Startup News Digest 12/21/2018

The Big Story:  Lawmakers up privacy push after latest Facebook scandal. Following a bombshell report this week about Facebook’s data sharing practices, lawmakers are renewing their push for federal privacy protections for consumers online.

According to the report, Facebook granted access to users’ information and private messages without the users’ consent to major tech companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix. In a blog post, Facebook pushed back on the report and defended the practice of partnering with other companies to make Facebook features across different services and said most of the data-sharing with partners is a thing of the past.

But the report is likely to affect the broader debate happening over consumer privacy on the Hill. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)—one of the leading Democrats on tech issues on the Senate Commerce Committee—cited the report as he called for federal privacy legislation. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) who has been critical of Facebook and also sits on the Commerce Committee wrote a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons urging the agency to consider the report and pursue “strong legal remedies and major penalties on behalf of the consumers harmed by Facebook’s conduct.”

 Policy Roundup:

 $174.2 million for slow speeds. Following a lawsuit from the New York Attorney General’s office over misleading information about Internet speeds, Charter has agreed to pay $174.2 million, including $62.5 million to active customers.

A proposal for cryptocurrency. A new bipartisan bill from Reps. Warren Davidson (D-Ohio) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.) aimed at creating regulatory certainty by recognizing that traditional securities regulation don’t apply cleanly to cryptocurrencies.

Another troll bites the dust. Congratulations to Unified Patents who took down notorious patent troll, QuarterHill this week on a weak patent covering auto parts. Also, check out Engine’s latest video on how patents spur innovation, but weak patents have the opposite effect.

Privacy ombudsman push. Following the European Union’s annual review of Privacy Shield—a data deal that lets companies in the U.S. and EU bring and store data across the Atlantic—EU officials are calling on the U.S. government to follow through on its commitment to install an ombudsman to investigate data concerns.

Article 13 still under review. As European Union lawmakers wrap up for the year, the issues surrounding Article 13, a controversial proposal to require online platforms to filter user-generated content for copyrighted materials is still outstanding. Read a new piece by former Engine Policy Fellow, Damini Satija, explaining why the EU is coming for your memes with Article 13.

H-1B visa changes. Last week, Engine hosted a tele-roundtable with the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy to provide feedback on U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)’s proposed rule which creates an early registration process for the H-1B visa lottery for petitions. Comments are January 2, 2019 and Engine will also be submitting feedback.

Startup Roundup:

#StartupsEverywhere. Phoenix, A.Z.. Robyn Exton, founder of HER, started her company in Europe and expanded to the U.S., offering a unique perspective. She is supportive of policies that encourage more inclusive and diverse companies, from gender to country of origin.