Tech Brief: Snap Reportedly Laying Off Approximately 100 Engineers

Top Stories

  • Snap Inc. is reportedly laying off nearly 10 percent of its engineering team, approximately 100 people. The tech and social media company, which last month rolled out a redesign of its photo messaging app, reported roughly 3,000 employees as of the December quarter and said in its first annual filing that it expects employee growth to continue “for the foreseeable future.” (CNBC)
  • President Donald Trump is meeting with video game industry executives to discuss a possible link between the influence of video games and violent acts. The meeting comes in the wake of last month’s deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people and injured more than a dozen others, and is set to focus on exposure to violent video games and their potential to desensitize children. (Reuters)
  • Apple Inc. said in its annual supply chain audit that it identified a number of serious labor and human rights rule violations at its worldwide supplier facilities in 2017. The tech giant’s 12th annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report noted 44 “core violations” of labor rules — double the number Apple reported last year — as well as 38 violations of falsifying work hours data. (CNET)
  • Documents acquired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that the Federal Bureau of Investigation paid some of Best Buy Co. Inc.’s Geek Squad employees as informants and rewarded them for flagging any identified indecent material when customers brought their computers in for repairs. The records released by EFF shed further light on the relationship between certain Best Buy employees and the FBI, including a $500 payment from the FBI to a Geek Squad employee and a meeting of the agency’s Cyber Working Group at Best Buy’s computer repair facility in Kentucky. (NPR News)
  • Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber Technologies Inc., announced he’s forming a new venture fund called 10100 that will invest in e-commerce, real estate and companies located in China and India. Kalanick, who was ousted as Uber’s chief executive last year, is backing the fund with his own money after having sold approximately 30 percent of his stake in Uber to SoftBank Group Corp. earlier this year for approximately $1.4 billion. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on next generation connectivity 9:30 a.m.
World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee meeting 11 a.m.
Silicon Flatirons event on Section 512 Safe Harbor 1 p.m.
CICA event on EU general data protection regulation 12 p.m.

What Consumers Expect From Brands In The Gun Debate

With Americans demanding more from brands on political and social issues, how can companies decide what stances best serve their consumers?


Trump to meet with video-game industry in wake of Florida shooting
Roberta Rampton, Reuters

After criticizing video games in the wake of a school shooting in Florida last month, U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with industry executives on Thursday to discuss what the president believes is a link between the games and violent acts. Trump, a Republican, cited the influence of video games after a 19-year-old gunman was accused of killing 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida and injuring more than a dozen others.

FBI Used Paid Informants On Best Buy’s Geek Squad To Flag Child Pornography
Laurel Wamsley, NPR News

The FBI paid Best Buy Geek Squad employees as informants, rewarding them for flagging indecent material when people brought their computers in for repair. That’s according to documents released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization, which filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records that might show warrantless searches of people’s devices.

This is What The White House Science And Tech Office Has Been Up To
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

President Donald Trump has yet to name a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy but that doesn’t mean the office hasn’t been working on the administration’s tech priorities. An OSTP official told Nextgov in February that the administration is in the process of getting a director candidate nominated and through Senate confirmation, though they declined to give a specific timeline.

Bitcoin Dives After SEC Says Crypto Platforms Must Be Registered
Camila Russo and Lily Katz, Bloomberg

Bitcoin slumped back below $10,000 after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reiterated that many online trading platforms for digital assets should register with the agency as exchanges. The largest cryptocurrency dropped as much as 13 percent to $9,416 after the SEC statement boosted concern that tightening regulation may limit trading.

Stocks Climb, Bonds Mixed as Trade War Fears Ease: Markets Wrap
Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg

Risk appetite improved across global markets as investor concern about a potential global trade war appeared to ease. European stocks followed Asian peers higher as core government bonds fell and the dollar strengthened.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Trump eyes another trade crackdown
Andrew Restuccia and Adam Behsudi, Politico

President Donald Trump is already eyeing another trade crackdown, one that is squarely aimed at punishing China. The president hinted on Twitter on Wednesday morning that a separate trade action related to China’s intellectual property practices could be unveiled soon.

Broadcom’s Other Regulatory Hurdle: How It Treats Customers
Don Clark, The New York Times

Broadcom’s $117 billion bid for the rival computer chip maker Qualcomm is being investigated by a federal government committee concerned about giving foreign countries power over American technology vital to national security. But some people in the technology industry believe Broadcom’s chief executive, Hock Tan, already wields too much power of a different kind, as illustrated by a harshly worded two-page document in a San Francisco court file.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

China’s Huawei Is at Center of Fight Over 5G’s Future
Raymond Zhong, The New York Times

When top tech minds sat down to set the global standards underpinning today’s cellphone networks, China was left largely on the sidelines. Companies in the West owned much of the crucial technology, and they prospered. Now, as the world prepares for a new generation of mobile internet that could let you download a feature-length movie in mere seconds, a Chinese company is determined to lead, putting it at the center of an international fight over the technology’s future.

Sinclair Amends Tribune Deal…Again
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

In a move likely in response to the Justice Department, Sinclair has once again amended its June 2017 deal to purchase Tribune Media’s stations, this time adjusting last week’s amended filing to cut Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York (Pa.) from the markets where it sought to own two of the top four stations to take advantage of the FCC’s new case-by-case waiver of the prohibition on such ownership. Sinclair will now sell one of the two stations in that market rather than try for an exemption.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Snap is laying off about 100 engineers
Sara Salinas and Julia Boorstin, CNBC

Snap is laying off about 100 engineers — nearly 10 percent of the team — CNBC has learned. The company has seen smaller rounds of layoffs in recent months in its marketing, recruiting and content divisions.

Apple sees uptick in supplier labor problems in annual audit
Steven Musil, CNET

Apple uncovered a higher number of serious labor and human rights rules violations at its supplier facilities in 2017, the company said Wednesday in its annual audit of its supply chain. Apple identified 44 “core violations” of labor rules, according to its 12th annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (PDF), double the number it reported last year.

Travis Kalanick Is Forming a Venture Fund
Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal

Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber Technologies Inc. who last year was ousted as chief executive by the ride-hailing company’s venture investors, is now becoming a venture capitalist. The 41-year-old said Wednesday that he formed a new venture fund called 10100, pronounced “ten one-hundred.”

Apple’s Fourth U.S. Campus: Handicapping Where It Will Go
Mark Gurman and David Ingold, Bloomberg

It’s Apple’s turn to go shopping. In January, Apple Inc. announced plans for a fourth U.S. campus—a down-payment of sorts on its commitment to hire thousands of Americans and redeploy billions of dollars stashed overseas and now being repatriated under the Trump administration’s new tax law.

Amazon admits Alexa is creepily laughing at people and is working on a fix
Shannon Liao, The Verge

Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness in a statement to The Verge, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”

UK watchdog wants disclosure rules for political ads on social media
Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch

The UK’s data protection agency will push for increased transparency into how personal data flows between digital platforms to ensure people being targeted for political advertising are able to understand why and how it is happening. Information commissioner Elizabeth Deham said visibility into ad targeting systems is needed so that people can exercise their rights — such as withdrawing consent to their personal data being processed should they wish.

47.3 million U.S. adults have access to a smart speaker, report says
Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

Nearly one in five U.S. adults today have access to a smart speaker, according to new research out this week from That means adoption of these voice-powered devices has grown to 47.3 million U.S. adults in two years – or 20 percent of U.S. adult population.

Researcher Says ‘Criticism Is Valid,’ Will Revise Study Finding Low Uber And Lyft Pay
James Doubek, NPR News

A researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says he is revising a study he co-authored after admitting that “criticism is valid” of initial findings that Uber and Lyft drivers are making a median pretax profit of $3.37 an hour and a vast majority are making less than minimum wage. Uber said the working paper had “a major error in the authors’ methodology.”

Cybersecurity and Privacy

How Cellphone Chips Became a National-Security Concern
Stu Woo and Drew FitzGerald, The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. made clear this week that containing China’s growing clout in wireless technology is now a national-security priority. Telecommunications-industry leaders say such fears are justified—but question whether the government’s extraordinary intervention in a corporate takeover battle that doesn’t even involve a Chinese company will make a difference.

GOP chairman pledges to tackle Russian meddling efforts ‘head on’
Olivia Beavers, The Hill

The head of the House Homeland Security Committee vowed Wednesday to tackle any efforts by Russia to interfere in U.S. elections ahead of the 2018 midterms. “We are not in any way trying to avoid this issue. I want to take this issue head on,” Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said during a committee mark-up hearing.

FBI again calls for magical solution to break into encrypted phones
Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

FBI Director Christopher Wray again has called for a solution to what the bureau calls the “Going Dark” problem, the idea that the prevalence of default strong encryption on digital devices makes it more difficult for law enforcement to extract data during an investigation. However, in a Wednesday speech at Boston College, Wray again did not outline any specific piece of legislation or technical solution that would provide both strong encryption and allow the government to access encrypted devices when it has a warrant.

FBI chief: Corporate hack victims can trust we won’t share info
Nate Raymond, Reuters

The FBI views companies hit by cyber attacks as victims and will not rush to share their information with other agencies investigating whether they failed to protect customer data, its chief said Wednesday. Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, encouraged companies to promptly report when they are hacked to help the FBI investigate and prevent future data breaches.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Need to Lead for 5G Requires Right-Sized Regulation
Kathleen Abernathy, Morning Consult

It’s time for the Federal Communications Commission to position the U.S. to once again dominate in the race for the next generation of wireless communications. This fifth-generation wireless technology (5G) will unleash applications and capabilities that improve health care, better manage our natural resources, increase highway safety and push the American economy forward.

How MIT Dragged Uber Through Public Relations Hell
Len Sherman, Forbes

On March 1, a prestigious MIT research center published a Research Brief on a study of rideshare driver compensation, led by a respected Stanford University researcher. The MIT report asserted that half of Uber and Lyft drivers earn no more than $3.37 per hour, after accounting for vehicle ownership and operating costs.

Facebook Really Is Spying on You, Just Not Through Your Phone’s Mic
Joanna Stern, The Wall Street Journal

“Can I try the Cole Haans in a size 8?” Later that night on Facebook: An advertisement for Cole Haan pumps.

Google Has a Diversity Problem. And a Lawsuit Problem.
Joe Nocera, Bloomberg

On the face of it, the idea that Google is discriminating against white men is laugh-out-loud funny. In 2016, according to the company’s most recent diversity report, Google was 69 percent male and 56 percent white.

How to Make A.I. Human-Friendly
Fei-Fei Li, The New York Times

For a field that was not well known outside of academia a decade ago, artificial intelligence has grown dizzyingly fast. Tech companies from Silicon Valley to Beijing are betting everything on it, venture capitalists are pouring billions into research and development, and start-ups are being created on what seems like a daily basis.

Space competition is more important than ‘Starman’
Bob Barr, The Hill

Generations of American inventors and entrepreneurs have touted the value of competition. Walt Disney — the pioneering creator of Disneyland and shrewd businessman — once remarked, “I have been up against tough competition all my life [and] wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”

Research Reports

Science & Technology Highlights in the First Year of the Trump Administration
White House Office of Science and Tech Policy

Since President Trump’s inauguration, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has built a robust team of over 50 staff members, including a corps of scientists and engineers, policymakers, and academics to advise the President on science and technology (S&T), support the President’s agenda, and ensure that S&T efforts across the Executive Branch are effectively coordinated.

Apple Supplier Responsibility 2018 Progress Report
Apple Inc.

Treating people with dignity and respect, providing advancement opportunities, and conserving our planet’s resources are fundamental to how an Apple product is made. That’s why we develop programs throughout our supply chain that drive progress with suppliers, while benefiting the people in our supply chain — and the planet.