Everyone knows Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Report is a mammoth company. But when it launched itself toward the goal of building self-driving cars, onlookers could have been forgiven for wondering how it planned to build out the full-scale manufacturing capacity required to become a competitive automaker.
Turns out, Alphabet might be carpooling to the factory with an industry veteran: Automotive News on Tuesday reported the tech giant is in talks to partner with Ford (F) - Get Report on a deal under which the carmaker would build Google's autonomous cars under contract.
If the negotiations lead to a deal, the unnamed source told AN, expect official word about to be revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which takes place in early January.
One more thing to look forward to at CES.
Alphabet closed Tuesday up 0.8% at $767.13. Ford closed Tuesday up 3.5% at $14.21.
The question of where to draw the line between our right to privacy and governments' right to do what they think is necessary to "keep us safe" has entered a new phase as various nations have begun asking big tech companies to build back doors into their systems that will allow officials to easily peek in.
For example, in the U.K., a bill was introduced recently that would require companies to stop fully encrypting smartphones and data so well that even the companies themselves can't decrypt it.
At the time, Apple (AAPL) - Get Report -- though it obviously wasn't pleased -- didn't make a strenuous argument, but it did ask the U.S. federal government to refrain from heading in the same direction.
On Tuesday, Apple finally responded, with a forthright letter to the House of Commons. If you don't want to read the whole letter -- which we're including below, because the full explanation is important -- the short version is this:
You can't weaken data security "just a little," or "only so the good guys can get in."
Here's the letter.
"The bill threatens to hurt law-abiding citizens in its effort to combat the few bad actors who have a variety of ways to carry out their attacks. The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers. A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it, too.
Some have asserted that, given the expertise of technology companies, they should be able to construct a system that keeps the data of nearly all users secure but still allows the data of very few users to be read covertly when a proper warrant is served. But the Government does not know in advance which individuals will become targets of investigation, so the encryption system necessarily would need to be compromised for everyone.
The best minds in the world cannot rewrite the laws of mathematics. Any process that weakens the mathematical models that protect user data will by extension weaken the protection. And recent history is littered with cases of attackers successfully implementing exploits that nearly all experts either remained unaware of or viewed as merely theoretical.
The bill would attempt to force non-UK companies to take actions that violate the laws of their home countries. This would immobilise substantial portions of the tech sector and spark serious international conflicts. It would also likely be the catalyst for other countries to enact similar laws, paralysing multinational corporations under the weight of what could be dozens or hundreds of contradictory country-specific laws.
Those businesses affected will have to cope with a set of overlapping foreign and domestic laws. When these laws inevitably conflict, the businesses will be left having to arbitrate between them, knowing that in doing so they might risk sanctions. That is an unreasonable position to be placed in.
If the UK asserts jurisdiction over Irish or American businesses, other states will too. We know that the IP bill process is being watched closely by other countries. For the consumer in, say, Germany, this might represent hacking of their data by an Irish business on behalf of the UK state under a bulk warrant - activity which the provider is not even allowed to confirm or deny. Maintaining trust in such circumstances will be extremely difficult."
Apple CEO Tim Cook then securely encrypted his mic, and dropped it.
Apple closed Tuesday down 0.1% at $107.23.
On Monday, we passed on TechCrunch's report that universal credit card company Stratos was shutting down just six months after launching its first product: the Stratos Card, which merges all your plastic into a single snazzy package.
Now it looks like they wrote that obituary too soon. TechCrunch reported Tuesday Ciright One is buying Stratos and keeping its signature product alive. No details about the price were available.
If you haven't heard of Ciright, it's perhaps not a shock: the Pennsylvania-based wireless tech company is privately held. But it was already rolling out its own universal smart card that bears a strong resemblance to the Stratos Card. Odds are, the two products will be merged into one platform as the companies integrate.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.