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Main article: Government

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Official near-earth object plan will look into nuking asteroids and other ‘planetary defense missions’

02:49 | 21 June

Space is a big place, and mostly empty — but there’s no shortage of objects which, should they float our direction, could end life as we know it. A new national plan for detecting and handling such objects was proposed today, and it includes the possibility of nuclear strikes on the incoming asteroids and other “planetary defense missions.”

The plan, revealed and discussed this morning, is far from a joke — it’s just that the scales these threats operate at necessarily elevates the discourse to Hollywood levels.

It’s not so much “let’s do this” as “let’s figure out what we can do.” As such it has five major goals.

First, improve our ability to detect and track near-earth objects, or NEOs. We’ve been doing it for years, and projects like NEOWise have captured an incredible amount of these objects, ranging in size from the kind that will safely burn up in orbit, to those that might cause serious damage (like the Chelyabinsk one), to proper planet-killers.

But we often hear about NEOs being detected for the first time on near-collision courses just days before approach, or even afterwards. So the report recommends looking at how existing and new programs can be utilized to better catch these objects before they become a problem.

Second, improve our knowledge of what these objects can and have done by studying and modeling them. Not just so that we know more in general, but so that in the case of a serious incoming object we know that our predictions are sound.

Third, and this is where things go a little off the rails, we need to assess and develop NEO “deflection and disruption” technologies. After all, if a planet-killer is coming our direction, we should be able to do something, right? And perhaps it shouldn’t be the very first time we’ve tried it.

The list of proposed methods sounds like it was sourced from science fiction:

This assessment should include the most mature in-space concepts — kinetic impactors, nuclear devices, and gravity tractors for deflection, and nuclear devices for disruption — as well as less mature NEO impact prevention methods.

I wasn’t aware that space nukes and gravity tractors were our most mature concepts for this kind of thing! But again, the fact is that a city-sized object approaching at a significant fraction of the speed of light is an outlandish problem that demands outlandish solutions.

And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather we tried a space nuke once or twice on a dry run rather than do it live while Armageddon looms.

At first these assessments will be purely theoretical, of course. But in the medium and long term NASA and others are tasked with designing actual “planetary defense missions”:

This action includes preliminary designs for a gravity tractor NEO deflection mission campaign, and for a kinetic impactor mission campaign in which the spacecraft is capable of either functioning as a kinetic impactor or delivering a nuclear explosive device. For the latter case, the spacecraft would contain all systems necessary to carry and safely employ a nuclear explosive device, but would carry a mass simulator with appropriate interfaces in place of an actual nuclear device. Designs should include reconnaissance spacecraft and methods to measure the achieved deflection.

Actual flight tests “would not incorporate an actual nuclear device, or involve any nuclear explosive testing.” Not yet, anyway. It’d just be a dry run, which serves its own purposes: “Thorough flight testing of a deflection/disruption system prior to an actual planetary defense mission would substantially decrease the risk of mission failure.”

Fourth the report says that we need to collaborate on the world stage, since of course NEO strikes don’t exactly discriminate by country. So in the first place we need to strengthen our existing partnerships with countries sharing NEO-related data or studies along these lines. We should all be looking into how a potential impact could affect our country specifically, of course, since we’re the ones here — but that data should be shared and analyzed globally.

Last, “Strengthen and Routinely Exercise NEO Impact Emergency Procedures and Action Protocols.”

In other words, asteroid drills.

But it isn’t just stuff like “here’s where Boulder residents should evacuate to in case of impact.” As the document points out, NEO impacts are a unique sort of emergency event.

Response and mitigation actions cannot be made routine to the same degree that they are for other natural disasters such as hurricanes. Rather, establishing and exercising thresholds and protocols will aid agencies in preparing options and recommending courses of action.

The report recommends exploring some realistic scenarios based on objects or situations we know to exist and seeing how they might play out — who will need to get involved? How will data be shared? Who is in charge of coordinating the agencies if it’s a domestic impact versus a foreign one? (See Shin Godzilla for a surprisingly good example of bureaucratic paralysis in the face of an unknown threat.)

It’s strange to think that we’re really contemplating these issues, but it’s a lot better than sitting on our hands waiting for the Big One to hit. You can read the rest of the recommendations here.



Trump signs an executive order to detain families together at the border indefinitely

23:12 | 20 June

President Trump has signed an executive order to reverse a practice recently enacted by his own administration that resulted in the separation of children from their families at the border.

The language of the executive order, titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” points blame at Congress, echoing Trump’s previous statements demanding that this issue be resolved through legislation although it was not implemented through legislation.

The meat of the order:

“Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws. Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time. When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment under section 1325(a) of title 8, United States Code. This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce this and other criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise. It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources. It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.”

The executive order proposes a “temporary detention policy” that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to detain families attempting to enter the United States at the southern border “during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members.”

That portion of the order suggests that DHS would indefinitely detain a family, together while any of its members await prosecution and potential deportation, a policy that looks likely to violate a court decision known as the Flores Agreement. Because that legal precedent forbids the indefinite detainment of children at the border, the administration is likely gearing up for a clash in the courts.

As controversy around the southern border erupted in recent days, many major tech companies weighed in with vocal opposition to the Trump administration’s recent practice of separating adults who enter the U.S. illegally from the children they bring with them. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella also denounced the policy, though the company is facing both internal and external criticism over its previously announced intentions to supply deep learning and facial recognition software to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through a lucrative federal contract.



Microsoft says it is “dismayed” by the forced separation of migrant families at the border

07:08 | 19 June

Amid calls for a boycott and employee dissent over its cloud-computing deal with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Microsoft issued a statement saying that the company “is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border.” The ICE is currently under fire from both sides of the political spectrum for separating migrant parents from their children at the United States-Mexico border.

The controversy over Microsoft’s involvement with the ICE stems from an Authority to Operate (ATO) that the agency granted to Azure Government earlier this year. In a January blog post, Microsoft said the ATO would help the ICE deliver cloud-based identity and access services and “help employees make more informed decisions faster.” It also said that the use of its government compliant cloud computing software would enable ICE to “process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.”

Though the ATO has been public for six months already, it resurfaced as outrage grew over the separation of families, including those legally seeking asylum with children, with many social media users calling for a boycott of Microsoft and some employees considering resigning.

In its statement, however, Microsoft said it is not working with ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on “any projects related to separating children from their families at the border” and that it is unaware of Azure being used for that purpose. It also “urged” the Trump administration to change the policy.

Microsoft’s full statement is below. TechCrunch has contacted the company for more information.

In response to questions we want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose. As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border. Family unification has been a fundamental tenet of American policy and law since the end of World War II. As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families.



Kaspersky pulls plug on Europol joint venture after EU parliament vote to ban its software

14:45 | 18 June

Fresh political woes for Russian security firm Kaspersky, which has reacted angrily to a vote in the European Union Parliament last week to ban its software — on the grounds that it has been “confirmed as malicious“.

Kaspersky denies this characterization of its software, saying it’s “untrue”.

It has also retaliated by pulling the plug on an existing collaboration with Europol, at least temporarily.

In a statement, a company spokesperson said: 

Today, the European Parliament voted on a report in which Polish representative, MEP Fotyga included an amendment referencing Kaspersky Lab which is based on untrue statements. Although this report has no legislative power it demonstrates a distinct lack of respect for the company which has been a firm friend of Europe in the fight against cybercrime. It is for that reason that Kaspersky Lab has taken the difficult decision to temporarily halt our numerous collaborative European cybercrime-fighting initiatives, including that with Europol, until we receive further official clarifications from the European Parliament .

On account of this news, we will regretfully have to pause one of our successful joint initiatives – NoMoreRansom project – recognised by the European Parliament Research Services as a successful case of public-private cooperation in their recent report – helped many organisations and users to decrypt files on their devices, saving them from financial losses. We hope to be able to resume this and other European collaborative efforts soon.

Founder Eugene Kaspersky added that the company has been “forced to freeze” its co-operation as a result of the parliament’s vote.

The way we conducted public-private partnership is unfortunately ceased until the withdraw of the European Parliament decision.

— Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky)

“This decision from the European Parliament welcomes cybercrime in Europe. I do not wish to do anything to further encourage the balkanization of the internet, but I feel that the decision taken in Europe leaves me with no choice but to take definitive action. Kaspersky Lab has only ever tried to rid the world of cybercrime. We have showed time and again that we disclose cyber threats regardless of origin and author, even to our own detriment. This is a setback for the fight against cyber threat, but we remain undeterred in our mission – to save the world from Cybercrime,” he also said in a statement.

The security firm has been battling controversy for around a year now, after the US government became suspicious of ties between the company and Russian intelligence agencies — and went on to ban its products for government use in September last year.

Kaspersky has continued to deny the allegations. But in May this year it announced it would be moving some of its core infrastructure outside Russia in a bid to combat suspicion that its software has been hacked or penetrated by the Russian government and used as a route for scooping up US intelligence.

It reiterates the steps it has been taking — “as a sign of our commitment to transparency and openness” — in its response to the EU parliament’s vote, but also lashes out, accusing the parliament of taking a decision that “encourages cybercrime in Europe”.

“We believe that is does not contribute towards building an open and secure Digital Single Market but rather make it more fragmented and less competitive,” it also writes.

Our 400 million users around the globe, trust us to protect their data. We will continue to successfully work with institutions and organisations to deliver a tangible positive impact by fighting cybercrime and defending European and global citizens from cyberthreats. Indeed, in April the European Commission officially stated that ‘the Commission has no indication for any danger associated with this anti-virus engine’.”

Despite its aggressive response to the EU parliament’s motion, the company adds that it remains “willing to meet with MEPs to address any questions about the business, its leadership, expertise, technologies and methodology that they may have”.

During the vote last week, the parliament also resolved to perform “a comprehensive review of software, IT and communications equipment and infrastructure used in the institutions in order to exclude potentially dangerous programmes and devices”.



Breaking down France’s new $76M Africa startup fund

08:30 | 18 June

Jake Bright Contributor
Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa.

Weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a $76M African startup fund at VivaTech 2018, TechCrunch paid a visit to the French Development Agency (AFD) — who will administer the new fund — to get more details on how le noveau fonds will work.

The $76M (or €65M) will divvy up into three parts, according to AFD Digital Task Team Leader Christine Ha.

“There are €10M [$11.7M] for technical assistance to support the African ecosystem… €5M will be available as interest free loans to high potential, pre seed startups…and…€50M [$58M] will be for equity-based investments in series A to C startups,” explained Ha during a meeting in Paris.

The technical assistance will distribute in the form of grants to accelerators, hubs, incubators, and coding programs. The pre-seed startup loans will issue in amounts up to $100K “as early, early funding to allow entrepreneurs to prototype, launch, and experiment,” said Ha.

The $58M in VC startup funding will be administered through Proparco, a development finance institution—or DFI—partially owned by the AFD. The money will come “from Proparco’s balance sheet”…and a portion “will be invested in VC funds active on the continent,” said Ha.

Proparco already invests in Africa focused funds such as TLcom Capital and Partech Ventures. “Proparco will take equity stakes, and will be a limited partner when investing in VC funds,” said Ha.

Startups from all African countries can apply for a piece of the $58M by contacting any of Proparco’s Africa offices (including in Casablanca, Abidjan, Douala, Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg).

And what will AFD (and Proparco) look for in African startup candidates? “We are targeting young and innovative companies able to solve problems in terms of job creation, access to financial services, energy, health, education and affordable goods and services…[and] able to scale up their venture on the continent,” said Ha.

The $11.7M technical assistance and $5.8M loan portions of France’s new fund will be available starting 2019. On implementation, AFD is still “reviewing several options…such as relying on local actors through [France’s] Digital Africa platform,” said Ha.

Digital Africa­—a broader French government initiative to support the African tech ecosystem—will launch a new online platform in November 2018 with resources for startup entrepreneurs.

So that’s the skinny on France’s new Africa fund. It adds to a load of VC announced for the continent in less than 15 months, including $70 for Partech Ventures, TPG Growth’s $2BN Rise Fund, and $40M at TLcom Capital

Though $75M (and these other amounts) may pale compared to Silicon Valley VC values, it’s a lot for a startup scene that — at rough estimate—attracted only $400M four years ago.  African tech entrepreneurs, you now have a lot more global funding options, including from France.



NXP-Qualcomm $44b deal to clear China as Trump authorizes $50b tariffs

02:38 | 15 June

The U.S.-China trade battle enters an important new phase. The South China Morning Post is reporting that China’s Ministry of Commerce will clear Qualcomm’s pending $44 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors. One independent source also conveyed the same news to TechCrunch, although there has been no official word from Qualcomm, NXP, or China at time of publication.

That acquisition was expected to close months ago, but the Chinese government repeatedly delayed its assent to the deal as part of its on-going fight with the Trump administration over the future of bilateral trade. China’s ministry remained the last competition authority worldwide pending to approve the deal, and presumably it will close rapidly now that antitrust review has been completed.

The news of the approval broke just as the Wall Street Journal reported that the White House has authorized $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. The final list of goods that will be subject to the tariffs has not been released, although TechCrunch has done a data analysis on the last set of tariffs that focused on aluminum and steel imports. Direct news from the White House is expected Friday.

There has been a studied response and counter-response between the two countries over trade the past year, as both Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping sought high ground over the spat. The most recent set of issues has concerned ZTE, which was offered a reprieve by President Trump only to have its fate brought to Congress for a decision this week.

In my analysis on ZTE’s potential death sentence, I wrote this afternoon that:

Ironically — and to be clear on this view, I am not getting this from sources, but rather pointing out a unique strategy vector here — it might well be Qualcomm that uses its DC policy shop to try to save ZTE. Those lobbyists protected Qualcomm from a takeover by Broadcom earlier this year, and it could try to make the case to Congress that it will be irreparably damaged if legislators don’t back off their threats.

The timing of the approval for Qualcomm could come with an understanding that it help ZTE with its Congressional woes. Qualcomm has already agreed to form a strategic partnership with Baidu in the interim around AI and deep learning, which one source said to me was part of a package of concessions offered to placate Beijing.

Without a doubt, the news will prove a rare bit of relief for Qualcomm, which has been buffeted by challenges over the past year, including its hostile takeover battle with Broadcom and ongoing patent lawsuits with some of its biggest customers like Apple. Shareholders are likely to be enthusiastic with the outcome, and the stock was up 3% in after hours trading following the news.

The acquisition of NXP is expected to provide a new set of technologies and patents for Qualcomm, particularly in strategic growth spaces like automotive, where Qualcomm has been weak on its product side.



ZTE has few cards left to play to avoid “death penalty”

21:09 | 14 June

It’s not every day you see a company that employs 75,000 and once had a market cap of $20 billion facing instant doom on an hour-by-hour basis.

But that’s the situation that Chinese telecom firm ZTE finds itself in right now. Following revelations that the company sold equipment with U.S. technology to Iran and North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions, President Trump decided to kill the company. Then he decided not to kill it. Now, this week, Congress is deciding whether to kill it or not, much to the chagrin of the White House, who thought the matter closed. Senators like Tom Cotton (R-AK) this week have said they believe that the “Death penalty is right penalty for ZTE’s behavior.”

Before we go further, let’s step back for a moment and just muse about what is happening here. Congress and the White House are politicking back and forth over the fate of one of China’s crown jewel tech companies, with tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs at stake. If that isn’t the definition of hegemonic power, I don’t know what is. And remember that both branches of government are run nominally by the same party.

China has been leveraging its long-awaited approval of Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP Semiconductors to push the Trump Administration to concede to ZTE’s survival. The Trump administration has gotten that message loudly and clearly, which is among many reasons why it ended up selecting a $1 billion fine as the penalty and trying to move on.

Congress, though, knows no such logic. It can’t handle the sort of multistep logic that connects Qualcomm’s success on NXP to U.S. dominance in 5G to ZTE’s survival. That’s three steps, and that’s probably three steps too much for the collective wisdom of Congress to comprehend.

ZTE’s execution has now taken on its own political momentum. Worse for ZTE, the momentum is bipartisan, with perhaps even more aggression on the Democratic side than the Republican one. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was quoted by The Hill saying that saving ZTE “… would send a bad signal to anybody around the world watching that you can violate U.S. sanctions law with impunity and we shouldn’t be doing that.”

For Democrats, hitting Trump hard on trade, National Security, and China is a very powerful political weapon in an election year. Since the administration has come to an agreement with ZTE, its position is now fixed, allowing the senators free rein to be tougher than Trump on the issue.

Ironically — and to be clear on this view, I am not getting this from sources, but rather pointing out a unique strategy vector here — it might well be Qualcomm that uses its DC policy shop to try to save ZTE. Those lobbyists protected Qualcomm from a takeover by Broadcom earlier this year, and it could try to make the case to Congress that it will be irreparably damaged if legislators don’t back off their threats.

The irony of course is that the renewed trade jingoism in Congress is a function of Qualcomm’s fight against nominally Singapore-based Broadcom. Qualcomm got the deal blocked on national security grounds, and now has to face those same national security concerns hitting it on the closure of its most important corporate transaction. That classic short-term political thinking earlier this year will make moving forward for the company very difficult here.

ZTE’s cards are few outside of Beijing’s direct interventions. First, it is applying for loans that might reach as much as $10.7 billion from two banks in China according to the Financial Times. It’s also adding a slate of new directors to its board, to match its agreement with the Trump administration. That’s smart, since the more the deal seems to accomplish, the less impetus Congress has to act to kill the company.

ZTE has other cards it could play. One would to push for a massive expansion into the U.S. That of course contradicts its past history as well as its telco brother Huawei, who has been mostly barred from entering the U.S. market. Nonetheless, given the priorities of this administration, I am surprised that there hasn’t been more attempts by ZTE to move jobs and manufacturing to U.S. soil as a peace offering, while gaining the vital support of at least some senators who see jobs springing up in their backyards.

Another option for ZTE would be to increase its corporate transparency. Again, like Huawei, ZTE’s leadership remains relatively opaque, with Communist Party links that have never been fully explained. ZTE is a valuable asset for the Chinese government and economy, and there is a way of potentially blunting some of the momentum in Congress if it was willing to come forth with more info and commit to future work on its transparency.

I don’t expect ZTE to use any of these cards. I am not even sure the Chinese government wants to prevent the company’s death. An execution ordered by Congress is about the clearest sign the CCP leadership could send to its population that economic development must continue at any cost. Li Yuan in the New York Times called this China’s Sputnik Moment, and I think that is apt. If Congress kills ZTE, it won’t be the death of a major Chinese company, but rather the death of open economies and the birth of a renewed nationalism around trade.



Seattle reverses controversial tax Amazon opposed, just a month after approving it

20:38 | 14 June

In an embarrassing and mystifying about-face, the Seattle City Council has repealed a tax it passed unanimously just a month ago that would require large companies to pay a fixed amount per employee; the money would have been used to combat homelessness. Amazon was the most high-profile opponent of the tax, but not the only one by far, and apparently the Council decided that fighting the business community was “not a winnable battle.”

The situation was in some ways a microcosm for government and grassroots efforts to wrangle with the extremely complex relationship between the growth of tech and various housing crises. I won’t attempt to characterize it here, but Seattle had come to the conclusion that if your company had more than $20 million in receipts, it could afford to pay $275 (down from a proposed $500) per employee per year.

That would have been some $11 million from Amazon alone, so it fussed mightily and halted construction on several of its skyscrapers downtown. But ultimately it and other seemed to reach an unhappy compromise with the reduced per-employee amount.

Not so: after fighting to have the law modified, Amazon, Starbucks, and Paul Allen’s Vulcan immediately lent their weight and cash to a referendum campaign that would put the tax up to a popular vote in November.

This prospect apparently spooked the City Council so much that a special meeting was announced less than a day in advance, violating Washington’s own law requiring 24 hours’ notice. At this meeting the members voted 7-2 to repeal the tax that just a month earlier they had so confidently stood behind. Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant were the only holdouts, and cried shame on their peers: Sawant, known for her fiery rhetoric (perhaps too much so, as it has invited costly lawsuits), called it a “cowardly betrayal.”

And indeed, the questionable merits of the proposed tax aside, it seems strange to think that the Council could feel itself so right just a month ago, and now, faced with the prospect of having to convince the public that it’s a good idea, completely abandoned that conviction. Inspiring government it isn’t.

As some have said, perhaps it would be more convincing if there was a detailed and justified plan for how to address the homelessness problem in Seattle, and then a fundraising campaign — including taxes on businesses — created to enable it. Putting the latter before the former struck many as exemplary of a spendy local government of taxing first and making policy later.

At any rate it may be remembered, perhaps not entirely accurately, as a moment when Seattle tried to reach out and touch Big Tech and Amazon slapped them down. Though that oversimplifies the situation greatly, there’s an element of truth to it and we may see it referenced as others mount similar attempts.



Apple confirms that it will seal up law enforcement’s favorite iPhone cracking method

01:25 | 14 June

A new version of iOS will block a controversial loophole that law enforcement agencies have leveraged in order to crack into locked iPhones. In an upcoming version of iOS (likely iOS 12), Apple will include a feature known as USB Restricted Mode which limits access to a locked iPhone through its USB port.

The feature previously appeared in the iOS 11.3 beta, making its way into the iOS 12 beta and now the company has confirmed that the security patch will make it into a final iOS release. With USB Restricted Mode, an iPhone’s Lightning port will lock one hour after the phone is locked. In that mode, which will be the default, only charging will be possible through the port after the initial one hour period has expired.

“We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data,” Apple told TechCrunch in an emailed statement.

“We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.”

That solution should thwart iPhone cracking devices like those made by GrayShift and Cellebrite. Such devices, particularly GrayShift’s GrayKey, which promises to unlock even new iPhone models, use the USB port to access a locked iPhone in order to crack its password using more attempts than would normally be allowed. That process can take anywhere from two hours to more than three days, depending on the length of the iPhone’s password.

Federal agencies including the FBI, DEA, State Department, Secret Service and least five states already have the GrayKey device or are in the process of obtaining it.

The FBI’s third-party solution to iPhone cracking became a lightning rod in the clash between agency and Apple in the aftermath of 2016’s San Bernardino mass shooting, with Apple pressing the FBI for details on the security vulnerability and the FBI playing its tools close to its chest.

As Apple moves to neutralize GrayKey and similar devices, anyone looking to crack into the company’s famously secure iPhone is going to need to try a new tack — and maybe figure out what to do with their now defunct $15,000 or $30,000 hacker toy in the process.



Democrats introduce an election security bill that proposes paper trails and mandatory audits

22:28 | 13 June

As primaries ramp up in states across the U.S., concerns about election cybersecurity are mounting too. This week, a group of Democratic senators introduced a bill to mitigate some of the well-established risks that the nation’s uneven mix of voting machines and election systems poses.

The new bill, known as the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act, proposes two significant measures. First, because not all digital voting systems produce a paper trail, it would require all state and local elections to ensure that their equipment produces voter-verified paper ballots that can be cross-referenced. Second, for all federal elections regardless of outcome, state and local governments would be required to conduct audits comparing digital ballots to a random selection of paper ballots. The latter policy would cover the 22 states that currently don’t require audits following elections.

“Leaving the fate of America’s democracy up to hackable election machines is like leaving your front door open, unlocked and putting up a sign that says ‘out of town.’ It’s not a question of if bad guys get in, it’s just a question of when,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement accompanying the bill.

Voting integrity is one of Wyden’s pet issues and the senator has pressed for his home state of Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to be adopted nationally.

Wyden is joined by Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren on the legislation. Congressman Earl Blumenauer plans to introduce a corresponding bill in the house.

“We know that Russia hacked into American voter systems to influence our election – and we know they’ll try to do it again,” Sen. Warren said. “Our national security experts have warned us that the country’s election infrastructure is vulnerable – this bill will take important steps to help secure it.”

While the bill isn’t a bipartisan proposal — yet, anyway — these same measures are widely supported by election security experts as well as the Department of Homeland Security and a Senate Intelligence Committee report offering recommendations for securing the vote from earlier this year.

The full text of the bill is embedded below.


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Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short