Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.
Uber is on a quest to regain people’s trust, and that’s not just about becoming a more ethical, law-abiding company that takes passenger safety more seriously—it’s also a cybersecurity matter, following last year’s revelation of a hack that compromised the personal data of 57 million users.
A reminder: chief security officer Joe Sullivan paid the hackers $100,000 (with former CEO Travis Kalanick’s approval) to delete the stolen data and sign non-disclosure agreements, in an attempt to cover up the incident. That’s a really bad practice, to put it mildly, and the company was lucky to walk away with a mere slap on the wrist from the Federal Trade Commission.
Uber, now under the leadership of Dara Khosrowshahi, has finally found its replacement for Sullivan: Matt Olsen, a former National Security Agency general counsel and National Counterterrorism Center director, and until recently the president and chief revenue office at IronNet Cybersecurity, which he co-founded with former NSA chief Keith Alexander.
Olsen is certainly making the right noises. Per the New York Times, Uber’s secretive hack-hiding strategy “doesn’t make sense” to him. “I think they understand the need to be transparent and ethical, and vigilant in complying not just with the laws and regulations that apply, but the norms and standards that Uber customers and stakeholders expect of the company,” Olsen said.
Crucially, Olsen intends to unify Uber’s security team, which currently has separate groups dealing with online and physical security. That’s good: a platform straddling physical and virtual layers needs to treat safety in a cohesive way.
You may be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at this Olsen quote, though: “For any large organization, whether you’re talking NSA or a company like Uber, having a plan and having practiced and exercised how to respond to a breach is critically important.”
The NSA also had an extremely high-profile breach several years ago, courtesy of whistleblower Edward Snowden, that caught the organization entirely by surprise. And leaked NSA hacking tools have been used by malicious actors, most notoriously in the WannaCry ransomware epidemic. Albeit for understandable reasons, the agency’s responses to these catastrophes could not be described as particularly transparent.
In fairness, all this happened after Olsen’s time at the agency. Uber’s new hire certainly does carry credentials that suggest he understands the reality of breaches and their prevention and mitigation. If Uber falls victim to future breaches, though, let’s hope he’s serious about the need for transparency.
More news below.
Turkey has expanded its tariffs against imported American booze, cars, tobacco, cosmetics, rice and coal, in retaliation for the U.S.’s expanded tariffs on Turkish metals. After today’s announcement, the lira slid but then rallied (which was also due to the country’s banking regulator limiting swap transactions). Yesterday, President Erdogan continued to express defiance against the U.S. onslaught, urging a boycott of U.S. electronics such as the iPhone. Financial Times
Musk Tweets, Episode XXXIV
Elon Musk has emitted a surprising tweet again, this time naming advisors for his take-Tesla-private scheme before said advisors were fully on board. “I’m excited to work with Silver Lake and Goldman Sachs as financial advisors, plus Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Munger, Tolles & Olson as legal advisors, on the proposal to take Tesla private,” Musk tweeted yesterday. Per the Journal‘s sources, Goldman is still negotiating with Musk on the terms for any engagement, and Silver Lake might become an investor rather than being paid for providing advice. Oh, and Tesla’s board still hasn’t received any formal offer from Musk. Wall Street Journal
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has bought yet more Apple stock, increasing its stake in the world’s most valuable firm by 5%. Berkshire also increased its Goldman Sachs stake by 21%, Delta by 18.8%, Southwest by 18.7% and Teva by 6.7%. CNBC
Tinder’s co-founders are among a group of 10 current and former top staff who are suing the app’s parent companies, IAC and Match, for allegedly undervaluing the operation, thereby cheating the plaintiffs out of billions of dollars in stock options. The suit also accuses the parent companies of covering up alleged sexual abuses at the company. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
Australia and Encryption
The Australian government has proposed a law that would require tech providers to help the authorities bypass the encryption that protects communications, by building in law enforcement access to devices and services, or by changing or substituting their services (think what Apple refused to do in the San Bernardino case) in order to provide such access. Fortune
China has accused the U.S. of distorting the global market for solar energy products, by subsidizing renewable energy firms and slapping tariffs on imported products—these are tariffs imposed back in January, before the more recent trade dispute. China has taken its case to the World Trade Organization, claiming American actions harm China’s rights and undermine the WTO’s authority. Reuters
One China Policy
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen made a political speech in L.A. on Monday—the first time a Taiwanese leader has done so in the U.S. for a decade and a half. China is not pleased and lodged an official protest with the U.S., prompting the White House to deny any change to its recognition of the “One China” policy that sees Taiwan as part of China rather than an independent country. South China Morning Post
“Superstar companies” such as Google and Facebook have increasing economic weight that leaves workers with a smaller slice of the pie, economists are warning. Here’s Daniel Leigh, the IMF’s deputy division chief in the western hemisphere department: “We see evidence of rising market power and declining competition in the U.S. This is coupled with signs that the [labor] share is going down.” Ultimately, this may result in less innovation and investment. Financial Times