Following New Investigation, Warner & Slotkin Press Google on Misrepresentation in Ads Targeted to Users Searching for Abortion Services
Nov 22 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) wrote to Sundar Pichai – the CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google – urging him to curb deceptive advertisements and ensure that users receive accurate information when searching for abortion services on the platform. This letter comes on the heels of an investigation that reveals how Google regularly fails to apply disclaimer labels to misleading ads by anti-abortion clinics. It also follows a successful effort by Sen. Warner and Rep. Slotkin who previously urged Google to take action to prevent misleading search results for anti-abortion clinics. This push ultimately led Google to clearly label facilities that provide abortions and prevent users from being misled by fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers.
“We are encouraged by and appreciative of the recent steps Google has taken to protect those searching for abortion services from being mistakenly directed to clinics that do not offer comprehensive reproductive health services. However, we ask you to address issues with misrepresentation in advertising on Google’s site and take a more expansive, proactive approach to addressing violations of Google’s stated policy,” wrote the lawmakers.
“According to an investigation by Bloomberg News and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), depending on the search term used, Google does not consistently apply disclaimer labels to ads by anti-abortion clinics. CCDH recently conducted searches that returned 132 misleading ads for such clinics that lacked disclaimers. Specifically, researchers found that queries for terms such as ‘Plan C pills,’ ‘pregnancy help,’ and ‘Planned Parenthood’ often returned results with ads that are not labeled accurately,” they continued. “Furthermore, the Tech Transparency Project found that some ads from ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’ even when they were properly labeled, the ads themselves included deliberately deceptive verbiage aimed at tricking users into believing that they offer abortion services. For example, ads for ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ were found to contain language such as ‘Free Abortion Pill’ and ‘First Trimester Abortion.’ Such deceptive advertising likely reduces the effectiveness of labels and may lead to detrimental health outcomes for users who receive delayed treatment.”
In addition to urging Google to rectify these issues, the lawmakers also requested answers to the following questions:
- What specific search terms does Google consider related to “getting an abortion”?
- What criteria does Google use to determine whether specific queries are related to “getting an abortion”?
- What additional steps will Google take to identify and remove ads with misleading verbiage that violates Google’s policies against misrepresentation?
A copy of the letter is available here and full text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Mr. Pichai,
We write today regarding the responsibility that Google has to ensure users receive accurate information when searching for abortion services on your platform. We are encouraged by and appreciative of the recent steps Google has taken to protect those searching for abortion services from being mistakenly directed to clinics that do not offer comprehensive reproductive health services. However, we ask you to address issues with misrepresentation in advertising on Google’s site and take a more expansive, proactive approach to addressing violations of Google’s stated policy.
On June 17, 2022, we wrote to you, along with 19 other senators and representatives, regarding research that showed Google results for searches such as “abortion services near me” often included links to clinics that are anti-abortion, sometimes called “crisis pregnancy centers.” We were extremely concerned with this practice of directing users toward “crisis pregnancy centers” without any disclaimer indicating those businesses do not provide abortions.
We were pleased to see the changes you have made in response to our letter, such as the new refinement tool that allows users to only see facilities verified to offer abortion services, while still preserving the option to see a broader range of search results. The steps you have taken will help prevent users from mistakenly being sent to organizations that attempt to deceive individuals into thinking they provide comprehensive health services and instead, regularly provide users with disinformation regarding the risks of abortion. As many states are increasingly narrowing the window between getting a positive pregnancy test and when you can terminate a pregnancy, every day counts.
But we find ourselves again asking that Google live up to its promises with regards to preventing misleading ads on its platform. According to an investigation by Bloomberg News and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), depending on the search term used, Google does not consistently apply disclaimer labels to ads by anti-abortion clinics. CCDH recently conducted searches that returned 132 misleading ads for such clinics that lacked disclaimers. Specifically, researchers found that queries for terms such as “Plan C pills,” “pregnancy help,” and “Planned Parenthood” often returned results with ads that are not labeled accurately. We believe Google’s failure to apply disclaimer labels to these common searches appears to be a violation of your June 2019 policy that requires “advertisers who want to run ads using keywords related to getting an abortion” to go through a verification process and be labeled as a provider that “Provides abortions” or “Does not provide abortions.”
Furthermore, the Tech Transparency Project found that some ads from “crisis pregnancy centers,” even when they were properly labeled, the ads themselves included deliberately deceptive verbiage aimed at tricking users into believing that they offer abortion services. For example, ads for “crisis pregnancy centers” were found to contain language such as “Free Abortion Pill” and “First Trimester Abortion.” Such deceptive advertising likely reduces the effectiveness of labels and may lead to detrimental health outcomes for users who receive delayed treatment. These ads appear to violate Google’s policy on misrepresentation, which prohibits ads that “deceive users.” Your responsiveness to our first letter gives us hope that you are willing to see this issue through. We, therefore, would appreciate answers to the following questions:
- What specific search terms does Google consider related to “getting an abortion”?
- What criteria does Google use to determine whether specific queries are related to “getting an abortion”?
- What additional steps will Google take to identify and remove ads with misleading verbiage that violates Google’s policies against misrepresentation?
We urge you to take proactive action to rectify these and any additional issues surrounding misleading ads, and help ensure users receive search results that accurately address their queries and are relevant to their intentions.
Thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to your timely response.
Nov 04 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $76,530,000 in federal funding for the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, also known as Jefferson Lab, in Newport News to support multiple projects that are critical to ensuring the U.S. remains a leader in science and technology. The funding was made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, legislation Sens. Warner and Kaine helped pass in August to lower costs for Virginians and build a strong foundation for future national security and economic growth, in part by accelerating scientific programs and national laboratory infrastructure projects.
“This funding is a powerful example of how the Inflation Reduction Act, which we proudly helped pass earlier this year, will accelerate the development of key technologies,” said the Senators. “We’re glad Jefferson Lab’s research programs and infrastructure projects are receiving this support and look forward to seeing Virginians at the lab continue to lead the way in technological innovation.”
This funding will help make critical laboratory upgrades and support Jefferson Lab’s cutting-edge work in various fields, including projects that will help increase our understanding of the fundamental building blocks and forces at work in our universe—information that can play a key role in the development of an array of technologies, including those with clean energy and medical implications. It is part of $1.5 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act for national laboratories to research and develop new technologies to help the U.S. meet its energy, climate, and security needs.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have consistently advocated for funding for Jefferson Lab and its programs.
Warner, Cornyn & Kelly Urge Commerce to Take Advantage of Nationwide Resources and Expertise in Establishing Key CHIPS+ Initiatives
Oct 14 2022
WASHINGTON – As the Biden administration works to establish two crucial semiconductor initiatives authorized by CHIPS and Science Act, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) are leading eight of their colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to take full advantage of the contributions, assets, and expertise available in states nationwide.
In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the Senators advocate for a decentralized “hub-and-spoke” model for the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) and the National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP). This model would establish various centers of excellence around the country, as opposed to a single centralized facility that is limited to the resources and strengths of a single state or region.
“Allowing the NSTC and NAPMP to draw upon experts, institutions, entrepreneurs, and private-sector partners spread across the country would best position these programs to fulfill their missions of driving semiconductor and advanced packaging research forward, coordinating and scaling up the ongoing workforce development efforts, promoting geographic diversity, and ensuring long-term U.S. competitiveness in this critical technology sector,” wrote the lawmakers.
They continued, “Such a model would allow them to draw upon the strengths of experts, research facilities, and private-sector partnerships and consortia from across the country. This model would consist of central research facilities with centers of excellence in various locations across the country where there is particular expertise in memory, logic, packaging, testing, or other elements of the semiconductor ecosystem.”
In their letter, the Senators also note that this approach was recommended by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in a report to President Biden. This report stated, “the Secretary of Commerce should ensure the NSTC founding charter includes establishing prototyping capabilities in a geographically distributed model encompassing up to six centers of excellence (COEs) aligned around major technical thrusts.”
The NSTC and NAPMP – designed to accelerate U.S. semiconductor production and advance research and development – were championed by Sens. Warner, Cornyn, and Kelly, who authored the CHIPS law signed by President Biden in August. In addition to Sens. Warner, Cornyn and Kelly, the letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
October 14, 2022
Dear Secretary Raimondo,
As the Department of Commerce begins implementing the CHIPS and Science Act, we respectfully urge your department to consider using a decentralized, so-called “hub-and-spoke” model as the basis for the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) and the National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP). Allowing the NSTC and NAPMP to draw upon experts, institutions, entrepreneurs, and private-sector partners spread across the country would best position these programs to fulfill their missions of driving semiconductor and advanced packaging research forward, coordinating and scaling up the ongoing workforce development efforts, promoting geographic diversity, and ensuring long-term U.S. competitiveness in this critical technology sector.
When Congress passed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act in January 2021 and funding of $11 billion in the recently-passed CHIPS and Science Act, it recognized the need for increased investment in research and development (R&D). This R&D will include prototyping of advanced semiconductor tools, technology, and packaging capabilities to advance both U.S. economic competitiveness and the security of our domestic supply chain.
The NSTC was established as a way to drive this research forward, bringing together the Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the private sector in a public-private consortium. Congress created the NAPMP to “strengthen semiconductor advanced test, assembly, and packaging capability in the domestic ecosystem” in coordination with the NSTC.
Incredibly diverse knowledge and expertise will be required to ensure that the NSTC and NAPMP are successful. We believe that it would be in the best interests of the long-term success of these programs if the Department of Commerce was to embrace a “hub-and-spoke” model for these programs. In fact, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended such an approach in their report to President Biden titled, “Revitalizing the U.S. Semiconductor Ecosystem.” The report states, “The Secretary of Commerce should ensure the NSTC founding charter includes establishing prototyping capabilities in a geographically distributed model encompassing up to six centers of excellence (COEs) aligned around major technical thrusts.” Such a model would allow them to draw upon the strengths of experts, research facilities, and private-sector partnerships and consortia from across the country. This model would consist of central research facilities with centers of excellence in various locations across the country where there is particular expertise in memory, logic, packaging, testing, or other elements of the semiconductor ecosystem. Doing so would ensure that a broader range of expertise is captured by the NSTC and NAPMP and ensure entrepreneurs and researchers across the country can take advantage of these programs to drive America’s semiconductor ecosystem forward.
Thank you for your consideration and for all of the work that you and your team are doing to implement this important legislation.
Sep 22 2022
Earlier this month, Apple publicly acknowledged that it is considering procuring NAND memory chips for future iPhones from Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC), a state-owned company with extensive links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman and Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines calling for a public analysis and review of YMTC and the risks it presents to U.S. national security.
- “[W]e write to convey that any decision to partner with YMTC, no matter the intended market of the product offerings developed by such a partnership, would affirm and reward the PRC’s distortive and unfair trade practices, which undermine U.S. companies globally by creating significant advantages to Chinese firms at the expense of foreign competitors. Last year, the Biden Administration described YMTC as China’s ‘national champion memory chip producer,’ which supports the CCP’s efforts to counter U.S. innovation and leadership in this space.”
- “Policymakers have for several years now conveyed to the American public the importance of a competitive semiconductor industry to U.S. national and economic security. A partnership between Apple and YMTC would endanger this critical sector and risk nullifying efforts to support it, jeopardizing the health of chipmakers in the U.S. and allied countries and advancing Beijing’s goal of controlling the global semiconductor market. Buoyed by a major contract with a leading global equipment vendor such as Apple, YMTC’s success would threaten the 24,000 American jobs that support memory chip production. More broadly, such a partnership would also threaten the opportunities this market provides for research at U.S. universities and further development of memory chips for civilian and military uses.”
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) also signed the letter.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Director Haines:
We write to convey our extreme concern about the possibility that Apple Inc. will soon procure 3D NAND memory chips from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-owned manufacturer Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC). Such a decision would introduce significant privacy and security vulnerabilities to the global digital supply chain that Apple helps shape given YMTC’s extensive, but often opaque, ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and concerning PRC-backed entities. In addition, we write to convey that any decision to partner with YMTC, no matter the intended market of the product offerings developed by such a partnership, would affirm and reward the PRC’s distortive and unfair trade practices, which undermine U.S. companies globally by creating significant advantages to Chinese firms at the expense of foreign competitors. Last year, the Biden Administration described YMTC as China’s “national champion memory chip producer,” which supports the CCP’s efforts to counter U.S. innovation and leadership in this space.
In July 2022, we wrote to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to warn of the threat YMTC poses to U.S. national security and to request that it be added to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List. We made these arguments based on the company’s central role in CCP efforts to supplant U.S. technological leadership, including through unfair trade practices. YMTC also appears to have strong ties to the PRC’s military-civil fusion program, as shown through its investors and partnerships; its parent company, Tsinghua Unigroup, allegedly supplies the PRC military.
The PRC has heavily subsidized YMTC for several years, enabling the company to rapidly expand production and sales in China and internationally. Since its formation in 2016, YMTC’s nearly $24 billion in PRC subsidies triggered explosive growth, helping to prepare the company’s plan to launch a second plant in Wuhan as early as the end of this year. At a time when overcapacity is potentially disrupting the market for chipmakers, these subsidies could enable YMTC to distort this often highly cyclical market, selling memory chips below cost in an effort to push out competitors. In addition, in April, reports alleged that YMTC may have breached the U.S.’s foreign direct product rule for supplying smartphone and electronics components to Huawei.
For these reasons, we request that you coordinate among the relevant intelligence community (IC) components a comprehensive review and analysis of YMTC and the threat that a suppler partnership arrangement between it and Apple would pose to U.S. national and economic security. The review should consider, among other issues:
- How the CCP supports the YMTC as part of its plan to bolster and indigenize China’s semiconductor industry and to displace chipmakers from the United States and allied and partnered nations;
- YMTC’s role in assisting other Chinese firms, including Huawei, to evade U.S. sanctions;
- YMTC’s role in the PRC’s military-civil fusion program and its linkages to the People’s Liberation Army; and
- The risks to U.S. national and economic security of this potential procurement.
Policymakers have for several years now conveyed to the American public the importance of a competitive semiconductor industry to U.S. national and economic security. A partnership between Apple and YMTC would endanger this critical sector and risk nullifying efforts to support it, jeopardizing the health of chipmakers in the U.S. and allied countries and advancing Beijing’s goal of controlling the global semiconductor market. Buoyed by a major contract with a leading global equipment vendor such as Apple, YMTC’s success would threaten the 24,000 American jobs that support memory chip production. More broadly, such a partnership would also threaten the opportunities this market provides for research at U.S. universities and further development of memory chips for civilian and military uses.
We once again request that you convene the relevant IC components to review and assess YMTC’s ties to the CCP and produce a comprehensive public report on YMTC, which can be used to inform federal agencies and the public as to the nature and risks associated with YMTC and similar companies.
We look forward to your attention to this critical matter and request a response by October 1, 2022.
Warner, Kaine, Colleagues Urge Biden Administration to Strengthen Privacy for Women Seeking Reproductive Health Care
Sep 19 2022
WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine—who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee—teamed up with 28 of their colleagues to call on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take immediate action to safeguard women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially get the health care they need. Specifically, the Senators urged the Biden Administration to strengthen federal privacy protections under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to broadly restrict providers from sharing patients’ reproductive health information without their explicit consent—particularly with law enforcement or in legal proceedings over accessing abortion care.
Since the Dobbs decision, the new patchwork of state abortion bans has caused widespread confusion among health care providers over whether they are required to turn over patients’ health information to state and local law enforcement. As a result, patients may delay or avoid seeking the care they need out of fear their sensitive health information could be weaponized against them.
In recent weeks, states have investigated and sought to punish patients and providers for seeking and providing abortion care. While abortion is not currently criminalized in Virginia, Governor Youngkin has said he would “happily and gleefully” sign “any bill” limiting reproductive freedom, and has tapped Virginia state legislators to introduce legislation to that effect in 2023. Should that legislation be signed into law, the Senators’ push could help prevent personal health data from being used against Virginia women in legal proceedings. This letter makes clear that additional privacy protections are needed to protect this data so it cannot be used by prosecutors or law enforcement seeking to enforce an abortion ban.
“Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care,” wrote the Senators.
In their letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Senators urge HHS to take immediate action to strengthen federal privacy protections under HIPAA, bolster enforcement of the protections, educate providers about their obligations, and ensure patients understand their rights. Shortly after the Dobbs decision, Becerra pledged to work to protect patient and provider privacy.
“To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information,” urged the Senators. “In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.”
Joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in sending the letter were Senators Murray (D-WA), Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Casey (D-PA), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Klobuchar (D-MN), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Padilla (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).
The Senators’ full letter is available below:
Dear Secretary Becerra:
Since the Supreme Court’s decision to strip away the constitutional right to abortion, patients across the country have lost access to reproductive health care, and providers have scrambled to adapt to the immense confusion, fear, and upheaval this ruling has caused. In some states, legislators and prosecutors have already sought to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. To protect patients, and their providers, from having their health information weaponized against them, we urge you to take immediate action to strengthen education on and enforcement of federal health privacy protections, and to initiate the rulemaking process to augment privacy protections under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.
Every day, health care personnel across this nation care for patients who are pregnant or may become pregnant. This care may include anything from an annual check-up to obstetrical visits to emergency care. In order for patients to feel comfortable seeking care, and for health care personnel to provide this care, patients and providers must know that their personal health information, including information about their medical decisions, will be protected. Recognizing this critical need, in 1996, Congress passed HIPAA, which directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue privacy regulations for personal health information. HHS issued corresponding privacy regulations (the “HIPAA Privacy Rule”) in 2000, with several subsequent updates over the years.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has caused widespread confusion among health care providers on health privacy protections, and whether they are required to turn over health information to state and local law enforcement. Stakeholders have told us about providers who have felt uncertain about whether they must turn over personal health information to state and law enforcement officials, including cases where providers believed they had to turn over information when doing so is only permitted—but not required—under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In other cases, providers did not know that certain disclosures are actually impermissible. Stakeholders have even described clashes between providers and health care system administrators on whether certain information must be shared. Many of these issues seem to arise from misunderstandings of what the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires of regulated entities and their employees.
This confusion is likely to grow as state lawmakers continue to implement a patchwork of laws restricting access to abortion and other reproductive health care services. Already, some states have laws in effect criminalizing abortion providers, and some states have enacted laws that penalize anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, potentially exposing everyone from a referring provider to a receptionist to legal liability. Some state legislators have even proposed to bar women from traveling to another state for abortion care. And even before Dobbs, states had already prosecuted women following their abortions or miscarriages. In many cases, these laws have been used to disproportionately criminalize or surveil women of color for their pregnancy loss.
Actions to prohibit abortion access and undermine health privacy are likely to have devastating consequences for women’s health. Out of concern that their reproductive health information may be used against them, women may delay or avoid disclosing a pregnancy or obtaining prenatal care. They may fear initiating treatments for conditions like cancer or arthritis, where treatment could impact a pregnancy, even as health care providers may hesitate to provide them. And women who experience complications from a pregnancy or abortion may avoid seeking desperately needed emergency care, risking devastating health consequences and even death. These concerns are not without justification – in recent years, numerous medical providers have reported women to law enforcement for seeking care following an abortion, a miscarriage, or other pregnancy-related medical issue.
HHS has the tools to protect patients and health care providers, even in the wake of this devastating decision. For over twenty years, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has protected the privacy of individuals’ health information, laying out when health information may or may not be shared without a patient’s explicit consent. In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has long recognized that stronger protections may be needed for particularly sensitive health information, such as psychotherapy notes. We commend you for the actions the Department has already taken to clarify privacy protections in the wake of the Dobbs decision, including the issuance of additional guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule. However, given the growing likelihood that women’s personal health information may be used against them, HHS must also take proactive steps to strengthen patient privacy protections.
To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information. In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.
In addition, while HHS moves forward with the rulemaking process, the Department should take the following steps to improve awareness and enforcement of current privacy protections in the HIPAA Privacy Rule:
- HHS should increase its efforts to engage and educate the health care community about regulated entities’ obligations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including the difference between permissible and required disclosures, best practices for educating patients and health plan enrollees on their privacy rights, how HIPAA interacts with state laws (including those related to prescriptions), and potential legal consequences for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including civil and criminal penalties. As part of this effort, HHS should engage the full range of health care personnel, including providers, senior executives, and smaller health care organizations, as well as pharmacists, health plan administrators and sponsors, legal and compliance personnel, and entities that provide HIPAA training. These efforts should include listening sessions, additional guidance and FAQs with specific examples, webinars, and additional avenues for individuals at regulated entities to seek confidential advice.
- HHS should expand its efforts to educate patients about their rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including when information may be shared without patient consent, the ability to request additional restrictions or corrections, and how to file a complaint with HHS.
- HHS should ensure cases involving reproductive health information receive timely, appropriate attention for compliance and enforcement activities.
Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Warner, Kaine & McEachin Celebrate New Funding for Petersburg/Richmond Made Possible By the American Rescue Plan
Sep 08 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) celebrated $52.9 million in funding from the federal government for the Petersburg/Richmond region to support job creation and increase American independence from foreign drug manufacturers.
This funding was recently awarded through the Economic Development Administration and funded by the American Rescue Plan, which was supported by the three lawmakers and passed through the Senate by a vote of 50 – 49 and the House by a vote of 220 – 211.
“The American Rescue Plan is the gift that keeps on giving – this time with $52.9 million that will go towards establishing Central Virginia as a hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing. This unparalleled federal investment will help boost American production of essential drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients while creating 21st century jobs for Virginians and tackling our nation’s dangerous overreliance on foreign supply chains for medicines,” said the lawmakers.
The Virginia Advanced Pharma Manufacturing (APM) and R&D Cluster – led by the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority– is one of 21 winners of the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge – the most impactful regional economic development competition in decades. The projects funded as part of this award include expanding a nascent pharmaceutical manufacturing corridor in Central Virginia through investment in new wet lab space, development of critical infrastructure to sustain industrial capacity in Petersburg, and engagement with local business to enhance the regional pharmaceutical supply chain. The project will also catalyze a new partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University to create new pathways for underserved residents to high-quality training and jobs in the pharmaceutical industry.
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) is an unprecedented competitive federal grant program that provides each regional coalition with significant investments to tackle a wide variety of projects – including entrepreneurial support, workforce development, infrastructure, and innovation – to drive inclusive economic growth. Each coalition’s collection of projects aims to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters – all while embracing economic equity, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness globally. Projects span 24 states and include $87 million to two primarily Tribal coalitions and over $150 million for projects serving communities impacted by the declining use of coal.
Sen. Warner helped negotiate portions of the American Rescue Plan and directly advocated for this project. In March, he sat down with the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority and other pharmaceutical industry professionals for a roundtable discussion on the need to manufacture more prescription drugs in Virginia.
While on Richmond City Council, Sen. Kaine played a major role in the formation and growth of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority, served on its board when he was Mayor of Richmond, and appointed board members while he was Governor. In addition to advocating for the American Rescue Plan, which provided the funding for the EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge, Sen. Kaine specifically advocated for this project to win this grant. He also visited the project’s facilities in Richmond and Petersburg in April of this year.
Rep. McEachin proudly supported the American Rescue Plan and engaged with the Biden administration throughout the BBBRC application and selection process in support of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority. He sent multiple letters to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo advocating for this project and held briefings with relevant stakeholders to keep them apprised of developments and receive timely updates.
Warner Joins Hickenlooper, Fischer, Peters, Lummis in Urging Senate to Shore Up ‘Rip & Replace’ Program, Protect Rural Networks from Chinese Threats
Sep 08 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and more than 30 of their colleagues in a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership in support of closing the $3 billion funding shortfall impacting the Secure & Trusted Communications Networks Act’s Reimbursement Program. The shortfall leaves wireless networks—often in rural areas—vulnerable to espionage or disruption.
Due to security concerns, in 2020 the FCC prohibited the purchase of equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE and also prohibited the use of FCC-administered funds to expand or maintain networks with Huawei or ZTE equipment already present.
The reimbursement program helps small telecommunications providers remove and replace suspect Chinese network equipment manufactured by Huawei and ZTE. If the funding shortfall for the program is not closed, the FCC will not be able to fully cover the costs of removing, disposing, and replacing suspect network equipment which will leave U.S. wireless networks vulnerable to espionage and disruption.
“The highest priority class of telecommunications providers in the Reimbursement Program serve the most rural areas of the United States where wireless connectivity is a vital lifeline to accessing telehealth services, receiving emergency notifications, and participating in the 21st century economy,” wrote the Senators.
The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act was enacted in 2020 and given a $1.9 billion appropriation for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help small network providers remove and replace high-risk network equipment. While the initial $1.9 billion was based on a voluntary survey of possible costs small network providers would incur, supply chain disruptions and additional program requirements (such as proper disposal of suspect equipment) added to the overall costs within the Reimbursement Program.
“The bipartisan Senate support – thirty-four Senators! – in favor of a well-resourced Reimbursement Program sends a clear message, and I applaud the letter signatories, especially Senators Hickenlooper, Fischer, Peters, and Lummis, for their leadership on this critical national security issue. The funding shortfall must be addressed as soon as possible to ensure eligible small and rural carriers are adequately reimbursed for costs associated with removing, destroying, and replacing affected equipment. These carriers serve some of the most rural and hard-to-reach places across the country and, without adequate reimbursements, their ability to provide ongoing service to customers is seriously jeopardized,” said Steven K. Berry, president and CEO, Competitive Carriers Association (CCA).
Text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell,
We write to express our support for the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Reimbursement Program under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (Secure Networks Act). The program’s success is critical to maintaining network resiliency in Rural America and our national security. Since the Secure Networks Act was signed into law in 2020, Congress has appropriated $1.9 billion to support the FCC’s ongoing implementation of the Secure Networks Act and the establishment of the Reimbursement Program to reimburse eligible small and rural telecommunications providers for costs associated with removing, destroying, and replacing “threats to the security of our nation’s communications networks posed by certain communications equipment providers.”
On February 4, 2022, the FCC announced providers, using guidance provided by the FCC, had requested close to $5.6 billion to remove and replace equipment in their networks—nearly three times more than a previous projection for the Reimbursement Program and creating a significant financial shortfall of $3.7 billion. On July 15, 2022, the FCC informed Congress that following an extensive review of applications submitted under the Reimbursement Program, the amount of supplemental funding needed to fully fund approved cost estimates is $3.08 billion. Pursuant to the Secure Networks Act, a funding shortfall requires the FCC issue a pro-rated reimbursement to eligible telecommunications providers—resulting in only 39.5% of funding for approved costs allocated for reimbursement.
The highest priority class of telecommunications providers in the Reimbursement Program serve the most rural areas of the United States where wireless connectivity is a vital lifeline to accessing telehealth services, receiving emergency notifications, and participating in the 21st century economy. Due to significant national security risks to U.S. communications infrastructure, the FCC has already prohibited monies from the Universal Service Fund (USF) from supporting the maintenance or expansion of any wireless network that has covered equipment from Huawei and ZTE present. While these actions are necessary, small rural wireless telecommunications providers rely upon USF funds, and rural America faces a perilous situation. Currently, rural wireless carriers may not maintain, service, or upgrade networks with USF with Huawei and ZTE equipment still present. We are jeopardizing vital communications networks nationwide and our national security.
Recognizing the importance of a well-resourced Reimbursement Program to maintaining critical telecommunications service in rural communities, we are committed to working with you on legislative solutions to promptly provide the financial resources necessary to mitigate national security vulnerabilities emanating from network equipment manufactured by untrusted companies such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to working with you to find a swift solution.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today welcomed an announcement from Google that it will make changes to its search results to clearly label facilities that provide abortions so that users seeking abortions are not misled by anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers. Today’s action follows a bicameral June 17 letter led by Warner and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) to the CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, Sundar Pichai, urging him to take action to prevent misleading Google search results and ads that lead to anti-abortion clinics.
In response to Warner and Slotkin’s letter, today Google announced that those who search for “abortion clinics near me” will only see facilities that have been verified to provide abortions in the Local Search results box on Google, unless they affirmatively choose to see additional, potentially less relevant results. Additionally, Google will clearly label results for searches such as “abortion clinics” to indicate whether the facility provides abortions.
“I welcome the changes that Google has announced today so that women seeking abortion services aren’t directed towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services. Importantly, this isn’t about silencing voices or restricting speech – it’s about returning search results that accurately address a user’s query and giving users information that is relevant to their searches,” said Sen. Warner today.
Aug 09 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement after President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law:
“The Chips and Science Act will lower costs for families, strengthen our national security, and create good-paying manufacturing jobs here in the United States, and I’m proud to have shepherded it into law.”
Nearly everything that has an “on” switch – from cars to phones to washing machines to ATMs to electric toothbrushes – contains a semiconductor, but just 12 percent of these ‘chips’ are currently made in America. The CHIPS and Science Act includes $52 billion in funding championed by Sen. Warner to manufacture chips here on American soil – a move that will increase economic and national security and help America compete against countries like China for the technology of the future.
Sen. Warner, co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus and former technology entrepreneur, has long sounded the alarm about the importance of investing in domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Sen. Warner first introduced the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act in June 2020 along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement after the House of Representatives voted 243-187-1 to approve the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, a historic bill to incentivize domestic manufacturing of semiconductors and improve U.S. technological competitiveness:
“I first began sounding the alarm about the need to reduce our reliance on other nations and safeguard our national security by bringing semiconductor production back to the U.S. more than two years ago. Since then, we’ve seen the consequences of semiconductor shortages all the way up the supply chain and down to consumers, who have faced rising costs on a variety of goods both large and small.
“This bipartisan bill will lower costs for families, strengthen our national security, and create good-paying manufacturing jobs here in the United States. I am glad that after years of unnecessary delay, it is finally being sent to the President’s desk.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Warner spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate, urging his colleagues to pass the chips bill. Video of that speech is available for download here.
Warner, Rubio Call for Investigation into TikTok in Light of Revelations About Chinese Communist Party's Potential Access to U.S. Data
Jul 05 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to formally investigate TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance. The call comes in response to recent reports that the social media platform has permitted TikTok engineers and executives in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to repeatedly access private data of US users despite repeated claims to lawmakers and users that this data was protected. This includes instances where staff based in the United States had to consult with their China-based colleagues for information about U.S. user data as they did not have access to the data on their own. These revelations undermine longstanding claims by TikTok’s management that the company’s operations were firewalled from demands of the Chinese Communist Party.
“We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021,” the senators wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The report also highlights TikTok’s misrepresentation of the company’s relationship to ByteDance and its subsidiaries, including Beijing-based ByteDance Technology, which is partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
As Chairman and Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sens. Warner and Rubio have been vocal about the cyber and national security threats posed by the CCP. In 2019, the senators introduced legislation to combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China.
A copy of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Chairwoman Khan:
We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021. In an interview with the online publication Cyberscoop, the Global Chief Security Officer for TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, made a number of public representations on the data security practices of TikTok, including unequivocal claims that the data of American users is not accessible to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government of the PRC. As you know, TikTok’s privacy practices are already subject to a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission, based on its improper collection and processing of personal information from children. In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Additionally, these recent reports suggest that TikTok has also misrepresented its corporate governance practices, including to Congressional committees such as ours. In October 2021, TikTok’s head of public policy, Michael Beckerman, testified that TikTok has “no affiliation” with another ByteDance subsidiary, Beijing-based ByteDance Technology, of which the CCP owns a partial stake. Meanwhile, as recently as March of this year, TikTok officials reiterated to our Committee representations they have previously made that all corporate governance decisions are wholly firewalled from their PRC-based parent, ByteDance. Yet according to a recent report from Buzzfeed News, TikTok’s engineering teams ultimately report to ByteDance leadership in the PRC.
A series of national security laws imposed by the CCP, including the 2017 National Intelligence Law and the 2014 Counter-Espionage Law provide extensive and extra-judicial access opportunities for CCP-controlled security services. Under these authorities, the CCP may compel access, regardless of where data is ultimately stored. While TikTok has suggested that migrating to U.S.-based storage from a U.S. cloud service provider alleviates any risk of unauthorized access, these latest revelations raise concerns about the reliability of TikTok representations: since TikTok will ultimately control all access to the cloud-hosted systems, the risk of access to that data by PRC-based engineers (or CCP security services) remains significant in light of the corporate governance irregularities revealed by BuzzFeed News. Moreover, as the recent report makes clear, the majority of TikTok data – including content posted by users as well as their unique IDs– will remain freely accessible to PRC-based ByteDance employees.
In light of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok concerning its data security, data processing, and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act promptly on this matter.
Jun 17 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) led colleagues in a letter to the CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, Sundar Pichai, urging him to take action to prevent misleading Google search results and ads that lead to anti-abortion clinics.
In the letter, the lawmakers note that 37 percent of Google Maps results and 11 percent of Google search results for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” in states with so-called “trigger laws” – laws that would effectively ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned – were for anti-abortion clinics. Additionally, 28 percent of Google ads displayed at the top of search results were for anti-abortion clinics. Amid a draft opinion of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe and the passage of several state laws that would curtail access to reproductive health care, the lawmakers are pushing for quick action to display accurate information.
“Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results,” wrote the lawmakers. “Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers in search results for users that are searching for an ‘abortion clinic’ or ‘abortion pill.’ If Google must continue showing these misleading results in search results and Google Maps, the results should, at the very least, be appropriately labeled.”
In addition to Sen. Warner and Rep. Slotkin, the letter was also signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tina Smith (D-MN). It was also signed by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Jason Crow (D-CO), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Katie Porter (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).
The lawmakers requested Sundar Pichai respond to the letter and provide:
1. A plan to limit anti-abortion clinics in Google search results, ads, and Maps
2. A plan to add disclaimers that clearly indicate whether a search result does or does not provide abortions
3. Information on Google’s attempts to provide accurate search results pertaining to health care
Sen. Warner has been a longtime supporter of both abortion rights and increasing transparency online. He is a cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade, and several pieces of tech legislation that would promote transparency and curb manipulative patterns.
Text of the letter is below.
Dear Mr. Pichai,
We write today regarding disturbing new reports that Google has been directing users who search for abortion services towards anti-abortion ‘fake clinics,’ also known as ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ or ‘pregnancy resource centers’ without any disclaimer indicating these businesses do not provide abortions and seek to steer women away from certain health decisions. In the wake of the leaked Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, we find these reports especially concerning and would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.
According to research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a U.S.-based nonprofit that fights online hate and misinformation, 11% of results for searches for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” in states with so-called ‘Trigger Laws’ – laws that would effectively ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned – were for anti-abortion fake clinics. Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results.
This problem is even more pronounced on Google Maps, where CCDH found that 37% of search results were for anti-abortion fake clinics. Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers in search results for users that are searching for an ‘abortion clinic’ or ‘abortion pill.’ If Google must continue showing these misleading results in search results and Google Maps, the results should, at the very least, be appropriately labeled.
CCDH also found that 28% of Google Ads displayed at the top of search results were for anti-abortion fake clinics. Since facing criticism over misleading ads related to anti-abortion fake clinics in 2019, Google has provided a disclaimer – albeit one that appears in small font and is easily missed – for ads from anti-abortion fake clinics. However, no such warning is present on non-sponsored search results on Google Search. The prevalence of these misleading ads marks what appears to be a concerning reversal from Google’s pledge in 2014 to take down ads from crisis pregnancy centers that engage in overt deception of women seeking out abortion information online.
Given this disturbing research, we would appreciate answers to the following questions:
1. What steps will Google take to limit the appearance of anti-abortion fake clinics or so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ in Google search results, Google Ads, and on Google Maps when users search for “abortion clinic,” “abortion pill,” or similar terms?
2. If Google will not take action to prevent anti-abortion fake clinics from appearing in search results, will Google add user-friendly disclaimers that clearly indicate whether or not a search result does or does not provide abortions?
3. What additional steps will Google take to ensure that users are receiving accurate information when they search for health care services like abortion on Google Search and Google Maps when users search for “abortion clinic,” “abortion pill,” or similar terms?
We urge you to take action to rectify these issues and help ensure women seeking health care services are directed to the basic information they request. Many thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to your timely response.
WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA), and committee members Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Ben Sasse (R-NE), unveiled the American Technology Leadership Act, legislation to establish an Office of Global Competition Analysis to assess how the United States fares in key emerging technologies relative to other countries to inform policy and strengthen U.S. competitiveness. Bennet plans to advocate for the bill’s inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act.
“As we compete to supply the world with cutting-edge technologies, we don’t have a meaningful way to track how our progress stacks up against China’s in advancing the technologies of the future. Establishing an Office of Global Competition Analysis will help fill this knowledge gap and allow us to better compete on the world stage,” said Warner.
“To compete with countries like China, we have to secure U.S. leadership in critical emerging technologies, such as semiconductors and artificial intelligence,” said Bennet. “Today, we have no idea where the United States stands in these growing sectors compared to our competitors and adversaries. Our bipartisan legislation would fuse information across the federal government, including classified sources, to help us better understand U.S. competitiveness in technologies critical to our national security and economic prosperity and inform responses that will boost U.S. leadership.”
“We are currently in a tech war with China, and the urgency to keep the upper hand is growing,” said Sasse. “Staying technologically competitive needs to be our top priority, which is why we need to assess how we compare with other countries technologically and which technologies matter most to our economic and national security. We’re going to need to stay sharp and creating an office to focus on global competition is just one step that helps us stay ahead of our competition.”
Today, there is no federal entity responsible for assessing U.S. leadership in key technologies relative to strategic competitors like China. Although the Department of Defense evaluates how our battleships, tanks, and aircraft compare to other nations, there is no equivalent process for critical technologies like artificial intelligence and quantum computing, despite their far-reaching consequences for America’s national security and economic prosperity.
The Office of Global Competition Analysis would be staffed by experts from the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, and Defense, along with the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The new Office could also draw on experts from the private sector and academia on a project basis, and the legislation allows it to leverage the capability of an existing Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). The Office would support both economic and national security policy makers. The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), National Economic Council, and the National Security Council (NSC) would jointly manage the office and set priorities and project requirements.
Specifically, a technology net assessment capability will enable the U.S. government to:
- Identify which technologies will matter most to America’s economic and national security;
- Evaluate America’s technology leadership relative to other countries; and
- Determine the appropriate policy response to ensure U.S. leadership.
May 20 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Co-Chair of the Senate Cyber Caucus, joined Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect the data privacy of women seeking reproductive health care, following the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The senators expressed their concern over reports that data brokers are selling location data that allow purchasers to see how many people sought abortion services and other family planning care.
“We write to express serious concerns regarding recent reports identifying data brokers buying and selling location data that includes personal data related to family planning and abortion services,” the senators wrote. “Recent reports highlight data brokers selling location data that allows the buyer to see how many people visit a certain location and when, including how many people are seeking care at reproductive health clinics such as Planned Parenthood.”
“In light of reports that the Supreme Court is set to overrule Roe vs. Wade, we are concerned about the privacy of women making decisions that should be between them, their families, and their doctors, as they have for more than five decades. We appreciate your efforts to highlight the critical need for increased consumer privacy and danger of open data to further victimization. However additional measures need to be taken to protect personal data and ensure the privacy of women as they make decisions that should be between them and their doctors,” they continued.
In addition to Sens. Warner, Klobuchar, and Baldwin, the letter was also signed by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Sen. Warner has been a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose. He recently cosponsored the Women's Health Protection Act, which failed to advance in the Senate last week. As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has worked to address problematic data collection practices, sending a letter in 2020 to the FTC urging the agency to take action to address the troubling data collection and sharing practices of the mobile app Premom, which helps users track their fertility cycles to determine the best time to get pregnant.
Sen. Warner has also introduced numerous bills demanding increased data accountability and transparency, such as the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that would 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, and the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns,” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data and would prohibit these platforms from using features that result in compulsive usage by children.
A copy of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Chair Khan,
We write to express serious concerns regarding recent reports identifying data brokers buying and selling location data that includes personal data related to family planning and abortion services. We respectfully request additional information on what steps the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking to ensure data brokers are not collecting, buying, or selling sensitive location data that put people, particularly those seeking medical attention, at risk.
We are concerned about online markets that sell and trade mobile phone location data. This data is often collected and sold by ordinary apps installed on a person’s smartphone, such as weather apps. The data is then bought and resold by data brokers. All of this information has historically been used to identify individuals. The estimated value of the location data market has been estimated at approximately $14 billion in 2021.
Recent reports highlight data brokers selling location data that allows the buyer to see how many people visit a certain location and when, including how many people are seeking care at reproductive health clinics such as Planned Parenthood. One report identified the purchase of data showing the number of people that visited over 600 Planned Parenthood locations in a week for just over $160
In light of reports that the Supreme Court is set to overrule Roe vs. Wade, we are concerned about the privacy of women making decisions that should be between them, their families, and their doctors, as they have for more than five decades. Should the Court’s final decision match the leaked opinion, thirteen states could immediately ban abortion and over a dozen others are likely to criminalize it. Banning and criminalizing abortion in parts of our country could create added risks to those seeking family planning services in states where abortions remain legal.
We appreciate your efforts to highlight the critical need for increased consumer privacy and danger of open data to further victimization. However additional measures need to be taken to protect personal data and ensure the privacy of women as they make decisions that should be between them and their doctors.
We respectfully request that you respond to the following questions by June 1:
- What measures is the FTC taking to ensure individuals have the right to review and remove their information online, and assist them should their data be sold or they become victim to a breach? If so, please describe these measures.
- How does the FTC plan to address mobile phone apps that are developed to collect and sell the location data? How is the FTC educating individuals about how to identify apps
that collect and sell their location data?
- What is the FTC doing to coordinate with the Department of Justice, states and localities, health care providers and private stakeholders to prevent data brokers and others from gaining access to the personal information of women and their healthcare decisions?
- Does the FTC need additional resources to better protect women from having their personal location data bought and disseminated by data brokers?
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to address this threat to privacy and safety.
Intel Chairman Warner Delivers Remarks at the First Bicameral Conference Session on Bipartisan Competitiveness Package
May 12 2022
“We’ve seen America’s supply of semiconductors fall from about 33 percent of manufacturing down to single digits. We’ve almost seen the exact converse take place in terms of China’s investments,” Chairman Warner said in his opening statement. “My fear is that what we are seeing in semiconductors and the need for us to make investments, we may need similar types of approaches in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, synthetic biology. We need to maintain America and the West’s leadership in cutting-edge technologies.”
In April, Chairman Warner was selected to serve on the conference committee of Senators and House members working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the jobs and competitiveness bill. This bill has been known variously as the Bipartisan Innovation Act, America COMPETES Act, the United States Innovation and Competition Act, and the Endless Frontier Act.
Once the conference committee comes to an agreement on a final version of the bill, the House and Senate will each vote on whether to send that bill to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
WASHINGTON – Today it was announced that U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, will serve on the conference committee of Senators and House members working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate version of the jobs and competitiveness bill, which has been known variously as the Bipartisan Innovation Act, America COMPETES Act, the United States Innovation and Competition Act, or the Endless Frontier Act, in order to send a final bill to President Biden’s desk for signature.
“For too long, the United States has allowed our global competitors to out-invest and out-hustle us in regard to our innovation economy. This competitiveness bill will make major investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, create good-paying jobs, and provide the tools our country needs to continue competing in the global economy while addressing some of the major causes of economic inflation,” said Sen. Warner. “I am honored to be a member of the conference committee that will work to get a strong bill to the president’s desk ASAP.”
“The Senate is moving an important step closer to delivering a robust jobs and competitiveness bill that will help fix our supply chains and boost American innovation and technological dominance for generations. Our Democratic conferees will ensure that the Senate-passed bill stays on track to create more good-paying jobs, boost domestic manufacturing, and spark American ingenuity that will be the engine that drives our economy forward for years to come,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
In June, the Senate voted 68-28 to pass the United States Innovation and Competition Act, bipartisan legislation that includes Warner-led provisions to foster U.S. innovation in the race for 5G and shore up American leadership in the semiconductors industry. In February, the House finally acted to pass its own version of the bill, the America COMPETES Act. Now, a small group of House members and Senators will form a conference committee to negotiate differences between the two bills and assemble a final product to send to President Biden.
Earlier today, Sen. Warner joined Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) in leading the Virginia congressional delegation in calling on the U.S. Department of Commerce to consider Virginia for future locations of major semiconductor production and research facilities.
Warner, Warren, Reed, Tester, Colleagues Introduce the Digital Asset Sanctions Compliance Enhancement Act of 2022
Mar 17 2022
WASHINGTON - Today, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI), and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Digital Asset Sanctions Compliance Enhancement Act to ensure that Vladimir Putin and Russian elites don't use digital assets to undermine the international community’s economic sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. The senators’ bill comes amid bipartisan concerns and warnings by federal agencies that Russian actors may try to evade economic sanctions by using digital currencies. Countries hit hard by sanctions, including North Korea and Iran, have been previously found to use cryptocurrency to curb the effects of economic sanctions. This legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
“In order for the sanctions levied by the United States and our allies to have the maximum impact on Vladimir Putin and his oligarch friends, we must close off avenues they might use to evade those sanctions. This legislation will crack down on foreign actors who help sanctioned Russians use digital assets like cryptocurrencies to circumvent the crippling measures we’ve put in place to punish Russia for its barbaric invasion of Ukraine,” said Sen. Warner.
“Putin and his cronies can move, store, and hide their wealth using cryptocurrencies, potentially allowing them to evade the historic economic sanctions the U.S. and its partners across the world have levied in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine. I'm glad to introduce the Digital Asset Sanctions Compliance Enhancement Act with my colleagues to strengthen our sanctions program and close off any avenues for Russian evasion,” said Sen. Warren.
“The U.S. and its allies have imposed some of the strongest sanctions in history to try to stop Putin and his cronies from waging war on Ukraine. A sanctions system without strong authorities to limit evasion using digital assets is like having a security system but leaving the front door open. This bill would clarify Treasury’s authorities and strengthen our sanctions on Putin and his enablers,” said Sen. Reed.
“Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine is a threat to democracies everywhere, and if we are going to hold him and his cronies accountable, we have to be sure they aren’t using digital tools to evade sanctions,” said Sen. Tester. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation that will make sure we isolate Putin and sends a message to America’s adversaries that folks who threaten freedom and democracy around the world cannot hide from the consequences of their actions.”
“We’ve imposed devastating sanctions on Russia, and we must ensure that there aren’t any loopholes that would allow Putin and his oligarchs to evade them,” said Sen. Cortez Masto. “This legislation gives the U.S. the tools it needs to crack down on any entity using cryptocurrency to trade with sanctioned banks or individuals. We must do all we can to completely isolate Putin, and that includes strengthening the enforcement mechanisms in all of our economic measures.”
“Digital currencies can offer the Russian government and wealthy oligarchs an opportunity to evade the sanctions that President Biden has enacted on Russia as Putin continues to wage his unprovoked and inexcusable war of choice against Ukraine,” said Sen. Duckworth. “The United States can do more to ensure Putin and his cronies feel the full weight of the free world’s sanctions, which is one reason I’m proud to help introduce this legislation with Senator Warren to crack down on cryptocurrency exchanges that engage with Russian entities.”
“Russia must be held accountable for its cold-blooded, unprovoked attack on Ukraine. We’ve seen how economic sanctions can deliverer a major blow to the Russian economy, but we must do everything in our power to prevent Putin and his corrupt cronies from circumventing these sanctions using cryptocurrencies. This legislation provides the necessary tools to monitor and shut down any such loopholes,” said Sen. Van Hollen.
The Digital Asset Sanctions Compliance Enhancement Act would combat the risk of Russian actors from using digital assets to evade international sanctions by discouraging foreign crypto firms from doing business with sanctioned Russian elites, providing the Administration with authority to suspend transactions with Russia-linked crypto addresses, and increasing transparency around crypto holdings.
Specifically, the Digital Asset Sanctions Compliance Enhancement Act would close potential avenues for evasion of sanctions against Russia by:
- Requiring the President to identify foreign digital asset actors that are facilitating evasion of sanctions against Russia, and authorizing the President to sanction such actors, prohibiting their transactions with U.S. persons and blocking their assets.
- Providing the Treasury Secretary clear authority to prohibit digital asset trading platforms and transaction facilitators under U.S. jurisdiction from transacting with cryptocurrency addresses that are known to be, or could reasonably be known to be, in Russia.
- Directing FinCEN to require U.S. taxpayers engaged in a transaction with a value greater than $10K of cryptocurrency offshore to file FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR).
- Requiring the Treasury Department to report on its progress in implementing these provisions, including any resources needed by the Department to improve implementation and progress in coordinating with foreign partners.
- Requiring the Treasury Department to issue a public report identifying foreign digital asset trading platforms that are determined to be high risk for sanctions evasion, money laundering, or other illicit activities.
Earlier this month, Sens. Warren, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Sherrod Brown, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed led a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raising concerns regarding the potential use of cryptocurrency to evade sanctions, which have become even more urgent amid the sanctions imposed on Russia after their invasion of Ukraine.
Warner & Kaine Announce More Than $1.5 Million in Federal Funding For Distance Learning and Telemedicine
Oct 26 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $1,558,976 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand access to high-speed internet, health care, and educational services in rural Virginia.
“Teleservices are essential in today’s world, especially in rural areas where folks have to travel long distances to access resources. These investments will help close the digital divide across our Commonwealth and extend valuable educational and health opportunities to many Virginians,” the Senators said.
The funding will be distributed as follows:
- Bristol Virginia Public Schools will receive $993,840 in federal funds to purchase interactive video conferencing equipment to deliver distance learning and telehealth services to 21 schools in eight rural Virginia communities.
- University of Virginia will receive $267,036 in federal funds to purchase telemedicine equipment to serve a Tribal Nation, a Critical Access Hospital, a new Opioid Use Disorder and Substance Use Disorder clinic, and two federally qualified health centers serving the Appalachian region of Virginia. This equipment will help address urgent health needs, including those related to COVID-19, severe respiratory disease, the opioid crisis, and Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that over 3,000 patients will receive treatment from this project.
- Mountain States Health Alliance will receive $298,100 in federal funds to expand virtual access to behavioral health, urgent care, and specialty care in Rural Appalachia. An estimated 33,000 patients will benefit from the telemedical care available facilitated by this project.
Sen. Warner joins Bipartisan Legislation From Klobuchar, Grassley, and Colleagues to Rein in Big Tech
Oct 18 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced bipartisan legislation to restore competition online by establishing commonsense rules of the road for dominant digital platforms to prevent them from abusing their market power to harm competition, online businesses, and consumers.
Since announcing the legislation last week, support for the bill has grown. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) has joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) as an original cosponsor, and companies including Spotify, Roku, Match Group, and DuckDuckGo have endorsed the bill.
“As dominant digital platforms – some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen – increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed,” said Klobuchar. “Support for this bill continues to grow because American consumers, workers, and businesses know that it is past time to update our competition laws for the digital era. I am proud to introduce this much-needed legislation alongside Senator Grassley and a bipartisan group of our colleagues, and I look forward to it passing the Senate and being signed into law.”
“As Big Tech has grown and evolved over the years, our laws have not changed to keep up and ensure these companies are competing fairly. These companies have continued to become a larger part of our everyday lives and the global economy, controlling what we see and how we engage on the internet,” said Grassley. “Big Tech needs to be held accountable if they behave in a discriminatory manner. Our bill will help create a more even playing field and ensure that small businesses are able to compete with these platforms.”
“Time and again we have seen Big Tech use its power to stifle online competition and manipulate the marketplace,” said Daines. “This bipartisan bill will help level the playing field and ensure Montana business owners are able to have full access to the online marketplace to grow and create Montana jobs and support local economies.”
Sumit Sharma, senior researcher, tech competition at Consumer Reports, said, “These market rules should mean that consumer choice is not artificially constricted by the largest online platforms and consumers can more easily tailor services to suit their own needs. The rules will help break down the closed product and service ecosystems that so many of us find ourselves trapped in today.”
“We applaud this bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Klobuchar and Grassley, for taking a major step forward towards bringing real accountability and change to Big Tech. This legislation, combined with other bipartisan bills in the U.S. House are a serious and substantive set of solutions to address the power and abuses of Big Tech that have resulted in real harms to workers, small businesses, consumers, and innovation. We look forward to moving this proposal forward as well as additional measures to address the range of Big Tech abuses,” said Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen.
“Nondiscrimination protections like the ones in this bill are crucial for breaking down the power of Big Tech. Right now, dominant platforms can pick winners and losers to stay in power and benefit their own bottom line—to the detriment of the people who rely on them: consumers, innovators, and the small businesses. This bipartisan bill marks a meaningful step forward in the fight to protect consumers and competition online. We look forward to continuing to work with Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member Grassley, and the bipartisan group of cosponsors to strengthen the nondiscrimination protections in this bill. We want to cut down on the additional hoops enforcers have to jump through to bring a case against Big Tech discrimination, so that competition on and against dominant digital platforms will have a fair shot,” said Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Director at Public Knowledge.
“Big Tech corporations have been abusing their monopoly power for years, blatantly self-dealing and rigging marketplaces under the presumption that Congress would fail to stop them. Amid historic polarization in Washington, this bipartisan show of force sends an unmistakable message that the era of impunity is over. This bill takes direct aim at some of the most exploitative tactics Silicon Valley giants have long employed to unfairly entrench their dominance at the expense of consumers and competition. And it demonstrates unequivocally that lawmakers are ready to work across the aisle to take significant action to rein in Big Tech. We thank Senators Klobuchar and Grassley for their bipartisan leadership, and look forward to Congress moving forward on the full suite of aggressive antitrust reforms needed to unwind decades of corporate consolidation that – along with other Big Tech abuses that must separately be addressed – has undermined American democracy,” said Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech.
“We applaud today’s introduction of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. We thank Chair Klobuchar and Senator Grassley for the thoughtful crafting of this legislation. If passed into law, the proposal would strengthen and expand the tools at the government's disposal to restore competitiveness in the online market and promote an open and pluralistic web for consumers,” said Luther Lowe, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at Yelp.
“Gatekeeper platforms use their power to distort markets by manufacturing self-serving advantages at the expense of American consumers and competitors. They offer users fewer, less innovative choices and insulate themselves from competition, which leads to higher prices for consumers. At Spotify, we welcome the bipartisan introduction of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and thank Senators Klobuchar and Grassley for their steadfast leadership. With both the House and Senate now hard at work to modernize competition law, we look forward to Congress bringing an end to these discriminatory practices for the sake of consumer choice and the digital economy,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Spotify.
“Roku supports bipartisan efforts such as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act to modernize our competition laws, promote innovation, and protect consumers in the Digital Age,” said John Kelly, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Communications at Roku.
"This legislation directly addresses the threats to a competitive and fair marketplace that Senators Klobuchar and Lee identified during their April hearing. We support this bipartisan approach from Senators Klobuchar and Grassley, which establishes important protections that will put a stop to monopolies using their dominant position to charge discriminatory monopoly rents and unfairly control access to customers,” said Mark Buse, Senior Vice President of Global Policy at Match Group.
"When Google and other dominant tech companies self-preference their own products across their platforms, forcing people to use their services by default, it unfairly and purposefully blocks competitors like DuckDuckGo. And in the case of companies like Google and Facebook in particular, not only does this hurt competitors like us, it also significantly damages our society and democracy by pushing people into their surveillance business models. We support the American Innovation and Choice Online Act because it will make clear that self-preferencing behavior like this is illegal as well as allow consumers to actually choose the services they want to use without interference from dominant platforms,” said Gabriel Weinberg, CEO and Founder of DuckDuckGo.
“The Coalition for App Fairness is encouraged that members of Congress in both parties are paying attention to the anti-competitive practices of Apple and other tech gatekeepers,” said Meghan DiMuzio, executive director of Coalition for App Fairness. “We appreciate Senators Klobuchar and Grassley for their leadership and look forward to continuing our work to address the specific concerns of app developers and consumers around the world.”
“Choice is fundamental to competition. American consumers have been systematically denied access to critical information about their market choices. This new bill will fight strong arm tactics used by Big Tech to disadvantage their consumers and exclude competitors from the marketplace,” said Durbin.
“This legislation will help end Big Tech’s self-serving market manipulation. For too long, tech giants have been able to use their vast market dominance to unfairly boost their own products and services—and to disadvantage competitors. I’m proud to back this bipartisan bill to level the playing field, ensuring smaller competitors have a fighting chance and consumers have more options at fairer prices,” said Blumenthal.
“Big Tech has a track record of unfairly limiting consumer choices and thwarting free-market competition. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would help offer consumers more options at competitive prices from businesses online, which is what the American economy is supposed to do best,” said Kennedy.
“The nation’s largest tech companies, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, have faced accusations of prioritizing their own products on their platforms, using their market power to edge out competitors, and limiting consumers’ choice,” said Booker. “These discriminatory practices have been an issue for far too long, and it's time for Congress to step up and help restore competition to the digital marketplace. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would hold the largest tech platforms accountable by prohibiting these discriminatory practices, and ensure that their competitors can participate fairly in the marketplace.”
“In the absence of any meaningful regulations, Big Tech platforms are using the data they collect from companies on their platforms to create unfair advantages for themselves. These practices have stifled innovation and harmed their very consumers with a lack of choice. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would level the playing field and make sure that consumers and merchants in Wyoming have fair access to the marketplace,” said Lummis.
“Our competition laws haven’t kept pace with today’s economy. The result is online giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google who roll over potential competitors and harm consumers,” said Hirono. “By preventing tech giants from preferencing their own products, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act will bring real competition back to the online world.”
“For our digital economy to work for all Americans and all innovators, we need fair rules of the road. This bill ensures that dominant platforms aren’t engaging in self-preferencing or other discriminatory conduct that tilts the playing field in their favor and entrenches their dominance,” said Warner.
Hawley said, “For too long, Big Tech has run roughshod over small businesses, and lax antitrust enforcers have refused to do anything. No more. Congress is finally beginning to take these issues seriously. This bill will outlaw much of the discrimination and self-preferencing that tech companies currently get away with.”
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act will:
- Set clear, effective rules to protect competition and users doing business on dominant online platforms, including:
- Prohibiting dominant platforms from abusing their gatekeeper power by favoring their own products or services, disadvantaging rivals, or discriminating among businesses that use their platforms in a manner that would materially harm competition on the platform; and
- Prohibiting specific forms of conduct that are harmful to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and consumers, but that do not have any pro-competitive benefit, including:
- Preventing another business’s product or service from interoperating with the dominant platform or another business;
- Requiring a business to buy a dominant platform’s goods or services for preferred placement on its platform;
- Misusing a business’s data to compete against them; and
- Biasing search results in favor of the dominant firm.
- Give antitrust enforcers strong, flexible tools to deter violations and hold dominant platforms accountable when they cross the line into illegal behavior, including significant civil penalties, authority to seek broad injunctions, emergency interim relief, and potential forfeiture of executive compensation.
- Prevent self-preferencing and discriminatory conduct by the most economically significant online platforms with large U.S. user bases which function as “critical trading partners” for online businesses. For such platforms, the rules target harmful conduct, allowing the platforms to innovate, do business, and engage in pro-consumer conduct, including protecting user privacy and safety, preventing unlawful behavior, and maintaining a secure online experience for users.
# # #
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter urging the Biden Administration to make technology policy a priority at the upcoming ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the face of unprecedented advances by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia and other authoritarian regimes, Sen. Warner has stressed the importance of U.S. leadership on issues such as 5G telecommunications and semiconductors. In today’s letter to Secretary of State Blinken ahead of the meeting October 5-6, Warner highlighted the new threats facing democratic nations as a result of the PRC’s efforts to dominate next-generation technologies through a variety of tactics.
“Many countries have woken up to the risks of having a PRC-linked entity serve as the telecommunications infrastructure for their citizens and the risks of PRC access to the security and integrity of their citizens’ data and communications,” Sen. Warner wrote. “These risks extend to other next-generation technologies that rely on, and transmit, sensitive data and communications.”
“In addition, governments are building – and exporting – integrated systems relying on these technologies to conduct large-scale surveillance and censor speech,” Sen. Warner continued. “Efforts by the PRC and Russia to institute robust, scalable firewalls, preventing the free flow of ideas and commerce across the internet, have become the envy of authoritarian leaders across the world.”
Sen. Warner has long been a leader on U.S. technology innovation and has previously led bipartisan efforts to encourage U.S. advancement in the race for 5G, providing over $1 billion to invest in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE.
The OECD has a strong record of coordination around technologies such as artificial intelligence, wireless communications, semiconductors and bio-technology. It also released a report in May 2021 entitled, “Standard-Setting Review: Five-Year Report (2016-2021),” which reviewed existing OECD legal instruments and made recommendations on how to improve the OECD’s standard-setting activity.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
The Honorable Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Blinken:
I am writing to urge you to bolster the administration’s efforts to coordinate U.S. technology strategies with democratic partners and allies. As seen with 5G telecommunications and semiconductors, authoritarian governments seek to undercut U.S. leadership and dominate strategic and emerging technologies, frequently using them to advance anti-democratic objectives domestically and globally. The upcoming ministerial for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) offers an important opportunity to build upon the OECD’s existing work on standards for emerging technologies and to advance additional norms and practices related to technology policy alongside countries whose democratic values we share.
In the face of this rising threat from authoritarian governments, I have pushed for cooperation on technology policy with democracies through the creation of an International Democracy Technology Partnership. In May 2021, as you know, the U.S. Senate also passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which, among other measures, included an International Technology Security and Innovation Fund to advance these efforts.
Your recent establishment of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, as well as the inclusion of technology issues within the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue structure with Japan, India and Australia and the AUKUS agreement – a security pact with Australia and the United Kingdom-- are important steps in ensuring closer alignment around the development and deployment of strategic technologies and the accompanying policies and standards. However, we must do more to utilize existing international fora and a broader set of international partners as part of a well-resourced technology diplomacy strategy.
The OECD, an economic grouping largely made up of likeminded democratic countries, provides a forum for collaboration on rules and norms across a set of emerging technology issues in the face of growing challenges from authoritarian governments. In particular, the world is witnessing the People’s Republic of China’s efforts to dominate next generation and cutting edge technologies through a variety of tactics. For example, it works to influence standard setting bodies and multilateral bodies and organizations, subsidizes the participation by domestic firms in standardization efforts, provides government directed funds and subsidies to strengthen Chinese companies, and supports exports by preferred domestic firms through the government’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The PRC government’s push for the adoption of Huawei technology and Huawei-led standards for 5G has been the most prominent example of this trend. The PRC’s national champion, Huawei, strives to export 5G networking equipment globally, along with its standards. Many countries have woken up to the economic and security risks of having a PRC-linked entity provide the telecommunications infrastructure for their citizens and the risks of PRC access to the security and integrity of their citizens’ data and communications. These risks extend to other next-generation technologies that rely on, and transmit, sensitive data and communications.
Moreover, authoritarian governments are working to embed anti-democratic values into the standards and norms surrounding these technologies. We have seen this practice most acutely with artificial intelligence-related and facial recognition technology, as the PRC government is using these new technologies to facilitate massive surveillance and social control of its citizens, most prominently in Xinjiang. In addition, a number of governments are building – and exporting -- integrated systems that rely on these technologies to conduct large-scale surveillance and censor speech. Efforts by the governments of PRC and Russia to institute robust, scalable and impenetrable firewalls, preventing the free flow of ideas and commerce across the internet, have become the envy of other authoritarian leaders across the world.
The OECD has a strong record of coordination around technologies such as artificial intelligence, wireless communications, semiconductors and bio-technology. For example, the OECD recommended principles and guidelines for AI in 2019, and established an AI Policy Observatory in February 2020 for governments to share best practices in AI policy. It also released a report in May 2021, entitled, Standard-Setting Review: Five-Year Report (2016-2021), which reviewed existing OECD legal instruments and made recommendations on how to improve the OECD’s standard-setting activity. It has also provided important guidance on government guidance funds and state subsidies in the semiconductor supply chain.
I urge you to use the OECD’s upcoming ministerial meeting on October 5-6, 2021 to work to establish rules and norms around strategic technology issues, including development and governance strategies and best practices for communications applications, AI-enabled products and services, next-generation networks, Internet of Things devices, blockchain and fintech products, and renewable energies.
These technologies and their associated standards and norms are being developed now across various markets and international standards-setting organizations, with immediate repercussions for the economic competitiveness and national security of democratic nations. I urge you to leverage multilateral frameworks such as the OECD to advance coordination and establish norms surrounding these technology areas in concert with our likeminded allies and partners.
I stand ready to support these efforts in Congress.