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ICYMI- Yelp joining the Internet Association

Facial recognition talks kick off at NTIA — Yelp joining the Internet Association — SoftBank to decide on T-Mobile
Posted 02/06/14 10:01 AM EDT

DRIVING THE DAY: FACIAL RECOGNITION TALKS KICK OFF AT NTIA — The Obama administration’s second round of industry and consumer group discussions begin in earnest this afternoon, where participants are slated to pick up a thorny facial recognition issue that’s becoming ever more present in privacy debates. Three introductory panels cover today’s agenda, designed to outfit the group with a baseline understanding of how facial recognition technology works, and NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling is slated to kick things off. “I hope that today’s meeting is the first step in a process that will result in a consensus code of conduct that applies the [Administration’s] Privacy Blueprint’s seven principles to facial recognition technology,” he’ll say according to prepared remarks obtained by MT. “However, the purpose of today’s meeting is not to draft a code, or even to begin drafting. Our goal today is to have a factual discussion that establishes a common level of technical understanding within the group.”

The laying-the-groundwork focus of the NTIA effort, to some extent, acknowledges that there’s been a lack of confidence amongst several civil society groups that the process is well-suited to meaningfully build privacy protections into new technologies. The last set of talks, on mobile app transparency, produced a code of conduct that some groups argued pays lip service to the core privacy concerns facing modern consumers. That document’s currently in a testing phase. Background on the new effort, in which Facebook and Microsoft will participate, here:

BUZZ: YELP JOINING THE INTERNET ASSOCIATION — Online review site Yelp is joining the relatively nascent Internet-firm advocacy organization, the group is set to announce this morning. It’s a logical next step for Yelp, which picked up former Issa aide Laurent Crenshaw in October as its first policy man in Washington. The firm spent $30,000 in lobbying last quarter, filings show, focusing on topics like patent reform, competition issues, and anti-SLAPP laws.

SOFTBANK TO DECIDE ON T-MOBILE BID WITHIN WEEKS — Bloomberg’s Alex Sherman, Takashi Amano and Scott Moritz: “SoftBank Corp.’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son and Sprint Corp. Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse plan to decide in the next few weeks whether to move ahead on a bid for T-Mobile US Inc. after speaking with U.S. regulators, people with knowledge of the matter said. Son will also meet with T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom to relay those conversations so the two companies can determine if they should begin structuring a deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Deutsche Telekom asked Son to gauge regulatory sentiment for such a deal, said two of the people.”

“SoftBank, which holds a controlling stake in Sprint, is attempting to convince the U.S. government that merging the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers will increase competition and improve prices and options against Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. While the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission haven’t completely dismissed the idea, they’ve resisted the concept of a Sprint and T-Mobile combination in preliminary talks with Son, three people said.”

GOOD THURSDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where we spent most of last night reading through a Reddit thread about facts that sound fake but are actually real. Relatedly, our head hurts. Bring us back to earth with your tech and telecom gossip — always happy to hear from you at and @byersalex. Catch the rest of the team’s contact info after speed read.

TRACKING TECH OUTPACES D.C. DEBATE — Erin has the story, for Pros: “Lawmakers, regulators and privacy advocates have been working for years to create a Do Not Track system that lets consumers cover their digital footprints on the Web, but the exploding use of smartphones, with their differing technology standards, is threatening to render the effort obsolete…Most DNT efforts have centered on how to curtail so-called cookies — small pieces of data placed in a Web browser, often without the user’s knowledge — that help advertisers follow users across websites. But those cookies don’t work well on mobile devices..The rapid shift to a post-cookie world is raising concerns for privacy advocates, who say existing DNT efforts don’t focus heavily on mobile advertising technology and may be falling behind the curve.”

** Protecting America’s TV Viewers From Pay-TV Blackouts and Rising, a new coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, diverse multicast channels and others, launched today to help protect consumer interests by preserving a fair and free video marketplace. **

VANROEKEL KEYNOTES AT FED IT CONFERENCE — The executive branch’s chief information officer is set to update this afternoon the federal technology crowd on a handful of initiatives designed to ignite the federal government’s leveraging of tech tools. Steven VanRoekel, who President Obama put on the job in 2011 and has been a key federal IT adviser ever since, keynotes the ACT-IAC Igniting Innovation showcase — he’ll touch on the White House’s Digital Government Strategy, the open data executive order, and money-saving efficiency effort called PortfolioStat, according to an OMB official. He’ll likely touch, too, on the government’s approach to tech projects — an issue that’s obviously drawn plenty of fire in the wake of the Obamacare website rollout. He goes on at 3:45.

TELECOM ACT REWRITE: WHERE TO BEGIN? — That’s the question that was posed by the House telecom subcommittee in a white paper last month, and the panel this month is getting its ear chewed off. More than 100 telecom companies, consumer groups, and others replied to the panel’s request for comment, offering varied proposals on the principles to follow as lawmakers go through the multi-Congress effort of modernizing the nation’s communications law. From the industry side, there was the familiar refrain in favor of a light regulatory touch. As USTelecom put it: “Congress should eliminate laws designed for a monopoly era as well as those intended to provide the [Federal Communications] Commission and states with the ability to micromanage the development of competition.”

Others, like Free Press, warned that the core tenets of even a decades-old law like the Communications Act aren’t necessarily off base. Rather, the group said, they need to be properly applied. “We believe it is critical for members to understand that any perceived flaws in the law have much less to do with the immutable text of the law, and far more to do with the subsequent implementation by the [FCC],” they wrote. House GOP lawmakers say they plan to continue holding discussions on how to proceed over the course of the year. All 114 comments, here:

TECH FIRMS WEIGHING IN AT ROCKEFELLER’S DISTRACTED DRIVING SEMINAR —Officials from several major tech and telecom companies are coming to the table of a distracted driving summit held by the Senate Commerce Committee today. Reps from Apple, Google, Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, Sprint, CTIA and CEA, and ACT are all slated to speak on at least one of three panels being convened this morning, largely on how technology can help mitigate the likelihood of distracted driving. Panel chairman Jay Rockefeller moderates the day’s final discussion, challenging tech and auto industry players to come up with new solutions. “We are all aware that distracted driving is unsafe but so many of us, including myself, are tempted to use our phones while we are driving,” Rockefeller said in a statement. “My hope is that we can spur existing or new technology that will encourage drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes and minds focused on the road.” Things start at 10 a.m.