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Hillicon Valley — Yubo app involved in Texas investigation

·5 min read
<em><span class="has-inline-color has-cyan-bluish-gray-color">AP Photo</span></em>
AP Photo

Yubo, a chat and video app for teens, said it is cooperating with law enforcement as reports emerge that the gunman who shot elementary school students and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, discussed his plans on the platform before the attack.

Meanwhile, a group of Senate Democrats wrote to Apple and Google Friday urging them to prohibit apps from data mining practices that target people seeking abortion as the fate of Roe v. Wade is in a precarious position.

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca KlarChris Mills Rodrigo and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Programming note: Hillicon Valley will not publish on Monday, May 30, in observance of Memorial Day. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Yubo cooperating with Texas investigation

Yubo, a livestreaming app marketed toward teenagers, is cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation into the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting as reports emerge that the gunman used the platform to discuss his plans before carrying out the attack.

Salvador Ramos, the 18-year-old gunman who was killed by law enforcement during the shooting, exchanged messages on the platform with a 15-year-old girl in Germany earlier on the day of the attack saying he was going to shoot his grandmother and “shoot up” an elementary school, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing screenshots provided by the girl he spoke with, identified by her nickname Cece.

Ramos also reportedly used the platform, which allows users to live video chat or send text-based messages to strangers they connect with, for video calls with Cece earlier in the month when he told her he was purchasing an AR-15 rifle, the Times reported.

One of many: Cece is just one of more than a dozen users who said they interacted with Ramos on the platform and received seemingly disturbing messages, according to reports.

A Yubo spokesperson confirmed in a statement Friday that the company is cooperating with law enforcement and investigating a since-banned account but declined to share details on the investigation into the account.

“We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable loss and are fully cooperating with law enforcement on their investigation. At this stage, we are not legally able to release any specific user information outside of direct requests from law enforcement, but can confirm that we are investigating an account that has since been banned from the platform,” the spokesperson said.

Read more here.

Dems push app stores on data mining

A group of Senate Democrats asked Apple and Google to prohibit apps available in their app stores from using data mining practices to target people seeking abortion services in letters sent to the tech giants Friday.

The Democrats, led by Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.), asked the companies to review and update their app store policies and practices as necessary to address concerns around allowing apps to engage in “data practices that may victimize individuals who seek or have sought abortion services.”

The Democrats said they are concerned that anti-abortion prosecutors or other actors will try to access and leverage personal information, such as data about locations online activity, health and biometrics, in ways that “threaten the well being of those exercising their right to choose.”

The senators underscored the need for the updates following the leak of a draft majority opinion indicating the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which could make abortion illegal in states across the country with restrictive laws.

Read more here.

DOJ SECURES SENTENCING IN CYBERCRIME SCHEME

A New York resident was sentenced on Wednesday to four years in prison for participating in a fraudulent cybercrime scheme.

John Telusma, who pleaded guilty last year to one count of racketeering conspiracy, admitted to buying stolen or compromised credit cards and aiding members of the Infraud Organization in monetizing their fraudulent scheme.

Telusma is the latest defendant to be sentenced for this role in the Infraud scheme. According to the Department of Justice, the organization is a transnational cybercrime enterprise engaged in the sale of fraud-related goods and services, including stolen identities, compromised credit card data and computer malware.

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Privacy — a Big Tech sleight of hand

Notable links from around the web:

How Influencers Hype-Crypto, Without Disclosing Their Financial Ties (The New York Times / David Yaffe-Bellany)

Shooter warning signs get lost in sea of social media posts (The Associated Press / Amanda Seitz)

A cyberwar is already happening in Ukraine, Microsoft analysts say (NPR / Jenna Mclaughlin)

One more thing: Google pressed on equity audit

A collection of civil society groups and employees at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, sent letters to Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and former CEO Eric Schmidt Friday urging them to support a racial equity audit at Alphabet.

The letters are pressing the three men to either support or abstain from voting on an investor proposal calling for an independent audit that will be evaluated at Alphabet’s annual stockholder meeting next Wednesday.

Brin, Page and Schmidt collectively control over half of all shareholder votes despite no longer being involved in the day-to-day operations of Google or its parent company because their shares have inflated voting power.

Read more here.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week.

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