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One of the good things about coming back from Christmas break are all the deep analyses that news outlets save up to publish over the holidays—especially those they can report from countries where celebrating Christmas isn’t that big a deal. At least that’s how I account for the flood of deep media dives on China technology issues. Megan Stifel takes us through a couple. The first is a Washington Post article on China using its tools for measuring internal dissent online and focusing them on the rest of the world. The second is a New York Times article that tells us what tools the Chinese government can use when the rest of the world says things it doesn’t like. Utterly unsurprising, to me at least, is that social media companies like Twitter have become hapless enablers of China’s speech police. Later in the podcast, Megan covers another story in the same vein—the growing global unease about China’s success in building Logink, a global logistics and shipping database.
Scott Shapiro and Nick Weaver walk us through the conviction of a Harvard professor for lying about his China ties. It may be too cynical to say that the Justice Department wanted Professor Charles Lieber especially badly because he’s not Asian, but there’s no doubt he’ll be Exhibit A when it defends the China Initiative against claims of ethnic profiling.
Megan takes us through another great story of hack-enabled great story of hack-enabled insider trading, helicopters to Zermatt, dueling extraditions and as the piece de resistance, hints we may learn more about Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.
Scott explains how Apple AirTags are being used to track people. Nick gives us a feel for just how hard it is to separate good from bad in designing Air Tags. I suggest that this is a problem we could leave to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Nick lays out the economics of hacking as a service and introduces us to yet another company in that business—Cytrox. No one seems to last long in the business without changing their name. Nick and I explore the reasons for that, and the possibility that soon the teams that work for these companies will move on every year or two.
Nick also explains why bitcoin isn’t always a cybercriminal’s best friend. It turns out that cryptography isn’t proof against rubber hose cryptanalysis, or maybe even plea bargaining.
Drawing from research I’m doing for an article about why bias in face recognition has been overblown, I note that Canada, France and the entire Western world is imposing sanctions on Clearview AI for privacy violations, but Clearview AI is the only U.S. company doing as good or better at face recognition than Chinese and Russian suppliers. I argue that’s because a dubious bias narrative has forced IBM, Amazon, Microsoft and Meta to retreat from the market, leaving us at the mercy of Russian and Chinese tech.
Megan explains why financial regulators and not the FBI turn out to be the biggest enemies of end-to-end encryption, as they fine JPMorgan Chase a cool $200 million for using WhatsApp and other unbreakable encrypted messaging systems.
Finally, in quick hits,
- I point out that soft power isn’t always America’s friend, as shown by Intel’s apology to the Chinese public for obeying U.S. law, Apple’s determination to double down on a Chinese supply chain, and a SenseTime IPO that was enormously successful for everyone except U.S. sanctions and U.S. investors.
- Scott shows the remarkable erosion of Silicon Valley’s power in its conflicts with Putin’s Russia. Google and Meta are facing huge fines for not taking down content Russia doesn’t like. And the Russians whose content they have taken down are winning big judgements in Russia—so big that I’m expecting Breitbart to bring their next Big Tech censorship lawsuit in Moscow.
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