POLITICO's Morning Tech, presented by Samsung: Cook: Apple not backing down on privacy fight — Techies talk agenda for H-1B reform — Judiciary hearing on IP

By Li Zhou | 04/19/2017 10:01 AM EDT

With help from Margaret Harding McGill and Nancy Scola

COOK: APPLE NOT BACKING DOWN IN PRIVACY FIGHT - In a hard-charging speech last night at the Newseum where he accepted a 2017 Free Expression Award, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that defending its customers' abilities to speak freely is "a responsibility that Apple takes very seriously." And while he never uttered the word encryption, the company's fight with the FBI over unlocking an iPhone tied to the 2015 San Bernardino shootings was by all appearances the context for him declaring "we will continue to stand up for human rights, including the right to privacy."

"Companies can and should have values," Cook explained. At Apple, he said, "we have a perspective on major public issues, and we are prepared to take a stand for things that we deeply believe in." And his company, he argued, shouldn't be an outlier: "Hopefully more and more people are coming around to the view that a company is not some faceless, shapeless thing that exists apart from society. A company is a collection of human beings and part of the fabric of our society. A company like ours has a culture. It has values. And it has a voice. Apple has spoken out and will continue to speak out for what we believe as a company."

A healthy democracy requires listening, too, Cook added. "We must be open to opposing and alternative points of view - not alternative facts, but alternative opinions, experiences, and arguments," Cook said at the ceremony, whose other awardees included ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz and Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.

TECHIES TALK AGENDA FOR H-1B REFORM - Tech groups said they're prepared to work with the Trump administration following the president's signing of his "Buy American, Hire American" executive order that includes a review of the efficacy of the H-1B visa program, Ashley reports . However, while tech has expressed broad optimism about the updates that could result from reviewing the H-1B visa program, it's also coming at the issue with the hopes of promoting specific reforms, some of which Congress has previously faltered on. One change tech is particularly interested in is deterring the use of H-1B visas by low-wage staffing programs, which include outsourcing operations that bring in workers at a lower average pay grade, than the typical wages offered by top tech companies.

- The fine print: The executive order, which came out last night, isn't heavy on the specifics for reforming the H-1B program. It reads: "In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries."

- "We should [improve our high-skilled immigration system] in a targeted manner by increasing the wage floor, treating super-dependent companies differently and banning their ability to do third-party placement," says Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group founded by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Tech:NYC's executive director Julie Samuels also sounded a note of caution and said she hoped that the proposed review would bolster the talent that the H-1B program attracts, rather than weaken it. "Our tech companies understand that H-1B needs reform and we welcome a review of the program, but we must ensure that those reforms attract more highly skilled workers, not fewer." For the first time in five years, there was a decline in the number of H-1B visa applications this year.

- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a longstanding supporter of H-1B reforms, praised the constraints introduced by the order. "I'm grateful that President Trump has taken my suggestions to heart by taking steps today to protect American workers and preserve limited H-1B visas for truly qualified, high-skilled foreign workers," he said. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was bit more skeptical. He asked Trump to provide a concrete plan for reforms rather than simply conducting a review. "If he'd stop demonizing immigrants and work with us on immigration reform, we could get something done, something real, not just a study," he said.

GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where we're raiding all the stores for discounted Easter candy. Send your tech, telecom and transition tips to lzhou@politico.com and @liszhou. As always, catch the rest of the team's contact info after Quick Downloads.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS - The Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing on intellectual property scheduled for next Tuesday, April 25.

** A message from Samsung: At Samsung, we believe that the Internet of Things has the potential to accelerate solutions to some of our biggest challenges in healthcare, energy, infrastructure and the environment. But to reach IoT's potential, we must help these technologies connect and scale into a force for transformation. Learn more about our vision for IoT. Samsung.com/VisionForTomorrow **

NEXT-GEN TV EMERGENCY ALERTS - POLITICO's neighbor Sinclair Broadcast Group hosted a demonstration at its WJLA-TV office Tuesday of what emergency alerts for tornadoes or missing children could look like when transmitted using the next-generation TV standard known as ATSC 3.0. Get ready for something pretty different than we have today. Representatives from the Advanced Warning and Response Network, or AWARN Alliance, showed how future alerts with photos, maps, safety tips, hospital wait times and other detailed information could be conveyed over the airwaves to TVs and laptops. The IP-based standard will also allow for geo-targeted alerts that could be used to tell viewers in a tailored location of an impending emergency. Sinclair is a major backer of the technology, and the FCC is mulling a proposal that would allow broadcasters to use the technology on a voluntary basis. A glimpse of the demonstration here, here and here.

GATES ON TRUMP 'PRAGMATISM' - "Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates says he's counting on Donald Trump's pragmatism when it comes to the president's policies on health spending and foreign aid," Bloomberg reports. "'I've talked to him about HIV and how the U.S. should be proud of our work there,' Gates said in an interview with Bloomberg Television's Manus Cranny in Geneva, less than a month after meeting with Trump at the White House. 'This dialog is important: you've seen his pragmatism on a number of things, and I'm certainly hoping that these health-related budgets receive some of that attention.'"

SILICON VALLEY MUST-READS -

- Facebook F8 rundown: Zuckerberg at the tech giant's annual developers conference highlighted augmented reality as a focus for the company in the future and announced the debut of "Camera Effects," a feature that's open to developers and takes direct aim at rival Snapchat. ... The bots have it: Facebook vice president David Marcus revealed that there are now 100,000 bots that are active on Facebook messenger. ... Zuckerberg also addressed the recent murder that was uploaded to Facebook, expressing his condolences to the family of the victim and saying the company needs to improve its approach to monitoring content. "We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening," he said, without offering any specifics.

- Theranos settles on Arizona refund: The beleaguered blood-testing company will dole out $4.65 million in refunds to all customers in Arizona that used its service, the AP reports. This settlement includes more than 175,000 people who had purchased blood tests, only a small fraction of which were accurate.

- Verizon CEO's merger mentions: CEO Lowell McAdam says he's receptive to conversations with Comcast Corp., Walt Disney Co. and CBS Corp. about potential mergers, Bloomberg reports. The wireless giant is aggressively pursuing growth of its online advertising business and developing a fiber-optic network that will provide the groundwork for 5G. Verizon's acquisition of Yahoo's online assets is expected to close in June, Yahoo noted during its quarterly earnings report on Tuesday.

MEANWHILE IN EUROPE - The European Union is looking to hear from its residents about their deepest, darkest fears with regard to the future of the internet, The Guardian reports . The EU has plans to roll out a series of surveys in the next few weeks to take the temperature on people's views about everything from artificial intelligence to privacy to net neutrality. The Guardian is among the European publications that will share the results of these surveys. "We believe the digital world should respect the same values and rights we enjoy in the physical one," said Jesús Villasante, a commission official. "We also believe Europe has the potential to be a key player in internet matters even if many important decisions are taken elsewhere."

MORE LAWMAKERS CHIME IN ON BDS - Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) leapt into the fray on business data services, urging the FCC to delay its vote on regulations overseeing competition in the business broadband market, via a letter to Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday. ... Arkansas lawmakers Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Rep. French Hill, all Republicans, also asked Pai to establish a "reasonable transition period" while imposing the order, to ensure that all affected businesses have the opportunity to adapt to new pricing schemes or purchase necessary equipment. ... A vote on the order is scheduled for the FCC meeting on Thursday.

TRANSITIONS - Robert McDowell, a FCC commissioner who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, heads to Mobile Future as its chief public policy adviser. He leads the telecom group from Cooley LLP, where he works on telecom, media and tech accounts.

- "Rubio's longest serving staff adviser leaves for TechNet," by POLITICO Florida's Marc Caputo: "Sen. Marco's Rubio's longest-serving paid adviser, Alex Burgos, is leaving the Republican's Capitol Hill office to lobby and plot strategy for the technology industry. Burgos will officially begin work at TechNet - which bills itself as the "national, bipartisan network of innovation economy CEOs and senior executives" - on April 25 as its vice president of federal policy, government relations, and communications. Read the story here.

QUICK DOWNLOADS

Carly Fiorina contemplates Senate run: The former Republican presidential candidate, tech executive and Virginia resident could be eyeing a run for Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine's seat, CNN reports.

IBM's sees revenue dip: The company missed Wall Street expectations for the first time in five quarters due to lagging interest in its IT services, Reuters reports.

Baidu's foray into autonomous vehicles: "Baidu Inc said on Tuesday it would open its self-driving car technology for restricted environment in July this year," Reuters reports.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Alex Byers (abyers@politico.com, @byersalex), Eric Engleman (eengleman@politico.com, @ericengleman), Angela Greiling Keane (agreilingkeane@politico.com, @agreilingkeane), Nancy Scola ( nscola@politico.com, @nancyscola), Margaret Harding McGill (mmcgill@politico.com, @margarethmcgill), Ashley Gold (agold@politico.com, @ashleyrgold) and Li Zhou (lzhou@politico.com, @liszhou)

** A message from Samsung: At Samsung, we believe that the Internet of Things has the potential to accelerate solutions to some of our biggest challenges in healthcare, energy, infrastructure and the environment. IoT is already delivering smarter homes, smarter offices, and increased efficiency. In the coming years, IoT will fuel smarter cities, smarter nations, and a smarter world. In both the IoT economy and downstream, these innovations will drive productivity, growth, and jobs. But to truly reach its potential, we must provide for these emerging IoT technologies to connect and scale into a force for transformation. Learn more about our vision for IoT. Samsung.com/VisionForTomorrow **

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