News Roundup: Tech CEO's ditch the White House post-Charlottesville

A roundup of the week’s technology news including Facebook clones, robot fails, and Amazon drone trains.

Tech abandons Trump’s Counsels

In the wake of the horrible scenes in Charlottesville and President Trump’s ‘blame on both sides’ comments, various technology CEOs who had previously given the POTUS a chance are now jumping ship.

Intel’s Brian Krzanich announced via a company blog that he was leaving the American Manufacturing Council  - as did Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier - to “call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues”.

“I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.”

This week also saw IBM CEO Ginni Rometty step down from Trump’s strategy and policy forum.

“In the past week, we have seen and heard of public events and statements that run counter to our values as a country and a company,” she wrote in an internal memo seen by the Reg, “We have always believed that dialogue is critical to progress; that is why I joined the President’s Forum earlier this year. But this group can no longer serve the purpose for which it was formed.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook also spoke out against recent events, saying in an internal note that “Hate is a Cancer.”

“I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

In the wake of Krzanich and others leaving, the President tweeted that “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place,” before announcing the next day that he was ending both the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum. He then took potshots at Amazon.

“Alt Right” site The Daily Stormer has been kicked from just about every hosting site going (including Russia’s RU-Center) this week, but it’s CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince’s comments that created the most headlines. Prince reversed the company’s long-held neutral stance when it comes to hosting content because he “woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet.”

In a letter obtained by Gizmodo, Prince claimed “the people behind the Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough,” but he also admitted this decision was dangerous and could set a bad precedent.


Intel diversity

Remember that $300 million Intel pledged to increase workplace diversity? It doesn’t seem to have changed much so far. According the company’s latest diversity report the last 12 months saw 0.3% increase in female representation and no growth in representation of Black or Hispanic people.

“The white male and Asian male majority population continues to represent more than 90% of mid to senior technical roles,” reads the report.



In the latest WannaCry related headlines, Marcus ‘MalwareTech’ Hutchins is back online after pleading not guilty to developing the Kronos malware. The judge ruled he can continue working and access the internet, but not the server he used to stop WannaCry spreading.

Meanwhile, the Bitcoins withdrawn from the WannaCry account have reportedly been exchanged for the privacy-focused Monero cryptocurrency.


Amazon trains

Amazon’s patents are an endless supply of sci-fi like ideas: Underground delivery tunnels, drone beehives, airship warehouses, anything you can imagine. The company’s latest patent takes to the rails; ‘Ground-based mobile maintenance facilities for unmanned aerial vehicles’ envisions train carriages which are in fact mobile warehouses from which drones can deliver parcels and refuel.



Google has made a double swoop for Senosis Health and AIMatter, Qualcomm has acquired AI startup Scyfer, Microsoft now owns Cloud HPC startup Cycle Computing, Facebook has snapped up German AR company Fayteq, Lyft has gone in for both YesGraph and DataScore, WeWork has snaffled Unomy, Workday has purchased Pattern, Tableau has splashed out for natural language startup ClearGraph, Deloitte has picked up Acne, and Target has splurged out for logistics startup Grand Junction.

Opera has announced it is killing off its Opera Max mobile data compression service.



Did you know 3M – aka the company behind Post-Its and Scotch Tape – is working on putting information for driverless cars into traffic signs that are hidden from the human eye? The signs – being tested on the I-75 in Oakland County, Detroit have information such as GPS coordinates or upcoming traffic light locations. Did you also know it’s relatively easy to confuse driverless cars when it comes to road signs by adding a few stickers?

A car caused a stir in Virginia this week because people thought it was a new driverless prototype. Turns out, however, it was in fact driven by a person disguising themselves as a car seat. Turns out it was part of a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.


Using DNA to hack

Using DNA to store digital information is one of the more interesting methods being researched. But one group of researchers from the Paul G Allen school of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington have managed to turn this promising technique into a malicious delivery method. They found a vulnerability in a DNA processing program, wrote malware which was then coded into synthetic DNA, and then compromised the computer once it was sequenced. While it might be the stuff of science fiction, this might well be the first case of biological cyber-hacking.


Facebook still cloning

No matter how many times Facebook hits a wall, the company comes back with the same thing over and over and over. Just look at the Snapchat clones. Mark Zuckerberg’s company recently shut down teen-focused photo app Lifestage after a year of no one actually using it. At the same time the company announced Watch, which looks a lot like an attempt to be like YouTube, but in blue. 

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest social media is reportedly looking for ways to muscle in on the Chinese market. According to the NYT, Facebook has launched a new photo-sharing app called Colorful Balloons in China which looks almost identical to the company’s Moments app but carries none of the FB branding. Facebook has commented to various media outlets neither confirming nor denying the report.


Bitcoin keeps going up

Another week, another Bitcoin high. The cryptocurrency in the last week has broken both the $4,000 and $4,500 marks for the first time. Bitcoin only reach the $3,000 mark for the first time in the last month. Peter Schiff, an investor who has previously called Bitcoin “digital fool's gold”, maintained there is a BTC bubble, while John McAfee claimed it’s “absurd” to call the recent price rise a bubble.

The spike may well be tied to the lack of fuss around the recent Bitcoin/Bitcoin Cash fork, as a smooth breakaway may have released any previously pent up apprehension from investors. Bitcoin Cash’s value is up as well, trading at a near-record $490.


Har har, robots failing

For now, it’s funny to laugh to robots falling over and generally failing at stuff we take for granted. But remember that robots learn from these mistakes a lot quicker than people do. And who’ll be laughing when they rule the world? In the meantime, here’s Boston Dynamics’ robots falling over and failing at stuff.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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