Southside Virginia,” said the Senators. “As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it’s essential that we keep bolstering rural economies, ensuring internet reliability, and supporting some of the most vulnerable Virginians.”

“POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they recover from COVID-19 by building and expanding critical infrastructure and creating new economic opportunities through innovative and transformative approaches,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Projects like this are getting Appalachia back to work.”

The funding will be awarded as below:

  • $1,494,000 for the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Area Consortium Board in Radford, Va. to tackle the substance-use disorder problem by coordinating the healthcare sector and the economic development and workforce sector to build a recovery ecosystem.
  • $793,500 for St. Mary’s Health Wagon in Wise County, Va. to establish a substance-use disorder treatment program using medication-assisted treatment.
  • $50,000 for LENOWISCO to develop a strategic plan to establish a fiber network in a 13-county region throughout Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
  • $39,744 for the Center for Rural Development to create a Rural Leaders Institute for Southwest Virginia.
  • $32,940 for the New River Valley Regional Commission to develop a plan to boost tourism and job growth by cultivating the natural assets around the New River.
  • $1,500,000 for Henry County, Va. to make utility improvements to provide a natural gas pipeline to the Commonwealth Crossing Business Center.

ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian region. Its mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia and help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. ARC’s POWER Initiative targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former technology entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today expressed grave concerns regarding the cybersecurity measures in place at one of the nation’s largest medical facility operators, which recently fell victim to an apparent ransomware attack. In a letter to United Health Services (UHS), Sen. Warner posed a series of questions for Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan B. Miller regarding the ransomware attack and stressed the need for UHS and other clinical providers to ensure that all information, medical, and critical systems are sufficiently protected.

“As UHS has expanded over four decades to encompass 250 medical facilities across the U.S., including twelve facilities in Virginia, effective clinical environment cybersecurity cannot be a casualty to value-based care cost savings and economies of scale. Indeed, hospital systems have frequently suggested to competition authorities that greater consolidation will allow for greater operational efficiencies; yet this does not appear to be the case when it pertains to something as vital as information security,” wrote Sen. Warner. “An increasing number of medical facilities sharing connected information systems and computer networks requires adequate protection for a significantly larger attack surface. Any failure to protect this considerable attack surface with appropriately segmented networks and data provides opportunities for lateral movement across disparate systems. An unmitigated breach in one facility can cripple systems at hundreds of medical facilities, risking patient care throughout a large provider network while healthcare delivery remains strained by a pandemic.”

“With the full resources of a Fortune 500 company receiving over $11 billion in annual revenue, UHS’s patients expect and deserve that their provider’s cybersecurity posture to be sufficiently mature and robust to prevent major interruptions to health care operations,” he continued. “While UHS’s latest annual report acknowledges that a cyber-attack that causes a security breach or loss of HIPAA protected health information could have a material impact on business, there is more than just business at stake when clinical operations are disrupted.”

In the letter, Sen. Warner noted that authorities in both countries where UHS operates – including the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – have continued to raise alarm regarding the danger posed by advanced persistent threat groups who exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, waging attacks against healthcare providers that include password “spraying” campaigns, scanning for vulnerabilities in unpatched software, and targeting supply chains. 

Sen. Warner also posed the following series of questions in order to gain a better understanding of the situation facing UHS:

  1. Please describe the UHS vulnerability management process, including your current practices relating to patch management across your health infrastructure.
  2. How are various UHS facilities’ networks and IT systems isolated from each other to prevent a cybersecurity breach at one facility from affecting multiple facilities?
  3. Does UHS have effective segmentation measures in place within its healthcare facilities to prevent any type of malware from spreading?
  4. What policies does UHS maintain relating to third-party risk management?
  5. What are your cybersecurity and risk assessment requirements?
  6. How are clinical medical devices isolated from administrative systems and networks to ensure a breach of the administrative network does not interrupt medical devices?
  7. Who is the senior-most executive responsible for day-to-day oversight of information security and who does that executive report to?
  8. Has UHS paid any ransom or does UHS plan to any ransom?
  9. Have any patient medical records, HIPAA protected data, or healthcare information been affected or suffered a denial of access?
  10. Have any patient medical records, HIPAA protected data, or healthcare information been exfiltrated from UHS owned or operated systems without authorization? 

Sen. Warner, a former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, he has fought for increased cybersecurity measures as Americans have increasingly relied on internet connectivity for remote work, health, and education purposes. Among other measures, Sen. Warner has recently advocated for increased funding to modernize federal information technology, urged internet networking device vendors to ensure the security of their products, and pressed cybersecurity officials to bolster defenses against cybersecurity attacks.  He has also introduced legislation to set strong and enforceable privacy and data security rights for health information as tech companies and public health agencies deploy contact tracing apps and digital monitoring tools to fight the spread of COVID-19. 

The letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

Mr. Alan B. Miller

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Universal Health Services, Inc.

367 S. Gulph Road

King of Prussia, PA  19406

Dear Mr. Miller: 

I write you with grave concerns about United Health Services’ digital medical records and clinical healthcare operations succumbing to an apparent ransomware attack. As one of the nation’s largest medical facility operators with 3.5 million patient visits a year, it is imperative that medical care is provided to all patients without any interruption or disturbance created by inadequate cybersecurity. While initial reports suggest that the attackers did not access patient or employee data, an incident such as this sharply highlights the need to ensure adequate cybersecurity hygiene in a healthcare setting. The national health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbates the consequences of insufficient cybersecurity. 

The need for health care providers to address cybersecurity threats has been obvious for several years now. Clinical providers including UHS must ensure all information, medical, and critical systems are sufficiently protected. Ransomware continues to impact organizations that have not demonstrated sufficient risk management maturity. The threat of ransomware to hospital systems – and the impact it has on clinical healthcare operations, patient care, and life safety – has been clear since 2016, when a series of major incidents occurred.[1] 

Although the threats are not new, authorities have continued to sound the alarm about the cyber threats to healthcare – including the heightened impact during our current public health emergency. For example, in both countries where UHS operates, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a joint alert on May 5, 2020[2]. This alert announced that advanced persistent threat (APT) groups are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic as part of cyber operations against healthcare and essential services. Attacks observed against healthcare providers include password “spraying” attacks that automate attempts to use commonly used passwords, scanning for vulnerabilities in unpatched software, such as virtual private networks, and targeting supply chains. 

As UHS has expanded over four decades to encompass 250 medical facilities across the U.S., including twelve facilities in Virginia, effective clinical environment cybersecurity cannot be a casualty to value-based care cost savings and economies of scale. Indeed, hospital systems have frequently suggested to competition authorities that greater consolidation will allow for greater operational efficiencies; yet this does not appear to be the case when it pertains to something as vital as information security. An increasing number of medical facilities sharing connected information systems and computer networks requires adequate protection for a significantly larger attack surface. Any failure to protect this considerable attack surface with appropriately segmented networks and data provides opportunities for lateral movement across disparate systems. An unmitigated breach in one facility can cripple systems at hundreds of medical facilities, risking patient care throughout a large provider network while healthcare delivery remains strained by a pandemic.

With the full resources of a Fortune 500 company receiving over $11 billion in annual revenue, UHS’s patients expect and deserve that their provider’s cybersecurity posture to be sufficiently mature and robust to prevent major interruptions to health care operations. While UHS’s latest annual report acknowledges that a cyber-attack that causes a security breach or loss of HIPAA protected health information could have a material impact on business, there is more than just business at stake when clinical operations are disrupted. 

To gain a better understanding of this situation, I would appreciate answers to the following questions:

1.         Please describe the UHS vulnerability management process, including your current practices relating to patch management across your health infrastructure.

2.         How are various UHS facilities’ networks and IT systems isolated from each other to prevent a cybersecurity breach at one facility from affecting multiple facilities?

3.         Does UHS have effective segmentation measures in place within its healthcare facilities to prevent any type of malware from spreading?

4.         What policies does UHS maintain relating to third-party risk management?

5.         What are your cybersecurity and risk assessment requirements?

6.         How are clinical medical devices isolated from administrative systems and networks to ensure a breach of the administrative network does not interrupt medical devices?

7.         Who is the senior-most executive responsible for day-to-day oversight of information security and who does that executive report to?

8.         Has UHS paid any ransom or does UHS plan to any ransom?

9.         Have any patient medical records, HIPAA protected data, or healthcare information been affected or suffered a denial of access?

10.       Have any patient medical records, HIPAA protected data, or healthcare information been exfiltrated from UHS owned or operated systems without authorization?

Patients deserve to know that healthcare systems are secure, particularly as the nation faces a pandemic straining resources nationwide. When a cybersecurity failure occurs, patients need reassurance that their healthcare provider is committed to learning from and responding to this truly concerning incident, and that it is taking all appropriate steps to help ensure it cannot happen again.

Your response will be critical to this process, and I look forward to receiving that within the next two weeks. If you should have any questions or concerns, please contact my office.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue. I look forward to your response in the next two weeks.

Sincerely,

 ###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released a statement today after Facebook announced it will ban QAnon accounts, pages and groups from its platforms:

“I’m pleased to see Facebook take action against this harmful and increasingly dangerous conspiracy theory and movement. Just this morning I encouraged the company to take the threat of QAnon more seriously, given increasing evidence that its growth has in large part been propelled by Facebook. Ultimately the real test will be whether Facebook actually takes measures to enforce these new policies – we’ve seen in a myriad of other contexts, including with respect to right-wing militias like the Boogaloos, that Facebook has repeatedly failed to consistently enforce its existing policies.”

Over the summer, under pressure from Sen. Warner and his colleagues, Facebook announced it would ban the violent, right-wing extremist ‘Boogaloo’ network from its platform.

And today, Sen. Warner urged Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, to implement robust accountability and transparency standards ahead of the November election, including requirements outlined in the Honest Ads Act – bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner to help prevent foreign interference in elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former telecommunications entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today urged Facebook, Twitter, and Google to implement robust accountability and transparency standards ahead of the November election, including requirements outlined in the Honest Ads Act – bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner to help prevent foreign interference in elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. 

In individual letters to FacebookGoogle, and Twitter, Sen. Warner detailed the various ways in which each company continues to contribute to the spread of disinformation, viral misinformation, and voter suppression efforts. He also warned about the imminent risk of bad actors once again weaponizing American-bred social media tools to undermine democracy ahead of the November election, and urged each company to take proactive measures to safeguard against these efforts.

In his letter to Facebook, Sen. Warner criticized the platform’s efforts to label manipulated or synthetic content, describing these as “wholly inadequate.” He also raised alarm with instances of Facebook’s amplification of harmful content.

“The pervasiveness of political misinformation on Facebook – and the ways in which your company chooses to amplify it – was on display just this week, when a baseless conspiracy about Vice President Biden was highlighted on Facebook’s own News Tab, a result of Facebook choosing to amplify The Daily Caller as a verified news publisher and fact-checker despite its long track record of promoting false information,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “More broadly, Facebook has repeatedly failed to ensure that its existing policies on political advertising are being enforced– an issue that my colleagues and I recently raised in a separate context relating to Facebook’s failure to enforce its policies against violent far-right organizations.  Facebook has long been accused of facilitating divisive advertisements from dark money groups.  A recent report by Avaaz revealed that despite Facebook’s claims to prohibit false and misleading information in ads by outside political groups, it allowed hundreds of such ads in key swing states earlier this month to be run by super PACs.  And despite your personal pledge to stamp out voter suppression efforts on Facebook, a recent report by ProPublica revealed that voting misinformation continues to flourish on Facebook.”

Similarly, in a letter to Google, Sen. Warner raised concern with the company’s efforts to combat harmful misinformation – particularly disinformation about voting, spread by right-leaning YouTube channels. He also criticized the comprehensiveness of Google’s ad archive, which presently excludes issue ads.

“Concerns with the comprehensiveness of Google’s archive extend beyond simply Google’s under-inclusive policies. Prominent researchers have identified multiple glaring examples where qualifying political advertisers have been omitted from the ad archive… Moreover, a marketer recently demonstrated how easy it is to circumvent Google’s verification systems for political ads – running a series of search ads, targeted to run alongside election-related search queries, that attacked Presidential candidates without being included in Google’s ads database or being accompanied by a disclaimer,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. “Further, researchers found a particularly egregious example of election disinformation – spread via Google search ads – that ostensibly targeted to users looking for information about voter fraud.  The ad would not appear in Google’s ad archive, given its exclusion of issue ads; moreover, the ad clearly violated ad policies relating to “claims that are demonstrably false and could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process.” The same researchers have found similar ads promoting false information about the election  – ostensibly indicating a systemic failure by Google in enforcing its advertising policies.” 

In his letter to Twitter, which has banned paid political content and placed restrictions on cause-based advertising, Sen. Warner noted that doctored political content continues to spread organically without adequate labeling that slows its spread or contextualizes it for users. 

“I ask that Twitter examine and strengthen its synthetic and manipulated media policy as it applies to political misinformation – particularly in the context of organic content,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “I appreciate the leadership Twitter has demonstrated to take steps against the promotion of false, deceptive, and manipulated political content; however, more must be done to secure our political discourse from disinformation on digital platforms like yours. Under your company’s existing policy, manipulated media has still reached millions of users with only limited response from your platform. 

In all three letters, Sen. Warner urged the companies to reinforce their efforts against abuse of paid and organic content policies, and to more aggressively identify, label, and remove manipulated or synthetic media to prevent efforts to amplify disinformation by Russia and other bad actors, both foreign and domestic. Sen. Warner also posed a series of different questions for each company on a number of issues, including the availability of political ad targeting information, the enforcement of companies' own policies, the adoption of a bounty to remunerate researchers who identify policy violations, and the measures being taken to slow the coordinated dissemination of deceptive, synthetic, or manipulated media.

The Honest Ads Act, as introduced by Sens. Warner, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would safeguard the integrity of American democracy by requiring large online platforms to maintain public records of advertisers who purchase political ads. It would:

  • Amend the definition of ‘electioneering communication’ in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, to include paid internet and digital advertisements.
  • Require digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly visitors to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. This file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
  • Require online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.

Sen. Warner has written and introduced a series of bipartisan bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Among these are the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act – bipartisan legislation to require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit; the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act – bipartisan legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data; and the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act – bipartisan legislation to encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose.

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WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) led a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to encourage the adoption of OpenRAN and other open and interoperable standards solutions by affected carriers as it works to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Actlegislation championed by Sen. Warner and passed earlier this year. 

In a letter, the Senators urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to include OpenRAN and OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements for physical and virtual communications equipment, application and management software, and services. This inclusion would allow affected carriers to adopt these alternative solutions as they dispose of risky communications equipment, as outlined in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act. In addition to Sens. Warner and Rubio, this letter was signed by Sens. Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Burr (R-NC), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Angus S. King (I-ME).

“The inclusion of OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements could produce benefits beyond the immediate goal of securing American communications networks. Such equipment is interoperable, uses open interfaces, is not reliant on a single equipment vendor, and is easily upgradeable to new applications and uses, including 5G OpenRAN, without the need to continually replace proprietary equipment or conduct additional tower climbs,” the Senators wrote. “Moreover, this equipment will help spur innovation and create more competition and diversity in the supply chain. It is prudent that we take full advantage of this moment to prevent similar concerns from arising in the future.”

The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act was modeled on legislation Sen. Warner first cosponsored to protect American communications networks from threats presented by foreign suppliers like Huawei and ZTE. Specifically, it offers relief to reimburse smaller telecommunications providers – largely in rural areas – by reimbursing them for the costs of removing and replacing untrusted foreign equipment which presents risks to U.S. national security.

In their letter, the Senators also requested that the FCC aid in securing communications networks as expeditiously as possible by clarifying that carriers can begin replacing equipment right away, rather than needing to wait for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act be fully implemented and funded. 

A copy of the letter can be downloaded here and text is available below. 

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (the “Act”), we write to urge you to include OpenRAN and other solutions that adhere to open and interoperable standards (“OpenRAN solutions”) on “the list of suggested replacements of both physical and virtual communications equipment, application and management software, and services” that the Act requires the FCC to develop. As you know, the Act directs that the list shall be technology neutral. An explicit assurance to impacted carriers that they may select OpenRAN solutions to replace covered equipment would support other potential benefits, including easing subsequent updates to “future proof” networks. This guarantee may also stretch federal dollars further, as OpenRAN offers the possibility of cost savings. 

Further, to aid in securing communications networks as expeditiously as possible, the FCC should make clear that equipment and services on the list of suggested replacements, including OpenRAN solutions, will be eligible for reimbursement as prescribed in the Act. The FCC should also clarify to carriers that they need not wait for the Act to be fully implemented and funded to begin the replacement process to be eligible for reimbursement if using suggested replacement equipment and services.  

The inclusion of OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements could produce benefits beyond the immediate goal of securing American communications networks. Such equipment is interoperable, uses open interfaces, is not reliant on a single equipment vendor, and is easily upgradeable to new applications and uses, including 5G OpenRAN, without the need to continually replace proprietary equipment or conduct additional tower climbs. Moreover, this equipment will help spur innovation and create more competition and diversity in the supply chain. It is prudent that we take full advantage of this moment to prevent similar concerns from arising in the future.

Accordingly, we request the FCC to explicitly allow reimbursement of affected carriers for purchases of OpenRAN solutions to replace covered equipment in their networks. We applaud the FCC’s recent Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks and laud your work to highlight the importance of OpenRAN solutions. Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to our continued work.

Sincerely, 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former technology entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today raised alarm regarding the need to protect education infrastructure from cyber-attacks following a ransomware incident at Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school system in Virginia.

In a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Sen. Warner urged the U.S. Department of Education to develop guidance and disseminate best practices for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education and to work with school districts to develop a comprehensive, risk-based funding request from Congress. 

“A ransomware attack on a school system in normal times can be disruptive and costly; in the context of a global public health emergency, with unprecedented reliance on remote learning, it is debilitating,” wrote Sen. Warner. “Sophisticated cyber-attacks and more opportunistic forms of malware, like ransomware, are widespread today and require sustained vigilance. Defending against these persistent attacks requires a consistent and holistic approach. The public sector is particularly at risk given constrained state and local budgets.” 

“I recommend providing schools with guidance that includes awareness campaigns, risk management, threat mitigation, cybersecurity posture reviews, and resiliency. Awareness campaigns for both educators and students can focus on the importance of recognizing threats, such as phishing attacks, ransomware, malware, and social engineering methods. Regular evaluations can determine the effectiveness of awareness campaigns to address any gaps. Threat mitigation includes developing sufficient safeguards to ensure data security and access control,” he continued. “Detection capabilities are also needed to continuously monitor for anomalies and cybersecurity events. Schools should review these capabilities, plus their readiness to respond and recover from attacks. For example, tabletop exercises can validate processes and test procedures used before, during, and after an attack. Cyber resiliency ensures systems have an ability to continue operating in case of attack, while full restoration takes place. Many of these objectives will require new funding from Congress, particularly in the wake of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on school system budgets.”

Fairfax County Public Schools, which serves nearly 200,000 students and employs over 24,000 employees, was recently the target of a ransomware attack that involved the theft of protected information.

In his letter, Sen. Warner pressed Sec. DeVos to work to adapt available cybersecurity guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to school systems. Stressing the need for robust cybersecurity education, Sen. Warner also pushed Sec. DeVos to disseminate best practices to states and localities seeking to teach cybersecurity in the K-12 setting.

Additionally, Sen. Warner urged the Department of Education to work with educators, industry, and CISA to encourage a consortium or Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) for K-12 schools to exchange cybersecurity threat information and best practices for defense that are tailored to account for capabilities and constraints of K-12 schools. 

Sen. Warner, a former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, he has fought for increased cybersecurity measures as Americans have increasingly relied on internet connectivity for remote work, health, and education purposes. Among other measures, Sen. Warner has recently advocated for increased funding to modernize federal information technology, urged internet networking device vendors to ensure the security of their products, and pressed cybersecurity officials to take bolster defenses against cybersecurity attacks. He has also introduced legislation to set strong and enforceable privacy and data security rights for health information as tech companies and public health agencies deploy contact tracing apps and digital monitoring tools to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

Dear Secretary DeVos: 

I write to you about the need for effective cybersecurity in the context of our nation’s K-12 education system. As COVID-19 has placed a strong emphasis on remote learning throughout the United States, this new normal also highlights the heightened need to protect education infrastructure from cyber-attacks, provide measurable standards, and ensure educators are equipped to manage cybersecurity risk. 

Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, a local school division with nearly 200,000 students and over 24,000 employees, was recently the target of a cyber and ransom attack that included theft of protected information. While an investigation proceeds, the incident in Fairfax County demonstrates the need for schools to be prepared with cybersecurity defenses and resilience. A ransomware attack on a school system in normal times can be disruptive and costly; in the context of a global public health emergency, with unprecedented reliance on remote learning, it is debilitating.

Sophisticated cyber-attacks and more opportunistic forms of malware, like ransomware, are widespread today and require sustained vigilance. Defending against these persistent attacks requires a consistent and holistic approach. The public sector is particularly at risk given constrained state and local budgets. It is too late to wait for a cyber-attack before taking action to ensure school systems and personal data is secure and available. 

I urge the U.S. Department of Education to develop baseline cybersecurity standards for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education and to work with school districts to develop a risk-based and comprehensive appropriations request for FY2022. Many school districts do not currently have sufficient guidance to implement an effective cybersecurity program. Fortunately, there is cybersecurity guidance available that could be tailored for education. Existing cybersecurity frameworks, such as National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance, can be adapted and applied for our school systems. We have seen a range of sectors develop customized Framework Profiles that tailor the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to the particular risks, resources, and circumstances of a particular sector.

I recommend providing schools with guidance that includes awareness campaigns, risk management, threat mitigation, cybersecurity posture reviews, and resiliency. Awareness campaigns for both educators and students can focus on the importance of recognizing threats, such as phishing attacks, ransomware, malware, and social engineering methods. Regular evaluations can determine the effectiveness of awareness campaigns to address any gaps. Threat mitigation includes developing sufficient safeguards to ensure data security and access control. Detection capabilities are also needed to continuously monitor for anomalies and cybersecurity events. Schools should review these capabilities, plus their readiness to respond and recover from attacks. For example, tabletop exercises can validate processes and test procedures used before, during, and after an attack. Cyber resiliency ensures systems have an ability to continue operating in case of attack, while full restoration takes place. Many of these objectives will require new funding from Congress, particularly in the wake of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on school system budgets.

In addition to protecting school infrastructure, I urge you to develop guidance and disseminate best practices to states and localities seeking to teach cybersecurity in the K-12 setting. For example, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission recommends that the U.S. Government promote professional development programs to model safe, secure, and privacy-aware internet practices in classrooms. The Commission also recommends incorporating effective digital literacy curricula in American classrooms at the K-12 level and beyond, including critical thinking and problem solving skills.  

Finally, I urge the Department of Education to work with educators, industry, and CISA to encourage a consortium or Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) for K-12 schools to exchange cybersecurity threat information and best practices for defense. Such an organization could be a counterpart to the existing Research and Education Networks ISAC that focuses on higher education. Because K-12 schools have very different missions and resources than higher education institutions, I would encourage particular attention to ensuring such efforts meet K-12 educators where they are – with information sharing, best practices, and action items tailored to account for capabilities and constraints of K-12 schools.

Our nation faces increasing cybersecurity threats on our infrastructure. As the recent Fairfax County Public Schools incident demonstrates, our schools need vigilant defenses from these threats, similar to private industries and government. Adversaries have shown a willingness to attack our education facilities, and schools must be proactive, attentive, and proficient at cybersecurity. While the nation confronts the COVID-19 public health emergency, an increased reliance on remote learning makes the need for effective threat defense paramount.  

Schools have a unique strategic role in our nation’s cybersecurity posture through educating students and tomorrow’s leaders of essential cybersecurity practices. I urge you to take necessary steps to ensure schools have adequate guidance to defend attacks and provide a cybersecurity education. Thank you for your consideration of these issues and your timely response.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former technology entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, applauded the house passage of the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act – legislation to require minimum security requirements for Internet of Things (IoT) devices purchased by the U.S. government. Sen. Warner authored and introduced this legislation in the Senate back in August 2017. He reintroduced the bill in the 116th Congress with a House companion led by U.S. Reps. Robin Kelly and Will Hurd. That legislation passed through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June 2019 and now awaits consideration in the Senate. 

“The House passage of this legislation is a major accomplishment in combatting the threats that insecure IoT devices pose to our individual and national security. Frankly, manufacturers today just don’t have the appropriate market incentives to properly secure the devices they make and sell – that’s why this legislation is so important,” said U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner. “I commend Congresswoman Kelly and Congressman Hurd for their efforts to push this legislation forward over the past two years. I look forward to continuing to work to get this bipartisan, bicameral bill across the finish line in the Senate.”

Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act introduced by Sen. Warner would:

  • Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency that are consistent with the NIST recommendations, and charge OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years.
  • Require any Internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government to comply with those recommendations.
  • Direct NIST to work with cybersecurity researchers, industry experts, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to publish guidance on coordinated vulnerability disclosure to ensure that vulnerabilities related to agency devices are addressed.
  • Require contractors and vendors providing information systems to the U.S. government to adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that can be effectively shared with a vendor for remediation.


Sen. Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus and a leader in Congress on security issues related to the Internet of Things.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in calling on the seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) to do their part to limit the economic and social disruption caused by COVID-19 and help ensure that children are able to meaningfully participate in their education. These letters come as unprecedented numbers of students rely on remote learning to kick off the fall semester due to the ongoing public health crisis. 

In a letter sent to the CEOs of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the Senators called on companies to take concrete measures to suspend limits and fees associated with increased broadband use, which is needed to participate in online courses or remote work. They also called for the companies to expand coverage areas, as the public health emergency has highlighted the devastating impact of the nation’s lingering broadband gaps.

“As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households,” the Senators wrote. “In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families.” 

“With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage,” they continued. “For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well.”

According to findings from a Pew Research study, the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to internet connectivity or a computer at home is more pronounced among Black, Hispanic and lower-income households. In addition to the toll it takes on individual students and their families, the economic cost of this gap has been identified by McKinsey and Company as having deprived the economy of at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019.

In their letter, the Senators noted numerous complaints that have come in to their offices from parents and educators who are grappling with usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. The Senators also stated they’ve heard of families being deemed ineligible for the new services offered for low-income families due to previous missed payments. 

Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth during his tenure as Governor and during his time in the Senate. In March, Sen. Warner led 17 of his colleagues in urging major internet service providers to take steps to accommodate the incoming unprecedented reliance on telepresence services. After this effort, a number of major internet service providers announced the adoption of practices to better accommodate the use of remote technologies. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner also introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during COVID-19. He has also pushed the FCC to ensure that millions of Americans are made aware of their eligibility for the FCC’s Lifeline program – the primary federal program charged with helping low-income families obtain broadband and telephone services. 

A copy of the letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires returning students across the United States to rely on remote learning and online courses, we write to ask for your assistance to help ensure students can take full advantage of essential education opportunities this fall. In March, we were thankful that your company answered our request to make a range of accommodations and service changes to help Americans shifting to unprecedented levels of online education and telework, including suspending some broadband data limits on a temporary basis. Your decisive and timely actions helped cushion the impacts to families across the nation during the spring months. 

As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households. In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families. Unprecedented numbers of students now rely on remote access for education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and remote education is only as effective as available internet service. 

Effective remote learning requires capable devices and adequate broadband internet access. The Pew Research Center found in March the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to a computer at home is a significant challenge for many students, and even more pronounced for Black, Hispanic and lower income households. With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage.

Our offices have fielded numerous complaints from parents and educators frustrated by usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. And those who have no other option find themselves buried in overage fees. In some cases, we’ve learned that eligibility for new services announced for low-income households is barred if that household has missed monthly payments in the past. These predicaments shine a light on our growing digital divide and threaten the education and subsequent futures of our students. In June, McKinsey and Co. reported that this education achievement gap limited the growth of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019. The necessary closing of schools during the public health crisis and transition to remote education has exacerbated these gaps.

For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well. 

We look forward to promptly hearing from you about what steps you will take to help limit the economic and social disruption that COVID-19 is posing at this challenging time. We recognize that many broadband providers have experienced significant business growth since the onset of this crisis. We ask that you identify ways to give back to the communities you serve through deployment of expanded service and additional service plans and policies that respond to the concerns we’ve heard from constituents about access, affordability, and data rates.

Containing the health impact of COVID-19 will depend on observance of social distancing measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities. But containing the economic and social impact of COVID-19 requires a whole-of-society effort. At this time of great strain on our economic and education systems, we encourage you to do everything you can to cushion the impacts on American families and students. Our offices would be happy to connect you with local education officials and administrators to facilitate this effort.

We appreciate your time and consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, DC – As communities across the country grapple with how to reopen as safely as possible, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and a bipartisan group of senators in calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve, automate and modernize COVID-19 data collection and management. In a letter sent to Secretary Azar and Dr. Redfield, the lawmakers specifically called on the agencies to harness technologically advanced systems and build on existing data sources in order to provide public health officials and community leaders with more accurate, real-time information as they make critical decisions about reopening.

Unfortunately, recent reports have shown that case reporting and contact tracing across the country are being hampered by a fragmented health system and antiquated technology, including manual entry of patients’ data and results and sharing of such results through paper and pencil or fax. In Texas, some patients were having to wait l0 days to find out if they had been infected with coronavirus because their results were being faxed to public health officials and then entered into a database by hand. 

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote, “During an emergency such as the current pandemic, scaling up and using existing systems to the greatest extent possible can improve data collection and contact tracing efforts. We therefore ask that you and your colleagues utilize and build on existing data sources, such as electronic health record (EHR) and laboratory information management systems (LIMS), claims databases, and other automated systems to provide government leaders, public health officials, community leaders, and others with actionable, easy-to-interpret data from a wide-ranging set of sources. Data generated by contact tracing, syndromic surveillance, and large-scale testing can help inform decisions on how to safely reopen communities and bring economies back online. Modernizing and automating data collection should augment detection, testing, and contact tracing plans, while also helping to prevent and improve the management of new outbreaks.”

The bipartisan group highlighted the fact that some of these tools are already being successfully utilized in communities across the country. They noted, “Fortunately, software-based systems providing data management for state public health entities and major testing laboratories already exist, and they are more efficient and accurate while reducing the burden of excess paperwork. For example, North Carolina and Florida have taken steps to modernize and improve patients’ Covid-19 test results and other infectious disease symptoms. In Florida, nurses can register patients for Covid testing in the field using tablet computers that are connected to a HIPAA compliant cloud. By managing the patient and order requisition information electronically, lab processing time is reduced and transcription errors are eliminated.”

Joining Sens. Warner, Carper and Cassidy in sending this letter are Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

The letter is available here

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) applauded $9,000,000 in federal funding to expand broadband infrastructure and service in rural communities in Virginia. The funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was awarded through theReConnect Program. The funding will be used to install a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network that will connect 7,496 people, 416 farms, 97 businesses, a fire station, a town hall, and two educational facilities to high-speed broadband internet in Scott County. 

“In our evolving economy, broadband isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity,” said the Senators. “That is why we’re glad to see these federal dollars go toward helping connect people in rural Virginia.”

Senators Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of expanding broadband access in Virginia as Governors and Senators. In 2018, both Warner and Kaine fought to secure funding for the ReConnect Program, and other federal programs that are critical to improving broadband access across rural Virginia. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during the coronavirus pandemic. They have also pushed the FCC to ensure that millions of Americans are made aware of their eligibility for the FCC’s Lifeline program. Most recently, Sen. Warner introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet for all Americans. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a senior Member of Senate Commerce Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights and Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), sent a letter to  Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons urging the FTC to take action to address the troubling data collection and sharing practices of the mobile application (“app”) Premom. 

Premom is a mobile app that helps users track their fertility cycles to determine the best time to get pregnant, relying on personal and private health information. As of November 2019, the app has been downloaded over half a million times, and it is one of the top search results among fertility apps in the Apple App and Google Play stores.

In addition to Sen. Warner, Sens. Klobuchar and Moran were joined by Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“A recent investigation from the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) indicated that Premom may have engaged in deceptive consumer data collection and processing, and that there may be material differences between Premom’s stated privacy policies and its actual data-sharing practices. Most troubling, the investigation found that Premom shared its users’ data without their consent,” Klobuchar and her colleagues wrote.

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Chairman Simons:

We write to express our serious concerns regarding recent reports about the data collection and sharing practices of the mobile application (“app”) Premom and to request information on the steps that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to take to address this issue.

Premom is a mobile app that helps users track their fertility cycles to determine the best time to get pregnant. As of November 2019, the app has been downloaded over half a million times, and it is one of the top search results among fertility apps in the leading app stores. To use Premom, users provide the app extensive personal and private health information.

A recent investigation from the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) indicated that Premom may have engaged in deceptive consumer data collection and processing, and that there may be material differences between Premom’s stated privacy policies and its actual data-sharing practices. Most troubling, the investigation found that Premom shared its users’ data without their consent. IDAC sent a letter to the FTC on August 6, 2020, to describe these undisclosed data transmissions along with other concerning allegations including conflicting privacy policies and questionable representations related to their collection of installed apps for functionality purposes.

While Premom claimed to only share “nonidentifiable” information in its privacy policy, the IDAC report found that Premom collected and shared—with three third-party advertising companies based in China including Jiguang, UMSNS, and Umeng—non-resettable unique user device identifiers that can be used to build profiles of consumer behavior. Additionally, users of the Premom app were not given the option to opt out of sharing their personal data with these advertising companies, and reports also allege that one of the companies that received user data from Premom concealed the data being transferred—which privacy experts say is an uncommon practice for apps that is used primarily to conceal their data collection practices.

While we understand that Premom has taken steps to update its app to halt the sharing of its users’ information with these companies, it is concerning that Premom may have engaged in these deceptive practices and shared users’ personal data without their consent. Additionally, there may still be users who have not yet updated the Premom app, which could still be sharing their personal data—without their knowledge or consent. 

In light of these concerning reports, and given the critical role that the FTC plays in enforcing federal laws that protect consumer privacy and data under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and other sector specific laws, we respectfully ask that you respond to the following questions:

1.  Does the FTC treat persistent identifiers, such as the non-resettable device hardware identifiers discussed in the IDAC report, as personally identifiable information in relation to its general consumer data security and privacy enforcement authorities under Section 5 of the FTC Act?

2.  Is the FTC currently investigating or does it plan to investigate Premom’s consumer data collection, transmission, and processing conduct described in the IDAC report to determine if the company has engaged in deceptive practices?

3.  Does the FTC plan to take any steps to educate users of the Premom app that the app may still be sharing their personal data without their permission if they have not updated the app? If not, does the FTC plan to require Premom to conduct such outreach?

4.  Please describe any unique or practically uncommon uses of encryption by the involved third-party companies receiving information from Premom that could be functionally interpreted to obfuscate oversight of the involved data transmissions.

5.  How can the FTC use its Section 5 authority to ensure that mobile apps are not deceiving consumers about their data collection and sharing practices and to preempt future potentially deceptive practices like those Premom may have engaged in? 

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to improve Americans consumers’ data privacy protections. 

Sincerely, 

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