Category Archives: application

Trump “Approved the Deal in Concept” Between TikTok and Oracle



One day after the U.S. Department of Treasury stated that WeChat and TikTok would be prohibited in the United States, President Donald Trump has “approved the deal in concept”. The more I read about This situation, the murkier it gets.

The U.S. Department of Treasury posted a new statement:

The President has reviewed a deal among Oracle, Walmart, and TikTok Global to address the national security threat posed by TikTok’s operations. Oracle will be responsible for key technology and security responsibilities to protect all U.S. user data. Approval of the transaction is subject to a closing with Oracle and Walmart and necessary documentation and conditions to be approved by CFIUS.

Bloomberg has reported the following: “I approved the deal in concept,” Trump told reporters Saturday as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too.” I have no idea what President Trump means by that.

According to Bloomberg, the new company will be called TikTok Global. It has agreed to funnel $5 billion new tax dollars to the U.S. and set up an education fund, which Trump said would satisfy his demand that the U.S. government receive a payment from the deal.

However, Reuters has reported that ByteDance was not aware that this deal involved a $5 billion education fund. On a social media post, ByteDance said it was the first time it had heard that news.

It gets even stranger. The Wall Street Journal reported that ByteDance would retain roughly 80% ownership of TikTok Global “according to people familiar with the situation”. Because ByteDance is about 40% owned by U.S. investors, the new company can be described has having majority American ownership. To me, it sounds like TikTok Global might remain connected to ByteDance despite this deal.

Bloomberg also reported that TikTok promised to hire an additional 15,000 jobs, more than the 10,000 positions the company already pledged to fill earlier this year. It appears that TikTok Global will be an independent company. And that TikTok Global “will likely” be headquartered in Texas.

TikTok stated that the proposal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart “will resolve the security concerns of the US Administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the US”.

How is Walmart connected to this deal? CNBC reported that Walmart said it has tentatively agreed to purchase a 7.5% stake, and CEO Doug McMillon would serve as one fo the five board members of the newly created TikTok Global company.

In a press release, Oracle announced that it was chosen to become TikTok’s secure cloud technology provider. Oracle said this decision by TikTok was heavily influenced by Zoom’s recent success in moving a large portion of its video conferencing capacity to the Oracle Public Cloud.


Oracle Confirms Deal with ByteDance



Yesterday, Microsoft announced that its bid to buy TikTok from ByteDance had been rejected. It had been reported that ByteDance selected Oracle to be its technology partner for U.S. operations, but it was hard to confirm. Today, Oracle provided a statement:

Oracle confirms Secretary Mnuchin’s statement that it is part of the proposal submitted by ByteDance to the Treasury Department over the weekend in which Oracle will serve as the trusted technology provider. Oracle has a 40-year track record providing secure, highly performant, technology solutions.

CNBC reported that this deal still needs U.S. government approval.

The executive order that President Trump signed on August 14, 2020, required ByteDance to divest itself from Musical.ly (now known as TikTok). It must do so within 90 days of the signing of the executive order. Any data obtained or derived from the TikTok application or Musicial.ly application derived from users in the United States must be destroyed.

Later, CNBC reported that, according to people familiar with the matter, the proposal between ByteDance and Oracle would keep TikTok together under ByteDance’s operational control. Oracle will be a trusted technology partner who will store and secure the data within U.S. premises. TikTok said it is planning to disclose its algorithm to third parties.

ByteDance has submitted a proposal that avoids selling the U.S. assets or all of TikTok, CNBC reported. This doesn’t match the requirements in the executive order. That could mean that TikTok will soon have to close down within the United States. The longer this goes on, the messier it gets.


Trump Orders ByteDance to Divest From TikTok Within 90 Days



President Trump has issued an executive order requiring ByteDance to divest from its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days, CNBC reported. Part of the executive order requires ByteDance to prove that it has destroyed all data that was obtained or derived from the TikTok application in the United States.

…The transaction resulting in the acquisition by ByteDance of Musical.ly, to the extent that Musical.ly or any of its assets is used in furtherance or support of, or relating to, Musical.ly’s activities in interstate commerce in the United States … is hereby prohibited, and ownership of ByteDance of any interest in Musical.ly in the United States, whether effected directly or indirectly through ByteDance’s subsidaries, affiliates, or Chinese shareholders is also prohibited…

The wording in the executive order might be a little confusing to those who are unaware of how ByteDance, TikTok, and Musical.ly connect. ByteDance bought Musical.ly in 2019.

The FTC learned that Musical.ly (which quickly became TikTok) illegally collected personal information from children. User accounts on Musical.ly were public by default, and it appears there were some problems with adults trying to contact children on the Musical.ly app. According to the FTC, operators of the Musical.ly app were aware that a significance percentage of users were under the age of 13.

TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the allegations made by the FTC.

The executive order requires ByteDance to sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days. It might be possible. Microsoft has been in discussions with ByteDance about a potential acquisition of TikTok. A previous executive order required ByteDance to reach a deal within 45 days. If that did not happen, then the order would force U.S. based app stores to stop distributing the TikTok app. The new executive order extends that timeline to 90 days.

I cannot help but wonder what happens if Microsoft acquires TikTok. Do the problems with it (and Musical.ly before it) become Microsoft’s problems to resolve? Will Microsoft be expected to provide proof that the data ByteDance gleaned from U.S. users has been destroyed? Or will ByteDance have to provide that proof itself?


TikTok is Offering Refunds for Ad Campaigns



What happens when a company is the subject of a presidential executive order? For TikTok, it apparently means it is time to start preparing advertisers for a possible ban of its app in the United States, and to offer refunds for ad campaigns that TikTok is unable to run, according to Reuters.

The executive order, signed by President Trump, would ban U.S. transactions with TikTok and WeChat, the Chinese-owned messaging app, starting on September 15, 2020.

Earlier this month, Microsoft stated in a blog post that the company is committed to acquiring TikTok “subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.” From there, Microsoft will pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. The discussions are to be completed no later than September 20, 2020.

Among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the the country after it is transferred.

The Verge reported that the executive branch has the power to levy sanctions against individuals and corporations, like it did with Huawei. The difference between that, and the executive order regarding TikTok, is that these sanctions are supposed to be put in place by the Commerce Department – not the White House.

As such, the situation could lead to legal challenges. TikTok posted a blog in which the company stated, “We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”

This is going to get messy very quickly, especially if Microsoft acquires TikTok from ByteDance before the September 15, 2020, deadline set in the executive order. It could lead to a legal battle between Microsoft and the White House. Personally, I am suspicious that the date on the executive order was intended to persuade Microsoft to cancel discussions with TikTok.


The App Used at the Iowa Caucuses Failed



I find it absolutely fascinating that the Iowa caucuses, which run on paper, had problems due to the failure of the app the Iowa Democratic Party selected. CNBC described the situation as representing “one of the most stunning failures of information security ever”.

The Iowa caucuses have always been as low-tech as one could possibly get. People physically stand in an area designated for the candidate they want to support. Everyone is counted. Numbers are literally written down on paper. After some math is done (also on paper), there is a second vote – minus the candidates that did not get enough support to be viable. Once again, someone counts the people, writes down the totals, and that determines the number of delegates each candidate receives.

The problem isn’t with this process, which has worked well in the past. Instead, the problem is entirely with an app that the Democratic National Committee recommended Iowa stop using altogether.

The New York Times reported that the app was “quickly put together in just the past two months.” Precinct captains had difficulty getting the app to function properly. From what I’ve read, it appears that the app would crash, or was not sending the full results to the Iowa Democratic Party. People resorted to calling in the results – which was standard practice previous to this year’s Iowa caucus. Some experienced hold delays of up to an hour.

In addition, the Iowa Democratic Party stated: “We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results.” Spokeswoman Mandy McClure assured people the app didn’t go down and was not hacked. It is very fortunate that all of the data from the Iowa caucuses had been written down on paper. That information is still accessible.

This situation serves as an example of why it isn’t smart to report votes via an app. Things can get glitchy. Voting on paper is way more secure than electronic voting. We should be shifting back to that – nationwide.


GrubHub is Buying Web Addresses of Small Restaurants



You’ve probably heard of GrubHub. It is an online and mobile food ordering delivery marketplace that picks up food from restaurants and brings it to people’s homes. People use it for the convenience of not having to go get the food themselves. Unfortunately, it appears that GrubHub is doing things that harm small restaurants.

An article on The New Food Economy website was written by H. Claire Brown. In this article, Brown reports that GrubHub has been buying up thousands of restaurant web address, many of small “Mom and Pop shops”, so that those small businesses can’t have them.

The New Food Economy reported that it has found that GrubHub owns more than 23,000 web domains. Its subsidiary, Seamless, owns thousands. They published a full list (Google doc) of the domains. The report says most of them appear to correlate with the names of real restaurants.

Additionally, it appears GrubHub has set up several generic, templated pages that look like real restaurant websites but in fact link only to GrubHub. These pages also display phone numbers that GrubHub controls. The calls are forwarded to the restaurant, but the platform records each one and charges the restaurant a commission fee for every order, according to testimony from GrubHub executives at New York City Hall on Thursday. This happens on the GrubHub platform itself, too. The phone numbers you see displayed in the app typically aren’t a restaurant’s actual phone number, they’re the numbers that GrubHub uses to make sure it’s getting its commission.

The really icky thing about all this is that customers don’t know that the phone number they called is not the restaurant’s real phone number. They don’t know the restaurant website isn’t run or owned by the real restaurant. Customers think they are helping their favorite, local “Mom and Pop” restaurant – but they’re mostly helping GrubHub make money.


All microUSB cables are not the same



This is a salutary warning to all geeks out there….even with all the year’s of experience, it’s still possible to make a rookie mistake and forget that all microUSB cables are not the same.

Last week at work, I needed to present an Android tablet screen via a data projector. The tablet only had a microUSB port, so connecting up directly via HDMI or VGA was out of the question. I’d have to mirror the tablet screen to a PC and then show the PC screen on the projector. WiFi wasn’t available to the PC, so it needed to be a wired connection but fortunately I had a drawer full of USB A to microUSB cables. I connected the Samsung Tab S2 to my PC and got on the with the job.

The wisdom of the Internet suggest that AirDroid was the one to try, so I signed up for an account, downloaded the PC software and installed the app on the tablet. Could I get the tablet to mirror to the PC? Not a chance!

Back onto the Internet, I then discovered that the Samsung tablets have an app for this called Flow, which doesn’t need rooting or developer access. Brilliant. I chucked AirDroid out the window, downloaded the complementary PC software….only to find that it’s for Windows 10, not Windows 7. This isn’t going well.

A bit more research and I further find that Flow’s predecessor is SideSync. There’s an app in Google Play, there’s a download for Windows 7…this is it, sorted….Nah, still doesn’t (expletive deleted) work.

I’ve been at this for hours and at this point I start to blame ActiveDirectory policies but it’s time to go home so I take the S2 home (leaving the USB cable) to see if I can get it to work on my personal laptop. And of course, it works straightaway.

At this point, the penny drops. It’s the bleeping USB cable. The one at work is a “charge only” cable whereas at home I’ve a proper “sync’n’charge” cable.  I’ve wasted half a day because I forgot that not all microUSB cables are the same. Back in work the next day, it’s time for lessons learned and I get the scissors out. Useless pieces of junk.

To paraphrase a European politician, there’s a special place in hell for companies that bundle charge-only cables with their products to save a few pennies.

And Samsung’s SideSync did the job perfectly. Thumbs up!