Every now and then it feels like a good idea to hear what readers of Data Sheet think about what I’ve been writing, especially as the times get more and more controversial.
Regarding the great Apple-vs.-the-FBI debate, one reader wrote, “You do not acknowledge, much less address, the problem that whatever the FBI can ultimately make Apple do, the governments of China and Russia will assert the same rights against Apple. This is not just a problem with one phone used by a bad guy in America. Public opinion may be against Apple but that is 1) because the media has not done its job of educating the public, and 2) the media has overachieved in scaring the public about terrorism.”
Reassuring though it may be to blame the media for all our problems, I think the China/Russia argument is a red herring. Apple and other tech companies absolutely will do as they are required to do in those and other countries, just as they ultimately will do in the U.S. No doubt obeying every country’s laws in which a company chooses to operate is a cost and fact of doing business there. Apple isn’t obligated to sell iPhones in China or Russia, just as Google has elected not to operate a search engine in China under its censorship laws.
Another reader enjoyed the referral to David Kushner’s article in Rolling Stone about the Darknet and recommended two books. “While reading Future Crimes by Marc Goodman, I was horrified to find out the level of criminality actually taking place in the Darknet. By the way, another good read is The Cuckoo’s Egg, by Clifford Stoll, in which he documents the first global hacking organization.” I also was directed to a great series of reviews of the TV show “Mr. Robot” by the chief technology officer of WatchGuard, who praised and explained the show’s authenticity.
In yesterday’s Data Sheet I gave the wrong date for a celebration of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For list in New York City. It is at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 8. You are still invited and welcome to register to attend here.
BITS AND BYTES
German antitrust officials open investigation into Facebook. The country’s competition authority, Bundeskartellamt, believes the social network’s terms and conditions that explain how users’ information is be collected and used for advertising purposes are hard to understand. The agency is probing whether this “abusive imposition of unfair conditions on users” is related to Facebook’s market dominance. (Fortune)
FBI chief: Apple case could set precedent. In testimony before the House Judiciary on Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey appeared to back away from his previous position on the matter by acknowledging that a federal court order requiring Apple to help unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone could open the door for law enforcement officials to do the same in similar cases. Meanwhile attorney general Loretta Lynch addressed security professionals at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, urging more cooperation from the tech industry. (Reuters, New York Times)
Brazil arrests Facebook executive over encryption dispute. Diego Dzodan, who runs the company’s Latin America operation, was jailed after Facebook refused to hand over data from a WhatsApp messaging account at the center of a drug trafficking investigation. The development underscores the pressures over privacy and data protection that tech companies are facing from governments around the world. (New York Times, Reuters)
Michael Dell proposes post-merger leaders. Michael Dell will be the CEO, aided by an executive committee that includes the presidents of its principal business units along with the CEOs of VMware, Pivotal, Virtustream, and SecureWorks. According to an internal memo, David Goulden, CEO of EMC’s Information Infrastructure Group, will lead strategy for the merged company’s servers, storage, networking, and data center equipment. Jeremy Burton, who runs EMC’s products and marketing, will be chief marketing officer. (Fortune, Re/code)
Cryptographers win prestigious Turing prize. Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman invented the concept of “public-key cryptography” back in 1976. Their idea, also known as asymmetric cryptography, was that digital information could be protected using a combination of public and private “keys.” Their approach paved the way for far broader use of encryption within the business world. (Ars Technica, New York Times)
Zynga CEO Mark Pincus steps down, again. Former Electronics Arts President Frank Gibeau, whom Pincus hired seven months ago to “advise and coach” its leadership, is taking on the chief executive role while Pincus remains as executive vice chairman. The creator of the “Farmville” game has struggled to score another hit since it went public five years ago, and its stock has plummeted 85%. (Fortune)
Qualcomm pays $7.5 million to settle U.S. bribery charges. The mobile chipmaker was accused of hiring relatives of Chinese officials in order to win business, according to a filing by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company has admitted no wrongdoing but has changed some internal controls as part of the settlement. (Reuters)
SurveyMonkey regroups. The polling software company’s new CEO, Zander Lurie, is decisive. He mandated job cuts for about 13% of SurveyMonkey’s workforce in order to improve its focus on businesses, according to an internal memo. The move comes just six weeks after Lurie took over. SurveyMonkey, last valued at $2 billion, lost well-liked CEO Dave Goldberg last summer after his untimely death. His first replacement, Bill Veghte, left after only a few months. (Re/code)
Apple is selling an obstacle-avoiding drone. The world’s biggest drone maker, DJI, this week introduced a $1,399 model called Phantom 4 that can detect potential obstacles and take steps to evade crashes. One of the only places you can buy it (aside from DJI’s web site) is in the Apple store, at least so far. (Re/code)
How Facebook’s social network for work will change business.
Technically speaking, Facebook at Work, a social network for the workplace, isn’t an official product yet. But that’s likely to change within “coming months,” according to the executive leading the project.
The service’s imminent arrival is certain to rekindle the debate surrounding the long-term future of email and a new wave of other services that aim to reinvent how employees communicate
Three distinct categories are emerging.
One strain, personified by Facebook at Work and similar offerings from IBM, Jive Software and Lithium Technologies, sits atop corporate employee directories to re-create a “social business” network complete with news updates, group messaging, video conferencing, and other communications channels.
Other services from SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce, add communications features such as messaging or conferencing to existing business management applications.
What’s in store from companies likely to face scrutiny after the Facebook at Work premiere? Here’s a smattering of updates from Fortune contributor Heather Clancy.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Cybersecurity ‘bling’ won’t save us: A Q&A with RSA President Amit Yoran by Robert Hackett
Workday’s CEO isn’t worried about SAP or Oracle by Heather Clancy
Microsoft CFO sidesteps cloud profit questions by Barb Darrow
Here’s how Cisco plans to dominate the data center by Jonathan Vanian
Microsoft updates “combat mechanics” in Minecraft by John Gaudiosi
AT&T’s plan to win over cord cutters by Kia Kokalitcheva
How going cashless could change economic policies by Lucinda Shen
Securing the city of the future with bitcoin by David Z. Morris
ONE MORE THING
McDonald’s meets virtual reality. The company’s trademark “happy meal” boxes can be folded in a pair of goggles ala Google’s Cardboard. I guess this falls into the get-them-started-young school of technology adoption. (Fortune)