This Week in Tech 636 Transcript
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech. Great panel: Erin Griffith from Wired. Brianna Wu, Spacekatgal and candidate for Congress. And Dan Patterson from CBS Interactive. We're going to talk about new social media guidelines for reporters at The Times. Are they a good idea? A bad idea? Twitter says we're going to change things, honest. We'll talk about Darth Vader and his friends. And the best-selling game in America. It's gone platinum. It's all coming up next on TWiT.
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 636. Recorded Sunday, October 16, 2017.
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It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the late great tech news; this week's tech news with a panel of brilliant people. Erin Griffith is here. Her new job-I'm thrilled to say-Senior Writer at Wired. She came from Fortune. And we met at the podcast up fronts a couple of years ago.
Erin Griffith: How many of those have they had now? Three? Two?
Leo: They just had another one in September. And they're bigger and more important than ever.
Erin: How big is the podcast advertising industry now? Like how big of a market is that?
Leo: Not as big as I like it to be.
Erin: The amount of coverability and hype that it gets. I think people would be surprised at how small it actually is compared to…
Leo: Erin, it's a Renaissance! We're having a Renaissance, please!
Erin: Wrong to say on a podcast, right?
Leo: No, it's the right thing to say. It's the honest thing to say. That's a good point. I just saw the stat for radio ad sales…
Erin: It's like $18 billion two years ago.
Leo: Yea, $18 billion, something like that. But we get a tiny, tiny fraction of that.
Erin: Hundreds of millions still, right?
Leo: I don't even know if it's that high to be honest still. Our net, actually our revenue net of commissions last year was $9.8 million. But we're one of the largest independent podcast networks. But if you say there's 10 of them… it's not hundreds. That's just a really long channel.
Erin: I was thinking I read like $150 a couple years ago.
Leo: But that's all a guess. Nobody ever asked me. And I tell people.
Erin: That's because you say it out loud.
Leo: I tell people! I'm sure Panoply and Gimlet aren't saying what their revenue is. Because I think it's probably a low number. Yea, you don't make a lot of money in podcasts. Remember that everybody and stay away! Dan Patterson's also here from Tech Republic and CBS Interactive. Always a good friend. Great to see you again, Dan.
Dan Patterson: Always great to be here. I remember podcasting back when we had to hand-code that XML and put that orange button on your site. And Adam Curry's pot show was going to change the world.
Leo: I hand-crafted our RSS feeds for probably a year or two.
Dan: Yea, me too.
Erin: It makes it sound artisanal.
Leo: You know what the name of our agency, the ad sales agency that sells our ads is called? Artisanal. Because we are hand-made media. We make each show by hand.
Erin: What's the Etsy of media?
Leo: Us! Hey you know who else is here? It's really great to welcome back Brianna Wu. We love Brianna: Space Cat Gal. She's a game developer, giant Space Cat but also running for Congress in the Massachusetts Eighth District. And there will be an election someday.
Brianna Wu: Someday, next year. It's going to be probably in September. So I've got work to do.
Leo: Your opponent has run without opposition for some time, right?
Brianna: Quite a while. You know he had a Yingyin challenger a few years ago. But they didn't manage to make a significant dent. I think people are ready for a change.
Leo: Yea. That's the opponent in the Democratic primaries.
Brianna: That's correct. I'm trying to primary him. He's not Democrat in my opinion. He's very weak on women's rights. He got into politics originally to actually fight against gay rights. He voted against the assault weapons ban.
Leo: Wait. He got into politics because he wanted to fight gay rights?
Erin: As a Democrat?
Brianna: Absolutely. As a Democrat.
Leo: Good to have a cause.
Dan: In Massachusetts.
Brianna: In Massachusetts, yea. One of the first bills he tried to pass when he was in the state house was a bill that would actually make, it would basically erase hate crimes against gay people and transgender people. If it was found out that the gay or transgender person was acting quote-unquote lasciviously, this was in the Howell and Matthew Shephard era.
Leo: Talk about blaming the victim. Oh you were acting lasciviously-it's okay to beat you up.
Brianna: Right, pretty shocking stuff.
Leo: Wow. Well, we've fortunately come a long way. Maybe it's time to elect Brianna Wu in the Massachusetts seat. I'm just saying.
Brianna: There we go.
Leo: Actually we were talking before the show. Dan kind of jokingly said-I don't want to state anything about my politics-but all three of you are not hiding your political slant one way or the other. But the New York Times published what has become somewhat of a controversial letter. This is from Dean Basket. Actually I don't know if they published it. Well it's in The New York Times-so they did. New social media guidelines. We believe that to remain the world's best news organization we have to maintain a vibrant presence on social media. But, we also need to make sure we're engaging responsibly in social media along with the values of our newsroom. So they've updated their guidelines. Is this something every media outlet should adopt? For instance our journalist must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments, or do anything that undercuts the giants' or journalist's reputation. I guess if you're tweeting as a Times reporter that's not unreasonable.
Erin: That's why they have columnists though. And that's why they keep their columnists separate from their journalists. The columnist can express all kinds of opinions and that's their job. I think that line gets blurred a lot in people's minds because a lot of digital writers are columnists or they express opinions and then they also do reporting. They're kind of in this hybrid role. But in old school places like The Times, the line is very cool.
Leo: And new school places like ESPN. But we'll get to that in a second. This is the one that I think some people bridle. We consider all social media activity by our journalists to come under this policy. You may think your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media accounts are private zones and separate from your role at The Times. But everything we like or post is to some degree public. What do you think, Dan? Is that an appropriate…?
Dan: Whether McCabe needs to write this or articulate this or not-although maybe it is important for the reasons that Erin just mentioned-often particularly in this age of social media it's easy to conflate opinion with fact. And a place like The Times is often under attack for being liberal or leaning left. And for him to say these are what our policies are, maybe that helps create a little more transparency in their operations. I would say just as a journalist I love CBSI and nobody tells me what to think or what to write. But I don't express opinions like we just talked about on the preshow. I don't express opinions publicly because it undermines my work. It's like writing about the iPhone or Android and saying you have a preference. It undermines the faith and confidence readers have and whether somebody wants to believe… it's not about me. And the story is not about me. The story is about the story. And if I make it about my political opinions it undermines not just faith in me but faith and confidence in the story. And we need that now more than ever.
Leo: Boy that is so old school!
Erin: One thing I noticed that Mike Isaac, I think everyone knows his Twitter presence. He's very opinionated and kind of silly and joky and extremely active on Twitter. He tweeted something that I think is pretty smart: everyone at The Times was pretty much already acting this way. But now this is just codifying it. So people at The Times, even the most outrageous tweeters aren't upset about it. They kind of know what Dan articulated. Which is if they want to be taken seriously, they have to be careful about what they put out there.
Leo: It's not all inappropriate. But what's interesting is how important social media has become and how difficult this is. Because presumably Times journalists have Facebook accounts for the same reasons other people do. To keep track of family and friends. And you might assume your Snapchat posts are not part of your public persona. But that's how Dean wants to treat it. I guess it makes sense. Mike-I don't know if this is in response to this or not-he did tweet on Friday, ‘I am going to tweet some great stuff tonight.' You got to see how he spelled tweet.
Brianna: That's the best Mike Isaac tweet of all. Something I found-a lot of people don't know this about me-before I went into engineering, I actually majored in journalism. I worked as an investigative journalist for many years. I think it's a great background for a politician. Something I found when I was trying to write stories… I'll give you an example: I was writing this story in Mississippi about a landlord that didn't want to pay to clean up a toxic waste spill in the middle of their apartment complex. And you had literal residents; they're sitting there all camped around green goo. And they've got hives on their bodies. And I remember trying to write this story and my editor going, ‘well you're not being objective to the landlord. You're not being objective.' And it was for me personally, I think this is why I make a better politician than a journalist because I do have a point of view and I can't hide that. So I think I like the New York Times is holding their reporters to the highest standard possible. I just privately, I'm not convinced that journalistic objectivity really exists. We called it the view from nowhere in school. Kind of pretending there's no objective truth here and you don't have any perspective as you're gathering facts. I'm just not convinced that it's there presently.
Dan: But I don't think that that is the pretense here. I think that that's a pretense that's wasted on a lot of reporters. I think the pretense is exactly what they articulated. As a reporter I will approach stories fairly and honestly. And I will do my best in that just like anybody who goes to their job. Your job is to do the best job you possibly can. So I don't think it's that everything is going to be black and white objective. I think it's I will do my best to be as fair as possible to the story and the subjects in the story.
Erin: I think one thing people were criticizing was that this is going to force reporters to do this kind of false equivalency thing that is…
Erin: In a lot of news stories, tweet many varieties. And also the other thing is-I don't know if you follow the Wall Street Journal-but they have the strictest social media policy of any place that I've heard. Where they can't even tweet stories that aren't from the Wall Street Journal. And as a result their Twitter feeds are… I'm not totally sure on this but I'm pretty sure that's still the policy. And a lot of their feeds are pretty boring because they don't really get to comment on stuff that isn't in the Journal.
Leo: Twitter is such a challenge for everybody. In so many ways. I know Brianna you've been attacked viciously on Twitter. During Gamergate, our President uses Twitter in all sorts of interesting and unusual ways. Rose McAllen, of course this is the most recent kerfuffle on Twitter-immediately eclipsing The Times-that Rose McAllen, who was doing a tweet storm about men in Hollywood. Got kicked off; her whole account was banned. Because according to Twitter she doxed somebody. She put out a private phone number in a tweet. But they don't have the capability of blocking a tweet or deleting a tweet so they have to delete your account. And then as a result on Friday there was a boycott: women are supposed to boycott Twitter. Twitter just seems to be a natural place for upset outrage. It's difficult. And now Jack Dorsey says we're going to have new rules. On late Friday he said we're going to have new rules. This headline could run every six months: new rules of hate harassment in response to the boycott. Which at least he responded to. He says we're going to have a crackdown on unwanted sexual advances, hate symbols, non-consensual nudity, violent groups, tweets that glorify violence starting in just a few weeks. Which means I guess all of that stuff is currently unblocked and on Twitter. So let me ask Brianna. Because Brianna I'm sure you have strong opinion on how Twitter is often misused to attack people. What is Twitter to do?
Brianna: Well I think I'd like to back up for a second here and say I've never been suspended from Twitter. Because I don't find it hard to not threaten people or dox people. Or use violent language. And I'm very disappointed that a lot of people on the left were kind of boxed into defending this private doxing. It really put me in what felt like an unfair situation.
Leo: Did you boycott? I don't think you boycotted on Friday.
Brianna: I thought about it. At first I said no. and I had some people come to me privately and say please boycott and I said okay fine. I will do it. I could use 24 hours off of Twitter.
Leo: It's actually a great feeling, isn't it? Not using Twitter.
Brianna: Oh it's great. I got a lot of stuff done professionally that day. I have said this a thousand times, Leo. And I want to say it again. Twitter has never gotten the credit it deserves for what they've done on their platform. They have largely gotten rid of their harassment bots problem. As recently as a year ago there were harassment bots that were targeting me and other journalists. They would just tweet the same doxing thing a hundred, a thousand times. Then it would tweet it to everyone you interacted with. They finally got that problem solved. I do see the number of… the responsiveness to death threats: I do see that going down. But I think overall the trajectory of the company is addressing this. Like, look at the feature at the bottom of the tweet; it will say show additional replies. Some of which may be offensive. This is a really good feature because it blocks most of the garbage. And I have never seen Twitter get the credit it deserves for that. There's a lot more work to go but I really wish we could change the conversation a bit more to Facebook or Reddit, but of which dox people much more freely than Twitter does.
Leo: Here's Jack's tweet storm: we see voices being silenced on Twitter every day. We've been working to counteract this for the past two years. It sounds like you agree, Brianna.
Leo: Others don't. We prioritized this in 2016. We updated our policies, increased the size of our teams. It wasn't enough; others might agree. Oh, alright, you've been doing it but it's not been enough. In 2017 we made it our top priority and made a lot of progress today. We saw voices silencing themselves and voices speaking out because we're still not doing enough. We've been working intensely over the past few months. Folks today are making some critical decisions. We've decided to take a more aggressive stance on our rules and how we enforce them. These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week. That seems like actually the best response I've heard from Twitter in some time. At least public response.
Erin: At least he didn't say we have to do better.
Leo: That's the stock phrase.
Erin: We've gotten tired.
Leo: Ev used to say that all the time. Ev famously apologized. How long ago was that? That's exactly what he said: we've got to do better. But it's also a challenge. I'm sympathetic. As Alex Stamos, the CSO of Facebook said, ‘you guys, this is hard stuff.' If you want to have a free platform people can freely express themselves. Somebody, I read an article that said it was the Arab spring that really spoiled Twitter. Because that's when they got in their minds. Look we can be used to change the world if we let people have free speech on Twitter. There's a real social value to that.
Erin: And they're so naïve that they've never considered that there are people out there who are going to exploit that in a negative way. It's just sort of that Silicon Valley magical thinking, where it never even occurred to them. They only see good coming out of their creation.
Dan: And it's very convenient that all the social companies including Google figured it out. Russian hampering, tampering, and bots after the 2016 election. Not while it was going on. In fact we reached out to Twitter about some of these Twitter bots. And about the growth of their bots. And they said, ‘oh we're a public company. We have an incentive to kill all bots in the platform. In fact at Tech Republic we covered the rise of bots and just didn't do any magic. We just covered each presidential candidate and downloaded the Twitter API, and put it in Excel. And you can see an inflation of bots throughout the campaign. If Twitter wants us to believe this nonsense now, yea you guys can be sorry. But you had a huge profit incentive not to be sorry when it mattered.
Leo: Would you include Google and Facebook in that?
Dan: Yes, absolutely. I believe that these companies say they have a moral core but these are for-profit public companies. I don't believe that they're inherently evil but they expect us, that we're either stupid or naïve. That we didn't see this happening a long time ago. Or that they didn't see this happening a long time ago.
Erin: They saw it and they just didn't care.
Dan: Yes, exactly.
Leo: Well they didn't care because they had strict strong financial incentives not to care.
Dan: Yes, precisely.
Brianna: Something we did at my studios-I spent a lot of time picking apart these bots and doing a lot of independent research on Twitter on harassment bots. And please understand that when I'm talking about harassment bots, I'm differentiating a bot that is written to target and dox somebody like me versus the political propaganda bot. That's a different problem. I can say from my looking at the data which could be incomplete-that this is just a partial look at it-what I see is you say a stat like nine-tenths of all political opinions came from bots. And that sounds really scary. But then you start looking at the reach of the bots and who's following these bots. And it's not as great. There's a really big difference. If I tweet something with 70,000 followers versus somebody who tweets it with 10 followers who's also a robot. I'm not saying one way or another. I'm saying I'm unconvinced about what the impact is of that. And I'd like to look into it deeper.
Dan: One of the tactical things that the bots intended to do was knowing precisely that. And of course on Facebook and Google, the echo is significantly larger. On Twitter of course, right, who's going to follow the account with three tweets and no profile picture? But what they tried to do was raise trends in that left-hand column. And you can see that repeatedly.
Leo: So alright I'm going to say something that's controversial. But I'll let you guys yell at me and talk me out of it. Of course, I think you can acknowledge that the Russians probably directly or indirectly at the instruction of Vladimir Putin, decided to not necessarily throw the election. Perhaps throw the election, perhaps just sow seeds of discord. But decided to really kind of royal the waters in the United States. And they did that using social media. It's easy, particularly easy to do that with Twitter and Facebook. And buying ads on Google because it's an automated process. I think we can stipulate that that happened. We know that that happened. What I'm not sure I'm willing to stipulate is its effect. It's how strong an effect it had. I'm not convinced that for instance that got Donald Trump elected. I think there were many factors that got him elected. And it delegitimizes some of the legitimate reasons he got elected. It's a fun thing for people who aren't happy with the results of the election to-by the way I include myself in that group, but I'm going to try to be objective here-it's a fun thing for people who are unhappy with the results of the election to say, ‘oh well, it's all Russia's fault.' But I'm not convinced that that's the case. And I think it delegitimizes what may have been real reasons for that to have happen. So talk me out of that. Tell me why. I understand it's A, illegal and it's something that even the founding fathers were concerned about for a foreign nation to interfere with our elections. That's a fact.
Brianna: I think the ad time…
Leo: Go ahead Brianna and then Erin.
Brianna: Yea, sorry I didn't mean to… what I was going to say is somebody that's actually making ads and putting them out there: if you saw the list of FCC requirements I have to follow, it is bananas. It is down to the font you put in the bottom of the... like, I'm Brianna Wu and I approve this ad. I do think that we need to have a serious talk about if I put a television ad on that is regulated in so many different ways, why are ads on Twitter and Facebook and Google not regulated in the same way? I think they should be.
Leo: And Facebook lobbied long and hard for years not to be regulated and then convinced the Federal Elections Commission, the FEC, not to give them the same requirements that broadcast media had.
Erin: Back when their ads were a lot smaller than they are now on the page. At the time it was just a tiny little thing.
Leo: Don't regulate us. We're a baby industry. Let us grow!
Dan: I think it's also important to differentiate that yes, we need to make sure that we don't marginalize or undermine the other causes of any particular election or the previous one. But that we do say we're having a conversation about the role technology played and will continue to play. And this is a significant one; it's really important that we make sure we understand the mechanics of this so that we don't overshoot it with over-regulation or undershoot it and not take it seriously.
Leo: Is it solvable?
Dan: Is social media solvable?
Leo: Well exactly. So 2020, we've got another Presidential election. By 2020, that's a pretty long time frame. That's three years.
Dan: Next year.
Leo: Well next year is 2018 and Brianna's going to be in that election. But let's give you three years. Is it possible to say there will be no Russian interference?
Dan: Oh no.
Erin: The ad problem is easy to solve with disclosure and more transparency. No more dark ads. And like you said that maybe they didn't have the same size of impact as the fake news problem which is much-I think-harder to solve and a lot bigger. And probably had an outsize effect on the election.
Leo: Again, talk me out of it. It's that fake news only worked with people who had made up their minds. People chose the news they wanted to believe. You can say that's factually untrue: the Pope did not endorse Donald Trump. That really isn't germane. I don't think that convinced anybody. It only reinforced what people already believe.
Erin: Which could stop you from changing your mind when something like the Access Hollywood tape comes out.
Dan: And it's pretty easy to correlate this. You can go to L2 Political; I have never seen a company that has better data than L2 does. And you can see… I don't think that 2016 election is in their database yet. But you can see, correlate where there are news items in Facebook and in particular counties and how they voted and their demographics. So it's not impossible to answer this question.
Leo: It's also the case that due to the Electoral College and the way our President selections work, you didn't have to sway many votes. You needed merely have to sway 77,000 votes in key districts. And I agree that there are lots of questions about how that was done, how they knew which districts to sway. There's a lot more about this. But I also think you can make the case that… it was very complicated. There were many reasons why the election happened the way it did. And I hate for-a number of reasons for Twitter, Facebook, and Google-to become the scapegoats for that.
Erin: Here's my cynical response to that which is because they are so aggressively arguing that it was very small, it was just a blip compared to the amount of content that's on Facebook. It makes me not believe them. It makes me want to look into the impact a lot more. Just because that is there response makes me think there's more to it.
Leo: You sure sound guilty! That's what you're saying, right? I don't know.
Brianna: If I can add one more thing onto this: something that we did is we went through all my mentions that happened during the Democratic primary. I don't think this is talked about enough. So we're saying a really big division in the Democratic Party between the Bernie wing and the Hillary wing. We went back through that and looked at this phenomenon of Bernie and where it came from. And when we really studied in my mentions, the mentions were the most hostile or had personal attacks, or using dox. A lot of those were coming from bots and I personally believe they were coming from Russian bots. So this is a bigger problem when voting for one candidate. I think that Russia is very artificially trying to keep us at each other's throats. And it's so easy to get us so angry at each other. And in attacking, when they win, we're divided. And it's not even a Republican or Democratic things. It's about keeping America angry at each other.
Leo: Dan, you were in Ukraine. You kind of saw first-hand. Ukraine is the test tube for Russian interference.
Dan: Oh yea.
Leo: With hacking and all sorts of tricks. And I think one strong case to be made is that really Russia wins if Russia's seen as a player. Some of this is merely, ‘hey, we're important.'
Dan: That's the long game. And the long game is to undermine self-confidence and just like Brianna said, to keep America in their adversaries. It's not just America. It's France, it's Germany, and others. But to keep them divided. Look, I love the Russian people but you can look at Soviet military and propaganda tactics going back a century. And one of the ways they messed with us at the Global Cyber Security Summit was sending thousands of attempts to brute-force your accounts. And then they would come into our rooms. They would send dudes to sit next to us. What Russia wants to do is to undermine your own confidence. And to make sure that a divided world is a world that Russia can conquer.
Erin: Sorry, could you go back? They were in your rooms?
Dan: Oh yea, this is a long story. I don't want to rattle it here. We wrote about some of this. We were attacked… we were at the Global Cyber Security Summit and we were accompanied by the…
Leo: This is in Kiev. This is in the Ukraine.
Dan: Kiev, yes. But we were with the former Chief Counsel, the NSA, Antony Lincoln, who is a former Secretary of State. So the party we were traveling with were reasonably high-profile. And we were at the head of the bank, the heads of state. So the second I got up on stage, every single one of my accounts was hammered. When I went back to our hotel, one of my colleagues who runs an AI company said, ‘hey, I went into my hotel room and room service had done anything. Nobody's drinking water in a glass.' He said, ‘room service had cleaned it up but I found a half-drank glass of water and a little note that says privet.' Which is hello in Russian.
Leo: So it's like a little thing, ‘hey, we're watching.'
Dan: Yea, so I go to the front desk and of course the conference was several kilometers away but I didn't tell them that. I just said hey I've been in and out all day. Could you tell me the last time-I forgot something in my room-the last time I was here. And they're like, ‘yea, 12:35.' Like, could I have a new room?
Dan: So a few days later we interviewed the head of the foreign bank and we come back, I'm writing in my notes, working on a story, and these two guys come out. We're right next to the FSB, the Russian, the new KGB. They were attached to our hotel. So I'm sitting there drinking a beer working on a story. And this big guy with tattoos comes out and sits about 10 yards from me. And then this guy in a crisp white shirt and cheesy black aviators comes over and sits about 10 yards to my right. Like satellites. And they're just looking at me. Jesus, you guys.
Leo: You know what's really interesting? A free society and social media make it trivial for people to mess with you. Whether it's to create bots to harass you or to bother you in a café. And if somebody whether it's a nation-state or just a troll wants to take advantage of these tools, it's trivially easy. And the only thing stopping them really is societal norms. I don't think you can stop that. How would you propose to stop that? Look what they did with Pokémon Go for crying out loud?! So there's a Russian-among other things-Russians created these YouTube videos which if you've seen them are completely non-credible. I can't believe that these swayed anybody. They're supposed to be American, African Americans who are voting for Trump and hate Hillary. But they don't speak English. They have African accents. They're clearly not… these are videos not made in the US. One of them was a website called donotshoot.us. And they created a contest on Pokémon Go that people would go out and go to alleged places where there were incidents of police brutality. Create Pokémon names corresponding to names of the victims and then take over places. And winners of the contest would get Amazon gift cards. Not clear if anybody got any Amazon gift cards. But the point of this is just to upset people. Now maybe it's Russians. Maybe it wasn't. But it was just trollish behavior. I think we all know you can't stop trolls. Not in a free society. Not in a free society. So what are you going to do?
Brianna: Well I would definitely agree with that. I think you go after the big variables here. Like you assume you're not going to be able to have 100% solutions. It was mentioned: the manipulation of trending topics on Twitter. I think clearly they should look at that and try to curb the effect that bots have on it. Like look at high-quality users and make them worth more points. Like wait the algorithm and how that's generated.
Leo: You're plugging holes in a dike that's filled with Swiss cheese. You fix the Twitter one and then they're going to use something else. They're going to sit next to you in a café.
Brianna: Security is not destination. It's a process. Right?
Leo: It's a process, yea.
Brianna: You're absolutely right. You're not going to be able to finish this but you've got to keep working on it.
Leo: Well Congress might have a solution. I'm going to try to say this with a straight face. Two members of Congress, one Republican and one Democrat, proposed a new bill. They call it the ACDC Act, which is one of those retronyms where they clearly thought of the acronym first and then decided what it said. Let me see if I can find this, but the premise of the bill is to allow businesses that are being hacked to hack them back. To make it legal for businesses to respond to being hacked. That'll fix it!
Leo: Any thoughts?
Brianna: I got nothing.
Leo: It's hard not to laugh. I might as well name names. Let's give credit where credit is due. This is Tom Graves, who's Congressman from Georgia. And Kyrsten Sinema, who's from Arizona. The ACDC stands for the Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act, which is of course… but that's…
Erin: But the use of the word certainty there really throws me.
Leo: Yea, what's the certainty? Graves said it doesn't solve every problem. It brings light to the dark places where cyber criminals operate. The certainty that the bill provides-well here, he explains it: empower individuals and companies to use new defenses against cyber criminals. I hope it spurs a new generation of tools and methods to level the lopsided cyber battlefield. If not give and edge to cyber defenders.
Erin: That sounds like the script to a super hero movie.
Leo: Hack them back! What could possibly go wrong?!
Brianna: I would say that there is a place in regulation for Congress to legalize certain kinds of white-hat hacking. Look at penetration tasks, like absolutely.
Leo: Pen-testing, I agree.
Brianna: Security research. We have a lot of work we can do there.
Leo: And nobody should go to jail for real legitimate research.
Brianna: Absolutely. But this isn't it. This is like they saw an episode of Mr. Robot and they wrote a bad bill based on it.
Leo: Well I presume that it's dead on arrival. But the fact that they could even introduce this bill blows my mind. That they could even think this was a good idea. Yea, oh let's see what kind of hacking tools Equifax-what viruses Equifax could write-and get those bad guys! Get those bad guys! Wow. Just stunning. Alright, we're going to take a break. We can all breathe for a moment. Dan Patterson is here from CBS Interactive. He's a Senior Writer at Tech Republic. Always a pleasure. I'd like to hear more about the Global Cyber Security Summit. That sounds really interesting. Also with us: Brianna Wu. She is a game developer and entrepreneur, a founder, and oh by the way running for Congress in the Massachusetts Eighth District. Briannawu2018.com. She's got all of my votes. And Erin Griffith is also here. She's now a Senior Writer at Wired, her brand new gig. We're thrilled to hear it. And it's great to have you. And she's training for a half-marathon, which is why there's a bicycle behind her. Right? Wrong?
Leo: You're just very athletic that's all. Our show today brought to you by Carbonite. One way to keep yourself safe, not by hacking the other guys, but at least backing up your data. Let's at least ask businesses to do that. Protect yourself from acts of God: fire, flood, hurricane, gosh knows we see a lot of those these days. From human error: your employees are sometimes your biggest enemies. Throwing out things by accident. And from ransomware. The best solution to all of that, having a great cloud backup. That's what Carbonite does. They're the data protection experts. They've got plans for home and office for Mac and PC. I really want to emphasize that they have plans now for every kind of business. The E2, E-Vault backup system which gives you a hard drive on premises which then backs up to the cloud so you have the best of both worlds. They've got high-availability solutions. They can get your business back up and running. And if you don't think your business is at risk, believe me, that data on the servers in your computer and your system: that's everything. Without that, your building could burn down but lose the data and now you're really in trouble. You've got to go to Carbonite. Find out more: carbonite.com for small, medium, and large businesses, and homes as well. Start your free trial today: just go to carbonite.com. You can see that 30-day free trial. Put TWIT in there as the offer code; you'll get two bonus months if you decide to buy. These guys are the good guys in the war against data loss. They are the data protection experts. I've used them and known them for years and I couldn't recommend them more highly. Caronite.com. Don't forget the offer code TWIT for two months free. Who's got a dog?
Erin: No, I don't but that's my neighbor's. Let me close the window.
Leo: No, no. I like dogs. No, that's fine. It's funny, we had a one and a half year-old in here. I noticed she's left. She was reading a book though because she was bored. You know one and a half year-olds tend to be bored with this show. The book was called Darth Vader and Friends. What is wrong with children today? I'm sorry.
Erin: But isn't the idea-I haven't read the book but-isn't the idea that if Darth Vader had friends, maybe he would have turned out differently?
Leo: Oh, is that the idea of the book?
Erin: That's just my guess.
Leo: Let me steal it from Rose and let's see. Yea, Darth Vader and friends, it's got a cute picture of Darth dancing with C3PO. And R2D2. I like this.
Brianna: No spoilers.
Leo: I am your… no, no. Oh I like how it starts. ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.' I can almost hear the music. ‘While ruling the galactic empire, Lord Darth Vader aims to crush global alliance with a little help from his friends.' Wait a minute! His twin children Luke and Leia-what, what-have other plans and powerful friends of their own. ‘This facility is cruel but it should be adequate to freeze more ice cream,' Leia says gross. What is that? The porg? We already have those in here. This is very ahead of its time. Jar Jar's in it; I don't want to read it. ‘We should be friends with Queen Amidala, not Jar Jar.' Okay. Kids today, I'll tell you. And there's a little Java the Hut in the back. ‘Nobody understands me like you do.' Wow, Darth Vader and Friends. Jeffrey Brown. Hard-cover Barnes and Noble, $25. Go ahead, pick it up today. Oh they've got a wall calendar too. Darth Vader and Friends wall calendar, get yours today. Okay, that was a little, a moosh boosh. A little sherbet to loosen the palette between courses. Where do we go next? Oh, anybody get one of those specially-configured Google Home Minis that Google was handing out at their event? This is obviously an error but I think it's a funny error. A little tip to tech companies in general: if you're giving out review units to journalists, you might want to check the always listening feature. Artem Russakovskii, writing in Android Police. Apparently he got one of these Minis. And smart guy, he checked his Google recordings, you know that Google has a dashboard where you can see what recordings. And he noticed a whole bunch of new recordings from a device called Mushroom. And wait a minute. Not only a whole bunch of them. But everything he said-he put it in his bathroom-everything he said. And he says several days passed without me noticing anything wrong and in the meantime the Mini was behaving very differently for all the other Google Homes and Echo's in my home. It was waking up thousands of times a day recording what it heard then sending those recordings to Google. Good news is, he caught it. One. He sent an email to Google saying first of all, is the Mini called code-name Mushroom? Look at my activity because all of a sudden it looks like it's recording. Please forward this to the Google Home team for a response. So 10 minutes later, what?! We're looking into it. By that evening a Google person came to his house…
Erin: This is my favorite part of this story. They were in like 10-fire alarm mode.
Leo: No kidding.
Erin: Sending a van out to Oakland. Like, ‘we'll be there in a minute.'
Leo: Ah! By 9:00 he wasn't even home. They exchanged the Google Home. They left him with two replacement Home Minis. Although you might not want to plug those in until they get back to you. The next day they said, ‘yes, it turns out there was a hardware issue.' Because you can touch the top of a Home and it will trigger it. And the thing was sensing touches all the time. And so their fix was to disable the touch and I presume before everybody gets their Mini it will be fixed. But the real question is did every journalist who got one of those Minis at the Google event-and there were hundreds-were they all being recorded? Thanks to our Tim, not anymore. That's a bad story because it confirms what a lot of people think, that the they're listening to me.
Brianna: I mean I trust that Google has good intentions here.
Leo: Yes, I don't think…
Brianna: And I believe that this is just a development bug. I don't think anything nefarious is going on here. But the issue, there's another story we're going to talk about later: the end of our software being used to help with Russia spying. The issue here for me isn't that I don't trust Google. It's that I don't trust the security and the integrity of these devices. Particularly when they open up the API to other people. I have an Android phone but I would never put this or the Amazon one in my home. And probably not even the Apple one. It's just, it's a level too far. And I think if you're a high-risk target for this kind of activity, I just don't think it's safe.
Leo: Well said. Dan, would you bring a smartphone to something like the Global Security Summit? I know most people go to DEFCON and Blackcat are very careful about what stuff they bring.
Dan: Yea, you know my answer… I think what Brianna just said is right. It's probably not Amazon or Google. Although these are bad stories for IT consumer stuff. But it is, the security these devices. And I brought an iOS to Kiev expecting some things. My device was fine. Everyone with an Android device-this is not me being political-but everyone with an Android device was hacked. Probably…
Leo: No kidding?!
Dan: Simply because there are more threat factors. And you have a diversity, a larger diversity, the broader spectrum of operating systems, hardware. And if you don't take best practices, you're going to get hacked no matter what.
Leo: Do you guys agree? I hear this a lot from security people that if you want to be secured, don't use an Android phone. Do you guys agree with that?
Leo: You do?
Brianna: I do. I'm not trying to be an Apple fan girl here. But there's a reason I stick to all Apple. And it's primarily the threat factor, just like you said. With so many different phones and different operating systems; there's so many ways to get through an Android device. It's not even that I think it's that much more secure. But it's that limited the number of ways to attack it. I just think it's easier for them to plug those holes. For someone who worries a lot about cyber security, I use Apple products.
Leo: I got a call on the radio show today from somebody who said, ‘my wife has an iPhone 7 and it keeps bugging her to upgrade to iOS 11. How do I turn that off?' And I said, ‘well I understand why it's bugging you. But one of the reasons the mass majority of Apple users are running the most recent operating system is because of this. Apple has the ability to push the update out and then bug you until you do it. And it's actually really good security practice. The problem with Android phones is that they can't do that. They can't force an update.
Dan: There's also… stingrays are less common here but they will become more common as hardware costs go down. And stingrays, you don't think about this but it's hard where they can pull encryption keys right off of your phone.
Leo: So explain what a stingray is before you go on.
Dan: Yea, so a stingray is a device that transmits fake signals. So a fake T-Mobile, fake AT&T, fake Verizon. And your phone is configured to just connect to a network. So especially when you go overseas and you kind of have different or weird networks you might be getting on. A stingray is designed-and they have these at the White House, they have these at large sporting events-because it will also fill the air with noise and make it harder to connect. But you can, when you're connected to a stingray, the amount of data that an attacker has access to is significantly more. A zero-day is the only way they could get more data than connecting using a stingray. And with iOS, even with iOS, many of your encryption keys are exposed to a stingray through the cellular network. With Android, there were simply more threat factors. There are more ways that an attacker can get into your phone for all the reasons you guys and Leo just enumerated. There's just more threat factors. And people take security less-seriously on those devices. So a stingray will just slurp that up.
Brianna: But it can get your public key.
Leo: Basically you join it as a trusted cell site. So your phone goes, ‘I trust you.'
Brianna: But you're talking about the encryption key. I can see it like giving you public key out there. Can it get your private key in addition to that? Like all the computation is still…
Leo: It can man in the middle, an SSO.
Dan: Often there are stories. I don't know if this is true or not but there are stories of stingrays can see your private keys in iOS. I don't know if I but that. But this is floating around in dark web forums. It's just like Leo said: a man in the middle. It's like if you said you had wire shark or something pulling packets down. Except you had access to all this… unless it was encrypted in transit, that data is just open.
Leo: So here according to the ACLU, our US law enforcement agencies that use stingrays including the IRS, FBI, NSA, Special Ops, National Guard, US Army, and local law enforcement as well in California for instance local and state police have cell site simulators or stingrays. Let's see, Massachusetts, local police have cell site simulators. You guys are in New York State, yes, local and state police have cell site simulators. So just to be aware. Now I'm less worried frankly about law enforcement obviously. And much more worried about hackers. But the whole thing underscores the insecurity of cell phones. And here's a great post from Phillip PN, who is the co-founder of Shotwell Labs. He says you want to see something crazy? Open this link on your phone with WiFi turned off. I'm not going to give it out. But it is essentially all the information that your carrier knows about you. Including your home address, phone number, cell phone, contract details, and latitude and longitude describing the current location of your cell phone. And this is information not only that… AT&T calls it mobile identification API. There is on your cell phone an API that can be used to look up all of this information. Telephone providers offer this. Cell phones are horrifically insecure. US Telco's appear to be selling direct non-anonymized real-time access to consumer telephone data to third-party services. Not just Federal law enforcement officials who are then selling access to that data. Hey, it's a good way to make money.
Erin: It's a terrible way to make money.
Leo: If you're AT&T it's a good way to make money!
Erin: Essential service to people. Under the assentation that it will be private.
Leo: And then of course we know that the radio baseband software in all cell phones-and I don't know if Apple has mitigated this or not-but the baseband software is highly hackable. And we've seen that be abused. Now that takes some sophistication on the part of the attacker. But I don't think there's any credit, any doubt that attackers are very sophisticated these days. I don't know. Why did this to be the bad news show? I apologize.
Brianna: I would have to say about that, this is the first I'm hearing about this. So I'm talking off the top of my head. But you know I think if you're talking about law enforcement using these techniques, they clearly need to go to court and get a search warrant. Or those wire taps. I have no issue; go before a judge, probable cause, I'm all for it. If I'm in Congress I'll give you everything you need for that. But warrantless wire taps, it's very clearly unconstitutional. And both parties have done a lot to erode that. As far as the AT&T thing, something I've looked into and I've talked to a lot of lawyers about, is if we introduce liability into the equation and we say okay AT&T, clearly Congress cannot regulate how you should code your software. Because that's not going to go well. But if you're reckless in how you're doing it… and clearly an API that anybody can access with that information, that strikes me as reckless. You should encrypt that. You should have public keys, private keys, whatever you need to do to secure that. I would introduce liability into the equation. And if they happen to have an Equifax-level event, I think they would have to pay for it. That is the only…
Leo: Equifax has set a very high standard now for what an Equifax…
Brianna: Yea, still. They were reckless with it.
Leo: By the way I think the link no longer works. So that's the good news. But Dwight Silverman tweeted that out. Alright, here's something to cheer you up. Tim Cook, speaking to I think students at Oxford University, a question and answer session, has a little-I would call this-a wardrobe malfunction. Can you show the animated GIF? There's something in his pocket. Oh it's falling out of his pocket. Oh, that's an iPhone 10 by the way ladies and gentlemen. And he hides it immediately. So he's wearing slippery slacks. But I must compliment him on his choice of socks. Why he's pulling down his pants? I think he's embarrassed-I don't know. Alright, that was again another moosh boosh. We have to break up the bad news with occasional…
Erin: I saw that being shared everywhere. And I was just like are people just commenting…?
Leo: No, it's just funny. You don't learn anything about it. It's just funny.
Erin: Like the phone's so…
Leo: Well it is slippery. It's going to be slippery. It's glass. But I don't think that's really… who carries…?
Erin: An argument for man purses.
Leo: Well I think you're exactly right. And who carries a phone around without a case, right? Doesn't everybody?
Brianna: I don't.
Brianna: Nope! My phone goes naked.
Leo: You go bareback. Why don't you have a case?
Brianna: Because I think the life of a phone is to get scratched. And it's like Apple…
Leo: It's its destiny.
Brianna: It's its destiny. Apple's phones all this time every year, making it thinner and lighter, and more beautiful, it's like if you lose 20 pounds and then you celebrated by going and putting on a fat suit. I just think it doesn't… it just feels wrong to me.
Leo: What you're saying is a case for your phone is like putting a fat suit on it? Wow.
Erin: That sounds like somebody who has not cracked that many screens.
Leo: You obviously don't drop your phones. Exactly right.
Brianna: I have Apple Care.
Leo: So they're hiding the real cost of your negligence. Alright. No, I'm just joking. I'm teasing. So we're going to take a break. Now that we've talked about iPhones, we should probably talk about the rumor mill and we're all waiting 12 days and counting until you can order an iPhone 10. A fat suit for your phone. I like it.
Brianna: I'm sorry.
Leo: No! That's the best description I've ever heard. That's absolutely awesome. Our show today brought to you by the Eero. I am in love with my Eero. Eero is revolutionizing WiFi. Obviously Brianna has one. Because I could tell by her gasp.
Brianna: I love it.
Leo: Isn't it awesome?! How many of you-show of hands out there-I know many of you have trouble with WiFi. Right? It drops. You've got buffering when you're trying to watch a movie. It's just annoying as heck. Eero solves all this. Eero is more than WiFi. It's modern. And the new second generation Eero: tri-bands. So it's got a 2.4 GHz radio and dual 5 GHz radios. It's twice as fast. It's the easiest way… look at that. You plug the new beacons right into the wall. That's it. No wires. And you're extending your WiFi throughout your house. Now it's not like a traditional WiFi extender. WiFi extender cuts your WiFi speed in half because it has to communicate with the base and then with you. And then with the base. The Eero does it behind the scenes. So you get full speed. Of course WPA2 encryption. You can create a guest network. There's so many nice features. And I do this all the time. I can say to my Echo, ‘pause Michael's internet.' And our 14 year-old is kicked off the internet until such time as I deem to unpause it. It's a great punishment. I can look at my Eero right now, see how everything's doing. Which devices. Actually, this is even cooler: this is my mom's Eero I'm looking at. I loved the Eero so much, when I got the new one I sent her the old one. Set up her Eero at home so I can actually check my mom's network. There's all sorts of nice features with the Eero. Let me change my account so I can show you what I've got going on in my account. Switch network. So that's my mom's network. Here's my home network. My mom had seven connected devices. I have 36 connected devices. That's why you need an Eero, folks! Eero has some really nice features. For instance I can filter with the family profiles. I can filter… I've basically assigned every device on this house to me, to Lisa, or to Michael, our 14 year-old. I can control with safe filters the kinds of things Michael can see. I can block adult content, illegal or criminal, violent content. I've got safe search turned on. It, of course, finds malware, adware, ransomware and blocks it throughout the house. I've scheduled a pause for Michael every evening at 10:00 PM. The internet goes off on his devices because it's time for bed, and I tell you, if you've got a teenager, that is huge. You can pause and un-pause the internet on devices. Eero fundamentally changes your relationship with your Wi-Fi. It's the greatest thing ever. I want you to check it out. You can build a Wi-Fi system that's more tailored to your home than ever before. They've been doing this now—in fact, I think this is their 2nd. Is it their anniversary? They've been doing it since 2016. And the new Thread Radio in the Eero, I haven't played with this yet. I can't wait. It lets you connect to low power devices like locks, doorbells and other sensors over the Thread network. It's so easy. If you need more beacons, I actually have five Eeros in my mom's place not because she has a big house but she has an upstairs, downstairs and then she has her studio out back and I want her to have connection everywhere. Free overnight shipping in the US and Canada when you go to E-E-R-O.com. Select overnight shipping and enter TWiT to make it free, so you can have, you can get an Eero tomorrow and your life will change for the better. Don't forget to use the offer code TWiT to get free overnight shipping in the US and Canada. E-E-R-O.com. I could go on and on. I could show you so many more things I could do with it. It is truly awesome.
Leo: We're talking about tech. Yes, Brianna?
Brianna: No, no, no. I was going to say, I ran tests with mine and I was paying like $119/dollars a month for Verizon FIOS but it wasn't going fast enough throughout my house.
Leo: Yea, the router was the bottle neck.
Brianna: Oh, it was amazing. Like it's literally 3 times faster in my bedroom than it was and it's twice as fast in front of the house. It's just a freaking amazing product.
Leo: I've got a little side business. I wired the neighbor up (laughing). I swear to God. People now call me and say, "My Wi-Fi's bad. Can you help?" And I go, "Yea, I got the solution. Let me just come over with some Eeros here. I've got it all fixed up." It's kind of amazing. Erin Griffith is here. She writes for Wired Magazine, Senior Writer there. Actually, is it Wired Magazine or do you just say Wired?
Erin: It's Wired.
Leo: It's Wired. It's the magazine. It's the website.
Erin: We're multi-platform. We're Wired on Snapchat and we're on Facebook. We've got it all.
Leo: You know, it's great to have you, Erin. Great to have Dan Patterson from CBS Interactive. Brianna Wu, Spacekat Girl from Gian Spacekat. She's also running for Congress. I have to say, I thought for a while Instagram was just going to knock Snapchat out. The stock market apparently thought the same thing. Snapchat, it's not over, is it?
Leo: I think it's interesting that publishers are using Snapchat as a way to get to a young audience, right?
Erin: They have a loyal audience. The problem is, is that they're possibly being kneecapped in their growth by Instagram.
Leo: By Instagram. By Facebook.
Erin: Because older—yea, that older audience isn't necessarily going to join now because they have Instagram and overseas, Facebook owns an app. They acquired an Israeli company that helps people manage their data that is apparently hurting Snapchat. I've heard anecdotally that you know, Snapchat's one of the biggest data hogs around and so, people especially overseas who are looking to decrease their data usage, Snap is actually being hurt by this.
Leo: Interesting. So, Snap's growth then is really in the older population. Because I just saw a story from Piper Jaffray. They surveyed teens in the US about media habits. They do this spring and fall. 40%, 47% of surveyed teens say that Snapchat is their preferred social media and that's up from 39%. In other words, Snapchat is growing among young people. Still top for teens.
Erin: The one benefit they have is the Gen-Z coming up is bigger than millennials, so, the problem is as a public company it's really hard to satisfy investors and deliver that kind of consistent growth. Twitter obviously has struggled with that their whole lifetime as a publicly traded company and Snap's going to struggle with it too. The question is, does Evan Spiegel really care and the answer seems to be so far, not really.
Leo: Well, and in my experience in media is you always want the younger audience because the theory is they'll grow old with you. And the older audience is going to die. Are they fickle? That's the problem. Kids today, I swear.
Dan: And Snap's loyalty numbers are hurting as well.
Leo: Interesting. What does that mean? They're growing among teems but they're—teens aren't as loyal?
Dan: Yea, the last time we did numbers on this might have been 6 months ago, so it's aged a little bit but they are willing to jump platform. It's more the features and less—they're not as tied to the brand.
Leo: Isn't that interesting? There are some businesses, Facebook might be one, where you get to a point, a critical mass where the network effect is so strong, nobody, I don't think anybody could do to Facebook what Facebook did to My Space. Right?
Erin: Yea. That's probably a fair assessment. And the problem really is that you can't—it's almost impossible for someone to build the next Facebook now because Facebook is so aggressively squashing any startup that gets any kind of traction.
Leo: Well, that's why the own Instagram, right?
Erin: Correct. But even—but they're going even earlier there with that where there was a story in I think The Wall Street Journal a month or so ago about this video, asynchronous video chat company called House Party. It started as Meerkat which everyone remembers. They pivoted to this thing called House Party that was getting a lot of traction, and Facebook immediately launched 4 different versions of a copycat, just to try to squash them. And they'll spend any amount of money, similar to the aggressiveness of Amazon I guess back in the day on pricing. But, Facebook has shown that they don't want any other social startup of any type, any other social product to get to scale. They'll do anything to squash it.
Dan: It's reminiscent, the tactics are reminiscent of Microsoft in the early to mid-90s.
Leo: Engulf and devour.
Erin: Yea, perhaps that's a better analogy, like Amazon and Diapers.com.
Leo: Right, there you go. Diapers.com.
Dan: No, no, I think you're dead on.
Leo: Yea. Jeff Bezos very famously was threatened by Diapers.com so he manipulated the market, dropped prices on Amazon for diapers, basically practically killed Diapers.com. Then bought them at a bargain basement price.
Erin: Wasn't there a story where they had developed an algorithm that whenever Diapers would lower their price, Amazon's prices would automatically go to the exact same level?
Leo: Yea, that seems like it should be illegal, but is it? Maybe it's not. I mean if you could say Amazon was a monopoly, then you could perhaps go after them with anti-trust acts.
Erin: Well, they're a monopoly online.
Leo: Are they?
Erin: There was a story about how Target and Walmart which now employs Marc Lore of Jet.com which he spent his entire career trying to get back at Amazon for the Diapers.com situation.
Leo: He started Diapers.com then started Jet to try to get back at them. And then Jet was bought by Walmart, yea.
Erin: And now they're teaming up with Target and creating this anti-Amazon alliance to try to somehow get some traction on the internet. It's fascinating.
Leo: Not just Target and Walmart, Google because Google doesn't have the shopping breadth that Amazon and the Echo have.
Erin: And Google has a lot of money at stake because if you start to shop directly through the Amazon app or through your Alexa or through whatever Amazon invents next, and you're not Googling socks or whatever you want and then clicking on that sponsored Amazon ad, that's a huge chunk of money that Amazon pays for those ads that now it's completely circumvented.
Leo: It's just fascinating. We talked last week about the architect who is suing Google because they did kind of the same thing he claims. Engulfed and devoured. They signed a NDA with him. They acquired his firm or they licensed his technology and then just said, "Thanks, anyway," and built the same thing themselves. And he got a judge last week to agree that that lawsuit could now be extending to racketeering which is of course—
Leo: Yea. So.
Erin: Wow, that's actually extremely significant because what happens a lot, especially with companies like Google and Sales Force even, is that they have a venture capital arm that kind of does the scouting and maybe even invest in some of these companies and then buys a competitor or then builds it themselves. And it's so common. You hear stories about it all the time. And so, for someone to actually be able to get justice out of it is going to be—it's definitely going to change.
Leo: Well, we'll see. He's going to be able to sue on those grounds, essentially the assertion that Google has a pattern of stealing trade secrets from people. Inviting them to collaborate which is of course, what Microsoft was accused of doing in the 90s. And apparently Facebook's doing it to.
Erin: A start up that had gotten an investment from Amazon's Alexa fund had publicly accused them of basically copying whatever—oh, God, my Alexa just turned on.
Leo: Say Echo. Say Echo. You're having the same problem all of our listeners are. I caution you all, I should have probably told you this before the show, say the word Echo instead of anything else (laughing). If you use Siri it's all on you. We can't help you.
Erin: I just happen to be sitting 5 feet from it.
Leo: If they're listening on an Echo, right, as soon as you say the A word, things happen.
Erin: Oh, God. Ok.
Leo: I have yet to buy a dollhouse or anything but I've tried. I have.
Erin: Well, the name of the fund actually is the—
Leo: The A word?
Erin: Yea. Anyway.
Leo: Who is the professor? We're going to have him on, on Triangulation in a couple of weeks. It's Scott. Karsten doesn't remember it either. But he is the guy who's recently got a lot of press by saying, "Silicon Valley has worn out its welcome but more importantly, that it's time for government and regulations"
Erin: It's Scott Galloway.
Leo: Galloway. Thank you.
Erin: He's the head of that firm we were mentioning earlier, L2.
Leo: Oh, I didn't know that. Oh. How interesting. I thought he was a professor. Or is he both?
Erin: He is. He's both.
Leo: Man, some people have way too much energy.
Erin: And he just wrote this book, the Four or whatever.
Leo: It's on my list. I've got to read it, but so, he's a clinical professor of marketing which is weird. I don't know what that means. Clinical professor of marketing at The New York University Stern School of Business. And he was named one of the best, 50-best business school professors by the Poets and Quants. So, there's that. And he founded L2. How interesting. But he's also asserting that it's time for government to regulate these companies, that they have now verged into this territory where they're actually a threat. And this is a thread through this show because their power, their huge social power allowed Russians to mess with us. You know, is this—Brianna, you're going to be sitting in the halls, the hallowed halls of Congress in 2019. What are you going to do? Congressperson Wu, what are you going to do?
Brianna: Hey, I'm not going to make it so these companies can't innovate. You know, something we talked about last time I was on your show, Leo, was for whatever reason, government is managing to do less and less for many, many reasons.
Leo: So, maybe we need these technology companies.
Brianna: I do see like Google's Alphabet arm coming forward and doing a lot of interesting technology addressing global warming, so.
Leo: Google, they did in Puerto Rico. They're putting Project Lune balloons up over Puerto Rico. They got permission from the FCC to get Puerto Rico wireless connectivity.
Brianna: Absolutely. So, I'm very suspicious of anything that kind of uses them, you know that kind of uses tech as something to blame for every problem we have in the United States right now. I don't agree with that. You know, if we were talking about regulating ads on Facebook the way we regulate ads on television, that seems very reasonable to me. But you know, I just—I see the forces coming against all these companies and I do think that they need to think about their approach because it's clearly generating public sentiment for this, but me personally, would I be part of this? No.
Leo: It's what my friend Jeff Jarvis would call techno-panic. And it's very easy to stimulate among people with privacy concerns, with concerns about big business, with anti-trust concerns. But, it's really important to remind everybody about the amazing advantages, the amazing things we've been able to do thanks to these big companies. And so, you really want to, I think, balance any regulation. I agree with you 100% with trying to preserve innovation
Dan: I think it's time for these companies to—I mean, what we saw with Weinstein in the technology industry and other—
Leo: Let's face it. Anywhere men are in charge it exists.
Dan: Yes, and I say the tech industry because the tech industry will face, whether it's rational or not, they will face winds of disapproval in the coming years and if we want reasonable regulation and if we want a reasonable conversation, these companies need to stick their hubris in the back seat and say, there are things that we could be actors in some ways and here are the ways that we are doing those things. We care about you and we care about your privacy or whatever. The messaging is very bad right now and I think that it's kind of tone deaf to the sentiment that exists through the rest of the country. It takes one recession for people to kind of change their attitudes about these companies.
Leo: I think that's actually to be fair to Professor Galloway, that's kind of what he's urging, is that the tide is changing and it's time for companies to sit up and take notice and do the right, be pro-active.
Erin: And the big question—I mean, I don't ever, I don't realistically think that major anti-trust action can be successful and break up one of these companies, but the biggest question in any anti-trust case is consumer choice. And I think the thing that scares a lot of people is the realization that you actually don't have a lot of choices in what technology services that you use. I mean, you can't live your life carrying around a flip phone, not using Gmail if that's what your company uses and- I mean to live your life outside the Big 4 tech companies would be to kind of be in a cabin in the woods. It's almost impossible. And I think that's what's a little bit scary is we don't really have as much choices as we think we do.
Leo: Yea. These are big, big issues. But since we have a future Congressperson here, I think we need to talk. Poor, Brianna. We're going to be calling you. We're going to be writing you (laughing). You're going to be our point person in Congress.
Brianna: I will take those calls, absolutely. I would love to hear from listeners.
Leo: Good, good, good. Good. Let's see. Let's take a break. We have quite a bit more to talk about. Great panel here. Brianna Wu, don't forget the website for BriannaWu2018.com. Erin Griffith is here from the fabulous Wired platform. And from CBSI, CBS Interactive, Dan Patterson, senior writer at TechRepublic. We had a great week on TWiT. We had a fun week on TWiT. Yes, Karsten, prepare that. We have a—set up the projector. Get the AV squad in here. Set up the screen because we have a little video to show you. Watch.
Narrator: Previously on TWiT.
Leo: Hi, Mom.
Mary Laporte: Hey, sweetie, how are you?
Leo: My mom, Mary. Say hi to Megan and the gang on iOS Today.
Mary: Megan, I'm happy to say hi.
Megan Morrone: Hi, Mary.
Mary: I know what Megan looks like.
Narrator: iOS Today.
Megan: If your parents are confused about tech, we have ways to help you help them.
Mary: I'm a good person to interview because you have consistently given me every single device as it comes up.
Father Robert Ballecer: It makes it harder to make Sci-Fi when you're trying to be real, right? I mean it would be so much easier if you could add one or two elements of traditional space Sci-Fi and just say, "Yea, we don't have to worry about taking a shuttle from the ship to the station because I just transport over."
Daniel Abraham: It makes it different, but part of what defines the feeling about any project is the choice of obstacles. If you put in a different sort of obstacles than the usual, it doesn't have to think things through, it does mean sometimes we have to shoot things out that we wouldn't have had to do if we had done something more familiar. But it also means we get things that nobody else has gotten to do.
Narrator: TWiT. It's where your brain and tech meet.
Mary: I have a bunch of Luddite friends who are scared. They don't have the son I have. I'm so sorry for them!
Leo: Mom, by the way, wants a show now. By the way, I just want to say she called me back and said, "Can I be on every week? I'd like a show." And I'm thinking about it. I'm considering it.
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Leo: Ah, back to the—let me find something fun, something exciting. Qualcomm files a patent lawsuit against Apple in China, seeking to ban the sale and manufacture of iPhones. Woohoo. You know, I should say Qualcomm is a sponsor. They advertise their Snapdragon Gigabit Radio which is only on Android phones because Apple doesn't use it. But these two are in a bitter battle to the end. Apple says, "We're not going to pay our $2-billion-dollar a year license fee." Maybe I'm a little—I'm more disposed towards Qualcomm. They invented stuff. They are charging license fees. I don't think unreasonable license fees but maybe that's what the debate is about. But these are technologies every phone has to have. And so, anyway, the battle is spreading. It's now World War III really. Just crazy.
Brianna: Yea, my husband, he does patent law for a bio-tech firm. So, yea, I asked him about this. And he sees it as just them playing really, really ultimate hardball.
Leo: It's very public negotiations is what it is. It's very public.
Brianna: That's exactly how he reads it. You know, patent is like if you look and know the companies and the law firms that do a lot of patent legislation, it ends up being like they have a pool of money that just keeps going back and forth between them because it's like defensive and offensive warfare.
Leo: Seems like there ought to be a better way. Anyway, I won't weigh in on the battle, but it's, yea. I don't know. I don't know. Meanwhile, OnePlus, I like the OnePlus One phones. I love them. OnePlus, remember, had a deal with, oh, I can't even remember anymore, but they had an Android ROM they used to use. Then they lost that deal. Whatever happened to that company, by the way, that was making the ROM for them? They did a deal with Microsoft. It got weird. Anyway, they created the Oxygen OS which is essentially a pretty pure version of Android for their OnePlus phones, except, except it's been discovered, Chris Moore, a developer, looked and realized that his OnePlus was uploading a lot of not anonymous information back to the company, including the IMEI, the serial number, the Mac address. It was even telling the company when—
Dan: The Mac address?
Leo: Yea, the Mac address. When apps were opened, when it was unlocked and there was no opt in. There was no way to disable it. Well, there was a very complicated way to disable it but no public obvious way to disable it.
Dan: Speaking of reckless.
Leo: You know, it's one of those things companies sometimes do and sometimes it's just an accident and sometimes it's just like, well, just do it until we get caught and then we'll apologize and fix it. And I don't know which it is, but the CEO of OnePlus, the co-founder, Carl Pei said, "By the end of the month, by the end of this month, October, we're going to fix that. Every OnePlus phone running Oxygen OS will have a prompt in the setup wizard that asks users if they want to join our user experience program." That's what they're calling it. "And it will indicate that the program collects analytics, will provide terms of service agreement that explains what we collect, why. We will stop collecting telephone numbers, Mac addresses and Wi-Fi information." The company—we just wanted to give you better support and a better experience. And you know, companies do that. I'm glad they got caught and I hope they do the update and it sounds like they will, so. Is it tech behaving badly or oops, I made a mistake. I won't do it again. I don't know. You just don't know.
Erin: Well, there's no apology, so.
Leo: They didn't apologize, did they?
Erin: And the calling it the user experience program, like that just feels a little 1984.
Leo: (Laughing) We just want to make a better phone, that's all. We're just trying to make a better phone.
Brianna: I mean I think the best idea I have, something I've thought about a lot policy-wise is how we address this IOT model. That your rewards company is for collecting all the data that you can, you know because you can sell it and you can make money for it. With the capital system, there's every incentive to capture and collect as much information as you can about your users. The best idea I have for that, to turn it around, is right now there's not really a civil liability aspect if that information is hacked and it causes damage to the users actually having it. So, I think we do have to introduce liability into that so if they are collecting all this information about you, and they're not securing it correctly, and somebody ends up hacking that, then that is very financially expensive. So, I think that that approach—
Leo: So, you would punish Equifax severely at this point.
Brianna: Oh, yea, absolutely. They were beyond reckless. Oh, it's just the more you understand about how they screwed up, it gets you angrier and angrier. But I just think that liability is the only way I can figure out how to solve this problem. Because you can't have regulations saying you can't collect A, B or C. You can just make it expensive to collect and store all this information.
Leo: Equifax story, it keeps getting worse, by the way. This time, this was discovered again by a security researcher. Thank God for security researchers and I agree with you, Brianna, we really have to indemnify them because so often now they get prosecuted for PEN testing, for finding flaws and there's a huge disincentive for them to reveal these flaws at this point because you don't know how the company's going to react. Equifax has a page (laughing)—this is so awful. Equifax—this is recent. They fixed it but until like a couple of days ago, they had a page, you know, where you go to dispute a line in your credit report? On that page there was a link that would prompt you to download a phony Flash player. Phony Flash player. And that put, spammed you with ads. And Equifax's defense was, "Well, we didn't do it. It was a third party that we put on the website."
Erin: Oh, my God.
Leo: And then, and then, by the way, I just say today, another firm's doing the same. Was it Experian? TransUnion?
Erin: TransUnion I believe.
Leo: TransUnion was doing the same thing. These—thank you.
Erin: How is it possible that there's no way to hold them accountable for this. Because I would be hard-pressed to find anyone to disagree that they need to be. So, why can't we?
Leo: More than that, they should be at a higher standard. Any company that is holding really privileged information about us, and Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, they have—Levnovus is another one. They have all of our financial records, they have our salary history. They have our socials. They have our credit card numbers. They have our addresses. They have everything. Driver's licenses. They have everything. They need to be held to a much higher standard. It's a crap business they're in. They sell that information to other companies. I understand we need this stuff because you can't apply for credit if you can't somehow prove that your credit worthy. I get it. But they've got to be held to a super high standard. Now, somebody proposed, I think it was Johnny Chen on my radio show, this weekend, and I thought this was a great idea. Brianna could do this. We're going to give you another bill you can write. The credit freeze, which is what your response is now to this which is you have to go to each individual credit reporting agency and say, "Put a freeze on my account. Nobody can ask for my data without my permission. If I want to apply for credit I'll unfreeze it for that particular use and then freeze it again." That, I love this, should be the default now. These companies can collect the data. I understand that it needs to be, but it should be me that releases that data, not them. It should be frozen. The only person that should be able to take, to get my data, is me or a company I specifically allow to do that. What do you think of that?
Brianna: I think that's it's really funny you mention that. We're about to put out a proposal that's very similar to that. You know, it is really time to admit that social security number plus birthdate is a very fallible basis for your identity. And we need to like get a little bit past it. So, what we're going to be proposing is a social security and privacy number and I'll—
Leo: Oh, but you're going to get people going crazy because they're going to day, "No, that's a nationwide ID system." That's scares people.
Brianna: That's true. But we already have that. But the way we're going to do it, is we're going to put it all in your hands exactly like you said. So, along with your social security card or driver's license, you will get embedded a public key and a private key. So, yes, Equifax can go through and they can collect that information about you, but if I open up a bank account, I have to use my private key with my public key to generate something. And if they lose my trust, I can revoke that certificate just like Microsoft can revoke a certificate. So, we've got to bring modern security standards to like applying for credit. Because right now, identity theft, it's just a huge, it's a cost for us because we don't choose to do business with Equifax.
Leo: So, that's brilliant and this is why we need to elect people like Brianna and more people like Brianna to Congress, because there are technological solutions. I understand. The big problem is authentication. But we have, it's well known, a very good system for authentication. It's the public key crypto and my—I love this idea. My federal ID, my ID should be my public key, which I generate myself. I can revoke at any time. And I keep held to my chest my private key. No one else can get access to that. That's a great idea, Brianna. And that is strong authentication. It solves this whole problem.
Brianna: It's pretty straight forward. We've been doing it everywhere else for the last 15,20-years, so, let's bring this to something very, very important, your credit, your identity.
Leo: You know—
Erin: What's the biggest barrier to stopping us from doing that? I don't cover security that much. I'm curious.
Leo: Consumer adoption.
Brianna: Well, it would be standards. It would be standards across all the different state lines, so, you'd have to pass some, you know, like federal standard. It's weird if you think about driver's licenses, as recently as the 80s, you didn't even have to have your picture on it in some states. So, we basically need to make a standard that's federal and we need to mandate that you'll have to bring people in to like update their social security card or driver's license. I mean it's a lot of small details.
Leo: I'll tell you why it's a non-starter in the United States, actually, Erin. Because we're paranoid. And a lot of the problems we have in the United States come from our national identity. There's a new book which I just downloaded on Audible, about how since day one in the United States we have always believed fake news and conspiracy theories. This is part of our national identity. It comes from our notion that the individual is supreme and that everybody's entitled to their own opinion and beliefs and it's one of the things that keeps us—because one we could identify immediately is a national ID card and there are many, many people in the United States who are basically paranoid who say, "No. Not going to happen." I can tell you right now, it's a non-starter in Congress. All you have to do is say National ID and that's it. It's over.
Dan: Yep. It's not going anywhere.
Leo: Here's a country that has it. Estonia. In fact, anybody in the world can get one of these. And I was in Estonia and I meant to do it and I didn't get around to it. They have a national state issued digital ID card that has on it a 24-48-bit public key on a chip. You have a card. It's your national health insurance card. It's your proof of identification when logging into bank accounts. It's your digital signature. You use it to vote, check medical records, submit tax claims, get prescriptions. And they make one available, a similar card available to anybody in the world. And this is brilliant. It's exactly what you just described and the reason it's a non-starter I think, and I'll vote for you, Brianna, again and again. I won't stop you. But I do know that this is one of those hot button issues. You know how I know this? I've worked in AM talk radio long enough. This is a hot button issue for some reason.
Erin: Estonia only has one million people.
Dan: I spent 5 years—
Leo: Yea, Dan. It's like, it's the equivalent of "take our guns away." It is just—
Dan: Oh, yea. It's just never going to happen. And federalism, I mean there is a national identity.
Erin: Can't we rebrand it somehow?
Dan: I'm sorry?
Leo: Rebrand it (laughing).
Dan: Yea, right. That's exactly what has to happen.
Leo: Well, especially if you can generate your own public key, of course, you're not going to do that, right? Because mom's not going to do that. Actually, my mom could do that. But most people aren't going to do that.
Brianna: I mean you could start even if it wasn't like a federal ID card.
Leo: Make it grass-roots. There you go.
Brianna: That's the place you start the discussion but then you go, "Ok, so, in exchange for not coming down really heavily regulating, like Equifax and companies like that, ok, so can you agree to use a standard? Can you agree that for you to open up new accounts you need to use a standard?" I sometimes get frustrated when people say, "X can't be done." Because it's like the expectation that something can't be done drives the whole conversation. No, no, no. It's a fair point. And we should be clear-eyed and realistic about this. But I think like just because you start a discussion at a certain point doesn't mean—like, look at one political party in the United States. They take the most extreme view and then even when they get something in the middle, it's a win. And I think as far as updating like, you know, crypto-graphic standards, there has to be someone that's out there like pushing better practices.
Leo: There is. I mean, I do this and maybe we just need to get everybody who—people who watch and listen to our shows are techies. I publish my PGP key, my public key everywhere I go. I sign emails with it. You can have it. Here it is. It's long because I made it 4,096 key because I don't want anybody to crack it. But that's my public key and if you ever doubt that I am who I say I am, take my public key and say, "Ok, Leo, prove your identity with your private key." If you get an email from me you can validate that not only did I send it, it wasn't changed since I sent it. This is a great system.
Dan: So, what do we do if and when Quantum happens?
Leo: Eh, make it an 8192-bit. Seriously, there's no real impediment to keys prohibitively long. And I'm not convinced. I mean, I don't know. I'm not an expert on Quantum Computing but the theory is that some computing technology massively parallel perhaps will come along and eliminate public key crypto. We'll have to come up with something else. But it works right now. It works really well. God damn it, why did you have to say that (laughing)? How close are we, Dan? Is Quantum just around the corner?
Dan: I don't think we're close but I talked to some people that say 5-years. And I talk to people who say we're 5-years from AGI too which is nonsense. But—
Leo: What's AGI?
Dan: 40 years? Artificial general intelligence which is, incidentally, speaking of companies squashing competition, the entire academic world is pretty pissed at Google for acquiring much of the great minds in AI right now and putting them to use within Deep Mind. Or on Project Deep Mind as drained up. But I don't know, 40 years maybe. But it will happen. And that means all secrets retroactively will disappear.
Leo: Ah, not if you use prefect forward secrecy. You can use—
Dan: Yes, right.
Erin: I have a question about that Google thing though. Didn't those people go there voluntarily?
Dan: Yea, for sure. Oh, yea, yea.
Leo: Google said, "I'll give you a million dollars, Erin, if you join our research team." Who's going to say no to that?
Dan: Yea, you're absolutely right. I mean it's a nuanced conversation, but the conversation that people are having is that the company is coming in with a bunch of capital that no one can meet and we need some of those people to go into academics.
Leo: Google made that compute engine and that special artificial intelligence machine learning processer array and all sorts of stuff. But it is a wide-open field, right, Dan? I think anybody could do it right now. I'm not sure I'm in a hurry for AGI. That may—this whole conversation could be moot if the machines get smarter than us. Here's a good one 37,000 Chrome users downloaded a fake AdBlock Plus Plus extension. It seems like Chrome extensions, there's no security. There's a Chrome extension store if you use Chrome. And AdBlock Plus which is a legitimate ad blocker, many people want to get it. The problem is they went to the store and downloaded the wrong one. It got through Google's verification process and lived in the official Chrome store for a while. They've taken down the listing after Tay SwiftOnSecurity. I love this Taylor SwiftOnSecurity account, by the way. I'm sure everybody knows about SwiftOnSecurity. I bet Dan knows who it is.
Dan: No. No idea.
Leo: Why aren't more people trying to figure who it is? A security person who poses as Taylor Swift. I love it. Anyway, once SwiftOnSecurity revealed Google pulled it down, but that was after 37,000 people downloaded it. They've got to fix that process. That's a big hole. Oculus had their Oculus Connect Event this week. They announced something interesting, a stand along VR headset for $200-bucks. Doesn't even require a phone. Is this what—
Brianna: I'm excited about it.
Leo: Is this what we've been waiting for?
Leo: This is going to bring VR to the masses.
Brianna: I mean, does anyone else here actually play VR games? Because like when I'm playing Raw Data and I'm shooting people and like stabbing them with a sword—
Leo: Do you love it?
Brianna: No, but the wire gets in the way and it really does from really being immersed in the experience. So, you know, I'm not quite sold that it's going to work at that price point, but I'm definitely excited to see this come out.
Leo: Pretty cool. And then they have a new Oculus, the Santa Cruz. The future of Rift. A standalone headset, just like you're talking about, but the power of the Oculus Rift. I guess they've got a PC built in somehow and inside out position tracking which means no more cameras. With the Rift and the VIVE you have to have devices, external devices which position you in space. You know, I have all of that stuff. I don't find myself, you know, running to play VR games anymore. I just—it feels like a cool gimmick. But, maybe I'm—I don't know.
Brianna: No, I think you're dead on with that. I think it's really telling that Epic spent all this money and produced RoboRecall which was one of the very best Oculus Rift games. But no one's ever played it. I've never talked to another gamer in my entire life that's played it. And just like you, Leo, I played my Super Nintendo Classic a lot more this month than I did my Oculus in the last year.
Leo: You know what people are playing? The number one game in America right now, Cuphead.
Leo: Yes. One million copies sold. A $20-dollar game. It's been in development for many, many years. They showed it at E3. When did they show it, Brianna, at E3, like 2013 I think. A long time ago.
Brianna: It's been in development for a while, yea.
Leo: But gosh darn it.
Brianna: You have to see the art style.
Leo: You want to play it? I have it right here (laughing).
Brianna: Oh, it's so gorgeous.
Leo: I can't stop playing Cuphead. It is—the music, the art. It is a retro game that is a lot of fun to play. But what I love is, and it's two brothers, right? I feel like it's a small group. What I love is they succeeded so wildly.
Video: (Cuphead Theme Song).
Leo: So, let's see. This is not me. I'm going to cop to something here. My fourteen-year-old playing under my account, and he's almost done with the game, so. I am—this is not me. This is way too hard for me but I can't—it's a fun game because you don't mind dying. You keep playing. Whoa. Whoa. Oh. I only have one more life. And that's the saga of my Cuphead experience. Yea (laughing). I think this is a new tradition on TWiT. We have to play it every episode. I'm badly, badly hooked to Cuphead. Now, how do I get it off my screen? I want to go back to the news. Oh, there we go. One million copies. They went platinum in like a few days or something. It's pretty great. Shell says—I like this. To me this is super good news. Shell is buying an electric car charging company. Shell, of course, the big gasoline company, is probably, rightly so, that people might not be buying gasoline, petrol eventually. They plan to launch electric charging in the majority of their 45,000 gas stations. This is, to me an acknowledgement, an important one, that we are moving rapidly towards a renewable future. And you know what's doing it? Economics. Lawmakers couldn't make it happen. The industry didn't make it happen. Economics are going to make it happen.
Erin: I think it's also overseas competition, because it's going to happen in China far before it comes to the US and I think people and companies see that and they see European adoption ramping up too. It's a lot of looking around and realizing we're behind.
Leo: The good news is, there's kind of an unlimited amount of sun hitting this planet and if we could really get efficient at turning it into energy, we wouldn't need to dig up things or split atoms. We could just use sun power. I think—I was talking to somebody about this and it seems to be the agreement is the issue is not collecting it. We are actually getting really good at collecting it. It's storing it because of course, the sun doesn't shine all the time. We need better ways to store the power its generating. Let's take a break. Go ahead. I'll let Brianna speak.
Brianna: No, no. I was just going to say, you know, I'm definitely all in on renewable energy. It's such an important policy issue and as you said, like China is kicking our but on it. It's so important. But at the same time, I love cars. I love them. I'm so worried.
Leo: You want a gas-powered car.
Brianna: I do. I just got a Porsche Cayman and I just, I hate that it's going to be obsolete in 20-years.
Erin: Yea, but you know, like a lot of people still love records and they find places to buy them and they listen to them.
Brianna: Yep. That's true.
Leo: They'll be—you know, it's like books. They'll be—and vinyl records. They'll be a collector's guild or something. They'll be a way to do it. They'll be a way to do it. It might be very expensive. But I don't think gas engines, internal combustion engines are going to go away. But imagine what the world would be like if 50% of them were replaced by electric. Just 50%. Massive change.
Erin: A lot of people in self-driving world like to compare car ownership to horse ownership.
Leo: Yea, I'm not sure I buy that. And that's mostly because I think there's a lot of psychological barriers to self-driving. I know there's some economic reasons for it and I think there's also some technical barriers. I mean, we're not—it's not quite there. And I speak as a Tesla owner. I'm not sure I would take my hands off the wheel just yet.
Dan: Leo, I know you've got to do a spot, but I've got to scram here. I've got an engagement.
Leo: DP, great to have you on the show. Dan Patterson. He is Senior Writer at Tech Republic, at CBS Interactive. We didn't get to talk about the Kiev Summit that you were at this summer.
Leo: Let's get you back real soon. We'll talk about it.
Dan: And thank you to Erin and Brianna. It was great to speak with you.
Leo: Great to have you.
Leo: Take care. Actually, we'll wrap this up after one word from our sponsor.
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Leo: All right. Final story and then we'll let everybody go home. You like all of our advertisers, Brianna. I have to say, I'm going to vote for you three times now.
Brianna: I like that. You know, there's a product that Google put out that competes in the same space and it's terrible. Like you have to buy jackets off of Amazon for it for it to be usable outside.
Leo: So, you're talking about the Nest IQ kit?
Leo: Ok, and this has nothing to do with the fact that they're not a sponsor. I bought Nest IQ cams, the outdoor cams. The IQ cam is supposed to recognize you after a while. It still—the other day it said, "There's an intruder in your house." I looked. It was Mylar balloons. It is the dumbest artificial—I actually ended up taking it out and bringing it here because it's like—Lisa said, "No. But no, I don't want that camera in the house. That's crazy." Mylar balloons. But you know what's great? It zoomed right in on them. I have a great image of them. All right. Final—let's do our final story. US and Japan in a giant robotic duel on Twitch. 7:00 this Tuesday, American's giant fighting robot. This could end war as we know it.
Erin: Oh, my.
Leo: Back in July of 2015, a US team of engineers, MegaBots, Inc., challenged their Japanese rivals, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, to a fight. But they never found a venue and of course upgrading the robots has taken some time. But they're finally—I'm not joking. These are mechs with people inside them. I think there's absolutely no technical story here but I just can't wait.
Brianna: Oh, my God. I'm all in.
Leo: (Laughing) And finally I can chant, "U-S-A. U-S-A," and really mean it. Really, really, the battle of the robots and I think it's kind of a coup. This is a great picture of the MegaBots team next to their—that's a mech. I don't know what those weapons are, but I hope they're potato guns.
Brianna: Wow, they fire missiles?
Leo: I hope it's not anything lethal.
Erin: I just hope they're not destroyed after this so they can go on tour afterwards.
Leo: (Laughing) There are six—
Brianna: Yea, I live in Boston. I need that to get around town. That sounds great.
Leo: So, the Verge is quick to point out that it's not really Pacific Rim. They're bit, 16 and 13' tall. But they're slow and have limited mobility, so they say it's going to be more like Rock ‘em Sock ‘em robots than it is Pacific Rim. On the other hand, they're 12 tons and they have 8' long chainsaws, so, you know. It could be fun. We'll be covering that. And also, it's a happy ending. The 40th anniversary of the thing that got me into computing, my first personal computer, the Atari 2600 Game Machine. Remember this? Loved it. Now, I know there's a whole Nintendo generation out there and they're probably laughing at us right now, Brianna, but this was the—I dropped so much money playing coin-op Tank, that I finally said, "I've got to get—I can't afford to keep doing this." So, I bought a 2600 and started playing it at home and that kind of—after that I got an Atari 400, then an 800. Then I got a North Star Advantage, then the IBM PC came out. Then I got that. Then I got a Macintosh and all the rest is history. So, I think this was the gateway drug, the Atari 2600 is 40-years old today. 30 million units in its lifetime. Apparently--
Brianna: It's iconic. It's iconic. It's a classic box. I have to ask, what do you think about the Atari boxes coming out? I'm very skeptical about the success of that.
Leo: Is it like the Nintendo where you're playing the same old games?
Brianna: No, that would be great. That sounds like a great product. They are basically putting out, it's a low-powered LINUX box and it's going to have older games on it but it's going to like split the difference between a high-powered PC and like a mid-level PC. So, I just don't think people are going to spend $400-dollars for that. But that's just my opinion.
Leo: You know what? We will get one and get a review unit. That sounds really interesting. I wasn't aware of that. It's called the Atari Box?
Brianna: That's it. You can even get one with the wood finish like the—
Leo: Now, that I'm going to buy. That I'm going to buy. Look at that. No, that's sweet. It is a retro gaming console but it's not the really old games like Nintendo. It's going to run LINUX. That's interesting. 90,000 fans have registered to learn more about it. AMD Processor, Radeon Graphics. Yea, I wouldn't buy it for a PC, but that's a sweet looking little—the original Atari probably had vinyl woodgrain, so. Erin Griffith, so much, so much pleasure having you hear. I know you ran like 13-miles today and I—
Erin: Not quite. I'm still training.
Leo: Oh, you're still training. All right.
Erin: Working my way up to that.
Leo: Well, I'm grateful you're hear.
Erin: Thank you for having me.
Leo: Wired Magazine and Wired.com she's now Senior Writer over there covering—well, whatever she wants. Business.
Erin: Business. Business and tech.
Leo: Tech and anything you're interested in. Thank you so much for being here today, Erin. Thanks to Brianna Wu. She fought the Alt-Right and won. Giant Spacekat founder and now candidate for the Democratic party—well, soon to be the candidate for the Democratic Party in Massachusetts 8th District. But you've got to vote in the primary, so make sure you go. You donate and you find out more if you live in Massachusetts. I was just joking about voting 8 times for you.
Brianna: (Laughing) I think we got that.
Leo: Unless the Russians decide to help. We also thank Dan Patterson for being here. Senior Writer with Tech Republic. Thank you all for joining us on a Sunday afternoon. We do the show about 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern, 2300 UTC. If you'd like to stop by and watch live you can at TWiT.tv/live. You can also join us in our fabulous chatroom, irc.TWiT.tv. It's always a great bunch in there. We always have a lot of fun. The kids behind the scenes. We also have an open studio on Sundays. If you want to come by and visit us, as the entire Docherty family did. They're here and they're in town for a wedding and that's where Rose came from. Where is Rose? Oh, she's outside. She's with dad right now. Oh, good. All right. I see Rose's mom, I thought, "Oh, dear. Rose has decided to join the rebel alliance and we're not going to see hide nor hair of her for quite some time." Anyway, if you want to be here in the studio, we'd love to have you. Just make sure you email us because we really need to know ahead of time so our guard doesn't shoot you. The email is—no, he was a nice guy, right? Yea, he's armed. The email is tickets@TWiT.tv. That's a statement on the modern world, isn't it, that we have to have an armed guard at the door. But I thought it would be better to protect our staff than not. I would hate to feel guilty about that. We do make on demand versions available of all of our shows on the website, TWiT.tv. Please subscribe. That way you won't miss an episode. It's a great way to start your week with This Week in Tech. I'm Leo Laporte. Thanks for being here! And now I have to say, another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye.