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Trump woos tech leaders

President-elect delivers a friendly message to America’s tech leaders, California delivers an unfriendly one to Uber, Amazon delivers popcorn by drone, and Popcorn Time delivers treachery via the Internet. This week’s tech roundup delivers the goods.


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President-elect Donald Trump launched a charm offensive to court heavy-hitters in the tech space this week — well, most of them. Tech luminary Peter Thiel helped him hand-pick tech leaders from firms including IBM, Microsoft, Alphabet and Facebook for a meeting at his New York headquarters. The upshot: he wants them to do well, and suggests they call him any time if they need anything.

That’s encouraging for most big Silicon Valley tech firms, but perhaps less so for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who was reportedly excluded from the meeting after refusing to allow a custom emoji for Trump’s #CrookedHillary hashtag.

The Russians did it, say U.S. spooks

It’s nice to see the future president courting tech, but perhaps not so nice to mull the idea that tech got him there in the first place. In a clear sign that we’re all living in a novel co-written by William Gibson and John Le Carre, U.S. intelligence agencies have a “high level of confidence” that Russia hacked the U.S. election. They also believe that Putin personally directed the affair because of a grudge against Hillary Clinton, before the whole thing escalated in a more concerted effort to undermine America’s democratic process.

The Donald is having none of it, however, and dismisses the reports as ridiculous. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who disseminated the hacked emails in the first place, has also said the leaks didn’t come from the Kremlin. All of which confirms one thing: attributing cyber-intrusions with complete certainty is practically impossible.

Amazon drone delivers goods

Maybe we’d have better luck if we just handed this whole global government thing over to the machines. They’re getting pretty good at doing human-like things, by all accounts. In the U.K., Amazon made its first commercial drone delivery in Cambridge, 13 minutes after the order was placed. In the package was a box of popcorn and an Amazon Fire TV streaming device. Apparently the recipient, known only as Richard B., was planning a night in.

Will drone deliveries take off? Only if regulators loosen up the rules. In the U.S., commercial drones can’t fly over people, and must stay within sight of a ground-based operator, which on the upside could form the basis for a smashing employee fitness program at Amazon.

Uber self-driving car delivers suboptimal performance

While Amazon’s machines appear to be working well, Uber’s aren’t. The ride-sharing firm defied San Francisco regulators by launching self-driving cars in the city, only to have two of them plough through red lights, videos of which surfaced online. Uber blamed the infractions on human error, arguing that drivers paid to sit behind the wheel made mistakes. The California Department of Motor Vehicles remained unimpressed. Pull those cars, now, or face legal action, it told the firm.

Michigan is a little more sympathetic to self-driving cars, having amended laws to grant the testing and deployment of self-driving cars.

Dingbat of the week

This week’s dingbat is whoever wrote Popcorn Time. This ransomware scrambles the data on your drives, just as other ransomware does, but there’s a way to get it back for free. If you don’t want to pay the one bitcoin (around US$780) required to unlock your data, you can share a link to the malware with other people. If two of them get duped by it and pay up, you get your data back for free.

Welcome to a world of malware that exploits your ability to spearphish your friends better than an anonymous cybercriminal could. That’s a nasty twist we never saw coming.

Image: iStock

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