10 things in tech you need to know today

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Microsoft researchers encoded “Superman” onto a piece of glass.
Handout/Reuters


Good morning! This is the tech news you need to know this Wednesday.

  1. Apple and TikTok skipped a Senate hearing on Big Tech and China. Empty chairs were left to draw attention to the missing tech executives, signalling the senators’ displeasure.
  2. Researchers discovered that Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa can be hijacked with a $14 laser pointer to open garage doors, start cars, and shop online. They found that shining even cheap laser pointers at microphones in smart speakers and some smartphone models could result in the device interpreting the light as sound.
  3. Employees of TikTok in the US were reportedly pressured to censor “culturally problematic” content that might offend the Chinese government. Former employees told the Washington Post they were directed to censor videos that featured vaping, “suggestive” dancing, and social and political issues.
  4. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri and his family have been targeted by multiple “swatting” calls, drawing armed police to their homes in San Francisco and New York. In both cases responding officers were able to determine that the reports were hoaxes, though the callers reported shootings in progress.
  5. Google is launching an accelerator for climate change startups. The first cohort will be selected from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for a six-month program beginning in early 2020 and a second cohort will start later in 2020.
  6. A Facebook exec acknowledged that some people won’t be “comfortable” using a financial product built by Facebook but said Mark Zuckerberg isn’t giving up — even if it takes decades. Kevin Weil, vice president of Facebook’s currency venture Calibra, spoke at Web Summit in Lisbon.
  7. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey trolled Facebook’s rebranded all-caps logo. This isn’t the first time Dorsey has pushed back on Facebook in recent weeks: he has criticized Mark Zuckerberg’s comments on free speech, and after Facebook said it wouldn’t fact-check political ads, Twitter said it would ban political ads.
  8. YouTube banned former White House advisor Sebastian Gorka after he refused to stop playing an Imagine Dragons song in his videos. Gorka repeatedly used the Imagine Dragons song “Radioactive” to introduce his radio show “America First,” which was streamed on YouTube.
  9. Peloton acquired a company that manufactures its bikes for $47.4 million. This is an important acquisition for Peloton as it had previously said that having limited control over its third-party manufacturing partners is a big risk for the company.
  10. Microsoft researchers used a laser to encode Warner Bros. “Superman” on a piece of glass. The feat was a proof of concept for a years-long effort to store data in glass, and the researchers used a combination of laser optics and artificial intelligence.

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