A weekly summary of what I've found interesting at the intersection of economics, finance and technology.
Shorter edition this week as well, but I’m working on a couple of longer pieces that should appear soon. Stay tuned…
The Trump administration issued a pair of executive orders banning US companies from doing business with TikTok and WeChat. Depending on how that executive order is interpreted, especially the ban on WeChat could have a huge impact on e.g. Apple. To describe WeChat as essential in China (and for the Chinese diaspora) is an understatement, and if Apple is no longer able to offer it for download, its smartphones essentially become useless. You'd expect Apple to have a contingency plan for this scenario, but running a global business has definitely acquired new dimensions over the last few years… - Read (The Verge)
A data analytics company with links to the US government harvested data from hundreds of smartphone apps, not necessarily related to the function of said app and without necessarily clearly disclosing this to users. This kind of behaviour obviously makes it harder and harder to trust the apps on your phone. Two ways to mitigate this, first be restrictive in giving apps access to location services, camera etc., and second try to rely on paying apps rather than free apps (which need to make money somehow…) - Read (WSJ $)
Seemingly undeterred by the looming threat of antitrust action, Google continues its pursuit of more and more data, this time by taking a stake in home security provider ADT. In return ADT will sell Google’s Nest family of “smart” home products. - Read (TechCrunch)
Facebook has grouped together all its payments-related offerings, in a unit called Facebook Financial. I think it signals that none of the individual offerings have generated much traction, but also that they haven’t given up on the idea yet. - Read (Bloomberg $)
Scientists have had to rename human genes to prevent them from being interpreted as dates in Microsoft Excel, for example MAR1 became “01-March” when importing the data set. A good illustration of the gap between perception and reality, when people imagine data scientists writing fancy algorithms and wowing people with sharp insight, they’re actually cleaning up spreadsheets in Excel… - Read (The Verge)
The New Yorker has a fascinating long read delving into the weird characters that provide hosting to shady and illegal websites (think The Pirate Bay and other things…) Perhaps inevitably, there are also links to organised crimes and efforts to create a mobile dark web, à la EncroChat, which was rolled up a few weeks ago. - Read (The New Yorker $)
That's it for this week's edition. As always, thanks for reading and please forward this to anyone who you think might be interested, it would be much appreciated.