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Broadband Roundup: Police Scanner App Downloads, Zoom and China, Big Tech Testimonies, Arthur Sidney

Elijah Labby

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Photo of encrypted messaging apps by PxHere used with permission

Downloads of police scanner apps and secure messaging apps have increased in response to concerns about a lack of privacy amid widespread protests, CNET reported.

Several companies have already committed to halting the development of facial recognition technologies. But protestors are still concerned that police will monitor their activities and use it against them.

Scanner apps allow protestors to listen to police communications, decipher their response to the protests and respond accordingly.

Encrypted messaging apps have proven valuable to the protestors, and several companies have leaned into the new market. Private texting app Signal has unveiled a feature that allows users to blur faces in photos before sharing them.

Neighborhood-based apps like Citizen and Nextdoor have also seen increased downloads in response to reports of looting and violence. They allow users to post videos of alleged unlawful activity as well as report such activity to the police.

Senators press Zoom for information about relationship with China

Twelve U.S. senators sent a letter to Zoom Friday, asking for more details about its decision to adhere to a Chinese request to close the account of a U.S.-based Chinese activist for commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Axios reported.

The massacre, during which the New York Times estimated that the Chinese military killed between 400 and 800 civilians, was in response to free speech protests in 1989.

Zoom faced heavy criticism because they decided to close the account, but the company justified their action by saying that “just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate.”

The company, virtually indispensable for teleworkers, must navigate the pro-democracy views of its home country and the authoritarian rule of the country where some of its employees and customers live.

House investigators ask Big Tech to testify

The House Judiciary Committee asked four Big Tech CEOs to testify as part of the its antitrust probe, Axios reported.

The Committee asked the CEOs of Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook to provide documents related to previous antitrust probes, and threatened to force testimony via subpoena if the companies do not meet the demand.

The Judiciary Committee is in the process of developing a report of their findings.

Amazon has faced extraordinary criticism in recent months for reports of improper work conditions amid the coronavirus as well as for its development of facial recognition for police use.

Many have also criticized Facebook for failing to remove several controversial posts from President Donald Trump, to which Twitter added warning labels and denounced as “glorifying violence.”

The pandemic has only made Big Tech bigger, with  Facebook and Twitter experiencing growing usership and Amazon netting $36.7 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2020.

Arthur Sidney appointed Vice President of CCIA

The Computer and Communications Industry Association has appointed Arthur Sidney as Vice President of Public Policy.

Sidney has worked at the Commerce Department's Office of the Chief Counsel for Import Administration and as Chief of Staff for Congressman Hank Johnson, D-Ga., as well as teaching at the American University Washington College of Law.

CCIA President Matt Schruers said that Sidney would play a crucial role in supporting economic growth “at a time when policymakers are increasingly focused on tech policy.”

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