A weekly summary of what I've found interesting at the intersection of economics, finance and technology.
All of us are presumably still busy dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, so again we’ll be keeping it short this week, there are presumably more pressing matters for everyone to attend to.
The Spotlight Can Be Uncomfortable — Videoconferencing company Zoom has met sudden and overwhelming success during this crisis, surging from 10m users to 200m users in less than a month. They were seemingly able to handle this surge in volume well, which is an impressive feat. The key draw for the service, in the face of competition from pretty much every major market player, is the ease of use of setting up a meeting and getting other people to join.
But the downside of that ease of use is that there are a multitude of security and privacy issues with the product. Glenn Fleishman has a comprehensive rundown of all the issues encountered so far, as well as practical tips to mitigate the impact of the issues. This is well worth reading, since with products like Zoom networking effects make it very difficult to switch to alternative providers. Should you nonetheless want to do that, The Verge has a list of all the options.
If you want to dig deeper, cryptography expert Bruce Schneier has an in-depth look at all the issues as well, and Jon Gruber over at Daring Fireball focuses specifically on what Mac users should do (tl;dr, use the app on your iPhone/iPad, not your Mac.)
Facebook Wanted to License Spyware to Better Monitor Its “Users” — Notorious Israeli spyware company NSO was apparently approached by Facebook to purchase a tool that would enable them to better monitor users of its Onavo VPN app. NSO’s tools rely on security vulnerabilities, for example in WhatsApp, to extract as much data as they can from a target. That Facebook would even consider using NSO’s services says a lot about how they view their “users”. Read (Motherboard)
Some Bosses Can’t Help but Show Their True Colours - In this unexpected, massive work-from-home experiment, some bosses can’t help but reveal their true nature. Sales of employee monitoring software have gone through the roof, with threatening messages to boot, to ensure everybody keeps working. Money quote:
We’re capturing your keystrokes. We’re logging the websites you visit. Every 10 minutes or so, we’re taking a screen shot.
Read (Bloomberg $)
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.