A weekly summary of what I’ve found interesting at the intersection of economics, finance and technology.
There was no issue last week due to extensive lunar new year celebrations. Normal service resumes from this week.
The great Jeff Bezos iPhone heist — Some time ago, texts between the Amazon CEO and the woman he was having an affair with leaked in the press. Bezos started an investigation to uncover who leaked them, and in the process established that his phone was hacked by Saudi Arabia (Read), after he received a WhatsApp message from Mohammad bin Salman (resembling the approach used in the infamous NSO hack.) The whole story is amazing, from the apparent carelessness (or maybe hubris) with which Saudi Arabia executed this, to Bezos’ refusal to back down and investigate the hackers instead. Motherboard obtained the report by the investigators (Read.) Given that the world pretty much runs on WhatsApp, it’s also pretty scary, to the extent that the UN felt obliged to comment on the case. Unsurprisingly, other billionaires freaked out and are now scrambling to hire experts (Read $) who can audit their cybersecurity.
Singapore, New Zealand and Chile signed a “Digital Economy Partnership Agreement” — The agreement contains provisions around data protection and personal identity safety, which shows that this is becoming more important. On the other hand, this piecemeal agreement also shows the degree to which perceptions of the urgency to deal with this differ between countries. The EU showed its effectiveness in enacting the GDPR, which is now setting the standard globally. Read
A Chinese city used facial recognition to shame pyjama wearers — There was an outcry and officials swiftly reversed course. Another sign that facial recognition is most likely a step too far for most people, at least in its currently unregulated fashion. Read ($)
Vodafone has pulled out of the Libra association — Looks like their commitment was a bit half-hearted to begin with, and they have now opted to focus exclusively on their successful mobile money subsidiary, M-PESA. Read
Disgraced then redeemed CEO back at luggage maker Away — Back in December The Verge published an expose of the toxic culture at Away, which caused CEO Steph Corey to resign the post. Now she is back as CEO and looking to sue The Verge over the story. Strange succession of events to say the least, very curious to learn what happened behind the scenes there. Read
Pretty much all the usual suspects applied for a digital banking license in Singapore — It’s less clear what value they are bringing to the market, and whether they will succeed in disrupting the industry. Read ($)
US colleges ask students to install location tracking apps — Allegedly to track attendance and it only works on campus (by using beacons instead of GPS), but still, people are becoming antsy about the location tracking on their devices. Read
This Berliner artist created a traffic jam on Google Maps by pulling a handcart with 99 smartphones through a street. Read
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.