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Spies, lies and algorithms

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Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from an unfiltered look at how Apple and Google work to the long road to sustainable tech.

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The best of Protocol

The FBI's warning to Silicon Valley: China and Russia are trying to turn your employees into spies, by Biz Carson

  • It won't shock you that the U.S. government is worried about autocratic interference in the country. But FBI agents have spent years warning tech companies in particular of a specific threat: that countries like China and Russia could be trying to turn employees into spies. The ramifications of this one on security practices, and even how prospective hires are vetted, are going to be huge.

The quest for sustainable consumer electronics: It's not easy being green, by Janko Roettgers

  • Everybody wants to build more sustainable, environmentally friendly gadgets. But actually doing it is the hard part, and requires changing everything from supply chains to the general notion that technology should move fast and never get more expensive. (And don't miss part two of this series, which looks at how focusing on sustainability changes product design, and even business models.)

Google discussed teaming up with Tencent to take over Epic Games, by Nick Statt

  • This wins the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" award this week, with newly unredacted court documents showing just how far Google and Apple are willing to go to keep the app store economy running as it is. Buy, copy, bully — in a situation like this one everything's on the table.

A Josh Hawley lawyer began clerking for Justice Thomas. Then Thomas came out swinging for Big Tech, by Issie Lapowsky

  • Nobody has been louder or more aggressive in voicing opinions about Big Tech than Josh Hawley. And when Josh Divine, a lawyer in Hawley's office, went to clerk for Clarence Thomas, Thomas began to sound a little … Hawley-esque. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Meet the Apple veteran building Square's bitcoin wallet for the masses, by Ben Pimentel

  • The only way for cryptocurrency to go mainstream is for cryptocurrency to get a lot less complicated. That's what Square is trying to do — build a hardware wallet that anyone can understand and use — and what Thomas Templeton spends his time trying to figure out. And as he explains, there's nothing easy about it.


After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. Just as with building a healthier lifestyle, enacting measures of support on the day-to-day level is where lasting change is made.

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The best of everything else

Sweetheart deals and plastic knives: All the best emails from the Apple vs. Epic trial — The Verge

  • The trial of the summer doubled as a treasure trove of information about how Apple, one of the industry's most secretive companies, actually works. In the emails that came out in discovery, we learned how Apple sees competition, how the gaming industry is changing, and how the screws are being slowly tightened on the App Store. Oh, and apparently the iPhone Nano really was a thing?

Apple's double agent — Vice

  • Speaking of Apple: Here's a wild story about Andrey Shumeyko, who spent years living a double life as a prolific Apple leaker while also sharing information about leakers, journalists and employees with Apple itself. You won't believe how deep this world really goes.

Bad news — Harper's

  • This piece traveled around Tech Twitter all week, sparking lots of conversations about how the disinformation economy works, what that phrase even means, what disinformation even means, and what we want from our information sources and networks. You won't agree with everything in the piece, but it'll make you think.

How AI-powered tech landed man in jail with scant evidence — AP

  • A car in an intersection, a loud bang, and an algorithm. That's what sent Michael Williams to jail for murder. This investigation into that case, and the ShotSpotter system in general, found that machine learning is hardly the panacea it's made out to be even as it's increasingly relied on to provide answers to high-stakes questions.

Waymo is 99% of the way to self-driving cars. The last 1% is the hardest — Bloomberg

  • Here's your answer to "where's my self-driving car?" It's almost ready … and it's going to be almost ready for an awfully long time. This is a good look at how Waymo raced ahead in the self-driving wars, why its progress has stalled recently, and what that slowdown means for the industry's ability to keep smart people interested.


"Well, that meeting could have been an email." A recent joint study from Harvard Business School and New York University found that the average number of meetings increased 12.9% during the pandemic. Meetings are the first and fastest way for your company to free up valuable team time.

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