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India Journalism Tech

My Latest Page One Story: U.S. Campaign Against Huawei Runs Aground

IMG 1359

That’s the headline on a Page One story I wrote with my colleagues Rajesh Roy and Dustin Volz. It ran online Thursday and in Friday’s paper.

It begins:

Washington has hit an unlikely roadblock in its extraordinary global push to sideline China’s Huawei Technologies Co.: the world’s biggest democracy, India.

Policy makers and telecommunications firms here are so far largely unpersuaded by U.S. warnings that using Huawei’s equipment to upgrade India’s telecom networks presents a major cybersecurity threat, according to more than a dozen government officials and industry executives. Many argue that any such risk is outweighed by Huawei’s cut-rate prices and technological prowess.

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Journalism Newley's Notes

NN 164: #IndiaTechLash; Super Bowl Roundup; Slack IPO; Golden Retrievers Sledding

2019 02 12 building

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

⚠️ Last week I wrote a story about a trend I’ve mentioned before: India’s government pushing back against U.S. tech titans. Maybe I’ll call it #IndiaTechLash. (Got a better phrase? Hit me up.)

The hedline of a story Tues. I wrote with a colleague: Amazon, Facebook and Walmart Need to Watch Their Backs in India.” The lede:

Hoping to match China’s success at protecting and promoting homegrown tech titans, India has plans to continue tightening restrictions on Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., Facebook Inc. and other foreign firms that have come to dominate the country’s budding internet economy.

⚡ And it contained this scoop (scooplet?):

The secretary of India’s Telecommunications Department, Aruna Sundararajan, last week told a gathering of Indian startups in a closed-door meeting in the tech hub of Bangalore that the government will introduce a “national champion” policy “very soon” to encourage the rise of Indian companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. She said Indian policy makers had noted the success of China’s internet giants, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. , the person said. She didn’t immediately respond to a request for more details on the program or its timing.

Meanwhile, remember the new e-commerce regulations I’ve written about? Well, they’ve come into effect. The hed on a story by a colleague Fri.: Products Yanked from Amazon in India to Comply With New E-Commerce Rules.

🔮 As they say: Watch this space.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💬 1) Slack Files to Go Public With Direct Listing [WSJ]

“The workplace-messaging company’s IPO could come as soon as this spring, people familiar with the matter have said. By the time it debuts, Slack could be valued well above $7 billion, the level at which it recently raised money. ”

🔍 2) Huawei Sting Offers Rare Glimpse of the U.S. Targeting a Chinese Giant [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

“Like all inventors, Khan was paranoid about knockoffs. Even so, he was caught by surprise when Huawei, a potential customer, began to behave suspiciously after receiving the meticulously packed sample.”

🏈 3) New England Patriots Win Super Bowl LIII [WSJ]

“Tom Brady did not have a signature game. New England did not light up the scoreboard. But the Patriots, a dynasty of nearly two decades that has revolutionized football as much as they have changed with it, beat the L.A. Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII in a different type of barnburner that, despite a dearth of points, provided a nail-biting finish to the year.”

📺 4) The Super Bowl ads you will remember [CNN]

“The most memorable spots of the night are ones for brands like Budweiser and Bumble that do not just peddle products, but also sent powerful messages about issues like diversity and women’s empowerment, which are top of mind for many Americans.”

🔻 5) Super Bowl viewership sinks after a solid NFL season [Axios]

“By all accounts, Super Bowl LIII was a snoozer, and its ratings appear to reflect this.”

👪 6) Two Sisters Bought DNA Kits. The Results Blew Apart Their Family. [WSJ]

“Sonny and Brina Hurwitz raised a family in Boston. They both died with secrets.

🎤 7) Fortnite’s Marshmello concert was a bizarre and exciting glimpse of the future [The Verge]

“Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronic music or have never heard of the EDM producer Marshmello, Fortnite’s live in-game concert was still a shockingly stunning sight to behold — it was also an unprecedented moment in gaming.”

✒ 8) A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions [New Yorker]

“I recently called a senior editor at a New York publishing company to discuss the experience of working with Mallory. ‘My God,’ the editor said, with a laugh. ‘I knew I’d get this call. I didn’t know if it would be you or the F.B.I.‘”

📲 9) This is the most brilliant iPhone app grouping I’ve ever seen… [Twitter: @arampell]

❄ 10) Dog video of the week: This should make your day a little happier [Twitter: @MGSniper]

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Amazon, Facebook and Walmart Need to Watch Their Backs in India

2019 02 01 india gate

That’s the headline on a story I wrote Tuesday with my colleague Rajesh Roy. It begins:

Hoping to match China’s success at protecting and promoting homegrown tech titans, India has plans to continue tightening restrictions on Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., Facebook Inc. and other foreign firms that have come to dominate the country’s budding internet economy.

As hundreds of millions of people get online for the first time, and with national elections due in the coming months, Indian policy makers are upping the pressure on American rivals and changing policies to favor domestic players.

The secretary of India’s Telecommunications Department, Aruna Sundararajan, last week told a gathering of Indian startups in a closed-door meeting in the tech hub of Bangalore that the government will introduce a “national champion” policy “very soon” to encourage the rise of Indian companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. She said Indian policy makers had noted the success of China’s internet giants, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. , the person said. She didn’t immediately respond to a request for more details on the program or its timing.

Asked about the comments, she said in a WhatsApp message that the idea is to promote Indian companies “to become global champions."

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Journalism Tech

Uber Wants You to Catch the Bus or Train—if They Can Drive You There

2019 02 01 uber transport

That’s the headline on a story out Wed. that I wrote with my colleague Mike Cherney. It begins:

Uber Technologies Inc., fresh from disrupting the taxi industry and leaping into food delivery, is devising a new business strategy ahead of its anticipated public offering: ferrying passengers to and from mass-transit systems.

Last year, the ride-sharing giant created an internal team with a focus on partnerships with local transit officials, a shift for a company that previously had run-ins with regulators as it expanded around the globe. The move comes as Uber seeks to evolve from being primarily a taxi-like service to a wider transportation platform, offering options like electric bikes and scooters—and eventually public bus and train tickets.

The approach could generate significant revenue for Uber, if the company can convince customers to take more Uber trips to and from bus stops or train stations. Finding new revenue is crucial for the cash-burning giant, which has said it doesn’t expect to be profitable for at least three years and faces increasing competition as it plans for an IPO this year.

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India Journalism Tech

Foxconn Looks Beyond China to India for iPhone Assembly

2019 01 23foxconn

That’s the headline on a story I wrote yesterday with my colleagues Yang Jie, Yoko Kubota, and Rajesh Roy.

It begins:

Apple Inc.’s largest iPhone assembler, Foxconn Technology Group, is considering producing the devices in India, people familiar with the matter said, a move that could reduce Apple’s dependence on China for manufacturing and potentially for sales.

Executives at Foxconn, a contract manufacturer that assembles a large portion of the world’s iPhones in China, are studying whether to include an India project in budget plans, one of the people said. Senior executives, possibly including Chairman Terry Gou, plan to visit India after next month’s Lunar New Year to discuss plans, the people familiar said.

Foxconn’s look at India comes as sustained friction between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology is pushing many companies to consider diversifying their supply chains away from China, a global center of assembly for smartphones, computers and other electronics.

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Journalism Tech

Facebook’s WhatsApp Limits Users’ Ability to Forward Messages

2019 01 22whatsapp

That’s the headline on my most recent story, out yesterday, with my colleague James Hookway. It begins:

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service is limiting users’ ability to forward content, seeking to curtail ways the popular platform allows the spread of misinformation and sometimes has led to violence.

The move, which follows months of criticism over the company’s response to such incidents, is one of the bigger changes Facebook has made to one of its core services in response to political pressure.

The company said Monday that WhatsApp’s more than one billion global users can now only forward material to five individual users or groups at once, down from 20.

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India Journalism

India Wants Access to Encrypted WhatsApp Messages

2019 01 17whatsappindia

That’s the headline on my most recent story, out Tuesday and in Wednesday’s print WSJ. It begins:

NEW DELHI— Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp is facing pressure in India to let authorities trace and read the encrypted messages of its more than 200 million Indian users in a new attempt at constraining global tech giants.

India’s telecommunications regulator has asked for feedback on new rules that—in the name of national security—could force “over the top” services such as WhatsApp, which use mobile operators’ infrastructure, to allow the government access to users’ messages.

At the same time India’s Information Technology Ministry has proposed new intermediary guidelines that would force WhatsApp and others to trace messages and remove objectionable content within 24 hours.

WhatsApp—which has more users in India than in any other country—has “pushed back on government attempts to ban or weaken end-to-end encryption and will continue to do so,” said a person familiar with the company’s thinking.

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Journalism Tech

Uber CEO Says Market Turmoil Won’t Derail IPO Plans

2019 01 14uberceo

That’s the headline on my latest story, out Tuesday and in Wednesdsay’s print WSJ. It begins:

Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said market turbulence in the U.S. would be unlikely to affect the ride-hailing titan’s plans for a public listing.

“Any company that’s going public would like to do it in a positive, stable market,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said in an interview Tuesday in Singapore. But the startup is large and flexible enough to go public in almost any market, he said. “We’ll do it when we’re ready, and, hopefully, the markets will be in a good state."

Mr. Khosrowshahi said Uber was internally on track to list this year, having previously said he expected to seek a debut in the second half of 2019 in what would be one of the biggest public offerings planned for the year. The company is also keeping an eye out for a possible debut by rival U.S. firm Lyft Inc., which has indicated it plans to seek an IPO this year and filed confidentially with the SEC the same day Uber did.

“The good news is that we’ve got a strong balance sheet so we don’t need to go public this year,” he said. “It’s a desire,” he said, but “if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. “I’d be disappointed and I think our shareholders would be disappointed but the company would be just fine."

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Journalism Tech

Popular Weather App Collects Too Much User Data, Security Experts Say

2019 01 03weather app

That’s the headline on my latest story, out Wednesday. It begins:

NEW DELHI—A popular weather app built by a Chinese tech conglomerate has been collecting an unusual amount of data from smartphones around the world and attempting to subscribe some users to paid services without permission, according to a London-based security firm’s research.

The free app, one of the world’s most-downloaded weather apps in Google’s Play store, is from TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd., of Shenzhen, China. TCL makes Alcatel- and BlackBerry -branded phones, while a sister company makes televisions.

The app, called “Weather Forecast—World Weather Accurate Radar,” collects data including smartphone users’ geographic locations, email addresses and unique 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers on TCL servers in China, according to Upstream Systems, the mobile commerce and security firm that found the activity. Until last month, the app was known as “Weather—Simple weather forecast.”

A TCL spokesman didn’t address queries about the amount of data the app collects.

The weather app also has attempted to surreptitiously subscribe more than 100,000 users of its low-cost Alcatel smartphones in countries such as Brazil, Malaysia and Nigeria to paid virtual-reality services, according to Upstream Systems. The security firm, which discovered the activity as part of its work for mobile operators, said users would have been billed more than $1.5 million had it not blocked the attempts.

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India Journalism Tech

Amazon, Walmart Foiled as India Tightens E-Commerce Rules

Screen Shot 2018 12 30 at 1 18 39 PM

That’s the headline of a story I wrote Thursday with my colleague Corinne Abrams. It begins:

India is tightening restrictions on foreign e-commerce companies operating in the country, in a new challenge to Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. as they bet billions on the nascent market.

Current rules forbid non-Indian online sellers from holding their own inventory and shipping it out to consumers, as is typically done in other countries. Instead, the foreign sellers have found a work-around, selling online what are effectively their own products but held by their affiliated local companies.

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We wrote more about the issue Friday in another story, which began:

American firms are plowing billions into India’s internet economy in part because, unlike China, India promised a level playing field for foreign firms to compete against local companies. Now that field may be tilting toward domestic startups amid a global backlash against U.S. tech titans, according to analysts and industry officials.

With national elections approaching early next year, India’s government said Wednesday it is tightening restrictions on foreign e-commerce players, the latest move in recent months that restrains their freedom to operate compared with local firms. The new rules present a fresh challenge to Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. as they aim for growing slices of a market where many of India’s 1.3 billion people are starting to shop online thanks to inexpensive smartphones and data.

Vinay Kesari, a Bangalore-based technology lawyer specializing in regulatory matters who has worked with U.S. tech firms, said such moves to rein in foreign tech companies have been highly unusual and may be a sign of more to come.

“I’ve never seen anything like this happening,” he said. “All bets are off at this point.”

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