Nov 24, 2021

Axios Login

Peter here. What's the most unique dish in your family's Thanksgiving feast? I grew up with "broccoli casserole," an unholy union of frozen broccoli, minute rice, Cheez Whiz, Ritz Crackers and cream of mushroom soup. Bon appétit!

Today's newsletter is 1,151 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Congress decimates 911's digital upgrade

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Public safety officials fear the nation's 911 centers will continue to languish in the analog era, after Democrats slashed proposed funding for a digital makeover in their social spending bill, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Why it matters: The potentially life-saving ability for people to send texts, pictures or videos to 911 centers, and for centers to seamlessly share data with each other, remains out of reach for many of the country’s 6,000 centers.

What's happening: The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a proposal that would have spent $10 billion on next-generation 911 centers in September, but that funding was reduced to $470 million for deployment in the final House version of the Build Back Better Act.

  • A cost report to Congress on next-generation 911 from 2018 estimated it would take about $12 billion to implement the networks nationwide, though advocates say $15 billion might be needed.
  • To say I'm disappointed is to put it mildly," Brian Fontes, CEO of NENA: The 911 Association, told Axios. "It's extraordinarily unfortunate."

How it works: Next-generation 911 would allow centers to accept multimedia from those in need and let centers share data among themselves easily to ensure the best response.

  • For example, a smartwatch wearer having a heart attack could send a 911 alert, said Capt. Mel Maier of the Oakland County, Michigan, Sheriff's Office, who chairs the Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition.
  • "We've had people in the closet because they're hiding from a domestic violence" incident text 911, Maier said. And because it's not a community his 911 center serves, he said he’s had to relay caller information by phone to another emergency response center due to incompatible texting programs.
  • Roughly 3,000 911 centers can receive text messages, according to an FCC report.

The intrigue: The proposed $10 billion in Build Back Better funding was cut as part of the negotiations with the Senate to bring down the total, sources told Axios.

What they're saying: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) told Axios in a statement he fought for funding levels closer to the $10 billion during the negotiations, and will continue to seek additional funding.

Between the lines: Funding next-generation 911 and public safety is a bipartisan issue that ended up in a partisan spending bill.

  • Congress previously authorized $115 million for improvements in 2012, but not enough for a full transition.

What's next: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said senators would act as "quickly as possible" to take up the Build Back Better legislation after House passage.

  • If approved as is, the $470 million could be used for pilot programs or for some states to upgrade existing capacities. But that will lead to unequal levels of service.
  • "We will be a nation of haves and have-nots if we don't get this funded, and that's the last thing I'd want to have, particularly when it comes to one's own need for 911," Fontes told Axios.
2. Apple sues NSO Group over spyware use

Photo: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Apple filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Israeli cyber intelligence companies NSO Group and its parent company to "hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users," Axios' Ivana Saric reports.

Details: Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using Apple devices, software, or services, per a press release.

  • Apple's legal complaint brings to light new information on how NSO Group used its Pegasus software to infect users' devices, and about the group's exploit of a now-patched security flaw first discovered by watchdog group Citizen Lab.

State of play: The NSO Group's Pegasus software made news earlier this summer after an international consortium of investigative journalists revealed it had become a valuable tool for governments to spy on journalists, critics and heads of state.

  • Earlier this month, the U.S. blacklisted NSO Group for engaging in activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.

What they're saying: "State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change," Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, said in the press release.

The other side: "Pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it. NSO Group will continue to advocate for the truth," an NSO Group spokesperson told Axios.

3. Lawsuit alleges PlayStation gender discrimination

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A former IT security analyst at Sony PlayStation filed a lawsuit against the company in California on Monday, alleging gender discrimination and wrongful termination after speaking up "about discrimination against females" at the gaming giant, Axios Gaming's Stephen Totilo reports.

Why it matters: Video game companies are under increased scrutiny for their treatment of women in an industry long dominated by men.

  • The Sony suit comes amid high-profile state and federal lawsuits against "Call of Duty" maker Activision over alleged sexual misconduct and gender-based pay disparities.

Driving the news: The former IT security analyst, Emma Majo, is seeking court approval to expand her effort into a class action on behalf of women who’ve worked for PlayStation in the past few years.

  • The suit alleges violations of the United States' Equal Pay Act, saying: "Sony discriminates against female employees, including those who are female and those who identify as female, in compensation and promotion and subjects them to a work culture predominated by men."

Representatives from PlayStation did not immediately respond to questions about the lawsuit.

The big picture: Scrutiny of game companies over their treatment of women has been especially intense in California, where Sony's U.S. headquarters is based.

  • In 2018, women from L.A.-based Riot Games filed a class-action suit alleging gender discrimination. Activision is also based in the state.

Go deeper: Read the lawsuit

4. "Pokémon Go" maker Niantic now worth $9B

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Niantic, a San Francisco-based maker of augmented reality games like "Pokémon Go," raised $300 million from Coatue at a $9 billion valuation, Stephen and Dan Primack report.

Why it matters: This is about the metaverse that Meta isn't interested in building.

History: Niantic previously raised $480 million, most recently in 2019 at a $4 billion post-money valuation.

The bottom line: Niantic's vision is the world we already see around us, but with a digital overlay on top of it — rather than a virtual world that people immerse themselves in with VR goggles or by way of a video game world like "Fortnite."

  • Some of Niantic's recent games have struggled. But over a billion downloads of "Pokémon Go" make a strong case that it may be the leader in figuring all this out.
5. Take note

On Tap

  • Turkey, gratitude, and whatever else you may be celebrating this holiday weekend!

ICYMI

  • Over 600 Google employees reportedly signed a petition voicing opposition to the company's vaccine mandate. (CBNC)
  • Apple delayed an iOS 15 feature that would add a driver's license to the iPhone's Wallet app until early 2022. (MacRumors)
6. After you Login

Before you check out Disney+'s new "Hawkeye" series, get a load of this stunning "WandaVision" cosplay reportedly spotted at the London Film and Comic Con.