Meng Wanzhou granted bail, and a gift from Trump

Tuesday could not have gone much better for arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

First, after almost three full days of hearings, she was released on bail. BBC News:

A judge in Vancouver set bail at C$10m (£6m; $7.4m). She will be under surveillance 24 hours a day and must wear an electronic ankle tag.

And then, later on, this from Reuters’ White House correspondent:

Meng due back in court on February 6th. 

Those sanctions, remember, were put in place by Trump. But he now appears to be suggesting they don’t matter as long as you can offer a business deal to the US – giving China, and Meng’s lawyers, massive leverage when those extradition hearings begin (if indeed they actually do).


Here’s more of what Trump told Reuters:

“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Huawei arrest puts ‘bullseye’ on Apple

A second day’s hearing has come and gone, and still no decision on whether or not Meng Wanzhou will be granted bail.

China’s anger is building. In this piece for BBC News, I assess one company that might find itself in the crosshairs:

The fallout from her arrest will surely mean, at the very least, an even more difficult relationship for the handful of US tech giants that have found great fortune in China. In particular, Apple, the poster child for US tech success, and a company that relied on China for 20% of its revenues this past year.

Today’s hearing was mostly focused around the lengths to which Meng’s defense team is going to in order to convince the judge she is not a flight risk. This piece in Bloomberg outlines what was being offered as a bail bond: around C$15m, combination of real estate and C$1m cash.

That didn’t seem quite enough to satisfy the judge who suggested it should be C$15m entirely in cash. Prosecutors say that kind of money may seem a lot, but not to a person as wealthy and connected as Meng.

Sundar Pichai’s testimony to Congress

He’ll be up on the Hill on Tuesday (beginning at 10am ET), but before then, here’s Sundar Pichai’s planned testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.

There’s nothing about China, and nothing about the ongoing row about how Google treats its female employees. But then, strictly speaking, the hearing isn’t meant to be about either of those issues (though he’ll surely be asked). Instead, it’s meant to be addressing allegations of political bias across Google’s services, particularly search and YouTube. Here’s some of what Pichai plans to say about that:

I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions—and we have no shortage of them among our own employees.

The Washington Post’s Tony Romm has this on Pichai’s preparations, and what the Google boss got up to when he, along with other tech leaders, visited the White House last week.

Scooters keep getting dumped in Oakland’s beautiful lake

Slate’s April Glaser writes:

Just in October, cleanup crews fished out of the lake more than 60 electric scooters, made by Bird and its competitor Lime as well as lesser-known comers like Skip and Wind, according to James Robinson, executive director of the Lake Merritt Institute. Robinson recently met with representatives from Lime and Bird as well as Oakland’s Department of Transportation to address what he’s calling a “crisis” for the lake.

It’s not just Oakland. The tipping of scooters in all sorts of habitats is a growing problem across the US – and the companies don’t seem to have any meaningful way of stopping it – other than removing the temptation and assisting with clean up. From April’s piece:

“We have our local ops team patrolling [Lake Merritt] for scooters on a daily basis,” Lime spokeswoman Mary Caroline Pruitt wrote in an email, adding that the company acts immediately if it receives a report of a scooter in Lake Merritt. Lime is also planning to implement a “no parking zone” around the lake to prevent passersby from throwing the scooters in the water—meaning the scooters won’t be able to end their rental session in the lake’s immediate vicinity.

And if you wonder how they get them out, the New York Times’ Jack Nicas posted this:

China flexes its muscles, bans sale of old iPhones

From the state-backed Global Times, a notably-timed move by China:

A Chinese court reportedly ordered Apple to stop selling older iPhone models in the country due to patent infringements, a move that shows China has the ability to exert pressure on US tech giants amid growing tensions, a Chinese analyst said.

The decision relates to a long-running patent dispute between chipmaker Qualcomm and Apple, patents that relate to allowing users to “edit and resize photos on a phone and to manage apps by using a touchscreen”. Here’s CNN’s take:

The ruling was a surprise. Product injunctions are rarely granted, and China was widely expected to reject Qualcomm’s request for a ban.

Although it’s impossible to know whether politics played a part in the decision, China and the United States are embroiled in a tit-for-tat trade war that threatens to boil over.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives writes via email:

According to Apple’s statement there should be no disruption to the models Chinese consumers can purchase, although this remains up in the air given the mixed messages and reports coming out of China this morning. In a nutshell, with China being a linchpin of growth for Apple around iPhone sales any further dent in the armor at this juncture is not what Apple or investors wanted to see given the headwinds around sales of its latest XR model.

It continues to feel like every day the sun will come out and there will be another bad data point for Apple as since the company reported its quarter in early November it’s been a string of bad news around iPhone demand, transparency in the food chain, supplier cuts, China tariff worries with the stock down significantly and losing its gains for the year. We continue to believe today’s news is more noise than a fundamental impact, although it will add to the black clouds over Cupertino until investors hear from the company in January.

Google hurries shut down of Google+ after an even worse privacy bug is found

You’ll remember in October Google decided to shut Google+ down after finding data on 500,000 of its users had been exposed.

It’s now going to expedite that process after finding a bug that balloons the number of affected users to 52.5 million.

From Google’s security blog:

Our investigation into the impact of the bug is ongoing, but here is what we have learned so far:

  • We have confirmed that the bug impacted approximately 52.5 million users in connection with a Google+ API.
  • With respect to this API, apps that requested permission to view profile information that a user had added to their Google+ profile—like their name, email address, occupation, age (full list here)—were granted permission to view profile information about that user even when set to not-public.
  • In addition, apps with access to a user’s Google+ profile data also had access to the profile data that had been shared with the consenting user by another Google+ user but that was not shared publicly.
  • The bug did not give developers access to information such as financial data, national identification numbers, passwords, or similar data typically used for fraud or identity theft.
  • No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the developers who inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.

All Google API access will be killed off in 90 days. The closure of the consumer version of the network will be moved forward from August 2019 to April.

Google said it would continue to invest in Google+ for its enterprise customers.

Update: Here’s my take for BBC News.

Meng Wanzhou back in court

Here’s my brief report heading into Monday morning:

(BBC World Service, first aired 10 DEC 2018, 0500GMT)

As I mention in the report, this crisis is deepening with every hour Meng remains in Canadian prison. Over the weekend, Beijing summoned both the Canadian and US ambassadors, reiterating its view that there will be serious repercussions for both countries if Meng is not released.

Embed from Getty Images

We also learned this weekend, via now-public court documents, that Meng was briefly treated in hospital for severe high blood pressure.

The US is doing what it can to distance this arrest from the trade talks that are ongoing with China. On Sunday, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer went on CBS’s Face the Nation programme, saying:

“This is a criminal justice matter. It is totally separate from anything I work on or anything that trade policy people in the administration work on.”

However, he did later concede he “can understand from the Chinese perspective how they would see it that way,” referring to Chinese accusations the timing could not have been a coincidence.

US/Canadian prosecutors have been keen to point out that the Eastern District of New York had issued an arrest warrant way back on 22nd August, way before these latest US-China trade talks. Though of course, tensions with China were already growing before the summer.

The hearing will start at 10am PT (6pm GMT, 1pm ET).

Remembering the ‘mother of all demos’

It’s fifty years, Fast Company tells me, since one presentation changed everything in computing. Great read on Engelbart’s work, the influences of which can be seen all over the place:

On a crisp California afternoon in early December 1968, a square-jawed, mild-mannered Stanford researcher named Douglas Engelbart took the stage at San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium and proceeded to blow everyone’s mind about what computers could do.

And here’s the video: