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December 19, 2018

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The international trade incident involving Huawei has taken on comic book proportions. Says the West, led by the United States: Huawei, a tool of the Chinese government, poses an imminent cybersecurity threat. Says Huawei: We’re an employee-owned company and our technology is pretty darn good, by the way.

Each perspective contains kernels of truth that beg further questions. Read carefully and the reports from Western governments and their intelligence agencies tend to stress the threat of Huawei cyber-crimes rather than evidence of any actual crime. (Should Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou be convicted, it will be for lying to a bank in the name of skirting U.S. sanctions on Iran, not for planting nefarious code in U.S. telecommunications networks.) As for Huawei, that it is employee owned feels irrelevant to the main charge it can’t disprove: All Chinese companies are in some sense in thrall to their government’s wishes.

Whatever the threat, Huawei has handled its side of the argument ineptly so far. As The Wall Street Journal recently explained, Huawei has blundered by poorly communicating its position.

Tuesday the Chinese company fired back at its critics. “When it comes to security allegations, it’s best to let the facts speak for themselves,” top executive Ken Hu said at a press conference in China. “And the fact is that Huawei’s record is clean.”

Clean, of course, is open to debate. The New York Times has published this piece about Huawei’s rule-breaking culture. Silicon Valley values rule breakers, of course. If Huawei took things too far, it has peaked at the wrong time.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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NEWSWORTHY

It looks as if you're reorganizing your records. Two updates to yesterday's essay about 5G, both with good news for we, Northeasterners. While I was on leave, I missed Sprint's recent announcement of a 5G service using a "mobile smart hub" coming in the first half of 2019 to nine cities, including Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. And startup Starry, which uses 5G to connect buildings and provide non-mobile Internet service, wrote to say it's in business in Boston.

Is it, in fact, unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins? It appears that lightning did not strike twice for one of the great innovators of financial derivatives. Blythe Masters, who gets credit for inventing the credit default swap when she worked at J.P. Morgan Chase, is out as CEO of blockchain startup Digital Asset. The company said Masters was stepping down for personal reasons.

Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? More bad news rolling in for Facebook this week, with yet another expose of the company's data sharing. Facebook gave major tech companies like Microsoft, Netflix, and Spotify "more intrusive access to users' personal data than it has disclosed," the New York Times reports. Facebook said none of the deals violated users' privacy or its 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Mostly young men who spend all their time looking for deleted Smith singles. After spurring a massive lawsuit between Uber and Google, autonomous vehicle expert Anthony Levandowski has a new startup. Called Pronto.ai, the new company is making a truck driver assistance device that will help with lane keeping, cruise control, and collision avoidance. Levandowski announced the startup with a video claiming he used the system to drive from San Francisco to New York. Meanwhile, Uber says that Pennsylvania is permitting it to restart self-driving car trials in Pittsburgh about nine months after they were halted due a pedestrian death in Arizona.

We're no longer called Sonic Death Monkey. Does anyone else remember how the initial public offering of AT&T Wireless turned out for investors back in 2000? Spoiler alert: very poorly. I'm getting a strong feeling of deja vu over the massive IPO of SoftBank Group's Japanese telecom unit, confusingly known as SoftBank Corp. After raising $24 billion, mostly from regular mom and pop investors, SoftBank saw its share price drop almost 15% when trading started on Wednesday.

How can someone with no interest in music own a record store? Cable giant Charter Communications settled with New York's Attorney General over charges it failed to provide customers with promised Internet speeds. Charter will pay customers refunds totaling $62.5 million and hand out free services worth another $110 million.

(Headline reference explainer, via one of the great cult classic movies of all time.)

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Apple is struggling to cope with the saturation of the global smartphone and, as we noted on Monday, its shares are down almost 30% since peaking a few months ago. CEO Tim Cook obviously saw the iPhone sales plateau coming and had several strategies to keep growth on track. One—raising prices—has worked. But another has failed completely. Wall Street Journal reporters Newley Purnell and Tripp Mickle have taken a deep dive into why Cook's other big idea, selling more iPhones in India, flopped. One hurdle is price:

Apple is up against more daunting issues in India, which will have an estimated 39 million new smartphone owners this year, according to eMarketer. More than 75% of the smartphones sold in the country cost less than $250 and 95% cost less than $500, analysts estimate. Most sales come from local, unaffiliated shops in the countryside, where the majority of Indians live.

Among Apple's current lineup, its lowest-priced phone in India is the iPhone 7, which typically costs around $550. Older models the company has phased out are still available in India at lower prices, including the iPhone SE for about $250.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Blue Apron Is Now a Penny Stock After Falling 11% to Below $1 a Share By Kevin Kelleher

Nintendo Switch is Now America's Fastest-Selling Gaming Console By Emily Price

U.K. to Use Facial Recognition on Christmas Shoppers in London By Erik Sherman

Hackers Breach Dozens of Local Government Payment Portals to Steal Credit Card Data By Jeff John Roberts

Microsoft Has Been Quietly Hiding $10 Gift Cards in Its Email Blasts By Don Reisinger

Travel Essentials for the Business Globetrotter This Holiday Season By Rachel King

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BEFORE YOU GO

Package theft is no laughing matter. And thieves who grab deliveries off people's front steps now may be ruining the holidays for the intended recipients. Former NASA engineer Mark Rober decided to strike back after one of his deliveries was nabbed. The resulting revenge video, posted on YouTube, is hilarious.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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