Hillicon Valley: 50 attorneys general target Google on antitrust | Former DHS chiefs call for action on cybersecurity | Congressional Democrats zero in on election security | Tech urges passage of Trump's new NAFTA

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

STATES GO AFTER GOOGLE: A coalition of 50 attorneys general will be investigating Google for potential violations of antitrust law, a step that could potentially lead to a broad legal challenge to the company’s market dominance.

The investigation, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine (D), was announced on the steps of the Supreme Court building Monday afternoon after months of rumors about states seeking to turn up the pressure on Silicon Valley. 

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What they’re investigating: The probe will focus on Google’s dominance in the online search and advertising markets.

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“We have 50 attorneys general from across the nation who are involved in this investigation that we’re leading from Texas,” said Paxton. “This is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet as they dominate the buyers’ side, the sellers’ side, the auction side and even the video side with YouTube,” he said of Google.

“This investigation is not a lawsuit — this is an investigation to determine the facts, and right now we’re looking at advertising,” Paxton added. “But the facts will lead to where the facts lead.”

Who’s included: Paxton and Racine were joined at the announcement by attorneys general from Alaska, South Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Utah, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana and Nebraska. The coalition includes 48 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California and Alabama are the only two states not to join the investigation.

What could happen next: The probe is in very its early stages, and the group said they weren’t ready to discuss what kind of remedy they would pursue if they found that the internet search giant had violated competition laws.

The state-led effort comes as Google and other tech companies like Facebook are facing multiple investigations at the federal level over whether they have violated the nation’s antitrust laws.

Read more on the new investigation here.

 

…AND ICYMI: Google parent company Alphabet disclosed Friday that it received a formal request for information and documents from the Justice Department related to prior antitrust investigations that the internet search giant has faced.

“On August 30, 2019, Alphabet received a civil investigative demand from the DOJ requesting information and documents relating to our prior antitrust investigations in the United States and elsewhere,” the company said in a regulatory filing submitted on Friday. “We expect to receive in the future similar investigative demands from state attorneys general. We continue to cooperate with the DOJ, federal and state regulators in the United States, and other regulators around the world.”

The Justice Department announced earlier this summer that it was launching an antitrust review of major technology companies, after months of political pressure from Silicon Valley’s critics on Capitol Hill.

In a blog post accompanying the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker promised to comply with the increased regulatory scrutiny but touted the innovation that the company has contributed over the years.

Read more here. 

 

HOW ABOUT NOW?: Congressional Democrats are shining the spotlight back on election security as they struggle to push various bills across the finish line in the face of Republican opposition.

Democrats in both the House and Senate are renewing efforts to force the GOP-controlled Senate to allow votes on election security measures that have been stalled due to Republican concerns about federalizing elections and re-litigating the 2016 election interference by Russia.

Where leadership stands: Both House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill’s Morning Report – Congress returns: What to expect This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings Trump probes threaten to overshadow Democrats’ agenda MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats press Trump on background checks legislation GOP senator on gun reform: Trump needs to ‘set some guidelines’ on what he’ll sign Congress faces sprint to avoid another shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday sent letters to colleagues detailing their goals around election security for the fall.

“We must continue our push to protect our elections at the federal, state, and local levels, especially in the upcoming Senate appropriations process,” Schumer wrote, while criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMajority fear mass shooting in their community: poll Top Democrats press Trump on background checks legislation The Hill’s Morning Report – Congress returns: What to expect MORE (R-Ky.) for not allowing any votes on the topic.

Hoyer wrote that “the House may take up additional legislation to strengthen election security.”

Read more here. 

 

LISTEN UP: Three former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday testified that cybersecurity threats to elections and other critical infrastructure are major issues that could impact the security of the nation.

Former DHS Secretaries Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and Jeh Johnson all discussed the severity of cyber threats to the U.S. while testifying in New York City during a field hearing at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Napolitano, who served as secretary under President Obama from 2009 through 2013, listed cybersecurity as one of the top three threats DHS “can and must confront,” pointing to vulnerabilities in election infrastructure, utility grids, and other critical infrastructure as putting the country at risk. 

“Our adversaries and international criminal organizations have become more determined and more brazen in their efforts to attack us and to steal from us,” Napolitano said. “We need a whole of government and a whole of public and private sector response to this threat, and it needs to happen immediately. 

When asked by Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTexas Democrats unveil ‘path to victory’ plan for 2020 Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall Democrats walk tightrope in fight over Trump wall funds MORE (R-Utah) how the U.S. can best improve how it responds to cyber threats, Napolitano suggested establishing a commission similar to the one created following the Sept. 11 attacks to get ahead of the threats. 

“The report points out all these red flags that have arisen, and they said that a key critique is that our government leaders suffered from a failure of imagination,” Napolitano said of the 9/11 Commission’s findings. “In the cyber arena, we have all these red flags now, we should not entertain such a failure of imagination.”

Chertoff, who served as secretary under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, also highlighted cyber threats as a major issue facing the U.S., describing attacks on government systems and infrastructure as a “battle.”

Chertoff advocated for more resources to be given to DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a group that was formally established last year, in order to address threats such as election interference. 

Read more on the hearing here.

 

TRUMP CHEERS ON AT&T SHAKE-UP: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump awards Medal of Valor, civilian honors to responders in Dayton and El Paso shootings Texas Democrats unveil ‘path to victory’ plan for 2020 The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Congress returns with gun violence, funding atop agenda MORE on Monday seized on news that an activist investor group has a stake in AT&T to slam CNN, tweeting that the news network is “bad for the USA.”

“Great news that an activist investor is now involved with AT&T. As the owner of VERY LOW RATINGS @CNN, perhaps they will now put a stop to all of the Fake News emanating from its non-credible ‘anchors,’ ” Trump tweeted.

“Also, I hear that, because of its bad ratings, it is losing a fortune. But most importantly, @CNN is bad for the USA,” he continued. “Their International Division spews bad information & Fake News all over the globe.”

Trump also repeated his claim that foreign leaders often ask him why the U.S. media hates the country, an assertion he made during the Group of Seven summit last month. Foreign leaders have not publicly made similar comments, nor have they confirmed raising those concerns privately to Trump.

The president’s tweets came as part of a series of morning social media missives blasting news organizations and complaining that he does not receive proper credit for his administration’s accomplishments.

CNN spokesman Matt Dornic later tweeted that CNN “is having its most profitable year in history.”

Read more here.

 

USMCA TODAY: The U.S. tech industry is pushing Congress to pass President Trump’s revised North American trade pact, arguing the stalled legislation would modernize trade law to accommodate the digital economy.

A broad coalition of tech trade groups in a letter Monday argued the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rewrite includes language that would “set a new, global standard for rules that will benefit digital trade and e-commerce.”

The industry effort comes as lawmakers return to Washington this week from their August recess.

“NAFTA 2.0,” also known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), is one of Trump’s top legislative priorities for the fall. Democrats have refused to take up the trade deal without measures to strengthen some of its labor and environmental standards.

The tech industry, meanwhile, has rallied behind the USMCA by backing the provisions that offer intellectual property and data protections.

The signatories of Monday’s letter include the Internet Association, which represents Facebook, Google and Amazon; the Consumer Technology Association; the Computing Technology Industry Association; and the Information Technology Industry Council.

“Passing the USMCA would be a significant step not only towards guaranteeing the leadership of North America in the global digital economy, but also towards establishing a worldwide framework to address the challenges confronting global access and usage of digital trade,” the trade groups wrote.

Read more on the trade deal here.

 

SOUR APPLES: Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn on Monday acknowledged that they employed too many temporary workers in China while rebutting claims of lapses in people management, Reuters reported.

The statements came in response to a lengthy report from nonprofit monitor China Labor Watch accusing the two companies of breaching numerous Chinese labor laws, including one that limits temporary staff to 10 percent of the workforce.

Apple said in a statement obtained by Reuters that it investigated the percentage of temporary workers among the overall workforce and found it “exceeded our standards.”

The tech giant added that it was working with Foxconn to “immediately resolve the issue.”

It also said it discovered interns at a supplier facility had worked overtime at night, violating company policy, and that “this issue has been corrected.”

In a separate statement to Reuters, Foxconn also confirmed an over-reliance on temporary workers, known internally as dispatch workers.

“We did find evidence that the use of dispatch workers and the number of hours of overtime work carried out by employees, which we have confirmed was always voluntary, was not consistent with company guidelines,” Foxconn said.

The labor report came just days ahead of Apple’s unveiling of the next line of iPhones.

Read more here.

 

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