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Privacy bill addresses COVID-19 tracking apps

Sen.Maria Cantwell chats with GeekWire Chairman Jonathan Sposato at the 2015 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo)

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is one of the sponsors of bipartisan legislation aimed at ensuring that coronavirus tracing apps protect consumer privacy.

The Exposure Notification Privacy Act relates to automated contact tracing tools that are currently being developed by companies ranging from Apple and Google to PricewaterhouseCoopers and Juniper Networks.

Such systems typically involve monitoring a user’s movements, and issuing an alert if it’s determined that the user has previously come in close contact with another user who tests positive for COVID-19. The proximity data is typically uses Bluetooth data to monitor proximity.

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Bill aims to keep space station going until 2030

Starliner and space station
An artist’s conception shows a Boeing Starliner space taxi approaching the International Space Station. (Boeing Illustration)

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has joined with three other U.S. senators in introducing a NASA authorization bill that aims to extend federal support for International Space Station to 2030.

The bill voices support for NASA’s Artemis campaign to explore the moon in preparation for missions to Mars. But it doesn’t mention NASA’s 2024 deadline for the astronauts’ first landing. Instead, the legislation urges NASA to “collaborate with commercial and international partners to establish lunar exploration by 2028” — which had been NASA’s plan until April.

It also backs NASA’s plans for a space-based infrared survey telescope designed to scan the skies for potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, and sets a 2025 launch deadline for that project.

Cantwell is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill in part because she’s the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which plays a lead role in NASA-related matters.

The other co-sponsors are Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the Commerce Committee’s chair; Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who chairs the Senate aviation and space subcommittee; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., that subcommittee’s ranking Democratic member.

The upshot of the bill is that the senators are in favor of what NASA is aiming to do, but not necessarily on the same timetable.

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Senator talks quantum with Microsoft’s president

Sen. Maria Cantwell and Microsoft's Brad Smith
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Microsoft President Brad Smith discuss the challenge of quantum computing during a fireside chat at the Northwest Quantum Nexus Summit at the University of Washington. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

The Pacific Northwest may be known for tech icons like Microsoft and Amazon  but when U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was asked what advice she’d give to the researchers and executives who are trying to up their game when it comes to quantum computing, she invoked a slogan used by a totally different kind of industry leader.

“To borrow from another Northwest icon, ‘Just Do It,’ ” she said, referring to Nike, the Oregon-based sportswear powerhouse.

During today’s fireside chat with Microsoft President Brad Smith at the kickoff summit of a public-private consortium called the Northwest Quantum Nexus, Cantwell said quantum computing could become as much a part of the Pacific Northwest’s tech scene as Boeing and Microsoft, Amazon and Blue Origin.

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