Tech Brief: Music-Streaming Service Spotify Files to Go Public Amid Money Woes

Top Stories

  • Music streaming service Spotify filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public, and is expected to launch its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. The Sweden-based company reports it has 71 million paying subscribers — more than the 36 million paying subscribers reported by Apple Inc.’s Apple Music — but has been bleeding money over the past few years, noting losses of $1.5 billion in 2017 and $662 million the prior year. (USA Today)
  • Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller are asking witnesses as part of their probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election whether President Donald Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish stolen Democratic emails, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s team has also reportedly asked about the relationship between GOP operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to disseminate the stolen emails. (NBC News)
  • Chinese authorities have asked smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. to list its shares on the mainland, according to people familiar with the situation, with the company reportedly considering a dual listing that already includes plans for a Hong Kong initial public offering in the second half of the year. The company is reportedly targeting a valuation of $80 billion to $100 billion and plans to raise at least $10 billion, which would make the IPO one of the largest globally this year. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Facebook Inc. told lawmakers in the United Kingdom that it found no further activity from Russian accounts to use advertisements to influence the country’s 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union after lawmakers requested that the social media platform probe the issue further. In a letter to British lawmakers, Simon Milner, Facebook’s director of U.K. policy, said the company used the same method that uncovered Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle, and found no comparable Brexit campaign. (Bloomberg)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Mobile World Congress 2018 9:30 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on cybersecurity of nation’s energy infrastructure 10 a.m.
DOT Automated Vehicle Policy Summit 1 p.m.
FCC World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee meeting 12 p.m.
Colorado Regional Planning committees meeting 1 p.m.

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Mueller asking if Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails before release
Katy Tur and Carol E. Lee, NBC News

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release, according to multiple people familiar with the probe. Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the emails.

Subpoenas Signal S.E.C. Crackdown on Initial Coin Offerings
Nathaniel Popper, The New York Times

The Securities and Exchange Commission has sent subpoenas to dozens of people and companies behind the rise of so-called initial coin offerings, a clear sign of the agency’s desire to rein in the popular new fund-raising method. Over the last few months, the commission has asked for information from companies that have sold new virtual currencies to raise money for their projects, as well as advisory firms and lawyers who have helped with these sales, according to four people who have seen some of the subpoenas.

James Webb Telescope sun shield snags, further launch delays likely
Eric Berger, Ars Technica

A new report on the James Webb Space Telescope has found that ongoing technical issues with final testing and assembly of the $8.8 billion project will probably cause the launch date of the oft-delayed instrument to slip again to the right. Presently, NASA is targeting June 2019 for launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.

Global Stocks Slide, Treasuries Rise Before Powell: Markets Wrap
Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg

European shares dropped the most since a global rout three weeks ago following sharp declines in the U.S. and Asia. Treasury yields fell to a two-week low as traders awaited a second appearance from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whose comments riled markets earlier this week.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Broadcom Bid for Qualcomm Raises U.S. Security Concern
David McLaughlin, Bloomberg

Broadcom Ltd.’s hostile bid for Qualcomm Inc. is drawing the attention of a secretive U.S. panel that reviews whether acquisitions of American companies raise national security concerns, according to two people familiar with the matter. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which conducts its reviews far from the public eye, is split on whether to review Broadcom’s hotly contested effort to win control of its rival, said the people, who declined to be named because the discussions are confidential.

Facebook’s EU regulator says WhatsApp yet to resolve data sharing issue
Padraic Halpin, Reuters

WhatsApp has still not brought forward proposals to address EU regulators’ concerns over the messaging service’s sharing of user data with parent company Facebook, Facebook’s European regulator said on Wednesday. The popular messaging service changed its privacy policy over a year ago to start sharing users’ phone numbers and other information with Facebook.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Inside the huge, low-profile alliance fighting to save the FCC’s net neutrality rules
Brian Fung, The Washington Post

Every week, a motley crew of tech wonks and legal experts meet in Washington to discuss the problem they’ve been grappling with for almost a year now: how to save the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. Of the 70 to 80 regulars in the gathering, a few hail from industry groups such as the Internet Association — one of Silicon Valley’s biggest lobbying operations — or the small-telco trade association INCOMPAS.

NBCUniversal Vows to Cut Primetime Ads by 20% Across All TV Networks
Brian Steinberg, Variety

NBCUniversal is taking a less-is-more approach to the economics of TV. The Comcast-backed media conglomerate, which operates NBC, Telemundo, USA, MSNBC and E!, among other TV networks, intends to cut the number of advertisements in its commercial pods during original primetime programming by 20% starting in the fourth quarter, and the amount of ad time during those primetime shows by 10%, said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships, in an interview.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Spotify files IPO to go public, details years of losses
Jefferson Graham, USA Today

Money-losing music streamer Spotify, which lost $1.5 billion in 2017, filed to go public Wednesday, with shares selling on the New York Stock Exchange as SPOT. “Our mission is to unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by these creators,” said Spotify, in its public filing.

Chinese Smartphone Maker Xiaomi Weighs Listing in Mainland and Hong Kong
Julie Steinberg et al., The Wall Street Journal

China wants one of its biggest tech unicorns to go public at home. Authorities have asked smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. to list its shares on the mainland, according to people familiar with the situation, who say the company is considering doing so with a dual listing.

Facebook Says It Found No Additional Russian Ads on Brexit
Sarah Frier and Ben Brody, Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. said it found no more activity from Russian accounts using its advertising in the U.K. to influence a 2016 vote to leave the European Union, after it was asked by lawmakers to probe more deeply. The company used the same method that uncovered Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election activities, and found no comparable Brexit campaign, Simon Milner, Facebook’s director of U.K. policy, wrote in a letter to lawmakers Wednesday.

Amazon, Apple Struggle to Sit Out NRA Gun-Control Debate
Spencer Soper and Selina Wang, Bloomberg

Gun-control activists are demanding that Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos do something he has carefully avoided: pick a side in a hot-button political debate. The online retailer, along with Apple Inc., Roku Inc. and other video streaming services, is facing pressure from customers protesting any corporate relationship with the National Rifle Association in the aftermath of a Florida school shooting that killed 17 people.

YouTube’s mistaken ‘purge’ highlights new peril for video giant
Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg, The Washington Post

YouTube said Wednesday that its moderators had mistakenly removed videos in recent days during what some critics had called an ideological “purge,” highlighting the ongoing challenge for a video giant now hiring thousands of new employees in a push to rein in shocking and dangerous content. Viewers and producers had recently complained that the site was targeting right-wing voices — including some gun-related channels that had posted content in the days since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting — with suspensions, video removals and “warning strikes.”

Smartphone users are spending more money each time they visit a website
Rani Molla, Recode

Each time Americans visit retail websites on their phones, they’re spending less time but more money. The amount of money people spent per visit to online retailers has increased 27 percent since the beginning of 2015, according to new data from Adobe Analytics.

Twitter rolls out private bookmark feature for tweets
Selena Larson, CNN

Twitter is finally adding a feature its most devoted users have wanted for years. Starting Wednesday, users will be able to privately bookmark tweets to save and read later.

How a secretive, unknown smartphone app became the center of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown
Paul Benjamin Osterlund, The Verge

Hamdullah faithfully served his country in the Turkish Armed Forces for more than two decades before retiring as a specialist sergeant. Needless to say, Hamdullah, who requested we only use his first name, was shocked when he suddenly found himself jailed upon suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organization in April of last year.

YouTube Bans Channel of American Neo-Nazi Extremist Group Atomwaffen Division
Joseph Cox, Vice News

YouTube has banned a channel belonging to Atomwaffen Division, an American neo-Nazi group that has been linked to several murders, for violating the platform’s hate speech policies. The action was not swift, however: the ban comes days after a flurry of media attention on Atomwaffen and YouTube’s inaction around the group, and on Tuesday the Anti-Defamation League asked YouTube to remove offending videos immediately.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Jeff Sessions Fires Back at Trump Over Handling of Justice Department Surveillance Probe
Del Quentin Wilber and Aruna Viswanatha, The Wall Street Journal

Jeff Sessions fired back Wednesday at criticism from President Donald Trump, saying in a statement that “as long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.” Mr. Sessions’s statement came hours after Mr. Trump chastised his attorney general’s decision to refer a probe of the Justice Department’s handling of secret surveillance warrants to the agency’s inspector general rather than another office.

Watchdog: Former top VA aide’s email was not hacked
Rebecca Kheel, The Hill

The alleged hacking of a former top aide at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was unrelated to the travel scandal she was embroiled in and was limited to “relatively unsophisticated ‘spoofing,’ ” according to a government watchdog. At issue is the VA inspector general’s allegation that Vivieca Wright Simpson, who has since resigned as chief of staff, doctored an email in order to gain approval to use taxpayer dollars to pay for VA Secretary David Shulkin’s wife to accompany him on a trip to Europe.

Nuclear Agency Wants Info on Securing Radioactive Waste from Cyberattacks
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

The Energy Department is concerned that facilities holding nuclear and other radiological materials could be susceptible to cyberattacks but is hoping a women-owned small business can help. The National Nuclear Security Administration put out a notice seeking women-owned small businesses and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses capable of securing nuclear sites globally from physical and cyber threats.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Next Chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Economy
Philip Minardi and Vikrum Aiyer, Morning Consult

Technology companies are in the spotlight. Internet platforms have entered uncharted territory, making the impossible possible and giving consumers more choice and access than ever before.

Trump has one good excuse for restraining the NSA on Russia
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

National Security Agency director Mike Rogers said yesterday that he was constrained in combating Russian cyberattacks, and this sparked an overreaction. And while President Trump should authorize more aggressive NSA action to disrupt Russian cyberwarfare activities, like his predecessor, Trump has one good excuse for not taking action.

Facebook Could Do a Lot More on Trump-Russia
Cathy O’Neil, Bloomberg

The world now knows, thanks to Facebook’s disclosures, that Russians bought a lot of ads in an effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. But that still leaves the more important question: Did they succeed?

Net neutrality requires a bipartisan, legislative solution
Peter Sepp, The Hill

Senate Democrats invited reporters to a press conference last month underscoring their ongoing opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s new Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The lawmakers — focused on pushing to the Senate floor a Congressional Review Act (CRA) vote — took turns stepping up to the mic to offer their hyperbolic thoughts on the order, which lifts Obama-era rules that sought to regulate the Internet as if it were a public utility.

Research Reports

James Webb Space Telescope: Integration and Test Challenges Have Delayed Launch and Threaten to Push Costs Over Cap
U.S. Government Accountability Office

In 2017, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project delayed its launch readiness date by at least 5 months, and further delays are likely. The delay—from October 2018 to a launch window between March and June 2019—was primarily caused by components of JWST’s spacecraft taking longer to integrate than planned.

Chafer: Latest Attacks Reveal Heightened Ambitions
Symantec Corp. 

Chafer, the Iran-based targeted attack group, mounted further operations throughout 2017, attacking more organizations in the Middle East and beyond, and deploying several new tools. The group staged a number of ambitious new attacks last year, including the compromise of a major telecoms services provider in the region.