This Week In Tech And Telco: Big Tech To Testify And Apollo 50

Welcome back to our weekly round-up of tech and telco news. What’s the latest?

Big tech to testify to Congress on antitrust

Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google have been summoned to testify in front of Congress next week as part of House lawmakers’ investigation into large tech firms and their potential threat to competition.

Testifying on behalf of their respective companies are Kyle Andeer, Apple’s vice president for corporate law and chief compliance officer; Nate Sutton, an associate general counsel at Amazon; Matt Perault, the head of global policy development at Facebook; and Adam Cohen, the director of economic policy at Google.

Tech and Telco testify at Capitol Hill
Photographer: Louis Velazquez | Source: Unsplash

UK uses Huawei despite US sanctions

Huawei is working with UK mobile operators to build 5G infrastructure despite US sanctions over national security concerns – even though the UK government still hasn’t given operators the go-ahead.

According to The Observer, Huawei is already involved in building 5G networks in six of the seven cities in the UK where Vodafone has gone live, is helping build hundreds of 5G sites for EE, and has won 5G contracts for Three and O2.

The Chinese telco has only contributed to non-core elements of UK 5G networks, such as radio systems, but this still could be a costly risk for operators if the UK bows to US pressure.

Is the US easing up?

While the revelation expected to increase tensions between the two Western powers, the Americans’ outright ban on Huawei tech has eased every so slightly.

US companies can apply to supply Huawei, but must first demonstrate the technology they sell to the Chinese company will not hinder national security.

Many may see the move as the first step in lifting US restrictions but Huawei will remain on the entity list and license applications will be reviewed under a “presumption of denial,” meaning that most probably won't be approved.

Meanwhile, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is still on house arrest in Canada and is currently being extradited to the US for alleged crimes that were committed in Hong Kong.

Why The US Thinks Huawei Is A National Security Threat | Bloomberg

Google Cloud to buy file storage specialist Elastifile

Google Cloud is set to buy enterprise file storage company Elastifile for $200m.

Elastifile is "a pioneer" in solving the challenges associated with file storage for enterprise-grade applications running at scale in the cloud.

The six-year-old company augments public cloud capabilities and facilitates cloud consumption, by delivering enterprise-grade, scalable file storage within Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure. In December 2018, they launched the Elastifile Cloud File Service, a fully managed service on Google Cloud, according to a post that Erwan Ménard, CEO of Elastifile, wrote on LinkedIn.

Thomas Kurian, an ex-Oracle exec and now CEO of Google Cloud, said that Elastifile has “built a unique software-defined approach to managed Network Attached Storage (NAS), enabling organizations to scale performance or capacity without cumbersome overheads. Building on this technology, our teams are excited to join together and integrate Elastifile with Google Cloud Filestore.”

We’ll be looking forward to seeing what that means in terms of performance, cost, and cloud storage features for enterprises.

Big tech and telco scandals don't stop
Photographer: Christian Wiediger | Source: Unsplash

Celebrating Apollo's 50th Anniversary

It’s been almost 50 years since the Eagle spacecraft touched down on the moon's surface on 20 July 1969. But it wasn’t an easy ride. Compared with today, NASA was far less equipped to deal with a mission of that magnitude. But they did it, and that’s worth celebrating.

The lunar landing impacted a lot of industries, and people, to a great extent. Tech was, of course, given a huge push as a result of the mission’s demands.

Software as we know it, as well as software engineering itself, was pioneered during the Apollo program. At the same time, many risks were taken on untested hardware, which laid the foundations of today’s silicon.

Today, NASA is dedicated to landing on the moon once again, aiming for the lunar South Pole by 2024.

  • We’ve been listening to this BBC podcast about the Moon’s lunar landing. You should give it a go! 13 Minutes To The Moon.

Workers listen to your Google Home conversations too

While news broke a few months ago of Amazon workers listening to and transcribing your interactions with the Echo, it seems Google's methodology is no different.

The tech giant listens to your "Ok Google" questions and uses the recordings to improve the Assistant, develop speech technology and help the company better understand different languages.

However, VRT NWS, a news organization run by a public broadcaster in the Flemish region of Belgium, said it "was able to listen to more than a thousand [Google Assistant] recordings" that it received from a Google subcontractor.

The news organization said that 153 of the 1,000 recordings it listened to "were conversations that should never have been recorded and during which the command 'OK Google' was clearly not given,” including "bedroom conversations, conversations between parents and their children, but also blazing rows and professional phone calls containing lots of private information.”

  • This raises further questions about whistleblower protections: what are the rights of a Google contractor?
Photographer: Dries Augustyns | Source: Unsplash

Here’s what else we’re reading

  • It’s the smartest piece of glass in the world. Zongfu Yu at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and his colleagues have created a glass artificial intelligence that uses light to recognize and distinguish between images. What’s more, the glass AI doesn’t need to be powered to operate. (New Scientist)
  • British Airways is facing a record fine of more than £183 million over a customer data breach. The penalty comes from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which says that personal data relating to around half a million passengers was compromised during a hacking incident last year. (Engadget)
  • Armoured liquid droplets make mini disco balls, letters and shapes. What on Earth is a liquid marble? While they sound cool, they are also highly practical and can be used to make miniature reactors and sensors. (New Scientist)
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