At a glance.
- Pandemic lockdown lands China in love-hate relationship with Big Tech.
- US SEC increases hiring for crypto investigators.
- Update on the alleged tapping of the Spanish prime minister’s phone.
Pandemic lockdown lands China in love-hate relationship with Big Tech.
Bloomberg offers a look at China’s recent regulation of Big Tech, and how the latest COVID-19 lockdown has impacted the relationship between the government and tech companies. Recent regulations led to a major drop in market value for many Chinese tech companies. That said, the industry previously benefited from substantial government tax cuts that seemingly have left government officials feeling licensed to ask these companies to support citizens during the latest wave of the pandemic, even if that help means a loss of profits. Companies like Alibaba and JD.com have provided online platforms to support food distribution to residents under lockdown, and these delivery services likely cost the companies more than they are seeing in returns.
US SEC increases hiring for crypto investigators.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced this week that it will be hiring for twenty new positions on its Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit. Created in 2017 to regulate the cryptocurrency industry, which had so far evaded most consumer protection rules, the unit investigates crypto fraud and other illicit activities. SEC Chair Gary Gensler explains, “The Division of Enforcement’s Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit has successfully brought dozens of cases against those seeking to take advantage of investors in crypto markets. By nearly doubling the size of this key unit, the SEC will be better equipped to police wrongdoing in the crypto markets while continuing to identify disclosure and control issues with respect to cybersecurity.” As the Wall Street Journal notes, the commission filed almost one hundred enforcement actions between 2013 and 2021. The additional investigators and litigators will take the unit’s total personnel to fifty, and they will soon have a new leader, as the unit’s current chief Kristina Littman has announced plans to exit in June.
Update on the alleged tapping of the Spanish prime minister’s phone.
As we noted yesterday, the Spanish government has disclosed that the phones of the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the defense minister, Margarita Roble were infected with NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus surveillance software last year. AP News reports that the Spanish government yesterday reasserted that it had nothing to do with the illicit surveillance. Cabinet spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez vowed that officials will engage in “the utmost collaboration with the legal authorities, including declassifying relevant documents if it proves necessary.” She added, “In this case, as in many others, we have nothing to hide.” She was perhaps alluding to the discovery made earlier this month that Pegasus, along with spyware from the company Candiriu, was used to spy on separatists in Spain’s Catalonia region. The Guardian notes that this is just Spain’s latest brush with Pegasus, as last year the Pegasus Project found more than two hundred Spanish mobile phone numbers on a list of suspected spyware targets. Though Spanish officials have been reluctant to speculate on which of NSO’s clients could be behind the surveillance, many believe Morocco could be tied to the numbers on the Pegasus Project list, as evidence showed the country had also listed dozens of French officials, including President Emmanuel Macron, as potential targets.